Saturday, August 29, 2009

Apparently, CIA officers hate America (or at least, are pretty meh about it)

Chris Hayes has a fantastic article in the Nation, and you should go read it.

Done? Good. There's not much I can add to it, but there is one idea I wanted to focus on a bit: This notion that oversight of the CIA (and FBI, and NSA, and the rest of the apparatus of the National Security State) is a bad idea, because it will "demoralize" the secret services, make them too hesitant and timid, and put us at risk of attack.

Richard Clarke nails it in the piece:
"What bothers me," he says, "is the CIA's tendency whenever they're criticized to say, If you do your job, if you do oversight seriously--which Congress almost never does--then we'll pout. Some of us, many, will not just pout; we'll retire early. Our morale will be hurt." And if morale is hurt and the agencies are gutted, they argue, the country will be exposed to attack. In other words: "If you, Congress, do oversight, then we'll all die. Can you imagine FEMA or the agricultural department saying we're all going to retire if you conduct oversight?" Clarke asks in disbelief.
First of all, these are people that we expect to risk their lives for their country, when circumstances compel. But we think so little of them that we can't say, "Hey, you should stop torturing people" without worrying that these fragile little violets will get all sad, and stop giving a shit if their country gets obliterated by a terrorist-planted nuclear weapon?

Second of all, these are professionals. Professionals in every other occupation on the planet expect their superiors to oversee their work, so what makes our spies so different?

Third of all, it's been pretty clear for a while now that we don't actually have a particularly effective intelligence community. Which is not to say that they haven't stopped many thousands of evil plots against us, or learned reams and reams of valuable information. But we pay more for their services every year than our next several competitors combined, and have for the last couple of decades. And yet, we routinely get outmaneuvered by every other intelligence service we ever deal with. If we didn't have all our fancy spy satellites and wiretaps and other whiz-bang gadgetry, we probably wouldn't be able to tell you who the Chancellor of Germany was. So maybe it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if we shook these guys up a little bit.

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