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Time-Saving tip: Run NYTimes Editorials on Corrections Page
Posted by: Jon Henke on Thursday, November 18, 2004

NYTimes "Editors' Note" Correction: [Nov 18, 2004]
A front-page article yesterday reported on an internal memorandum at the Central Intelligence Agency in which Porter J. Goss, the new chief, told employees their job was to "support the administration and its policies in our work." In some copies, the editors’ headline referred to the instruction imprecisely, saying, "Chief of C.I.A. Tells His Staff to Back Bush."

In the New York region, the headline format allowed space in late editions for a more accurate summary of the article: "New C.I.A. Chief Tells Workers to Back Administration Policies." All editions should have made it clear that Mr. Goss was referring to policies and not to President Bush personally, or to his politics.[emphasis added]

So, the memo referred to "policies" and not Bush or his politics? Simple enough. Unfortunately, not everybody reads the NYTimes Corrections Page...

NYTimes Editorial [Nov 18, 2004]
But it's inappropriate for [Porter Goss] to suggest that it's the job of the C.I.A. "to support" a particular administration and its political decisions.[emphasis added]
Hey, look! Bush and his politics are back on the table! Neat.

Perhaps we could arrange a meeting between the "Editors' Note" editors and the "Editorial" editors, so they can work this out.

Or, perhaps they could just start reading the own paper.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
Nice ctach, Jon.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitheads.blogspot.com
Nice job of differentiating between what was written by the MSM & what was written in the actual memo. The difference couldn't be starker. Coming from the MSM, I'm utterly shocked. NOT.
 
Written By: Gary
URL: http://
I love how these "mistakes" always seem to come down negatively against the Republicans.

Blue Staters must be very ignorant, getting their information from sources like this
 
Written By: Shark
URL: http://
Just to be clear, then: you think it is an appropriate mission for the CIA to "support the administration and its policies"?
 
Written By: Strange Doctrines
URL: http://strangedoctrines.typepad.com
Absolutely. The CIA serves the President, and they are obligated to *not* work at cross-purposes to the Executive Branch.

Note, though, that this does not imply telling them what they want to hear - it implies not working to derail policy.

Similarly, while I'm free to do my job properly, I'm not free to attempt to derail the policies implemented by my boss. It's the old "too many chiefs, not enough indians" saw.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net/blog
Strange Doctrines: Sure. Doesn't everybody think it would work best if unelected spooks in the CIA were in charge of our foreign policy? Don't we all long for a really, really good KGB-like bunch deciding whether or not the elected President gets to do what he thinks is best?

Hell, why not just get rid of elections and let the CIA run the whole thing?
 
Written By: JorgXMcKie
URL: http://
Just to be clear, then: you think it is an appropriate mission for the CIA to "support the administration and its policies

No, I believe the CIA should be fair and support our enemies and rivals...
 
Written By: Shark
URL: http://
I see. So the opposite of "supporting administration policies" is "working at cross-purposes to the EB," or "allowing the spooks to run the government," or "support our enemies or rivals."

Guys, the CIA's charge is very clear: to provide "objective, unbiased information and analysis."

Given that charge, it's not all that difficult to see that the CIA's mission might on occasion run counter to some particular policy or other. Is it?
 
Written By: Strange Doctrines
URL: http://strangedoctrines.typepad.com
Sorry, that hyperlink should have been this one.
 
Written By: Strange Doctrines
URL: http://strangedoctrines.typepad.com
I think you're conflating "follow the Presidents orders" with "tell the President what he wants to hear".

Again, I get the same thing where I work: I'm free to tell the boss what he needs to know, for better or worse, but when it comes down to it, I'm not free to pursue different policies in my capacity as an employee.

I think critics are inferring the least flattering thing they can from the statement, and assuming that's all it could mean. Presidents reshape their Agencies to ensure those agencies are on the same page. They do it in government, and they do it in the private sector.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net/blog
By the way, does anybody know how to get a permanent, day-specific link to corrections on the NYT?
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net/blog
From the Mission of the CIA:

"to ensure the national security of the United States"
"Conducting covert action at the direction of the President to preempt threats or achieve United States policy objectives."

Well, NYT take that!

 
Written By: Essence
URL: http://essenceofvitriol.blogspot.com
Jon, the CIA is an independent agency. It reports to the President and is accountable to Congress via the relevant subcommittee, but in no wise is it supposed merely to "follow orders" by the President.

It's easy to imagine countless examples that illustrate the underlying rationale. Suppose, for instance, the President's policy is to invade some state on asserted factual grounds and then orders the CIA to come up with factual support for that policy. Suppose further (and consider the supposition counterfactual, if you like) that the relevant, objective intelligence preponderates against the President's factual assertions. On these assumptions, the CIA cannot properly "support" the administration's policy.
 
Written By: Strange Doctrines
URL: http://strangedoctrines.typepad.com
//gloat= I'm so happy that people like Strange Doctrines are irrelevant after November 2nd, and they don't matter anymore /gloat//
 
Written By: j.pickens
URL: http://
Jon, the CIA is an independent agency. It reports to the President and is accountable to Congress via the relevant subcommittee, but in no wise is it supposed merely to "follow orders" by the President.
Not "merely", no. But the DCI is in the Cabinet, answers to the President, and serves at his pleasure. The CIA Director is a part of the National Security Council, and they (read: the President) provide "direction for national foreign intelligence and counterintelligence activities".

In your analogy, they do not "support" the Presidents policies by providing him the data he wants. That's not "supporting the policies". "Support the policies of the President", as far as I can tell, means "follow orders, and don't use your position to work against those policies". That's not a matter of differing facts, but of different judgements. i.e., if Bush says we play a hard line against Iran, then agents should not covertly push for different policies, or leak information to the press which undermines the current policy.

I fear you are reading more into this than the evidence calls for.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Jon, I don't think you're exercising hermeneutic parity, here. If 'support the administration and its policies' can be reinterpreted as 'follow orders and don't work against administration policies' (I think this is a very unnatural interpretation, BTW), then why can't 'support Bush' or 'support the administration and its political decisions' be reinterpreted the same way?
 
Written By: Strange Doctrines
URL: http://strangedoctrines.typepad.com
What Goss is demanding is absolutely correct. I worked as an intelligence officer in the Directorate of Intelligence at CIA. Elected officials set the policy. CIA employees provide support. Support doesn't mean "fake the data." Support means "give us the information (analysis) and action (operations) we need to execute the policy."

For instance, let's say that Bush issues a finding that orders covert operations in Iran to support anti-government forces. In that case, the Agency is required to execute the orders with every legal means at its disposal. Agency personnel cannot choose to implement a different policy, or act to subvert the policy. It would be like someone in Army supply refusing to ship bullets to Iraq because he disagreed with the Administration's decision to invade.

As with any employee of any organization--from the military to the private sector to CIA--supporting policy does not mean acting illegally. The Agency cannot fake information, or lie to members of Congress. Nor, however, can Agency experts voluntarily question the administration's judgment publicly.

Using the Iran-finding example, let's assume the president orders this finding on the supposition that the Iranian rebels can overthrow the mullahs. If Agency experts disagree with this supposition, they may not issue reports on or leak to the media their disagreement. As long as the dispute comes from different conclusions and not incorrect facts, they are duty-bound to support the government's official policy.

If the president orders an analysis of the likelihood of success, they are required to report factually and objectively, even if it disagrees with the president's supposition. Similarly, if asked by the HPSCI or the SSCI for its assessment, the Agency should offer its candid analysis.

Hope that better defines Goss' orders. They're actually pretty innocuous, and were standard-issue when I was at the Agency. In fact, it's kind of surprising that he had to issue them in a memo. Didn't know things had gotten that bad.

A Former Intelligence Officer
 
Written By: Former Intelligence Officer
URL: http://
FIO, your description of the CIA's charge is entirely accurate. So was Jon's.

But what you both describe isn't "supporting the administration and its policies." It's more like "doing your job."

At the very least, Goss' choice of words connotes a peculiar loyalty to "this" administration and its policies, when in fact the broader loyalty is to the American people, through both the executive and legislative branches. Goss may have misspoken, but I think the plain meaning of his words gives some reason for complaint.
 
Written By: Strange Doctrines
URL: http://strangedoctrines.typepad.com
I think our difference of opinion comes down to the difference between implication and inference.

You're inferring wider meaning that--I infer--Goss implied. Since, as FIO said, this is SOP...I doubt Goss's memo means something different today than such language has always meant in the Agency.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net/blog

 
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