Category ►►► CIA CYA
October 26, 2012
Fox News reports that American consular agents under atttack at the Benghazi consul and the nearby CIA annex on September 11th repeatedly pleaded for reinforcements and close air support, which were readily available less than 500 miles away at Sigonella Air Base... but that they were turned down by somebody up the chain of command. Fox News reports that "somebody" was within the CIA chain:
Fox News has learned from sources who were on the ground in Benghazi that an urgent request from the CIA annex for military back-up during the attack on the U.S. consulate and subsequent attack several hours later on the annex itself was denied by the CIA chain of command -- who also told the CIA operators twice to "stand down" rather than help the ambassador's team when shots were heard at approximately 9:40 p.m. in Benghazi on Sept. 11.
Former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods was part of a small team who was at the CIA annex about a mile from the U.S. consulate where Ambassador Chris Stevens and his team came under attack. When he and others heard the shots fired, they informed their higher-ups at the annex to tell them what they were hearing and requested permission to go to the consulate and help out. They were told to "stand down," according to sources familiar with the exchange. Soon after, they were again told to "stand down...."
[T]hey called again for military support and help because they were taking fire at the CIA safe house, or annex. The request was denied. There were no communications problems at the annex, according those present at the compound. The team was in constant radio contact with their headquarters. In fact, at least one member of the team was on the roof of the annex manning a heavy machine gun when mortars were fired at the CIA compound. The security officer had a laser on the target that was firing and repeatedly requested back-up support from a Spectre gunship, which is commonly used by U.S. Special Operations forces to provide support to Special Operations teams on the ground involved in intense firefights.
A CIA spokeswoman hotly denies the allegation, however:
CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood, though, denied the claims that requests for support were turned down.
"We can say with confidence that the Agency reacted quickly to aid our colleagues during that terrible evening in Benghazi," she said. "Moreover, no one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate. In fact, it is important to remember how many lives were saved by courageous Americans who put their own safety at risk that night-and that some of those selfless Americans gave their lives in the effort to rescue their comrades."
On the other hand of the coin, the evidence seems quite solid that defenders at the two compounds repeatedly begged for air support or reinforcements; why would the security officer atop the CIA annex be pointing a laser at the mortars, other than to facilitate tracking by a smart bomb?
Yet, it is demonstrable that no air support responded during the entire seven hours of combat, despite the presence of Spectre gunships at Sigonella; the only force to arrive from outside the immediate area was "a Global Response Staff or GRS that provides security to CIA case officers" (which included Glen Doherty, later killed in the attack):
The fighting at the CIA annex went on for more than four hours -- enough time for any planes based in Sigonella Air base, just 480 miles away, to arrive. Fox News has also learned that two separate Tier One Special operations forces were told to wait, among them Delta Force operators.
A Special Operations team, or CIF which stands for Commanders in Extremis Force, operating in Central Europe had been moved to Sigonella, Italy, but they were never told to deploy. In fact, a Pentagon official says there were never any requests to deploy assets from outside the country. A second force that specializes in counterterrorism rescues was on hand at Sigonella, according to senior military and intelligence sources. According to those sources, they could have flown to Benghazi in less than two hours. They were the same distance to Benghazi as those that were sent from Tripoli. Spectre gunships are commonly used by the Special Operations community to provide close air support.
So how do we reconcile these two seemingly contradictory claims?
- CIA and consular officials repeatedly asked for reinforcements, especially close-air support to take out the mortars, but nobody ever arrived.
- "[N]o one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need."
Assuming neither Fox News nor CIA Director David Petraeus is lying, there are only two possibilities:
First, that CIA and military personnel actually moved heaven and earth to get forces into Libya to turn the tide against the radical-Islamist terrorists; but somehow everything fell to pieces, and nobody could make it all the way to Benghazi. (And mysteriously enough, those mighty forces streaming towards the consulate and the annex left no trace whatsoever in the communications or logistical records.)
Or alternatively, the requests for support were denied... but not by the CIA. That can only mean the denial came from higher up the great chain of being than the cabinet-level CIA Director, which narrows it down to a single suspect: If both Fox News and the CIA spokeschick are honest and accurate, then Barack Obama himself must have made the lethal decision to abandon our personnel to their fates.
We await the expected sputtering denial from la Casa Blanca that they put the kibosh on our own Ambassador Chris Stevens and the three slain defenders: Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. I cannot imagine that it's not on the way, if not already issued before I publish this blogpost.
That will give us a difficult choice to make; who should we believe -- the CIA, led by four-star Gen. David Petraeus, who almost singlehandedly flipped the Iraq war from defeat to victory, and who has undoubtedly called in thousands of air strikes and air support in Iran and Afghanistan?
Or the notoriously vacillating and indecisive Commander in Chief, who has a crystal-clear record of repeatedly evading, dissembling, ducking, and flatly lying to the American people about this very subject?
It's a toughie, a real quandry. But I reckon most folks will figure out who, between those two, is forswearing and perjuring himself.
April 28, 2011
Will "Director" Petraeus Betray Us, or Hooray Us?
With the news that President Barack H. Obama intends to name Gen. David Petraeus Director of the Central Intelligence Agency -- after current top spook Leon Panetta, who spent a couple of years in the Army, shifts to being Secretary of Defense -- we are left with a series of known (and unknown) unknowns. After all, Petraeus has been in the Army for decades and could not thus enunciate his own political positions and opinions; he could only support the policy of the Commander in Chief under whom he served, whether that was Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, or Obama.
Given that tabula rasa, we must identify at least a few of the conundrums:
- Most urgently, can Petraeus actually master an out-of-control, leak-crazy, internationalist progressivist CIA... or at least render it somewhat less anti-American?
- Does the appointment mean that the CIA will actually become more like it's "predecessor," the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in World War II? That is, will the CIA show more interest in furthering America's military aims and less in trying to pick the next president?
- Does the appointment mean that David Petraeus is interested in heading into electoral politics next?
- Does it show Petraeus is going to "come out" as a Democrat to run against the Republican incumbent in 2016?
- Does it mean Obama has changed his mind about the need for the United States to have a strong and vigorous intelligence community to further American goals... or does it mean Petraeus has grown in office and now supports Obamunism, full and stark?
What will happen to the Afghanistan war effort as Petraeus withdraws, ushering in Marine Lt.Gen. John R. Allen as Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) -- a man who has no Afghanistan experience whatsoever? Though Gen. Allen certainly does have battlefield experience in the War Against Radical Islamism: He was Deputy Commanding General in al-Anbar province, Iraq, during the Iraq war.
But what type of commander is he? Is he like Petraeus, with a deep understanding of contemporary counterinsurgency strategy? Or is he more akin to the Shinseki-ites devoted to the Powell Doctrine of endlessly refighting WWII in all the dorky, little countries found in what Thomas P.M. Barnett, author of the Pentagon's New Map, aptly calls the "Non-Integrating Gap?"
I doubt anyone can answer these questions authoritatively at this juncture in time, as Nixon was wont to say; but they are indeed critical queries.
And here is the last and most pregnant:
- Will the appointment receive vigorous examination during Senate confirmation hearings, in order to answer some of these unknowns, among others? Or will Republicans and Democrats alike give the war hero a pass -- the former because he is a war hero; the latter because he will have been appointed by the Obamacle, whom all Democrats must prop up and buttress in every imaginable way for the 2012 election?
At the moment, President B.O.'s deft and crafty move has handed us a Petraeus in a poke.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
August 24, 2009
The War Against the War Against Terrorism
I stand (well, sit) in awe: I never believed that even this administration would have the huevos to immolate itself upon the altar of terrorists' rights. But it appears that the liberal imperative to damn America and support every anti-American movement in the world -- even al-Qaeda! -- is stronger than any sense of political or national survival, no matter how feeble:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has decided to appoint a prosecutor to examine nearly a dozen cases in which CIA interrogators and contractors may have violated anti-torture laws and other statutes when they allegedly threatened terrorism suspects, according to two sources familiar with the move.
Holder is poised to name John Durham, a career Justice Department prosecutor from Connecticut, to lead the inquiry, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is not complete.
I think they've stepped into it; Eric Holder is going to pull the trigger. He's actually going to -- let's be brutally frank here -- prosecute CIA agents for violating the rights of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaidah, and Abd Nashiri... presumably their right to keep silent about current pending terrorist attacks against the United States.
There are only three possible outcomes to such an investigation:
- It might, like a previous investigation during the Bush administration, result in a finding that clears CIA agents and their civilian superiors of all charges.
The earlier team of prosecutors, including Robert Spencer, who had successfully prosecuted Zacharias Moussaoui, examined 20 cases of possible illegal interrogation; it found no evidence that could justify prosecution in 19 cases. Only one accusation led to a grand jury indictment -- of a CIA contractor; David A. Passaro was convicted of assault, but not murder, even though the suspect later died (the death could not positively be tied to the assault). Passaro was convicted of using a metal flashlight as a weapon against a detainee in Afghanistan.
Oddly enough, this would probably be the best outcome for Team Obamunism: Holder might have to fall on his sword, but he's only the attorney general... he's not critical to what Obama wants to do to the country. He could simply start appointing unconfirmed "Justice czars" to give him the legal rulings he demands, as he has already appointed numerous "foreign-policy czars" to debase and undercut Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
- Holder's investigation might find a number of minor incidents that are prosecutable but nothing major, allowing both sides to claim victory.
Note that such incidents must be so clearly wrong that a majority of American voters are disgusted by them; beating a suspect to death with a flashlight is a good example. Case-2 won't help the administration at all if, when voters hear the actual charges, they react by saying, "So what? Who the hell cares if the CIA frightened Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- a man who wanted to kill thousands of Americans?"
While such a string of legitimate but petty convictions may partially save Eric Holder's face, it's also likely to further damage the Obama administration's moral credibility -- and Democrats in general -- by feeding the mounting impression that Democrats quite simply oppose every program to defend the nation; that they're more concerned about our international "image" than protecting Americans from harm.
I believe folks still generally remember leftists complaining about lopsided battle victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, whining that it's just not fair for us to use overwhelming force against our military enemies. Groups such as International ANSWER, egged on by mainstream Democrats, argued that morally, American forces ought to suffer far more casualties, so we wouldn't look like bullies against al-Qaeda.
The spectacle of the Justice Department prosecuting interrogators for slapping, shaking, or threatening terrorists, in an effort to thwart plots of mass butchery, cannot help but fuel the belief that Democrats' concern for terrorists' rights is absurdly inflated, compared to the looming threat posed by militant Islamism.
- Or the investigation can turn into a Soviet-style show trial, where the threshold of "torture" drops lower and lower, to the point where CIA agents and contractors are being indicted and prosecuted for virtually every effective technique that has kept America safe from further terrorist attack since 2001; and the conflagration begins burning up the chain of command to drag in political appointees and even elected officials... criminalizing mere policy differences on the issue of national defense.
The third is the most likely outcome, in my opinion; when an administration appoints a special prosecutor to investigate some alleged crime, pressure becomes almost insurmountable on the appointee to find something "substantial" to justify the millions upon millions of dollars he is spending.
He tends to follow leads wherever they go, and especially when they lead up the chain, rather than down; the investigation ranges farther and farther afield, sometimes even spinning out of control into an overtly political attack -- as when the investigation of the Iran-Contra "scandal" by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh culminated in an "October surprise," when Walsh indicted former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger less than a week before the 1992 election... likely playing a large role in President George H.W. Bush's defeat by Bill Clinton.
In the present case, the dynamics of special prosecutors means that the investigation may begin with a "relatively narrow" mandate "to look at whether there is enough evidence to launch a full-scale criminal investigation of current and former CIA personnel who may have broken the law in their dealings with detainees." But it will quickly skitter off course into an attempt to indict, to "get," some really big fish -- enumerated here in decreasing probability but increasing desire on the part of the Left to "nail" and "frogmarch into jail":
- The pair likeliest to be enmeshed in the spiderweb of political investigation would be former head of the Office of Legal Counsel (and now federal appellate-court judge) Jay Bybee and his top subordinate, John Yoo; they were largely responsible for producing, at White House request, a memo examining the legality of enhanced interrogation techniques; their conclusion that American law allowed many enhanced techniques is now decried by various professionally outraged left-liberal groups, and is now being investigated by Spain as a "crime against humanity."
- Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who accepted some of the enhanced techniques discussed in the Bybee memo and rejected others; or his Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Douglas Feith (author of the seminal Bush-era memoir, War and Decision).
- Former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, former Director of Central Intelligence (then Director of the CIA, as the title reverted to its original form) Porter Goss, and former Director of the CIA (and former Director of the NSA) Gen. Michael Hayden -- just because they headed up the CIA, and it's politically impossible to charge CIA interrogators following instructions with "war crimes" without likewise indicting the agency heads.
- Former Directors of National Intelligence John Negroponte and Mike McConnell (the latter is also a former Director of the NSA). "Just because."
- And of course, the big cheeses: former Vice President Dick Cheney, former President George W. Bush, and former Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove -- just because "everybody knows" they routinely bombed orphanages and nunneries, engaged in cannibalism, and locked completely innocent terrorists in a room with a caterpillar.
Holder's decision to throw red meat into the maw of the special prosecutor exposes Obama and congressional Democrats to the threat of political catastrophe: If moderate American voters conclude that the investigation has turned into a "witch hunt," where good and decent men and women are put on trial for daring to aggressively defend the United States from terrorist attack (voters already have the latent belief that the Left wants to criminalize national defense) -- then the collapse of support for the administration and Democrats in Congress will be swift, thorough, and enduring.
Given the drawn-out nature of such investigations and prosecutions ("the law's delay"), they're likely to come to a head shortly before the 2010 elections; and a case-3 inquisition could well lead to a debacle greater than that of 1994, perhaps closer to the 1930 and 1932 elections, where Democrats gained a two-cycle total of 149 House seats and 20 Senate seats.
The current angst among voters -- which has led to a stunning drop in Barack Obama's job approval in every major poll conducted, from Gallup to Rasmussen -- has so far been driven almost entirely by domestic gaffes, miscalculations, and proposed policies that are antithetical to exceptional American virtues and threaten the lifestyles, perhaps even the lives, of the American people. National-security and foreign-policy idiocies have not even entered the equation yet.
If successful CIA terrorist interrogators are indicted and put on trial for keeping us safe (against all immediate post-9/11 predictions), and if these investigations morph into a series of show trials, then fear of economic collapse will be joined by fear of dreadful terrorist attack... all due to liberal anti-business, anti-defense ideology. With that "perfect wave" of Democratic delegitimazation, all normal limits on political upheavals, carefully written into our Constitution, would be suspended. Republicans would win races they have no business winning, and the gains would last longer than they have a right to last.
Democrats would find themselves back in the wilderness, as they were from the 54th through 60th Congresses; Republican domination lasted from the 1894 to the 1908 elections in the House, and to the 1912 election in the Senate. To climb back out again, Democrats would likely have to evolve into a much more mainstream party.
Thus Eric Holder's mad, political payback against America's first line of defense against attack could actually achieve what Republicans themselves could only dream of: finally make plain to voters just how radical and anti-American the Democratic Party has become.
I have never supported the scheme of anti-liberals voting for liberal, even radical Democrats like the Obamacle; the theory is that the Left will inevitably overreach, horrify the electorate, and precipitate a backlash that will sweep Republicans (some of whom are conservative) back into power. But my objection was never that there wouldn't be a backlash; it's that the damage caused in the interim, while liberals control all the levers of power, may well be irreversible. Even if the rosy scenario of movement conservatives comes true, the country may already be so ravaged by the insanity of the taxaholic, technophobic, and terrorist appeasing New Left that we can never recover even to the point we were before the debacles of 2006 and 2008.
That said, now that we're already in the terrible position we are, I would obviously rather see the reign of President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%), and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%), quickly truncated than see them abide on and on. I also believe that no prosecutions will succeed, except perhaps for obvious cases of abuse by peripheral characters; the political show trials will serve only to damage the administration, not the freedom or reputation of CIA agents -- and certainly not of Bush-administration lawyers, cabinet members, or the president and vice president themselves, who demanded that the CIA protect the United States as aggressively as legally allowed.
The electoral damage is already done, and the best strategy going forward is to end the nightmare as quickly as possible.
Therefore, I rejoice that the attorney general has chosen to sacrifice the remaining shreds of the administration's credibility in a futile, thuggish attempt to punish its predecessor for successful national defense. Go ahead, try to pin that tar baby with a flying tackle; dig that political hole so deep, you'll see darkness at noon.
In other words, bring it on.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
July 14, 2009
Lies Wide Shut Too: Mystery Solved!
Four days ago, in the first installation of Lies Wide Shut (I didn't realize there would be a second), we discussed the mystery presented to us by the Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence:
On June 26th, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX, 82%), sent a letter to ranking Republican member Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI, 88%); Reyes claimed that two days earlier, in a classified briefing by CIA Director Leon Panetta (a hyper-partisan Democratic former House member), the director admitted the CIA routinely misled and even lied to Congress under George W. Bush....
(A CIA spokesman says Panetta denies saying any such thing in his briefing.)
Then yesterday, somebody on the committee or at CIA leaked a second letter (obtained by Politico), sent by seven other Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, also to the director; in it, the seven echo Reyes's claim: That Panetta testified that "top CIA officials" concealed CIA operations from Congress and "misled them over the span of last eight years."
But of course, all eight accusers coyly refuse to say exactly what the CIA is supposed to have misled them about; they just allow the nation to draw the "obvious," but not necessarily accurate, conclusion.
Democrats are using this bit of fluff to prop up the wobbly Squeaker of the House, insinuating -- with no lawful way to debunk it -- that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) was truthful when she said the CIA "never told her" we had already waterboarded a terrorist detainee and planned to waterboard a couple more.
The mystery, of course, is exactly what CIA Director Leon Panetta "admitted" to the House Intelligence Committee. Did he actually say, quote, "The CIA routinely misled and even lied to Congress under George W. Bush?" Did he literally say, "Top CIA officials concealed CIA operations from Congress and misled them over the span of last eight years?" I think such a suggestion is not only fabricated, it's risible. Particularly since he stands by his previous publicly released statement that the CIA has never had a policy of misleading or lying to Congress: Say what you will about Panetta's politics, nobody has ever accused him of being a dope.
But the Democratic members of the House Intel Committee steadfastly refuse to tell us exactly what he confessed that so riled them... though they repeatedly imply (nudge nudge, wink wink) that it "vindicated" Pelosi's claim that the CIA lied to her about waterboarding.
But over the last couple, three days, enough information has crept out that I think we can finally make a very shrewd guess what Chairman Reyes, et al, really meant: Several newspapers have reported that Panetta testified that the CIA kicked around a plan to assassinate top al-Qaeda leaders using ground-ops teams... but despite eight years of blue-skying, they could never figure out how even to start.
And the "misleading Congress" part? Then-Vice President Dick Cheney evidently told the CIA not to brief Congress on the vague ideas and inchoate dreams -- not until an operational plan came to fruition. Why not? Because legally, they didn't have to; and strategically, it would have been catastrophic to do so:
CIA Director Leon Panetta told Congress on June 24 that he had canceled the effort to kill al-Qaida leaders with hit teams soon after learning about the operation. Panetta also told lawmakers that former Vice President Dick Cheney directed the CIA not to inform Congress of the specifics of the secret program.
Intelligence officials say the operation never progressed passed a planning stage and therefore didn't merit congressional notification.
The New York Times concurs:
Since 2001, the Central Intelligence Agency has developed plans to dispatch small teams overseas to kill senior Qaeda terrorists, according to current and former government officials.
The plans remained vague and were never carried out, the officials said, and Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, canceled the program last month....
Mr. Panetta scuttled the program, which would have relied on paramilitary teams, shortly after the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center recently informed him of its existence. The next day, June 24, he told Congressional Intelligence Committees that the plan had been hidden from lawmakers, initially at the instruction of former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Evidently, Democrats on the House I-Com are absolutely beside themselves that they were not immediately and completely informed of every single thought, idea, suggestion, or pious hope of a plan the CIA might discuss during a meeting -- even those that are "never carried out." They appear to believe "oversight" means the same as "managed," and that congressmen should be privy to all internal CIA discussions -- so that they can "call the shots," right?
But as I indicated in the previous Big Lizards piece, informing Congress is equivalent to calling the TImes and the Washington Post, because that's exactly where the top-secret briefing will end up within a week. This raises an interesting question: Are these Intel members actually bothered because Cheney denied them yet another opportunity to accuse the CIA and Bush administration of war crimes, atrocities, and crimes against humanity? Sadly, Panetta had already canceled the program (that never got off the tarmac) before congressmen had a chance to out it!
But back to the real issue: the still unadmitted yet unrebutted charge that Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) lied in her teeth when she swore, over and over again (alas not under oath), that the CIA never told her we had waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed... and that we were going to do it again!
You'll recall that when we last left this tidbit hanging, the House I-Com Democrats suggested -- but never explicitly claimed -- that the Panetta revelations now made Pelosi's story more credible; it's now clear that the reason they were so coy is that they knew very well what Panetta had really said... and it had nothing to do with Pelosi's hysterical denials that she knew anything about waterboarding, and that by her silence in the face of that knowledge, she had tacitly assented to its use.
To this day, she still refuses to "put up or shut up" on that accusation:
It's been almost two months since Pelosi claimed the CIA lied to her about what interrogation methods they'd used on detainees. That accusation prompted Panetta's statement defending the agency.
Since then, the speaker has refused to take any more questions on the subject. While Pelosi took numerous questions today, she deflected most and left matters in the hands of the House Intelligence Committee....
[House Minority Leader John] Boehner [R-OH, 92%] renewed his call today for Pelosi to either "put up the facts or retract her statement and apologize" to the intelligence committee.
So we've learned something over the past halfweek; we've learned the exact syllogism by which Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee (including its chairman) vindicate Pelosi on the eve of the new Intel-bill debate in Congress:
- After the attacks on September 11th, 2001, George W. Bush issued an executive order that we could kill high-value targets (HVTs) in al-Qaeda;
- In order to minimize civilian casualties from missile strikes on HVTs (of the kind that now plague our efforts in Pakistan), the CIA tried to figure out how to take out al-Qaeda leaders via ground teams;
- Alas, they never could develop a workable plan, and they never carried through;
- Dick Cheney told the CIA to keep a lid on the floating ideas until they were actually ready for implementation (no sense spilling beans prematurely, endangering future operations);
- So he instructed the CIA not to report all the non-plans that they didn't carry out to Congress -- it not being a normal part of oversight duties for House members to demand an inventory of all random and unactualized thoughts, blue-sky hopes, and dreams of CIA agents;
- Years later, new CIA Director Leon Panetta canceled the non-project that was never operational anyway -- and told appropriate members of Congress that the CIA had failed to report that it never executed a plan that it didn't tell Congress about because it was never anything but a will'o'wisp;
- Therefore, the CIA must surely have lied to Squeaker Pelosi about waterboarding.
Hey, it only stands to reason!
It's nice to know that Ms. Pelosi presides over not just "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history," but also the Congress with the most incisive grasp of formal logic. Gosh, I just can't wait for the full congressional probe!
July 12, 2009
No, America, There Ain't No Sanity Clause...
...His real name is Attorney General Eric Himpton Holder, Jr.:
"You have the responsibility of enforcing the nation's laws, and you have to be seen as neutral, detached, and nonpartisan in that effort," Holder says. "But the reality of being A.G. is that I'm also part of the president's team. I want the president to succeed; I campaigned for him. I share his world view and values."
These are not just the philosophical musings of a new attorney general. Holder, 58, may be on the verge of asserting his independence in a profound way. Four knowledgeable sources tell NEWSWEEK that he is now leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration's brutal interrogation practices, something the president has been reluctant to do.
O frabjous day. Callooh. Callay.
But "brutal interrogation practices?" Oh yes, we all know what that means: making terrorists stand while being questioned, the horrific "attention grab," even putting a detainee in a box with a -- caterpillar. Even so, we all know which particular "brutal" tactic Newsweek's Daniel Klaidman has in mind... the sadistic application of hydrogen hydroxide to the flesh of immobilized victims.
But won't this drag Barack H. Obama's administration into a confrontation it really doesn't want while it's trying to gain bipartisan approval of an ambitious domestic agenda? Perhaps so; but that's just the price Gen. Holder must pay for keeping our honor clean:
While no final decision has been made, an announcement could come in a matter of weeks, say these sources, who decline to be identified discussing a sensitive law-enforcement matter. Such a decision would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama's domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months. "I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative impact on the president's agenda," he says. "But that can't be a part of my decision."
Before we progress, I must hasten to reassure readers that there is no prejudice or partisanship about Mr. Klaidman or his employer; in fact, it would be hard to find a more objective, unbiased source than Newsweek... as can be seen here:
Alone among cabinet officers, attorneys general are partisan appointees expected to rise above partisanship. All struggle to find a happy medium between loyalty and independence. Few succeed. At one extreme looms Alberto Gonzales, who allowed the Justice Department to be run like Tammany Hall. At the other is Janet Reno, whose righteousness and folksy eccentricities marginalized her within the Clinton administration. Lean too far one way and you corrupt the office, too far the other way and you render yourself impotent.
See? The piece criticizes both Left and Right equally: Reno was simply too idealistic, honest, and decent for the job -- while Gonzales was a corrupt, murdering, torturing thug. Honestly, what could be fairer?
Perhaps only Holder himself. In the article, Klaidman gathers his courage together and dares to ask about Holder's role in pardoning fugitive financier Marc Rich -- after Rich's wife donated scads of money to the Clinton library and the Democratic Party... a fact which, we must admit, Klaidman fails to mention in the article. But surely this was only due to him being understandably reluctant to rake a dead horse over the coals.
He does, however, elicit the most important point: Despite approving the Marc Rich pardon (over the objection of just about every career prosecutor at the Justice Department) -- and despite Holder's previous position as Bill Clinton's and Rahm Emanuel's sock puppet in the DoJ -- Holder was completely innocent of any wrongdoing in that affair. He wasn't a crook, like his bosses; he was just a naïf, an inanimate object batted hither and yon by the machinations of others... a political shuttlecock, according to his wife, Sharon Malone:
When I ask Malone the inevitable questions about Rich, she looks pained. "It was awful; it was a terrible time," she says. But she also casts the episode as a lesson about character, arguing that her husband's trusting nature was exploited by Rich's conniving lawyers.
(Those cunning linguists who connived on behalf of Rich would of course include Irv Lewis "Scooter" Libby... and we all know how evil and corrupt he is. Clearly, that completely exonerates Holder of any responsibility or accountability.)
I think there really is a very good chance that Holder will finally pull the trigger, that he'll appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Bush's Brain Karl Rove, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, CIA Director George Tenet, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, DoD General Counsel William Haynes, Jay Bybee of the DoJ's Office of Legal Counsel, John Yoo of the DoJ's OLC, and a cast of thousands -- of CIA interrogators and American military personnel.
Else, why employ Newsweek to resurrect an issue that had already died away? Why raise the Left's hopes into the stratosphere again, if you only plan to dash them in the end like Lucy, Charlie Brown, and the football? Heck, doing that might decisively turn the Democratic base against the One, so they sit out next year's congressional elections. Surely Holder wouldn't want that!
But General Holder has faith in the fairness and forgiveness of the American people; he believes that when the public hears the full perfidy of the Bush torture regime -- trickling water on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's face, which even the anti-war Left has compared to the Chinese Water Torture... except that our worthy Chinese brothers could never have been as cruel and inhumane as the Bushies were; slapping the faces of top members of al-Qaeda; and... that caterpillar incident that still gives Gen. Holder and President B.O. the willies -- there will be a "a groundswell of support for an independent probe."
Oh, wait; my mistake. That's not what Holder thinks now... that's what he thought back in April, when he first strongly hinted that a criminal probe of the previous administration was in the offing. Didn't quite pan out back then: When the "torture memos" were released, the public reacted with emotions that ranged from a shrug from the huge bulk of the population -- to misplaced, admiring praise for interrogators' ingenuity in protecting America from a follow-on attack after September 11th, 2001.
Of course, that last ugly reaction was from charter members of the same vast, right-wing conspiracy that shot down Hillary Clinton's previous attempt at putting all medical care in America under strict government control; led the Swift Boat Vets' hideous slanders and libels against the greatest war hero of the Vietnam holocaust, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 95%) -- imagine, accusing Kerry of bearing false witness against his fellow Vietnam Veterans! -- and even the same VRWC that stole both the 2000 and 2004 elections.
But I digress. Let's just forget that such bloodthirsty ghouls even exist within America. Even so, the rest of the population signally failed to rise up as one with torches, forks, and knives when they learned about the atrocities the previous administration visited upon guests who had not even been convicted in a civilian criminal court. After the torture memos were released...
Holder and his team celebrated quietly, and waited for national outrage to build. But they'd miscalculated. The memos had already received such public notoriety that the new details in them did not shock many people. (Even the revelation, a few days later, that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and another detainee had been waterboarded hundreds of times did not drastically alter the contours of the story.)
But that was then, this is now. Perhaps nobody was particularly outraged by the fiendish devices we used upon those who (supposedly) carried out the 9/11 attacks; but that was back in April, when President Obama had sky-high approval ratings in every poll. (Well, almost every. At least several.) Perhaps people were just so happy that America had finally, finally elected an African American president, thus was no longer the most racist country on the face of the Earth, that they just couldn't muster a bad emotion or a discouraging word about anyone... not even against the Bushies.
Surely now that voters are losing confidence in Obama's economic plans, having grave doubts about his bipartisanship, starting to worry that he's dismantling the very intelligence policies that have kept us safe for the past eight years, getting nervous that Barack H. Obama may be out of his depth (or his mind), and increasingly convinced he's on a madcap quest to turn America into the Netherlands -- which may be on the verge of becoming a Moslem state in a generation -- surely with such terrifying and stomach lurching danger on all sides, voters will turn with a great sigh of relief to the much easier to understand and much more urgent task of putting all the top officials of the previous administration in prison, for the crime of going overboard in protecting American citizens (without the slightest regard for the rights of jihadis).
Yes, this time everything will be totally different. This time, the mass of men and women from sea to shining sea will be filled with revulsion at the suffering of the waterboarding victims -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, and several thousand American military volunteers during SERE-school training. (The latter don't count, however, because they're cruder, less well educated, and were probably going to be stuk in irak anyway; the al-Qaeda detainees are sensitive plants, and must be treated more kindly than American grunts and SEALs.)
But politics will surely follow policy. Seeing the administration at last turn its sites on the real enemy we face in these parlous times -- George W. Bush and his rampaging Republicans -- ecstatic voters will rally behind the Obamacle, as he restores America's reputation, repairs relations with our traditional allies (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, the United Nations, China, North Korea), and makes Americans finally feel clean again. This will translate into a Democratic landslide in 2010, bringing FDR-like control of Congress, and the president's reelection two years later -- followed, the year after that, by the swift and emphatic repeal of that pesky 22nd Amendment.
See? In the end, surely Attorney General Eric Holder will discover that he can do the righteous thing, while at the very same time advancing the political fortunes of the One We Have Been Waiting For. (As in, "Just wait until your father gets home, you nation of cowards!")
Who says you can't eat your cake and have it, too?
Cross-posted in Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
July 9, 2009
Lies Wide Shut
On June 26th, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX, 82%), sent a letter to ranking Republican member Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI, 88%); Reyes claimed that two days earlier, in a classified briefing by CIA Director Leon Panetta (a hyper-partisan Democratic former House member), the director admitted the CIA routinely misled and even lied to Congress under George W. Bush:
Exactly what actions Panetta disclosed to the House Intelligence Committee on June 24 is unclear, but committee chairman Silvestre Reyes said that the CIA outright lied in one case.
"These notifications have led me to conclude that this committee has been misled, has not been provided full and complete notifications, and (in at least one case) was affirmatively lied to," Reyes wrote in a letter Tuesday to Michigan Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the committee's senior Republican. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press.
Reyes said in the letter that he is considering opening a full investigation.
(A CIA spokesman says Panetta denies saying any such thing in his briefing; see below)
Then yesterday, somebody on the committee or at CIA leaked a second letter (obtained by Politico), sent by seven other Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, also to the director; in it, the seven echo Reyes's claim: That Panetta testified that "top CIA officials" concealed CIA operations from Congress and "misled them over the span of last eight years." (For the full text of this second letter, see the slither on.)
But of course, all eight accusers coyly refuse to say exactly what the CIA is supposed to have misled them about; they just allow the nation to draw the "obvious," but not necessarily accurate, conclusion.
Democrats are using this bit of fluff to prop up the wobbly Squeaker of the House, insinuating -- with no lawful way to debunk it -- that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) was truthful when she said the CIA "never told her" we had already waterboarded a terrorist detainee and planned to waterboard a couple more:
In the letter [from the seven], Democrats demanded that Panetta correct a statement he issued on May 15 -- just after Pelosi accused the CIA of misleading her during the Bush years about the agency's use of waterboarding techniques -- stating that it is not the CIA's "policy or practice to mislead Congress...."
Democrats refused to say today what exactly Panetta told the members during the June meeting, citing the need to keep sensitive intelligence information classified. But committee members said they were appalled to learn from Panetta that the CIA had been misled them over the span of last eight years....
Asked if the letter should silence debate about whether she was fair in her characterization that the CIA had misled about its use of waterboarding, Pelosi shot back, "I didn't know there was any question about propriety." [sic -- "propriety?"]
And here is another one of those remarkably convenient coincidences that seem to crop up with great frequency in the Pelosi Congress:
[Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ, 100%), one of the seven signers] said that the release of the letter [from the seven] was timed to coincide today with the start of debate on an intelligence reauthorization bill. Among those issues up for debate is whether the number of lawmakers briefed on the CIA’s actions should be expanded.
How amazing that the letter from the seven insinuators was sent nearly two weeks ago, but leaked only yesterday, just before the hearings... during which Republicans intend once again to demand that Speaker Pelosi either put up or shut up -- that she either show some evidence to back her accusation that the CIA lied to her, or else retract her bizarre claim and apologize:
Reyes and other committee Democrats sent Hoekstra a letter saying that CIA Director Leon Panetta had acknowledged that senior CIA officials have misled lawmakers repeatedly since 2001. But a GOP spokesman has suggested that the letter was timed to deflect a controversy involving House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's knowledge of CIA interrogation techniques.
Hoekstra told CBS' "The Early Show" on Thursday that it appears that Reyes is "working on the political equation."
Meanwhile, Pelosi herself is busy ducking questions and pretending she had no knowledge of the leaked letters and didn't orchestrate them to save her own shaky reputation and increasingly untenable tenure as Squeaker of the House:
It's been almost two months since Pelosi claimed the CIA lied to her about what interrogation methods they'd used on detainees. That accusation prompted Panetta's statement defending the agency.
Since then, the speaker has refused to take any more questions on the subject. While Pelosi took numerous questions today, she deflected most and left matters in the hands of the House Intelligence Committee....
[House Minority Leader John] Boehner [R-OH, 92%] renewed his call today for Pelosi to either "put up the facts or retract her statement and apologize" to the intelligence committee.
Nobody privy to the actual intelligence, not even Reyes and the seven dwarfs, has explicitly claimed that Panetta said the CIA lied about briefing Pelosi or anyone else on waterboarding; but neither can anyone explicitly dispute it without winding up in la calabooza. And for that matter, Panetta's spokesman denies that Panetta said any such thing in the first place; from the Politico piece:
CIA spokesman George Little told the Washington Independent late Wednesday that the claim that Panetta admitted his agency has misled Congress is "completely wrong." He added, "Director Panetta stands by his May 15 statement."
The charge -- that one of these supposed "misleadings" was whether Pelosi and other Democrats were briefed on waterboarding -- is inuendo, based upon unavailable evidence that cannot be checked or validated in any way. It just hovers overhead as an a priori accusation: unverifiable, unrebuttable, irrefutable. Well, who can argue with that!
The Democrats get to wallow in triumphalism: See? We Democrats had no inkling we were torturing detainees; we surely would have stopped it if we knew; so don't blame us, it's all George Bush's fault! And Republicans are stymied, since the only way to rebut the claim is to leak classified intelligence.
Meanwhile, the Democrats are using this alleged (and denied) "misleading" to demand that henceforth, the CIA must brief every member of both House and Senate Intelligence Committees on every CIA action; from the Washington Times piece:
House Republicans oppose at least one provision in the intelligence authorization bill, and they have an unusual ally: the White House.
Obama's aides have said they will recommend he veto the bill if it includes a Democratic-written provision requiring the president to notify the intelligence committees in their entirety about covert CIA activities.
Under current law, the president is only obligated to notify the top Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate and the senior Democratic and Republican members on each chamber's intelligence committee.
Democrats want to open the briefings to all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees unless committee leaders agreed otherwise. That would be about 40 lawmakers, depending on shifting membership rosters, instead of the eight required by law.
They claim the Bush administration sought to undermine congressional oversight. However, the White House is concerned that briefing more lawmakers might compromise the most sensitive U.S. intelligence operations.
Gee, you think?
To demonstrate the insanity of this proposal -- pushed by congressional Democrats and opposed by Republicans and President Barack H. Obama -- all we need do is take a look at some of the Democrats on the two committees.
When Sen. John "Jay" Rockefeller (D-WV, 94%) was the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (he is still a member but no longer chairman), he was one of the leaders in abusing his intelligence access to perpetuate the "Bush lied, people died" meme; he repeatedly stated that no prewar intelligence supported the idea that Saddam Hussein had ongoing chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons programs -- even though he himself had earlier stated the exact opposite, and despite a wealth of intelligence indicating exactly that, published in the committee's own report on pre-war intelligence during Rockefeller tenure.
Rockefeller also agreed with a CBS interviewer's question, on September 9th, 2006, that "the world would be better off today if the United States had never invaded Iraq -- even if it means Saddam Hussein would still be running Iraq."
Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 100%), Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI, 90%), all current members of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- Feinstein is the chairman -- wrote a letter in July, 2007, demanding a "special prosecutor" be appointed to investigate then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for perjury... because of a trivial difference between Gonzales' testimony and that of then-FBI Director Robert Mueller over the exact subject of a hospital-room discussion between Gonzales and former Attorney General John Ashcroft three years earlier.
Mueller, who was not present during the conversation itself, gained the impression afterwards that the discussion had been about the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP); but Gonzales testified to Congress three years later that it was about a different but similar surveillance program. And for that, four Democratic senators wanted to send Gonzales to federal prison -- the three mentioned above, plus Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%).
To complete the humiliation, the very next day -- July 29th, 2007 -- the New York Times published a story revealing that the subject was not, in fact, the TSP... it was the "data mining" surveillance program. So Gonzales had been telling the truth all along, and it was Mueller who misunderstood which program was under discussion. None of the senators who had called for Gonzales to be jugged for perjury ever apologized, including the three who today sit on the Senate Intelligence Commmittee; they just quietly dropped their demand.
This bespeaks such unseriousness of purpose -- at a time when the Iraq war was flagging, Gen. David Petraeus' new counterinsurgency strategy was just starting, and more than ever we needed our government to show solidarity and steadfastness -- that I question whether any of these three should even be allowed to serve on such a delicate and supposedly bipartisan committee as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Turning to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the current chairman, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-CA, 82%), flunked an intelligence quiz just a month before he was slated to assume that position; the quiz included such tricky, unfair questions as whether al Qaeda is Sunni or Shiite. (Reyes' answer: "They are probably both," followed by "Predominantly -- probably Shiite.")
Note: The CNN site is a shambles; when you first go to the link, you may see nothing but black where the text should be. But I discovered that if you click inside the text area, then Select All, you should be able to see a ghostly image of the selected text.
Thank goodness for the "multiple layers of editing" we find in the elite news media.
The next ranking Democrat on the committee is Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL, 100%)... a former federal judge who was impeached and removed from office for accepting a $150,000 bribe, then perjuring himself when caught.
Yep, there's a reliable, trustworthy, expert gaggle of folks that I'd love to see be constantly apprised of the most vital, ongoing, and heavily classified CIA operations. American's national security would be vitally compromised if congressmen like Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Alcee Hastings weren't allowed to fully exert their "oversight authority" over our primary intelligence-gathering agency.
Let the full committee in both houses see everything. Better yet, why not the entire Congress, all 435 of them? Why should we slight former vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Sen. Patrick "Leaky" Leahy (D-VT, %) -- who leaked an intelligence report, unclassified but still strictly confidential, to a CBS reporter, so compromising himself that he resigned from the committee?
Heck, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation keeps telling us, "Information wants to be free."
Cross-posted in Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Full text of the letter from the seven insinuators to the Director of the CIA, Leon Panetta
The Honorable Leon E. Panetta, Director
Central Intelligence Agency
Washington, D.C. 20505
Dear Director Panetta,
You recall, no doubt, that on May 15, 2009, you stated the following in a letter to CIA employees:
Recently you testified that you have determined that top CIA officials have concealed significant actions from all Members of Congress, and misled Members for a number of years from 2001 to this week. This is similar to other deceptions of which we are aware from other recent periods.
In light of your testimony, we ask that you publicly correct your statement of May 15, 2009.
Anna G. Eshoo
Rush D. Holt
Alcee L. Hastings
John F. Tierny
Janice D. Schakowsky
May 21, 2009
The Biannual Full Moon
Brave Sir Ron Leaps to the Lady's Defense
Today, in a vote so shocking my jaw dropped at least an angstrom, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX, 90%) -- the J. Neil Schulman of the House of Representatives -- thrust out a beligerant lower lip and cast his lot... not to create a "bipartisan congressional panel" to investigate Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) bearing of false witness against the CIA:
House Democrats on Thursday defeated a Republican push to investigate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's assertion that the CIA misled her in 2002 about whether waterboarding had been used against terrorism suspects.
Republicans Ron Paul of Texas and Walter Jones of North Carolina joined Democrats in voting 252-172 to block the measure, which would have created a bipartisan congressional panel. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, sponsored the resolution.
Paul doesn't want to investigate whether the ultraliberal Democratic Speaker is a liar; he doesn't even want to know. Evidently, he has bigger birds to fry.
So what was the reason enunciated by Democrats for not probing the Squeaker, the argument that persuaded Ron Paul (and "Walter Jones," if that is his real name)? Oh, it was quite compelling:
"This is partisan politics and an attempt by the Republicans to distract from the real issue of creating jobs and making progress on health care, energy and education," said Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami....
[T]he Republican-drafted proposal was a partisan jab meant to distract from the question of whether the Bush administration tortured war prisoners, [House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD, 95%] said. Hoyer called the resolution another example of Republicans engaging in "politics of personal destruction."
Wow, that comes perilously close to persuading me to Pelosi's and Paul's side. Who can argue with that?
So the charge that Pelosi lied about what the CIA told her simply hangs out there, uninvestigated, hence unprovable. And the libertarian representative is just fine with that; doesn't want to contribute to any "partisan jab" that might "distract" from the urgent business of transforming America into a Eurosocialist welfare state. But wait, there is going to be an investigation after all:
[Hoyer] told reporters in a separate Capitol Hill news conference that he supports creation of a panel to investigate the nation's interrogation policy. What the CIA told Congress and when could be part of that, he said.
Say... what do you want to bet that the agenda of that investigation will be carefully controlled by the majority, so that the only party "in the dock" will be the CIA during George W. Bush's administration? (And how much should we wager that Ron Paul votes in favor of that one?)
I have long believed that "libertarians" -- especially Libertarians, members of the Libertarian Party -- are like werewolves: Every even-numbered November, they turn into hairy, howling, snarling Democrats, demonstrating their commitment to the values of Ludwig von Mises, Friederich Hayek, and Robert A. Heinlein by supporting the major American political party that is closest to Socialism.
The support isn't always blatant; some vote for cranks like Ron Paul, others for nonentities like Babar. But at least some self-described libertarians, such as Christopher Buckley, actually go the whole Chaney (Lon) and vote for leftist Democratic candidates such as Barack H. Obama himself. (Colin Powell is a whole 'nother case; I'm convinced that he was voting more for BO's skin color than his politics... though I'm sure some personal animosity against President Bush enters into the equation as well.)
But at least, thank God, the libertarians have enough principle not to vote for America's greatest enemy: the neocons!
A libertarian may talk a good liberty argument; but every election day, he becomes a wereliberal, spreading the leftist contagion by his own rabid saliva. All the while insisting that he's not really a liberal; he just plays one in the voting booth.
Now you know why, despite my libertarian sympathies, I'm very, very reluctant to call myself one of them. I have a lot of disagreements with the GOP, some of them quite significant; but at least I know the difference between a conservative and a liberal fascist: The one can sometimes irritate me; the other would gag me, loot me, and lock me away in Gitmo, if he only could.
May 4, 2009
Silvestre the Prat
Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX, 82%), has now sent a letter to the CIA apologizing for Congress' role anent the controversy over waterboarding and other "enhanced" interrogation techniques.
No, really; in his letter, he laments that the Intel Committee didn't run all interrogations more directly, instead leaving such vital functions to professionals who actually knew what they were doing:
"One important lesson to me from the CIA's interrogation operations involves congressional oversight," wrote Mr. Reyes, Texas Democrat. "I'm going to examine closely ways in which we can change the law to make our own oversight of CIA more meaningful; I want to move from mere notification to real discussion. Good oversight can lead to a partnership, and that's what I am looking to bring about."
The letter both seeks to excuse Democrats who were briefed after Sept. 11, 2001, about interrogation techniques such as waterboarding and at the same time suggests that members of Congress cleared to receive highly classified material have a responsibility in the future to let their criticisms be known.
I read this as saying, in effect, "Yes, I admit that we were partly to blame" -- wipes tear from eye -- "we should never have allowed the CIA to make intelligence decisions that we could easily have made in their place." One presumes that little bit of awkward permissiveness will be corrected henceforth, and Congress will assume much more aggressive and direct control of intelligence operations. "No more license for you, young man!" From now on, CIA Director Leon Panetta will sit quietly and wait for instructions from Congress before interrogating any captured man-caused disaster-causing men.
On the other hand, given Panetta's odd set of credentials for his job in the first place -- he was never in the CIA (or any other intelligence-related organization); and in his sixteen years in the House of Representatives, he never served on the Intelligence Committee -- perhaps it's just as well that Congress takes the lead role in this one instance.
(I am being a bit unfair to Director Panetta. It's true he had no formal participation in intelligence gathering or analysis whatsoever, unlike his predecessor, Michael Hayden -- who had a long and distinguished intelligence career before heading up the CIA, including stints running the Air Force's Air Intelligence Agency and working as an intelligence officer in Guam, being Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, and running the National Security Agency. But on the third hand, Leon Panetta "has long been an advocate for the health of the world's oceans"... surely a distinction that Hayden cannot claim!)
On the fourth hand, House Intelligence Chair Reyes doesn't exactly come to the table with cleanly scrubbed paws; there is that slight, ah, faux pas he made when his pal, Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 100%), assigned him that committee chairmanship over longtime ranking member and co-statist Jane Harman (D-CA, 100%): Asked by reporter Jeff Stein of the Congressional Quarterly whether al-Qaeda was primarily a Sunni or Shiite organization, Reyes -- who had sat on the House Intelligence Committee and Armed Services Committee for eight years or so -- answered thus:
"Al Qaeda, they have both,” he answered, adding: “Predominantly probably Shi’ite.”
In fact, Al Qaeda was founded by Usama bin Laden as a Sunni organisation and views Shia Muslims as heretics. The centuries-old now fuels the militias and death squads in Iraq.
Jeff Stein, a reporter for Congressional Quarterly, then put a similar question about Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia group. “Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah . . .” replied Mr Reyes. “Why do you ask me these questions at five o’clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?” Go ahead, said Stein. “Well, I, uh . . .” said the congressman.
On the fifth hand, another former Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV, 94%), had his own small brush with destiny: When he was the ranking minority member (which the committee somewhat pompously calls the "committee vice chairman"), he appears to have been a target of a probe by the Justice Department about whether he and former fellow committee member then-Sen. Dick Durbin may have leaked classified information about a new spy-satellite program (including some of the satellite's weaknesses).
Though it's not certain who the probe targetted (we have not yet seen any results yet), the leak immediately followed and buttressed criticism by Rockefeller and Durbin on the floor of the Senate, and Durbin at least subsequently opined that the leak "points to a weakness of the whole process...[that] it takes a leak to understand that billions of taxpayers' dollars are being wasted that could be spent to make America safer."
And a few months earlier (hand number six), a mystery memo drifted out of Rockefeller's "vice chairman's" office in early November, 2003; it was a Democratic game-plan for politicizing an investigation on pre-Iraq war intelligence gathering, using the joint report -- and a planned exclusive minority report -- to campaign against President George W. Bush in 2004. The Wall Steet Journal editorialized on the case a couple of days later (link may require either a subscription or registration; I'm not sure):
Mr. Rockefeller refuses to denounce the memo, which he says was unauthorized and written by staffers. If that's the case, at the very least some heads ought to roll. A good place to start would be minority staff director Christopher Mellon, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence in the Clinton Administration.
But we'd say Republicans ought to go further and make this a matter of political consequence. After months of Democratic charges about the "politicization of intelligence" based on little or no evidence, this memo is smoking gun proof of precisely that. A referral to the Senate Ethics Committee seems in order, and we'd even suggest that the entire committee be shut down, cleaned out and reconstituted later, preferably after the next election.
This may seem like political shenanigans, but we've been here before as a nation. With the Church Committee purges of the 1970s, U.S. intelligence gathering was crippled for a generation, arguably right up through 9/11. Given the crucial importance of intelligence to the war on terror, the country can't afford a repeat Congressional performance.
Sen. Rockefeller still sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, evidently unscathed and unabashed by his earlier exploits. This history of congressional involvement in the collection, analysis, and management (including keeping secrets!) of vital classified intelligence should at least give the reader a moment's pause about whether expanding congressional control would actually improve matters.
The award for Howler of the Day (last Friday, May Day 2009) goes to the following exchange, from the Washington Times story about House Intelligence Chairman Reyes' letter:
Mike Delaney, staff director for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Mr. Reyes had not received complaints from the CIA about President Obama's decision last month to release Justice Department memos authorizing so-called enhanced interrogation and describing methods that Mr. Obama has banned.
"No, we've not received complaints from CIA work force," Mr. Delaney said. "CIA employees, in the chairman's experience, typically don't complain."
No, they make their displeasures known in more gracious, subtle ways: they leak classified information to blow the cover of operations they dislike, thus destroying their effectiveness.
It's tempting to simply say "a plague on both their houses" and be done with them. Alas, they're responsible for being the nation's eyes and ears. But has anyone looked into the possibility outsourcing the job to Israel's Mossad? They, at least, are run by professionals.
December 4, 2007
Nothing to See Here, Folks... Time to Just Move On!
If you believe the Democrats, the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear-weapons program shows that there never was anything to worry about in the first place, so we must immediately stop all this "saber rattling" (Hillary's term) and tough talk -- and get down to the business of offering Iran incentives for promising to refrain in future from doing things that threaten us (which in civilian criminal terms is usually called "extortion").
In reality, a close look at the NIE -- if it's true and accurate -- demonstrates four points:
- The Iranians absolutely had a nuclear-weapons program (NWP) that they built after extensive contact with Pakistan's proliferation-happy nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan; see the discussion below of the Bill Gertz story in today's Washington Times.
The Iranians suspended (not shut down) their NWP in late 2003 in direct response to President Bush's saber-rattling, and by my own conclusion, almost certainly in response to our invasion of next-door Iraq.
The suspension (if it really occurred) was in "fall 2003," which is not only after we invaded Iraq and overthrew the Baathist regime, but also around the time al-Qaeda was establishing itself in Iraq, the Iranians were arming Shiite militias in Iran, and we were fighting both sides. Thus, they knew not only that we had swiftly overthrown Saddam Hussein, but also that we were not backing down, as many had predicted, but were fighting back hard against both insurgencies. This was a marked departure from what both Iran and the Arab nations believed about American resolve.
Since our occupation of Iraq cannot possibly have made Teheran feel more secure, they must have suspended work on their NWP (if indeed they did) because they felt less secure; which can only mean they were worried that Bush might decide to invade or bomb the next target on the "axis of evil."
- Iran continues its uranium-enrichment program, still striving for weapons-grade fissile materiel;
- They can restart the NWP any time American and international pressure subsides... say, when either Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) or Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%) is elected president.
In Israel, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said "it's apparently true" that Iran stopped pursuing its military nuclear program in 2003.
"But in our opinion, since then it has apparently continued that program," Barak told Army Radio. "There are differences in the assessments of different organizations in the world about this, and only time will tell who is right."
In my opinion, if the NIE is true and accurate, the Iranians essentially suspended their NWP during the tenure of George W. Bush; but if any of the current Democratic candidates is elected in 2008 and carries through on the Democratic plan, to which all the candidates have agreed, to start making nice with Iran -- inviting them into Iraq to help "stabilize" the country, offering incentives instead of sanctions and threats of attack, backing away from the demand for an intrusive inspections regime -- then the mullahs will order Iran's NWP back into full operation.
As the NIE states, they have not dismantled the program, and they have continued to enrich uranium all this time: They retain the knowledge to restart. They're just waiting out the vigilant Bush administration, praying for a changing of the guard.
The reason I keep saying about the NIE "if it's true and accurate" is that Kenneth Timmerman believes that this NIE was, in fact, cooked up to drive policy... fabricated by the appeasement arm of the State Department. The article was carried on Newsmax, which ordinarily would make me skeptical; but Timmerman has been investigating Iran's nuclear and CBW weapons program since at least 1990, in his book Poison Gas Connection: Western Suppliers of Unconventional Weapons and Technologies to Iraq and Iran. More recently, he has published two books that explore Iran, its drive for nukes, and the CIA's near-complicity in allowing it to do so, plus one book that touches on the subject:
- The French Betrayal of America (2004);
- Countdown to Crisis: The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (2005);
- Shadow Warriors: The Untold Story of Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender (2007).
I have found Timmerman to be a very substantive critic of the appeasement approach by the CIA and its parent, the State Department, to resolving the Iranian NWP crisis: He certainly has a bias on this issue; but he has also proven himself a reliable reporter on this issue in the past. So I take his claims now -- primarily drawn from his current book Shadow Warriors -- very seriously:
A highly controversial, 150 page National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear programs was coordinated and written by former State Department political and intelligence analysts -- not by more seasoned members of the U.S. intelligence community, Newsmax has learned.
Its most dramatic conclusion -- that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003 in response to international pressure -- is based on a single, unvetted source who provided information to a foreign intelligence service and has not been interviewed directly by the United States.
Newsmax sources in Tehran believe that Washington has fallen for "a deliberate disinformation campaign" cooked up by the Revolutionary Guards, who laundered fake information and fed it to the United States through Revolutionary Guards intelligence officers posing as senior diplomats in Europe.
Timmerman writes that the new NIE was pushed by the chairman of the National Intelligence Council, Thomas Fingar, who appears to be a classical "Persianist," a neologism I just invented to parallel the well-known cadre of Arabists in the State Department, most of whom long ago "went native," and now seem to be beguiled by their erstwhile extremist targets in Arab countries. If Fingar fell for Iranian disinformation, it would be because he was predisposed to think the mullahs were serious in their diplomatic discussions -- and because, like far too many entrenched commisars in the Department of State, he was predisposed to think George W. Bush was a greater threat to national security than Iranian nuclear weapons.
Timmerman pegs Fingar as a career State Department intelligence analyst and a long-time Democratic critic of the Bush administration; Fingar helped Democrats coordinate their successful spiking of John Bolton's appointment as permanent representative to the United Nations. Fingar has consistently fired or threatened to fire other intelligence analysts at State or the Office of the Director of National Intelligence whenever those analysts conclude that Iran is a threat to the United States, that Iran is allied with Venezuela and Oogo Chavez, or that Chavez is allied with Fidel Castro's Cuba.
If true, this indicates that, far from being a disinterested analyst reporting "just the facts and [the] assessment of those facts and their reliability to policy-makers," Fingar and his proteges -- Kenneth Brill, director of the National Counterproliferation Center, and Vann H. Van Diepen, National Intelligence officer for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Proliferation -- started with the policy they were pushing and cobbled up an NIE that would support that policy.
This is an astonishing and deeply troubling charge. It's bad enough that anti-war, anti-Bush appeasers at the CIA and State have repeatedly leaked classified information in ways that will damage the administration. If they have now graduated to fabricating National Intelligence Estimates to the benefit of our most active enemy, then that drifts perilously close to the T-word that Big Lizards has been very reluctant to sling around. Such actions cross a very bright danger line... and demand action on the part of the president.
Timmerman references this article by the Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz; Gertz suggests that the likely source of the "new evidence" that caused the reversal of the 2005 assessment was former Revolutionary Guards Gen. Alireza Asgari, who defected in February of this year. From Timmerman:
Asgari had detailed knowledge of Iranian Revolutionary Guards units operating in Iraq and Lebanon because he had trained some of them. He also knew some of the secrets of Iran's nuclear weapons program, because he had been a top procurement officer and a deputy minister of defense in charge of logistics. But Asgari never had responsibility for nuclear weapons development, and probably did not have access to information about the status of the secret programs being run by the Revolutionary Guards, Iranian sources tell Newsmax.
Gertz's story offers some support for the central Timmerman allegation, in the form of a non-denial from intelligence officials:
Senior U.S. intelligence officials who briefed reporters on the Iran nuclear estimate said it is "plausible, but not likely" that Iran's suspension is part of a "strategic deception" operation, because of continued Iranian government "denial and deception" efforts.
"We do not know if Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons but assess with moderate to high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons," said one official involved in drafting the more-than-140-page document.
So even the officials involved in producing and briefing the NIE agree that it's at least "plausible" that the supposed suspension is a "deliberate disinformation campaign." As several commentators have said, it's a lot more dangerous to believe the program is suspended if it really isn't -- than to believe it hasn't been suspended when it really has.
We desperately need to get to the bottom of this: What, exactly, is the new source of evidence that led Fingar to reverse the finding of intransigence of the earlier NIE... was is Asgari? If so, has the United States interviewed him? If not, why not?
If it turns out this NIE is purely political, a snow job by the Persianist wing of the State Department... then what is the president going to do to restore some sense of mission to the National Intelligence Council?
To Democrats, of course, this NIE "vindicates" what they have said all along... that we need to "walk softly and carry a big carrot":
"They should have stopped the saber rattling, should never have started it," said Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Bush "should seize this opportunity." But she also said it was clear that pressure on Iran has had an effect - a point disputed by rival Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware....
Bush said he did not know about the new findings until he was briefed last week - a point challenged by some.
"The president knew, even as he was saying 'World War III' and all that kind of stuff," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate intelligence committee. "He knew. He knew, he had been briefed...."
"President Bush has lost all credibility with the American people," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. "We were misled on Iraq, now it's Iran. We need to get to the truth so our foreign policy is not only tough but smart."
In fact, as Gertz notes, the new NIE is even more adamant than the 2005 estimate that Iran had (or still has) an NWP, which they have consistently denied and continue to deny to this day, and it emphasizes that Iran continues to enrich uranium at a speed unchecked by the supposed suspension of that program. In addition, even the current NIE says that it was pressure exerted by Bush and his European allies that drove Iran to suspend its NWP, the same pressure the Democrats now want to eliminate.
This is like a person who has blocked aortic arteries; he gets a bypass operation and feels much better. So much better that Democrats say this proves the operation was a wild overreaction!
Even if this estimate turns out to be true, it simply means that President Bush's response to Iran and his prosecution of the Iraq war worked. If the suspension claim is accurate, it means that Iran, like Libya, saw the writing on the Babylonian wall and decided to put everything on hold -- at least until a Democrat is elected president.
I don't exactly see how this helps Obama, Edwards, or Hillary. But on the other hand, if we're relying upon the GOP to do an effective job communicating this to the American voters... well, then we may be in trouble after all.
November 13, 2007
Newsbrief: FBI Gumshoe Turned CIA Spook May Have Been Hezbollah Plant
Not much to analyze yet on this one, but it's a case to keep an eye on: Will the drive-by media bother to further investigate this guilty plea -- given that the original administrative screwups happened under (ahem) the previous president?
A Lebanese-born C.I.A. officer who had previously worked as an F.B.I. agent pleaded guilty today to charges that she illegally sought classified information from government computers about the radical Islamic group Hezbollah.
The defendant, Nada Nadim Prouty, who also confessed that she had obtained American citizenship fraudulently, faces up to 16 years in prison under the plea agreement, which appeared to expose grave flaws in the methods used by both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct background checks on its investigators.
Prouty fraudulently obtained residency in 1990 by paying an American citizen to marry her. She obtained U.S. citizenship in 1994, then got herself hired in 1997 as a special agent of the FBI, largely (it appears) on her ability to speak Arabic.
Meanwhile, Prouty's ne'er-do-well brother-in-law (her sister's husband) had already become a fugitive from justice for "a scheme to funnel millions of dollars from his business to people in Lebanon;" but the FBI failed to discover that in her background check. The New York Times doesn't tell us who those "people" were, why they were to receive such largess, nor whether they were affiliated with Hezbollah; but they do note that the sister and the brother-in-law attended a Hezbollah fundraiser in August 2002:
The plea agreement noted, however, that Ms. Prouty’s sister and brother-in-law attended a fundraising event in Lebanon in August 2002 at which the keynote speaker was Sheikh Muhammed Hussein Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of Hezbollah. Sheikh Fadallah has been designated by the United States government as a terrorist leader.
In 2002 and 2003, Prouty romped through the FBI computers, conducting some highly suggestive and suspicious searches:
Ms. Prouty acknowledged two sets of illegal computer searches at the F.B.I. The first, in September 2002, involved case files that contained her name, her sister’s name or her brother-in-law’s name. The second, in June 2003, involved files from the national-security investigation of Hezbollah that was being conducted in Detroit, which has one of the nation’s largest Arabic-speaking communities.
She has pled guilty and could receive up to sixteen years in a federal slam.
So consider this a heads-up; let's all see if there is any media tracking of this extremely important story. And the first question will be... where does the NYT place it on the print version of the newspaper?
The second would be equally illuminating: Since this was a plea bargain, she must have been charged with more serious offenses that were pled down. What were those original charges? Did they include being a Hezbollah agent within the FBI and CIA?
Keep watching the spies...
March 5, 2007
Let's Not Be Overly Hasty...
You want a perfect example of what is wrong with American journalism -- and the CIA -- today? Can't find a better one than this.
As we moved in force into Sadr City yesterday, one of the serendipitous effects was a raid that turned up a Sunni torture-beheading room. We even found two living victims:
Lt. Col. Valery Keaveny described breaking through a double-locked door to find an Iraqi police officer and another Iraqi man who had undergone "considerable torture." The policeman had been shot in both ankles and the other man had been dangling from the ceiling and "beaten severely by a pipe for a good deal of time," Keaveny told reporters.
The captives told U.S. soldiers they had been convicted to death [sic] by an insurgent court at the site - about 18 miles west of Baghdad near the village of Karmah - and had the choice of either beheading or a fatal gunshot, said Keaveny.
They were spared immediate death, Keaveny said, because the insurgents' video camera didn't work and they had gone to get a new one to film the executions. "(The insurgents) said they would be back in the morning," he said. "And that's when we came in, that night."
But that's not all that we found at that site; we seized something a bit more alarming: one million pounds (500 tons) of bomb-making chemicals.
AP, however, does not want to leap to any conclusions...
The site also contained a huge stockpile of more than 1 million pounds of aluminum sulfate, which can be used as a component in nitrate-based fertilizer explosives. But it also has other commercial uses, including water purification.
Gentlemen... a million pounds of "water purification?" What are they trying to do, make the entire Euphrates River potable?
This absurdist attempt to latch hold of any possible benign explanation, to avoid having to conclude that these torturers and beheaders may have been up to no good, follows the pattern laid down by the CIA anent WMD: No matter what components we find -- including 55-gallon drums of Cyclosarin sitting in the same camouflaged ammo dump as a big pile of empty chemical rockets and artillery shells -- the Iraq Survey Group always had a great story of how it could possibly be used for civilian purposes... so it didn't count as WMD. (Saddam Hussein was very anxious that his troops have pest-free ammunition dumps.)
And whenever they found something that was undeniably WMD... well, as Mark Steyn said, it was always the wrong kind.
The job of the CIA is not to cover for Hussein; it is to report intelligence and fairly analyze it, so that the civilian policy makers have the best available information. But as this AP article shows, if your standard is not "reasonable doubt" but "any conceivable doubt whatsoever," you can always find some wild story that ends with the bad guys really being misunderstood.
That proves nothing, except the obvious fact that unreasonable premises yield irrational results.
January 9, 2007
Dems Come Out Swinging! And Missing!
Back in November, just after the election, we noted in Les Cent Jours -- Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) now says it will actually be les cent heures -- that the Democrats only had three issues on which there was unanimity within the party:
- Raising the minimum wage;
- Increasing stem-cell research funding;
- And "fully implementing" the 9/11 Commission recommendations.
They moved forward on all three fronts yesterday, but especially on the third:
House Democrats moved Tuesday to implement some of the unfulfilled recommendations of the 9/11 commission as the first in a string of bills over the next two weeks aimed at asserting their new control over Congress....
"Here's a chance for Congress to stop dragging its feet," said Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the new Democratic chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "It's been three years since the 9/11 Commission issued its report. Now is the time to put words into action."
(Rep. Thompsom, 95%, accidentally neglected to note that Bush and the GOP "put words into action" on virtually every major recommendation in the last Congress; these two or three pieces the Democrats have their teeth into are just the leftover dregs.)
All right; we also commented on this exact point before... and there is one of these "dregs," one leftover recommendation from the 9/11 Commission report that is absolutely critical... but which Democrats are no more willing to implement than were the Republicans. And that is how Congress funds the intelligence agencies:
While many recommendations of the 9-11 Commission were controversial, there is virtually no controversy among intelligence officers over this aspect: appropriations for intelligence agencies should be made by committees or subcommittees that are exclusively devoted to intelligence, not a wart on the behind of the Department of Defense. That means appropriations should either by handled by the Intelligence committees themselves (best) or at least by dedicated Intelligence subcommittees of the Appropriations committees (adequate).
We then returned to the topic a few days later (we're obsessed with intelligence!), quoting from the Washington Post about the Democratic decision not to implement this vital recommendation... and from a Reuters story about what the Democrats actually did decide to do:
If you parse through the Clintonspeak, they're not accepting the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to remove control of the funding of intelligence agencies from the Appropriations committees and give it instead to the Intelligence committees:
[Rep. Nancy] Pelosi, D-Calif. [100%], also said that one of the first tasks of the Democratic-controlled House she will lead beginning in January will be approving the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, including taking steps to make intelligence decisions more transparent.
The Select Intelligence Oversight Panel proposed by Pelosi would be made up by members of the Appropriations Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence, and would work within the Appropriations Committee.
Simply put, if the panel works "within the Appropriations committee," then it's controlled by that committee -- and that means Appropriations will still control the budget that will be "overseen" by the panel that it also controls:[The panel] would examine, through hearings, the president's intelligence budget, prepare the classified annex to the annual defense spending bill and conduct oversight of the use of appropriated funds by intelligence agencies.
In other words, it will not itself appropriate the funds or even (it appears) recommend to the Appropriations committees how much to appropriate or how to use those appropriations. And it goes without saying (though I'm going to say it anyway) that nowhere in this statement does Pelosi or anyone else say that Appropriations will lose budgetary control over the clandestine and intelligence agencies, as the 9/11 Commission recommended, nor that the House and Senate Permanent Select Committees on Intelligence will gain that budgetary authority.
All right, that was then's thener... but what about now's nower? How, in the end, did the Democrats decide to address this commission recommendation?
- Did they actually transfer budgetary authority for intelligence-agency appropriations to the existing intelligence committees?
- Did they transfer budgetary authority to some new terrorist-specific Appropriations subcommittee, not leaving it to languish with Pelosi-pal, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 75%), and the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee?
- Or did they leave it with Murtha (and his counterpart on the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, whoever that will be) -- just adding an additional toothless committee to "monitor" whether the intelligence agencies actually spend the money the way the Democrats want them to do? (In other words, do nothing.)
You be the judge. From today's AP story:
The House also planned to vote on a separate measure creating a new House committee that would closely monitor the budget and actions of the U.S. intelligence community. Congressional jurisdiction over intelligence is currently spread among several committees.
I think we have our answer: it's "currently spread among several committees," and it will continue to be spread from now unto the epoch of our children's children's children.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports controversy even within the Democratic Party over the "implementation" bill... specifically over the fact that the Democrats have more or less mandated the invention of future technology by a date certain:
The bill requires that within three years, all cargo on passenger jets be inspected for explosives, as checked baggage is now. The House bill also requires that within five years all ship cargo containers headed to the United States be scanned overseas for components of a nuclear bomb.
Homeland Security Department officials say there is no proven technology for such comprehensive cargo screening, at least at a reasonable cost or without causing worldwide bottlenecks in trade.
That is, the only way to fulfill such a mandate today would be for customs officials to individually hand-inspect each and every piece of cargo on every last cargo ship headed for the United States -- except for ships carrying cars, which are unaccountably exempted from the Democratic bill (how much has Toyota been contributing to political campaigns recently?) International commerce would ebb to a trickle, and the American economy would be devastated in a way that even the 9/11 attacks themselves never accomplished.
The authors of the bill, however, say that the Department of Homeland Security is just lazy, failing to invent (or actually, force private companies to invent) technology on schedule; they just need a Democratic boot to the head:
Mr. Lieberman and Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii, the new chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, want the security department to complete its tests on new technology before mandating inspection of all cargo.
But Mr. Thompson, the chief author of the House bill, and Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said the timetables were essential to push the department to move faster.
“We need firm deadlines to end the administration’s foot-dragging,” Mr. Schumer said Monday. [Having coordinated his trite-expression quotient with "Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson".]
Yes, the DHS has just been dragging its feet. They could invent the technology next Thursday after lunch, if they really wanted it.
Brother. What next -- a congressional mandate for antigravity devices by 2008?
However, I must admit that Big Lizards made one wrong prediction: it looks like there isn't any unanimity on "fully implementing the 9/11 Commission's recommendations" among Democrats, either!
November 27, 2006
Gates of Mire
The rap against Secretary-designate of Defense Robert Gates, former Director of Central Intelligence -- mostly from the conservative blogosphere -- is that he is too close to former Secretaries of State James "Mr. Realism" Baker and Dr. Henry "Hammerin' Hank" Kissinger. Viz.:
The Pentagon is drafting its own recommendations for how to win in Iraq. Its goal is to provide the administration with a counterproposal in the event the Baker group's report is unsatisfactory. But the Pentagon's effort may face a serious complication in the form of the nomination of Robert Gates, who has been working with Baker, to head the Defense Department....
No wonder, then, that the Baker group seems poised to recommend that we enlist Syria and Iran to pacify Iraq. If Baker was willing to have Saddam do it, then why not Syria and Iraq?
So it goes. But these speculations are all fairy castles built on clouds; nobody has found any writings, talkings, or previous actions of Robert Gates that would imply that President Bush brought him aboard so he could order CENTCOM to surrender to the Iranians. And in fact, in a lengthy discussion of Gates by Michael Barone (hat tip to Power Line, of all places!) in his US News & World Report column, the noble Barone throws cold water on the fevered speculation:
The picture I get of Robert Gates from his book is that of a careful analyst, one who sees American foreign policy as generally and rightly characterized by continuity but one who sees the need for bold changes in response to rapid changes in the world -- and doesn't look for answers from the government bureaucracies. He is very much aware that we have dangerous enemies in the world, and he was willing over many years to confront them and try to check their advance.
Gates pal R. Emmett Tyrrell, jr., Lord Protector of the Washington Times, also pronounces the doomsaying "wild speculation":
Now in comes Bob Gates, and as is the custom in this town there is wild speculation. He is George Bush I's guy. He is James Baker's guy. He is the CIA's guy. He is coming in from the presidency of Texas A & M to pull the plug on our involvement in Iraq. Actually, he is George Bush II's appointee. And though I shall only mildly speculate, I suspect he will do as his boss tells him. That seems to mean he will apply a fresh set of eyes to Iraq.
But back to Baron Barone. Barone answers a number of the fantasized criticisms of Gates, who has not even been barbecued by the senatorial chefs yet, as a defeatist, a captive of the bureaucracy, an unreal Realist, a State-Department lackey, and as spineless. Just as with Harriet Miers, in about 60 seconds, we went from "I don't know enough about him" to "he's an agent of the Democrats sent to the Pentagon to declare defeat in Iraq and redeploy to Okinawa with Jack Murtha."
But the portrait Barone paints -- mostly from reading Gates' book, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War -- is of a career bureaucrat who nevertheless doesn't look to the bureaucracies for policy, who prefers continuity but is also willing and able to turn 90 degrees in response to changing facts on the ground, and who has often advocated forceful confrontation and going in hard. This is a very different picture than we have seen.
Some examples; Barone on Gates' flexibility and distrust of the very bureaucracies he rose through:
Yet Gates also discusses times in which policy had to change course sharply in response to rapid changes in the world, notably during the collapse of communism in the early 1990s. Interestingly, this career government bureaucrat did not find the government bureaucracies of much use in coming up with new ideas. Instead, his impulse was to create small committees of political appointees. In July 1989, he sent [former President George H.W.] Bush a memo citing developments in the Soviet Union and concluding that "we should not be confident of Gorbachev remaining in power."
As Gates recounts in his book: "Bush agreed to the contingency planning I had first considered in the spring, and in September 1989, I asked Condi Rice to gather a group of people and in very great secrecy begin this work. When I met with her to explain the task, I told her that I thought the planning was very important because the situation in the Soviet Union could go bad in a hurry, and the U.S. government was on 'autopilot' when it came to thinking about such dramatic developments.
And here is Gates himself, from his book (as quoted by Barone), on the need for forceful confrontation of the Soviets in Nicaragua:
"By the end of 1984, I concluded that we were kidding ourselves if we thought the contras might win. I wrote [CIA Director William] Casey on December 14, and began by saying, 'The contras can't overthrow the Sandinista regime.' I continued that we were muddling along in Nicaragua with a halfhearted policy because of the lack of agreement within the administration and with Congress on our real objectives. I urged moving to an overt policy including withdrawal of diplomatic recognition; providing open military assistance and funds for a government-in-exile; imposing economic sanctions, perhaps including a quarantine; and using air strikes to destroy Nicaragua's military buildup -- no invasion but no more Soviet/Cuban military deliveries. I concluded, 'Relying on and supporting the contras as our only action may actually hasten the ultimate, unfortunate outcome.'"
Once again, I think a lot of folks in the blogosphere are, as Mark Twain put it in Life On the Mississippi (1850), getting "such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact."
Can't we better restrain ourselves -- this time -- and at least wait for the confirmation hearings before shaking our heads "more in sorrow than in anger" at all the horrible things we imagine he might do?
May 30, 2006
Kappes In Their Hands
The New York Times reports the imminent return of "storied operative" Stephen R. Kappes to the CIA fold.
In his old office at the Central Intelligence Agency, Stephen R. Kappes once hung a World War II-era British poster that announced, "Keep Calm and Carry On." He ignored this admonition 18 months ago, when he resigned in anger after bitter clashes with senior aides to Porter J. Goss.
But now Mr. Goss has been forced out as the agency's director, and Mr. Kappes is poised to return, with a promotion. He would become deputy director, under Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who won Senate confirmation on Friday.
A man of military bearing and a storied past, Mr. Kappes would become the first person since William E. Colby in 1973 to ascend to one of agency's top two positions from a career spent in the clandestine service. General Hayden has said that his return would be a signal that "amateur hour" is over at the C.I.A., which has seen little calm since Mr. Kappes's departure.
Kappes departed rather explosively in November, 2004 after "clashing" with Porter Goss aide Patrick Murray... and that itself is the subject of much angst and hand-wringing... why exactly did Kappes resign?
Many on the right are dreadfully worried about Kappes. They worry that he may have resigned in protest against Goss's attempt to terminate the CIA's long-running war against the Bush administration, fought mostly via leaks to Dana Priest and her colleagues at the Washington Post; Priest, you will recall, wrote the bizarre story about secret CIA prisons in Europe at which terrorist suspects were tortured, killed, and eaten (the bones too; nobody has found a trace of them).
She won a Pulitzer Prize for this reporting -- which was based entirely on anonymous leaks from within the Agency. Her story sparked a continent-wide investigation by Europeans intent upon ferreting out these evil American gulags; alas, they never could find any evidence of them, beyond rumor and the Post story... causing Big Lizards to speculate that the information could perhaps have been a "canary trap" designed to smoke out the leakers.
Longtime and very high ranking CIA analyst Mary O'Neil McCarthy was outed as one of the likely sources; she was terminated -- though not "with extreme prejudice" -- and remains under criminal investigation, though she has not yet been indicted or charged with any crime.
Back to Kappes. The vital question remains: does he represent the same "old guard" at the CIA that Mary McCarthy represents -- the group that refuses to shift out of its Cold War, September 10th mentality -- the group that is fighting a war against the Bush administration? Was Kappes fired because he was an obstacle to reform at the CIA?
Or does Kappes oppose this internecine warfare... and was he fired merely because he had a problem with the allegdly "abrasive" leadership of Murray? This is a question of monumental importance; understandably, the Times comes down on Kappes' side and argues that it's the latter:
The incident that directly led to his resignation occurred in November 2004, shortly after Mr. Goss took over at the agency. Patrick Murray, who was Mr. Goss's chief of staff, ordered Mr. Kappes to fire his deputy, Michael Sulick, after Mr. Sulick had a testy exchange with Mr. Murray.
Mr. Kappes, who at the time was in charge of the C.I.A.'s clandestine service, refused and chose to resign instead.
However, this is not very good evidence, because the Times would likely respond the same way whether they thought he was fired for the reasons stated -- because it embarassed Porter Goss, who was never a friend of the Times -- or they thought he was fired for supporting the leakers, because the New York Times loves the leakers. Defense from the antique media doesn't tell us anything about the circumstances of Kappes' resignation.
I've been trying to track down the source of the meme that Kappes was Leader of Leakers, or at least supported them against the Bush administration; but I'm having little luck. In an article in the Daily Standard from the same month which saw Kappes leave, Stephen F. Hayes, who I respect greatly, talked around the question of why Kappes left. Here is Hayes' only reference to Kappes in that contemporaneous piece:
According to the Post, top advisers to Goss are "disgruntled" former CIA officials "widely known" for their "abrasive management style" and for criticizing the agency. One left the CIA after an undistinguished intelligence career and another is known for being "highly partisan."
On the other side, though, are disinterested civil servants: an unnamed "highly respected case officer," and Stephen Kappes, deputy director for operations "whose accomplishments include persuading Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi to renounce weapons of mass destruction this year." (Persuasion? Were the Iraq war and subsequent capture of Saddam Hussein mere details?)
With this description of the participants is it any wonder that the anti-Bush-administration leakers often choose the Washington Post?
Hayes clearly indicates that the Post is on the side of the leakers; but he says nothing about Kappes' position on the matter.
Last Monday, Hayes returned to the issue. In the intervening eighteen months, he has become more anti-Kappes... but he still can't seem to muster any believable evidence that Kappes supports leakers or the undeniable war waged by the CIA against Bush. First, Hayes expands upon the departure of Kappes a year and a half ago:
On November 5, Goss's new chief of staff Patrick Murray confronted Mary Margaret Graham, then serving as associate deputy director for counterterrorism in the directorate of operations. The two discussed several items, including the prospective replacement for Kostiw, a CIA veteran named Kyle "Dusty" Foggo. Murray had a simple message: No more leaks.
Graham took offense at the accusatory warning and notified her boss, Michael Sulick, who in turn notified his boss, Stephen Kappes. A meeting of Goss, Murray, Sulick, and Kappes followed. Goss attended most of the meeting, in which the two new CIA leaders reiterated their concern about leaks. After Goss left, Murray once again warned the two career CIA officials that leaks would not be tolerated. According to a source with knowledge of the incident, Sulick took offense, called Murray "a Hill puke," and threw a stack of papers in his direction.
Goss summoned Kappes the following day. Although others in the new CIA leadership believed Sulick's behavior was an act of insubordination worthy of firing, Goss didn't go quite that far. He ordered Kappes to reassign Sulick to a position outside of the building. Goss suggested Sulick be named New York City station chief. Kappes refused and threatened to resign if Sulick were reassigned. Goss accepted his resignation and Sulick soon followed him out the door.
Stephen Hayes is normally direct to the point of bluntness and meticulous in documenting his claims with evidentiary citation (though he inexplicably failed to include much in the way of footnoting in his otherwise excellent book the Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein has Endangered America). But note how vague he gets in defending Murray: "others in the new CIA leadership believed." Which others? Were they present at the meeting? Did they listen to both sides, or just to their chum (and boss) in the "new CIA leadership," Patrick Murray?
This vagueness becomes a pattern in Hayes's article.
My problem is that I can easily see both sides of this. I've had experience with bosses who came in with an agenda -- an agenda I agreed with and thought was a great idea -- but who were so personally abrasive that they alienated everyone around them. When I worked at Ashton-Tate, we got a new VP of Technology, or somesuch, brought in from the European side of the company. He was number two in our management heirarchy, second only to the slimey CEO, Ed Esber. He called a meeting of all the tech writers and informed us that we were "a necessary evil," and that "in a sane world, we could just fire all of you."
Upon later reflection, I figured out what he meant: he meant that the software itself should be designed to be self-explanatory. Anybody who has ever used dBASE knows how far we were from that ideal! But Mr. VP's method of expressing that idea left rather a lot to be desired, and it led to an open rebellion against him among many long-term employees... even those who agreed that dBASE IV was notoriously hard to use.
So it's entirely possible that Kappes might agree that ""C.I.A. needs to get out of the news, as source or subject" -- and yet still erupt with anger at high-hatted management tactics, such as "warning" senior, senior officials that they'd better not leak... as if he already suspected them of being behind it all.
On the other hand, I can also see the possibility, though I think it very small, that Kappes might support the traditional bureaucracy über alles, and might even support the war against Bush. The problem is we don't know, and nothing Stephen Hayes says resolves this dilemma:
It remains unclear why the White House would think that the selection of Kappes, who left the CIA after his public dispute with Goss, might reassure members of Congress, especially Republicans, eager to reform the Agency. Former colleagues say that Kappes is a smart and savvy veteran of the Agency's operations side. He is not, however, a reformer. They describe Kappes as an ardent, sometimes reflexive, defender of the CIA bureaucracy.
"Former colleagues?" Would that include Patrick Murray and the aides he brought with him? What is this supposed to tell us?
Hayes notes that bringing Kappes back is clearly a repudiation of Goss... but for what -- his goal of purging the CIA of leakers, or the actual effect of driving out many others due to a lousy management style?
ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross, guest-hosting the Charlie Rose show Monday night, interviewed former deputy CIA director John McLaughlin. Ross said that people he had spoken with "said that the selection of Kappes indicated the purge that Porter Goss had attempted was over, that it was back to business as usual as it had been 20 months ago." Ross asked McLaughlin: "Is that accurate?"
McLaughlin praised Kappes and replied, "Yeah, I think--I think that's basically an accurate assessment."
John McLaughlin rose to Deputy Director of the CIA under the Clinton-Tenet tenure, continuing under the Bush-Tenet period. When Tenet was booted, McLaughlin was named acting Director of Central Intelligence. It's entirely possible McLaughlin expected he would be named the actual DCI; when Porter Goss was named instead, McLaughlin retired from the agency a couple of months later -- right around the time Kappes resigned.
It's reasonable to suspect that, for reasons entirely personal, John McLaughlin may have a grudge against Porter Goss. So it's hardly surprising that McLaughlin would feel a bit of Schadenfreude at the return of Kappes and the discomfitting of Goss. Still, "business as usual as it had been 20 months ago" means right in the middle of McLaughlin's own tenure as acting director... so he probably doesn't think that's a slam.
Nevertheless, Hayes concludes by drawing a very large mountain out of a very noncommital molehill:
So it's business as usual at the CIA. The White House took on the Agency. And the Agency won.
But where is the evidence that Kappes supports the CIA's war against Bush? If Hayes had anything more explicit, wouldn't he have told us?
I have a serious problem with the basic idea. I find it nearly impossible to believe that President Bush would appoint a director who supported the CIA's war on Bush himself; and I find it equally hard to swallow that Director Michael Hayden, who presumably does not support the war on Bush, would nevertheless bring back a top CIA employee (with explicit White House urging) who supported the revolt. It's a fundamentally absurd premise.
Of course, absurd things can happen, especially in politics. But we shouldn't assume that only absurd things happen; therein lie the "black helicopters."
So until I see somebody present evidence a bit more compelling than what has come forth so far -- a couple of rumors attributed to unnamed "former colleagues" and "people [ABC's Brian Ross] had spoken to" -- I'm going to give Kappes the benefit of the doubt. Let's see if the leaking abates over the next six months... or whether it proceeds full scream ahead.
May 23, 2006
The Hayden Surprise Symphony
So in the end, after all the blather and hysteria, with the spectacle of Democrats leaping atop tables, clutching their skirts, and screaming like they'd seen a rat... Gen. Michael Hayden was passed out of committee, with a strong recommendation to confirm as the 20th Director of Central Intelligence, quicker than beets through a baby's behind.
The vote was a crisp 12-3, the three rabid lefty naysayers being Evan Bayh (D-IN, 90), Ron Wyden (D-OR, 100), and Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100).
The other four Democrats voted to confirm: Jay Rockefeller IV (D-WV, 90), Carl Levin (D-MI, 100), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 100), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD, 100).
I'll bet you're wondering about those numbers I'm including in the party/state designation. Aren't you?
Hayden, 61, who would replace Porter Goss as CIA director, is widely expected to win confirmation in a Senate vote that could come as early as Thursday. Goss was forced from his job after clashing with U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte and is expected to leave the agency on Friday.
There were two reasonable criticisms -- frets, actually -- raised against Hayden... and a really, really silly one. The silly one was that he wears a uniform: the undischarged assumption was that an undischarged serviceman would necessarily be a toady to Donald Rumsfeld.
Contrariwise, a moment's research revealed that Hayden was a protege of Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, Rumsfeld's primary disputant on intelligence matters -- and a lifelong civilian. If Hayden comes down anywhere on the Pentagon vs. Langley dispute over who should control intelligence, it will be on the side of the civilians.
The reasonable worries were:
- His background at the National Security Agency might predispose him towards signals intelligence (SigInt -- spy satellites, communications intercepts, and such) and away from human intelligence (HumInt -- actual spies on the ground infiltrating terrorist organizations).
- He might be less eager to crack down on the CIA leakers, so to avoid suffering Porter Goss's fate.
The first is a bit up in the air, though Hayden did seem to indicate that he understood the CIA was woefully void of actual spies. The second worry, however, was very well addressed by Hayden during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: he explicitly and bluntly told the CIA that the agency should not get involved with reporters:
The general's portrait of the C.I.A. he would like to preside over seemed to be one of esprit, imagination and discretion. "C.I.A. needs to get out of the news, as source or subject, and focus on protecting the American people by acquiring secrets and providing high-quality, all-source analysis," he said.
There are eight Republicans on the committee: Chairman Pat Roberts (KS, 92), Orrin Hatch (UT, 96), Mike DeWine (OH, 68), Christopher Bond (MO, 96), Trent Lott (MS, 96), Olympia Snowe (ME, 60), Chuck Hagel (NE, 87), and Saxby Chambliss (GA, 96). By and large, they gave Hayden fairly easy questions, though Olympia Snowe was somewhat more concerned about the NSA al-Qaeda interception program than was, say, Chairman Roberts.
Still puzzled? What are those weird numbers?
But the hearings were nothing at all like the roughing-up that we expected from the initial hue and cry about Hayden... not just from the Democrats but many Republicans as well, including Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI, 100). In fact, this turned out to be yet another brilliant appointment by the "powerless" and "impotent" President Bush.
Will Republicans give him any credit for this, or for any of the other excellent conservative policies he has promoted, from tax cuts, to a robust military and defense of the country, to partial privatization of Social Security, to a pro-life position on abortion, partial-birth abortion, and even cloning and embryonic stem-cell research?
Or does the litmus test applied by conservatives change from day to day, reflecting the "what have you done for me lately" attitude of that faction?
I thought you'd never ask. It's a new policy that may or may not continue past this post, since it's an annoying bit of work.
- The numbers in parentheses after Democratic politicians are their ratings from the Americans for Democratic Action... a very liberal group, usually considered the sine qua non of liberalism. This indicates how liberal the senator or representative is.
- The numbers after Republican names are their ratings from the American Conservative Union, indicating how conservative they are.
As you can now see, five of the seven Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee rate a 100% liberal score from the ADA. The other two get 90%, for an average "liberalness" of the Democratic side of the Intelligence Committee of 97%.
By contrast, the eight Republicans on the committee range in "conservativeness" from a high of 96% to a low of 60%, with a mean average of 86%.
In other words, on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Democrats are very significantly more liberal than the Republicans are conservative.
This brings up a serious problem in Congress: the Democrats see all congressional committees in purely political terms. Since the party is left-liberal, they will pack every committee with ultra-liberals, even when those liberals are congenitally incapable of fairly or honestly doing their duty: the anti-intelligence-collection Sen. Feingold springs easily to mind, as does the virulently anti-military former Rep. Ron Dellums, who served as the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Republicans, however, see important governing committees more in policy terms; so they tend to install people who have expertise in certain areas, regardless of their politics. This, too, can cause problems, when some of the more liberal Republicans use their committee assignments to push politics ahead of policy; but by and large, it works out a lot better than the Democratic approach... where not only is the personal political, but so is every other aspect of human life.
This tends to be true in presidential appointments, too; consider the difference in credibility and seriousness between Attorney General Janet Reno on the one hand -- clearly appointed for pure politics, whose highest previous position was as the very liberal prosecutor in Florida's most liberal county (like Ronnie Earle in Austin) -- and Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales, the former having been state attorney general of Missouri (and then governor and senator); the latter being the former secretary of state in Texas, then serving on the Texas Supreme Court, and of course was a White House counsel.
The disparity becomes even more marked when considering Clinton's first two picks for attorney general, Zoë Baird and Kimba Wood, neither of whom appears to have had any qualifications whatsoever for being United States Attorney General... until you realize that Clinton was simply bound and determined to pick a woman.
Note that there was not a single issue on which Reno disagreed with Bill or Hillary Clinton, including about whether independent counsels should be appointed to investigate well-founded accusations of criminal activity within the Clinton White House. By contrast, John Ashcroft as senator very much opposed some policies Bush later supported -- for example, national educational testing, NATO expansion, and especially spending -- while Alberto Gonzales was known to be pro-choice and much more favorable to "affirmative action" than Bush.
The Hayden appointment is a case in point: I cannot imagine any Democratic president picking someone like Michael Hayden to head the CIA; they go for folks like Anthony Lake (a pure State Department guy who had written books attacking Republicans), John Deutch (who had no prior intelligence experience prior to being appointed by Clinton), and James Woolsey (ditto).
(George Tenet was promoted by Clinton from Deputy Director to Director only after Clinton was forced to withdraw Anthony Lake, due to Republican objections.)
By contrast, Republicans name people like Porter Goss, former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and House chair of the Joint 9/11 Intelligence Inquiry, and Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the National Security Agency, then principal Deputy NID, with a long career primarily in military intelligence.
The "seriousness gap" between the parties is the great, unreported story of the last several decades.
May 18, 2006
Hayden On the Hot Seat
...And a pair of astonishing admissions by Reuters!
The confirmation hearing of Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency appears to be going swimmingly. Only one Democrat was nakedly hostile to Hayden (and no Republicans), if Reuters can be believed: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). The following rather childish exchange ensued:
Wyden said Hayden had not kept Congress fully informed of the eavesdropping program and had made misleading statements in previous appearances before Congress.
"General, having evaluated your words, I now have a difficult time with your credibility," Wyden said.
"So with all due respect, general, I can't tell now if you've simply said one thing and done another, or whether you have just parsed your words like a lawyer to intentionally mislead the public," Wyden said.
Hm... let's see if we can't suss this one out: Hayden had been the head of the ultra, ultra-secret National Security Agency. He was often asked in open session detailed questions about highly, highly classified programs. He was asked by senators who know that in many cases, failure to respond is, in fact, a response.
So in some cases, he deflected those questions. He failed to respond without appearing to fail to respond.
And Sen. Wyden is angry that Hayden was not more forthcoming. About highly classified programs. In open session. (Had Wyden been talking about misleading answers in closed-door session, I'm pretty sure he would have said so, since that would make his case stronger. Unless he's just an idiot... in which case, why are we even spending this much time on him?)
Hayden answered with aplomb and a very subtle slap-down:
Hayden responded: "Well, senator, you're going to have to make a judgment on my character ... I was as full and open as I possibly could be." [Showing admirable restrain in not adding, "given the fact that the programs were classified and we were in open session, you nitwit!" -- the Mgt.]
I think Sen. Wyden has been spending too much time hanging around with his pals, Sen. Jay "Letter-Stasher" Rockefeller (rankling member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) and Sen. Patrick "Leaky" Leahy (erstwhile member).
But the biggest news so far are two stunning admissions that Reuters made in a single sentence in this article:
Under the program, the NSA monitors international telephone calls and e-mails to or from suspected terrorists without first obtaining a court order.
This may mark the very first time that any antique media source has acknowledged that this is not domestic spying! That the targets were international calls and e-mails. Oops....
And of course, the other, punctuational admission in that same sentence is equally startling. It is so blatant, that I'm sure I needn't belabor the obvious by pointing it out. (All right, I suppose I'll spill the beans out of the bag in the "slither on" entry below.)
The only comment quoted from Hayden that worries me is this one:
Responding to a question from Levin, Hayden said he had been uncomfortable with some of the prewar analysis coming from the Pentagon suggesting there was a link between al Qaeda and then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
I consider that evidence to be overwhelming and growing more so with every week's worth of translated documents, many of which show a much deeper al-Qaeda/Iraq connection that we ever realized. Thus, if Hayden is saying that now, today, he doesn't see any connection... well, that would be pretty bad.
But the way this is phrased, we don't even know what the question was that provoked this response; nor do we know exactly what Hayden said. The question may have specifically been couched in the timeframe of 2002, and Hayden may have been saying that at that time, he was uncomfortable with that claim.
The New York Times article fleshes this exchange out a bit:
Senator Levin asked General Hayden whether he had disagreed with Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy, who established an intelligence-analysis cell within his office. The senator recalled that Mr. Feith's unit suggested a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and whether the general was "comfortable with Mr. Feith's office approach to intelligence analysis."
"No, sir, I wasn't," the nominee replied. "And I wasn't aware of a lot of the activity going on, you know, when it was contemporaneous with running up to the war. No, sir I wasn't comfortable."
That makes me a little less worried; in the Times' version, the question Hayden answered was whether he was comfortable with the way Feith ran his Pentagon intelligence-analysis office... not specifically whether Hayden was comfortable with the evidence of an Iraq/al-Qaeda link. (Is it possible that Reuters "parsed [its] words like a lawyer to intentionally mislead the public?")
Here are two oblique reference to the program to boot the leakers out of the CIA that I found only in the Times' account:
He defended the retiring C.I.A. director, Porter J. Goss, who was forced out after conflicts with John D. Negroponte, the national intelligence director whom General Hayden has been serving as deputy. "As director, Porter fostered a process of transformation that the agency must continue in the coming years," the general said....
The general's portrait of the C.I.A. he would like to preside over seemed to be one of esprit, imagination and discretion. "C.I.A. needs to get out of the news, as source or subject, and focus on protecting the American people by acquiring secrets and providing high-quality, all-source analysis," he said.
I hope this means that the campaign against the CIA leakers will continue -- and hopefully, with less ruth. (I mean more ruthlessly.)
All in all, though -- unless the Democrats have some bombshell and are showing out-of-character restraint in telling the press about it -- I think Hayden will have little trouble during these hearings, and his nomination will easily be confirmed by the full Senate. And it should be.
Oh yes, about that "other admission" from Reuters. Here is a hint: the other admission in this sentence....
Under the program, the NSA monitors international telephone calls and e-mails to or from suspected terrorists without first obtaining a court order.
...involves a missing set of "scare quotes" around one particular word.
May 16, 2006
Pulitzers On Parade
Here is an interesting turn of events:
The White House, in an abrupt reversal, has agreed to let the full Senate and House of Representatives intelligence committees review President George W. Bush's domestic spying program, lawmakers said on Tuesday.
The Republican chairmen of the Senate and House panels disclosed the shift two days before a Senate confirmation hearing for Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden as the new CIA director, which is expected to be dominated by concern over the program.
The Democrats on the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence include:
- Sen. Jay Rockefeller (WV), the ranking member, who kept a copy of his letter objecting to the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program in the committee safe for "future use;"
- Sen. Carl Levin (MI), who accused the NSA of "tap[ping] the wires and the phones of American citizens without any court oversight;"
- Sen. Russell Feingold (WI), radical leftist who was the only US senator to vote against the USA Patriot Act;
- Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL), impeached and removed from his federal judgeship in 1989 for corruption and perjury;
The Republican members include this rogue's gallery:
- Sen. Chuck Hagel (NE), who joined the Democrats in filibustering against the USA Patriot Act;
- Sen. Saxby Chambliss (GA), who objected to Michael Hayden heading up the CIA because Hayden is in the military;
So with all these folks now to receive full, operational briefings on the innards of the NSA and CIA anti-terrorism spying programs... does that mean we should look for a whole slew of new, Pulitzer Prize winning stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post, exposing sources, methods, and targets of US surveillance -- and quoting "unnamed officials who spoke on condition of anonymity from their offices in the Capitol Dome?"
May 11, 2006
Excavating For Bones of a Scandal
The scandal du jour is that the National Security Agency (NSA) has evidently been data-mining records of phone calls, which has every Democrat and a few hand-wringing Republicans in an uproar. (And does anyone doubt that USA Today chose yesterday, of all days, to release their original story in an effort to torpedo the nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden to head up the CIA?)
Alas, but hardly unexpectedly, many medioids and politicians appear to be conflating this story with the unrelated NSA al-Qaeda intercept story (Reuters most obviously, which I'll highlight below). But I'm way ahead of myself; let's first describe what is actually going on, assuming USAToday can be believed.
The first point to make is that this is not a new story. The New York Times first published a story about this back in December, 2005, just a week after the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program was blown. It is thus quite clear that the USA Today story is recycled old scandal-mongering from last year... and the only NSA-related story recently that could have sparked this renewed interest is (quite obviously) the nomination of Gen. Hayden. From the December NYT story:
Since the disclosure last week of the N.S.A.'s domestic surveillance program, President Bush and his senior aides have stressed that his executive order allowing eavesdropping without warrants was limited to the monitoring of international phone and e-mail communications involving people with known links to Al Qaeda.
What has not been publicly acknowledged is that N.S.A. technicians, besides actually eavesdropping on specific conversations, have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to terrorism suspects. Some officials describe the program as a large data-mining operation.
Sounds strangely familiar, yes? This is clearly the exact, same story as the one USA Today "broke" yesterday. Nowhere does yesterday's USA Today article divulge that the Times scooped them by four and a half months, and neither AP nor Reuters seems to be able to remember back that far.
Today's Times story credits USA Today with the story in paragraph two; but it does not mention that this is old stuff, long ago reported by the Times itself, until the twelfth paragraph. Even then, it mentions its own earlier story in such an oblique, laconic fashion -- followed by a lurid charge supported only by Mr. Anonymous -- that readers could easily be excused for missing the point that this is old, dessicated outrage:
The New York Times reported last December that the agency had gathered data from phone and e-mail traffic with the cooperation of several major telecommunications companies.
But Democrats reacted angrily to the USA Today article and its description of the program's vast size, including an assertion by one unnamed source that its goal was the creation of a database of every phone call ever made within the United States' borders.
(I find it more than a little surprising that the Times would be more interested in pushing this as Today's scandal than claiming their own primacy from yesteryear. But then, there is the urgent task of preventing George W. Bush from naming a new CIA chief... at least, anyone other than, oh, Francis Fargo Townsend -- whom I discussed in dire, sepulchral tones, and not without some boxing about the ears, some months ago on Captain's Quarters.)
So with all this as prelude, what exactly is the NSA doing? What's the hoo-hah all about?
How it works
The Times (today's) has a succinct description:
The article, in USA Today, said that the agency did not listen to the calls, but secretly obtained information on numbers dialed by "tens of millions of Americans" and used it for "data mining" — computer analysis of large amounts of information for clues or patterns to terrorist activity.... [The quotation "tens of millions" is from Patrick Leahy. -- the Mgt.]
"It's not a wiretapping program, it's simply a compilation, according to the report here, of numbers that phone companies maintain," said Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who is also on the judiciary panel.
He compared it to "mail covers" and "pen registers," techniques long used by law-enforcement authorities to record the addresses on letters or calls made by individuals under investigation. No warrant is needed for such efforts, but the government must certify with a court that the information likely to be obtained is relevant to an ongoing investigation....
The Times article disclosing the data mining program last December quoted officials in the government and the telecommunications industry who have knowledge of parts of the program as saying the N.S.A. has sought to analyze communications patterns to glean clues from details like who is calling whom, how long a phone call lasts and what time of day it is made, and the origins and destinations of phone calls and e-mail messages. Calls to and from Afghanistan, for instance, are known to have been of particular interest to the N.S.A. since the Sept. 11 attacks, the officials said.
So the discussion is not about "surveillance," it's about traffic analysis; and it has nothing to do with the al-Qaeda intercept program -- except that both are conducted by the NSA and the administration argues (and caselaw seems to agree) that neither requires a court order.
But note how the antique media conflate the two cases, either foolishly or with malice aforethought. Reuters has the clearest example:
Bush said last year the eavesdropping only targeted communications between a person inside the United States and a person overseas. But USA Today said calls originating and terminating within the United States had also been included in the database.
Note the 'Bush said, but we've discovered' formula here, designed to make it appear as though Bush has been caught out in a lie. In fact, the president said that the eavesdropping was only on international calls; this is a completely different program that doesn't include any eavesdropping at all.
So Bush is telling the truth, and it's Reuters who is indirectly lying -- or else acting in reckless disregard for the truth. The other media articles I read more or less conflated the two "scandals" as well (it's a scandal we weren't doing them before 9/11), though more subtlely.
Why it works
I would guess that the NSA notes suspicious surges of traffic: for example, suppose there is a bulge of phone calls from all over the country to some obscure number in Afghanistan... and then the calls abruptly cease. Two days later, there is some major al-Qaeda attack in Afghanistan or Packistan. If I were a judge, I think that would be probable cause for me to issue a warrant to let the CIA or FBI find out who owns the telephone numbers that called Afghanistan just before the bombing, particularly if the NSA could demonstrate that this same pattern had happened before.
What is the point? If indeed various people not previously of interest to lawn forcement were consistently calling suspected al-Qaeda affilliates shortly before attacks, they may well be al-Qaeda agents here in the United States: under the al-Qaeda intercept program, their calls could be tapped.
But what about purely domestic? Suppose there were a major al-Qaeda attack somewhere in the world. It might be very valuable to backtrack through the record to find any calls made to some Islamic charity -- even if America-based -- that's linked to the group that carried out the attack, looking for calls that didn't fit the usual pattern: for example, a large burst of calls from specific (domestic) numbers just a week before the attack. Then you'd want to backtrack on those numbers, perhaps finding a similar bulge in telephone traffic to the first numbers from a small number of other domestic phone numbers.
Finally, you might find that the second group of domestic numbers got a number of calls from the city where the attack took place. Again, if I'm a judge, that's certainly good enough for me to issue a warrant, for those domestic numbers can certainly be reasonably suspected of being in the al-Qaeda daisy chain.
Bear in mind that these databases of phone calls already exist; the NSA just wants to consolidate them in an NSA database. This makes the search a matter of moments, rather than days or even weeks, as they try to figure out which carrier each call uses and subpoena the records from that carrier for that specific number.
There are some civil-liberties concerns; with all those numbers at their fingerends, it's possible the NSA might go romping through them, just "for the heck of it" (Leahy's words), including numbers that show no unusual traffic. But why? Why would they waste their time and resources? In any event, without showing some rational reason for having done so, they certainly couldn't produce any such findings in court.
I suppose the Democrats are frantic that the administration will somehow use this database to round up all Democratic dissidents and throw them into Gitmo. But that seems even more farfetched than the nutty claims by conspiracy theorists that Bill Clinton was systematically assassinating anyone who had evidence against him.
Another difference: only wackos ever waved around the "Clinton death list;" but the equally insane conspiracy mongering against President Bush has gone mainstream. From today's Times:
"Are you telling me that tens of millions of Americans are involved with Al Qaeda?" Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the committee's ranking minority member, asked angrily. [Asked who? The empty air? The Senate J-Com hasn't called any witnesses on this allegation, so far as the Times reports.]
Like Mr. Specter, Mr. Leahy made a link between the new charge and the administration's refusal to answer the many of the committee's questions about the security agency's warrantless wiretaps of calls between the United States and overseas in which one person is suspected of terrorist ties.
[They certainly briefed the intelligence committees; the administration did refuse to answer questions from Patrick Leahy -- who was forced to leave the Senate Intelligence Committee some years ago after being caught leaking classified information. Hm....]
"It's our government, our government!" he said, turning red in the face and waving a copy of USA Today. "It's not one party's government, it's America's government!"
Good heavens, I hope Sen. "Leaky" Leahy has a good cardiologist.
If anything, Sen. Charles Schumer's (D-NY) response was even more humorous, albeit in a refined way. Monday morning Schumer:
I think Hayden's a fine man, but I think keeping the agency independent is really important so the president gets truthful and unvarnished information and I worry that having someone so close to the Defense Department could jeopardize that independence.
Wednesday afternoon Schumer (from the Times story today):
"I want to ask General Hayden about these programs before we move forward with his nomination, which I was inclined to be supportive of, if he showed the requisite independence," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat and member of the Judiciary Committee.
All right -- how exactly did Schumer teleport from being "worried" to being "inclined to be supportive of," with no movement visible to the naked eye?
Finally, let's hear from a Democrat who is actually on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the committee that oversees the CIA and NSA and which President Bush claims was fully briefed. Here is Dianne Feinstein, hardly a Bush cheerleader:
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is a member of the Intelligence Committee as well as the Judiciary Committee, appeared to confirm at least the gist of the article, while stressing that what was under discussion was not wiretapping. "It's fair to say that what is in the news this morning is not content collection," she said.
Regardless of her opinion on the policy, it is quite clear from the fact that she could "confirm" the story that Sen. Feinstein was, in fact, familiar with it. In other words, Bush is telling the truth, and the relevant congressional committees were kept informed and up to date.
So let's summarize where we stand now:
- There is no new scandal; this was thoroughly reported and discussed last year;
- The only reason it's bubbling up now is that former NSA head Michael Hayden was nominated to be Director of the CIA;
- It's purpose and relation to defending the nation from terrorist attack is absolutely clear;
- The Senate and presumptively the House Intelligence Committees have were thoroughly briefed on the NSA pattern-analysis program, just as they were on the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program;
- Some Republicans not on the intelligence committees -- such as perennial pain Arlen Specter -- appear miffed that they weren't in the loop;
- There are some civil-liberties concerns about which we should proceed cautiously; but they would require actual lawbreaking on the part of some administration for there to be a serious problem. Those who believe the Bush administration is constantly breaking the law, throwing people in secret prisons, and spying on them just "for the heck of it" will doubtless be even more frightened now;
- Many Democrats are reacting with chair-jumping, skirt lifting hysteria at this little mouse of a "scandal;"
- The Democrats plan to use this to try to sabotage Hayden's appointment, the war on jihadi terrorism, and (much more important) Bush's legacy.
Does that about cover it?
The deadly danger of incessant leaking
Well, not quite. There is this rather jaw-dropping point made in every, single story about this program, which appears to be the only original contribution from USA Today. From yesterday's Today:
Among the big telecommunications companies, only Qwest has refused to help the NSA, the sources said. According to multiple sources, Qwest declined to participate because it was uneasy about the legal implications of handing over customer information to the government without warrants.
Qwest's refusal to participate has left the NSA with a hole in its database. Based in Denver, Qwest provides local phone service to 14 million customers in 14 states in the West and Northwest.
Talk about giving jihadis a road map for getting around the NSA program...! I'm sure there will be a surge of people signing up for Qwest phone service now -- mostly paranoid liberals who believe they're so important that "the Man" is constantly trying to surveil them (I've known several such folks). But I wonder how many terrorists will rush to grab Qwest-based cell phones, now that they know?
Thanks, NSA leakers, for violating your oath and putting the country at risk, just to damage George Bush. I'm sure Americans across the nation appreciate the tradeoff.
And a hearty handshake to phone provider Qwest, for offering the next Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a safe haven for his "privacy rights." Evidently, it's no violation for Qwest to maintain that same database for its own commercial purposes (or to sell to other companies for advertising)... but letting the NSA use it to track terrorist attacks is just beyond the pale.
Of course, Qwest's non-cooperation was also leaked to USA Today by some helpful saint within the NSA. To paraphrase Travis Bickle, we need a big rain to come and wash all the trash out of our clandestine services.
May 10, 2006
You Supply the Pictures, We'll Supply the War
One can almost hear the New York Times licking its lips as it flogs yet another spurious article hoping for a civil war -- not in Iraq, but within the intelligence community, between the miltary side and the civilian side (shades of Rep. Peter Hoekstra).
But the reality is that there is so little overlap between their needs and goals that it's impossible for one to gobble up the other. There will be friction when mission methods and techniques appear to encroach on some agencies turf; and there will be competition over funding. But the fundamental premise of most analysis from the antique media is fatally flawed, because they fail to understand that each type of intelligence has a large sphere, but little intersection with the other intelligence spheres.
Let's take a look at what I mean....
The Times actually published a useful and well written article; but then they tarted it up with politcal and rhetorical excess, summoning up chimeras of power struggles that just don't exist:
President Bush's selection of Gen. Michael V. Hayden to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency sets the stage for new wrangling with the Pentagon, which is rapidly expanding its own global spying and terrorist-tracking operations, both long considered C.I.A. roles....
At the Pentagon Tuesday, Mr. Rumsfeld voiced support for General Hayden's nomination and dismissed any reported rivalries with his intelligence brethren as "theoretical conspiracies" that were "all off the mark." He added, "There's no power play taking place in Washington."
For many lawmakers, Democrat and RINO alike, the only wars they recognize are turf wars. They often dislike the very concept of military intelligence, and they get skittish about Special Forces or other military units spying on people:
The C.I.A. has always been a much smaller organization than the Pentagon that served both the military and senior policy makers in Washington, including the president. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Pentagon felt it had to step in to fulfill many of its own additional intelligence needs that the C.I.A. could not.
This activity has stirred criticism from some lawmakers who express concern that the Pentagon is creating a parallel intelligence-gathering network independent from the C.I.A. or other American authorities, and one that encroaches on the C.I.A.'s realm.
"I still harbor concerns that some things are being done under the rubric of preparing the battlefield that I'd consider to be intelligence-collection activities, are being run separately and are feeding a planning apparatus that's not well understood by Congress," said Representative Jane Harman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
What we have here is failure to communicate. When Rumsfeld says there is no "power play," he means the DoD is not trying to seize control of the CIA, not that they don't tussle over the budget or occasionally bump up against each other during an operation.
The primary confusion is that we use the same venerable word, "intelligence," to cover three extraordinarily different concepts. Two are distinguished from each other by the purpose of the intelligence, rather than any particular means of gathering; the third concept is strictly defined by the means, not the purpose. (Note that we exclude intelligence gathering that is specific to law enforcement; that's a whole 'nother ball of worms.)
Here are the three primary categories:
Military Intelligence comprises two components: targeting information and troop movement, both broadly defined.
That is, the Army or Marines need to know that "HVT 18 will be at this particular al-Qaeda safe house appx 0330 tonight." They can get a Predator with a Hellfire missile overhead, or they can contact Task Force 145 to swarm over and snatch everyone. And General Abizaid needs to know that Iran is slipping terrorists in across the border near this particular town in Maysan Province.
The DIA and the service intelligence units conduct this sort of intelligence gathering.
Political Intelligence is long-term information about the intentions, strengths, and future plans of our enemies (and our friends).
This intelligence can be obtained directly, through actual infiltration of spies (human intelligence, or "humint") into enemy organizations, such as al-Qaeda; or via the seizure or surreptitious copying of documents or tapping into computer systems; interrogation of prisoners; through public sources, such as newspapers, court cases, or official announcements; through basic research (scientific, military, engineering, political); or through transnational service-to-service contact (being told by some other clandestine service in some other country).
This is the province of the Central Intelligence Agency, and the primary consumer of this sort of intelligence is the civilian government. But there are many other intelligence agencies that would fit this category: the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis, the National Intelligence Directorate, and some of what the FBI does could be called political intelligence. Even the State Department has its own clandestine intelligence agency, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR).
Signals Intelligence consists of electronic intercepts and eavesdropping of all types, plus satellite imagery, and all other information obtained by mechanical or electronic means.
Everybody uses this for all sorts of purposes; so it's not really a separate kind of intelligence, despite having the biggest budget and the most personnel involved of all clandestine organizations. The National Security Agency (NSA) is primarily responsible for signals intelligence; but there is also the National Reconnaissance Office (who build and launch early-warning spy satellites) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
(This page of the website of the Federation of American Scientists is a gateway to each of these clandestine services, if you're really interested.)
As should be obvious, there is no reason for the Pentagon to try to "take over" the CIA or vice versa; it's pointless; they need completely different types of intelligence.
Currently, there is a lot of crossover: the CIA mostly conducts political intelligence, but there are also CIA agents in Iraq and Afghanistan who conduct interrogations, some of which yield operational (targeting) intelligence useful to the military. The Air Force may fly U2s, SR-71 Blackbirds, or drones over Iran to photograph suspected nuclear sites, which intel is then relayed to the CIA and the White House. And of course, everybody consumes signals intel for all sorts of reasons.
But nearly all the military intel gathered by forward observers, drones, or interrogations is useless to the civilian government here at home. George W. Bush doesn't hunger for minute by minute accounts of possible targets for CENTCOM forces in Iraq or Afghanistan; that's what we have military commanders for. And Lt.Col. Erik Kurilla of the "Deuce-Four" probably doesn't give a deuce (except as a citizen) about the CIA's intelligence, if any, on how many centrifuges are actually at Natanz.
The Times seizes upon a few instances of friction and makes a mountain out of a mohair:
The C.I.A. has the lead role in managing "human intelligence," or spying in the government. Whether by design or circumstance, though, much of the growth in the military's spy missions has come in the Special Operations Command, which reports to Mr. Rumsfeld and falls outside the orbit controlled by John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence.
In one of the boldest new missions, the Pentagon has sharply increased the number of clandestine teams of Defense Intelligence Agency personnel and Special Operations forces conducting secret counterterrorism missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and other foreign countries. Using a broad definition of its current authority to conduct "traditional military activities" and "prepare the battlefield," the Pentagon has dispatched teams to gather information about potential foes well before any shooting starts....
But Mr. Cambone said the military's thirst for information to help soldiers on the ground after the Sept. 11 attacks had fueled the Pentagon's intelligence-gathering expansion, particularly against shadowy terrorist cells.
Note the distinction: even though the DIA and SpecOps are using traditional tools of humint to gather data on high-value targets (HVTs), their purpose is precisely to pass along targeting information to soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. There is no indication they're trying to usurp the CIA's role in political intelligence.
What we are actually seeing much more of -- the only good thing to come out of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 -- are joint operations between different intellience agencies and clandestine services, Special Forces, and reconnaissance units, with both civilian and military people involved... and sometimes even law enforcement. This makes sense, as the same mission can yield valuable intel for many different purposes.
Naturally, there are going to be a few kerfuffles as we feel our way into this. To paraphrase Robert A. Heinlein, we're like blind men in a dark room groping around for a black cat which isn't there. But the problem is not within the intelligence community; it's at the intersection of intel and Congress:
General Hayden, while seeking to play down any turf war with the Pentagon, acknowledged some skirmishes over staff. The new law creating Mr. Negroponte's job gave the director the authority to transfer personnel from individual intelligence agencies into joint centers or other agencies to speed the integration of the civilian and military intelligence communities. But Mr. Rumsfeld made that process more difficult, some lawmakers said, by issuing a directive last November that required "the concurrence" of Mr. Cambone before any transfers could take place....
Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who played a chief role in writing the intelligence overhaul, criticized the directive as a Department of Defense power grab. "The issuance of the directive sent exactly the wrong signal," Ms. Collins said.
She said it implied a questioning of Mr. Negroponte's authority "over those agencies that I find to be contrary to the intent of the legislation," adding, "D.O.D. is very eager to fill any vacuum or even create one, if necessary."
What Collins doesn't acknowledge is that the DoD has very different needs than the CIA, and the latter cannot adequately satisfy the former without sacrificing its own, equally valuable intelligence mission. Thus, the Pentagon has to do more to gather its own targeting and troop-movement intel.
They're not "encroaching" on intelligence gathering; they're expanding it. The following conclusions are utterly obvious to any serious student of intelligence:
- We desperately need both military intelligence and a distinct civilian intelligence agency; they serve different but equally vital needs.
- We also need them to work together in joint operations and to share all intelligence as much as possible.
- More specifically, we need a CIA much more geared to actual sandles-in-the-sand human spies to infiltrate al-Qaeda and other terrorists groups, Iran, Syria, and other terrorist-sponsoring states, economic bodies and conferences, and so forth.
- We need a CIA that collects political intelligence but is not politicized itself, that doesn't see itself as a separate branch of government co-equal with the Executive and the Legislative ("St. Mary of Langley" syndrome).
- We need much better analysis from the CIA.
The last three are the most critical areas, none of which was addressed by Congress two years ago. I hope that Michael Hayden can roll the ball farther and faster than the administratively challenged Porter Goss could do.
We need more spies; we need more analysts; and we need for the analysts to remember that the war they're fighting is against al-Qaeda and other enemies... not against George W. Bush.
In military intelligence, analysis is a lot easier, because you know the intent: the enemy (whoever it is) wants to kill us. Analysis consists of figuring out where they're going to be and allocating the appropriate resources to defeat them.
But in political intelligence, analysts must guess what both enemy and friend are thinking, planning, intending, desiring, and whether they have the capability to pull off whatever schemes they concoct. It's harder by orders of magnitude.
But it's absolutely critical to the survival of our nation... and it's time we finally start giving serious, feet-on-fire attention to this terrible lack of creative and accurate analysis within the political intelligence services.
May 8, 2006
And the Nominee Is... Michael Hayden!
We now have word from a fairly reliable source that Hayden is, indeed, the nominee.
The source? Stephen Hadley... President Bush's National Security Advisor:
Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden will be named as the next chief of the CIA, President Bush's national security adviser said Monday, and the White House began battling back against criticism that a military officer would lead the civilian spy agency.
"Mike Hayden is the president's nominee to be the director of the CIA," national security adviser Stephen Hadley said on NBC's "Today" show. "The president believes he is the right person at the right time in the right job, when the Senate confirms him, and we certainly hope it will and will do so promptly."
The White House confirms Hadley's annoucement:
White House counselor Dan Bartlett said it was not unprecedented for a military officer to run the CIA and that Hayden would be the fifth CIA chief in uniform. "He has been viewed as a non-comformist and an independent thinker," Bartlett said.
"This is really nothing new ... so there's precedent for it," Hadley said on CBS's "The Early Show.""We don't see any reason to break the precedent. ... The question is not military versus civilian. The question is the best person to do the job."
...And Big Lizards notes with wry amusement that AP still thinks Saxby Chambliss is a representative, not a senator. At least we corrected our media-induced error just a few hours after making it.
So for all those who bought the line -- such as P*tt*rc* and C*pt**n *d -- that Hayden is great but just too radioactive to be nominated, either due to his running the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program or because he's an active-duty Air Force general... hey, have some faith in the guy in the White House. This is his signature issue, and he rarely wrong-foots himself on national security. (Not "never" but certainly "hardly ever.")
Let the games begin....
May 7, 2006
Simple Solution To a Weird Objection
Associated Press quotes a number of otherwise rational Republicans objecting to the appointment of Gen. Michael Hayden -- currently principle deputy NID (Director of National Intelligence) to the NID himself, John Negroponte, and erstwhile head of the National Security Agency -- as Director of the CIA. What's bugging them? They don't like the idea of a general heading up the CIA, because the CIA is supposed to be a civilian intelligence agency:
Even before President Bush has named his choice to take over the CIA, the Air Force general who is the front-runner drew fire Sunday from lawmakers in the president's own party who say a military man should not lead the civilian spy agency.
The criticism of the expected choice of Gen. Michael Hayden to head the CIA came from some influential Republicans in Congress as well as from Democrats.
"I do believe he's the wrong person, the wrong place, at the wrong time," said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich. "We should not have a military person leading a civilian agency at this time."
Hoekstra said on "Fox News Sunday" that having a general in charge of the CIA could create the impression among agents around the world that the agency is under Pentagon control. If he were to get the nomination, military officers would run all the major spy agencies, from the ultra-secret National Security Agency to the Defense Intelligence Agency.
(Now there's a shock: the NSA is formally under the control of the Pentagon... and some military guy is running it. Even worse, there's even a military officer in charge of the Defense Intelligence Agency... must be some sort of military junta.)
Of course, when Hoekstra says "at this time," he means during a time of war. It seems a little odd to object to a military guy heading up the CIA while we're at war with al-Qaeda; especially since, under civilian control, the CIA has instead been at war with the president, which seems like a suboptimal situation.
Note, the following paragraph is a corrected version:
In any event, Hoekstra is a gentleman of the House of Representatives, which means he plays no role in confirming the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, or indeed any other presidential appointment. Alas, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) also objects, and this is a more serious problem: Chambliss is not only a senator, he is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- the very committee that will vote on Hayden as the nominee to be DCIA.
Edit: Yeesh. As several commenters reminded me, Saxby Chambliss is actually a senator, not a representative. I admit, I should have remembered his battle against Max "How dare you question my patriotism" Cleland... still, I haven't memorized every senator; and since the AP story I was using as a source referred to him as a representative, I was fooled. Here's AP:
The sentiment was echoed by Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who said Hayden's military background would be a "major problem," and several Democrats who made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., said Hayden could leave agents with the impression that the CIA has been "just gobbled up by the Defense Department."
So, mea culpa... but media culpa, as well!
If Chambliss has a political death wish, he could vote against Hayden, which would result in the committee rejecting the nomination. Even if Majority Leader Bill Frist brings it to the floor, it really muddies the waters: the Democrats can say, "hey, the Intelligence Committee already rejected this guy! Of course we have to filibuster him;" they might even get away with it.
That would be catastrophic to Republican chances in November (currently looking pretty good): that sort of churlish incompetence might well be enough to cause conservatives to stay home in droves, ceding the election to the Democrats. Would Saxby Chambliss really be willing to chomp off the entire hand that fed him in 2002? Isn't there some compromise by which Chambliss could declare himself satisfied and support Hayden?
Big Lizards immediately thought of the same solution that others have: General Hayden should simply retire from active duty and then take over the CIA -- as Civilian Hayden.
Hoekstra and Chambliss are having none of that, however; they have already said this would not be sufficient:
"Just resigning commission and moving on, putting on a striped suit, a pinstriped suit versus an Air Force uniform, I don't think makes much difference," Chambliss said on ABC's "This Week."
The question is, does Chambliss really want to be known as the man who destroyed the Republican majority -- just because he's upset that a military man was appointed? Who would he suggest in Hayden's place... Francis Fargo Townsend? George Tenet? Himself?
Chambliss is not a RINO; he's quite a staunch conservative. Maybe just sitting down, one on one, with Hayden might do it. As Mr. Michael noted in the comments, Hayden -- while a general -- is currently the principle deputy of John Negroponte, who is a lifelong civilian and diplomat who never even served in the military. In fact, Negroponte is engaged in a power struggle with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld over who gets to control American intelligence: the civilians or the Pentagon; if anything, Hayden is a Rumsfeld antagonist, despite wearing a uniform.
I don't know why Chambliss is playing this dangerous game. I think it's time for Pat Roberts to really lean hard on him: make him understand that if Hayden retires from active duty, then he is a civilian... and if he brings in a deputy DCIA who is a lifelong civilian spook, that really is a compromise. And make Chambliss understand the political consequences (hence the consequences in the war on jihadi terrorism) if he defected and threw the vote to the Democrats, linking arms with Jay Rockefeller, Carl Levin, and Russell Feingold.
By contrast, other Republican senators seem to have no problem with the appointment:
Hayden has his defenders on Capitol Hill. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he hopes he could be confirmed.
"In all due respect to my colleagues — and I obviously respect their views — General Hayden is really more of an intelligence person than he is an Air Force officer," he said on "Face the Nation" on CBS. "I think that we should also remember that there had been other former military people who have been directors of the CIA."
Ah, I think I understand Hoekstra's point: it's perfectly all right to have an active-duty general head up the CIA when we're at peace, and the general's expertise is not particularly useful; but in a time of war, such a background would just give him an unfair advantage over his fellow intelligence heads, who would feel puny by contrast. Now it all makes sense.
As John over at Power Line noted, nobody fretted in 2001 that retired Gen. Colin Powell being in charge of the State Department meant that the Pentagon was taking over State. Then again, we were at peace then (and for another eight months). Or, if you prefer, al-Qaeda was at war with us, but we were not yet at war with them.
Even Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chambliss' boss on the Intelligence Committee, doesn't seem to mind:
And Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, who will oversee confirmation hearings for the post, acknowledged on CNN that there is some real concern about somebody from the military heading up the CIA. But he said that can be easily resolved by Hayden resigning his post and bringing in deputies with a strong civilian background.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) does not specifically object to Hayden being a general; he's too busy threatening to prove his RINO-hood by using Hayden's appointment as an opportunity to call the president nasty names:
Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he would use a Hayden nomination to raise questions about the legality of the program and did not rule out holding it up until he gets answers. "I'm not going to draw any lines in the sand until I see how the facts evolve," Specter said on Fox.
White House insiders tried to shrug off suggestions that Hayden's military experience could become a serious issue. And they said they welcome a fight over the domestic eavesdropping program — an issue that Bush certainly has not shied away from taking on in his effort to take a tough stance against terrorists. [And an issue where Bush wins more and more with every day of debate. -- the Mgt.]
And of course, Specter can't hold up the nomination any more than Harry Reid (D-Sin City) or Joe Biden (D-DE) can... he could prevent a confirmation vote (as could a Democratic filibuster), but that would just force Bush to resort to a recess appointment... which Specter can't stop.
So I still see no problem:
- Hayden resigns from active duty;
- Bush appoints him DCIA;
- Specter and the Democrats attack Hayden for daring to eavesdrop on al-Qaeda sleeper agents in the U.S;
- They hold up the committee vote for a few days, while Bush, Cheney, and the real Republicans pound them for caring more about the rights of Zacarias Moussaoui than about national security and the lives of Americans;
- Unwilling to turn his coat and singlehandedly destroy the Republican majority in the Senate, Saxby Chambliss accepts the compromise and votes for Hayden in the committee;
- The Dems finally realize how that they're destroying themselves, and they let the confirmation vote in the full Senate proceed;
- Alternatively, they decide to go for absolute broke, going "all in" with 7-2 offsuit, and they filibuster Hayden, or use some other sort of procedural gimmick to prevent him from getting a confirmation vote;
- In which case Bush appoints Hayden during the June recess, and we head into the November election with the Democrats (and the occasional RINO) clearly and unambiguously on the side of the terrorists.
Looks good to me!
May 5, 2006
"But Hayden Can't Be Confirmed!"
Couple loose ends to tie up:
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.
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....
The Porter Gloss
Obviously, the big news today is the unexpected resignation of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Porter Goss, coupled with the refusal of either the president or Goss to explain why he is leaving. The "buzz" all over D.C. -- which I think has it completely backwards -- is that National Intelligence Director John Negroponte canned Goss because Goss was ruffling too many feathers at the Agency:
[Goss] had particularly poor relations with segments of the agency's powerful clandestine service. In a bleak assessment, California Rep. Jane Harman, the Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, recently said, "The CIA is in a free fall," noting that employees with a combined 300 years of experience have left or been pushed out....
Goss has pressed for aggressive probes about leaked information.
"The damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission," he told Congress in February, adding that a federal grand jury should be impaneled to determine "who is leaking this information."
Just two weeks ago, Goss announced the firing of a top intelligence analyst in connection with a Pulitzer Prize-winning story about a network of CIA prisons in Eastern Europe. Such dismissals are highly unusual.
Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., said Goss' resignation was good news. "His management style has been wrecking the country's most important intelligence agency," Obey said. "I hope that whoever is selected to take his place will rebuild agency morale and competence."
I suppose it's inevitable, but Big Lizards is convinced that precisely the opposite is true: Goss was fired because he was not aggressive enough in ferreting out the leakers. We've known George W. Bush for five years now; and the one thing that is clear is that when he decides something is important for the country -- such as the Iraq war -- he never lets go of it; he hangs on like a bulldog to a beefbone.
Bush has clearly decided that the conspiracy culture within the Agency, the Bush Derangement Syndrome, has gone so far that it now endangers national security. Goss was brought aboard in the first place by President Bush in 2004 in order to plug those leaks by any means necessary.
I suspect the leak about the CIA "secret prisons" (whether they even existed or whether the intel was a canary trap) was the last straw: true or false, it showed such a flagrant and egregious unconcern for the safety and the diplomatic relations of the United States of America that the persons responsible are tantamount to traitors -- morally, if not legally. The Agency is utterly out of control. It's true, as Gen. McCaffrey noted, that the CIA is at war: but it's more at war with Bush than it is with bin Laden.
There is a whole cadre within the CIA that persists in thinking of it as "the Company," persists in seeing its purpose as playing the Great Cold-War Game, rather than providing wartime intel for destroying America's enemies. I will begin calling this faction le Groupe de la Révolution du Dixième Septembre, or GRS-10e. And I think Porter Goss was actually ousted because he was not making headway fast enough against them.
Bush typically wants the people he is firing -- assuming they've tried their best but just not been good enough -- to go out with a victory, no matter how minor, under their belts; it's a private-sector business practice, so they can plausibly claim they were not fired for incompetence. I suspect Bush, Negroponte, Goss, and other concerned officials probably discussed the departure of Goss some time ago; but since they knew he was closing in on Mary O. McCarthy -- two weeks and still no personal proclamation of innocence from St. Mary of Langley -- they decided to let him nab her first, and then resign.
Both Jane Harman and "Democrat Dave" Obey have been pretty good, but not great, anent the war on terror; but neither has been particularly heartbroken to see the CIA, the NSA, and other clandestine agencies leaking, leaking, leaking damaging information to wreck Bush's warfighting agenda.
I would call Jane Harman, ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, a "September 10.5-ist." She's not as bad as the GRS-10e; she knows something momentous happened the next day; but she's not yet willing to admit it was paradigm shattering.
When the House Intelligence Committee decided, in November, 2005, to investigate the persistent leaks from clandestine agencies, Harman urged instead that they return to work on the pre-OIF intelligence, which was obviously far more helpful to Democratic electoral chances a year later:
Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., called for a congressional investigation into the disclosure of the existence of CIA secret prisons in a Nov. 2 story in The Washington Post. The story said they were located in eight countries, including democracies in Eastern Europe.
In a letter, the GOP leaders said leaking of classified information by employees of the government appeared to have increased in recent years, "establishing a dangerous trend that, if not addressed swiftly and firmly, likely will worsen."
On Tuesday, California Rep. Jane Harman, the House intelligence panel's senior Democrat, urged the panel to return to its work on the prewar intelligence on Iraq — a request that mirrored the efforts of Democratic senators to draw attention to the administration's mistakes on the war.
"The point of it is to understand fully how we collected, analyzed and presented intelligence ... and what responsibility the intelligence community had to correct misinformation by policymakers," Harman said in an interview.
I believe both Harman and Obey are going to be disappointed
And I likewise think that Frank Gaffney and Jed Babbin are going to be pleasantly startled, based on what they just said on Hugh Hewitt's radio show: whoever replaces Goss is going to be more vigorous, not less, about obliterating the GRS-10e, root and branch.
I do not join Gaffney and Babbin in believing that John Negroponte is on the side of the leakers, or that Bush would allow him to fire Goss (brought in personally by Bush) without the president's support. Nobody except the most moonbatty Bush haters has ever accused Bush of handing off power to his subordinates.
I'm sure they're correct that there was a power struggle; but Bush has never minded that in the past... recall the Rumsfeld vs. Powell steel-cage death match. I strongly doubt that Bush would have allowed the NID to fire the DCIA unless the president personally agreed that Goss should go.
Nor do I believe, as Babbin, Gaffney, Harman, and Obey all think, that Goss is going to be replaced by a meek staffer who can be easily confirmed and won't rock the boat. I think that's absurd. If that's how Bush operated, crawling to Congress to save his administration, then he would have fired Donald Rumsfeld, which would have thrilled the House and Senate (though it would have neutered his second term).
Let's see who is appointed, and more important, whether the leak investigations continue and accelerate. To paraphrase Maggie Thatcher's famous warning to Ronald Reagan (who needed no such warning), now is not the time to go "wobbly" on President Bush. [Commenter Mike corrects my faulty memory: Thatcher said that to George H. W. Bush... who did need such warning! -- the Mgt.]
April 25, 2006
The Silence of the Saint
The silence of St. Mary of Langley continues; since Mary O. McCarthy was fired on Friday, April 21st, 2006, four days have passed in which she has refused to come forward herself and flatly state that she did not leak any classified intelligence.
She has her shills: Rand Beers yesterday, issued a carefully composed "non-denial" denial; today, Mr. Senior Intelligence Official (he sure gets around!) and Thomas S. Blanton fill that role. And she has her mouthpiece:
A lawyer representing fired CIA officer Mary O. McCarthy said yesterday that his client did not leak any classified information and did not disclose to Washington Post reporter Dana Priest the existence of secret CIA-run prisons in Eastern Europe for suspected terrorists.
The statement by Ty Cobb, a lawyer in the Washington office of Hogan & Hartson who said he was speaking for McCarthy, came on the same day that a senior intelligence official said the agency is not asserting that McCarthy was a key source of Priest's award-winning articles last year disclosing the agency's secret prisons.
But look at what the attorney did not say, or at least is not quoted as having said: he did not say "Mary McCarthy told me that she had not leaked any classified information;" he simply asserts that she didn't. And he said she didn't "disclose" the supposed existence of the prisons; but did she confirm it?
Why is this important? Because Mary O. McCarthy is a Clintonista. She was very close to the former president; he personally picked her to be his special assistant for intelligence. And what were the Clintons, both of 'em, know for most?
They were infamous for careful slicing and dicing the language to imply a lie without actually saying the lie.
- "I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." Mr. Clinton claimed he didn't consider certain activities to be "sex," and he cited the Bible as authority;
- "I was never alone with Miss Lewinsky." He's right: there were always plenty of other people in the White House at the time... just in other rooms;
- "It depends what the meaning of 'is' is." No comment.
They were also known for constantly sending people out to lie for them... but it wasn't really a lie, because the sock-puppet defenders (say, just like Michael Hiltzik's ficticious commenters!) could always say they were just expressing their "faith" in the Clintons' innocence.
And that's what the peculiarly named Ty Cobb can say. Even if she did, in fact, leak tons of classified intelligence, all Mr. C. has to say is, "she never said that to me -- I just looked at her face, and she looked so innocent, I knew she couldn't have done it." That may be bad judgment, but bad judgment is certainly not a disbarrable offense (while flatly lying might be).
What about the other shills? They fall into two categories:
The Ubiquitous Anonymous Supporter:
Though McCarthy acknowledged having contact with reporters, a senior intelligence official confirmed yesterday that she is not believed to have played a central role in The Post's reporting on the secret prisons. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing personnel matters.
Well! Who can argue with that? A person who must speak on the condition of anonymity because of personnel matters (as in, "I would be fired if they found out"), but who the Washington Post assures us is senior, says that she didn't play a central role -- how can we doubt her for even a minute?
Is Mr. Senior I. Official actually involved in the investigation? The Post doesn't say. Is he/she speaking for the investigation, or just offering a personal opinion? No comment. Is he or she a partisan of one side or the other? The WaPo shrugs.
It makes no difference. They've planted the meme; it will grow in fertile soil.
The External Expert Who Never Met the Saint (but can tell she's innocent):
Thomas S. Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a nongovernmental research institute at George Washington University, said he does not think the Post article includes the kind of operational details that a prosecutor would need to build a case.
"It's the fact of the thing that they're trying to keep secret, not to protect sources and methods, but to hide something controversial," he said. "That seems like a hard prosecution to me."
Kate Martin, executive director of the Center for National Security Studies, said that "even if the espionage statutes were read to apply to leaks of information, we would say the First Amendment prohibits criminalizing leaks of information which reveal wrongful or illegal activities by the government."
Translation: it's all just political, she didn't damage anything, and besides, all the programs she damaged were illegal anyway.
How does Blanton know whether revealing the information (if it's accurate) does or does not compromise "sources?" It certainly reveals methods -- imprisoning people in a jail in Eastern Europe is a method, and presumably it would be easier to break people out of a prison if you knew approximately where they were being held.
And what makes Ms. Martin say that these secret prisons (which may or may not exist) are "illegal?" Has she studied the program? Is she cleared for that information? Can she cite caselaw on the subject?
Is she even a lawyer?
And what the heck does it mean to say that "the First Amendment prohibits criminalizing leaks of information which reveal wrongful... activities?" Does that mean that anytime a CIA agent thinks a CIA operation is "wrongful," he has carte blanche to leak it to the press? Maybe Kate Martin should change the name of her group to the Center for International Insecurity Studies.
And in all of this, McCarthy has yet to make even a pro-forma appearance to personally deny her own guilt. She doesn't even have to take questions; she can simply read a statement. She could just stand up, look the public in its lidless eye, and say "I categorically deny that I ever leaked any classified information to any reporter, anytime, anywhere. I am completely innocent, and I will be exonerated by this investigation." If she really is innocent, then how could it possibly hurt her case to emphatically and personally enunciate her innocence?
She could; but she hasn't. The silence of the saint continues.
April 24, 2006
Beers For St. Mary of Langley
At last, fired CIA analyst from the Inspector General's office speaks out, denying that she leaked any classified intelligence. Well... actually, not quite.
Instead of speaking herself, she sent out one of her mentors, Rand Beers -- the man who would be Condoleezza (under President John F. Kerry) -- to deny it for her. As her other mentor is Clintonian National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, her choice of senseis leaves a bit something to be desired:
The fired official, Mary O. McCarthy, “categorically denies being the source of the leak,” one of McCarthy’s friends and former colleagues, Rand Beers, said Monday after speaking to McCarthy. Beers said he could not elaborate on this denial and McCarthy herself did not respond to a request for comment left by NEWSWEEK on her home answering machine.
Oh, yes, I can just envision that conversation:
Several things about this "non-denial denial" intrigue me:
- The words were parsed very thinly, as above: is she saying she wasn't any of the sources, or just that she wasn't the only source?
- By not denying that she leaked, she leaves open the possibility that, even if she weren't a source on the secret-prisons story, she may still have been a source on some other hysterical Bush-bashfest.
- She did not even issue the denial herself, in person. Any normal, innocent person accused of leaking classified intel would at a minimum step forth and personally insist that she was innocent of all charges.
The more Mary O. McCarthy tries to deny without really denying that she is guilty, the more convinced I am that she is just exactly that: guilty.
April 22, 2006
St. Mary of Langley
Actually, I suppose Mrs. McCarthy should be St. Mary of Bethesda. At the time of her little difficulty, she had long since left the monastic environs of CIA headquarters in Langley, VA for the spiritually elevated atmosphere of Washington D.C., where she served as a senior intelligence aid to the National Security Council and as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton. So she was still CIA, but she had left the hive.
But that's neither here nor there: the canonization of Mary O. McCarthy -- the CIA leaker -- has already begun.
She didn't do it...
The New York Times published a hagiography of Mrs. McCarthy, somewhat hilariously titled "Colleagues Say C.I.A. Analyst Played by Rules" -- well, with one or two exceptions, it appears. In the piece, the writer interviews some of Mrs. McCarthy's colleagues, who paint her as a brilliant, hard-working, career woman who could not possibly be the leaker because she has such a refined conscience:
"We're talking about a person with great integrity who played by the book and, as far as I know, never deviated from the rules," said Steven Simon, a security council aide in the Clinton administration who worked closely with Ms. McCarthy....
Larry Johnson, a former C.I.A. officer who worked for Ms. McCarthy in the agency's Latin America section, said, "It looks to me like Mary is being used as a sacrificial lamb."
Hm... didn't these same folks say the same thing about Clinton's former National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger?
Berger was Mary McCarthy's mentor, by the way; and now Friend Lee wants to know whether she has any idea what was in Sandy Berger's pants. One presumes Lee doesn't mean as a general rule, but rather on that fateful day when Mr. B. strolled out of the National Archives with a few documents tucked down the old trouser leg.
She didn't actually confess to doing it...
Mrs. McCarthy's reputed admission that she was, indeed, the one who leaked the information to Dana Priest at the Washington Post is not seen as an obstacle to her defense, according to spook-chums:
Government officials said that after Ms. McCarthy's polygraph examination showed the possibility of deception, the examiner confronted her and she disclosed having had conversations with reporters.
But some former C.I.A. employees who know Ms. McCarthy remain unconvinced, arguing that the pressure from Mr. [Porter] Goss [Director of the Central Intelligence Agency] and others in the Bush administration to plug leaks may have led the agency to focus on an employee on the verge of retirement, whose work at the White House during the Clinton administration had long raised suspicions within the current administration.
Yeah, that's the ticket; she was tortured into confessing to a crime she did not commit. Porter Goss probably had Mrs. McCarthy waterboarded!
And even if she did it, it was the right thing to do!
But even if she is the leaker, her buds are still down with her. After all, she wouldn't have done such a thing without a darned good reason:
Others said it was possible that Ms. McCarthy — who made a contribution to Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004 — had grown increasingly disenchanted with the methods adopted by the Bush administration for handling Qaeda prisoners.
Ms. McCarthy, who began attending law school at night several years ago and was preparing to retire from the C.I.A., may have felt she had no alternative but to go to the press.
If in fact Ms. McCarthy was the leaker, Richard J. Kerr, a former C.I.A. deputy director, said, "I have no idea what her motive was, but there is a lot of dissension within the agency, and it seems to be a rather unhappy place." Mr. Kerr called Ms. McCarthy "quite a good, substantive person on the issues I dealt with her on."
Bush leaked... why shouldn't I?
A separate straight news article in the Times (to the extent that any article in the Times can ever be considered "straight news") concocts a novel defense for Mrs. McCarthy; call it the Scooter Neuter:
Here is how the Times advances the argument; note the ubiquitous anonymous sources -- a sure sign that the writers, David Johnston and Scott Shane, are just making it up:
Several former intelligence officials — who were granted anonymity after requesting it for what they said were obvious reasons under the circumstances — were divided over the likely effect of the dismissal on morale. One veteran said the firing would not be well-received coming so soon after the disclosure of grand jury testimony by Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff that President Bush in 2003 approved the leak of portions of a secret national intelligence estimate on Iraqi weapons.
"It's a terrible situation when the president approves the leak of a highly classified N.I.E., and people at the agency see management as so disastrous that they feel compelled to talk to the press," said one former C.I.A. officer with extensive overseas experience.
(Hat tip Captain's Quarters.)
The former CIA officer spoke anonymously and without permission, of course... which some CIA analysts choose to call "leaking." Fortunately, being a former officer, he's probably off the legal hook.
The Washington Post already declassified it
The MSM itself still to retains the right to determine what is and is not "classified." Recall how the New York Times justified spattering operational details of the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program across the face of the grim Grey Lady: they had sat on the story, editors insisted, for almost a year before publishing; surely that should more than satisfy pedants with stuffy ideas about classified intelligence!
In this case, the Washington Post sings from the same hymnal:
Leonard Downie Jr., The Post's executive editor, said on its Web site that he could not comment on the firing because he did not know the details. "As a general principle," he said, "obviously I am opposed to criminalizing the dissemination of government information to the press."
And besides -- you tricked us!
Captain Ed notes that Rick Moran at Right Wing Nuthouse is suggesting the amusing possibility (did you follow that Byzantine syntax?) that the entire story about secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe (Poland and Romania, to be specific) could have been a set up, what Tom Clancy calls a "canary trap."
That is, Moran offers the possibility that there never were any such prisons. In this scenario, Porter Goss knows that someone in the Company is leaking to the press. He deliberately disseminates ultra-highly classified, double-secret probation intelligence to a handful of people.
Each person gets the same basic information, except for one or two unique elements for each suspect. When the leak appears in the media, the quoted details point the finger at one specific leaker.
Moran admits he has no evidence to support this theory. On the other hand, nobody seems to have found a shred of evidence that there were ever any secret CIA prisons, either. So there.
Prepare yourselves for the onslaught. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Mrs. Mary O. McCarthy come bubbling up right next to Mother Sheehan and try to wrest away control of Camp Cindy.
April 21, 2006
CIA Growing a Spine?
Huh, has Langley suddenly become the eighth wonder of the world? According to, well, everybody, the CIA has actually identified one of its agents who has been leaking highly classified information to the antique media -- in particular, to the Washington Post, probably for the "secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe" story, for which Mrs. Dana Priest just won a Pulitzer Prize.
And at last, the CIA has taken such a leak seriously: it has fired her and opened a criminal investigation. Land sakes, the Central Intelligence Agency is actually starting to act like -- an intelligence agency:
"The officer has acknowledged unauthorized discussions with the media and the unauthorized sharing of classified information," Gimigliano said. "That is a violation of the secrecy agreement that everyone signs as a condition of employment with the CIA."
Citing the Privacy Act, the CIA would not disclose any details about the officer's identity or what that person might have told the news media.
However, a law enforcement official confirmed there was a criminal investigation under way and said the CIA officer had provided information that contributed to a Washington Post story last year saying there were secret U.S. prisons in Eastern Europe. The law enforcement official spoke only on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter.
(I expect everyone who blogs on this will point out the irony: the details about the criminal investigation of the agent fired for leaking came via a leak. So it goes....)
This is either the Sidney opera house, one of Saddam's palaces,
or the new CIA headquarters in Langley, VA
This revelation raises a number of interesting questions:
- Did Ms. X act alone (NBC reports that the agent is named Mary McCarthy), or is there a whole ring of blabbermouths?
- Related: can Ms. X be "squeezed" into ratting out her pals?
- Did Ms. X leak this information in order to force an end to the program? Is this political? Or was it just a personal hit against the president?
- Did the Washington Post pay Ms. X?
And of course, I'll ask John Hinderaker's question for him (I have no doubt he has already asked it himself on Power Line, which I haven't read yet today); this may be the most important one, because it affects how many of these dreadful leaks we'll have in the future.
- Will Dana Priest or any other reporter at the Post be prosecuted as well, under the Espionage Act?
I would think that question 5 would be a lot more likely if the answer to question 4 were "yes;" personally, I think the Post as a corporate entity and also the individuals involved -- writer, editors, and publishers -- should be prosecuted regardless of whether they paid Ms. X; but the reality is that, unless the feds have actually grown, not just a spine, but a pair of "brass ones," then they will only prosecute if money changed hands.
Reuters has a bit more on the story than AP:
NBC News identified the accused officer as Mary McCarthy, and said she worked in the CIA Inspector General's office before being "marched out" of the spy agency on Thursday....
The CIA would not say what the leak involved, and declined to identify the officer or describe the officer's duties at the agency, saying that such disclosures would violate the Privacy Act of 1974.
So much for the "secret European prisons" story. But what about the far more damaging leak of the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program? The New York Times claims that it was NSA officers themselves, not CIA, who leaked that story (which makes sense); but I would hope that all these investigations would be investigated in parallel, with everybody sharing information. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I believe this current leak is just a part of an organized political program to destroy our ability to gather information in the war on terror.
I believe the program is being carried out across the spectrum of intelligence agencies, from CIA to NSA to DIA to the FBI Counterterrorism division; and I believe it is a true conspiracy, comprising:
- Agents who hate the whole war on terrorism and want to get back to the "Great Game" of the Cold-War era;
- Agents who just get high on the power of leaking such huge and damaging secrets to the news;
- A tiny number of agents who are bona-fide spies for our enemies, in the pay of foreign powers.
Regardless of the exact mix of motives, I suspect it's organized by the first category: policy dissidents within the CIA who still have a State Department, September 10th mentality and think they own the joint, President Bush and Porter Goss merely being temporary distractions.
The CIA, at least, does not think Ms. X is the only person or case involved:
Meanwhile, the CIA said its own internal investigation into leaks was continuing. The probe began in January.
CIA Director Porter Goss made a strong case against media leaks before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in February.
"I'm sorry to tell you that the damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission. I use the words 'very severe' intentionally. That is my belief. And I think that the evidence will show that," Goss said.
At the very least, I'm hoping that a vigorous prosecution of Ms. X after her firing will put the fear of God into some of the traitors within the Company who are leaking because of policy opposition or just for thrills. If there are actual moles in the CIA -- working for Iraq or Iran, for North Korea or China, or even being directly paid by al-Qaeda -- then an actual criminal prosecution might cause them to take more precautions; but such professionals have already steeled themselves to the possibility of arrest and trial or even just quiet liquidation. They will not stop until they are physically stopped, one way or another.
But simple Bell-curve thinking tells me that most of the leakers would not be actual paid agents of a foreign power, and they may be more easily deterred. At least, let's hope so.
November 21, 2005
Do You Have Prince Alberto In a Can?
Paul over at Power Line poses a fascinating question -- in subtext -- in a recent post:
How does the CIA protect its turf so well? Its skill in the art of the leak must play a major role. For one thing, this skill helps explain how the agency exerts so much control over those in the mainstream media who cover it.
The subtextual question is, of course, what to do about this?
My suggestion is that the Bush administration must realize that this is a terribly dangerous situation: at a time of national danger, when we are at war, the CIA has become a rogue agency, uncontrolled by any branch of the federal government. It conducts its own foreign policy; it dictates military policy (through control of the intelligence the Department of Defense needs); it has seized control of a significant portion of the powers of the elected Executive.
It's time to fight back... and best and quickest way to do so would be for President Bush to direct Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to immediately begin Justice Department investigations of this rash of recent leaks from the CIA, including the decision to allow Joe Wilson to go public with his lying claims in the New York Times about "what [he] didn't find" in Niger; the leak about the previously secret prison facilities for terrorists; and so forth.
Reporters should be subpoenaed; if they refuse to testify, put them in jail for contempt until they do. Use the full powers of the Patriot Act to seize records and find out who is doing the leaking. And then drop the hammer on them: prosecute them for misuse of classified information or even worse criminal violations. At the very least, get enough evidence to strip them of their security clearances... make it plain that leaking to the press to damage the administration is a career-terminating offense and might even lead to prison time.
Also, be sure to widely publicize the names of leakers as soon as you dredge them up. These people rely upon anonymity; if word gets around that whatever you tell Harry ends up in a Walter Pinkus column tomorrow, the leakers will be shunned by many of the folks who have unwittingly been helping them funnel damaging information to the mainstream leftist media.
Bush can do all of this without Congress lifting a finger. He can do it over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, and he doesn't need any votes from the Democrats. The press will scream; but if Bush were to demand time to give a short speech for broadcast and explain his reasons to the American people, I think they would not only back him, they would applaud lustily: "My fellow Americans, this constant stream of political leaks from the CIA has just got to stop... for God's sake, we're in a war! It's time for the Central Intelligence Agency to get out of politics and back to their actual job: gathering intelligence on our enemies, not leaking stories to the press."
This speech should be delivered with CIA Director Porter Goss at Bush's side; Goss should take over and give a few more details about what has been happening -- specific examples, so people understand the stakes. Then Goss should say he is behind the president's decision 100%... "I don't want to run an agency full of Machiavellian agents who leak classified intelligence for their own political purposes. I intend to preside over an agency with one and only one focus: gathering intelligence about our enemies, so we can use it against them."
Come on, Bush... this is a fight you can win, and one that will endear you not only to the base, but also to average Americans across the country who are uncomfortable and angry that so much classified information is readily available in the newspapers for terrorists to read. This isn't a new problem, but it's a solvable problem.
But so long as "good people do nothing," evil will triumph.
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