WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a courtyard of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia is a statue of Nathan Hale, the first American ever executed for spying. In the days before satellites, cell phones and electronic surveillance, young Nathan Hale volunteered to go into enemy territory and acquire the "human intelligence" General George Washington needed to make future war plans. Regrettably, Hale had neither the tools nor the training necessary to allow him to escape back to friendly lines. Captured by the British, legend has it that as Hale stood on the gallows from which he would be hanged, his last words were, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
The sculpture of Nathan Hale ought to be moved from the courtyard to the front entrance of the CIA headquarters. The move would serve to remind those who pass through the portals of the building how important human intelligence was -- and continues to be -- to our nation in an era when we are threatened by radical Islamic terror and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Unfortunately, this week's new leak of classified information about how the National Security Agency collects signals intelligence is likely to jeopardize a very necessary reorganization of the Central Intelligence Agency. The current firestorm was created by a hyperventilated 11 May 2006 USA Today article, which alleges that the NSA "has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans." Despite the President's assurances that the NSA is "not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans," and that "the privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities," politicians are already using the most recent allegations as a reason to oppose the appointment of General Michael Hayden as the new head of the CIA. The NSA debate obscures an urgent reality: the CIA desperately needs new leadership and direction.
Nearly sixty years ago, The National Security Act of 1947 created not only a Central Intelligence Agency, but a Director of Central Intelligence (DCI). The job of the DCI was three-fold: to oversee the entirety of the U.S. intelligence community; serve as head of the Central Intelligence Agency; and act as the principal advisor to the President for intelligence matters.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.