- Reilly, Brian [Browse]
- Senior thesis
- 92 pages
- Yarhi-Milo, Keren [Browse]
- Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
- Class year
- Summary note
- Since its inception, the Central Intelligence Agency has engaged in missions
outside of its principal mandate: the collection, analysis, and dissemination of
foreign strategic intelligence. The Agency has constantly conducted operations of
influence, including many involving the expression of military force. Why does the
president use a civilian intelligence service for a military combat mission?
Historically, the executive has employed the CIA in influence operations for
situations demanding deniability or flexibility. Deniability insulates the executive
from international or domestic disproval of the use of force. Flexibility allows the
executive to develop quickly means to respond to threats against which the
traditional tools of foreign policy do not suffice.
The CIA has traditionally run deniable operations for practical reasons.
Both espionage, the principal mandate of the Agency, and covert action require
strategic secrecy while the traditional mission of the military demands mere tactical
secrecy. However, in the post-9/11 security era, the Pentagon has expanded
military capabilities in secrecy. By the letter of the law, both the CIA and
Department of Defense are subject to the same privileges and responsibilities in
covert action. By the spirit of the law, the DoD may have even greater freedom in
covert action. Moreover, much of the CIA’s paramilitary intervention abroad has
been “grey” covert action, unacknowledged but by no means deniable, especially
more recently. Deniability cannot explain the tendency to task the CIA with
paramilitary missions in the post-9/11 era.
Flexibility refers to the CIA’s 1) capacity to respond to unprecedented
threats by quickly incorporating new tools for effectively influencing conditions
abroad and 2) ability to do so with a light boots-on-the-ground footprint. Both are
important qualities in the post-9/11 era and therefore worth testing in the case of
the modern CIA drone campaign in Pakistan.
War and diplomacy both failed as the first foreign policy tools of the War on Terror. Operation Enduring freedom achieved tactical victory but strategic
stalemate; the militant Islam threat persisted from Pakistan where the U.S.
military could not put boots on the ground. Diplomatic pressure on the Pakistanis
to neutralize the threat arguably exacerbated it. The White House turned to the
CIA, who developed the surveillance technology and lethal capability necessary for
the politically delicate mission far more quickly than the military would have. The
CIA also built the human intelligence and analytical capacity to compliment the
engineering leaps, although some of this capacity existed before the drone
campaign. Furthermore, the CIA operates the drones with a much smaller
footprint than the military.
This case supports the theory that the executive uses the CIA for
paramilitary missions in the post-9/11 era rather than the DoD for its superior