Agents’s books reveal: The CIA is more dysfunctional than you think

The books make for fascinating, disturbing reading. Collectively, they shine a bright light on the agency’s darkest secret of all, its inability to do its job at the most basic level.

The United States will spend $53 billion this year on secret intelligence efforts, with the C.I.A. getting much of that money. Yet if Jones and other former employees are to be believed, the agency remains dismally unable to deal with terrorism or rogue states. It is a bureaucratic, risk-averse behemoth that rarely holds its managers accountable for failure. Its problems were not solved, and may have been made worse, by the reorganization of the intelligence community after Sept. 11, 2001…

In book after book, operatives describe an agency that hires smart, aggressive and patriotic Americans, and then does its best to make sure they fail. Since 2008, two memoirs, Jones’s “Human Factor” and Charles S. Faddis’s “Beyond Repair: The Decline and Fall of the C.I.A.,” have gone so far as to call for the agency to be abolished and replaced…

Such cases are common, Charles Faddis, a case officer for 20 years, argues in “Beyond Repair.” Faddis describes the agency as rife with incompetence at every level and compares its leadership training unfavorably with that of the military. “Sixty years after its founding,” he writes, the agency “has never developed any system for the selection, training and cultivation of leaders.” Even the Sept. 11 attacks did not produce meaningful change. Faddis argues that adding a director of national intelligence to oversee the agency simply imposed another layer of bureaucracy. Of the 4,000 new employees in the director’s office, “not a single one of them runs operations. Not a single one of them recruits assets or produces intelligence. What they do produce, however, is process, lots of it.”