A modest proposal to save journalism and the CIA.

Scrutinizing culture.
Jan. 22 2010 1:46 PM

Outsource the CIA to Downsized Reporters

A modest proposal.

(Continued from Page 2)

A record like that, an unprecedented, massive, relentless record of failure deserves only one response: accountability. We've got to fire them all. At the very least, this action would say that failure won't be the new normal forever. But who to replace them with? And who to handle the transition?

My modest proposal may have been engendered by rereading something I wrote a while ago in Harper's ("The Shadow of the Mole," October 1983, subscription only) about the whole Angleton mole madness which mentioned a little noticed Washington conference on "intelligence," sponsored by a shadowy group called "The Consortium for the Study of Intelligence." The conference produced a volume, Intelligence Requirements for the 1980s. In it was a paper by veteran espionage journalist (and Slate contributor) Edward Jay Epstein, who I think should play a key role in managing the transition after we fire the CIA en masse.

Epstein's essay had the forbidding academic-sounding title "Incorporating Analysis of Foreign Governments' Deception Into the U.S. Analytical System." But buried within it was an important distinction between "Type A Deception," which involved manipulation of foreign governments' perception of our overt behavior, and "Type B Deception," which "purports to emanate from the highest levels of decision making"—and might involve journalists staging deception—giving the foe a false impression of our secret, esoteric strategy. I'm not doing its complexity justice.

But there was a key passage in the essay that startled me because it broke out of the gray, bureaucratic prose of most of the volume to raise an imaginative, even cinematic idea: a "Type B Deception" team. "It might conceivably employ functional paranoids, confidence men, magicians, film scenarists or whomever seemed appropriate to simulate whatever deception plots seemed plausible."

"Functional paranoids?" "Confidence men." He might as well be describing the mind and character of our better investigative reporters! I'm not strictly an investigative reporter myself, though I've done a lot of it, and I know a lot of them and I think I know the mind-set. They'd be a perfect fit for replacing our discredited intelligence community.

My first step would be to contact the IRE (the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization) and see whether we can scare up some volunteers. Then I'd ask Ed to be my (wartime) consigliore. We will save America from its external enemies! We will end abusive practices and endless bungles! We will put the dangerous, worse-than-useless CIA out to pasture.

Advertisement

That's my modest proposal.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories on the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.