Porter-san Politics

Porter Goss wrote a memo, and it goes a little something like this (emphasis mine):

"I also intend to clarify beyond doubt the rules of the road. We support the administration, and its policies in our work as agency employees. We do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies. We provide the intelligence as we see it -- and let the facts alone speak to the policymaker."

Now, I'll admit that the central message of this paragraph is somewhat unclear. If I were a CIA employee, I might be confused, and uncertain as to how Porter-old-boy wanted me to behave on the job. But, if I were a CIA employee, I'd also be adept at deciphering code, so I'd probably parse it a little and break down the meaning of each sentence (ignoring the introductory one).

The meaning of the first sentence seems clear, and rather sterile: "We back the boss." So far, so good.

The meaning of the second sentence seems connotatively clear ("Any enemy of the boss is an enemy of mine"), but literally ambiguous. Does "opposition" mean (a) Democrats, (b) al Qaeda, or (c) other? If (b), then who in the CIA would need to be reminded that al Qaeda's goals are not aligned with those of the Agency? And if (c), then who is "other?"

The meaning of the third sentence, like the first, seems clear: "We deliver information that is objective and accurate and devoid of political agenda."

So in sum what we have is two almost tautological messages sandwiching one cryptic message. In the intelligence community, meaning is often derived from chatter and noise -- and focus applied to a point of data -- by asking the simple question: "Which of these things is not like the other?"

In this case, it's pretty clear.

So why are Porter's and his porters objecting so strenuously to the media's interpretation of his statement as an attempt to influence CIA output in a partisan way (which would, for obvious reasons, be scandalous)? If it weren't partisan and scandalous, why would someone at the Agency bother to leak it to the press?

And if that third sentence is just so much noise, how can American intelligence be anything but an oxymoron?


Blogger PanicFan said...

Isn't the party line good for intelligence?

I mean we got the WMD and Al Qaeda link right?

Think of all the other things they might get right...

For instance...there is no genocide in the Sudan right now.

The Iranian's have their nuk-u-lar weapons trained on us right now, pssst. Hey Israel, want to do us a favor...

Dissent is bad! We'll never get it wrong now :)

November 17, 2004 at 6:24 PM  
Blogger The Termite said...

Unless the opposition speaks out (and I'm not talking about al Qaeda here), I don't think Junior will have to worry about much dissent from the CIA in the next four years. They'll find a way to bring him the "intelligence" that supports his God-sent, Christ-endorsed decisions. Y'know, the ones he prays over. Like who to bomb and when.

November 17, 2004 at 7:31 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

I love it, I love it...hey, just last night, the C.I.A. was in town here in Central Illinois. I decided to find out what they meant about being a " C.I.A. Hero". Basically, it has something to do with an infringement on civil rights ( they forced out all public media, even though a government agency at a public forum) and suggested, and I'm not lying, that working for the C.I.A. is not only fun, and it's fun, and uh, it's exciting, and Uh, it's just like a ...(drumroll please for the C.I.A. agents actual words!)...game! Ladies and gentleman, working in the C.I.A., well, it's just like a game.

November 17, 2004 at 11:12 PM  
Blogger marxistcapitalistobjectivistbuddhist said...

The "facts alone speak"? Wow, miracles DO happen. Goss wants us to forget that the very act of selecting which "facts" get presented (and how) to policymakers is a political act.

November 18, 2004 at 10:21 PM  
Blogger The Termite said...

In the defense of Tenet, Goss and spooks everywhere, if your boss jettisoned every byte of information you gave him except for those that supported the opinions handed down to him by The Christ, you'd eventually adapt and give him only that stuff, wouldn't you?

November 19, 2004 at 7:54 AM  

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