PAD500 Modern Public Administration
Dr. Michael Popejoy
A Lesson in Ethics: George Tenet and the CIA
Ethics by definition is a set of moral principles that govern a person's behavior. One could say it is what makes us who we are guides the path of who we shall become. Arguably, a person’s ethics is more important than his or her talents, achievements or position they may hold. Without ethics it is impossible to trust, rely or depend upon a person. George Tenet was a man known for his character, his interaction with people and above all his sense of duty and honor. However after taking the job of CIA director in in 1997, George Tenet, a boy from Queens, found himself in the office of the President of the United States making what would called some of the worst compromises of his life that would ultimately cause him to vacate his office. Four cross-coded ethical dilemmas Power has a way of changing people. Many times this unintentional, but for whatever reason, seems to be the Achilles Hill of many people. Whether it’s the power, fame or money, many find it difficult to balance everything that comes with position and one’s ethical compass. Mr. Tenet found himself in this situation in four ways. First we discover his tendency to tell people what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. This will actually be a theme in all four of these scenarios. Ethics requires us to do things that some would view as unpopular. However, this is a necessary evil. Without the person in the management position sticking to the facts and proclaim truth our ethical footing becomes shaky. Second, we acknowledge Mr. Tenet focused more on unifying the camp than he did about the purpose of the camp. Lest not be hasty and skip the idea infrastructure, morale and budgets are not important. They most assuredly find their place on a manager’s compass. But what good are those things if the manager neglects the overall job. We find Mr. Tenet focused on the afore mentioned things while we mistakenly bomb the Chinese Embassy in Belgium and India begins a nuclear program. We also find Mr. Tenet struggles with the limelight of the Presidency. Not that he ever suggests he might run, but rather smitten with being the Presidents “buddy”. One harsh critic one might have is of his allegiance to the President at all cost. Mr. Tenet’s first obligation was to fulfill his job as CIA director. Which in turn meant his first obligation was to truth and fact finding. This case study is littered with examples of how Tenet was more interested in defending and supporting the president rather than the facts. Finally we see Mr. Tenet refusing to “sound the alarm” that the facts that were given were not correct. It is our job as managers to see the project through. Meaning, if he told them to take it out to the speech, it was his job to ensure it wasn’t in there or at the least come out against the speech after it was given.
Four Ways Tenet Addressed the Prioritization of Ethical Concerns Acknowledging one has made mistakes is the first step in correcting them. Tenet receives credit for what he did to turn around the organization. He addressed the concerns low morale, low recruiting and brining the agencies financial house in order. All of these are examples of how a manager keeps an organization going for long term success. He plainly laid out his top priorities. He would lay out a clearer mission, improve morale, gather and analysis intelligence more proficiently and do his best to acquire additional funding. Tenet was successful at these tasks. By the time September 11, 2001 emerged as the Nation’s worst attack on American soil, the CIA had made a turnaround for the better under his leadership.
Four strategies used in competing ethical obligations in relation to the many intergovernmental organizations that overlapped his