Suspecting that the evening was going to be filled with a lot of generalities and CIA “savior” symptom, I decided to attend the McDaniel Talk with Niki Grandrimo, alumna and CIA agent. She climbed up on the stage and gave her speech about working at the CIA, with all the “intro-thanks” niceties required of an alumnae returning to speak at her alma mater. It was really nice to hear from a McDaniel graduate about how much her education has helped her, even if it was a bit dry at some points.
When she finished, however, I sat up, ready to see what questions had been deemed worthy from the “ask” cards collected, and was quickly disappointed. Roger Casey, in all his personality and charisma, had decided to play word association.
Even though I understood the decision (considering how many similar questions there must have been) the evening quickly transformed from something that could have been extremely informative, to an evening of Ms. Grandrimo watering down her office’s involvement with controversial subjects such as Guantánamo (Gitmo) and Edward Snowden.
In my opinion, word association did very little; the evening could have been better spent asking Grandrimo questions that would have made her pause, made her think. Even a “no comment” or “I can’t respond to that” would have been more enlightening on her office’s involvement concerning contentious issues.
While I understand that the purposes of McDaniel Talks are to show students what an education at McDaniel can lead to, I also feel that when inviting someone who works in an office with so much controversy surrounding its actions, it would make sense to ask specific questions.
By specificity I mean asking pointed questions. Instead of simply asking “Guantánamo?” there could have been three questions each asking for specific answers. For example: “What forms of torture or ‘questioning’ have been used on prisoners in the compound.”
Or even, “Could you elaborate on Steven Bradbury, Principle Deputy Assistant Attorney General with the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), and his involvement with any prisoners ‘enhanced questioning’ or torture?”
(Steven Bradbury wrote a letter on November 6th 2007 that suspiciously coincides with the time in which questioning tactics were under review by a House Judiciary subcommittee.)
Instead those of us in attendance were forced to listen to rote, disinteresting answers.
Here are two of her responses:
Grandrimo: “He has definitely caused some challenges for the entire government as a whole, especially for the intelligence agencies. I can’t make any conclusive or substantive statements about him seeing as the government is hoping to prosecute him.
While it’s great to have a discourse, the actions that the agencies take must be done without people knowing, because if we reveal our methods, those methods sources and targets will dry up.”
If that doesn’t sound like CIA pandering and excuse making, for overreaching government agencies, I don’t know what is. That response, however, is what the decision to play word association allowed.
Grandrimo: “I’m not sure what people want to hear specifically. It’s controversial.”
And then she added some stuff about how nice Gitmo is compared to our own prison system (with nothing at all about the controversial detainment and trial of Salim Hamdan in 2008, or the 2013 living condition controversy, and reported violations of World Medical Association prohibitions) and essentially left it at that.
In the long run, the Talk while doing a great job at showcasing another McDaniel “success” didn’t do what it should have, though it did provide us with a perfect perception of what it’s like to deal with the CIA.