Friday, December 30, 2005

Huh? Who Knew The CIA Was Running Covert Programs?

The hordes of disgruntled ex-CIA types are at it again, tossing their pearls of wisdom into Dana Priest's ear:

"In the past, presidents set up buffers to distance themselves from covert action," said A. John Radsan, assistant general counsel at the CIA from 2002 to 2004. "But this president, who is breaking down the boundaries between covert action and conventional war, seems to relish the secret findings and the dirty details of operations."

Gee, that's surprising. Because this fight against terrorism is an entirely a conventional war - every bit of it fought on the battlefield with known combatants. So it is utterly shocking that this boundary between covert action and conventional war would be overturned.

And then old Dana let's us know this complete shocker:

Bush has never publicly confirmed the existence of a covert program, but he was recently forced to defend the approach in general terms, citing his wartime responsibilities to protect the nation. In November, responding to questions about the CIA's clandestine prisons, he said the nation must defend against an enemy that "lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again."

I'm shocked, shocked to find that covert programs are going on here. Who knew they were actually running covert programs during this war? You know, I was under the impression that Peter Goss was streamlining the CIA as a first step before dismantling it altogether.

The administration contends it is still acting in self-defense after the Sept. 11 attacks, that the battlefield is worldwide, and that everything it has approved is consistent with the demands made by Congress on Sept. 14, 2001, when it passed a resolution authorizing "all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks."

And I thought the Global War on Terror was just a codename for Bushitler's covert program to spy on Howard Dean and friends.

The interpretation undergirds the administration's determination not to waver under public protests or the threat of legislative action. For example, after The Washington Post disclosed the existence of secret prisons in several Eastern European democracies, the CIA closed them down because of an uproar in Europe. But the detainees were moved elsewhere to similar CIA prisons, referred to as "black sites" in classified documents.

Oh no! They didn't let the nice terrorists go free so we could expend money and time and blood in capturing them again. I mean, isn't that why they call it the great game?

Naturally the Washington Post is the organization I think of as the first line of defense against the terrorists. So their articles exposing national security secrets should decide who goes free.

Written findings are required by the National Security Act of 1947 before the CIA can undertake a covert action. A covert action may not violate the Constitution or any U.S. law. But such actions can, and often do, violate laws of the foreign countries in which they take place, said intelligence experts.

Oh yeah. Who would have thought that covert actions are illegal in foreign countries? I'm shocked! shocked! once again.

When the CIA wanted new rules for interrogating important terrorism suspects the White House gave the task to a small group of lawyers within the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel who believed in an aggressive interpretation of presidential power.

The White House tightened the circle of participants involved in these most sensitive new areas. It initially cut out the State Department's general counsel, most of the judge advocates general of the military services and the Justice Department's criminal division, which traditionally dealt with international terrorism.

Should they have handed them to a group of lawyers in line with the ACLU?

Moreover, the rhetoric of the second paragraph is specious. Letting us know that the Justice Department's criminal division "traditionally" dealt with international terrorism - well, gee. Isn't that kind of approach one of the very things that got us into this mess. Many people agree, though clearly not Dana Priest, that treating terrorist actions against the US as a criminal act rather than an act of war was shortsighted and a failed policy. So it's traditional only in the sense that that was policy for a time in the US, and it no longer is. Because of the failure of that same policy.

"John Rizzo is a classic D.O. lawyer. He understands the culture, the intelligence business," Radsan said. "He admires the case officers. And they trust him to work out tough issues in the gray with them. He is like a corporate lawyer who knows how to make the deal happen."

Working out tough issues in the gray area. Who knew that covert programs would need such legal applications?

Rizzo must be evil - he's like a corporate lawyer -- and a successful one. Scary thought!

CIA and Office of Legal Counsel lawyers also determined that it was legal for suspects to be secretly detained in one country and transferred to another for the purposes of interrogation and detention -- a process known as "rendition."

Nice job of leaving out that rendition was Bill Clinton's policy. Well, we couldn't mention that, could we. It would ruin the entire ideological bent of the entire piece.

Duane R. "Dewey" Clarridge, who directed the CIA's covert efforts to support the Nicaraguan contras in the 1980s, said the nature of CIA work overseas is, and should be, risky and sometimes ugly. "You have a spy agency because the spy agency is going to break laws overseas. If you don't want it to do those dastardly things, don't have it. You can have the State Department."

Yes. Finally someone in this bizarre piece states the obvious.

But of course Dana Priest can't leave it alone at this point. So she ends on this note.

But a former CIA officer said the agency "lost its way" after Sept. 11, rarely refusing or questioning an administration request. The unorthodox measures "have got to be flushed out of the system," the former officer said. "That's how it works in this country."

Notice that he's a former CIA officer. Anonymous too. I wonder just when he got to be former. Say, sometime after Peter Goss became director and began to streamline the CIA and remove the chaff?

Cliff May is proposing some guesses as to what GST stands for: "Gosh, Sucks, Tut-tut.


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