Quotulatiousness

March 12, 2014

Senator Dianne Feinstein versus the CIA

Filed under: Government, Law, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:52

In Mother Jones, David Corn shows the state of play between the Central Intelligence Agency and the senate committee that is responsible for oversight of the CIA:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chair of the Senate intelligence committee, took to the Senate floor and accused the CIA of spying on committee investigators tasked with probing the agency’s past use of harsh interrogation techniques (a.k.a. torture) and detention. Feinstein was responding to recent media stories reporting that the CIA had accessed computers used by intelligence committee staffers working on the committee’s investigation. The computers were set up by the CIA in a locked room in a secure facility separate from its headquarters, and CIA documents relevant to the inquiry were placed on these computers for the Senate investigators. But, it turns out, the Senate sleuths had also uncovered an internal CIA memo reviewing the interrogation program that had not been turned over by the agency. This document was far more critical of the interrogation program than the CIA’s official rebuttal to a still-classified, 6,300-page Senate intelligence committee report that slams it, and the CIA wanted to find out how the Senate investigators had gotten their mitts on this damaging memo.

The CIA’s infiltration of the Senate’s torture probe was a possible constitutional violation and perhaps a criminal one, too. The agency’s inspector general and the Justice Department have begun inquiries. And as the story recently broke, CIA sources — no names, please — told reporters that the real issue was whether the Senate investigators had hacked the CIA to obtain the internal review. Readers of the few newspaper stories on all this did not have to peer too far between the lines to discern a classic Washington battle was under way between Langley and Capitol Hill.

[...]

So here we have the person assigned the duty of guaranteeing that the intelligence establishment functions effectively and appropriately, and she cannot get information about how the CIA meddled in one of her own investigations. This is a serious breakdown. And by the way, Feinstein has still not succeeded in forcing the CIA to declassify her committee’s massive report on the interrogation and detention program.

Here is how she summed up the current state of play:

    If the Senate can declassify this report, we will be able to ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted. But, Mr. President, the recent actions that I have just laid out make this a defining moment for the oversight of our intelligence committee. How Congress and how this will be resolved will show whether the intelligence committee can be effective in monitoring and investigating our nation’s intelligence activities or whether our work can be thwarted by those we oversee.

What Feinstein didn’t say — but it’s surely implied — is that without effective monitoring, secret government cannot be justified in a democracy. This is indeed a defining moment. It’s a big deal for President Barack Obama, who, as is often noted in these situations, once upon a time taught constitutional law. Feinstein has ripped open a scab to reveal a deep wound that has been festering for decades. The president needs to respond in a way that demonstrates he is serious about making the system work and restoring faith in the oversight of the intelligence establishment. This is more than a spies-versus-pols DC turf battle. It is a constitutional crisis.

December 6, 2013

Mismeasuring inequality

Filed under: Economics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 15:20

Tim Worstall on a Wall Street Journal article which asks “how do we measure inequality”. Tim says “not that way, idiots” (although I might have imagined the “idiots” part):

The title of the piece is “How do you measure ‘inequality’?” to which a very good response is “Not that way”. For although all the numbers there are exact and accurate (well, as much as any economic statistic is such) the whole statement is entirely misleading. For the numbers that are being used for the USA are calculated on an entirely different basis to the way that the numbers for the other countries are. So much so that in this instance we have Wikipedia being more accurate than either the WSJ or the CIA itself. Which, while amusing, isn’t quite the world I think we’d all like to have.

Here’s what the problem is. Conceptually we can measure inequality in a number of different ways and this particular one, the Gini, looks at the spread of incomes across the society. OK, no need for the details of how we calculate it except for one. We again, conceptually, have two different incomes that can be measured.

So, the guy pulling down $1 million a year dealing bonds on Wall Street. Does he really have an income of $1 million a year? Or is it more true to say that he gets $600,000 a year after the Feds, NY State and NYC have all dipped their hands into his paycheck? And the guy at the other end, making $15,000 a year as a greeter at WalMart. Is he really making $15,000? Or should we add in the EITC, the State EITC (if there is one), Section 8 housing vouchers, Medicaid and all the rest to what he’s earning? He might be consuming as if he’s getting $25 k a year, even though his market income is only $15k.

What we actually do is we calculate both of these. The first is called the Gini at market incomes, the second the Gini after taxes and benefits. There’s nothing either right or wrong about either measure: they just are what they are. However, we do have to be clear about which we are using in any circumstance and similarly, very clear about not comparing inequality in one country by one measure with inequality in another by the other measure. Yet, sadly, that is exactly what is being done here.

November 12, 2013

Corruption watch: US government edition

Filed under: Government, Law — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:10

In his weekly NFL column, Gregg Easterbrook frequently has extended discussions of non-football items like this week’s quick tour of recent US federal, state, and local government agencies’ corruption news:

This column contends that corruption in government is a larger problem than commonly understood — that a reason expenditures at the federal, state and local levels keep smashing records, yet schools and bridges don’t get built, is that a significant fraction of what government spends is not just wasted, it is stolen.

Last week’s news that two senior admirals have been placed on leave on suspicion of corruption, while two Navy commanders and a senior official of the actual NCIS, not the TV show, have been arrested and charged with corruption, might be just the tip of an iceberg, to employ a nautical metaphor. Here’s a quick tour of recent corruption charges:

In federal government, a top EPA official stole nearly $900,000 from the agency, including through his expense account and by not reporting to work for months at a time yet receiving full pay. Absurdly, he was believed at the EPA when he claimed to be on assignment for the CIA. If the CIA needed an environmental specialist, there is a system by which one would be “detailed,” and the EPA would know.

Recently, an Army contractor was sentenced to 20 years in prison for stealing about $30 million using false invoices. Former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. recently was sentenced to prison for embezzling from campaign funds; his wife was sentenced for income-tax evasion. (The campaign embezzlement did not cost taxpayers anything, the tax evasion did.)

In state government, the Securities Exchange Commission has accused the state of Illinois of pension bond fraud. The S.E.C. has charged the former head of the California state pension fund with fraud. Members of the New York Senate have been arrested on bribery charges. The lieutenant governor of Florida resigned over involvement with a fake charity.

In local government, the former mayor of Detroit just went to prison for corruption. Several members of the Washington, D.C., city council have been jailed or indicted for corruption, including one in jail for stealing from a youth-sports fund. A former California mayor just pleaded no contest to corruption charges. A former Chicago alderman just pleaded guilty in a corruption case. Chicago might be “the most corrupt city in the country,” with kickbacks and embezzlement costing Chicago taxpayers $500 million per year, a rate that works to $185 annually stolen from each resident.

[...]

In a big, complicated world, there will always be some who steal. Most public officials are honest and work hard to administer public funds properly. But we tend to think of theft in government as a problem of bygone days of bosses in smoke-filled rooms. With evermore money flowing into government, evermore corruption might be one result.

March 11, 2013

Democratic supporters still hoping Rand Paul will shut up and go away

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:52

In the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald rounds up the reactions on the left to Rand Paul’s filibuster last week:

Last week’s 13-hour filibuster of John Brennan’s confirmation as CIA director by GOP Sen. Rand Paul was one of the first — and, from the perspective of media attention, easily among the most effective — Congressional efforts to dramatize and oppose just how radical these Terrorism-justified powers have become. For the first time since the 9/11 attack, even lowly cable news shows were forced — by the Paul filibuster — to extensively discuss the government’s extremist theories of power and to debate the need for checks and limits.

All of this put Democrats — who spent eight years flamboyantly pretending to be champions of due process and opponents of mass secrecy and executive power abuses — in a very uncomfortable position. The politician who took such a unique stand in defense of these principles was not merely a Republican but a leading member of its dreaded Tea Party wing, while the actor most responsible for the extremist theories of power being protested was their own beloved leader and his political party.

[. . .]

Meanwhile, a large bulk of the Democratic and liberal commentariat — led, as usual, by the highly-paid DNC spokesmen called “MSNBC hosts” and echoed, as usual, by various liberal blogs, which still amusingly fancy themselves as edgy and insurgent checks on political power rather than faithful servants to it — degraded all of the weighty issues raised by this episode by processing it through their stunted, trivial prism of partisan loyalty. They thus dutifully devoted themselves to reading from the only script they know: Democrats Good, GOP Bad.

To accomplish that, most avoided full-throated defenses of drones and the power of the president to secretly order US citizens executed without due process or transparency. They prefer to ignore the fact that the politician they most deeply admire is a devoted defender of those policies. After stumbling around for a few days in search of a tactic to convert this episode into an attack on the GOP and distract from Obama’s extremism, they collectively settled on personalizing the conflict by focusing on Rand Paul’s flaws as a person and a politician and, in particular, mocking his concerns as “paranoia” (that attack was echoed, among others, by the war-cheering Washington Post editorial page).

[. . .]

The reality is that Paul was doing nothing more than voicing concerns that have long been voiced by leading civil liberties groups such as the ACLU. Indeed, the ACLU lavishly praised Paul, saying that “as a result of Sen. Paul’s historic filibuster, civil liberties got two wins”. In particular, said the ACLU, “Americans learned about the breathtakingly broad claims of executive authority undergirding the Obama administration’s vast killing program.

March 7, 2013

Rand Paul’s filibuster and the Obama administration’s drone strike policies

Filed under: Government, Law, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:08

Nick Gillespie has three important points to take away from Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster yesterday:

For all of the late-night punch-drunkiness that eventually ensued on Twitter (well, at least on my feed), yesterday’s 12-hours-plus filibuster led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is among the most electrifying and insipiring events in recent political memory. The point of the filibuster — which derailed a confirmation vote on John Brennan as Barack Obama’s CIA head — was to call attention to the president’s insufficient answers to questions about his policy of targeted killings via drones and, one assumes, other methods.

Here are three takeaways from yesterday’s epic event:

1. It shows what one man can do to call attention to a hugely important issue that nonetheless is largley ignored by the mainstream media and the political establishment.

Elected in 2010, Rand Paul has rarely been the Republican — or the Democrat’s — media favorite. He’s been heckled big time from his own side (which initially worked against his election) and across the aisle as an irresponsible ideologue (he’s a dirty tea-bagger don’t you know!). Among a good chunk of his father’s most devoted followers, he’s been assailed as a neo-con war hawk who was willing to trim his libertarian bona fides to win favor with the D.C. party crowd. His sad-sack opponent in the general election the GOP primary, Jack Conway, set new lows with the infamous “Aqua Buddha” ad that accused Paul of everything short of devil worship; his general election opponent in the GOP primary, Trey Grayson, had already trotted out many of the same pathetic lines.

[. . .]

2. It shows the power of transpartisan thought and action. Make no mistake: Despite the presence of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), yesterday’s filibuster was a GOP-conducted orchestra. But what was most bracing and ultimately powerful thing about the filibuster was that none of the speakers exempted the Republican Party or former President George W. Bush, whose aggrandized view of executive power still roils the sleep of the Founding Fathers, from withering criticism and scrutiny. How else to explain that hard-left groups such as Code Pink were proud to #standwithrand yesterday on Twitter? The same with reliable Rand and GOP critic Eugene Robinson and many others who up until yesterday thought little of Rand Paul.

[. . .]

3. It ties a direct line between the abuses of power and the growth of the state.

Despite using various self-identifiers over the years (he’s called himself a libertarian, a conservative, a constitutional conservative, etc.) Rand Paul has always been rightly understood as an advocate of sharply limited and small government. During his Senate race, for instance, he said questions about drug legalization should be pushed back towards the states, where different models could be tried in accordance with the wishes of the people most directly affected. He presented a budget that was heavy on spending cuts that would have balanced the budget in five years. He has called for either actually declaring war on countries such as Iraq and Libya or getting the hell out. What unites his positions is a default setting against giving the federal government a free hand to do whatever it wants irrespective of constitutional limits.

February 25, 2013

What Argo doesn’t show about “The Canadian Caper” of 1979

Filed under: Cancon, History, Middle East, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:15

In Maclean’s, one of the American diplomats who took part in the actual hostage drama in Tehran provides a bit of supplementary material to the film Argo:

Ben Affleck’s Argo has stormed box offices, collected awards [. . .] yet Canadians of a certain age may find themselves thinking: This is not quite how I remember those days. I was there when Iranians took over the American Embassy in Tehran, and it is not quite how I remember them either. Argo is terrific entertainment, but it tells only a part of our story, and says nothing at all about many of the real heroes — most Canadian — who helped rescue us. Before Argo came along, our rescue was routinely called the “Canadian Caper.” It still should be. The operation consisted of four distinct phases. Three were almost entirely Canadian, and only one involved significant U.S. assistance.

For those not of a certain age, a brief summary is a good starting point. Nov. 4, 1979 brought cold rain and hinted of trouble of a different sort. Two weeks earlier, then-president Jimmy Carter decided to admit the former shah of Iran to the U.S. for cancer treatment. Iranians were outraged; many suspected it was a plot by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to remove Iran’s new ruler, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and put the shah back in charge. Protests outside Tehran’s U.S. Embassy had become daily occurrences. That November morning, demonstrators climbed the gate and soon controlled the compound.

[. . .]

Phase four always receives the least attention. The U.S. government was desperate to keep the CIA’s role secret, rightly fearing its disclosure might endanger the hostages (who weren’t freed until 1981). This concern was sufficiently real that we were asked to live under false names in Florida until the hostages were set free. I was looking forward to seeing how many speeding tickets my alter ego could accumulate, but La Presse decided to publish Jean Pelletier’s story once the Canadian Embassy in Tehran had closed. We came home to a rousing reception and the Canadians were asked to claim complete credit for our escape. That job understandably fell to ambassador Taylor, who spent the better part of a year on the rubber chicken circuit at receptions to honour the Canadian government and people for helping us. Some have said he did the job too well, or failed to share the credit with other embassy staff. My own experience contradicts this. I heard Taylor speak several times. He always mentioned his staff. I also tried, during press interviews I gave, to mention others, particularly the Sheardowns. My comments were edited out. It seemed the press could handle only one hero at a time. Unfortunately, this meant John Sheardown, who was indispensable in phase one, became invisible in phase four. I truly believe John did not care. He did his duty as he saw it. For those who loved and respected him, it was painful.

[. . .]

As I wrote at the beginning, Argo is a wonderful film. Not because it is historically accurate, but because, aside from its technical brilliance, it reminds us of a time when ordinary people performed great deeds, and two neighbours that feud over many small and not so small things came together and did something magnificent. Maybe it didn’t change history, but for we six house guests it was truly life changing. And it was, and should always remain, the Canadian Caper.

May 15, 2012

Conducting espionage operations in the age of the internet

Filed under: Britain, Middle East, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:04

Shashank Joshi in the Telegraph on the good and bad news coming out of the recently foiled “underwear bomber” incident:

This week began with news of a remarkable intelligence coup. It has ended in ignominy, and a reminder that the pathological leakiness of the American bureaucracy has consequences for counterterrorism.

According to the Associated Press (AP), the CIA foiled an audacious plot by Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to attack an aircraft using an upgraded version of the underwear bomb that failed three years ago. The AP had, apparently, shown great responsibility in delaying publication for days at the request of the White House.

Then, the story grew both muddier and more remarkable still. The would-be bomber was in fact a mole. He was a British national of Saudi Arabian origin, recruited by MI5 in Europe and later run, with Saudi Arabia, by MI6. This is a testament to the unimaginable courage of the agent in question, and the ingenuity of British intelligence.

But the emergence of this story, with a blow-by-blow account of operational detail, is the result of reckless, impetuous leaking that could cost lives and compromise operations in the future.

March 30, 2012

The mystery of Le Pain Maudit (Cursed Bread) finally solved

Filed under: Europe, History, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:01

In a twist that will delight conspiracy theorists everywhere, it really was a CIA plot:

In 1951, a quiet, picturesque village in southern France was suddenly and mysteriously struck down with mass insanity and hallucinations. At least five people died, dozens were interned in asylums and hundreds afflicted.

For decades it was assumed that the local bread had been unwittingly poisoned with a psychedelic mould. Now, however, an American investigative journalist has uncovered evidence suggesting the CIA peppered local food with the hallucinogenic drug LSD as part of a mind control experiment at the height of the Cold War.

The mystery of Le Pain Maudit (Cursed Bread) still haunts the inhabitants of Pont-Saint-Esprit, in the Gard, southeast France.

March 20, 2012

Australian billionaire claims Greenpeace accepts CIA funding to fight coal exports

Filed under: Economics, Environment, Pacific, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:41

Australian bush hats can apparently be made of tinfoil:

Australian Mining Magnate Clive Palmer has declared the CIA is behind a Greenpeace campaign that aims to slow the growth of Australia’s export coal industry.

[. . .]

The Greenpeace campaign centres on a document titled Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom (PDF) which explicitly states that “Our strategy is to ‘disrupt and delay’ key projects and infrastructure while gradually eroding public and political support for the industry and continually building the power of the movement to win more.” Greenpeace hopes to do so in order to build support for fuels other than coal, in order to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions.

The Greenpeace document says it is “… based on extensive research into the Australian coal industry, made possible by the generous support of the Rockefeller Family Fund.”

That statement is Palmer’s smoking gun, as he said at an event today, as reported by the Australian Broadcasting Commission and other outlets, that “You only have to go back and read the Church Report in the 1970s and to read the reports to the US Congress which sets up the Rockefeller Foundation as a conduit of CIA funding.”

February 28, 2012

More on those links between Pakistan’s ISI and army leaders and the Taliban

Filed under: Asia, India, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:09

Strategy Page has a useful summary of the state of play in Pakistan in their oft-denied support of terrorist activities in Afghanistan and in India:

Pakistan officially denies there is any direct connection between the Pakistani Army, ISI (Pakistani intelligence) and Islamic terrorists. The government has recently admitted that Islamic terrorists have had cooperation from unnamed prominent Pakistani civilians. But a growing number of former (mostly retired) military and intelligence admit that the terrorist connections did exist. Few of these men will openly admit these connections, lest they endure retaliation. The army and ISI are known to kidnap and murder critics. Pakistan is living a dream/nightmare of having created and sustained Islamic terror organizations for decades, yet never admitting the role of the government in this. The denials are wearing thin.

Pakistan remains a much more violent place than India. Each month, there are 5-10 times as many terrorism related deaths in Pakistan as in India (a country with six times as many people as Pakistan). Most of the violence is (and always has been) in the Pushtun and Baluchi tribal territories along the Afghan and Iranian borders. These lands have always been poor (except for the recently discovered natural gas in Baluchistan, and, centuries ago, some parts of the Chinese “silk road” that passed through Pushtun lands) and the local empires simply ignored the Pushtuns and Baluchis. For thousands of years, these were the “badlands” that civilized people avoided. The many Baluchi and Pushtun tribes were too isolated from each other, and in love with their own independence, to allow formation of Baluchi and Pushtun states. But the Baluchis are overcoming their differences, much to the discomfort of Pakistan. The Pushtuns are as divided as ever, united only in their hostility to outsiders (a category which sometimes includes other Pushtun tribes.) Worse for the Pushtuns, they form the majority of the Taliban, and are far more into Islamic terrorism than the Baluchis.

[. . .]

Pakistan’s army and intelligence services have been taking a lot of international heat for the years of state-approved terrorism against tribal separatists in Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan). The Baluchis want autonomy and a larger share of the revenues from natural gas operations in their lands. The ISI and army have ordered the media they control to come up with stories to explain all the kidnappings and murders of tribal activists. The general story line is that the violence (against the government, as well as the tribal activists) has been organized by Israel, the CIA and other foreign intelligence agencies. Few Pakistanis will openly criticize these stories, as that could get you killed. But the true story does get out via the Internet, although you sometimes have to wade through a lot of noise (flame wars and Pakistani government efforts to bury critical posts with a flood of pro-government replies.)

January 31, 2012

Washington Post and the “Top Secret America” Project

Filed under: Government, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:03

Want to know how deep the rabbit hole goes? The Washington Post can at least get you started:

From the editors:

“Top Secret America” is a project nearly two years in the making that describes the huge national security buildup in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

When it comes to national security, all too often no expense is spared and few questions are asked — with the result an enterprise so massive that nobody in government has a full understanding of it. It is, as Dana Priest and William M. Arkin have found, ubiquitous, often inefficient and mostly invisible to the people it is meant to protect and who fund it.

The articles in this series and an online database at topsecretamerica.com depict the scope and complexity of the government’s national security program through interactive maps and other graphics. Every data point on the Web site is substantiated by at least two public records.

December 9, 2011

Praise for Britain’s MI6

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:55

It’s the rough equivalent to the US Central Intelligence Agency, but it rarely gets public attention. Strategy Page has a thumbnail sketch of the organization as it gets a brief mention in the British press for its operations against Libya:

MI6 is less than one tenth the size of the CIA (in manpower) and has a budget that’s even smaller. But the CIA is by no means ten times as effective as MI6. For all its size and resources, the CIA cannot, or often will not, do things that MI6 will. Part of this has to do with MI6s greater experience and need to make do with less. But a lot of it has to do with different styles of operation. Both organizations are in the overseas espionage business, but both go about their business in quite different ways, and with often quite different results.

A large part of the difference can be traced to the fact that MI6 has always had a healthier relationship with its diplomats. CIA agents operating overseas often operate out of the local US embassy. Their cover is a diplomatic passport indicating they work for the State Department. But from the beginning, the diplomats were hostile to this sort of thing (British diplomats were not.) So CIA people were forced to use diplomatic passports indicating they were part of the Foreign Service Reserve instead of just Foreign Service. For those in the know, and that means just about everyone, it was easy to find out who the CIA guys were.

MI6 has a degree of legal cover for its operations that the CIA could only envy. Under the Intelligence Services Act of 1994, MI6 officers have immunity from prosecution for crimes committed outside Great Britain. The Criminal Justice Bill of 1998 makes it illegal for any organization in Great Britain to conspire to commit offenses abroad, but Crown agents have immunity. Which means, in effect, that yes, Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service really is licensed to kill.

[. . .]

Another advantage of MI6 is that they have a number of SAS commandos trained to work with MI6 and are always available for any MI6 needs. This commando organization is called Increment and is used for assassinations, sabotage or other dangerous jobs (like arresting war criminals in the Balkans.) In addition, every station chief has a direct line to SAS headquarters and a good working relationship with the commandos.

October 26, 2011

Giving the government even more weasel-room on FOIA requests

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:02

A proposed rule change would allow the US government and its agencies to lie about the very existence of requested records in Freedom of Information Act requests:

A proposed rule to the Freedom of Information Act would allow federal agencies to tell people requesting certain law-enforcement or national security documents that records don’t exist — even when they do.

Under current FOIA practice, the government may withhold information and issue what’s known as a Glomar denial that says it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records.

The new proposal — part of a lengthy rule revision by the Department of Justice — would direct government agencies to “respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist.”

October 23, 2011

The CIA’s new boss and the new rules

Filed under: Asia, Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:53

Strategy Page discusses the new rules for the CIA under the new boss, David Petraeus:

The CIA has a new boss, David Petraeus, who formerly commanded American military forces in Afghanistan. With the arrival of Petraeus, the CIA is changing how it goes about determining the situation in Afghanistan. From now on, CIA analysts will discuss the situation with military commanders before they submit their monthly reports, rather than argue with the military leaders after the fact when people note that the military and CIA analysis comes to different conclusions. The CIA may still disagree with the military, but now they have to answer military assertions that contradict what the CIA believes.

Although this new policy was announced after Petraeus took over at the CIA recently, it was actually in the works for months. It was held up when it became clear that Petraeus was going to be the new CIA chief. Petraeus approved the new policy, which he had long been asking for.

All this came about because CIA analysts eventually noted that the military commanders were using different criteria for “success” and that often had uncovered aspects of the situation that the CIA analysts were missing. So, even before Petraeus showed up at CIA headquarters, the intelligence analysts had decided to work more cooperatively with their military counterparts, if only to ensure that all the bases were covered.

The CIA analysts always were at a disadvantage in Afghanistan, and Iraq, because the military was getting their information first hand, while the CIA often was getting it second or third hand. Moreover, the military was more aware of the fact that “success” in Afghanistan depended a lot on what you believed was possible, and what you knew was actually going on. In some cases, the CIA analysts did not appreciate what impact American field operations were having. Afghanistan, to outsiders has always been a murky place, and difficult to read.

June 27, 2011

“A substantial expansion of the FBI’s power to monitor innocent Americans”

Filed under: Government, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:06

Julian Sanchez on the changes to the FBI’s domestic rulebook:

The change in the rules will remove a crucial deterrent for any of the 14,000 FBI employees who might be tempted to use their government access to all kinds of databases for improper personal ends, or to flout rules prohibiting religious, racial and political profiling. This is no hypothetical concern: Shortly after the new guidelines were announced, a former CIA official alleged that the Bush administration had asked the spy agency to dig up dirt on academic and blogger Juan Cole, whose fierce criticism of the war in Iraq earned the ire of the White House.

The new manual will also give agents who have opened assessments greater authority to employ physical surveillance teams. If the FBI thinks you might make a useful informant, agents will be free to dig through your garbage in hopes of finding embarrassing trash that might encourage you to cooperate. And they will be able to do this without first having to show any evidence that you are engaged in wrongdoing.

The FBI, predictably, is downplaying the changes in its rulebook, characterizing them as “clarifications” and “tweaks.” But all these tweaks add up to a substantial expansion of the FBI’s power to monitor innocent Americans — power Congress wisely curtailed in the 1970s in light of the bureau’s ugly history of spying on political dissidents. The law set broad limits on the most intrusive investigative techniques, such as wiretaps, but the details of who could be investigated and how were largely left to executive branch regulation. As statutory restraints on surveillance have been peeled back over the last decade, Americans have been asked to rely more than ever on those internal rules to check abuses.

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