Thursday, June 02, 2016
I've just finished reading the fine new book by former CIA Director Michael Hayden* - Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror. It's an excellent look behind the scenes of the American intelligence community, going beyond the political posturing of Congress and the self-important howling of people like Edward Snowden to give a thoughtful picture of the work being done on your behalf by people who operate of necessity in the shadows.
Here are a few good quotes from the text:
Most American intelligence professionals are well acquainted with the broad cultural rhythm connecting American espionage practitioners and American political elites: the latter group gets to criticize the former for not doing enough when it feels in danger, while reserving the right to criticize it for doing too much as soon as it has been made to feel safe again.
For many of us in the business it seemed that the Hill [Congress] had sprouted 535 intelligence experts, practically overnight.
And for those who like to castigate intelligence professionals for a perceived deficiency of ethics or morality,
How were we to deal with the not-yet-guilty? After all, we were in the business of preventing terror, not just punishing it.
Many who read this book will view it as a self-serving justification of actions they consider questionable, but I hope that they'll take the opportunity to look beyond knee-jerk criticism (which is easy) and consider General Hayden's detailed and engrossing look into the technology, politics, and moral issues surrounding the intelligence community ... which is, as he reminds us, our first line of defense.
Read Playing to the Edge with an open mind, and let yourself be exposed to the work that goes on behind the scenes to keep you safe. And be prepared for a more thoughtful discussion of the legal and moral considerations of that world than you'll find in most newspapers and magazines, and the rantings of shouting heads.
Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for the naming of our Right Cheek Ass Clown for June. More thoughts then.
* A fellow Pittsburgher! Chapter 13 of the book provides a nostalgic look at growing up in the 'burgh.