Monday, October 29, 2007

The Spyglass Ceiling

From Laura Rozen's MoJo piece on sexual discrimination and the lack of transparency at the CIA, a female operative who -- like many male spooks -- had an "unauthorized relationship" with a foreign national but who -- unlike said male spooks -- lost her job because of it:

"There is an idea that men can do this hard job, but women get too emotional," Brookner says. "As soon as a woman sleeps with a man, she tells every secret she ever knew. The mentality is that a man is in control..."

The idea that women aren't adept at getting men to reveal information they'd rather keep to themselves -- as the "old boy network" at the CIA seems to believe -- is absurd. Apparently no one at Langley has ever heard of Mata Hari. Or been married, for that matter.

Rozen also points out the broader implications of the culture of secrecy at the CIA:

Plame Wilson's, Brookner's, and Mahle's cases are all unique, but their accounts reveal a bitterness that I have often noticed with other officers, and that threads through the debate about the intelligence community's failures before 9/11 and the Iraq War. The list of complaints is long—politicization, subordination of field operations to headquarters bureaucracy, and outdated security procedures—but all have festered in a culture whose leadership faces only pro forma oversight... 

There are obvious tensions between the need for secrecy and the need for oversight. But the intelligence community (including the relevant Congressional committees) seem to be doing an exceptionally lousy job of finding the right balance lately.

Posted by Judah in:  Odds & Ends   

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