If the CIA becomes regarded as monstrous and out of control by not just the usual critics but also by much of the mainstream in the U.S. and around the world -- and they are on that cusp right now -- some of the most important tools in protecting the United States and its interests short of war become, at best, decidedly double-edged swords.
The debate over the NSA's data collection should lead to a better balance between rights of privacy and requirements of foreign intelligence. But whatever the outcome of that debate, it has failed to acknowledge inherent deficiencies and risks in "foreign intelligence" and the transcendent role of foreign policy in the defense of our national interests. Our foreign policy failures and dilemmas reflect failures of a cerebral sort of intelligence, including a lack of experience in the real world away from Washington, its arm chair polemicists, its ideological think thanks, and too little experience in military ground forces where you learn to expect the unexpected. Policy has been driven by ideologues, militarists, and amateurs, including Members of Congress who are little noted nowadays for real world experience.