One year ago, CIA Director John Brennan announced sweeping changes at Langley, promising to reorganize the spy service by instituting a slew of bureaucratic fixes to its management structure.

Then on Thursday, the CIA acknowledged that it left explosive training material on a children’s school bus in northern Virginia.

Director Brennan’s otherwise laudable reforms have missed the mark in one important way:  He’s focusing on changing the bureaucracy, not the bureaucrats. And the problem goes all the way to its fabled clandestine service – the spies.

When I worked as a covert officer at the CIA, I asked the recruitment center a simple question: “What do you look for in a successful candidate?”

The answer:  “Well, think of the students that you knew in school. We can’t retain the ‘A’ or ‘B’ students… they eventually quit in frustration because of too many bad managers and too much bureaucracy. So… we look for the ‘C’ students now.”

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Image courtesy of Reuters