Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Constantly Insulted Agency

David Ignatius notes that the CIA has been the object of a lot of "bashing". (Scare quotes deliberate – is it "bashing" if the criticisms are true?)

Driving past the George Bush Center for Intelligence, as the CIA headquarters is officially known, you can't help wondering how on earth America's spy service has become the favorite whipping boy of the right wing.

"Known" as the George Bush Center for Intelligence? Known by whom? I just googled the Washington Post site for the phrase, and only one article came up. [pause] OK, here we go.

The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1999* was signed into law by the President on October 20, 1998. Among its provisions, the Act directed that the Headquarters compound of the Central Intelligence Agency located in Langley, Virginia, shall be known and designated as the "George Bush Center for Intelligence." http://www.cia.gov/cia/information/bush.html

Oh. OK, not that George Bush. Interesting that he chose to cite the official name of the headquarters in his first paragraph. Showing off his knowledge of the local buildings? Just forgot to mention the building was named after the 41st President, not the 43rd? Oh well. Nobody's perfect, I guess.

If the military were facing a similar political purge, the public would rightly be indignant. But for some reason, the protected status accorded the military in recent years does not extend to their brethren at the CIA. Intelligence officers have been fair game for political attack for decades. The CIA-bashers were once on the left. Now it's the right that demonizes the CIA as an elitist "rogue agency," but the effect is the same. The agency wears a permanent "Kick Me" sign on its backside. It's the excuse for everyone's problems. Even Sen. John McCain, who should know better, has joined in the public flaying of the CIA, calling it "dysfunctional." Doesn't he see that the current assault on career intelligence officers is like the post-Vietnam attacks on an unpopular U.S. military?

The problem is, he hasn't really addressed the merits of the criticisms. He paints the organization as a competant organization whose excellent work the administration ignored, and continues to ignore in favor or "neocons".

It might be interesting to compare the analysis in the 9-11 report with the sentiments in this article.

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