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Public Personnel Today

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The events that led up to the departure of George Tenet from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were a number of ethical dilemmas faced by the director. Based on White’s case study there will be four ethical dilemmas mentioned, concerns of prioritization, strategies of competing ethical obligations, and an ethical map discussed. The fall of the CIA and George Tenet was an ethical labyrinth in which no man would have survived unscathed. George Tenet served as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (DCI) from 1997 until 2004. His role as DCI included managing an agency with two sides, one as a spy and the other analytic of raw intelligence responsible for the President’s Daily Brief and the National Intelligence Estimate (White, 2008). His role also included maintaining communication between the Directorate of Operations and the Directorate of Intelligence, presidential intelligence advisor, and I “head of the intelligence community” (White, 2008). Majority of Mr. Tenet’s ethical dilemmas were based on his professional role. His first ethical dilemma came upon being sworn in as DCI. The dilemma was to be seen by President Clinton or to focus on reconstruction of the CIA. Since Mr. Tenet chose to focus on the reconstruction of the CIA, President Clinton did not include him in his intelligence committee or as part of the Clinton administration cabinet. The fact that he was not included in the Clinton administration cabinet left room for him to be appointed during the Bush administration but by default and word-of-mouth. The second dilemma was during peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis during the Fall of 1998 under President Clinton. This dilemma was to position himself as a diplomat or as DCI with internal information regarding a convicted spy. This dilemma almost cost him his position as DCI. President Clinton was about to ignore his threat of resignation until the Speaker of the House denied the request of release as well. The third dilemma took place when President Bush came into office. Mr. Tenet was asked to brief President Bush every morning. The dilemma was to partake in the president's daily intelligence meeting or continue focusing on rebuilding the CIA. The fact that Mr. Tenet chose to brief President Bush every morning rather than handling business at the CIA so his preference to be seen by the president. Not only did Mr. Tenet brief the president every morning but he also brought in intelligence agents that were at the fore front of any issue being discussed at that meeting. This decision illustrated a possible favoritism for the Republican Party or the Bush administration and also could have compromised the agents that were present during those meetings. There were other issues that came up during his tenure including the information regarding the attack of the World Trade Center, but the one that stands out is the vice president Cheney speech given at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention. The dilemma was what to leave in Vice President Richard Cheney's speech. Mr. Tenet says, “…I should not have let silence imply agreement” (White, 2008). The decision of leaving certain information out of the speech but not telling VP Cheney why the information was deleted left opportunity for VP Cheney to implement the necessary wording for his own objective which was to go to war. Mr. Tenet had the power and intelligence to stop the unnecessary search for weapons of mass destruction at that time. Mr. Tenet’s prioritization of ethical concerns changed drastically during his tenure as DCI. There were four evidential points to this change. The first took place in the beginning of George Tenet’s appointment to DCI; his focus was on the CIA. Mr. Tenet wanted to do everything in his power to make the CIA the intelligence agency it was during World War II. As DCI his ethical profession took him beyond the CIA, it included the president, Congress, parties in the White House, the public, and his own consciousness. Mr. Tenet was known as a very straightforward, loyal, comical, blunt, workaholic, sports fanatic, overweight person (White, 2008). According to the case study, he initially placed the CIA above everything including President Clinton's administration cabinet. However, after asking for funding and being denied twice by President Clinton, Mr. Tenet realized the importance of having the president on his side. This brings Mr. Tenet to his second point of prioritization which was funding. This realization played an important role once President Bush came to office. When DCI Tenet asked for money, there were no questions asked. The placement of Mr. Tenet to the Bush administration brought forth the third point of prioritization which was loyalty to the president. Mr. Tenet placed his position as DCI closer to the presidential administration than to the CIA. The fourth point of prioritization came when Mr. Tenet realized the intelligence information received was not reliable nor was the information being presented to the public accurate. This was a time that Mr. Tenet placed the leaders of the White House parties, Congress, and the president above his own consciousness. Mr. Tenet knew information about events prior to them happening, certain information was not accurate, and some information received was not reliable but said nothing until it was too late. During this time Mr. Tenet place more faith in the Bush administration and prioritized his actions according to their agendas. In the presentation by Dwight Waldo, there is a list of 12 “sources and types of ethical obligations to which the public administrator is expected to respond” (Waldo, 1980). The first obligation listed that corresponds to Mr. Tenet's position as DCI is to the Constitution of the United States. As DCI, two of Mr. Tenet’s responsibilities were the President's Daily Brief and the National Intelligence Estimate. The president's responsibility as stated in his affirmation, “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” (Constitution of the United States).This would also be covered by the third obligation, which is to nation or country (Waldo, 1980). As DCI, any type of security intelligence information was available to Mr. Tenet. Once there was a threat of terrorism to our nation or country he was obligated to upon receipt to act accordingly, whether that be notifying other parties or sending personnel into unauthorized territory. Another obligation would be the fourth, which is obligation to democracy (Waldo, 1980). The Constitution of the United States starts off stating “We the people….” and many people view this as the beginning documentation for democracy (Constitution of the United States). This obligation also intertwines with the obligations that were listed previously for the Constitution, law, nation or country. When looking at obligations one through four, they outline what a public administrator’s obligations are but not what to do when these obligations are questioned. This obligation listed on the list Waldo is the obligations organizational-bureaucratic norms. These obligations are listed under two categories: generic and specific. “Generic obligations are quoted as using words such as loyalty, duty, order, perhaps, productivity, economy, and efficiency. Specific obligation will depend upon circumstances: the function, the clientele, the technology” (Waldo, 1980). Mr. Tenet was very generic in obligation and tried to be specific in obligation when he came to his duties as DCI. When design ethical map for defining and prioritized by the ethical obligations one must look at themselves, position, agency, and duties within an agency. The first obligation to self is important because your consciousness will bother you if you make bad decisions. Mr. Tenet felt very uneasy about some of the decisions he made and stated so later (White, 2008). The second and third obligations are to the position and agency. As an employee of an agency whether it be private or public, you must be willing to abide by all rules and regulations of that agency. Becoming DCI placed Mr. Tenet as head of the CIA, which unofficially placed him in a political forum he did not want to be in. Mr. Tenet tried to avoid the political arena in the beginning and realized his position within the agency needed political backing. The second ethical obligation should be to the duties of which you are sworn to uphold. Mr. Tenet initially took these duties to be for the CIA and for the duration of the Clinton administration. However, his reputation for loyalty with the SSCI (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) surpassed his reputation as DCI. The obligation was to the duties of DCI not to the people or person that was able to keep Mr. Tenet in that position. Furthermore, if at any time he felt a certain political obligation he should have resigned. Mr. Tenet was a loyal and desirable appointee for the position as Director of Central Intelligence, however it seemed as though his obligations changed when the circumstances and the players changed. As a public administrator, the obligations should always remain the same. The obligations are to the people of the administration whether that is public or private. Mr. Tenet in the end was used as the scapegoat for all the wrong decisions made and was left out to dry alone. Unfortunately, the CIA also had to pay the price of his wayward ways. Ultimately, the position of DCI was eliminated and a new agency was formed for the new era of secret intelligent information.

Constitution of the United States . (n.d.). Retrieved November 6, 2011, from The Charters of Freedom:
Waldo, Dwight (1980) Public Administration and Ethics: A Prologue to a Preface. In R.J. Stillman III, Public administration concepts and cases 2010 Custom Edition (9th ed.), pp. 472-482. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning.
White, Richard D. (2008). George Tenet and the Last Great Days of the CIA. In R.J. Stillman III, Public administration concepts and cases 2010 Custom Edition (9th ed.), pp. 483-491. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning.

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