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The CIA Goes Back to the Movies

January 1st, 2013 - 10:20 am

Well, it sure beats talking about Benghazi.  A few days after the (acting) chief spook wrote his review of Zero Dark Thirty, the Agency itself has returned to its new favorite subject, enlightening its readers about their latest deep thinking about Hollywood.  And guess what?  After careful study and analysis, they still think that you shouldn’t believe everything you see on the big screen.

You can get the gist of it from the headline:  “Hollywood Myths vs. the Real CIA.”

Maybe they’re preparing to offer an online course or something.

Meanwhile, your friends in Langley are trying to make you better informed, and, as before, they’re not talking about our enemies, or the global war against American civilization, or the unmentionable “terrorism.”  Nope.  Taking a cue from their leader in the White House, it’s all about themselves.  “CIA.gov wants to share some of the facts with you.”

Really.  Like what?  Well, like the CIA has very small (indeed “insect-sized”) listening devices (I guess that’s why they’re called “bugs,” huh?) and froovy robot fish that can sample water.  But the big “reality” from CIA.gov is that most of the folks who work for our once-secret espionage agency are NOT spies.  They may recruit spies, and run spies, but they are not actually spies themselves (true enough).  Furthermore (although you won’t get this from CIA.gov), most of our important spies have been walk-ins.  We didn’t go out and find them and lure them to betray their country.  They decided to do that, and came to us. And you’ll be pleased to learn that we’re in great shape to deal with them.  CIA’s got “a diverse workforce.”

That’s not always a good thing, by the way.  It prompts a flashback to a  Cold War story, I think when the hapless Stansfield Turner was in charge of CIA.  The wonderful Carter years.  A man in Czechoslovakia who wanted to spy for us arranged to meet a CIA guy at a bistro in Prague.  He was told that the spook would be easily recognizable because he would have the Herald Tribune with him.  So the would-be secret agent goes to the bistro and spots a big black man–six and a half feet tall–wearing cowboy boots, with the Trib on the table in front of him.

Careful with that diverse work force.

CIA.gov wants to tell you that you should not believe that your CIA spies on U.S. citizens.  It’s hard for them to tell you that with a straight face, because they do.  So they dance around it:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has the lead on intelligence matters in the United States, especially those directed against US citizens. However, the CIA and the FBI work together as needed to protect the interests of US national security. The CIA does not collect information concerning the domestic activities of US citizens, but its foreign intelligence collection mission can be conducted anywhere.

Let me parse that for you.  In simple English, “we operate everywhere (that’s what that final ‘anywhere’ means), whenever and wherever we think national security is at stake.  If we find, for example, that foreign enemies are in touch with American citizens (abroad or here), we will collect that information.  We’re obliged to turn over information on ‘domestic activities of US citizens’ to the FBI, which will then carry on.  Mostly.”

Indeed, Attorney General Eric Holder recently authorized the government to collect and retain all manner of information on American citizens who are totally clean, about whom no worrisome information exists.

Oh, and a lot of this information comes from NSA, which CIA.gov’s latest movie review doesn’t even mention.

Then there’s this one:  “CIA has no law enforcement  authority.”  Well, not exactly, as the residents of Camp Guantanamo will tell you.  CIA certainly arrests people overseas (or, in friendly countries, causes them to be arrested) and then interrogates them (or causes interrogation to be conducted), and also has them arrested in the course of  their many joint operations with the military (notably Special Forces).

Don’t forget that more than a dozen CIA officers are facing arrest warrants in Italy for organizing the snatching of alleged terrorists there.

As the James Bond theme plays, CIA.org closes with a deception:

Myth: The CIA makes foreign policy.
Reality: The CIA informs foreign policy. It works with other members of the Intelligence Community to produce objective analysis on intelligence issues. The president and policymakers make all U.S. policy decisions, not the CIA.

I guess it all depends on what “objective” and “makes” mean.  But it’s, uh, misleading to suggest that the intel folks don’t actively try to influence policy.  You might want to run that quaint claim of sweet innocence past Dick Cheney.

As for “objective analysis,” well, just give me your opinion and I’ll try to sort it out.  So long as you also give me a full picture of the facts.

And stop with the movie reviews already.  We’re at war, remember?

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