Regression to the mean is a term used in statistics.
Simply put, outstanding results will always go back to average results. If, for instance, the ocean produces a rogue wave of 100 feet, it will eventually go back to producing more normal waves.
Every time nature produces a Michelangelo, it compensates by going back to producing a plethora of those of us in the paint by numbers crowd.
Human institutions appear to have a form of regression to the mean that is more active than that found in nature. The CIA and its propensity for punishing agents who actually make the breakthroughs it uses to get funding from Congress is a case in point.
The agent who was the main character in the movie Zero Dark Thirty has learned this the hard way. She’s been passed over for promotions and punished in other ways because, as one of her colleagues put it, “she’s not miss congeniality.” The topper for the delicate sensibilities inside one of our nation’s spy factories was when she sent a broadcast email to her colleagues after the agency gave a group award for finding Bin Laden.
“She hit ‘reply all’ ” to an email announcement of the awards, a second former CIA agent recalls to Miller. Then, to all of her colleagues, the agent sent a message along the lines of, “You guys tried to obstruct me. You fought me. Only I deserve the award.”
One source tells the Post that a testy attitude is typical within the CIA, and says “Do you know how many CIA officers are jerks?”
“If that was a disqualifier, the whole National Clandestine Service would be gone,” the former agent claims.
Even still, the real-life Maya’s online outburst “stunned” her colleagues, the source says. (Read the rest here.)
Of course, this isn’t the first time they’ve punished an agent for doing his or her job. John O’Neill, had latched onto the threat represented by al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden years before 9/11. If the agency had listened to him and used his intelligence to inform our elected officials, there might not have been a 9/11.
Think about that: Three thousand dead Americans might be alive today, and we could have avoided a decade of war. If the agency had listened to John O’Neill.
But what they did instead is classic bureaucrat. It’s the kind of management that allowed the over-paid heads of General Motors to bankrupt the largest corporation in the world.
They got rid of the guy — “pushed him out” — who was warning them — and us — about 9/11.
And the rest is, as they say, history.
Or in this case, the dead are dead, the wars are fought, the patriot act is passed, and, along with all the rest of the destruction that 9/11 wrought, we the people are being surveilled.
This regression to the mean stuff has deadly consequences when it involves governance. It becomes a signifier for incompetence and corruption. It leads to unnecessary wars, unnecessary deaths, and the destruction of the treasure and liberties of a great nation.
We don’t need to put every man, woman and child in this country under government surveillance to “keep Americans safe.” We certainly don’t need to enrich private corporations by feeding them at the surveillance money trough. That is corporate welfare gone nuts boys and girls. It is corruption at the expense of all our liberties.
We need to fire a few people at the CIA. And I don’t mean the woman who found bin Laden.