TV? I don’t need no stinking TV.

February 9, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Posted in CIA, politics straight up | Leave a comment
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Television antenna on an outhouse. Rural North Carolina. Sept. 1966

I made the decision in late 2004 to cancel my cable TV because I was not only getting little of positive value for the money, watching was negatively impacting my equanimity. It seemed to be against my interests and those of my fellow citizens to subsidize news programs full of misinformation and dishonest discussion, however much I enjoyed Craig Ferguson.

But I still received over-the-air broadcasts. News programs were like scheduled trainwrecks — impossible not to watch. So, in February 2009, when the broadcast plug was pulled with the changeover to HDTV, I decided the wiser course would be to trade my relatively new yet non-HDTV-compatible, 26-inch TV for something actually useful. I found someone with a truck who was willing to take a load of crap from my basement to the dump in exchange for the TV.

I have never made a better deal.

This has been another week that I patted myself on the back for the wise decision I made a year ago, because I don’t run the risk of flipping the channel to listen to a bunch of Villagers breathlessly pass on the latest GOP talking points about the Obama’s administration’s “failure to take terrorism seriously.”

What prompted me to sit down here at blog central and write about this was reading that Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) is calling for the resignation of Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan for having the audacity to attempt to set the record straight on what the Obama administration is doing with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and what past practice has been with respect to prosecuting terrorists.

I am thanking my lucky stars I don’t have to listen to the Mouse Circus cluck and burp about the “embattled” Obama administration and ask the important questions like “how can the Obama administration counter these charges” and “aren’t these charges damaging to the Obama administration.”

Let’s look back to another occasion earlier this year when I was also patting my back for having gotten rid of my TV.

On April 23, 2009 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was reported having “said congressional leaders were never briefed about the use of an enhanced interrogation practice, rejecting GOP claims that leadership was aware of the controversial tactics by late 2002.

“Flat out, they never briefed us that this was happening,” she said.

Republicans were calling for Pelosi’s head for questioning the integrity of the CIA:

“Republicans demand the facts on the use of enhanced interrogation techniques,” says the GOP memo from conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.). “For years, the speaker said she did not know terror suspects were subject to enhanced interrogation techniques. But now, the speaker says that, in 2003, she learned these techniques were in fact used and accused the CIA of ‘misleading’ Congress.”

The media spent the month of May helping the Republicans paint Nancy Pelosi as a liar.

In July 2009 Pelosi’s statement was proven correct. CIA Director Leon Panetta told lawmakers that the CIA had in fact misled Congress on “significant actions” for a “number of years.”

But that’s not the way you would have heard it reported, say, on ABC, who posted a story on their website titled “CIA Spat: Pelosi Vindicated? Not Quite.” Based on past experiencing watching ABC News, I think I think it safe to assume that their on-air coverage of the follow-up story was identical. ABC went along with the conflation that CIA director Leon Panetta’s statement that “it is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress” is the same as “what Pelosi said isn’t true.”

Fast forward to February 4, 2010.

Appearing on Fox News, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) accused the president of treating Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab “as if he had robbed a convenience store.” But in a dig at the FBI interrogators overseeing the interrogations, the Kentucky Republican compared their work to that of longtime softball interviewer CNN’s Larry King.

“He was given a 50-minute interrogation,” said McConnell. “Probably Larry King has interrogated people longer and better than that, after which he was assigned a lawyer who told him to shut up. That is not the way to deal with a person in the war on terror.”

Has anyone on any news program asked Mitch McConnell to apologize to the FBI?

Quite the opposite. The television news programs are repeating unchallenged statements by Republican lawmakers that the Obama administration is mishandling the underpants bomber.

“Oh, but they’re just reporting what Republicans are saying!”

Exactly.

At no point has a Republican been asked to explain the contradiction between their accusations that the Obama administration, the FBI and the Justice Department has failed to to adequately safeguard the country and the fact they made no complaint in any of the 319 terrorism cases prosecuted in civilian courts during the Bush administration.

Any bets that any of the highly paid TV news journalists or “pundits” will breathlessly express their shock and dismay that Mitch McConnell questioned the competence of the FBI or that Kit Bond is attempting to silence a public employee who contradicts him and his fellow travelers with the facts?

No?

Well, the shock and outrage about Nancy Pelosi pointing out the CIA’s failure to inform Congress about “enhanced interrogation techniques” went on for a little over three months. I predict that the Republicans will ride this pony quite a bit farther.

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An Octopus’s Garden

January 22, 2009 at 2:10 pm | Posted in Bush, CIA, Historical, music | Leave a comment
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(Russ Baker @ AlterNet) President Obama will face a staggering array of challenges, most, if not all, of which stem from the policies of Bush. But efforts at reform will fall short if we fail to probe and confront the powerful forces that wanted this disastrous administration in the White House in the first place — and that remain ready and able to maintain their influence behind the scenes today.

* * *

Over much of the last century, the Bushes have been serving the aims of a very narrow segment from within America’s wealthiest interests and families — typically through involvement in the most anti-New Deal investment banking circles, in the creation of a civilian intelligence service after World War II, and in some of that service’s most secretive and still-unacknowledged operations.

Through declassified documents and interviews, I unearthed evidence that George W. Bush’s father, the 41st president of the United States, had been working for the intelligence services no less than two decades before he was named CIA director in 1976. Time and again, Bush 41 and his allies have participated in clandestine operations to force presidents to do the bidding of oil and other resource-extraction interests, military contractors and financiers. Whenever a president showed independence or sought reforms that threatened entrenched interests, this group helped to ensure that he was politically attacked and neutralized, or even removed from office, through one means or another.

We are not dealing here with what are commonly dismissed as “conspiracy theories.” We are dealing with a reality that is much more subtle, layered and pervasive — a matrix of power in which crude conspiracies are rarely necessary and in which the execution or subsequent cover-up of anti-democratic acts become practically a norm.

Russ Baker is an award-winning investigative reporter. He has written for the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Nation, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Village Voice and Esquire. Baker received a 2005 Deadline Club award for his exclusive reporting on George W. Bush’s military record. Information on his new book, Family of Secrets: the Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America, can be found here.

Dianne Feinstein: Concern Troll.

January 6, 2009 at 11:32 am | Posted in CIA | Leave a comment

Senator Feinstein, paragon of Vichy Democrats during the past eight years, is apparently unhappy with President-Elect Obama’s selection for Director of CIA.

Leon Panetta is not an “intelligence professional” and so is not acceptable to Feinstein. Well, that and she’s miffed because she wasn’t consulted by Obama or the transition team.

She certainly had different ideas when it came to confirmation of Porter Goss: “I believe the President should have the prerogative to appoint who he wants to be the DCI, or for any other senior position, subject only to the requirement that the person be qualified for the job.”

Jay Rockefeller is apparently unhappy at not being consulted as well.

Now, John Negroponte is their kind of guy.

Senator Jay Rockefeller, the senior Democrat on the [senate intelligence] committee, cited Negroponte’s 40-year career as a diplomat and gushed, “This breeds a tough and disciplined man of self-esteem and a willingness to make decisions and tell truth to power….You’ve ably served the country.” Rockefeller did not mention the well-supported allegation that Negroponte, when he was ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s, downplayed and smothered reports of human rights abuses conducted by the Honduran military, his partner in providing assistance to the contra rebels fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. When Negroponte was ambassador to Honduras and ever since, he has denied that he covered up abuses or that the Honduran military engaged in systemic human rights violations. But a 1997 CIA inspectors general report and Honduran investigations have concluded the Honduran military committed serious human rights atrocities during Negroponte’s tenure. The CIA IG noted, “The Honduran military committed hundreds of human rights abuses since 1980, many of which were politically motivated and officially sanctioned.” It also noted that an infamous CIA-trained military outfit, Battalion 316, was linked to “death squad activities.” As ambassador, Negroponte toiled side by side General Gustavo Alvarez, the Honduran strongman who was the architect of Battalion 316.

According to Dianne Feinstein, “Ambassador Negroponte has served with distinction” and “is well suited to overseeing the collection of vital intelligence needed for the United States to protect itself.”

Oh, yes, dear senators, Leon Panetta is clearly not in the same league as Negroponte.

Senator Feinstein voted with Republicans to confirm Michael B. Mukasey to replace Frodo as Attorney General.

And when it came time to vote to confirm Michael Hayden as director of the CIA? No problem! He’s a REAL man!

MRS. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise in support of the nomination of General Michael Hayden to be the next Director of the CIA. I support his confirmation first because I think General Hayden’s vision for the future of the CIA is right on point.

Yes, I can see why these highly-principled senators would object to Leon Panetta. He’s less than supportive of the the programs that they clearly believe should continue.

I’m in full agreement with Steve Benen:

Turf battles notwithstanding, the more complaints I hear about Panetta at the CIA, the more I find the concerns underwhelming. Feinstein and Rockefeller feel snubbed? Given their recent track record, I don’t much care. The head of the CIA should come from within the agency? At least six recent CIA chiefs didn’t. Panetta doesn’t have a background in national security intelligence? Nonsense, as White House chief of staff and an ISG member, Panetta dealt with the very sensitive intelligence on a daily basis. Indeed, he learned very well precisely how to process intelligence to help the president see the big picture.

CIA Director Nominee: Leon Panetta

January 5, 2009 at 3:19 pm | Posted in CIA | 2 Comments
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Leon Panetta has apparently been named as President-Elect Obama’s nominee for the position of CIA Director.

Leon Panetta has spent a lifetime in public service, including Director of the Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton administration. For the past 11 years, he and his wife have founded and operated The Leon & Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy. but I was looking through his background specifically to try to answer the question of why the CIA.

What I learned (from Wikpedia, yeah, I know, I should do better but I’m supposed to be working) is that when he was in the Army in the 1960s he was for some period of time chief of operations and planning of the intelligence section at the former Fort Ord in Monterey Bay, California.

Obviously, that little biographical detail isn’t the whole of it, but when put together with Mr. Panetta’s clear management and organizational experience, much of it in the federal government, the nomination makes a lot of sense.

I foresee a major tightening of the defense budget.

My impression from my brief tour, links to some of which are included here, is that Leon Panetta is a competent adult who will serve President Obama and the country well, as he has done in the past.

Here’s a link to an op-ed Leon Panetta wrote in March of 2008 for the Monterey County Herald in which he talks about the politics of fear and makes pretty clear he understands that torture is illegal.

Below is the video of the official announcement of Leon Panetta for CIA Director and retired Admiral Dennis Blair for Director of National Intelligence.

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