In 1974, secret CFR agent Albert Wohlstetter, a professor at the University of Chicago and RAND analyst, wrote an article entitled “Is There a Strategic Arms Race?” in which he accused the CIA of systematically underestimating Soviet missile deployment in its National Intelligence Estimates (NIE). In his article, Wohlstetter claimed that the United States was allowing the Soviet Union to achieve military superiority by not closing an existing missile gap favoring the Soviets. Soon after, many other secret CFR agents, among them Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, began a concerted agitprop campaign strongly criticizing the CIA’s annual Estimate of the Soviet threat.
Then, in 1975 some CFR agents conceived the farfetched idea of creating a group of non-CIA analysts to, based on the same raw information, independently assess the Soviet threat. When asked, CIA Director William Colby refused to approve it. Soon after, acting under pressure from CFR conspirators, President Gerald Ford (CFR) removed Colby from his position as CIA Director.
Just a year later, when CFR agent George H. W. Bush became the Director of Central Intelligence in 1976, CFR secret agents infiltrated in the U.S. government renewed their request for competitive threat assessments. Despite opposition from CIA top analysts who argued against such weird experiment, Bush checked with President Ford, obtained a go-ahead, and by May 26 began the experiment.
Accordingly, a team of 16 “outside experts,” gave themselves to the task of taking a look at highly classified information collected by the CIA, to evaluate it and change it into usable intelligence. Actually there were three teams: One of them studied Soviet low-altitude air defense capabilities, the other one examined Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) accuracy, and the third one concentrated its efforts in analyzing Soviet strategic policy and objectives. This third team, chaired by Harvard University professor and CFR agent Richard Pipes, received much publicity and is the one commonly referred to as Team B. Key advisors to Team B were Foy Kohler, Seymour Weiss, Jasper Welch, Paul Wolfowitz and Paul Nitze, all of them CFR agents.
As expected, the report produced by Team B arrived at totally different conclusions than the ones reached by CIA’s NIE’ analysts. According to Team B’s CFR agents, the CIA’s NIEs were wrong in asserting that Soviet strategic actions were primarily a response to its history of being invaded. On the contrary, Team B experts agreed that most Soviet strategic actions were offensive rather than defensive in nature —the “reds-under-the-beds” syndrome. The Team B report also found ridiculous CIA’s NIE conclusion that, as the Soviet Union grew more strong and capable, its foreign policy would also become less aggressive.
Team B’s report also criticized the conclusions of CIA’s NIEs regarding Soviet strategic weapons programs, and argued that CIA analysts had consistently underestimated the threat posed by Soviet strategic weapons programs. Moreover, they warned, the Soviet’s development and deployment of new weapons and advancements in existing military technologies would drastically erase the advantages that the United States and NATO had over the Warsaw Pact. In classic CFR style, Team B’s conclusions were false, but scary.
Typical of the cooking-the-facts mentality of Team B’s analysts was that they resorted to a sort of convoluted reverse logic to prove their points. For example, one of their most bizarre conclusions was that the Soviets had or could have developed an entirely new anti-submarine detection system for their nuclear submarines. The reason why it had not been detected by the U.S., they reasoned, was precisely because it used a system that did not depend on sound and was, thus, undetectable by contemporary Western technology.
In an effort to deny the CIA’s NIE evaluation that the prevalent economic chaos in the Soviet Union was hindering their ability to produce an efficient air defense system, the CFR agents in Team B argued that the Soviet Union was trying to deceive the American public and claimed that the Russian air defense system worked fine.
Of course, all these assumptions turned out to be false. Unfortunately, when CFR disinformation agent Fareed Zakaria discovered in 2003 that the conclusions of Team B’s report “were wildly off the mark,” it was too late to make any use of his “discovery.”
Now, how come, one may ask, two different teams of qualified intelligence analysts, based on exactly the same available information, arrived at so diametrically opposed conclusions? The answer is because, as I mentioned in my previous article, being the product of the human intellect, intelligence is fully subjective. Despite claim to the contrary, there is nothing objective about it. Like beauty, intelligence is in the eye of the beholder, and the eyes of CIA’s patriotic intelligence analysts were totally different from the treasonous eyes of the CFR’s intelligence analysts.
But this is not the only question asking for an answer.
Many books have been written about the CIA, some of them painting it with the most dismal colors, others with the most bright and patriotic ones. To some authors, the CIA is a haven for heroes, to others, a dark cave full of traitors. How come, one may ask, based on the same information these authors have arrived at so diametrically opposed conclusions?
Logical positivist philosophers believed that most disagreements among people come out either of using two different names to designate the same thing, or of using a single name to designate two different entities. According to them, the cause for most disagreements is semantic. Though I don’t fully subscribe to their theory, I have to recognize that there is some truth to it.
The reason for the otherwise unexplainable duality of the CIA is because, contrary to what most people believe, the CIA is not a single entity. Actually, behind the common façade, almost since its very creation there have been two CIAs, totally different and working hard to attain quite different goals. Therefore, both CIA critics and apologists are right. The confusion arises from the fact that, unknowingly, they are talking about two quite different CIAs.
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- Albert Wohlstetter, “Is There a Strategic Arms Race?,” Foreign Policy, No. 15 (Summer, 1974).
- See, Anne Hessing Cahn, “Team B: The trillion-dollar experiment,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 49 (April 1993), pp. 22–27; also Tom Barry, “Remembering Team B,” International Relations Center, (February 12, 2004) http://rightweb.irc-online.org/analy sis/2004/0402teamb.php.
- Agitprop. Agitation and propaganda. Though mainly used by the Soviets in reference to Communist and Front Group activities, the term was first used in the early thirties by Newsweek magazine.
- Actually, the polemic dates back to an internal CIA struggle that began soon after the Agency’s creation, exemplified by the 1949 debate between Sherman Kent and Willmore Kendall. See Jack Davis, “The Kent-Kendall Debate of 1949.” Studies in Intelligence 35, no. 2 (Summer 1991), pp. 37-50; Studies in Intelligence 36, no. 5 (1992), pp. 91-103.
- Anne Hessing Cahn, “Team B: The trillion-dollar experiment,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 49 (April 1993), pp. 22–27.
- Team B Report. Page 15.
- See, Fred Kaplan, “Can the CIA Be Saved?” Slate (July 9, 2004), http:// www.slate.com/id/2103650.
- Fareed Zakaria, “Exaggerating The Threats,” Newsweek (16 June 2003)