A group of Clark Magnet students learned firsthand Wednesday which U.S. presidents worked best with the CIA over the years and what it’s like to take part in various intelligence roles.
Admiral Bobby Inman, former deputy director of the CIA, spoke with students in the school’s Geopolitics Club, which is known for snagging interviews with military/political figures via Skype.
In February, Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military between 2003 and 2004, spoke with club members, and last year they interviewed Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster from his post in Afghanistan, where he is commander of the joint anti-corruption task force in Afghanistan.
Inman served as deputy director of the CIA for about 15 months, beginning in early 1981 and resigning in 1982. Based in Texas, Inman is now a senior trustee at Caltech.
“The good news is that all my mistakes are still classified,” Inman told the club.
When junior Asbed Papisian asked which presidents had the best working relationships with the CIA, Inman credited George H.W. Bush with knowing the agency’s strengths and weaknesses.
He later said that Dwight Eisenhower “may have been the most effective.”
But the Reagan years were good, too.
“The relationship was very good under President Reagan,” he added, “But he was not interested in getting involved in the details of what the CIA was doing.”
Junior Aram Asatryan asked if Russia was the United States’ foe, as Mitt Romney labeled it during the last presidential campaign, but Inman said he considered Russia a “competitor” instead.
Foes would be countries “indicating hostile intent,” Inman said, adding that countries such as Iran and North Korea “could be classified as foes.”
Before responding to a question about how the CIA has changed over the years, Inman said that after retiring about 30 years ago, he could only reply based off media reports, but added that he was “somewhat skeptical of what we believe in the media.
“I do know that the covert operations side has dramatically increased since 9/11, and as Al Qaeda operations have spread out across the Middle East and Africa, I have a worry that it has led to a decline in the focus of collecting and analyzing intelligence,” he said.
The club’s founder, Greg Grigoryan, reached out to Inman for the interview, calling it “a part of history” because the retired admiral is the highest-ranking official the club has ever interviewed.
“This is the first time I’ve ever done one of these, but it’s only because you reached out,” Inman said.
He also encouraged club members to get involved in political affairs.
“We need this oncoming generation to be engaged,” he said.
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.