Even at CIA, major mistakes are no bar to promotion

The AP investigation revealed a CIA disciplinary system that takes years to make decisions, hands down reprimands inconsistently and is viewed inside the agency as prone to favoritism. When people are disciplined, the punishment seems to roll downhill, sparing senior managers involved in mishandled operations.

“Someone who made a huge error ought not to be working at the agency,” former senator Christopher S. Bond (Mo.) said in November as he completed his tenure as the top Republican on the Senate intelligence committee. “We’ve seen instance after instance where there hasn’t been accountability.”…

The CIA wants officers to take chances. As former CIA director Michael V. Hayden told Congress, officers should operate so close to the boundaries that they get “chalk on their cleats.” When officers cross those lines, discipline is usually carried out secretly. In complicated cases, the director can convene a panel of senior officers to review the matter. But the director has the final word on discipline.