CIA’s Funniest Home Quotes and Quips from Performance Appraisal Reports

2014 was the Year of The Great Purge for the CIA, and I don’t mean Culinary Institute of America. They dumped thousands of documents for all good Americans to see and laugh at.

Two docs stood out from the miasma of chaff and ash. The internally published Studies in Intelligence: A collection of articles on the historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects of intelligence featured two volumes of “Par-Faits and Other Faits.”

The 124 quoted lines are from CIA Performance Appraisal Reports (PAR). Bold text are Mr. X’s pithy comments about each quote. Both compete to snap your funny bone.

Leave it to those systetics who fly a heavy desk at the CIA to take the English lexicon, dump it in a cracker barrel, randomly pull out words, and throw them against the wall. What is left sticking is then transcribed into Studies in Intelligence: A collection of articles on the historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects of intelligence.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: being the hyperclitical chick I am, I lightly edited some passages for clarity and errors in spelling, cuz those Yale, Princeton and Harvard kids musta all sat in the uppermost cheap seats of English 101. Others I simply left alone cuz, well, they were just too funny all by their lonesome.

From the CIA documents:

What follow are additional quotations from Performance Appraisal Reports, selected by Mr. X over the course of years in which it was his duty to examine such documents, and embellished with his introductory comments. The first compilation appeared in the Spring 1984 issue of Studies in Intelligence, 28:1. All persons referred to and quoted are to remain anonymous.

The officer who kills with kindness: “He is endowed with a certain lethal gentleness.”

For one given to stepping in various matters of substance, but always with aplomb: “Although he sometimes errs on matters of substance he rarely errs on matters of form.”

The case of the reluctant back-slapper: “When he was reminded that it is a fundamental to stop and develop … he has replied that he is not a back-slapper. Since I credit him with high intelligence, I can only assume that he has intentionally missed the point.”

In addition to not being a grandfather: (First PAR of a 22-year-old case officer) “This officer lacks field experience.”

One who can pat his head hard but has trouble rubbing his stomach at the same time: “He commits everything to paper voluminously but poorly.”

The fiscal intolerant: “Subject has no use for Agency funds.”

The open-minded supervisor: “I both like and dislike this officer.”

When sticks and stones could hurt, keep a distance: “Subject has left this Branch. Hence there is no objection to his seeing this fitness report.”

Nobody said it would be a rose garden: “Through no fault of his own, Subject was deprived of his household goods.”

The chap from Column A: “I think he is one of the best ethnic Chinese I have met.”

Where, When, Why? “He is already fully loaded.”

When a flexed alias might be a spectral pectoral: “He has learned to use and flex his alias identity.”

Just your garden-variety misanthrope: “… basically, he doesn’t like people.”

Cause? “She is hypoclitical.”

Effect? “Although unmarried she has growth potential.”

Handicapped by a head-on collision of genes: “Only a biological accident robbed her of the opportunity to demonstrate that she could perform equally well as a field case officer.”

As a seal balances a Potemkin ball . . . (or although it takes both hands): “Subject skillfully balances this Potemkin village.”

Observed while moonlighting: “He supervises one part-time wife.”

The running amok of profundity: “If there is no operational progress made in a one-man station, the incumbent cannot share the blame.”

But absence makes the heart to ponder: “This employee is not located under me physically; However, I concur.”

The “Whistling Dixie” specialist: “His breath is, however, narrowed by his specialty.”

When in doubt beat your highchair with a spoon: “He lacks self-confidence but is aggressive.”

The successful obscurantist: “He has a promising relationship with an obscure government official.”

The subtle, dental floss kind: “This student did excellent work but he could have done better if he had drilled more.”

When a tactile or gutsy statement is needed: “His ‘feel’ is excellent and his stomach is often more reliable than our considered thoughtful processes.”

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.”

Setting high goals: “He must try to not make mistakes that are unavoidable.”

Dealing with the primadonna: “At times I would like him to control himself as well as he controls his branch.”

If it can be simply stated, try and complicate it with at least one word foolishly out of context: “Furthermore, there are extenuating circumstances which should be factored into the final calculus.”

Clever: “Less the reader be led to believe that the purpose of this report is to canonize Subject, it should be noted that he lacks certain saintly traits.”

Giving the rated officer credit for activities for which he may or may not be responsible: “He got off to a fast start. Within the first six months of his arrival (in COUNTRY), U.S. hostages were taken in Iran and the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan.”

Putting it in a nutshell: “The ability to converse in a language in which the participants are fluent narrows the possibility of a misunderstanding based on language.”

Good bread and butter approach: “He proved himself an accomplished officer in all phases of clandestine activities including management and supervisory rolls.”

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.”

In Sick Gloria Transit: “She has greatly improved her penchant for typographical errors.”

The none-of-your-business aside: “He has the capacity to do an intelligence analyst.”

One way of saying you can’t tell whether he’s coming or going: “He presents a symmetrical appearance.”

A secretarial sequitor? “She was my secretary until she left on maternity leave. It has been a pleasure to watch her grow in this new and challenging role.”

The non-complainer: “She has never complained about the long hours required to service four officers on a daily basis.”

Those important adjuncts: “She has become a very important adjunct of the personal life of the COS and his front office.”

The tortoise: “He is a steady worker who keeps the workload of his assignment to a minimum.”

A wondrous thing to see—the aplomb and precision of an overweight meat cleaver: “She continues to handle all of the new requirements with the aplomb and precision of a 10 pound meat cleaver.”

Risking that they bite the hand that kneads and feeds them: “She massages and feeds 11 NOC officers.”

A man for all seasons: “He expects to start night school classes in the fall; meantime he is studying Spanish with a friend who is in school.”

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

When one is walking backward through life: “To a large degree his future is behind him.”

Telling it like it is: “He is a section chief responsible for the perpetration of CA.”

Going forward in a forward leaning, ongoing continuing continuum: “He has served in a position of furnishing continuous continuity to this base.”

Quick as a steel trap on shaky ground: “He was quick to offer comment but just as quick to adjust his thinking when it became apparent to him that he was on infirm ground.”

Lost in the shuffle: “Had the Directorate not been reorganized he would have been okay.”

Sort of like being pounced upon: “One of his prime weaknesses is poor spelling, a matter he has been counseled upon.”

Although creeping and ever so subtle: ” . . . Subject is displaying indications towards acquiring maturity.”

Those unspoken devious duties: ” . . . duties too specious to list.”

The office was sparsely furnished: “It is a pleasure to have her on my desk.”

The office Amazon: “She is a very strong secretary who supports six officers.”

The great copout: “There is little doubt that if the intelligence clerk herself had more aptitude or perhaps intelligence, Subject could have demonstrated that he warranted a higher grade as a supervisor.”

Keep it wrong and redundant. Repeat, go back and do it over again once more: “This is Subject’s last field rating for some time after several concurrent tours at the same time.”

Doggedly barking up the wrong tree: “Subject has doggedly plowed ahead and attempted to provide momentum in areas that are potentially non-cooperative.”

Colorful: “Members of his crew were all green, including his young secretary.”

The pedestrian crier: “He was so moved that tears began strolling down his face.”

Alive and alert: “Subject is a highly conscious professional.”

Make a verb out of anything: “I would nuance the rater’s comments.”

Make an adverb out of anything: “He handles his financial accounting as he does all his other responsibilities—scrutinously.”

For special needs such as age, impotence, etc.: “I believe he was laboring under a certain motivational disadvantage.”

Sharing: “He, in turn, exercises partial supervision over the activities of one secretary.”

The carefully considered, from what can be observed, litotes: “I have considered carefully and from what I have observed, there is no reason for me to not concur in the letter grades and most of the narrative of the rating officer.”

Hoping: “Now he needs lady luck to smile just a bit in order to capitalize upon that base in terms of a personal achievement to cap this tour.”

When all else fails: “This officer reports promptly for work.”

The Golden Rule-Redux: “I believe that the readers of this PAR, as well as the previous one written by the Rating Officer, should know that the Rating Officer and I have had and continue to have many strong personal and professional differences of opinion. He believes, for example, that I have reached my level of competency, and I believe that he has exceeded his.”

Mastering the surprise ending: “It should be recognized that by employing the proper technique, very comfortable shoes can be made from a sow’s ear but making a silk purse requires an entirely different raw material.”

Making no bones about it—in the vernacular: “Subject is also responsible for all Headquarters support of a complex covert action operation aimed at maintaining the political stability of a regime headed up by a weirdo who goes around saying things like ‘dat get me shame’.”

When faint praise is called for: “Operationally, Subject was not loafing.”

For one who skates well on thin ice: “Subject is quick to spot thin stuff and do something about itparticularly when it comes to good operational tradecraft.”

For one who can bench press human dynamics while reciting from Rabindranath Tagore: “His ability in oral expression and human dynamics was strongly demonstrated.”

Potential: “As the period drew to a close, Subjects apparatus had begun taking shape.”

Being hugely successful: “He largely recruited a high level source.”

What to do to protect colleagues from being hit by large and fast moving desks: “Mr. Y continued to be the Elmer’s glue of the large and fast-moving desk.

Almost flawless-so to speak: “His English is flawless, if not close to it.”

When in doubt clutter things up; its good for cover: “He characteristically complicates simple things.”

The smiling, freely offered thumb in the eye: “One thing not noted previously is his calm and pleasant demeanor which tends gratuitously to mask his toughness as a case officer.”

The clairvoyant case officer: “… His operational reporting is of ten on time, of ten ahead of time.”

Then there’s this little QP drummer: “He marches to the beat of his own drummer.”

Although not a hot-head: “This officer has a warm mind.”

His eyes are clear but his prose is measured and smoke-watered: “With the perspective of twenty months of overview of his long march, rather than with the smoke-watered eyes of those who peer too closely into his campfire, I conclude that his pace has been measured.”

Big jokes from little mischiefs grow? “. . . his personal eagerness tends sometimes to lead him into small mischiefs.”

Although an off-quay visionary he can trumpet, and drum, and stomp his foot all at the same time: “He has been like a one-man band trying to cover the waterfront on a far frontier.”

The Good Humor Man endures: “He has endured rapid personnel changes with good humor.”

The hyperactive dog of a case officer: “. . . He is a man of constant motion-some of it unnecessary . . . he bloodhounds even the longest odds and opportunities.”

Although some may wonder: “All said and done, Mr. S. is human.”

When tippling leads to being Freud, and the naked truth must be revealed: “At the right psychological moment he unfrocked himself in a cafe.

The crawl-on-your-belly-and-hiss-approach: “… a target of opportunity whom he approached in his own inimical style.”

Dignity in catastrophe: “Subject handles flaps with aplomb.”

Standing tall in the Lilliput of Liaison: “Due to his height this man should probably be directed along liaison lines or staff work.”

The runaway case officer: “He is not only a self-starter but a self-goer-at times tending to go too fast.”

Unless one speaks quietly and carries a big stick: “The operational carrot is easily lost sight of and is difficult to catch.”

The Case of the Abandoned Suitcase: “He began to pursue ops leads as soon as his suitcase hit the ground.”

The cape-and-dagger jock: “He involves himself athletically in Base and local activities.”

The strong tryer: “I would rate his effort to do the job as strong.”

When finishing working hard on his syntax … : “He at least secured his own housing on which he has been working hard to fix up.”

The monosyllabic hot dog: “His performance has been-WOW”

The musty Middle East: “This officer has been associated long enough with Arab affairs. He now needs fresh air.”

After making good strides in the wrong direction … : “He has made good strides in the right direction.”

The gritty performer: “This officers performance has been outsanding.”

The forward leaning, vine swinging Case officer: “Mr. K. moved in sure-handed fashion.”

The Compleat hard target Case officer: “He is a hard-nosed supervisor and a hard-headed officer.”

Besieged, bothered and bewildered: “He has reached a standoff with the bureaucracy around him.”

The operational arsonist: “Subject has kept the target fires burning.”

When aptitude isn’t apt: “His apptitude for spelling is poor.”

When he’s not plodding he lies down, humps his back and makes himself small: “He is steady and defendable.”

Because his compass came in his air freight … : “It took the officer less than one week after his arrival here to get his bearings.”

Just give him a tune-up, but don’t touch the cheerful plugs: “He tries hard in a situation that has him more stymied than most of us, and he plugs along cheerfully.”

The lean and meaningness officer: “He has brought new energy and meaningness to the program.”

While shunning the unusual infinitude of every day chores … : “He handles the usual infinitude of occasional case officer tasks.”

To be some kind of mixed up butterfly … : “… He needs to get the operational chrysallis out of the political coccoon it is in.”

He trembles at dullness, but—: “He confidently attends all sorts of events of interest … ”

The wary grunter: “He gives a negative first impression, primarily because he is inarticulate.”

When the anatomy of an Advance Work Plan is necessarily obscure: “Mr. S. has had supervisory responsibility for parts of two I.A. ‘s … ”

Not risking over confidence: “He can look back at this job as ‘pretty well done’.”

The little engine with the retarded spark: “During the reviewing period this officer has made good use of the limited intelligence resources available to him.”

Somewhere down there is gold; it just doesn’t pan out: “Subject probably has much good in him. Somehow, though, it has not come through.”

The tribal wit: “… he is a happy headhunter.”

In addition to avoiding prickly confrontations … : “Subject is not one to sit on his laurels.”

Migratory fixation: “I am looking forward to the next reviewing period when the birds will come home to roost.” (next FR) “They have, and they have settled on the highest branches.”

Seen through a glass darkly: “Insofar as I am able to comprehend it, I have no quarrel with the substance of the rating officer’s comments.”


Tripsy South is the author of the novel WTF, Dorkus! Schoolin’ My Shrink On Teen Suicide. Trained in physics at a cool surfer university, she lives and plays in Los Angeles where she’s a freelance writer/editor and copywriter. Ring her here.