Day By Day

Monday, September 25, 2006

Loyola on Rogue Bureaucrats

Mario Loyola on the bureaucratic wars:
[I]t is important to understand that there will always be strong currents of anti-administration basis within the civil service of any agency — whether the administration is Democrat or Republican — and sometimes that bias can shape the institutional culture in crucial ways. And while the problem is not new, I don't think that federal civil servants have ever enmeshed themselves so actively (and illegally) in politics as under this administration.
On the institutional side, I don't know what the culture is at CIA, and indeed I suspect that it is generally right-of-center, but I can say that at the State Department, the institutional culture is so strong—and so independent—that my friends there often explain their thinking by saying "this building thinks" this or that. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think that these "buildings" are supposed to think anything. They were created to implement the policies of the elected chief executive of the people. It may seem to many civil servants like it's a noble thing to protect the foreign interests of the United States from whoever happens to be in the White House, but that project is unconstitutional. And, when they leak top-secret information, it is also a felony.
Read it here.

Just what I've been saying for several months (or is it years) now. One of the great negative consequences of the Cold War and the Civil Rights revolution was the de-democratizing of government, as more and more operational decision making was transferred from elected, and therefore accountable, officials to bureaucrats and judges. It used to be the left who worried about rogue agencies whose existence was protected in national security term; now those rogue elements inside the permanent government themselves constitute a threat to national security. In the past I have had numerous conversations with federal bureaucrats in which they expressed nothing less than contempt and disdain for political appointees. Their position was essentially that crucial government decisions should be made by the "professionals" rather than the representatives of the people. This is a dangerous conceit, one that is far too widespread within the beltway, and as Mr. Loyola points out, is unconstitutional and in some circumstances illegal.


Loyola reports this communication from a former CIA employee:
As a former intelligence analyst at the CIA, I can assure you that the culture at CIA is most definitely not "right-of-center." The CIA may have serious disagreements with State about specific policy issues, but the employees at the two institutions come largely from the same left-leaning political science/international relations degreed university pool.
Read it here.


And then there's this from Loyola:
When it comes to CIA leaking, this passage from the November 10, 2005, American Prospect is interesting:

“The fact that the agency was leaking isn’t denied by some. ‘Of course they were leaking,’ says Pat Lang. ‘They told me about it at the time. They thought it was funny. They’d say things like, ‘This last thing that came out, surely people will pay attention to that. They won’t re-elect this man.’

There are other smoking guns out there. Take NPR, more recently, on Iran. “The Pentagon has created a new desk to work on Iran policy. That worries some at the CIA, who point out that many of the new Iran-desk staffers are the same people who staffed the now-notorious Office of Special Plans in the run-up to the Iraq war.”

Forget for the fact that the “notorious” is nothing but blatant reporter bias and perhaps a fondness for conspiracy theory (disproved in July 2004, see pages 282-283 on this .pdf). The fact of the matter is that some in the CIA, rather than limit themselves to intelligence development and analysis, seek to involve themselves in the policy debate by leaking. A similar hit job was published by Warren Strobel at McClatchy—relying entirely on unnamed intelligence sources. Many reporters will publish CIA leaks without qualification or caring how they are simply viewed as dupes. To question sources or follow-up when claims prove false would mean that their contacts on their beats would dry up.

Regardless, often times the reporters’ political views coincide If John Negroponte and Pat Kennedy wanted to put an end to it, they could launch an investigation or shut-it-down. There are only two conclusions that can be drawn by the fact that they do not: 1) Either, they support the leaks to win policy battles, the so-called Armitage strategy; or,2) They cannot control the leaks. This suggests that the bureaucracy leads them, rather than they lead the bureaucracy. In which case it is time for the White House to question their management competence.
This has always been something of a problem in Washington for decades -- political appointees becoming prisoners of the agencies they are supposed to direct. But in the case of national security organizations, and especially the intelligence organizations, this has become intolerable. Nothing less than a top to bottom purge, with convictions and incarceration of both the dispensers and recerivers of classified information, will solve the problem. But don't hold your breath. It ain't gonna happen anytime soon.

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