Political Animal


March 27, 2013 12:25 PM Promoting Maya?

By Ed Kilgore

Today’s oddest story involves John Brennan’s reported quandry over whether to permanently appoint the acting head of the CIA’s clandestine service, who happens to be a woman. She also happens (according to a WaPo account by Greg Miller and Julie Tate) to have been involved in legally suspect interrogations after 9/11, and worse yet, in a 2005 decision to destroy evidence of detainees allegedly being tortured.

She “is highly experienced, smart and capable,” and giving her the job permanently “would be a home run from a diversity standpoint,” the former senior U.S. intelligence official said. “But she was also heavily involved in the interrogation program at the beginning and for the first couple of years.”

As Miller and Tate report, the clandestine service has “long been perceived as a male bastion that has blocked the career paths of women even while female officers have ascended to the top posts in other divisions, including the directors of analysis and science.”

If this appointment becomes very publicly controversial, media (and the public) will inevitably draw comparisons to the Maya character in Zero Dark Thirty (a bit young to be a model, since the mysterious appointee is said to be in her 50s), and even to Carrie Mathison of Homeland. Thus does life sometimes imitate art, high and low, even as these popular entertainment offerings are thought to dimly reflect the serious world of spooks.

Brennan is apparently seeking “political cover” for the planned promotion via an unprecedented three-spook panel of former high-level CIA officials. We’ll see if pitting diversity against accountability in this sort of decision will work for him—and for the unnamed beneficiary.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Th on March 27, 2013 1:06 PM:

    My take is that the internal CIA attitude towards the torture issue is that they did the right thing by torturing prisoners but they aren't going to defend it in public. It doesn't look like an anti-torture/clear out the torturers person would have a chance of advancing to this position.

  • c u n d gulag on March 27, 2013 1:12 PM:

    While I'd love to see a woman in this traditionally all-male position, and I'd love to see the ones who were really responsible for our horrendous torture (aka: enhanced interrogations, or "suspect" ones) policies - the "usual suspects" at the top of the W mis-administration - we have to start somewhere with not promoting the people involved - in other words, encouraging them.

    It's too late for Brennan. Maybe we need to start with her.
    Which is also horrible, because as a woman, I'm sure she had to work harder to fit-in to the 'all-boys' network in our clandestine services.

    And I'm not sure that's fair.
    But, like I said, we've got to start somewhere.

    I'm curious to see what everyone else thinks about this.

  • ex-curm on March 27, 2013 1:22 PM:

    former CIA officer John Kiriakou was sentenced to more than two years in prison, by a federal judge who rejected arguments that he was acting as a whistleblower when he leaked information relating to CIA waterboarding, while this person is going to get a promotion and another former CIA official from the Bush days, Jose Rodriguez, got to write a book and boast about torture.

  • red rabbit on March 27, 2013 1:38 PM:

    I find it digusting that we're even debating this. If the woman was involved in torture then she's a war criminal. Same goes for "Maya" or whoever she is, I don't view her as a hero at all, and I don't think anyone who was involved in torture with the CIA should be receiving a promotion. Period.
    I saw ZD30 and if the portrayal of Maya is accurate then she committed torture, which means she committed war crimes, which means she's a war criminal. Period.

  • jjm on March 27, 2013 1:40 PM:

    A woman torturer is too hideous to contemplate.

  • Al on March 27, 2013 2:19 PM:

    To jim:

    I take it you've never been married?

    Anybody's wife at some point becomes the world's worst torturer (for HIM). Don't see the stretch here...

  • jeri on March 27, 2013 4:35 PM:

    This isn't even a close call. If this unnamed woman not only participated in directing illegal torture but tacitly admitted she knew it was wrong by covering it up, then she is not qualified for advancement. No matter what other qualifications she might have. Find another qualified woman to promote. Surely the CIA employs more than just one.