Large organizations have difficulty keeping poor performers and misfits out of their ranks. This is often true even in their most mission-critical jobs. There are numerous cases of airline pilots, even on the major airlines, showing up at the cockpit drunk. A NASA astronaut who had won the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal allegedly wore space-flight diapers to drive hundreds of miles non-stop in order to menace or kidnap or murder another astronaut who was a rival in a love triangle.
The CIA has not been exempt from such difficulties. Here is an excerpt from a report by the agency’s Inspector General concerning the case of the Soviet mole Aldrich Ames, who steadily rose through the ranks of the mission-critical Soviet division despite some significant performance issues:
[W]e have uncovered a vast quantity of information about Ames’s professional sloppiness, his failure to file accountings, contact reports and requests for foreign travel on time or at all. We have found that Ames was oblivious to issues of personal security both professionally–he left classified files on a subway train–and in his espionage–he carried incriminating documents and large amounts of cash in his airline luggage; he carried classified documents out of CIA facilities in shopping bags; and he openly walked into the Soviet embassy in the United States and a Soviet compound in Rome. We have noted that Ames’s abuse of alcohol, while not constant throughout his career, was chronic and interfered with his judgment and the performance of his duties. . . . By and large his professional weaknesses were observed by Ames’s colleagues and supervisors and were tolerated by many who did not consider them highly unusual for Directorate of Operations officers on the “not going anywhere” promotion track.
Michael Scheuer was also for a time in charge of a mission-critical assignment in the CIA, running the group in charge of countering Osama bin Laden. I have written about his sub-par performance, most recently in The CIA Examines Itself.
How bad apples make their way through organizations large and small is a question that has long fascinated me. And Michael Scheuer is a particularly fascinating case, especially because he responds to my questions, even while seldom if ever answering them.
There are many dots about his life and career that I still intend to connect. And in the interests of piecing together the story, and using the Internet as a form of collaborative journalism, I have been wondering about some basic facts regarding his biography. I hope readers, if they have information, will assist me.
Some questions for today:
1. Wikipedia states that Scheuer resigned from the CIA in 2004 after a 22-year career. Is Wikipedia accurate on this point? If accurate, it would mean that Scheuer began his career in the agency in 1982.
2. But Scheuer earned a Ph.D. degree from the University of Manitoba in May 1986. Did he accomplish this while associated with the CIA? Was he stationed at Langley during this period, or was he based in that hotbed of international intrigue, Winnipeg, Canada?
3. Why did Scheuer choose to attend the University of Manitoba? That, too, seems interesting, and I admit that so far I’m stumped.
I have many more questions, but those are enough unconnected dots for today. If you can help me connect them, write to [email protected] and put Michael Scheuer Watch in the subject line. Confidentiality is guaranteed. (But see my Why Journalists Are Not Above the Law to understand exactly how far I would go in protecting your identity.)
A complete guide to other items in this Michael Scheuer Watch series can be found here.