CIA Chief Claims Progress With Intelligence Reforms

Mike Hayden stresses the need for continuing improvement.


CIA Director Mike Hayden, nearing his second anniversary May 30, this week stressed the continued need for intelligence improvement and integration as the world steps up the war on terrorism.

Addressing the closed-door luncheon of the Business Executives for National Security on Thursday, he also explained that intelligence gathering and analysis is not an exact science. "Some months ago, I met with a small group of investment bankers and one of them asked me, 'On a scale of 1 to 10, how good is our intelligence today?'" recalled Hayden. "I said the first thing to understand is that anything above 7 isn't on our scale. If we're at 8, 9, or 10, we're not in the realm of intelligence—no one is asking us the questions that can yield such confidence. We only get the hard sliders on the corner of the plate. Our profession deals with subjects that are inherently ambiguous, and often deliberately hidden. Even when we're at the top of our game, we can offer policymakers insight, we can provide context, and we can give them a clearer picture of the issue at hand, but we cannot claim certainty for our judgments."

Stressing the reform campaign he has led at Langley, he said that "when it comes to intelligence, we should never be fully satisfied with the job we're doing."

"In our business," he added, "tomorrow has got to be better than today."

On integration, meaning communications and information exchanges among the various elements of the intelligence community, he cited the 2006 killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. But, he pointed out, "the value of integration extends well beyond kinetic strikes and targeting missions, though. It also enhances the quality of our strategic analysis. Working side by side with the troops in western Iraq, CIA analysts picked up insights they otherwise wouldn't have. That added dimension enabled our officers to play a key role in the engagement of Sunni tribal leaders, which was a real breakthrough in the conflict last year."

Finally, he said that the agency's executives have reached out globally, noting that he and Deputy Director Steve Kappes have traveled to 38 countries—some of them more than once—since they took the helm.

—Paul Bedard