Undercover work and Langley desk jobs

Yes, you can drive to CIA HQ every day and still be undercover.

Larry Johnson, himself a former NOC, puts paid to one of the sillier Rovian talking points in the Valerie Plame scandal: “She couldn’t have been undercover; she drove to Langley every day.”

Other mental midgets … continue to insist that no crime could have been committed because Valerie Plame, “worked at a desk job”. Newsflash for these so-called Washington insiders who have proven they know nothing about the intelligence community–at least 40% of the people working at CIA Headquarters are working undercover. Just because they may physically go to the CIA building in McLean, Virginia everyday does not mean that their relationship with the CIA is acknowledged.

During my four years of sitting at a desk at CIA I was undercover. My position with the CIA was not even known by my own parents. Only my wife was privy to that secret. Many of the undercover folks still working at CIA are at headquarters on a temporary basis. Some travel overseas on temporary assignments that last less than a month. Others await a semi-permanent posting for a two or three year stint overseas.

Johnson flatly asserts that Plame was still under NOC when the Novak column ran.

Several aeons ago, when I was young and irresponsible and worked on drug policy at the Justice Department, I saw some work product from a first-rate analyst at the CIA and had a number of telephone conversations with him from his office in the CIA’s counternarcotics center at Langley.

I noticed that the name he used on the phone — let’s say “Jim Smith” — wasn’t the name on the work product, which I knew from the restricted-distribution list attached to it was circulating to the very highest levels. I assumed that someone up his chain of command had stolen credit for the analysis, and commiserated with him about it. “Jim” delicately pointed out that people in his line of work used more than one name. Ooops!

One day I called his office and someone else answered the phone. “Jim” wasn’t there, I was told. I asked if I could leave a message. No, “Jim” was out of the country and wouldn’t be back for some time. “Where can I reach him?” I asked stupidly. The frozen silence on the other end of the line informed me of my error; I never saw or heard of “Jim” again.

So “driving to a desk job at Langley” and “being a NOC” are not inconsistent facts.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com