Third Party & Independents Archives

September 28, 2004

Intel. Reform - The Enemy Within

It is difficult to tell if the enemy within being discussed in the Senateís intelligence community overhaul bill is terrorists or the Committee itself. There is no question from a reading of the 9/11 Commissionís report that intelligence overhaul is necessary. But a key component of the Commissionís report is dangerously absent from the Senateís overhaul legislation coming to a vote on the Senate floor: checks and balances.

Before the Senate yesterday, Sen.'s Collins (R) and Lieberman (D), co-chairs of the 9/11 recommendations implementation in the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, announced the completion of the Committee's work and put forth a bill to reorganize our intelligence communities toward the end of making our intelligence community capable of both protecting the U.S. against further terrorist attacks at home as well as fighting and diminishing or eradicating terrorist threats from abroad. The bill reflects many of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations. The task of crafting such a bill was immense. As was reported on the Senate floor, however, the job was completed in the markup process of the bi-partisan Committee without any down the middle partisan votes. For this work and effort, the Senators of the intelligence restructuring Committee are to be commended, for it is clear, their primary focus was security, not partisan politics.

Sen. Collins however, attempted to counter charges that we must not be hasty in implementing such a vast and comprehensive overhaul and structuring of potentially the most powerful arms of government on the face of the earth. She stated that the threat of terrorism against us is current and real, and therefore, there should be no delays in passing and implementing the bill being proposed. What she did not say is that even if the Bill passes, implementation will take a long time. So, why is there such great haste to pass and implement this Bill just weeks before the election? Since Sen. Lieberman concurs with Collins, partisan politics does not appear to be the motive. Yet, haste is what these Senators advocate. Why?

The scope and ramifications of such a huge and critical reformation of an extremely complex multi-agency and departmental wing of our government is difficult to assess or appreciate. On purely philosophical grounds, total security and total freedom are diametrically opposed. It is conceivable that a billionaire could build a bunker below the earth complete with all the necessities to support biological life. And such a habitat could be totally secure. But, such security also becomes a prison eradicating its inhabitantís freedom to live and act freely in the rest of the world. On the other hand, the very definition of total freedom is anarchy with no rules, disciplines, or guides for behavior. Such total freedom can undermine one's own safety, security, and even life. Somewhere along this continuum are compromises between security and freedom which our nation will choose from in response to 9/11 and its aftermath.

However, command and control lies at the heart of the question as to where that compromise should fall between freedom and security. A common misperception is being promulgated in the media, specifically that this legislation addresses Intelligence Community reorganization. This is a very deceptive characterization. It implies that all our government is doing is reorganizing how information is collected, analyzed, and communicated among intelligence agencies. Far, far more is occurring with this legislation and Americans should be paying very close attention.

What is in fact being reorganized is nothing less than the entire power of government to command and control the life of any American citizen, foreign national, or immigrant occupying space within the borders of the United States of America. Moreover, this power is being concentrated into the Executive Branch of our government. And specifically, this power shall ultimately rest in the hands of the oval office occupant and his/her appointee as National Intelligence Director (NID). In and of itself, this should be sending alarm bells off in the minds of all freedom loving Americans. Yet, in and of itself, the choice to concentrate such power in the hands of two persons, is not necessarily an apocalyptic restructuring of government. That depends on what, if any, checks and balances, oversight and Congressional review, transparency and accountability is also attendant in the legislation.

And here we arrive at the answer to why Sen.'s Collins and Lieberman are insisting that this legislation be pushed forward toward passage as quickly as possible. Scrutiny and public deliberation are certain to be the most formidable threats to this legislation passing in its present form. The reason is simple. The subject is secret information gathering, and the modus operandi is covert actions by the government. George W. Bush's presidency marks the zenith of a long history since the J.F. Kennedy years, of executive's efforts to cloak their actions and decisions behind ever thicker veils of secrecy. The legislation being proposed does not install structural insulation from public oversight and accountability. It does however open the doors wide for the executive branch and NID to slam the door of accountability and transparency on the public.

It would take a book to itemize and elucidate on the potentials for horrendous abuses of the Intelligence Reorganization legislation, (which would be more aptly named Secrecy and Covert Action Power Enhancement in the Executive Office legislation). But, here is just one example.

In 2008, the President (whomever that may be) is championing an invasion of France to overthrow a government the President says the NID has determined is supporting terrorist organizations in Iran. Two 2nd generation Muslim American students lead growing demonstrations on campuses against the President and his proposal. A few months later, the NSA determines from secret phone taps that plans are underway by the demonstration leaders to organize a massive peaceful march on Washington D.C. to protest the President's proposed invasion of France. The President announces that he has intelligence just revealed that an organized insurrection has just been discovered led by the Muslim American student leaders and in addition, new intelligence indicates these leaders have ties to terrorist organizations in the Middle East. Thus, the FBI is ordered to arrest all members of the student protest organization and the NSA, FBI and CIA are ordered to disrupt, disband, and prevent the march on Washington planned for one month before the election.

Now, how is Congress or the American people to determine whether the action taken by the President was in fact an anti-terrorist act, or a political act? Did the President ask the NID to get information on these protesters, or did the NID, appointed by the President, gather this information independently of the oval office and present it to the President? Under the current legislation the American people could not know the answer to that question. Did the NID in following relationships between terrorists stumble upon the fact that one of the Muslim student leader's cousin twice removed was born in Afghanistan and has ties with Hamas but has no record of ever communicating with the student leader, or did the President ask the NID to follow the genealogy of the student leaders to find a link to terrorists? Under the current legislation, the Congress and the American people would not be privy to ongoing intelligence gathering and anti-terror activities due to protection of national security reasons. The link between the student leader and the cousin twice removed is by genealogy. But what is to prevent the President from simply stating that the student is linked to terrorists without divulging the nature of that link? Nothing in this legislation.

Within an excellent history of Proposals for Intelligence Reorganization (PDF) lies the following statement, "Proposals specifically relating to congressional oversight of the Intelligence Community are not included in this report." Such an overt statement regarding the interest of the American people in their freedom from oppressive government is not found in the current legislation. In its place is the following statement issued to CNN on Sept. 15,

The committee plan does not deal with reorganizing Congress' oversight responsibilities, another concern of the September 11 committee.
I highly recommend a reading of this CNN article regarding the activities of the Committee under discussion in this article.

It takes but a few weeks to design legislation that concentrates power and affords swift and covert government activity. What takes time, and what the public has a right to, and should demand of their representatives, is that the time be taken to create the checks and balances, the people's oversight and accountability measures necessary to insure that such awesome concentration of secrecy in government and covert action power never be wrongly turned upon the American citizens, or Congress for that matter, for the personal or political reasons of the President or the NID. To propose legislation that concentrates and grows Executive power over citizen's lives without concurrent legislation that provides checks and balances on that power is the height of irresponsibility and constitutes a deception aimed at the citizenry of the gravest nature.

Posted by David R. Remer at September 28, 2004 12:40 AM
Comments
Comment #27189

David,
Excellant article! I to have concern over the fast track that congress is trying to pass this bill. Although I agree with the 9/11 commission on the changes they call for, I think that lack of oversight by congress and the inability for the NID to be part of the overall planning will lead to the same problems we face today. Additionally, I think the position should be sort of like Mr. Greenspan position. This move would give him the independence he/she needs while allowing the administration and congress to inquire on different issues. Furthermore, I think the NID should be able to hold everyone responsible for their actions and/or use of the information gathered. This move would add a layer of protection for all Americans

Yes, America does need to revamp all of our current systems in our government. The biggest question facing us the citizens this year is who do we trust to do the better job.

The Republicans have showed little interest in getting our homeland security department right and now we think they can get the rest of our government going in the right direction. Running scared is not the best defense and unless congress can produce an intellegent agency which has the ability to go on the offense, we would be better off keeping the same system.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at September 28, 2004 03:15 AM
Comment #27194

I am not at all convinced that any of this is a good Idea.

There seems to be a big push to blame the intelligence community for failing to stop 9/11. There have been obvious failings in placing human assetts where they are needed. The FBI encountered problems with legal issues, that resulted from Hoover’s abuse of power.

Creating another politcal head over multiple agencies will not stop the in fighting. I disagree that this was an intelligence failure. The information was there, it just wasn’t acted upon. Without inside sources it is almost impossible to determine the credible intelligence from the noise. I think this will simply create another layer of buruacracy like Homeland Security. What makes a difference is changing the focus and increasing resources at a local level. 9/11 did that, not playing shuffle the leaders desks around.

This makes Capitol Hill and the Aministration look important and busy, but ultimately is just window dressing.

Posted by: Greg at September 28, 2004 04:41 AM
Comment #27281

Greg,
I don’t think that any one wants to blame the intellegence community for not stopping Sept. 11, but you’d think, with all the time and money spent on intell gathering in this country, we would have had at least a clue as to what was comming and could of at least mitigated the results.
If the previous administration is to be belived they at least brought it up to the Bush folks when they gained office. Or could this have been when the Clintons were being blamed for removing the W’s from all the White House computers?

Posted by: Rocky at September 28, 2004 05:20 PM
Comment #27296

I don’t get this part: “To propose legislation that concentrates and grows Executive power over citizen’s lives without concurrent legislation that provides checks and balances on that power is the height of irresponsibility and constitutes a deception aimed at the citizenry of the gravest nature.”

If legislation is proposed, passed and signed into law, then so far so good as far as “checks and balances” go. The next check/balance would be a challenge in the judiciary, not further legislation.

I think we should be wary of accusing executive over-reach when the legislature has granted additional powers to the executive branch (as with the Patriot Act). The legislature itself or the judiciary can correct any errors (if there are errors) and if they so choose. This is our system of government in action.

To put it differently: “Checks and balances” refers not to the content of any legistlation, but to the way the separate branches of goverment react.

I consider this an important point because the Bush administration is forever being accused of abuses just for using powers granted to it by the legislature (or for even HAVING certain powers they have never used—like examining library records). If you don’t want Bush to have a certain power, take it up with your congressman who voted to give it to him during a national crisis.

Posted by: Martin at September 28, 2004 10:18 PM
Comment #27297

I think Dr Rice had the info in front of her, but she chose to back burner it.

There did seem to be a pass being given to Saudi Arabia. The FBI failed to follow through because of poor supervisory decisions. Afghanastan and Pakistan were still on the ignore it and it’ll go away list.

I think everyone’s a little more sensitive to this type of intel, now; but our borders are still wide open, ports are virtually uninspected, and luggage is still not inspected on airliners. I don’t think the creation of a new bureaucracy like HomeLand Security or Director of Intelligence improves anything. A few political figure heads will get big salaries and hire extensive staffs that will simply replicate what is already being done.

In sixth grade (1969) I suggested in class hardened cockpits as a solution to the Cuba hijackings that were occuring then. It was decided
that negotiating was cheaper.

A couple of years before 9/11 I was shocked that I was allowed on board with a 5 inch pocket knife which I had fogotten in my pocket. If you headed airliner security and knew hijacking attempts were underway would you allow that?

We are vunerable because its cheaper and easier to not really be secure. I don’t lock my back door because I hate the nuisance of locking it. I feel I live in a safe neighborhood and I’m home at irregular hours. I’m glad they’ve increased security checks at airlines, but I don’t really feel safe anymore. If I have a choice, I’ll drive.

Security is very expensive and inconvenient. They are looking at more now, but someone will eventually find a way to attack an open society. A truck bomb at a mall would be easy to accomplish.

Posted by: Greg at September 28, 2004 10:31 PM
Comment #27299

What we have here in this new highrise of bureaucracy is the means to blow money out the window. Why? because it fits directly into George W. Bush’s Laissez-faire spending spree to procure the proper setting for a cheap labor expanse through driving down the exchange rate of the US dollar. I don’t think many people on this site understand how laissez-faire economics works.

It works through destroying the economy for the sake of lowering working conditions and when coupled with immigration and tax defferals(threat to make premanent as a cut and not a deferral)and endless wars and humongous deficits it works to corporate advantage. The economy which is riding on fiat as it is is borrowing heavily from Asian banks. In addition we have treasury policies that are absolutely insane and a greater loss of regulations on industries,and then there’s ouitsourcing which they do see as excellent(and I’m not saying that in sarcasm)

WHY doesn’t George W. Bush want to change this Economy and create a better economy because HE IS! And already has for him and his corporate adherence. They want freedom without end nor regulation those are the real freedom fries here.

What does that have to do with this action on the hill? It’s an opportunity to spend more money. WHY on earth would they want higher spending?

Because people that’s called LAISSEZ-FAIRE ECONOMICS. It’s pure robber baron-ism the spending fascilitates CHEAP LABOR MARKETS get it?

Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees. He’s spending so as to disrupt labor, that’s all it’s not for national security and under it’s guise he’ll destroy more regulation. A terrorism attack would fascilitate the laissez-faire paradigm through derailing the market. by derailing the market it displaces people and that becomes the cheap labor pool. The corporations can get bail-outs and corporate welfare to shore things back up.

Why does George W. Bush spend like this because he’s trying to destroy the economy and gradually shock us into acceptance of his proposals while it becomes harder and harder to survive. The top of the water looks smooth while there is a tempest underneath that is dragging people down with it. So a terror czar is just a place to throw money.

GOOGLE Laissez-Faire Economics, you’ll get an education people.

Posted by: Newbie at September 28, 2004 10:45 PM
Comment #27300

Newbie, as Marge said in the movie Fargo, “I’m not sure I agree with your police work there.”

There are numerous problems with your analysis. For one, there’s no sound economic reason for alleging that a fluctuating dollar can be counted on to depress the labor market. A weak dollar makes imported goods more expensive, which can be a boon to domestic manufacturing (which results in new hiring and then a larger tax base). A higly valued dollar, in the short term, is better for the people at the top of the economic scale than those on the bottom who tend to depend more on trade. Also, deficits do NOT work to corporate advantage—lower taxes, yes, but deficits that become extreme raise interest rates across the board which limits corporate growth (and this means lay-offs).

Posted by: Martin at September 28, 2004 11:11 PM
Comment #27302

Newbie, I think you are confusing a speculative conspiracy theory with laissez-faire capitalism. How do you know Bush has these nefarious intentions you claim?

Posted by: Joseph Briggs at September 28, 2004 11:16 PM
Comment #27303

Martin it would seem that it would be given import-based economic structures but the devaluation is for export and purchasing our products on the world market. Through spending they can starve the beast, as it were, whereby they can spend to the point when they can turn around and say we have no money left and we’ll half to cut these 500 things. Outsourcing is good because just like libertarians they don’t believe in borders.

Google around in Laissez-Faire economics I don’t want to monopolize David’s topic here with economics. Have fun.

Posted by: Newbie at September 28, 2004 11:20 PM
Comment #27304

One more thing—I know of no economist who would call Bush’s economic policies “laissez-faire.”

In fact, to say as you do that Bush has initiated a “highrise of bureaucracy” directly refutes the idea that he also pushes “laissez-faire” economics.

You can’t say in one breath that Bush overregulates the economy while insisting that he doesn’t regulate it enough (which laissez-faire means). Perhaps you disagree with some of his economic policies (I do too). But your analysis of the causes and results seems pretty wild to me.

Posted by: Martin at September 28, 2004 11:22 PM
Comment #27306

Martin said, “If legislation is proposed, passed and signed into law, then so far so good as far as “checks and balances” go. The next check/balance would be a challenge in the judiciary, not further legislation.”

That may be the way it goes down. But I will be damned if I would vote for a single Dem., Rep., or Indep. who proposes to and votes for concentrating power potentially dangerous to American civil liberties, without even taking a stab at one of the key and vital interests of the 9/11 Commission’s Report - Congressional Oversight. It once again shows politicians addiction to power and neglect for the people’s interests.

The 9/11 Commission was emphatic about concurrent Congressional oversight attending the new concentration of power. The Senators completely and totally ignored it in their bill which came to the floor.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 28, 2004 11:29 PM
Comment #27307

Newbie said: “So a terror czar is just a place [for Bush] to throw money.”

Brackets mine if I understood correctly.

I think it is absurd to posit that Pres. Bush does not want to stop terrorists. I also think it is absurd to posit that Bush wants to ruin our economy. Also, let us not forget, Bush can do little but propose programs to Congress or use Executive Order to implement government activities. It is Congress which either agrees or disagrees on appropriating the money.

It can be argued that politicians are inept. I don’t think a valid argument can be made or defended which states that our electoral process permits those intent on destroying our way of life as a motive to rise the highest offices of government.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 28, 2004 11:36 PM
Comment #27308

Greg said “I don’t think that any one wants to blame the intellegence community for not stopping Sept. 11, but you’d think, with all the time and money spent on intell gathering in this country, we would have had at least a clue as to what was comming and could of at least mitigated the results.”

I hold intelligence leadership responsible, inept, incompetent for 9/11. I also hold Congress responsible for failing to do the difficult and unpopular work that was called for on so many occasions over the decades to overhaul the intelligence community, while protecting civil liberties of Americans at home. The Presidents too since Bush 41 are also culpable.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 28, 2004 11:42 PM
Comment #27313

David I belive I said that.

Posted by: Rocky at September 29, 2004 12:50 AM
Comment #27319

The last few days have been a blur due to looking up data on our national security. Based on what I heard from an author on I think C-Span I went back and looked up two presidential executive orders. One is President Clinton’s issued in 1995 http://www.cdi.org/terrorism/presidential-orders.cfm Foreign Intel & Terrorism
The second one was President Bush’s dated 2/13/01 http://fas.org/irp/offdocs/nspd/nspd-1.htm Bush #5 EO

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at September 29, 2004 01:18 AM
Comment #27320

Sorry guys,
I’m still working on my linking. But look the two sites up. It seems that Clinton ordered the CIA to take covert actions against UBL in 1995. Bush’s Executive Order eliminated ALL National Security Orders made prior to him taken office.

I think we as a country need to take a serious look at how bad Bush’s decission in Febuary 2001 hurt this country and our future ability to fight the war on terror.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at September 29, 2004 01:26 AM
Comment #27332

Rocky, ooopS! Sorry, you did. Greg, I apologize for replying to the wrong person.

I was initially amazed that our people did not rise up regardless of party, and demand for accounting and firing of responsible parties. But, as time has passed, the real culprit turned out to be our Constitutional democracy itself, which, deliberately sets out to retard rapid and fast political and policy decisions as a check against the corrupting influence of power.

The history of the recommendations for intelligence overhaul and the forces that blocked them from occuring has been very enlightening for me. It points directly to an inherent problem of modern societies, namely complexity and masses of people’s inability to effectively work with it. Democracy works best in simpler slower societies where the electorate can stay abreast of the issues and make political decisions on an informed basis about them.

Our electorate today is grossly under informed, and ill equipped educationally to a large extent, to deal with the complexities of modern society and world affairs. Yet, politicians desiring reelection must answer to these people and avoid actions and even discussion of issues that would show up their constituent’s ignorance and lack of sophistication in assessing today’s problems.

We are in the age of the sound bite, and the sound bit cannot inform the masses sufficiently to act in democracy’s best interests.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 29, 2004 05:02 AM
Comment #27349

I definitely have a problem with the rush to reform the intelligence community by creating a National Intelligence Director. I also have issue with the basic premise behind this reform. Creating a singular intelligence filter won’t prevent “groupthink” from happening again and I doubt it will improve administration and production.

Obviously there are some structural and logistical issues that need to be addressed but this could be done within the existing framework. Creating another bureaucratic level just doesn’t sound efficient, and since the plan is to have it under the executive branch, it also sounds dubious.

We currently have the CIA, NSA, FBI, DIA (as well as separate intel agencies within each branch of the military), Department of Homeland Security, congressional oversight, and daily briefings of the president, who has access to a National Security Advisor, a Secretary of Defense, a Secretary of State, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the US Attorney General. This is a very robust framework for intelligence gathering, analysis, and reaction that should be able to serve all of our needs.

Intelligence reform is necessitated by two simple issues: prolific amounts of data and centralized access to that data and subsequent analysis. System redesign and modernization could address both of these. I was half-joking with some friends the other day that all the intelligence community needs is Google.

Some form of centralized intelligence evaluation council has been a recurring theme in intelligence reform since Kennedy and something like this would be great if we don’t already have it, but this doesn’t require a National Intelligence Director. Such a council wouldn’t require any power other than access to all intelligence.

Posted by: Joseph Briggs at September 29, 2004 09:54 AM
Comment #27424

David,

If you haven’t done so already, you should check out Lewis Lapham’s Notebook article entitled “Crowd Control” in the October issue of Harper’s.
In his article he talks about things like:
The preventive mass false arrests of protesters. “Extraction Teams” of police wearing ski masks and full body armor that randomly club and seize protestors and haul them away in vans. “Criminal Activity or Intent” which amounts to arresting protesters for having things like video cameras or tape recorders, or even such things as headscarves and sunglasses that might protect them from teargas and pepper spray. Pre-Demonstration searches and raids. Undercover FBI agents joining protest movements to collect names and take photos - and also to act as agents provocateurs among peaceful protesters by being the ones who start breaking windows and shouting obscenities, so that the cops have an excuse to unleash whatever violence they want to on the marchers. Helicopters hovering above crowds wherever unauthorized speeches are being made. And lots of other stuff too — basically everything they can they think of to silence us.

This administration is AFRAID of “We The People”, and they care nothing about the Constitution, or about the illegallity of abridging our rights. The Patriot Act with its unconstitutional provisions being rushed to a vote without giving anyone the time to actually read it convinced me of that fact.
This Senate Committee is doing something very similar by trying to rush this bill through without the proper amount of checks and balances that are needed.

For a long time now I’ve had the feeling that we need a new way to get through to these people — no more hippie sh*t and circus-like behavior (its not shocking, or counter-cultural, or effective in this day and age), because that only makes these people treat us like so much human garbage.
Since they want to silence us, I think it might be more effective to start marching and protesting in _complete silence_ to show that we’re deadly serious, and that what they are doing to our constitutional rights will not be tolerated, nor will labeling us unpatriotic because we didn’t approve of their giant mistake of rushing (and completely unprepared, no less!) off to the Iraq war without a serious and truthful reason.
I honestly feel it would scare the sh*t out of politicos and law enforcement if America’s demonstrations became nothing but a sea of angry, silent, staring faces — and at the very least, they’d no longer have their many excuses to treat us like criminals for exercising our first amendment rights.

Posted by: Adrienne at September 29, 2004 09:10 PM