Haspel’s Pick for Deputy CIA Director Fulfills Brennan’s Plan

The appointment of a new Deputy Director of Analysis at the CIA shows how the vocabulary of the intelligence profession evolves to clarify (or conceal) the agency’s mission.

Cynthia Rapp, a career CIA official in charge of preparing the President’s Daily Brief, will head the component of the agency that used to be called the Directorate of Intelligence. 

The name change is not just cosmetic. Perhaps the term “intelligence” seems too value-free these days. Perhaps the authority of “intelligence” has been undermined by confident–and false–intelligence assessments such as the CIA’s “slam dunk” claims about Iraq’s (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction.

John Brennan,
John Brennan, former CIA director

“Analysis” sounds smarter and dovetails with a more substantive change in how the agency operates, a change that can be traced to former director John Brennan.  The goal, for better or worse, is a smarter CIA. 


Rapp will be the first to newly assume the role since former CIA Director John Brennan’s modernization push, which shifted some oversight away from larger directorates and funneled them into discrete Mission Centers focused on some of the thorniest issue areas in national security. Under that structure, analysts and operations officers work side by side.

The bureaucratic innovation may make sense operationally–some veteran officers disagree–but it does nothing to solve the agency’s larger credibility problem. Who knows if these missions are effective or serve the interests of the American people?

The CIA, of course, claims they are and they do, but the same CIA thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that torturing suspected terrorists was a good idea. With that kind of track record, the CIA needs independent oversight. 

The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are supposed to oversee covert operations, but haven’t.

For the past two years the committees have been disabled by partisan infighting.  Before that they were hobbled by secrecy. When the Senate Intelligence Committee attempted an independent assessment of the agency’s torture regime, the agency (with support of President Obama) suppressed their findings. Without transparency, a smarter CIA might be a more dangerous CIA.

Rep. Adam Schiff, now chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, promises “vital oversight.”

Holding Trump accountable is obviously important to strengthening the rule of law. Holding the CIA accountable is equally important, especially because it is ascendant power.

Rapp’s appointment also strikes me as a sign of the decline of the State Department. Once upon a time, CIA operations were designed to support U.S. diplomacy and policy goals. The State Department assessed local political realities and made recommendations. Now the agency sets the U.S. mission and pursues it. The State Department is an afterthought.

One Reply to “Haspel’s Pick for Deputy CIA Director Fulfills Brennan’s Plan”

  1. I recently obtained Loch K Johnson’s “A Season Of Inquiry Revisited”. By page 177 it is obvious that the Church Committee was severely hampered by obstruction from the Ford White House and members on The Church committee who also served on the Armed Forces Committee.

    The old time Washington “A nod, wink and whisper in the ear”, system was still doing business as usual. More later on my thoughts. Thanks again Jeff for caring and working to get to the truth.

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