Archive for May, 2014

Transcription Services

The media appear to have bought, without question, the White House line that the publication of the name of the CIA station chief in Afghanistan was accidental.

It might have been accidental; it’s certainly the simplest explanation.  Someone puts together a list of military personnel meeting with the President during his scandal-distraction photo-op visit.  The station chief, being under cover, is on the list.  The guy transcribing the list isn’t really paying attention, and he writes down the name, and sends it out to the press.  He has an embarrassing “oops” moment, and then sends out another list without the name, which only succeeds in drawing more attention to him.  You could completely see someone who’s been promoted beyond his level of functional literacy doing this.

If so, I can understand the reluctance to throw the poor schlub to the wolves, but a man’s life has been put in danger here.  He can probably find employment elsewhere doing something.  Too bad for his bureaucratic career, but I wouldn’t want to place anyone else’s life in his fat-fingered little hands.

And it might have been deliberate by whoever did it. I can think of a number motivations for an underling having done so.  None of these is a good reason; people have been known to do all manner of damage while thinking that they were doing the right thing.

First, and basest, the leaker may have had a personal grudge of some sort against the station chief.  It’s been known to happen.  It’s also pretty much the single most unprofessional thing someone could do, and deserves swift and unmerciful punishment.

It’s also possible that the leaker had a professional complaint.  Perhaps the station chief was obstructing some administration policy, or proving to be an effective voice in opposition to some policy change.  Perhaps the CIA operation in Afghanistan as a whole was proving to be difficult to dislodge, or to move on some question.  This is localized – and dirty – bureaucratic warfare.

It’s also possible that this is bureaucratic warfare of a more generalized kind.  This administration has managed to centralize control of foreign policy to a degree unusual for any administration.  One organization that steadfastly and successfully resists that kind of political centralization is the CIA, largely because of its finely-tuned skeleton sensors, and talent for exhuming bodies.  By exposing the name of the station chief, not only would it throw the Agency off-balance at a key time, it would also send a message to other field officers that they aren’t safe, either.

Up until, oh, January of 2009, this sort of behavior would have been unthinkable.  But then, up until January of 2009, having the FEC and the Attorney General coordinate with the IRS on the auditing and prosecution of political opponents would have been unthinkable, too.

When we had a real WH press corps, they would have considered those alternatives and asked questions about who did it. They certainly wouldn’t have meekly accepted an innocent explanation – especially from an administration with a track record like this one when it comes to explanations.

For a group that derides extended quotes as “transcription,” they’ve looked a lot like a White House transcription service for about 5 1/2 years now.

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