6 February 2004

Tenet Tenacious

Bear in mind that George Tenet's career has not been in intelligence but in staffing for notable persons, that is, seeing that his employers' careers are advanced. This subservient skill has been exhibited in service to Clinton and Bush.

Tenet's suppression of independent thinking makes him appealing to employers, especially those who are sensitive to rank and lack themselves an independet mind and prefer consensus action. Call this the bureaucratic mentality -- or corporate, or family, or church. In any case, it is not the thinking of dissent or rocking the boat or going out on a limb.

To be sure, not many intelligence officers deviate from comfortable thinking of the crowd, and certainly not heads of intelligence agencies, nearly all of whom rose to the top by way of obsequiousness toward those who needed protection from their competitors.

Nothing strange about this: intelligence affairs are seldom different from the affairs of the culture which allows intelligence to be an inherent component.

The issue is how much intelligence should deviate from reassuring that all is well despite threats, and rattle the cage of a culture, or worse, become so negligent (spiteful and resentful about mistreatment) that a successful attack can occur, as with 9-11 and precursor failures.

Tenet has proven to be adept at pleasing his employers, hardly unique in government, and a failure at leadership, hardly unique among senior government officials. Firing him is a no-brainer, though that is a favorite method of exculpating others complicit in a national disaster.

What is peculiar about 9-11 is that not a single official has been punished for failing to prevent the attack. An amazing diffusion of accountability has taken place, of which the invasion of Iraq is a part. Instead of being punished, the US national security enterprise, government and business and punditry, has become wealthier and larger, led by the same people in place on 9-11.

It is to be wondered who has most benefited from 9-11. Intelligence certainly has not suffered, on the contrary it has gained a new life just when it seemed on its way to being a reasonable and subservient part of US culture after 50 years of secret criminal abuse with little accountability to the public, but wholly in thrall to its immediate superiors.

Forget independent thinking and courageous dissent, not at the top, not anywhere in the intelligence bureaucracy. Fire Tenet and there are many eager replacements for overly protected positions for peddling the drug of secrecy.

John Young
February 2, 2004

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