A reader writes:
From early 2006 to late 2009, I was a part of the post-9/11 corporate-security state serving as an intelligence analyst. This is not a fact in which I take much pride. When the Abu Ghraib scandal became augmented with the information that CACI contractors were involved – CACI being known where I’m from primarily as a tech services contractor – I started to question the incentives and structure of the intelligence contracting field in which I’d become enmeshed.
Over those years I followed the torture and spying revelations closely and I took the same position then that I do now: this is plainly illegal, immoral, and the result of caustic fear, overreaction, and hysteria. Though I was not involved with anything remotely connected to torture, one of the best days of my life was the last time I walked out of that office.
I’m attaching an image that’s been making the rounds on my Facebook feed and receiving a sobering amount of likes. The reason I’m sending it along is because the people posting it are my former coworkers, people who, as far as I know, are still involved in intelligence analysis work either through some contracting company or for the government directly.
It’s important to understand how, at least where I worked, the atmosphere was one of an assumed political stance – that 9/11 was an existential threat and perhaps the greatest faced ever in the country’s history, and that we were involved in this apocalyptic battle as foot soldiers. The views of many of my coworkers at the time were, to my mind, rather extreme.
I can see now that this hasn’t changed for many of them, despite all the evidence put forth this week. Yet unlike the rest of the American public, these are people doing the work for the government. They are the people down in the trenches, generating analysis and reports. They work for companies under contracts whose primary incentive is to get bigger, longer, more expensive contracts, and one way to do this is to constantly remind people how terrified we should all be.
And here’s the kicker: many of them came into this kind of work directly out of college and were paid pretty well for it. Their entire adult lives have been based on this type of work. They’ve known nothing else. One can’t expect that such a situation wouldn’t have an effect on their political views. A subset of an entire generation has been profoundly affected in ways we don’t discuss enough. To get a full understanding of this period of torture, surveillance, and bungled wars, one must consider the contracting aspect of it and the people for whom such work created the prosperous upper-middle class life that many Americans have come to expect but which fewer and fewer can achieve.
Another insider perspective:
In my personal assessment, the reason Brennan and Obama have fought this report is to protect the promise of legal protection for lawful actions upon which every employee depends. I believe my assessment has some value, as I work at the CIA.
I can tell you that the recently-remodeled exercise facility OHB is closed for cleaning from 10 to 11. I can tell you that the Dunkin’ Donuts is more popular than the Starbucks. I can tell you that for weeks after the portrait of Tenet was unveiled, his ashtray and cigar were left untouched.
What I cannot tell you about is the torture program, because I do not know anything more about this program than an other American. And by revealing this information I reveal little of my identity because this characteristic of me is shared by the vast majority of the “blue badged” and “green badged” individuals who work here.
The CIA is composed of four directorates, which each consists of many offices, divisions, and branches. The people who work here all do very different things. This includes everything from keeping worldwide, secure, communication-systems working, to digging through old copies of Iranian technical journals, to developing tiny chemical sensors, to writing hundreds of briefings for policy makers. The opinions of those I work with regarding the torture program probably reflect that of the general American public. Many, like me, are horrified. Many think folks got what they had coming.
What everyone does understand, though, is the fundamental importance of legal protection. They have been assured that if they, in good faith, seek and receive legal guidance from the Inspector General that what they are doing is legal, they can rest assured that they will not be help responsible even if this legal ruling is incorrect.
Call this the Nuremberg defense if one wishes. However, it is the same legal protection that military snipers rely upon when they squeeze the trigger. And a key aspect of this protection is the protection of identity. A person legally authorized to do things is protected from the vengeance of those who might not agree.
My assessment is that upholding this promise to leave no man on the battlefield is so crucial to the bond of trust upon which all those who have sworn an oath to the government that it is worth fighting for.