Saturday, December 27, 2008

Morale Myths

Fun glimpses into the CIA's "morale" from various perspectives over the past 8 years.

Ken Silverstein - Harper's:

This former senior officer said there “seems to be a quiet conspiracy by rational people” at the agency to avoid involvement in some of the particularly nasty tactics being employed by the administration, especially “renditions”—the practice whereby the CIA sends terrorist suspects abroad to be questioned in Egypt, Syria, Uzbekistan, and other nations where the regimes are not squeamish about torturing detainees. My source, hardly a softie on the topic of terrorism, said of the split at the CIA: “There's an SS group within the agency that's willing to do anything and there's a Wehrmacht group that is saying, 'I'm not gonna touch this stuff'.”

Scott Horton, a human rights activist who has become a principal spokesman for the New York City Bar Association in evaluating the Bush Administration's tactics, said that he's also hearing stories of growing dissent at the CIA. “When the shit hits the fan,” he explained, “the administration scapegoats lower-level people. It doesn't do a lot in terms of inspiring confidence.”

Jeff Stein, CQ:

CIA spokespeople will not discuss Castelli or Lady. They don’t exist, in the CIA’s fantasy.
“Leaders used to protect those below from the top as they went up,” Lady groused. “It’s a way of harnessing the loyalty of those they led.”
He is bitter. “Now they protect the top. They manage down and step on anyone below.”

Walter Pincus, WaPo:

Hayden has also said he would emphasize the CIA's importance as home to the largest number of "all-source" analysts within the U.S. intelligence community. He plans to remind them, an associate said, that the "CIA's primary customer remains the president" and they are still the "major," if not the only, contributor to the PDB, the President's Daily Brief, the highly classified intelligence report provided to Bush each morning.

Greg Miller, LATimes:

“Relations between the CIA and the office of the DNI have been rocky,” said John Brennan, who until last year served as director of the National Counterterrorism Center, or NCTC, a clearinghouse for terror threat information. “In my view, the agency was reluctant to understand that the NCTC had primary responsibility on the analytic front, and therefore did not adapt the way it needed to.”
Brennan also said morale at the CIA had suffered over the last two years. “A lot of the agency’s responsibilities and capabilities have withered in some respects because they were unsure of their role in the community,” he said.


"Sadly, what I saw was demoralization in the senior ranks, quizzical looks on the faces of new recruits, and a lot of people deployed in the far reaches of the world who could not describe what the mission of their agency was,” said the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Jane Harman of Venice. [regarding former CIA Director Goss]

Kevin Whitelaw and David E. Kaplan, USNews:

When Goss arrived at the CIA, he brought with him four longtime Republican aides from the House Intelligence Committee to make up his inner circle. Led by his former staff director, Patrick Murray, the group was notorious at the CIA, where many viewed them as arrogant, partisan, and caught up in micromanaging marginal programs. At CIA headquarters, the Goss aides soon acquired a nickname: "the Hitler youth."

NYT Editorial (2006):

It also seems ill advised to put an Air Force general at the helm of the C.I.A., a civilian agency, at a time when it is fending off the Pentagon's efforts to expand its own spying operations. Morale at the C.I.A. is at an all-time low, and the choice of General Hayden sends a politically tone-deaf signal to the men and women in the field who themselves are fending off encroachment from the Pentagon.

Scott Horton, No Comment:

A senior intelligence figure recently told me he had resolved to retire. Hayden, he said, is the major reason why. “After the dismal experience with Porter Goss, we were very upbeat about a career military man coming to the helm. We thought it would be an end to sleazy politics and an infusion of upright military values. Hayden is better than Porter Goss, but he’s more like Porter Goss than most of us expected. On the issues that are key to our reputation and morale, Hayden is every bit the equal of Alberto Gonzales—a spineless toady who gives the Addingtons and Cheneys what they want, without giving a second’s thought to our values or long-term institutional interests.” He went on to say, rather ominously, that Hayden was damaging morale by relying too much on fear and intimidation as management tools.

Update: Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus, Washington Post:

Yet the nation's next intelligence leaders will face far more vexing demands. At the top of the list are improving intelligence collection and analysis, and streamlining an unwieldy structure -- all without further damaging morale.

Prominent voices in the intelligence community and the Obama camp have argued that a seasoned professional is needed when the country is waging two wars and a campaign against terrorism, and that a newcomer would face an excessively steep learning curve.

"An outsider will get eaten alive," said Amy Zegart, an associate professor at the University of California at Los Angeles and a former security adviser to both the Clinton administration and President Bush's 2000 transition team. "The next CIA director has to walk a fine line between taming the building and transforming it. He's got to be part cheerleader and part skull-cracker. There is just no room for on-the-job learning."

Morale is a many-splendored thing. There is no reason why Obama can't give someone who believes in the American criminal justice system a try.

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