“We are Better Behaved These Days” – CIA

December 15, 2007

John KiriakouLet me just strap you to this board. Better hand me your coffee before you lie down. Now, if you don’t mind just hold still while I wrap your face in clingwrap so you can’t breath. Comfortable? Read more

CIA Family Jewels

June 23, 2007

So the CIA is revealing its family jewels? Apparently, according to the Washington Post, though not the CIA website. Let’s see what actually happens but the prospect of revelations about CIA alleged, apparent, imagined or real misdeeds seems to have a whole lot of people in slavering anticipation. OK, given the mystique around these organisations fueled by fiction (some laughably outlandish) in print or film and the occasional piece of sanitised revelation from former employees I can understand the interest. Like sex, espionage is a subject everyone seems to want to know about even when they can’t know about it. Or is that, “because” they can’t know about it? Mind you, the CIA divulges a surprising amount about itself, although with the vast array of organisations conducting intelligence collection and analysis (collection is always the more sensitive part of the intelligence cycle) it does not hurt for one of them to be the media foil, and the remainder to quietly get on and do their thing. Despite their openness there is an expectation that everything that is happening behind closed doors is wrong, evil, unwarranted and unjustified.
The interest in the material to be released, and the expectations that everything is dirty and dark are the source of slight irritation for they contain an element of the hypocritical. Unions, business (big and small), private and public organisations, law enforcement agencies, lobby groups and any other number of institutions collect information on each other, and us, for competitive, sometimes dishonest, Machiavellian ends. Using whatever means they can get away with. But except for the occasional slip up when these activities are revealed to the world the public interest in these activities is almost non existent. We want to pay attention to alleged illegal activities of the CIA and their sister organisations yet forget they are designed to function with our welfare in mind. I will concede they slip up here and there (and in many countries they operate without independent checks and balances – another (serious) story) but with mandates and charters to look out for the welfare of a nation, the activities of these organisations have more sympathy from me than say a bank that collects data on me in order to garner more profit from me.

CIA, headquartered in Washington D.C. at Langley, is difficult to spot, nestled as it is nicely into a hollow in the ground on the banks of the Potomac. You can’t see it from the front gate or any of the surrounding roads. It is of course the stuff of ordinary civil service offices, not the glow-in-the-dark electronic centres Hollywood wants to show us. Sorry to disappoint you. If you can’t get a tour of the place (a tongue-in-cheek proposition) the next best view is via Google Earth (cut and paste these coordinates to be taken straight there “lat=38.9512483192, lon=-77.1450623562) or via the CIA virtual tours on their web site.