November 13, 2004


David Brooks gives me the creeps with his calls for Bush to punish his "enemies" in the CIA:

Now that he's been returned to office, President Bush is going to have to differentiate between his opponents and his enemies. His opponents are found in the Democratic Party. His enemies are in certain offices of the Central Intelligence Agency. . .

If we lived in a primitive age, the ground at Langley would be laid waste and salted, and there would be heads on spikes. As it is, the answer to the C.I.A. insubordination is not just to move a few boxes on the office flow chart. . .

It is time to reassert some harsh authority so C.I.A. employees know they must defer to the people who win elections, so they do not feel free at meetings to spout off about their contempt of the White House, so they do not go around to their counterparts from other nations and tell them to ignore American policy.

It's hard for me to tell what it is about Brooks' piece that gives me the willies. I don't disagree that insubordinate behavior should result in some kind of discipline. Maybe it's the way Brooks is so willing to use the word "enemies," the same word we use to describe the al Qaeda terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center. This implied equivalence is at best intellectually unhelpful, at worst it's downright dangerous.

Brooks implies that a CIA employee's highest obligation is to the President. This sounds right, but isn't it also true that as citizens, their highest obligation ought to be to the nation? If the President is misrepresenting the available intelligence to persuade the nation to go to war, what responsibilities to the nation do employees of the CIA have? Perhaps they should be fired for leaking information, but perhaps the nation ought to commend their courage for choosing their country over their jobs. Labeling them the President's "enemies" is misleading and dangerous.

Still uncomfortable with Brooks' piece, I turned to an article about the resignation of CIA #2 John McLaughlin. Porter Goss, the man Bush picked to head the agency after the departure of George Tenet, is shaking up the CIA's top leadership:

Mr. Goss, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, became director of central intelligence in late September and has unnerved many career officials at the C.I.A. by installing four former House Republican officials in senior advisory positions.
Why does this give me the willies too? Shakeups can be good for any organization, and there's no reason to think that Goss hasn't picked qualified people whom he trusts will do a good job.

Maybe it's just the residue from Brooks' call for a CIA purge. Maybe it's just the words "House Republican officials." Why does all this sound so creepy? Somehow I don't think the CIA can be effective when it's politicized, but it seems like that's the direction we're headed.

Posted by Carey at November 13, 2004 10:59 AM