Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Speaker and the CIA

Maybe, Dear Gentle Reader(s), Speaker Pelosi did say the CIA lied to her somewhere at sometime; the clip I saw, however, had her using “mislead” rather than “lie.”  “What’s the difference,” you ask.  I dunno.  Perhaps what’s the objective of the person lying/misleading.

Misleading is akin—or the real definition—of/to “spin,” which we all know so well these days.

And the CIA is known for its spin—remember “Slam dunk” about the WMDs in Iraq?

The most egregious example of the CIA’s ability to spin/mislead can be found in the archives of most libraries, even the library at the CIA, and it concerns the CIA’s long-running estimate of the economic vitality of the Soviet Union.

There’s a particularly interesting little piece available for general perusal at this CIA website titled “What Did the CIA Say?”  It defends the CIA; it is, after all, an in-house site.  Parsing the piece, though, is fun and perhaps a bit illuminating.

Take, for instance, this quote:

While most of us who were participants in the effort believe the CIA did get most of it right, and are prepared to argue-on the basis of the record-what was right and what was in error, the primary purpose of this monograph is not to ``prove'' CIA was ``right.'' Rather, the objective is to demonstrate that assertions that CIA got it blatantly wrong are unfounded-that charges that CIA did not see and report the economic decline, societal deterioration, and political destabilization that ultimately resulted in the breakup of the Soviet Union are contradicted by the record. Arguments about who was ``how right'' are of less use, much as we might wish to engage in them.

Look at “blatantly wrong.”  The author of the piece isn’t arguing the CIA didn’t get the situation wrong; the argument is that the CIA didn’t get it blatantly wrong.  That is a bit of equivocation, DGR(s).  Nor is the author concerned about “who was ‘how right…’”  That, too is equivocation.

Is equivocation misleading?  Of course, it deflects the attention.

Magicians and follow-the-pea artists mislead.  It’s how they make their living.  The CIA must mislead at times.  Agents in the field would be at risk if they weren’t protected by misleading statements which protect their identities. 

In the case of the Speaker, the question is whether or not the national defense was somehow weakened by what the CIA said and what the Speaker heard.  And make no mistake, torture weakens the U.S. far more than whatever grain of intelligence might strengthen it.

As far as her press conference is concerned, Speaker Pelosi got it right.  She did not accuse the CIA of lying to her.  She said she was mislead.  That is a much more “spinnable” word.  And the right wing is on shaky ground trying to put that albatross on her—even the CIA’s Panetta in his letter to the “troops,” didn’t use “lie.”

Trust, but verify.

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