The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

CIA performance review: ‘He is endowed with a certain lethal gentleness’ and other outtakes

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The Central Intelligence Agency declassified hundreds of documents Thursday from its in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence. Among the articles was a compilation of quotes, apparently from the 1980s, culled from years of real CIA performance reviews where the supervisor clearly failed to fully articulate the intended critique.

A CIA employee (name redacted) who reviews all employee appraisals put together the outtakes list, adding his own witty commentary. Just a little levity in an agency responsible for protecting the homeland … and an employee with time to kill.

The misused vocab and inadvertent connotations do produce hilarious results.

We’ve picked our favorites from the list, but you can read them all here.

1. The officer who kills with kindness:

“He is endowed with a certain lethal gentleness.”

2. Observed while moonlighting:

“He supervises one part-time wife.”

3. But absence makes the heart ponder:

“This employee is not located under me physically; However, I concur.”

4. When you desire to thoroughly screw up, not merely mix, your metaphor:

“He is learning the bureaucratic necessity of documenting a base and learning what can serve as an effective stick to compliment his carrot.”

5. Give the rated officer credit for activities for which he may or may not have been responsible:

“He got off to a fast start. Within the first six months of his arrival (in REDACTED) the U.S. hostages were taken in Iran and the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan.”

6. The 17-word-a-minute typist – but she hits each key as hard as she can:

“Her deficiencies are directly related to her effort to do a better job.”

7. The none-of-your-business aside:

“He has the capacity to do an intelligence analyst.”

8. The timely grunter:

“Subject’s handling of the English language is inferior but he makes up for it with promptness.”

9. When one is walking backward through life:

“To a large degree his future is behind him.”

10. Sort of like being pounced on:

“One of his prime weaknesses is poor spelling, a matter he has been counceled (sic) upon.”

11. The office was sparsely furnished:

“It is a pleasure to have her on my desk.”

Yes, the “I” does stand for intelligence…

On the other hand, while the issues (Russia, Iran and so on) remain the same, one can only hope that the caliber of the analysts’ analyses – or at least their writing proficiency – has improved since the 1980s.