intelligence community leadership: patriarchal dicks

coderman coderman at
Sun Apr 6 20:33:46 PDT 2014

"if the intelligence community thinks that the controversy over our
legacy of torture is just the result of some silly girlish feelings,
then we haven't even begun to deal with the consequences of those


Who's "Emotional"-- Feinstein or the C.I.A.?

Who gets "emotional" about torture--or, rather, what is the proper
emotional response to a history of torture and lies? On Fox News, on
Sunday morning, Chris Wallace asked Michael Hayden, the former
director of the C.I.A., about a report by the Senate Select Committee
on Intelligence, sixty-three hundred pages long, that "says the C.I.A.
misled the public about the severity and the success of the enhanced
interrogation program." Hayden's first response was to talk about the
feelings of Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the committee, citing an
article by David Ignatius: "He said Senator Feinstein wanted a report
so scathing that it would 'ensure that an un-American brutal program
of detention and interrogation would never again be considered or
permitted.' "

Now, that sentence, that motivation for the report, Chris, may show
deep emotional feeling on part of the senator. But I don't think it
leads you to an objective report.

"Deep emotional feelings," on the part of a woman like Feinstein, are
apparently dizzying, especially when it comes to things like our
integrity as a nation. But are Hayden and his former colleagues at the
C.I.A., in touch with their own emotions on this one? The Senate voted
on Thursday to submit the report for declassification; this process
may take a while, because the White House and the C.I.A. will be
involved, and the agency has fought the report. It has made its
objections known feelingly, in a rebuttal that is also classified, in
testimony, and in leaks to reporters about how the Senate just doesn't
understand what it was like--doesn't get it, doesn't care about what
bad days its agents had. Not that the C.I.A. wants to tell. When John
Brennan, the current head of the C.I.A., realized that the Senate
investigators had some of the agency's notes to itself--the so-called
Panetta papers, in which, according to Senator Feinstein, the agency
conceded points it is now denying--he had a bit of a fit. Feinstein
said that the committee got the Panetta papers from the C.I.A. in a
document dump; the agency said that even if it did, the committee
ought to have known that those notes were private. It apparently
searched the Senate's computers and tried to get a criminal
investigation started. Calling the cops is, admittedly, a common
fantasy when an teen-ager realizes that his journal has been read, but
it's a bit unworthy of an intelligence agency when dealing with its
congressional overseers.

Now, not that there's anything wrong with wanting a scathing report in
torture that will shock the conscience, but it's probably worth noting
that the Ignatius line Hayden cited took a Feinstein quote slightly
out of context. (Though the layering of emotionalism is on Hayden.)
Ignatius wrote that Feinstein "wanted a report so tough that it would
'ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and
interrogation will never again be considered or permitted,' as she put
it." She had actually presented this as the reason to make the report

If the Senate can declassify this report, we will be able to ensure
that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation
will never again be considered or permitted.

Emphasis added. It's a fine distinction, but an important one:
whatever her "motivation" was, it didn't shape the writing of the
report, but her feelings about who ought to get to read it. (On
Saturday, Trevor Timm, of the Press Freedom Foundation, put out a
"general plea" for a leak.)

There are really two issues here. One is the reflexive tendency to
disparage or dismiss a woman in politics (or in business, or anywhere)
with a remark about her supposed susceptibility to emotion. The other
is the way a certain femininity--the wilting kind--is ascribed to those
who doubt that torture is good for America.

The cartoon is of the clear-headed torturer who has put tenderness
aside for the sake of country, against the squeamish, sensitive,
can't-handle-the-truth doubters. The supposed contrast is between
focussed, rational realism and a tendency to faint. (Men and women can
be put in either role, as in "Zero Dark Thirty.") But fear and a
desire to punish, which disabled the judgments of many in the
government after 9/11, are emotions, too, and even harder to control
than, say, mercy. So is a fascination with one's own power to protect
or, less charitably, one's self-imagined ruthlessness. So is a
tendency to be charmed by dark sides. One can argue that those who
turn to the law or a moral code, in moments of crisis, can be the
least flushed by feeling. That is not to make a case against inserting
feeling into politics: righteous indignation and kindness can anchor,
rather than discombobulate. It might be most accurate to say that
various emotions serve us differently. They wake us up, and, when they
do, in what can be an outraged, bleary-eyed moment, we should be
careful about what we reach for.

And if the intelligence community thinks that the controversy over our
legacy of torture is just the result of some silly girlish feelings,
then we haven't even begun to deal with the consequences of those

There is another powerful emotion that may be at work here: shame. One
source of C.I.A.'s anxiety about the Senate report is that it
apparently casts a cold eye on the effectiveness of torture. It didn't
do us much good, apparently. Perhaps it is painful to have compromised
one's principles and not brought back anything good. But that
psychological exploration should not take place entirely in classified

About the same time that Hayden was on Fox News, Nancy Pelosi was on
CNN, talking to Candy Crowley about the same report. Crowley asked if
she blamed senior C.I.A. officials for the "misrepresentations" about
torture; Pelosi went a level higher, to make a point about
institutional culture, and one of our more fundamental emotions--the
desire for praise. "Many people in the C.I.A. are so patriotic,
they--they protect our country in a way to avoid conflict and--and, uh,
violence, etc. But the attitude that was there was very--I think, it
came from Dick Cheney. That's what I believe," she said.

Did Cheney's shamelessness represented an absence of emotion? Not
really. "I think he's proud of it," Pelosi said. "I think he's proud
of it. I think he's proud of it."

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