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, January 19, 2008

Intel Drivers

The M & M's --Two Mikes, one an Admiral and one a General, are in the drivers' seats of two of the main vehicles for the nation's Intel community. The first is Vice Admiral Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence (See my recent feature post). The other Mike -- General Michael V. Hayden, heads the Central Intelligence Agency. Both men have been in the news recently, each sometimes to an advantage and sometimes to a disadvantage. Apparently, loyalty to the White House is a powerful driver for both of the Mikes. Mike McConnell originally got everything he needed in the P.A.A. reauthorization legislation to collect and analyze foreign intelligence. He would have been authorized to target strictly foreign subjects without a warrant, and to required to get FISA court warrants to target U.S. persons. Those were the essential terms in two of the three bill versions set to come up for Senate debate next week. But, after the White House demanded it during the earlier negotiations between he and Congress, McConnell also demanded retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies cooperating with the government intelligence apparatus. Only one of the pending versions contains that provision, the Senate Intel Committee bill.

The Budgets and Authorities -- Congress has the authority to control government spending. As DNI, Admiral Mike McConnell has a certain amount of authority over CIA head, General Michael Hayden, the primary subject of later material in this post.Their operating budgets are in a bill for an estimated $48 billion waiting to be signed by our current president (OCP). OCP has threatened a veto. To quote from this headlined story from the Huffington Post, "House Votes to Ban Harsh C.I.A. Methods," by The Associated Press. December 13, 2007:

The 222-199 vote sent the measure to the Senate, which still must act before it can go to President Bush. The White House has threatened a veto.
The bill, a House-Senate compromise to authorize intelligence operations in 2008, also blocks spending 70 percent of the intelligence budget until the House and Senate intelligence committees are briefed on Israel's Sept. 6 air strike on an alleged nuclear site in Syria.
The 2008 intelligence budget is classified, but it is more than the $43 billion approved for 2007.

The Road Rules -- hints at possible reasons for the president's threatened veto of the Mikes' funding. The White House has set up different rules of the road for its so-called war on terror, than what Congress thinks the law should be. Thus Congress put conditions on the money. To quote:

. . . The bill requires civilian as well as military interrogators to obey the Army Field Manual's ban on torture of prisoners and the United States to adhere to Geneva Conventions rules for handling prisoners of war. The bill orders a National Intelligence Estimate on the impact of climate change on U.S. security.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said "in the pursuit of those who seek to harm us, we must not sacrifice the very ideals that distinguish us from those who preach death and destruction. Yet, under the current administration, we have seen that line blurred between legitimate, sanctioned interrogation tactics and torture."

Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., objected to the bill's funding of studies into the impact of global warming on U.S. security, calling it wrong to divert funds "from tough antiterrorsm intelligence programs targeted at apprehending and killing terrorists" to those studies.

The Lapses -- The two Mikes have come into their positions rather recently. And each has had a certain number of inherited messes. DNI McConnell inherited the Terrorist Surveillance Program, secret and, apparently illegal. CIA Director Hayden inherited the torture tapes destruction scandal, also secret and, apparently illegal. The two Mikes do have strengths. They each have a relatively open manner. They are more comfortable than their predecessors with making things public. (McConnell sometimes declassifies materials on the spot). And they have absorbed considerable military discipline, which their boss -- OCP -- absorbed relatively little. The dark side of that is that it harder to resign in protest and ruin a military career, I think, than resign in civilian protest such as Jack Goldsmith and James Comey did over the administration operating outside the law.

  • Failure to inform Congress -- New York Times headline, "C.I.A. Chief Cites Agency Lapse on Tapes" (12/13/07) To quote:

    Gen. Michael V. Hayden . . . acknowledged on Wednesday that the C.I.A. had failed to keep members of Congress fully informed that the agency had videotaped the interrogations of suspected operatives of Al Qaeda and destroyed the tapes three years later.

    General Hayden’s comments struck a different tone from a message he sent to C.I.A. employees last Thursday, when he said that Congressional leaders had been informed about the tapes and of the “agency’s intention to dispose of the material.”

    . . . General Hayden said Wednesday that “particularly at the time of the destruction, we could have done an awful lot better at keeping the committee alert and informed.”

  • Failure to preserve evidence -- Just before Christmas the Times Online headlined, "CIA chief to drag White House into torture cover-up storm." To quote:

    THE CIA chief who ordered the destruction of secret videotapes recording the harsh interrogation of two top Al-Qaeda suspects has indicated he may seek immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying before the House intelligence committee.

    Jose Rodriguez, former head of the CIA’s clandestine service, is determined not to become the fall guy in the controversy over the CIA’s use of torture, according to intelligence sources.

  • Failure to preserve evidence -- Porter Goss and the tapes (1/17/08)

    Former CIA Director Porter Goss never criticized plans to destroy interrogation videotapes, a lawyer said Thursday as the investigation began shaping up as a matter of competing storylines.

    Jose Rodriguez, the CIA official who gave the order to destroy the tapes, is at the center of Justice Department and congressional investigations into who approved the plan and whether it was illegal. His attorney, Robert Bennett, said Goss and Rodriquez met several times to discuss the tapes and Goss was never critical of Rodriquez' decision.

    After a first round of hearings on Capitol Hill, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee said Rodriguez defied orders that the tapes be preserved.

  • Failure to ascertain what was true before making a statement -- Detainee's Lawyers Rebut C.I.A. on Tapes - NYT 1/19/08 To quote:

    In papers filed Jan. 4, Mr. Khan’s lawyers challenged a Dec. 6 statement by the C.I.A. director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden. General Hayden, addressing agency employees after being told that The New York Times was about to publish an article about the tapes, wrote that the taping stopped in 2002.

Loyalty and Chain of Command are powerful drivers for military men. Their loyalty to their Commander in Chief must truly test the resolve of the two Mikes at times. And I do not doubt their loyalty to the idea of trying to collect sufficient information about the enemy to protect the nation against attack. The trick during the years of the current administration has been for them to have matching loyalty to the Bill of Rights and to the rule of law. It is a walk on a knife edge for all of us.

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