The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

DougJ’s earlier post today on Cheney reminded me of this article from Walter Pincus the other day:

Morale has sagged at the CIA following the release of additional portions of an inspector general’s review of the agency’s interrogation program and the announcement that the Justice Department would investigate possible abuses by interrogators, according to former intelligence officials, especially those associated with the program.

A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard, the third-ranking CIA official at the time of the use of harsh interrogation practices, said that although vigorous oversight is crucial, the public airing of once-classified internal assessments and the prospect of further investigation are damaging the agency. “Morale at the agency is down to minus 50,” he said.

At the same time, former inspector general John L. Helgerson, whose review of the program was largely declassified Monday, said that the release, though painful, would ensure that the agency confronts difficult issues head on, instead of ignoring or trying to bury them.

Unlike virtually everything else in Fred Hiatt’s fishwrap, I tend to trust Pincus and his body of work, so I have no doubt that morale might be low.

What astounds me, though, is that morale might be low at the CIA because the Justice department might prosecute people who- get this- BROKE THE LAW. Imagine that- the Justice department has duties other than politically motivated prosecutions, micromanaging US Attorneys, and stocking the department with religious nuts and gay-bashers.

And what I find even more astounding is that the Republicans and Dick Cheney are, so far, successfully pivoting and presenting themselves as the defenders of the CIA, when it has been Dick Cheney and the neocon establishment that has spent the last four decades undermining, attacking, and debasing the CIA. It wasn’t the liberals who cooked up Team B– that would be George Herbert Walker Bush who approved it, Paul Wolfowitz who was part of the team, and Richard Perle who was instrumental in making it happen. It wasn’t Ted Kennedy and the liberals who spent the entire last decade undermining the CIA and basically making George Tenet say whatever the hell Dick Cheney wanted them to say, that would be the Republicans. It wasn’t Dennis Kucinich who ignored the August 6th CIA memo about bin Laden, setting the stage for the largest intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor. It wasn’t the dirty hippies at the DNC who created the Office of Special Plans to create an excuse to attack Iraq and directly undermine the intelligence from the CIA, that was Dick Cheney and Doug Feith and company.

And let’s not forget that it wasn’t Russ Feingold and Barbara Boxer who outed a covert CIA agent and then conducted a full-on media jihad against her and her husband. No, again the honors for that go to Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, and Bob Novak.

So if morale is low at the CIA and they are feeling a little butthurt, they might want to think about how things have happened the last few decades. They aren’t in the position they are in because of Eric Holder. Far from it. And if they can’t figure this out on their own, and need me to point this crap out, then quite frankly, I don’t think they are smart enough to be handling classified intelligence in the first damned place.

43 replies
  1. 1
    Calouste says:

    I see another mention in Kos’ midday news summary in your future.

  2. 2
    DougJ says:

    Buzzy Krongard is probably my favorite character on Mad Men.

  3. 3

    A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard, the third-ranking CIA official at the time of the use of harsh interrogation practices

    Wait a second, somebody who is potentially implicated up to his neck in criminal activity is against investigating it? And attributing his concern to a higher principle?

    And the Washington Post is taking his word for it?

    Wow. You could knock me over with a howitzer.

  4. 4
    Zifnab says:

    What astounds me, though, is that morale might be low at the CIA because the Justice department might prosecute people who- get this- BROKE THE LAW.

    OT, but why was anyone investigating Enron and WorldComm back in ’01? Don’t people realize how demoralizing that is for employees of those companies?

    And how dare liberals even think about prosecuting Dick Cheney and George Bush. This would level untold emotional hardship on the entire Republican Party? Should the rank and file GOP pay for this convoluted sense of political “justice” that the Democratic Party seems intent to met out? That hardly seems fair.

  5. 5
    Joe Buck says:

    My guess is that morale is low because it’s all going to be blamed on low-level CIA agents, and the people who ordered the torture will get away clean.

    Usually when organized crime is being prosecuted, the foot soldiers can have the government go easier on them if they cooperate with the prosecution of higher-ups. But Holder’s already announced that the higher-ups have nothing to fear. It’s Lyndie England all over again, and we’ll pretend that a few rogue agents went too far.

  6. 6
    James K. Polk, Esq. says:

    Brilliant, simply brilliant Cole.

    And, of course, the corollary of this insight is that the rule of law is secondary to the machinations of the executive branch. Or the forth branch.

    Strict constitutionalists, indeed.

  7. 7
    henqiguai says:

    What astounds me, though, is that morale might be low at the CIA because the Justice department might prosecute people who- get this- BROKE THE LAW. Imagine that

    Why are you astounded ? Once you accept the premise that, beyond a certain span of time, the high ideals of such organizations as the CIA are degraded and subverted as the Bush/Cheney administration did, the concern about prosecutions seeming perfectly straightforward. The only way to maintain those original high ideals involves a great deal of effort, and it’s seldom done. I believe a comparable degradation of ideals, for example, can be seen in the abominable state of our public discourse on public policy, and the fact that ‘universal’ training in Civics is no longer required as a part of the primary educational process.

    Or am I being either (or both) too cynical or naive ?

  8. 8
    Michael G says:

    I’m amazed that I’m supposed to care that “Morale is low at the CIA”. Weren’t these guys supposed to be America’s badasses? Except now we are told that they are delicate little flowers whose feelings have been hurt.

    Suck it up, CIA.

  9. 9

    I remember the “morale is low” meme during the Carter Administration when he tried pushing out the pack of criminals who’d thrived at Langley in the fifties, sixties and early seventies. They moved to off-the-book jobs, turned up in the middle of Iran-contra and BCCI, Nugan Hand, the S&L robberies, etc.

    Don’t worry too much about the poor widdle CIA folks. Tears will be shed, but not by them.

  10. 10
    baldheadeddork says:

    Here’s what I don’t get about the meme that disclosure is destroying the morale of the CIA:

    In the summer of 2001 when Tenet wouldn’t risk pissing off his new bosses by bringing analysts warnings about al Qaeda to the other principals in the NSC. That epic failure of leadership was followed by Tenet claiming Iraq’s possession of WMD’s was a “slam dunk” and then he allowed Cheney to pressure the career staff to massage intelligence to support the administration’s policy goals. After another two or three years of failure by Tenet, then came the Porter Goss era. Remember, that’s when the #2 at the CIA was eventually convicted on corruption charges. After that came Michael Hayden, who had no experience in counterintelligence operations and no goals beyond keeping the lid on the shit-loaded pressure cooker until Bush left office.

    After all of that, are these retards really trying to say that the release of an old IG report is destroying morale at the CIA? Being embarrased by Tenet before 9/11 and prison raped by Cheney after didn’t do any damage, but this does? I call bullshit.

  11. 11
    GregB says:

    Apparently, like Dick Cheney, the CIA is full of delicate flowers who get mopey, moody and filled with a case of the Mondays when their co-workers get called on the carpet for abducting children, smearing humans in shit and sodomizing suspects with glow sticks.

    Delicate flowers who will take their intelligence and go home or worse, threaten to leave America vulnerable to an attack if anyone is questioned.

    -G

  12. 12
    Jim Pharo says:

    I think you overlook the cultural value of “legal oversight” equalling “meddlesome idiots telling us how to keep America safe.” Just like in law enforcement, there’s a cultural view that legal oversight is just an excuse for a bunch of know-nothings to inject themselves into something that is none of their business.

    To the extent that the CIA is reeling from the idea that they in fact can be held accountable, I think that’s OK. I also suspect that, amongst the varied group of people that work there, many are happy that those of their comrades who thought breaking the law was good way to prove their zeal are about to find out differently…

  13. 13
    PeakVT says:

    Why are all those super-tough, ultra-dedicated cold warriors so moody? Why is it so easy to hurt their feelings? If they need to be publicly appreciated why did they go to work for an organization that deals almost entirely in secrets?

  14. 14
    phantomist says:

    Come on, enough is enough, morale is now -100 in MLB.. says Manny Ramirez.

    “This was an obvious case of deliberate overreaching by the government in an effort to seize data as to which it lacked probable cause,” Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote, adding that the players’ union had good reason to want to keep the list secret. “Some players appear to have already suffered this very harm as a result of the government’s seizure.”

  15. 15
    EnderWiggin says:

    Completely OT, which seems to be my new thing, but I thought this was great

    http://www.wnyc.org/shows/bl/e.....nts/139666

    “Betsy McCaughey on Health Care” from the Brian Lehrer show from WNYC. Nice to see her go through yet another hard interview.

  16. 16
    Creamy Goodness says:

    What astounds me, though, is that morale might be low at the CIA because the Justice department might prosecute people who- get this- BROKE THE LAW.

    Wouldn’t you be pissed if you were being scapegoated?

    Just keep walking, Cole. The grunts’ll make their patriotic sacrifice so that America doesn’t have to go through the disruption of holding the really heinous criminals accountable. We should celebrate their service!

  17. 17
    tc125231 says:

    They are only able to present themselves as defenders of the CIA because the MSM is, on the whole, a bunch of worthless assholes.

    Nothing like Pravda in America.

  18. 18

    It wasn’t the liberals who cooked up Team B- that would be George Herbert Walker Bush who approved it…

    Nitpick: Shrub the Brain-Dead has no ‘Herbert’ in his name. His dad does, and I don’t think you’re talking about Bush the Elder.

  19. 19
    Tokyokie says:

    I was under the impression that during the Bush/Cheney administration, there was a mass exodus of quality intelligence analysts from the CIA. So yeah, I’d imagine that morale among the suck-ups who stayed on is pretty crappy now.

  20. 20
    Paul says:

    I think the responsibility lies at the top of the administration that asked for torture to begin by renaming it as “enhanced interrogation techniques”, (even Ronald Regan, called the practice of torture “abhorrent”), is anyone surprised that Cheney is now crying about the investigations.

  21. 21
  22. 22
    John Cole says:

    @low-tech cyclist: No, GHWB was the head of the CIA in the 70’s and he approved Team B. I understand how you could be confused though, because you’re probably as amazed as I am that Wolfowitz and Perle have been spreading their poison for four decades. But sadly, it is true.

  23. 23
    EthylEster says:

    In the slammer interview with a convicted criminal: “I haz sad.”

  24. 24
    Barry says:

    Joe Buck

    “My guess is that morale is low because it’s all going to be blamed on low-level CIA agents, and the people who ordered the torture will get away clean.

    Usually when organized crime is being prosecuted, the foot soldiers can have the government go easier on them if they cooperate with the prosecution of higher-ups. But Holder’s already announced that the higher-ups have nothing to fear. It’s Lyndie England all over again, and we’ll pretend that a few rogue agents went too far.”

    Anybody who wasn’t a fool has some good evidence preserved, which would link some higher-ups. If they’re prosecuted, they’ll threaten to reveal it. I *hope* that this is Holder’s real strategy – lean on the small fry, in hopes of getting some higher-ups.

  25. 25
    liberal says:

    Kudos, JC. Goddamn classic piece of polemic (and I mean that in a good way).

  26. 26
    donovong says:

    Brethren! Can I get an “Amen!” For Brother Cole?

    Amen, Brother!

  27. 27
    RSA says:

    Morale has sagged at the CIA

    Call me callous, but I honestly don’t give a shit about morale at the CIA. Do your fucking jobs if you want to keep getting a paycheck, okay? ‘Cause, you know, that’s what everyone else in the world is doing.

  28. 28
    Woodrowfan says:

    “Buzzy” Krongard was Tenet’s buddy he brought in to bring “business practices” to the CIA. He was a clown then, he’s a clown now. I suspect they’re more worried about being scapegoated and hung out to dry as substitutes for Bush and Cheney than anything else…

  29. 29
    Tsulagi says:

    the Justice department might prosecute people who- get this- BROKE THE LAW

    Nope. Might prosecute those who followed the spirit of memos and directives written by those who called the Constitution and Geneva Conventions “quaint” and “outdated,” inadequate to address THE GREATEST THREAT TO THE REPUBLIC EVER.

    Interrogators would have found it a bit difficult to follow those directives to the letter as that part was largely left intentionally vague for future CYA purposes. One Yoo legal opinion said short of intentionally causing major organ failure it was not torture. Lot of wiggle room in that.

    If Holder limits the special prosecutor to interrogators only it’s bullshit. Would essentially be giving those Yoo and Cheney musings the force of law and seal of approval: It’s okay if you’re the unitary executive.

    But sure, can see the reasoning. Doing otherwise might cause a bad hair day for that transcendent magical bipartisanship camaraderie that is just straining to burst forth so don’t look back. Better to just tag a few grunts as bad apples along the way yet still show your love and obedience to the other aisle guys by limiting prosecutorial scope. Hopefully that’s okay with them; wouldn’t want their morale to be affected.

  30. 30
    Mr Furious says:

    Unlike the Incredible Hulk, i like John when he’s angry!

    Excellent stuff.

  31. 31
    JGabriel says:

    “Morale at the agency is down to minus 50,” he said.

    Of course it is.

    See, a funny thing happens when torture becomes acceptable protocol at an intelligence agency: people leave. Some leave because of a moral opposition. Others, because opposition get shunted aside, reassigned to different posts or duties not in line with their skill set and seek other employment. You lose assets overseas who don’t want anything to do with an agency that might torture them or their acquaintances.

    You end up with an agency that is far more populated by thugs and other pro-torture types.

    So, of course morale will suffer from an investigation of torture in the CIA. Most people who would be pleased with such an investigation were chased out of the agency years ago. To have morale suffer among pro-torure types is not a bug, it’s a feature — especially if you want them to leave the service so you can rebuild it with professionals.

    .

  32. 32
    Stephen1947 says:

    Mr. Cole, I love the way your outrage builds and builds and then achieves crescendo – that’s why I keep coming back so many times per day.

  33. 33
    noncarborundum says:

    @Mr Furious:

    What does Hulk have against John?

  34. 34
    hidflect says:

    What’s with all this “sagging morale” cr@p? Don’t they get paid? Aren’t they dedicated to their mission? Come to my office and I’ll show you a meaningless existence…

  35. 35
    kay says:

    I guess you just have to trust the process, from here on out, re: the torture inquiry, and ignore Cheney and his media cheerleaders, and hope they don’t influence events or actions.
    The big machine is hard to stop once it finally gets rolling.

  36. 36
    kay says:

    I don’t mean to be cruel and intolerant, but when did this “morale” thing start?
    We worry about police officers, we worry about CIA agents, we even worry about physicians, in the context of health care reform. We were fretting over Wall Street types for a while there, because they were so sad.
    It’s like we can’t offend anyone by even discussing their profession, and the rules thereof.
    When did we start worrying excessively about everyone’s will to work? This is new, right?

  37. 37
    Dr.BDH says:

    Is it conceivable that CIA personnel, at all levels high and low, were unaware of the illegality of torture under US and international law? I believe they knew they were breaking the law, they didn’t care they were breaking the law, they believed they were above the law and John Yoo’s memos were window dressing. Chalmers Johnson and Andrew Basevich, among others, have documented the CIA’s past violations of established law. It’s hard to imagine that anyone could feel sorry for the CIA if it is ever brought to account for it’s misdeeds. But I doubt that will happen under this administration.

  38. 38
    bob h says:

    We’re also supposed to believe that the CIA will be too demoralized and cautious to “do its job”. But they have no further role in intelligence gathering by interrogation- there is no longer any job to do there. All they have to do is gather intelligence in ways that do not involve hurting people.

  39. 39
    Suzanne says:

    omfg, john, you hit it out of the park again with this post. i love you.

  40. 40

    But Holder’s already announced that the higher-ups have nothing to fear.

    He has?

    When?

  41. 41
    My Truth Hurts says:

    I have never agreed with you more than I do with this post.

  42. 42
    Keenanjay says:

    I could care less about their morale.

    If you’re such a pussy that scrutiny hurts your feelings, quit. Go work for Xe and do God’s work as a mercenary.

  43. 43

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