There have been several attempts in the past to resolve cultural conflicts between the two groups. The need to develop greater cooperation is a shared goal. In the 1990s, the FBI and CIA formed a group of top executives called the Gang of Eight, whose purpose was to attempt o resolve the cultural divide between the two groups. This group encouraged an exchange program where members of the CIA and members of the FBI would work for the other organization so that they would learn more about how the other one worked (Gorman, 2001).
In 1999, it was determined that the efforts at cooperation had been successful. They felt that they had accomplished their goals and that their work was done (Gorman, 2001). However, after 9/11 the old feud was rekindled as each side attempted to shift blame to the other one. This represents a transactive goal and a dysfunctional one at that. Both organizations still have the prospective goal of protecting the American public. However, a transactive goal of self-protection developed because no one wanted to be held responsible for the mistakes that led to the tragedy.
The transactive goals of the organization place the prospective goals at risk. The inability to communicate with one another and the schism that has developed between the two organizations as a result, not only place the organizations at risk, they place the safety of the American pubic in jeopardy. The inability to communicate creates security holes that could allow an opportunistic Al Qaeda to take advantage of the situation (Grebb, 2003). Currently, the FBI is still working within the United States and the CIA is still working abroad. Domestic Al Qaeda members do not have these types of difficulties coordinating with their counterparts, which gives than a decided advantage in the situation (Gorman, 2001).
As one can see, the schism between the FBI and CIA now goes beyond individual differences between the two groups. It now places them at a disadvantage, as compared to their immediate threat. These problems between the CIA and FBI were important in the past and represented a major barrier to their effectiveness. However, now the situation has become desperate and the two organizations must resolve this finally.
Lens Model of Conflict
Each person in a conflict views the situation from their own lens. The ability to resolve conflict often depends on the ability to view the situation from another persons' lens. In this case, the FBI and CIA have developed very different lenses through which to view the situation. The FBI views the war on terrorism from the number of wins that they can tally. The FBI has charged 200 suspected terrorists around the country. These successes can be quantified by one arrest at a time, one case at a time and one conviction at a time (Gorman., 2001). In keeping with their individualistic viewpoint, individual agents are rewarded for their successes. The lens through which the FBI views a case is linear and concrete. Certainty is imperative an there is a nice, clean end to each case (Gorman, 2001).
Information through the CIA lens is much less tangible. Informants often develop friendly relationships with agents. The CIA can act on suspicion and a hunch. The FBI must have concrete evidence. The CIA agent must be able to foresee and predict future events. The CIA agent draws connections and makes inferences, information that might be difficult to connect at the very least. The CIA officer talks in terms of the team. The case is never closed, but it is seen as an ongoing story to tell (Gorman, 2001). The CIA might have an informant for many years and has an interest in protecting that informant. The FBI has one chance to prove their case (Gorman, 2001). One of the key points of contention is over information on the Internet (Smith, 2001).
The CIA and the FBI view the world from two different lenses. The lenses give a very interesting perspective on the same situation. Both of these lenses offer a necessary piece of information and help to get a view of the whole. However, one can also see how these different lenses can be destructive at the same time. Viewing a situation from two different perspectives can be an advantage. However, it can also mean the misinterpretation of communication as well. This is the root of the current conflict between the FBI and CIA (Garamone, 2005).
A good example of this lens is how the FBI views their success in regards to Al-Qaeda. The FBI says that they know more about Al-Qaeda than they did before 9/11, therefore they consider their efforts a success. They had only 17 cases open on Al Qaeda before 9/11 and now have over 75 (Gorman, 2001). The CIA feels that this says nothing about present or future danger and that this is a dangerous myopic viewpoint (Garamone, 2005). This leads to the question as to who is right. The answer in this case appears to be both and neither at the same time.
The CIA is interested in preventing people from blowing things up, whereas the FBI arrests and convicts people after it is done. The cultural exchange program between the two agencies is a step in the right direction. In order to understand how communications between two agencies with same goals can become so mixed up, one can compare it to two people trying to communicate in a foreign language. The World Trade Towers created an escalation spiral of the problems between the two groups.
It is difficult to imagine a world where the two agencies work in an integrated environment, other than in sharing basic information. The two agencies are set up for two entirely different purposes and in order to maintain their strengths, must remain as they are. However, as we have pointed out, this is also their key weakness. It is imperative that this conflict is worked out quickly due to the imminent threat against the U.S. The two agencies might not be able to see eye-to-eye, but they must be able to sit down at the table and have a rational conversation without flinging insults at one another. They can agree to disagree, but they must make an effort to talk to one another is each other's own language.
Garamone, J. (2005). CIA, FBI Chiefs Categorize Terror Threat Before Senate. February 16, 2005. American Forces Press Service. Retrieved March 24, 2007 at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=25874.
Gorman, S. (2007). FBI, CIA remain worlds apart. National Journal Group Inc. Retrieved March 24, 2007 at http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0803/080103nj1.htm.
Grebb, M. (2003). Spy Groups Tight-Fisted With Data. February 27, 2003. Wired News.
Retrieved March 24, 2007 at http://www.wired.com/news/conflict/0,2100,57830,00.html
Kitfield, J. (2000). CIA, FBI and Pentagon team to fight terrorism. September 19, 2000. National
Journal. Retrieved March 24, 2007 at http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0900/091900nj.htm.