Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Ciao at the CIA

According to the Washington Post, lawmakers are wondering why the CIA is losing so much talent , especially in time of war.

When Porter J. Goss took over a failure-stained CIA last year, he promised to reshape the agency beginning with the area he knew best: its famed spy division.

Goss, himself a former covert operative who had chaired the House intelligence committee, focused on the officers in the field. He pledged status and resources for case officers, sending hundreds more to far-off assignments, undercover and on the front line of the battle against al Qaeda.

A year later, Goss is at loggerheads with the clandestine service he sought to embrace. At least a dozen senior officials -- several of whom were promoted under Goss -- have resigned, retired early or requested reassignment. The directorate's second-in-command walked out of Langley last month and then told senators in a closed-door hearing that he had lost confidence in Goss's leadership....

the Senate intelligence committee, which generally took testimony once a year from Goss's predecessors, has invited him for an unusual closed-door hearing today. Senators, according to their staff, intend to ask the former congressman from Florida to explain why the CIA is bleeding talent at a time of war, and to answer charges that the agency is adrift.

"Hundreds of years of leadership and experience has walked out the door in the last year," said Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), "and more senior people are making critical career decisions as we speak."

They may wonder why the CIA is losing so many career officers, but I do not wonder why that is at all.

Start with Goss himself. Although he once was a covert operative, that was many years ago, and since then he became a politician. And one has to think that he was chosen for the job not so much because he was a former CIA officer all those many years ago, but because he was a Republican Congressman. Bill Clinton and other former Presidents knew better than to appoint cronies and party hacks to positions where the security of the United States was of vital concern, so he appointed professionals who knew what they were doing and were already part of the organization. Vietnam era covert operative-turned-politician Goss apparently fits in at the the CIA about like a snake would fit in to a burrow full of prarie dogs-- and with the same results.

It's not just Goss though. Even if Bush had broken with his pattern elsewhere in government and appointed a professional for the job, they would still be leaving.

Another reason so many are leaving is the intentional distortion of what was actually in many cases good intelligence to create a threat that didn't exist in Iraq for purely ideological and personal reasons, and then to smear the agency when it turned out that the lies and distortions were, well, lies and distortions. If you work your heart out and then your work is bizarrely twisted and distorted, and then you are blamed by the very people who twisted your work out of shape in the first place, would you want to stay?

Yet another reason is Plame case. It isn't just about the fact that a senior White House advisor, one who the C-in-C places his full trust in, apparently intentionally and knowingly destroyed the career of one CIA operative for nothing better than crass political reasons (although this would be reason enough). It also involves the fact that every CIA operative who has worked overseas (and that includes Plame, through her front company) has developed contacts among the local populace. People who risk their lives, often in societies where the most brutal dictators and local warlords hold sway, who provide information, whether for pay or for the hope of someday creating a better society, or for whatever reason. When Karl Rove and Scooter Libby betrayed Valerie Plame, they betrayed far more than her. They betrayed anyone in another country who may have been doing business with her. We probably will never learn their names, but you can be sure that many of them are in re-education camps, prisons, torture chambers or most likely dead and buried by now. They betrayed the agency. All of our operatives have similar contacts, and none of them can assume that what happened once, won't happen again. They betrayed America. No wonder professionals want to leave the agency.

Of course there is some good news in all this for the far right. If they get enough professional CIA agents to leave, they can hire college Republicans for the CIA. You know, dirty tricksters and people willing to spy on Americans right here at home, whether it is legal or not. The kind of people we cleaned out of the CIA after the Nixon era ended. For an administration awash in cronyism, what could be better?


Anonymous said...

Plame is the most corrupt and unethical CIA employee in history.

Eli Blake said...

That she ain't. But for the moment assume take what you said at face value: Then,

that's an EXCUSE for what Rove and Libby did? Tell that to one of her contacts in the Islamic world who has now been exposed as an American spy. On second thought, don't bother, because rest assured, that person is no longer on this earth to tell it to.

And, explain how come what happened to her might not happen to the next CIA agent who gets (or whose family members get) on the wrong side of the Bush administration.

IF she was corrupt (a charge I have heard only from Limbaugh and a few similar talk show bomb throwers), then we have racketeering laws on the books and the ability to prosecute people for corruption. It isn't up to Karl Rove to be the judge, jury and executioner even if he thinks he is right.

Like I said, no wonder so many professional spies are leaving the CIA.