Sunday, February 20, 2005

A Methodist Morning

Today I accepted an invite to attend a Probers gathering in Lake Oswego, where Dr. David Smith, former staff psychologist with the CIA, was presenting on the topic of "U.S. Intelligence Reform, Is It Enough?" (quoting from the double-sided handout). Apparently he'd taught some weeks earlier, so this audience of United Methodists was already up on a lot of the jargon (DI vs. DO, DIA vs. CIA and the rest). He screened a Great Decisions episode featuring ex acting DCI John McLaughlin and a couple other white guy experts, talking about various possible post-911 reforms.

This was a pretty upscale crowd, and the campus, which architect Harold Long helped design, bespeaks much socialized wealth. Some of the older guys get to wear colored robes (we Quakers don't have that) and everyone's spiffed up in their Sunday best. I felt slightly out of place, in the company of Harold's gregarious ex, wearing black jeans and T-shirt under a bright red and black windbreaker with the fleece removed. My nametag looked homemade, instead of slick and glossy.

David surveyed the audience to find out what security issues Probers might be concerned about. Many worried about the politicization of intelligence, and about the Pentagon getting the lion's share of the IC budget (like 80%). But ex Pentagoners in the audience were quick to point out that satellites and submarines are expensive to operate, and even if their brassy bosses were Kings of the Jungle, at least their reign was benign, their power willingly shared with the CIA and the rest of the IC.

David was clearly loyal to his agency and, like the bright stars on TV, thought analysis, not just collection, deserved more budget. Congress took flak for being dysfunctional -- no one seemed inclined to defend Congress, although some lip service was paid to its oversight responsibilities.

I piped up once from the sidelines during a feedback interval to plug Mahle's book, which David had on display (one of four, Clarke's another), though I had to admit not having read it yet (I saw her on C-SPAN, and later on Buzzflash). I wanted to second her eagerness to see a more mixed demographic in the upper ranks. Maybe an Arabic-speaking Asian would be too big a shock, but could we at least see some more women? This proposal seemed acceptable to many in the audience, which included a female ex bishop.

After the presentation I went up to plug Lindsay Moran's book -- at least she was embedded with Bulgarians, even before joining. David could see where having a Bulgarian boyfriend might raise some eyebrows in his agency. Background checks -- always a big issue.

In the car afterwards, Maureen queried whether I thought God's plan was for white males to continue as the somewhat ruthless global masters of the universe. I went into some riff about dogs and how we have lots of mutts 'n pedigreed blends but don't feel a need to decide exactly which dogs rule (I said not a word about bitches). I just wasn't into narrating the movie using lame genetic metaphors -- plus there's all this confusion about ethnicity atop the pseudo- biology.

Harold, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, had lunch with me and Ed Applewhite at John's Landing that time, almost a decade ago. Ed was really interested in architecture, and Harold in Bucky, so I thought it'd make a good meal. Ed was from Harvard and Yale, as well as the CIA, and hinted a few times I'd look good in a suit (I look OK in a suit). I pointed out he always wore a tie, which he agreed was habitual -- and to his credit, he didn't wear one the next time we met in Portland. And I wore a spiffy gown coat, the next time we met inside the beltway. We learned from each other, exchanged intelligence. What more can one do?

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