The CIA "Culture"

A - G

Although it oversimplifies the application of a complex concept -- organizational culture -- to an organizationally and culturally complex organization -- the CIA -- the following comment by Turner, "CIA-FBI Non-Cooperation...," IJI&C 8.3:271/fn. 17, is a good starting point: The CIA is divided into "distinct segments that have developed unique cultures of their own. The Directorate of Operations (DO) has the most distinctive culture, representing the clandestine ethos. The Directorate of Intelligence (DI) has a culture infused with academic and intellectual perspectives. The Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T) has a 'techno-nerd' image, while the Directorate of Administration (DA) incorporates the culture predominating among support personnel. Each thinks it is the most important segment of the Agency, and each believes its culture to be the most sophisticated and essential to the mission of the CIA."

I can't resist noting as a former college faculty member and dean that by substituting college/university for "Agency" and "CIA," Turner's last sentence applies equally to the discipline-specific departments at an academic institution.

  Adelman, Kenneth L. "A Clandestine Clan." International Security 5 (Summer 1980): 152-171.

The author was ACDA Director, 1984-1987. According to Petersen, this is a "[r]eview essay on Powers [The Man Who...] and Roosevelt's Countercoup."

Cogan, Charles G. "The In-Culture of the DO." Intelligence and National Security 8, no. 1 (Jan. 1993): 78-86.

Corn, David. "The Company They Keep: How the C.I.A.'s Clubby, Insular Culture Yields Little Valuable Intelligence and Gave Us Aldrich Ames." Washington Monthly, Jul.-Aug. 1994, 34-38.

Corn clearly does not understand that the development of organization-specific cultures is a common -- perhaps even necessary -- trait of bureaucracies. The idea that such cultures are amenable to being changed from outside the organization runs counter to the literature.

Dujmovic, Nicholas. "Amnesia to Anamnesis: Commemoration of the Dead at CIA." Studies in Intelligence 52, no. 3 (Sep. 2008): 3-16. [Sidebar, "CIA's Failure of Memory: Daniel Dennett, the Forgotten First Star?": 9.]

"CIA came to commemoration late, but the Agency at last does a good job of it, probably as well as commemoration can be done, given the constraints."

Ellison, Dawn. "One Woman's Contribution to Social Change at CIA." Studies in Intelligence 46, no. 3 (2002): 45-53.

This article tracks Harritte Thompson's discrimination suit against the Directorate of Operations, 1977-1980.

Gup, Ted.

1. The Book of Honor: Covert Lives and Classified Deaths at the CIA. New York: Doubleday, 2000. The Book of Honor: The Secret Lives and Deaths of CIA Operatives. With a new Afterword by the author. New York: Anchor, 2001. [pb]

The Publisher's Weekly, 15 May 2000, reviewer notes that the author has revealed "the names -- and personal stories -- of some three dozen CIA agents who died in the line of duty and whose identities have been kept secret." According to Loeb, Washington Post, 14 May 2000, there are 77 stars on the Wall of Honor in the CIA's main headquarters building. Of these, "only 40 ... names are listed in the CIA's Book of Honor." Publication of Gup's book "bring[s] the total number identified, officially or unofficially, to 65."

In an op-ed piece in the Washington Times, 16 May 2000, Loch Johnson says there are 71 stars, 33 named and 38 unnamed. Gup's work is a "compassionate and well-written portrait of some of the men and women behind the stars." Johnson argues that "[n]ow the CIA should make public the rest of the facts and allow us to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of all these heroes."

Halpern, IJI&C 14.1, credits Gup with having done "extensive research"; but adds that "he has also made numerous errors," perhaps because "he seems to have done little checking of facts." Nonetheless, this "collection of separate accounts about unrelated CIA efforts" makes "a splendid human interest story of anonymous valor in the service of the United States."

For Wales, I&NS 17.1, the author's effort "to create an artificial distinction between the stories of the individual officers ... and the Agency they dedicated their lives to" results in portraying them "as victims of the CIA, rather than people who willingly lived according to the clandestine ethos Gup finds so abhorrant." Nonetheless, "his capsule biographies of the fallen officers are at once respectful, intimate and deeply affecting."

A review of this book by David Corn, Washington Post, 21 May 2000, was so unenlightening that I initially chose to ignore it. However, John Macartney ("Stuff May 23 [2000]") has characterized the review so succinctly that I cannot resist quoting him: "The main message of this review is to demonstrate that Corn didn't understand the author's thesis nor does he have a clue about how the US government works."

Troy, Studies, Winter-Spring 2001, found The Book of Honor "always interesting, sometimes provocative, and even awe-inspiring." In his criticisms of the CIA, the author "basically rehashes a lot of old, well-known stories and adds nothing new." The effort "to provide at least implicit criticism of CIA as an agency detracts" from this book.

2. "Star Agents." Washington Post Magazine, 7 Sep. 1997, 6-13, 22-23. "Over the Years, Terrorists' Bombs, Machine-Gun Fire, Snipers' Bullets, Plane Crashes, Land Mines and Torture Have All Added Stars to the Book of Honor." Washington Post Magazine, 7 Sep. 1997. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

The author's rather silly emphasis on the relationship between the unnamed stars on the CIA's Wall of Honor and the continued existence of some "culture of secrecy" is more than minimally annoying. However, when the seemingly mandatory anti-CIA guff is stripped away, the stories told of six of the individuals whose names are not among those openly listed in the Book of Honor are worth reading for a glimpse at ordinary and extraordinary people who gave the last full measure in the service of their country.

3. "CIA Officer's Name to Be Added To Honored Dead After 32 Years." Washington Post, 8 Sep. 1997, A6.

"The CIA [on 5 September 1997] informed the family of a covert officer killed in action 32 years ago that his name will be added to the agency's Book of Honor, the public registry of clandestine employees who gave their lives in service to the nation.

"The officer, Mike Maloney, was one of 41 CIA casualties memorialized only by an anonymous star in the book, which is on permanent display in the lobby of CIA headquarters and which was the subject of an article in [the 7 September 1997] Washington Post Magazine. Maloney, 25, died Oct. 12, 1965, when the helicopter in which he was a passenger crashed in the jungles of Laos."

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