Ethical Obligations George Tenet and the Last Case Study

Excerpt from Case Study :

Ethical Obligations

George Tenet and the Last Great Days of the CIA

The face of American politics has changed greatly over past fifteen years. After 9/11 incident, the American version of democracy and the credibility of higher offices of United States has been questioned time and again. Even CIA is not different from any other organization in the machinery of United States government and its integrity and objectivity has been the subject of doubt consistently over past few years. Where CIA has been the questioned repeatedly, so has its former and last DCI, George Tenet. George Tenet has been accused of crossing ethical boundaries and overlapping his ethical obligations with his personal preferences which caused the downfall of CIA as an organization.

During his tenure as CIA's head, George has been praised over time for brining CIA back to the status of fully-functional organization full of motivated employees and has been known as an impressive and functional leader who knows how to build a team of motivated individuals and make them work in alignment with organizational objectives. However, where Tenet brought CIA back to life in Clinton's era, his decisions and actions brought it back to the old ages. Tenet's over compliance to the office of President in Bush's tenure made CIA a dummy institution whose job was to gain evidence and support for the decisions made in White House.

Tenet faced several ethical dilemmas of cross-coded nature which made it difficult for him to comply with his ethical obligations. Out of twelve ethical obligations mentioned by Dwight Waldo (1980), the ethical dilemma that he was in made him choose between organization, friends, profession and self time and again. It was evident from his course of actions since the very beginning of President Bush's tenure that he was finding difficulty in maintaining his objectivity as Head of Secret Services and turned into a Yes-Man who was trying to stay in the good books of the President.

As a professional, it was his obligation to maintain his objectivity, presents the facts as they were and also pursue for more truths. On the other hand, George's main focus was on building CIA internally which made him ignore the external operations. Resultant was the stream of false and incomplete information which later on formed the basis of some faulty decisions made by White House. Due to his lack of oversight of CIA's internal operations, many international affairs remained unknown to United States Government till the time that they actually took place e.g. India launching Nuclear Tests.

Furthermore, he was expected to present the correct and concrete picture of facts as they were. Rather Tenet was found agreeing to the decisions of the White House which were themselves based on weak intelligence report. The rationale of this behavior can be his adherence to the ideology of President Bush which was focused on eliminating Saddam Hussain from his reins. Here, Tenet was observed to be in ethical dilemma whether to comply with ethical obligation towards his friend or his professional duty.

Similarly, his representation at United Nations at the time of Vice President Cheney's speech portrays his act of saving himself at the expense of his organization. Where it was proved later that at the time Cheney's speech, sufficient evidences were present to prove the absence of lethal weapons in Iraq, he maintained on sharing only selective facts which helped in gaining United Nations support over this issue. Hence, Tenet was found to be in ethical dilemma where he had to make choices between his profession, organization, self and friendship and in most of the events, he chose himself and his accomplice with President Bush which jeopardized the integrity of CIA and also his own self as a professional.

Prioritizations of ethical obligations by George Tenet also acted as a sufficient reason for CIA to lose its credibility. Tenet had put his profession and organization at stake giving more preference to his personal choices and his association with President Bush. When President Bush chose to get daily reporting from him on CIA matters, Tenet went overboard and most of his actions portrayed his attempts of pleasing President Bush as a loyal friend who would tell his friend only what he wants to hear. This is the reason why Tenet was found justifying Bush's decisions at various occasions.

Second priority of Tent was his own well-being. There were many instances when he was expected to act as per the demand of his role in decision making, and instead of stepping up and portraying real picture; he decided to remain lenient over policy matters. This includes remaining silent over various matters such as inclusion of mass-destruction weapons' reference in Cheney's speech and also not objecting on having various intelligence teams presenting different versions of similar matters. Had not Tenet been over-whelmed with saving his position as CIA head or not facing the heat and pressure from the Congress by maintain a low-profile, the outcomes might have been different or even if not different, he would not be blamed for them.

Thirdly, Tenet's adherence to the his organziation instead of his actual role as a professional who was assigned with the duty of running an organziation, made him focus on building CIA from within which did made him the favorite boss but failed to build CIA as a fully-functional organziation. External operations of CIA were often found to be ill-maintained and importance pieces of information were missed time and again. This prioritization of his ethical obligations and ignorance towards professional duty made many analysts question the abilities of Tenet an ethical leader.

George Tenet was often made to face the situations where the independence of his office was overlapping with the operations of other intergovernmental organizations. In Clinton's tenure, when he encountered such situations, he stood up to them and presented his stance clearly which made him a less-favorite member of Clinton's team. On the other hand, during President Bush's period, he was given a status of an insider which made him adopt strategies favoring the office of President and his personal well-being rather than maintenance of his objectivity and his organization's credibility.

Ethics and public service values are important elements in comprising the "body and soul" of public administration (Menzel, 2003). After 9/11, White House and Ministry of Defense had their separate wings of intelligence which were found to reports conflicting with that of CIA's. Instead of objecting on existence of such departments in the first place, he not only accepted them but failed to disagree with their reporting over time. Secondly, even in few circumstances, where he did share his concerns, the protest was not forceful enough. Thirdly, White House attempted to undermine the objectivity of CIA as a separate and independent organziation and used it to search for evidences which would support the decisions that were already made. Tenet's failure to avoid present neutral factual information was his strategy of showing loyalty to President Bush. Fourthly, he chose to make others accountable for the mistakes that he had committed over time and blamed other CIA officials again and again for missing out important information. This strategy was contrary to his earlier ideology which made him accept his mistakes humbly which he committed in Clinton's era. At the later stage, Tenet was seen as a resource of consensus building rather than actual productivity.

After analysis of history of George Tenet, a need for designing ethical map which would help in prioritizing ethical obligations arises. Tenet was clearly in an ethical dilemma where he often found it difficult to choose between his ethical obligations. Such map should provide details to its follower as to how he should move from non-ethical course of action to the value-based behavior. This map should determine that the individual should…

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