Monday, December 1, 2008

The CIA & Obama's Would-Be "Cure" For It

Until recent days, John Brennan, who has been Barack Obama's top advisor on intelligence matters, had been the President-elect's assumed choice to head the CIA. Brennan is a vile rightist, one of George Tenet's long-serving hecubi who spent a few years as Deputy Executive Director of the CIA during the outgoing Bush's administration. Among other things, he has supported and defended the Bush administrations' use of torture and of "rendition" (shipping people to foreign countries where they can be horribly tortured with impunity) pimped for Bush's illegal wiretapping scheme and for immunity for telecoms who collaborated with Bush without regard to the law or their customers' rights. After a minor firestorm of controversy erupted over Brennan's potential appointment, he wrote a letter to Obama on Nov. 25 withdrawing his name from any potential intelligence-related post.

The real story isn't that he has now withdrawn. It's that he was ever even a contender in the first place.

The CIA is a mess at the moment. It has been subject, under the Bush administration, to the same sort of ideological purge as was the Justice Department and other agencies. Quality intel pros--those charged with gathering and making sense of the data necessary to, among other things, protect the U.S. from terrorist attacks were given the heave-ho because they weren't "loyal" enough, or conservative enough. The corporate press has virtually ignored this but Porter Goss was named by Bush to head of the agency with explicit instructions to carry out such a purge. From Newsday, in 2004:
"The White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to knowledgeable sources.

"'The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House,' said a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to the agency and to the White House. 'Goss was given instructions... to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president's agenda.'"
This was done and in very ugly fashion. As it progressed, one senior administration official told Knight-Ridder that the purge "appears to be directed at 'everybody who said there was no connection between Iraq and al-Qaida and everybody who they think leaked information that undercut what the administration was claiming.'"

"This is a classic case of shooting the messenger," said one senior official. 'Unfortunately, they're the same messengers we're counting on to warn us of the next al-Qaida attack.'" 

Robert Dreyfuss has been one of the few journalists who tracked this sorry affair in any detail:
"Since Goss took over, between 30 and 90 senior CIA officials have made their exit, according to various sources, some fleeing into retirement, others taking refuge as consultants. Others, unable to retire, have stayed, but only to mark time at the agency. Morale, already low after several years during which the CIA was accused of a series of intelligence failures related to September 11 and Iraq's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, is now at rock-bottom. The agency's vaunted Near East Division, in particular, which served as the 'pointy end of the spear,' as one CIA veteran put it, in simultaneous wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the 'global war on terror,' has been decimated."
That entire Dreyfuss article is worth a read.

Within only months of Goss's appointment, nearly the entirety of the senior management of the clandestine services--the branch which handles the spies--had been fired or had quit.

Goss eventually left. The purge, unfortunately, didn't. Under Michael Hayden, his successor, the CIA inspector general launched an investigation into the administration's detention and "interrogation" practices. Hayden's response was the launch an investigation of the inspector general.

This is what's been happening at CIA. Longtime, high-ranking intel pros being eliminated in a political purge and replaced with Bush yes-men. This is the agency that will confront Obama when he is sworn in.

And Brennan was his solution? 


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