An interesting article from the Wall Street Journal on the failures of the CIA and the possible shortcomings of the "intelligence reform" in the wake of the 9/11 Commission. This is the key part, in my opinion:
"To put the matter at its simplest, American elites have become increasingly discomfited over the last decades by the very existence of a clandestine intelligence service in a democratic society. Beginning with the Church Committee hearings in the aftermath of the Vietnam war, and with the collapse of the anticommunist consensus, the CIA has thus come under regular assault from both Congress and the media for real and alleged transgressions of its mandate. At times, the White House has weighed in with strictures (and purges) of its own.
The net effect has been to create a climate inside the agency in which employees at all levels, and particularly in management positions, have become fearful of aggressively performing their jobs. After all, the price of stepping over the line in the service of one's country could now mean not only the end of one's career but being hauled before a congressional committee or, as happened in the Iran-contra fiasco, indicted by a criminal court."
My only critique of this analysis is that I would amend "American elites" to include a much more expansive group of regular citizens as well. America today is nowhere near resolving what actions are and are not appropriate for our clandestine services. I haven't fully resolved those issues myself, although in an age of non-state actors engaged in systematic attacks against civilian populations I tend to fall on the side of favoring a robust intelligence unit. I'm just not sure the American public has yet to fully reckon with the almost inherent conflict between aggressive intelligence operations on one hand, and democratic society and preventitive measures on the other. What results is the spectacle of the same people complaining about our failure to take out bin Laden pre-9/11 and our aggressive actions against Iraq.