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Politics : Foreign Affairs Discussion Group -- Ignore unavailable to you. Want to Upgrade?

To: Bilow who wrote (148912)11/3/2004 11:50:09 AM
From: Sam  Read Replies (1) | Respond to of 281500
Well, we'll have an opportunity to see if Bush will do as you think.

Meanwhile, the coalition of the willing shrinks some more:

Hungary to pull troops out of Iraq

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary will withdraw its 300 non-combat troops from Iraq by the end of March, the country's new prime minister said Wednesday, dealing a blow to the United States' effort to hold the Iraq multinational force together.
The former communist country, which joined the European Union in May, sent the troops as part of the U.S.-led coalition, but the government has been under mounting pressure at home to pull out.

Recent polls had shown that around 60% of Hungarians wanted an immediate withdrawal. Hungary has a transportation contingent of 300 troops in Iraq stationed in Hillah, south of Baghdad.

President Bush has struggled to keep the U.S.-led multinational force from unraveling since Spain pulled out its 1,300 troops earlier this year.

Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said Hungary's troops will leave by March 31, after elections in Iraq slated for the end of January.

"We are obliged to stay there until the elections. To stay longer is an impossibility," Gyurcsany said at a ceremony to mark the end of mandatory military service in Hungary.

Hungary's Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz had said the government would await the outcome of the U.S. presidential election before making the decision about the troops.

There were no immediate signs Wednesday that other coalition members were considering pulling out their troops.

Denmark's prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said his country's 501 troops in the southern Iraqi port city of Basra "will stay ... as long as needed so the Iraqis can be helped to become masters in their own homes."

But Fogh Rasmussen added: "We don't want to be there one day more than necessary. The goal is to get out of Iraq."

Concerns about Hungary's security increased after the country was specifically mentioned in a message attributed to al-Qaeda as a terrorist target.

"The threat to Hungary is no longer at its borders but often far away," Gyurcsany said. "One of the most important conditions for creating order in Iraq lies ahead of us: the elections at the end of January. After that, the conditions for democratic order, peace and security can be created."

"Therefore, by March 31, 2005, we will bring our troops back from Iraq. From then on, the existence of a stable democratic and safe Iraq has to be created by different means, above all political means. If Iraq is not safe, Hungary (is) not safe," he said.

Parliament last year authorized Hungary's military mission until Dec. 31. The government will ask parliament on Monday to extend the mandate of the Hungarian troops by three months, Defense Ministry spokesman Peter Matyuc said.

One Hungarian soldier has died in Iraq, killed when a roadside bomb exploded by the water-carrying convoy he was guarding.

Gyurcsany, who was elected in September, said last month he did not believe in pre-emptive war.

"Personally, as the father of four children, as a young man, as a working Hungarian who trusts in the future, and as head of government, I believe not in preventive war but in policies which prevent conflicts," Gyurcsany said at the time.

Gyurcsany — a wealthy businessman who replaced ousted Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy — said in October that the future of the troops was "one of the most important decisions" faced by his new government.

In a telephone conversation with Bush last month, Gyurcsany said his government would "stress continuity in its foreign policy" and remain a "predictable, trustworthy and stable" partner of international cooperation.

To: Bilow who wrote (148912)11/3/2004 11:59:19 AM
From: Sun Tzu  Read Replies (2) | Respond to of 281500
I think that Bush & Co. will take this win as an affirmation of their policy and will govern even from a more extreme right.

I predict that by 2008 we will be sitting on a massive debt and an all time low USD. Social security will be in total shambles. Dems will come to power on a platform of social equity and better social services. Unfortunately by then it will be too late and the increase in taxes will be too much of a shock to the system. Those professionals who have not been replaced by Indian and Chinese workers will refuse to pay the higher taxes and will move out of America. This drain on the workforce combined with the retiring boomers will strain the economy beyond its limit...I will let you work out the rest of the details on your own.


To: Bilow who wrote (148912)11/23/2004 1:16:59 PM
From: cnyndwllr  Respond to of 281500
Hi Carl. Re: I was wondering if you knew of Hackworth in Vietnam, or his reputation or whatever. He had pretty much nothing but good things to say about draftee soldiers on the line.

I didn't know of him while I was there. That wasn't unusual since the only "outside" information we got was in the form of a few copies of the Stars and Stripes army newspaper that came out on resupply days. Other than that we had to rely upon gossip from guys coming in new or returning from a few days out of the field. We weren't that interested either. We largely cared only about the things that were moving in the jungle around us.

Like all soldiers facing combat, including our soldiers in Iraq, we were probably about as poorly informed and as poorly suited to see the "big picture" as anyone could be. That's why it puzzles me to hear all the interest in how our soldiers view the political aspects of the Iraqi occupation and why that carries a lot of weight concerning whether we should have gone in.

Hackworth is mentioned in "The Cat From Hue." If you're going to read a book on Vietnam, that's the book. It has some great material that reveals the interrelationship of the press and the military. It's a must read book from a lot of perspectives. If you read it I'd be interested in hearing your reaction.

Sorry to hear about your vote. g. We'll see how the next 4 years treat your more hopeful view versus my more negative one. Ed

To: Bilow who wrote (148912)11/25/2004 12:50:14 AM
From: stockman_scott  Respond to of 281500
How to Create a WIA -- Worthless Intelligence Agency

by Chalmers Johnson

Published on Wednesday, November 24, 2004 by

Two weeks after George Bush's reelection, Porter J. Goss, the newly appointed Director of Central Intelligence, wrote an internal memorandum to all employees of his agency telling them, "[Our job is to] support the administration and its policies in our work. As agency employees, we do not identify with, support, or champion opposition to the administration or its policies."[1] Translated from bureaucrat-speak, this directive says, "You now work for the Republican Party. The intelligence you produce must first and foremost protect the President from being held accountable for the delusions he has concerning Iraq, Osama bin Laden, preventive war, torturing captives, democracy growing from the barrel of a gun, and the 'war on terror.'"

This approach is not new, even though former CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman declares that "the current situation is the worst intelligence scandal in the nation's history."[2] Back in 1973, when James Schlesinger briefly succeeded Richard Helms as CIA director, he proclaimed on arrival at the agency's Virginia "campus": "I am here to see that you guys don't screw Richard Nixon."[3] Schlesinger underscored his point by saying that he would be reporting directly to White House political adviser Bob Haldeman and not to National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. In the contemporary White House, Goss need not bother going directly to Karl Rove since Bush's outgoing and incoming National Security Advisers, Condoleezza Rice and Stephen J. Hadley, have both been working for months under Rove's direction primarily to reelect the President.

In 1973, Schlesinger wanted to protect Nixon from revelations that the CIA had broken into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and illegally infiltrated the antiwar movement within the United States. His actual achievement was to perpetuate Washington's idée fixe that the United States could still win the Vietnam War despite overwhelming intelligence to the contrary. The same is likely to be true today and the outcome is likely to be similar. Just as thirty years ago, an administration refused to pay attention to its own internal intelligence assessments and lost the Vietnam War, so another administration has again wrapped itself in a fantasy bubble of wishful thinking and so is losing the war it started in Iraq.

Intelligence and the Truth-teller

Part of the background to the Goss memo is a widespread misunderstanding of why the CIA was created and what it actually does. For example, Bush apostle David Brooks writes in the New York Times that the CIA is engaged "in slow-motion brazen insubordination, which violate[s] all standards of honorable public service. . . . It is time to reassert some harsh authority so CIA employees know they must defer to the people who win elections. . . . If they [people in the CIA] ever want their information to be trusted, they can't break the law with self-serving leaks of classified data."[4] Brooks seems to think that the CIA is the President's personal advertising agency and that its employees owe their livelihoods to him. About Michael Scheuer, the head of the "bin Laden Unit" in the agency's Counterterrorism Center from 1996 to 1999 and the anonymous author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, Brooks fumes, "Here was an official on the president's payroll publicly campaigning against his boss."

Leave aside the fact that the President doesn't pay any government official's salary, at least not legally, and that Scheuer was more interested in educating the public about Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, on which he is an authority, than in covering up the President's mistakes; the point is that the issue of the CIA's intelligence on the Iraq war is bringing back into our political life once again the figure most feared by presidents: the truth-teller. During a previous period of falsified intelligence, National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger said in the Oval Office in front of President Nixon and his Special Counsel Charles Colson, "Daniel Ellsberg is the most dangerous man in America. He must be stopped at all costs."[5] Kissinger and Nixon subsequently ordered up felonies, such as a break-in at Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office, in order to try to smear and discredit the man who had revealed to the public the systematic lying of three presidents -- Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson -- about the war in Vietnam.

Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had ordered a special staff to write a top secret History of U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-68, known as "The Pentagon Papers," of which Ellsberg was responsible for the 1961 volume on John F. Kennedy's presidency. Ellsberg's release of the highly classified Pentagon Papers to the New York Times resulted in the public exposure of virtually every National Intelligence Estimate on Vietnam written by the CIA since the end of French colonial rule. Bush's attempt to squelch information from the CIA then is hardly unprecedented in the annals of our government, but it is egregious and ultimately self-defeating.

The term "intelligence" has always rested uneasily in the name of the Central Intelligence Agency. There is no question that the agency was created in 1947 on the orders of President Truman for the sole purpose of collecting, evaluating, and coordinating -- through espionage and from the public record -- information related to the national security of the United States. Truman was concerned to prevent another surprise attack on the U.S. like Pearl Harbor and to ensure that all information available to the government was compiled and presented to him in a timely and usable form. The National Security Act of 1947 placed the CIA under the explicit direction of the National Security Council (NSC), the president's chief staff unit for making decisions about war and peace, and gave it five functions. Four of them concern the collection, coordination, and dissemination of intelligence. It is the fifth -- which allows the CIA to "perform such other functions and duties related to intelligence affecting the national security as the National Security Council may from time to time direct" -- that has turned the CIA into a personal, secret, unaccountable army any president can order into battle without first having to ask Congress to declare war, as the Constitution requires.

Clandestine operations, although nowhere mentioned in the CIA's enabling statutes, quickly became the Agency's main activity and as one of its most impartial Congressional analysts, Loch K. Johnson, has put the matter, "The covert action shop had become a place for rapid promotion within the agency."[6] The Directorate of Operations (DO) soon absorbed two-thirds of the CIA's budget and personnel, while the Directorate of Intelligence limped along writing National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) -- summaries of intelligence produced by all the various intelligence agencies, including those in the Department of Defense -- for the White House.

Meanwhile, CIA covert operations subverted domestic journalism, planted false information in foreign newspapers, and covertly fed large amounts of money to members of the Christian Democratic Party in Italy, to King Hussein of Jordan, and to clients in Greece, West Germany, Egypt, Sudan, Suriname, Mauritius, the Philippines, Iran, Ecuador, and Chile. Clandestine agents devoted themselves to such tasks as depressing the global prices of agricultural products in order to damage uncooperative Third World countries, and sponsoring guerrilla wars or miscellaneous insurgencies in places as diverse as the Ukraine, Poland, Albania, Hungary, Indonesia, China, Tibet, Oman, Malaysia, Iraq, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, North Korea, Bolivia, Thailand, Haiti, Guatemala, Cuba, Greece, Turkey, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Angola, and Nicaragua, to name only a few of those on the public record. All this was justified by the Cold War, and no one beyond a very small group inside the government knew anything about it. The Central Intelligence Act of 1949 modified the National Security Act of 1947 with a series of amendments that, in the words of that pioneer scholar of the CIA Harry Howe Ransom, "were introduced to permit [the CIA] a secrecy so absolute that accountability might be impossible."[7]

How to Misuse Intelligence

Regardless of what it most enjoys doing, the CIA is still tasked with providing the president with accurate information to enable him to avoid a surprise attack and protect the national security. In the foyer of the CIA's headquarters at Langley, Virginia, is inscribed a Biblical quotation: "And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). Loch Johnson conjectures that former Director of the CIA (DCI) Allen Dulles probably thought it meant, "And ye shall know the truth -- if ye be me, or the president." Former DCI Richard Helms once maintained to Bob Woodward that the early warning function of the CIA "is everything, and underline everything."[8] Even if true, the CIA's power to provide such unrequested information to a president constitutes a potential restraint on his freedom of action and may on occasion totally derail his policies, particularly since such intelligence is very rarely certain or unambiguous. Over the years the powers of the DCI to compel a president to read an intelligence estimate have been systematically diluted, and when information supplied to the president about a possible attack or any other matter under the CIA's imprimatur has been leaked to the public, both the Agency and the intelligence have become politically radioactive.

Such revelations have usually taken one of two forms. In the first instance, the president, it is argued, has been shielded from or has refused to read accurate intelligence. In the second instance, the president is accused of secretly ordering the suppression of intelligence or of fabricating intelligence to support his preferred policies. President Bush has engaged in both forms of dishonesty, but he is certainly not the first president to do so. The examples are legion.

In 1961, at the time of the invasion of the Bay of Pigs, Richard Bissell, then head of the Directorate of Operations, gained the ear of President Kennedy and assured him that elated Cubans would welcome American-supported insurgents, strew rose petals in their path, and help overthrow the Castro government. Bissell simply did not show Kennedy the estimates that said Castro had extensive popular support and the invasion would fail.

Similarly, in May 1970, as President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger plotted their "incursion" into Cambodia, the Board of National Estimates (BNE) concluded that "an American invasion of Cambodia would fail to deter North Vietnamese continuation of the war."[9] DCI Helms failed to deliver this estimate to the White House, knowing what the BNE did not -- that the decision to invade had already been made. Former DCI Robert M. Gates generalizes: "It has been my experience over the years that the usual response of a policymaker to intelligence with which he disagrees or which he finds unpalatable is to ignore it."[10]

Examples of the distortion or fabrication of intelligence are rarer, but they do occur. During the Vietnam War, Gen. William Westmoreland, U.S. military commander from 1964 to 1968, omitted from his estimate of enemy forces all Communist guerrillas and informal local defense forces -- perhaps as many as 120,000-150,000 fighters -- that another estimate indicated had been responsible for up to 40% of American losses. His apparent intent was to make victory in Vietnam look more plausible to the American public. On March 14, 1967, DCI Helms included Westmoreland's figures in an NIE going to the White House even though he "knew that the figures on enemy troop strength in Vietnam provided by military intelligence were wrong -- or, at any rate, quite different from CIA figures. Yet he signed the estimate without dissent. The apparent reason, according to his biographer, was that 'he did not want a fight with the military, supported by [National Security Adviser Walt] Rostow at the White House.'"[11]

Another example of the suppression or distortion of intelligence occurred in 1969-70 over the issue of whether or not the Soviet SS-9 ICBM could carry three warheads and whether those warheads could be fired at separate and distinct targets -- that is, whether or not the SS-9 carried MIRVs (multiple independently-targetable re-entry vehicles). If true, this would perhaps have given the Soviet Union a first-strike capability against the United States. The SS-9 came in four models, the first of which had its flight test on September 23, 1963, and began to be deployed in the summer of 1967. All Western intelligence agencies agreed that models one through three carried a single warhead, some with huge yields (in the range of 18 megatons). Disagreement arose over model four, which seemed to carry three warheads. Whether these were independently targetable was in dispute.

National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird contended that the fourth version of the SS-9 was a MIRVed weapon; the CIA in its NIE on the subject said that it was not. At first the CIA rejected the pressure coming from the policymakers and, in fact, added more evidence against MIRVs to its estimate. Ultimately, however, DCI Helms removed the paragraph arguing against Soviet preparations for a first strike after "an assistant to [Laird] informed Helms that the statement contradicted the public position of the Secretary."[12] As it turned out, the CIA was right. The SS-9s were armed with MRVs, not MIRVs -- that is, they could produce only a cluster of explosions in a single area. The Soviet Union did not deploy MIRVs until 1976, six years after the United States had done so. [13] So it was we, not they, who accelerated the race toward mutual assured destruction -- and did so on the basis of fake intelligence.

When it comes to ignoring accurate CIA intelligence, the preeminent example in the Bush administration was National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's indifference to al-Qaeda and her failure to ensure that the president read and understood the explicit warnings of an imminent surprise attack that the agency delivered to her. As the Washington Post's Steve Coll has summarized the matter in his book Ghost Wars, "BIN LADEN DETERMINED TO STRIKE IN U.S. was the headline on the President's Daily Brief presented to Bush at his Crawford, Texas, ranch on August 6 [2001]. The report included the possibility that bin Laden operatives would seek to hijack airplanes. The hijacking threat, mentioned twice, was one of several possibilities outlined. There was no specific information about when or where such an attack might occur."[14]

Slaying the Messenger

After the extent of its failure became known, and under extreme pressure from the public and families of the victims of 9/11, the Bush administration reluctantly authorized the creation of a National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States and permitted National Security Adviser Rice to testify before it in public. But the fix was in: The Commission was to concentrate on "intelligence failures," not on the failure of policymakers to heed the intelligence, and on the need to "reform" the CIA but not to such an extent as to damage the president's ability to blame it for his mistakes.

On November 20, 2004, right-wing members of the House of Representatives scuttled the major recommendation of the 9/11 Commission -- namely, to provide the leader of the American intelligence community with greater authority to direct and coordinate the analyses of all 15 intelligence agencies. Reflecting the Pentagon's interests in maintaining control over 80% of the $40 billion annual intelligence budget, Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and an ally of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, withdrew his support. Other Republican congressmen joined him, demanding that the bill go even further than was already the case in harassing so-called illegal immigrants, primarily from Mexico.

The President and the Speaker of the House both said they favored enactment of the proposed legislation, but many experienced observers thought it was all Grand Kabuki by the Republican Party, intended to make it appear that the White House favored reform while ensuring that reform did not actually occur. In killing the reform bill, the Pentagon unambiguously displayed the raw political power of the military-industrial-congressional complex. During October 2004, Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, without the public approval of any civilian leader of the Defense Department, wrote to Congressman Hunter expressing his support for sabotaging change.

After the 9/11 attacks and the Bush administration's decision to go to war with Iraq, the focus shifted from ignoring unwanted intelligence to actively creating false intelligence. The critical item was the NIE of October 1, 2002, entitled "Iraq's Continuing Program for Weapons of Mass Destruction," which became known inside the CIA as the "whore of Babylon."[15] It explicitly endorsed Vice President Cheney's contention of August 26, 2002 -- "We know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons" -- and was signed by DCI George Tenet with "high confidence." "The intelligence process," writes CIA veteran Ray McGovern, "was not the only thing undermined. So was the Constitution. Various drafts of the NIE, reinforced with heavy doses of 'mushroom-cloud' rhetoric, were used to deceive congressmen and senators into ceding to the executive their prerogative to declare war -- the all-important prerogative that the framers of the Constitution took great care to reserve exclusively to our elected representatives in Congress."

In succeeding months numerous review commissions revealed that the October NIE was only one of numerous failures by the truth-tellers to do what the people of the United States pay them to do. The Senate Intelligence Committee, the 9/11 Commission, and the CIA's Iraq Survey Group under Charles Duelfer all reported that the CIA's so-called intelligence on Iraqi WMD was fictitious. Even more dangerously for the White House, these reports suggested that its so-called war on terrorism and its attack on Iraq rather than on the true perpetrators of 9/11 were based on false intelligence, much of it manufactured in the Pentagon.

The number three civilian defense official in the Pentagon, Douglas Feith, had set up the Office of Special Plans, an operation devoted to going through all the raw intelligence available to the various spy agencies and finding items that offered possible evidence of (or hints of evidence of) links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. It was this effort to get around both the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, neither of which had found links or ties between Iraq and 9/11, that eventually led some officials to break ranks and charge that the war against Iraq was in fact undercutting the "war on terrorism" -- specifically, Richard A. Clark, the White House's coordinator for counterterrorism in both the Clinton and Bush administrations, in his book Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terrorism; and the CIA's Michael Scheuer in Imperial Hubris and in his letter to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees entitled "How Not to Catch a Terrorist"[16]

The new head of the CIA, Porter Goss, is now setting about knocking off all such messengers and their supporters still inside the CIA because the agency, despite its frequent co-option and misuse by presidents, still retains a vestigial role as a truth-teller. Goss had been ordered to make it appear that the agency misled the President (rather than the other way round, as actually happened). He is then supposed to shake up what he calls a "dysfunctional" organization. After George Tenet resigned as DCI in July 2004 and went on the lecture circuit at $35,000 a pop -- he had earned well over a half-million dollars by November -- Bush appointed Goss to control further truth-telling at Langley and to head off efforts by Congress to create a powerful intelligence czar, as the 9/11 Commission has recommended.[17] The Senate confirmed Goss by a vote of 77 to 17 (six senators did not vote), strongly suggesting the increasing worthlessness of Senate oversight of the executive branch.

Goss represented the 14th district of Florida for some sixteen years in the House of Representatives, but before that, between 1962 and 1971, he worked in the CIA's Directorate of Operations (DO). He was stationed primarily in Latin America, and rumors persist that he left the agency under a cloud. In 1995, he was appointed to the House's Intelligence Oversight Committee and in 1997 became its chairman. There is no evidence that he did anything at all in this position, including investigating the intelligence lapses that preceded 9/11 or the failure of the CIA to have placed a single spy anywhere within Saddam Hussein's regime. Admiral Stansfield Turner, DCI under President Carter, has said that Goss was the worst appointment ever made to the position of director of the CIA.

How to Create a Worthless Intelligence Agency

Goss is a highly political bureaucrat, who raised eyebrows when he gave speeches earlier this year attacking John Kerry for slashing intelligence funding without mentioning that, in 1995, he himself had co-sponsored a measure calling for firing 20% of all CIA personnel over five years. Goss has also dismissed the efforts to find out who in the Bush administration identified, and so outed, undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame -- wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson who had embarrassed the administration over its Iraqi nuclear claims -- to the press as "wild and unsubstantiated allegations," a position that will not reassure operatives at the Directorate who can be and have been assassinated because of such leaks. Goss brought with him to Langley a group of Republican Party activist staff members from the House Intelligence Committee and set them up in prominent executive positions from which they unleashed a witch-hunt against any and all intelligence officers who sought to put accuracy and integrity ahead of service to George W. Bush.

It is interesting that Goss has begun his shake-up of the CIA by forcing out the director and deputy director of operations, even though this is not where the alleged failures of the CIA in recent years occurred. (This, in turn, has lead to speculation that he is trying to ensure his own service record in the DO will be kept under wraps.) Within the coming weeks, he will certainly fire Jami A. Miscik, head of the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), who has worked in the agency since 1983 and was a close associate of former DCI George J. Tenet. She has led the DI since May 2002, a period in which much of the false reporting on Iraq occurred. It may be logical and expectable that Miscik be held responsible for the politicized intelligence produced on her watch; but under the present circumstances it is clear that she is actually being punished for following the orders of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, who ordered up the false intelligence in the first place. As Spencer Ackerman has written, "If Goss thought the CIA was dysfunctional before, he has guaranteed that it is now."[18]

There is every reason to try to make the CIA at least slightly more effective in its truth-telling mission, but even the hint that a Republican Party loyalty test is now being applied will cause an exodus of experienced analysts and leave the country even more vulnerable than it is now. With several wars underway (in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel-Palestine, Colombia, Kashmir, Sudan, and Chechnya, to name only the most obvious), Iran and North Korea on the cusp of becoming nuclear powers, a looming possibility of a global flight from the dollar, the emergence of China as an economic powerhouse, and the polar ice caps melting, this is not exactly a good time to be blinding ourselves. The only groups who will profit from a crippling of what is left of the CIA's early warning and analytic capabilities will be the Bush-Cheney White House and Rumsfeld's Pentagon.

The present sorry chapter in the rise and fall of the CIA reflects trends in the U.S. that are bolstering an "imperial presidency" and its handmaiden, militarism. Although the CIA was created to help inform presidents about threats to the country, it is clear that the President and his top officials no longer want or need its intelligence functions, which have, in any case, been increasingly transferred to the military establishment, the professional armed forces, and the military-industrial complex -- groups hardly best known for their reputations as truth-tellers.

It is true that the CIA, once founded, quickly evolved into a Praetorian Guard, totally under the president's secret control, and that every president since Truman, upon discovering such an extraordinary source of power privately available, has found its use irresistible. Over the decades, however, the CIA's ability to intervene covertly and often violently in the affairs of others almost anywhere on Earth has become somewhat less interesting to presidents as Congress passed laws constraining presidential independence of action when it came to the Agency -- and as alternatives came into being in the form of the military's various Special Forces. The president now has an explicit and far more military Praetorian Guard at his disposal that lacks any form of democratic oversight, although he risks a future moment in which it might eventually take power into its own hands, as the original Praetorians of the Roman Empire did two millennia ago.

Many presidents have abused their secret powers. When these violations of law became public, as they did spectacularly during the Watergate scandal, they led to Congressional efforts to impose oversight on the agency. From 1947 to 1974, Congress was completely uninformed about and exercised no control at all over anything the CIA did. The agency's budget was buried in the "black" sections of the Pentagon's budget. With the amending of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974 (the "Hughes-Ryan Act") and the 1980 Intelligence Oversight Act, the president was required formally to authorize all operations in writing and report them to special committees of Congress or at least to their chairmen and ranking minority members.

None of these measures has worked well, but they reflected a growing public distrust of secret powers. Some members of Congress even collaborated with unscrupulous CIA officials to subvert controls over expenditures and covert operations. When Congressman Charlie Wilson (D-TX) became chairman of the House's Intelligence Oversight Committee, he wrote to his friends at the CIA, who were then secretly enlarging the supply of weapons to the mujahideen in Afghanistan, "Well, gentlemen, the fox is in the hen house. Do whatever you like."[19] Similarly, in 1985, the oversight system virtually collapsed when it was revealed that NSA director Vice Adm. John Poindexter and his aide Lt. Col. Oliver L. North had secretly collaborated with DCI William Casey to sell arms to Iran and that no one in Congress had been informed about it in any way. Somewhat more rigorous Congressional scrutiny of the CIA ensued, which had the unintended effect of making CIA officers more risk averse while enlarging the powers of the Pentagon and our 14 other supersecret intelligence agencies, particularly the National Security Agency, whose budget the Pentagon controls.

Nonetheless, the CIA still retains its statutory role of compiling and transmitting to the president objective intelligence on matters it deems relevant to the nation's security. The Agency may have become little more than a speed-bump for an imperial president who also dominates the Congress and the courts, but it is still part of the checks and balances of power within the executive branch of our government that make the U.S. a democratic republic and protect us from an imperial usurpation of power. With the reelection of President Bush and the appointment of Porter Goss to bring the CIA under White House control, it becomes increasingly hard to see how the republic will survive.

Chalmers Johnson's latest books Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (Metropolitan, 2000) and The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (Metropolitan, 2004) are the first two volumes in a trilogy on American imperial policies. The final volume is now being written. Between 1967 and 1973 Johnson served as a consultant to the CIA's Office of National Estimates.

© 2004 Chalmers Johnson


1. Douglas Jehl, "Chief of CIA Tells His Staff to Back Bush," the New York Times, November 17, 2004.

2. Melvin A. Goodman, "Righting the CIA," the Baltimore Sun, November 19, 2004.

3. See, among several references, the remarks of a CIA officer who actually heard Schlesinger: Ray McGovern, "Cheney's Cat's Paw: Porter Goss as CIA Director," Counterpunch, July 6, 2004.

4. David Brooks, "The C.I.A. Versus Bush," the New York Times, November 13, 2004.

5. Daniel Ellsberg, Secrets [New York: Viking, 2002], p. 434.

6. Loch K. Johnson, America's Secret Power: The CIA in a Democratic Society [New York: Oxford University Press, 1989], p. 21.

7. Loch K. Johnson, p. 36.

8. Bob Woodward, Veil: The CIA's Secret Wars, 1981-87 [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987], p. 49.

9. Robert M. Gates, "The CIA and American Foreign Policy," Foreign Affairs vol. 66, Winter 1987-88, p. 227.

10. Loch K. Johnson, p. 62.

11. L. K. Johnson, p. 62; see also Harold P. Ford, CIA and Vietnam Policymakers: Three Episodes, 1962-1968 [Washington: Central Intelligence Agency, 1998], pp. 86-104.

12. 94th Congress, 2nd Session, Senate, Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities [the Church committee], Final Report [Washington: Government Printing Office, 1976], vol. 1, p. 78.

13. See Federation of American Scientists, Weapons of Mass Destruction, R-36/SS-9 SCARP; and Fred Kaplan, The Rumsfeld Intelligence Agency, Slate, October 28, 2002.

14. Steven Coll, Ghost Wars [New York: Penguin, 2004], p. 562.

15. Ray McGovern, "Cheney's Cat's Paw," Counterpunch, July 6, 2004.

16. Richard A. Clark, Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terrorism [New York: Free Press, 2004]; Michael Scheuer, "How Not to Catch a Terrorist," Atlantic Monthly, December 2004, pp. 50-52.

17. Douglas Jehl, "Ex-CIA Chief Nets $500,000 on Talk Circuit," the New York Times, November 11, 2004.

18. Spencer Ackerman, "Killing the Messenger," Salon, November 16, 2004.

19. George Crile, Charlie Wilson's War [New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2003], p. 494.