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Legacy of Ashes

By j1mmy in Culture
Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 10:46:55 PM EST
Tags: book, review, CIA, incompetence, failure, stupidity, wtf, sodomy (all tags)

Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner is a fascinating history of the CIA. I highly recommend it to everyone!

Before reading this book, I knew very little about the CIA. I knew what the acronym stood for (Centralized Informational Armofthegovernment), I knew they put out a nice collection of data on every country in the world, and I knew they would offer jobs to just about any idiot off the street. I turned down an offer to join the agency after college. I had regretted turning down that job for years, but have changed my thinking after reading this book.


How it Started

The CIA began as not as the CIA, but as the Office of Strategic Services. The OSS began doing covert work during World War 2. We Americans were impressed by Britain's successful intelligence service and attempted to replicate it for ourselves. We failed miserably, losing almost all the operatives we sent to spy on the Nazis.

The head of that unit, William Donovan, felt that a good intelligence service was a necessary part of our national defense. William Donovan talked Truman into approving such a service, and the Central Intelligence Group was founded, later renamed the Central Intelligence Agency. This raised the ire of the defense department, which felt that intelligence should be under the watch of, and was most relevant to, the military. This new civilian agency didn't begin with any friends outside the White House.

Fighting the Reds

The CIA's primary mission became fighting Communism. The first 3/4 of the book lay out how it attempted to accomplish this. The CIA's typical strategy involved identifying a country with the potential to elect a communist government, funding right-wing revolutionaries to overthrow said government, and helping a new government come into power.

In most cases, the new government would be headed by a violent fascist with no respect for law or liberty.

In the other cases, the plan would backfire when American involvement was exposed. Anti-American sentiment helped drive countries to communism more rapidly than they otherwise would have done.

Guatemala

Eisenhower started the "overthrow the government" trend in Guatemala in the early 1950's. The CIA had been considering the idea under Truman, but didn't have the support necessary to follow through. Eisenhower tasked the CIA with replacing the democratically elected left-leaning president of Guatemala with a strong anti-communist, and brought together the economic and military aid necessary to do so. The CIA feared that Guatemala could be the starting point for the growth of communism in Latin America, and later into North and South America.

The plan worked. Communism was out and reckless, incompetent, fascism was in. The US no longer had to worry about Communism taking root in Guatemala because the region fell into decades of evolving military dictatorships, human rights abuses, and hundreds of thousands of deaths.

The US was rightly criticized for it's role in the affair, but the CIA saw the operation as a success. They did, in fact, prevent the spread of Communism. However, subsequent reviews of Guatemalan government records by the CIA revealed no connections between Guatemala and Communist Russia. The civil unrest and violence and death were never necessary.

This stood as a model for the CIA's future interventions in foreign governments. The parallels with Iraq are striking: overthrowing a stable government for ideological reasons based on poor intelligence and leaving behind a violent civil conflict. Our government isn't learning from it's mistakes.

Continuing the Fight

The CIA engaged in similar endaevours elsewhere in Latin America, Southeast Asia, Africa, and even Europe. They bought elections for the Christian Democrats in Italy in the late 60's.

The one thing the CIA did very well was give away money. The CIA doled out cash to their supporters all around the world in large quantities. These were rebel groups, friendly political parties, and even the Dalai Lama. Anyone against the reds could get all the dollars they needed to keep up the fight.

The CIA was also quite good at distributing arms. Money was never in short supply to buy weapons from overseas suppliers and funnel them through black-market channels to the gangs the CIA enlisted to fight for it. The Iran-Contra affair serves as the classic example of these arrangements:

The CIA bought missiles from the Pentagon, which resold them to an arms dealer at an inflated price. The dealer then sold the missiles to Iran, while the CIA sent it's profit to the rebels in Nicaragua. Iran would release it's American hostages, the Contras were funded without Congress knowing about it, and everybody was happy. Iran was so happy about these weapon shipments, it began taking more hostages.

Mistakes

The agency has been misused or abused by almost every President who held office during it's existence.

JFK had the agency working to overthrow Cuba and prevent further Communist expansion all over the world. The book suggests that his assassination was ordered by Castro, but doesn't reach any conclusion on that point.

LBJ got us into Vietnam because of poor intelligence. The Gulf of Tonkin incident was later revealed to be friendly-fire between two US warships, not an attack by the Communists. The error was discovered the same day LBJ ordered retaliatory strikes on Vietnam, but never reported to the legislature or the executive. The mistake was declassified in 2005.

Nixon had a bad habit of ignoring what the CIA told him when it contradicted his policies, even though the CIA was often right and Nixon was often wrong. Sound familiar? Nixon wanted to fight Communism everywhere and wanted the CIA to do it. One of his strongest legacies is the arms race for the cold war. He pressured the CIA for estimates of the Soviet's nuclear arsenal in line with his beliefs, and they delivered, overstating the true numbers until the end of the Cold War.

Carter decided to involve the US in the Soviet-Afghani war, ordering the CIA to funnel arms to the Afghan fighters resisting the Soviet invasion. The shipments went through Pakistani intelligence, which distributed them to the most effective fighters after keeping a fair share of the arms for themselves. The most effective fighters turned out to be the radical Muslims. Some of these fighters later formed the Taliban, of which you may have heard. They took power in Afghanistan in the mid-90's.

Reagan continued Nixon's legacy, using these overstated numbers to bolster the military-industrial complex and further the arms race with the Soviet Union. He approved of the shady arms dealing with Iran and the funding of rebels in Nicaragua and other parts of Central America.

Clinton and Bush

The latter quarter of the book talks about the CIA during the Clinton and Bush years. Clinton had little use for the CIA, rarely meeting with the director to discuss anything. The CIA itself didn't know what to do. After decades of fighting communism, they had lost their primary target. Agency staff left in droves for other lines of work.

Bush had little use for the CIA before 9/11, ignoring their warnings that a major terrorist attack on American soil was looming. We all know how that turned out. He had great use for the agency after 9/11, convincing the higher-ups to find intelligence supporting the existence of WMD's in Iraq. We all know how that turned out, too.

The agency is effectively hamstrung these days. The Defense Intelligence Agency is playing a much larger role in providing intelligence information to the executive, which is making the CIA's future uncertain.

Notes

The back of the book contains over 150 pages of notes, references, and sources. The author certainly did his homework.

Final Thoughts

The book itself is well-written. It doesn't go into laborious detail at any point, though I feel it was too thin on the motivations behind some of the operations discussed within.

My only other concern was the rapid-fire presentation of people. You get at least one new name every page, if not more, and keeping track of who's who becomes increasingly difficult as you keep reading.

Finally, this book made me angry. The level of incompetence demonstrated by both the agency and the politicians bending it to support their policies is disgusting to me, personally, and I'm genuinely bothered that these things happen in a country that supposedly respects liberty above all else.

Vote Ron Paul!

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Legacy of Ashes | 52 comments (37 topical, 15 editorial, 2 hidden)
Highly questionable in spots (2.20 / 5) (#9)
by godix on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 05:01:51 PM EST

The parallels with Iraq are striking: overthrowing a stable government for ideological reasons based on poor intelligence and leaving behind a violent civil conflict. Our government isn't learning from it's mistakes.

It's probably worth noting not all of the Iraq intelligence, and probably not the evidence that spurred action, originated from the CIA. As well labeling Iraq under Saddam as 'stable' kinda ignores the sanctions, no fly zone, semi-frequent US attacks, losing a war, or violent suppression of rebellion. Comparing openly invading a dictatorship with military force to secretly overthrowing a democratically elected government through proxies is just a joke. If you're going for a factual article then keep the editorializing out. Even if you're going to keep it in at least try to so somewhat less blatantly moronic about it will ya?

Iran was so happy about these weapon shipments, it began taking more hostages.

Iran stormed an embassy and took it's personnel hostage for over a year a second time?

The book suggests that his assassination was ordered by Castro, but doesn't reach any conclusion on that point.

There are also books that claim the mafia did it, a lone gunman did it, Russia did it, the boy scouts did it, aliens landed on the grassy knoll and did it, etc. Can we stick to facts instead random guesses?

The Gulf of Tonkin incident was later revealed to be friendly-fire between two US warships, not an attack by the Communists.

No it wasn't. The Gulf of Tonkin is based on two separate incidents, neither of which involved friendly fire. On August 2nd 1964 a North Vietnamese boat (three boats actually) attacked the USS Maddox. All analysis afterwards confrims that and if that's not enough for you a North Vietnamese general also says it happened. On August 4th the USS Maddox picked up radar signals and thought it was under attack again so fired at the radar signals. All analysis later indicates it was wrong and there was nothing there at all, the Maddox was firing at empty ocean. Also the same North Vietnamese general that confirms the 8/2 attack denies that there was an 8/4 attack. The 8/4 attack is what the 2005 report, and classified reports to Johnson at the time, refers to. However the fact the second attack was false doesn't change the fact the first attack was real. There's plenty of room to argue on if we should have been in the area to begin with or if the incident was worth escalating to war over but the fact is a US warship really was attacked by North Vietnam and that's the basic gist of what the Gulf of Tonkin resolution was about. Incidentally, the mistaken report on 8/4 came from the USS Maddox radar men and captain. The CIA didn't have jack shit to do with it.

The most effective fighters turned out to be the radical Muslims. Some of these fighters later formed the Taliban, of which you may have heard. They took power in Afghanistan in the mid-90's.

So the CIA is at fault for a group that took power 10 to 15 years later? Riiight.

Reagan continued Nixon's legacy, using these overstated numbers to bolster the military-industrial complex and further the arms race with the Soviet Union

If you haven't noticed the strategy worked. This is hardly a failure of the CIA, if anything it's one of their shinning accomplishments. Although as with the Gulf of Tonkin, it really doesn't have much to do with the CIA one way or the other.

The book itself is well-written. It doesn't go into laborious detail at any point

Sound like it needed a little more detail actually.


- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
Highly answerable reply. (none / 0) (#10)
by j1mmy on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 07:47:54 PM EST

It's probably worth noting not all of the Iraq intelligence ...

The Bush administration used the CIA's national intelligence estimate to justify the war. That estimate is produced by putting together their own estimate with that of foreign services, yes. The Iraqi defectors who made the WMD claims did go through foreign intelligence services. The claims were lies, of course. The CIA accepted them without corroborating evidence of it's own and repacked them as truth for it's report. It was more interested in capitulating to Bush than vetting it's sources.

By stable, I meant the country is not in civil war. I was only pointing on parallels. I know the difference between democracy and a dictatorship, thank you very much. The pattern still fits.

Iran stormed an embassy and took it's personnel hostage for over a year a second time?

Wrong hostages. This started (more or less) with the hijacking of TWA flight 847 in 1985. The hijackers, Hezbollah, took direction from Iran, hence the arms deal with Iran. The other hostages were taken in Iran, most individually, at later dates.

There are also books that claim the mafia did it, a lone gunman did it, Russia did it, the boy scouts did it, aliens landed on the grassy knoll and did it, etc. Can we stick to facts instead random guesses?

The facts will probably always be thin on the matter, but the motives and possibilities discussed in the book are compelling. I didn't, no does the book, say they were an open-and-shut case.

No it wasn't....

You're half right. The message was about an attack by a destroyer on a couple of small North Vietnamese patrol boats. According to the book, the Maddox suffered only one bullet hole and likely shot first, in response to the patrol boats getting too close to them. Hardly justifies the war. The book disagrees about the 8/4 incident:


The NSA report declassified in 2005 described how "the two destroyers gyrated wildly in the dark waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, the Turner Joy firing over 300 rounds madly," both ships taking furious evasive maneuvers. "It was this high-speed gyrating by the American warships through the waters that created all the additional sonar reports of more torpedoes." They had been firing at their own shadows.

I suppose Mr. Weir could have made up the report, or the NSA could be lying, but I doubt it. A message did come from the Maddox captain regarding the incident, but his was ignored. The one the NSA grabbed from the Vietnamese was the one that got to LBJ.

And yes, this had nothing to do with the CIA and everything to do with the NSA, so we can't pin the Vietnam War on them. I guess I misrepresented that in my article.

So the CIA is at fault for a group that took power 10 to 15 years later? Riiight.

You can draw a chain of causation through history for all manner of things. My point was that the CIA's actions set the wheels in motion for the changes that took place. Had they stayed out of it, the Soviets would have taken control instead, and we both know how Communism deals with religious radicals such as the Taliban.

If you haven't noticed the strategy worked. This is hardly a failure of the CIA, if anything it's one of their shinning accomplishments. Although as with the Gulf of Tonkin, it really doesn't have much to do with the CIA one way or the other.

It had everything to do with the CIA. The Presidents looked to the CIA for estimates of Soviet nuclear capabilites, the CIA lied about them under pressure from those Presidents, and the country ramped up missile production for nuclear war. Sure, it succeeded. My point was that sitting idly by while the Soviets worked themselves into collapse would have been far cheaper.

Sound like it needed a little more detail actually.

I never said it didn't. I was kind of disappointed when it ended. I'd be interested in more detailed rundowns of everything that went on with Iran and the other South American missions.

Did I cover everything? My fingers are tired now.

[ Parent ]

A reasonable reply? On K5? WTF???? (none / 1) (#13)
by godix on Sun Nov 04, 2007 at 10:57:28 PM EST

The CIA accepted them without corroborating evidence of it's own and repacked them as truth for it's report. It was more interested in capitulating to Bush than vetting it's sources.

Your article implies it's ALL the CIA's fault (although you don't specifically state that) while your reply clearly shows you realize the CIA's negligence was basically not checking into the stuff it was given before passing it on. Still a problem with the CIA but not the total failure the article implies.

Wrong hostages. This started (more or less) with the hijacking of TWA flight 847 in 1985. The hijackers, Hezbollah, took direction from Iran, hence the arms deal with Iran. The other hostages were taken in Iran, most individually, at later dates.

My point was that hostage taking in the middle east had a long history prior to the Iran Contra scandal. Obviously paying off terrorist because of their acts of terror isn't a good idea but equally obvious there was something else motivating hostage taking before the US passed over some arms. Net result, while Iran Contra was stupid it probably wasn't a huge motivator for terrorism.

The book disagrees about the 8/4 incident

Re-read your quote. It and I are saying the same thing. The boats didn't fire at each other which is the definition of friendly fire. Instead the boats picked up signals that they thought were enemies and fired at those (and no that doesn't mean their fired at each other, they interpreted the signals as coming from elsewhere). Their interpretation was wrong and the origin of those signals was almost definately the US ships themselves. That doesn't make it friendly fire though, that just makes it moronic. And it still doesn't change the fact the 8/2 incident was exactly what was claimed, an attack on US Navy ships by the North Vietnamese. I happen to agree that the incident was trivial, clearly didn't harm the ships, and not worth starting a war over. However Congress did think it was worth a war and they based that opinion on accurate claims that our ships were attacked.
Had they stayed out of it, the Soviets would have taken control instead, and we both know how Communism deals with religious radicals such as the Taliban.

Questionable. Look at the problems the US is having and we actually have support of Pakistan which is quite important and Russia didn't have. Historically speaking Afghanistan is pretty good at fighting off would be conquerors as well. Also of note, the people we funded are mostly what eventually became the Northern Alliance, the very people we turned to decades later when we invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban is a different group than the one we aided.
My point was that sitting idly by while the Soviets worked themselves into collapse would have been far cheaper.

Perhaps but we can't be sure the Soviets would have worked themselves into collapse.

Speaking of soviet collapse, I'm kinda surprised you didn't point out that the CIA was as surprised as anyone when it happened. That was a clear failure the book should have mentioned.

Speaking of other CIA failures, they didn't know India had a nuclear program until India tested.

I'm not saying the CIA is great but the faults your attributing to it aren't accurate. The article, or presumably the book if your accurately stating what it says, misrepresents some CIA failures while apparently ignoring other CIA failures that are legit concerns.


- An egotist is someone who thinks they're almost as good as I am.
[ Parent ]

Hello (none / 1) (#18)
by j1mmy on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 10:10:19 AM EST

Your article implies it's ALL the CIA's fault (although you don't specifically state that) while your reply clearly shows you realize the CIA's negligence was basically not checking into the stuff it was given before passing it on. Still a problem with the CIA but not the total failure the article implies.

I sure didn't specifially state that. The fault lies with the CIA, Bush and his friends, the foreign intelligence agencies, the lying defectors, and plenty of other people. The CIA was simply the final link in the chain before the war authorization. It's supposed to act as both the collector and verifier of intelligence, and it did a piss-poor job in both regards.

Re-read your quote.

My interpretation was that the ships were confused by their own movements and firing at eachother because of those movements. The chronology from Harris confirms that you're right. In retrospect, I would imagine that two destroyers firing at eachother would have figured out what was going on pretty quickly.

Questionable.

Sure, it's only speculation. The Soviets didn't think much of civil rights, so I would guess they'd do better at supressing an uprising.

The CIA's weapons program put arms in the hand of many fighters in Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance and the Taliban were only some of the recipients.

Speaking of soviet collapse, I'm kinda surprised you didn't point out that the CIA was as surprised as anyone when it happened. That was a clear failure the book should have mentioned.

One of the running themes in the book was how little the CIA knew about Russia, and the difficulty it had getting agents into Russia. And, yes, the book does mention that the fall of Communism caught the CIA off guard. It also mentions the surprise Indian nuclear test.

I think the fundamental problem lies with my cherry-picking from the book what I consider to be interesting. The book does a far better job of representing the history of the agency than I do here. Pick up a copy.


[ Parent ]

-1 for the last line alone (1.16 / 6) (#15)
by wji on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 02:30:43 AM EST

I would really appreciate some kind of computer virus which overloads and explodes the CRT of every fool who advocates for that man on the Internet.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
IAWTC (1.50 / 4) (#16)
by Xoder on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 08:59:31 AM EST

en tee

Lately I've been hearing that god's on our side But rumor has it, there's one on their side too So what I'd like to know is, when it comes down to it, can my god kick their god's ass or what?
[ Parent ]
you can't kill all the morons, they are legion (1.00 / 3) (#17)
by circletimessquare on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 09:26:12 AM EST

the best you can do is distract them with shiny objects

thus, ron paul

then, my plan is to lure all of them into that grain silo over there and dynamite it


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

raun pol is shiny? (1.50 / 2) (#50)
by wji on Wed Nov 07, 2007 at 02:30:50 PM EST

how is he shiny? the only shiny candidates are giuliani, mccain, and thompson owing to their shiny bald white heads, and obama because of the halo. ron paul isn't shiny. he's pockmarked and he has a combover.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]
UNLIKELY (3.00 / 3) (#22)
by Delirium on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 01:36:40 PM EST

more likely: computer virus that forces you to vote for ron paul

[ Parent ]
working on it $ (3.00 / 2) (#26)
by j1mmy on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 02:29:36 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Ron Paul (2.33 / 3) (#19)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 10:33:41 AM EST

There would be no Internet if we had followed his policies.  There would be no department of education either...

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
sure there would (3.00 / 2) (#24)
by j1mmy on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 02:06:50 PM EST

the military wanted the internet as a communications tool. ron paul isn't against the military obtaining the necessary tools to do it's job. you're also assuming that the internet would not have developed by other means.

the department of education truly is unnecessary. it takes in tax dollars, hands out loans, does a poor job of collecting on those loans, and collects statistics. none of these are necessary functions of the federal government.

[ Parent ]

Department of Education (none / 1) (#33)
by yuo on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 09:07:25 AM EST

I think it is fascinating how many people don't understand what it actually does. "Department of Education"? Sounds pretty important. We like education!!!

When I become president, I'll create a Department of Essential Services whose sole purpose is to play video games.

I wish I had thought of pants pants pants pants pants pants pants pants.
[ Parent ]

sign me up! $ (none / 0) (#34)
by j1mmy on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 11:27:47 AM EST



[ Parent ]
But (none / 0) (#48)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Wed Nov 07, 2007 at 07:08:39 AM EST

The Internet wouldn't be opened up to public.

I do assume the Internet wouldn't be created by other means (aside from the governments of other countries).  Big projects like that never come from private industry and it wouldn't be as open if it was.

And I don't know Paul's exact positions, but technology doesn't develop in a truly free market.  Technology comes from government research and from the market interference of intellectual property laws.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
[ Parent ]

this is not correct (none / 0) (#52)
by wji on Wed Nov 07, 2007 at 08:49:39 PM EST

The military didn't care about Internet; they probably didn't even know about Internet. Yes, (D)ARPA is part of the military establishment, but they have very wide latitude about what they research, indeed, before 1973 they were the major source of basic research. As in research with no immediately obvious application. The oft-quoted legend that the Internet was supposed to survive a nuclear attack is bunk, and the Internet was and is nowhere near that decentralized anyway; try traceroutes to various sites around the world sometime, you'll find that your traffic almost always goes through the same choke points.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]
you seemed to have written a good piece (1.00 / 6) (#21)
by circletimessquare on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 01:25:24 PM EST

then you reached into your ass with your index finger, hooked a nice chunk of shit, and smeared it across your story's upper lip with:

"Vote Ron Paul!"

-1, retard


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

thank you for your insight (3.00 / 3) (#27)
by j1mmy on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 02:31:13 PM EST

would you like to smell my finger?

[ Parent ]
you said "Vote Ron Paul!" didn't you? (1.00 / 4) (#28)
by circletimessquare on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 03:14:11 PM EST

what do you think that's the equivalent of?

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
everyone hates GWB, the CIA, the U.S. (3.00 / 2) (#30)
by yellow shark on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 08:44:25 PM EST

even USians. Yet millions of people try to get here to STAY every year. There has to be a reason.

Oh I forgot, unlike the rest of us they are ignorant.

Shuddap Noobie (none / 1) (#36)
by kbudha on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 01:09:44 PM EST

If you read the article instead of just flinging poo around like a howler monkey, you'd realize that most of us love this country.
We are the greatest country in the world.

We just think the leadership is severly lacking of late.
.

[ Parent ]

lulz...meh /nt (none / 0) (#42)
by yellow shark on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 02:53:45 PM EST



[ Parent ]
speakup bitch (none / 1) (#43)
by kbudha on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 02:55:50 PM EST

I can't understand your mumbling with your mouth full.

I don't speak Cockanese.
.

[ Parent ]

hey kbudha (none / 0) (#44)
by yellow shark on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 03:34:14 PM EST

I actually like you. I was just trolling ya.

Take it easy! It's ok honest and i mean what i say.

[ Parent ]

HEY WASTE OF SPACE (none / 0) (#45)
by kbudha on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 04:54:36 PM EST

I don't care.

Plz apply liberal dose of cyanide aftershave.
Kthanx bye.

[ Parent ]

Politicization of intelligence reporting... (none / 1) (#31)
by skyknight on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 07:42:39 AM EST

Supreme Court justices are (theoretically) rendered immune from politics by having appointments for life. I wonder if we could somehow construct similar insulation for intel budgets so as to prevent any given president from making an agency into a puppet for his term. As it is, budgets are set every year after much wrangling. Agencies are subject to the whims of Congress and the White House in ways that makes the possibility of spin very real, as we've seen. What if the budgets were set for the next four years, for the entire term of a presidency?

This is more of a thought problem than a serious proposal, but the idea is at least amusing to me. There are other things that I think would help properly incentivize behavior. For example, in the same way that private industry has been moving toward delayed vesting of options for executives so as to discourage rape-and-run practices, so too might the civil servants who steer agencies be encouraged to better behavior thusly. The annual promotion cycle and budget making render planning depressingly short sighted.

There is so much about the government's incentive structure that makes it wholly unsurprising that things are regularly a mess. Transparency, accountability, continuity... All are in short supply.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
Not sure immunity is a good idea. (none / 0) (#35)
by j1mmy on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 11:35:23 AM EST

Some of the problems the CIA caused were a result of politicization, as you say. The others were the result of a lack of oversight from the higher-ups. The Iran-Contra deal was specifically crafted to work around Congress's ban on funding the contras and to get around the U.S.'s refusal to negotiate with terrorists.

Unlike Supreme Court justices, the CIA doesn't have a clearly defined set of objectives and rules to follow. It does need to be insulated from external influence, I agree, but when isolated it tends to do bad things.

[ Parent ]

Those are separate issues. (none / 1) (#46)
by skyknight on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 08:00:39 PM EST

Intel agencies do need rigorous oversight, but that's a matter of ensuring that they adhere to the requisite laws and policies. Agencies should never be insulated from such compliance issues, but they should be insulated from the whims of the politicians du jour who seek to compel adherence to their personal agenda by using budget games as a hammer.

In the last two decades, the combination of contracting out vast swaths of function and paring civilian hiring to the bone has been a disaster for intel agencies. It's unclear to me whether they can ever recover from the pummeling. The politics that have driven this scenario are truly disgusting. Congressmen are basically just plunderers hauling booty back to their districts, completely indifferent to the damage being done to the system as a whole.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
First Time I've Commented in Years (3.00 / 2) (#32)
by BobCat on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 08:16:23 AM EST

What a sad state k5 has descended to, that this article landed in my inbox, and was the only thing in days to make the daily digest.

This reads like a 9th grade essay, complete with grammatical errors.

Top 10 Ways to Amuse a Geek

Yet you spent 5 dollars (none / 0) (#37)
by kbudha on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 01:10:50 PM EST

What a boring life you must have.

[ Parent ]
YFI look at his UID (none / 0) (#38)
by yellow shark on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 01:45:27 PM EST

sheesh. That uid has been around since at least 2004 and was 'grandfathered' in. Engage brain plz. besides the story sucked.

[ Parent ]
Damn, I thought this article would be about (none / 1) (#49)
by Wen Jian on Wed Nov 07, 2007 at 11:45:21 AM EST

Test Cricket.
It was an experiment in lulz. - Rusty
Legacy of Ashes | 52 comments (37 topical, 15 editorial, 2 hidden)
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