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Oversight, Intel And The Rule Of Law: Avoiding The Santayana Curse, Part II

Continued from Part I.

Make no mistake, the secrecy and intimidation on these issues comes from a single source: the shadow national security apparatus Dick Cheney has been fostering for his own policy purposes, and protection of his network of neocon allies who have birthed and implemented the host of failed policies from acceptance of torture to the end-run of the rule of law at any price.

If you think they have any second thoughts about the long-term implications of their failures on US reputations, see, for example, this recent gem from fellow Cheney neocon traveller Frank Gaffney:

Frank Gaffney Jr., director of the Center for Security Policy, says he has been told that two key al-Qaida figures gave up critical intelligence when confronted with so-called "enhanced interrogation." He argues that "aggressive" methods are "absolutely essential and should not be ruled out," adding: "War is an evil. . . . It requires us to do evil things."

At Fort Huachuca, Lt. Col. Jennings insists there is no uncertainty among his instructors and students: The Army does not condone torture or train its interrogators to use such practices. A new Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation…requires soldiers to abide by the Geneva Conventions, general laws of war, federal statutes and the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, all of which prohibit torture. The manual expressly forbids waterboarding and many other coercive methods employed during the war on terror….

As we know from the Libby trial, Dick Cheney will sacrifice anything — and anyone — in order to cover his own flank.

With reports of internal Bush Administration debate about increasing covert operations within Pakistan surfacing again, and mounting tensions in the region pushing Taliban sympathies to the fore as the Musharraf hold on power weakens with the assassination of Bhutto, an increase in public floating of options in order to seize the upper hand via covert PR plants has begun again. In earnest.

During the Libby trial, former Cheney spokesperson Catherine Martin (now a WH Press liaison) laid out in great detail the "anonymous plant and on the record confirmation strategy" of ginning up their own support from their own circle of friends (read: the WHIG). See this, for example, from the NYTimes:

Several of the participants in the meeting argued that the threat to the government of President Pervez Musharraf was now so grave that both Mr. Musharraf and Pakistan’s new military leadership were likely to give the United States more latitude, officials said. But no decisions were made, said the officials, who declined to speak for attribution because of the highly delicate nature of the discussions.

Hello, anonymous cover, yet again, with no intrinsic news value whatsoever. Who didn’t know that Musharraf’s government was threatened by the increased chaos following Bhutto’s death? Or that the Bush Administration would attempt to squeeze advantage out of that weakness — even to our long-term detriment if it bought them short-term claims to being action figureheads?

What I have been seeing over the last few weeks is that same pattern of behavior cropping up in story after story — clearly the lessons of Judy Miller were never learned. As Santayana famously said, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

The CIA will not publicly be admitting any errors, if recent public pushback from the press folks is any indication. Questions about interrogation techniques being taken too far across the line is nothing new. But the degree to which the White House, and more specifically Dick Cheney’s office, has been involved in shaping and enforcing that policy is. See Church Committee warnings, lather, rinse, repeat.

From the CIA to FISA fights to the use of the NSA for domestic spying purposes to a whole host of other issues which obliterate the notions of a balanced government in favor of a unilateral executive, what we have seen is the implementation of a host of policies designed solely to strengthen the hand of the President at the expense of everything, including the very foundations of our nation, the shaky underpinnings of which come straight from the raving lunacy of the neocon "braintrust." (This bloggingheads debate on "who is watching the watchers" lays this out nicely, thanks to Jack Balkin’s take.)

If we are to mend America’s tattered image, we can start by being honest with ourselves about what is being done in our names. And at whose behest.

(YouTube of The Police, live in Rio, "Every Breath You Take.")

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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