Thursday, May 20, 2004

"The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy", Part 1 of 6

Today's Excerpt for "Hannalysis":

"For decades, liberals and conservatives have been deeply divided over the importance of and the need for the CIA. Conservatives have long fought to strengthen and expand our intelligence services. Liberals have long sought to attack and undermine America's intelligence community." ("Let Freedom Ring" page 28-29)

This statement appears in Chapter 2, "The Left vs. The CIA", as the premise for the section ominously titled "The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy". There's no footnote, so I guess we're just supposed to take it on faith that Hannity knows what he's talking about. But let's have a closer look anyway.

1.) Have liberals "long sought to ... undermine America's intelligence community"? At the very height of the Cold War, one prominent liberal Democrat wrote an op-ed piece that appeared in the December 22, 1963 edition of the Washington Post that called for scaling back the CIA. He wrote that he "would like to see the CIA be restored to its original assignment as the intelligence arm of the President, and that whatever else it can properly perform in that special field — and that its operational duties be terminated or properly used elsewhere.

"We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to maintain a free and open society", he continued. "There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it."

What does Sean Hannity have to say about this person? Hannity describes him as "a strong[,] old-school Democrat of the kind who would do his party a world of good today" ("Deliver Us From Evil", page 243). Who is this person? None other than Harry Truman.

Was Harry Truman a liberal seeking to "undermine America's intelligence community" with his suggestion to scale back the CIA? Not hardly. While Hannity says that the struggle over intelligence between liberals and conservatives has been going on "for decades", it must not go back to the 1940's when the CIA was established, because the president responsible for creating it was in fact that same Harry Truman, liberal Democrat.

So maybe it's possible to be a liberal, have issues with the CIA and still recognize the need for an effective intelligence service.

2.) Hannity's contention that conservatives have long been the CIA's friend doesn't exactly hold water, either. How is it that the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans (created by hardliners as a way to gather raw intelligence on Iraqi WMD's, analyze it and "stovepipe" it to the Vice President's office) "strengthen[s] ... our intelligence services" when it was created specifically to circumvent them? Furthermore, the OSP's practice of relying on it's own sources (like Chalabi), to the exclusion of the CIA and other intelligence services, was hardly a conservative effort to "expand our intelligence services" so much as it was an effort to get the information they wanted to hear and not let the CIA get a chance to challenge it.

The OSP is not an isolated case of conservatives seeking to undermine the CIA over the years. In the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Anne Hessing Cahn wrote about conservative bitterness during the 1970's over "the CIA's realistic assessments during the Vietnam war years - assessments that failed to see light at the end of the tunnel" and their subsequent efforts to undermine the National Intelligence Estimates that weren't, in their view, sufficiently alarmist with regard to the Soviet threat.

In 1976, then CIA Director George H. W. Bush approved an experiment called "Team B", an ad hoc group that was staffed by hardliners (in fact, Paul Wolfowitz was on the Advisory Panel) to provide an alternative intelligence assessment to the NIE. But "Team B" quickly became an effort to undermine previous NIE's and call into question the CIA's reliance on "hard data" to reach it's conclusions rather than interpreting Soviet intentions through the writings of various Communist hardliners. As Amb. Joseph Wilson puts it, the "'Team B' effort resulted in the Reagan administration's use of wildly exaggerated claims about Soviet rearmament to justify huge American defense spending increases."

* * *

So the premise for this section of "Let Freedom Ring" already looks pretty shaky, but Hannity does go on to provide what he claims are concrete examples of liberal hostility towards the CIA. Since he's already asserted in the section title that the conspiracy against the CIA is "vast", we can assume, then, that there is a very great number of examples and that the few that he cites must be among the most egregious; the most irrefutably ironclad. We'll start "Hannalyzing" them next time.