Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Scores of Affairs" and the Effect on National Security

From 1953-1961, Allen Dulles was the CIA Director. Culturally, the 50s was a different era - more proper and repressed, less sexually free, but interestingly, there was more sexual privacy:
But private life for a C.I.A. director today is apparently quite different from what it was in the Dulles era. Mr. Petraeus resigned after admitting to a single affair; Allen Dulles had, as his sister, Eleanor, wrote later, “at least a hundred.”
Indeed, the contrast between Dulles’s story and that of Mr. Petraeus reflects how fully the life of public servants has changed in the United States.
Dulles ran the agency from 1953 to 1961, and he had a profound effect on America’s role in the cold war. Together with his brother, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, he exercised enormous power and helped overthrow governments from Iran to Guatemala to Congo.
He was also a serial adulterer. Dulles was married in 1920, but he and his wife, Clover, had a difficult home life. She was sensitive and introverted, while he was handsome and charming — and a skilled seducer.
His affairs were legendary. The writer Rebecca West, asked once whether she had been one of his girlfriends, famously replied, “Alas, no, but I wish I had been.”
But consider this:
Petraeus’s downfall should prompt the intelligence community to make its own judgment call — to end the arbitrary and outdated rules that govern U.S. intelligence employees. These rules have damaged U.S. interests in the guise of protecting our security. On many occasions, they have resulted in the loss of the services, and even the loyalty, of experienced, highly trained people.
Two of the most egregious rules have been the CIA’s insistence on investigating foreigners engaged to agency employees and its own version of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” under which intelligence officers found to be gay lost their clearances or even their jobs. The latter policy was, fortunately, revoked in 1998 by executive order — not by the agency.
The security mavens will say that such rules have protected intelligence officers from blackmail. . . . . But the thought that a prospective spouse would have to pass a security check must have led many valuable intelligence officers to quit. And the thought that sexual preferences could cost someone her or his job must have led to other departures — or to officers not working to the fullest extent of their capacities, keeping their heads down to avoid attracting attention.
. . . .
The factors that contribute to a strong national security are not just the power and sophistication of military forces, or the reach of U.S. intelligence operations, but the morale and skill of the people who work for the system.
[T]he U.S. national interest . . . . is not served by security regulations that drive away talent. Redundant protections for secret information are important, but the system also relies on rules that are artifacts of the Cold War era and the social and political mores of that time.
And yet, Allen Dulles wasn't reigned in by the social and political mores of the times. Had there been more publicity surrounding his dalliances, and not the tacit compliance of the press, this may have been an issue. (However, because of his lack of secrecy, it does not seem that his own behavior would have been something that could have been used against him - and that is the key to what works in blackmail).
The ostensible concern about the Petraeus affair was the potential for blackmail. Yet it is far-fetched today to think that a foreign government would contrive an operation to ensnare a CIA employee through an affair, a foreign-spy spouse or an allegation of homosexuality. Our enemies are unlikely to bother with such complicated schemes. Instead, they buy information — the method that has remained tried and true — or attempt to hack it from the data-rich computer networks that the government is spending billions to defend.
This view reflects the movement of the CIA and other intelligence agencies away from on the ground intelligence collection - i.e., less and less interaction with individuals and infiltrating into enemy organizations and more movement toward paramilitary operations and electronic interceptions. If that is the direction the agencies decide to go then these rules may in fact no longer be necessary or functional. However, moving farther away from old fashioned intelligence collection would be a mistake - without cultural and situational understanding the electronic intercepts will fail to convey maximum information for analysis.
The agencies actually invite entrapment by maintaining archaic strictures that punish behaviors that may be considered objectionable but are in no way criminal. Doing away with double standards in enforcement is also vitally necessary.
Double standards - looking the other way for higher ranking officers is bad because of morale, not because of an effect on security. Blackmail is possible in any circumstance where the person being squeezed simply has something he or she does not want to reveal. Frequently it could be something criminal, but as seen this past week, it can easily just be something embarrassing (Dulles was probably immune because he failed to be embarrassed).

Whether or not there is a rule in place for prohibiting people to engage in certain behavior (like adultery or homosexuality), there is still a danger for security if that person does not want his or her behavior to be made public. The rules aren't so much antiquated as they simply reflect things that people may not want to have revealed. Although it may be to a lesser extent today, people still have secrets, and that's the crux of these old fashioned rules.

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