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Rank Incompetence


BREAKING:  CNN reports that the SCOTUS just blocked denied certiorari (CHS notes:  that’s what I get for using CNN’s reporter language.) for the El-Masri civil lawsuit against the US for alleged torture of him by CIA agents and others when they held him at a black site — after picking him up on inaccurate information.   SCOTUSblog has more.  Also of note today, the government’s brief in the Al Odah v. United States (06-1196) case is due (this is the habeas challenge case to Guantanamo detentions.)

They rejected it, leaving in place all the questions that are still swirling around about “state secrets” constraints rather than give the Bush Administration the blanket immunity from suit they’ve been asking for — so it’s not all roses for Bush on this one.

The civil liability question on this was far from solid, despite the abhorrent governmental conduct. But by not taking the case or not dismissing it outright on state secrets grounds, they leave open the prospect of lots of future challenges from the circuits below instead of shutting them off entirely. Which opens up an entire window of discovery into what the Administration may or may not have been doing in a much more public way through the courts. The SCOTUS simply declined to review the case.


Because paying attention to details, listening to the professionals who keep this nation safe on the front lines…and not using information for short-term personally aggrandizing propaganda purposes is too damn hard, the Bush Administration has — yet again — proven themselves to be rank incompetents in the field of espionage.  And they’ve endangered the nation in the process by severing a valuable surveillance network that was a useful window into al qaeda operations.  Everything these people touch turns to shit, doesn’t it?

Leaving the question of outsourcing valuable intel operations aside for another day, this is just disturbingly inane failure on a lot of levels.  Via the WaPo:

A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company’s Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group’s communications network.

“Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless,” said Rita Katz, the firm’s 44-year-old founder, who has garnered wide attention by publicizing statements and videos from extremist chat rooms and Web sites, while attracting controversy over the secrecy of SITE’s methodology. Her firm provides intelligence about terrorist groups to a wide range of paying clients, including private firms and military and intelligence agencies from the United States and several other countries….

By midafternoon, several television news networks reported obtaining copies of the transcript. A copy posted around 3 p.m. on Fox News’s Web site referred to SITE and included page markers identical to those used by the group. “This confirms that the U.S. government was responsible for the leak of this document,” Katz wrote in an e-mail to Leiter at 5 p.m.

Al-Qaeda supporters, now alerted to the intrusion into their secret network, put up new obstacles that prevented SITE from gaining the kind of access it had obtained in the past, according to Katz.

Remember the Pakistani source that got burned in the run-up to the 2004 election, when Bush needed a PR boost and that personal need was put ahead of national security considerations? Yes, me too. (Does the name Valerie ring a bell?)  Rank incompetence and utter lack of care for long-term consequences to all of us, let alone slack-assed inattention to detail and long-held security and need to know protocols. Add in an utter failure to learn from past mistakes.  Welcome to Bushworld. Feel safer?

Tell me, please, what part of “trust us” is even remotely plausible for this Administration of bunglers?  Honestly? 

And, as an interesting aside, Laura Rozen points out that a NYSun article on the same topic neglects to mention both the WH and Fox News connections on this.  Why is that, exactly?

(Photo via the WH/by Paul Morse.)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com