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Sunday’s Washington Post featured an op-ed by John Prados, described as a “national security expert,” entitled “He slept with her. Who cares?” in the print edition. Who cares indeed — apparently not Prados, who prefers to see a sex scandal surrounding General David Petraeus where the real issue is the pervasive corruption and entitlement mentality of Washington’s military elite. Or does Prados assume that most Americans travel around with a mistress doubling as a hagiographer on the taxpayer’s dime? He describes how the Petraeus/Broadwell affair has “done more to harm national security than the affair itself.” But he does not explain exactly how that is so before leading into a call for the intelligence community “to end the arbitrary and outdated rules that govern US intelligence employees.”

Prados focuses on two issues. The first is the “CIA’s insistence on investigating foreigners engaged to agency employees” and the policy to deny clearances to homosexual officers which prevailed until 1998. He opines that the policies were put in place to protect against blackmail and suggests that “the thought that a prospective spouse would have to pass a security check must have led many valuable intelligence officers to quit” while gay officers would find themselves “not working to the fullest extent of their capacities, keeping their heads down to avoid attracting attention.”

Both of Prados’s suggestions are absurd. He cites several CIA officers who went rogue and insinuates that their problems began with having foreign wives and girlfriends checked out by security. He claims that Philip Agee’s “catalyst for his crusade was the CIA’s demand to investigate his Mexican girlfriend” and that re: Aldrich Ames one has to “wonder about the impact … of the agency’s vetting of his Colombian wife.” As I recall the problem with Agee was that he drank a lot and was still married to his American wife when he acquired his Mexican girlfriend. Ames’s wife was complicit in his espionage, hiding the proceeds in her native land. No intelligence organization anywhere in the world would fail to investigate the foreign spouse or girlfriend or boyfriend of an intelligence officer. Implying that it is an “artifact of the cold war era” makes no sense whatsoever, and to do otherwise would be suicidal.

Prados does not even appear to know how the system works, preferring instead to believe that foreign born spouses are hounded by the office of security. In fact, a significant percentage of senior management at CIA has foreign-born wives and husbands, many of whom were first met while overseas by officers who were already married to someone else. The Agency requires that they be background investigated when a relationship is established, then pretty much leaves them alone. I know this from personal experience as I have a foreign-born wife whom I married when I was in Rome Station.

Regarding homosexuality, the Agency concern was indeed that it opened the door to blackmail, which was certainly true in the fifties and sixties. Today, the concern is somewhat different and there is no institutional discrimination in CIA against gay and even transsexual employees. Quite the contrary, they have their own association that meets regularly at headquarters. But many countries in the world still criminalize homosexual acts. Should the U.S. send intelligence officers and diplomats to those countries where there is a significant possibility that they might be arrested if they socialize in gay circles?

Prados concludes that it is “far fetched today to think that a foreign government would contrive an operation to ensnare a CIA employee through an affair…” Excuse me? CIA refers to using sex to obtain an agent as a honeypot operation. The prime objective of every intelligence organization in the world is to penetrate both friendly and hostile competing services by whatever means necessary. That is precisely what they seek to do, and while Americans are more inclined to succumb to money, sex is certainly on the menu.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: David Petraeus 
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  1. Jim Bovard says: • Website

    Excellent analysis. It’s a shame that there are still some people in the world that take the Washington Post seriously…

  2. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Mr. Prados is a writer with some credits, but he is first and foremost a wargame designer. You know, the boxed games with little printed cardboards squares that a lot of us played as kids. Kiddie stuff, nothing for adults.
    To call him a national security expert is quite a reach, IMHO, but the Washington Post is not the newspaper that it once was.
    It is too bad that the once vaunted WP has to ask a toy maker to write an op-ed for them on politics.
    What’s next? Getting the designer of, say, Farmville to give his opinion on the alleged Chinese “aggression” in the South China Sea area?

  3. Perhaps I might be permitted to comment on Phil Giraldi’s assertion in Paragraph one: “the real issue is the pervasive corruption and entitlement mentality of Washington’s military elite.” We can all guess how the good General’s girlfriends got their positions, but what I would like to know is just how the General’s wife get her senior post in the federal government? Just another example of the powerful fixing things for themselves and their kin?

  4. Brian says:

    I have no problem with Petraeus being hounded out of his job, but then I also think it’s an absolute national disgrace that Bill Clinton is still allowed to show his face in public as a political figure.

    However, it is absolutely sickening how this has been allowed to distract from the only important issue involving the Benghazi fiasco–what the heck happened on September 11? Not September 14, or 16, or whatever, with all the BS stories emanating out of various parts of DC. Not the prior six months with security concerns. On September 11.

    Most directly, is it true that the two CIA/ex-SEAL guys who wanted to help the ambassador were ordered to stand down? If so, who gave this order, and why?

    Unfortunately if this is in fact true then the only possible explanations are utterly insane, and since no one in the political and media worlds wants to journey into insanity, everyone’s pretending these issues don’t exist.

  5. “I know this from personal experience as I have a foreign-born wife whom I married when I was in Rome Station.”

    So now we know how you always know where the best pizza is!

  6. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Sure, blackmail is and remains a big part of it. But as you suggest the broader issue is that corrupt characters like Petraeus can worm their way into our government in the first place, all the way to the top of the CIA.

    That a “national security expert” like Prados seems to take such corruption for granted underscores the urgency of hosing out our government by getting rid of incumbents and beefing up anti-corruption laws, enforcement and prosecutions.

  7. smile says:

    “corrupt characters like Petraeus”

    I’d love to see the final price tag on the corruption in Petraeus-run Iraq and Afghanistan. If there ever is one …

  8. Whether or not Petraeus is “corrupt” or had a liaison dangerous to the body politic, I can’t get over the irony in how one of the fish whom the snoops caught in their net was a snoop-in-chief.

  9. TomB says:

    It seems to me—given what the CIA has apparently become more and more—that what Prados has written becomes more *understandable* at least, if still utterly invalid as to a top guy like Petraeus with Intell knowledge across the board.

    That is … when the Agency’s prime, core mission was the incredibly difficult, sensitive one of recruiting and running foreign nationals and trying to figure out the secrets of our sophisticated, “hard-society” enemies and targets, well then you bet you watch out for honey-pot and other sexual trickery and etc. across the board. Just like you watch out for monetary shenanigans amongst your people involved in same.

    And this is still equally true of the Clandestine Service part of the Agency.

    But as I read things, geez, the Agency now is so heavily into paramilitary stuff, recon stuff, drone stuff, signals intell stuff, and on and on, that applying the rules and logic for running a clandestine agent recruiting/running business can reasonably be questioned as reasonable for all those other businesses.

    Of course this just may be an argument for splitting off that old clandestine business from the others, and indeed it worries me that with the proliferation of all the other duties dumped on or taken on by the Agency other than same our clandestine, “pure” human Intell capabilities are going to be neglected/degraded. Not least because the big successes there are so difficult and do not seem to come as frequently as, say, the seemingly sexy new stuff you get from new technologies or missions, such as drone-running.

    But so much of that sexy new stuff is really just … old, relatively “easy” stuff in being “capability” info. And sure, while it’s nice, the real gold is “intention” info, and you can’t get that out of a satellite or a drone or a paramilitary unit.

    Anyway, just to be clear, this isn’t any screed in favor of an across-the-board Prados scheme. More along the lines of suspecting that the CIA now is sorta monstrous big and diverse, so that what its security should focus on should likewise take into account the diversity of security challenges this presents. Thus, it only makes sense that whereas with your Clandestine Service Officers you ought to be supremely concerned about A, B and C, when it comes to your … drone runners, or para-types, well, then it’s C, D and E you concentrate on more.

    Or, to put it another way, you look at things differently for those who are trying to penetrate the Chinese politbureau, and those trying to help the military identify al queada members in Yemen.

    I suspect that’s already true to a degree, showing the further downside of Prados scheme which, in its *own* way, is nothing more than just another one-size fits all prescription of the sort he purports to condemn.

  10. Cliff says:

    DTP: there are more than one John Prados.

  11. Gerard says:

    A guy who who would cheat on his spouse whom he took a vow to be faithful to is someone who would betray his country whom he took an oath to be faithful to.

  12. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:


    “A guy who who would cheat on his spouse whom he took a vow to be faithful to is someone who would betray his country whom he took an oath to be faithful to.”

    His oath was to the Constitution. That venerable document has been defenestrated and the fall has made it unrecognizable.

    Perhaps the expectation of loyalty to a document which is being made up as we go along is part of the problem.

    Reminds me of my favorite Joe Sobran quote:

    “Don’t worry ladies and gentleman, the government will never allow a little thing like the Constitution to prevent them from doing whatever they want”.

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