Daniel W. Drezner

Amy Zegart goes medieval on Fred Kaplan

Amy Zegart goes medieval on Fred Kaplan

As I said in my previous post on the topic, Fred Kaplan really disliked Senator Roberts’ intelligence proposal. Some highlights from his Slate piece:

Sen. Pat Roberts’ plan to overhaul the U.S. intelligence bureaucracy is a true stinker, every bit as bad as his establishment critics contend…. Anyone who studies the “intelligence community” as much as Roberts does would also know—or should—that the proposal, if it were put into effect, would do more harm than good. So again, what’s going on here? ….The first is that he’s advancing a deliberately extreme proposal in order to prod the stuffy, stodgy bureaucracy into moving. He’s telling the White House that if Bush doesn’t start making serious reforms, Congress will—possibly in ways that the executive branch won’t like. And he’s shifting the definition of “acceptable” reform: By proposing a plan that goes well beyond the 9/11 commission’s proposals, he is making those commission proposals seem more moderate by comparison…. However, there is a second, more cynical, and, alas, more plausible theory: He’s putting out a proposal that’s deliberately out-to-lunch, in order to distract the debate from more reasonable resolutions, to deflect attacks on Bush, and to discourage the whole idea of organizational reform.

I think it’s safe to say that intelligence reform expert Amy Zegart really dislikes Fred Kaplan’s take. She e-mailed me the following reaction:

I am, as my four-year old would put it, “steaming mad.” Where to begin? First, anyone who has spent 5 seconds with Pat Roberts (and I spent 3 hours in front of him last week) knows he’s deadly serious about reform. Where has Fred Kaplan been? Has he read the 500+ page Senate Intelligence Committee report Roberts’ committee wrote in July about WMD in Iraq and the pathological deficiencies in the IC that led to it? Does he think this report descended like manna from heaven or does he realize the Committee’s expert staff spent, oh I don’t know, a year on it? I have anextra copy; perhaps I should send it to him. Second, Kaplan forgets conveniently the fact that 2 of the key ideas in this proposal –splitting the CIA’s clandestine side from its analytical side and creating a new national intelligence director — were EXACTLY the same as a proposal made 12 years ago by David Boren and David McCurdy, the Democratic chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees. Then there is the substance of his claims. There are many valid concerns about this proposal, but Kaplan does not raise them.

Post your own thoughts below. UPDATE: Esther Pan has compiled an excellent backgrounder on the different reform proposals at the Council on Foreign Relations web site.