Deutch appointed Nora Slatkin, a former Capitol Hill staffer and assistant secretary of the Navy, as CIA executive director, the No. 3 job in the agency. Slatkin immediately declared "a goal that one out of every three officers hired in fiscal years 1995-97 be of Hispanic or Asian-Pacific origin." According to Schoenfeld, Slatkin "moved no less aggressively to alter the ethnic and sexual complexion of the CIA's higher levels. In just six months, she was able to report, '42 percent of officers selected for senior assignments ha[d] been women or minorities.'" Nonetheless, Deutch's successor, George Tenet, bemoaned the under-representation of "[m]inorities, women, and people with disabilities" in the agency's mid-level and senior officer positions, and proclaimed diversity "one of the most powerful tools we have to help make the world a safer place."
Obviously, the undermining of the CIA during the Clinton years was not entirely due to overzealous affirmative action. As Schoenfeld points out, the agency's budget suffered large cuts under Clinton and, most importantly, many senior political appointees seemed contemptuous of the agency's very mission, to gather and protect national security intelligence. Deutch eventually admitted to mishandling highly classified material by storing it on unsecured home computers while he was CIA director. He signed a Justice Department plea bargain admitting his guilt, but the agreement was essentially nullified when outgoing President Bill Clinton pardoned him on Jan. 20, 2001. (Deutch's affirmative action gadfly Slatkin was one of six CIA officials later reprimanded for her role in stalling the investigation into Deutch's abuse of classified material.)
But even if affirmative action was not the primary culprit in the perilous decline of the CIA, it contributed to the problem. Schoenfeld points out, "The drive to hire more 'Asian-Pacific' and Hispanic officers at the very moment the CIA was facing a critical shortage of Arabic speakers, and at the very moment when Islamic terrorism was emerging as the most significant threat to our national security, speaks volumes about how and why the agency failed in its mission of safeguarding the United States."
It's now up to the director of the CIA, Porter Goss, and the newly appointed director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, to put the nation's need for timely intelligence ahead of political correctness.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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