Bringing In the Competition

Lacon: It’s the oldest question of all, George [Smiley]. Who can spy on the spies? Who can smell out the fox without running with him?

Smiley: Then go to the competition. Go to the security people. They’re the experts; they’ll do you a job.

Lacon: The Minister won’t have that. You know perfectly well how he and Alleline feel about the competition. Rightly so, if I may say so. A lot of ex-colonial administrators ploughing through Circus papers: you might as well bring in the army to investigate the navy!

Smiley: That’s no comparison at all.

Lacon: Very well, the Minister would rather live with a damp roof over his head than see his castle pulled down by outsiders.

Tinker, Tailor


Everyone is abuzz about the Audacity of Iowans and their Midwestern common sense. We’ll leave it all to the other blogs, the pundits and frankly you, Dear Reader. Candidly, what can be said, has been said. At least as we see it. Less is indeed more.

Instead, we are watching the internal, inside baseball game of DoJ and Bureau pursuing the destruction of the CIA water boarding videos. Back in the mythical but also somewhat real heyday of the Agency, the cultural, socio-economic and substantive differences between Hoover’s Bureau and the Oh So Social/Pale Male Yale crew truly was an intergalactic void, especially for the clandestine service. The tides of history (to mix imagery) have eroded the differences significantly.

The major reason is human capital. First with the Halloween Massacre in the late Seventies under Turner, then the first levee en masse under Casey (discussed at STSOZ 1.0), the wasting away under Woolsey and Tenet and the latest mass scoopage, Agency is simply now a bureaucracy. It is still true that an intelligence perspective is different often times than a law enforcement viewpoint (the latter being concerned about preserving evidence and a successful conviction). In this instance, however, that is exactly what we need. The Bureau supremely equipped to do this job and should. Turn the Agency upside down and shake.

Consider first that Goss and Hayden have largely emasculated the independence of the Inspector General’s office. There can be little faith in the Agency’s ability to make an honest and complete investigation. Add the fact that the Agency overlawyered the 9/11 Commission request for documents like a Cravath litigation team. Destruction of evidence and potential misdirection or misrepresentations to the 9/11 Commission deserve the criminal expertise the Bureau and DoJ can bring to bear.

We are less than thrilled about Congress getting involved at this point. Heat over light is not helpful. The fact that the Bureau resisted the water boarding to begin with (rightly so in the Stiftung’s p.o.v.) is not driving this post. Rather, it is the Agency’s blatant ass-covering and potential misrepresentations that deserve investigation and possible sanction.

The Agency is never in an easy place, especially when The Man or The Man’s Man (Cheney) are pushing to “go” button. It’s always a tricky thing for Agency people to deal with a WH that says “don’t worry, the President wants this done and you will be protected” — usually that means the Agency is left hanging. As seen during Casey’s tenure and when the family jewels came out in the 1970s. Which leaves bureaucrats having to weigh obeying political orders from the Man/the Man’s Man while looking down the road at consequences. As we see now with the tapes.

The fact is that more than a few officers refused to do this (not only for the above but for the same or similar reasons as the Bureau — i.e., it doesn’t work, there are better techniques, etc.). But no matter how many legal opinions you get (from inside the Agency, or from Fredo or DoJ), if you dance the dance, then you can’t sneak out the back door without paying the admission fee.

To quote Steve McGarret: “Book ’em, Danno.”


  1. Comment says

    Looks like a pretty good cast – but w/last one we thought we were watching something official. Like a documentary about the Circus.

  2. Comment says

    One can only imagine the horror show on that destroyed tape (we do suspect there are extant tapes on interrogations out there somewhere though – this is not over). While there is a lot of posturing politically, it is important that we lance this boil – It’s become quite clear that people like Mitt Romney have felt they had to wink at torture to appeal to base voters. Decadent Cheney makes jokes about “dunk in the water” – oblivious to the fact he would not last one minute himself under such duress.

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