We’d better hope Saddam Hussein missed Monday’s New York Times, or else he’ll know all about the CIA’s proposed covert operation to overthrow him.
Coming in the same week that Israel’s once-feared Mossad came off like Keystone Spooks in a bungled bugging in Switzerland, the Times report detailing debate over a covert operation still in its planning stages underlined the declining fortunes of the elite intelligence services that had seemed so formidable in the Cold War era.
The CIA has spent the last few years doing damage control on everything from its penetration by the Soviets via highly placed mole Aldrich Ames and the involvement of a Guatemalan asset in murdering an American to the proximity of its Central American operations to the cocaine trade.
Over in the remains of the Evil Empire, the former KGB isn’t faring much better: Its elite appear to have gone into politics and business, while their former subordinates are reduced to hawking secret files to the highest bidder.
Israel’s Mossad has, in the past year alone, had to deal with a botched assassination attempt on a Hamas leader in Jordan, which turned into a political disaster for Prime Minister Netanyahu, as well as the revelation that alarmist reports of Syria’s military intentions the agency had fed to the government had been dreamed up by the head of its Damascus operation.