Like every boy who grew up as the son of a former CIA intelligence officer, I grew up listening to stories about the legendary James Jesus Angleton. My dad considered Angleton the most brilliant man he had ever met, and that, as my dad would say somewhat amused and ruefully, was the source of his downfall and failure as a Counterintelligence Chief.
Though it was others at the Agency and in the media who eventually took Angleton out, in many ways Angleton was the author of his own demise, a brilliant mind and a bureaucracy do not peacefully co-exist. However, Angleton’s legacy in the US intelligence community was not so much determined by what he did during his career but in how his career ended and what he did afterwords, specifically his relationship with reporters and the media after his ‘retirement.’ The relationship between the US Intelligence Community and the media has become so muddled in the post-Angleton era that one needs a Ouija board to make any sense of what, if anything, the US intelligence community is doing and why, and even then whose board do we use?
In the quote cited below from the NYT, former CIA Director Michael V. Hayden admits to what most people who have seriously studied the US intelligence community already have a keen awareness of – that the relationship between the press and spies is a mess; and that both press and spies are clueless as to how to proceed or even what to say:
“In Senate testimony last July, for example, Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director from 2006 to 2009, admitted that he was perplexed by the “dilemma” over what he was or was not permitted to say, in this case about the targeted killing of Qaeda operatives using drones — officially classified but reported in the news media every day and occasionally discussed by Mr. Obama.
“So much of that is in the public domain that right now this witness, with my experience, I am unclear what of my personal knowledge of this activity I can or cannot discuss publicly,” Mr. Hayden said. “That’s how muddled this has become.” ”
And will likely remain, because ‘muddled’ sells and Intelligence and Intelligence are by no means the same.