Category ►►► Terrorism Intelligence

May 15, 2011

John McCain: Forward to the Past!

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Sen. John S. McCain (R-AZ, 96%) has painted himself into a deep hole over waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation methods. He has staked everything, everything, on two dubious claims:

  1. That waterboarding and the other so-called "harsh" interrogation techniques (used through 2006 by the CIA against terrorists and other unlawful combatants) is "torture," defined by McCain as the equivalent of what his captors visited upon him in the "Hanoi Hilton."
  2. That such "torture" cannot conceivably yield valid information, not even in theory.

How so? Because any form of interrogation harsher than politely asking the detainee to spill the beans necessarily, in every instance, elicits false and misleading disinformation (which apparently cannot even be fact checked, for some unfathomable reason).

Alas, in the war against radical Islamism, McCain has become obsessed with proving these two preposterous propositions, to the point that such proof trumps even victory itself. He believes such measures are never necessary, and that their use sears the very souls of the interrogators and of the nation itself. He also appears to maintain a childlike belief that there is always another way to gain the same intelligence; if only we ask detainees sincerely, compassionately, and charmingly enough, even top al-Qaeda leaders will see the light.

Case in point, McCain's bizarre argument with former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and others who had intimate knowledge of what information was extracted from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj al-Libi under waterboarding and other somewhat harsh (but hardly torturous) questioning. Though he wasn't there, John McCain has a vision of what happened (and didn't happen):

Waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques were not a factor in tracking down Osama bin Laden, a leading Republican senator insisted Thursday.

Sen. John McCain, who spent 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, also rejected the argument that any form of torture is critical to U.S. success in the fight against terrorism.

In an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, the Arizona Republican said former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and others who back those tactics were wrong to claim that waterboarding al-Qaida's No. 3 leader, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, provided information that led to bin Laden's compound in Pakistan.

Impassioned! But extreme passion typically comes at the price of reason.

AP makes a feeble attempt to cast McCain as "in the loop" anent those interrogations, enough to know for dead certain that they were completely unproductive, fraudulent, and useless; writer Donna Cassata tepidly serves up the fact that Sen. McCain is currently (since 2009) the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, a qualification she concludes gives McCain an "unrivaled record on the issue."

But he was neither chairman nor ranking member when the interrogations took place; the Republican who was both is John Warner, now retired, who has not seconded McCain's pronunciamentos. No matter, the point is irrelevant anyway, as it's extremely unlikely that anybody in Congress, including Warner, was fully informed about the nature and extent of intelligence gleaned from those interrogations -- under the principle that 535 can keep a secret if 534 are bound and gagged.

How did McCain become such an authority, particularly on the left, on the morality and effectiveness of enhanced interrogation? Those now prattling about his "unrivaled record on the issue" utterly villified him during the 2008 campaign; what has since transmogrified him into the senator with absolute moral authority to speak on the issue of interrogations?

The cover story is that John McCain's Communist captors tortured him, so he has a unique understanding of such things. (The real story is that anybody casting calumnies on George W. Bush and other Republicans automatically has absolute moral authority.) But McCain's captors inflicted real, not simulated, torture upon him, for years during and after the Vietnam War. It's hardly comparable, but that's the truncheon they'll use to bash everyone who engaged in or supported the interrogations.

Yet McCain's personal connection is precisely what makes him a uniquely unreliable witness. It's clear that he was so physically traumatized and emotionally devastated by his ordeal that he cannot possibly come to any rational, unbiased conclusion about waterboarding or any other harsh interrogation technique; he's hag-ridden by nightmarish memories and chronic medical problems. You may as well ask a Pearl Harbor survivor what he thinks about the internment of Americans of Japanese descent during WWII.

I happen to like John McCain, and of course I have tremedous respect and admiration for what he went through and how he recovered (mostly) from it. But he has become, for perfectly understandable reasons, phobic on the subject of interrogations.

Phobias do not make a good basis for rational inquiry. An arachnophobe is terrified of a Brazilian wandering spider or a Chilean recluse, two of the most deadly arachnids; but he's equally terrified of a harmless daddy longlegs.

On policy, I very much like McCain's position on spending and taxes; I mostly like his position on immigration (though I still want to know exactly how he proposes to reform the legal immigration system); and he was of course the first major Republican to begin calling for a counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq. On the other hand, his role in the "Gang of 14" constituted an appalling attack on constitutionalism and judicial restraint; his other phobia about campaign fund raising led directly to an attack on freedom of speech; and his penchant for poking his finger in the GOP's eye at every opportunity may well have contributed not only to the election of Barack H. Obama in 2008 but even the Democrats' recapture of Congress in 2006.

I had no difficulty voting for McCain in the 2008 general election against Senator B.O., and I would have had just as little difficulty voting for him against Hillary "Fist Lady" Clinton. But on the subject of interrogating unlawful combatants for intelligence purposes, McCain is so blind, so deadly blind, that I believe he should simply recuse himself from that entire subject. He does his country far more harm than good on that issue.

John McCain has become a man behind his time. It happens to most folks, if they live long enough; but people who have been, in their lives, powerful mover-shakers and very important personae cling to relevancy as feverishly as they cling to life itself. In practice, this usually takes the form of railing against all that has changed in the world since their own opinions and understandings hardened into concrete, umpty-ump years ago.

McCain understood very, very well the world of the Cold War and Vietnam, of mechanical and electronic marvels, of an economy rooted in Alvin Toffler's second wave of industrial civilization. But there his personal "theory of everything" froze; and the lightspeed changes since then -- insurgency/counterinsurgency warfare, the microprocessor and biogenetic-engineering revolutions, and an economy increasingly based upon information and microcurrents rather than plugboards and manufactories -- confuse, enrage, elude, and frighten him.

He is a great politician -- for 1985. Alas, it's always 1985 for John Sidney McCain III.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 15, 2011, at the time of 8:00 PM | Comments (6)

September 1, 2010

Through a Lens Darkly

Lawn Forcement , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

In a post published today on Patterico's Pontifications, Patterico highlights a pair of news stories that seem at sixes and sevens. Both relate to the two Moslem immigrants from Yemen to the United States who were arrested in the Amsterdam airport and charged with plotting a terrorist attack... but one story says the two were actually friends, while the other says they were complete strangers -- at least according to unnamed U.S. government officials. ("The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation.")

Detroit News:

Both of the detained men are friends who lived and worked in Dearborn [Michigan], said Imad Hamad of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The al Soofi and al Murisi families are prominent within the Yemeni-American community in Dearborn, Hamad said. reprinting an AP story:

The two men arrested in Amsterdam -- both traveling to Yemen -- did not know each other and were not traveling together, a U.S. government official said.

The point most important to the investigation is whether the two were connected; because if they didn't even know each other, they clearly weren't joined in a conspiracy to blow up planes, and this flight could not have been the "dry run" that many believe it may have been, including police in the Netherlands.

But the salient point to me is the simple fact that one story said the two were "friends who lived and worked in Dearborn" -- and relied upon Imad Hamad, who appears to be local to Dearborn, from the way he speaks of their neighbors; while the other that said they "did not know each other" -- and its source was a pair of anonymous federal officials, presumably associated with the FBI, which is conducting the probe.

Patterico goes on to say, "Who ya gonna believe? I think you know where I stand." But I'm less interested in the metaphysical truth of the terrorism allegation here -- any prosecution would likely occur in the Netherlands -- than I am in the epistemology of terrorist law enforcement. How does the FBI purport to know that the two are strangers to each other?

I'm not a philosopher, but I understand that classical philosophy is divided into three broad areas of study: metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. (Though with modern philosophy being taken over by psychology and deconstructionism, I have no idea whether anyone else still uses these concepts -- save perhaps in an "archeology of philosophy" class.) Very roughly and glibly put, I define them this way:

  • Metaphysics: What we know.
  • Epistemology: How we know what we know.
  • Ethics: What we do about what we know.

Most people seem to focus on ethics; most of the rest appear lost in metaphysics. But I've always been fascinated by how we "know" what we know -- or think we know; how do we try to answer Pontius Pilate's famous question, "What is truth?"

Problems abound everywhere. First, we must find evidence, which may require a lot of digging. Where is it? Who's got the evidence, and will he tell us?

Next, all that digging will invariably unearth conflicting evidence; how do we reconcile it when (as in this pair of stories) some evidence says one thing, while other evidence says the polar opposite?

Then the third problem: How much of the evidence can we believe? People lie, people forget, people misunderstand or misremember. People do all of the above when they write books, produce documentaries, or publish blogposts, as well. So who is persuasive, and why?

Finally, once we've found as much evidence as we can, and once we've reconciled the contradicitons as best we may, how can we put what's left into a narrative, a story that tells us what happened before, what's happening now, and what's likely to happen in the future?

But even when we've surmounted these general obstacles, there is another and larger hurdle to overcome: the filtering effects of ideology, expectation, face saving, faction, and interest.

  • Ideology: Your belief system can determine what you can and cannot accept; for example, a person who, for deeply religious reasons, believes biological evolution doesn't happen will tend to disbelieve any scientific evidence supporting it. Similarly, a devout environmentalist may be ideologically incapable of considering evidence that global warming is natural and has many positive and benign effects.
  • Expectation: The expression "seeing is believing" has it exactly backwards; it's more accurate to say believing is seeing. That is, we all tend to see what we expect to see.

    In the one psych class I took, we were briefly shown a drawing of a subway scene, then asked to write down everything we remembered. One mini scene was an angry encounter in one part of the car between a white and a black man; the white guy held a straight razor in his hand -- not threatening, just holding. Yet more than three quarters of the (very large) class "remembered" the black man holding the razor -- and remembered him threatening the white man with it.

    The misremembering seemed evenly divided among Left and Right in that class. Expectation can easily color (sorry!) one's perception and memory... we all tend to remember things, not as they happened, but as they should have happened.

  • Face saving: Human beings don't like being embarassed or humiliated, and they will often remember things happening differently to avoid such painfulness. For example, if you were the guy who thought James Joyce wrote "Trees," and the other guy mocked you, then a month later, you might confabulate a memory where you were the one who correctly identified the author as Joyce Kilmer, and it was the other idiot who thought it was James Joyce!
  • Faction: If you are a member of a political, business, social, or other faction that vehemently argues for one side of a contentious issue, you may have a very hard time even understanding the other side's evidence, let alone acknowledging it. This is true even if you, yourself don't particularly care about that issue; it's an important issue for your "side," and you identify with that side.
  • Interest: If you have a financial or other personal interest in one particular side of an issue, you might not be trustworthy on that point; you may even lie to yourself! For example, if you have a huge investment in a company that sells carbon allowances, you may very well be incapable of fairly evaluating arguments against anthropogenic global climate change. For the same reason, trial lawyers can't see any benefit in tort reform, while even conservative politicians tend to drift into supporting more government control (they "grow in office"), thus giving themselves more power.

Now that we have the rhetorical tools we need, we can get to the point of this post... at last!

Let's assume that Imad Hamad either lives in Dearborn or knows many people who do, so he would actually know whether Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi and Hezem al Murisi were in fact friends. I suppose Hamad could have some obscure reason why he would either lie about it or be unable to imagine the two not being friends, but I confess I cannot think of any. Why would ideology, expectation, embarassment, faction, or interest hinge on whether those two were friends or strangers to each other?

But let's look at the other side: Members of the administration of Barack H. Obama have many reasons why they really, really wouldn't want to admit (even to themselves!) that this might have been a dry run for a terrorist attack, even if their own evidence implies it:

  • The ideology of the Obamunists is that terrorism against the United States was caused by America's own wretched actions -- invading Moslem countries to steal oil, bullying the world, and of course, supporting those Zionist squatters in Palestine. Heck, the president won't even say the word "terrorism;" such events are just "man-caused disasters." Surely anything they do to us, we richly deserved!
  • The expectation of the administration is that the election of Barack Hussein Obama, coupled with the wonderfully pro-Moslem and pro-Arab policies he has put into place, will absolutely resolve the "miscommunication" that led to all this violence (in the previous administration). But if guys named Mohamed are still anxious to attack America, then that means... But no, that just can't be.
  • And think how embarassing to have a domestic terrorist attack while B.O. was president! Especially two or three years into his presidency, not eight months, as with George W. Bush. The One would never live it down.
  • Too, his own ultra-liberal-verging-on-socialist party is absolutely committed to the idea that all we need is diplomacy. They're already looking askance at the Obama administration, what with not shutting down the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, continuing the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and talking about possibly still using Bushitler's military commissions. To remain in good standing with his evaporating political allies, Obama simply cannot prosecute people before they actually set off a suicide bomb or murder some Jews; that could only be racial profiling -- just like W. used to do.
  • Finally, the president must consider his own reelection prospects in 2012. If he ever admitted (even if he knows it's true) that radical Islamists continue to attempt massive terrorist attacks, it would immensely complicate his reelection strategy. What is Obama supposed to argue -- "Reelect me, and I swear I won't do as bad a job on national security as my first term?" His own power depends upon convincing voters that he has kept us safe, much better than did his predecessor. He cannot admit it's only sheer luck that we haven't been hit again, or he'll start seeing those "Miss me yet?" t-shirts on his own White House staff.

In other words, Imad Hamad has no obvious reason to lie or misremember that al Soofi and al Murisi are pals, no detectable "parsing filter;" but Obamunists have many filters pushing them to believe the pair were total strangers.

Which is yet one more reason to lean towards believing the Detroit News story over the Associated Press... at least until more and better data comes through.

That was my point, small though it may be. But hey, getting there is half the fun!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 1, 2010, at the time of 6:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 28, 2010

Brilliance at Midnight - the Dawn

Educational Elucidations , Kriminal Konspiracies , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

In the comments of the previous post, commenter BigLeeH asked how I would "go about pursuing the war of ideas which we both agree should be a central focus in our confrontation with radical Islamism." Here are some thoughts I've had recently on that very subject.

(Note that I only discuss here the war of ideas against the radical Islamists; we of course also need actual military action... but that is beyond the scope of this piece.)

I point out that every one of these suggestions was actually carried out during World War II, within the context of the 1930s and 40s, of course. In fact, the defenders of American values went even farther, making scores of movies that were pro-American, pro-allied (including pro-Soviet), anti-Nazi, and anti-Imperial Japanese; producing pro-America propaganda for radio and the stage; and enlisting the aid of popular entertainers world-wide. There is no reason that conservatives within the entertainment industry -- and there are some -- cannot do at least some of that; "What Man has done, Man can aspire to do again."

School's in forever

The most important task before launching into a war of ideas is to fully arm and equip our "soldiers" -- in this case, our soldiers comprise all Americans willing and able to defend Western values of individual liberty, property and Capitalism, freedom of speech and religion (not merely freedom of worship, as Obama would have it), actual rule of law, and governance by the consent of the governed. Bluntly, I mean educating the masses about the Grand Jihad, its goals, its methods, and the existential danger it poses.

There are, as we know, any number of excellent books which will give the reader a very good education in the goals, strategies, and history of what Andrew McCarthy calls the Grand Jihad or the Project, a.k.a. the Islamist Project (just to be more specific). I'm not going to give a suggested reading list, because I can't possibly survey the literature deeply enough to make even a fair pass at it. But I'm sure there are experts in the field, such as former federal prosecutor McCarthy, or Professor Bernard Lewis, or even a lowly journalist like Mark Steyn or Hugh Hewitt, who could promulgate a required and desired reading list.

Step 1 in the war of ideas is not to be a tabula rasa; let's assume you've all read enough to educate yourselves. We move along.

Alas, while such books are necessary, they won't do the heavy lifting of educating the American heartland. Not because Americans are too stupid to read (that's a canard of the Left), but because most Americans either don't have time to read, or have been so traumatized by being force-fed leftist propaganda in school that they never developed the habit of reading. Thus, a 300-page tome is unattractive and intimidating.

Too, young Americans prefer a more interactive, more human style of communication. I believe much of what we find out, despite the left-leaning news media's desperate attempts to suppress it (such as the true nature of ObamaCare, with its huge taxes, massive premium hikes, and rationing councils that amount to death panels), we find out just by talking to our friends. (I call this news distribution system "water-cooler samizdat.")

Americans are always news-hungry; but for the water-cooler samizdat to start spreading the news virally, it must have an input source somewhere.

Our ideological army must publish short, readable articles in surprising venues, from Readers Digest to People to McCall's to Newsweek to Popular Mechanics, even to Playboy... except for the last, all magazines you'd find in a doctor's office or in the lobby of your office building or in the waiting room of your automobile service center.

These articles should:

  • Keep the message simple and clear, using plain words.
  • Include necessary examples but not lard down the piece with too many anecdotes.
  • Be brutally honest -- not minimizing, but not exaggerating, either.
  • Focus on the ideology and how it encourages violence when necessary, but is even more dangerous when it's "mere" propaganda and sabotage.

So much for structure; what about substance? I think this should be the general outline of the articles, though obviously each one should deal with a different aspect or "take" on the central theme:

Radical Islamism has been at war with us not just since 9/11, not even just since 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini seized control in Iran, but at least since 1928, the year that Hassan al-Banna founded the Society of Muslim Brothers (the Muslim Brotherhood). Or perhaps since the mid-eighteenth century, when Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab began preaching what we now call Wahhabism. Or one could even trace the war's beginning all the way back to Mohammed himself at the turn of the 7th century.

The point is that they, the Islamists, have always known they were at war with us, the West; and they have acted accordingly. Contrariwise, we have known, then forgotten, then remembered, then forgotten again, then remembered again, then forgotten again... for literally centuries. 9/11 was an alarm klaxton warning us that we've allowed the enemy to breach the outer defenses. The threat persists; but too many Americans, and especially too many of our national leaders, have long since hit the snooze button, rolled over, and fallen back asleep.

But can anti-Islamists really gain a toehold in national magazines? Not all, but surely some.

A few of the obvious venues will be utterly hostile to "outing" radical Islamism. But credentialed journalists who oppose the Grand Jihad must keep trying; and of course, keep publishing in those magazines that are not actively hostile to Western values or active collaborators with radical Islamism.

(How does an ordinary writer get published in a magazine like the above? It's not easy; I've never been able to crack them. But one tactic is to team up with someone who has "credentials" in the national-security or Islamic studies field, someone who has the knowledge but not the ability to write a strong article. National magazines are much more likely to publish something by, say, a former senator and his co-writer, or a former CIA analyst and his co-writer, than by some no-name writer whose only nonfiction publication is the blog he writes. Of course, if the writer himself has such credentials, that's even better!)

Another good source of education is a guest speaker at a club, service organization, or church gathering. Such venues are often desperate for entertaining and motivational speakers on a wide variety of topics; so why not this one? Those of you who are good at public speaking could work up a nice 45-minute talk: Why the world seems suddenly upside-down -- and how it's been a long time coming.

The presidential "bully pulpit" is another powerful venue. Of course, Obama is highly unlikely to aid or abet this effort... but if this president won't do it, we must demand that the next president becomes the Great Communicator, like Ronald Reagan, about the threat of our time that rivals the threat of Communism that Reagan faced -- and defeated.

But there are plenty of mini-bully pulpits, many Republican and even some anti-jihad Democratic congressmen who can talk about the Islamist Project -- its origins, its agenda, the threat it poses, and what we can do about it -- during town-hall meetings, during interviews, and during their reelection campaigns. It shouldn't be too much of a distraction; national security is always an important "issue" for American voters.

Once Americans have a much better understanding of what we're up against and where to look for radical Islamist subversion of our system of government (for example, demands for "sharia law" in some section of an American city that happens to have a large Moslem population), they can denounce the idea, out the vermin who are pushing it, and largely neutralize the "soft jihad."

There's gotta be a law...!

And for the most part, there is.

It's long past time we start prosecuting (at the least) every member of the government, federal, state, and local, who knowingly leaks classified information, contributes money or effort to terrorist groups, or infiltrates vital agencies or departments with the intent to sabotage them. For too long, our policy has been to fret and dither but never actually file charges.

This stands in marked contrast with how we treat those caught spying, infiltrating, or sabotaging on behalf of foreign governments in past decades, such as the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, or a host of other hostiles. Why should covert agents for enemy ideologies like radical Islamism get a free pass?

We'll win some prosecutions and lose others; but even the losses, if well publicized, will serve to wake up Americans and other Westerners to the danger. And every prosecution will out another batch of deep-cover, enemy organizations and individuals; just as the Holy Land Foundation prosecution outed CAIR, the Council for American Islamic Relations, as an "unindicted co-conspirator" in the Grand Jihad.

More particularly, we need to find and expose all the "Major Hasans" who have infiltrated the military, the intelligence services, or the State Department; alas, I suspect there are hundreds of such (wide awake) sleeper agents in our midst.

At the very least, we can start with the loudest, most visible, and most astonishingly overt about their sympathies... as was Nidal Malik Hasan, who is charged with murdering thirteen of his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood and attempting to slay 32 others. His radical Islamism and America hatred was an open secret for years, but the Army did nothing substantial about him. And then he had his episode of "sudden" jihad syndrome. But in most cases, such explosions of violence are neither sudden nor surprising; such radicals generally cannot contain themselves for longer than a few minutes without outing themselves... if anyone's listening.

Let the Midnight Special shine a light on them

Similarly, whenever anti-Islamist government officials of any party, or any news organization that actually supports freedom of the press, obtains intelligence of some atrocity or infiltration or subversion in the West, even outside the United States, it should issue a press release or publish a story, respectively. In the first case, politicians should e-mail the press release to every newspaper, local or national news channel, and news radio show in the country. Many small-town newspapers love getting national press releases, because they can quickly write a story from it, getting some nice, international coverage without them having to pay reporters to hang out in Washington D.C. And Even the big metro papers and the network newsies find it hard to ignore forever a story that powerful Washington personalities are pushing hard.

Even if they write a story to try to refute or rebut the claim that Islamists are trying to subvert and destroy Western democracy, that would be better than completely ignoring it... which is what they do now, with nobody pushing back.

As a general rule, the best way to disrupt the infiltration and sabotage phase of the soft jihad is to drag it, writhing and screaming, into the light of day.

Invite the God of the West into the debate

Conservatives who are well educated on the subject of the Islamist Project, and who are members of a congregation, should encourage their pastors to begin giving sermons on the differences between the Judeo-Christian God and what He wants from Mankind -- and the radical Islamist version of Allah, and what he demands from Mankind. I daresay many more Americans get their worldview and moral compass from church or synagogue than from the rive-gauche news media, shocking as that may sound.

Again, it's vital not to exaggerate; we are not fighting a jihad against all of Islam. There are hundreds of millions of Moslems who reject the Islamist Project, who have undergone a quiet Enlightenment on their own, however ahistorical such moderating influences may be within Islam.

Of course, the Mediaeval Christian Church itself was militant, supremacist, totalitarian, and perfectly willing to slaughter those we now see as innocents, but who the Church damned at the time as heretics, infidels, Jews, witches, or sadly, sometimes simply people who owned property that some powerful clergyman coveted. Such hypocritical or intolerant behavior is, in fact, what led to the Judeo-Christian Enlightenment in the first place; and it can lead to the same rejectionism within Islam... though admittedly, Enlightenment thinkers had more to work with in Judeo-Christianity; neither Jesus nor Moses was a bitter, enraged, vengeful old man defined entirely by who and what he hated, rather that what he loved.

Still, the Reformation and the Enlightenment are precedents we should not discard. I don't believe there are many today who defend, say, the harsh sentences (including death by stoning) for seemingly trivial offenses in ancient Judaism; the violent excesses of the crusades; the expulsion of all Jews from Spain in 1492; the continent-wide Inquisition against witches in the fifteenth century; the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572; the brutal suppression of Catholics under Queen Elizabeth in the late sixteenth century, the seventeenth-century witch-mania among Protestant churches in the United States; or even such modern-day acts of extraordinary religious violence as the Mountain Meadows Massacre of more than a hundred peaceful settlers by the Mormons in 1857.

Yet today, neither the Catholic Church, nor the Protestant churches, nor any branch of Judaism, nor the Mormons engage in, condone, or even tolerate such violence and totalitarian control over the individual. They changed; they changed in the wink of an eye; and they changed much for the better.

But no one living in the earlier versions of those societies would have suspected such a change was about happen. It seemed to come out of nowhere; but reformation and englightenment typically do spring "ex-nihilio." There clearly is hope, and we must believe there is hope, that Islam too can shed its own history and become "just another religion."

Such change begins by dissidents drawing contrasts between the paradise the radicals promise -- and the Hell on Earth they actually deliver.

Finally, closer to home, Christian ministries must focus with an even greater intensity on converting black prison inmates to Christianity, to save them from being converted by the Nation of Islam instead. The combination of a violent life history, an unwillingness to live within the law, and a violent, jihadist ideology is the ideal incubator for terrorists, subversives, and saboteurs. Reform would be best; but even if they remain mere criminals, that's far better than becoming self-styled "soldiers of Allah."

"Good enough" is good enough

This list of suggestions is surely not inclusive, but we cannot wait for the perfect plan before we start to implement what we can do today. In fact, if we even followed half or a third of the obvious paths I suggest here, we'd be a heck of a lot better off, better armed, more vigilant, and we would make much harder targets than we do right now.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 28, 2010, at the time of 4:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 26, 2010

Brilliance at Midnight

Afghan Astonishments , Pakistan Perplexities , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

The take-away from the massive dumping of leaked U.S. military documents on WikiLeaks, documents related to the conduct and progress of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, is this: The putative "rift" between Islamist terrorists on the one hand, and radical Islamists who "reject terrorism" (at specific times and places) on the other hand, has nothing to do with any ultimate goal of Islamism.

The rift reflects only a difference of opinion about the precise strategies and tactics for achieving that goal. Islamist victory conditions are the same in both groups: a pure, radical Islamism dominant across the globe, with sharia the final law in every country.

This is, of course, the central thesis of Andrew McCarthy's seminal work, the Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America. But we see it played out in the carefully parsed response of the administration of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to the documentation, throughout the leaked papers, of cooperation between Pakistan officials and the Taliban... at the very time the former are supposed to be allied with the United States and NATO at war with the latter.

Note how carefully spokesmen dance around the actual accusation:

A senior ISI official, speaking on condition of anonymity under standard practice, sharply condemned the reports as “part of the malicious campaign to malign the spy organization” and said the ISI would “continue to eradicate the menace of terrorism with or without the help of the West.”

The unnamed official pointedly restricted the term "menace" to terrorism; but the danger is not terrorism but Islamism. The accusation against the ISI, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence in Pakistan, is not that they, themselves engage in "martyrdom operations" in Pakistan or Afghanistan; of course they don't (in general). Rather, the data-dump documents that the ISI especially, but other Pakistan government bodies as well, leak military intelligence like a sieve. Some of the leaks are simple incompetence; but others are due to corruption (bribery) or a radical ideology that deliberately aids and abets Islamist groups... including those who prematurely engage in terrorism at this time, before Pakistan has been sufficiently "Islamicized" to embrace the ideology of the Taliban.

And again:

Farhatullah Babar, the spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari, dismissed the reports and said that Pakistan remained “a part of a strategic alliance of the United States in the fight against terrorism....”

Mr. Babar questioned how Pakistan could possibly have the kind of connections to the Taliban that some of the reports suggest, asking if “those who are alleging that Pakistan is playing a double game are also asserting that President Zardari is presiding over an apparatus that is coordinating attacks on the general headquarters, mosques, shrines, schools and killing Pakistani citizens?”

Yes, I think we all agree that the current quasi-democratic, partially authoritarian regime in Pakistan believes it should remain in charge; consequently, it opposes terrorist attacks on "mosques, shrines, schools," and especially upon "the general headquarters" of Pakistan's military. But that isn't the question, is it?

Are elements of the ISI collaborating with the Taliban to bring about an Islamist revolution in Pakistan? That is the real question, and it remains unanswered by the Zardari administration.

Such a revolution needn't include terrorism; for example, if Zardari himself fully embraced Islamism and enacted sharia law, overturning what democracy Pakistan still possesses and joining "the Project" -- but if he declared himself the supreme Taliban leader in Pakistan -- that would still constitute an "Islamist revolution," without firing a shot. And it would be just as catastrophic for America and the rest of the West as a bloody insurrection or coup d'état.

Terrorism is not the enemy; it is a tactic of the enemy, one bolt in an entire quiver of bolts. A "global war against terrorism" has no meaning; but surely we can understand and support a war against radical Islamism. (To highlight this point, I am changing the category formerly known as "the War Against the Iran/al-Qaeda Axis" -- too limiting! -- to "the War Against Radical Islamism.")

This specifically includes not only those who want to advance Islamist ideas by terrorism but also those, like the Muslim Brotherhood, who share that goal but believe, at this time in history, that the Islamist Project is best advanced by propaganda, sabotage, bribery, "democratically" electing a totalitarian government (which then "pulls the ladder up" behind it)... and only sometimes by terrorism and bloody revolution.

Thus the surety we need is that Pakistan rejects the Islamist Project, and all it comprises:

  • Dominance -- Islam is dominant over all the world; infidels worldwide must pay the special tax and be treated as inferior beings.
  • Purity -- Islam is the Islam of Mohammed and his original followers; no reformation, no enlightenment, containing no Western ideas of individual liberty, democracy, or separation of religion and State.
  • Completeness -- Sharia is the entire law in every country and Islam the entire morality.
  • Hegemony -- the "true" Caliphate is restored to its rightful place as supreme ruler of the world.

If highly placed individuals within Pakistan (or Afghanistan) still support any element of the Project, then those individuals are our enemies, regardless of whether they believe terrorism is the best route to advance the Project at this time, in that particular place; and they should be treated as enemies by anyone who purports to reject radical Islamism.

The clever way found by representatives of Pakistan to ignore the implication that high-ranking government and intelligence officials either support the ideology of radical Islamism, or are at least willing to ally with them (for money, for power), and tendentiously redefine the question to focus only on the straw man of direct ISI involvement in terrorist attacks upon themselves, should make us very nervous indeed.

Why can't Pakistani officials, or President Zardari himself, just come right out and denounce the ideology of the Taliban? While it's important what tactics they use to advance that ideology, the most important factor is radical Islamism itself.

But don't look for the current American administration of Barack H. Obama to demand an answer; it has already ruled out ideology as a motivator of "Man-caused disaster" in the first place (an act of "Willful Blindness"). We cannot possibly win the war until and unless we are willing to confront the real enemy -- radical Islamists -- and win the war of ideas.

There are many ways to win a war of ideas or ideologies; but our core strategy is the same as that of the Islamists: conversion. We must convert the unaligned and even the enemy -- either to another religion entirely (Christianity, perhaps), or at least to a non-radicalized version of Islam.

One path to conversion is to prove that our Western "culture of life" leads to a better life than the Islamists' cult of death. Another is to show that the West is the "strong horse;" this plays directly into the Arab cultural tendency to gravitate to the winning side in any conflict. But in order to convert, we need a Borg-like ideology that is powerful and seductive, against which "resistance is futile."

Fortunately, we have a couple ready to hand: Evangelical Christianity is winning that war in Africa, for example, as Animists and even Moslems on that continent are converting in mass numbers to an African Christianity that is both Western in outlook and native in local implementation.

Too, our own American ideology of individual liberty, Capitalism, rule of law, separation of religion and State (while maintaining the connection between religion and culture), and democratic governance by the consent of the governed is itself powerful and awesome, leading to a staggering improvement in human life and meaning, and to a strength that has made the still-young America the most powerful nation on Earth. (Even after eighteen months of Obamunism!)

But you can't surrender your way to victory; we must engage on the most important front -- the ideological one.

That's how our Founders won the Revolutionary War, how the North won the Civil War, and how the Democratic West won World War II and the Cold War... they fought and won the war of ideas. Yet by allowing the multi-culti "elite" to jettison the entire intellectual arsenal of liberty, we have disarmed ourselves in what could be an existential armageddon.

So to hell with taking back "the night;" it's long past time for real America to recapture the light of the Western day.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 26, 2010, at the time of 6:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 28, 2010

Seriouser and Curiouser

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Three days ago, we found occasion to praise an Obamic appointee -- Army Major General Robert Harding (ret.), who Barack H. Obama had named to head the Transportation Security Agency (TSA). We praised him for one courageous (and vital) stand he took, during the Senate hearings, in favor of behavioral profiling of passengers, specifically along the Israeli model.

But yesterday, Gen. Harding abruptly withdrew his nomination... and the question is -- why?

Harding has essayed to answer that puzzlement, but his answer raises too many questions of its own to be blithely accepted as the final word. Gen. Harding says that he withdrew because he worked for a military-contracting company that had to return a couple of million dollars in charges to the American government, and he feared this would kill his confirmation:

Harding had extensive intelligence experience that Obama hoped to tap in shoring up airport screening and other anti-terrorism transportation fronts. He retired from the Army in 2001, ending a three-decade career during which he served as the Defense Department's top human intelligence officer, managing a $1 billion intelligence collection program....

Questions arose after his nomination about a contract his company had with the government to provide interrogators in Iraq. After the government ended the contract early, in 2004, Harding Security Associates claimed more money from termination of the contract than the Defense Department's inspector general said it was entitled to get. The firm refunded $1.8 million of that money in a 2008 settlement with the Defense Intelligence Agency.

But this is ridiculous. First, everyone on Capitol Hill has known about this company and the overcharge for two years; it certainly was no secret! The only folks who objected and grilled him over it were the Republicans -- and the odds that all 41 of them would have banded together on this trivial issue to block Harding's appointment to head up TSA are infinitesimal. Some senator -- probably Lindsey Graham (R-SC, 82%) or one of the Maine Twins (Sens. Susan Collins, 20%, and Olympia Snowe, 12%) would have broken ranks.

Second, there's that curious line in the above quotation I highlighted above: If anybody was to object to Harding's contracting, it would surely be the Democrats upset over him providing "interrogators in Iraq," rather than the Republicans -- supposedly unalterably opposed to allowing a former DoD contractor to head up a security agency, merely because the company charged the feds more than the feds themselves thought propitious?

Since when has the GOP seriously objected to higher than expected defense outlays? If overcharging were the big issue, Republicans would have demanded cancellation of every DoD contract since the days of Abraham Lincoln.

Finally, there is the dead body on the tennis court: Everybody tries to play around it, but nobody can think of anything else. Barack Obama himself has in the past denounced "profiling," with the traditional (and chowder-headed) slurring of "behavioral profiling" with "racial profiling." Worse, Harding explicitly based his proposed changes on "the Israeli model;" and I think it well established by now that the only country on Earth that the B.O. administration hates worse than Great Britain is the Jewish state, Israel.

Again, what objection would Republicans have to behavioral profiling? Yet we know the left regularly denounces Israel for its profiling, carefully explaining that "behavior" is code for those darned Jews to "racially profile" Palestinians and other Arabs. Has the Left suddenly found a soft spot in its heart for effective security against terrorist attack, after more than a decade of frantically attacking any and all such security measures... and even sucking up to, allying with, and lionizing those selfsame terrorist apologists, from Edward Said to Sami al-Arian to Lynne Stewart?

With, I admit, no hard evidence to support my gut feeling, I nevertheless believe that the real reason Harding "voluntarily" withdrew was that he was told in no uncertain terms, even if it was by Democratic code, that his recent comments on profiling, coupled with his "complicity" with the "war criminals" in the despised George W. Bush administration was a deal-killer with a sufficiency of liberals who, joined with most Republicans, would easily top 41 hard votes against cloture.

I can't prove it, but it's the only reason that seems to make sense. Take it for what it's worth.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 28, 2010, at the time of 3:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 24, 2010

Stop the Presses! Obama Nominee Lets Slip Some Common Sense

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

I admit to some prejudice -- or postjudice, actually -- against the administration of Barack H. Obama; though I plead that I have some just cause to be cynical. Still, I'm not so far gone that I fail to note when someone nominated by Obama to a position of responsibility hauls off and does something right:

President Barack Obama's nominee to oversee security at U.S. airports said on Tuesday he wants to shift screening closer to the Israeli model to include more behavior detection in a bid to thwart terrorism plots.

Retired Major General Robert Harding was nominated earlier this month to head the Transportation Security Administration after serving more than three decades in the military, including a stint as deputy to the Army's chief of intelligence and director for operations in the Defense Intelligence Agency....

Harding said that while the Israeli security system was smaller, it offered a blueprint for trying to thwart terrorism plots in the aviation system, which has remained a target for militant groups like al Qaeda.

"We should move even closer to an Israeli model where there's more engagement with passengers," Harding told the Senate Commerce Committee that is considering his nomination. "I think that increases the layers and pushes the layers out."

Well duh. If President George W. Bush hadn't have named Norman Mineta, a Democrat, Secretary of Transportation, we could have had behavioral profiling at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) years ago, back when it was created in November 2001. But during World War II, Mineta -- of Japanese ancestory -- had been held, as a child along with his family, in the Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming... where they took his baseball bat away. Therefore, he never allowed any kind of profiling in the TSA, including behavioral profiling.

No, I don't understand it either.

Still and all, late is better than never; I haven't studied the career of "Retired Major General Robert Harding," but I applaud him for getting at least one point right! I hope whoever finally heads up the TSA is equally adamant that we need to start profiling the behavior of potential passengers at airports, and on buses, boats, and trains.

As usual, there is much we can learn from the unique but still exemplary Israeli experience.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 24, 2010, at the time of 12:31 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 30, 2009

Withdrawing from Afghanistan, Plus Future Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Pinch Me, I'm Dreaming

Afghan Astonishments , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Obama Nation , Pakistan Perplexities , Terrorism Intelligence , Terrorist Attacks , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

I just heard Bill Kristol on the Hugh Hewitt show dropping a couple of political bombshells:

  1. First, Kristol now believes for the first time that President Barack H. Obama is paving the groundwork for rejecting Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recommendation of a COIN strategy for Afghanistan, including increasing troop levels.

Note that it was the Obamacle Himself who appointed McChrystal to head up his present commands, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A), just three months ago; and he it was who ordered McChrystal to undertake a complete review of the Afghanistan policy.

I suspect Obama expected McChrystal to recommend declaring defeat and pulling out. But in response to Obama's order, McChrystal released a 66-page report to continuing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that called for significantly increasing troop levels there and redeploying the force in a counterinsurgency mode, similar to Iraq.

Ever since, as several bloggers have argued (notably John Hinderaker at Power Line), Obama has acted like a man who deeply regrets having picked an actual fighting general in the first place -- and who wants to prepare the American people for the complete rejection of his own appointee's report, in favor of a phased withdrawal from "the war we should be fighting," as some guy named Barack Obama called it during the campaign (in contrast to Iraq, the war we were supposed to lose, one presumes).

  1. Second, and far more shocking, is some political intel that Kristol received from a person who is in "cose contact" with top Defense officials: That holdover George W. Bush Defense Secretary Bob Gates will be asked by Obama to step down at the end of the year... and that Obama plans to name former senator Chuck Hagel, who never met a war he didn't want us to withdraw from, as his new Secretary of Retreat and Defeat.

Hagel was an infantry grunt in Vietnam for two years, leaving shortly after the Tet Offensive; that experience seems to have colored his attitude towards all subsequent conflicts: He sometimes votes for them (as for example the Iraq war); but as soon as the going gets tough, Hagel demands an immediate and aggressive surrender.

  • He was one of only four Republicans in July 2007 who voted in favor of cloture on a bill to force withdrawal from Iraq starting 120 days from that vote; the other three were Olympia Snowe (ME, 12%), Susan Collins (ME, 20%), and Gordon Smith of Oregon, liberals all.
  • In railing against the Iraq COIN strategy of Gen. David Petraeus, Hagel called it "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out." (I don't recall Hagel ever issuing an apology, or even a statement, after the Petraeus strategy proved decisive in our victory in Iraq.)
  • Speaking about Israeli's incursion into Lebanon to stop Hezbollah's rocket attacks on their northern cities, Hagel blurted out:

    "The sickening slaughter on both sides must end and it must end now.... President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire. This madness must stop."...

    "How do we realistically believe that a continuation of the systematic destruction of an American friend -- the country and people of Lebanon -- is going to enhance America's image and give us the trust and credibility to lead a lasting and sustained peace effort in the Middle East?" asked Hagel, the No. 2 Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Yes, the perfect man to defend America -- Barack Obama style. I can just picture the furious and manly letters of strong disapproval Hagel will shoot off whenever some dictator funds and gives safe haven to a terrorist group while they blow up another American embassy.

Currently, Chuck Hagel is Chairman of the Board of the Atlantic Council, a foreign-policy think tank cum policy advocacy group that appears to lean heavily towards diplomacy above everything -- talking loudly and forgetting to bring any stick at all, big or small. (E.g., its International Advisory Board is headed by Brent Scowcroft and includes Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Edelman, Lawrence H. Summers, and a huge inflation of bankers and CEOs of vast multinational corporations.)

Hagel replaced outgoing Chairman Jim Jones, who was tapped to serve as Obama's National Security Advisor; Jones was last seen offering what we called "the weirdest explanation to date for cancelling the long-range ballistic-missile defense system in Eastern Europe -- while simultaneously betraying our allies, Poland and the Czech Republic."

Since the Jim Jones appointment as security sock puppet worked out so well for Obama, it certainly seems plausible that he would go back to the same well to draw out a bucketful of Defense Secretary. Admittedly, Kristol just lost his father, Irving Kristol; but it was hardly the sort of shocking or unanticipated demise that might throw William Kristol into a blue funk and darken his normal optimism.

The threatened appointment of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense would be catastrophic for the war efforts, all of them: Iraq, Afghanistan, the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis, intelligence gathering, interrogations, dealing with Pakistan, North Korea, China, Russia... and of course, Hagel would be a disaster for Israel, as he would almost certainly back Obama to the hilt in the latter's quest to force Israel back to the indefensible borders of the pre-Six Day War era. (In exchange for the Palestinian's promise that they might seriously consider deciding whether or not to recognize Israel sometime in the distant and not very likely future.)

Appointing Hagel would seriously diminish our ability to protect our allies or even defend ourselves, and in general would signal the end of American power and leadership in the world, at least for a while (say until 2013). Therefore, I conclude that Obama is already plotting to make the appointment.

I must also conclude that the Senate will swiftly approve the nominee; Hagel was once one of them... therefore, "comity of the Senate" and all that, Republicans will probably support him, though he rarely supported them while in that august body.

And there you have it, your recommended minimum daily allowance of political pessimism and national-defense despair.

Cross-posted (of course) to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 30, 2009, at the time of 5:39 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 24, 2009

The War Against the War Against Terrorism

CIA CYA , Liberal Lunacy , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

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.

BREAKING UPDATE: ABC reports that current CIA Director (and former liberal California congressman) Leon Panetta was so enraged by the Holder decision that he threatened to resign; today, both the White House and Panetta's office deny the published reports.

There are only three possible outcomes to such an investigation:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 24, 2009, at the time of 7:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 12, 2009

No, America, There Ain't No Sanity Clause...

CIA CYA , Liberal Lunacy , Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

...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...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 12, 2009, at the time of 6:32 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 24, 2009

Inactions Have Consequences

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Oh, the dangers of sloth!

I wrote the post below at about 3:15 pm Saturday; but then I got lazy and let it sit and ferment, without getting back to it, editing and posting, until now. Alas, in the meanwhile, GW at Wolf Howling published his own take on the same story. As an object lesson of the necessity of action, action, action on the part of bloggers, please read this post (published second) first, and then read the Wolf Howling post (published first) second!



So the courts weighed in, seizing for themselves the power to wage war -- including the disposition of POWs and detainees and the collection and analysis of wartime intelligence -- and essentially ruled that henceforth, military actions would be subject to much the same rules as ordinary criminal investigations.

Thus, we can no longer hold POWs without trial; we can no longer interrogate unlawful combatants (notwithstanding long-standing standards derived from treaties); we can no longer try them by military commissions; and however we do try them, we must show them (and their terrorist attorneys) all relevant classified information and allow them to subpoena every person involved in their capture, at all levels... even to yanking top military commanders from the front lines to scurry back to the United States, be deposed, and testify under oath. (The unstated implication is that if our soldiers didn't read the terrorists their rights during capture, the terrorist must be kicked loose under the Miranda rule.)

Then came Barack H. Obama, who has reacted to this perplexing array of new court demands in his customary way: by not letting the "crisis" go to waste, using the occasion to hamstring our war effort even further, enunciating an absurdist panoply of new rights for terrorist detainees that go beyond even what the courts have enunciated... while his aides work desperately in the background, trying to mitigate their boss's reckless pronunciamentos by policies that strikingly resemble the "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity" of the Bush administration. Thus, as Ted Kaczynski might put it, Obama eats his cake and has it too.

The net effect is that we simply can no longer capture, hold, and interrogate the shadowy operatives, spies, and infiltrators who spurn the laws of war, wage war upon America, and share a belly laugh at the expense of our criminal justice system: We are bound like Gulliver in Lilluput by a thousand tiny threads of asinine rulings by tiny-minded judges -- and ten thousand leftist advocates, in and out of the administration, hoping to achieve their life goal of completely disarming the United States in the midst of an existential war.

Want evidence? Let's turn to that right-wing extremist organization, the New York Times:

The United States is now relying heavily on foreign intelligence services to capture, interrogate and detain all but the highest-level terrorist suspects seized outside the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to current and former American government officials....

The current approach, which began in the last two years of the Bush administration and has gained momentum under Mr. Obama, is driven in part by court rulings and policy changes that have closed the secret prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency, and all but ended the transfer of prisoners from outside Iraq and Afghanistan to American military prisons.

We are now forced almost entirely to outsource terrorist detention and interrogation, leaving us at the mercy of countries like Pakistan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia for everything we learn about al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, or any other multinational terrorist organization hell-bent on destroying America. Court rulings -- and especially the current administration's tendentious overreaction to those rulings, and its feigned outrage over "crimes against humanity" committed by the previous administration (like putting Zubaydah in a box with -- a caterpillar; will Obama secretly approve that hellish torture as well?) -- have made it impossible for us to prosecute a major part of the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis ourselves. Instead, we leave it to our dubious "allies"... and are forced to sit with a begging bowl, hoping for whatever scraps of intelligence (or propaganda) they choose to give us.

Yet even that is not humiliating enough for Obama's activist friends:

Human rights advocates say that relying on foreign governments to hold and question terrorist suspects could carry significant risks. It could increase the potential for abuse at the hands of foreign interrogators and could also yield bad intelligence, they say.

The fate of many terrorist suspects whom the Bush administration sent to foreign countries remains uncertain. One suspect, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who was captured by the C.I.A. in late 2001 and sent to Libya, was recently reported to have died there in Libyan custody.

“As a practical matter you have to rely on partner governments, so the focus should be on pressing and assisting those governments to handle those cases professionally,” said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.

Anyone taking bets on how long it will be before the Supreme Court, with swinging Justice Anthony Kennedy as the tie-breaker, rules that it violates habeas corpus for the CIA even to receive intelligence from other agencies -- unless we can guarantee beyond a reasonable doubt that those Middle Eastern and South Asian intelligence services extend the full protections of the American Constitution to terrorist detainees that they capture and they interrogate?

After all, why not? In for a penny, in for a sheep.


We have here two different kinds of inaction -- America's inaction in its own defense, in its own war, against the devourers of civilization; and Big Lizard's inaction in actually publishing posts, instead of leaving them languishing, twisting slowly, slowly in the wind -- each with its own unpleasant consequences: the first dire, the second droll. Ouch again.

As usual, Wolf Howling has a cool picture perfectly encapsulating the theme. I wish I had the gumption (and access to such a wonderful library of graphic images) to do the same!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 24, 2009, at the time of 10:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 10, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

Obama Nation , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

And now, the Louse of Saud, Chas W. Freeman, has withdrawn himself from consideration as Chairman of the National Intelligence Committee.

...Does this administration now hold a national record for most number of cabinet and sub-cabinet appointees forced out of consideration in the shortest period of time?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 10, 2009, at the time of 3:11 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 25, 2009

The Louse of Saud

Islamarama , Mysterious Orient , Palestinian Perils and Pratfalls , Terrorism Intelligence , Unuseful Idiots
Hatched by Dafydd

Foreign Policy magazine announced last week that a fellow named Chas W. Freeman, current (or former) president of the Middle East Policy Council (MEPC), will be President Barack H. Obama's pick to chair the National Intelligence Council, the lead group in creating the National Intelligence Estimates that drive policy on intelligence issues. The NIC reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), currently Dennis Blair; it is not an inconsequential group within the intelligence community.

Who is Chas W. Freeman, jr.?

He is a former ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the Clinton presidency. He serves on the MEPC with such luminaries as George McGovern, top executives from Boeing, ExxonMobil, and the Carlyle Group -- all of which have multibillion-dollar investments in Saudi Arabia -- a CIA consultant, and a Palestinian immigrant named Talat Othman, who came to our attention most recently in 2002, when he vigorously protested against the FBI raids of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, created in 1981 by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Freeman may not be the best fit for this critical job, however:

  • The MEPC, hence Freeman himself, is funded by the House of Saud to lobby on behalf of the Kingdom, which it does frequently in its journal, Middle East Policy.
  • Chas Freeman is of the opinion that China's real sin in dealing with the demonstators at Tiananmen Square was that they were too lenient and "overly cautious": "[T]he truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud, rather than -- as would have been both wise and efficacious -- to intervene with force when all other measures had failed to restore domestic tranquility to Beijing and other major urban centers in China."

    To put it bluntly, Freeman is an authoritarian crank who believes that "domestic tranquility" is more important that freedom of speech.

  • Freeman and the MEPC were the first in America to publish the anti-Israel and antisemitic screed "the Israel Lobby" by Professors Walt and Mearsheimer; even one of Freeman's supporters, David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy magazine, calls that paper "frail intellectual framework" and a "jihad" against American support of Israel.

    Here is Freeman enthusing, crowing even, about his accomplishment in bringing this frail framework to American readers (from an interview with the Saudi-US Relations Information Service, SUSRIS): "Our Fall issue will contain a revised, updated, and unabridged version of the controversial paper by Professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt on "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy." No one else in the United States has dared to publish this article, given the political penalties that the Lobby imposes on those who criticize it. So we continue to do important things that are not done by anybody else, which I think fill some gaps."

The inner Freeman

But it's not simply that Freeman sucks up to Red China and King Abdullah of the House of Saud and opposes American support for Israel; he opposes Israel itself, seeing it as the source of all problems in the Middle East.

The MEPC website posts a speech Freeman gave to the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs in 2007; the spech concludes:

[T]he problem of terrorism that now bedevils us has its origins in one region -- the Middle East. To end this terrorism we must address the issues in the region that give rise to it.

Principal among these is the brutal oppression of the Palestinians by an Israeli occupation that is about to mark its fortieth anniversary and shows no sign of ending. Arab identification with Palestinian suffering, once variable in its intensity, is now total. American identification with Israeli policy has also become total. Those in the region and beyond it who detest Israeli behavior, which is to say almost everyone, now naturally extend their loathing to Americans. This has had the effect of universalizing anti-Americanism, legitimizing radical Islamism, and gaining Iran a foothold among Sunni as well as Shiite Arabs. For its part, Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians; it strives instead to pacify them. Palestinian retaliation against this policy is as likely to be directed against Israel's American backers as against Israel itself. Under the circumstances, such retaliation -- whatever form it takes -- will have the support or at least the sympathy of most people in the region and many outside it. This makes the long-term escalation of terrorism against the United States a certainty, not a matter of conjecture.

The Palestine problem cannot be solved by the use of force; it requires much more than the diplomacy-free foreign policy we have practiced since 9/11. Israel is not only not managing this problem; it is severely aggravating it. Denial born of political correctness will not cure this fact. Israel has shown -- not surprisingly -- that, if we offer nothing but unquestioning support and political protection for whatever it does, it will feel no incentive to pay attention to either our interests or our advice. Hamas is showing that if we offer it nothing but unreasoning hostility and condemnation, it will only stiffen its position and seek allies among our enemies. In both cases, we forfeit our influence for no gain.

There will be no negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians, no peace, and no reconciliation between them -- and there will be no reduction in anti-American terrorism -- until we have the courage to act on our interests. These are not the same as those of any party in the region, including Israel, and we must talk with all parties, whatever we think of them or their means of struggle. Refusal to reason with those whose actions threaten injury to oneself, one's friends, and one's interests is foolish, feckless, and self-defeating. That is why it is past time for an active and honest discussion with both Israel and the government Palestinians have elected, which -- in an irony that escapes few abroad -- is the only democratically elected government in the Arab world.

Remember, this speech was given in 2007 -- after several successive democratic elections in Iraq brought that government to power. Remember also that, while Hamas may have been elected, those elections were hardly fair and certainly not free... unless we imagine that gangland assassinations of one's political opponents creates no "fear factor" among those opponents' supporters.

So let's sum this up:

  1. Israel's "occupation" of Palestine is responsible for all the terrorism launched against the United States (which would be news to Osama bin Laden, who thought it was our presence on the holy soil of Saudi Arabia);
  2. Israel also controls American policy (Freeman has wholly absorbed the Walt/Mearsheimer thesis of the "Israel Lobby," through which the Jews pull the puppet strings of the world;
  3. That's why everybody hates America and cheers on Islamic terrorism;
  4. Israel is unreformable and must be destroyed;
  5. Hamas is Democratic, honest, and reasonable, and is only responding in a reasonable way to our "unreasoning hostility and condemnation," which is forced upon us by our Israeli puppeteers.
  6. (And by omission, Iraq is an undemocratic puppet government of the United States -- hence a grandpuppet of Israel.)

Mr. Freeman's Israel delenda est rant is not a one-shot; here he is in 2005, discussing (what else?) the "Israeli occupation":

[A]s long as such Israeli violence against Palestinians continues, it is utterly unrealistic to expect that Palestinians will stand down from violent resistance and retaliation against Israelis.

I certainly agree with that last point! But I draw my concurrance more from the nature of Palestinian and Arab mass psychosis than from the mad idea that Israel should commit national suicide so that people will think well of the Jews.

Freeman does not confine his hatred to Israel; he sees not only Israel's "American backers" as enemies to be reviled, but America itself; we, he says, are to blame for all the troubles in Iraq... Iraq was, one presumes, a calm and peaceful place -- before Americans mindlessly invaded:

In Iraq, the problem is not now – if it ever was – weapons of mass destruction, bad government, or even terrorism; it is the occupation. The occupation generates the very phenomena it was intended to cure. In that respect, the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq has come to have much in common with the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. In Iraq, as in Palestine, ending the occupation is the prerequisite for reversing the growth of terrorism and restoring peace.

Like Solla Sollew, there were no problems -- or at least very few -- in Iraq before we inexplicably invaded the peaceful Land of Two Rivers and overturned its democratically elected leader. On instructions from Israel, no doubt.

As to his perspicacity about events that are at the very core of his field of interest, here is Freeman's 2005 prediction of "the best outcome still possible in Iraq":

The best outcome still possible in Iraq, it now seems, is a Shia-dominated state with a largely autonomous southern region heavily influenced by Iran and a Kurdish region independent in all but name.

Or, perhaps, a stable democratic state with deep and widespread participation by every ethnic group and all tribes, firmly accepted by the people as representative of their interests. And with Muqtada Sadr driven into exile in (where is that again?) Iran. Oh, wait; that wasn't one of the buttons on Mr. Freeman's voicemail.

Mismatch point

The two most vital duties of the chairman of the National Intelligence Council are presidential gatekeeping and unbiased analysis: controlling what intel the president sees and what he thinks about what he sees.

But Freeman is not unbiased; he has a dog in the fight. He has chosen up sides. Freeman supports Saudi Arabia, the Hamas-led government in the Palestinian Authority, and Iran's primary source of military equipment, the People's Republic of China; and he vehemently opposes Israel and a strong American presence in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East. Freeman's biases have already led him to make frankly risible pronunciamentos that sound like something from CAIR's website.

These interests are not only ideological but financial as well: Freeman won't be in government service forever, and he has once and future patrons to placate.

And this is the man who will determine what intel gets to the desk of President Barack H. Obama -- who is himself already ambivalent about Israel, the Arabs, and America's role in that volatile region. Suppose the NIC comes across intelligence of a looming terrorist attack on the homeland by a bunch of Saudis or Palestinians (this is not exactly a far-fetched scenario); but suppose the intel comes from Mossad, and it's hotly denied by Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the head of the Saudi intelligence service. Would Freeman pass it on to the president? Or would he roll his eyes, give a Chris Matthews-like "oh God," and bury it in the "nothing to see here, time to MoveOn" file?

How can we ever be sure that Chairman Freeman is being guided by an unbiased evaluation of conflicting intelligence claims, rather than by the hand of King Abdullah the Munificent?

I realize this may be a rhetorical question, but is this really who America wants heading up the main intelligence evaluating committee advising both the president and the DNI?

But at least Samantha Power and Zbigniew Brzezinski will have congenial company at the Durban II antisemitism rally; they can all sit about and discuss Palestinian resistance with the representatives of Iran, the KSA, Hamas, and Hezbollah.

UPDATE: Two thoughts with but a single mind between them... (But I like my title better!)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 25, 2009, at the time of 5:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 22, 2009

"Sentence First - Verdict Afterwards"

Obama Nation , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Curiouser and curiouser, to continue the Alice references; President Barack H. Obama has just signed three executive orders ordering the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility closed within a year, along with all other "secret overseas prisons" run by the CIA, and banning the use of harsh or undisclosed interrogation techniques. And then, after signing these executive orders, he subsequently "ordered a cabinet-level review" of whether any of this is even possible:

But even as he reversed the most disputed counterterrorism policies of the Bush years, Mr. Obama postponed for at least six months difficult decisions on the details. He ordered a cabinet-level review of the most challenging questions his administration faces -- what to do with dangerous prisoners who cannot be tried in American courts; whether some interrogation methods should remain secret to keep Al Qaeda from training to resist them; and how the United States can make sure prisoners transferred to other countries will not be tortured.

Fiddle-faddle; don't bother the president with such engineering details! I'm sure if we just put on our thinking caps, we'll come up with the easy, obvious solution that somehow escaped everyone's notice all these years.

Fortunately, Obama is in deep consultation with important leaders of the military and intelligence communities and following their unbiased advice:

As Mr. Obama signed three orders in a White House ceremony, 16 retired generals and admirals who have fought for months for a ban on coercive interrogations stood behind him and applauded. The group, organized to lobby the Obama transition team by the group Human Rights First, did not include any career C.I.A. officers or retirees. [Why invite the opposition to confuse matters by participating in the discussion?]

“We intend to win this fight,” Mr. Obama said, “We are going to win it on our own terms.”

So how, exactly, are we to induce agents of al-Qaeda, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to tell us what they know even if they really don't want to? That much, at least, the president has already figured out:

“We believe we can abide by a rule that says, we don’t torture, but we can effectively obtain the intelligence we need,” Mr. Obama said.

¡Si, su puede!

His cadre of retired flag-rank officers have even more detailed plans of just how to encourage, cajole, and jolly terrorist detainees into spilling their guts without in any way inconveniencing them (which would be unconstitutional):

John D. Hutson, a retired admiral and law school dean, was at the signing ceremony “He really gets it,” Mr. Hutson said of Mr. Obama in an interview a few minutes after the ceremony. “He acknowledged that this isn’t easy. But he is absolutely dedicated to getting us back on track as a nation. This is the right thing to do morally, diplomatically, militarily and Constitutionally. But it also makes us safer.”

Who can argue with that?

Republicans feebly protested that Obama is being unrealistic, that he has no plan, that he simply announced the decision and will leave it to others to find a way to make bricks without straw. Bitter cynics... don't they understand this is a new era of hope and change?

Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the decision to close Guantánamo by a year from now “places hope ahead of reality -- it sets an objective without a plan to get there.”

He said that in briefings for Congress on Wednesday, administration officials “could not answer questions as to what they will do with any new jihadists or enemy combatants that we capture.”

“What are we to do with these people, bring them to the very place they hoped to attack: The United States? What do we do with confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his fellow terrorist conspirators, offer them jail cells in American communities?”

I was always skeptical of Paul Mirengoff's belief that Obama doesn't really mean what he proclaims, that we should eschew all of George W. Bush's extraordinarily successful policies to fight terrorism in an insane rush back to the failed policy of Bill Clinton to treat terrorism as just another civilian crime. And I'm still not convinced that Obama is an utter fool: Perhaps in the end, he'll be overtaken by events and be forced to adopt Bush over Clinton. But the madness of these executive orders shakes my normal optimism.

Will it take another 9/11 to awaken the Somnambulant One? Will the Student Prince come to his senses -- returning to the combination of free-market Capitalism and gritty, determined national defense that has served us so spectacularly for so long -- before another few thousand Americans are slaughtered by an enemy who isn't cowed by thirty days detention and doesn't seek plea bargains?

Or will even that be enough? Alas, I suspect that rather than drive us back towards Bush's measured but relentless prosecution of the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis, such an attack would so shock the American people that they would demand we use any means necessary to protect our country.

Desperation and impatience gives statist Democrats a blank check to seize control of everything everywhere -- "for the duration" -- so as to allow Barack Obama to rule by decree, as previous presidents did during national crises, both real (the Civil War, World War II) and imaginary (the "100% Americanism" of the Woodrow Wilson administration). This is precisely the kind of circumstances that leads to what Jonah Goldberg calls liberal fascism, or (he hates this shorthand term) fascism with a smiley face.

The details of Obama's first executive orders do nothing to alleviate nervousness; it is now clear that those prisoners currently held in Gitmo will be moved to facilities in the United States itself:

The order calls for a cabinet-level panel to grapple with issues including where in the United States prisoners might be moved and what courts they could be tried in....

Mr. Obama had suggested in the campaign that, in place of military commissions, he would prefer prosecutions in federal courts or, perhaps, in the existing military justice system, which provides legal guarantees similar to those of American civilian courts.

Trying the detainees as defendants in the United States -- whether in civilian courts or military courts-martial -- ensures that the federal judiciary will have its full jurisdiction, as it would of any prisoner held for any civil offense. I believe that ultimately, the courts will demand nothing less than full "constitutional rights" for all terrorist detainees captured on the battlefield -- including Miranda warnings and the requirement that all evidence must be collected pursuant to a search warrant issued by a judge or magistrate... even during combat.

Any evidence that isn't collected with the same measured legal rigor that police departments across the nation are required to use will almost certainly be suppressed under the exclusionary rule. Terrorists will have the right to demand reams of top-secret, code-word classified intelligence at their trials; and when the CIA or DoD refuses to release that information to terrorists (and to their attorneys, supplied by al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, or Iran), federal judges will decide they have "no choice" but to set the accused free... every time.

I don't know how we recover from such a catastrophic error in judgment, even if later President Obama eventually realizes what he's done: Once we allow ordinary federal courts jurisdiction in such cases, the Supreme Court will never allow us to take it away again; the camel's foot is already in the door. We shall become the first nation in history -- but alas, probably not the last -- to extend full constitutional rights and privileges to prisoners captured during wartime, even to unlawful enemy combatants.

But at least, thank goodness, liberal "human rights" organizations and the world's elite news media will cheer us. Our precious national reputation will no longer be in "tatters." And once again, America will be a nation of "ideals."

Until the next attack, after which the pendulum will swing hard in the other direction; and we shall become a liberal-fascist state again, as we did under Franklin Roosevelt and under Woodrow Wilson before him.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 22, 2009, at the time of 3:49 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 15, 2009

But in Theory...

Econ. 101 , Globaloney Sandwich , Gun Rights and Occasional Wrongs , Iraq Matters , Liberal Lunacy , Logical Lacunae , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Of all the crazy memes flogged by Democrats and liberals, this one is, I believe, the most psychotic:

Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder forcefully broke from the Bush administration's counterterrorism policies Thursday, declaring that waterboarding is torture and pledging to prosecute some Guantanamo Bay detainees in U.S. courts.

It was the latest signal that President-elect Barack Obama will chart a new course in combatting terrorism. As recently as last week, Vice President Dick Cheney defended waterboarding, a harsh interrogation tactic that simulates drowning, saying it provided valuable intelligence.

The CIA has used the tactic on at least three terrorism suspects, included alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In past hearings, Attorney General Michael Mukasey and his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, frustrated senators by repeatedly sidestepping questions about waterboarding.

It was the first topic discussed at Holder's confirmation hearing, and he made an unambiguous statement about its nature: "Waterboarding is torture."

As a practical matter, Holder said torture does not lead to reliable intelligence. And on principle, he said the United States needs to live up to its own high standards, even in the face of fear and terrorism.

Let's walk it through; what exactly is Holder saying? Many members of President George W. Bush's administration have testified -- from those interrogators who were directly involved in the interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, each in 2003 (the only time evidence indicates we ever used waterboarding), to experienced military and intelligence experts, to high officials (including, op.cit., Vice President Dick Cheney) -- that waterboarding those three top terrorists in fact yielded a wealth of intelligence; that intel directly led to hundreds of arrests and the disrupting and interdicting of scores of follow-on terrorist attacks against the United States, saving thousands upon thousands of American civilian lives.

Numerous people are in custody in Guantanamo Bay today because we caught them red-handed in the midst of plotting terrorist attacks -- with ample physical evidence to back up the charges -- on the basis of searches and investigations sparked by the intelligence gained from waterboarding Mohammed, Zubayday, and Nashiri.

But no... the Left considers waterboarding to be "torture," and the Left's theory about torture states unequivocally and without exception that "torture does not lead to reliable intelligence."

Ergo, none of the foregoing ever really happened: We didn't actually get intelligence from waterboarding the Three Amigos; we didn't really disrupt any terrorist plots; we didn't actually arrest anyone (or if we did, they were necessarily innocent bystanders); and in fact, we didn't stop further attacks on the country; thus, by a simple deduction, we actually were hit again and again by the terrorists -- and the Bush regime just covered it all up, yet another Bush war crime!

Sure, physical observation appears to indicate that waterboarding, the putative "torture," in fact yielded reliable and even vital intelligence; but appearances can be deceiving. Theory proves this cannot be, so logic dictates we must throw out the observations as obviously flawed.

Oddly, this is the same argumentative technique used in the globaloney debate; perhaps it needs its own name: How about Argument of the Irresistable Theoretical Construct?

  • Your so-called "measurements" claim that the Earth's temperature rise since 1900 correlates almost exactly with solar activity, and there has been no global temperature increase since 1998 (in fact, a decrease). But the theory of anthropogenic ("human created") global warming -- which every legitimate scientist accepts -- belies that claim. Therefore, your measurements must be in error... go and fix them, and don't come back for more funding until you do!
  • According to all supposed observers in Iraq, including those vehemently opposed to the war from the beginning, since the Bush regime implemented the surge, military and civilian deaths have plummeted to the normal base-level of violence found in Arab countries. But as we told you repeatedly, the "surge" could not possibly work, because there is no military solution to military defeat. So who are you going to believe -- the considered weight of expert opinion from nearly all foreign-policy professionals, including some who have won the Nobel Peace Prize... or your own lyin' eyes?
  • All those revisionist historians and economists have been busy tarnishing the reputation of the greatest president of the 20th century, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, producing fact after evidence after measurement indicating that none of his New Deal programs did anything to end the Great Depression, that it continued unabated until the beginning of World War II; but it's utterly impossible in theory that programs with such good intentions -- implemented by a brilliant president who was not only the darling of liberal, compassionate professors and socialist progressives and reformers but even of the masses -- could possibly fail. Clearly then, FDR's NRA and other programs restored the American economy and ended the depression... and any claims to the contrary are just mean-spirited attacks by frustrated conservative Republican robber-barons.
  • John Lott and other eggheads have published numerous books purporting to show that increasing civilian ownership of guns decreases, not increases, the homicide and other violent crime rates; but this is absurd on its face: The only purpose of a gun is to kill; and everybody knows that guns are useless in self-defense because the criminal will simply take it away from the victim (and get very angry). So the only explanation for the spate of pro-gun books is... Lott, et al, are being paid off by the NRA! (The other NRA, the bad NRA -- not the good one of the previous example. Nitpicker.)

Argument of the Irresistable Theoretical Construct: Add that one to the list; it will crop up again and again.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 15, 2009, at the time of 3:01 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

January 14, 2009

The Movable Feast of "Torture"

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

At last, the Democrats believe they finally have "proof" of what they have contended all along: The Bush administration "tortured" at least one detainee at the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp!

Their star witness is Susan J. Crawford, a fifteen-year veteran of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces; according to the New York Times, Crawford is "the convening authority of military commissions," "the senior Pentagon official in the Bush administration’s system for prosecuting detainees." She recently gave an interview to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, and the Post and Times have really gone to town on it. Liberals will be dining out on Crawford's admission for years and years, as they try to paint the adminstration of George W. Bush as out of control torturers, abusers, molesters, warmongers, and Constitution-shredders.

But the reality is far more quotidian: As with nearly every other example of top government officials determining, concluding, or holding that terrorist detainees were "tortured," what Crawford's decision not to prosecute the "victim" via the military commissions actually reflects is the ever-shifting sands of what legally constitutes torture in the first place.

The facts, as the elite media see them, via the Times:

The public record of the Guantánamo interrogation of the detainee, Mohammed al-Qahtani, has long included what officials labeled abusive techniques, including exposure to extreme temperatures and isolation, but the Pentagon has resisted acknowledging that his treatment rose to the level of torture.

But the official, Susan J. Crawford, told Bob Woodward of The Washington Post that she had concluded that his treatment amounted to torture when she reviewed military charges against him last year. In May she decided that the case could not be referred for trial but provided no explanation at the time.

“His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution, Ms. Crawford was quoted as saying in an article published in The Post on Wednesday.

First, it's critical to remember who, exactly, Mohamed Mani Ahmad al-Kahtani is. He is generally acknowledged to be the missing "20th hijacker" who was supposed to be the fifth man on the hijacking team on United Airlines flight 93, along with Ziad Jarrah, Ahmed al-Haznawi, Ahmed al-Nami, and Saeed al-Ghamdi. (The other three planes hijacked -- United flight 175 and American Airlines flights 11 and 77 -- each contained a five-man Einsatzgruppe). Kahtani was "muscle," one of the dim-witted thugs whose job was to brutally suppress any resistance by the passengers during the ritual human sacrifice of thousands.

We note that although Crawford won't let the case be prosecuted, she emphatically does not suggest that the evil mass-murderer-wannabe Mohamed Kahtani be released. "There’s no doubt in my mind he would’ve been on one of those planes had he gained access to the country in August 2001.... He’s a muscle hijacker.... He’s a very dangerous man. What do you do with him now if you don’t charge him and try him? I would be hesitant to say, ‘Let him go.’" But Crawford is the only Bush administration official to conclude that we tortured Kahtami. So the next question is, What is "the legal definition of torture" anyway?

The United Nations General Assembly enacted a Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1984; this included (as one might expect) a definition of torture:

For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

This would ban not only obvious torture, such as Saddam Hussein regularly engaged in (Iraq was not a signatory), but even any form of questioning that coerced, frightened, or indimidated detainees into revealing information they would rather keep secret; it would essentially ban any interrogation harsher than polite asking.

But are we legally bound by that definition? We signed the convention in 1988, and it was ratified by the Senate in 1994... but it was ratified with a list of "reservations" and "understandings":

  • First, we held that the convention's reference to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" would be interpreted in the United States as, and was only ratified under the definition of, "the cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and/or Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States."

In other words, we officially and formally rejected the wider, expansive defintion of torture, inhuman treatment, or degrading treatment. I'm not a lawyer, but I don't see how the U.N. defintion can legally be enforced here.

In other "reservations" to and "understandings" about the ratification, we:

  • Rejected article 30 (1), which allowed any country to take a dispute about torture to the International Court of Justice for adjudication or arbitration;
  • Enunciated our own definition of torture:

    That with reference to article 1, the United States understands that, in order to constitute torture, an act must be specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering and that mental pain or suffering refers to prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from (1) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (2) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality; (3) the threat of imminent death; or (4) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality.

Note that this definition would not, it appears, ban waterboarding; while waterboarding does involve "the threat of imminent death," there is no evidence for (and a great deal against) the proposition that its use induces "prolonged mental harm." In fact, those who are waterboarded, either in earnest or in training, appear to fully recover within a minute or two of the procedure ending.

  • Expressed our understanding that any sanction would be enacted according to U.S. law, not tried by an international court, unless in a particular case we agree to do so;
  • Fiddled with the rules of when and to where we could rendite prisoners, interpreting "where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture" to mean "more likely than not that he would be tortured";
  • Noted that international law does not prohibit the death penalty, and that we do not consider capital punishment to be torture;

And finally, the most important proviso attached to our ratification:

  • "That the United States declares that the provisions of articles 1 through 16 of the Convention are not self-executing."

Articles 1 through 16 comprise Part I of the convention, which defines torture and details all the legal procedures available to supposed victims and the sanctions that must be applied to supposed perpetrators. Had the (Democratic!) Senate not included this final, important caveat, then all of the provisions of Part I would have attained the legal status of the Constitution itself, and supposed victims could sue for injunctive relief (a court order requiring the U.S. government or a state government to do X, Y, or Z to pull themselves into compliance with "international law") whenever they claimed any jot or tittle of the U.N. definition had been violated... spelling the end of U.S. sovereignty whenever we didn't obey the International Court of Justice.

Whew! Let's return from our forray into the jungle of domestic and international law and the Convention Against Torture to Kahtani himself. What exactly did we do to him at Gitmo? According to the Times:

Military documents show that Mr. Qahtani’s repeated interrogations at Guantánamo in 2002 and 2003 included prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, forced nudity, exposure to cold and involuntary grooming. He was also forced to dance with a male interrogator and to obey dog commands, including “stay,” “come” and “bark.” [I can only assume that "involuntary grooming" means forcing the malodorous bastard to wash, and perhaps washing him with a firehose if he refuses.]

A Pentagon inquiry in 2005 found that the methods were “degrading and abusive.”

Prolonged isolation sounds suspiciously like solitary confinement, which is definitely not considered "torture" under American law. Sleep deprivation is somewhat harsher; but it's routinely used even by domestic police interrogators, at least so I understand. Again, doesn't seem to be unconstitutional.

Exposure to cold... well, depends how cold. Since this is all taking place in Guantanamo Bay -- in Cuba -- unless they're putting him in a meat freezer, I can't imagine it's all that cold. Probably just cold enough to be uncomfortable for a thug who grew up in Saudi Arabia. And of course, involuntary grooming is a staple not only in American prisons but also the American military, American restaurant kitchens, and American public schools... which last also sometimes require involuntary groin protection in the same gym classes that do the involuntary grooming business (showers).

Forcing him to dance with men and even obey doggie commands seems merely irritating; I cannot imagine that it would produce "prolonged mental harm," except insofar as, being a Moslem -- a religion that tends to inculcate virulent misogyny -- forcing Kahtani into a female role might make him feel inferior and could lead to "shrinkage."

Finally, we have the only interrogation technique that might -- might -- constitute degrading treatment (contrary to popular belief, even in the Wahabbist and Salafist sects of Islam, soap and water are not considered "degrading"): forced nudity. But even here, while it may be humiliating, is it really credible that laughing at his insignificant manhood would produce "prolonged mental harm?"

I believe that Crawford herself more or less agrees with the specifics of the above, differing only on the impact of the totality. In the original Woodward interview, here is a more complete version of her remarks:

Crawford, 61, said the combination of the interrogation techniques, their duration and the impact on Qahtani's health led to her conclusion. "The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge" to call it torture, she said.
(The Post also gives a more complete accounting of how he was interrogated, which I quote here to be completist but relegate to the "slither through" to not interrupt the narrative.)

So if it's really dicey whether any of this constituted torture, why does the Pentagon claim it did? Well, in fact, it didn't until quite recently; several previous investigations exonerated the interrogators:

In a statement Tuesday night, the Pentagon said that more than a dozen prior investigations had concluded that the interrogations were lawful.

“However, subsequent to those reviews,” the statement said, “the department adopted new and more restrictive policies and improved oversight procedures for interrogation and detention operations.”

“Some of the aggressive questioning techniques used on al-Qahtani,” the statement continued, “although permissible at the time, are no longer allowed in the updated Army field manual.”

And there you have it -- our interrogators were not engaging in torture as we officially understood that word at the time; rather, we have retroactively changed the definition to make what we did torture ex-post facto. And that is what Susan Crawford meant when she said, with important caveats added back in, "His [earlier] treatment met the [years later] legal [re-]definition of torture."

That is the nut of liberalism -- moving the goalposts and condemning by retroactive judgment. I'm not claiming that Susan Crawford, long-time military appellate-court judge, is a liberal; she clearly is not. But she does suffer from Lindsey Graham derangement syndrome (or JAGitis), seeing everything through a judicial prism.

For example, Crawford believes we should never coerce any sort of testimony; after all, "you don't allow it in a regular court," she says... either unaware of or ignoring the irreducible facts: (a) We need intelligence to keep Americans safe from terrorist attack, but (b) most terrorists will not voluntarily cough up such information.

So what are we to do? Crawford has no answer. She knows we should never coerce testimony, but she also knows we must somehow extract all the intel we need to thwart attacks, and she doesn't appear t notice the glaring contradiction between those two goals. ("I must... but I cannot... but I must!") Certainly she makes no effort to weigh the importance of each and decide which must prevail in a given circumstance.

So she is not a liberal, but she is also not a counterterrorism hawk. However, it is liberals like Bob Woodward and the editors at the Post and the Times who have seized upon her unhelpful and misleading claim that we "tortured" detainees; and it is liberals who have used that charge as a bombast to cripple the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis.

At least Crawford has the decency to agonize over her pronouncement; Democrats are practically beside themselves with triumph and glee, if these articles are any indication.

But that's the liberal way, whether it's redefining torture after the fact in order to accuse the Bush "regime" of war crimes -- or redefining the word "lie" to include "statement later proven to be partially in error;" setting the bar a mile high for their political enemies yet an inch high for themselves; redefining "science" to mean "accepting without question liberal shibboleths on 'sillicon disease,' 'secondhand smoke,' and of course the deadly poison gas carbon dioxide; and redefining what is and is not a legally cast vote in a presidential election. More than any other idiosyncratic form of argument, liberals love Argument by Tendentious Redefinition; it fits perfectly into their traditional disassociation from the "reality" they reject as too limiting.

And that is just what they are engaging in here, with the reluctant but useful connivance of a mushy-moral, compassionate-conservative military jurist who cannot separate what we must do to collect intelligence from what we should do if we plan to try terrorists in civilian court... which is a great argument for not bothering to try terrorists in civilian court, an important point that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy ought to have considered before joining the liberals in the Hamdan and Boumediene decisions.

From the Woodward article in the Washington Post:

[Kahtami's] interrogation took place over 50 days from November 2002 to January 2003, though he was held in isolation until April 2003.

"For 160 days his only contact was with the interrogators," said Crawford, who personally reviewed Qahtani's interrogation records and other military documents. "Forty-eight of 54 consecutive days of 18-to-20-hour interrogations. Standing naked in front of a female agent. Subject to strip searches. And insults to his mother and sister."

At one point he was threatened with a military working dog named Zeus, according to a military report. Qahtani "was forced to wear a woman's bra and had a thong placed on his head during the course of his interrogation" and "was told that his mother and sister were whores." With a leash tied to his chains, he was led around the room "and forced to perform a series of dog tricks," the report shows.

The interrogation, portions of which have been previously described by other news organizations, including The Washington Post, was so intense that Qahtani had to be hospitalized twice at Guantanamo with bradycardia, a condition in which the heart rate falls below 60 beats a minute and which in extreme cases can lead to heart failure and death. At one point Qahtani's heart rate dropped to 35 beats per minute, the record shows.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 14, 2009, at the time of 6:34 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 9, 2009

Low Blow to Slow Joe

Presidential Peculiarities and Pomposities , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Today saw the formal nomination of intelligence ignoramus Leon Panetta as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Panetta will be working under now formally nominated Director of National Intelligence designate Adm. Dennis C. Blair, who also appears to have no specific background in intelligence, other than whatever he picked up as commander of PACCOM -- mostly under Bill Clinton or George W. Bush prior to the September 11th attacks, during a period when intelligence gathering on terrorist groups was not exactly treated as a vital military task... what a team!

This strikes me as a good occasion to return to the subject of the surprise announcement of Panetta, and what it says about (wait for it) Vice President-select Joe Biden.

(Huh? What's the connection? Well hang your horses and I'll tell you.)

My friend the cybercolumnist Rich "Mullings" Galen made a brilliant point that I think worth repeating. Not because I have nothing else to say, but just because I really like it. Let's boil it down to a nuthole...

Galen notes that the VP select confessed that the incoming administration of Barack H. Obama made "a mistake" when it announced Panetta's appointment publicly without having troubled to discuss the matter with the incoming chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 90%)... or for that matter, with the outgoing chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV, 89%), either. Biden went on, in the Washington Post article linked above, to explain his fundamental philosophy on notifications:

"I'm still a Senate man. I always think this way. It's always good to talk to the requisite members of Congress. I think it was just a mistake," Biden said after being sworn in today for another Senate term (he will resign his seat in advance of the Jan. 20 inauguration).

According to Galen, who authors the wildly popular cybercolumn Mullings and a seemingly abandoned blog (which I suggested, to adder's ears, should be called "bluggings"), there are only two possibilities here, given that Biden says it's "always good" to talk to members before making such announcements:

  1. Obama didn't even bother to discuss the matter with Joe Biden, his own selection for vice president. If so, then Biden has to rank as one of the least important VPs in American history, only one step above those VPs who were notable mostly for being non-existent (such as Truman's vice president for his entire first term). Obviously, if the president-elect didn't even mention the appointment to the Biden-select, then Biden couldn't recommend that he discuss it with Feinstein and Rockefeller.
  2. Obama did discuss it with Biden. But as Galen points out, this would make the non-notification of the chairmen even worse than in case 1... because Biden would surely, given that he's "still a Senate man," have urged Obama to bring Feinstein and Rockefeller into the loop -- and Obama must therefore have said that he couldn't care less what the two Democratic chairmen of the Senate Intelligence Committee had to say about the appointment of the Director of the CIA. And Biden must have meekly said, "Oh. Okay." Wow.

Two conclusions are apparent: First, Barack Obama appears to be the most arrogant president-elect since FDR... but we already knew that.

And second, that the Vice Biden grows more transparent and wisplike with every passing day; by the inauguration, I fully expect him to be as invisible as the summer Santa Anna zephyr from the Inland Empire here in Southern California... an appropriate coda to a content-free congressional career.

I suspect folks will remember Truman's first-term vice president long after Slow Jow is consigned to the dustbin of history.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 9, 2009, at the time of 2:06 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 7, 2009

Leon Pinata - Intelligence Not His Long Suit

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

(The name in the title should be Leon Piñata, of course; but I can't make that Spanish character appear in the title of a Movable Type post.)

Yesterday, Gov. Bill Richardson, who is Latin, mucked his hand, announcing that he would not accept the nomination as Secretary of Commerce, which had been considered a done deal for some time. Oddly enough, on or about that same day, President-elect Barack H. Obama announced that he was appointing a different Latin -- our Mr. Piñata -- to be the Director of the CIA; this despite the fact that he has no background or training in, and evidently no knowledge about, the intelligence field... a fact so glaring that even the New York Times and Ape News took note. [I originally wrote that Piñata was "Hispanic;" but I am reliably informed by commenter John Cunningham that the man is of Italian heritage instead. So I cunningly changed the term to "Latin," which surely nobody can deny! But he's still going to be treated like a piñata in his confirmation hearings, so that appellation stands.]

From the former:

The choice, disclosed Monday by Democratic officials, immediately revealed divisions in the party as two senior lawmakers questioned why Mr. Obama would nominate a candidate with limited experience in intelligence matters.

One of those "senior lawmakers" is Gloriana herself, the AbFab DiFi (D-CA, 90%); she particularly spread herself on Leon's limitations:

Among the lawmakers who expressed skepticism about the choice was Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and the new chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Ms. Feinstein, who would oversee any confirmation hearing for Mr. Panetta, issued a statement that signaled clear disapproval and said she had not been notified about the choice.

“My position has consistently been that I believe the agency is best served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time,” she said. [As opposed to a dilettante amateur.]

A second top Democrat, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the departing chairman of the Intelligence Committee, shares Ms. Feinstein’s concerns, Democratic Congressional aides said.

On the whole, it is a puzzling nomination: Why pick a complete naif in intelligence matters -- at the very moment we're fighting a life and death struggle with an enemy who strikes by stealth and terror, against whom our only hope for victory (perhaps even survival) is strong, effective, and robust intelligence-gathering?

The Piñata appointment seems to fly in the eyes of the other major cabinet-level appointments of the One, which by and large have been substantive and centrist and have stressed continuity with the Bush administration, rather than the radical U-turn Obama promised during the campaign.

So what is really going on here? It should be obvious. While in many other areas Obama can simply follow in George W. Bush's footsteps, in the realm of intel, he is constrained not only by his own gormless and hypocritical maunderings but by his party's deepest held belief: By definition, aggressive intelligence-gathering violates the sacred constitutional rights of terrorists. Thus:

The choice of Mr. Panetta comes nearly two weeks after Mr. Obama had otherwise wrapped up his major personnel moves. It appears to reflect the difficulty Mr. Obama has encountered in finding a candidate who is capable of taking charge of the agency but is not tied to the interrogation and detention program run by the C.I.A. under President Bush.

Aides have said that Mr. Obama had originally hoped to select a C.I.A. director with extensive field experience, especially in combating terrorist networks. But his first choice for the job, John O. Brennan, had to withdraw his name amid criticism over his alleged role in the formation of the agency’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

My second favorite blogger at my favorite blog, Power Line, summed it up:

I don't mean to suggest that intelligence gathering is peripheral to the CIA's mission. But it does seem these days that the CIA is a political actor first and an intelligence operation second. The selection of Panetta may reflect this "post-modern" reality.

The Left might forgive Obama for allowing our troops to remain in Iraq for a few years, or longer if things seem to settle down to a dull roar. They might yawn at his decision not to tax "the rich" into oblivion, not to demand that Israel commit national suicide, and to blow off "card check" and socialized medicine... at least for a while. But they would never forgive him did he not utterly repudiate -- by deed as well as word -- treating terrorist captives any worse than accused carjackers or shoplifters.

Obama must, must return to the Clintonian status-quo ante, where terrorism is just another crime to be tried in civilian court, with all the rules of evidence and rights for the accused. If he does not do this, the Left will abandon him in 2012, and may abandon the party itself in a scant two years.

Thus Incoming Obama selected Leon Piñata for two reasons:

  • He is Latin, to "replace" the disappearing Bill Richardson, allowing the P.E. to check the "L" box;
  • He has never had anything to do with intelligence, so he is not "tainted" by the highly aggressive, effective, and successful techniques employed by the Bush administration to keep us safe from attack for the last seven years.

The American Left has chosen to make its stand on the constitutional rights of foreign terrorists striking at this country, just as in times past they chose to make their stand on embracing Stalinism (or even Naziism, during the Hitler-Stalin Pact). As a man of the Left, who owes his election to the anti-Bush, anti-GOP rage stirred up by his leftist allies, Barack Obama cannot stand in their way... at least not on this particular issue.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 7, 2009, at the time of 2:07 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 1, 2008

The New "Fairness" Doctrine

Constitutional Maunderings , Crime and Punishment , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd
Why civilian judges have no business ruling on Gitmo cases...
and why Patterico, with the best of intentions, got it so wrong

Patterico has been scathing in his denunciation of the Bush administration and the Pentagon for how they conduct the military tribunals. Back in December, he dubbed the tribunals at Guantanamo Bay "Kafkaesque," saying "they just don’t seem fair." He concludes:

But I do know that the procedures in place now just don’t seem fair. If you can’t find out what evidence the Government has against you; if you can’t present your own evidence; if you are arguing to a tribunal that is told to presume that the Government’s position is correct . . . that’s not fair. It runs a real risk of causing us to hold people who are innocent.

There has to be a better way.

Then today, he crows, or perhaps "views with alarm," that a D.C. circus panel threw out the first enemy-combatant classification by the Pentagon of a detainee:

Add this to the Kafkaseque nature of the tribunals process, which has forced detainees to respond to secret evidence, together with the criticism by a former chief prosecutor that the Administration was rigging trials there to ensure convictions, and the picture is not pretty.

So why do I disagree with Patterico, and why do I think he has gone terribly awry? Consider the last line of his earlier post. The real question here is the very one Patterico begs: "There has to be a better way"... to do -- what?

What's all this then?

"Well there's yer problem, right there!"

Those three judges, the "former chief prosecutor" (Air Force Col. Morris Davis), and Patterico all see these Commission hearings as fundamentally judicial. It's not unreasonable to draw that conclusion, since the result is that those found to be unlawful enemy combatants would be held for periods of time up to life -- and could even be executed.

But reasonable does not mean right... and this conclusion is fundamentally wrong: These hearings are not judicial, nor is their primary purpose justice or punishment; they are military hearings to determine if a detainee is dangerous to the United States.

That is why questions of "fairness" are inappropriate. Fairness is a valid, even vital concern in Patterico's line of work as a deputy district attorney. In civilian trials in civilian courts, the most important underlying issue is justice (of which fairness is an essential component). Practically, the most important question litigated is whether the State has proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, by admissible evidence, that the defendant is guilty of the crimes charged.

But military commissions' most important underlying issue is the same as that of every other branch of the military: victory over our enemies. That means safeguarding American citizens and lawful residents and protecting us from international bad guys. Fairness has nothing to do with it.

  • Is it "fair" to bomb a factory during wartime, knowing that at least some of those killed may oppose the war and only be working there under duress, or even as slave labor?
  • Is it "fair" to imprison a captured enemy soldier for years, even if he is a draftee?
  • Is it "fair" to fire upon enemy combatants, even knowing they are using innocent "human shields," who will necessarily be killed as well?

None of these is in any way fair to the innocents (or at least non-guiltys) involved. But in none of these cases is "fairness" the central concern. If any "crime" was committed, it's a war crime; and the prosecution of war crimes is primarily intended to deter our enemies from doing such things in the future, not to bring about abstract justice for acts in the past. For this reason, war-crimes tribunals traditionally grant many fewer "rights" to the accused than are found in civilian trials of ordinary criminals conducted by those same countries.

In the three cases directly above, Patterico would have no difficulty agreeing with me that we cannot invoke abstract "fairness" to refuse to fight in any situation where innocents might be harmed. On the battlefield, nobody except a pacifist absolutist would be so confused; and Patterico is not a lunatic pacifist by any stretch of rhetoric.

But when the military action shifts from the battlefield to a military commission or tribunal, it superficially resembles a courtroom; "counsels" present "evidence" while a (military) "judge" presides. And that is when those who have spent their lifetimes doing yeoman work within the civilian court system, trying to make America a safer and better place, seem to become befuddled. We see this from Patterico to the D.C. Circus to the Supreme Court's Boumediene decision.

It's said that to a carpenter, every problem looks like a nail, and every solution looks like a hammer. To a heart surgeon, every problem looks like a bad coronary artery and every solution looks like a scalpel. And to a lawyer, even many military lawyers, every problem looks like a crime, and every solution looks like a court trial.

Every objection seems to flow from this single, faulty conceptualization of what these commissions are and what they're supposed to do. For example, what about that charge that the commissions are "rigged" against the detainees?

This bloody fight's been rigged!

Col. Davis bases his accusation on three issues: a lack of "openness" at the commission hearings; the use of classified information that neither the detainee nor his counsel is allowed to see (which "could taint the trials in the eyes of international observers"); and that, as the Nation put it in an interview with Davis, "the process has been manipulated by Administration appointees to foreclose the possibility of acquittal."

The piece in that leftist magazine begins thus -- and here is the same misunderstanding, this time flashing in neon letters the size of the Hollywood sign:

Secret evidence. Denial of habeas corpus. Evidence obtained by waterboarding. Indefinite detention. The litany of complaints about the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay is long, disturbing and by now familiar. Nonetheless, a new wave of shock and criticism greeted the Pentagon's announcement on February 11 that it was charging six Guantánamo detainees, including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, with war crimes--and seeking the death penalty for all of them.

In the piece, Col. Davis lobs the allegation that Pentagon general counsel William Haynes demanded the tribunals produce nothing but convictions:

When asked if he thought the men at Guantánamo could receive a fair trial, Davis provided the following account of an August 2005 meeting he had with Pentagon general counsel William Haynes--the man who now oversees the tribunal process for the Defense Department.

"[Haynes] said these trials will be the Nuremberg of our time," recalled Davis, referring to the Nazi tribunals in 1945, considered the model of procedural rights in the prosecution of war crimes. In response, Davis said he noted that at Nuremberg there had been some acquittals, which had lent great credibility to the proceedings.

"I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process," Davis continued. "At which point, [Haynes's] eyes got wide and he said, 'Wait a minute, we can't have acquittals. If we've been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can't have acquittals. We've got to have convictions.'"

First, I am rather skeptical that Haynes said exactly this. Was Col. Davis literally transcribing the conversation while it was in progress? Or is this his reconstruction of the conversation days, weeks, or perhaps two and a half years later? Is this exactly what Haynes said, or is this Davis' tendentious confabulation, based upon his appalled reaction to what he thought Haynes meant?

But let's leave this question aside... despite the fact that it cuts to the fundamental "fairness" of the accusation. How can Davis be unaware of the fact that earlier commissions conducted by the same Pentagon, taking place at the same Guantanamo Bay, managed to release hundreds of detainees from custody... including some who went right out and committed terrorist acts?

Finally, I truly question Col. Davis' historical understanding of war-crimes tribunals if he unfavorably compares the "fairness" of the military commission hearings today with the Nuremberg trials after World War II... considering that far fewer accused Nazis were "acquitted" than terrorist suspects have already been freed from Guantanamo, and the accused Nazis in 1945 had far fewer "rights" than the Military Commissions Act of 2006 gave to the detainees in Guantanamo Bay... even before the Boumediene decision.

To me, it sounds as if Davis is repeating at least one absurdist Democratic Party talking point, regardless of how many others he rejects. The viral meme "MCAs are nothing like the fair and just Nuremberg trials" can be "caught" by anyone whose mind is rendered susceptible by overly legalistic thinking.

The allegation that the system is "rigged" against acquittals is silly, because it has already acquitted hundreds; it betrays Davis' conclusion that these hearings just aren't "fair" to the "accused."

“If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble,… “the law is a ass -- a idiot."

In the New York Times article that sparked Patterico's post today, we discover that the D.C. Circuit panel threw out the Pentagon finding against Huzaifa Parhat, an Uighur Moslem from China, because the classified intelligence against him was not as specific and credible as one would demand in a civilian criminal trial:

Pentagon officials have claimed that the Uighurs at Guantánamo were "affiliated" with a Uighur resistance group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, and that it, in turn, was "associated" with Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The ruling released Monday overturned the Pentagon’s finding after a 2004 hearing that Mr. Parhat was an enemy combatant based on that affiliation. He and the 16 other Uighurs were detained after the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The court said the classified evidence supporting the Pentagon’s claims included assertions that events had "reportedly" occurred and that the connections were "said to" exist, without providing information about the source of such information.

"Those bare facts," the decision said, "cannot sustain the determination that Parhat is an enemy combatant."

But "those bare facts" are all that we ever get from intelligence operations! That is precisely the reason why civilian courts have no business making the determination whether a person detained is truly an enemy combatant... because the standard demanded by a civilian court for a civilian criminal conviction is virtually impossible to meet in the context of terrorists picked up because of intelligence.

(For one major point, because terrorism is so incredibly destructive, we try to grab them before they carry out their schemes... which means, since the detainee didn't actually succeed, that little evidence is available other than supposition.)

Do these judges imagine that before the Marines open fire on a fleeing vehicle, they must have proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the vehicle contains terrorists? Intelligence is always vague, almost never confirmed, and frequently obtained from foreign sources who do not reveal where they, themselves got it; but if they've been reliable in the past, we must assume they're reliable now, until and unless they disappoint us more than one usually expects from any intelligence. You cannot demand trial-level specificity and sourcing from covert intelligence; it's just not going to be available.

What the court derided -- quoting from Lewis Carroll's the Hunting of the Snark and mocking the administration -- is as good as it gets... and that's the very reason why a civilian court is not competent to make any of these decisions, let alone all of them, as the Supreme Court has now declared. It's as absurd as expecting the D.C. Circuit to approve missile targets in Pakistan.

One law professor understands this point; I'm pleasantly surprised the Times bothered to quote anyone on the military's side at all:

Some lawyers said the ruling highlighted the difficulties they saw in civilian judges reviewing Guantánamo cases.

“This case displays the inadequacies of having civilian courts inject themselves into military decision-making,” said Glenn M. Sulmasy, a law professor at the Coast Guard Academy and a national security fellow at Harvard.

I wonder if Mr. Sulmasy has more or less experience with the needs of the military than do the three judges in the D.C. Circuit panel who decided the Parhat decision.

Old King Cole was a tortured soul

In today's post, Patterico also calls attention to the upcoming trial of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, accused of masterminding the bombing of the USS Cole... and the third detainee, along with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah, who the CIA has said it waterboarded. Patterico notes that Nashiri claims his "confession" was induced by unspecified "torture".

Of course, Nashiri could be fibbing; to paraphrase Charles Bronson in Breakheart Pass, if a man is a thief and murderer, it follows he may be a liar as well. But let's suppose he is telling the truth for once. This point tells us nothing about whether he is or is not a danger: Even if the confession was true, he still might only have given it because of this supposed "torture."

Why do we customarily believe that in civilian trials, coerced confessions cannot be used? Two main reasons:

  1. We believe they are of dubious reliability, since the person being tortured might say anything he thinks his torturers want to hear.

Leaving aside the question of whether waterboarding really constitutes "torture" (it certainly forces people to say things they later wish they hadn't), this objection is easily dismissed: If detailed facts came out during the coerced interrogation that were checked and found to be accurate, and if those facts could only be known by the guilty (such as where the body is hidden, in a murder case), then we may conclude the confessor is guilty.

So that leaves only one reason why coerced confessions are never allowed in court:

  1. Forcing people to testify against themselves is, again, simply unfair; it violates the Fifth Amendment protection against enforced self-incrimination.

But this second point again depends upon thinking that the tribunal is an attempt to mete out justice to a mere criminal, rather than a way for the military to decide whether the country would be safer if we kept the detainee behind bars or even executed him.

Finally, one more purely legal point (bearing in mind I'm not a lawyer): It's plausible to argue that the USA PATRIOT Act allows these tribunals to used evidence obtained for intelligence purposes in military commission hearings, even if the intel itself was obtained by means that would ordinarily render it inadmissible in a civilian court hearing, absent the intelligence angle.

This is a point which I don't believe has ever been addressed by the Supreme Court (not even in Boumediene).

Thus, if we reject "fairness" as the core value we're trying to uphold in the MCA hearings at Guantanamo Bay, and accept instead that the core value is "victory in the war," then we cannot have a hard and fast prohibition on using coerced testimony or even confessions: Again, we're not trying to punish miscreants so much as (a) protect the country from them, and (b) pour l'encouragement des autres.

An army of lawyers

A maxim of the law is that it's better that a thousand guilty criminals go free than a single innocent man be wrongly convicted. But when we're discussing a thousand guilty terrorists, we have to think a second time. When we released Abdullah Salih al-Ajmi from Gitmo (which was clearly a mistake in hindsight), he went right out and killed thirteen innocent Iraqi civilians in a suicide bombing in Mosul.

So if Ajmi is typical, then a thousand guilty terrorists released could kill 13,000 innocent civilians and wound an additional 40,000. That's 53,000 innocent lives destroyed. Some may still believe that's better than keeping one innocent person in Guantanamo Bay... but that is not so obvious to me.

Many folks reading this will object that, even if it's true that judges and lawyers have an overly legalistic bias, it's likewise true that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 had an overly militaristic bias. But the captivity and treatment of enemy combatants, whether lawful or unlawful, is at the core of any military strategy -- thus it's fundamentally a military issue, where the most important issue is victory.

But with Boumediene, the Court has held that henceforth, all major decisions in the detention of combatants -- not just the strictly limited set of decisions that the MCA left up to the D.C. Circuit, but all decisions without exception -- will ultimately be decided by civilian courts, even lowly district courts, by civilian judges who cannot help seeing the "trials" as exercises in legal justice -- where the most important issue is fairness.

Perhaps this new "fairness" doctrine is all for the best; maybe I stubbornly refuse to see the obvious. But certainly nobody on that side of the aisle at any level, from Justice Anthony Kennedy to Patterico, has endeavored to make the case to me that in dealing with terrorists, fairness should trump victory.

I'm listening, but I hear no argument.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 1, 2008, at the time of 7:55 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

February 19, 2008

Fair and Balanced - AP Style

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

I predicted this many years ago, but it still amazes me when a putative news source publishes an article on a controversial issue being pushed by the Left -- and doesn't even trouble to ask a single person on the right to comment.

The issue in this case is the Terrorist Surveillance Program, the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program that President Bush began shortly after the 9/11 attacks. The ACLU and various other anti-American activists brought suit against the federal government on the grounds that they were convinced the purpose was really to spy on American dissidents. They won at the district level, but the Sixth Circus tossed them out of court; and today, the Supreme Court denied certiorari:

The Supreme Court dealt a setback Tuesday to civil rights and privacy advocates who oppose the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. The justices, without comment, turned down an appeal from the American Civil Liberties Union to let it pursue a lawsuit against the program that began shortly after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The action underscored the difficulty of mounting a challenge to the eavesdropping, which remains classified and was confirmed by President Bush only after a newspaper article revealed its existence.

Their case has been dismissed by a federal appellate court, and now the Supreme Court has rejected it as well. I can understand why some might consider that "a setback" to pursuing it further... but thank goodness they're not giving up yet!

The ACLU is quoted defending its position; the ACLU's position is described (positively); the ACLU's position is argued. A similar lawsuit filed by an Islamist "charity" front group is sympathetically described, and the suits against the telecoms are mentioned without comment.

But not only do we find not a single argument, comment, or even encouraging word for the president's side... there isn't any indication they even tried to get any. There isn't even the pathetic excuse I see so often... that the spokesman for so-and-so "did not return the phone call from" or "get back to" the reporter in the fifteen minute window he allowed for rebuttal. It appears they never bothered asking a presidential spokesman or supporter of the TSP to defend it.

I doubt there was any discussion about this in the AP newsroom; in fact, I strongly suspect the thought never even occurred to either the (anonymous) reporter or the AP editors to find some Republican and ask him what he thought about the case, the program, or the plaintiffs. Were it suggested, the response would likely be the same blank stare as if someone had suggested they ask a spokesman for the American Nazi Party or the KKK what he thought about blacks and Jews being allowed to vote.

The New York Times is currently carrying the AP story without any changes; I'm sure they'll eventually write their own... we shall follow the progress of the Times' story with great interest. Interestingly, the Washington Post has an earlier version of this AP story that includes this feeble, half-hearted attempt on the part of the (still anonymous) writer to characterize the president's position:

The White House said the monitoring was necessary because the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act left dangerous gaps in the government's eavesdropping authority.

One can almost hear the snort of derision and see the eyeballs rolling as they wrote this. Yet even this single, grudging sentence of explanation -- which fortunately didn't require anyone at AP actually to talk to a Republican -- was dropped from the later story.

My prediction: More and more, this will become the norm. The elite media will finally drop the charade that they have any objectivity at all and sink, openly and brazenly, to the level of journalism in the 18th and 19th centuries... where newspapers attacked their political opponents with wanton abandon, without the slightest pretext of impartiality.

The difference, alas, is that back then, there was a fairly even mix of political opinion in these wildly partisan newspapers. Today, we have a sea of blue speckled here and there with dots of red. In this environment, such pugnacious press partisanship is not just a disservice to the country... it's actually dangerous to our continued existence.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 19, 2008, at the time of 3:05 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 13, 2008

A Very Patterico Moment

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

I want to set up a very realistic situation where I would certainly advocate we waterboard a suspect, and ask whether Patterico would do likewise. I suspect he will be on my side on this one, but I don't know for sure: His prosecutorial background gives him a very different perspective than I, a non-lawyer, can have. I'm especially curious because Patterico is adamant that waterboarding is torture; but he does not dogmatically insist that it should never, ever be used under any circumstances.

What I want to create here is not a cartoon situation -- if you don't waterboard this guy, the entire planet will blow up in thirty minutes! -- but rather a very real circumstance in which a CIA station chief in, say, Poland might find himself.

Naturally, everybody else is free to chime in, too. Maybe Patterico will be willing to put up a link, so his own readers can comment here. Or alternatively, they can read the scenario and comment at P's Ps.

Here we go...


You are a CIA station chief in an undisclosed, secret CIA prison in Poland (with Warsaw's consent). A prisoner is brought to your location, picked up by the Germans in Afghanistan and transferred to U.S. custody six days ago. We'll call him Mahmoud.

Mahmoud was not previously known to any intelligence agency before his capture (he was not the main target of the raid). He doesn't appear to be a big fish. But when he was grabbed, he had a laptop with him, and he was in the process of trying to erase the hard drive. Most of the information is irretrievably gone, a little bit remains; and within that remaining little bit, your techies manage to extract references to a huge attack planned for somewhere on the American mainland. From the timeframe discussed, it appears to be one to three months away. You don't know anything more than that.

You do not know for sure whether Mahmoud has more detailed information about the attack, but he evidently knew enough to try to erase the drive, even at risk of his own life. He has already been interrogated by the Marines and by CIA personnel where you are, but it's clear he has more information that he's holding back. The timeframe is tight enough that you must make a decision immediately, but not so tight that there would be no time to act on any information.

So what you know is this:

  1. A major attack is planned somewhere in the continental United States;
  2. Mahmoud may or may not be a major player, but he appears to know something significant about it;
  3. However, he might not know enough to allow authorities to thwart the attack. But on the other hand, he might;
  4. He would not talk under ordinary interrogation. You might be able to break him given time, but every week that passes makes it less likely his intelligence can be used to stop the attack.

We add one more point:

  1. You already have solid evidence that he participated in some attacks on American troops that resulted in fatalities. So if we want to try him later at a military tribunal, we don't need a confession to convict him; we already have ample forensic evidence.

You ask the DCI whether you can waterboard him; word comes from the White House via the DCI that you are authorized to waterboard Mahmoud, but you must use your own discretion whether you actually do it: You are the only one close enough to the scene to make that call. You get the impression that the president will stand behind you, whatever you decide... but of course, that only applies to this particular president. You don't know who will be president in 2009.

So the question is, do you order Mahmoud to be waterboarded? I have told you that I would say yes, waterboard him; I will also say that absent point 2 above, I would probably say no.

This is as realistic (and borderline) as I could make it without having more specific knowledge of any real-world situation similar to this. So, Patterico... what say you? (And everybody else, what say youse?)

I absolutely love asking intelligent people tough ethical questions that reside in the twilight zone between "decidedly yes" (Ayman Zawahiri) and "of course not!" (Cindy Sheehan). I enjoy watching how they think the situation through, to gain an insight into how others go about resolving such dichotomies between lives and souls.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 13, 2008, at the time of 11:35 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Another Painful, Humiliating Loss for Majority Leader Harry Reid...

Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

...Another legislative victory for America:

The president’s remarks came the morning after the Senate handed the White House a major victory by voting to broaden the government’s spy powers and to give legal protection to phone companies that cooperated in President Bush’s program of eavesdropping without warrants.

The immunity for the phone companies is the key difference between the Senate bill and the one passed by the House last year. The president said that without that protection, American telecommunications companies would face lawsuits that could cost them billions of dollars. Without the protection, he said, “they won’t participate, they won’t help us.”

“Liability protection is critical to securing the private sector’s cooperation with our intelligence efforts,” Mr. Bush said.

The bill now returns to the House of Representatives, which refused to grant such retroactive immunity to the telecoms before... presumably on the grounds that they had helped us identify terrorist cells in the United States right after the 9/11 attacks; and, well, no good deed goes unpunished. Or should, if the Democrats have their way.

Incidentally, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama raced to Washington D.C. (or perhaps simply stayed there, if he was there for the primary yesterday) to vote against the immunity clause in a failed amendment that would have stripped it from the bill; but then he suddenly became unavailable and incommunicado for the roll-call vote on the actual bill. As was Hillary Clinton, also a Democratic presidential candidate. Profiles in courage!

How bad was the thumping of Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%)?

On Tuesday, the Senate rejected amendments that would have imposed greater civil liberties checks on the government’s surveillance powers. Finally, the Senate voted 68 to 29 to approve the legislation, which the White House had been pushing for months.

The outcome in the Senate amounted, in effect, to a broader proxy vote in support of Mr. Bush’s wiretapping program. The wide-ranging debate before the final vote presaged discussion that will play out this year in the presidential and Congressional elections on other issues testing the president’s wartime authority, including secret detentions [of international terrorists], [so called] torture and Iraq war financing.

That last point, innocuously labeled "Iraq war financing," covers a multitude of leftist sins. It also means that the Democrats plan to try -- for about the eleventh or twelfth time -- to strangle war funding during a war and force defeat on troops who are currently pressing on to victory. This Quisliotic effort is led by the defeatist Reid, who famously declared many months ago, before the counterinsurgency even began, that it had already failed; that we had already lost; that the only thing left to do was evacuate the field and let al-Qaeda take over Iraq.

He spoke only the truth as he saw it, for Harry Reid is an honorable man. So are they all, all honorable men.

The attempted surrender in Iraq had, of course, nothing whatsoever to do with the Democratic Party compulsion to blame everything they hate, from the war to terrorism to the weather to the Boy Sprouts, on President George W. Bush. Honorable men would never be so petty and reckless as to precipitate military defeat and the deaths of hundreds of thousands, just to embarass our own government. And they are all honorable men.

So the next question is, will Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) now throw herself on the defeatism landmine, bravely immolating herself to rescue the leadership of her Senate counterpart -- at the expense of her own?

Is a rabbi Catholic? Does Ivana Trump sleep in the woods?

How big was the victory for the United States of America in the valiant quest to exterminate the human sacrificers in al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other transnational terrorist groups, along with their national sponsors in the Arab states, in Pakistan and Indonesia, and especially in Iran -- our war against global hirabah (Arabic for "unholy war")? Take a look at what our "lame duck" president achieved in Harry Reid's Senate:

The measure extends, for at least six years, many of the broad new surveillance powers that Congress hastily approved last August just before its summer recess. Intelligence officials said court rulings had left dangerous gaps in their ability to intercept terrorist communications.

The bill allows the government to eavesdrop on large bundles of foreign-based communications on its own authority so long as Americans are not the targets. A secret intelligence court, which traditionally has issued individual warrants before wiretapping began, would review the procedures set up by the executive branch only after the fact to determine whether there were abuses involving Americans.

“This is a dramatic restructuring” of surveillance law, said Michael Sussmann, a former Justice Department intelligence lawyer who represents several telecommunication companies. “And the thing that’s so dramatic about this is that you’ve removed the court review. There may be some checks after the fact, but the administration is picking the targets.” [As opposed to unelected federal judges on the secret FISA court -- all honorable men -- picking the terrorist-surveillance targets.]

The Senate plan also adds the provision that was considered critical by the White House: shielding phone companies from legal liability. That program allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without warrants on the international communications of Americans suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda.

More than three dozen lawsuits have already been filed against AT&T, MCI, and other telecoms for violating the privacy rights of Americans who receive phone calls from al-Qaeda. It would be rude and offensive for us to compare these lawsuits to the threats by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) to target a huge bunch of "John Doe" passengers in the lawsuits filed by CAIR on behalf of the "flying imams" against US Airways. Certainly there can be no similarity between lawsuits designed to stop telecoms from participating in future efforts to identify al-Qaeda cells inside the United States -- and suing passengers for reporting extremely suspicious behavior by Moslem activists on an airline flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix.

No, we can all agree they're not in the least bit similar; still, I wonder how many Democrats would also vote against extending immunity to ordinary citizens who report suspicious, terrorist-like behavior to authorities, immunity from being sued for daring to speak up.

(We'll probably never know; both the House and Senate finally reinserted such protection into the reauthorization of the Homeland Security Bill in late July, 2007... but only after the Democrat-led conference committee first stripped it from the bill on July 20th. I don't know what deal was struck to get it back in, but I believe it was finally reinserted into the final bill before passage.)

Contrariwise, we certainly do know that there are 21 "Blue Dog" Democrats willing to vote for the Senate version of the FISA-reform bill:

Some House Democrats were prepared to support immunity, regardless. In a Jan. 28 letter, 21 Democrats in the conservative Blue Dog Coalition sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., supporting immunity and listing other provisions that they believed were needed in a FISA bill.

They wrote that the Senate bill “contains satisfactory language addressing all these issues, and we would fully support that measure should it reach the House floor without substantial change.”

Those 21 Democrats, plus the 202 Republicans in the House, makes a 51% majority in favor of reforming FISA to allow intelligence agencies to engage in rapid-response surveillance, rather than wait weeks for a FISA decision -- and have to show "probable cause" to surveille even foreign terrorists living abroad. And of course, there are other Democrats who will support the Senate version just to prevent the FISA law from expiring, as President Bush has already announced that he will support no more temporary extentions.

On the other side, some of those 202 Republicans might vote against it. But clearly, this is a vital issue in the war on global hirabah; a substantial portion (possibly a majority) of the House supports it; and the Senate just passed it overwhelmingly.

Of course, Speaker Pelosi pushed instead for a 21-day extension of the bill... knowing the Senate would never go along, and the president wouldn't sign it anyway. Of course, it might buy a few days time. Of course, the August extention expires Saturday. Of course, the House won't be in session either tomorrow or Friday. Of course, of course.

Of course, the delay tactic failed when "more than 30" Blue Dogs joined the Republicans to vote it down, 229 to 191.

That means the Speaker has only two options left in her bag of tricks:

  1. Refuse to vote on the Senate bill, thus allowing the entire edifice of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reform to expire in three days... leaving our intelligence agencies high and dry. And all for the want of the will to allow a vote that Pelosi knows she will lose.
  2. Hold her nose and hold the damned vote.

Which hand will she choose? I suspect that by the end of the day, we will have a vote and a new FISA law sent to the president's desk for signature. That will resolve our intellignece crisis... for the next six years; after which -- you're way ahead of me -- it will expire. Again.

Democrats: So are they all, all honorable men (and women).

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 13, 2008, at the time of 4:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 5, 2008

Al-Qaeda "Movin' On Out?"

Afghan Astonishments , Pakistan Perplexities , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

According to prepared testimony delivered by Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- chaired, oxymoronically enough, by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IVth (D-WV, 60%) -- al-Qaeda has largely been thwarted in their attempts to launch attacks in Iraq; so they are focusing on conducting future operations from the "lawless" regions of Pakistan along the Afghanistan border. But they are still aggressively pursuing a strategy of carrying out major attack on the West, and have indeed tried several already (which we and our allies shut down):

Last summer, for example, with our allies, we unraveled terrorist plots linked to al-Qa’ida and its associates in Denmark and Germany.... The death last week of Abu Layth al-Libi, al-Qa'ida’s charismatic senior military commander and a key link between al-Qa’ida and its affiliates in North Africa, is the most serious blow to the group’s top leadership since the December 2005 death of then external operations chief Hamza Rabi’a.

Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) suffered major setbacks last year, although it still is capable of mounting lethal attacks. Hundreds of AQI leadership, operational, media, financial, logistical, weapons, and foreign fighter facilitator cadre have been killed or captured. With much of the Sunni population turning against AQI, its maneuver room and ability to operate have been severely constrained. AQI’s attack tempo, as measured by numbers of suicide attacks, had dropped by more than half by year’s end after approaching all time highs in early 2007. We see indications that al-Qa’ida’s global image is beginning to lose some of its luster; nonetheless, we still face multifaceted terrorist threats.

Unfortunately, they are also making progress towards once again being able to attack the United States directly:

Al-Qa’ida’s central leadership based in the border area of Pakistan is its most dangerous component. Last July, we published a National Intelligence Estimate titled, "The Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland," which assessed that al-Qa’ida’s central leadership in the past two years has been able to regenerate the core operational capabilities needed to conduct attacks in the Homeland.

In particular, here are McConnell's concerns:

  • That "Al-Qa’ida has been able to retain a safehaven in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)." It's not as large or secure as the one that used to be in Afghanistan; but it can be used for training purposes and as a platform whence to stage attacks "in Pakistan, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the United States."
  • They have managed to maintain a cadre of somewhat skilled lieutenants and operations officers in the Pakistan border region.
  • And they have managed to recruit a number of Westerners to their Pakistan safe haven to carry out major attacks on the West.

One very positive note from the DNI:

AQI tactics, tradecraft, and techniques are transmitted on the Internet, but AQI documents captured in Iraq suggest that fewer than 100 AQI terrorists have moved from Iraq to establish cells in other countries.

So the spirit is willing, but the investment of flesh is weak.

Also, interestingly enough, it appears that, like Dr. Frank-N-Furter, AQI's mission is a failure, their lifestyle's too extreme: Numerous religious leaders formerly associated with al-Qaeda have begun denouncing them and their violence (against Moslems, that is); and fewer unconnected terrorist groups and extremists see AQ, or especially AQI, as the model for their own hirabah (unholy war).

I think it increasingly clear that the current situation in Pakistan is unacceptable: Americans can go up to but not across the border between Afghanistan and Pakisan, while President Pervez Musharraf pledges to crack down on the militants in Waziristan and Balochistan and then breaks his pledge. (Whether out of mendacity or simple inability to make headway against the Taliban and al-Qaeda and their supporters is irrelevant.) We must either negotiate a new arrangement with Musharraf -- or else implement one in spite of him.

Later, speaking abour Iran's WMD programs, Mike McConnell clarifies some of the conclusions of the infamous National Intelligence Estimate that said Iran had stopped its nuclear program. What the NIE actually meant, says the Director of National Intelligence is:

  • Iran stopped "warhead design and weaponization" and covert attempts to enrich uranium;
  • They have not stopped declared programs to enrich uranium (perhaps even weaponizing it);
  • And they have actually accelerated their ballistic-missile program, closing in on being able to fire a missile from Iran and hit targets in the United States mainland.

About the other elements of Iran's WMD program:

We know that Tehran had a chemical warfare program prior to 1997, when it declared elements of its program. We assess that Tehran maintains dual-use facilities intended to produce CW agent in times of need [sound familiar...? -DaH] and conducts research that may have offensive applications. We assess Iran maintains a capability to weaponize CW agents in a variety of delivery systems.

We assess that Iran has previously conducted offensive BW [biological warfare] agent research and development. Iran continues to seek dual-use technologies that could be used for biological warfare.

Finally, McConnell noted that, like Iraq, the Afghan army is growing slowly and becoming more and more effective; while the Afghan National Police has grown more quickly -- but "corruption, insufficient training and equipment, and absenteeism hamper their effectiveness."

McConnell concluded on a hopeful (if not Pollyannic) note:

I, my colleagues, and the Intelligence Community we represent are fully committed to arming our policymakers, warfighters, and law enforcement officers with the best intelligence and analytic insight we can. This is necessary to enable them to take the actions and make the decisions that will protect American lives and American interests, here and around the world.

Considering that the Senate I-Com, the very body that DNI Mike McConnell was addressing, now sports such stalwarts of the aggressive collection and distribution of intelligence as Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD, 100%), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI, not yet rated), Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and Dianne "DiFi" Feinstein (D-CA, 90%) -- not to mention their Republican counterparts, including Sens. Chuck Hagel (NE, 75%), John Warner (VA, 64%) (for the rest of this year), and Olympia Snowe (ME, 36%) -- the idea that they will make any decision or take any actions at all about anything significant is charming... but about as realistic as the idea that Ron Paul would aggressively pursue the war against global hirabah.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 5, 2008, at the time of 11:51 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 10, 2007

Hoodwinkers and Their Codependents: In Search of Intelligent Intelligence on Iran

Iran Matters , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

British intelligence evidently reads Big Lizards; the first paragraph of this Telegraph story says it all:

British spy chiefs have grave doubts that Iran has mothballed its nuclear weapons programme, as a US intelligence report claimed last week, and believe the CIA has been hoodwinked by Teheran.

In our first post (six days ago) on the subject of the New! Revised! National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Nothing to See Here, Folks... Time to Just Move On!, we suggested the possibilty that the "new evidence" upon which the National Intelligence Council cobbled up its new NIE could have been part of a "disinformation campaign" by the Iranians:

[Washington Times reporters Jon Ward and Bill] 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.

Whether or not that "new evidence" was accurate or a ruse, it was uncritically seized upon by three principal authors of the 2007 Iran NIE -- Tom Fingar, formerly of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research; Vann Van Diepen, the National Intelligence Officer for WMD; and Kenneth Brill, the former U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) -- who already held a quasi-religious faith in diplomacy, not "saber rattling," to solve the Iranian nuclear-weapons crisis.

In our second post on the New! Possibly Fabricated! NIE, Of Course We Trust This Journal That Just Fell Into Our Hands..., we called your attention to a Los Angeles Times article (free registration required) that elucidated the provenance of that "new evidence". It came first from intercepted phone conversations among Iranian nuclear-weapons developers; and second, from a "journal," ostensibly kept by one of those weapons developers and stuffed full of what would be highly classified intelligence, that was handed to U.S. intelligence officers by a person about whom we have been told... exactly nothing.

Acting on nought but my own uninformed analysis, here is what I noted after discovering what new evidence Fingar, Van Diepen, and Brill (and others in the CIA and State Department) found so persuasive:

To my admittedly untrained and non-authoritative mind, if I wanted to convince the CIA that I'd stopped my nuclear weapons program and persuade them to bang the gong for a massive incentive program for my country -- I think I would have various government officials discuss this terrible secret in a not-so-secure environment; and I think I would accidentally drop a journal where it would be sure to be found.

Spinning yarns for stretched ears and handing over a notebook that contains exactly what your audience wants to read is just about the best method of duping your foes. It's intelligence jujitsu.

Critical analysis is what we do at Big Lizards. We're not news reporters; we're secondary sources, reading "the first draft of history" (as Philip Graham called journalism) and using our brains to sort out what ought to be, perhaps, the second draft... after a good editor has gone through, making connections missed in the heat of a deadline -- and tossing out what "20-20 hindsight" shows is obvious nonsense. (Actually, hindsight is never better than 20-100; but it doesn't have as big an astigmatism as the twisted view of contemporaneous observation.)

And now, courtesy of the Daily Telegraph, we have this satisfying confirmation that other analysts, ones with actual knowledge of the intelligence in question, have the same qualms:

A senior British official delivered a withering assessment of US intelligence-gathering abilities in the Middle East and revealed that British spies shared the concerns of Israeli defence chiefs that Iran was still pursuing nuclear weapons.

The source said British analysts believed that Iranian nuclear staff, knowing their phones were tapped, deliberately gave misinformation. "We are sceptical. We want to know what the basis of it is, where did it come from? Was it on the basis of the defector [former Revolutionary Guards Gen. Alireza Asgari]? Was it on the basis of the intercept material? They say things on the phone because they know we are up on the phones. They say black is white. They will say anything to throw us off.

"It's not as if the American intelligence agencies are regarded as brilliant performers in that region. They got badly burned over Iraq."

That last line is very disturbing; first, because it implies that British intelligence believes the CIA is simply swinging widly, like an out of control pendulum, between overestimating and underestimating WMD capabilities... and second, because British intelligence is probably right.

Under previous administrations (Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton), we slashed our committment to "humint," or human intelligence -- actual spies -- to a doleful level, preferring to rely almost exclusively on "sigint," signals intelligence: satellite photos, cell-phone intercepts, electromagnetic tracking of electrical-cable traffic, and so forth.

Sigint is great for showing movement of physical objects, how a country's emergency-alert electrical grid operates, and clandestinely surveilling conversations. Sigint will tell us the state and condition of the enemy's means to carry out its intentions; but it simply cannot tell us what those intentions are in the first place. Sigint cannot tell us what he intends to do next; we only learn what he says -- over phone lines he knows are probably compromised -- he's going to do next.

In order to have a good read on actual intentions, you need physical human beings, actually loyal to the United States (not just turned or bribed double-agents), infiltrating the enemy's institutions and getting right up inside his OODA loop. Preferably someone who has lived and worked in the target country for years, perhaps decades, and actually understands the culture, the de facto decision-making heirarchy (which may differ from the heirarchy on paper), the language in all its nuances; a person who can judge the actual intensity of the enemy's goals and plans... how determined are they really?

In other words, exactly what Great Britain -- and Israel -- have focused on obsessively for decades (centuries, in the UK's case). The Brits because they had to control a global empire... and the Israelis because the "Great Game" to them is literally existential: If Israel guesses wrong, it could be "wiped from the map," in the piquant phrasing of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Fingar, Van Diepen, Brill, and their posse are saying that our sigint tell us that Iran paused their nuclear weapons program (NWP) in 2003. The Brits and the Israelis are saying that their humint tells them that the Iranians are playing us like a Stradivarius.

I don't know about you, but we here at lizard central would like to see some further analysis on this point by the National Intelligence Council, leading to a resolution we can trust. It would be a tragedy if we bought Iranian disinformation and released the pressure on them -- only to see Ahmadinejad (or Hezbollah) with a nuke in two years.

Even some American spies share the British and Israeli concerns:

A US intelligence source has revealed that some American spies share the concerns of the British and the Israelis. "Many middle- ranking CIA veterans believe Iran is still committed to producing nuclear weapons and are concerned that the agency lost a number of its best sources in Iran in 2004," the official said.

Why 2004? Well, in January of that year, the Guardian Council in Iran went on a tear, banning nearly all well-known Reformist candidates from the Majlis (legislature) election. In the vote on February 20th and the runoff on May 7th, the Conservatives, led by Teheran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the year before he was elected President of Iran, won an absolute majority in the Majlis, ousting the Reformist Party of former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and others.

Evidently, nearly all of our sources in Iran were Iranian informers, not American spies; and they must have nearly all been Reformists (which makes sense). Thus when they were booted from power in 2004, American intelligence was blinded at the same time. This is one reason among many for infiltrating Americans into countries like Iran and North Korea, not relying solely upon defectors, traitors, and informers within the target countries; another reason is the inability to trust people who have proven themselves untrustworthy by betraying their own former allegiance.

(Rafsanjani later lost to Ahmadinejad for president; but he has since ascended to the chairmanship of the Assembly of Experts, which will elect the next Supreme Leader -- possibly Rafsanjani himself -- when the current Ayatollah Ali al-Khamenei dies or is retired.)

The Israelis and the British focus on placing Israelis and Brits into Iran, and they lose a lot of good men and women to assassination when they're discovered. We focus on bribing Iranians to rat out their country... and we focus on sigint. All three intelligence sources have their uses; but through short-sighted political daintiness and an aversion to dissembling on behalf of our country -- Democrats never seem to mind dissembling on behalf of their own careers -- we have cut ourselves off from the most useful and believable source of learning the intentions of our enemies: well-informed, long-term American spies.

These are desperate times, and they demand desperate measures. I don't believe the American public has any doubt that we need actual human spies infiltrating Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and every other country that is an avowed enemy of the United States... and I doubt there would be much objection from the voters if we also sent spies into China, Russia, the 'Stans, other Latin American countries, flakey Asian countries... oh heck, why not just everywhere we can?

The qualms are all on the part of elected officials -- Democratic elected officials and perhaps a few RINOs, those overly fastidious "senoritos" who jump on a chair, hike their skirts, and scream at the very thought of a ruthless American spy working his way up the ranks of the Revolutionary Guards for purposes of stealing intelligence and committing sabotage... and ready to kill to protect his secret identity.

If there ever was a time to allow the faint of heart to craft our intelligence policies, that time has long passed. Give us some stout-hearted men and women -- and prepare yourselves for many, many more black stars going up on the wall of heroes in the lobby of CIA headquarters at Langley.

America had a long and honorable tradition of infiltrating our own "unlawful combatants" into enemy territory; it's time to return to those days. In fact, it's long overdue.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 10, 2007, at the time of 8:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 5, 2007

Something to See Here: WSJ Dishes the Dirt on the NIE

Iran Matters , Terrorism Intelligence , Weapons of Mass Disputation
Hatched by Dafydd

The Wall Street Journal, following Big Lizards' lead, has weighed in on the questionable provenance of the most recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear weapons program (NWP). (And if I have to mention it again, the Wall Street Journal will henceforth be the WSJ -- just to increase the alphabet soup aspect of this post. Maybe I can come up with a few more BL acronyms, while I'm at it.)

In today's editorial -- subscription (for actual money) required to read more than the first paragraph and part of the second -- they argue that the very fact that this NIE reverses the NIE of just two years ago itself casts doubt on the reliabilty of any NIE at all:

As recently as 2005, the consensus estimate of our spooks was that "Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons" and do so "despite its international obligations and international pressure." This was a "high confidence" judgment. The new NIE says Iran abandoned its nuclear program in 2003 "in response to increasing international scrutiny." This too is a "high confidence" conclusion. One of the two conclusions is wrong, and casts considerable doubt on the entire process by which these "estimates" -- the consensus of 16 intelligence bureaucracies -- are conducted and accorded gospel status.

What monumental change occurred in the last two years to completely flip our thinking on whether Iran is currently pursuing an NWP? Is it really, as Bill Gertz and Jon Ward allege, the testimony of one supposed Iranian defector -- former Revolutionary Guards Gen. Alireza Asgari -- who we have not even interviewed ourselves?

The WSJ (there! -- see?) also echoes another point of our previous post... the provenance of the NIE (where it came from):

Our own "confidence" is not heightened by the fact that the NIE's main authors include three former State Department officials with previous reputations as "hyper-partisan anti-Bush officials," according to an intelligence source. They are Tom Fingar, formerly of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research; Vann Van Diepen, the National Intelligence Officer for WMD; and Kenneth Brill, the former U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

For a flavor of their political outlook, former Bush Administration antiproliferation official John Bolton recalls in his recent memoir that then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage "described Brill's efforts in Vienna, or lack thereof, as 'bull -- .'" Mr. Brill was "retired" from the State Department by Colin Powell before being rehired, over considerable internal and public protest, as head of the National Counter-Proliferation Center by then-National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.

The Journal agrees with us that the only major "pressure" on Iran in 2003 was our invasion of Iraq, the deposing of Saddam Hussein, de-Baathification of Iraq, and the start of the insurgency... and particularly our response to it: American forces dug in and fought back, rather than the Bush-41/Clinton style of staying but a few weeks, then withdrawing -- while congratulating ourselves for a job well done -- and leaving a chaotic mess behind into which Iran could move. So shouldn't we see the suspension of Iran's NWP in respose to the Iraq war (if true) as a tremendous victory for the Bush policy?

But contrariwise, the NIE claims the turnabout was due to "international pressure," which I don't believe they ever actually specify. What international (non-American) pressure was put on Iran in 2003? We were still in the process of trying to persuade the Europeans to start dealing with Iran on the issue of their NWP. I suppose it's possible that the Iranian mullahs glanced back at Great Britain, France, Germany, and Russia and started quaking in their Persian slippers; just as it's possible that I am actually Marie of Romania... but very unlikely.

The WSJ drops a bombshell; at least, I hadn't heard this before, and I tend to follow the news more carefully than I think do most non-bloggers:

In any case, the real issue is not Iran's nuclear weapons program, but its nuclear program, period. As the NIE acknowledges, Iran continues to enrich uranium on an industrial scale -- that is, build the capability to make the fuel for a potential bomb. And it is doing so in open defiance of binding U.N. resolutions. No less a source than the IAEA recently confirmed that Iran already has blueprints to cast uranium in the shape of an atomic bomb core.

The U.S. also knows that Iran has extensive technical information on how to fit a warhead atop a ballistic missile. And there is considerable evidence that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has been developing the detonation devices needed to set off a nuclear explosion at the weapons testing facility in Parchin. Even assuming that Iran is not seeking a bomb right now, it is hardly reassuring that they are developing technologies that could bring them within a screw's twist of one.

This new NIE will surely make it more difficult to gain international support for further sanctions against Iran and against companies doing business with Iran ("Nothing to see here, folks!")... which, perversely enough, may actually make it easier for Iran to produce an actual nuclear bomb -- which will make it much more likely that we attack Iran just prior to that point.

I wonder whether the appeasement camp within the State Department -- that which spawned Messrs. Fingar, Van Diepen, and Brill -- has ever given serious consideration to its strategy and whether it will achieve the desired goal... or its opposite. Is this a rational war against Bush, based upon actual tussling over policy? Or merely because, as does Jonathon Chait, they hate the way he walks and talks?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 5, 2007, at the time of 6:26 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 13, 2007

Elite News Media: Reading Between the Lies

Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

I don't know if I'll make this a continuing series; but for today, it's kind of fun (for me, and I'm all that matters in my narcissistic, little bubble-world) to just slalom through a news article and see if we can deduce what's really happening from the way the drive-by media bobs and weaves. Our text today is an AP piece by Devlin Barrett titled "Domestic Spying Inquiry Restarted at DoJ."

The Justice Department has reopened a long-dormant inquiry into the government's warrantless wiretapping program, a major policy shift only days into the tenure of Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

The investigation by the department's Office of Professional Responsibility was shut down last year, after the investigators were denied security clearances. Gonzales told Congress that President Bush, not he, denied the clearances.

"We recently received the necessary security clearances and are now able to proceed with our investigation," H. Marshall Jarrett, counsel for the OPR, wrote to Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y. A copy of the letter, dated Tuesday, was obtained by The Associated Press....

"I am happily surprised," Hinchey said. "It now seems because we have a new attorney general the situation has changed. Maybe this attorney general understands that his obligation is not to be the private counsel to the president but the chief law enforcement officer for the entire country."

(Thumbnail distinction: The Office of Professional Responsibility -- OPR -- investigates allegations of unethical or criminal behavior by DoJ attorneys; the Office of the Inspector General -- OIG -- investigates allegations about non-attorney DoJ employees.)

All right, one investigation surrounding the NSA al-Qaeda phone intercept program has restarted -- not an investigation into the propriety of the program itself but into what the DoJ sttorneys told the president and Congress; that basic fact is clear. What AP is obscuring is why... what changed?

Now the investigators have received their security clearances; but two intriguing points bubble up that AP never follows:

  • Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said, and I don't believe President Bush ever disputed, that it was Bush, not Gonzales, who denied the clearances in the first place. So how could a new Attorney General -- appointed by Bush -- change that?

    (And it certainly doesn't have anything to do with Attorney General Michael Mukasey not being "the private counsel to the president but the chief law enforcement officer for the entire country." Does Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-NY, 100%, believe that Gonzales secretly talked Bush into denying the clearances, and now Mukasey has talked him into issuing them? This is garden-variety liberal lunacy, the "president as empty vessel" conspiracy.)

  • Another batch of Justice Department investigators, run not by the Office of Professional Responsibility but by the inspector general's office [OIG], did receive security clearances... at the same time that the OPR investigators were denied. That's hardly the action of a president trying to squash an investigation!

The AP article reports this odd fact... but there is no follow-up, no analysis, not even a question mark. Of course not: The fact that other DoJ investigators got the proper clearances doesn't fit the "story" of Bush thwarting the investigation:

The OPR investigation was begun in February 2006 but was shut down a few months later when the National Security Agency refused to grant Justice Department lawyers the security clearances to ask questions about the program. Justice Department officials said Gonzales recommended Bush approve the clearances, but the president said no....

A separate Justice Department internal investigation was opened last year by the agency's inspector general. Those investigators received their security clearances around the same time the OPR investigators' were denied, and their probe is ongoing.

Why the OIG but not the OPR?

So what is going on here? The OPR is a council headed by the Counsel on Professional Responsibility, currently H. Marshall Jarrett; but Jarrett has been there since 2005, all through the investigation. So there must be some reason why the president refused to issue clearances to the OPR under Gonzales, but immediately -- before even the ceremonial swearing-in -- issued them for essentially the same OPR under Mukasey.

One possiblity could be that Bush had lost confidence that anything Gonzales did wouldn't be so tainted by the (in my opinion) unwarranted attacks on Gonzales, that it would turn into a PR nightmare. Suppose the Gonzales OPR investigated and found no ethical violation; wouldn't the Democrats simply seize hold of that and scream "cover-up?"

So what may have really been standing in the way of an investigation... is the very damage fraudulently inflicted by Democrats on the creditibility of Alberto Gonzales! By hurling so many unprovable accusations against Alberto Gonzales, always prejudicial but never probative, the Democrats themselves made it politically impossible for him to conduct the very investigations they demanded. Any probe would precipitate a Catch-22:

  • If Gonzales' Department of Justice found culpability, that would give Democrats ammunition to attack the Bush administration;
  • If the DoJ found complete exoneration, that would allow Democrats to cry "cover-up" -- and still attack the Bush administration.

So what is the point of an administrative investigation? Since Bush obviously could not simply order the OPR not to investigate (think how that would look), the only power he had was to deny them the clearances until he had an Attorney General who was not tainted by the slanderous allegations of the Democrats.

By contrast, the Office of the Inspector General appears to be held in higher repute. For one thing, it's run by Glenn Fine... who was appointed in 2000 by President Bill Clinton. For another, since it doesn't investigate DoJ attorneys but only the non-attorney aides and other employees, I suspect it's seen by both parties as lower level and not as political: It doesn't investigate political appointees, who are generally attorneys. Ergo, there was no danger of precipitating another "cover-up" confrontation with the Democrats by allowing the Democrat-appointed Fine to investigate career non-attorney employees of the Department of Justice.

I suspect that, regardless of Bush's frequent (and probably sincere) avowals of support for Gonzales and his belief that the accusations were false, the president was savvy enough to know that sometime in the very near future, the pressure would become insurmountable... and Gonzales himself would crumble and resign. So Bush put off some investigations until such time as a new AG could more credibly conduct them.

The "importance" of these investigations

Here's an interesting admission against interest:

Democrats have complained in the past that neither probe reviews whether the surveillance program violates the Constitution, the kind of decision usually reserved for the courts.

So the Democrats are admitting that neither of these two internal DoJ probes will get at the actual meat of what everybody wants to know: Is it constitutional to eavesdrop on overseas terrorists -- even if we might accidentally overhear a conversation he has with an American citizen? That question cannot be resolved by the Department of Justice, but only by the federal court system.

In other words, these DoJ investigations are ancillary side issues... and even the elite media knows it. Yet they're making a huge stink out of it. Ergo, they're not at all confident that there is anything wrong with the eavesdropping program itself: If they thought they had a really strong case on the main issue, why would they even pay attention to the question of "whether the DOJ attorneys who were involved complied with their ethical obligations of providing competent legal advice to their client and of adhering to their duty of candor to the court"?

If you're confident you can convict a defendant of multiple murders, you don't focus on whether you can also get him for income-tax evasion; that's the straw you clutch at as a last resort.

Say, what about the "fired" United States Attorneys investigation? How's that going?

And finally, we have this very soft statement that nevertheless shouts volumes at us:

A department investigation also is looking at last year's firings of nine U.S. attorneys -- and whether at least one of them was dismissed because he refused to target Democratic candidates shortly before the 2006 elections.

"At least one of them?" A far cry from the original accusation -- that all seven (or nine, the number seemed only to grow for a time) had been "fired" because they wouldn't throw cases against Republicans or file false charges against Democrats or other wildly improper (and illegal) reasons.

Am I being precipitous by concluding that the phraseology "at least one of them" means that the Democrats have quietly given up on the rest, and are just focusing on a single case?

And which one? There are only two former USAs whose firings have ever been alleged by Democrats to be because they "refused to target Democratic candidates" in corruption probes: David Iglesias and John McKay. One other USA, Todd Graves, resigned under pressure after he refused to prosecute a voter-fraud case against the leftist group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), which is widely believed to engage in voter registration fraud... which isn't exactly what AP says above.

As for the rest, the Left alleges they were fired for bringing corruption cases against Republicans, not for refusing to bring them against Democrats; and one (Bob Cummins) is alleged to have been fired to "make room" for Karl Rove's "protegé," Timothy Griffin.

So has the entire "dismissal of US Attorneys controversy" collapsed except for one case, for which liberals still keep hope alive? Enquiring minds say -- sure sounds like it!

"In conclusion..." -- and the audience spontaneously cheers

See? It is possible to get one's news from the elite media after all. It just requires an entire archaeological dig.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 13, 2007, at the time of 6:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 30, 2007

Dem Prez Candidates Find Unanimity - Opposing Presidential Authority!

Elections , Hillary Hilarity , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%), and ex-Sen. John Edwards have three things in common:

  • Each is a current (or former) member of the Senate;
  • Each is running for president... a.k.a. "chief executive";
  • Each claims he wants presidential power curtailed, making the president little more than a congressional catspaw.

How's that last one again? I think Hillary expressed it best (with a hat tip to Real Clear Politics):

The Attorney General is the chief defender of the rule of law in our country. After Alberto Gonzales's troubled tenure, we cannot send a signal that the next Attorney General in any way condones torture or believes that the President is unconstrained by law.

What exactly does this mean? The Democrats made the meaning explicit a few days ago, as we faithfully reported in Mucking About With Mukasey: When Democratic senators write "condones torture," you should read "refuses to declare the use of waterboarding anathema, forbidden under any or all circumstances, no exceptions."

Attorney General Designate Michael Mukasey, in his Senate confirmation hearings, has so far refused to declare waterboarding to be torture or to agree to forbid the president to order it (though how Mukasey -- who works for the president, not the other way around -- could enforce such a ban is left hanging). Thus, Clinton and Obama have both declared they will not vote to confirm him. Can't have an Attorney General who thinks the president is "unconstrained by law!"

But wait -- how is waterboarding related to the "rule of law," of which the Attorney General should be "the chief defender?" No bill declaring waterboarding to be an act of torture has ever been enacted into law in the United States. In fact, Congress has never sent such a bill to the president to be vetoed. While "torture" is banned, it is left up to the president to determine how to execute that law -- specifically, to determine what does and does not constitute torture, using broad guidelines contained in various acts and treaties.

But these Democratic candidates want to remove that task from the president's plate. Rather, they want the president's understanding of the laws banning torture -- Title 18, part I, chapter 113C, § 2340 of the United States Code, for example -- to shift with every shift of the majority wind blowing from Congress, without the tedious necessity of Congress passing bills that the president is willing to sign... or (in a pinch) overriding the president's veto.

What these candidates demand is that President Bush declare waterboarding torture for no other reason than that a majority of Congress considers it torture -- as if the president himself should have no say in the matter. The so-called Commander in Chief and Chief Executive becomes a congressional spokesman, fit only to echo the understanding of the law as enunciated by congressional leaders.

The president thus becomes Chief Executive Secretary to the majority leader of the Senate and the squeaker of the House.

On a related point, recall that Democratic senators routinely ask judicial nominees, during their confirmation hearings, how they will rule on various cases. In particular, they invariably ask nominees to federal district courts, circuit courts, and the Supreme Court whether they will uphold a woman's "right" to get an abortion, with the clear understanding that if they will not, or if they refuse to answer, that senator will oppose their confirmation. This is just as improper as demanding that an incoming Attorney General agree to congressional policy decisions that will bind the president as a condition of his confirmation; and it indicates a very disturbing pattern:

Democrats evidently believe that, while we have three coequal branches of government, one is more coequal than the others.

But it's not just my inference here; we can take the direct word of John Edwards. While Edwards has become almost a fringe candidate, he speaks for a great many other Democrats in the Senate and House. In his own statement rejecting Mukasey (though he has no say in that question), he included this paragraph:

Mukasey has also said that the president doesn't necessarily have to abide by acts of Congress. We need an Attorney General who will put the rule of law above the administration's short-term political interests, and Mukasey has already shown that he's unwilling to do that.

Sadly, Edwards actually appears to believe that a president must "abide by acts of Congress"... all of them. (The statement makes no sense unless we assume that Edwards meant to allow no exceptions; if exceptions are allowed, then anything can be an exception!) But what if a runaway Congress enacts a patently unconstitutional law? Must the president abide by it anyway?

Here is the scenario: Suppose John Edwards becomes president; and because of the Silky Pony's feckless policies, we are hit with another terrorist attack -- but this one is a widespread, distributed attack on America's malls. In 12 Gallerias across the country, a series of coordinated bombings kill 23,000 last-minute shoppers during Christmas week.

Al-Qaeda swiftly claims credit for the attacks, and within a couple of days, the attacker are identified; all are Arab Americans. In a spasm of rage, Congress passes a law ordering the immediate arrest and detention of all Americans of Arabic descent. President Edwards valiantly tries to stop the madness, but Congress overrides his veto.

He is now faced with a constitutional crisis: The act is clearly unconstitutional and should be overturned when the courts get around to hearing it. But they're in no hurry, just as they were not in 1942. So should President Edwards go ahead and implement this obviously unconstitutional act of Congress? Or should he exercise his authority -- and duty -- as a coequal branch of the government to ignore the act, on his own authority?

The point of the exercise is that "the law" is not solely determined by statutory law enacted by Congress: It also includes the Constitution, the bedrock law of our government, along with caselaw.

Likewise, Congress is not the sole arbiter of what the Constitution and the law require, either. The Supreme Court obviously plays a role; but so too does the president, in his capacity as the executor of the laws of the land -- including the most basic law, the Constitution of the United States of America.

But while Congress seems willing to include the Court into the club of those who get to determine what is constitutional, it is equally pleased to include the president out of that fraternal order. And since many senators also believe they should only confirm judges who agree in advance to decide certain cases in favor of the senator's position, these members of Congress quite clearly believe that Congress should be preeminent in determining what "rule of law" means. This tendency crosses party lines, by the way; cf. Sens. Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%), Lindsay Graham (R-SC, 83%), and everyone on the Gang of Fourteen.

This is almost an attempt at a slow-moving, bloodless coup d'état... well, "bloodless" in the sense that they do not openly espouse killing the president; but they do push policies that are likely to get a lot of Americans killed, in the guise of protecting their "civil liberties." From Hillary again:

We need to restore the nation’s confidence in the Department of Justice. The Department must once again defend our Constitution and the rule of law without regard to ideology and partisanship. And we need to protect the country from terrorism while also respecting Americans’ civil liberties.

It's not quite clear to me how waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- a Kuwaiti on the lam, who was captured by Pakistani troops in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, with or without CIA participation, and was transferred to CIA custody -- impacts "Americans’ civil liberties." Perhaps Hillary Clinton will elaborate when she's asked that tough question during tonight's Democratic candidates' debate. [Note for the irony impaired...]

In fact, I do not believe there is any evidence that any American citizen or legal resident has ever been waterboarded in order to obtain information. However, we have waterboarded many American soldiers and CIA interrogators as part of their training for either resisting that interrogation technique (in the case of soldiers) or using it on captured terrorists (in the case of CIA interrogators).

Also, at least one reporter, Fox News Channel's Steve Harrigan, voluntarily underwent three of the reputed five stages of waterboarding for a video report. Harrigan pronounced it "torture," but he also noted that just a few minutes after each session, he felt perfectly fine -- which makes his pronouncement a bit dicey, as all definitions of psychological torture I've seen, including the legal one above, require "prolonged mental harm" resulting from the session.

Others who have undergone it, including many military and CIA personnel, say it's not torture. The point is not to prove one way or another (though I believe it is not torture, and I would happily undergo it just out of curiosity) but to prove a much easier point: That waterboarding is a controversial issue with people of good faith and strong experience landing on both sides.

In other words, it's a perfect candidate for a case by case determination whether it's legitimate to use waterboarding to obtain intelligence information, based upon the criticality of the information sought, the particular person it's sought from, and any prevailing exigent circumstances. Implementation like this is precisely the purview of the Executive branch, not the Legislative -- which creates one size fits all rules for everyone -- or the Judiciary -- which decides ex-post facto whether information gathered can be used at trial; nobody has ever attempted to use a "confession" obtained by waterboarding in court as evidence at the confessor's criminal trial.

Whether or not to use waterboarding to obtain critical intelligence is a job for Super President, not Glacially Ponderous Judge or Mealy-Mouthed Congressman. But to the top three Democratic candidates for Chief Executive Secretary of the United States Congress, branches one and two need only ask Congress what they think, and then rubber-stamp the congressional leadership's decision... the president as puppet.

I wonder: How much of this do they truly believe and would actually follow through on if elected... and how much is just electoral hype in the never-ending Democrat hit single, "The Bushies Have Bushwhacked America"?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 30, 2007, at the time of 6:26 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 25, 2007

Military Tribunals Finally Listening to Big Lizards' Advice

Injudicious Judiciary , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Last June, a pair of judges on U.S. military tribunals issued a ruling that may be the most boneheaded technicality in American judicial history. (They were not ruling on the same case, but they used the exact same excuse in two different cases to dismiss all charges against enemy combatants, holding that the military tribunals themselves had no jurisdiction.) We wrote about it at the time:

In what AP calls "a stunning reversal for the Bush administration's attempts to try Guantanamo detainees in military court" -- but which rational observers would call "a shockingly thin example of dismissal by technicality" -- a military judge has dismissed murder charges against a detainee at Guantánamo Bay... because the military's combat status review tribunal only classified him as an "enemy combatant," rather than as an "unlawful enemy combatant"...

The law says that only those persons who are qualified to be designated as unlawful enemy combatants can be tried; the clear intent and substance of the law is not affected by whether the earlier tribunal used the same words as the later-enacted law, but by whether they used the same standards... and Judge [Army Col. Peter] Brownback should jolly well understand that.

All he needed to do was check that the criteria used by the earlier tribunals to declare someone an "enemy combatant" are the same as those that used today to declare someone an "unlawful enemy combatant." Maybe this is the non-lawyer in me; but it was utterly clear to everyone, including the detainees, that the entire purpose of the status-review tribunal was to determine whether they were bad enough to warrant trial by a military tribunal.

The detainees knew exactly what that meant: They knew that if they were found to be "enemy combatants," they would be tried by a military court. Now the defense argues -- and the judge, Army Col. Peter Brownback, seems to have independently argued himself into believing -- that the trivial difference in words violates the rights of the detainees, because they didn't know they were in jeopardy of trial if found to be enemy combatants... which was the very term used at the time to designate those detainees eligible for trial!

The two judges -- Brownback and Navy Capt. Keith Allred -- ruled not only that they could not preside over the cases against the two enemy combatants (one of which was the infamous Salim Ahmed Hamdan of the even more infamous Hamdan Supreme-Court decision), they could not even hear evidence about whether the two were, in fact, "unlawful enemy combatants," as opposed to mere "enemy combatants." They decided they (or any other tribunal judge) lacked any jurisdiction whatsoever, and all the cases against all the detainees should be dismissed.

It was like a Barry Sheck dream come true.

Fortunately, a three-judge panel of the Military Tribunal Appellate Court reads Big Lizards. At least, I can only conclude that, as they used virtually the same argument today in overturning the decision of Judge Brownback as we argued in the previous post last June. (They did not specifically consider Allred's decision; but since it was identical with that of Judge Brownback, one presumes the same ruling will reverse that of Allred as well; I wonder if he will mulishly force the court to do so explicitly?) According to the New York Times:

The three appeals judges said yesterday that Judge Brownback had “abused his discretion in deciding this critical jurisdictional matter without first fully considering” the government’s evidence. The appeals court sent the case back to Judge Brownback for further consideration....

The military appeals court said in its ruling yesterday that Judge Brownback was wrong in concluding that he did not have the authority to decide whether a detainee was an “unlawful” enemy combatant, which would give his court the power to hear a war-crimes case.

The court said the trial judge could hear the government’s evidence that a detainee was an unlawful combatant. An unlawful combatant, for example, could be a fighter who does not wear a uniform and conceals his weapons.

It's hard to fathom just how stupid were the original decisions. I took a stab at in the June post; but reading it over, I don't think I succeeded. Let's see if I can do better in my second time at bat:

  1. Congress originally passed a law setting up a system of military tribunals. The basic procedure was that the president first had to evaluate every detainee's case and determine whether each was or was not an "enemy combatant." Those determined to be enemy combatants would then be tried by the tribunals, while the rest would have to be released.
  2. They went through the process; the Pentagon held hearings and determined that 80 of the 300+ detainees qualified as enemy combatants. They put them on trial. (The classification hearings determined that a number of detainees used to be enemy combatants but were no longer; in several well-known cases, it became clear the Pentagon was punked.)
  3. But before the trials, Hamdan went to the Supreme Court and successfully argued that the procedures at the trial itself were unconstitutional. The Supreme Court did not hold that there was anything wrong with the process that classified Hamdan and the other 79 as "enemy combatants," nor that there was anything wrong with the label itself.
  4. But when Congress enacted a new law, responding to the Hamdan decision, they used a slightly different label: They said that only "unlawful enemy combatants" could be tried. However, they used the exact, same criteria to determine status as an unlawful enemy combatant as had been used under the previous law to determine status as an enemy combatant. The two terms were de-facto identical, and even de-jure -- if one dug so deep as to consider the definition, not merely the label.
  5. Yet when the first two cases came to trial, Allred and Brownback both ruled that they lacked jurisdiction to hear the trials, because Hamdan and Omar Ahmed Khadr had only been designated "enemy combatants," per the first law, not "unlawful enemy combatants," per the second.
  6. This might have been all right... except that they also ruled that they lacked jurisdiction even to hear any evidence that the two defendants were, in fact, unlawful enemy combatants under the new designation; or that, in fact, the two terms had identical definitions.

This is the ultimate in technicalities, exactly the sort of thing that confusticates ordinary people about the American judicial system: Horrific murderers and terrorists should be turned loose -- because the administration used a slightly different label for them (based on earlier legislation) than was picked by a later Congress in writing subsequent legislation, even though the two labels were defined by identical language in each act.

That last point (6) is the dumbass ruling that was struck down today; the appellate court held that the two previous judges did indeed have jurisdiction to hear evidence that the "enemy combatants" (old label) were also "unlawful enemy combatants" (new label):

In the ruling Monday, the military appeals judges, the United States Court of Military Commission Review, agreed that the law written by Congress did say that finding by a military panel that a detainee was an “unlawful” enemy combatant was a prerequisite for prosecution. But the judges said Congress intended the Guantánamo courts to apply usual procedures of military courts.

“This would include the common procedures used before general courts-martial permitting military judges to hear evidence and decide factual and legal matters concerning the court’s own jurisdiction over the accused appearing before it,” the appeals judges wrote. [One can almost "hear" the annoyance and exasperation in the appellate judges' decision.]

Again, since there is no difference between the criteria for each label, it should be easy to prove... unless Brownback and Allred decide to dig in their heels and declare that Congress was wrong to define unlawful enemy combatant as it did; the judges could tack on one impossible criterion after another until they can achieve their goal: making it impossible to prosecute anyone for anything before a military tribunal.

Dennis Edney, Mr. Khadr’s Canadian lawyer, said the defense was considering whether to appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. If there is an appeal, it could delay the resumption of Guantánamo cases yet again.

Mr. Edney said he was disappointed by the military panel’s ruling but not surprised. “Omar Khadr still faces a process that is tainted, and designed to make a finding of guilt,” he said.

Well, yeah; and Mr. Edney is doing everything in his powe to prevent the court ruling, thus put-off any finding of guilt. I believe he has fallen for the great temptation of defense attorneys, where getting the client off becomes the overriding goal, rather than ensure he has a fair trial. (This is the snare into which Lynne Stewart fell, finally winding up convicted of passing messages from Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman to his terrorist cell.)

The real underlying problem here should be obvious: There is an amazing amount of resistance among the military's Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps to the very idea of trying terrorist detainees in military tribunals, notwithstanding both statutory law and military tradition. Most lawyers are liberals, and this evidently applies even when the lawyer works for the military.

I believe most of them desperately want all detainees to be charged and tried in civilian courts, with the full panoply of criminal-defendant rights to counsel of their choice, open and public trial, the ability to subpoena all evidence (including heavily classified evidence) they claim will help their defense, and the power to subpoena all individuals involved in their capture -- from the soldiers trying to fight a war in the field to the Secretary of Defense and even the Commander in Chief who ordered the war fought in the first place -- and haul them all into court to testify for as many weeks as the judge orders.

We see this same tendency in politicians who are too closely allied with the JAG Corps: I believe that is what drives Sens. John McCain (R-AZ, 65%) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC, 83%), for example. Among this crowd, no military tribunal process will ever be fair or sufficient: They reject the very idea of treating terrorists any differently than we treat carjackers and pickpockets. Despite the decidedly uncertain record of attempting to try terrorists in civilian courts, "Jaggers" believe that we'll forfeit the "moral high ground" if we don't sacrifice national security on the altar of judicial purity.

There is a controversial Latin saying: fiat justicia ruat coelum; "let justice be done, though heaven should fall." I happen to believe this, but it critically depends on how one defines "justice." But what these Jaggers have in mind is something far more radical -- and utterly indefensible: "Let procedure be followed, though America should fall."

Even as a libertarian-conservative-ish political non-Euclidean, I consider this a foolish and unnecessary self-immolation; I agree rather with the last sentence of the dissent of Justice Robert H. Jackson in the case Terminiello v. Chicago:

There is danger that, if the Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.

This certainly applies in the Case of the Footdragging Military Judges. Let us move past the surreal technicalities, get on with the cases, and finally see the backs of these infamous detainees.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 25, 2007, at the time of 3:03 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

September 24, 2007

Cindy Sheehan's Day of Out-of-Tunement Manifesto

Afghan Astonishments , Asquirmative Action , Dhimmi of the Month , Domestic Terrorism , Drama Kings and Queens , Econ. 101 , Enviro-Mental Cases , Hippy Dippy Peacenik Groove , History of Moral Philosophy , Illiberal Liberalism , Impeachment Imbecilities , Iraq Matters , Kriminal Konspiracies , Liberal Lunacy , Logical Lacunae , News of the Weird , Palestinian Perils and Pratfalls , Politics 101 , Scurrilous Scribblings , Terrorism Intelligence , Unnatural Disasters , Unuseful Idiots
Hatched by Dafydd

I rarely do this, as you know: I rarely link to some piece and say simply "read this." (I'm too in love with the sound of my own fingers typing on a keyboard.)

But here's an exception. Read Cindy Sheehan's Yom Kippur "sermon," delivered at Michael Lerner's Beyt Tikkun "synogogue;" you will be -- if not exactly glad, then at least agape. (Rabbi Lerner is Hillary Clinton's mentor, author of the Politics of Meaning and other works of Socialist agit-prop masquerading as theology.)

My response (I love this) is entirely contained in the list of categories I had to attach to this post.

(Well, one more thing. It has always been my understanding that Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, is a day for each person to atone for what he, personally, has done wrong -- not "atone" for his enemies failing to live up to his own lofty standards, apologize for all the times America hasn't followed his lead, or wallow in self-righteous indignation that nobody listens to him. 'Nuff said; read the list of categories above.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 24, 2007, at the time of 2:36 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 25, 2007

How Dare the Dictator Spy on Radical Mosques!

Constitutional Maunderings , Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

This could get interesting (and potentially ugly): An imam and a pizzeria owner were convicted of supporting terrorism... and they're now appealing, claiming the National Security Agency's Terrorist Surveillance Program violated their constitutional rights.

First, just the facts, ma'am:

After a bloody raid by American military forces on an enemy camp in Rawah, Iraq, on June 11, 2003, a Defense Department report took inventory. Eighty suspected terrorists killed. An enormous weapons cache recovered. And, in what the report called “pocket litter,” a notebook with the name and phone number of the imam of a mosque halfway around the world, here in the state capital.

Prompted by that notebook and records of 14 phone calls between the imam, Yassin M. Aref, and Damascus, Syria, the Federal Bureau of Investigation quickly began a sting operation aimed at Mr. Aref. Federal agents used an informant with a long history of fraud who spun tales to Mr. Aref about a fictitious plot involving shoulder-launched missiles and the assassination of Pakistani diplomat in New York.

Mr. Aref and a friend who owned a pizzeria were convicted of supporting terrorism by agreeing to help launder money for the fake operation, and in March the two men were sentenced to 15 years in prison.

What makes the case unusual is that Aref may have been under surveillance by the National Security Agency, possibly under the TSP. There are two external indicators of this:

  • An exchange during the trial over an FBI agent who was on the stand. One of Aref's defense attorneys (who is paying for the high-powered legal defense?) asked Special Agent Timothy Coll whether Aref had been under "24-hour surveillance." The lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney William C. Pericak, objected, saying "I’m concerned that a truthful answer should implicate classified information."

    The defense lawyer rephrased the question to ask only whether Aref had been under 24-hour physical surveillance, and Coll quickly answered No. I'm not sure how Coll interpreted the phrase "physical surveillance," or even whether that is a term of art; but the implication is certainly that Aref was under 24-hour non-physical surveillance, which may mean a phone tap, which in turn may mean the TSP.

  • At one point during the trial, the defense lawyers asked the judge to require the federal government to produce information about the TSP. The government (the Times is unclear what branch or division, or whether it came through Pericak) responded with a brief that was itself classified. The defense attorneys were not allowed to see the prosecutor's filing, even though they had "security clearances" (again, no indication how high); and Judge Thomas J. McAvoy subsequently denied the defense motion -- with his entire decision classified and unavailable to the defense attorneys.

Neither of these is as definitive as the Times appears to believe. It's possible, for example, that Aref did have his phone calls intercepted... but it may have been by the FBI after receiving a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). In such a case, the warrant would be classified, and the FBI agent hesitant to answer a question about the surveillance without it first being formally declassified.

And it's entirely possible that the government's response to the request for TSP information could have been that Aref was under surveillance pursuant to a FISA warrant, not the TSP; but that the information requested was nevertheless highly classified and could not be revealed or even discussed. This is an alternative reason why the judge's order itself could be classified, as well.

Note that the Times article nowhere says or even suggests that evidence from telephone intercepts (by the NSA or anyone else) was actually presented at trial, heard or seen by the jury, or even that the prosecutor attempted to introduce such evidence and was rebuffed. The main pieces of evidence against the defendants were the recordings of their conversations with the "informant with a long history of fraud" during the sting. (Was the writer's insertion of "long history of fraud" intended to lure readers into believing that the case, despite the guilty verdicts, was fraudulent?)

There is one other indicator, though it's rather vague. According to the Times' unsupported word, unnamed "officials" told them there was a connection:

The wiretapping program was disclosed by The New York Times in December 2005. The next month, The Times reported that officials had cited the arrests of Mr. Aref and the pizzeria owner, Mohammed M. Hossain, as one of the relatively rare instances in which domestic surveillance by the N.S.A. had played a role in a criminal case.

The Times explicitly identifies the TSP program in the first sentence of the paragraph quoted above (the program "disclosed by The New York Times"). But in the next sentence, they slip on their cloak of vagueness, invoking only "domestic surveillance by the N.S.A." Since we know the NSA was running multiple intelligence-gathering programs at the time, there is no way to be sure which one "officials" were citing -- if indeed the conversation ever occurred at all, and assuming it wasn't one of those non-confirmation confirmations, à la the "re-reporting" of the Beauchamp story by the New Republic.

It's possible that Aref was surveilled under the TSP; after finding the notebook in the Rawah raid that put the feds onto Aref, the NSA might have begun intercepting his international telephone calls, to see who he was contacting. Even so, I'm still not sure how this would become a critical factor in the trial:

  • We already know how the feds got Aref's name, and it had nothing to do with the TSP;
  • Armed with that name, it would have been simple for the FBI to get a warrant from the FISC;
  • Aref was neither convicted nor even charged with committing a terrorist act abroad, or acting in concert with any known foreign terrorist, in which an NSA telephone intercept under the TSP would play a role;
  • The Times doesn't say what Aref and pizzeria owner Mohammed M. Hossain were actually convicted of, but I presume it was conspiracy to support an act of terrorism, with the third "conspirator" actually being an FBI informant, Shahed Hussain, who was wired for sound. Again, nothing to do with the TSP.

Nevertheless, the defendants' attorneys have seized upon the TSP as a last-ditch effort to avoid a stretch in the pokey for their clients... and the New York Times sees the challenge as an opportunity to get a federal circus court to rule the entire surveillance program unconstitutional:

But their case seems far from over, and it has become a centerpiece in the effort to challenge one of the Bush administration’s signature espionage programs.

Lawyers for Mr. Aref say they have proof that he was subjected to illegal surveillance by the National Security Agency, pointing to a classified order from the trial judge, unusual testimony from an F.B.I. agent and court documents concerning the calls to Syria.

If they are right, the case may represent the best chance for an appellate ruling about the legality of the N.S.A. program, which monitored the international communications of people in the United States without court approval. Unlike earlier and pending appeals disputing the program, all of them in civil cases, Mr. Aref’s challenge can draw on the constitutional protections available to criminal defendants.

The Times -- and presumably the entire panoply of leftist law professors, activists, and their elite-media lapdogs who have ached for a chance to take Bush down over this -- seems most enraged by the fact that civil-court attempts to ban the TSP and other intelligence-gathering operations have run into the brick wall of "standing," thwarting the valiant efforts of the heroic anointed: Unenlightened courts keep holding that the plaintiffs cannot show that they, personally, were subjected in any way to the TSP, and therefore have no standing to sue.

To the Times, via a surrogate interviewee, this constitutes an unfair legal technicality:

In the civil cases, appeals courts have confronted significant threshold questions, including whether the plaintiffs have standing to sue.

“There are dodges available in civil cases that just aren’t available in criminal cases,” said Corey Stoughton, a lawyer with the New York Civil Liberties Union, which has filed supporting briefs in the case. “This case might be able to put this issue to the test.”

I can't shake the feeling that to the Times, the Aref-Hossain case is the Left's best chance to finish the world-saving job that the Times began when it disclosed the program; that is, I believe that the Times saw its role as shining the light of day on a horrific violation of the constitution... a revelation that would allow activists and law professors to finally shut down all these thuggish, unnecessary, police-state infringements of our sacred constitutional right to support anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Jew, and especially anti-Bush terrorists.

The fate of Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain themselves is an inconsequential side issue.

It appears to me that these defendants are being treated much the way the Left treated "Jane Roe," who never did get her abortion... for which the real-life Norma Leah McCorvey, now an anti-abortion activist, is very thankful. Once McCorvey served her purpose, the attorneys in that case dropped her like a squalling newborn.

I cannot help but believe that the elite media could not care less whether Aref and Hossain end up serving their 15 years, just as they never cared whether McCorvey got her abortion, what happened to her, and what she later came to believe; all of that is irrelevant -- what matters is the ideological struggle, and the real defendants are the American people, who are clamoring for terrorist suspects to be given full rights to treat the American justice system the way Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and O.J. Simpson have.

Having already Simpsonized the civil and civilian criminal courts (for those with money, or connections to activist organizations that have money), now the elites want to Simpsonize national security and terrorist surveillance and interdiction.

The Times would stamp out every post-9/11 surveillance and intelligence program implemented by the Bush administration, without regard to what that will do to national security; if we get hit with another 9/11, it's a small price to pay for humbling Bush (can't make an omlet without breaking a few legs). Besides, saying that Bush has made America into a police state should certainly help Democrats in 2008.

Any surveillance or intelligence gathering at all -- even when it's driven by such simple and clear-cut evidence as the subject's name and phone number found in a notebook during a terrorist raid in Iraq -- is tyranny and oppression. Another one of the unrebutted New York Times interviewees, one of the lawyers for Aref, expressed it best, I think:

Terence L. Kindlon, a lawyer for Mr. Aref, saw the matter differently.

“The F.B.I. case was a hoax that grew out of the Bush administration’s misuse of fear to turn our democracy into a dictatorship,” Mr. Kindlon said.

I never realized I lived in a dictatorship. First they came for the terrorists...

I eagerly await the day when the jackboot will be thrown into the melting pot, and the fascist octopus will sing its swan song (hat tip to George Orwell). Journalists of the world unite behind radical Islamism! You have nothing to lose but your independence, your freedom, and your heads.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 25, 2007, at the time of 3:48 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 23, 2007

Quick Hits - They Say That Ginning Up Is Hard to Do

Iraq Matters , Opinions: Nasty, Brutish, and Shortsighted , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Now I know, I know it's untrue -- if you're in the elite media, that is; if so, then ginning up a controversy, contradiction, confession, corruption, or calamity is as easy as π, no matter how irrational it may seem to ordinary, non-journalist humans.

Our reading material for today's lesson is the short article sent out over the wire (well, over the internets, anyway) about newly hatched Secretary of the Army Pete Geren's insistance that the Pentagon is not going to extend tours of duty in Iraq from 15 months to 18.

I don't know if this is good or bad; Geren has the figures in front of him and I don't. But what caught my eye like an errant fishhook (yes, I know... "eew") was this little attempt at legerdemain... transforming two completely unrelated statements into a "contradiction gotcha":

Asked about comparisons between the current Iraq conflict and the Vietnam War -- a parallel that President Bush drew Wednesday -- Geren said the current conflict is unique.

In a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, Bush linked the U.S. pullout from Vietnam to the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and he said the history of U.S. conflicts in Asia have shown that critics of the day are often wrong and that withdrawing from war should never be done for short-term gain.

While saying that "historical analogies help illuminate the present" Geren said the Army "can't be guilty of fighting the last war." The Army, he said, has to consider the unique circumstances of the Iraq conflict and train and equip the soldiers and leaders accordingly.

Oooh, snap! Caught the Bush administration red-fisted in a whipsaw of a contradiction...

  • On the one hand, Bush says that Vietnam taught us that withdrawing in unnecessary defeat leads to terrible consequences;
  • But when the shoe is on the other hand, Secretary Geren says that our soldiers should use different tactics and equipment fighting terrorists in the Iraqi desert than they used fighting Communists in the jungles of vietnam 40 years ago -- completely the opposite of what Bush said!

"John says Mary is too short, but Mary insists the dress is blue, not red. How do you reconcile those two statements... 'Berto?"

We've seen this moonbattery before, of course: The "contradiction" between FBI Director Robert Mueller quoting Deputy Attorney General James Comey saying the Justice Department had trouble with the legality of a classified intelligence-gathering program that had been much talked about -- and current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales saying that the objection was not to the specific element called the Terrorist Surveilance Program, but to a different intelligence-gathering program.

Perjury, obstruction, contempt! Five Democrats sent a referral to the Justice Department, demanding an indictment and investigation -- in that order, I believe -- of Gonzales... but not of Mueller, oddly enough. A couple of days later, when sources came forward to confirm that all three men told the truth (the objection was to the data-mining element, not the TSP), the Democrats quietly dropped the substance of the charge and began rummaging around for a brand new cause of action:

"Well there's yer problem right there... ya got a malfunctioning cause of action; have to remove and replace it with a spanking-new one from the factory!"

Here are some more "contradictions" -- tomorrow's AP stories today!

  • Under intense cross-examination, President Bush finally admited that Saddam Hussein did not plan and execute the September 11th attacks; but then, amazingly, Bush turned around and claimed that al-Qaeda operatives did meet with Iraqi Intelligence Service officers to discuss operational cooperation.
  • Although the president has said that FEMA did everything it reasonably could have or should have done before and after Hurricane Katrina, several of his own fellow travelers in the GOP have instead argued that Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and the Grand Nagus, mayor of Nawluns, failed to evacuate people quickly enough.
  • President Bush has praised the all-volunteer American Army; but apparently, he doesn't like it enough to send his twin daughters into military service.

Evidently, our fine president, like Mr. Whitman, is large and contains multitudes.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 23, 2007, at the time of 3:58 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 17, 2007

Best Evidence

Congressional Calamities , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

I must hat-tip Power Line, because it was while reading Paul Mirengoff's post today that I realized the oddest angle of all in the 2004 brouhaha, the contretemps, the donnybrook between then White House Counsel (now Attorney General) Alberto Gonzales, former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, former Principal Deputy Attorney General James Comey, FBI Director Robert Mueller (now and then) -- and a "John Doe" to be named later on the one hand... and the Democrats in Congress on the other hand.

Our previous spelunking into this cavern of treachery can be unearthed here:

First, let's set the background:

Shortly after 9/11, President Bush adopted a program to surveille terrorists that included a number of elements: One element -- intercepting telephone calls between known or suspected terrorists and other people, where one node of each call is outside the United States -- has been confirmed by the president, and is called the Terrorist Surveillance Program, TSP.

Another element of the program comprises "data-mining" of millions of phone calls -- that is, not intercepting the call's content but instead other circumstances, including location, time placed, duration, number of people involved, and so forth. This element has never been confirmed or its existence declassified, so no government official can lawfully mention it.

The first group -- the principals -- all agree on the following facts; there is no dispute:

  1. At some point, the Justice Department objected to some element of this program; officials have now stepped forward anonymously (and illegally) to leak that the particular element DoJ had problems with was the data-mining. None of the principals disputes this.
  2. James Comey, then acting Attorney General while the actual Attorney General was recuperating in hospital, refused to sign off on the program at one of the annual required reviews.
  3. Gonzales and Card were concerned and puzzled: The Attorney General goes into hospital for gall-bladder surgery; and while he's there, the acting Attorney General, who has opposed the data-mining element all along, refuses to approve it. On March 10th, 2004, Gonzales and Card go to the hospital, either to find out whether Comey was acting on his own wishes and not the Attorney General's, or possibly to try to get the Attorney General to override Comey, his deputy.
  4. Gonzales and the Attorney General have a conversation, during which the latter makes clear that he agrees with Comey and refuses to sign off on the data-mining element without changes.
  5. Comey, worried that Gonzales might apply "undue pressure" on Attorney General John Doe to get him to sign, calls Mueller in to back Comey up.
  6. Gonzales and Card leave about 8:00 pm.
  7. Mueller arrives at 8:10 pm.
  8. Mueller talks to Comey, who tells him that John Doe had told Gonzales that Doe "was in no condition to decide issues."
  9. Mueller leaves.

Thus endeth the chronology of March 10th, 2004, which is undisputed by any of the principals involved. Later, the administration made some changes which brought the Department of Justice back on board. So whence the beef?

Enter the other group, not the principals but the hindsighters...

The hindsighters primarily comprise a concatenation of five Democrats on Sen. Pat Leahy's (D-VT, 95%) Judiciary Committee -- the chairman, plus Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 90%), Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and the absurdly named Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who has no rating as yet, as he replaced "Republican" Lincoln Chafee in 2007; Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%); various Democratic congressional rounders and bounders, seducers and traducers; and most of the elite media. (That is, the usual suspects.)

The hindsighters were not present during the altercation, the kafuffle, the spat. They have, however, shown up nearly three and a half years later to accuse now Attorney General Alberto Gonzales of perjury, obstruction of justice, contempt of Congress, suborning perjury, threatening a subordinate, treason, attempting a coup d'état, misleading Congress, having an unspellable last name, aggravated mopery with intent to gawk, and groping a female fundraiser who came to him with a personal problem. Oh, wait, that last was just a flashback; my bad.

The hindsighters originally claimed that Gonzales lied when he denied that the Justice Department objected to the TSP -- the element of the surveillance program where the National Security Agency intercepted phone calls from a known or suspected terrorist to someone else, where one node of the call was outside the United States. He said it was to a different element, which he did not name (as it was still classified).

That prompted (drove, compelled) those four members of Leahy's Senate Judiciary Committee (minus Leahy himself) to forward a "referral" to the Justice Department, demanding the appointment of a special counsel to indict Gonzales for perjury, obstruction, and contempt. The media mavens leapt aboard the slanderwagon, convicting Gonzales in absentia (though some in the drive-by media instead convicted an unknown assailant and cabinet-member impersonator named "Alberto Gonzalez").

Then word leaked out that this was not, in fact, the disputed element -- the dispute was over data mining instead; thus, Gonzales, if not Gonzalez, had told the truth. In response, the Flab Four and their puppet friends quietly dropped the demand... without ever actually withdrawing the referral.

They have since rummaged around and found a new charge, which they can piggyback onto the old referral, if they've a mind: Gonzales (or Gonzalez, whoever he is) committed perjury, obstruction, and contempt by saying that the Attorney General, John Doe, was "lucid" during the March 10th conversation, even that Doe "did most of the talking."

This claim is belied, say the hindsighters, by FBI Director Mueller's notes... which say that after Gonzales left, John Doe was tired out, exhausted, tuckered:

Then-Attorney General [John Doe] was "feeble," "barely articulate" and "stressed" moments after [where "moments after" is here defined as "ten minutes after"] a hospital room confrontation in March 2004 with Alberto R. Gonzales, who wanted [Doe] to approve a warrantless wiretapping program over Justice Department objections, according to notes from FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III that were released yesterday.

By now, I assume everyone is wondering whether I've slipped a cog. I said something upfront about "the oddest angle of all" in this entire ballyhoo, this hubub, this riot. So far, all I have done is recap the facts (the gouge, the poop, the undisputed truth). Ah, but you must have noticed the Strange Case of the Missing Man, Attorney General John Doe?

Your honors, I now intend to name our John Doe: His name is, in truth, John... he is former senator, former Attorney General John Ashcroft -- the only other participant in the actual conversation (conclave, jaw-jaw, gabfest) with Gonzales.

And the most absurd part of all this is that so far, nobody has troubled to get John Ashcroft's take on the whole convulsion. He's the missing man in this entire storm, squall, willywaw.

Now, the Washington Post says that Ashcroft has no comment:

The White House and Justice officials declined to comment. Neither Ashcroft nor his former staffers have commented publicly on the episode.

But the media, even the elite media, are only the sock puppets in this affair; the real buggy drivers are the Democrats in the Senate J-Com. And unlike even the Washington Post, the committee has subpoena power: Ashcroft is a lobbyist now (in perfectly good health and only 65 years old), and he is a former cabinet member who needed Senate approval. Thus in either case, he can be subpoenaed to testify under oath to that Senate committee.

Why has Leahy not moved to do so? I'm sure the White House would have no objection to Ashcroft testifying to the following questions:

  • General Ashcroft, General Gonzales has testified that the particular element that the Department of Justice objected to and refused, for a time, to recertify was not the element now called the Terrorist Surveillance Program and confirmed by the president, but rather another program which the president has never confirmed. Was Mr. Gonzales correct, to the best of your knowledge and recollection?
  • Mr. Gonzales also testified that, during a conversation in hospital on March 10th, 2004, about the Justice Department's objections to terrorist surveillance operations, you, General Ashcroft, were lucid. He also testified that you did most of the talking. He testified that you lucidly explained the legal reasoning behind your objection. Is this true and accurate, to the best of your recollection?
  • Finally, General Ashcroft, I would like to ask you a question in your capacity as an expert witness on constitutional law. Is it your legal understanding that government officials with specific knowledge of classified programs and operations must not reveal classified information about those programs or operations in open testimony before Congress, unless such disclosure has been specificaly authorized by the Executive? And is it your legal understanding that Congress may not demand testimony in open session that amounts to Congress unilaterally declassifying information that was classified by the Executive?

I suspect John "Doe" Ashcroft would have no difficulty answering any of these three questions, and that his answers would completely detumesce, deflate, and contract this current... uh, flap. So why hasn't the committee subpoenaed the man?

Ah, I see I have committed a rhetorical question again. Never mind.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 17, 2007, at the time of 5:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 4, 2007

A Lame Duck Beats a Full House (and Senate)

Drama Kings and Queens , Hillary Hilarity , Hippy Dippy Peacenik Groove , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

And in the fullness of time, both the Democrat-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate broke with longstanding Democratic tradition and decided to support the United States of America.

Silly bit of business, really; foreigners calling foreigners whose calls happen to be routed through nodes in Los Angeles or New York, and the National Security Agency was listening in when it appeared that one or the other foreign party was a terrorist, a terrorist supporter, or a terrorist harborer. But the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opened the Devil's gate by deciding that this violated some obscure clause of the Constitution of which we were all previously unaware: the constitutional right of privacy for all foreigners living abroad. A judge -- they won't say who -- struck down the program.

Gleeful Democrats charged into the breach and demanded that President Bush submit all proposed "wiretaps" to a judge, present their "probable cause," and sit back and wait two or three weeks until he makes his decision. And if the four hundred year old judge doesn't understand why it's important to "wiretap" some radical cleric in Waziristan talking to young Moslems in Westminister, then it's back to the drawing board for the NSA.

But the Old Texan called their bluff. He argued that protecting Americans from terrorism required gathering intelligence. He pronounced that foreigners living outside the United States have no rights whatsoever under the American Constitution. And he insisted that the people's business was more important than Congress' vacation plans.

Bush proposed that the decision to surveil be made by (here was the compromise) both the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence... thus keeping it within the Executive branch, which has sufficient energy to make a decision and act upon it, rather than endlessly debating the question (as the Legislative branch does) or consulting accumulated decades of hoary "wisdom" (à la the Judicial branch); but also not leaving the decision solely to the discretion of Alberto Gonzales, the Democrats' current Great Satan.

And Bush insisted that Congress enact the reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA, which predates both commercial cell phones and the modern version of Islamist terrorism) before adjourning for Congress' traditional August recess. This trapped the Democrats between Scylla and Charybdis:

  • They're driven by the nutroots to dismantle any and every program to collect intelligence about pending terrorist attacks (while simultaneously demanding to know why we haven't gone right in and gotten bin Laden yet)...
  • Yet they daren't be seen putting off American national security so they can go home and scarf up more campaign contributions and distribute more pork-laden earmarks.

At last, Democrats in both chambers of Congress arrived at the same conclusion, which they enacted and sent on to the president for signature: They caved to the Bush plan to reform the nearly three decade old FISA, thus betraying the MoveOn, George Soros, Daily Kos wing of the Democratic Party (they've been flying on one wing for seven years now).

But then, in an agony of cleverness, they set things up so their surrender to the Bush plan will only last six months... at which point they'll have to go through the entire nightmare all over again, navigating the narrow passage between the six-headed snake and the greedy whirlpool, to finally arrive right back to the same bill they just approved six months down the road (with or without yet another sunset clause).

That means that the next time Congress faces either infuriating "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," or else alienating those Americans who care anything about national security, it will be at the end of January and beginning of February 2008: Exactly when more than 50% of American voters go to the polls to decide the presidential nominees -- in the states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Florida, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah.

Brilliant planning, Democrats; somebody didn't have his PDA turned on when the donkey party agreed to that calendar!

I'm sure a massive debate about whether or not the Democrats care a fig about national security won't affect people's primary voting; just as I'm equally certain that the looming primaries won't in any way affect how Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%) and Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) will vote on the terrorism-intelligence bill.

How do the Democrats always manage to get themselves into a pickle like this? Oh, wait -- maybe their complete lack of "the vision thing" or any set of moral principles has something to do with it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 4, 2007, at the time of 11:01 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 3, 2007

Time to Sack the Robes

Congressional Calamities , Injudicious Judiciary , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Today, the Washington Post revealed the stunner that back in March of this year, a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) ruled that the president had no legal authority to order the NSA to intercept phone calls originating abroad... and where the terminating point was also abroad.

Mind, this is not the "Terrorist Surveillance Program," TSP, that Democrats have been so agitated about; this case was not about calls where one end was in the United States, but rather about those where both ends -- or all ends, in the case of conference calls -- are in foreign nations... but the call happens to be routed through an American node, typically in New York or California. No information is known about the reason for the ruling or even which judge issued it (or, of course, who appointed that judge); those data are all still secret.

(It may even be a legally correct ruling; but I cannot imagine that the congressional authors intended the FISA Court to stand in between the NSA or CIA and urgent overseas terrorism intelligence. Isn't there some Supreme Court precedent that, no matter what the law says, a court can't issue an order that's just plain dumbass?)

In fact, we weren't even supposed to know this much; but House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH, 88%) let the beans out of the cat to anchor Neil Cavuto on Fox News:

"There's been a ruling, over the last four or five months, that prohibits the ability of our intelligence services and our counterintelligence people from listening in to two terrorists in other parts of the world where the communication could come through the United States," Boehner told Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto in a Tuesday interview.

Thus, for the last few months, the NSA has been barred by law from the most fruitful source of terrorism intelligence: phone calls from, say, Pakistan to Paris. And while we don't know the exact reason behind the limitation, we certainly know the impact... and it has been so devastating to American national security, and so preposterous that the president's power as Commander in Chief would not extend even that far -- constitutional protections now extend to all foreigners living abroad? -- that even Democrats are frantic to pass legislation undoing that disaster of a decision:

The practical effect has been to block the NSA's efforts to collect information from a large volume of foreign calls and e-mails that passes through U.S. communications nodes clustered around New York and California. Both Democrats and Republicans have signaled they are eager to fix that problem through amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)....

"This means that our intelligence agencies are missing a wide swath of potential information that could help protect the American people," [Boehner] said. Boehner added that some Democrats are aware of the problems caused by the judge's restrictive ruling and the problems it has caused for the administration's surveillance of terrorism suspects.

"The Democrats have known about this for months," Boehner said. "We have had private conversations, we have had public conversations that this needs to be fixed. And Republicans are not going to leave this week until this problem is addressed."

This ruling hands us another demonstration, as if more were needed, that the federal judiciary is simply too slow, too rigid, and too deferential to precedent to be trusted with control over the gathering of intelligence in wartime. In past eras, nobody could have imagined so absurd a situation; judges did not tell the OSS what they could or could not do to intercept information about Nazi Germany, nor did the federal judiciary get to opine on whether it was legal for the United States to decode intercepted Japanese naval communications.

In particular, the current law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, was enacted 29 years ago... not only a year before the current age of terror began but also the year before the first commercial cell phone network came into existence (in Japan). The FISA took neither modern communications nor the contemporary threat into account -- since neither yet existed.

Judges on the FISC continue to decide cases about terrorism intelligence under rules meant to govern spying on the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The USSR was not going to attack us in a matter of hours; intelligence was generally long-term, required no immediate action, and could wait days (or weeks) upon the whim of a FISC judge, while he slowly pondered and mulled his way through years of caselaw and congressional legislation (typically arising from anti-intelligence agency bias in the post-Watergate political world).

The Judicial branch is inherently too slow-reacting to be the "gatekeeper" for terrorism intelligence: They are simply incapable of making decisions on the minute-by-minute schedule required to protect the United States from future terrorist attack. It's like putting Ents in charge of national security.

The Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, has been testifying on the Hill recently about a desperately needed change of mindset; he wants the gatekeeper to be, not a court -- not even the special court set up to handle "foreign intelligence surveillance" (read "spying on the Soviets") -- but the Attorney General of the United States. If necessary, I presume a judge could intervene afterwards, if any of the intelligence was introduced as evidence in a criminal or civil court case. Again, even Democrats should understand the importance of this; after all, there is at least a 50-50 chance that the next president will be, in fact, a Democrat:

The effect of the judge's decision to curtail some of that surveillance was to limit the flow of information about possible terrorism suspects, according to congressional staffers briefed on the ruling. Last week, McConnell told the Center for Strategic and International Studies that the government faces "this huge backlog trying to get warrants for things that are totally foreign that are threatening to this country...."

In April, McConnell proposed a much broader revision of FISA than what the administration is pressing Congress to approve this week. Under the new plan, the attorney general would have sole authority to authorize the warrantless surveillance of people "reasonably believed to be outside the United States" and to compel telecommunications carriers to turn over the information in real time or after it has been stored.

Democrats, still feeling heat from the Kos wing of the party, have countered with a proposal that would expand the administration's surveillance authority but still leave control in the hands of the FISA Court... and which would sunset in six months, presumably forcing the president to come back to Congress again and again, hat in hand, to beg for continued authority to safeguard the nation. This completely ignores the urgent question of timeliness.

For example, civil libertarians typically argue that warrantless surveillance was unnecessary because the current law allows the CIA or NSA to get a "retroactive" FISA warrant; but that only lasts for a limited period of time -- after which, unless such a warrant is issued, the surveillance must stop and wait until the judge finally gets around to deciding. And as McConnell noted, there is a "huge backlog" for FISA warrants, a logjam that is impacting our ability to collect actionable intelligence in real-time, giving us the best chance of thwarting an attack.

Not only that, but in order to undertake surveillance under FISA and ask for a retroactive warrant later, the agency must still fill out all the paperwork first, before starting the surveillance; and the forms must include "probable cause" to tap that particular phone call, probable cause at the same level as it would take to get a warrant. Thus, no matter how suspicious a series of calls between Teheran and Mosul look, before we could listen to them under FISA, we would first have to have as much probable cause as we would need here at home to search the house of a suspected drug dealer!

This is an outrage. I strongly urge the president to get behind the McConnell proposal and really go to work twisting congressional arms behind backs to get this enacted. When talking to Democrats, stress the fact that if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is elected next year, then they'll have the power... so it's not a tribal-partisan issue!

Immediate update: As I write this, Hugh Hewitt reported that President Bush has just demanded that Congress enact the new legislation before they leave for their August recess... and he has announced that, if the DNI says the legislation sent by Congress to the White House does not give McConnell what he needs to protect America, then Bush will veto it and insist that Congress remain in session until they get it right.

They could ignore the president, of course, but that would be politically disasterous for the Democrats. We'll see whether the majority can get its act together in time, or whether -- just like the Iraqi parliament -- they decide their August vacation is more important.

We already have quite adequate protections against a president using the excuse of "foreign intelligence surveillance" to scoop up loads of information about American political activists; none of it could be introduced in court without a judge's approval. But as far as actual, real-time intel about pending attacks on the United States or our allies, there is no reason for federal judges even to be involved... not until months or years later, when the scene shifts to a legal case. Just as it would be absurd for battlefield commanders to have to get judicial approval before ordering an attack on a terrorist safehouse.

Only the Executive has sufficient "energy" to be trusted with collecting military intelligence.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 3, 2007, at the time of 3:52 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 1, 2007

Gonzales, Intelligence, and Perjury: the Penultimate Word

Congressional Calamities , Laughable Lawyers , Logical Lacunae , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Today, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales received his best testimonial yet from the pen (all right, word processor program) of Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell (all right, from some flunky who actually does the typing).

Our previous reporting on this issue can be spelunked here:

As the post is fairly long -- but absolutely fascinating, riveting! -- I'm tucking the rest into the "slither on;" I urge you to read it; I can personally vouch that the author is brilliant when sober.

McConnell sent a letter to Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%), ranking Republican on Chairman Pat Leahy's (D-VT, 95%) Senate Committee on the Judiciary, trying to explain to Specter -- as if to a retarded seventh grader -- why Gonzales, in telling the truth, therefore did not lie:

In a letter to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), McConnell wrote that the executive order following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks included "a number of . . . intelligence activities" and that a name routinely used by the administration -- the Terrorist Surveillance Program -- applied only to "one particular aspect of these activities, and nothing more."

"This is the only aspect of the NSA activities that can be discussed publicly, because it is the only aspect of those various activities whose existence has been officially acknowledged," McConnell said....

McConnell's letter was aimed at defending Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales from allegations by Democrats that he may have committed perjury by telling Congress that no legal objections were raised about the TSP. Gonzales said a legal fight in early 2004 was focused on "other intelligence activities" than those confirmed by Bush, but he never connected those to Bush's executive order.

Gonzales had been asked point blank, during Senate J-Com testimony, whether the argument in the hospital was over the TSP; he therefore, honestly and accurately, said no, it was about a different program... and he then offered to go into secret session to describe exactly what program he and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft discussed.

Chairman Leahy, however, had zero interest in finding out; he was only interested in screaming "perjury!" and demanding a special counsel (all right, manipulating four other Democrats on the committee, plus Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid, D-Caesar's Palace, 90%, into screaming perjury and demanding a special counsel; see links above.)

This seems pretty conclusive. So why "penultimate?" Because I cannot imagine that the Democrats -- and their RINO acolytes, such as Arlen Specter -- will discard the perjury card merely because Gonzales told the truth. I sense another shoe about to drop.

As it happens, I'm not just whistling past the gravy train; revisionism has already started. Now it turns out that even if Gonzales fully and truthfully answered the question, he still "misled Congress" because he did not immediately disclose every classified intelligence program in our arsenal... on national TV:

Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), who was among a group of four Democratic senators who called last week for a perjury investigation of Gonzales, said: "The question of whether Attorney General Gonzales perjured himself looms as large now as it did before this letter.

"This letter is no vindication of the attorney general," he said.

Is it just me? Shouldn't the revelation that a statement thought perhaps to be perjury was in fact completely truthful at least make it implausible that it was also perjury?

And what about our esteemed RINO from Pennsylvania? Arlen Specter is witholding comment, as the Democrats have yet to give him a lead:

Specter was noncommittal yesterday on whether McConnell's explanation resolved his questions about the accuracy of Gonzales's previous testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Specter is the ranking Republican. Specter said he was waiting for a separate letter from the attorney general to provide additional clarification.

"If he doesn't have a plausible explanation, then he hasn't leveled with the committee," Specter said on CNN. Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said that "the department will continue to work with Senator Specter to address his concerns" but declined to comment further.

Pssst... Sen. Specter: Perhaps Gonzales' "plausible explanation" for why he said that there was no dissent on the TSP, that it was on a different intelligence program instead, is that there was no dissent on the TSP... it was on a different intelligence program instead. You think?

Finally, the Washington Post indulges in one of liberalism's favorite ploys; they quote an allegedly unbiased expert to "analyze" the situation -- which analysis, oddly enough, always seems to point exclusively in one direction:

Kate Martin, executive director of the Center for National Security Studies, said the new disclosures show that Gonzales and other administration officials have "repeatedly misled the Congress and the American public" about the extent of NSA surveillance efforts.

[Sidebar: Am I the only person who has no recollection of Gonzales or President Bush ever claiming that the TSP was the only surveillance program we had? I would certainly hope we have many more than one -- and in fact, many more than are known by the editors at the elite media.]

"They have repeatedly tried to give the false impression that the surveillance was narrow and justified," Martin said. "Why did it take accusations of perjury before the DNI disclosed that there is indeed other, presumably broader and more questionable, surveillance?"

The "Center for National Security Studies" is a bitter, relentless partisan in the conflict between Congress and the White House over who should run this war (and previous wars, even back to the Clinton administration): From their website, it appears they invariably take the side of Congress in trying to extract information, no matter how heavily classified, from the Executive. Too, Kate Martin is a professor at ultra-liberal Georgetown University.

So we are shocked, shocked to discover that she is 100% on the side of Pat Leahy and Chuck Schumer (D-NY, 100%) in demanding that Albert Gonzales brief all members of both houses of Congress on every last intelligence surveillance program under the NSA, CIA, or any other intelligence agency.

Martin and her fellow Democrats demand that Leahy, et al, of the Senate Judiciary Committee be briefed -- including the fifteen J-Com members who are not members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence... and there is a reason it's called "select;" J-Com Chairman Leahy in particular was expelled from the Intelligence Committee... for leaking classified information (hence his nickname).

I guess Kate Martin has never heard the words "need to know."

And the Democratic House is now competing with the Democratic Senate to see who can make the most outrageous demand. On Monday, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI, 100%) -- who had evidently read the New York Times and Washington Post articles revealing that the Gonzales-Ashcroft main event really was about a different program than the TSP -- fired off an angry letter to Attorney General Gonzales insisting that Gonzales spill the beans about every intelligence program we have... to John Conyers, who is not a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and never has been:

We have two potential concerns with the disclosure. First, at a time when the Administration is seeking to make changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, it is imperative that all members of the House Judiciary Committee be fully apprised of these controversial, and possibly unlawful, programs, and any related programs....

We now request copies of all opinions, memoranda, and background materials, as well as any dissenting views, materials, and opinions regarding the same, concerning the database program disclosed by the media yesterday.

Yow. Why doesn't the White House just burn a few hundred CDs containing the complete NSA and CIA databases and pass them out to all 535 members of Congress?

(All right, 540 -- counting D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the delegates to the territories of American Samoa, Eni F. H. Faleomavaega, Guam, Madeleine Bordallo, and the United States Virgin Islands, Donna M. Christian-Christensen, and Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico Luis Fortuño.)

And all their aides, of course; mustn't forget the congressional aides, including those who are still teenagers. After all, if you can't trust a teenaged girl with a deep and vital intelligence secret, well who can you trust?

The ultimate word of the Penultimate Word is this: Democrats in Congress will not rest until we have no secrets, none whatsoever; everything we know, every program we undertake to develop actionable intelligence against past, current, and future terrorist threats, should be instantly and unreservedly shared with thousands of senators, representatives, delegates, aides -- and anyone else that anyone else might choose to enlighten.

The insanity (and inanity) of this position is manifest and requires no explanation. But the implication is chilling. This demand isn't just surrendering in Iraq; the Democratic Party's overt position has now become one of utter American defeat in the broader war against global hirabah ("unholy war"). Because if we were to reveal all that we were doing to collect intelligence... well, then we might as well not bother doing it, because none of it would work anymore.

Leahy is not an idiot, and neither is Schumer nor Conyers. They know the logical consequences of what they demand. So why do they demand it?

Straightforward question, simple answer: They believe "Nixoning" Bush, accusing him of a coverup, will help their political fortunes in 2008.

What I cannot answer is whether the motivation is core hatred of America as it currently exists... or depraved indifference to what, if we lost this war, America might become.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 1, 2007, at the time of 5:03 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 29, 2007

Gonzales Gotcha

Congressional Calamities , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

We rarely do this on Big Lizards, but never say never: In a previous post, with the improbably long title of FBI DIRECTOR SAYS GONZALES LIED! Oh, wait, no he didn't... but we wish he had, we questioned the claim that FBI Director Robert Mueller had "contradicted" Attorney General Gonzales on the issue of which NSA program exactly had sparked a conflict between then-White House Counsel Gonzales and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft (rather, his assistant, James Comey).

Gonzales claimed that the contretemps was not, in fact, over the NSA al-Qaeda international phone call intercept program -- which Congress today refers to as the Terrorist Surveillance Program, TSP -- but rather a different NSA program entirely.

Democrats, with their usual delicacy and gravitas regarding classified information, demanded that Gonzales reveal the secret, classified NSA surveillance he claims was the actual subject of discussion, if not the TSP; and when the AG rejected the invitation to blow yet another vital national-security program, five Democrats demanded the White House appoint a special counsel to prosecute Gonzales for perjury.

The denouncers were...

...Four very liberal Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 90%), Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI -- no rating as yet; he replaced "Republican" Lincoln Chafee) -- plus Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%).

Another Democrat -- whoops, my mistake -- a lone Republican on the J-Com, Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%), rallied support for Gonzales and the president, railing, "Do you expect us to believe that?"

(I'm certain I would have responded, "No; I expect you, per usual, to strut like a delusional rooster who thinks he's a peacock because he shoved a feather duster up his arse," and would promptly have gotten myself jugged.)

But every so often, the universe gives evidence that it is not cold and unfeeling... that it has, in fact, a jolly good sense of humor. Because the very next day (that would be today), Power Line reported the following:

Today the [New York] Times confirms that Gonzales told the truth. The legal dispute that broke out in 2004 was about the NSA's "data mining" project, in which databases of telephone records were reviewed for patterns suggestive of terrorist cells:

A 2004 dispute over the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance program that led top Justice Department officials to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases, according to current and former officials briefed on the program.

It is not known precisely why searching the databases, or data mining, raised such a furious legal debate. But such databases contain records of the phone calls and e-mail messages of millions of Americans, and their examination by the government would raise privacy issues.

What's comical about the Times' reporting is that the paper can't bring itself to acknowledge that this means Gonzales has been vindicated...

So it wasn't the TSP after all (whether Arlen Specter believes it or no), it was the phone-record data-mining program... which is, in point of fact, "a different NSA program entirely."

This simply annihilates the Democratic case for frog marching Gonzales out of office to be indicted for perjury; he wriggles off the perjury hook by the unconvincing technicality that he was actually telling, you know, the truth. Or as Hindrocket puts it, "what's generally referred to as 'truth'." Ergo, consider this post nothing more than a gigantic moving finger pointing at John Hinderaker.

But of course, the Democrats have a ready-made response, for which they needn't even look very hard. They will surely argue some variation on the following:

All right, maybe Gonzales was telling the truth this time. But we still need that special prosecutor and grand jury. See, we know he perjured himself somewhere... and with just a few subpoenas and some coerced testimony, we'll find out where!

One certainly cannot accuse the Left of half measures. I can't wait until the obsessed baby boomer Democrats are supplanted by the "yeah, right, whatever" generation.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 29, 2007, at the time of 10:51 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 20, 2007

Dubai Ports Weird

Dubai Deal Dissentions , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Matt Drudge linked a story with a fairly cryptic one-liner that I simply couldn't resist: "White House Backed Dubai Ports Deal In Exchange For Intel." The "story" turned out to be the "Inside the Ring" column by Bill Gertz in the Washington Times; Gertz discussed a passage in a book by Rowan Scarborough, the crux of which is that there was a deeper, secret reason why President George W. Bush approved the deal for Dubai Ports World -- a shipping company owned by the United Arab Emirates -- to take over cargo operations at major American ports.

During the insane donnybrook that erupted on both right and left about that deal, many covert motives were suggested by its most energetic opponents: that Bush had sold out to al-Qaeda, that he had been duped by the jihadist UAE, that liberal cells at Treasury and DHS had tricked the political appointees, and in general that the deal would be terrible for American security (some used the phrase "outsourcing port-security operations," but that argument was so specious that it was quickly dropped).

But now, if we can believe Scarborough, there really was a covert reason; but it wasn't what anybody (including myself) imagined: Evidently, in exchange for okaying the deal, DPW was going to allow us to plant CIA agents in DPW-run ports all around the world... including those in some of our most dangerous enemies and challenging allies in the Middle East, in Asia, and even in South America:

Former Inside the Ring co-author Rowan Scarborough has written a new book revealing a key reason the Bush administration pressed hard for the 2006 deal for the United Arab Emirates-based Dubai Ports World to take over management of several U.S. ports.

According to Mr. Scarborough, the administration wanted the deal to go through because the UAE government had agreed to let the United States post agents inside its global port network who could report on world shipping.

Dubai Ports currently runs port facilities at key U.S. intelligence targets, including Venezuela, China, Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia.

"Dubai Ports, in essence, was going to become an agent of CIA," Mr. Scarborough said in an interview. "The arrangement is helping us detect whether any kind of terror contraband was being moved around."

(The book Gertz refers to is Sabotage: America's Enemies Within the CIA, by Rowan Scarborough.)

Let's assume for the moment that Scarborough's claim is true; after all, if we assume it's false, then this entire blogpost is as worthless and useless as the rest of Big Lizards. But if so, three points of interest immediately become apparent:

  1. Clearly, President Bush could not have publicly announced such an offer; he could, however, have privately briefed Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence.

Did he? Did any members of the Intelligence committees oppose the deal? I cannot find any that I clearly remember voicing an opposing view; former senator and Intel-committee member Jon Corzine (D-NJ), a deal opponent, had already left the Senate by the time the controversy erupted in February 2006 and would not have received any classified briefing).

(In the 109th Congress, the memberships of the relevant committees can be found here for the Senate, and here for the House.)

In any event, there is no way most opponents could have known about the alleged offer.

  1. Equally clearly, Bush had a very strong reason to push for the deal, even if he could not, for obvious reasons, enunciate it. He was not simply being "PC" or "multi-culti," not trying to appease the Arabs, and not being bribed or tricked.

Folks may differ on whether the offer was substantial enough to overcome whatever danger they see by replacing British management of cargo ops with UAE management of cargo ops (given that only the management hats would change, while the actual cargo handlers would have remained American longshoremen). But if one believes Scarborough, it's no longer possible to say there was "no good reason" for the deal, or that Bush got "rolled" by the UAE.

  1. Finally, Bush has probably been trying to find a way to get those embeds anyway... but whether he has or has not, those "key intelligence targets" will go crazy trying to find them.

Especially Oogo; I'm convinced that as soon as he hears about this claim, he'll begin raiding the management offices at DPW's cargo terminal at Puerto Cabello -- the largest seaport in Venezuela, whence the country's vast oil production flows out of Venezuela and into the world market. If Chavez acts true to the racing form, he will seize personnel and use fairly violent means to find the "spies," "assassins," and "saboteurs" he just knows are lurking within.

I hope their cover is deep and wide; and if they're not really there, then I hope DPW gets so angry it simply pulls out, bringing Venezuela's oil industry to a standstill. My, but we live in interesting times!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 20, 2007, at the time of 5:06 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 17, 2007

NIE Assessment of Threats Inexplicably Fails to Include Democrats - Updated

Congressional Calamities , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Source update: See below.

Warning: The just-released NIE from the Directorate of National Intelligence, coupled with the Democratic response to it, may lead to a serious and traumatic case of mental whiplash (quick, somebody call John Edwards!)

Here is one of the central findings of the NIE:

We assess that al-Qa’ida will continue to enhance its capabilities to attack the Homeland through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups. Of note, we assess that al-Qa’ida will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI), its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland. In addition, we assess that its association with AQI helps al-Qa’ida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks.

Translation: Since AQI is the only element associated with the broader al-Qaeda that is actually fighting hirabah against the West on a daily basis, broader al-Qaeda will try to team up with AQI (now contained with the "Islamic State of Iraq" group) to carry attacks to the American homeland. Success by AQI feeds success by the umbrella organization; defeat of AQI is defeat of al-Qaeda.

But here is the Democratic response to this section of the report:

Mr. Reid said the report underlines the urgent need to change course in Iraq, an argument also made by Representative Ike Skelton, the Missouri Democrat who heads the House Armed Services Committee. “We must responsibly redeploy our troops out of Iraq,” Mr. Skelton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “This will allow us to concentrate our efforts on Afghanistan and the Al Qaeda terrorists who attacked us on 9/11.”

Equally important to the threat is the effectiveness of our response to the threat. How are we doing? Here is what the NIE says:

We assess that greatly increased worldwide counterterrorism efforts over the past five years have constrained the ability of al-Qa’ida to attack the US Homeland again and have led terrorist groups to perceive the Homeland as a harder target to strike than on 9/11. These measures have helped disrupt known plots against the United States since 9/11.

The Democrats interpret this passage thus:

But Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, said the report shows that the Bush administration’s national security strategy “has failed in its most basic responsibility,” to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and his confederates and to eliminate the threat posed by their terrorist network.

Yeah, I remember that codicil to the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Force: that the only real goal of the War Against Global Hirabah is to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, personally. Not even Ayman Zawahiri -- al-Qaeda's actual operational leader -- counts as anything other than one of "his [OBL's] confederates"... or in Gilligan's Island terms, one of "and the rest."

Bin Laden is the top man, and we should focus all of our resources, manpower, and effort on coming up with a plan to, as military strategist Phil Donahue put it, "just go right in there and get him."

Then we can all just go home and back to sleep.

Republicans appear to have a different interpretation of the NIE:

Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican minority leader, said that the new intelligence estimate confirms that the administration’s policies have weakened terrorist capabilities. “Retreat is not a new way forward when the safety and security of future generations of Americans are at stake,” he said in a statement.

What is most remarkable about the part of the NIE made public is the studied indifference to figuring out who is really behind the world's Islamic terrorism; while most serious analysts have had the revelation that all roads lead to Teheran (passing through Damascus), the unclassified portion of the NIE only mentions Iran in a single sentence -- and only as it relates to Hezbollah, which is openly the terrorist arm of the ayatollah:

We assess Lebanese Hizballah, which has conducted anti-US attacks outside the United States in the past, may be more likely to consider attacking the Homeland over the next three years if it perceives the United States as posing a direct threat to the group or Iran.

I hope the classified section is less circumspect.

I read not a single word about Iran's support for ostensibly Sunni Hamas, or their support for both Iraqi Sunni terrorists (foreign and domestic) and also Shiite death squads, such as the Mahdi Militia that used to be controlled by Iranian puppet Muqtada Sadr.

And not even a nod towards the new evidence of a strong connection between Iran and al-Qaeda terrorists, as elucidated by Michael Ledeen at NRO (hat tip to Scott Johnson at Power Line). Ledeen quotes the president, who stands virtually alone among Republican or Democratic politicians in perceiving the true global nature of this struggle:

At his press conference last week, President Bush -- echoing the public assessments from his military underlings in Iraq -- gave a clear picture of the war. Remarkably, not a single political leader or pundit saw fit to notice the dimensions of the war he described:

The fight in Iraq is part of a broader struggle that’s unfolding across the region...The same regime in Iran that is pursuing nuclear weapons and threatening to wipe Israel off the map is also providing sophisticated IEDs to extremists in Iraq who are using them to kill American soldiers.

The same Hezbollah terrorists who are waging war against the forces of democracy in Lebanon are training extremists to do the same against coalition forces in Iraq.

The same Syrian regime that provides support and sanctuary for Islamic jihad and Hamas has refused to close its airport in Damascus to suicide bombers headed to Iraq.

...the war against extremists and radicals is not only evident in Iraq, but it’s evident in Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories and Afghanistan.

(I heard on Brit Hume yesterday that the president intends to use executive orders to put heavy sanctions on companies and organizations controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard; and that Bush plans to declare Iran's Qods Force a "terrorist organization," which will trigger a whole raft of new sanctions and prohibitions... which I hope will make it even easier to seize and hold (or kill outright) any Qods Force member caught outside Iran -- say in Waziristan, the Horn of Africa, or even the United States. But I cannot find written verification of this story; can any commenter help me out here? Thanks.)

UPDATE July 18th, 2007: Commenter Terrye suggested an article might be accessed through Brietbart. With some creative searching, I was finally directed to this July 13th article in the New York Sun which gives a source for the first part (sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards and Qods Force) but doesn't mention the second (declaring Qods Force a "terrorist organization"). I reckon we'll just have to wait and see when Bush signs the EO.

If I must sum up the NIE in a single sentence, it would be this: The situation is improving, we're making much headway, but al-Qaeda, its affilliates, and other terrorist groups are still dangerous, toxic, and relentless... so keep fighting the good fight.

How the Democrats can translate this to "Nothing to see here, let's all just declare defeat and go home," is beyond my comprehension or forgiveness. 20 years from now, if we're still here -- and I firmly expect us to be -- there will be a lot of once-powerful Democratic "leaders" hiding in the dark and silent places, desperately hoping to be forgotten... because the alternative -- to be remembered -- is too painful.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 17, 2007, at the time of 5:48 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

July 6, 2007

ACLU Left "Standing" Out in the Cold (and a Game of Pin the Party on the Judge!)

Court Decisions , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

In a wonderful ruling today out of the Sixth Circus, the ACLU's gaggle of the perpeturally aggrieved was told to pack up their federal lawsuit against the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program; the appellate court held that none of them has standing -- meaning none could show that he, personally, was surveilled by the NSA.

The case, American Civil Liberties Union v. National Security Agency, was appealed by the Bush administration after federal Motown Judge Anna Katherine Johnston Diggs Taylor ruled in August that the program was unconstitutional and must immediately be ended; she magnanimously agreed to stay her ruling pending appeal... provided that appeal commenced in one week.

In October, the Sixth Circuit panel issued its own (unanimous) stay. And then today, it announced the 2-1 decision voiding the suit. (In an irritating but understandable act of judicial restraint, the court, once having found a lack of standing, did not reach the merits of the case.)

So it's time now to play -- pin the party on the judge! See if you can guess which president appointed which judge...

We have district-court Judge Anna Katherine Johnston Diggs Taylor and appellate court Judge Ronald Lee Gilman ruling for the ACLU; and appellate court Judges Alice M. Batchelder and Julia Smith Gibbons ruling against the ACLU.

I'm sure you're already way ahead of me, so here is the answer:

  • Anna Katherine Johnston Diggs Taylor: appointed by Jimmy Carter in 1979;
  • Ronald Lee Gilman: appointed by Bill Clinton in 1997;
  • Alice M. Batchelder: appointed to the district-court bench by Ronald Reagan in 1985, elevated to the appellate court by George H.W. Bush in 1991;
  • Julia Smith Gibbons: appointed to the district-court bench by Ronald Reagan in 1983, elevated to the appellate court by George W. Bush in 2001.

So for anyone who is still unclear about the monumental importance of presidential judicial nominations...

This isn't the end of the issue; there are other suits, and no circus court has yet ruled on the merits of this case or any of the others:

A number of other challenges to the program have been consolidated before a federal judge in San Francisco, and the federal appeals court in California, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, will hear an appeal from one of the judge’s preliminary rulings next month.

Some plaintiffs in that case contend that they can prove standing even under the Sixth Circuit majority’s analysis. Those plaintiffs, an Islamic charity and two of its lawyers, say they have seen a classified document confirming that their communications were actually intercepted.

I'm not sure any of these plaintiffs will be found to have standing, even those who claim they've "seen" evidence, unless they can produce that evidence in court (which -- reading between the lines -- it appears they cannot). Regardless, I still have confidence that when the Supreme Court finally rules on those merits, they will find that the president and Commander in Chief has plenary authority to order survillance of enemy combatants.

Unless, of course, flibbertgibbit Justice Anthony Kennedy has another bad robe day.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 6, 2007, at the time of 1:53 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 29, 2007

Will Anthony Kennedy Rule for al-Qaeda?

Court Decisions , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

The abrupt and unexpected reversal by the Supreme Court today, deciding to rehear arguments about (essentially) whether to grant habeas corpus rights to unlawful enemy combatants detained abroad, hinged on the vote-switch by Justice Anthony "Weathercock" Kennedy. (Incredibly liberal Justice John Paul Stevens also switched, but his vote against was an aberration from the git-go; he was always going to switch if his would be the necessary fifth vote.)

But the impact may be profound -- and dreadful. As five justices had to vote to rehear, this may mean five justices (a majority) now buy the Democrats' central point: that enemy combatants must be treated the same as carjackers and check kiters: granted the full panoply of rights, lawyers, civilian evidentiary hearings, and of course, the ability to subpoena heavily classified documents and to yank top military commanders from the front line, during a war, to sit for weeks in a courtroom being cross-examined by an al-Qaeda attorney on future and ongoing American military plans and operations.

Or, if the subpoenas are rejected, to force the release of terrorist masterminds back into the outside world, where they will instantly start plotting more terrorist attacks (laughing at imprudent Western "jurisprudence" all the way).

From the New York Times:

The issue in the case the court agreed to hear today is whether the Congress can strip the federal courts of the power to hear habeas corpus cases filed by Guantanamo detainees. In legislation passed after last June’s Supreme Court ruling, Congress included a provision barring such suits by the detainees....

The Justice Department has argued that the nation’s defense would be imperiled if habeas corpus cases can be used by federal judges to second guess military officials’ decisions to detain enemies during wartime.

Under the theory of the most liberal members of the Court (and the entire leadership of the Democratic Party), we wouldn't be able to hold any prisoners at all... even on the battlefield. If habeas is granted to prisoners held in Cuba -- not American soil -- then it's granted to all prisoners held anywhere, in any country, so long as Americans have any control or access.

This should be fairly clear: Via "judge shopping," lawyers for detainees -- wherever held -- can always find a judge who is sympathetic to the plight of terrorists unable to ply their demonic trade against Americans... or at least completely unsympathetic to any coercive means the military might use to stop them, which amounts to the same thing.

Such a judge can order the production, in federal court, of every document demanded by the defense, including classified material detailing ongoing intelligence operations (which resulted in the defendant's capture but might have been "erroneous"). And the judge can order that "critical witnesses," such as Gen. David Petraeus (Commander Multinational Force - Iraq) and Adm. William Fallon (Commander CENTCOM), be produced in that same stateside court to fully explain details of ongoing military operations... operations that resulted in the capture of the defendant (relevance!) and perhaps future planned military operations that might be affected by intelligence we gather from the defendant (even more relevance!)

Additionally, under the Fifth Amendment, any detainee could refuse to answer questions or "be a witness against himself," and there woudn't be a thing we could do to force him. After all, if you can't force an American citizen charged with pickpocketing or dealing crack to answer questions, what possible justification can there be to force a Yemeni terrorist captured in Qatar by the CIA and held in Kuwait to answer questions? Certainly not without an al-Qaeda minder -- sorry, I meant "attorney" -- being present!

Simply put, unelected, lifetime-appointed civilian judges would take control of all prisoners captured by the military, the CIA, or even foreign intelligence agencies, if they're unwise enough to allow us access. Welcome to the wonderful world of Democrats.

I'm nervous about this hearing for two reasons:

  • In general, I'm skeptical that the Court will ever finally rule that it doesn't have jurisdiction in such a momentous issue; power seeks more power.
  • I'm especially skeptical when a majority of justices votes to rehear an issue; why would Kennedy vote to rehear this case -- and then vote to decide it the way it was originally decided back on April 2nd? I have the terrible feeling that Kennedy switched his vote on rehearing because he was persuaded, in backroom discussions with the Court liberals, to switch his vote -- on the underlying question, I mean.

What is really at stake here is whether the Constitution really means what a plain reading of its text indicates it means. The Constitution says (article III, section 2):

In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.

Per above, Congress spoke: It made an exception to the Court's jurisdiction, just as the Constitution allows.

But the Court seems to interpret this constitutional provision as actually meaning that the Supreme Court has whatever jurisdiction it chooses to have, and to hell with the Congress. Evidently we have three coequal branches of government, but one is more coequal than the others.

What next? Will the sheep be trained to chant "five robes good, four robes bad?"

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 29, 2007, at the time of 3:24 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 12, 2007

Tomorrow's Democratic Panic Attack

Congressional Calamities , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Continuing our public service of bringing you tomorrow's news today, here is what we expect will be the next Democratic hysteria point: The NID is revising the EO:

The national intelligence director [Mike McConnell] has won White House approval to begin revising an executive order that lays out each spy agency's responsibilities and the government's protections against spying on Americans.

The Reagan-era 1981 presidential order is woven into the culture at the 16 spy agencies and spells out their powers. It also provides fundamental guidance to protect against spying on Americans, prohibitions against human experimentation and the long-standing ban on assassination.

From the Democratic perspective, this is mischief in the making! They already believe that the intelligence services want, more than anything else, to spy on ordinary American liberals going about their urgent, everyday goals: destroying the Bush administration, America's ability to fight the war against global jihad, and America itself.

This is actually a historical oddity; in a irony of cognitive dissonance, liberal hatred of intelligence services and operatives has not caught up with the reality that most of the latter support the same "urgent goals" above... as proven by the fact that nearly every leak that has blown a heavily classified operation to gather intelligence on jihadists has come from within the various intelligence services themselves -- from the CIA, the FBI counterterrorism division, the NSA.

It was crypto-Realist elements within the clandestine services who blew the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program, the SWIFT surveillance, the Total Information Awareness database, and many others. It's not libel to say that the CIA especially, that creature of the State Department, has been at war with the war since the Clinton administration.

Thus, anti-defense liberals find themselves arrayed against their own "special ops" forces -- due entirely to the lag between reality and the liberal Democratic perception of reality. Thus:

Some officials familiar with Intelligence Director Mike McConnell's plans, speaking only on condition of anonymity because the deliberations remain internal, said his intent is solely to update the policy to reflect changes in the intelligence community since Sept. 11, 2001, including the creation of his own office.

But other officials, who also spoke on condition they not be identified, said opening the order to changes could lead well beyond that. They said the exercise could threaten civil liberties protections approved by President Reagan following intelligence abuses in the 1970s, and that intelligence agencies will be tempted to expand their powers....

[C]ivil liberties advocates say the executive order isn't strong enough now because it didn't prevent the Bush administration from running controversial operations including the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic eavesdropping program [the obligatory labeling of the NSA program to intercept international phone calls from or to al-Qaeda as "domestic eavesdropping;" I believe journalists who ignore this rule stand in danger of being disbarred or defrocked or having their J-school epaulets painfully snipped off. -- the Mgt.]

Lisa Graves, deputy director of the Center for National Security Studies, said the administration has pointed to the executive order as evidence that Americans are protected from government spying. But the order "doesn't provide adequate protection now for civil liberties. Any watering down would be problematic," she said.

There is little that the Democrat Congress can do to stop McConnell from rewriting the executive order, nor to stop Bush from signing it. But the president also wants Congress to alter the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to bring it up to date... and in particular, though you won't get this from this AP article, to make it easier and quicker for intelligence agencies to launch surveillance of fast-moving terrorist targets without having to lurch through the cumbersome process of seeking a warrant, as laid out in the current FISA legislation.

(It was that need that drove the NSA, immediately after 9/11, to start tracking phone calls between known al-Qaeda terrorists abroad and suspected sleeper agents here in the United States -- thereby causing Democratic heads to explode.)

I suspect that Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV, 60%) and Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX, 80%) -- chairmen of the Senate and House Select Committees on Intelligence, respectively -- will be heavily lobbied by the Democrat leadership and committee chairs to hijack this agenda and hold it hostage; the ransom demanded would be direct Democratic involvement in rewriting the EO, so they can muck things up even further, perhaps even reinserting Gorelick's Wall.

But if Bush holds firm, refusing to compromise, and if Tony Snow and GOP friendlies in Congress fire continuous salvos against the Democrats for holding up vital intelligence legislation (during a war!), violating the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, and putting all Americans in danger -- just because they want to pick a fight with the president instead of with our nation's enemies -- then I suspect that the Democrats will cave, just as they did with supplementary troop funding.

So let's see how this plays out -- and whether Big Lizards is prescient or paranoid!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 12, 2007, at the time of 4:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 11, 2007

Shades of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Heroes of the Revolution , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Terrorism Intelligence , Terrorist Attacks
Hatched by Sachi

In January this year, terrorists pretending to be American troops got through Iraqi security in the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center (Karbala JCC), managing to kill one US soldier and kidnap four. All four soldiers' bodies were eventually recovered; there was no sign of torture or post-mortem mutilation, which ruled out al-Qaeda.

The sophisticated nature of the operation clearly implied that perpatrators were Iranian Qods Force; but it seemed odd that they would kidnap soldiers from the center and then kill them, instead of either keeping them for interrogation and to try to trade for the al-Qods members we're holding -- or else just killing them outright at the Karbala JCC without attempting a difficult kidnapping.

But when Iranian forces directly kidnapped British sailors, all became clear: The first attempt was indeed intended to take American prisoners... but the Americans fought back; and the Iranians -- unable to transport them -- finally had to kill them. The Brits were a second-best choice; but they were more willing to give Iran the propaganda coup it so desperately wanted. And most important, the British sailors could be counted upon not to fight for their freedom, as Americans always do.

To paraphrase the Lord of the Rings, open war was upon us, whether we risk it or no.

Now, according to Bill Rogio, satellite imagery has discovered a mockup of the Karbala JCC inside Iran... conclusively proving that the murderous assault upon American soldiers was planned and carefully executed by the Revolutionary Guards and Qods Force and with full knowledge and approval of the ruling mullahs (reparagraphed for easier reading):

The January 20 attack the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center by the Iranian backed Qazali Network, which resulted in the kidnapping and murder of five U.S. soldiers, has long been known to be a Iranian planned and sponsored strike.

While Iran has insulated itself with its cutouts in the Qazali Network, Multinational Forces Iraq has captured members of the network as well as found documentation which proved Iran's complicity in the attack.

And now it has satellite imagery as well. Aviation Week and Space Technology reported in the June 4 edition that Iran build a mockup of the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center inside its borders, which was used to train the attackers. The "training center" was discovered by a U.S. spy satellite surveying Iran.

The Qazali Network exists -- existed -- within Iraq; a part of a larger, Iranian-controlled Iraqi network, Qazali was set up to receive money, arms, and training from Qods Force. But we have broken it since the Karbala JCC attack:

On May 19, Coalition forces killed Azhar al-Dulaimi during a raid in Baghdad's Sadr City. Dullaimi was described as the "mastermind" and "tactical commander" of the Karbala attack. In March, U.S. forces captured Qais Qazali, the network's leader, his brother Laith Qazali, and several other members.

Multinational Forces Iraq has been heavily targeting the Qazali Network's "secret terror cells" as well as those of the Sheibani Network. Coalition and Iraqi forces killed 26 members of this network and captured 71 since April 27, 2007. Three more members of the "secret cell" were captured and another killed today.

The Sheibani Network the overarching organization that receives support, weapons, advice and targeting from Iran's Qods Force. Senior members of the Qazali and Sheibani Networks are members of Iran's Qods Force.

We don't know for sure, of course; but it seems likely that these satellite pictures were part of the evidence that persuaded Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT, 75%D) to call for the Pentagon to draft plans to attack Iran:

"I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq," the Connecticut independent said during an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation." "And to me, that would include a strike over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers."

There is no question but that Lieberman is right about one thing: We are currently in a hot war with Iran -- and we are fighting back hard against Iranian proxy forces in Iraq. The only question is whether we should expand the fight into Iran itself, giving the mullahs a taste of the whip themselves in their home turf.

Other Democrats still don't get it; they live in a perpetual September 10th world. But Lieberman has the right idea, and I wish we had him on our side:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is running for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, said sanctions are the most effective tool against the Iranian regime.

"I would talk to them, but I would build an international coalition that would promote and push economic sanctions on them," he said during an appearance on CNN's "Late Edition." "Sanctions would work on Iran. They are susceptible to disinvestment policy. They are susceptible to cuts, economic sanctions in commodities."

Mr. Lieberman said he would leave any such strategy to military generals, but that it could be accomplished through an air campaign. He said failure to stand up to Iranian aggression would further weaken the U.S. position in Iraq and raise the likelihood of acts of domestic terrorism.

"We cannot let them get away with it," he said. "If we do, they'll take that as a sign of weakness on our part, and we will pay for it in Iraq and throughout the region and ultimately right here at home."

There is nothing wrong with economic sanctions and "disinvestment policy"... as an economic attack concommitent to a physical (air) attack.

Regardless of the risk -- such escalation would enrage the Iranians and might even serve to drive the Persian people closer to their mullah masters; Hezbollah could strike inside the United States; Iran could launch a massive attack against Israel -- we cannot sit idly by and allow a sovereign nation to attack the United States without directly retaliating.

So we support the rest of Lieberman's call as well... once again, we're forced to say, go, Joe!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 11, 2007, at the time of 7:03 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 31, 2007

Hewitt Responds - Sort of - to Big Lizards Point!

Immigration Immolations , Logical Lacunae , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

During today's interview with Mark Steyn, Hugh responded, vaguely and without attribution, to the point we raised in Where's Walid? He could at least have mentioned Big Lizards.

Referring to his interview yesterday with Tamar Jacoby -- that was the female journalist whose name I couldn't recall in the last post -- Hugh said that she had argued that terrorists could be traced using the Z visa, as they worked inside and traveled outside the country. Actually, she didn't... Big Lizards did. She tried, but she couldn't get the words out, being only a journalist (heh).

But Hugh then offered the most unanswerable argument I have ever heard; it's hard to see how anybody could fail to be moved by it. (Moved to something, at least; I was moved to scorn and mockery, but that's just me.) Note: Except for the last three words, this is a paraphrase to the best of my recollection; it's not word for word accurate until the very end:

Hewitt: Jacoby said they could be tracked as they moved around and worked and went in and out of the country... and that's laughable.

Well! Who could argue with that?

Hugh then turned to Steyn; "that's just laughable, isn't it?" Steyn -- who also calls the bill "amnesty" -- dutifully agreed that the scenario was laughable.

Both Hugh Hewitt and Mark Steyn failed to tell us exactly why it was laughable. True, Hewitt's baccalaureate is in government, so he probably took no science classes and only the barestly minimum of math classes; and Steyn is a high-school dropout. But surely Hugh's experience as a lawyer and Steyn's as an art critic, and the experience of both of them as pundits, should make up for complete ignorance of science and technology, even when the subject is technology.

Steyn then rambled on, saying that it didn't matter what anybody did about visas or immigration law, because "nobody ever checks anything anyway." Of course, if this is true -- then what makes him think a strict, enforcement-only bill would be, well, enforced? Or does he, perhaps, believe there should be no further law whatsover, since it's all useless and hopeless?

Sidebar: Too many years ago, at university, I was getting lunch at a Chinese fast-food restaurant on campus. I took some rice, then I poured some soy sauce over it. A woman (occidental) standing behind me in line, who I had never seen before, said "that's too much salt! You'll get high blood pressure." (This was at UC Santa Cruz, where RadFems were encouraged to believe that everyone wanted to hear their opinions on every issue.)

I had just read an article on that very point. "Actually," I responded, "several recent studies found that a moderate amount of salt, which they defined as what the average American eats, does not negatively affect people with normal blood pressure."

"The average American doesn't eat a moderate amount of salt! They eat much more than that."

"I'm sorry, the study defined 'moderate' as the amount that an average American ate."

"That just proves those studies are bogus... because the average American eats way, way more than a moderate amount of salt!"

I thought for a pair of seconds. "You're a Womyn's Studies major -- aren't you?"

"And what does that have to do with anything?"

For some odd reason, when I heard Hugh's argument against using the Z visa and the Total Information Awareness data-mining system, I had an LSD-like flashback to that afternoon at the Omei restaurant at UCSC.

At first, hearing what Hugh said and Steyn eagerly seconded, I took offense; I shouted at the radio. But upon further reflection, I suppose expecting either Hugh Hewitt or Mark Steyn to even understand a technological, information-science argument, let alone craft an informed response, would be like expecting me to write a brief for a tax-law case.

I just wish they would follow "Dirty" Harry Callahan's advice in Magnum Force: "A man's got to know his limitations."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 31, 2007, at the time of 4:20 PM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

Where's Walid?

Immigration Immolations , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

I listened in mounting frustration yesterday to Hugh Hewitt grilling some poor woman journalist or blogger or somesuch whose name I didn't catch; she supported the immigration bill, and Hugh was -- er -- "interviewing" her. I was frustrated because Hugh had gone into total prosecutor mode, and he was running her through a cross-examination harsher than Spencer Tracy gave Fredric March in Inherit the Wind.

Hugh would ask a question, and two seconds into her answer, he would ask another, loudly cutting her off in mid-sentence. It was clear he had no interest whatsoever in allowing her to make her case; he wanted to get her so rattled she would say something incriminating, so he could convict her.

On the other side of the coin, she was probably a good journalist or trial lawyer or whatever political worker she was... but she didn't know Jack Squat about the various technologies involved in tracking bad guys. In particular, she could not give a coherent explanation to the bellowing Hugh how the smart Social-Security card could possibly help catch a terrorist hiding among the other Z visa or Parole Card holders.

This, of course, allowed Hugh to conclude that it wouldn't help a bit; after all, it's a well-known syllogism that if one particular flustered person cannot answer your question, then clearly the question has no answer, and you have refuted the other guy's argument.

So please allow me to step in and make the case that Ms. Whatsit couldn't; let me explain how we could use Z visas to catch evil-doers.

As Rudyard Kipling wrote...

Take up the Smart Man's burden --
Explain what they really meant --
It's the duty owed to morons
By the super-intelligent;
Rewrite their stupid debates,
Square up their ducks in a line...
Then watch as the oily ingrates
Take credit for all that is thine!

(All right, he didn't really write that. But he should have.)

Ms. Whosit couldn't figure it out, and neither could Hugh, because you have to make connections between seemingly unrelated scientific or technological processes... and that is more within the purview of a science-fiction writer than a lawyer. Let me explain what I mean...

Suppose the bill passes, and a bunch of illegal immigrants apply for Parole Cards (the provisional Z visas -- at least, that's what Sen. Jon Kyl, R-AZ, 92%, calls them). Hugh's worry is that among all the Gonzaleses and Ramirezes and Garcias will be hidden a few Mohammeds and Zarqawis... or even a Padilla or two.

Hugh is terrified that these terrorists could also apply for Parole Cards, and then be able to move around the country, get work, and even exit and reenter the United States at will. Of course, they can do that today... but Hugh seems to believe that they're more likely to be caught and deported today, with no bill, than they would be next year with a bill and Z visas and Parole Cards. (I have no idea what current mechanism for capturing and deporting them Hugh sees; it certainly eludes my sight.)

Let's carefully break down what it means to exit and reenter the country and to work: The border-crosser must show a passport and a SmartVisa. Specifically, he must swipe the card through a reader; this necessarily creates a record of leaving and reentering. Too, moving from place to place within the U.S. and working also creates a phosphor trail. But so what? How does that help capture terrorists?

Enter the CIA's old computer connection-tracking program, Total Information Awareness. Congress got hysterical in 2003, defunding it -- or so they thought; but it's widely believed still to be in existence, just shifted under the umbrella of black-ops programs and funded by secret accounts.

The reason it was so effective is that it was simply an object-oriented database data-matching application. It was not programmed with any pre-existing biases for one type of connection above the others; it noted and kept track of any and all connections between datapoints -- between Walid the terrorist and Guido the Mafioso, for example. Then it allowed for queries at any level of complexity.

The operators looked for connections where they would not expect to find any. Of course you could find a connection between the Secretary of State and various unsavory political leaders; that's the secretary's job. Nobody thinks Condoleezza Rice is in league with Bashar Assad simply because she met with him during a trip to Syria.

But suppose some dentist in Minneapolis calls Zarqawi in Iraq, then is called by a known terrorist in Pakistan, then is spotted by the FBI having lunch with an arms dealer in Minneapolis, then shows up as a co-signer on a loan to buy an airplane, when the other co-signer is a radical imam operating at a mosque out of Idaho.

Those connections are completely unexpected; why would one lousy dentist know all these people? In fact, that pattern is so suspicious that we should initiate surveillance to see what our "dentist" is up to.

But without TIA, the authorities would never have stumbled across the connections because they cross jurisdictional boundaries: The CIA identifies the terrorists abroad; the NSA records the calls; the FBI is tracking the arms dealer; and nobody is paying any attention to the imam. Without a single, unified database to bring all these observations together, nobody would notice the previously unknown dentist at the center of the web.

Now we take the TIA database... and we add to it the Parole Card and Z visa. Suppose we're looking for Walid Achmed Mohammed, a suspected jihadist who is thought to have sneaked into the United States in 2006 under an unknown alias. Today, we would have no idea where Walid could be found; because he is underground, he could be anywhere, under any name, working for anyone.

We make some educated guesses; let's suppose, just as Hugh fears, that Walid gets himself a Parole Card so he can move about and in and out.

CIA informants report that Walid was spotted at a "terrorism convention" in Pakistan in January of 2008; then another source believes Walid was at a training and planning session at a safehouse somewhere in Madrid in July. But that's all we know.

Under today's rules, that doesn't help us at all. But under the rules established by this bill, the very first thing we should do is query the TIA database to see which holders of Z visas traveled to Pakistan in January 2008 and to Madrid in July of 2008... I'd bet there were not that many. (Check not only direct routes but the roundabout routes that terrorists tend to use; the CIA is actually pretty good at that nowadays.)

Then you take that list of Social-Security numbers, winnow out the obvious non-targets, and plug that into the Z-visa employment database. This will tell you where the eight or nine potential "Walids" have worked in the past year. Since the real Walid has no reason to believe he has been outed, he will probably follow the same pattern... criss-crossing the country carrying messages and money and working for the same set of employers along the way.

By staking out each of those employers around the times he usually shows up, we suddenly have a very good plan for grabbing Walid Achmed Mohammed and hustling him off to Gitmo. And the best part is, neither he nor anybody in his cell would have the slightest idea how we did it!

And there you have it; that is just one way that the provisions of this bill could help us catch terrorist infiltrators who are completely unlocatable today. There simply is no disputing that by putting themselves into the database, terrorists become much more likely to be caught.

But what if Walid is afraid of this very scenario, so he does not get a Parole Card? But if that's the case, his movements will be severely impeded... because we will require anyone crossing our borders (whether by car, boat, or airplane) to show not only a foreign passport but also some form of visa -- whether tourist, student, former illegal (Z visa), guest worker (Y visa), or permanent resident. (For citizens, the United States passport itself could be remade as a smart card, at least including the mag strip or bar code or whatever.) If Walid doesn't have a visa, or if the name on his passport doesn't match the visa, he gets caught.

If he tries to get multiple visas, the fingerprints will out him.

And if he doesn't have a visa that permits working, he will not be able to find a job after this bill is enacted. Again, his operations will be severely impacted, because he will have to rely upon smuggled funds to survive.

The question "where's Walid?" has no answer today; but if the bill passes, it could be answered with a reasonable degree of certainty for a lot of little Walids now hiding among us.

Make sense, Counselor Hewitt?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 31, 2007, at the time of 4:59 AM | Comments (36) | TrackBack

May 30, 2007

A Balance of Question

Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

A mostly anonymous group of "experts," speaking to the previously unheard-of Intelligence Science Board, has condemned some mostly unnamed methods of interrogation for mostly unspecified reasons. And the President of the United States hasn't even responded yet!

As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable.

The psychologists and other specialists, commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board, make the case that more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has yet to create an elite corps of interrogators trained to glean secrets from terrorism suspects.

According to this glossary, the Intelligence Science Board...

...advises the Director of Central Intelligence and senior Intelligence Community leaders on science, technology, research, engineering, business, organization, social sciences, the humanities, and other matters of interest. The ISB strengthens the capabilities of the Intelligence Community by providing expert advice, unconventional thinking, and early notice of advances in science and serves as a link between the Intelligence Community and the Scientific Community.

Back to the Times story. The primary criticism appears to be that we're not using the same techniques that worked well during World War II against captured German and Japanese prisoners:

President Bush has insisted that those secret “enhanced” techniques are crucial, and he is far from alone.... A 2005 Harvard study supported the selective use of “highly coercive” techniques.

But some of the experts involved in the interrogation review, called “Educing Information,” say that during World War II, German and Japanese prisoners were effectively questioned without coercion.

“It far outclassed what we’ve done,” said Steven M. Kleinman, a former Air Force interrogator and trainer, who has studied the World War II program of interrogating Germans. The questioners at Fort Hunt, Va., “had graduate degrees in law and philosophy, spoke the language flawlessly,” and prepared for four to six hours for each hour of questioning, said Mr. Kleinman, who wrote two chapters for the December report.

Mr. Kleinman, who worked as an interrogator in Iraq in 2003, called the post-Sept. 11 efforts “amateurish” by comparison to the World War II program, with inexperienced interrogators who worked through interpreters and had little familiarity with the prisoners’ culture.

Maybe I'm just hypersensitive; but to me, this testimony reads like a textbook case of academic myopia, where some professor's own minute specialty (World War II interrogation techniques) becomes a "poor King Charles' head," bubbling up in every conversation as the answer to everything.

Perhaps Kleinman also testified about the rather large differences between 20th-century German and Japanese National-Socialist prisoners and 21st-century theocratic, martyrdom-seeking jihadist prisoners; but if so, the Times chooses not to illuminate us.

From what Sachi tells me, under the Japanese code of honor at the time, a soldier was supposed to die rather than allow himself to be captured. If necessary, he was to commit hara kiri, as we saw in the movie Letters From Iwo Jima.

Thus, if they were captured instead, they tended to consider themselves spiritually dead. Their honor already irretrievably lost, they answered questions readily and without evasion, no longer caring whether they lived or died or what happened to their unit or even the Empire of the Rising Sun itself.

And as far as Nazis go, they were more like Baathists than jihadis. Being Socialists, they did not believe in any sort of afterlife; and the high-ranking ones were definitely not into martyrdom.

By contrast, most jihadis really do believe that if they die, especially under torture, they get Paradise and the 72 virgins (or raisins; the text is unclear). It is much more difficult to make such a true believer talk than to make a thoroughly secularized German or Japanese prisoner talk.

(Evidently, female jihadist martyrs go to Paradise and get 72 dwarfs, rather than virgins, hunks, or even raisins; this calls to mind possibilities simultaneously disturbing and hysterically funny. I am honestly not making this up.)

Another track is that we should base our interrogations on techniques used by police detectives and -- I rib you not -- advertising marketers:

The Intelligence Science Board study has a chapter on the long history of police interrogations, which it suggests may contain lessons on eliciting accurate confessions. And Mr. Borum, the psychologist, said modern marketing may be a source of relevant insights into how to influence a prisoner’s willingness to provide information.

“We have a whole social science literature on persuasion,” Mr. Borum said. “It’s mostly on how to get a person to buy a certain brand of toothpaste. But it certainly could be useful in improving interrogation.”

Um... okay.

I see no problem incorporating new techniques into our interrogation procedures; but we do not have the luxury of waiting years, while we locate agents with "graduate degrees in law and philosophy" and who speak Arabic, Turkish, Pashtun, and Farsi "flawlessly," particularly for field interrogations conducted by soldiers. It would certainly be wonderful to have an "elite corps of interrogators" with degrees and decades of practice interrogating jihadis; but what are we to do in the meantime? We need actionable intelligence now, not just next decade.

(But I agree with one point: Let us continue to develop interrogation techniques and that cadre... because we will still need them in the next decade.)

The main thrust of the New York Times' story -- if not of the gaggle of experts -- is made clear in the article (and made clear a second time, just in case you missed the point the first time round):

The Bush administration is nearing completion of a long-delayed executive order that will set new rules for interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency. The order is expected to ban the harshest techniques used in the past, including the simulated drowning tactic known as waterboarding, but to authorize some methods that go beyond those allowed in the military by the Army Field Manual....

Because the training was developed during the cold war, the techniques later adopted by the C.I.A. and Special Operations officers in Iraq were based, at least in part, on how the Soviet Union and its allies were believed to treat prisoners. Such techniques included prolonged use of stress positions, exposure to heat and cold, sleep deprivation and even waterboarding.

(I wonder: When the president promulgates the executive order -- which will surely be top secret -- and if some disloyal CIA agent leaks it to the Times... would the Times actually publish it, thus alerting jihadists to all the possible interrogation techniques that may be used on them? I guess I don't actually "wonder;" the answer is fairly clear.)

For some unfathomable reason, Leftists are completely unmanned by the very thought of waterboarding, more than by any other interrogation technique. I have had arguments with people who insist that waterboarding, because it is entirely psychological and doesn't actually cause any physical damage, is therefore much more horrific than the physical tortures that Saddam Hussein and sons inflicted upon their enemies. Several opined they would rather have their legs broken than be waterboarded... because at least a person could recover from having his legs broken.

Amusingly enough, however, the Times could not find a single quotable sentence where any of the experts actually condemned waterboarding, either on moral grounds or as ineffective. Nor is the word "waterboarding" or "waterboard" even found in the complete Educing Information report. I wonder how intensely the reporters pushed, trying to get at least one expert to just say the magic words?

In any event, I see very little newsworthy in the Times piece. Or, therefore, in this Big Lizards post. But since the former has gotten a big splash today and may be referred to many times in the future, it's worthwhile letting readers know what is and is not to be found therein.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 30, 2007, at the time of 6:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 15, 2007

Christmas In George Washington Hospital

Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Cue the dramatic music; turn down the thermostat -- we want it chilly, chilly.

Lights out!

A small floor-spot illuminates James B. Comey, former deputy Attorney General, from below (played by Mel Gibson), as he begins to speak, calmly and slowly...

“I was very upset,” said James B. Comey, who was deputy Attorney General at the time, in his testimony today before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I was angry. I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me.”

The hospital visit by Mr. Gonzales and Andrew H. Card Jr., who was then White House chief of staff, has been disclosed before, but never in such dramatic, personal detail. Mr. Comey’s account offered a rare and titillating glimpse of a Washington power struggle, complete with a late-night showdown in the White House after a dramatic encounter in a darkened hospital room -- in short, elements of a potboiler paperback novel.

"Boil that dust mote, boil that dust mote!"

Actually, what this article in the New York Times (I'm not putting the name in italics because I depleted my supply in an earlier paragraph) reminded me of most was a naughty-nurse novel; all the elements are there: the stolen hours, the steamy emotionalism, the torn unmentionables...

And the heavy:

On the night of March 10, 2004, a high-ranking Justice Department official rushed to a Washington hospital to prevent two White House aides from taking advantage of the critically ill Attorney General, John Ashcroft, the official testified today.

One of those aides was Alberto R. Gonzales, who was then White House counsel and eventually succeeded Mr. Ashcroft as Attorney General.

When the New York Times interviewed Attorney General Gonzales to get his side of this controversy, here is how he explained his actions:






The other "bad guy" is not a person but a program: the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program to develop intelligence on al-Qaeda sleeper cells in the United States... a program that Mr. Comey, the man who would be AG, hates with every fiber of his being.

That was the subject of the clandestine tryst and epoch struggle between Gonzales and the "critically ill" Attorney General Ashcroft -- he had a gallstone which migrated to his pancreas, causing some pain and discomfort: Gonzales was desperate to continue the National Security Agency's monitoring of international phone calls where one terminus was a known al-Qaeda agent; while Ashcroft, well known for his deep concern for the civil liberties of terrorist suspects, was very concerned about the constitutionality and legality of the program.

Although Mr. Comey declined to say specifically what the business was that sent Mr. Gonzales to the bedside of Mr. Ashcroft in George Washington Hospital, where he lay critically ill with pancreatitis, it was clear that the subject was the National Security Agency’s secret domestic surveillance program. The signature of Mr. Ashcroft or his surrogate was needed by the next day, March 11, in order to renew the program, which was still secret at that time....

Around the time of the hospital incident, the White House suspended parts of the program for several months and imposed tougher requirements on the National Security Agency on how the program was to be used.Mr. Comey told the committee today that when Mr. Ashcroft was ill and he was in charge at the Justice Department, he told the White House he would not certify the program again “as to its legality.”

Considering that Ashcroft would be out of the hospital and back to his normal duties fairly shortly, I would hope that the "acting" Attorney General wouldn't take it upon himself to make such a momentous decision -- especially knowing that his boss was deep in negotiations with la Casa Blanca on minor oversight changes Ashcroft wanted to see. (Who knew italics were a renewable resource?)

Comey testified that the forces of goodness discovered the Evil One's plans when it was almost too late... almost! Comey received a frantic phone call from Janet Ashcroft, the Attorney General's wife, who had herself received a veiled warning from a contact known only as "Deep Oval." Some folks think it was Mark Felt, feeling a bit lonely. Others say it was Bigfoot. Some folks think it was President Bush himself, so ashamed and guilt-ridden that he had to try to stop the terrible power grab by Gonzales:

On the night of March 10, as he was being driven home by his security detail, he got a telephone call from Mr. Ashcroft’s chief of staff, who had just been contacted by Mr. Ashcroft’s wife, Janet.

Although Mrs. Ashcroft had banned visitors and telephone calls to her husband’s hospital room, she had just gotten a call from the White House telling her that Mr. Card and Mr. Gonzales were on their way to see her husband, Mr. Comey testified. “I have some recollection that the call was from the president himself, but I don’t know that for sure,” Mr. Comey said.

He said his security detail then sped him to the hospital with sirens blaring and emergency lights flashing, while he telephoned the director of the F.B.I., Robert S. Mueller 3d, from the car. Mr. Mueller shared his sense of urgency: “He said, ‘I’ll meet you at the hospital right now,’ ” Mr. Comey testified.

When contacted by writer David Stout, Mrs. Ashcroft added these details:




Robert Mueller, in an exclusive interview for the Times, took a hard line on such shenanigans. He could barely contain his outrage in this exchange with Stout:






Through the unearned grace of the Almighty, the legion of decency managed to arrive at George Washington Hospital first (I cannot tell a lie). They waited in silent vigil, girding their loins and putting on their manly gowns for the final battle before the gates of Mordor:

Mr. Comey recalled arriving at the darkened hospital room, where Mr. Ashcroft seemed hardly aware of his surroundings. For a time, only Mr. Comey and the Ashcrofts were in the room. Meanwhile, Mr. Mueller, who had not yet arrived, told Mr. Comey’s security detail by phone “not to allow me to be removed from the room under any circumstances,” Mr. Comey testified.

Minutes later, he said, Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card entered the room, with Mr. Gonzales carrying an envelope. “And then Mr. Gonzales began to discuss why they were there, to seek his approval for a matter,” Mr. Comey related.

Confronted with this damning testimony, Andrew Card was almost at a loss for words:




But the grand climax was yet to come. Like a bolt from Gandalf's staff, Ashbed suddenly jerked upright, rising from his near-deathbed to thunder like an Old Testament prophet...

“And Attorney General Ashcroft then stunned me,” Mr. Comey went on: He raised his head from the pillow, reiterated his objections to the program, then lay back down, pointing to Mr. Comey as the attorney general during his illness.

Spent, his power drained, John Ashcroft resigned after the elections that year. But he managed to survive his dreadful ordeal, and has since been nursed (by elves) back to some semblance of good health. When the Times contacted him -- as the principal involved in this exchange -- he offered these words of hope and healing:






He then offered his blessing and papal dispensation for the numerous traffic violations that Comey was forced to commit by the urgency of the emergency.

But our tale is not yet full told; a savage denouement erupted later, at the very House of Blackness...

Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card departed, but after a while, Mr. Card telephoned Mr. Comey and “demanded that I come to the White House immediately,” Mr. Comey said.

“After what I just witnessed, I will not meet with you without a witness, and I intend that witness to be the solicitor general of the United States,” Mr. Comey said he told Mr. Card.

Whereupon, Mr. Comey said, he contacted the solicitor general, Theodore B. Olson, who was at a dinner party, and arranged to go with him to the White House. At first, Mr. Card would not let Mr. Olson enter his office, Mr. Comey said; he then had a considerably calmer private chat with Mr. Card for a quarter-hour, after which Mr. Olson entered the room and took part in the conversation.

Fortunately for Comey, Ted Olson is readily available for comment. I can only imagine Comey's sigh of relief when Olson, contacted for independent verification by the Times, was able to buttress Comey's words with this much-needed corroboration:




Separately, the Associated Press is also hot on this story. They contacted White House spokesman Tony Snow, as the obvious person to comment on a secret hospital struggle in 2004, and received this stunning confirmation:

Asked about Comey's testimony, White House press secretary Tony Snow said he didn't know anything about the conversation at Ashcroft's bedside.

But it's the New York Times that is driving this new Bush/Gonazles scandal, and it is the Times that draws the obvious conclusion: After such an obvious attempt at a coup d'état, the only honorable thing for the Attorney General to do is resign immediately, shave his head, take a vow of silence, and become a Trappist monk:

Even before Mr. Comey’s testimony, ["Chairman of today's committee session" Sen. Charles "Chuck"] Schumer [D-NY, 100%] and Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania [43%], the panel’s ranking Republican, reiterated their low opinion of Mr. Gonzales as attorney general.

“He’s presided over a Justice Department where being a, quote, loyal Bushie seems to be more important than being a seasoned professional, where what the White House wants is more important than what the law requires or what prudence dictates,” Schumer said.

“It is the decision of Mr. Gonzales as to whether he stays or goes, but it is hard to see how the Department of Justice can function and perform its important duties with Mr. Gonzales remaining where he is,” Specter said. “And beyond Mr. Gonzales’ decision, it’s a matter for the president as to whether the president will retain the attorney general or not.”

Thank God we have Chuck Schumer and Arlen Specter to defend us on our hospital beds from visitations by various unwanted Gonzaleses and Cards.

And an especial cheek-kissing accolade to Mr. David Stout of the New York Times for his sense of fairness and integrity, and his journalistic determination to present all sides of such a melodramatic story. Where would we be without such dogged digging?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 15, 2007, at the time of 4:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 11, 2007

Security Violator of the Year Award

Military Machinations , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Sachi

We have recently read about new military policies promulgated by the Pentagon relating to milblogs; due to security concerns, they now want all milbloggers to receive counseling about operational security (OPSEC) and how to protect it. This got me wondering... just exactly how often do milbloggers unknowingly leak sensitive information?

The answer, according to retired Navy Intelligence Specialist DJ Elliott at the Fourth Rail is -- not often. Elliott has been keeping track of principal OPSEC violators; Elliott is publishing a series of Order of Battle (OOB) reports on Bill Roggio's site.

The type of secret information released to the public often seems harmless at the first glance. Look at the caption published by attached to a photograph published by the Multi National Force Division North:

U.S. Army Soldiers move to the UH-60 Black Hawk after searching the area for items of interest during an aerial response force mission, Iraq, March 31. Soldiers are assigned to the 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway.

What's wrong with this picture? It tells you which unit is operating down to the platoon level, their mission, and the exact date. Our enemies find these pieces of information very useful. I know for a fact that even during training exercises conducted inside the United States, this type of information is closely guarded. Why is it so casully released from the war zone? According to Elliott, this is typical:

Multinational Division-Central: Before they even stood up I knew which Brigades were officially in their command and what area they were getting. Since then the Commanding General has told the press that 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade are also joining them, I have their full OOB and the units are not even all there yet. The elements of 6th Iraqi Army Division in their area get ID'd all the time, however the security on unit IDs of 8th Iraqi Army Division is maintained.

In Elliott's post, he lists some of the worst offenders, ranking them from 10 to 1 (where 10 is the worst). So we're all waiting with bated breath; who is the most egregious offender? The answer may not surprise you, depending on your knowledge of the military:

The worst OPSEC violator in the senior staffs is the Pentagon. I get more advance notice from a Pentagon Press Brief of US movements from Kuwait into Iraq than I get from all other sources combined. The Pentagon acts as if it is not at war, and the leaks emanating from Arlington are enormous.

The Pentagon? Not the milbloggers? Say it ain't so, DJ!

In fact, Pentagon staffers are so bad, Elliott doesn't even bother including them in the list. So here are the lesser sources; all comments, unless [bracketed] off, are Elliott quotations:

  • 10. Multinational Division-North: Shoot your Air Force photographers as enemy spies.

    [Elliott retracted this statement after an e-mail exchange with an Air Force master sergeant combat photographer who, quite understandably, took extreme exception. But the basic point is important enough that we included the retracted comment -- which in fact remains in the blogpost.]

  • 9. Multinational Division-Central
  • 8. Multinational Division-Baghdad: The OPSEC was poor in the past, but it has improved over last three months.

Ranking in the middle are the Marines in Anbar and the training teams. They are good at not revealing specific IDs of Iraqi Security Forces, but they tend to get careless about themselves. Sometimes their commanders "expound a bit too much," as Elliott puts it.

The Brits and the Poles are much better, but even they slip up now and again:

  • 7. Multinational Force-West: The Marines in Anbar.
  • 6. Training Teams.
  • 5. Multinational Division-South East: The Brits have years of experience in talking around a subject and it shows.
  • 4. Multinational Division-Central South: The Polish lead force occasionally provides unit IDs and locations but, normally well after the fact of the operation...

Now the best three. Surprisingly, milbloggers come in third best:

  • 3. Military Bloggers: Despite the worries by the hierarchy, I have seen only five valid OPSEC violations in two years from Military Bloggers concerning ISF/Coalition forces (only 1 in the last year). MilBloggers tend to lose unit IDs and details in their writings in a way that PAOs [Public Affairs Officers] should study and learn from.
  • 2. Special Operations Forces: We have SOF? All joking aside their security is good and the Iraqi Security Forces is following their lead, except they do acknowledge that I SOF conducts operations now.
  • 1. Multinational Division-North East/Zaytun Division (Republic of Korea Army): The best in-theater OPSEC. Period. The only thing I see from their AOR [area of responsibilty] is what new project or jobs training is ongoing. Unit identification of coalition/Iraqi Security Forces below Division does not get released by the Koreans. I get my data on Iraqi Security Forces in that area from US PAO releases and briefs.

If you think about it, it is hardly surprising that boots on the ground (and their families) are very close-mouthed about the units' activities: They are the soldiers most directly affected by violations of OPSEC. The worst offenders are the commanders and senior staffers far from the battlefield, men and women who do not have to face bullets and IEDs themselves. They have a bad tendency to brag about their "achievements."

The good news is that, since the Fourth Rail started publishing these OOB reports, violations of OPSEC have plummeted:

Also since we started publishing these OOBs, the reported unit IDs have dropped by more than half. Some of the previous OPSEC violators have either rethought what they were doing or been "counseled". Good. The harder it is for the OOB to be updated the better I feel.

I congraturate Mr. Elliott and for his fine job and the Fourth Rail for giving him a forum. I hope the military will take this warning to heart and keep up the good work. Remember, "Loose Lips Sink Ships!"

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 11, 2007, at the time of 6:41 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 7, 2007

A Devil's Deal I Would Eagerly Accept

Globaloney Sandwich , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

The Democrats have crafted an Intelligence Authorization Bill that diverts scarce intelligence resources into yet another insane attempt to "prove" anthropogenic global warming, a.k.a. "Globaloney."

And I very much support the bill. Have I gone mad?

Bah, ye of little lizardian faith! Yes, it wastes time, resources, and money on an absurdity (global warming has no significant national-security implications whatsoever). But it also dramatically increases funding for human intelligence (HumInt) operations... actual spies to infiltrate countries like Iran, Syria, and North Korea, instead of relying entirely on spy satellites and such... signals intelligence, or SigInt, in IntelSpeak.

The bill also increases funding for counterintelligence, which I would hope includes hunting down al-Qaeda sleeper cells and such inside the United States:

Mr. Reyes lauded his panel's work on the bill, noting that it will lead to "stronger, better intelligence," especially by adding money for human intelligence training and for sending analysts abroad.

For the first time, the bill will fund a "baseline" for intelligence activities related to terrorism and Iraq, he said.

He also said it will strengthen counterintelligence, enhance oversight and eliminate wasteful spending.

Quite frankly, I'm perfectly willing to make that trade-off, if that's what it takes to get the Democrats aboard.

If the Republicans can strip the Globaloney nonsense out of the bill and still get the Democrats to sign up, that would be wonderful. I'd love to have that. Of course, I'd also love to have a trail horse and a house on five acres of land here in Southern Cal; I think the odds of that are marginally better than the odds of getting Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX, 80%) to accept HumInt without GoreInt.

Theoretically, we could have gotten a lot of this in the 109th Congress (2005-2006); the Republicans were in charge, and the president is always eager to improve our intelligence-gathering capability. So... why didn't we?

Oh yeah, I forgot:

Last year, the Republican-controlled Senate failed to pass its Intelligence Authorization bill.

Along with failing to make permanent the tax cuts and failing to enact the federal budget.

Say... I wonder why we lost Congress?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 7, 2007, at the time of 9:09 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

April 30, 2007

The Virtue of "Torture"

Opinions: Nasty, Brutish, and Shortsighted , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Ayn Rand once published a book titled the Virtue of Selfishness, which I didn't actually read: While I like her fiction, I find her nonfiction bombastic and often hilariously uninformed about everything from philosophy to science.

But that won't stop me from stealing the title for this post. What I really want to talk about is Dean Barnett, John McCain, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (hereafter KSM), and the moral status of both torture and "torture."

Virtue, in this case, means showing that some technique will save innocent lives while not itself being morally repugnant... which is precisely the case I prove for "torture" -- but reject for torture.

Let's set one boundary condition for this debate: We are not interested in either torture or "torture" as punishment; only as a means of extracting information. The other debate is for another time (and probably another blog).

So read on, MacDuff; and damn'd be he who first cries "this is puff!"

Utilizing utilitarianism

Dean has an excellent post up at Hugh Hewitt's blog that makes the case for some version of what he calls torture, even though he really means "torture" (I'll get to the distinction in a few pages):

THE TORTURE DEBATE brings out a similar absolutism from torture opponents. They tend to casually assume that people who support “coercive interrogation techniques” do so because they’re congenital sadists who have just been waiting for this moment in history so they could begin water-boarding Muslims with impunity.

That’s not the case. The people who support coercive interrogation techniques, and I am one of them, do so sadly. Unfortunately, given the nature of the war we’re in, certain moral compromises are a necessity. Using coercive interrogation techniques is one of them.

Alas, Dean's case is almost exclusively utilitarian (as seen above)... can't make an omlet without breaking a few heads, that sort of thing. He conflates it with, e.g., the firebombing of Tokyo; while both "torture" and the horrors of war can be severally moral acts, they aren't the same thing and shouldn't be used as analogies.

And I'm not particularly sad about us using "torture" (not torture) on terrorists such as KSM. Nor do I feel joy. I do take some satisfaction in the thought of KSM's blubbering breakdown, blabbing every bilious villainy to his Marine Corps interrogators. But other than that, I have no opinion, because he is a no-count.

The problem with Dean's utilitarian argument is twofold:

  1. It requires him to cede the moral high ground from the git-go, arguing that of course torture/"torture" (he doesn't distinguish, though we shall -- below) is morally wrong, but in such and such a case it's a necessary evil.

I think it a breathtaking leap of faith to declare that inflicting pain on some prisoners to gain information is necessarily a moral wrong, whether or not it's balanced by some greater good to be gained. How can anyone make such a pronouncement without even hearing the case?

  1. Second, the argument that we may do evil X because it's for the greater good requires a threshold calculation that almost nobody is prepared to make -- because it's almost impossible to quantify.

Threshold calculation? Huh? Don't worry, rhetorical help is on the way...

On the threshold of a scream

We often say "the ends don't justify the means," but obviously some ends justify some means: If we could save a thousand innocent lives by harshly scolding a terrorist, I suspect John McCain, Hillary Clinton, heck, even Pat Leahy would go for it. So the problem becomes defining, for any particular end, what level of "means" is allowed -- where every term must be well defined.

It should be clear that there's no easy way to do this. In Dirty Harry, we watched Det. Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) stomp on Scorpio's (Andy Robinson) gunshot leg to force him to reveal where he buried a teenaged girl alive; and most of us thought Harry was justified. But that's because the circumstances were about as exigent as they can get: An innocent high-school girl was (we presumed) trapped in a grave, slowly suffocating to death; and equally important, by that point in the movie, we knew to 100% certainty that Robinson's character was Scorpio... and was guilty of murder and kidnapping.

That makes a big difference. Suppose we had not one but three suspects, and we were only 70% certain that one of them was the killer; would it be morally just to torture each of them, hoping that one of them (a) would be Scorpio, and (b) would reveal where he buried the girl? In that case, we're guaranteed that two of the people we torture are innocent of these serial killings and don't know anything about the girl; and there's a 30% chance that none of them is guilty!

So what threshold of certainty need we have about a person's guilt to inflict either torture or "torture" upon him, and what kinds of information are valuable enough to warrant such extraordinary treatment? That's a question impossible to answer in the abstract; it requires a case by case evaluation.

The futility of utility

Dean also raises the question of the effectiveness of torture or "torture," and here he does a good job, I think:

And then there’s the persistent intellectual incoherence of the anti-torture voices. They can’t decide whether they’re against torture because it doesn’t work or whether they oppose it solely on moral grounds. This confusion belies their own sense of their argument’s weaknesses. If you add up the consensus of informed opinions, torture sometimes gets you some really useful and actionable information, and sometimes gets you utter rubbish. Torture opponents know this, which is why they cherry-pick experts who argue that torture never works. Because if a consensus formed that torture produced any good information, and the media acknowledged that consensus, torture opponents know their position would become politically untenable.

This we can use: Obviously, if the only point of torture/"torture" is to extract information, we have no grounds whatsoever for using techniques that are highly unlikely to succeed; all of our moral argumentation should be focused solely on those extreme techniques that actually work... of which there certainly are some.

(And of course we must apply basic information testing to ensure that the prisoners are not simply telling us what we want to hear or what they want us to think. But that's true of any method of interrogation, including the interview conducted by a cop when he pulls you over for speeding, and need not concern us here.)

The mechanics of morality

So if we decide not to essay the utilitarian argument for torture/"torture," then how can we approach the problem? Let's tackle it head-on instead: What would make an interrogation technique "immoral" or "wrong" in the first place? There are several definitions, in decreasing order of universality. An action is immoral if...:

  1. It violates a code laid down by God, whichever deity that represents to some individual, or by some other power (karma, the cosmic balance, etc.) that transcends all temporal powers; this is believed to apply to everyone, everywhere, whether he accepts it or not.
  2. It violates a code of conduct laid upon every person within a society; this applies only to those within that society's jurisdiction.
  3. It violates a code of conduct especially laid upon interrogators: police not being able to interrogate without first "Mirandizing" a suspect, for example; this applies only to those persons who hold the special status of approved government or private inquisitors with special authority beyond that of an ordinary citizen. (I'll lump constitutionality, law, and departmental regulations and pratices into this same category.)

(Call them the codes of God, Man, and Yale, if you prefer.)

Number (1) gives us little help; I don't recall any passage of the Bible (either Jewish or Christian) that discusses what level of interrogation can be used to extract information... the only limitations on the infliction of fear, pain, or injury by the government relate to punishment, not interrogation.

Clearly Islam doesn't restrict the use of either torture or "torture" during interrogations. It's possible that some sects of Buddhism or Hinduism explicitly do, but I would be surprised; and in any event, it's silly to suppose that a Christian nation like the United States would take its cue from the life of Siddhartha Gautama or from the Bhagavad Gita. So we must look elsewhere than God for moral guidance on interrogation techniques.

Number (3) is very specific; but it's too volatile, able to be changed on the fly or suspended in various circumstances. We cannot rely upon mere police department regulations or university standards of behavior, because all it takes is a new chief administrator to change the whole system.

So our primary guide must be number (2), the code of society: This is usually quite explicit, universal (at least, it's supposed to be universally enforced), and at the same time relatively stable over time, with defined and difficult (but not impossible) rules for change.

Social morality: a two-way street

Even within society, there are two classes of rules: a tiny fraction of moral rules that apply to everyone within the jurisdiction of the society, and the vast majority of rules and protections, which only apply to those who accept the social contract.

A better way to describe the distinction, however, is by who such rules are intended to protect. The first group of social rules, the ones that apply to everyone, are designed to protect us from our own worst impulses: they prohibit actions so vile and despicable, they "sear the very souls" of their actors. Even an ordinary person forced by circumstances to commit such horrific crimes irreparably debases himself: Treason, forcible rape, child molestation, and murder of innocents fall into this category. From such sins, there is no restitution, no absolution, and no return.

The second class of social rules and protections are designed to make life smoother. Violations can be expiated by punishment (incarceration, caning, depending upon society and circumstances) and the payment of weregeld. Violations can also be justified either in advance or ex-post facto by exigent circumstances: A hiker lost in the wilderness and starving to death finds an empty hunter's cabin stocked with food; it is perfectly reasonable for him to break in to prevent his own death... though he must leave a note and money (or pay compensation later, if he hasn't enough on his person).

But if the cabin in fact belongs to a bandit and is stuffed with stolen loot, then the owner cannot expect society to give a rat's patootie about his property; if he has a broken window and loses a bunch of his supplies, tough luck.

A man who lives a lawless life has no business demanding social protection from lawlessness.

Unlike the other kind of societal rules, which are designed to protect the potential perpetrator from debasing himself, these rules are actually protections for the potential victims... and the victims must be worthy of such protection.

To scare-quote or not to scare-quote

And at long last -- I know you've been holding your breath waiting, and I wouldn't want you to topple over from lack of oxygen -- we come to our distinction between torture and "torture":

  • Interrogational torture (no quotes) comprises the deliberate infliction of death, maiming, or physical agony for the purpose of obtaining intelligence; by its very nature, torture violates the first type of social rule, the one that applies to everyone everywhere within the jurisdiction of the society;
  • "Torture," by contrast, is here defined as extreme interrogational techniques that do not rise to the level of actual torture, but which achieve their results through fear, confusion, lies, false friendships, or the infliction of pain, discomfort, or annoyance that falls below agony, maiming, or death; "torture" violates only the second type of social rule -- the protections of which are not available to outlaws.

Thus, Dirty Harry stomping on the gunshot wound of the Scorpio killer is a type-1 violation; it is a moral wrong that can only be justified by the most extreme circumstances. And torturing a group of suspects in the hopes that one of them is actually the kidnapper and will tell the cops where the girl is buried is a moral wrong that is probably never justifiable.

However, police can (and do) trick a suspect into confessing by falsely telling him that his partner already fingered him as the ringleader. Prisoners can be denied privileges such as TV watching until they identify who shivved some guy in lockup.

And a terrorist cannot use social rules to shield himself from, e.g., waterboarding:

  • Waterboarding itself is a type-2 violation, as it works its magic by the fear of drowning, not by actual physical torment (such as beatings, burnings, or mutilation);
  • Terrorists, by definition, have violently rejected our society and its protections... thus, they have no right to demand protection from type-2 violations -- only from type-1 violations. All we need show is that our suspect is guilty to some chosen degree of certitude, and that the technique to be used is less painful or injurious than actual torture.

This is a much firmer moral basis for extreme interrogation techiques than Dean's utilitarian argument; this argument is robust, confrontational, and easily understood: we're not hurting KSM enough to call it real torture; and KSM has no grounds to toss and moan about it, considering how willing he is to go much further himself... and against actual innocents!

It is not, therefore, immoral for us to very selectively use non-torture "torture" on thugs like KSM. In fact, because the techniques, properly applied, save the lives of thousands of innocents, I can only end where I began: with the virtue of "torture."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 30, 2007, at the time of 6:25 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 28, 2007

Forgive My Unstiff Upper Lip

Logical Lacunae , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

There is a fascinating, little back-story concerning that top al-Qaeda agent that we just announced having captured, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, and our closest ally for the last, oh, 192 years. First, let's dress the stage a bit. From the Times of London:

Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, a former major in Saddam Hussein’s army, was apprehended as he tried to enter Iraq from Iran and was transferred this week to the “high-value detainee programme” at Guantanamo Bay.

Abd al-Hadi was taken into CIA custody last year, it emerged from US intelligence sources yesterday, in a move which suggests that he was interrogated for months in a “ghost prison” before being transferred to the internment camp in Cuba.

Oh dear. I hope he wasn't inconvenienced, not being able to hide behind his barrister.

So who was Abd al-Hadi anyway? Here's part of his c.v.:

Abd al-Hadi recognised the potential for turning young Muslim radicals from Britain who wanted to become mujahidin in Afghanistan or Iraq into terrorists who could carry out attacks in their home country. He realised that their knowledge of Britain, possession of British passports and natural command of English made them ideal recruits. After al-Qaeda restructured its operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas he sought out young Britons for instruction at training camps. In late 2004 Abd al-Hadi met Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, from Leeds, at a militant camp in Pakistan and, in the words of a senior investigator, “retasked them” to become suicide bombers.

They were sent back to Britain where they led the terrorist cell that carried out the 7/7 bombings, killing 52 Tube and bus passengers.

Oh... you mean that Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi! The mastermind behind the horrific attack in Great Britain, carried out by British subjects who happened to be Moslem jihadists.

But here is the part that is just delicious, in a bitter-sweet, black-comedy sort of way:

Abd al-Hadi has also been linked to a number of other foiled al-Qaeda plots to carry out attacks in Britain. But the Security Service, which has previously sent officials to question detainees at Guantanamo Bay, may not have the opportunity to question him directly.

The Government’s recently adopted position in favour of closing Guantanamo Bay is likely to act as a bar on agents travelling there.

Because Tony Blair's government has gone on record demanding that we shut down Camp X-Ray at Guantánamo Bay and end all interrogations there, it just doesn't seem, well, entirely cricket for agents of MI5 and MI6 to trundle off to the place they don't believe should exist, to interrogate people they don't believe should be at the place that oughtn't exist -- and possibly even use techniques that should never be used on the people who shouldn't be at the place that oughtn't exist in the first instance.

But of course, they do need some answers to those interrogatories from the man who is where he shouldn't be. So what is British intelligence to do?

It's so simple, I'm surprised you didn't think of it yourselves (for shame!):

British Intelligence would have to rely on relaying questions it would like asked by American interrogators.

And there we have it... the absurdist solution to the surreal conundrum of how to eat your spotted dick and have it, too:

Just send the people who shouldn't be running the place that oughtn't even be there to use the techniques that mustn't be used to interrogate the man who isn't supposed to be held, so that the folks who are too moral to be there themselves can nevertheless gain the critical information they need -- but mayn't have.

As Tom Lehrer sang, "it's so simple, so very simple, that only a child can do it!" Or, it appears, a Brit. (And jolly good thing that we didn't listen to the Brits and actually close the joint, what?)

Has anyone asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 65%), who has also called for the dismantlement of Camp X-Ray, what he thinks of all this?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 28, 2007, at the time of 5:37 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 25, 2007

The Mything Link

Iraq Matters , Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

So the Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, in a snit, have subpoenaed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: They demand she some and testify about pre-Iraq war intelligence -- and about one element in particular:

Republicans accused Democrats of a "fishing expedition." But Democrats said they want Rice to explain what she knew about administration's warnings, later proven false, that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger for nuclear arms.

Ah, we come around once more, in the fullness of time, to arguing over President Bush's famous "sixteen words" from his 2003 State of the Union address:

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

But in the meanwhile (since the last go-round) -- did I miss some huge revelation? Has the claim that Iraq "sought" yellowcake from Niger been "proven false?" Did I miss some great and powerful bombshell that was dropped subsequent to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's report of July 7th, 2004?

Perhaps my memory fails, but I was under the distinct impression that that massive report on pre-war intelligence in fact found that those words were true -- not just literally (the Brits were reporting such), but in the deeper sense as well... that Iraq really had tried to obtain uranium from Africa. Oh yes, here is it... page 43 (page 8 on the pdf):

The intelligence report based on the former ambassador’s trip was disseminated on March 8,2002....

The intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996-1997). Mavaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware’of it. Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999, [name redacted] businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted “expanding commercial relations” to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that “although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq.”

The "former ambassador" referenced above, from whose debriefing this "intelligence report" was prepared, was some guy named Joe Wilson. (Scooter Libby hinted to me that the former ambassador's wife was in the CIA at the time and may have had something to do with his trip to Niger.)

But according to the impeccably credentialed Reuters News Service, the warnings "that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger for nuclear arms" were "later proven false." And if you can't trust Reuters, well, who can you trust?

Therefore, the only possible conclusion is that the president and his entire administration, including Condoleezza Rice, must have lied; and the Senate Intelligence Committee Republicans -- presumably due to Condi's bullying -- must have conspired to slip that supposed confirmation into the 2004 report.

Secretary Rice should be dragged before Chairman Henry Waxman's (D-CA, 95%) committee and interrogated about her Iraq lies and deceptions!

...And about the firing of those U.S. attorneys.

...Oh, and Katrina, and the Pat Tillman cover-up.

...And isn't it about time we got to the bottom of yet another scandal? What did Condi know (and when did she know it) about Bush stealing the 2000 election? It's the most urgent question facing our country today, and all else must stop until we finally get some answers... under oath!

Thus is born the great and powerful mythic lore that sustains the American Left.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 25, 2007, at the time of 2:10 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

January 19, 2007

How DARE They!

Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

The New York Times seems positively affronted that President Bush and Attorney General Gonzales were able to work out an agreement, anent the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program, between the administration's need for speed and flexibility and the FISA court's (FISC's) desire to give some level of judicial oversight to the intercepts. I might go so far as to say the Times is downright testy:

In a four-paragraph letter on Wednesday announcing that the Bush administration had reversed its position and would submit its domestic surveillance program to judicial supervision, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales used one phrase three times. A secret court, he said, had fashioned a way to allow the program to be monitored by the judiciary without compromising the need for “speed and agility.”

That phrase also captures, some critics say, the administration’s moving-target litigation strategy, one that often seeks to change the terms of the debate just as a claim of executive authority is about to be tested in the courts or in Congress.

I picture my eight year old sister, when I would come home late, pointing an accusatory finger and yowling "I'm telling!"

There is no evidence as yet that the administration plans to drop its appeal of the appalling ruling by District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, in ACLU v. NSA, that the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program was "unconstitutional" and violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA); in fact, the Times sidesteps the question entirely:

The announcement about the surveillance program came two weeks before a federal appeals court in Cincinnati was to hear the first appellate argument about the lawfulness of the program. Government lawyers now say that case is moot, but their claim is open to question.

Which "government lawyers" are those? Who said it was moot? It wasn't Alberto Gonzales. The Times wants us to believe that the Bush administration is just running from a potentially adverse decision... but the only "evidence" the paper offers is its own vague and unsupported word.

And let's not forget the underlying point here: the administration was "going it alone," but now they've found a way to compromise with the Judiciary and work in conjunction with the FISC. And the Democrats at the New York Times are pitching a tantrum.

Let me try to explain, by way of a simple analogy, why the New York Times is full of ammonium nitrate...

Imagine you own two adjoining buildings separated by a fence. The fence has a gate, but the gate is kept padlocked for "security reasons."

You frequently have to move items from one of your buildings to the other. But each time you get to the locked gate, the doddering ancient who mans it is away somewhere. You scream and you pound and you scout around trying to find him, but it generally takes a half-hour before he can be located (usually sound asleep and unable to hear you through his deafness).

This is intolerable; he works for a gatekeeping company, not directly for you, so you cannot simply fire him. You start negotiating with that company to see if something can be done.

But as you're hunting around for the gatekeeper one day, you notice the fence itself has a wide hole in it. So from then on, whenever you cannot rouse the gatekeeper, and the cargo you're moving is fairly small, you just duck through the hole in the fence. Sometimes, when you're moving something big, you have no choice but to use the gate; but you avoid it whenever you can.

A group of busy-bodies who live nearby invariably yell at you for not using the gate; but they have nothing to do with your business and no idea how absurd it is to stand there waiting so long for the tardy gatekeeper. You tell them that you own both buildings, you have the legal right to cut through the fence; they argue that you don't own the fence itself, and besides, it sets a bad example. Your employees espouse your cause: there is no other way to get through the fence quickly enough.

But at last, after several years of negotiations with the company that supplies gatekeepers, you manage to get the ol' poop fired; instead, they hire an eager, young lad who stays right there at the gate and is always quick to let you through. "Great!" says you; "I no longer need to wriggle through the hole in the fence. I can just pass through the gate, like a normal human."

(Of course, you always bear in mind that, if they ever switch back to the eldrich horror that used to man the gate -- you can always go back to using the hole, until they come to their senses.)

But as soon as the busy-bodies notice you using the gate, they loudly proclaim, "aha, you've reversed your position, and you will now submit to the authority of the gatekeeper. You have admitted that not even you believed your previous argument that you were legally entitled to use the hole in the fence between your two properties. You've admitted you were lying all the time!"

And then some of your employees start grumbling: "You said we had the right to use the hole -- but now you admit that you were lying all that time. You betrayed us! You made us look like fools!

"I'm telling!"

We leave it to the alert reader to decide who is represented by each group.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 19, 2007, at the time of 11:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 17, 2007

Another Bush "Surrender" That Isn't

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

All the wires and elite media are abuzz with the "news" that the Bush administration "won't reauthorize eavesdropping," and that this "appears to be a concession to its critics."

The media refer to President Bush's announcement that he will not reauthorize the NSA al-Qaeda interecept program... now that the FISA court has finally stepped up and issued orders allowing the very same program to proceed with judicial support, making it virtually impossible for majority Democrats to kill off. Surprise, surprise on the jungle cruise tonight (no surprise to "George Orwell," however), the MSM play this story as if it were a historic victory over Bush.

I have the pleasant task of bursting the latest anti-Bush liberal triumphalism: the media take is complete rot. The only reason they bypassed the FISA court in the first place was that it was too slow... and at last, the court has agreed to reforms, crafted by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, that not only dramatically speed up court review when necessary but also leave in place blanket approval of communications intercepts whenever there is probable cause to believe it's an al-Qaeda or related terrorist communication. Per the New York Times:

Mr. Gonzales told the committee’s chairman and ranking Republican that the secret court issued orders on Jan. 10 authorizing the government to monitor communications “into or out of the United States where there is probable cause to believe that one of the communicants is a member or agent of Al Qaeda or an associated terrorist organization.”

The administration may have to prove that probable cause later in court, should any criminal charges arise; but I suspect it's their call in the first place, since there's still that ex post facto element in the FISA authorizaiton process. The only probable cause required is a very minor one: that at least one party to the communication is "a member or agent of al-Qaeda" or related group, not that each and every member of the communication is planning to engage in terrorism.

AP has a strikingly similar graf:

Gonzales said a judge on the secret FISA court recently approved a government proposal allowing it to target communications into and out of the United States when probable cause exists that one person is a member of al Qaeda or an associated terrorist organization.

In other words, for all the shouting, it was the FISA court that accepted the Bush rationale... not the other way around.

Yet again, a Bush victory in the war on global jihadism is touted instead by the drive-by media as Bush caving in to pressure from his "critics." Bear in mind that the original NSA al-Qaeda intercept program was launched by executive order; should the FISA court fail to live up to its agreement to allow the administraiton a free hand to intercept terrorist communications... well, I'm sure President Bush can find a copy of his original order and just sign it again.

Let's keep our heads, shall we? The president who designed and authorized this program isn't going to just give it away; and there is no reason to doubt the elite media when they quietly admit, in the body of the articles, that indeed the FISA court gave Bush and Gonzales exactly what the administration itself proposed.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 17, 2007, at the time of 3:42 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

January 14, 2007

Big Box Media: Engineering the Unthinkable

Media Madness , Shrinking the Gap , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Let's review the bidding:

  • The New York Times blew the NSA al-Qaeda communications intercept program, tracking the phone numbers, length, and time of phone calls that either originated or terminated abroad, to or from known terrorist telephone numbers -- a program the writers and editors later claimed to believe was unconstitutional;
  • The Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times revealed our program to track terrorist financing via SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication -- a program that everyone involved, including the writers and editors of the various newspapers, admitted was perfectly legal, and indeed exactly what everyone (themselves included) said was the most vital kind of terrorism intelligence;
  • And now, the New York Times leads with an article blowing yet a third program to gather critical intelligence on terrorist activities and plots within the United States: they revealed today that the Pentagon has been tracking funding for terrorists -- those who have infiltrated the U.S. military or are plotting to attack military installations -- by sending "national security letters" to banks, credit-card companies, and other financial institutions requesting information on specific, identified people suspected of terrorist involvement. Everyone likewise admits this counter-terrorism program is perfectly legal, since compliance with the letters is voluntary.

Each of these revelations (and "lesser included" exposés en passant), but especially the concatenation of all of them in succession, defies all reason; it's as if the media were to telephone a terrorist target before a raid and warn them it was coming (oh, wait -- they did that, too).


There is only one circumstance where all this would make sense: if senior writers and editors of the major print media in this country actually want to see another horrific terrorist act succeed in the American homeland... so they can say, "see? President Bush's fascist counter-terrorism programs cannot keep us safe. Let's junk them all and go back to the Clinton era of peace and prosperity instead!"

Very much like the SWIFT program, the terrorist-financing intelligence program that the Times blew today is a perfectly legal method of trying to "follow the money," which every expert (including the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, as well as each of these newspapers in editorials) argued was the best way to expose terrorists and their plots before they came to fruition:

The F.B.I., the lead agency on domestic counterterrorism and espionage, has issued thousands of national security letters since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, provoking criticism and court challenges from civil liberties advocates who see them as unjustified intrusions into Americans’ private lives.

But it was not previously known, even to some senior counterterrorism officials, that the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have been using their own “noncompulsory” versions of the letters. Congress has rejected several attempts by the two agencies since 2001 for authority to issue mandatory letters, in part because of concerns about the dangers of expanding their role in domestic spying.

I'll bet it was "not previously known" to the terrorists, either. Thank goodness the New York Times has undertaken to keep them up to speed.

And once again, it appears that anonynous "intelligence officials" are the original source of the Times' information about the program (which they are now blowing), though "Pentagon officials" may also be leaking -- in fact, the leakers could be "military intelligence officers," who would fit both descriptions:

Military intelligence officers have sent letters in up to 500 investigations over the last five years, two officials estimated. The number of letters is likely to be well into the thousands, the officials said, because a single case often generates letters to multiple financial institutions. For its part, the C.I.A. issues a handful of national security letters each year, agency officials said. Congressional officials said members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees had been briefed on the use of the letters by the military and the C.I.A.

So not only is it perfectly legal -- in the entire article, the New York Times never even questions the legality -- but in addition, the Bush administration has kept Congress well informed via the intelligence committees of what it's doing. (The closest the Times comes to suggesting something is wrong with the program is to note that "Some national security experts and civil liberties advocates are troubled," and that one attorney defending a chaplain initially suspected of aiding terrorists was "disturbed.")

It may be illustrative to put this into ordinary criminal terms, so we can examine the pheneomenon without the extra baggage of terrorism, the military, the CIA, and the Bush administration. Imagine that the New York City police are investigating the Gambino Mafia family:

  • They start clandestinely intercepting phone calls either to or from known members of the Gambino crime organization; but the New York Times prints a front-page exposé of that operation, claiming there is a problem with the warrant that may, perhaps, render the phone intercept illegal. The Gambinos cease using their phone for crime-related purposes, shifting to other forms of communication.
  • Next, the city obtains search warrants for two different businesses owned by the Gambinos and suspected of laundering money for them. On the eve of each search, a reporter from the Times telephones the casino and asks, "you're about to be searched by the NYPD... how do you feel about that?" In each case, when the cops search the next day, the financial records appear sanitized.
  • Then the city starts using provisions of RICO (the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act) to obtain bank records for the Gambino family and companies that it owns; the Times swiftly runs a front-page story to that effect -- admitting that the city was in full compliance with the law in trying to get that information -- and the Gambinos shift to banks in the Cayman Islands for all future banking, while all compromised individuals flee to countries with no extradition treaties with the United States, continuing Gambino operations from those locations.
  • Finally, NYC sends letters to various credit card companies, requesting that the companies voluntarily turn over the records of named individuals and companies who are known members or affiliates of the Gambinos. The New York Times even outs that voluntary attempt as soon as they hear about it, again not even bothering to allege that there is anything illegal about this... merely citing "civil liberties advocates" who are "troubled" by all this attention paid to a group of people who haven't yet been proven guilty.

At this point, I believe an independent observer could be forgiven for concluding that the newspaper did not want the Gambinos stopped or prosecuted, but would rather they were allowed to continue their nefarious activies without police interference. In fact, I don't think it unreasonable to say that the New York Times, in this hypothetical, has functioned as an accessory to those crimes. It has certainly been on a crusade to run interference for them, alerting them to every attempt by the city to obtain enough evidence to prosecute.

It can't be illegality that has been driving the elite media's crusade to run interference for terrorists in America, because they don't even allege it except for the NSA program. So what does drive them? A pair of grafs buried deep in the Times story reveals what's really eating at the newspaper (and by extension, the elite media in general) about anti-terrorism intelligence programs:

The Pentagon’s expanded intelligence-gathering role, in particular, has created occasional conflicts with other federal agencies. Pentagon efforts to post American military officers at embassies overseas to gather intelligence for counterterrorism operations or future war plans has rankled some State Department and C.I.A. officials, who see the military teams as duplicating and potentially interfering with the intelligence agency.

In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has complained about military officials dealing directly with local police -- rather than through the bureau -- for assistance in responding to possible terrorist threats against a military base. F.B.I. officials say the threats have often turned out to be uncorroborated and, at times, have stirred needless anxiety.

In other words, the Times editors are upset because they believe that the State Department (and their conjoined twin, the CIA) -- rather than the Department of Defense -- should take the lead in all terrorist investigations... because State's orientation is entirely towards "solving" the problem of global jihadism (or "sacred terror," as Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon call it) by sitting down with jihadis and negotiating... understanding them, feeling their pain, and offering them political and economic bribes to go attack someone else instead.

It may be appropriate, as Thomas P.M. Barnett argues in the Pentagon's New Map, that State take the lead in constructing the new "rule-sets" by which the democratic nations in the "Functioning Core" identify the lawless regions of the "Non-Integrating Gap" and move them, by force if necessary, out of their isolation and into the global network of democratic decision-making. But he also argues that enforcement of those new rule-sets often requires the brute force of the military; you cannot get by on mere cajoling, begging, and bribing by diplomats alone.

Even when enforcement is required, the media prefer the FBI (not DoD) to handle it, because they see terrorism as "just a crime," after all (albeit a large one that kills hundreds): It should be handled entirely by terrorists being arrested, extradited, and granted fair trials in American civilian courts... where they can be represented pro bono publico by the biggest and most powerful law firms in the country.

Which is, of course, tantamount to wanting them to be acquitted and released. Civilian courts are ill-equipped to handle trials of global jihadists, because they are vulnerable to the standard defense technique of demanding so many critical, classified national-security documents in discovery motions -- motions that are routinely granted by many Clinton-appointed federal judges -- that the administraiton eventually has to drop the case rather than compromise our most vital anti-terrorism secrets.

The Times is not unaware of this loophole.

If somebody can suggest a more honorable reason for such a relentless crusade to blow every, single anti-terrorism program we have, I wish he would suggest it. It's horrible to think that the people controlling what is ultimately our only source of national and international news deliberately manipulate that news in order to engineer a successful terrorist attack on America's heartland, for political reasons of their own; but I have yet to think up an alternative motvation that fits the facts.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 14, 2007, at the time of 5:13 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

January 9, 2007

Dems Come Out Swinging! And Missing!

CIA CYA , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

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:

  1. Raising the minimum wage;
  2. Increasing stem-cell research funding;
  3. 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!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 9, 2007, at the time of 4:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 4, 2007

John Negroponte Demoted; Good News?

Good News! , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

In an unexpected but I think good development today, President Bush announced that Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte will leave his position. He is widely expected to be replaced by VADM John Michael "Mike" McConnell, former Director of the National Security Agency... though that announcement has not yet been made, and the White House cautions it is not a done deal.

Negroponte will take the lesser position of Deputy Secretary of State, the number 2 position behind Secretary Condoleezza Rice; although this is considered both a critical position and a a major career assignment, it has stood vacant for several months. Dr. Rice has evidently asked several people to take the position, but has been unsuccessful. This may be due to the terrible demands on that position right now, or else because the specific people she asked were happy where they were.

This is probably a good move: John Negroponte is a career diplomat who likely hopes to be Secretary of State himself one day, and being the principal deputy is certainly a boost in that direction. But he has very little intelligence experience: as a top ambassador (to the United Nations and then to Iraq), in the Philippines in the 1990s (appointed by President George H.W. Bush), and earlier as ambassador to Mexico, he would naturally have had extensive contact with the CIA officers in the embassy; but this is not the same as running intelligence operations.

When Negroponte was ambassador to Honduras, he was aware of and supported our covert aid to the contras in Nicaragua, and many Democrats were greatly exercised about this. But even so, Negroponte is primarily a diplomat; he has no experience actually spying, analyzing intelligence, or running covert operations. He will likely be much happier -- and undoubtedly more effective -- as the principal depute at State than as the DNI.

Still, it is unquestionably a demotion: as DNI, he was a cabinet official; as principal deputy to Condoleezza Rice, he is not. It's hard to spin that any other way.

I see the switch as an admission that Negroponte had risen to his level of incompetence, à la the Peter Principle. Bear in mind that "level of incompetence" doesn't mean the person is actually incompetent... just that he is less competent at the higher position than he was at the lower position. Bush, a good manager, is shifting Negroponte back to the area he knows well, even in a lower slot, rather than keeping him in the higher slot, where he is somewhat asea.

I just heard Frank Gaffney, of the Center for Security Policy, on Hugh Hewitt, and he doesn't like this appointment; he believes that Negroponte will encourage the "insubordination" and "sabotage" of the president's policies by State; but it's hard to take Gaffney seriously, as he is always crying wolf. It's hard to see John Negroponte as being anti-Bush.

Anent McConnell to be NDI, he worries that intelligence will be too skewed towards signals intel (electronic), as opposed to Bill Casey-style human intelligence. Since both the potential NDI and the current Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), Michael Hayden, come from the National Intelligence Agency, which handles signals intel, this is indeed a concern; but I think it's a big overblown. I doubt that McConnell will suggest, against everybody else's advice (including DCI Hayden), that we forget about humint and go heavier with sigint.

Assuming Mike McConnell is, in fact, Negroponte's replacement, he seems a much better fit as Director of National Intelligence. By contrast with Negroponte, McConnell has spent virtually his entire professional career in intelligence, including a five-year stint as Director of the National Intelligence Agency from 1992-1996 (again, appointed by former Director of the CIA and rumored long-time deep-cover CIA operative George H.W. Bush). Prior to that, McConnell was Director of Joint Staff Intelligence, which is the top intelligence position advising the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Earlier in his Navy career, he served as an intelligence officer in Vietnam, Japan, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean -- four very hot spots. (And also a good reason to suppose McConnell appreciates and understands the urgency of actual "spooks on the ground" to gather intelligence.)

McConnell, in "Godfather" terms, is a "wartime consigliere" with long experience in military intelligence and wartime intelligence... much more what we need as Director of National Intelligence, who in addition to being the chief intelligence advisor to the President, the National Security Council, and Homeland Security, is also the director of the National Intelligence Program -- which makes him the top intelligence officer in the United States.

McConnell was a close friend to current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates when Gates was Director of Central Intelligence at the same time McConnell was Director of the National Security Agency. It's also likely, in my opinion (though I cannot find documentation of this), that current DCI Michael Hayden worked within the NSA prior to becoming its director in 1999; if so, he was very probably a senior deputy at the same time that McConnell was Director of the NSA... which would mean that Hayden once worked under McConnell and will now be doing so again! (I hope they got along.)

If McConnell is tapped, and if the Senate confirms him, it would mean the final takeover of all civilian foreign-policy intelligence agencies by military personnel (which, during a war, is not a bad idea at all):

  • Director of National Intelligence: Vice Admiral Mike McConnell;
  • Director of Central Intelligence: Air Force General Michael Vincent Hayden;
  • Director of the National Intelligence Agency: Army Lieutenant General Keith B. Alexander (also Commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Network Warfare);
  • And, of course, the Department of Defense intelligence agencies are all headed by military personnel: Air Intelligence Agency, Army Intelligence, Defense Intelligence Agency, Marine Corps Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and the Office of Naval Intelligence.

Nicely distributed between the services, too... though the Marines seem to have been stinted in the top three spots.

Only Robert Mueller, FBI Director, is not a senior military officer -- though he did command a rifle platoon in Vietnam as a Marine Corps officer; on the theory "once a Marine, always a Marine," the Corps can at least claim to hold one of the top intelligence positions!

There are several hurdles to overcome: both positions require Senate confirmation, and the Democrats seem poised to exploit the opportunity to rake all of Bush's policies over the dying embers of liberal wrath once more. They will likely attempt to extract firm promises from both McConnell and Negroponte that they will completely ignore anything the president says and instead take their orders directly from Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%).

It's absolutely guaranteed that some Senate Democrats will mount a filibuster against one or the other (or both!); but unless something completely unexpected comes out -- highly unlikely, as each has gone through confirmation hearings several times -- the filibusters will be unsuccessful and will just make asses of the Democrats (again).

But if the switch manages to go through, I expect it will help the critical task of intelligence gathering and analysis; and Negroponte will make a much better top diplomat than he has as DNI -- assuming Frank Gaffney is incorrect that he will mold Condoleezza Rice into the next Colin Powell. So yes, on the whole, I think this does count as "good news."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 4, 2007, at the time of 3:56 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 14, 2006

That Was Thener; This Is Even Nower

Congressional Corruption , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

This is an update to our previous post a couple of weeks ago, That Was Then, This Is Now. In that post, we linked to a Washington Post story about the Democrats rejecting the most important congressional reform of intelligence that the 9/11 Commission recommended. Oddly, however, I notice now that I forgot to quote from it! I can only plead premature senility and correct the oversight now:

It was a solemn pledge, repeated by Democratic leaders and candidates over and over: If elected to the majority in Congress, Democrats would implement all of the recommendations of the bipartisan commission that examined the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But with control of Congress now secured, Democratic leaders have decided for now against implementing the one measure that would affect them most directly: a wholesale reorganization of Congress to improve oversight and funding of the nation's intelligence agencies. Instead, Democratic leaders may create a panel to look at the issue and produce recommendations, according to congressional aides and lawmakers.

Well that Democratic panel has now produced its recommendations... and sure enough, the panel's only recommendation is -- to create another panel!

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.

In fact, they don't even pledge to create a new Appropriations subcommittee devoted to intelligence... the bare minimum recommendation of the commission, which they offered if Congress couldn't bring itself to strip Appropriations of the least little bit of control.

Rather than actually accept the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission -- which are very clear (see our previous post) -- the Democrats plan only to create a PR stunt instead: a "panel" that is controlled by the Appropriations committees and will simply ensure that the administration actually uses the money as Appropriations directs.

Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Wynn Las Vegas, 100%) believe they can get away with creating a committee to study the committee, rather than actually implement the recommended change.

But you know what I think? I believe that this time, they may not get away with it: if the Washington Post, of all liberal media outlets, is already publishing a major story chastising them for blowing off the Commission (after campaigning obsessively on "fully implementing" those same recommendations)... then the incoming Democratic 110th may find it's no longer immune from harsh criticism -- in any medium.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 14, 2006, at the time of 4:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 1, 2006

That Was Then; This Is Now

Congressional Calamities , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

The headline says it all: Democrats Reject Key 9/11 Panel Suggestion.

Not that that could stop me from saying even more!

Specifically, one of the most important findings of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (a.k.a., the 9-11 Commission), from chapter 13 of the final report, is that appropriations for the clandestine agencies -- the CIA and the "national agencies," comprising the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) -- should be separated out from the normal Defense Department appropriations and handled via a special committee, or else by the House and Senate Permanent Select Committees on Intelligence.

Currently, intelligence-agency appropriations are under the purview of the Defense subcommittees of the Appropriations committees. But here is the recommendation of the 9-11 Commission:

Recommendation: Finally, to combat the secrecy and complexity we have described, the overall amounts of money being appropriated for national intelligence and to its component agencies should no longer be kept secret. Congress should pass a separate appropriations act for intelligence, defending the broad allocation of how these tens of billions of dollars have been assigned among the varieties of intelligence work.

Earlier in the chapter, the Commission explained the problem quite clearly:

The current DCI [Director of Central Intelligence] is responsible for community performance but lacks the three authorities critical for any agency head or chief executive officer: (1) control over purse strings, (2) the ability to hire or fire senior managers, and (3) the ability to set standards for the information infrastructure and personnel. [The DCI position was terminated in April of last year in response to another recommendation of the 9-11 Commission; the head of the CIA now reverts to the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who is under the authority of the Director of National Intelligence]....

When Congress passes an appropriations bill to allocate money to intelligence agencies, most of their funding is hidden in the Defense Department in order to keep intelligence spending secret. Therefore, although the House and Senate Intelligence committees are the authorizing committees for funding of the intelligence community, the final budget review is handled in the Defense Subcommittee of the Appropriations committees. Those committees have no subcommittees just for intelligence, and only a few members and staff review the requests.

The appropriations for the CIA and the national intelligence agencies- NSA, NGA, and NRO-are then given to the secretary of defense. The secretary transfers the CIA's money to the DCI but disburses the national agencies' money directly. Money for the FBI's national security components falls within the appropriations for Commerce, Justice, and State and goes to the attorney general.

This is absurdly cumbersome, hence dangerous to national security: in Congress, the committees that are supposed to control and provide oversight for the intelligence agencies, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, have no say over the budgets of the agencies they supposedly control.

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).

There is, however, enormous controversy about this recommendation in Congress: on a nutshell, they just don't want to do it.

Robert Novak was on Hannity and Colmes yesterday, and he explained the problem succinctly:

  1. The Republicans never took up rearranging Congressional appropriations for the intelligence agencies, so they hardly have clean thumbs themselves;
  2. The Democrats campaigned on the promise -- it was one of only three they made -- to "fully implement the 9-11 Commission's recommendations." That would especially include this one, as the higgledy-piggledy nature of intelligence funding undermines the most important aspect of the GWOT;
  3. Yet now that the Democrats will be the majority, incoming Squeaker Nancy Pelosi is completely unwilling to take any appropriations authority away from her pal and loyal ally, Rep. John "Mad Jack" Murtha (D-PA, 75%), who is pegged to be Chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee of the Appropriations committee. [Yow!]

    (This is especially true after Pelosi's fiasco, trying to install the ethically challenged Mad Jack as Majority Leader, instead of Steny Hoyer -- who trounced Murtha in the caucus vote.)

So... what is the upshot of this "lame duck" period, leading up to the ascension of the Reality-Based Party to the petal-throne of Congressional control? Let's review the bidding:

  • The Democrats more or less campaigned on a promise to "redeploy" American troops out of Iraq and into next-door Okinawa before June 2007; in reality, they probably cannot even get a majority of the caucus to vote for that.
  • The Democrats absolutely, emphatically, almost hysterically campaigned on the promise to clean up "the Republican culture of corruption," leading to "the most ethical Congress in history;" but they have suddenly decided -- now that they will have the lion's share of power and attract the lion's share of funding from lobbyists -- that the most widely abused "legalized corruption" in Congress -- earmarks -- are just fine as they are and don't need any reform... not even the House rule enacted in the 109th Congress to open all earmarks to the light of day (a rule we predict will "softly and suddenly vanish away" when the 110th Congress convenes on January 4th, 2007).
  • The Democrats made virtually a fetish of campaigning on the promise to "fully implement" the 9-11 Commission's recommendations; but as soon as they won, they decided they would follow the lead of the outgoing GOP and refuse to implement the only remaining major recommendation that related to Congress -- because Nancy Pelosi doesn't want to take away any of Jack Murtha's consolation prize. I can't say what the excuse in the Senate will be; but rest assured, there will be one.

So in the three weeks since winning the midterm election, the Democratic majority has managed to betray their voters on all three of their major platform planks. That's even better than Bill Clinton managed!

Not a bad month's work; they may as well knock off now and go on holiday for the next 34 days. Or, heck, the next two years; America won't mind.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 1, 2006, at the time of 4:54 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 27, 2006

Weak Leak Soup, Ctd: Evolution of a Punk Job

Iraq Matters , Logical Lacunae , Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

I was going to put a post up here noting that the president saw fit Tuesday to declassify the "key judgments" of the National Intelligence Estimate from April (the one we discussed here too early Tuesday morn, before the announcement). If you'll recall, on Saturday, the New York Times published a story that claimed -- falsely, we now discover -- that the NIE concluded that the Iraq War had "worsened" the threat from terrorism:

A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

But when the document itself was released Tuesday, it turns out the key findings were far more mixed and balanced; and nowhere did the NIE say that the Iraq War had made terrorism worse: to use the phrase Hugh Hewitt used all afternoon, the Times got punked. Its sources sold it a bill of goods; and like the Sy Hersh travesty on Abu Ghraib, its reputation (heh) lies in tatters. Tatters.

So the MSM came out swinging, here, here, and here: with grim determination, as soon as the document was made available by the NID, they slapped up their stories saying: it confirms eveything we said before! Don't look! Just take our word for it! We wouldn't lie to you 365 days in a single year, would we? (They're nothing if not persistent!)

So I was going to write a post quoting from AP, Reuters, and the New York Tombs, then quoting from the NIE itself, to make them all look like the farkakte macacas they are. Alas, I spent too long on my hobby of painting extra zeros on all my $10 bills... and you-know-who slithered in ahead of me, posting exactly the article that I was going to post (except mine would have been better; no, really). If only I posted it. Or wrote it. Or came out of my digestive torpor soon enough.

So I'm just posting to let you know I won't be posting on this topic. I think, where one's friends are concerned, it's only polite to keep them apprised of one's good intentions, for future reference.

Well... maybe just a little. This is a brief sketch of what I might have said, if I'd said anything (which I didn't, and I'm not).

Prior to the release, the elite media tried to play the Sy Hersh game of creatively (and tendentiously) misinterpreting classified intelligence someone leaked to them, confident that the "secretive" Bush administration would never dare declassify and release it... thus proving them liars. When Bush double-crossed them, they found themselves like a Wile E. Coyote, when he runs off a cliff but doesn't fall... until he looks down.

For God's sake, don't look down! The MSM's instinctive reaction was to double-down and pretend that the law of gravity had indeed been repealed. Here is how AP began their first story after the publication of the NIE showed the entire world that they had relied upon sources who lied to them (the first link in the "so the MSM came out swinging" paragraph above); this was from late Tuesday morning, shortly after the release:

The war in Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for Islamic extremists, breeding deep resentment of the U.S. that probably will get worse before it gets better, federal intelligence analysts conclude in a report at odds with President Bush's portrayal of a world growing safer.

In the bleak report, declassified and released Tuesday on Bush's orders, the nation's most veteran analysts conclude that despite serious damage to the leadership of al-Qaida, the threat from Islamic extremists has spread both in numbers and in geographic reach.

Bush and his top advisers have said the formerly classified assessment of global terrorism supported their arguments that the world is safer because of the war. But more than three pages of stark judgments warning about the spread of terrorism contrasted with the administration's glass-half-full declarations.

Note the specific word "bleak," which they used in their story before the release. In fact, this by and large is the same story they ran before the release; all they did was pop the hood and install an aftermarket clause noting that the report had been "declassified and released."

Don't look down!

By early Wednesday, the AP had added a bit more to their article, softening the hard line that the full document completely vindicated their clumsy hit job:

White House release of a previously secret intelligence assessment depicting a growing terrorist threat gives both political parties new ammunition in the election-season fight over the Iraq war.

For Republicans, the excerpts of the document - declassified under orders from President Bush on Tuesday - are more evidence that Iraq is central to the war on terrorism and can't be abandoned without giving jihadists a crucial victory.

For Democrats, the report furthers their argument that the 2003 Iraq invasion has inflamed anti-U.S. sentiments in the Muslim world and left the U.S. less safe.

In a bleak National Intelligence Estimate, the government's top analysts concluded Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for jihadists, who are growing in number and geographic reach. If the trend continues, the analysts found, the risks to the U.S. interests at home and abroad will grow.

For the first time, AP recognized that there were points on the side of those supporting the Iraq War; but they refused to get all radical on us and actually quote any of those findings. That would have been asking too much.

And note that the NIE is still characterized as "bleak," which is interesting; throughout these permutations, they cling to that word as a liferaft... despite the fact that it never appears in the NIE key conclusions themselves, and the fact -- easily ascertainable by reading them -- that they present a picture that is neither bleak nor rosey but simply a list of challenges and assessments.

Later on Wednesday afternoon, AP put up this story -- still written by the same reporter, Katherine Shrader. It begins thus:

The White House refused Wednesday to release the rest of a secret intelligence assessment that depicts a growing terrorist threat, as the Bush administration tried to quell election-season criticism that its anti-terror policies are seriously off track.

Note the counterattack; AP begins to lay the groundwork here for an infamous argument made popular in the days of bulletin-board systems: the lurkers support me in e-mail. (I think it even became a "filk song" -- not a typo.) That is, the Bush administration is suppressing secret evidence that would actually prove we were right all along. Over the next few days (or weeks), this argument will take shape within other branches of the Democratic Party besides the antique media:

Oh, sure, the portion that Bush chose to release doesn't explicitly say that the Iraq War was a fiasco that made the world more dangerous for America... that part is in the sections he deliberately chose to leave classified! We demand he release every section, every paragraph, every line -- including the names of all the sources, all the top-secret intel we got from foreign spy agencies, and the names of every intelligence analyst who worked on this report... and if Bush refuses, then you know he's got something he's still hiding!

After a few paragraphs wasted arguing with Tony Snow over the release of the really heavily classified portions of the report, AP continues:

In the bleak National Intelligence Estimate, the government's top analysts concluded Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for jihadists, who are growing in number and geographic reach. If the trend continues, the analysts found, the risks to the U.S. interests at home and abroad will grow.

Peppered with questions Wednesday about the report, he [Snow, we presume] said the NIE report was "not designed to draw judgments about success or failure, it's an intelligence document, it's a snapshot."

Snow said the report confirms the importance of the war in Iraq as a bulwark against terrorists. "Iraq has become, for them, the battleground," he said. "If they lose, they lose their bragging rights. They lose their ability to recruit."

He said that a bleak intelligence assessment depicting a growing terrorist threat was only a "snapshot" - not a conclusion

The last line I quote above is especially illuminating; no, I didn't accidentally cut off the period; it's missing in the original. It's clearly an editing mistake; she rewrote the line and separated "bleak" and "snapshot" onto two different lines, then forgot to go back and erase the original (so much for the vaunted "multiple layers of editing!") But note how important it was for Shrader, hence AP, to keep that word "bleak" prominently in the story. She was only dithering whether to place it lower or higher -- and she chose the latter.

AP picks up the Tony Snow argument again:

"The American people deserve the full story, not those parts of it that the Bush administration selects," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, warned, however, that releasing more of the intelligence assessment could aid terrorists. "We are very cautious and very restrained about the kind of information we want to give al-Qaida," Hoekstra said....

A separate high-level assessment focused solely on Iraq may be coming soon. At least two House Democrats - Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Rep. Jane Harman of California - have questioned whether that report has been stamped "draft" and shelved until after the Nov. 7 elections.

An intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the process, said National Intelligence Director John Negroponte told lawmakers in writing only one month ago that he ordered a new Iraq estimate to be assembled. The estimate on terrorism released Tuesday took about a year to produce.

AP rejects that obviously concocted explanation that an intelligence assessment might take longer than a month to prepare; it's patently obvious to Ms. Shrader that this is just a dodge to avoid releasing a report that would completely vindicate her -- oops, I mean vindicate the Associated Press -- along with the happy side-effect of bringing about the downfall, ah, defeat of the Republicans in the 2006 election. (Secret evidence that would support me...)

It ends with a couple of rollicking quotes from Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%) and John D. Rockefeller (D-WV, 100%), savaging the president and the war without allowing supporters to confuse matters by participating in the discussion. And once again, AP does not quote those paragraphs that actually make Bush's case about the war -- the complete quotation from which the snippet "cause celebre" was cherry-picked:

We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.

  • The Iraq conflict has become the “cause celebre” for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.

By contrast, here is how the Iraq War's effect was described in the original New York Times story about it that was published when the elite media still thought the NIE would remain forever classified and uncheckable:

An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official.

Clearly, the Times' source is describing an earlier section before the "key judgments" that come later; but equally clearly, that earlier section cannot have concluded that "the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse," as the anonymous source smirked; because if it had, then the corresponding key judgment would not have been so supportive of continued fighting in Iraq.

At worst, the early sections might have quoted one official saying such a thing (possibly Jay "100%" Rockefeller). But that is why we don't release the entire NIE: it's like a packet of court filings that contain arguments from both the plaintiff's attorney and the defendant's attorney... you can't just grab a claim from one and act as if it's been proven in court.

If there were such an assessment by one specific person -- and we don't even know that much -- clearly it was not accepted in the final analysis, not even for a candid document that none of the principals thought would ever be released.

So far, most of the mainstream news stories about the released NIE have shied away from quoting this paragraph in full... likely because it so clearly argues the case for the Bush policy: if, at the end of the day, the jihadis are seen to be winner in Iraq, they will be emboldened and their recuitment will soar; contrariwise, if they are seen as failures -- if Iraq remains as a democratic state in control of its own destiny, rather than a Somalia-like failed state full of terrorist training camps -- then the jihadis will suffer a terrible blow, and their recruitment will drop off.

So the real conclusion of the NIE anent Iraq is that we must win at any cost; cutting and running is not a viable option, no matter what Joe Biden and Jay Rockefeller -- or Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francsico, 95%) and John Murtha (D-PA, 75%) -- say.

Eventually, the media will be forced to admit this; it's been widely quoted in blogs and on the radio, and even in a few television programs. It's possible they've already snuck it into a few stories, buried deep.

But it won't help: they've been exposed, as Hersh was, not only as rampant partisans... but as DNC house organs so partisan they're willing, even eager, to lie, or at least pass along lies in reckless disregard for the truth, to further the political ambitions of their Democratic friends in Congress.

In Othello, the Moor of Venice, Shakespeare wrote:

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

How much poorer then is a person, an entire organization, that throws its own century-old reputation into the sewer, merely to help elect its favored party into power?

I actually feel sorry for them. What must it be like to live behind those eyes?

Anyway, that's more or less what I would have written. Except I'm not going to post on this topic.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 27, 2006, at the time of 3:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 26, 2006

Weak Leak Soup

Iraq Matters , Logical Lacunae , Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

In keeping with the madly egotistical Big Lizards motto -- Never first, always final -- I've been pondering Saturday's New York Times story about the impact of the Iraq War on the global war on terrorism (GWOT) ever since, er, Saturday. (Maybe Sunday; Saturday, I think I was pondering whether to raise the pot on the strength of a king and a trey with a queen-jack-eight on the flop.)

There is a powerful lot that the Times failed to tell us about that story; my idol, John Hinderaker at Power Line, has a great story up quoting several other passages from that same national intelligence estimate (NIE) (enough with the alphabet soup already!) that tend to undercut, to say the least, the spin put on the thing by the Times, as well as their sidekick and pale shadow, the Washington Post.

But craven that I am, I shrink from duking it out with Power Line, who has the actual factual response pretty well covered. Oh, I could think of better arguments to make against the bizarre claims in the media; but I'd just be making them up, so I'd better not.

Let's instead focus on the problems and deficiencies in the two main antique-media stories... by an amazing coincidence, the two I already linked above. Slither on, dude.

Journalistic clairvoyance

Let's start with a startling admission against interest on the part of the "elite" media:

  1. Neither the New York Times reporters nor the Washington Post reporters have actually seen the NIE. Or any portion of it; they rely entirely upon their various sources' characterization of the NIE.

In other words, they do not actually know if the report "has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks," as the Times puts it in a traditionally quaint run-on sentence; they have absolutely no idea. All they know is that one or more of their (anonymous and undescribable) sources claims that's what it says.

Von Unaussprechlichen Külten

Here's another good one:

  1. Neither the Times nor the Post deigns to name even a single source. Not one. O, for the good old days of Watergate, when Ben Bradlee demanded at least two sources for every claim -- only one of which could be anonymous! (Were that rule in effect today, both the Times and the Post would have to shut down and convert operations to printing vacation brochures and cereal boxes.)

They don't even characterize these sources; for all we know, they could be Oompa-Loompas. Here is how the Times introduces the presumed humans upon whom the entire shebang depends, which they finally get 'round to doing in paragraph 6:

More than a dozen United States government officials and outside experts were interviewed for this article, and all spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified intelligence document. The officials included employees of several government agencies, and both supporters and critics of the Bush administration. All of those interviewed had either seen the final version of the document or participated in the creation of earlier drafts. These officials discussed some of the document’s general conclusions but not details, which remain highly classified.

So let's see... a senior CIA analyst would count, but so would a junior-grade employee of the Department of Agriculture. An "official" might be an aide to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI, 100%) or Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), both of whom sit on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (hence could have access) -- or for that matter, an aide to the disgraced, corrupt liar, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL, 90%), who sits on the House equivalent.

But we do know one thing about some of them, courtesy of the Washington Post; we know that some, at least, of these "officials" have a partisan axe to grind:

"It's a very candid assessment," one intelligence official said yesterday of the estimate, the first formal examination of global terrorist trends written by the National Intelligence Council since the March 2003 invasion. "It's stating the obvious."

If this source begins with the idea that it's "obvious" that the Iraq War has caused us to be less safe, then he's hardly an unbiased source for relaying what the NIE has to say about that subject.

Past the expiry date

  1. The assessment was begun in 2002, before the Iraq War began -- and it was completed back in April of this year... five months ago.

An awful lot has changed in the past five months... much of it for the better, including the increasing tempo of turning provinces over to the Iraqis, the stunning buildup of the Iraqi military and national police forces, and of course the death of Musab Zarqawi. But this NIE cannot have taken those changes into account, because they hadn't happened yet when it was written.

The school for wives

Here is a minor point that is emblematic of how easy it is to get so lost, you can't see the forest for the weeds:

The Times notes, in a paragraph notable mainly for being oddly out of place in the article, that one danger is that jihadis fighting in Iraq can learn techniques that they subsequently pass along to others:

The report mentions the possibility that Islamic militants who fought in Iraq could return to their home countries, “exacerbating domestic conflicts or fomenting radical ideologies.”

The implication is clear, if rather unbalanced:

  1. The Times frets that all we're doing in Iraq is training the next generation of jihadis, who will be faster, stronger, and more deadly because of the skill they learn from encounters with American forces.

But this discounts two very important points:

First, that it's the United States, not the jihadis, which has learnt the most from the Iraq War. The American military of 2003 was the most powerful and effective that had ever existed... but that is no longer the case: today, they could get their butts kicked -- by the American military of 2006. We have learned from every encounter, every battle, every victory, and even from the occasional defeat.

Our own effectiveness has grown much faster than that of the jihadis... that's why the death rate of our troops has dropped by nearly 1/3 from "period 3" (from the turnover of sovereignty to the Iraqis to the first set of elections) to "period 5" (from the last set of general elections to today) -- and dropped even further in the last year.

Second, this argument presumes that large numbers of Iraq-based jihadis survive their encounters with the Americans, so that they can pass their experience along to others. In fact, most of those who leave Iraq and head back to their home countries never actually engaged American forces, because we kill or capture a very high percentage of all the terrorists we engage.

In hock to post hoc

Finally, here is the most glaring omission -- whether from the NIE itself or merely from its mischaracterization by the elite media's "sources," we cannot possibly say without seeing the document itself:

  1. The storyline does not consider what might have happened had we not invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein.

A lot would have happened: most analysts believe that Hussein was on the verge of cutting a deal with the Europeans (via the corrupt U.N. "Oil for Fraud" program of direct and indirect bribery) to end the sanctions and inspections. As Charles Duelfer and the Iraq Survey Group (ISG... more letters, I'm afraid) assessed in its final report:

There is an extensive, yet fragmentary and circumstantial, body of evidence suggesting that Saddam pursued a strategy to maintain a capability to return to WMD after sanctions were lifted by preserving assets and expertise.

Instead of considering this possibility and exploring which American action would have been better for the terrorists -- attacking Iraq or not attacking Iraq -- the argument of both these articles is strictly "post hoc ergo propter hoc": after the fact, therefore because of the fact. The Leftist, anti-war leakers in the CIA or NSA argue (through their sock puppets in the Times and Post) thus:

  1. We invaded Iraq, deposed Hussein, and occupied the country;
  2. Jihadi websites now cite the war to try to drum up recruits;
  3. Therefore, the Iraq War was a boon to jihadis!

But this is logical gibberish: if, after ranting on and on about Hussein, we had let him stay and even lifted sanctions, then that would be cited by jihadi websites to drum up recruits... just as they cite our failures in Somalia and Sudan, our refusal to retaliate for the Cole bombing, and so forth. The jihadis cite anything that shows us either running away or standing and fighting: either way, they'll spin it to their advantage.

If this is the central conceit of the NIE, as opposed to the media's misinterpretation, then this signals a fatal flaw still extant in the ratiocination of our top intelligence services: they are still thinking linearally, as if al-Qaeda and its spinoffs and wannabes are really just funny-looking Europeans in headscarves, using Western two-value logic and classical game-theory analysis of their own actions and our responses.

If we keep thinking that way, Western civ will fall.

Moslems in general, and especially Middle-East Moslems, and most especially Middle-Eastern jihadis, think in very different, apocalyptic terms. They don't perform a rational calculus to decide whether, say, to try to explode a nuclear weapon in the middle of a Western city: in fact, the "Hidden Imam" theory of players like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that Mohammed al-Mahdi will arise when the jihadis have precipitated the final battle -- and are losing it badly!

In other words, Ahmadinejad expects to start World War III (or IV, if you count the Cold War), and he expects his side to lose; after which the Mahdi will come, leading the heavenly host of Allah, and wipe away all the infidel armies, ushering in the age of Islam. How do we threaten a man who believes that? Should we threaten not to fight, allowing them to win, and thereby failing to fulfill the conditions that will activate the 12th Imam's return?

If the media's understanding of this not-very-momentous NIE is accurate, then the CIA is still fighting the Soviet Union in the Cold War; and we're in desperate trouble indeed!

As the Bangles sang, we've got to "Walk Like an Egyptian" (or a jihadi) to have a prayer of winning this last crusade. Doesn't mean we have to act like they; only that we must be able to think like they, lest we be surprised again and again by their unconventional and unexpected moves.

So nu?

What's wrong with this "report," at least as recounted in the mainstream media? Virtually everything. It's vague, unsourced, unbalanced, and shows clear signs of mental sclerosis.

But if this is not the NIE's real view, then how low the American media has sunk, if this is the best hit piece on the president and the GOP that they can muster in the last weeks before the election.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 26, 2006, at the time of 5:15 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

September 23, 2006

VegasBlogging 2: Bin Laden Is Either Dead - Or He's Alive

Terrorism Intelligence , Unnatural Disasters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Open post:

So is he is, or is he ain't?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 23, 2006, at the time of 2:53 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 21, 2006

Scion of Hopeful News: Frist Was Right

Congressional Calamities , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

So Bill Frist did indeed have inside information, and President Bush and his crickets in the Senate did indeed craft a compromise on interrogating captured terrorists.

But it's still unclear just exactly what was won and what lost.

The president is claiming victory:

The White House said the deal would allow the CIA's questioning of foreign terrorist suspects to continue.

"We got what the president asked for," White House spokesman Tony Snow said. "The CIA program to question detainees to get important information about al Qaeda, to foil plots and save American lives -- this program is going forward."

Reuters flatly states that Bush made concessions but doesn't give any examples:

Bush, who wanted authority for tough interrogations that critics said bordered on torture, was forced to make concessions after three leading Senate Republicans challenged his plan last week and offered a rival bill that drew more Senate support.

The Bush administration denies that prisoners are tortured.

So... is he is or is he ain't? Did the turncoats blink, or did the White House give away the farm? Or did they actually come up with some astonishing, real, hitherto unguessed-at compromise?

I find the one detail in the New York Times story very disturbing and worrisome:

The central sticking point had involved a demand from McCain, Sen. John Warner of Virginia and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina for a provision making it clear that torture of suspects would be barred.

One official said that under the agreement, the administration agreed to drop language that would have stated an existing ban on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment was enough to meet Geneva Convention obligations.

Convention standards are much broader and include a prohibition on ''outrages'' against ''personal dignity.''

In turn, this official said, negotiators agreed to clarify what acts constitute a war crime. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, saying he had not been authorized to discuss the details.

First, we don't know whether this "official" really knows what he's talking about, or for that matter who -- or what -- he is; second, we don't know what rules Congress will enact in place of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2004.

It's great to have clarity... but if Congress "clarifies" interrogation by saying waterboarding shall now constitute a war crime; a belly-slap, attention-grab, and harsh language shall now constitute war crimes; and continuing to interrogate a detainee after he has demanded a lawyer shall now constitute a war crime -- well, that's considerably worse than the situation of "uncertainty" we have now.

So the stink of sulphur is in the details (not the U.N.); who caved and by how much?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 21, 2006, at the time of 3:06 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 20, 2006

Hopeful News: Frist Still Expects Interrogation, Wiretap Bills

Congressional Calamities , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

The bill to put Congress and the White House on the same page anent interrogating high-value terrorist targets, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (hence KSM), seemed on life support just yesterday: the four Republican turncoats on the Armed Services Committee -- John McCain (AZ, 80%), Lindsay Graham (NC, 96%), Susan Collins (ME, 32%), and even Chairman John Warner (VA, 88%) -- had rejected the president's plan the first time, and they reportedly rejected Bush's revised plan.

Similarly, a bill to put Congress behind the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program was nearly derailed yesterday when Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM, 75%) proposed the main "wiretapping" bill for the House... and in her version, the president would only be able to order intercepts without a warrant after a devastating attack had occurred! She didn't quite seem to get the point, which is to prevent such attacks from occurring, not develop a legal case to prosecute, post facto, those responsible.

But today, things look perhaps just a little brighter. We're not at the dawn yet, but the East is brightening -- if Majority Leader Bill Frist (TN, 92%) can be believed:

President Bush's embattled anti-terrorism agenda got a boost Wednesday when a wiretap bill was revised and a Senate Republican leader said he was hopeful a deal was near on treatment of detainees.

But prospects for the two critical pieces of legislation remained unclear; Congress is speeding toward a recess next week as Republicans fight to retain majority control in the midterm elections.

First, Heather Wilson has now rewritten her bill to allow for such communications intercepts when the president believes an attack is imminent, not only after it's already occurred. Frankly, I still consider that a second-best: I believe the president has the inherent authority to order such warrantless intercepts of foreign intelligence with or without a finding of imminence of attack; he only has to find that national security is at stake.

But it's a heck of a lot better now than yesterday! And the "quo" she extracted for this "quid" is very positive in pointing the way forward:

Wilson's bill initially would have given legal status to Bush's domestic surveillance program only after an attack. Instead, her bill now would grant the administration's plea to allow wiretapping against Americans without warrants when it is believed a terrorist attack is "imminent."

But that concession carried a price for the president, according to a draft.

Under the measure, the administration would be required to share more details of the nature of the threat with the House and Senate leaders and the chairmen of both intelligence committees, who then would decide without administration input which lawmakers would receive the classified information.

"Excesses are best prevented when intelligence activities are operated within a framework that controls government power by using checks and balances among the three branches of government," Wilson, R-N.M., said in a statement.

Great Scott, is that all it takes? The critics in Congress will be satisfied with the "wiretapping" if a few more of them get to hear about it, so they can brag to their buddies? Of course that increases the risk that somebody will blab and the terrorists will figure it out; but that slim chance is to be weighed against not being able to intercept at all. I would happily trade congressional approval of the communications intercepts for that small increase in the number of those who know about each incident.

This may even help find compromise on the interrogations issue I discuss below. None of the turncoat Republicans is on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; maybe all it will take to reel them in is to commit to brief the chair and ranking member of the Armed Services Committee at the same time as the Intelligence chair and ranking are briefed, and then allow both chairs and both ranking members to brief whomever they choose.

It might be something as stupid and childish as three grumpy, old men (and one grumpy, old woman) having a fit of pique that they weren't "in the loop."

So much is my own speculation. The hopeful news in the AP story about the interrogations policy is more inchoate; it comprises the majority leader offering his prediction:

Despite the stalemate, Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist sought to reassure the GOP troops that a deal still was possible.

" I am hopeful that very soon agreement can be reached with the president and with the majority of Republicans," Frist, R-Ky., said in a statement. "But we need to do it in a way that were not sharing classified information with those terrorists who clearly will pass it on to others around the world to be used against us."

Take it for what it is: a prediction, not necessarily inside information about how senators will vote.

Here is the interrogation dilemma on a nutshell:

  • The Supreme Court, in Hamdan, held that we must follow Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, to which we are signatories;
  • Common Article 3 bans a number of offenses against civilians under enemy control (including captured terrorists); among those offenses are:

    • Cruel treatment
    • Torture
    • Outrages upon personal dignity
    • Humiliating and degrading treatment

    At their most restrictive, these prohibitions could stop CIA interrogators from asking any questions of KSM at all after he refused to answer;

  • In addition, the article requires that if such civilians are tried for offenses, it must be by "a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples." At its most restrictive, this rule would allow KSM to see all classified information in any way related to his trial -- including sources, means, and methods. This could be passed along to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups to hone their attacks and make them less detectable, hence deadlier. The danger of this would likely lead to the charges being dropped... and it's an open question whether we could continue to hold him under those circumstances; we might have to let him go....
  • If enforcement of the Geneva Conventions is going to become a part of the police power of the United States, as the Court ordered, then all of these terms must be legally defined in a way that a court or military tribunal can pass judgment on members of the U.S. armed services and on civilians (such as CIA interrogators) accused of violating them; similarly, the interrogators themselves must know what they can and cannot do during an interrogation -- without worrying that a court will come along later and second-guess everything (from the comfort of their chambers), with the interrogator possibly finding himself up on criminal charges or being sued.
  • However, these terms did not arise from American law and their legal meanings are not inherently obvious (such as a prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishment" would be, since that's well defined by caselaw);
  • Thus, the terms must be defined by law now, in order to implement the Court's Hamdan decision, or our personnel will be under constant threat of criminal prosecution or civil litigation, merely for doing their jobs.

Curiously, as others have reported (John on Power Line, e.g.), all these terms were already defined in law: they were defined by the Detainee Treatment Act of 2004... the specific definitions in that act authored by none other than Sen. John McCain!

So McCain already defined these terms in a bill, and President Bush signed McCain's bill into law -- and now relies upon that exact definition (by name) in his bill to clarify detainee treatment following Hamdan... and McCain and three other Democratic senators say that's not good enough. We have to treat the terrorists even better than McCain himself wanted to treat them two years ago.

But Bill Frist still thinks he sees movement on both sides that could lead to an acceptable compromise. Most likely, nobody at AP bothered asking him what cause he had to say that. They probably weren't even listening; it's pro-forma to get a quote from the majority leader... if he happens to be a Republican, the journalist holds his nose and does it anyway. But he doesn't have to like it; and he doesn't have to listen to the reply.

So let's keep our collective digits crossed that both these two go through... along with the House-enacted bill that requires voters to show picture-proof of citizenship before they can vote in any federal election, regardless of any state laws to the contrary -- though I suspect this goes nowhere in the Senate; it's off-topic, but I thought I'd throw it in as something to watch as it goes through the sausage mill.

Happy days aren't yet here again, but at least the corners of my mouth are beginning to twitch upward.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 20, 2006, at the time of 6:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 14, 2006

Mr. Graham Regrets He's Unable to Lunch Today

Congressional Calamities , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC, 96%), one fourth of the Lynne Stewart Quartet, was just on Hugh Hewitt's show, frantically trying to spin away his vote on the Senate Armed Services Committee (see below).

From what I could gather, what he thinks he was trying to do was not to allow al-Qaeda personnel to see all of our classified information... he only demands they be allowed to see any classified information that the prosecution wants to use against them.

If President Bush doesn't want them to discover sources, methods, and personnel... why, he has only to instruct the military prosecutor not to introduce any of the voluminous classified evidence at trial. Just allow KSM to walk for lack of evidence, and all will be well.

It's interesting to know that even under the rules rammed through committee by the Lynne Stewart Quartet, a terrorist on trial for mass murder in Iraq will not be able to demand a list of all our covert agents in Venezuela. But I am not reassured.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 14, 2006, at the time of 4:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 10, 2006

No Difference Between Democrats and Republicans? Think Again

Elections , Iraq Matters , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

According to CBS News, Democratic Senator John D. "Jay" Rockefeller (D-WV, 100%) -- who has announced to the world that he's a dimwitted "dupe" of the idiot evil genius George W. Bush -- still thinks that we'd be better off if Saddam Hussein were still in charge of Iraq:

Rockefeller went a step further. He says 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.

He said he sees that as a better scenario, and a safer scenario, "because it is called the 'war on terror.'" [Say, that's pretty hard to refute!]

Does Rockefeller stands [sic] by his view, even if it means that Saddam Hussein could still be in power if the United States didn't invade?

"Yes. Yes. [Saddam] wasn't going to attack us. He would've been isolated there," Rockefeller said. "He would have been in control of that country but we wouldn't have depleted our resources preventing us from prosecuting a war on terror which is what this is all about."

It's almost as if Karl Rove has been sending his mind-control beam directly into Jay Rockefeller's head, the latter having forgotten to wear his tinfoil hat. Are the Democrats actually trying to lose the election? If so, I certainly don't want to get in their way; but isn't if awfully precipitous for Rockefeller to rip the mask off before November 7th?

And is Rockefeller the only bloke in the Senate who doesn't understand that if we hadn't invaded Iraq in 2003, then today, in 2006, there wouldn't be any sanctions anymore?

Hussein would not be "isolated;" au contraire, he would be more powerful than at any time in the past fifteen years: he would have restarted his nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs; both the Iraq Survey Group and the recent Senate Intelligence Committee report say that was Hussein's intent all along. And European and Latin American representatives would be beetling to Baghdad to genuflect to the great man, hands out for oil allocations.

This is what Rockefeller considers "a better scenario, and a safer scenario" for America. And you want to know the worst part? If the Democrats win the Senate in the upcoming election, Jay Rockefeller will be the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Stick that in your pipe and step on it.

So Jay Rockefeller, nutty as a Froot Loop, would chair the Senate Intelligence Committee -- and spend the next two years investigating Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld... rather than al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Iran. All because some Republicans insist there's "not a dime's worth of difference" between Republicans and Democrats, which means between Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS, 88%) and Chairman Jay Rockefeller.

Yeah, stay home and sulk instead of voting. Better yet, vote for a third-party candidate to "teach the Republicans a lesson." Great idea!

I'm sure hard-core conservative Republicans will be elected in droves in 2008. And their first order of business will be to begin the task of rebuilding half a dozen major American cities that were destroyed by al-Qaeda, while Congress was busy impeaching Bush for intercepting al-Qaeda phone calls.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 10, 2006, at the time of 5:11 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 8, 2006

Senate Report: Iraq and al-Qaeda

Congressional Calamities , Elections , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

The first in a series of continuing, relatively short posts on the September 2006 report from the Senate Intelligence Committee comparing prewar and postwar intelligence on Iraq.


In contrast to the good news from Iraq, which the elite media bury in a dark editing room, in a locked closet, inside a filing cabinet, and stuffed into an old sardine tin, every headline today screams a wildly misleading characterization of what the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Postwar Findings About Iraq's WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How They Compare to Prewar Assessments actually reports. Viz., this Associated Press story:

Saddam Hussein regarded al-Qaida as a threat rather than a possible ally, a Senate report says, contradicting assertions President Bush has used to build support for the war in Iraq. The report also newly faults intelligence gathering in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion.

Released Friday, the report discloses for the first time an October 2005 CIA assessment that prior to the war Saddam's government "did not have a relationship, harbor or turn a blind eye toward" al-Qaida operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or his associates.

As recently as an Aug. 21 news conference, Bush said people should "imagine a world in which you had Saddam Hussein" with the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction and "who had relations with Zarqawi."

Democrats contended that the administration continues to use faulty intelligence, including assertions of a link between Saddam's government and the recently killed al-Zarqawi, to justify the war in Iraq.

The way that AP carefully parses their sentences, it's hard to argue; they imply rather than demonstrate, making it difficult to refute. But having just finished reading the entire Senate Intelligence Committee's report, I have to say that it's far more tentative than AP makes it out to be.

And even the report itself fails to draw obvious conclusions from physical evidence, often relying instead upon what actors in the drama say during interrogations... actors with interests of their own.

The Senate report is a marvel of missing the forest for the trees: the senators spend too much time in the weeds; they never take a step back, a deep breath, and look at the whole picture. This leads them into folly again and again... and the Zarqawi-connection section is a perfect example.

I am utterly persuaded that Saddam Hussein saw al-Qaeda, and especially Musab Zarqawi up in Ansar al-Islam, as a "threat" to his regime. But that does not mean Hussein made any attempt to remove Zarqawi, nor that he did not harbor Zarqawi, nor even that he did not have an operational relationship with Zarqawi.

For heaven's sake, many Americans in the 1940s saw Communism as a threat to the United States (though the president did not)... but that did not stop FDR, with the support of the entire political establishment, from allying with Josef Stalin against Adolf Hitler. There is an old proverb: Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer. Thus, the central dichotomy of the AP story is a canard: there is no inherent conflict between fearing an enemy and allying with that same enemy.

So let's get to specifics.

It's absolutely correct that in October 2005, the CIA issued a report with that quotation, that "the regime did not have a relationship, harbor or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates." AP's style in this endeavor (attempting to "prove" that Bush lied us into war) will not be one of overt, bald-faced lying, but rather subtle inueno that allows the reader to leap to a false conclusion.

The CIA in 2005 thus reversed its earlier assessment (in 2002) that Hussein did tolerate Zarqawi's presence in the Kurdish north. However, what AP omits is that other facts cited in that same section of the Senate report belie that mysterious reassessment by the CIA.

Notably this, covered on pages 93-96 of the pdf linked above (pp. 90-93 of the actual document): in October 2002, an unidentified foreign government -- probably acting as an Iraq-United States go-between -- demanded that Iraq arrest Zarqawi and four associates and extradite them to the U.S. Hussein -- desperately trying to stave off the pending American invasion, issued a written order to the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) to arrest the five, who were up in Ansar al-Islam.

However, there is no indication that there was any serious attempt to act on these orders... which most likely means the written orders were for show and were countermanded by oral orders not to be vigorous about it. Instead, some low-level IIS agents were tasked with the job; but there's no indication they even went to Ansar al-Islam.

However, had Hussein really wanted to get Zarqawi -- thinking him such a danger to Iraq and having absolutely no connections to Zarqawi's group -- why didn't he use the IIS agents who had already infiltrated Ansar al-Islam? These infiltrators, discussed in the same passage of the Senate report, played no role in the supposed manhunt for Zarqawi.

Or for that matter, why didn't the Iraqis send troops into Ansar al-Islam itself to hunt for Zarqawi and his cabal? If Saddam Hussein really saw them as a threat, why not expend at least as much military force removing them as he expended massacring, relocating, and brutalizing his own people?

Eventually, Zarqawi left northeastern Iraq for Iran, transited Iran, and reentered Iraq in the south. But one of his associates named in the demand, Abu Yasim Sayyem, was captured. The Iraqis determined that he was indeed a member of (or contractor to) al-Qaeda, just as Zarqawi was. But rather than extradite him to the United States, they released him -- on direct orders from Saddam Hussein.

If we can pull our heads out of the weeds of specific bits and dribbles of intel for a moment, here is the big picture: Hussein's actions are not those of a brutal dictator who really wants to get rid of Musab Zarqawi or his band of merry men at Ansar al-Islam.

They are instead the actions of a brutal dictator who still thinks he can stave off a U.S. invasion and get sanctions lifted, especially "with a little help from his friends," the French, the Russians, and the Chinese. So he issues an order never intended to be obeyed, but which he can point to in order to show "good faith."

It turns out that the CIA's reassessment above was almost entirely based upon interviews with captured IIS agents and al-Qaeda members at Ansar al-Islam: each side denied there was any cooperation or treaty. Again, however, a little bit of common sense:

  1. Why would low-level flunkies in either the Iraqi Intelligence Service or Ansar al-Islam have any idea of a secret concordance between Hussein and Zarqawi? How many people do you think would be told about this?

    Is Zarqawi going to tell his fanatical Wahabbi followers that he's made a deal with that secular devil who outlawed Wahabbism? Is Hussein going to tell junior IIS officers that he has a cooperative agreement with the world's number-one terrorist, when that connection is already being used by the United States to push for war? This is silly; people at that level have no "need to know" and every reason to be kept in the dark.

  2. Even assuming that some of the detainees that the CIA interviewed were high enough up -- and trusted enough by Hussein or by Zarqawi -- to be privy to this information... why would they tell the truth to the CIA? What's in it for some fanatical Baathist or al-Qaeda jihadi? Answer: nothing!

So most detainees wouldn't even know, and those who did know have no incentive to tell the truth. Thus, the evidence upon which the CIA based its conclusion that there was no connection is utterly non-dispositive. So we're left with Hussein's actions: making no serious effort to capture them, and even turning loose the only Zarqawi affilliate he had.

At the very least, this is "turning a blind eye;" and it's equally consistent with "harboring" and having a "relationship." Once again, the CIA does yeoman work in muddying up the intel waters, casting vague aspersions on the Bush administration while never really coming out and alleging any specific crime, exaggeration, or moral failing... just a vague whiff of the "Bush lied" meme.

This first piece is important: for if the Senate report is faulty, vague, and misleading on the simple question of Saddam Hussein's relationship with Musab Zarqawi -- and if the pedestrian and non-specific "conclusions" of the report are mischaracterized into flat accusations by the elite media -- then how can anyone imagine they're dispositive on the much more complex questions of WMD programs, Saddam Hussein's intentions, his possible future relationship to terrorist groups, and indeed, the entire rationale of the war: that Hussein's Iraq represented a serious enough threat to the United States to warrant the invasion.

It cannot. This report is not, as Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI, ) alleges,

A devastating indictment of the Bush-Cheney administration’s unrelenting, misleading and deceptive attempts” to link Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda.

There is as much in this bipolar report to support such links as to refute them. Rather, Tony Snow is absolutely correct:

The White House spokesman, Tony Snow, told The Associated Press there was “nothing new” in the report, and that members of both political parties had agreed before the Iraq war that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States.

“In 2002 and 2003, members of both parties got a good look at the intelligence we had, and they came to the very same conclusions about what was going on,” Mr. Snow said.

Keep that in mind as we move on to other sections of the report over the next few days.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 8, 2006, at the time of 7:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 17, 2006

Anna Katherine Diggs Deep

Injudicious Judiciary , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

"The game is afoot," as Sherlock Holmes said. (Oh yes he did; in "the Adventure of the Abbey Grange," for example.)

The first federal judge has struck down President Bush's NSA al-Qaeda intercept program as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment. Anna Katherine Johnston Diggs Taylor ruled for the plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union:

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of journalists, scholars and lawyers who say the program has made it difficult for them to do their jobs. They believe many of their overseas contacts are likely targets of the program, monitoring phone calls and e-mails between people in the U.S. and people in other countries when a link to terrorism is suspected.

I can only suppose that the ACLU's argument is similar to the well-known constitutional doctrine that police may not tail a reporter they believe may be meeting with a wanted serial killer for for purpose of writing a book about him, as the police action might make it more difficult in future for that reporter to arrange interviews with other wanted felons.

The White House reacted quickly and predictably. Tony Snow said:

"United States intelligence officials have confirmed that the program has helped stop terrorist attacks and saved American lives," he said. "The program is carefully administered and only targets international phone calls coming into or out of the United States where one of the parties on the call is a suspected al-Qaida or affiliated terrorist."

The ACLU reacted quickly and predictably. Anthony Romero said:

"At its core, today's ruling addresses the abuse of presidential power and reaffirms the system of checks and balances that's necessary to our democracy," ACLU executive director Anthony Romero told reporters after the ruling.

He called the opinion "another nail in the coffin in the Bush administration's legal strategy in the war on terror."

Thank God for the Associated Press, or we would never guess how each party viewed the decision.

Interestingly, Judge Taylor was not appointed by Bill Clinton.

She was appointed by Jimmy Carter in 1979 (type Taylor,Anna in the text box and click Go, then click on her name when it pops up). Thus, her decision was not only quick but also predictable.

Having such a high predictability factor makes the decision itself meaningless -- except as a starter's gun to tell us that the game... but I repeat myself.

I see this as more grist for my argument that it would indeed matter tremendously whether a Democrat or a Republican is elected president in 2008: even if their foreign policy goals would be more or less the same, I believe Democrats are allergic to decisive presidential authority in the collection of intelligence information on our enemies, when that requires tapping phones within the U.S., and its dissemination to the military (or even law enforcement), when that requires breaching Gorelick's Wall.

Since I also believe that Congress and the courts are lagging indicators in the war against jihadi terrorism, and that we can only win with robust use of the military authority of the executive branch, I conclude that electing a Democrat in 2008 would have profoundly bad consequences in the war -- as in, we would be much more likely to lose, or at least suffer terrible attacks that dwarf 9/11, while en route to the next Republican president.

Taylor's decision is not the final word, of course; we always knew this would eventually be decided by the Supreme Court. The next step will be a stay of the judge's order pending review by a circus court; then that court's decision will be stayed pending review by the Supreme Court (which will definitely accept the writ of certiorari).

As John Hinderaker of Power Line has pointed out in a number of posts, Judge Taylor's decision flies in the face of repeated rulings by various federal appellate courts, including the FISA court so much beloved by the Democrats -- today, that is, when they fantasize it might stand in Bush's way while he tries to defend the nation. Those rulings held uniformly that the president does indeed have such broad authority. More than likely, the Sixth Circuit will overturn Judge Taylor's decision, and it will be the ACLU that files for Supreme Court review.

But let's keep a sharp weather eye on this case; or, to quote Mr. Holmes once more, in an analogous context, "I have investigated many crimes, but I have never yet seen one which was committed by a flying creature."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 17, 2006, at the time of 1:49 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

July 11, 2006

Article 3

Injudicious Judiciary , Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

So today's media-driven episode of Bush Derangement Syndrome is the fallacious claim that, in some dramatic turnaround, the Bush administration now finally "admits" that terrorists are prisoners of war, entitled to the full protection of the Geneva Conventions as POWs -- including the right never to be interrogated. For example:

  • AP: U.S. Will Give Detainees Geneva Rights

    The Bush administration, called to account by Congress after the Supreme Court blocked military tribunals, said Tuesday all detainees at Guantanamo Bay and in U.S. military custody everywhere are entitled to protections under the Geneva Conventions....

    The policy, described in a memo by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, appears to change the administration's earlier insistence that the detainees are not prisoners of war and thus not subject to the Geneva protections.

  • Reuters: US applies Geneva Convention to military detainees

    The Pentagon acknowledged for the first time that all detainees held by the U.S. military are covered by the protections of an article of the Geneva Conventions that bars inhumane treatment, according to a memo made public on Tuesday.
  • New York Times: In Big Shift, U.S. to Follow Geneva Treaty for Detainees

    The Bush administration called today for Congress to fix, rather than scrap, the system of military tribunals that was struck down by the Supreme Court last month, while the Pentagon pledged to treat detainees in accordance with the Geneva Conventions as the court required.

But as Ryan Sager [whoops, make that Jed Babbin... sorry, Jed!] at Real Clear Politics noted (I thought the same thing, but Babbin was there first), this is being completely -- and I (not Babbin) claim deliberately and with malice aforethought -- misreported by the antique media... because in fact, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, who wrote the memo on July 7th, did not make any "shift" in U.S. policy; he quite openly proclaimed that this has been administration policy from the beginning: to apply specific elements of Article 3 to detainees in the war against jihadi terrorism.

There is certainly a danger, which Big Lizards recognized earlier, that subsequent and iterative federal court rulings may lunge further than the Hamdan decision and try to declare the detainees full-blown "prisoners of war." In fact, it appears that Justice John Paul Stevens, leading the pack of braying liberals on the Court, tried to do exactly that. If this happens, it will have catastrophic results in the GWOT.

But that is not what this memo does.

So we don't proceed in a vacuum, here is the relevant text:

The Supreme Court has determined that Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 applies as a matter of law to the conflict with Al Qaeda. The Court found that the military commissions as constituted by the Department of Defense are not consistent with Common Article 3.

It is my understanding that, aside from the military commission procedures, existing DoD orders, policies, directives, execute orders, and doctrine comply with the standards of Common Article 3 and, therefore, actions by DoD personnel that comply with such issuances would comply with the standards of Common Article 3. For example, the following are consistent with the standards of Common Article 3: U.S. Army Field Manual 34-52, “Intelligence Interrogation,” September 28, 1992; DoD directive 3115.09, “DoD Intelligence Interrogation, Detainee Debriefings and Tactical Questioning,” November 3, 2005; DoD Directive 2311.01E, “DoD Law of War Program,” May 9, 2006; and DoD Instruction 2310.08E, “Medical Program Support for Detainee Operations,” June 6, 2006. In addition, you will recall the President’s prior directive that “the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely,” humane treatment being the overarching requirement of Common Article 3.

You will ensure that all DoD personnel adhere to these standards. In this regard, I request that you promptly review all relevant directives, regulations, policies, practices, and procedures under your purview to ensure that they comply with the standards of Common Article 3.

This is followed by a quotation of Article 3 of the 1947 conventions, which you may read for yourself here.

The most relevant sentence in the entire memo is the first sentence of the second paragraph, in which England makes plain that the administration's position is that currently existing DoD procedures already comply with Article 3; thus, except for the rules of military tribunals, there is no reason to change policy. Far from being a "big shift," England argues that this is what President Bush has been doing all along.

Note also how he answers the specific worry that Big Lizards enunciated earlier: that this ruling might lead to further rulings banning any interrogation at all of al-Qaeda "POWs," in accordance with other articles of the Geneva Conventions. For example, from Article 17 of those same conventions:

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.

If the courts were ever to rule that terrorist detainees were to be given all the rights and privileges of POWs, then Article 17 would apply -- and all interrogation of al-Qaeda detainees of any kind would have to cease the moment the detainee said "I refuse to answer." Instead, all we would be allowed to insist upon was his "surname, first names and rank, date of birth, and army, regimental, personal or serial number, or failing this, equivalent information."

In England's memo, he makes as crystal the administration's position that detainees are not "prisoners of war." The AP story is flatly wrong. If, as AP claims, the memo "appears to change the administration's earlier insistence that the detainees are not prisoners of war and thus not subject to the Geneva protections," then how does AP read the next sentence in the second paragraph -- where England specifically notes that the DoD's policies anent "Intelligence Interrogations" are legal?

In addition, Article 21 begins thus:

The Detaining Power may subject prisoners of war to internment. It may impose on them the obligation of not leaving, beyond certain limits, the camp where they are interned, or if the said camp is fenced in, of not going outside its perimeter. Subject to the provisions of the present Convention relative to penal and disciplinary sanctions, prisoners of war may not be held in close confinement except where necessary to safeguard their health and then only during the continuation of the circumstances which make such confinement necessary.

That means, I believe, that they cannot be held in separate cages or prevented from assembling together and speaking privately -- as we currently do at Guantánamo Bay and likely every other terrorist detainment facility we operate. Again, if the courts started holding that terrorists were POWs, we would have to release them internally within Guantánamo to roam around freely within the camp, conspire together, and coordinate false answers to intelligence interrogations we wouldn't be allowed to conduct in the first place.

You cannot in the same breath say that al-Qaeda detainees are "prisoners of war" and also that we can engage in lengthy interrogations of them, treat them harshly to break them down, and deprive them of privileges if they don't answer or if they lie. There is no rational way that the reporters for the elite media could possibly have read the memo and actually come away with the misunderstanding that from now on, terrorists were POWs. Thus, any reporter who says such a thing is simply lying, as is the editor who allows him to publish.

Some people argue we should "never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity." But in many venues, the precise opposite is more true: never attribute to stupidity what can adequately be explained by malice.

Though it may comfort some to think so, reporters and editors at top media sources are not imbeciles. Bill Keller and Dean Baquey did not blow the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program and the terrorist-finance tracking program because they were ignorant; they, along with the reporters they edit, blew those programs (in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, respectively) because they hate those programs, they hate the war, they hate Bush, and they want America to lose.

Don't get me wrong, I do not question their patriotism; I nakedly say they have none. They hate Republicans and the president so intensely, it becomes an exquisite experience. It easily overwhelms whatever feeble love for country still remains after decades of relentless liberal brainwashing. As Churchill (Winston, not Ward) said, they swim in currents of hatred so strong, it sears their very souls.

So lying about some sort of flip-flop on the part of George W. Bush is a mere trifle, a bagatelle to the MSM. That's the one they do "twice on Sundays."

Thus, when you read the inevitable flood of stories sneering that Bush has surrendered, that he's been made to eat crow, that the administration has undertaken a "big shift," a turnaround, a 180 -- just bear in mind what you already know about the "lies and the lying liars who tell them" in the nation's newspapers, on television, and especially in the liberal blogs.

There is no policy change here: Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England has simply reiterated that administration policy already complies with the specific demands of Geneva that apply to non-POWs... with the one exception of the specific procedures to be followed by the military tribunals.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 11, 2006, at the time of 2:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 29, 2006

Privacy? What Privacy?

Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Sachi

The recent leak by the New York Times and other news organizations, disclosing how the government tracks the money of terrorists, is quite a little puzzle to me: the Times acts as if this government program somehow violates our financial privacy.

But if they think the feds never looked into our bank accounts prior to this program, they're dreaming! The FBI has been monitoring our private banking transactions, in far more intrusive ways, for literally decades.

I used to work at Sanwa bank, and every morning we received a report of "suspicious transactions," sent us by the central office. In addition, we constantly monitored transactions looking for certain patterns that might indicate check kiting (large deposit quickly followed by a large withdrawal, low average balance, all timed around a check's "floating" period).

If we decided a crime might be occurring, we reported all this information to the FBI... including records of the account transactions (without any warrant). Besides that, we also reported to the FBI anyone who deposited or withdrew a large amount of cash. Overseas wire transfers with certain characteristics were also reported to the feds.

All this intrusive monitoring and information-sharing with law enforcement was mostly to track money laundering by drug runners. All banks in the United States are still required by the federal government to follow these monitoring and reporting rules. If the Timeses (New York and Los Angeles) ever complained about this Orwellian violation of "privacy" by the FBI, I must have missed the article.

It seems these newspapers can tolerate incredible penetration into our personal bank account information just to catch check kiters and drug dealers... but they cannot abide the much smaller intrusions, looking only at the transactions of large businesses, governments, and NGOs, in order to catch terrorists who have killed our fellow citizens and plot to destroy the rest of us!

It's beyond me. Maybe someone can explain how it's "totally different."

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 29, 2006, at the time of 3:03 AM | Comments (4)

June 25, 2006

The InSpecter General

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA, 63%) announced on Fox News Sunday that he and la Casablanca were nearing "agreement" on a bill to gift the president with the power he already has via the Constitution.

That's mighty big of him.

Bush and senior officials in his administration have said they did not think changes were needed to empower the National Security Agency to eavesdrop - without court approval - on communications between people in the U.S. and overseas when terrorism is suspected.

But Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and other critics contend the program skirted a 1978 law that required the government to get approval from a secretive federal court before Americans could be monitored.

"We're getting close with the discussions with the White House, I think, to having the wiretapping issue submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court," Specter told "Fox New Sunday."

My first question is -- has Specter even bothered to look at the voluminous case history on this subject... including a case already decided by the FISA court? As John Hinderaker has discussed (repeatedly) on Power Line, the FISA court decided Sealed Case No. 02-001 in 2002; in the opinion, the court wrote:

The Truong court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue, held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information. It was incumbent upon the court, therefore, to determine the boundaries of that constitutional authority in the case before it. We take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President’s constitutional power.

John himself concludes,

That is the current state of the law. The federal appellate courts have unanimously held that the President has the inherent constitutional authority to order warrantless searches for purposes of gathering foreign intelligence information, which includes information about terrorist threats. Furthermore, since this power is derived from Article II of the Constitution, the FISA Review Court has specifically recognized that it cannot be taken away or limited by Congressional action.

That being the case, the NSA intercept program, which consists of warrantless electronic intercepts for purposes of foreign intelligence gathering, is legal.

So did Arlen Specter really look at any of this before proclaiming that "the program skirted a 1978 law that required the government to get approval from a secretive federal court before Americans could be monitored?" I have never heard a single word from the InSpecter General to indicate he has inspected the case histories, or in fact, that he even knows case histories exist.

I have always thought Arlen Specter is a doofus. He is a self-important, narcissistic pinhead with delusions of adequacy. Viz:

Specter has said that the president "does not have a blank check"....

"We're having a lot of conversations about that," Specter said Sunday. He added that he and Vice President Dick Cheney have exchanged letters and that Cheney has indicated that he was serious about discussing the issue.

"I've talked to ranking officials in the White House, and we're close," Specter said. "I'm not making any predictions until we have it all nailed down, but I think there is an inclination to have it submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and that would be a big step forward for the protection of constitutional rights and civil liberties."

What did Specter do, swallow a copy of Jane's All the World's Platitudes? This is vacuity on parade.

Thank God we have Specter washing our backs, that's what I say; so let's put it out on the stoop and see if anyone salutes. Let's give it the old college cry -- to the bottlemints! But we can't expect to make a silk purse out of a mole hole: sooner or later, we'll have to bite the bulletin, so it's time to fish or get off the pot. If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen sink.

I'm with Arlen: it's time to drain the fever pitch. If wishes were horses, beggars would be a different color. Lie down with pigs, get up smelling like gazpacho.

Does anybody in Pennsylvania ever listen to this guy?

In the Danny Kaye move The Inspector General, Kaye plays Georgi, an illiterate shill in a snake-oil medicine show who impersonates an important government official (hijinks ensue). Considering the similarities between him and Arlen Specter, I think Sen. Georgi would be better for the country.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 25, 2006, at the time of 7:27 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

May 11, 2006

Excavating For Bones of a Scandal

CIA CYA , Congressional Calamities , Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

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.

Journalistic archeology

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.

Democratic eruptions

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.

Taking stock

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.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 11, 2006, at the time of 4:12 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

March 9, 2006

Captain Ed's Gitmo Project, Tribunal Set 28

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Captain Ed has been collecting victims to review -- I'm sorry, requesting volunteers to review the unclassified case files of various detainee tribunal hearings. He wants us to determine if there is good reason in these files to still be holding these people in Guantanamo Bay, or whether it appears as though a miscarriage of military justice has occurred.

This post will be cross-posted to Captain's Quarters; abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

The first point to make -- and it's a biggie -- is that we only get to see the unclassified information. The tribunals are also given access to classified evidence from the case files. Clearly, the most damning evidence would most likely be present only in the classified evidence, as that is where all the intel from American and Coalition agents, witness identifications, and classified documentary evidence is kept.

So I cannot really answer whether any of these detainees is wrongly held; I can only give a partial answer there. I can, however, state if I think there is good reason, even in the unclassified evidence, to continue to hold that detainee.

So it's a little one-sided, but there's nothing I can do about that.

Set 28 of the tribunal hearings comprises six distinct detainee cases. Some are identified by name, but as this is irrelevant, I'll just refer to them by the order in which they appear in the pdf. Here are my quick summaries and first-impression conclusions (from the 52-page pdf):

  1. The first detainee admits he served with the Taliban, but he says they drafted him. Other than this allegation, I found nothing in the unclassified section that would justify continued detention.
  2. This detainee admits he obtained a fake Chadian passport with a false name. He is accused of consorting with known al-Qaeda agents and engaging in military operations against the United States and the Coalition. If these charges are well sourced (the evidence would be in the classified section), then certainly he should be held.
  3. This one was captured in Pakistan in the company of known al-Qaeda agents. He was wearing a Casio F-91W watch, which is commonly used by al-Qaeda in timing devices used for explosives. He is also accused of taking training at the al-Qaeda run Khalden Camp.

    He gave evasive and contradictory answers during questioning. For example, he claims he "flew" from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, but the trip took him a week. He says he went to get medical treatment for his back; he says his back is hurt by cold weather. And he claims to have emigrated from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan because the weather in Pakistan is "warmer." There is ample reason, even in the unclassified section, to hold this detainee.
  4. There is nothing even alleged in the unclassified portion that would justify holding this one.
  5. This one stayed for months in a camp run by a known al-Qaeda front organization, but he says he didn't notice. He was IDed as an al-Qaeda agent. He gave inconsistent answers during questioning: for example, he said that while in Yemen, he decided he wanted to go to Europe as a political refugee, because of the way North Yemens treated South Yemens... so he toddled off to Pakistan. I am looking at a map of the Middle East, and by golly, Yemen to Pakistan appears to be travel in the opposite direction from Europe.

    He admits he illegally entered Iran. There is plenty of reason to hold this detainee.
  6. The last case is a detainee accused of being a commander in Hezb-i-Islami, under the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. When the accusation was read to the detainee, he claimed that HIG was fighting on the side of the Northern Alliance against the Taliban. But when I looked them up, it turns out they were actually allied with Mullah Omar and the Taliban, and they are still fighting against American soldiers today. I'm suspicious that this was an attempt at disinformation by the detainee.

    He was also IDed as an al-Qaeda member; and he was so evasive during questioning that even I felt like slapping him around some. For example, he couldn't or wouldn't answer the question of whether he was in the Taliban until the fifth time he was asked. He was asked what documents he had with him, and he went into a Vinnie Barbarino routine: where? with you. in my pockets? yes, in your pockets. Where? This guy should absolutely be held; he has something he's hiding, in my opinion.

And that's it. I'm not sure how useful all this will be, but I've done my bit for "the cause." ("Cause" Captain Ed asked me to, that's what cause!)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 9, 2006, at the time of 4:57 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 8, 2006

At Last - Intelligence In the Intelligence War

Military Machinations , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Frustrated by repeated leaks and contrarian policies, the Bush administration must be wondering how it can fight a two-front war: one front abroad, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere in the world, fighting against jihadis... and the other domestically, against the Central Intelligence Agency, which has consistently demonstrated its determination not only to support but to control foreign policy.

Now, the New York Times reports that more and more battlefield intelligence, even strategic intel, is going to come from Special Ops military intelligence forces -- not the compromised and untrustworthy CIA.

The new mission could become a major responsibility for the military's fast-growing Special Operations Command, which was authorized by President Bush in March 2004 to take the lead in military operations against terrorists. Its new task could give the command considerable clout in organizing the nation's overall intelligence efforts.

The Special Operations command reports to Mr. Rumsfeld, and falls outside the orbit controlled by John D. Negroponte, the newly established director of national intelligence, who oversees all the nation's intelligence agencies.

These new teams, called Military Liaison Elements, are not just tasked with gathering intel but with acting upon it:

Special Operations forces include the Army Green Berets and Rangers, the Navy Seals, the Marines and special Air Force crews that carry out the most specialized or secret military missions. Their skills range from quick strikes to long-range reconnaissance in hostile territory, military training and medical care.

Needless to say, the CIA is fuming about this. They are outraged that for no apparent reason, apart from their five-year war against President Bush, the commander in chief is cutting their turf out from under them.

"The Department of Defense is very eager to step up its involvement in counterterrorism activities, and it has set its sights on traditional C.I.A. operational responsibilities and authorities," said John O. Brennan, a 25-year C.I.A. officer who headed the National Counterterrorism Center before retiring last year. "Quite unfortunately, the C.I.A.'s important lead role in many of these areas is being steadily eroded, and the current militarization of many of the nation's intelligence functions and responsibilities will be viewed as a major mistake in the very near future."

Mr. Brennan, now president of the Analysis Corporation, an intelligence contractor in Virginia, said that if Socom operations were closely coordinated with host countries and American ambassadors, "U.S. interests could be very well served."

But, he added, "if the planned Socom presence in U.S. embassies abroad is an effort to pave the way for unilateral U.S. military operations or to enable defense elements to engage in covert action activities separate from the C.I.A., U.S. problems abroad will be certain to increase significantly."

I think this is an excellent idea. The CIA has proven itself to be not only disloyal but extraordinarily fumble-footed... missing such big stories as the 1979 Iranian revolution, the nuclear detonations by Pakistan and India, the A.Q. Khan WMD-of-the-month club... and then first assuring the president that finding "large stockpiles of WMD" in Iraq was a "slam dunk"... and then eagerly participating in covering up the massive quantities of dual-use WMD we did find, labeling it "civilian" -- when quite clearly Iraq had no conceivable peaceful purpose for, e.g., massive quantities of Cyclosarin-based pesticides stored in camouflaged ammunition bunkers, right next to chemical-ready but unloaded munitions.

And they're still at it:

The Special Operations Command has not publicly disclosed the Military Liaison Element mission, and answered questions about the effort only after it was described by officials in other parts of the government who oppose the program.

We must undertake every opportunity to shift intel responsibility from an agency that wants peace at any cost to one that is at least willing to consider that sometimes, war really is the answer.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 8, 2006, at the time of 5:50 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 18, 2006

FISA or Congress Should Oversee NSA Program

Congressional Calamities , Constitutional Maunderings , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Really, I have no problem with what Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, just said:

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, breaking ranks with the president on domestic eavesdropping, says he wants a special court to oversee the program.

But less than a day later, a top aide to Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., sought to clarify his position.

Roberts told The New York Times that he is concerned that the secret court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act could not issue warrants as quickly as the monitoring program requires. But he is optimistic that the problem could be worked out.

"You don't want to have a situation where you have capability that doesn't work well with the FISA court, in terms of speed and agility and hot pursuit," Roberts said Friday.

So is Roberts being inconsistent? Incoherent? Is it flip-flopping? Not at all... this perception only exists because most people in the Antique Media talked themselves into believing that "oversight" is synonymous with "complete day-to-day control." That is, they think that any sort of court oversight must necessarily require a warrant prior to every act of surveillance by the National Security Agency.

In fact, oversight works very differently. Roberts' own committe, the Senate Intelligence Committee, has "oversight" over the CIA; but that doesn't mean that CIA officials must get committee approval before engaging in any spying. Rather, it means that the committee periodically reviews what the CIA is doing and has done; and if there is a problem, the committee can summon CIA officials to explain what happened (in secret session).

This model could work fine with the FISA court and the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program: the program would continue as before, with all decisions made by the National Security Agency, the national intelligence director, and up the chain to the president. Then periodically -- let's say every three months -- the NSA submits a quarterly review to the FISA court of what surveillance it has conducted, how it obtained those telephone numbers or e-mail accounts, whether Americans were involved, and if so, what steps the NSA took to safeguard the constitutional rights of those Americans caught up in this program.

The FISA court could review this report. Of all federal courts, the one set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is best at keeping secrets -- as the recent reference to "Sealed Case No. 02-001," decided in 2002 by the FISA Court of Review, should make clear.

Even the Supreme Court's Hamdi decision in 2004 allowed for some sort of judicial review of the executive's actions during wartime, albeit in the more normal judiciary mode of examining specific cases brought by specific defendants. But I don't know if there is precedent for (or against) a court more generally overseeing a program's constitutionality, as Roberts evidently proposes here.

It is more natural and fitting for those quarterly NSA reports to go to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees -- since Congress, not the courts, is charged with overseeing the executive on a regular basis. I'm less pleased at a plan that would put such oversight in the hands of the judiciary, though I'm not radically opposed to the idea.

Captain Ed makes somewhat the same point in a post of his today -- though he seems skeptical that even Congress has any role here:

Due to the current political climate and a desire to move on with the program, the White House has signalled that it will respect reasonable oversight conditions of Congress. Now, however, Congress has decided that the political cost of owning the surveillance program might be too high and has decided to punt the entire responsibility to a group of appointed secret judges instead.

After quoting from a story similar to the one I linked above, Cap continues:

I still think either approach is superfluous; the executive has always had the ability to perform warrantless searches for those who cross international borders, including luggage and persons, and that's in peacetime. Where FISA demands that the executive bow to Congress in wartime espionage, the statute is clearly not only unconstitutional but also defies 200 years of precedent in the allocation of war powers. [Emphasis added]

But this is not what Roberts suggested. What Captain Ed means is that Congress cannot remove the president's Article II power to wage war. But certainly there is nothing in the Constitution barring Congress from overseeing the executive's conduct in that war. Congress can defund the war, for example; it must consent to the president's appointment of the secretary of defense and the service secretaries, even during wartime; and clearly it can choose to impeach a president -- even right in the middle of a war (that last may be unwise, but it's not unconstitutional). Each of these duties might require Congress to investigate the executive's actions... hence the need for committee oversight.

As to the courts, Hamdi gave great latitude to the president and implicitly noted his inherent powers... though it stopped short of formally endorsing them, as John Hinderaker explains, since it found the Authorization for the Use of Military Force sufficient to justify the capture and detention of even American citizens as enemy combatants during wartime. But it also clearly established that courts could and would review individual cases.

Would we really want it otherwise? Would we really want a future President Hillary Rodham to be allowed to arrest and detain as an "enemy combatant" the future Sen. Michael Steele, her Republican opponent for re-election? The balance the Court struck in Hamdi was correct.

And a balance can be struck here which would reassure the people that the NSA program is not trampling over anybody's civil liberties, would assuage the wounded feelings of a Congress that correctly believes it has some oversight authority over the program, yet still leave the day to day operation of the program completely in the hands of the executive -- that branch best suited to instant action, precisely because it is neither democratic nor deliberative in operation. Cabinet members may advise, but they get no vote in what the president decides to do.

If that's what Roberts means by "oversight," and I think it is, then the president will have no objection to signing such a bill, and it will not in any way impair his inherent and completely constitutional authority to conduct the war as he sees fit -- subject only to post-hoc review by the relevant branch, whichever that turns out to be.

(And if he wants to make it clear, he can always include a signing statement.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 18, 2006, at the time of 6:04 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 16, 2006

Follow-Up to Wait -- Erase, Erase, Erase...

Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Following up on an earlier Big Lizards post, it appears as though we were correct: a deal is in the works to abort the politically stupid fight against the NSA al-Qaeda-communications intercept program. According to CBS:

Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts said he has worked out an agreement with the White House to change U.S. law regarding the National Security Agency's warrantless telephone surveillance program and provide more information about it to Congress.

"We are trying to get some movement, and we have a clear indication of that movement," Roberts said.

Without offering specifics, Roberts said the agreement with the White House provides "a fix" to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and offers more briefings to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The portent is self evident, though that doesn't stop us from pointing it out anyway: the Senate is backing hurriedly away from an investigation in a strategic rearward advance. The "more briefings" is just so they don't lose their entire face.

The deal comes as the committee was set to have a meeting Thursday about whether to open an investigation into the hotly disputed program. Roberts indicated the deal may eliminate the need for such an inquiry.

Finally, in a brazen and likely desperate rewrite of history, CBS (the "fake but accurate" network) produces its own version of the political dynamic:

Democrats have been demanding an investigation but some Republicans don't want to tangle the panel in a testy election-year probe. [!]

Yeah, that's it... the Democrats were poised to destroy the Bush administration, probably forcing the president to resign; but the Republicans -- who have so much to lose in this year's election by the Democrats attacking a vital national-security program to intercept al-Qaeda communications -- are the ones who will kill the probe. Yep, the Democrats were just itching, itching to have three months of prime-time, broadcast hearings demanding to know why the administration has finally begun connecting the dots.

No matter how the Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence vote, I suspect they're all breathing a sigh of relief, much like a condemned man already strapped to the table when the phone call from the governor finally arrives.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 16, 2006, at the time of 6:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Extra! Judge Orders US to Lose War on Terrorism

Court Decisions , Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

And the "free press" fails to notice or care. (Hat tip to commenter MTF.)

A Clinton-appointed judge, Henry Kennedy (Harvard Law, Washington D.C. practice and judgeship), has abruptly ordered the Department of Justice to hand over a huge bunch of critical and highly classified documents to a "civil liberties" organization, the Electronic Privacy Information Center... a group so radical, even the Electronic Frontier Foundation is leery of them.

Records sought by the group include an audit of the program, a “checklist” guide used to determine whether an individual’s phone or e-mail messages could be monitored, documents showing how information gleaned through eavesdropping had been used, and other legal opinions about the program.

In addition to these documents, the judge ordered the DoJ to give EPIC "a document index and declaration stating its justification for withholding any documents within 30 days," just in case the "privacy" group wants to rummage around to see if there are any cool docs they missed asking for the first time.


Instant Update Department: CBS disagrees with NBC about whether the judge actually ordered the documents released:

CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen says that while this is a victory for the plaintiffs, it is by no means a major ruling that will instantly lift the lid of secrecy from the spying program.

"The judge didn't order the feds to suddenly release all sorts of classified or secret information. All the judge did was to tell the Justice Department that it has to speed up its response to a request for information about the National Security Agency program," said Cohen. "And the information that initially will be released will be very unspecific. The big battles are yet to come over how much of this stuff eventually is made public."

However, the MSNBC article quotes Judge Kennedy:

“Given the great public and media attention that the government’s warrantless surveillance program has garnered and the recent hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the public interest is particularly well served by the timely release of the requested documents,” he said.

Let 'em duke it out.


Two other groups joined in the lawsuit, the ACLU and the National Security Archive -- which, despite its official sounding name, is actually a radical-Left private group obsessed with opposing any American foreign policy that involves confronting evil. Thus, they deeply oppose the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program and equate it with cold-war "domestic" surveillance programs that they believe are already discredited. (The ACLU's interests and motivations I think we all know about already.) However, the lead counsel in the case before Judge Kennedy is David Sobel, who is one of the founders of EPIC.

EPIC itself appears to be a radical-libertarian organization much in the mold of the EFF, but much less willing to accept that anything at all should be secret. There is a certain breed of libertarian which I run into all the time: freedom of information becomes such an overwhelming, almost religious cause, that they completely lose all perspective and (for example) demand an end to copyright, full release of all national-security documents without exception or redaction, the release of all personal and private information about government officials -- all under the mantra "information wants to be free."

Then they will turn around and demand complete protection of any and all private information of any private person, again without exception, not even for criminal suspects served with search warrants... presumably on the theory that "some information wants to be withheld." Eventually, it dawns on one that what they really are is simply anti-government: they want to pull down any and all regulation... but they haven't the slightest interest in coming up with anything to replace it. (Even Thomas Jefferson wanted some form of central organization.)

In this case, of course, EPIC, the ACLU, and the National Security Archive completely dismiss (if they've even thought about it) the possibility that details of the NSA program might be secret for good reason; and there is no indication that Judge Kennedy considered that possibility, either -- how could it possibly be vital for national security to keep secret details of all that "domestic surveillance without a warrant?"

I can understand wacky, ultra-libertarian, "information freedom" folks being willing to publish anything without regard to consequences. But a federal judge? Even a Clinton appointee? I assume this will be swiftly overturned on appeal (District of Columbia circuit), because if it isn't, the effect will be catastrophic. The courts may as well order the release of all technical information on building nuclear warheads.

What is most telling is that neither MSNBC nor the Washington Post so much as addresses the possibility that some secrets are worth keeping. MSNBC doesn't even mention it, while the Post has the following deep examination of the conflict between liberty and security:

Given the highly classified nature of the program, the Bush administration is likely to withhold all information about it.

That's it; question resolved. Neither bothers interviewing anybody at the DoJ about whether it's a good idea to publish enough information to allow al-Qaeda to completely bypass our attempts to monitor them; remember, one of the documents the groups requested (that the judge ordered released) is "a 'checklist' guide used to determine whether an individual’s phone or e-mail messages could be monitored." Clearly, if al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups know the criteria by which we decide which communications to monitor, they can tailor their communications not to trigger the monitoring... is that really a reach?

This is completely mad. The purpose of this program is to intercept communications of a terrorist organization sworn to destroy us; Surely this argument must be faced even by those who oppose the program. They should say, "no, it won't damage national security, because..." and provide some sort of reason, no matter how half-baked. To ignore it completely is mystifying and overtly suspicious.

But if one doesn't accept the idea that national security is an important consideration at all, it follows that the non-existent national-security issue can't possibly trump the Public's Right to Know™; there's no reason even to mull the question. And that, alas, is the sorry state to which the Antique Media has sunk under the weight of so much left-liberal ballast.

(On the all-important diction watch, on the WaPo story, they do manage to refer to "warrantless surveillance;" but the body of the article fails to include the word "domestic." The headline does, but that's generally written by someone other than the reporter; hence we cannot award the Post full points. The MSNBC story fails to disappoint: they refer to "President Bush’s domestic eavesdropping program," and then quote Judge Kennedy calling it "warrantless surveillance," hitting both required moves for full credit.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 16, 2006, at the time of 5:30 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 15, 2006

Wait -- Erase, Erase, Erase...

Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

This story, while brand new in the press, is already ancient (dare I say antique?) in the blogosphere: evidently, the Democrats (and RINOs) have just now discovered that their whole attack on the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program isn't going very well for them... and it appears they're about to drop the punitive probe without apology or even a backward glance.

Congress appeared ready to launch an investigation into the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program last week, but an all-out White House lobbying campaign has dramatically slowed the effort and may kill it, key Republican and Democratic sources said yesterday.

The Senate intelligence committee is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a Democratic-sponsored motion to start an inquiry into the recently revealed program in which the National Security Agency eavesdrops on an undisclosed number of phone calls and e-mails involving U.S. residents without obtaining warrants from a secret court. Two committee Democrats said the panel -- made up of eight Republicans and seven Democrats -- was clearly leaning in favor of the motion last week but now is closely divided and possibly inclined against it.

(Hat tip to Captain Ed.)

There is not yet evidence from the MSM that the Democrats are ready to stop gnawing on this bone; no Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has publicly come out and said he will vote against the inquiry. We'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out.

(Of course, we now learn from the media that, by making us wait until tomorrow, the Democrats are engaging in a cover-up -- just as the MSM decreed that making the White House press gang wait eighteen hours to find out "Dead-Eye" Dick shot a lawyer means Cheney was trying to "cover up" the accident.)

I really just wanted to highlight the "two-fer" above: both warrantless and domestic surveillance in the same sentence above -- in two successive paragraphs!

Somebody's aiming for an Olympic record.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 15, 2006, at the time of 7:55 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 13, 2006

Operation "Pinch"

Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

The noose slowly tightens... around New York Times publisher Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger, jr.?

Let's jump into the great news right away:

Federal agents have interviewed officials at several of the country's law enforcement and national security agencies in a rapidly expanding criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding a New York Times article published in December that disclosed the existence of a highly classified domestic eavesdropping program, according to government officials.

The investigation, which appears to cover the case from 2004, when the newspaper began reporting the story, is being closely coordinated with criminal prosecutors at the Justice Department, the officials said. People who have been interviewed and others in the government who have been briefed on the interviews said the investigation seemed to lay the groundwork for a grand jury inquiry that could lead to criminal charges.

That news alone would be great news -- that Bush is not just paying lip service to investigating who is doing all this leaking, but is vigorously pursuing the inquiry. But it has become increasingly obvious that this time, the grand jury proceedings will not be limited to the government leakers... the criminal investigation will include those who knowingly received and passed along classified information: the reporters and editors of the New York Times.

An upcoming article in Commentary magazine suggests that the newspaper may be prosecuted for violations of the Espionage Act and says, "What The New York Times has done is nothing less than to compromise the centerpiece of our defensive efforts in the war on terrorism...."

Recently, federal authorities have used espionage statutes to move beyond prosecutions of government officials who disclose classified information to indict private citizens who receive it. In the case of a former Pentagon analyst, Lawrence A. Franklin, who pleaded guilty to disclosing defense secrets, federal authorities have charged Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, formerly representatives of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group.

The two men have been indicted on charges of turning over information obtained from Mr. Franklin to a foreign government, which has been identified as Israel, and to journalists. At Mr. Franklin's sentencing hearing in Alexandria, Va., Judge T. S. Ellis III of Federal District Court said he believed that private citizens and government employees must obey laws against illegally disseminating classified information.

"Persons who have unauthorized possession, who come into unauthorized possession of classified information, must abide by the law," Judge Ellis said. "That applies to academics, lawyers, journalists, professors, whatever."

I have believed for a long time that the real reason we have so many leaks of highly classified materials is that so many journalists are now willing, even eager, to publish it without the faintest regard for the damage it may cause to the United States -- or even worse, happy to cause such damage, if they think the Democrats might gain a political advantage from it.

The fact that the Left is usually dead wrong in its assessment how the story will play with real America is completely irrelevant: James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, the authors of the original December 16th, 2005 Times article disclosing the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program (and most of the subsequent pieces), either couldn't care less about the damage they caused or else they actually desired to cause that damage. And their (always anonymous) sources certainly desired to cause that damage... an aspect that Risen and Lichtblau made it a point not to investigate too deeply: take away the instant gratification of seeing the leak in the newspapers, and you take away 90% of the joy of leaking in the first place.

I believe both reporters should go to prison for what they did... both as a just punishment for their crime, which has severely damaged American national security, and also as a deterrant to others. If the only consequence of smearing vital national-security secrets across the front page of America's premier newspaper is a Pulitzer and a lucrative book contract, what do you think the next reporter will do when he's approached by someone with equally precious intelligence information?

The Times pretends it withheld the story for a year because they were soberly and patriotically weighing the damage it might cause to national security against "the public's right to know" about ongoing classified intelligence-gathering operations (which is itself an absurdity; does the public also have a "right to know" our troop movements?)

"Before running the story we gave long and sober consideration to the administration's contention that disclosing the program would damage the country's counterterrorism efforts," Mr. [Bill] Keller [executive editor of the Times] said. "We were not convinced then, and have not been convinced since, that our reporting compromised national security.

"What our reporting has done is set off an intense national debate about the proper balance between security and liberty — a debate that many government officials of both parties, and in all three branches of government, seem to regard as in the national interest."

(Is that the new legal standard now, by the way? That it's only a crime if the defendant himself is "convinced" that he compromised national security? Is this the "I don't believe it" defense?)

But it has since come out that the real reason the Times delayed publication was not a patriotic desire to avoid damaging national security but a contractual and commercial desire not to anticipate the publication of James Risen's book on the subject, State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration (only $17.16 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25!) What the editors and writers really gave "long and sober consideration to" was probably whether the Times' own reporter might sue them if they revealed the anonymously sourced secrets he had gathered for his tendentious book.

I eagerly anticipate a grand jury proceeding with spooks, politicos, and journalists all hauled up and forced to name names -- or else be sentenced to "Miller time" until they do -- and all run by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales... which the Times evidently considers yet another scandal:

The administration's chief legal defender of the program is Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, who is also the senior official responsible for the leak investigation.

Yeah, funny that: the nation's chief prosecutor is actually in charge of the nation's most urgent prosecution. The Democrats have evidently forgotten that prosecuting malefactors is rightly the job of the attorney general (rather than, say, ordering inconvenient religious cults slain or sending small children off to the loving arms of Uncle Fidel); after all, for eight years, from 1993 through 2000, the biggest federal criminal cases were prosecuted by "independent counsels," because they all involved top members of the president's administration.

I can see how one might get out of the habit of thinking of the attorney general as the prosecutor, rather than a potential defendant.


Evidently, the answer is Yes, reporters really do think that Americans have a "right to know" our exact troop movements in combat: witness the absolute outrage when General Norman Schwartzkopf intentionally misled reporters at a briefing during the Gulf War about where our major offensive would aim. He told them this was desperately secret information that they were forbidden from revealing, knowing that they could barely contain themselves until the end of the briefing itself before calling it in to their networks and newspapers -- which they did! Saddam Hussein foolishly believed the soon-to-be Antique Media, and he was totally wrong-footed by the real invasion of Kuwait... which of course was on the opposite side of the country.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 13, 2006, at the time of 4:15 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 12, 2006

Zoning Torture

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Apropos no stunning new information or front-page articles on the subject, I've been thinking much about the Democrats' charge that President Bush's policy of "extraordinary rendition" (ER) is really just outsourcing torture to countries that are less scrupulous about such matters.

Without passing judgment on whether the charge is accurate, let's take it as read for purposes of this debate: resolved, outsourcing torture is a legitimate and necessary practice in a civilized society.

Defining our terms

First, let's make the terms more precise:

  • We're not talking about torturing ordinary criminal suspects for domestic criminal acts.
  • Nor do we discuss torturing people to obtain confessions to be used against them at trial.
  • We don't mean torturing people for punishment (as in Communist and Islamic countries) or abusing them for fun (as Charles Graner and his then-girlfriend Lynndie England did at Abu Ghraib).
  • Finally, we do not mean torturing (or abusing) ordinary prisoners of war who have no extraordinary intelligence for us to gather.

And we're not concerned here with defining "torture" and distinguishing it from mere abuse; that's a subject for a different post.

Rather, we are discussing one thing only: torture of "high value targets" (HVTs) -- top-ranking enemies or enemies who possess extraordinary information that could prevent a serious attack on American civilians or allies -- in order to obtain that intelligence and thwart the attack.

The dilemma

The arguments against torture basically boil down to two, one moral (absolute right and wrong) and one affectional (how it affects us, individually and as a culture):

  1. Moral: It is unjust to the "victim" of the torture to inflict cruel and unusual pain, suffering, or lasting damage on a person who is already in custody.
  2. Affectional: It is dehumanizing to the torturer, making him (and the society that employs him) more cruel, more vicious, and more nasty and brutish (but probably no shorter).

The moral argument

The first argument is interesting but beside the point: the torture discussed here is not done as an act of justice but rather to save lives. This boils down to a variation on the question discussed in Ursula K. LeGuin's seminal short story "the Ones That Walk Away From Omelas," and Shirley Jackson's story "the Lottery": under what circumstances is it justified to torment one innocent (in the LeGuin and Jackson stories) in order to make life better for a great many other innocents?

The variation here is that the one being tormented is almost certainly not an innocent; he is far more guilty -- unless there has been a huge mistake -- than the many. And the torture is not simply to make life better for the many but to save them from death at the hands of the guilty one who is being tortured and his co-conspirators.

I won't waste much time on this one. The argument for torturing him (to gain critical intelligence) is structurally the same as the argument for killing him to protect those he would destroy: by acting so unjustly himself, has he given up any claim to rights he might once have had?

That is, do the unjust retain a legitimate demand for justice? I argue that thousands of years of Western culture answer No, they do not: it would be unjust to imprison an innocent man, but we have no qualms imprisoning a guilty man. Even those who argue against capital punishment don't claim that execution is too harsh a punishment for murder; they fall back on the second argument, saying it dehumanizes society, and to argument by fear of error: what if we accidentally execute an innocent person? (See below.)

We do not tolerate the intolerant, and we need not give moral justice to the morally unjust. Besides, what is justice? Is it really morally unjust to torture someone who is participating in a conspiracy to commit mass murder -- and may well have helped carry out such horrific crimes in the past? It's hard to say in a specific case, but in my universe, as a general rule, there are some crimes so dreadful, not even the death penalty is sufficient punishment -- though of course, we're not now talking about torture administrated as punishment.

The argument changes if the victim of the torture is in fact an innocent we have mistaken for an enemy, but only to the extent that it would if we killed him. Either way, it's not a crime then so much as a tragic blunder. So we move on to number two, that torture dehumanizes the torturer.

The affectional argument

This claim may well be true; it certainly desensitizes him to the suffering of others... if he were not insensitive, how could he do what he has to do?

(Alternatively, perhaps torture does not dehumanize; perhaps it's only that the inhuman naturally gravitate towards such careers. But if torture does not dehumanize anyway, then ER is a legitimate practice, and the resolution succeeds by default. I personally believe it does dehumanize, however.)

Social dehumanization seems to follow any official sanction of torture, just as it dehumanizes society to officially tolerate the deliberate killing of the innocent. Because of our deep-seated repugnance at the idea of deliberate torture, this same argument becomes much more intense in the latter case.

Too, because of the "emotional multiplier" of the target being a specific, named individual instead of a mass crowd -- "a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic," as Stalin is reputed to have said -- most people would feel far worse hearing that one terrorist was tortured for his information than hearing that a hundred terrorists were killed by a military attack.

Thus we have the dilemma: if we desperately need intel that we strongly suspect a captive enemy has, do we torture him to get it, saving lives but "losing out souls?" Or do we keep our souls lily white, but only at the cost of thousands of other people's children, wives, husbands, and parents?

Enter extraordinary rendition

Under ER, we cut the Gordian Knot by choosing neither to torture nor to let the intelligence remain unrevealed; instead, we "outsource" the torture to some other country that doesn't scruple to carry out such activities routinely.

The moral argument in that case is unchanged: murder is murder even if you hire a hit man to do it; and by the same token, killing to defend innocent life is just as moral if the shooter is a hired bodyguard as it is if the shooter is the person whose own life is in danger: separating the action from the actor by hiring an agent can't change the morality of the action. It's either just or unjust, standing on its own, regardless of how personally involved was the ultimate decision-maker.

However, the affectional argument is very much altered: being an executioner might very well desensitize a person to human life, even if one he believes the executions are all perfectly just. But I don't see any such desensitization in merely being a member of a society that hires executioners to execute the guilty, no matter how much death-penalty opponents claim that it does. We have the death penalty and France does not, for example; yet America would never have allowed 15,000 old people to die in their homes for lack of air conditioning during a heat wave; and even if some did, we certainly would have condemned the adult children who refused to break off their August vacations to come home and bury their father's or mother's body.

This and many other examples indicates that we have at least as much regard for innocent human life as do the Europeans, despite the fact that we allow executions and they do not. Wanting to keep murderers alive is not the same sentiment as wanting to preserve the life of innocents, and neither implies the other.

So to the extent that personally engaging in torture might dehumanize someone, the farther removed it is from the actor, the less dehumanizing is the action.

This should be fairly obvious: which would callous and embitter a person more -- dropping a bomb from an airplane that he knew would probably kill some innocent children, or actually pointing his rifle at a child who is holding a live grenade and squeezing off a round? Even though morally, the latter is probably more defensible than the former -- nevertheless, I would much rather be the first guy than the second.

The reckoning

So let's tote up the damages:

  • Morally, ER is no better or worse than carrying out such torture ourselves; it stands or falls on the morality of the action, not the specific agent.
  • But in terms of the dehumanizing nature of torture, the farther removed from the United States, the less will Americans, civilian and military, be dehumanized.
  • And clearly if a non-American is the actual torturer, then no American suffers the psychological consequences of that job. The closest people will merely be observers -- worse for the soul, perhaps, than not being there at all, but not as bad as the people actually conducting it.

The only thing that remains is the question of how it affects the other country involved. And there, the answer is fairly easy: in each case, we pick countries that customarily and regularly engage in such torture anyway... so any dehumanization that might occur has already happened. One more terrorist being tortured won't change the character of a country that tortures criminal suspects and prisoners of war as a matter of course.

America should outsource torture -- limited to extraordinary circumstances -- for the same reason neighborhoods "outsource" animal slaughter to slaughterhouses, factories to industrial areas (or even other countries), and the holding of prisoners to established prisons.

It's really just an example of zoning: America is not zoned for torture, so we rendite certain special captives to a country that is. We outsource polluting industries to places where the natural byproducts won't cause us as much harm -- and the same practice makes just as much sense for torture.

It may sound odd, but it's really no different than what every city council in America does every day.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 12, 2006, at the time of 9:13 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 10, 2006

With Poor King Charles' Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm...

Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

UPDATE February 11th, 2006: See below.

All right, let's see if you can solve this conundrum. What is wrong with this picture?

Bush Reveals Rationale Behind Surveillance
by Jennifer Loven
Associated Press
Feb 10, 2006

President Bush defended his warrantless eavesdropping program Friday, saying during what he thought were private remarks that he concluded that spying on Americans was necessary to fill a gap in the United States' security.

Seems fairly innocuous, right? That is because we have become so innured to poor King Charles' head that we don't even notice it anymore.

Let's try this again:

President Bush defended his warrantless eavesdropping program Friday, saying during what he thought were private remarks that he concluded that spying on Americans was necessary to fill a gap in the United States' security.

Here is my point: what on earth makes Ms. Loven think that the subjects of the spying are Americans?

The NSA program is intended to "to monitor the international e-mails and phone calls of people inside the United States with suspected ties to terrorists overseas," in Loven's own words. Does she really believe that all -- or even the majority -- or even a substantial fraction of al-Qaeda agents inside the United States are American citizens... or even legally permanently resident aliens?

Remember, to be a legal green-card holder, you cannot have lied about the purpose of your immigration to the United States: if you really came here to conduct terrorism, you're not legal -- just as yet undetected.

Henceforth, you should notice that virtually every story about the NSA program uses two phrases: "without a warrant" and "spying on Americans."

And you should realize that this is a complete and utter canard: the vast majority of people whose communications are intercepted are non-U.S. persons... particularly since the administrative rules for this exact NSA al-Qaeda intercept program require obtaining a warrant from the FISA court in order to eavesdrop on U.S. persons (which includes both citizens and legal green-card holders), if that person is the target of the intercept.

Perhaps we should begin demanding to know from the Antique Media where this false meme -- "spying on Americans" -- began... and whether it was spread by accident or deliberately.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that (via John Hinderaker at Power Line) Jennifer Loven is well-known as a Democratic Party flack who has misrepresented facts about Bush on more than one previous occasion. I didn't mean to imply that she was supid; just venal. She sold her soul to the Democrats and betrayed her supposed calling -- just like so many others.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 10, 2006, at the time of 6:41 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 6, 2006

Moments Only

Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

The dreariness of the Senate hearing on the NSA al-Qaeda eavesdropping program was broken by a few moments of amusement -- or at least clarity.

First, since the story itself appears in the New York Times, the creakiest of the Antique Media (I love the phrase -- is it Hewitt's?), we can expect some whoppers in the way its presented. The Times does not disappoint.

First, the little summary on the Excite link-page entry that leads you to the NYT story makes it sound as if Democrats and Republicans are unloading both barrels on embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales:

The attorney general's assertion that the program was legal immediately drew harsh reactions from leaders from both parties.

(You won't find this line in the story itself, and within hours, the above snippet will probably be gone from the link page.)

But in fact, there are three Republicans and four Democrats quoted in the story; of the three Republicans, Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) both hotly defended the program, the president, and the attorney general. Only one Republican -- Arlen Specter (R-PA)... surprise! -- and all four Democrats (Sens. Charles Schumer of New York, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, and Russell Feingold of Wisconsin) attacked the program as "illegal domestic wiretapping."

Yes, Specter is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee (though why that committee should investigate an intelligence matter, when we have a separate Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I don't understand); but he is well known as a rabid critic of the administration on many issues, mostly relating to the war on terrorism, about which he appears quite skeptical. So, far from being a bipartisan lynch mob, in fact there was only a single liberal Republican who was on the Leahy-Kennedy-Schumer-Feingold side.

Second, the Times felt compelled to toss in the obligatory positive claim of illegality even while acknowledging that there is a strong argument to the contrary. They still act as if the illegality is a given:

The 1978 FISA Act, passed in response to surveillance abuses during the cold war and Vietnam eras and by the Nixon administration, requires the N.S.A. and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to obtain warrants from a special secret court before conducting electronic surveillance of people suspected of being terrorists or spies.

This is of course flatly tendentious: the Times assumes what they hope the Democrats will prove. But let's move on, to coin a phrase.

This is, I think, my favorite quotation:

Democrats emphasized again and again that regardless of their reservations about the administration's eavesdropping operation, they were as committed as their Republican colleagues to national security. "We all support a strong, robust and vigorous national security program," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. "According to the rule of law."

...Which "rule of law" they believe forbids the exact "strong, robust, and vigorous national-security program" that the president ordered!

Other cheers and jeers....

Jeer: Sen. Feingold demanded (unsuccessfully) that General Gonzales be sworn in before testifying:

"Mr. Chairman, I just say that the reason that anyone would want him sworn has to do with the fact that certain statements were made under oath at the confirmation hearing," Mr. Feingold said. "So, it seems to me, logical that since we're going to be asking about similar things, that he should be sworn in this occasion as well."

(Unstated conclusion to the last sentence: we can impeach him for perjury if what he says today differs in the slightest from what he said last time!)

Another fine, golden moment to jeer:

Mr. Feingold was clearly angry when his turn came to question Mr. Gonzales. "You wanted this committee and the American people to think that this kind of program wasn't going on," he said. "But it was." [Gee, why would the incoming attorney general not want to broadcast to the world that we were intercepting al-Qaeda communications? That's a real puzzler! -- the Mgt.]

Not so, Mr. Gonzales insisted. Last year, he said, Mr. Feingold asked him whether he thought the president could authorize eavesdropping "in violation of the law," and that the question was therefore hypothetical.

Those wacky Democrats, always asking just one question too many! There is a wonderful Abraham Lincoln story about asking the "one question too many," but the margin here is too small to contain it.

And a cheer for Sen. Cornyn:

Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said he found it odd that the United States could capture terrorists, "kill if necessary," but that according to some of the reasoning he had heard, "we can't listen to their phone calls."

What a great line; I hope Bush appropriates it for this year's elections.

And all the rest is dicta, as those egghead lawyers would say. These hearings are not going to do a darned thing to help the Democrats and Specter. The reality-based party strangely cannot feel the hand of political pragmatism tugging harder and harder on their trouser cuff.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 6, 2006, at the time of 11:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 3, 2006

The Deeply Unbiased and Fair-Minded Antique Media

Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Here are a pair of paragraphs from the Reuters story on Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, declaring that the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program is "legal, necessary, reasonable and within the president's powers." (The quote is Reuters', not Roberts'.)

The administration, which refers to the eavesdropping as a limited "terrorist surveillance program," says it is justified by Bush's constitutional authority as commander in chief and by the authorization of military force that Congress granted the president after the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

Democrats and other critics say the NSA program could violate constitutional protections against unreasonable searches, as well as the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires the government to seek wiretap warrants from a secret court even during times of war.

What a difference a verb makes!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 3, 2006, at the time of 2:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 25, 2006

Hillary Comes Crawling Back

Elections , Politics - National , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

After tacking far to the right of the Democratic Party by supporting (however limply) the Iraq War, Hillary is now trying to tack back leftward by lambasting Bush for the NSA international surveillance program. Yet she manages to demonstrate some of the same incoherence her husband used to do.

Here is her main complaint:

"Obviously, I support tracking down terrorists. I think that's our obligation. But I think it can be done in a lawful way," the New York Democrat said.

All right; so her objection is that Bush should have followed the law. But wait....

Clinton, a potential 2008 presidential candidate, told reporters she did not yet know whether the administration's warrantless eavesdropping broke any laws. But the senator said she did not buy the White House's main justifications for the tactic.

Say, that's a pretty tricky balancing act: eavesdropping on al-Qaeda is bad because Bush didn't follow the law, but she's not actually sure whether Bush followed the law.

Here is another curious argument, referring to the attorney general's argument that Article II of the Constitution gives the president the authority to conduct surveillance for national-security purposes:

"Their argument that it's rooted in the Constitution inherently is kind of strange because we have FISA and FISA operated very effectively and it wasn't that hard to get their permission," she said. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was established by Congress to approve eavesdropping warrants, even retroactively, but Bush has argued that the process often takes too long.

The existence of FISA may well be an argument against the policy (a bad argument against the policy), but it certainly has nothing to do with the question of whether "the Constitution inherently" gives that authority to the commander in chief. This is logical gibberish... it's like saying that the argument that the right to bear arms is inherently rooted in the Second Amendment is "kind of strange" because we also have federal laws allowing the FBI to carry guns. It's a non-sequitur.

She buttresses her claim that the Article II argument is "kind of strange" by adding that the argument that the congressional Authorization of Miliary Force also confers that authority is "far-fetched." Under such withering legal reasoning, I'm not sure Bush has any alternative but to end the program immediately! Oh, wait... after she "blast[ed]" Bush for the program, she mysteriously failed to call for him to end it. Like the rest of the Democratic Party.

Clinton also demonstrated her Criswell impersonation:

Clinton talked to reporters after addressing the mayors in a speech that criticized Bush's health care, economic and anti-terrorism policies.

Pointing the Democratic-leaning crowd to the president's State of the Union address on Jan. 31, she said his message amounts to "You're on your own."

Hm. Isn't that speech about six days in the future? I know the White House hands out advance copies -- but isn't that usually earlier on speech day, or at most the night before? I'm a little skeptical that Bush is actually going to stand up on Tuesday and announce, "mayors -- you're on your own!"

The fact that Clinton now finds it necessary to reassure the Democratic base that she does too suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome -- evidently a litmus test for nomination -- tells me that she is starting to get nervous about 2008, despite her likely easy win in her reelection this year. Look for the bipartisan "Sunday morning Hillary" to go MIA, and the shrill and screechy "Saturday night Hillary" to reappear from whatever limbo she has been banished to these last few years.

I don't think it will help; it will only solidify the belief, among both Left and Right, that she is just an opportunist who will say or do anything to get elected... and not even as good a one as her husband.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 25, 2006, at the time of 2:49 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 23, 2006

Even Atlas Shrugs

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

In a rare faux pas from John Hinderaker at Power Line, he draws a conclusion about the NSA surveillance controversy that is both paralogical and unwarranted (er, sorry about that; it was irresistable).

In another excellent Power Line post discussing today's speech by former National Security Agency director LG Michael Hayden, John picks up on some of the Q&A that followed. Here is one in particular:

QUESTION: Yes, Wayne Madsen, syndicated columnist. General, how do you explain the fact that there were several rare spectacles of whistleblowers coming forward at NSA, especially after 9/11, something that hasn't really happened in the past, who have complained about violations of FISA and United States Signals Intelligence Directive 18, which implements the law at the agency?

GEN. HAYDEN: I talked to the NSA staff on Friday. The NSA inspector general reports to me, as of last Friday, from the inception of this program through last Friday night, not a single employee of the National Security Agency has addressed a concern about this program to the NSA IG. I should also add that no member of the NSA workforce who has been asked to be included in this program has responded to that request with anything except enthusiasm. I don't know what you're talking about.

So whoever the NY Times sources were, they didn't work for NSA.

But how does this follow? Madsen asks Hayden about the NSA (or former NSA) whistleblowers -- Russell Tice, for example, who has actually come forward and admitted he was one of the New York Times' sources -- and Hayden responds that nobody in the NSA complained about the program to the inspector general, and that everyone involved was enthusiastic about the program when he was invited to participate.

Alas, neither of these facts (taking Hayden's answer at face value) implies the conclusion that John draws, that none of the "whistleblowers" -- that is, the media sources -- worked for the NSA. In fact, we know that at least one did (Tice was subsequently fired, but nobody denies that he did work for the NSA during a time when these intercepts were occurring, though he was not on that program).

All that Hayden's answer implies is that if there were critics of the program within the Agency, they did not make their objections known in the proper way but instead took them straight to the New York Times.

(Hayden's other statement is truly a non-issue, as even if the sources were actual whistleblowers, in the proper meaning of the word -- which I doubt -- it would still be plausible that they would come to the program enthusiastic, only becoming disenchanted when they hypothetically saw rampant illegality.)

Sorry, but neither of these two statements by LG Hayden is dispositive on the question of whether the leakers were NSA members, former members, or never members. That question is as open today as it was yesterday.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 23, 2006, at the time of 5:39 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

No Bout Adoubt It - I Mean No Doubt About It

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Intel gathering is so much easier when the subjects "out" themselves!

American analysts have dithered for a couple of years now whether Moqtada Sadr, the buffoonish son of an honored Shiite cleric, was in fact in bed with the mullahs of Iran... or whether he just happened to have a lot of friends east of the border (who all happened, by merest chance, to join the same private army together). Well, waffle no longer, chums, because here comes Sadr himself to clarify things:

The Iraqi cleric who once led two uprisings against U.S. forces said Sunday that his militia would help to defend Iran if it is attacked, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Any questions?

Of course, there will always be wiggle-room for the intentionally blind:

Muqtada al-Sadr, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting with the top Iranian nuclear negotiator, said his Mahdi Army was formed to defend Islam.

"If neighboring Islamic countries, including Iran, become the target of attacks, we will support them," al-Sadr was quoted as saying. "The Mahdi Army is beyond the Iraqi army. It was established to defend Islam."

But in a curious slip-up for the Associated Press, more commonly found declaring "on the other hand, on the third hand, on the twenty-third hand," they appear to admit that this is a risible fiction:

The comments could be seen as a message that Tehran has allies who could make things difficult for U.S. forces in the region if Iran's nuclear facilities are attacked.

Finally, in the Famous Last Words category, we have this nominee:

Al-Sadr's backing of Iran, a Shiite majority nation, follows a hint from Israel's defense minister that the Jewish state was preparing for military action to stop Iran's nuclear program. A few days earlier, French President Jacques Chirac said France could respond with nuclear weapons against any state-sponsored terror attack. The comments were seen by some as a reference to Iran.

"I don't see any threat against Iran," Iran's nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said after meeting with al-Sadr. "Iran is big and strong and it is a hard target."

Of course. Almost as big, strong, and hard as Iraq.

In any event, I think we can now deposit the burning question of Sadr's actual loyalty into the box of "known knowns," as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might put it. And that, at least, is "helpful."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 23, 2006, at the time of 3:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 20, 2006

Al Gore Fiddles While Intercepts Burn

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Victoria Toensing has an illuminating commentary in yesterday's Wall Street Journal (who says day-old news is stale?) that vindicates one of our own prominent bloggers, though I don't know if she -- or he -- realizes it yet.

In "Terrorists on Tap" (available to WSJ subscribers only, but you can find it here, though I don't know for how long... read it quick! I'll wait), Toensing addresses the failings of FISA, the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which she describes as "technologically antediluvian."

It was drafted by legislators who had no concept of how terrorists could communicate in the 21st century or the technology that would be invented to intercept those communications. The rules regulating the acquisition of foreign intelligence communications were drafted when the targets to be monitored had one telephone number per residence and all the phones were plugged into the wall. Critics like Al Gore and especially critics in Congress, rather than carp, should address the gaps created by a law that governs peacetime communications-monitoring but does not address computers, cell phones or fiber optics in the midst of war.

The "killer arg" that Democrats keep raising, each time as if it were brand new and had never before occurred to anyone, is best exemplified by our erstwhile vice president and pretender to the throne, Albert J. Gore, jr. In his speech before the Liberty Coalition on Martin Luther King Day (January 16th, 2006), Gore began pitching curve balls at the administration. But his pitches simply pinwheeled into the stands or burrowed into the dirt as if trying to bowl over a cricket wicket:

The discovery that the FBI conducted this long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life was instrumental in helping to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.

And one result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act, often called FISA, which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there was indeed a sufficient cause for the surveillance.

It included ample flexibility and an ability for the executive to move with as much speed as desired. [This emphasis, and indeed all emphasis in this post, is added by Big Lizards]

Gore, of course, has never actually had to fill out a FISA warrant application nor deal with the problems of obtaining "sufficient cause" to maintain an electronic intercept, or any other activity that an actual law-enforcement official would understand. Naturally, he believes this makes him an expert on the subject.

But I want to focus on the last line of that excerpt above -- that the FISA process allows "the executive to move with as much speed as desired." I'll take it as read that we all understand how important speed is in electronic surveillance of terrorists: the moment the terrorists know or even suspect that a phone number has been burned, they will drop it in the nearest trash can and break out a new disposable cell phone with a different number. So the only time available to gain useful information are those scant hours between capturing a live cell phone and other terrorists realizing what has happened.

Hours, even minutes may make the difference.

Let me first turn the mike over to John Hinderaker, who analyzed the "72 hour exception" of the FISA rules so oft cited by Democrats as the reason why there was "no need" to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance of phone calls and e-mails from al-Qaeda to persons in the United States. (Hinderaker aptly framed the point with his paraphrase of a George Bush quotation: "if al-Qaeda is calling you, we want to know why.")

John had earlier discussed the legality of the National Security Agency electronic intercept program here, here, and again here. But in a subsequent post -- 72 Hours: Who Could Ask For More? -- John takes on the Democratic claim that Bush could simply have used the "72-hour [emergency] provision of FISA" instead of issuing a presidential directive to surveil without passing through the FISA court.

Hinderaker begins:

We've been getting emails from liberals demanding to know why we haven't written about the 72-hour provision of FISA, which, they say, definitively proves that there couldn't possibly have been any need to go outside the FISA structure for purposes of speed. Actually, there are quite a number of FISA provisions that we haven't written about, but, since the left seems to be putting so much emphasis on this one, here goes: why the 72-hour clause doesn't eliminate the problem of FISA delay.

John then quotes extensively from FISA itself; long boring legalese snipped to avoid brains turning to tapioca.

[A] FISA application is no simple document, and Sec. 1805(f), notwithstanding that it contemplates an "emergency," provides no relief from the full filing requirement of Sec. 1804. The government has 72 hours from the time when a telephone is found in, say, Afghanistan, and the Attorney General gives the order to begin surveillance, until a FISA judge actually signs the order based on the government's application. How does that compare to the length of time it normally takes to obtain a FISA order? ...

Byron York wrote on ths subject last month: ...

People familiar with the process say the problem is not so much with the court itself as with the process required to bring a case before the court. "It takes days, sometimes weeks, to get the application for FISA together," says one source. "It's not so much that the court doesn't grant them quickly, it's that it takes a long time to get to the court. Even after the Patriot Act, it's still a very cumbersome process. It is not built for speed, it is not built to be efficient. It is built with an eye to keeping [investigators] in check...."

If it takes "days, sometimes weeks" to assemble a FISA application, then 72 hours is not long enough to be confident the process can be completed. Anyone who thinks that it is easy for multiple lawyers and officials to collaborate on a set of documents, present them to a federal judge and have the judge sign the order within 72 hours has, I'm afraid, no experience whatever at obtaining orders from federal judges.

And note what happens if the 72 hour deadline is missed. Suppose that the government gets the FISA application to a judge on time, but the judge has not yet signed the order when the 72nd hour expires. At that point, there is a forfeiture: the surveillance is to be terminated immediately, and information gained from the surveillance during that key 72 hour period cannot be used for any purpose--not even communicated to federal anti-terror employees--without a certification that it "indicates a threat of death or serious bodily harm to any person."

Given the complexity of the process, and the uncertainty whether a judge will actually sign an order on short notice even if it is presented to him in a timely fashion, the 72 hour "emergency" provision is completely inadequate to assure that surveillance can be initiated promptly, approved in a timely fashion, and continue without interruption.

With that in mind, compare what Victoria Toensing wrote -- remember her? her column is actually the subject of this convoluted post! -- about the physical reality of obtaining a FISA warrant, which she often had to do in her capacity as deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration with the "terrorism portfolio."

And to correct an oft-cited misconception, there are no five-minute "emergency" taps. FISA still requires extensive time-consuming procedures. To prepare the two-to-three-inch thick applications for non-emergency warrants takes months. The so-called emergency procedure cannot be done in a few hours, let alone minutes. The attorney general is not going to approve even an emergency FISA intercept based on a breathless call from NSA.

For example, al Qaeda agent X, having a phone under FISA foreign surveillance, travels from Pakistan to New York. The FBI checks airline records and determines he is returning to Pakistan in three hours. Background information must be prepared and the document delivered to the attorney general. By that time, agent X has done his business and is back on the plane to Pakistan, where NSA can resume its warrantless foreign surveillance. Because of the antiquated requirements of FISA, the surveillance of agent X has to cease only during the critical hours he is on U.S. soil, presumably planning the next attack.

I am very impressed that Hinderaker's analysis of the actual statute itself, and his personal knowledge of how long it takes judges to shift themselves, dovetails perfectly with Victoria Toensing's real-world experience filling out such FISA applications in actual terrorism cases. As Hannibal Smith says, "I love it when a plan comes together." Or in this case, when legal analysis and practical application buttress each other.

But John Hinderaker continues:

There is a second, even more fundamental reason why FISA's 72-hour provision does not solve the "speed" problem. Note that even under a 72-hour "emergency" application, the government must certify that "factual basis for issuance of an order under this subchapter to approve such surveillance exists...."

Now let's apply that standard to what must be a common situation where electronic surveillance is important: our forces capture a terrorist overseas who has a cell phone. Let's pretend that there are no procedural problems with the 72-hour provision, and that our soldiers can immediately begin intercepting communications to that cell phone in expectation of a warrant to be issued later. That won't do them a lot of good. There may be some incoming calls, but there will be no conversations to monitor since presumably our soldiers won't be answering the phone. So what they will be able to obtain is a list of phone numbers--numbers taken from incoming calls, and numbers recorded on the cell phone as having been called by the terrorist before he was captured. What we really need to do, to roll up the cell of which the captured terrorist was a member, it to begin monitoring those other phone numbers. Those are the telephones on which the other terrorists will be talking; among other things, they will be wondering what happened to their comrade.

But, as far as I know, the fact that a particular phone called a terrorist's (or suspected terrorist's) phone does not provide probable cause to believe that the owner of that phone is the agent of a foreign power. It could be the terrorist's mother; it could be his tentmaker or his landlord, dunning him for rent.

And, like a tennis ball, back we fly to Ms. Toensing:

Even if time were not an issue, any emergency FISA application must still establish the required probable cause within 72 hours of placing the tap. So al Qaeda agent A is captured in Afghanistan and has agent B's number in his cell phone, which is monitored by NSA overseas. Agent B makes two or three calls every day to agent C, who flies to New York. That chain of facts, without further evidence, does not establish probable cause for a court to believe that C is an agent of a foreign power with information about terrorism. Yet, post 9/11, do the critics want NSA to cease monitoring agent C just because he landed on U.S. soil?

So much for Al Gore's risible claim that the FISA rules allow "ample flexibility and an ability for the executive to move with as much speed as desired." Once again, Hinderaker and Toensing are perfectly in synch, despite writing separately more than a week apart; and only the man who would be king is left twisting slowly, slowly in the wind.

Rantin' Al

Simply put, the NSA electronic surveillance is not just the law, it's also a good idea. It is, in fact, a necessary, urgent, and irreplaceable arrow in the quiver of intelligence-gathering to thwart terrorist attacks.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 20, 2006, at the time of 3:22 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 17, 2006

Don't Harsh My Jihad, Dude

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

I think I've written ad nauseum about the obsession the American Left has with the National Security Agency intercept program (i.e., "if al-Qaeda is calling you, we want to know why," as John Hinderaker of Power Line put it):

  • How they have convinced themselves it's a political winner ("the Republicans will do anything it takes to protect America, so vote Democratic!");
  • How they dismisss as irrelevant trivia whether the president may actually have the constitutional authority, apart from any act passed by Congress, to order intercepts of foreign terrorists communicating with their American agents;
  • How they bray like donkeys at the very idea that a law authorizing the use of military force might likewise authorize such intercepts of foreign intelligence;
  • How they dismiss out of hand the difficulties of trying to run a war with a federal court (however friendly) having to sign off on every military decision...
  • And of course, the biggie: the fact that no major Democrat who screams and complains about the NSA electronically peeking at e-mails and phone calls from al-Qaeda is actually calling for it to stop: they want so very much to have their peek and beat on it, too.

But at the risk of inducing seasickness, I want to note that someone, at least, is finally doing something to stop this terrible depradation of our most fundamental civil liberty, the right to clandestinely communicate with terrorist groups abroad: the ACLU, CAIR, Greenpeace, and the Center For Constitutional Rights (plus some individual plaintiffs, including one celebrity, of a sort) have gone to federal court to shut down the NSA intercept program:

Federal lawsuits were filed Tuesday seeking to halt President Bush's domestic eavesdropping program, calling it an "illegal and unconstitutional program" of electronic eavesdropping on American citizens.

The lawsuits accusing Bush of exceeding his constitutional powers were filed in federal court in New York by the Center for Constitutional Rights and in Detroit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The New York suit, filed on behalf of the center and individuals, names Bush, the head of the National Security Agency, and the heads of the other major security agencies, challenging the NSA's surveillance of persons within the United States without judicial approval or statutory authorization.

(Not that the Associated Press would ever pre-judge a case, of course.)

One surprising side point is the identity of one of the plaintiffs:

At a news conference, Center for Constitutional Rights Legal Director Bill Goodman portrayed the president as a man on an unprecedented power grab at the expense of basic democratic principles.

He said the public was starting to understand the assertion that the erosion of individual rights is a slippery slope that lets the government "brand anyone a terrorist with no right to counsel, no right to be brought before a judge and no right to privacy in communications...."

Plaintiff Rachel Meeropol, an attorney at the center, said she believes she has been targeted. "I'm personally outraged that my confidential communication with my clients may have been listened to by the U.S. government," she said.

And who is Rachel Meeropol? Well, mentions only that she's "at the forefront of national civil rights litigation," mentions some of her lawsuits against America, and notes that:

In addition, Meeropol is the co-vice president of the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild; a co-editor and primary author of the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook, a reference guide for prisoners without an attorney to learn their rights; and the editor of America's Disappeared: Secret Imprisonment, Detainees, and the "War on Terror."

Her profile from Equal Justice Works adds one tantalizing hint to the above:

Rachel's interest in prisoners' rights work stems from her family's firsthand experience with the destructive impact of the criminal "justice" system on communities and individuals.

But you only find out Rachel Meeropol's actual claim to fame by turning to the ultra-leftist groups that have no interest in dissembling such a fine pedigree as hers. For example, a broadcast by Democracy Now:

The Rosenberg Execution 50 Years Later

A Democracy Now! special with Julius and Ethel Rosenberg's sons Robert and Michael Meeropol, granddaughter Rachel Meeropol and co-defendant Morton Sobell.

(Hat tip to the blog Sweetness and Light, and to my friend Lee Porter for calling it to my attention.)

So "her family's firsthand experience with the destructive impact of the criminal 'justice' system on communities and individuals" consists of being tried for, convicted of, and executed for passing the secret of the atom bomb to the Soviet Union. Yes, I can definitely see how that might tend to have a "destructive impact."

Apart from such celebrity plaintiffs, the organizations behind these lawsuits make for some odd bedfellows (or perhaps not so odd, if one isn't obliged to accept at face value their descriptions of themselves): side by side with the American Civil Liberties Union is the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a radical Arabist group that has many members who have been suspected, indicted, and even convicted of abetting jihadi terrorism; Greenpeace, which in fact engages in aggressive "action directe," such as trying to ram Navy vessels attempting to test defensive anti-missile systems.

And of course, let's not forget the Center for Constitutional Rights, a group that is probably further to the left than Michael Moore, having been co-founded by Communist and radical lawyer William Kunstler; having defended in court terrorists such as El Sayyid Nosair, a member of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman's terrorist group which attacked the World Trade Centers in 1993; and supporting such other radical notables as Lynne Stewart, who was indicted and recently convicted of several terrorism-related charges:

On 10 February 2005, Stewart was convicted of providing material support, through a press conference and allowing access by her translator, to a terrorist conspiracy to kill persons outside of the United States and conspiring to defraud the U.S. government when acting as counsel to Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric who was convicted in 1996 of plotting terrorist attacks against various sites in the New York City area.

(An engaging but rather biased-to-the-right profile of the Center can be found on the Wikipedia, here.)

To be blunt, we have a number of radical, pro-terrorist, anti-American groups allying with what purports to be a civil-liberties group -- running to the courts to remake American military policy in the middle of a war.

I expect two things:

  • The original district court that hears this case will rule in favor of the radicals and will order the president to shut down the NSA program; I'm sure the plaintiff have shopped very carefully for exactly the right Clinton- or Carter-appointed judge to decide this case.
  • The appellate court will overturn the decision, and the Supreme Court will either deny certiorari or will take the case and affirm the appellate court... because the Court is going to be very reluctant to dive into a case that obviously infringes on the power of the executive -- excuse me, the dreaded unitary executive -- to function as commander in chief.

But we'll see. Perhaps they'll misjudge their first judge, and he'll actually dismiss the case outright, as he should... on standing (can any of these people show he was actually among those recorded?) or else on the basis of the earlier decisions cited by, e.g., John Hinderaker at Power Line.

In any event, this is definitely one case to watch!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 17, 2006, at the time of 3:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 11, 2006

Blow That Whistle, Beat That Drum!

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

One of the New York Times "official sources" on the NSA intercept story has outed himself in an ABC interview, turning out to be (as expected) a disgruntled employee of the National Security Agency -- currently an ex-employee, but evidently still working for the agency when he spoke to the Times more than a year ago, as he was not fired until May.

Russell Tice, a longtime insider at the National Security Agency, is now a whistleblower the agency would like to keep quiet....

But now, Tice tells ABC News that some of those secret "black world" operations run by the NSA were operated in ways that he believes violated the law. He is prepared to tell Congress all he knows about the alleged wrongdoing in these programs run by the Defense Department and the NSA in the post-9/11 efforts to go after terrorists.

ABC tries desperately to resurrect this dead horse for another trot around the track by making it appear as though Tice will testify that the intercept program was huge and indiscriminate:

President Bush has admitted that he gave orders that allowed the NSA to eavesdrop on a small number of Americans without the usual requisite warrants. [Tendentiousness alert! That the warrants were "requisite" is a fact to be proven -- not a stipulation. -- the Mgt.]

But Tice disagrees. He says the number of Americans subject to eavesdropping by the NSA could be in the millions if the full range of secret NSA programs is used.

"That would mean for most Americans that if they conducted, or you know, placed an overseas communication, more than likely they were sucked into that vacuum," Tice said. [Emphasis added]

Sure, it "could be," if. But that's not the question, is it? The question is whether it was so huge and indiscriminate... not whether the NSA has the technological capability: recording every international conversation that used any of a list of key words is completely unworkable, since there are too many times that innocent conversations include those words, each of which must be analyzed... and because it's easy for spies and terrorists to use code words instead: "from now on, Achmed, when I say jack in the box, Junior Mints, or jellyfish, I really mean that other J-word."

So sure, the NSA could have ensnared millions indiscriminately to no avail, wasting the agency's own time and producing hundreds of thousands of hours of audiotape that not even the NSA has sufficient personnel to review. But did they? We certainly don't know from ABC.

Many commenters seem focused on the last paragraph of the article; and admittedly, it's a doozy that puts everything Tice says into a different context:

The NSA revoked Tice's security clearance in May of last year based on what it called psychological concerns and later dismissed him. Tice calls that bunk and says that's the way the NSA deals with troublemakers and whistleblowers. Today the NSA said it had "no information to provide."

They call me mad, mad I tell you!

If in fact it's true that Tice was having psychological problems, then it's hard to know how much of his accusation is accurate, and how much is, to put it bluntly, delusional or at least the result of a paranoid personality disorder, hence not reliable.

But the mere fact that Tice was discharged on the NSA equivalent of a "Section 8" is not proof that he is crazy, because that would happen in either case: whether he's paranoid, or whether they really are trying to silence a whistleblower. It's not dispositive.

Instead, I want to focus like a laser beam (as Bill Clinton used to say) on a different sentence, one that explains, all by itself, why this story, which the Democrats still cling to like a sick kitten to a warm brick, is the biggest possible loser for them politically:

[Tice] is prepared to tell Congress all he knows about the alleged wrongdoing in these programs run by the Defense Department and the NSA in the post-9/11 efforts to go after terrorists.

"The mentality was we need to get these guys, and we're going to do whatever it takes to get them," he said.

There it is on a nutshell: "We're going to do whatever it takes to get [the terrorists]." So long as that is how the NSA "scandal" is framed, it can only help the Republicans and President Bush; and the longer it runs, the more it helps the GOP and Bush.

It's my bet that Americans want us to do "whatever it takes to get them." And the fact that the Democrats, by and large, still haven't figured that out reconfirms every bad thing we've heard about the inability of Democrats and liberals to get serious about the war in Iraq, the war on jihadi terrorism, and national security in general.

They simply don't get it. Even now!

The Bush administration should adopt the Tice accusation as its mantra. Bush should say the following in his next speech, and every speech thereafter:

One of those who says he leaked the details of the al-Qaeda telephone intercept program, Russell Tice, made an accusation against this administration. He said, in an interview with ABC, that where we went wrong in our war against al-Qaeds was when we decided, and I quote, "we're going to do whatever it takes to get them."

My fellow Americans, to this charge, I plead guilty, guilty, guilty! Those who leaked this program were absolutely wrong to do what they did; they compromised national security because of personal objections to communications intercepts.

But if what bothered them was the idea that my administration was going to do, quote, "whatever it takes" to stop al-Qaeda and other terrorists who plan to attack America... then in that belief, they were absolutely right: we are -- and we will.

Now it's up to you: do you want a government full of people who will do whatever it takes to protect the American people from attack? Or do you want a government full of people who will stop short of that standard because they're more worried about the civil liberties of al-Qaeda spies inside the United States? In November of this year, you'll get your chance to answer that question.

The fact that the Democrats are still, to this very moment, licking their chops in anticipation of Congressional hearings on the NSA program and demanding to know where Judge Samuel Alito stands on this terrible "scandal" tells me that the penny still hasn't dropped... they still think they're going to win by pointing at Osama bin Laden and Musab Zarqawi and saying "those poor victims of American imperialism and tyranny!"

All right. Old saying: never interfere with your enemy when he's in the process of destroying himself. I'll just stand over here and hum.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 11, 2006, at the time of 1:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 7, 2006

About That Wiretapping Poll...

Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

The Associated Press is touting its own AP-Ipsos poll purporting to show a significant majority of Americans opposes the Bush administration on warrantless tapping of al-Qaeda phone calls originated abroad to their terrorist agents in the United States. But as typical these days, there is much less here than meets the eye.

The poll in today's story is very similar to the "generic congressional poll" results announced yesterday purporting to show a massive shift in Americans' support for Democratic control of Congress, a seismic shift that would signal that the Democrats are poised to seize back the House; that poll found that if the mid-term election were held today, 49% of Americans would want to see the Democrats win, while only 36% would want to see the Republicans win. Besides both polls showing a big surge towards Democrats, they have other similarities:

  • They have exactly the same age breakdown;
  • They have exactly the same employment breakdown;
  • Same educational breakdown;
  • Same marriage breakdown;
  • In fact, every, single demographic question is identical on the "two" surveys.
  • And oddly enough, they were even conducted over the same days, by the same pollsters, with the exact same number of respondents.

One might almost conclude that this was really the very same poll -- just mendaciously reported twice, in two different contexts, to make it appear as though there were a trend moving in the Democratic direction, a rising crescendo of criticism of George W. Bush. But of course, it would be dishonest for AP to do that without noting the fact, so it can't be true. It must simply be an eerie coincidence.

Another point the "two" polls share: they both wildly overpolled Democrats -- 52% of the respondents were Democrats, 40% were Republicans, and 8% were independents; that is, they polled almost a third more Democrats than Republicans.

How can this affect results? Well, it's hardly surprising that there would be a very significant difference between the responses of Democrats and Republicans to a question put so clearly in the context of partisan politics as this:

Should the Bush administration be required to get a warrant from a judge before monitoring phone and internet communications between American citizens in the United States and suspected terrorists, or should the government be allowed to monitor such communications without a warrant?

In the first place, why mention the name of the current president if you really want to know what the respondent thinks of presidential power in general? The answer is fairly clear: to make it a party issue. Democrats will immediately understand the context is Bush's Fascist depredations against civil liberties and answer accordingly.

For example, if the respondents took their cue from the reference to Bush, and if 75% of Democrats answered that Bush should have to get a warrant, while 66% of Republicans said he should not, and the paltry few independents they polled split 50-50, you would get a result strikingly similar to what they got. This doesn't prove that is how it fell out; but it's certainly not an unreasonable guess.

Second, notice the tendentious phrasing of the fact situation: the administration has repeatedly noted that the monitoring is done on al-Qaeda phone calls coming from outside the United States to persons typically not American citizens or even American persons. Occasionally, the recipient of the phone call (or e-mail) might be an American person; but the communication still originates abroad... and it is that foreign communication that is intercepted without need for a warrant. In order to monitor communications between two phone numbers both in America, a warrant is still needed... which may explain why the Bush administration has requested more than 5,600 warrants from the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court since 9/11.

As John Hinderaker put it some days ago, "if al-Qaeda is calling you, we want to know why."

That makes the NSA program not a "domestic wiretapping" case, as the Democrats and the mainstream media have repeatly and falsely claimed, but a foreign intelligence operation, for which very different legal and constitutional rules apply. Yet in this same question, respondents are asked about warrantless surveillance of electronic communications between "American citizens in the United States and suspected terrorists," which implies a completely different fact situation: tapping the phones, without warrant, of American citizens making calls that originate and terminate in the United States. Heck, even I would probably say No to that suggestion.

  • So the question is tendentious, in that its purpose is to elicit a negative response rather than probe the actual beliefs of Americans; in fact, it is very close to being a "push-poll," a sleazy campaign activity in which one party conducts a false poll whose purpose is to insinuate certain erroneous facts with the goal of changing people's opinions, rather than measuring them.
  • It is partisan, in that is clearly signals that this is a "party vote" question.
  • And it is argumentative, in that it subtlely alters the fact situation from what is actually happening to a different circumstance that is much less justifiable, legally and morally.

Against that backdrop, it matters very much indeed that it also significantly overpolled Democrats -- and that the respondents comprised "adults," rather than "registered voters" or "likely voters." That last is especially relevant to the other component of the same poll, the generic congressional vote. Whoops, I mean that "other" poll that has no relation to this one, despite being taken at the same time by the same pollsters of the exact same pool of respondents, of course. My bad.

This is just a longwinded way of echoing John Hinderaker's point yesterday in a post discussing the Minnesota Republican delegation to Congress joining the bandwagon calling for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) to step down as Majority Leader; at the end of the brief post, John added:

By the way, the AP/Ipsos poll referred to in this article, which gives the Democrats a 13-point lead on the generic Congressional preference question, is worthless. The poll included 52 percent Democrats and only 40 percent Republicans, so it's hardly a shock that respondents favored Democrats by the same margin.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 7, 2006, at the time of 1:28 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 5, 2006

The Gnurrs Come from the Voodvork Out

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Today, in the endless game of Whack-a-Mole plaguing America's intelligence war against al-Qaeda, yet another former NSA official wants to play "whistleblower," revealing code-word classified operations to a breathless (and gormless) Congress. From a Washington Times story by the inestimable Bill Gertz:

A former National Security Agency official wants to tell Congress about electronic intelligence programs that he asserts were carried out illegally by the NSA and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Russ Tice, a whistleblower who was dismissed from the NSA last year, stated in letters to the House and Senate intelligence committees that he is prepared to testify about highly classified Special Access Programs, or SAPs, that were improperly carried out by both the NSA and the DIA.

Tice had nothing to do with the particular intercept program revealed by the New York Times; this is a different urgent program that disgruntled ex-NSA folks want to destroy.

The [supposedly illegal] activities involved the NSA director, the NSA deputies chief of staff for air and space operations and the secretary of defense, he stated.

"These ... acts were conducted via very highly sensitive intelligence programs and operations known as Special Access Programs," Mr. Tice said.

Highly sensitive programs Tice now feels compelled to blow.

Tice relies upon the "1998 Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, which makes it legal for intelligence officials to disclose wrongdoing without being punished." Perhaps it's time to revisit that act and make clear that outing a legitimate program simply because a liberal agent disagrees with the president's policy does not qualify.

If not, we'll continue to play this game until our hand falls off, and al-Qaeda is able to declare "all your base are belong to us."

(The title of this post refers to one of a series of stories by Reginald Bretnor starring Papa Schimmelhorn, the most unlikely inventor ever invented.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 5, 2006, at the time of 12:55 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 1, 2006

Reaching For the Scars

Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

"There you go again."

Coming back to the well of paranoia for the 537th sip, the New York Times now reports, with ominous, minor-key music in the background, that the Bush administration had to suspend some parts of the NSA intercept program for a few months due to concerns of legality raised by Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey. This is presented by the Times as yet more evidence of the perfidy of Bush and his tyrannical, Dick-Durbinesque Gestapo.

According to the story,

A top Justice Department official objected in 2004 to aspects of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program and refused to sign on to its continued use amid concerns about its legality and oversight, according to officials with knowledge of the tense internal debate. The concerns appear to have played a part in the temporary suspension of the secret program.

That "top Justice Department official" was Comey, according to those officials -- who evidently were not even named at birth:

The concerns prompted two of President Bush's most senior aides - Andrew H. Card Jr., his chief of staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and now attorney general - to make an emergency visit to a Washington hospital in March 2004 to discuss the program's future and try to win the needed approval from Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was hospitalized for gallbladder surgery, the officials said.

The unusual meeting was prompted because Mr. Ashcroft's top deputy, James B. Comey, who was acting as attorney general in his absence, had indicated he was unwilling to give his approval to certifying central aspects of the program, as required under the White House procedures set up to oversee it.

But let's take a deep breath and ask what this really means. First, it's pretty clear that Comey is just not comfortable with 9/11 thinking. Reading his farewell address (he left in August 2005, probably because Alberto Gonzales, not James Comey, had been named attorney general to replace John Ashcroft), it's very clear that Comey is a "9/10 guy."

He describes the various duties of the Department of Justice, mentioning every sort of crime they investigate and task they're responsible for... but he only brings up terrorism twice: once en passant, the other time merely to commiserate with the victims of 9/11. He never says even a single word about the Justice Department's role in the actual war against terrorism. My sense is that he doesn't see it as a war but just one more law-enforcement operation, like investigating bank robbers and Social-Security defrauders.

Feeling the pain of victims is nice, and I'm glad there are nice people at Justice; but it has nothing to do with combatting terrorism... and that is what the NSA program is designed to do. I'm really not surprised that such a nice guy as Mr. Comey was uncomfortable with it.

But much more important is the part that the Times just glosses over in a glib three paragraphs. I suppose the writers might just have missed it... but considering that one of them is Eric Lichtblau, who has had his paw prints on nearly every anti-Bush story to burst out of the paper recently, I have a bit of a hard time believing the "coincidence" excuse. Again.

What was the president's response to the concerns of Comey? He sought the blessings of Comey's boss, Attorney General Ashcroft. And regardless of the outcome of that hospital conversation -- which even the Times admits its informants don't know -- Bush suspended the controversial parts of the NSA program for "several months" to reexamine it:

What is known is that in early 2004, about the time of the hospital visit, the White House suspended parts of the program for several months and moved ahead with more stringent requirements on the security agency on how the program was used, in part to guard against abuses....

The audit examined a selection of cases to see how the security agency was running the program. Among other things, it looked at how agency officials went about determining that they had probable cause to believe that people in the United States, including American citizens, had sufficient ties to Al Qaeda to justify eavesdropping on their phone calls and e-mail messages without a court warrant. That review is not known to have found any instances of abuses.

After noting this, Messrs. Lichtblau and Risen immediately return to the central theme of all of the stories about the NSA intercepts: that it was a "warrantless domestic eavesdropping program." (Say, Bush is just like Nixon, and the Iraq War is just like Vietnam! Do we detect a nostalgic pattern here?)

Initially, it was focused on communications into and out of Afghanistan, including calls between Afghanistan and the United States, people familiar with the operation said. But the program quickly expanded.

As in previous stories, the Times fails to disclose exactly how it "expanded"... to what? Intercepting purely domestic phone calls from one American citizen to another? From one citizen to the local Pizza Hut? White House plumbers planting hidden microphones in DNC headquarters? That appears to be the conclusion they want readers to draw, but they've never actually specified what they mean, beyond the already-reported fact that by tapping some terrorist's cell phone, the NSA occasionally picks up a conversation between two U.S. persons within the United States.

As yet, I do not recall "America's newspaper of record" coughing up a single physical person whose rights have been abused. One would expect that if this program were as indiscriminate as the Times would have us believe, they should be able to produce victims by the sackful.

Thus, yet again we're left with a vaguely disquieted feeling, some nervous anxiety, an increased fretting about Big Brother watching us -- but without the Times' fingerprints being found on any actual, specific claims of abuse that can be verified by anyone... even by Sen. Arlen Specter's upcoming inquisition. The New York Times may not be able to define "warrantless domestic eavesdropping," but they sure know it when they manufacture it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 1, 2006, at the time of 7:01 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 31, 2005

The LA Times Needs a "Special Journalist" More Than We Need a Special Counsel

Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

I was reading Hugh Hewit, as I'm wont to do, and he quoted from a story by Josh Meyer in that bastion of incisive new analysis, the Los Angeles Times, on the just-announced Justice Department investigation of those who leaked details of the NSA progam that intercepted international phone calls among al-Qaeda members:

Unlike the ongoing investigation into disclosures about Plame's CIA status, this probe is not being run by an independent special prosecutor who is immune to political pressure but by Justice Department officials who work at the discretion of a presidential appointee, Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales.

That prompted some critics Friday to call the probe an attempt to silence internal critics of the administration when they were most needed to bring controversial counter-terrorism programs and policies to light.

Let's see if we can't come up with an alternative reason that that offered by those unnamed "critics," shall we?

  • The leak of Valerie Plame's identity (though not her name) was widely thought to have originated within the Bush administration, possibly within the Department of Justice itself, and definitely with the aim of promoting the Bush administration's position.
  • Thus, if the Justice Department investigated, it would in essence be investigating itself or its boss -- creating at the very least the appearance of impropriety.
  • Also, since it would be in the interests of the Bush administration were the leakers never identified (he wouldn't want a Scooter Libby or a Karl Rove to be in jeopardy), there would also be a conflict of interest: pressure to investigate vigorously opposed by potential pressure to back off the investigation.
  • Hence, an independent Special Counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, was selected to conduct the investigation instead.

By contrast, these NSA leakers must have either worked in the National Security Agency (not the Justice Department, which knew nothing about this program) or else on the staff of some senator or representative on the Intelligence Committee... possibly for Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who admitted saving a letter discussing the program (and his opposition to it) in the Senate Intelligence Committe's vault for some unspecified future use. And the leakers certainly opposed the president's policies.

Thus, there is no problem with the Justice Department investigating, and there is no conflict of interest: they have the interest of catching the lawbreakers, precisely as they ought; and they would not be investigating themselves.

And therefore, no special counsel is needed or warranted, pardon the pun.

If we were to follow the advice of these "critics" consistently, we would need to bring in a special counsel every time we needed to investigate any crime by any member of the federal bureaucracy; and we may as well disband the Department of Justice entirely and send its lawyers out to litigate international fishing rights and trademark infringement cases.

The distinction seems pretty clear to me. Any questions, Mr. Meyer?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 31, 2005, at the time of 2:34 PM | Comments (26) | TrackBack

December 16, 2005

NSA = "No Such Agency?"

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

I think I've been running off at the fingers lately; all my posts have been re-e-e-e-e-ea-a-al lo-o-o-ong. So I hope y'all don't mind if I write a few short and pithy ones.

My old blog-boss, Captain Ed, has a primo post on the conjunction of the two major stories of the day and the one major story of the post-9/11 world: the Patriot Act plus the SigInt spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) together help explain the big story for the past four years: not one, single attack on the American homeland since October 2001, when the Anthrax attacks occurred.

All I have to add is this: I've been scratching my head in puzzlement so hard that folks will think I have pediculosis. Let's review the bidding... senators, including some renegade Republicans, are getting in a lather because the NSA was caught red-handed intercepting electronic communications that cross the American border (in either direction) and analyzing them -- without the knowledge of the parties whose eaves were being dropped.

In other words, the NSA has been discovered in the act of doing its job.

Somebody correct me if I've got this wrong, but isn't electronic eavesdropping the actual mission for which the NSA was created? Didn't it grow out of the old Army Signal Corps -- which (among other things) "tapped" into telegraph wires to spy on bad guys? Am I hallucinating again? (Darn that Blue-Star acid!)

What the heck did everybody think the NSA was doing the last four years... its nails?

It's as if the Democrats and their willing accomplices in the MSM had never even heard of the NSA before, and now they're shocked, shocked that a federal intelligence agency exists to monitor telephone and e-mail communications. Doesn't seem sporting, somehow. Not cricket. If you asked the New York Times and Sen. Harry Reid yesterday what the NSA stood for, they would have said "no such agency."

I understand that after years of observing the CIA, it might seem weird and freaky to stumble across an intelligence agency that quietly and efficiently does its job, and without tooting its own horn or leaking damaging intelligence all over the joint. I note that the sources of this leak to the New York Times are not even identified as working for the NSA:

Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation's legality and oversight.

Officials of what agency? We are never told.

So while we're cursing the CIA, let's raise a glass to the silent and effective men and women at the National Security Agency.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 16, 2005, at the time of 11:57 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

November 22, 2005

Reforming the CIA

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

I'm not an expert in intelligence. I don't even play one on the internet. But that's never stopped me from tossing in my 2.38 ¥ worth... just so long as you understand I'm a complete ignoramus in this area, and my opinion is literally worthless. In fact, you're probably wasting your time reading this -- stop playing on the internet and get back to work!


What I would really like to see is the CIA broken up. All analysts should be split between realtime military-intelligence analysts (people who say "shoot this target now"), who would be transferred to the Pentagon; and longer term, strategic-intelligence analysts. The latter should be shifted to a special Intelligence Analysis Directorate, which would receive input from the CIA Provisionals (see below), the NSA, and all the military intelligence agencies, which would copy the Intel Directorate on all received intel -- other than specific targetting intelligence.

Much of the money currently spent on the CIA should go into the CIA Provisionals, to be spent recruiting, training, equipping, and supporting American citizens to infiltrate other countries' militaries, governments, businesses, universities, think tanks, and (ideally) intelligence services. Most of the remainder of the current CIA budget should follow the personnel, either into the Pentagon, the Intel Directorate, or wherever else functionality went.

The CIA Provisionals

The CIA Provisionals would consist almost entirely of undercover agents -- human-intelligence officers with no official cover. Nobody who works for an embassy, or any other job where the host country would routinely assume them to be CIA. The Provisionals would comprise only those agents whom nobody knows as agents: these will be our James Bonds.

Besides foreign-country intelligence agents, the Provisionals would also include our frontline agents for infiltrating non-state actors: terrorist organizations, multinational corporations, NGOs, the UN, and everything else that seems a likely source of intelligence. They would need some administrative personnel and some managers; but other than that, the rest are "secret agents."

The Provisionals would be organized as 4-, 6-, or 12-person teams in a classic cell structure (size determined by mission). Each person would know only a handful of other people, and then only by nickname. By and large, these would be unmarried men and women who have shown extraordinary reliability, loyalty, and courage. Every such agent would be given a $1 million life insurance policy -- and like in Mission: Impossible, everyone is told that if he is captured or killed the CIA will deny all knowledge of his existence.

The Intel Directorate

All the official-cover personnel (and we'll still need such) will be under the Intel Directorate -- which would therefore comprise all civilian intelligence analysts and openly known contact points... the people who can proudly drive their cars, with CIA stickers, into the Langley facility in full view of God and everyone. They would be organized into teams (about platoon sized) and would report up the chain; but on a rotating basis, each team lead would be taken in turn to the White House and/or a joint meeting of the House and Senate intelligence committees and questioned in secret.

This last is just to avoid the problem of the "disinformation pyramid," where each underling tells his boss only what he thinks the boss wants to hear, and tells his own subordinates only what will benefit his power. During these secret meetings, the team leads will be asked what they have been seeing, what they speculate it might all mean, what they told their supervisors, and so forth. The White House and Congress use this as a check to ensure that what the low-level analysis teams are seeing actually makes its way into the National Intelligence Estimate.

Data mining will be actively encouraged. Anybody in Congress or among the public who objects will be formally told to get stuffed.

Budgeting, Monitoring, and Recruitment

Of the $45 billion or so currently spent on the CIA budget, I would love to see at least $15 billion directed entirely to the Provisionals: salary, insurance, medical, and support activities, including insertions, extractions, satellite communications time, satellite launches if necessary (so the covert op can use a sat-phone), bribes, exotic weaponry and spyware, money for establishing unofficial cover, and so forth. Even military activities to serve as distractions or cover for a mission. This should be plenty enough money to recruit as many people as we could actually find who fit the profile.

In turn, Provisional cell-teams will have budgets to hire local thugs, terrorists, turncoats, traitors -- or technical support personnel, and so forth. Who they hire is entirely up to the team. How the team makes tactical decisions is entirely up to the team, though the team lead will be responsible for reporting up the chain. The team will be judged by the quality of its intel, not by how savory are the contacts it hires.

Obviously, there has to be someone in the Intel Directorate monitoring the Provisional teams, to make sure they don't go rogue (like Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now). I'm not sure how one goes about this, but I'm sure there are experts who specialize in such areas.

Especially heavily recruit from special-forces soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines; but the Provisionals should not be confined to big, buff men. We need women and more normal looking people too, all in good shape, but not necessarily built like the Rock.

Bonuses should be structured such that a Provisional can retire (or shift into a more open lifestyle in the Directorate) in ten or fifteen years; but they will be offered an annual stipend if they remain in the region even after retirement. If an agent opts instead to go into the Directorate, he cannot remain in the region (for obvious reasons).

Long-Term Geographical Stability

The idea is that the Provisionals settle into a geographical region and become one with their surroundings. They must know in advance that they will likely spend the rest of their careers in that one place -- unless their cover is blown. In which case, they're extracted post-haste and must leave the Provisionals. They can go into some other intelligence area or leave the agency entirely... but once blown, I think that's it. Too much danger of being recognized.

The point of remaining in a single spot is to get to know the area almost as well as a local, and also to become well-known and trusted by the locals. They will be trained in the local language so that accent is reduced to the absolute minimum necessary. Special bonuses for recruits who already speak the language, especially as a native. But every Provisional, without exception, must be an American citizen, must have no irregularities in his or her background, and must pass a background check at the highest level.

Well, anyway, those are my thoughts -- for whatever little they may be worth!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 22, 2005, at the time of 3:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 16, 2005

Maybe Not So PATRIOTic After All

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

So just hours after agreeing to a compromise extension of the USA Patriot Act, Democrats abruptly balked, giving no reason why they would pull out now after having agreed early this same morning.

A tentative agreement to renew the Patriot Act this week teetered late Wednesday without explicit support of the lead Senate negotiator, as Democrats complained that the draft wouldn't sufficiently curb the FBI's power to probe the most private aspects of people's lives.

Hours after House and Senate negotiators said they had reached a tentative pre-dawn agreement, Democrats and civil libertarians complained that it didn't address their chief concern: the curbing of FBI power to gather certain information by requiring the investigators to prove the subject's records are connected to a foreign agent or government.

So the biggest problem is that the FBI is still inexplicably able to gather information; evidently, the Democrats and "civil libertarians" thought the agreement would be that the Patriot Act was made permanent, but only if all its investigative teeth were first pulled! In other words, the Democrats will agree to pursue terrorists IF AND ONLY IF we agree in advance not to catch any.

But why didn't they voice these objections earlier? What could have changed in those few hours? The key is in the very next paragraph, in which we find out that the Senate failed to consult with the most important Senate negotiator of all:

"It gives a nod toward checks and balances without fixing the most fundamental flaws in the Patriot Act," said Lisa Graves of the Americans Civil Liberties Union.

Whoops! I guess next time the Republicans should just save time by going over the heads of the Senate Democrats directly to the real power on the Left, the infamous "shadow senate."

Somebody page Nina Totenberg!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 16, 2005, at the time of 9:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Still PATRIOTic After All These Years

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

This deal is probably the best we can get to extend and make permanent the PATRIOT Act, and I think Bush ought to grab it and sign as soon as it's on his desk, lest the whole thing fall apart.

My only real regret is that they didn't seize the opportunity to change the absurd acronymic name, which reads in full "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act," or the USA PATRIOT Act. Yeesh!

House and Senate negotiators struck a tentative deal on the expiring Patriot Act that would curb FBI subpoena power and require the Justice Department to more fully report its secret requests for information about ordinary people, according to officials involved in the talks.

The agreement, which would make most provisions of the existing law permanent, was reached just before dawn Wednesday. But by midmorning GOP leaders had already made plans for a House vote on Thursday and a Senate vote by the end of the week. That would put the centerpiece of President Bush's war on terror on his desk before Thanksgiving, a month before more than a dozen provisions were set to expire.

Here are the basic provisions, at least according to the Associated Press's Laurie Kellman:

  • All existing provisions of the PATRIOT Act become permanent except those listed in the next bullet point.
  • The exceptions are rules on wiretapping and obtaining records from businesses under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA -- this is the infamous "library records" provision), which sunset after seven years unless renewed by Congress.
  • The deal enacts new rules allowing for better monitoring of "lone wolf" terrorists.

Examples of lone wolves include the Beltway snipers, John Allen Muhammed and Lee Malvo, and Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, who opened fire on the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport on Uly 4th, 2002: none of these people had contact with al-Qaeda or other known terrorist organizations, but they nevertheless "took up the sword" on their own nut to "kill the infidel." These new rules also sunset in seven years unless renewed.

  • The Justice Department must "report to Congress" each year about how many "national security letters" they have sent out.

These are letters demanding various business and phone records and imposing a legal requirement of silence on the recipient about having received such a letter. Currently, before submitting such a letter, law-enforcement officers must first apply to the FISA Court -- a special, secret court set up specifically to issue subpoenas and warrants related to cases involving espionage, foreign sabotage, and other actions of foreign agents; the original PATRIOT Act added terrorist investigations to the list of those handled by the FISA Court, whose warrants and subpoenas are kept secret. (Of course, once a person is arrested, he is tried by an ordinary federal court.)

I hope there is enough wiggle room in the agreement to restrict notification to those members of Congress who sit on the House or Senate Intelligence Committees; otherwise, all this classified information will instantly be leaked to the press by Democrats for political advantage.

  • Before sending national-security letters, law-enforcement officials would have to submit a new "statement of facts" to the FISA Court showing "reasonable grounds to believe the records are relevant to an investigation."

They would also need to show that the individual whose records are sought is in contact with an agent of a foreign power or known terrorist organization. (I suppose if the DOJ cannot show this, they would have to operate under the "lone wolf" rules instead.)

  • The deal places "modest new requirements on so-called roving wiretaps."

The AP articles does not say specifically what those requirements are. I tried to Google for more information, but every article was simply an exact reprint of this AP story. We'll probably know more later this week, when the House and Senate votes occur.

The deal does not cover several ancillary provisions that had been sought by Republicans via amendment but to which the Democrats objected, including limitations on federal appeals of state court decisions, tightening of sex-offender registration laws, and better courthouse security. Presumably those will have to be brought up separately later.

All in all, this is a pretty darned good compromise, and it's likely the best we can possibly get. It's also proof that rumors of President Bush's political expiry are greatly exaggerated: he's still got it!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 16, 2005, at the time of 2:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 14, 2005

Off With the Gloves!

Iraq Matters , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

The demigods over at Power Line are just going to be ecstatic about this. John Hinderaker worried that Bush's speech a few days ago, defending himself and his administration from the destructive and absurdist "Bush lied, people died" meme was just a one-off, and that the president might decide that, since he had "answered" the charge, he could then just "move on to other things."

This is a pretty good beginning, but it means nothing unless Bush and his surrogates keep up the counter-attack. My fear is that Bush will think that now that he has responded, he can move on to other things. This would be a serious mistake. I think Bush and his surrogates should give the same speech more or less every day for the next month or two. The administration has a lot of catching up to do, and a single speech, or a handful of speeches, won't have any impact.

But today, AP calms our fears:

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (AP) - President Bush, heading to Asia with hopes of improving his image on the world stage, hurled a parting shot at Iraq war critics on Monday, accusing some Democrats of "sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy."

"That is irresponsible," Bush said in prepared remarks he planned to deliver to U.S. forces during a refueling stop in Alaska. Excerpts from the remarks were released by the White House as Bush flew to Elemendorf Air Force Base on the initial leg of an eight-day journey to Japan, South Korea, China and Mongolia.

"Reasonable people can disagree about the conduct of the war, but it is irresponsible for Democrats to now claim that we misled them and the American people," Bush said in his prepared remarks.

"Only one person manipulated evidence and misled the world - and that person was Saddam Hussein," Bush added.

The president continues the powerful centerpunching he finally began last week:

In his prepared Alaska remarks, Bush noted that some elected Democrats in Congress "have opposed this war all along.

"I disagree with them, but I respect their willingness to take a consistent stand," he said. "Yet some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force are now rewriting the past. They are playing politics with this issue and sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy."

Rem acu tetigisti, as the Romans said; Bush has touched the point with a needle. Congress does not have access to every jot and tittle of intelligence information that the president does; but the Senate and House Intelligence Committees did, in fact, have access to all of the major conclusions -- and all of the disagreements and caveats -- available to the White House.

Yet twenty-nine Democrats in the Senate (and most Democrats in the House, though that was a voice vote, not a roll call) voted on October 11th, 2002, to authorize the use of force in Iraq, including all of the presidential candidates of 2004 in Congress except for Bob Graham of Florida -- then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), John Edwards (D-NC), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), and nominee John Kerry (D-MA) -- and several expected candidates for 2008, including Joe Biden (D-DE) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

Despite supporting the war in 2002, Edwards, Kerry, Biden and other Democrats (such as Charles Schumer) are leading the pack charging that Bush "lied us into the war." I suppose what they're really claiming is that they voted to send America to war without even having read the relevant intelligence. I don't believe it, but that's what they must be saying.

The minority Republicans (except for Lincoln Chafee) read the intelligence reports and concluded that Saddam Hussein had to go. Some Democrats read the same intelligence reports (or didn't bother) and decided it wasn't enough to go to war; these folks -- Dick Durbin (D-IL), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), for example -- at the very least have the virtue of consistency: they were agin' it then, they're agin' it now.

But the Democratic Party has a terrible problem: they desperately want to paint Bush as a mindless warmonger who was in possession of credible intelligence that Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction (despite the fact that we actually found those "large stockpiles" that were promised -- see here and here, most recently), but who "lied" about it just to get us into that war. But they have no answer for the large number of very big-profile Democrats who either looked at the intel and agreed with Bush -- or who couldn't even trouble themselves to look at the intel before voting.

I visualize John Hinderaker standing atop his desk and doing the "Dilbert dance" at the thought that Bush has finally awaked from his year-and-a-half slumber and picked a fight with the lying slime who have done him and the Republican Party -- and the country -- so much damage already.

If John has room up there, I'd like to join him. Now if only Bush would also finally take on the numbskulls who insist that a chemical rocket isn't a chemical weapon if the chemicals are not actually loaded, just sitting alongside in a 55-gallon drum inside the same camouflaged bunker.

Yup. And a gun isn't a gun if you just unload it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 14, 2005, at the time of 4:25 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

November 10, 2005

Why Congress Should Not "Ban Torture"

Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

I made the mistake of reading an editorial in the Hololulu Advertiser this morning; it perfectly encapsulates why we must not allow Congress to charge off on McCain's newest crusade against "torturing" our detainees. (It is, of course, yet another attempt by McCain to aggrandize himself by smearing President Bush. But that's a given, considering who we're dealing with, and beside the point.)

Here is what caught my eye:

There is an Alice-in-Wonderland quality to some of the rhetoric coming from the White House these days on the subject of torture and treatment of detainees held in the war against terrorism.

On his South American swing, President Bush responded firmly to questions from reporters: "We do not torture," he insisted, when asked about alleged secret CIA prisons overseas.

That should be reassuring, but what, precisely, does the president mean? That's a legitimate question, considering back in Washington his administration is struggling to exempt the CIA from a proposed law that would bar cruel and degrading treatment of people held in U.S. custody.

Apparently, in some semantic netherworld, "cruel and degrading" treatment does not add up to torture.

The problem is not in the banning; nobody of any significance in the government supports or would even tolerate actual torture, either conducted by us or by some other state actor in our presence or with our knowledge. The problem is that every time a body like Congress addresses the issue, they define torture downward.

Here, for example: "cruel and degrading," the language used in the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, is so nebulous and malleable that it can mean anything some international tribunal chooses it to mean.

Far from "offer[ing] clear and consistent guidelines for troops who are charged with handling and questioning detainees," the definition of what constitutes torture or "'cruel and degrading' treatment" would be a moving target that changed daily (or perhaps hourly). Since no CIA field interrogator could ever be sure he wouldn't run afoul of Congress's new defintion -- and since the penalties would be harsh -- none would ever so much as ask a tough question or dare raise his voice for fear that he would find himself in a cell next to Charles Graner.

The Universal Code of Military Justice already bans torture... obviously; look at what happened to the idiots at Abu Ghraib. But the military makes the definition "clear and consistent." Congress, by contrast, could change the definition on a whim (or a good election day for the Democrats). All right... but what about the CIA? They're not under the UCMJ; should they be barred from engaging in anything that Congress, relying upon an international tribunal, defines as "cruel and degrading?" Or should they be allowed in extreme cases to use more aggressive interrogation?

It would be reasonable to leave the final decision up to the president, not Congress... which by an odd coincidence is the very exemption that the Bush administration is seeking:

The White House initially tried to kill the anti-torture provision while it was pending in the Senate, then switched course to lobby for an exemption in cases of "clandestine counterterrorism operations conducted abroad, with respect to terrorists who are not citizens of the United States." The president would have to approve the exemption, and Defense Department personnel could not be involved. In addition, any activity would have to be consistent with the Constitution, federal law and U.S. treaty obligations, according to draft changes in the exemption the White House is seeking.

Not that the CIA should be allowed to romp through the torture chamber like Tomás de Torquemada, but that in very exceptional circumstances (the "ticking bomb" scenario), they be allowed under direct presidential directive to use aggressive interrogation techniques, even those that don't sit well with the berobed pedants at the Hague (or in Congress).

This is precisely the sort of operational decision that must be made by the Commander in Chief, not by preening senators like John McCain (R-AZ) or anti-military, anti-war, anti-Bush House zealots like Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (S-VT).

It's as easy to say "I'm against torture" as it is to say "Nazis are bad," and just about as meaningful. Opposing a Congressional takeover of operational military decisionmaking is, quite naturally, portrayed in the press as supporting torture, as the Advertiser does above. But on this issue, Bush has no choice: he must do as he is doing, and just hope that there is enough sanity in Congress that they will sustain his inevitable veto.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 10, 2005, at the time of 2:40 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 3, 2005

Little Demo In Slumberland

Iraq Matters , Politics - National , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

John over at Power Line (easily the second snappiest dresser of those three) mulls the motive behind the Democrats' hysteria -- now -- over pre-war intelligence:

Democratic activists desperately want to block Judge Alito from ascending to the Court, but the reality is that Senate Democrats are powerless to achieve that goal. Alito's qualifications are unassailable, the Democrats are a minority party, and the Republicans are united in the conviction that Alito deserves a vote. A filibuster isn't out of the question, but if the Dems try it, it will fail.

So the Senate Democrats can't come through for their party where it counts. I doubt that the timing of the Month of Valerie is a coincidence; I suspect it is intended mostly to distract the Democratic base from the reality of the Senate Democrats' impotence.

I don't mean to be fip, but I think John has hold of the means, not the motive. He has to grab the bull by the tail and look the facts in the face.

Ever since the catastrophe of 1994, the Democratic Party has lived in a fantasy world of its own devising. Unable to face the reality of losing the House and Senate in 1994, then the presidency in 2000, then the Senate again in 2002 (after Jumpin' Jim Jeffords' defection was discounted), and most recently the 2004 reelection, they have been unable to recover sanity, daily drifting deeper into political schizophrenia... to quote Adam Savage, "I reject your reality and substitute my own."

I don't need a psychiatrist like Charles Krauthammer or Thomas Szasz; the signs are manifest. Most overtly and trivially, there are the two distinct TV shows set in fantasy universes where the Democrats are in charge of everything: the West Wing and Commander In Chief. Arguably, many Democrats demanded a show like CinC because they were unsatisfied with the West Wing -- because they had a few Republican characters who were not totally corrupt raving lunatics.

But the dementia manifests in uglier ways, too: many Democrats still, to this day, refuse to admit that Bush won the election in 2000 or in 2004. A U.S. senator, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), actually tried to prevent the Ohio electoral votes for Bush from being certified in January of this year, presumably on the grounds that John Kerry was the "real" winner there.

Democrats have wallowed in increasingly occult conspiracy theories and nightmarish fantasies, from George W. Bush conspiring with Arabs on the 9/11 attacks to Republicans and the Army Corps of Engineers plotting to blow up the New Orleans levees "to kill the black people." Karl Rove has assumed monstrous significance, as if he were an incarnation of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (for the younger set, Dr. Evil). Creepy cartels of neocons (read "Jew-o-cons") secretly seize control of the world for their nefarious Zionist plans.

Many left-liberals now live in a world that is as thrilling and horrific as the H.P. Lovecraft "Cthulhu" Mythos *, full of dark, eldrich gods, nameless cults, and unspeakable rites. Reliable, old, secret-society paranoia has resurged, of course: the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderbergers, even the Illuminati; but new and bizarre cults have formed around the basic template of "Famous Right-Winger X is secretly in league with Evil Villain Y"... for example, Osama bin Laden is actually a Mossad agent working for Ariel Sharon, Bush-41 started the Gulf War in order to build an oil pipeline for Mullah Omar, and Saddam Hussein is actually a mole who has been under Donald Rumsfeld's thumb since the early 1980s. Other brand new (tired old) cult archetypes include the specter of "globalization," with the World Trade Organization taking the place of the Knights Templar or the Hashishim "Assassins;" and the omnipotent, omnipresent Haliburton standing in for Wolfram & Hart in the Buffy spinoff Angel.

Let's be clear about this. Reality does not come packaged in stories; but our brains are hardwired to comprehend events in dramatic form, with heroes, villains, a climax, and a denouement. So we (all of us) dream up "the story of our lives," in which the dreamer is the protagonist, someone or some group is elected to be antagonist, and life becomes a series of chapters, each ending in a cliffhanger.

For Republicans and conservatives, who are in the ascendency and generally happy with life, the tale is a modern-day adventure-romance, typically with a happy ending. But for Democrats and liberals, who have seen nothing but dark chapters for years now, the tome is a Clive Barker bloodfest, a King Lear tale of madness and woe, a science-fiction black comedy like the Matrix, or a Walter-Mitty fantasy of easy triumph and cheap, childish victory, depending how much angst the tale-singer can take before breaking from reality entirely. Read the New York Times quickly, then ask yourself whether it wouldn't have even more verisimilitude with a wicked stepmother and a dragon.

The Democrats have no "plan" for how to use pre-war intelligence against Bush... no more than John Nash (Russell Crowe) had any well thought out purpose for hallucinating "Agent Parcher" (Ed Harris) and his machinations in a Beautiful Mind. They are demon-driven to expose the evil, just as D.A. Jim Garrison was driven to expose the massive conspiracy behind the assassination of JFK (a plot that required the connivance of Lyndon Johnson, the FBI, the Soviets, and the 82nd Airborne). And it doesn't matter that nobody will listen anymore, that Democrats have "no one left to lie to," in Christopher Hitchens' memorable phrase. Like Dr. Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) in Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, they are condemned to stagger forever along the street, flagging down cars and screaming the warning: "They're already here! You're next!"

* Spellchecker attempted to correct this to the "Chihuahua Mythos."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 3, 2005, at the time of 11:22 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

November 1, 2005

Weapon of Mass Media Deception

Iraq Matters , Media Madness , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

The absurdity of Harry Reid's tantrum today, forcing the Senate into a rare closed session as a stunt to draw attention to the Democrats' claims that the entire Iraq war was cooked up by Karl Rove and the neocons and sold to Americans by lies and distortions (see virtually any speech by John F. Kerry in 2004) has been ably covered already today by Power Line and by Captain's Quarters. I have little to add to the main points of Paul and Ed.

I'm more interested in the way that the mainstream news media manipulate the story in order to support the Democrats' side of the dispute. Let's start with the easiest to document, the slam dunk. Here is the Associated Press today:

Democrats contend that the unmasking of Valerie Plame was retribution for her husband, Joseph Wilson, publicly challenging the Bush administration's contention that Iraq was seeking to purchase uranium from Africa. That claim was part of the White House's justification for going to war.

Missing in action from this report is the fact that the Butler Report from Great Britain completely affirmed this very contention (actually, Bush said that the British had such evidence), and also that the final, unanimous report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence found that Joseph Wilson himself told his CIA debriefer that the Nigerien prime minister (and former minister of mines) had stated that the Iraqis conducted secret negotiations to buy something from Niger -- and that the prime minister believed that "something" was yellowcake uranium (as opposed to animal hides or cowpeas, Niger's other exports).

But lying by omission is not the worst of the reporting. In its zeal to cheer the Democrats on, AP has yet again exaggerated beyond the evidence to blatant falsehood about what we actually found in Iraq:

Reid's move shone a spotlight on the continuing controversy over prewar intelligence. Despite administration claims, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, and some Democrats have accused the White House of manipulating the information.

While it is true that under the crabbed definition of WMDs used by the U.N. inspectors no "large stockpiles" of chemical or biological weapons have been found, it is completely false to assert, as AP does, that none were. Washington Post, July 3rd, 2004, in a story written by Walter Pincus:

Yesterday's coalition release also said that two other 122-milimeter rounds, found by the Poles on June 16 with help from an Iraqi informer, tested positive for small quantities of sarin but were "so deteriorated" that they would have had "limited to no impact if used by insurgents against coalition forces."


Charles Duelfer, the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, told Fox News on June 24 that "some" old sarin and mustard rounds have been discovered in scattered places, demonstrating "that the Iraqi declarations were wrong at least in . . . amount." But Duelfer cautioned he was not ready to make any judgment whether there were any "still concealed" military-capable stockpiles.

Even by the overly strict definition of the Iraqi Survey Group (ISG), these all qualify as "weapons of mass destruction." But more to the point is the definition itself: for Walter Pincus, the Associated Press, the entire mainstream media, the official line of the Democratic Party, and evidently the CIA and State Department themselves, the rockets found (or purchased) by the Poles in 2004 do not count as chemical munitions because the warheads, while manufactured to accept chemicals, were not filled.

Bear in mind that the ISG was led first by David Kay, then by Charles Duelfer. Kay was pushed by the State Department and by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency and Mohamed ElBaradei; and Duelfer was appointed by then-Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet: all three of these groups have waged relentless political warfare against George W. Bush, against Operation Iraqi Freedom, and in particular, against the conclusion of the "neocons" that Iraq posed a grave and gathering threat to the United States.

Each has persisted in this war-against-the-war long after the major-combat phase of the war itself was won, and the peace began to be waged with such intensity. The primary tactic they have used during this latter period has been to dispute every single WMD find as being something benign -- or at least potentially civilian -- instead of military.

Many times, we found huge drums of cyclosarin-based "pesticides" hidden in camouflaged ammunition bunkers... and many times we found empty chemical rockets and artillery shells, often at the same ammo dumps. But evidently, that doesn't constitute chemical weapons according to the ISG. But if Hussein's regime had actually poured the first into the second, then and only then would they be defined as chemical weapons.

Does this mean that a gun is not a gun if it's not loaded?

Captain Ed discussed this also, way back in April of 2004. He quotes extensively from Kenneth Timmerman's investigative piece in Insight Magazine, April 26th, 2004:

In virtually every case - chemical, biological, nuclear and ballistic missiles - the United States has found the weapons and the programs that the Iraqi dictator successfully concealed for 12 years from U.N. weapons inspectors....

But what are "stockpiles" of CW agents supposed to look like? Was anyone seriously expecting Saddam to have left behind freshly painted warehouses packed with chemical munitions, all neatly laid out in serried rows, with labels written in English? Or did they think that a captured Saddam would guide U.S. troops to smoking vats full of nerve gas in an abandoned factory? In fact, as recent evidence made public by a former operations officer for the Coalition Provisional Authority's (CPA's) intelligence unit in Iraq shows, some of those stockpiles have been found - not all at once, and not all in nice working order - but found all the same....

But another reason for the media silence may stem from the seemingly undramatic nature of the "finds" [Douglas] Hanson and others have described. The materials that constitute Saddam's chemical-weapons "stockpiles" look an awful lot like pesticides, which they indeed resemble. "Pesticides are the key elements in the chemical-agent arena," Hanson says. "In fact, the general pesticide chemical formula (organophosphate) is the 'grandfather' of modern-day nerve agents."

(Hanson was an "atomic demolitions munitions security officer and a nuclear, biological and chemical defense officer" who was a civilian analyst in Iraq in summer 2003 working on WMD issues.)

It is well known that the staggering extent of Saddam Hussein's WMD programs was only discovered after he lost the Gulf War. Iraqi chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons by the tens of thousands were unearthed (often literally) and destroyed by the coalition. Afterward (we have known this for some time from defectors), Hussein decided that Iraq would take a new tack in its never-ending quest for WMD: from then on, all of Iraq's programs were designed to be "dual use": each would have an ostensibly civilian purpose (pesticides, medical research, nuclear power generation) but could quickly -- in some cases within minutes -- be converted to military use.

Therefore, when looking for "stockpiles" of WMD, the Iraqi Survey Group (ISG) should have been looking, not for a warehouse full of shells pre-filled with sarin or mustard gas or anthrax, but rather for the precursor components of such: shells and rockets built to accept such chemicals or biological agents in close proximity to the agents themselves... even if they're not actually loaded into the warhead yet.

A rocket that can accept toxic chemicals into its warhead near a 55-gallon drum of cyclosarin-based "pesticide" is a chemical weapon, and it should be defined as such.

At Karbala, U.S. troops stumbled upon 55-gallon drums of pesticides at what appeared to be a very large "agricultural supply" area, Hanson says. Some of the drums were stored in a "camouflaged bunker complex" that was shown to reporters - with unpleasant results. "More than a dozen soldiers, a Knight-Ridder reporter, a CNN cameraman, and two Iraqi POWs came down with symptoms consistent with exposure to a nerve agent," Hanson says. "But later ISG tests resulted in a proclamation of negative, end of story, nothing to see here, etc., and the earlier findings and injuries dissolved into nonexistence. Left unexplained is the small matter of the obvious pains taken to disguise the cache of ostensibly legitimate pesticides. One wonders about the advantage an agricultural-commodities business gains by securing drums of pesticide in camouflaged bunkers 6 feet underground. The 'agricultural site' was also colocated with a military ammunition dump - evidently nothing more than a coincidence in the eyes of the ISG."

That wasn't the only significant find by coalition troops of probable CW stockpiles, Hanson believes. Near the northern Iraqi town of Bai'ji, where Saddam had built a chemical-weapons plant known to the United States from nearly 12 years of inspections, elements of the 4th Infantry Division found 55-gallon drums containing a substance identified through mass spectrometry analysis as cyclosarin - a nerve agent. Nearby were surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, gas masks and a mobile laboratory that could have been used to mix chemicals at the site. "Of course, later tests by the experts revealed that these were only the ubiquitous pesticides that everybody was turning up," Hanson says. "It seems Iraqi soldiers were obsessed with keeping ammo dumps insect-free, according to the reading of the evidence now enshrined by the conventional wisdom that 'no WMD stockpiles have been discovered.'" [Emphasis added]

Coalition troops have found mortar shells filled with a mystery liquid that tested positive in the field for being a blister agent (mustard gas, used so horrifically in World War I, is a blister agent); subsequent testing (redefinition) by the ISG disputed that finding. But lost in the shuffle was the question that should have leapt out at everyone: what conceivable purpose is served by placing a liquid inside a mortar shell in the first place?

Putting any sloshing substance inside a ballistic object would obviously throw off the accuracy -- so there must be some advantage that offsets that problem. Can we put our heads together and think of some possibility, a reason why a man like Saddam Hussein would order some liquid to be poured into a rocket or a mortar round?

Even by the most tendentious definition of WMD, we have found some; so AP's overreach is just flatly wrong. But more important, the definition of WMD stockpile itself is wrong. When assessing threat, you dare not take the most benign view that all those drums of cyclosarin, "reference strains" of Anthrax and botulinum, and those empty chemical and biological munitions are unrelated and only coincidentally situated right next to each other in camouflaged bunkers and ammo dumps. You must use the most expansive defintion that takes into account the avowed intent of the Iraqi WMD programs to produce "dual use" chemical, biological, and even nuclear weapons. And by that definition -- which the ISG would have used in any other context than the CIA's attempt to thwart the Bush Administration's foreign policy -- we have indeed found "large stockpiles" of WMD.

Even if the Democrats -- and their allies in the MSM and the CIA -- don't want to admit it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 1, 2005, at the time of 4:57 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

October 24, 2005

MPM From the MSM

Iraq Matters , Media Madness , Plame Blame Game , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Misinformation per minute from the mainstream media, that is. AP has an incredible story up -- with the word "incredible" meant literally: it's hard to count the number of misstatements, malicious manglings, myopic maunderings, and just plain mental missteps. If the author's name were not "Nancy Benac," I would assume Paul Krugman wrote it. (Maybe he has a secret identity.)

Let me just run through a few; but you really should read the original, lest I spoil the best parts.

NOTE: Bulleted points are quotations from the Benac story.

  • CIA officials asked [Joe Wilson] to travel to Africa in February 2002 to check out a report that Niger sold uranium to Iraq in the late 1990s for use in nuclear weapons. Wilson quickly concluded the report was bogus. (Documents related to the purported sale later were exposed as a forgery.)

Actually, according to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Wilson quietly concluded the opposite... at least, that is what he told his CIA handlers. I'm sure that was just an honest mistake from Ms. Benac, who is an honorable woman. They are all honorable men (and women) at the Associated Press.

Clifford May is the man-on-the-spot at the National Review to debunk this first set of -- misunderstandings (for Nancy Benac is an honorable woman). (And a tip of the hat to Power Line for the link.) From July 12th, 2004:


Ironically, Senate investigators found that at least some of what Wilson told his CIA briefer not only failed to persuade the agency that there was nothing to reports of Niger-Iraq link — his information actually created additional suspicion.

A former prime minister of Niger, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, told Wilson that in June 1999, a businessman approached him, insisting that he meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations." Mayaki, knowing how few commodities for export are produced by impoverished Niger [basically just yellowcake and animal hides --DaH], interpreted that to mean that Saddam was seeking uranium.


Yes, there were fake documents relating to Niger-Iraq sales. But no, those forgeries were not the evidence that convinced British intelligence that Saddam may have been shopping for "yellowcake" uranium. On the contrary, according to some intelligence sources, the forgery was planted in order to be discovered — as a ruse to discredit the story of a Niger-Iraq link, to persuade people there were no grounds for the charge. If that was the plan, it worked like a charm.

But that's not all. The Butler report, yet another British government inquiry, also is expected to conclude this week that British intelligence was correct to say that Saddam sought uranium from Niger. [And so it did. --DaH]

  • The Times' Judith Miller went to jail for 85 days before sharing with the grand jury what she knew. After [I. Lewis "Scooter"] Libby personally assured her that he had waived her pledge of confidentiality, Miller told the grand jury about three conversations with him.

In fact, Libby had "waived her pledge of confidentiality" a year before she reported to la calabooza. If she were in any doubt about his seriousness, she had only to pick up the phone and call him or have her attorney do so. Whatever is the reason for her curious decision to don prison gray, like Joan of Arc, and suffer for the cause -- and speculation is delicious -- it was not uncertainty whether Libby had really, truly, actually waived confidentiality when he signed a document waiving confidentiality.

I'm sure that Nancy Benac knew all this and simply thought it too tedious to bring up, for they are all honorable men. Women. Whatever.

  • One important question is what Bush and Cheney might do if top aides like Rove or Libby are found to have been the leakers. Bush initially pledged to fire any leakers but later gave himself more wiggle room by promising to fire anyone who is found to have committed a crime.

This is pure invention from the MSM, though certes, they are all honorable. Nobody has found any quotation from Bush where he said he would "fire any leakers," or fire anyone who spoke to reporters about Mrs. Wilson, or any other such prejudicial nonsense.

This all stems from a reporter who started asking a question of the president at a press conference. I don't recall the exact wording, but he said as preamble that Bush had promised to fire any leakers, and did he still stand by that pledge.

President Bush tried to answer, but the reporter kept talking, forcing the president to repeat his answer. In a move eerily presaging what was done later to Laura Bush to falsely make it appear as though she were calling Miers critics "sexists," the reporter seized upon the word "yes" that began Bush's answer -- and clearly referred to another point of the question -- to claim that Bush had therefore agreed with the reporter's premise that Bush earlier said he would fire any leakers... notwithstanding the fact that Bush had said no such thing.

Note how this asinine claim has progressed: nobody can find an original quotation of Bush saying he would "fire any leakers;" so the reporter's premise, at least as publicly provable, was factually wrong. But by tacking it onto a question that would certainly draw a "Yes" response (Bush responding that no one convicted of a crime in this affair would have a place in his administration), the reporter could later claim that Bush had retroactively made the reporter's false premise true!

And after that bit of legerdemain, all the news media may take it as read that "Bush initially pledged to fire any leakers." See how easy that was? Though we must absolve Ms. Benac of blame, for she is an honorable woman.

  • In a way, the whole Wilson saga can be traced back to Cheney and Bush. It was Cheney's interest in the alleged Iraq-Niger deal that led the CIA to dispatch Wilson to Africa.

Well, so sayeth Mr. Wilson. He claims that:

In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report.

But Condoleezza Rice, then National Security Advisor and now Secretary of State, and a hot tomato in both positions, begs to demur. From a CNN transcript of an interview with Wolf Blitzer, posted by JustOneMinute a couple of years ago:

BLITZER: Who sent [Wilson]?

RICE: Well, it was certainly not a level that had anything to do with the White House, and I do not believe at a level that had anything to do with the leadership of the CIA.

BLITZER: Supposedly, it came at the request of the vice president.

RICE: No, this is simply not true, and this is something that's been perpetuated that we simply have to straighten out.

The vice president did not ask that Joe Wilson go to Niger. The vice president did not know. I don't think he knew who Joe Wilson was, and he certainly didn't know that he was going.

It's still possible that the CIA simply misled poor Joe Wilson into thinking the VP really wanted to know; but if so, why would they send a retired ambassador with no expertise in either Iraq or WMD, no experience as an investigator, and who did not even work for the Company? Heck, they could at least have sent the man's wife instead. In any event, official denials of the administration should disallow AP -- for they are all honorable, all honorable persons -- from stating as fact what is still in dispute.

  • And it [was] Bush's use of the debunked claim in his State of the Union address that led Wilson to publish his doubts.

Just in case you missed it the first time; for being honorable men, they could not do otherwise than to remind you. And women... honorable women.

I'm afraid I have spoilt it for you after all, those intrepid few who read to the end of this post. But don't fret: I'm sure these honorable persons, variously male and female, will give us another incredible story to digest tomorrow!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 24, 2005, at the time of 2:06 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

October 22, 2005

The 800 Pound Gorelick

Able Danger for the Masses , Terrorism Intelligence , Terrorist Attacks
Hatched by Dafydd

I'm quite reluctant to run with this, considering the source -- actually, considering both the original and the reporting sources! -- but what the heck. Consider yourselves duly cautioned: objects in the mirror may be farther than they appear. alleges that Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) now alleges that the staffer who actually blocked the 9/11 Commission from hearing testimony about Able Danger was none other than Dieter Snell, one of the chief investigating lawyers on the commission and a former prosecutor of Ramzi Yousef for the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 -- and that Snell, according to Weldon, was "the lead staffer for Jamie Gorelick." It's this last part that is a new claim, a supposed direct connection between Snell and Gorelick... and that is the part I cannot independently verify.

(I am guessing this is why Captain Ed has not yet commented on this: he is waiting for some verification of the central claim.)

It has been known for some time that it was Snell who did not pass along Navy Captain Scott Philpot's testimony to the commission; for example, consider these two postings on National Review Online's blog the Corner, two posts the same day (August 20th, 2005) by Andrew McCarthy:

This is a troublesome story, we don’t know all the facts, and I happen to know and be fond of Dieter Snell--the Commission staffer who did the interview of the naval intel officer [Scott Philpot] -- so if Snell found him unpersuasive, that carries a lot of weight with me. ("WANT TO REPHRASE THAT?," at 4:52 am)

As I've noted with respect to the former, we don't know enough about what happened, and the fact that someone as able as commission staffer Dieter Snell appears to have rejected the naval officer's information gives me cause for pause. ("THE POINT IS TRAINING AND FOCUS, NOT ASSOCIATIVE MEMORY," at 10:45 am)

But Weldon now claims that Dietrich Dieter Snell was "the lead staffer for Jamie Gorelick." Alas, I cannot find any definitive evidence that Snell was specifically working for Gorelick, as opposed simply to being the lead investigative staffer (or one of the leads) for the commission as a whole. Also, I'm not sure how much weight to give this even if true: I can't find any connection between Gorelick and Snell prior to the 9/11 Commission. If that is correct, then the mere fact that he was appointed her staffer -- if he actually was, that is -- wouldn't mean he would necessarily collaborate with her on some deep conspiracy to keep Able Danger out of the public eye in order to hide the damage caused by what I called "Jamie Gorelick's wall of separation between intelligence and law enforcement" back on Captain's Quarters.

Until I see much stronger evidence of some prior connection between Snell and Gorelick than the mere fact that he was an investigator on the commission that she (and many others) sat on, I'm not going to believe in a conspiracy arising between the two... despite the fact that Rep. Weldon has been right more often than wrong on this issue.

Commenters with knowledge of this specific question -- the actual connection, if any, between Snell and Gorelick -- are urged to share.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 22, 2005, at the time of 11:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 19, 2005

ab Hugh's Universal Rules of Intelligence

Futurism , Scaley Classics , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Thinking about the many intelligence failures -- the collapse of the Shah of Iran, the failure to find "large stockpiles" of WMD in Iraq, the tragic case of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes, shot to death in London by police who mistook him for a suicide bomber -- and about the many intelligence successes (all those terrible terrorist attacks that didn't occur on American soil because they were thwarted -- suggests some rules of intelligence and analysis that we should always keep in mind:

1. The Law of Imperfect Precognition: Sometimes there is no "right choice." Throw the dice.

2. The Law of Imperfect Postcognition: Not even hindsight is ever really 20-20.

3. The Law of Colliding Interests: Five different people can each make a rational decision and still wind up in a melee.

4. The Law of the Onion: There is always another layer of analysis that contradicts everything you've already concluded. At some point, you just have to stop.

5. The Law of Models: There is a real reality out there, whether you can see it or not. And it will bite.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 19, 2005, at the time of 7:32 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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