Some would-be 007s put off by US foreign policy

The Dec. 7 article "The CIA's tough task in recruiting spies" argues that the spying operations of the United States intelligence services are weak and have failed to find an up-to-date method of recruiting new spies.

As someone who has lived in the Arab world and obtained a master's degree there in Middle East studies, I can tell you that the problem lies not just in the small numbers of qualified American citizens. For some, like myself, the idea of serving a CIA that unduly interferes in other countries' interests, instigates civil wars abroad, and misuses evidence to justify illegal wars (e.g. Iraq) just does not measure up as a career option worth pursuing. There's a sector of qualified potential recruits, but the policies that our government executes alienates these would-be 007s.

Rather than hiring émigré turncoats to staff the CIA, what is needed is a revision in US policy and policy execution in the Middle East in particular, and in the world in general.
Brock Bevan

Alaskan attitudes buck antiterror rules

Regarding the Dec. 7 article "In Alaska, safety vs. free spirits": In May of this year, I boarded a large commuter plane (approximate capacity: 40 people) at Alaska's Anchorage International Airport for a 50-minute flight to Valdez, Alaska. I was shocked to observe that there was no security check whatsoever. I commented to the flight attendant about the fact that someone could have boarded with a gun and she replied, "Oh, they do all the time, especially during hunting season - it's Alaska!"

A terrorist could easily hijack a plane and fly it into the Valdez oil tank farm or terminal - or a downtown Anchorage high-rise. I sent thoughtful e-mails with the details of what I experienced to Homeland Security, the FBI, and the FAA regional office with no reply. Perhaps it's not their policy to reply. Or perhaps security measures have been improved since last May, but your article would indicate otherwise.
Clark L. Gerhardt
Hailey, Idaho

Despite woes, Boston's Big Dig a success

The Dec. 9 article "Will Big Dig woes deter other megaprojects?" quotes me as expressing concern over cost and oversight problems that some feel could affect public support for other megaprojects.

I would like to make it clear that despite the cost and recent water leakage issues, I strongly believe that other projects will not be derailed and that the Big Dig's benefits greatly outweigh the costs.

The tunnel construction involved thousands of civil engineering and construction innovations in a complex urban environment that, while new and costly, provided many lessons for future project teams.

Let's not lose sight of the fact that over the next 20 years this project will, according to a 1999 study conducted by Cambridge Systematics, spur tremendous economic growth, save dozens of lives, reduce travel time through the corridor by up to 88 percent, reduce pollutant emissions by up to 60 percent, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 92 percent.

Bostonians are lucky to have the Big Dig.
Gregory Cohen
President and CEO
American Highway Users Alliance

The best reward is earned, not awarded

I agree completely with Jeffrey Shaffer's Dec. 3 column, "So many trophies, so little reason." Why do people expect or need extra rewards or recognition for what they are usually paid for doing?

I can see giving recognition for a good voluntary cause. But I was always taught that the reward is in a job well done.
Jeanette Torgeson
Santa Rosa, Calif.

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