Posts Tagged ‘CIA’

Julian Assange: enemy of the state

April 26, 2017

Power corrupts, the saying goes, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  If a government has the power to commit crimes in secret, and to punish people for revealing its crimes, what limit is there on its absolute power.

That is why Julian Assange, the founder and leader of Wikileaks, is a hero.  He has sacrificed his freedom and risked his life to make known crimes and abuses by the U.S. and other governments.

Here’s what he said about his aims back in 2006—

The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie.  This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive “secrecy tax”) and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption.

Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are non-linearly hit relative to open, just systems.  Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.

Only revealed injustice can be answered; for man to do anything intelligent he has to know what’s actually going on.

Source: IQ.ORG

Of course this is inherently dangerous.  Making powerful immoral people paranoid about having their crimes revealed will reduce the effectiveness of those powerful immoral people, either by damaging their reputations or making them afraid to communicate with each other or both.   But it’s a given that if you keep it up, these powerful people will use their power against you.

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CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in a recent speech that Assange’s Wikileaks should be suppressed because it is a “non-state hostile intelligence service.”  In other words, Wikileaks gathers information that governments don’t want it to know, and publishes it—just like any other muckraking news organization.

The difference is that Wikileaks, like other publishers, gathers intelligence on behalf of the public and not a foreign government.   If you say the distinction doesn’t matter, then freedom of the press does not include the right to tell the truth; it means nothing except the right to express mere opinion.

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Can intelligence agencies overturn the election?

January 12, 2017

The following is by Lambert Strether on the Naked Capitalism web log.

Since November 8 we’ve had four crises of legitimacy of escalating intensity, each one pointing to a change in the Constitutional order.

  • First, we had Stein’s recount effort, justified in part by a(n unproven) theory that “Russian hacking” had affected the vote tallies.  (Recall that 50% of Clinton voters believe this, although no evidence has ever been produced for it, it’s technically infeasible at scale, and statistically improbable.)  Since the “Russian hacking” theory was derived from intelligence not shown to the public, the change to the Constitutional order would be that the Intelligence Community (IC) would gain a veto over the legitimacy of a President during a transfer of power; veto power that would be completely unaccountable, since IC sources and methods would not be disclosed.
  • Second, we had the (hilariously backfired) campaign to have “faithless electors” appoint somebody other than Trump to be President.  Here again, the change in the Constitutional order was exactly the same, as (Clintonite) electors clamored to be briefed by the IC on material that would not be shown to the public, giving the IC veto power over the appointment of a President after the vote tallies had been certified.
  • office_of_the_director_of_national_intelligence_seal_usaThird, we had the IC’s JAR report, which in essence accused the President-elect of treason (a capital offense).  Here again the publicly available evidence of that quite sloppy report has been shredded, so in essence we have an argument from IC authority that secret evidence they control disqualifies the President elect, so the change in the Constitutional order is the same.
  • Fourth, we have the “Golden Showers” report, which again is an argument from IC authority, and so again gives the IC veto power over a President appointed by the Electoral College. 

Needless to say, once we give the IC veto power over a President before the vote is tallied, and before the electoral college votes, and after the electoral college votes but before the oath of office and the Inaugural, we’re never going to be able to take it back.

This is a crossing the Rubicon moment.  Now, you can say this is unique, not normal, an exceptional case, but “sovereign is he who decides on the exception” (Nazi legal theorist Carl Schmidt).  And who then is the sovereign?  The IC.  Is that what liberals want?

Source: naked capitalism

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The unclassified report on Russian hacking

January 7, 2017

The unclassified CIA-FBI-NSA report asserts that they have “high confidence” that Russian intelligence agencies hacked the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign in order to elect Donald Trump.

office_of_the_director_of_national_intelligence_seal_usaPossible motives are retaliation for the Panama Papers leaks, the reports on Russian doping of Olympic athletes, and activities of the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy in Russia.

But the report presents no actual evidence that this happened.   All it says is that Vladimir Putin hoped Donald Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton, which is plainly true, and that this is the sort of thing that Putin would do, which might well be true.  Most of the report is devoted to analysis of anti-Clinton reporting by RT News, a Russian-funded TV news broadcaster.

It’s possible that the conclusion is true, but the report does not consider alternative explanations, such as leaks by a disgruntled DNC employee.   It does not describe the scope of the investigation—for example, whether the FBI had access to the DNC e-mails, or relied on the word of the DNC contractor, or whether it used NSA signal intelligence.

Maybe the classified version of the report does answer the unanswered questions.   I look forward with great interest to the congressional investigation.

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Senator Schumer on the power of the deep state

January 5, 2017

The new leader of Democrats in the Senate says Donald Trump is being “really dumb” for picking a fight with intelligence officials, suggesting they have ways to strike back, after the president-elect speculated Tuesday that his “so-called” briefing about Russian cyberattacks had been delayed in order to build a case.

“Let me tell you: You take on the intelligence community — they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer Tuesday evening on MSNBC after host Rachel Maddow informed him that intelligence sources told NBC news that the briefing had not been delayed. 

“So, even for a practical supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this,” he added.

Source: Washington Examiner

Think about what Schumer said.   He said the Central Intelligence Agency is more powerful than the elected President of the United States, and the President is a fool to challenge the CIA.

Is this compatible with democracy?  with Constitutional government?

This is an example of the power of what’s been called the Deep State—interlocking institutions with power over public policy that are not accountable to the public.

Presumably President Obama was not such a “fool” as to take on the CIA, even if he disagreed with its conclusions.  This would explain a lot about his decisions on foreign and military policy.

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Did the DNC leaks really affect the election?

December 17, 2016

I have learned throughout my long life never to say that some powerful person or institution could not have done a certain thing because doing would have been idiotic.

150px-fsbBut it certainly would have been idiotic for Russian intelligence agents to think they could influence the 2016 election by leaking e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief.

And while that isn’t proof that they weren’t the leakers, it is a reason to reserve judgment.

The Clinton campaign leaks had little or no effect on the election outcome.  All they did was to confirm what some of us already thought about how the DNC was tied in with the Clinton primary election campaign, and Clinton was tied in with her rich donor friends.  If I had been pro-Clinton, this would not have been new information that would have changed my mind.

Within my circle of friends, I don’t know anybody who cared much about the Clinton campaign leaks.  On the other hand, everybody I know who ever handled classified information was upset by the FBI reports on Clinton’s mishandling of classified information.

The CIA statements of about possible Russian involvement in the Clinton campaign leaks have had much greater impact on American public opinion than the leaks themselves ever did.

Where is the National Security Agency in all this?  All this is in the NSA area of expertise.  The NSA would have better information than the FBI or CIA.

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That leaked CIA report on the Russian menace

December 16, 2016

CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou made a point about the New York Times and Washington Post reports on a secret CIA report on Russian hacking of Democratic campaign e-mails.

Oh, and by the way – the release of the CIA report, or information from the CIA report, is an act of espionage as defined by the Obama Justice Department: “Providing national security information to any person not entitled to receive it.”  I wonder who’s going to be charged with that leak.  Yeah, right.

Source: CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou

I’ve often thought that the purpose of most government classification of information is to be able to leak secrets to favored people.

The CIA and FBI in the 2016 election

December 15, 2016

During the election campaign, FBI statements about Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information hurt her and helped Donald Trump.

CIA statements about alleged Russian hacking of Clinton campaign e-mails hurt Trump and helped Clinton.  As it turns out, the FBI counter-intelligence service is not convinced that it was the Russians who hacked the Clinton campaign.

cia-logoAnd, in fact, Craig Murray, a former British diplomat and human rights activist close to Julian Assange, claims to have personal knowledge that the Clinton campaign leaks came from a disgruntled Democratic campaign staffer.

President Obama wants the “intelligence community” to produce a report on whether Russian intelligence agencies have interfered in U.S. elections going back to 2008.  And he wants the report done before Donald Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20, which seems like an impossible deadline to produce anything more than informed—or uniformed—opinion.

Meanwhile Democrats who are trying to change the Electoral College vote want the electors to be briefed by the CIA on alleged Russian inference.

I have no evidence that the disagreements between the FBI and CIA are any more than an honest difference of opinion.   Even if that is so, I don’t like the idea of presidential candidates being vetted by the CIA.

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What it would take to rein in the Deep State

February 1, 2016

DeepState51cdQwM-Z8LMike Lofgren’s new book, The Deep State, describes the interlocking  U.S. military-industrial complex, financial oligarchy and police state which is not subject to either the rule of law or democratic control.   The particulars of his description are available in the previous two posts and in the linked articles.

Here’s what I think needs to be done in order to rein in the Deep State.

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authoritarianism9fd18cCongress should exercise the power of the purse to prevent the President from committing acts of war on his or her own initiative.  President Obama has stated that he considers himself free to attack foreign countries by means of bombing from the air, killer drones and Special Operations because these things are not war.  It is only war when large numbers of American ground troops are involved.

Refusing to levy taxes is the historic method used by parliaments and national assemblies to force absolute monarchs to cease aggressive wars and submit to the rule of law.  The U.S. precedent is the Case-Church Amendment of 1973 forced a cutoff of funds for military operations in Vietnam after August 15 of that year, and brought the Vietnam Conflict to an end.

Congress should pass a resolution ending funding for military operations and military aid and subsidies in the Middle East after a specific deadline, except for what is specifically authorized by Congress.

And if the executive refused to comply with that resolution?  The Constitutional remedy for this is impeachment.

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Congress should pass a law allowing prosecuted whistle-blowers to be acquitted if they can show that the information they revealed was kept secret in order to cover up lawbreaking, incompetence or failure, to limit business competition, or to suppress information that is not related to national security.

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How the Deep State can resist democracy

February 1, 2016

DeepState51cdQwM-Z8LThe Deep State is author Mike Lofgren’s term for power centers in Washington, Wall Street and, to an extent, Silicon Valley that determine government policy, yet operate in secret, without accountability to the law or democratic control.

He wrote in The Deep State that the USA is condemned to unending war and economic decline unless the power of the Deep State can be overthrown.

But can it be overthrown?

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Let’s look at the means the Deep State has to protect itself.

The power of moneyWall Street banks and military contractors have more money available to influence elections than any of their critics do.  The Supreme Court has ruled the corporate entities have the same rights as individual human beings, and that spending money can be an exercise of the right of free speech, so there is no practical limit on how much money can be spent on a campaign.

The power of subversionThe FBI has a long history of infiltrating civil rights and peace organizations with informers and undermining them from within.  Ditto for the CIA in foreign elections.  If the FBI and CIA felt threatened, is there any doubt they would use whatever tools they had to protect themselves?

DeepState-e1398185022722The power of information.  The NSA has the means of learning the personal habits and behavior of every American.  Who is there who doesn’t have something in their background that looks bad, or can be made to look bad?  The precedent for this is the FBI’s spying on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and its dissemination of information about his sex life.

The power of repression.  The police crackdown on the Occupy Wall Street movement, which was coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security, shows how the government treats peaceful protest movements as national security threats.

Suppressing the vote.  Many techniques exist for suppressing the vote or making votes meaningless.  New laws intentionally make it more difficult for members of targeted groups to vote or easier to disqualify them from voting.  The Dieboldt electronic voting machines allow vote tampering. and there is some evidence this is happening.

Financial power.  When President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he intended to propose an ambitious program of public workers.  He never did, because he was told this would cause the “bond markets” to lose confidence in him, and interest rates to rise, choking off the economic recovery and increasing the national debt.  If a future President attempted to curb the power of Wall Street, is there any doubt that the financial markets would “lose confidence” in him or her?

Economic dependence.   The Department of Defense and other parts of the Deep State employ millions of people, almost all of them honest, patriotic people who believe they are serving their country.  Reducing the size of these institutions to what’s needed to defend the country would throw many of them out of work.  Without some alternative, this would not only damage the lives of these individuals, but possibly throw the country into recession.

Learned helplessness.  Many Americans have come to think of economic oligarchy and perpetual war as facts of life, about which nothing can be done.

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Mike Lofgren and the Deep State

January 30, 2016

This Bill Moyers broadcast is from 2014

Mike Lofgren is a Washington insider.  He was a Republican congressional staff member for 28 years, including 16 years as a senior analyst on the House and Senate budget committees.

DeepState51cdQwM-Z8LHe has written a book, THE DEEP STATE: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, about governmental and private institutions that operate above the law, and independently of the will of the citizens, and how they interlock in ways that mutually reinforce their power.

The Deep State includes the bankers who were prosecuted for financial fraud because they were “too big to fail” and CIA torturers who were not prosecuted or dismissed because that would demoralize the agency.

It is the force that makes the government engage in bank bailouts, warrant-less surveillance and undeclared wars.  It is the force that has made the American public accept endless war and economic stagnation as normal.  It is the explanation of why partisan gridlock and financial sequesters never affect the availability of money to subsidize foreign military forces.

Lofgren’s Deep State includes President Eisenhower’s “military industrial complex”, the FBI, CIA and NSA and their supposed overseers in Congress and the federal courts, Wall Street and its supposed overseers in the Treasury and Justice departments, and Silicon Valley.

They work together, and have revolving doors through which people can move from one to another—for example, General David Petreaus, after his retirement from the military, to a seven-figure job at KKR, a Wall Street private equity form.

None of this is the result of a conscious conspiracy, Lofgren wrote.  It is a natural evolution of power without accountability, and the “group-think” of people who never have their assumptions questioned.

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Obama and the CIA: a conspiracy hypothesis

January 8, 2016

For years my friend Daniel Brandt has been telling me about circumstantial evidence that the young Barack Obama and his mother, Ann Dunham, had connections to the Central Intelligence Agency.

I never tried to delve into the truth of this.  I believe that the undisputed known facts are so appalling, and so ignored, that there is no point in using my limited time, energy and brainpower in speculating on what lies beyond my knowledge.

However, a blogger named Joseph Cannon did that work for me.  What he found is, shall I say, very interesting, although, as he himself wrote, not absolutely conclusive.  Here are links to Cannon’s posts on this topic.

The money: A spooky story.   (2008)

Spies, lies, Barry and his mom.  (2008)

Tim Geithner’s dad, Barack Obama’s mom and the CIA (2009)

Obama, the passport scandal and a murder (2009)

“The name’s Obama – BARACK Obama” (2009)

Obama’s parents and the CIA (2012)

Shadow government (2016)

As Cannon notes, all his evidence is circumstantial.  It is not proof.  But if true, it explains a lot—especially why President Obama gave impunity to torturers and other war criminals, and waged an unprecedented war on whistle-blowers.  There would be just too much that the CIA had on file that Obama couldn’t afford to have known.

My own attitude toward Obama is not based on speculation as to what he and his mother did in the 1970s and 1980s.  It is based on his record as President.

Obama is what he is—someone who has continued the Bush policy of invading foreign countries that do not threaten us, someone who claims the right to order the death of anyone he says is a threat or a potential threat to the nation, someone who has recommitted the country to endless war.

The passing scene – August 18, 2015

August 18, 2015

Peculiarities of Russian National Character by Dmitry Orlov for ClubOrlov.

Expansion of Russia Under the Czars.

Dmitry Orlov provided good insight into Russian history and how Russians deal with enemies and invaders.  But he neglected Russian expansionism.   It wasn’t by successful defense that the Russian Tsars acquired one-sixth of the world’s land surface, the largest empire in history except for the short-lived Mongol Empire.

Orlov mentioned President Putin’s offer to European nations to join his Eurasian Economic Union instead of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.  I’m glad that no important European leaders are interested in Putin’s EEU, but Russia and its partners, as exporters of energy and raw materials, would complement Europe’s manufacturing industry, and I presume that Putin’s proposed agreement doesn’t involve special privileges for multinational corporations.

Permaculture and the Myth of Overpopulation by Lisa DePiano for the Permaculture Research Institute.

Environmental degradation is due more to the behavior of rich people than to the number of poor people, and it is due more to unjust systems than to large families.   Lisa DePiano rightly says that people of good will should focus on self-determination, including reproductive rights, and not talk about human population as if it is a problem in wildlife management.

Why Bill Clinton’s Apology and Barack Obama’s Prison Drive-By Token Clemencies Are Election-Year Posturing by Bruce A. Dixon for the Black Agenda Report.

Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, through their ability to relate to African-Americans on the emotional level, have won their votes even though their policies promoted mass incarceration of black people..

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What we weren’t told about bin Laden’s killing

May 11, 2015

Almost everything we’ve been told about the killing of Osama bin Laden four years ago is a lie, according to Seymour M. Hersh.  He reported in the current issue of London Review of Books that:

  • The raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound four years ago was done with the full knowledge of the Pakistani government.  Helicopters carrying the Navy SEAL team were never in danger of being intercepted as they entered Pakistan.
  • Osama bin Laden was no longer in operational campaign of Al Qaeda and the raid did not yield a trove of valuable intelligence.
  • His location was disclosed by means of a tip from someone in Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), who wanted the $25 million reward offered by the CIA.   In particular, interrogation and torture played no role.
  • President Obama broke promises to the government of Pakistan to keep the raid a secret.
  • Almost everything that has been reported about the details of the raid is untrue.   It was more like a gangland-style execution than anything else.
  • The SEAL team was ordered to kill Osama, not to bring him back, which would have been feasible.  He knew too much that the governments of the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia could not have afforded to make known.

al_qaidas_no_2_issues_eulogy_for_bin_laden-362x307How much credence does this deserve?  Hersh’s article is based entirely on information from insiders who are not quoted by name.  How can we be sure they’re telling the truth if we don’t know who they are?

It depends on how much you trust Hersh.  You have to believe that he is an honest person, which I do, and that he is an experienced and capable reporter, which he is.  I trust him more than I do the government.  You also have to believe that the people he quoted are honest people who know what they are talking about.

A great deal of leaked information is from people who have an ulterior purpose, but I can’t see how anybody who talked to Hersh has anything to gain except the desire to make the truth known or to disassociate themselves from lies.

The lesson of this is not to assume that anything the government announces is necessarily true, unless it can be independently confirmed.  This is not a new lesson, but it is an easy one—for me, at least—to forget.

LINK

The Killing of Osama bin Laden by Seymour M. Hersh for the London Review of Books.

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A wall of secrecy hides graft and waste

December 29, 2014

In his new book, PAY ANY PRICE: Greed, Power and Endless War, which I finished reading last week, James Risen revealed the mass of corruption, waste, incompetence and failure hidden behind the wall of secrecy around the CIA and the rest of the Homeland Security state.

The CIA and other secret agencies after 9/11 acquired enormous new powers of surveillance and control of ordinary American citizens.  But this only worked in one direction.  Ordinary American citizens had no knowledge of how their money was being wasted nor any way to hold culprits accountable.

Risen.PayAnyPrice41oSAThe basic problem was that, after 9/11, the security agencies were literally given more power and more money than they knew what to do with.

The decision-makers did not have a plan in place to wage a “war on terror,” but they plunged ahead anyway.

The imperatives of government bureaucracy are such that if you have money and resources, you had better use them, usefully or not, or else some other government bureaucracy will claim them.  Much of policy was shaped by the struggle for power and prestige.

One reason the CIA embraced torture was to expand its role in the war on terror.  One reason the American Psychological Association changed its ethics code to allow cooperation with CIA interrogators was to improve the standing of psychologists at the expense of psychiatrists.

Two psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who had been trainers for the Air Force on how to withstand torture if taken prisoner, received millions of dollars in grants to reverse engineer the program for CIA interrogators.

The problem, as is now well known, is that the training program was based on Communists techniques intended to elicit false confessions.  It generated false statements about Saddam Hussein to justify the Iraq invasion, but, as the Senate torture report confirmed, it never produced useful information.   I find it hard to believe that torture never produced any useful information, but multiple sources, not just Risen, say this is so.

James Risen

James Risen

While the CIA attempted to duplicate the mission of Special Operations troops, the Pentagon set up an intelligence operation to compete with the CIA.  The Pentagon set up dummy corporations which became entangled with money launderers and arms smugglers in the Middle East.

The program was terminated, and Special Operations spokesman denied knowledge of the dummy corporations. An FBI investigation was begun and then called off.  Risen uncovered many suspicious associations but no proof of wrongdoing.  Probably nobody except those directly involved will know for sure.

Kellogg Brown Root, originally a Halliburton subsidiary, is a prime example of profiteering in Iraq.  KBR was given a no-bid contract to supply troops in Iraq, a job which otherwise would have to be done by troops.  This helped make it possible for the USA to go to war without a draft.  But there was no oversight, either of quality or waste of money.  Some 18 American troops died of electrocution blamed by faulty wiring installed by KBR.

Calling attention to problems through regular channels didn’t help.  Risen told of loyal employees within the government who reported lawbreaking, graft and waste to higher authority, all going through proper channels, and were sidetracked and reprimanded for their pains.

There are individuals who have much to answer for, but the corruption that Risen described is systemic.  It is the predictable result of what happens if you give people enormous authority and funding to use in secret, without meaningful accountability from above and without being subject to the law and Constitution.

The only people suffering legal consequences are the truth-tellers.  Risen himself is being prosecuted by the government for refusing to reveal his sources of information for his previous book, State of War.  His response, he wrote, is to go on writing.

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The Government War Against Reporter James Risen by Norman Solomon and Marcy Wheeler for The Nation.  [Added 12/30/14]

‘Even if torture works, it cannot be tolerated’

December 11, 2014
John Kiriakou

John Kiriakou

Even if torture works, it cannot be tolerated — not in one case or a thousand or a million.  If their efficacy becomes the measure of abhorrent acts, all sorts of unspeakable crimes somehow become acceptable.  
I may have found myself on the wrong side of government on torture.  But I’m on the right side of history. …
There are things we should not do, even in the name of national security.  One of them, I now firmly believe is torture.
        ==John Kiriakou, former CIA officer.

Thoughts about the Senate torture report

December 10, 2014

Cowardice is the mother of cruelty.
        ==Essays of Montaigne

When I was younger, I liked to watch action movies about World War Two.  The heroes would fall into the hands of a Nazi officer who would say in a thick accent, “Ve have vays of making you talk.”

Years from now action movies will be made in which the villainous torturer will be an American.

CIACROP-480x270I have always understood that the United States has a history of vigilantism, lynching and lawless violence, but I never thought, until 10 or 12 years ago, that Americans were capable of the cold cruelty of the Spanish Inquisition or the Soviet and fascist dictators.

Torture is the ultimate crime against human dignity.  It is worse than the taking of human life, because it is aimed at killing the human mind and spirit while keeping the body alive.

The Founders of the United States understood this well.  That is why the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states that no one can be “compelled” to testify against themselves and the Eighth Amendment forbids “cruel and unusual punishment.”

I remember conversations 10 years back with friends of mine who call themselves liberals.  What if there were an atomic bomb under Manhattan Island attached to a timing device to blow it up, and what if I had the person who knew about the bomb in custody?  Wouldn’t I torture the person?

I would rather live under some small risk, or even a great risk, than live in a country that institutionalized torture, like some European dictatorship in the 1930s.   I would be ashamed to be part of the generation of Americans that gave up the Constitution out of fear.

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The passing scene: November 13, 2014

November 13, 2014

Thank you for your service by Elizabeth Herrin for Medium.

All of My Friends Are Dying by Vince Emanuele for World News Daily.

John Fogarty defends ‘Fortunate Son’ song choice at Concert for Valor by Randy Lewis for the Los Angeles Times.  (via Bill Harvey)

Can you honor veterans for their service, while still thinking that the war they served in was wrong, or even that all wars are wrong?  My answer is: Yes.

College Athletes of the World, Unite by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for Jacobin magazine.  (via Bill Harvey)

I thought that star college athletes had it good, but evidently not.  This article was an eye-opener for me.

The Mystery of Ray McGovern’s Arrest by Ray McGovern for Consortium News.

CIA critic Ray McGovern was arrested for trying to attend a panel discussion in which CIA ex-chief David Patraeus participated.  His ticket was bought under somebody else’s name.  So how did the police at the door know to be on the lookout for him?

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The foreign scene: November 4, 2014

November 4, 2014

EU unblocks ‘unprecedented levels’ of cash to secure gas for Ukraine on the EurActiv news site.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

Ukraine Dips Into Dwindling Reserves to Pay Gazprom by Kenneth Rapoza for Forbes.

The International Monetary Fund will lend Ukraine the money needed to buy gas from Russia’s Gazprom, which will continue to sell gas to Ukraine at a subsidized rate.  This means Ukrainians, but European Union members who depend on Russian gas, will get safely through the winter.

It also means Ukraine will be in hock to the IMF, which will have to impose austerity on the Ukrainian people and sell off national assets, such as agricultural land, to pay back the IMF loan.  It is a win-win deal for everyone except the unfortunate Ukrainian people.

Dr. Adadevoh

Dr. Adadevoh

Doctor Stella Adadevoh Isolated Ebola Case, Stopped Nigaria Outbreak by Jonathan Cohn for The New Republic.

Nigeria is free of new Ebola outbreaks, and has been for more than six weeks.   This is an important accomplishment.  It would not have been the case except for a brave Nigerian physician, Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, who acted promptly to isolate an Ebola carrier and lost her own life to infection.

North Korea’s Gulags: a horror “without any parallel in the contemporary world” by Max Fisher for Vox.

The biggest CIA-drug money scandal you never read by Mark Ames for Pando Daily.

 

Law and justice: November 2, 2014

November 2, 2014

 Why Innocent People Plead Guilty by Jed S. Rakoff for The New York Review of Books.

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury … .”   Yet few Americans charged with crimes ever go before a jury, and the U.S. criminal justice system would likely break down if they did.

The prosecutor threatens the defendant with the severest charge with the worst punishment if they insist on trial, and promise a less serious charge and lighter sentence if they plead guilty.

Innocent people sometimes do plead guilty.  About 10 percent of those exonerated of charges of rape and murder under the Innocence Project had accepted plea bargains and pleaded guilty.

Former CIA Analyst Ray McGovern Arrested While Trying to Attend David Petraeus Event in New York by Kevin Gosztola for Firedoglake.   (Hat tip to Mike Connelly)

Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst and current CIA critic, was arrested and roughed up Thursday when he tried to attend a talk by David Petareus, fomer CIA director, with Lt. Col. John Nagi, a tank commander during the 1991 Gulf War, and Max Boot, a neoconservativ writer.  McGovern had bought a ticket to the event for $45.

Interestingly, the police recognized the 74-year-old McGovern and his peace activist friends by sight.  The friends also were barred despite having bought tickets.  No doubt this is the result of McGovern being on the State Department’s BOLO (be on the lookout) list.

The IRS Can Seize Your Cash Through Forfeiture by Erin Fuchs for Business Insider.  (Hat tip to tiffany267)

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “no person shall … be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”

But the Internal Revenue Service can seize your bank account without any warning if IRS officers think you have too many bank accounts under $10,000 and they suspect you are trying to evade a bank regulation regarding reporting of all bank accounts of $10,000 or more.

Gideon’s Army at Guantanamo by Phil Hirschkorn for Just Security.

Lawyers fight secrecy and eavesdropping to give accused terrorists at Guantanamo Bay a fair defense.  They say they’re concerned not just about the judgment of the military tribunal, but about the judgment of history.

Q&A: Edward Snowden in The Nation.

Q&A: Laura Poitras in The Nation.

The CIA as the fourth branch of government

August 5, 2014

The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence several years ago began an investigation into the use of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency.  In response the CIA stonewalled the investigation, broke into the committee computer system and e-mail files, lied about it, and filed false charges against Senate staff members.

Yet not only has nobody in the CIA been prosecuted or even fired, the CIA was allowed to censor the committee’s report.

bw_cia_logo_tNor is this unique.  Members of the Senate and House of Representatives have been subject to gag orders not only about the activities of secret intelligence organizations, but about secret negotiations concerning the Trans Pacific Partnership and other trade treaties.

Several have said the American people would be shocked if they knew the truth, but none have made the information public by reading it into the Congressional record, as Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska did in 1971 with the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of the Vietnam war.

U.S. intelligence agencies have become a permanent part of government, more powerful than the elected branches of government and unaccountable to them.  Why has this been allowed?

History may provide a clue.  President John F. Kennedy disapproved of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, but never dared to threaten to fire him, because the FBI files contained too much damaging information about JFK’s personal life.   Today the CIA and NSA have the means of spying on the personal lives of their critics orders of magnitude greater than the FBI’s illegal wiretapping in the Hoover era.

And J. Edgar Hoover was popular.  Firing him would have generated a huge political backlash, like President Truman’s firing of General MacArthur.  The CIA also is popular.  Many Americans believe that torture, preventive detention and assassination are necessary, and are exclusively directed against Muslim terrorists.  There is a whole genre of popular literature glorying secret agents and assassins who operate outside the constraints of law and morality.

Congress has the legal authority to declassify information on its own.  The President has the legal authority to declassify information.  But exercising their authority will be difficult, and probably unpopular.   President Truman’s decision to fire General MacArthur was hugely unpopular, but in retrospect we see that Truman preserved the principle of civilian control over the military.

If agencies of government are given authority to  break the law, lie about it and forbid disclosure of the facts,  that is a more absolute power than ever was exercised by King George III in 1776,

LINK

Who Rules Washington? by Tom Engelhardt.

The Senate Is Not Happy That the CIA Censored Its Report On CIA Torture by Jason Leopold for Vice News.

NSA: a bureaucracy in search of a function

April 22, 2014

Edward Luttwak, a historian and long-time consultant to the Pentagon on military strategy, wrote an article in the Times Literacy Supplement of London recently arguing that the National Security Agency’s all-encompassing surveillance is simply the result of a bureaucracy looking for a way to justify its existence.

Compared to the days of the Cold War, he wrote, there is little scope for the NSA is trying to keep track of scattered Islamic militants who don’t even use phones for communication.  The NSA’s response was, in its own way, a stroke of genius.  Don’t just track people who are threats to the United States.  Track everybody who is a potential threat, which means tracking everybody.

Luttwak’s article is behind a pay wall, but Peter J. Leithart wrote a good summary in First Things magazine.

In a TLS review of Luke Harding’s The Snowden Files, Edward Luttwak traces things back to dynamics within the post-9/11 intelligence bureaucracy. In Luttwak’s telling, it’s a case study of bureaucratic expansion.

He argues that “Only a few hundred were really justified of the many thousands employed to service collection antennae on land, at sea and in the air operated by the signals’ branches of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, and of the many thousands of translators, cryptologists, decoders, super-computer operators, and analysts of all sorts as well as more thousands of managers. As the Cold War receded, there was an increasing danger that the fiscally prudent on Capitol Hill might uncover the situation, and demand mass firings.”

Edward Luttwak

Edward Luttwak

After all, “the sum total of emitters in Afghanistan was tiny, while communications identified as suspect worldwide were scarcely more numerous. . . . things looked up for the signals intelligence business with the 2003 Iraq war, but again the volume of business was not substantial, compared to the huge size of the installed capacity – so long, that is, as it was suspects that were to be intercepted.

If there wasn’t enough work, the solution was not to cut personnel, but to make more work: “the answer to the problem of the shortage of suspects was simply to intercept ‘possible’ suspects as well.”

On the other hand, he charges, the CIA doesn’t do what is necessary actually to have a major impact on terrorism – they aren’t engaged in operations: “terrorist groups simply cannot be defeated without action on the ground, to infiltrate them with volunteers, to detect them in the dodgy places where they can still emerge, to lure them into false-flag traps, and such like – all the activities that the CIA performs splendidly in films, but which in real life interfere with intra-office, other-office, interagency and intra-embassy meetings, so that in reality they are not performed at all. . . . Operators are outnumbered even by fairly senior managers, they are outnumbered by the lawyers in the General Counsel’s office, they are outnumbered by the human relations and affirmative action.”

When Congress increased the CIA budget, little went to improving operations: “The CIA knew exactly what to do with the money: it promptly added new layers of management on top of the old ones, just in time for the arrival of a whole new intelligence Directorate for all intelligence organizations placed over it, increasing the administrator/operator ratio to levels scarcely credible.”

The intrusions that Snowden revealed arose, Luttwak claims, in a context of incompetence and cowardice: “the mass intercept of everyone’s telecommunications became just another way of evading the penetration and disruption tasks that need to be done – the tasks that the CIA will not do because of sundry inconveniences and possible dangers.”

via Snowden and Bureaucracy | Peter J. Leithart | First Things.

In  Luttwak’s opinion, Edward Snowden is a true patriot for revealing the extent of the NSA’s improper opinions.  He said Snowden should be invited to return to the United States and granted amnesty for his lawbreaking.   He said the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency should be scaled back to what is needed to collect information, and a new agency, separate from the CIA, should be created to conduct operations against terrorists as Israel’s Shin Bet does.  The new agency should consist of people who speak foreign languages, understand foreign cultures and are willing to get out of the office and take risks.   This all sounds reasonable to me.

Click on The interception scandal for something else by Luttwak on Edward Snowden’s disclosures about NSA surveillance.  He thinks the disclosures will result in a drastic change in U.S. policy.  I’d like to think he’s right.

The war on drugs and its Mexican quagmire

May 7, 2013

All the reasons that are given for drug prohibition or, for that matter, gun prohibition are reasons for prohibiting the consumption of alcohol.

The Centers for Disease Control say that alcohol abuse is the third-largest cause of preventable death in the United States.  More than 75,000 deaths a year are attributed to alcohol.  It is involved in 39 percent of highway fatalities, one-third of suicides and 37 percent of rapes and sexual assaults.   Each year there are 3 million violent crimes in which the victim says the offender was drunk.

Given these facts, it was understandable that the United States in 1919 would try prohibiting alcohol.   The prohibition laws did not stop people from consuming alcohol, but they did stimulate the growth of organized crime to a much more powerful place in American life.

But when the Noble Experiment was repealed in 1933, things did not return to the way they were in 1919.  Organized crime did not go out of business.  It sought other activities, and is an important part of American life to this day.  All the evils that Prohibition was intended to alleviate continue to this day.  But no reasonable person wants to restore Prohibition.  It is a cure that is worse than the disease, even though the disease is very real.

carteldrugterritoriesroutes1After reading a report in the Washington Post by Dana Priest on the current state of the war on narco-traffickers in Mexico, I think drug prohibition will end in the same way.   She told how the CIA spearheaded the drug war and developed such close ties with CISEN, the Mexican intelligence service, that it became virtually part of the Mexican government.  The George W. Bush administration stepped up arrests of drug kingpins and attempts to shut down drug smuggling routes.  The druglords responded savagely.

CISEN discovered from a captured videotape and a special analytical group it set up that some of the cartels had hired former members of the U.S.-trained Guatemalan special forces, the Kaibiles, to create sociopathic killers who could behead a man, torture a child or immerse a captive in a vat of acid.

Anxious to counterattack, the CIA proposed electronically emptying the bank accounts of drug kingpins, but was turned down by the Treasury Department and the White House, which feared unleashing chaos in the banking system.

As the Mexican death toll mounted, [President Felipe] Calderon pleaded with Bush for armed drones.  He had been impressed by the results in Iraq and Afghanistan, two former U.S. officials said.  The White House considered the request, but quickly rejected it.  It was far too likely to result in collateral damage, they said.

By 2009, President Obama’s first year in office, horrific scenes had become commonplace throughout Mexico: severed heads thrown onto a dance floor, a half-dozen bodies hanged from a bridge, bombs embedded in cadavers.  Ciudad Juarez, a stone’s throw from El Paso, was a virtual killing zone.

US_mx_drug_homicides_300

… … Success against the cartels’ leadership had helped incite more violence than anyone had predicted, more than 60,000 deaths and 25,000 disappearances in the past seven years alone.

Meanwhile, the drug flow into the United States continued unabated.  Mexico remains the U.S. market’s largest supplier of heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine and the transshipment point for 95 percent of its cocaine.

via The Washington Post.

On Dec. 1, a new President, Enrique Pena Nieto, took office.  According to Priest, he is less interested in the U.S.-backed policy of arresting druglords and more in drug abuse prevention and keeping Mexico’s streets safe.  In other words, he cares more about Mexico’s problems and less about helping the United States solve its problems.

She reported that U.S. officials are worried about President Pena Nieto’s priorities.  I think we in the United States would be wise to adopt these priorities for ourselves.  The roots of the U.S. drug addiction problem are in the United States, not in Mexico, Colombia or any other foreign country.

I think the war on drugs is going to end in the same way as Prohibition.  I don’t think that will be a good result, but I think it will be an inevitable result.  In this, as in many other things, I will be pleased if events prove me wrong.

There are two wise sayings that apply here.  One is Stein’s Rule, by Herbert Stein, the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Nixon.

If something cannot go on forever, someday it will stop.

The other is one of Rumsfeld’s Rules, by Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush.

If a problem cannot be solved, it may not be a problem, but a fact.

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