- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2002

Charging McDermott with treason

There is only one word to describe the statement made in Baghdad by Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, that our president "would mislead" the American people ("3 Democrats blast U.S. line on Iraq," Page 1, Monday). That word is treason.
Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution defines treason as "giving [the United States enemies] aid and comfort." Make no mistake about it: The Iraqi government is at war with the United States. For 10 years, the Iraqis have shot at our pilots flying in Operations Northern and Southern Watch. Even on the day that Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz proclaimed Iraq's willingness to readmit the United Nations Special Commission, Iraqi gunners fired upon U.S. and British airplanes patrolling the skies over Mosul.
In light of such hostilities, Mr. McDermott's statement directly aids our enemies by providing morale and propaganda support to the Iraqi government. They are able to hold up him and his comments to the world audience in the same fashion North Vietnam held up photographs of Jane Fonda manning an anti-aircraft gun. Whatever the congressman's motives for making the trip to Baghdad, his comments aided the Iraqi Ministry of Information's propaganda campaign against the United States. Mr. McDermott can rest assured that though he may not face treason charges in front of a judge, he will be held accountable when he seeks re-election.
Healthy, honest, constructive debate on any political issue is protected by the Constitution. Providing morale and propaganda support to a government that is trying to kill U.S. servicemen is treason, and history will judge him harshly.

MAJ. DEMETRIUS F. MAXEY
U.S. Marine Corps.
Camp Lejeune, N.C.

CIA takes editorial to task

I have read a lot of flawed, uninformed editorials in my life, but Tuesday's "The spymasters" takes the cake.
While the CIA recognizes the importance of a diverse work force to meet current and future intelligence challenges challenges that threaten the security of our nation the notion that the agency has lowered its standards for clandestine service is just plain wrong.
Specifically, the editorial suggests that in an effort to "meet politically correct recruitment quotas," the CIA's written tests to qualify for the agency's clandestine service training program have been "dumbed down." That's not true. The tests have gotten harder and applicants are tested on foreign affairs matters throughout the screening process.
The editorial also states that the CIA's foreign language aptitude test is "gone." This is also untrue. Foreign language aptitude testing continues to be a key part of the applicant screening process, and about 70 percent of the students in our incoming clandestine service training classes speak a foreign language.
The editorial is critical of the current CIA's deputy director for operations (DDO), who is cited by his name, claiming that he "lacks the depth of knowledge and imagination to steer the revitalized clandestine service." Yet, The Washington Times demonstrates its own dearth of knowledge and lack of resourcefulness by incorrectly identifying the DDO as "John Plavitch." That is not the name of the DDO (both the first and last names are wrong) nor is it the name of anyone else at the agency. If the editorial writer had taken the time to consult the CIA's public Web site, he would not have misinformed your readers, at least on that point.
These are just some of the glaring inaccuracies in this editorial. But if The Times does not even know the name of the DDO, how can its criticisms of him be taken seriously?
The editorial did have one fact right, however. It said "today's recruits are not the same caliber that the CIA employed in its pre-Church Committee and pre-Pike Report heyday." That's true. They were very good then, but they are of an even higher caliber now. And they must be. Every day, they match their wits and risk their lives against terrorists, hostile regimes, proliferators of weapons of mass destruction, and others who seek to harm America.

BILL HARLOW
Director of public affairs
CIA
Washington

[Editor's Note: The editor of this page admits to misreading his notes and thus misspelling the name of the DDO at CIA. The correct spelling of his name is Pavitt, not Pavitch (first name Jim). Other than that, we stand by our editorial, and then some.
Mr. Harlow's claim that today's CIA case officer-trainees are superior brings to mind the grade inflation at Harvard University, where, like Lake Woebegone, everyone appears to be above average. Yet, as Lynne Cheney has amply documented, today's Ivy League graduates are woefully inadequate in their knowledge of U.S. and world history. Like the Foreign Service, the CIA has adjusted to this societal lowering of academic standards by revising its tests. In the past, CIA written entrance exams contained a higher percentage of multiple choice questions specifically regarding an applicant's knowledge of key events, dates, and treaties concerning world history, international organizations, and foreign governments than they do today. This trend is called "dumbing down," and the CIA, like other institutions throughout government and academia, is guilty of lowering its standards in order to produce more high-scoring applicants.
One area in which the CIA has not lost its edge is disinformation. Mr. Harlow says that foreign language aptitude remains important, but the fact is the CIA no longer tests applicants' aptitude for learning new languages. It is true that the CIA evaluates an applicant's claim to language proficiency. An applicant claiming to speak fluent Urdu, for example, will be given a multiple choice exam, followed by a session with native Urdu speakers, and then assigned a language proficiency score from zero to five.
But this testing measures only how well an applicant has already learned a particular language; it does not test the applicant's aptitude for learning a new language. Many people speak one or more languages because they grew up in bilingual homes or in countries where they acquired another language in infancy. Mere bilingualism is not a measure of the ability to pick up new languages. The multiple-choice language aptitude test, which measured such an ability, was dropped from the CIA's entrance exam by 1990.
Mr. Harlow maintains that foreign affairs knowledge is measured throughout the overall "screening process." Let us be clear about this process. It begins when applicants take written tests at sites around the country, usually on Saturdays at college campuses. Those who pass then complete and submit job application packets for review. Some are then asked to come to Washington for further processing, which involves physical exams and psychological screening, polygraph testing, and interviews with current CIA case officers. The interviews feature discussion of the applicant's background, the working life of a spymaster, and the applicant's motivations. If the applicant claims specific foreign language ability, tests to evaluate the degree of proficiency are taken at this time.
At the end of this process, the applicants are assigned scores. As with law school admissions at the University of Michigan, the rankings in the applicant pool are then conformed to the CIA's diversity standards for recruiting. Those who pass the CIA's security background checks will be offered admission to a class.
The observation that the new officers don't measure up, or that the CIA now resembles the Agriculture Department more than the elite spy agency it once was, isn't original to The Washington Times. It is the view of senior CIA insiders intimately familiar with past and current standards, as expressed to The Washington Times. The statement that a high-achieving case officer was kept in grade and passed over for promotion because of "diversity requirements" is not ours; it comes from a CIA station chief.
If, as Mr. Harlow suggests, today's CIA is so superior to that of the past, why is it now necessary for the CIA to reconsider its compensation policies in order to improve employee performance and motivate officers to learn new languages? Clearly, the CIA recognizes it has human resource problems. It is laudable for the agency to attempt to remediate them, but the best way to improve the performance of the agency is to recruit better people in the first place instead of trying to solve the problem after the fact through employee incentives.
We agree with Mr. Harlow's characterization of the patriotism and dedication of today's CIA officers, and with the hazards they face on our behalf in dealing with terrorist organizations and hostile foreign powers. For these very reasons, we believe that the nation can afford nothing but the best and the brightest at the CIA. We dispute that current recruiting, employment and promotion policies yield that result.]

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