S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Intelligence and Foreign Affairs

The word has prominence in my experience of my world. I like to think I am intelligent, though others may disagree. I am drawn to intelligent people. I have little patience with stupidity, its opposite.
"Intelligence gathering" is regularly in the news. The other word for that is "spying." What is happening in the larger world of intelligence, and just what is "intelligence" all about? To begin, the word has several different meanings, examples of which I will explore news-wise in today's post.

Webster says the word intelligence means:
1) the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations, the skilled use of reason; 2) the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (as tests); 3) Christian Science: the basic eternal quality of divine Mind, mental acuteness: SHREWDNESS; 4) an intelligent entity, esp. ANGEL, intelligent mind or minds ; 5) the act of understanding (comprehension); 6) INFORMATION NEWS, information concerning an enemy or possible enemy or area, also an agency engaged in obtaining such
5) the act of understanding (comprehension) - There is a wonderful example of "intelligence" illustrated by a recent article written by Madeleine Albright as an op-ed in the LA Times. She has great intelligence which she uses to discuss an administration that does not have an impressive amount of same. To quote,
Good versus evil isn't a strategy
Bush's worldview fails to see that in the Middle East, power politics is the key.
By Madeleine Albright 24, 2006
THE BUSH administration's newly unveiled National Security Strategy might well be subtitled "The Irony of Iran." Three years after the invasion of Iraq and the invention of the phrase "axis of evil," the administration now highlights the threat posed by Iran whose radical government has been vastly strengthened by the invasion of Iraq. This is more tragedy than strategy, and it reflects the Manichean approach this administration has taken to the world.
It is sometimes convenient, for purposes of rhetorical effect, for national leaders to talk of a globe neatly divided into good and bad. It is quite another, however, to base the policies of the world's most powerful nation upon that fiction. Theadministration'ss penchant for painting its perceived adversaries with the same sweeping brush has led to a series of unintended consequences.
For years, the president has acted as if Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein's followers and Iran's mullahs were parts of the same problem. Yet, in the 1980s, Hussein's Iraq and Iran fought a brutal war. In the 1990s, Al Qaeda's allies murdered a group of Iranian diplomats. For years, Osama bin Laden ridiculed Hussein, who persecuted Sunni and Shiite religious leaders alike. When Al Qaeda struck the U.S. on 9/11, Iran condemned the attacks and later participated constructively in talks on Afghanistan. The top leaders in the new Iraq chosen in elections that George W. Bush called "a magic moment in the history of liberty" are friends of Iran. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, Bush may have thought he was striking a blow for good over evil, but the forces unleashed were considerably more complex.The administration is now divided between those who understand this complexity and those who do not. On one side, there are ideologues, such as the vice president, who apparently see Iraq as a useful precedent for Iran.
Meanwhile, officials on the front lines in Iraq know they cannot succeed in assembling a workable government in that country without the tacit blessing of Iran; hence, last week's long-overdue announcement of plans for a U.S.-Iranian dialogue on Iraq a dialogue that if properly executed might also lead to progress on other issues.

1) the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations, the skilled use of reason - We often look to the European Union to handle thorny and difficult issues for us. And right now the European Union has its hands full with their current agenda. Ministers will be required to use every bit of the intelligence they can muster to figure out how to deal with these seemingly impossible issues. Yahoo!News reports that,
European foreign ministers were due to hold talks dominated by concern over the new Hamas-led Palestinian cabinet and President Alexander Lukashenko's sweeping return to power in Belarus.
The ministers, meeting from 0900 GMT in Brussels, will ponder a diplomatic worst-case scenario in the Palestinian territories after Hamas, blacklisted in the EU as a terrorist group, submitted a cabinet list full of its members. The Union is by far the biggest aid donor to the impoverished Palestinian territories and has made future help conditional on the cabinet agreeing to recognise Israel, forswear violence and accept previously-reached accords.
But the militant Islamic group, which stunningly won legislative elections in January, has shown little sign that it will agree to any, let alone all, of those preconditions. Its stance has left the EU, which sends around 500 million euros a year to the territories, with a huge dilemma at a desperate time for many Palestinians.

2) the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (as tests). - This story makes me wonder whether our military intelligence community was either very smart and clever (with its intelligence) or very stupid. Russian spy reports went to Saddam just before the invasion of Iraq. According to the AP at MyWay,
Iraqi documents captured by U.S. forces in 2003 say Russian intelligence had sources inside the American military that enabled it to feed information about U.S. troop movements and battle plans to Saddam Hussein.
The unclassified report does not assess the value or accuracy of the information Saddam got or offer details on Russia's information pipeline. It cites captured Iraqi
documents that say the Russians had "sources inside the American Central Command" and that intelligence was passed to Saddam through the Russian
ambassador in Baghdad. . . . The report does not address the possibility that the U.S. military deliberately fed false information to the Russians, expecting them to pass it to Saddam. It does say that "such external sources of information were only one of the fog-generators obscuring the minds of Iraq's senior leadership.". . . The report paints a picture of an Iraqi regime that was largely blind to the threat it faced, hampered by Saddam's inept military leadership, preoccupied by the prospect of a Shiite uprising and deceived by its own propaganda.

6) INFORMATION NEWS, information concerning an enemy or possible enemy or area, also an agency engaged in obtaining such information. This meaning is supposed to apply to actual enemies or potential enemies. The use of domestic intelligence gathering through the apparatus at NSA is a perversion of the meaning of the word. The American people being spied upon are not the enemy. And the Attorney General's responses to questions about the details of this illegal operation are not satisfactory. This story illustrates how, in this and so many other areas, our current president and his Attorney General has not read the dictionary. The Department of Justice responded to formal questions of congressional committees with written responses about NSA spying. The story is quoted from AP at MyWay:
The National Security Agency could have legally monitored ordinarily confidential communications between doctors and patients or attorneys and their clients, the Justice Department said Friday of its controversial warrantless surveillance program.
Responding to questions from Congress, the department also said that it sees no prohibition to using information collected under the NSA's program in court. . .
In classified court filings, the Justice Department has responded to questions about whether information from the government's warrantless surveillance program was used to prosecute terror suspects. Defense attorneys are hoping to use that information to challenge the cases against their clients.
Since the program was disclosed in December, some skeptical lawmakers have investigated the Bush administration's legal footing, raising questions including whether the program could capture doctor-patient and attorney-client communications. Such communications normally receive special legal protections. . .
Lawmakers also asked whether federal judges on a secretive intelligence court objected to the program and, if so, how the administration responded.
The department wouldn't answer, citing the need to protect classified information. "We assure you, however, that the department keeps the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court fully informed regarding information that is relevant to the FISA process," the response said.
The department also avoided questions on whether the administration believes it is legal to wiretap purely domestic calls without a warrant, when al-Qaida activity is suspected. The department wouldn't say specifically that it hasn't been done.
"Interception of the content of domestic communications would present a different legal question," the department said.

Out of balance - All of the above stories indicate that there is either too little or too much intelligence capacity in the current administration. I am convinced there was much more intellect available in the former administration. The style of working with other countries was also very different. For the past five years our government has either ignored other governments of arbitrarily delegaresponibilitylity to them for the things we should be handling ourselves, a la Dubai Ports. And finally, there is far too much going on in the domestic intelligence arena, at a very high cost to our civil liberties. The government is out of balance. This 2006 election year is an opportunity to elect people that might help rebalance U.S. governance.
My "creative post" today at Southwest Blogger is about weeds.

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