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by George LoBuono
Thursday, Aug. 12, 2004 at 5:18 PM
The politicization of spy work
Bush’s Plan to Build a Better Octopus
Bush’s nomination of Republican Congressman Porter Goss to be CIA Director raises
questions far beyond those of the 911 Commission Report. Criticized as “partisan” by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, among others, Goss, like his predecessor Tenet, has no prior experience running a large organization. Goss was a co-sponsor of the much-feared Patriot II proposal.
Former CIA Director Stansfield Turner described the Goss nomination as the worst in US history. In a July 7 interview on Antiwar.com, former CIA officer Ray McGovern said that to have Goss as director “would be the ultimate in politicization---he has long shown himself to be under the spell of Vice President Dick Cheney, and would likely report primarily to him and to White House political adviser Karl Rove rather than to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.”
McGovern said Goss can be expected to help Bush lay blame for 9-11 on intelligence failures, to make it look as though Bush, himself, was misled about weapons of mass destruction. Although Goss isn’t likely to remain in his post long if Bush loses in November, Goss’ partisan credentials suggest that the “new” CIA won’t really be steered toward independent analysis, but will continue to be influenced by Bush’s personal policy apparatus.
The radio show Democracy Now reports that a few months ago, Goss told a Florida newspaper that controversy over possible White House exposure of CIA agent, Valerie Plame, appeared to be political and didn’t rate a House inquiry. Goss, who serves on a CIA oversight committee, said he would look into the matter if he had evidence and added, "Somebody sends me a blue dress and some DNA, I'll have an investigation."
Ironically, pursuant to his role in intelligence oversight, Goss and Sen. Bob Graham were meeting with Gen. Muhmed Ahmed, head of Pakistan’s ISI, when new of the 9-11 attack on the twin towers broke. The ISI reportedly gave 0,000 to al Queda shortly before the attack.
Both Bush and Kerry now favor creating a new, cabinet-level czar with more than 200 hundred new employees in an office that would supervise all US intelligence, putting the CIA Director directly beneath a supervisor for the first time. Like Bush’s Patriot Act and Homeland Security, Bush’s intelligence plan looks like a quick fix, but at what cost?
First off, many within the CIA are unreceptive to being placed beneath yet another political appointee. Appointed CIA directors have long been isolated from career CIA officials. As a result, there are actually two different agencies: one the province of the director and his suborns, the other a mono-culture run by lifelong agents reluctant to share what they do with the director.
Apart from streamlining US intelligence on paper, which could, conceivably, make it easier for Bush to manipulate intelligence toward partisan policy ends, Bush’s plan would do little to make such agencies independently accountable. Even with a new czar, Bush isn’t likely to get better day-to-day control over either the NSA, or the Defense Intelligence Agency--which has always remained aloof from civilian administrators.
So, aside from pleasing the electorate, what are Bush and his advisors actually up to?
If we take a few steps back from the current dilemma, we see that the 9-11 commission spent little time investigating the underlying causes for the 9-11 attack. Instead, their report suggests that 9-11 was due to short-term intelligence and security lapses. Apart from labeling Bin Laden and his followers irrational “extremists,” where does it address misguided US policies that were foisted on the Mideast before 9-11? Where does it note the Bush family’s self-serving accommodation of the Saudi monarchy, CIA training and funding of al Queda militants during the Cold War, and, in a different vein, CIA cultivation of an assassin-psychopath named Saddam Hussein--long before he became president of Iraq?
Nowhere. The 9-11 report talks about managing external threats in order to make global business easier for Americans, irrespective of their values and their impact abroad. Obviously, everything is not different after 9-11.
Rather than rush to create yet another secret office within the alphabet soup of black budget agencies that have proliferated since Truman’s time, Congress needs to plan out a better, long-term strategy for global security. Rather than concentrate power within a Fourth Estate run by old-industry aristocrats, yet another opportunity for retreads like Admiral Poindexter and Elliot Abrams to do their dirty work, Congress needs to step back and plan for a better, albeit more complex, human future.
For those who remember the CIA’s Operation Chaos, which used criminal methods to sow disorder among critics of the Vietnam war, here at home, and the CIA’s trafficking of heroin during the same time period (there were other crimes, later, of course), Congress’ sudden urge to create a taller spy palace isn’t comforting. When a president who rarely reads newspapers wants to consolidate all intelligence into an octopus that he can more easily manage, Congress should remain deeply wary. Apparently, however, it hasn’t said much. Why not?
We all know how money can corrupt the process, but how many of us know, as Michael Moore was told by a congressman in his movie Fahrenheit 9-11, that members of Congress don’t even read through the bills that they sign? According to one member of Congress, Hank Brown of Colorado was the only senator who actually read the 30,000 page GATT legislation, which founded the World Trade Organization (the WTO). After reading the legislation, Brown decided against it. Nonetheless, it passed under Clinton. Now, unelected, essentially private WTO panels can overrule other nations’ legislatures, invalidating some of their laws. California was told it couldn’t ban the gas additive MTBE because that would harm MTBE’s Canadian manufacturer. So, MTBE, a known carcinogen that gets into public drinking water, is still used in California.
As for 9-11, rather than erode every citizen’s first amendment rights in response to a few hijackings by 18 men with boxcutters, shouldn’t we try to refine the basic forms of government that we already have in place, instead? Maybe what we need to do is get rid of a few of those criminal CIA proprietaries, rather than create another layer of bureaucracy to hide them. When the budget deficit for 2004 is projected to reach 445 billion dollars, shouldn’t we be thinking about laying off a few of those poor, overworked CIA agents whose job it is to manage the flow of heroin profits into US coffers? We’d save money and spare the lives of numerous addicts (and police) while we’re at it.
The 911 Commission report neglects to mention the FBI supervisor who refused to let subordinates open a suspected al Queda terrorist’s computer hard drive before 9-11 when agent Cowleen Rowley asked to do so. Not only did Bush’s FBI fail to fire Rowley’s supervisor, it awarded the man a bonus while the issue was still high in the headlines.
During a crisis, it’s easy to herd legislators into creating yet another intelligence monstrosity, but how easy is it to get rid of such a thing later? History has shown that secret bureaucracies like those created under the1947 National Security Act cannot be controlled effectively, let alone disbanded, once they’ve been funded. Profiteering and corruption flourishes when it goes unseen.
If we look but a few generations forward in time, it’s easy to see that Bush’s current drift toward Big Brother bureaucracy is headed toward what may be one of future humankind’s worst dangers, one that vastly exceeds the risk of terrorism. Dwindling oil supplies, coupled with increased energy demands by a growing population will test the effectiveness of all nations’ governments. If Bush’s forecast is correct and mountain meadows will cease to exist during this century (along with many coastal cities, according to climatologists), any drift away from basic constitutional guarantees will only handicap the planet’s ability to resolve such crises.
Given the 9-11 commission’s narrowly-focused, if not mechanistic look at conditions that led to the 9-11 disaster, we shouldn’t leap to enact all of the report’s recommendations in short order. Terrorism isn’t defeated by endless warfare, by attempts to kill or imprison all foreigners who so hate a given country that they’re willing to kill innocents in desperation.
A broader minded approach is our only logical recourse, not an Orwellian nightmare.
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