Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The CIA does what it wants

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The CIA has a great network in the media that will leap to do its bidding. Glenn Greenwald looks at the result in a column well worth reading. It includes:

… In all of these accounts [listed above], Brennan’s false claims of unfair persecution — that he was attacked simply because he happened to be at the CIA — are fully amplified in detail through his CIA allies, most of whom are quoted at length (though typically behind a generous wall of anonymity).  But Brennan’s critics are almost never quoted or named (of all of the above-cited reports, only the National Journal article includes a quote from a named Brennan critic:  a couple vague snippets from one of the pieces I wrote about Brennan).  The “reporting” is all from the perspective of Brennan and his CIA supporters.  None of these journalists even entertain the idea of disputing or challenging the pro-Brennan version.

(2) None of this reporting even alludes to, let alone conveys, the central arguments against Brennan and the evidence for those arguments.  Unmentioned are his emphatic advocacy for rendition and “enhanced interrogation tactics.” None of the lengthy Brennan quotes defending these programs are acknowledged, despite the fact that not only bloggers, but also the much-cited psychologists’ letter, emphasized those defenses (that letter complained that Brennan “supported Tenet’s policies, including ‘enhanced interrogations’ as well as ‘renditions’ to torturing countries”).  The seminal article on these CIA programs by The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer — who interviewed Brennan and identified him as a “supporter” of these programs despite “the moral, ethical, and legal issues” — does not exist in the journalists’ world.

What instead pervades these stories is the patently deceitful claim typified by Newsweek‘s Michael Hirsh, who asserted that the case against Brennan was made “with no direct evidence” and then chuckled that this is “common for the blogging world” — an ironic observations given that Hirsh himself is either completely ignorant of the ample evidence that was offered or is purposely pretending it doesn’t exist in order to defend the CIA official Hirsh lauded as “the first-class professional.”  That’s how the persecution tale against Brennan is built — by relying on mindless reporters to distort (when they weren’t actively suppressing) the evidence against him.

(3) In these accounts, Brennan is described in reverent terms (“first-class professional”; a “natural candidate”; “the guy who’s most qualified for the job”) while his critics remain unnamed and unseen though dismissed with derogatory, demonizing terms (“some ill-informed bloggers”; “ill-informed but powerful activists”; “a few obscure blogs”; “bloggers” who don’t “have that familiarity”).

(4) Concerns over torture and rendition — despite being widespread among countless military officials and intelligence professionals — are uniformly depicted as nothing more than ideological idiosyncrasies from the dreaded Left (“left-wing hit job on Brennan”; “largely on the left”; “left-leaning bloggers and columnists”; “Obama’s liberal base”; Obama’s “most ardent supporters on the left”; “liberal critics”; “liberal bloggers”; “confined to liberal blogs”; “the Democratic base”).

Thus:  non-ideological, pragmatic, Serious centrists (which, as everyone knows, is what we need now) are free of this nattering fixation on all this “torture” talk.  Serious adults know that it’s time to move on and not hold grudges.  It’s only the shrill ideologues on the Left who care about such things and want to hold it against those who defended these programs.  Depicting one’s critics as confined to “the Left” is a time-honored Beltway method for rendering the criticisms unserious, and it’s in full force here (and, as Digby ironically notes, it is the Right, far more than the Left, that has waged war against the CIA in recent years; the Left has largely defended the CIA against manipulation and abuse by the Bush White House).

(5) What all of this is — more than anything else — is a clear warning to Obama from the CIA about the dangers of paying heed to anti-torture and pro-civil-liberties factions, and they’re not really even hiding that.  They’re explicitly expressing the message as a warning:  “the President-elect risks sending a troubling signal to the intelligence community.”  As Mazzetti and Shane put it after speaking with their favorite sources:    Obama risks “alienating an agency with a central role in the campaign against Al Qaeda.

Those warnings are issued with an eye towards the events they know full well are imminent:  debates over how legally restrained the CIA should be in its interrogation and detention powers; demands that light be shined on what the CIA spent the last eight years doing at the behest of Dick Cheney and with the legal imprimatur of David Addington’s cabal; and, most of all, efforts to hold those who committed war crimes accountable (efforts which would and should be directed at high-level Bush policy makers and legal advisers who enabled those crimes, not lower-level intelligence agents, but which the CIA nonetheless fears).

* * * * *

What happened with John Brennan is very straightforward and ought not be particularly controversial.  This is someone who explicitly defended some of the most controversial Bush interrogation and detention policies.  Everything that Obama said about such policies, and everything his supporters believe about them, should, for that reason alone, preclude Brennan from being named to any top intelligence post, let alone CIA Director.  It’s just as simple as that.

But, as has been historically true, many in “the intelligence community” are outraged by what they perceive as outside “interference” — as though the CIA shouldn’t be subjected to the same set of oversight, limitations, and democratic accountability, debate and restrictions as every other part of government.  That something as straightforward as the John Brennan controversy can produce this level of backlash from the intelligence community is a very potent sign of the formidible barriers to real reform of our interrogation and detention framework and, especially, to the prospects for meaningful disclosure of, and accountability for, past crimes.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 December 2008 at 10:50 am

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