May 5, 2006

"But Hayden Can't Be Confirmed!"

Hatched by Dafydd

Couple loose ends to tie up:

Confirmation Calamaties

The best man for the job, many say, is Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the National Security Agency... the man who put together the brilliant communications intercept of al-Qaeda operatives abroad and here in the United States talking to each other. Hayden is currently principle deputy NID (National Intelligence Director John Negroponte's right arm in battle).

But for that very reason, the "pundants" (I'm patriotically going with Bush's pronunciation) continue, he can't be confirmed... so Bush will be forced to take a lesser light -- even a dangerously compromised one, such as Frances Fargo Townsend, whom I consigned to the icy pits of Heck (or even Fargo) in this piece on Captain's Quarters, about thirty-seven years ago.

For example, here is the Captain himself making the point:

If he's such a slam dunk, then why not just stop here? For one good reason: Hayden created and ran the NSA surveillance program that intercepts international communications without FISA warrants. Putting Hayden in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee for a confirmation hearing would be akin to waving a red flag in front of a bull. Democrats would jump at the chance to rip Hayden alive during nationally-televised hearings in a way that would make the Alito hearings look like a prayer breakfast. The worst-kept secret for the Democrats heading into this election is that they want to capture control of Congress in order to press impeachment proceedings against Bush. A Hayden confirmation hearing will become a fishing expedition for any tidbits they can discover for their later efforts.

(It is, of course, purely coincidence that this very same post happens to refer to "Dafydd's excellent analysis" of Ms. Townsend. That had nothing to do with me linking to the post. Nor does it have anything to do with my link to this post, either. It's just part of the lattice of coincidence that lies on top of everything.)

I think the point folks are missing here is... so who cares if Hayden can be confirmed? Bush has only two and a half years left in office... and he retains (and knows how to use) the power of the recess appointment.

Look at John Bolton; I think President Bush knew that Bolton had a high chance of being filibustered by an increasingly beligerent and power-drunk Senate Democratic caucus.

But he also knew that he could recess-appoint Bolton to be ambassador to the U.N.... and that he would be taken just as seriously as if he had been confirmed, because everybody knows that Bush intends to keep him there for the duration. (Recall also, for a bad but still illustrative example, the odd case of Bill Lann Lee.)

By the same reasoning, it makes no difference whether Hayden is confirmed or not: if he isn't, Bush will call a huge press conference to give him a recess appointment -- saying that even if the Democrats take national security and intelligence gathering lightly, George W. Bush does not... and we cannot allow a deadly gap to exist at the highest level of the CIA. Bush would make plain that he will keep reappointing Hayden to the job so long as he remains unconfirmed, except in the case that the Senate actually takes up the nomination and formally votes to reject it (which won't happen).

Hayden gets the job; he has full power, because everybody knows he's going to be there until January, 2009, just as if he were confirmed; and the Democrats look like feckless jerks, all at the same time. A triple bank shot!

This is different from appointing judges. Federal judges and Supreme Court justices are appointed for life; it is a major portion of the president's power to create a lasting legacy... barring the possibility that John Roberts may decide to go skiing and pull a Sonny Bono, he will sit on the high court for decades. A recess appointment is much less satisfactory, because the judge will be "gone like yesterday" as soon as the president leaves (if not sooner).

But political appointees come in clutching the coattails of the president, and they leave the same way. Even if confirmed, Hayden would likely be replaced when the next president arrives, even if it's Sen. George Allen (R-VA) or Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MN). It was exceptional that Bush retained George Tenet in his position as Director of Central Intelligence when he came into office in January, 2001. So a perpetually renewed recess appointment -- à la Bolton -- is nearly as good as a Senate confirmation.

In fact, I think the White House and the GOP would welcome a huge and vicious smear-fest from the Senate Democrats: nothing like showing the entire country just how little national security means to the Democrats right before an election.

Go, team!

Porter Goss's Crusade Forced Out Many Senior CIA Analysts

This one pops up, e.g., in the Washington Post account of Porter Goss's departure, written by Dana Priest, of all people; she was, of course, the gal Friday who outed the CIA "secret prisons" intel (assuming they were real; how come nobody can find a trace of any of them?) Priest is probably the recipient of many illegal leaks of classified information from Mary O. McCarthy:

Goss's counterinsurgency campaign was so crudely executed by his top lieutenants, some of them former congressional staffers, that they drove out senior and mid-level civil servants who were unwilling to accept the accusation that their actions were politically motivated, some intelligence officers and outside experts said.

Isn't this just a journalistic formulation to die for? How about, "Dana Priest is a no-talent hack, a Hillary lickspittle who got her job by offering to prostitute what paltry writing ability she once possessed in order to further the Democratic cause, some self-published internet columnists said."

Though the agency has grown considerably in size and budget in the past four years -- the operations branch has reportedly grown in size by nearly 30 percent -- dozens of officers with more than a decade of field experience each, those who would have been tapped as new staff chiefs or division heads, chose to leave.

Pre-retirement classes, which serve as a transition out of the agency for active-duty officers, are bulging with agency employees.

But who were these officers "with more than a decade of field experience"? What does "field experience" mean nowadays in the CIA?

If you're imagining officers embedding within al-Qaeda as putative jihadis, working their way up the chain, knowing that at any moment their cover could be blown -- or they could PO the wrong monkey -- and pfffft! off with their heads... you're living in a much more exciting world than this vale of tears, friend.

The reality is that being a field agent in the CIA typically means being openly stationed in an American embassy in a reasonably friendly country, like France or the United Arab Emirates. Even being "under official cover" typically means being attached to a U.S. mission in Kenya or Greece -- as a supposed low-level diplomat. Everybody still knows you're a spook; but officially, you're the assisstant deputy ambassador for trade issues, junior grade.

The CIA has virtually no "human intelligence" (HumInt) agents actually working deep cover, where they do not even have diplomatic immunity. For that, they just bribe locals... stringers, just like the antique media does when it wants to cover dangerous assignments in Iraq without leaving the loving arms of the Green Zone or (for the daring) the Palestine Hotel.

Valerie Plame actually epitomizes these "undercover field agents." And I say, good night and good riddance to the lot. Let not the door spank your behind on the way out.

I don't think the CIA needs even a third as many such chair-warmers and newspaper clippers as they currently employ; let 'em leave by the barrel-full!

What the Agency really needs to do -- and here is a huge distinction between the September 10th and September 11th mindset -- is to slough off this Cold War mentality that intelligence gathering = diplomatic data-collection. Get some real deep undercover agents with no known governmental connection and send them into the hell-holes of the world: the Gaza strip, the Bekaa Valley, the Indonesian and Philippine jungles, the Bolivian Andes, a mosque in Teheran.

No more Joseph Wilsons, sitting in Niamey "sipping sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people.” We need the "flies on the eyeballs" guys. We need the mates who speak Arabic, Farsi, or Malay as native, who subscribe to Soldier of Fortune for light reading, and who know how to use a Barrett M-107 .50 cal.

If Porter Goss drove out the Wilson Clones, then here's to him! If I ever see him, I'll buy him a Tullamore Dew. A double.

Anyway, that's my story, and unless you want flies planting larvae on your eyeballs, my good friend -- don't push me: I've got a Barrett, and I've got you in my sights at 1,400 yards....

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 5, 2006, at the time of 11:52 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Jabba the Tutt

Hmmm, how can you aim tha Barrett .50 caliber with flies or worse larvae on your eyes? ;^)

The above hissed in response by: Jabba the Tutt [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 6, 2006 5:03 AM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

This story just gets better and better, and by the way: how come nobody has raised the "invisible hand of Karl Rove" theory in all of this? The lefties must be sleeping, or just are too stunned at the pace of events in Patrick kenndy's nightlife to notice. The Prez is moving into campaign mode in a big way and picking fights with the Dems all over the place! I agree with you completely: Go team go!

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 6, 2006 6:52 AM

The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

I've linked from Porter Goss resigns as DCI (Updated & Bumped). I'm betting on General Hayden. He's the right man for the job and I think the debate in the Senate will be good for the country, after which President Bush can use his recess appointment powers if necessary. It's gonna be real hoot to watch.

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 7, 2006 12:41 AM

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