One Good Reason the WaPo Should NOT Get Kudos for Its “Top Secret” Series

The WaPo has an article out that’s causing quite a stir. It bemoans the fact that the CIA has lost much of its top managers since 9/11.

More than 90 of the agency’s upper-level managers have left for the private sector in the past 10 years, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. In addition to three directors, the CIA has lost four of its deputy directors for operations, three directors of its counterterrorism center and all five of the division chiefs who were in place the day of the Sept. 11 attacks and responsible for monitoring terrorism and instability across the world.

Let’s name some of the people they’re talking about, shall we?

  • George “Slam Dunk” Tenet
  • Porter Goss
  • Michael Hayden
  • John McLaughlin
  • Stephen Kappes
  • Jose Rodriguez
  • Cofer Black
  • Robert Grenier

Several of these people were instrumental in trumping up propaganda to justify a war of choice. Several others implemented a system of rendition and torture. One of them helped the Vice President set up an illegal domestic wiretap program. The least compromised, legally (Grenier), probably was less than forthcoming under oath in the CIA Leak Case.

Really?!?! We’re bemoaning the fact that this parade of criminally and morally compromised people are no longer in a position of top leadership (though a number of them are still on the federal gravy train as contractors)?

There’s also little consideration of why and where Black went when they left: the urge to have mercenaries as a way to evade legal limits drove some of this exodus as much as money.

Two (digital) pages later, the WaPo finally gets around to the real problem with the exodus of more junior level officers: the loss of functional expertise.

In 2009, after a double-agent blew himself up at a CIA base in Afghanistan, killing seven of the agency’s officers, many former officials suggested that the tragedy might have been prevented had the CIA retained more senior personnel at the outpost.

Some officials questioned why the agency had given one of the top assignments there to an officer who had never served in a war zone. Other former officials raised concerns about how intelligence assets were being handled in the field.

“The tradecraft that was developed over many years is passe,” a recently retired senior intelligence official said at the time. “Now it’s a military tempo, where you don’t have time for validating and vetting sources. . . . All that seems to have gone by the board. It shows there are not a lot of people with a great deal of experience in this field.”

In other words, the problem with contracting is far more complex than the WaPo, in a fairly long article, was able to explain. And in the process, the WaPo never explained a lot of the nuances behind what it sold as its top line story: the departure of the top managers.

I’m not saying the WaPo hasn’t done a lot of work on this story overall. But telling a story–particularly one as complex and important as this one–is more than collecting data points.

  1. MadDog says:

    Shorter WaPo lament: “When you need to break the law, you need lawbreakers!”

    Silly Beltway boobsters.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Leaving the “employ” of the US government does not mean that those top 90 no longer control it. We have secretly and unaccountably outsourced intelligence work, as we have military services. Perhaps 70% of intel activities are now outsourced.

    Those “professionals” remain critical components. Their views and standards, their estimates of credible or nominal threats and of acceptable levels of collateral damage still dominate. The US taxpayer is just paying 10 times as much for them as it would were they still public employees.

      • MadDog says:

        …I’m not saying the WaPo hasn’t done a lot of work on this story overall. But telling a story–particularly one as complex and important as this one–is more than collecting data points.

        It’s as if the WaPo discovers that the government has some “functions” to perform, so the WaPo makes a big deal out of the private industry of providing “functionaries”.

        It never dawns on the WaPo to delve into just what the “functions” are and whether they should be performed…by anyone.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Functionaries? The WaPoop must imagine that the revolving door – which defines Beltway employment – means that top dogs, like the pack of them that rest at places like Booz Allen Hamilton, lose their influence when “out” of office, in the same way that a reporter loses influence over an employer that makes more money selling student loans that it does selling the news.

  3. lakeeffectsnow says:

    I’m not saying the WaPo hasn’t done a lot of work on this story overall. But telling a story – particularly one as complex and important as this one–is more than collecting data points.

    well, exactly what has happened to cia ( losing experience / knowledge ) has happened to the wapo and all of the other newspapers in the usa – buy out the experienced ( ie more expensive ) and use less experienced ( ie less expensive ) to churn out the propaganda. the people that remain or have been hired do not have the skill / knowledge / experience to tell the story any better. they simply do not know how.

    la times dumped Robert Scheer

    ny times dumped David Cay Johnston ( and Frank Rich and Bob Herbert )

    pbs dumped Bill Moyers at least once ( and now there are zero progressive / left / liberal voices anywhere on mainstream american teevee )

    the loss of institutional knowledge and experience is definitely harming this country – whooooooooooooooooooooops

    who knew ???

  4. Deep Harm says:

    WaPo left 90% of the story on the cutting room floor. They have blown off whistleblowers offering hard evidence while printing information from senior government officials who offer no evidence and refuse even to be quoted. As if people who obtained their positions through political appointments were inherently knowledgeable and trustworthy.

    • PJEvans says:

      If you’re WaPo, that’s what you’re expected to do. After all, if you listened to whistleblowers, you might not get those scoops (or those vice-presidential quail dinners). /s

      Unfortunately, the people running the WaPo today don’t have any personal memories of Watergate and the Pentagon papers – they’ve forgotten what journalism is.

      • host says:

        Be careful what you wish for…

        Katharine the Great: Katharine Graham and her Washington Post empire

        Deborah Davis – 1991 – 322 pages – Snippet view

        “On December 13, 1952,” Maran tells Lane, “a Mr. Benjamin Bradlee called and informed me that he was a Press Attache with the American Embassy in Paris. [Bradlee is identified in the Paris embassy list for 1952 as “assistant attache. … He advised me that he was a former Federal Court Reporter for the Washington Post and that he was sent here- to look at the Rosenberg file in order to answer the Communist propoganda about the Rosenberg case in the Paris newspapers. He advised me that it was an urgent matter and that he had to return to Paris Monday night. He further advised that he was sent here by Robert Thayer, who is head of the CIA in Paris.

        Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible … – Page 238

        Russ Baker – 2009 – 592 pages – Google eBook –

        …Haig may have also had a past relationship with Bob Woodward when Woodward was in Naval Intelligence, prior to the latter becoming the reporter who broke the Watergate story.
        This raises the question of whether the “high White House official” who recommended Woodward to former Naval Intelligence officer Ben Bradlee and/or former Navy secretary Ignatius at the Post was not Haig himself. .

  5. PJEvans says:


    It bemoans the fact that the CIA has lost much of its top managers since 9/11.

    That should be ‘many’, since it’s a number of discrete (if not discreet) individuals, rather than an indivisible quantity.

  6. dancewater says:

    I think the world would be a better place if the CIA was shut down completely, and that means the private contractors too. Plus, it would save the US taxpayers some money.

    Considering just how bad they have messed up intelligence and FAILED to protect the American people (while visiting hell on earth on innocent foreigners) I think shutting them down would be the intelligent thing to do.