As part of a hiring initiative meant to attract new and diverse hires, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) released a new recruitment video in March of 2021. The video featured a Hispanic female discussing her background and time in the CIA, as well as why she chose to serve her country. She says at one point, “I’m a woman of color. I am a mom. I am a cis-gender millennial who’s been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder…I did not sneak into CIA. My employment was not and is not the result of a fluke or a slip through the cracks. I earned my way in, and I earned my way up the ranks of this organization”.
The video showed a woman who cares for her family, cares for her country, and desires to see a difference be made in the world. However, some took issue with the advert though, though these criticisms came over a month after the video first was published and made available to the public.
In a tweet, the Republican Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, said, “If you’re a Chinese communist, or an Iranian Mullah, or Kim Jong Un…would this scare you? We’ve come a long way from Jason Bourne”. Many criticized Cruz for his usage of Jason Bourne, a fictional CIA Paramilitary Operations Officer, yet he took to Twitter once again to clarify, saying, “My point is that CIA agents should be bad-asses—not woke, fragile flowers needing safe spaces”.
Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted “China & Russia are laughing their asses off watching CIA go full woke…If you think about it, wokeness is the kind of twisted PSYOP a spy agency would invent to destroy a country from the inside out”. Others, including popular conservative commentators like Dinesh D’Souza and Meghan McCain, also criticized the ad calling a “joke” or “insane” while others went as far to say that the CIA was “actively looking to recruit the most immodest, narcissistic, grotesquely self-serving people in the world”.
Criticism towards the ad did not purely come from the Conservative, rightist personalities either, but also members of the left. Left-leaning publications such as The Intercept and Jezebel both critiqued the ad. It seems that, from all sectors of American public and political life, this advert and total tactic was heavily derided; from members of the left, it was cringey and irrespective of the agency’s long and controversial history while, from members of the right, it was ineffective national security and intelligence policy.
However, what many seem to be forgetting is that diversity within the intelligence world is an extremely important factor in creating effective and accurate foreign policy and in gaining the most up to date and accurate intelligence.
Intelligence analysis is probably the most important part of the Intelligence Cycle and holds just as much, if not more, importance as the end result, the intelligence estimate or packet. To put it simply, if the analysis is corrupted in some way, shape, or form by either the analyst’s personal views or tainted by poorly verified intelligence, then the action taken based upon this intelligence could result in missteps or negative affects to U.S. policymakers, military units, or regions in which the intelligence affects. Throughout history, there are an abundance of examples in which intelligence analysts have misinterpreted situations due to their own biases about a nation, political ideology, or have been selected specifically to sort through intelligence in order to back up a preconceived opinion.
One of the best examples in showing how analysts’ personal views, both conscious and subconscious, can affect their overall analysis is the 1954 coup d’état of Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz.
The coup, which was given the CIA codename Operation PBSUCCESS, was a mission in which the U.S. government, via the CIA and U.S. State Department, engaged in fomenting a coup to remove Árbenz, the leftist president who had approved of agrarian reforms within Guatemala. To justify an invasion, members of the State Department and CIA tried to link Árbenz to Guatemalan communists, yet this proved very difficult as there was “no evidence that Arbenz himself was anything more than a European-style democratic socialist”. A CIA paper, published two months before the coup, also, “did not cite any direct contact between Guatemalan Communists and Moscow. The paper offered ideology, not facts…”.
A master’s thesis written by a student at West Virginia University extensively and exclusively covers the CIA’s decision making process, detailing how, “CIA reports from the early 1950s also demonstrated this fear [of Communism]… The “red scare,” in essence, affected nearly all Americans. Many in the Eisenhower government also felt that Moscow had a nefarious hidden hand and controlled communist sympathizers around the globe,” while also noting that the, “ONI [Office of Naval Intelligence] did not feel that CIA had valid reasons or enough sources to reach the conclusion it did regarding Soviet intentions in Latin America”. The heightened fears of Communism and the Soviet Union that permeated the minds of analysts within the State Department and CIA (as well as the desires by some to ensure the survival of the United Fruit Company in the country) resulted in intelligence that was skewed to believing that the Guatemalan government was embracing Communism, when, even according to the CIA’s own histories, was baseless.
Based upon this example, as one can see, the intelligence provided to the U.S. government was based upon analyst biases and did not accurately reflect how the Guatemalan government under Árbenz operated nor how entrenched the Communists were in political life. The fear of Communism overwhelmed the amount of solid and fact-based analysis, resulting in an invasion that removed a democratically elected president.
This coup eventually resulted in the emplacement of a right-wing, military government, which would rule until 1996, overseeing a brutal civil war complete with death squads, acts of genocide committed by presidential administrations, political assassinations, and a drastic increase in governmental corruption. Members of the CIA who were involved in the operation too regretted their actions and acknowledged that the outcome did not benefit Guatemala, the U.S., or Latin America. Operation PBSUCCESS did not bring about a U.S.-friendly democracy, but a U.S.-friendly military dictatorship that engaged in war crimes and severely destabilized the entire country. The failure of this operation to bring about a democracy and U.S. intervention in the country in the first place was, in my own view and examination, based upon biased analyses by the CIA which promoted the view that Guatemala was becoming sympathetic to Communists and the operation itself shows just how important intelligence analysis is.
Not only is analysis an incredibly important tool within the intelligence cycle as a whole, but the analyst themselves are highly important. The analysis is only as good as the analyst and if the analyst is biased, limited in their outlook or worldview, or come from a sole section of society, then the analysis will reflect those beliefs. Most of the analysts involved in the Guatemalan operation were white and male, most likely coming from middle-class backgrounds and either having military service or Ivy League education or both. These beliefs and hiring processes which exclude persons beyond the majority of America’s populace can significantly hinder an agency and promote a poor world outlook. The majority of persons in countries in which the U.S. is involved, thinking of becoming involved, or are creating analyses in anticipation of potential foreign policies are not white or male nor from wealthy societies; they are, most often than not, of an extremely different mindset than many Americans, live in poverty or close to poverty, and have an immensely different culture. While the CIA has made some headway in this area, retired CIA case officers and analysts have made claims that the CIA (and the Intelligence Community as a whole) are severely underperforming and not effectively recruiting towards people from outside of that select pool.
Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, Jr.’s comments about the CIA lowering their standards and fostering an environment in which the CIA now is ineffective at creating intelligence or defending the United States from foreign threats (not being “badass” enough) is nonsensical. If anything, the inclusion of persons who are not white or male, who have experience outside of the military, who are knowledgeable on issues beyond military, intelligence, and national defense/security makes for a more well-rounded force and an agency more effective at analyzing collected intelligence, crafting accurate and informed recommendations, and allowing past mistakes, the misreading of important political events, to take hold. Including strong, analytical persons from more minority backgrounds into the national security framework will perform wonders for American intelligence analysis and in making influential policy decisions.
To quote Marc Polymeropoulos, a retired CIA officer, “Diversity is an operational advantage. Simple as that. I want case officers who look like the UN”.