PC Security

By J. Michael Waller

Clinton-era ‘tolerance’ and ‘diversity’ training have wrapped the U.S. military in red tape and produced more-sensitive spies at the CIA. The training continues.

An army of “change agents” has been assigned to transform how U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and spies think, feel and behave. Supported by political pressure from above and peer pressure from within the system, the change agents are trying to impose a politically correct (PC) orthodoxy on war-fighters and spooks. Their main tools are sensitivity training and diversity programs that are finding permanent places in the national-security bureaucracy.
       It started a decade ago. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) sources tell Insight that former Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.), then-chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, browbeat senior officers to scan agency e-mails for insensitive or objectionable comments and that the DIA’s upper management personally snooped through workers’ e-mails.
       A retired Navy officer who sat on a promotions board tells Insight that as early as 1990, “when you came up for promotions, your minority status was prominent and was included as a basis for promotion.” He recalls the promotion candidates’ dossiers being flashed to board members from a microfiche projector. “On the screen was the dossier, and splashed across on a diagonal banner, in big, bold, capital letters was the word MINORITY.”
       Then came the Tailhook affair of 1991, in which inappropriate behavior by a few Navy aviators resulted in a wholesale purge of carrier-based pilots, prompted more than 300 aviators to quit and remains a sore point to this day. Some of the behavior clearly broke regulations and any decent standard of conduct, but a group of radical feminists on Capitol Hill, led by then-representative Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, wanted heads to roll. And roll they did.
       Thought-policing in the military well exceeds the strict gender and racial-conduct guidelines enacted since Tailhook. During a December 1998 attack on Iraq, a news photographer aboard the USS Enterprise snapped a picture of a 2,000-pound laser-guided bomb about to be loaded aboard a warplane. Young crewmen scrawled several inscriptions on the bomb, including one that said: “Here’s a Ramadan present from Chad Rickenberg.”
       Such insensitivity shocked Clinton Pentagon officials. Defense Department spokesman Kenneth Bacon denounced it as “thoughtless graffiti,” and the Navy was pressured to have its people refrain from such insults. But the Clinton Pentagon wasn’t hostile to Navy graffiti per se. During Earth Day celebrations in 1999, the U.S. submarine base at Bangor, Wash., sponsored what it called “a ‘graffiti’ contest for local schoolchildren who paint environmental messages on bus stops.”
       Meanwhile, cases of insensitive graffiti continued. It happened again on the USS Enterprise during the October bombardment of Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Many airmen inscribed their bombs with the names of people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or with slogans avenging the New York Police and Fire departments. Most Americans responded approvingly when they saw the evening news.
       Then, on Oct. 12, the Associated Press (AP) ran a photo of a crewman standing next to a message written on a bomb: “Hijack this, fags.” Immediately, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network protested. First, it pressured AP to censor the photograph and keep it from its subscribers, which the news agency immediately did. Then, in a news release, it called on the Navy “to condemn and hold accountable military personnel aboard the USS Enterprise for antigay graffiti scrawled on a United States bomb used in Afghanistan.” The Navy responded in Clintonian fashion. Rear Adm. Stephen Pietropaoli, the Navy’s chief of information, wrote to a gay-rights group on Oct. 17, assuring, “We immediately notified Navy commanders involved with Operation Enduring Freedom to ensure steps were taken to prevent a recurrence of this unfortunate event. They have done so.”
       When an Iraqi intelligence officer greeted Mohamed Atta at Prague’s Ruzyne airport on June 2, 2000, Czech security agents took careful note. The Czechs were shadowing Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir Al-Ani, second secretary at the Iraqi Embassy in the Czech capital, as a suspected key player in Saddam Hussein’s terrorist network. Within 24 hours, Atta boarded a flight to Newark, N.J., to continue his plot to fly airliners into the World Trade Center in New York City.
       Three days later, CIA Director George Tenet convened a special meeting at headquarters in Langley, Va. About 60 CIA employees and a group of like-minded National Security Agency (NSA) cryptographers, linguists and electronic-intelligence experts brought in by bus from Fort Meade, Md., gathered in the Awards Suite to hear him. Joining them was a prominent congressman who ranked high on a committee with jurisdiction over federal counterterrorism laws.
       Tenet had an important announcement. Before the applauding crowd of intelligence professionals, he introduced the congressman — homosexual activist Barney Frank (D-Mass.), kicking off the CIA’s first official celebration of Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.
       “Let me be clear,” said Frank, who had made a crusade of sorts to slash and publicize the intelligence community’s secret budgets. “I’ve not only been trying to cut your budget, I’ve been trying to out your budget.” Now he had been given what he wanted. “The fact that I would be speaking at Gay and Lesbian Pride Month at the CIA — yeah, that’s a sign of real progress,” Frank told the Washington Post.
       After the end of the Cold War the intelligence community, which had been built to fight the Soviet Union, was screaming for reform. The entire defense, security and intelligence apparatus of the United States was an often dysfunctional mass of red tape. Some of Tenet’s reforms were productive, particularly the agency’s improved relations with the FBI. Others were more classically Clintonesque. In some cases, the CIA chief’s “progress,” to use Frank’s word, was not what most intelligence professionals had in mind.
       While Atta and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network laid out their plans to attack the United States, Tenet was focused on advancing political correctness. He named his personal special assistant for Diversity Plans and Programs. In every major section, he created a Directorate Diversity Office. To oversee programs, he created an Agency Diversity Council. And to coordinate issues among the 13 agencies known as the intelligence community, he created a Community Diversity Issues Board.
       Tenet was expanding the controversial PC policy of his predecessor, John Deutch. That policy, implemented to pander to human-rights groups, supporters of Marxist Latin American guerrillas, a handful of journalists and Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.), purged the CIA payroll of hundreds of assets around the world because they were suspected of abusing human rights or of belonging to organizations thought to have done so.
       By coincidence, the National Commission on Terrorism, a bipartisan and independent body created by Congress in 1999 to make the Clinton administration enact legal, policy and practical changes to fight what it called “the increasingly dangerous and difficult threat to America,” released its final report the very week Atta arrived in the United States and Tenet sponsored the gay-pride event at the CIA. In its report, the 10-member commission foresaw deadly strikes on the United States on the scale of the Sept. 11 attacks. It recommended that the CIA relax the Goody Two Shoes policy that prevented field agents from recruiting operatives among those tied to terrorist organizations. The PC leadership of the CIA immediately rejected the recommendation, saying the policy in no way hampered its counterterrorism work.
       The Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) responded in its membership bulletin: “This is a case where both media-fanned political human-rights hysteria and bureaucratic CYA [cover-your-ass] efforts impact on clandestine operations. One trusts that common sense prevails and our capability is not damaged.”
       Meanwhile, Tenet’s public rationale for the agency’s new diversity program carefully was phrased as part of the policy prescription to stop terrorists such as Atta before they killed Americans. As one longtime intelligence watcher put it, “He simply mixed up the concepts of recruiting a wide variety of HUMINT [human-intelligence] experts with the PC goo-goo with which he was moving to condition CIA employees to behave like so many clones of Eleanor Roosevelt.”
       Active and retired intelligence professionals warn of potential security and counterintelligence land mines that PC has laid. Everyone recognized the need to hire more people fluent in the languages and cultures where new threats were emerging. But as the AFIO commented to its members at the time: “Not mentioned is what used to be a concern in regard to hiring ‘ethnics.’ That is, might they be more loyal to their motherland than to their new country? Probably not, but concerns about ‘racial profiling’ make it politically incorrect to ask or even consider such questions.”
       The CIA’s bureaucratic culture discourages nonconformity and often penalizes quick-witted officers who take risks. The tendency under blunt orders from the director to focus on PC diversity, intelligence officers say, was to avoid raising sensitive — or in this case, “insensitive” — issues.
       Thus political correctness has infiltrated the CIA in ways similar to the PC movement within the U.S. military. Tenet hinted at a new policy of gender- and race-based promotions at the CIA. “Minorities, women and people with disabilities still are underrepresented in the agency’s mid-level and senior-officer positions,” he said in his diversity statement. “I challenge each and every one of you to join me in increasing and nurturing diversity within our agency and community. Each and every one of us — staff, contractors, detailees and students alike — can find ways to help make our offices vibrant places where diversity is welcome.”
       Tenet made sure he was understood, declaring: “I regard diversity as a precious resource, and I expect all supervisors and managers to do the same. The higher your rank, the more accountable you will be for ensuring that this agency and community are inclusive institutions.”
       Intelligence personnel would be re-educated under a battery of sensitivity-training seminars and diversity classes, some taught by outside consultants with professional ties to activist advocacy groups claiming “victim” status for their members. Many employees were compelled to take time off from intelligence work to join collective workshops to make colorful, vibrant “diversity quilts.”
       After reporting about the CIA diversity quilts (“Blinded Vigilance,” Oct. 15), Insight requested permission to visit CIA headquarters and photograph them. The CIA declined the request, and a spokeswoman went so far as adamantly to deny their existence, claiming that maybe a decade ago some intelligence offers voluntarily had sewn one. The intelligence officers who were forced to make them, and who pleaded for anonymity against reprisal from holdovers in the CIA management, are adamant that under Tenet they were pressured to make pieces of the diversity quilts. Apparently, under CIA security restrictions, such programs are revealed only on a need-to-know basis.
       “They made us sit and talk to groups about how it feels when someone makes an insensitive remark,” a mid-level CIA officer tells Insight. “It was all very condescending and insulting.”
       Almost none of the more than 20 employees and officials that Insight surveyed in the national-security and intelligence communities — including the CIA, DIA, FBI and departments of Defense, Energy and State — see any real value to the sensitivity-training courses and diversity programs that became so important under Bill Clinton, except where the specific hiring of, say, a native speaker of Pashto would further U.S. objectives to collect intelligence or conduct operations. Some call it little more than brainwashing.
       Gerald L. Atkinson, a retired Navy commander and longtime critic of PC, likens the sensitivity and diversity movement to “behavior-modification” techniques that enemy forces used against U.S. prisoners of war. Atkinson sees a direct intellectual connection. He tells Insight, “The drastic plunge in morale during the 1990s is directly linked to a purging of real ‘warriors’ from the armed forces. This purge started in the aftermath of the Tailhook ’91 scandal and continues today.” He adds, “The techniques used to corrupt and pacify our officer corps are quite similar to the indoctrination techniques used by the Chinese on captured American G.I.s during the Korean War.”
       According to Atkinson, “Only 5 percent resisted the enemy indoctrination; 15 percent were consistent, dedicated, hard-core collaborators with the enemy; the other 80 percent were rendered ‘passive’ by their captors’ ‘sensitivity-training’ methods and stood for nothing but their own survival.”
       But Tenet loves this stuff. No sooner had he taken over as acting CIA director than gay activists inside the system founded the Agency Network of Gay and Lesbian Employees (ANGLE). After Tenet’s new diversity guidelines in 1999, the CIA Office of Equal Employment Opportunity officially recognized ANGLE. That same year, the NSA recognized a chapter of Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual Employees, which has pushed for taxpayer funding of homosexual partners to live overseas with their intelligence and State Department lovers. The State Department implemented that policy this year.
       Tenet tries to make the CIA as inclusive as possible. He has hired two diversity dot-coms IMDiversity.com and DiversityEvents.com, to recruit and promote special-interest themes within the agency. He dutifully reported to Congress in an annual report, “CIA conducted Heritage/History Month programs for the following special emphasis groups: Hispanic, American Indian [sic], Black [sic], Asian & Pacific Islander, Deaf & Hard of Hearing, People with Disabilities, and Women.”
       Sort of makes you feel warm all over, doesn’t it?
J. Michael Waller is a senior writer for Insight.


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