Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

The CIA has no reason to lie?

Jerry Stratton, May 15, 2009

AJ Strata writes from the strange and wonderful strata-sphere:

As has been noted a couple of times, the CIA gets NO benefit from lying to Congress. Their legal cover requires them to tell Congress, and if Congress decides to stop the interrogations and risk another attack they take the political and legal hits. There is no scenario which makes sense in reality (forget liberal fantasy land) where the CIA would mislead.

While I agree that the most likely scenario here is that Pelosi is lying (and badly), AJ is wrong. It is very important, when we give powers to an organization, that we remember the truth: there is no organization. There is no CIA. There are only individuals, people who have the powers of the CIA.

If we give the CIA powers of secrecy and deception, and there are individuals within the CIA who honestly believe that the United States is best served by continuing some practice that they know Congress will ban if Congress finds out, well, yes, there is a scenario in which deceiving Congress makes sense for those individuals.

It’s only a short jump from there to individuals within the CIA who believe that their positions and powers are best served by deceiving Congress. Or who believe that Congress is a bunch of yahoos best left in the twilight on important national security issues because they screw things up.

It may even be that there are individuals within the CIA who are lying just to keep in practice.

Deception doesn’t have to mean outright blatant lies. It can also be the careful presentation of facts, mis-facts, and potential outcomes in order to shape the conclusions of those they’re briefing. In This Is Not An Assault David Hardy calls this the rise of a “micro-praetorianism”, reminiscent of the rise in power of Rome’s Praetorian guard.

Deception can mean a selective release of documents and partial facts. One of the insidious things about someone with all the resources of the government (or media) behind them lying is that the liar controls the field. The honest person doesn’t remember everything that happened six years ago. Their story will change as they remember more, and they’ll remember more as more facts are made public. The liar, on the other hand, has their story straight from the start. If they can slowly release the documentation that fits their lies, they can make it look like the honest party keeps changing their story.

The honest party didn’t know what in all those six years needed to be documented, or what documentation needed to be kept all that time; the deceptive party can make up the documents they need or selectively use what documentation or corroboration they’ve been saving.

Combine that with an unfortunately common tacit acceptance within government agencies and departments for wrong-doing on the part of their stressed, hard-working colleagues, and a few dishonest employees in an organization that’s been given great power can really tear apart an innocent person’s life.

It’s probably a toss-up who is naturally better at deception, a politician or a CIA employee, but the CIA presumably has better training.

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