One can also imagine how this news will go down in the deeper, danker, conspiracy-obsessed corners of the blogosphere. Imagine the secret thrill in knowing that the CIA itself might be reading your rambling essay on the secret cabal of the Bush family and Osama bin Laden to take over the oil industry and rule the world. Ha! You can add a whole new conspiracy to your vision of a secret society of Overlords as the Devil itself, the CIA, tracks every seditious word you write in preparation for the general roundup of clear thinkers when the Dark Night of Fascism descends at last on Amerikkka.
For myself, I'm impressed the CIA has been this astute in its understanding of the power of this new phenomenon -- and its increasingly central importance to modern society. That's especially true when you consider that some of our other great institutions -- notably some key figures in the traditional media -- still disparage bloggers as puffed-up amateurs. When even trailing indicators of social change like the CIA and the White House have come to appreciate the unique power of blogs, who can still deny the power of what über-blogger Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) calls an Army of Davids?
That said, and while I'm impressed by what the CIA is attempting, I must say that I'm still quite skeptical. My distrust of the CIA comes from an entirely different direction than the conspiracy buffs. I don't fear the Company because of its terrifying, hidden power, but because of its vast and influential incompetence.
I'll admit to some bias here. My father, if I've never mentioned it, was a spook for much of his career. He started out in the Army CIC, and then with the creation of the Air Force, joined the Office of Special Investigations. A counterintelligence expert, he had a number of postings in Germany (where I was born), in Morocco and, at the end of his career, in Washington, D.C., where he served as liaison between the OSI, Pentagon and CIA among other agencies.
Truth be told, my father despised the CIA as a bunch of cowboys who would rather charge into a critical intelligence situation with guns blazing than actually try to get their agents out alive and with critical information. More than once, my father told me, his or another intelligence agency would be deep into a carefully constructed and subtle mission when the CIA would get wind of it, show up and ham-fistedly screw everything up. His view of the agency as being as much a liability as an asset to the United States did not markedly change during his years in D.C. working directly with CIA headquarters.
My father died a year before the fall of the Soviet Union, but I know he would have shaken his head in disbelief that, right up until the end, the CIA was still reporting that the Soviet government was still strong and in command. After 40 years chartered to do essentially one thing -- track the health of the Soviet Union -- and after burning through billions of dollars in service of that goal … the CIA blew it. Nor would my dad be surprised to learn of the news in the last few days of a CIA leaker to the media. Just par for the course, my old man would have said.
So, while I'm cheered that the CIA is for once ahead of the curve -- well actually, in the middle, but close enough -- in recognizing the importance of the latest great high-tech social phenomenon, I have serious doubts that it will actually do the job right.