Promoting Maya?

Today’s oddest story involves John Brennan’s reported quandry over whether to permanently appoint the acting head of the CIA’s clandestine service, who happens to be a woman. She also happens (according to a WaPo account by Greg Miller and Julie Tate) to have been involved in legally suspect interrogations after 9/11, and worse yet, in a 2005 decision to destroy evidence of detainees allegedly being tortured.

She “is highly experienced, smart and capable,” and giving her the job permanently “would be a home run from a diversity standpoint,” the former senior U.S. intelligence official said. “But she was also heavily involved in the interrogation program at the beginning and for the first couple of years.”

As Miller and Tate report, the clandestine service has “long been perceived as a male bastion that has blocked the career paths of women even while female officers have ascended to the top posts in other divisions, including the directors of analysis and science.”

If this appointment becomes very publicly controversial, media (and the public) will inevitably draw comparisons to the Maya character in Zero Dark Thirty (a bit young to be a model, since the mysterious appointee is said to be in her 50s), and even to Carrie Mathison of Homeland. Thus does life sometimes imitate art, high and low, even as these popular entertainment offerings are thought to dimly reflect the serious world of spooks.

Brennan is apparently seeking “political cover” for the planned promotion via an unprecedented three-spook panel of former high-level CIA officials. We’ll see if pitting diversity against accountability in this sort of decision will work for him–and for the unnamed beneficiary.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.