Friday, May 05, 2006

More Verbal Sleight of Hand

Porter Goss, head of the CIA, has just resigned. At the announcement, sitting next to President Bush, Goss said, "I would like to report to you that the agency is back on a very even keel and sailing well."

First, note that unnecessary "very." At least he didn't say "very, very."

Now, I don't know if it was conscious or unconscious, but I'd expect that if things really were going well at the Agency, let alone very well, Goss would have said, "I'm pleased to report," or "I'm proud to report," not something that's perilously close to "I wish I could report..."

The other quote I read was, "I believe the agency is on a very even keel, sailing well, I honestly believe that we have improved dramatically."

Again, Goss's focus on his belief, rather than on actual conditions, is telling. His additional, unnecessary protestation that his belief is "honestly" held is more telling still.

Bush's take is also interesting: "Porter's tenure at the CIA was one of transition, where he's helped this agency become integrated into the intelligence community, and that was a tough job."

You bet it was a tough job! The Agency used to be at least nominally in charge of all US intelligence, and the DCI -- Director of Central Intelligence -- was supposed to be head not only of the CIA, but of all the other intelligence agencies, too. Now the DCI reports to John Negroponte, the new, post 9/11 Director of National Intelligence, not directly to the president, and the CIA has been "integrated" as just another intelligence agency among many others run by the DNI's new bureaucracy.

I don't know about you, but all this has the same feel to me as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Peter Pace's defense of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld against criticism by six retired generals. The generals criticized Rumsfeld on grounds of competence, leadership, and style, and Pace defended the secretary's work ethic and patriotism. If I had been Rumsfeld, I would not have found this a robust defense. In fact, I would have interpreted it as implicit agreement with my critics.

Read between the lines, and you'll see that these men are trying to tell us something they can't, won't, or don't realize they want to say out loud.


Anonymous said...


Don't you mean "sleight"?



Barry Eisler said...

Ouch, that's slightly embarrassing... thanks for pointing it out! I'm going to fix it now...

Anonymous said...

Here's the quote from the Washington Post (emphasis mine if the html tags do what I expect):

"I believe the agency is on a very even keel, sailing well," Goss said, addressing Bush in brief remarks after the president's announcement. "I honestly believe that we have improved dramatically your goals for our nation's intelligence capabilities, which are in fact the things that I think are keeping us very safe."

Probably a slip of the tongue in there (or was it?), and it made me laugh. Goss actually stated that the Agency improved the president's goals during his tenure, rather than stating that he improved the Agency.

Anonymous said...

Love to hear a man of your expertise talk about whats wrong with the goverment right now. Cant wait for the new book come June 1st. Take Care.

JD Rhoades said...

Probably a slip of the tongue in there (or was it?), and it made me laugh. Goss actually stated that the Agency improved the president's goals during his tenure, rather than stating that he improved the Agency.

Maybe Goss felt like his time with Bush was causing his language skills to erode like Dubbya's, and he needed to get out before he became as incoherent as the boss.

JD Rhoades said...

differences with National Intelligence Director John Negroponte over plans to move staff, including analysts from the CIA's counterterrorism center, to other intelligence agencies.

Great. Weaken our counterterrorism efforts further.

Has anyone considered the fact that, on some pre-Presidential visit to the Middle East, George W. Bush was kidnapped and brainwashed to become an Al-Quaeda mole? It's certainly one logical explanation for the botch he's making of the War on Terra.

Anonymous said...

And the typical hits keep comming, Thanks JD.You enlighten my day, and help me understand why I am not on your side. I wonder if your opinion helps in the sale of your books. I certainly will not buy any. Do you think Mr. Kerry ,Gore, Clinton will do better? Whats the answers being given to by the obvious leaders of your view points. Are they the ones that will lead America? What answers do you provide?

Unbelievable comparing G- Dub to terrorists. What a sorry commentary to our believes. Rhoades you should be ashamed of yourself. You are not even close to being a human. Sorry Barry, this is pond scum behavior. This is unbelievable. I can't wait for the Democrats to have there way. We will see, I am sure the believers make this country so great. Good God.

Mr. Rhoades, you are a sick American and really need to rethink your life. Your hatred is boarderline sociopath. Don't bother responding you sick human.

BTW: JD. Bush screwed up plenty .Your behavior because of it is truly sicking!

Anonymous said...

Also, Mr. Rhoades you got me so angry, I hate every Americans death that is from war. I hate it more then you could ever understand. I am never so proud to be an American though. I have never been so proud to see American boys and ladies do there job. Bush has acted poorly. Disappointed his country. Your words hurt the people who are dying or recovering. Read the blogs JD. They are proud warriors. More proud then you'll ever be of our country. Take some of your book sales and go visit a soldier wounded. Go see Flight 93. Read a blog from a warrior in theater.

Ban me delete me I don't care Barry. Mr. Rhoades is a poor human.

Anonymous said...

its the same person, sorry two names.

Barry Eisler said...

Britton, thanks for coming by and for your kind words (and for your support on your MySpace page). I don't know about my expertise, really; I only spent three years in the government. But it doesn't take that long to see how dysfunctional the place is. Talk to some of our people on the front lines, and often they'll laugh and say the main thing that's keeping us safe is that the bad guys are even more screwed up then we are.

BTW, I've got a few questions about MySpace, if you don't mind. Could you email me offline at so I'll have your email address and we can go from there? Many thanks.

Sean, thanks for visiting HOTM and for your service. It's an honor to have you here. Folks, Sean has been there and done that and I'm sure can add an informed perspective about what it's like on the ground in one of our current war theaters.

JD, it's always good to have you here. But please take a second look at the Welcome comments on the HOTM home page, particularly these: "This blog aims to be a haven from fulmination, disrespect, polemics, and other attack-style debate."

Why is there so much ranting on the internet? Because it's easy and self-indulgent. But I don't see what it accomplishes other than some sort of gratification for the ranter. I want you to ask yourself: who could possibly be persuaded by what you wrote? People who agree with you might laugh; people who disagree will fume.

I want HOTM to be about opening minds, not closing them. So please, argue your points with evidence. Show respect to the other side in the debate. Write to persuade. It'll take longer, but it might do some good.

And Broker/DT, although I sympathize because you felt yourself provoked, you did nothing more than respond in kind. It probably made you feel better, but what did JD learn from it? He now thinks you're every bit the jerk you believe him to be.

How about a few deep breaths, a couple gracious apologies, and we all try harder next time?

Okay, everybody, group hug here...


Barry Eisler said...

BTW, a link to some interesting coverage of Goss's exit:

Barry Eisler said...

Kumbayah, brother, kumbayah...


Anonymous said...

People who have never worked for a governmental organization can't imagine the infighting that goes on when you get into areas of authority/power/budget.

That's what caught my attention with the bit you posted earlier about Negroponte wanting to move analysts, etc. out of the CIA's CTC to other agencies.

The thing is, A-Q makes extensive use of the internet--including putting information on US servers. The CIA isn't supposed to operate domestically. So if you are going to have effective intelligence gathering, you somehow have to reconcile those things. Either you have to make sure info is shared, or you have to make sure the folks who are gathering/analyzing info are not restricted when some of that info is on US soil.

But now I see that Hayden is likely to be nominated, and given the NSA domestic surveillance that is going on . . . .

Well, I'm very curious about many things I will likely never have answers to. :-)

JD Rhoades said...

Barry: I'm sorry I let my frustration and near despair over the continuing and demonstrated incompetence of this administration in the War on Terror get the better of me and cause me to make a bad (and bitter) joke. To quote one of my favorite works I've read recently, "Fermented beverages and dark humour are how we cope."

But it was unworthy, I agree, of the tone you've tried to set here.

BTW, If you'd like evidence of that Bushian incompetence, look at the latest reports showing terror attacks are up in the world or the several analyses reporting that Iraq has helped terror recruitment.

Anyway. Barry, I apologize to you.

But I'll be damned, however, if I'll apologize to people who call me "less than human" or "pond scum."

I didn't used to be partisan, really. I voted for Reagan in 1980. I've voted for Republicans on the state and local level. I've spoken admiringly of John McCain, in print and on the record.

On the international front, Iraq II is the first military operation I've opposed since Grenada. I supported Panama. I supported Gulf War I. Hell, I was one of the "on to Baghdad" crowd, until the writings of people like Bush I and Colin Powell persuaded me it was probably a bad idea.

I originally supported the operation in Somalia, for Chrissakes. I supported Kosovo. I was a cheerleader, again in print and on the record, for the invasion of Afghanistan. I've had arguments with my liberal friends who used to consider me a hawk.

But since I dared oppose the Great Leader's Great Mistake, I've had to deal with that kind of drooling, half-illiterate "you're not even human" rhetoric, including threats on my life.

After that, I decided to hell with it. Once you tell me I'm less than human, or worthy of lynching (as one anonymous coward did in e-mail), the goddamn gloves come off. Rhetorically, and, if they ever work up the courage to say this kind of thing to my face (a doubtful proposition), then quite literally.

I didn't used to be a partisan...but no liberal, no Democrat, whatever our disagreement, ever called me less than human, which to me, is one cowardly step short of saying "okay to kill." I've heard quite a bit of it from the Republican side.

You're absolutely right, Barry. I don't hope to convince these people. They declared war on me and people like me a long time ago. So maybe I and my penchant for black humor don't belong here.

Barry Eisler said...

JD, thanks for your gracious words. No sweat, we all get carried away sometimes. You should hear me when I let my hair down. But it's just like anything else: you have to know your audience. Here, we're all relative strangers of differing views. That's why I keep beating the drum (or, I'm sure some would suggest, the dead horse) of politeness. No politeness, no listening. No listening, no value.

But I have to disagree with your suggestion that you might not belong here. I want to hear your views, and I want you to express them so that people who don't agree will listen to what you have to say. So please do stick around.

Anyway, thanks for listening to my admonitions and again for your gracious reply.

Broker/DT, I'll leave it to you to either confim JD's impression that you're one of the people he describes above... or to demonstrate by your reply that he might be mistaken about you.

Anonymous said...

I have the feeling there is more to the resignation of Mr. Goss then has been reported.

JD Rhoades said...

Barry: As always, you're a class act. I'd love to stick around. But you and the other folks here need to understand one thing: I've got a sense of humor that's so black it occasionally veers into the ultraviolet. In the past few years, I've relied on that to keep me from going barking-at-the-moon insane over what's being perpetrated on the country I love. But the downside of that is that it doesn't seem to play well with the Terribly Earnest.
Do I truly think Bush the Younger was trained or brainwashed by terrorists? Of course not. It was my expression of frustration of just how badly he's managed this war. If I really try to write seriously about those failures, I end up in a state of near despair. So I make a joke along the lines of "jeez, Dubbya couldn't have screwed the pooch more vigorously if he'd been on the Al-Q payroll," which seems to drive some into gibbering apoplexy. And, I'm sorry to say, seems to have offended you, a writer and blogger whom I truly admire. I couldn't give less of a damn about the former, but the latter does cause me grief.

Barry Eisler said...

JD, thanks and right back at you.

Look, cards on the table: I think Bush is the worst president we've ever had, and many times I've thought (and said) that goddamnit, he's doing exactly what OBL wants. I try not to get into that to much here at HOTM because Bush is such a polarizing figure, but I don't intend to conceal my views, either, and regardless I'm sure they seep through whether I try to check them or not. I'm not partisan on this, BTW; my vote for #2, at least in my adult life, would be Jimmy Carter. But I do believe that Bush has been a catastrophe for America (and we've still got 1000 days left).

Now in saying all that, I don't think I've given anyone reasonable cause for offense, anymore than I could reasonably be offended if someone professed to believe that Bush is our greatest president ever. I can still talk to the "he's the best" crowd, and they can still talk to me (at least I hope so).

And therein lies my concern for HOTM: if people start ranting here, whether for humor, or to blow off steam, or whatever, visitors with other views will either get turned off because "oh, it's just another psycho rightwing/leftwing forum," or they'll be tempted to respond in kind (Charlie, are you still out there?). In the first case, we wind up without a simulating range of opinions; in the second, we have useless shouting matches.

This is why I say that you should hear *my* rants when I uncork at home. But home is a different place.

This is a long way of saying that you haven't offended me at all. It's just about what will make HOTM work the way I'd like it to. It's also possible I'm being too sensitive. I'm new at this moderating gig.

Thanks again buddy and again I hope you'll stick around.

Anonymous said...

Barry, for what it’s worth, I think you are doing a fine job. I don’t agree with some of your views, but I do find them interesting and they cause one to think and reconsider their own views. What more could you ask for?

I hope JD stays. I enjoy reading his blogs and he does make some good points.

JA Konrath said...

Speaking for myself, you're doing a very very good job here, Barry.

Barry Eisler said...


Sorry, it just slipped out.

Rae, thanks for the CSM link. I've seen other speculation about Goss being implicated in the scandel; the counterargument is that if Bush had really thought Goss dirty, he wouldn't have been so chummy with him at Goss's goodbye.

Anonymous said...

I think about the US government's euphemisms every time I read an article involving it. The Department of Defense used to be called the Department of War. It takes effort to read what many articles are hinting is really happening. For example, I would be an "insurgent" if foreign troops were forcefully in my country.