March 2, 2017
That mainstream media only missed it by “that” much? So how much is that exactly?
The CIA’s old tripping over its own two-feet trick is getting a little played. What they call “tradecraft” became a public spectacle, after the fact, abducting Abu Omar in Milan February 2003. The 20 some agents involved managed not to get caught red-handed. They were none too quiet about it though and left a trail behind an asthmatic lapdog with a cold could have followed. Italian authorities were not inclined to turn a blind eye to felonies on their turf. They indicted the culprits trying them in abstentia.One was agent Sabrina de Souza. She made the mistake of going to Portugal post-conviction and became liable for extradition. 22 other company men and women may be in the same boat if they find themselves within the long arm of Rome. These highly trained covert operatives dragged a few Italians down with them too. Details of the incident bring to mind a lot of questions that would be damned unwelcome down at Langley. The trusty 4th estate is hardly asking any of them.
We all know spies get caught once in a while. If they didn’t that whole “dangers I have known” mystique would lose its tingle. But why the hell do you need a team bigger than both sides on a football field to take one lousy guy for a ride? What’s worse is it looks like every last one of them got made pulling it off. Keep it simple stupid is a principle American high command turns its nose up at. These spooks must be watching all the wrong flicks. Forget their usual faves: James Bond, Matt Helm, Mission Impossible and Inspector Clouseau. When this crack unit crossed the Atlantic they should have had The Godfather on a continual loop.
We live in a country where over 70,000 murders went unsolved since that operation went down. Can’t anybody as stealthy as a common criminal get hired by the federal government? Shoving a single unsuspecting, unarmed man into a van on a Milan street corner doesn’t sound like rocket surgery to me. Walk around a city block and you can probably turn out three people who are up to the job. Nobody in big league news, from Fox to the NYT, is finding fault with the execution of this mission. The pretense of double-nought spy journeyman-ship will be maintained by the press. And nobody’s asking why the company gets away with deploying Jethros.
People are way too used to government professionals that can’t compete with amateurs. They don’t even laugh or get riled anymore. Team America is an only slight exaggeration. We are expected to remain in awe of the free world’s saviors as they face the most underwhelming odds imaginable. No matter what these characters do, in the real world, some people still are. What’s in front of them on large and small screens is suspending reality to psychotic degrees. The entertainment industry is just as responsible as their kinfolk in news. Hollywood finds irony too challenging. They are neither confident of their ability to depict it nor of finding a wide audience that can pick up on it.
Over 60 years ago James Thurber pointed out that media follows Washington’s lead using the word “security” where “insecurity” applies. Things haven’t improved. Any idea of security is the last thing on NSA minds. Insecurity is a thriving industry with an obsessive aversion to risk. It’s an attitude that inevitably creates unforeseen perils at unsustainable costs. One priority they haven’t lost sight of is a pop cultural appeal. Episodic TV is a profit making arm of nationalistic propaganda. And when it comes to creative thinking producers are just as gutless as insecure bureaucrats in Washington, DC. They are passing up a tidal wave of comic opportunity to glorify the cloak and dagger boondoggling racket.
Just about every school girl and boy dreams of jet-setting to European wonderlands for high adventure. How hard is it to convince yourself that you aren’t drinking a high-dollar bottle of Barolo just to enjoy the piedmontese view? Oh no, it is simply what is necessary to save the free world. Paying in Euros to avoid leaving a paper trail? Well, who the heck thinks of everything? Scenarios may exist where cover requires American operatives to maintain a high profile and endure plush accommodations. But that sure looks like the opposite of what would have worked well in taking down Abu Omar. There is a lot of stuff extraordinary about extraordinary rendition besides the rendition.
George Kennan, who knew a thing or two about the subject, said:
A foreign policy aimed at the achievement of total security is the one thing I can think of that is entirely capable of bringing this country to a point where it will have no security at all.
Mel Brooks and Buck Henry probably weren’t thinking quite that deep or lapidary when they created Get Smart. That doesn’t mean the two weren’t closer to the reality of covert operations than the wunderkind brainstorming from Langley and Los Angeles today. The misadventures of Max and 99 look a lot more prescient than anything I’ve seen on the tube in quite some time. We could use a man with some pull and cojones in TV-land. A creator who can combine the comic brio of Brooks and Henry with the worldview of Kennan needs to step up. It might be the last thing that can bring couch potatoes holding clickers, along with that bloated hierarchy on the Potomac, kicking and screaming, back to their senses.