Why would CSIS bring on Germany’s minister of plagiarism?

Last week I wrote that Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, Germany’s former minister of defense and minister of economy, had joined CSIS as a “distinguished statesman.”

I awaited a response from CSIS before mentioning the reason that the prominent figure, who had accomplished so much by the age of 40, had stepped down as defense minister was over academic dishonesty while working on his PhD.

While he never clearly stated that he plagiarized his dissertation, published in 2009, at Germany’s University of Bayreuth, he did ask the university to withdraw his doctor title. The university committee tasked with investigating the matter found that “the standards of good scientific practice were obviously grossly abused and it was obvious that plagiarism was involved.”

The German press dubbed Guttenberg the “cut and paste minister” or the “minister of plagiarism.”

So why would a prominent U.S. think tank -- an academic institution -- such as CSIS bring Guttenberg on so soon after his downfall?

The short answer is that CSIS thought the positives well outweighed the negatives.

CSIS president and chief executive John Hamre told Think Tanked that he saw no reason to punish Guttenberg “just because some people wish to chain him to his transgression as part of their political agenda.”

“I spent some time in a seminary. I understand transgression. But I also understand redemption,” said Hamre. “There is no question Herr zu Guttenberg did the wrong thing with his dissertation. It was a serious transgression. But he has admitted it and apologized for it.

“ I see no purpose in life... denying us the value of his intellect and abilities on a going-forward basis,” Hamre said. “I find Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg to be a creative, energetic and passionate policy intellectual. He is far more thoughtful and interesting than many politicians I have met in Europe.”

Guttenberg has relocated Greenwich, Conn., and will lead a new transatlantic dialogue at the think tank in an unpaid capacity.

Allen McDuffee writes about politics and policy and covered think tanks for The Washington Post from 2011 to 2013. He blogs and hosts a podcast at governmentality.net and is currently working on a book about the influence of think tanks in Washington.

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