Wednesday, December 31, 2008

More on Chain of Command issues

Another glimpse of the range of duties at the top of the CIA. Nora Slatkin is the former Executive Director of the CIA. Her duties are described in this press release and also in this Business Week article.

One of the things I found most disturbing (speaking as someone with a background in sociology) in Jane Mayer's book, aside from the more obvious stuff, was the description of the "bureaucratization of brutality." To quote from Mayer's book "The Dark Side" -

"Some insiders feared that the network of CIA prisons had spawned a corrosive new subculture, eating away at the ideals that America's intelligence service had been created to protect. 'Brutalization became bureaucratized,' said one former CIA officer. 'I mean, were there career paths in this now? What are the criteria for evaluation and promotion? That's how bureaucracies work. Do you really want to be building these skill sets?'" (p.271)

It is a very good question. It will take a fair amount of leadership and moral authority to stamp out this process at all levels of the CIA. Do you want someone who promoted a torturer yesterday in charge today of ensuring torturers are appropriately censured and punished inside the CIA? When it comes to promoting serious obedience to the law & Obama interrogation policy, how does that work? The page I refer to above from "The Dark Side" also refers to a "corrosive new subculture" in the CIA. Tackling that will be among the jobs handled by an incoming CIA Director.

My post on Jack Devine addresses the tactical value of such pro-human rights shifts in the CIA. Bringing in someone who understands the value of that "soft power" seems important to me. If you choose someone for CIA who doesn't believe torture works, I think you end that discussion. And if Obama means to implement an anti-torture policy, hiring someone who has his back on that would only be a good thing for him. There are qualified people who believe (rightfully) that torture does not work.

In other news, Stephen Soldz wrote up my post "The Broader CIA Critique" a few days ago at his blog, Psyche, Science and Society. Soldz's letter to the Obama transition team was key to drawing attention to John Brennan in the media. I am very happy that he found the post worth reading.

No comments: