George Tenet and the Last Great Days Case Study

Excerpt from Case Study :

George Tenet and the Last Great Days of the CIA, in Stillman

The cross-coded ethical dilemmas facing former CIA Director George Tenet and its impact

The operations of an intelligence agency and its governance are different from the everyday administration of public services and bureaucracies. The fact that the agency -- C.I.A was dealing with espionage and intelligence gathering in states that are hostile to the U.S. And the way the offices of the President and the general U.S. administrators considered it just another branch of the U.S. Government led to its downfall. The loss of credibility is more because of creating an ethic and work protocol that could not be sustained. Although the death of the CIA has been attributed to George Tenet, in reality it was a system that was bound to collapse and tenet was just the last scapegoat. Analysis will reveal that the bureaucratic system and the Office of the President did create ethical dilemmas not only to the Director of the CIA but to the staff and others. The dilemmas are thus examined. (White, 2008)

On July 11, in 1997, when George Tenet was sworn in as the eighteenth director of central intelligence Clinton was the President and he did not think much of the CIA. The agency was not considered so important after the fall of the Soviet Union, and this resulted in loss of good staff, budget cuts, and other disregard to the needs of the organization had reduced it to shambles. There was no accounting procedure for the funds, and the technology used by the CIA had lost the technological edge that had enabled it to compete and triumph during the Cold War. The agency became redundant in communications technology, satellite surveillance, and supercomputing and by 1990s American intelligence a mess. This is the condition in which tenet took over the charge of the agency. (White, 2008)

At the same time the President's office was not in a position to give any briefing to tenet, and he could not even meet the President. President Clinton read briefings and took action rather than have a discussion. The interactions therefore were second hand. Looking forward we see that when George Bush became President he took a more than necessary interest in the C.I.A. The ethical dilemma was caused in both cases by the political will of the President and the powers that controlled the Presidency. For example in Clinton's time the CIA was neglected and fair warnings escaped the administrators. In Bush's time the CIA had to 'provide' intelligence for the war that the President had already planned. (White, 2008)

While the 9/11 incident happened because of the poor performance of the CIA, the later invasion of Iraq happened because the political people determined the war, and caused the CIA to come up with the reasons. These are ethical dilemmas that undermined the credibility of the organization which tenet had to face. The question is if he could have acted in any other way? What is the code of ethics in public service?

Ethics in public service and its influence on political choice

Schillemans (2011) pointed out that there is an accountability deficit of executive agencies. In a democracy the various agencies lack accountability and are forced to toe the line of the system that controls the entire administration, and in the case of tenet the Presidency. Thus autonomous agencies are not made accountable resulting in huge insufficiency and the major thrust is to identify the stakeholders to whom the agency would be absolutely responsible. Thus a horizontal accountability is one of the partial solutions for the accountability deficit and has potential for organizational learning. (Schillemans, 2011)

There could also be the way the governance of the system or institution is changed to meet the policy and strategy requirements. This governance model may be in the direct need to performance and interrelationship between centralized and decentralized levels of government. Such a study conducted showed that there was no clarity of the responsibility relations and the "applied mode of governance blocks the intended improvements." (Duco, Ossewaarde, 2012) One of the methods of avoiding the ethical and administrative problem would be to create higher number of unified commands that would help in decentralizing responsibilities; and secondly the sharing of policy capacities between departments and doing away with all inconsistent governance arrangements can bring about a better solution to the dilemmas like that happened to the CIA.

2. Tenet and the prioritization of ethical concerns

It is shown that during December 1998, tenet warned the administration of al-Qaeda threat. However, there was nothing done to mobilize the intelligence community. The reason is that the director was more worried about the political and career problems and avoided speaking truth to power. This also happened with the case of Iraq where knowing that the nuclear facility -- according to his own words was -- 'dunk slam' there was no verification or a proper stand taken regarding the reports of the 'National Intelligence Estimate' and it was never seen in the light of actual scenario rather was used to further the presidential ambitions which rather eroded the credibility of the institution and earned worldwide wrath. (White, 2008)

Had the issue and information been checked for accuracy, and presented as appropriate, and analyzed as per standards there would have been difference in the world history and the career of tenet. Probably the ethical concerns were not prioritized based on the mission values, but on political values then prevailing. Tenet came up with an excuse for Bush to start a war and not reported actual fact which was unethical. Thus "hard questions were never asked, the hard questions were never answered." (White, 2008)

3. Probable strategies used in competing ethical obligations in intergovernmental organizations that overlap

In a cross-case analysis of six watershed programs and the way the collaboration is successfully used to enhance governance especially since no organization can work alone showed that "collaboration occurs at the operational, policy-making, and institutional levels." (Imperial, 2005) In a study between the public agency and nine community-based nonprofits -- CBNs for ten years showed that there is a change for the relations from distrust to trust after sharing information, integrated responsibilities and authority. The major transformation occurred after collaborative decision making. (Alexander; Nank, 2009)

Results indicate that public -- nonprofits partnerships create a locus for the practice of the New Public Service and thus an effective collaborative process can be chalked using the interdepartmental dependence and common functions and sharing of information that is critical. This way collaboration will become a strategy for better governance. In this case tenet had to recreate posts like chief financial officer with a view to curb the agency's spending and a chief information officer to upgrade its computing capacity. The collaboration in spite of the build up of the agency did not materialize because of a political lack of will. It can be seen that tenet's requirement of $2 billion "annoyed the White House, and he got only a small increase." (White, 2008)

This had to be overcome and therefore unethical means were used. In the first place the principles that determine intra-departmental activities and the way the departments function -- especially where one has the absolute discretion over the other, must be regulated to have ethical dealings, and thus could have avoided tenet going through the back channels to Republican Congressmen for funding. This politics could have been avoided had there been a method of resolving inters department conflicts or having an umpire to solve the issue. The issues are similar to the management of any non-profit organization and so much so that especially where the operations are critical and the funding is elaborate, the managing of public organizations and non-profit organizations are often similar.…

Cite This Case Study:

"George Tenet And The Last Great Days" (2012, November 06) Retrieved August 23, 2017, from

"George Tenet And The Last Great Days" 06 November 2012. Web.23 August. 2017. <>

"George Tenet And The Last Great Days", 06 November 2012, Accessed.23 August. 2017,