In the midst of two wars and the fight against Al Qaeda, the CIA is offering operatives a chance to peddle their expertise to private companies on the side — a policy that gives financial firms and hedge funds access to the nation’s top-level intelligence talent, POLITICO has learned.
In one case, these active-duty officers moonlighted at a hedge-fund consulting firm that wanted to tap their expertise in “deception detection,” the highly specialized art of telling when executives may be lying based on clues in a conversation.
The never-before-revealed policy comes to light as the CIA and other intelligence agencies are once again under fire for failing to “connect the dots,” this time in the Christmas Day bombing plot on Northwest Flight 253.
But sources familiar with the CIA’s moonlighting policy defend it as a vital tool to prevent brain-drain at Langley, which has seen an exodus of highly trained, badly needed intelligence officers to the private sector, where they can easily double or even triple their government salaries. The policy gives agents a chance to earn more while still staying on the government payroll.
OK, I know it’s supposed to be a fundamental law in free-market economics that the only way of finding and holding on to talent is through high “compensation” but whatever else we might have learned from the Wall Street debacle, isn’t it that the bright minds there turned out not to have wisdom commensurate with their pay checks.
Isn’t this the only sure thing that can be said: that those who seek the highest paying jobs are the people who want to make the most money and their talent, such as it is, consists most reliably in this: their ability to enrich themselves.
For the last eight years we’ve been told that the CIA is staffed by heroic patriots who’ve dedicated their careers to protecting America. Mistakes, they’ve made a few, but they did it their way.
Are we now supposed to add the caveat – so long as they can make as money as possible in the process.