Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Revamping the CIA

I have been wondering why it is that the CIA always has a worse rep than their equivalent in other countries. All nations have spies, and all spying institutions sometimes misbehave. We got spy scandals in every democracy I have known in the last fifty years, It goes with secrecy that bad stuff is committed and that a few traitors are somehow generated. We got to keep both down best we can.

So there are scandals galore everywhere: how come the CIA is always the only bad guy in the news? I think it is cultural: Americans are raised to tell the truth, to talk in you face and go for a good fight: dissimulation is just not American. It is not true for the British, who have been raised in the complex heritage of Victorian times: all their education is about keeping to the weather, keeping a straight upper lip and all the restraints of the rules of good conduct. They may like a good fight too, but they understand the need for secrecy much better. As for the French, they have a large practice of double entendre and an unhealthy respect for the authority in place coupled with underlying rage: it is why they always leak information.

But of course we need our spies and they need to be respected. It is time to stop playing "I am a good person because I don't like the CIA". Maybe part of the bad stuff that happened at the CIA did so because they could not recruit in a net large enough. So all these people who felt too good for the CIA are to be blamed too.

It is time for the CIA to have a good image: it will help the institution inside and outside. They should spend a few million dollars on self-promotion. They battled Communism by supporting good anti-communist books, so they know the power of books, they should support themselves with good pro-CIA literature. The trouble with present CIA mystery novels is that they are based on the British model, and it does not quite "take" over here, except if the hero is British. The key, I think, is to put the accent on outsmarting. Let us leak some stories where we have been outsmarting bad guys (there must be leak-free stories, there always are) and pay some popular writers to enhance the CIA image.
I am getting tired of that constant criticism of the CIA: it is like walking on your own foot.


Adam said...

The CIA has a bad rep due to all the horrible things they have done since their creation. They have been used for political coups and large scale murders in the name of "spreading freedom" or "stopping communism" or whatever vague excuse is given for their crimes. The cons so extremely outweigh any good they may have ever done it's mind blowing. If they wanted to revamp their image, maybe they could stop being the antithesis of freedom.

Claude Lambert said...

You are right: secret services are always the bad side of any government. My point was that the CIA has a worse rep than foreign secret services such as the British who have done quite their share of horrible stuff too. And the crimes of the CIA are our crimes: we elected people who told the CIA what to do.
Besides, we badly need the CIA right now to be efficient, smart and admired while they do a minimum of damaging stuff. How can we achieve that?