Tuesday, June 29, 2004

"How Clinton and Gore Turned a Blind Eye to Terrorism", Part 1 of 4

"How Clinton and Gore Turned a Blind Eye to Terrorism" is a pretty accusingly titled section.

Here's the first excerpt:

In the weeks and months following September 11, Americans began asking hard questions. Wasn't there any way these attacks could have been prevented? Why didn't the CIA know what was coming? How could we spend billions of dollars on intelligence and have such a massive failure?

After all, the rising threat of global terrorism - particularly the threat of Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network - had been clear to U.S. policy-makers for years from the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, to the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in East Africa, to the suicide attack on the USS Cole in the fall of 2000.

From the beginning, President Bush expressed the outrage of the American people. He immediately took charge; there was no mistaking who was commander in chief. He made it clear that his first priority would be to hunt down the evildoers and bring them to justice. He and his team also made it clear that determining the causes of America's security failures and finding and remedying its weak points would be central to their mission. Other Republicans concurred.

"I absolutely believe that we have to go back and see what happened," said Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican, on NBC's Meet the Press just one month after the attacks. He stressed the importance of determining what went wrong "so that we will not make the mistakes again that we made before and can reorganize our intelligence services."

Curiously, however, liberal Democrats - many of whom historically criticized, attacked, and sought to defund the CIA - at first showed little interest in an investigation of the roots of this massive intelligence failure. (It was only after they smelled political advantage that they began to jump on the bandwagon.)

"We don't need a witch hunt now, or certainly not next year in an election year," Representative Jane Harman, a California Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told the New York Times.

A witch hunt? That's pretty strong language. What might Representative Harman fear that the American people might learn - especially "in an election year"?

Maybe this: that the Clinton-Gore administration - starting with the president and vice president themselves - had turned a blind eye to the growing threat posed to Americans by global terrorist networks. And it cost us. Big time.
("Let Freedom Ring" pages 12-13)

Wow! So Hannity is contending that (1) Clinton refused to see the terrorist threat for what it was and this helped make the 9/11 attacks possible (2) Congressional Democrats realized this and sought to keep it quiet. Those are some pretty serious charges. Let's see if they hold up to scrutiny.

I'm going to work backwards and look first at the contention that the Democrats opposed an investigation into the causes of 9/11.

1.) Were Rep. Harman and other Democrats afraid that the an inquiry was going to go back and dig up some dirt on Clinton? If that were the case then they would fight any attempt to look back and investigate anything preceding 9/11, right? Maybe they would try to weaken any proposed commission or give it a mandate to only investigate intel after 9/11. Yet, the opposite was true.

An article in the New York Times entitled "House Votes for More Spy Aid and to Pull in Reins on Inquiry"* said that:

House members of both parties described an urgent need to change the culture of agencies that grew out of the long struggle with the Soviet Union.

"A community built on cold war priorities was ill prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century," said Representative Jane Harman, Democrat of California. "On Sept. 11 everything and everyone changed."

But just days after the intelligence committee included in the bill an independent commission with subpoena powers that would be empowered to investigate the government's inability to forecast or prevent the attacks, Republicans moved to scale back the commission's powers and mission. Many said that as the nation braced for a long struggle against terrorism it was not a time to cast blame.

[Republican Porter] Goss [of Florida] proposed an amendment, which passed by voice vote, to strip the commission of subpoena powers and the right to grant immunity, and change its focus to an examination of structural impediments to the collection, analysis and sharing of intelligence information....Mr. Goss said that by looking forward to how procedures could be changed, the commission would "focus on the future" and "get away from the blame game." His amendment prompted the first partisan exchanges of the debate.

Democrats, who offered their own amendment, continued to push for a commission that would examine the events leading up to Sept. 11 and the failure to stop the attacks. They also objected to restricting membership to people with backgrounds in the government agencies under scrutiny.

"It is not about finger-pointing," said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the senior Democrat on the intelligence committee. "Unless we know how we got to where we are now, it seems it will be more difficult to prevent these acts of terrorism."

But the Democrats did not push the dispute to a recorded vote.

Why the Democrats didn't "push the dispute to a recorded vote", I don't know. What I do know, however, is that it sounds an awful lot like it was Porter Goss and the Republicans, at least in the House, who were fighting the idea of looking for answers back before 9/11. Attempts to take away the commission's subpoena powers were also a GOP initiative.

On the Senate side, Democrat Joe Lieberman said an inquiry "ought to tell the president and us to the best of their ability what went wrong, so we can make sure it never happens again." So the idea that Democrats were trying to squelch an investigation looks to be a false charge.

2.) Interestingly enough, both the Jane Harman and John McCain quotes Hannity cites come from the same New York Times article, "Lawmakers Seek Inquiry into Intelligence Failures"**. Hannity cut out the middle of the McCain quote. It's the part where he says that the purpose of an inquiry is "not in order to hang somebody at the yardarm or to disgrace anyone". That sounds vaguely like the sentiments expressed by Harman: a desire to avoid a "witch hunt".

Here's the "witch hunt" quote in context:

[Democratic Senator Joe] Lieberman said Sunday that members of Congress should not be the ones to carry out any inquiry. "It ought to be citizens," he said. "A lot of their meetings ought to be in private. But then they ought to tell the president and us to the best of their ability what went wrong, so we can make sure it never happens again."

McCain proposed that former Sens. Warren Rudman (R-N.H.) and Gary Hart (D-Colo.) could run an inquiry. The two headed an earlier commission on national security that had warned that the nation was ill-prepared to face the terrorist threat of the new century.

Many lawmakers on the intelligence committee, however, argue that this is precisely their role and their duty. "Farming this out to other groups, I think, is inappropriate," Harman said. "I think we should do it in private and public."

Aware of how explosive the subject could become, she added, "We don't need a witch hunt now, or certainly not next year in an election year."

I think her point was the same as McCain's: In the wake of 9/11, looking for someone to make a scapegoat out of would be counterproductive to the mission at hand (i.e., getting the intel community on the right track). And when she said "[w]e don't need a witch hunt now", the "now" she was referring to was just over a month after September 11th, with the rubble still smouldering and the memory of the attacks fresh in everyone's heads. Definitely not a time for partisanship. I'm assuming that a desire to avoid "finger-pointing" is one reason why she is suggesting that some meetings be held in private. I also think that when taken in context, it's obvious that Harman was not objecting to an investigation, merely arguing over what form the investigation should take.

The insinuation that she fears what an investigation would turn up and therefore labels it a "witch hunt" in order to pre-emptively discredit it's findings was a distortion of the quote's true meaning.

3.) How does Hannity's assertion that Bush "and his team also made it clear that determining the causes of America's security failures and finding and remedying its weak points would be central to their mission" hold up to scrutiny? Not well.

First, there was going to be a joint House-Senate committee investigation. According to the CNN article "Bush asks Daschle to limit Sept. 11 probes":

President Bush personally asked Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle Tuesday to limit the congressional investigation into the events of September 11, congressional and White House sources told CNN.

The request was made at a private meeting with congressional leaders Tuesday morning. Sources said Bush initiated the conversation.

He asked that only the House and Senate intelligence committees look into the potential breakdowns among federal agencies that could have allowed the terrorist attacks to occur, rather than a broader inquiry that some lawmakers have proposed, the sources said.

Tuesday's discussion followed a rare call to Daschle from Vice President Dick Cheney last Friday to make the same request.

"The vice president expressed the concern that a review of what happened on September 11 would take resources and personnel away from the effort in the war on terrorism," Daschle told reporters....Although the president and vice president told Daschle they were worried a wide-reaching inquiry could distract from the government's war on terrorism, privately Democrats questioned why the White House feared a broader investigation to determine possible culpability.

This request to Daschle is also mentioned by John Dean in his book "Worse than Watergate". Here's a passage where Dean offers his ideas as to why the Administration wanted to limit the investigations:

Given the dimensions of the government's failure, it was inevitable that several congressional committees, in both the House and Senate, quickly expressed plans to investigate. But this was exactly what Cheney wanted to avoid. With the Democrats in control of the Senate and the Republicans in control of the House, the White House had only partial control over Congress. Working behind the scenes, however, Cheney was able to do what a White House does when it does not want to be investigated - stop the process by jamming the gears of government.

Both Bush and Cheney spoke with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in late January 2002 about the probes. The Washington Post reported that the "president said the inquiry should be limited to the House and Senate intelligence committees, whose proceedings are generally secret" and that Cheney told Daschle, "A review of what happened on September 11 would take the resources and personnel away from the effort in the war on terrorism." It was not a viable excuse to forestall an investigation. When they failed to block the congressional inquiry, Bush and Cheney next used their political influence to control it.

Cheney employed well-proven tactics....First Daschle and then the House Republican leadership agreed (out of concern for "national security") to permit only the intelligence committees to investigate 9/11. Then to further limit those inquiries and prevent separate investigations by the House and Senate intelligence committees, an "unprecedented" (only because Democrats controlled one house of Congress, Republicans the other) joint committee was formed by combining the two committees. With thirty-seven members constituting the joint inquiry, the impact of the investigation was immediately weakened. Cheney understood that all members of such a high-profile undertaking would jealously seek to be involved, which dilutes the effort. For example, the time allotted to any single member for questioning witnesses must be limited, so everyone gets his turn, and the staff cannot assist three dozen plus members as it can a few. And reaching agreement on anything is difficult with such expanded membership, not to mention mixing the House and Senate together. In short, such large joint committees are remarkably cumbersome and poor at investigations, and for that reason they are rarely used....Finally, since all the information was controlled by the executive branch (i.e., the White House) and much of it subject to national security classification, Bush and Cheney could - and did - control what would be provided to the joint inquiry. The committee would get only what Bush and Cheney wanted it to get.

...The White House took an unprecedented stance in refusing to permit either Don Rumsfeld, as secretary of defense, or Colin Powell, as secretary of state, from testifying about matters relating to pre-9/11 counterterrorism activities. ("Worse than Watergate, pages 111 - 113)

The results from the joint committee***:

One panelist, Tim Roemer, a Democrat who just retired from Congress, complained in a statement he issued last month as a member of the House-Senate panel that the congressional probe suffered because such officials as Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, John Ashcroft and Condoleezza Rice "were not questioned directly about issues related to the Sept. 11 attacks."...Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, a key architect of the legislation forming the commission, said the Bush Administration "slow-walked and stonewalled" the House-Senate inquiry.

A New York Times article on the congressional committee titled "White House Drags Its Feet On Testifying At 9/11 Panel"* seems to back up McCain's comments. In this case Sen. Richard Shelby, another Republican committee member, is quoted:

But Senator Shelby also warned that the committee was running out of time to finish its job, and indicated that he believes Bush administration officials have delayed cooperating fully, knowing it has a deadline to meet.

"We were told that there would be cooperation in this investigation, and I question that," he said. He added that he believes that the joint panel may run out of time, and that an independent commission to investigate the terrorist attacks may be needed to fill in the gaps.

Next up, the independent 9/11 Commission. To again quote John Dean:

Because of the lack of White House cooperation with the joint inquiry, the families of 9/11 victims began lobbying Congress to create an independent commission, with subpoena power, to investigate 9/11, even before the congressional effort had been completed. Bush and Cheney, of course, objected. ("Worse than Watergate, page 113)

The Administration's treatment of the independent commission is described in "Administration Faces Subpoenas From 9/11 Panel"****:

The chairman of the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks [Thomas H. Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey,] said that the White House was continuing to withhold several highly classified intelligence documents from the panel and that he was prepared to subpoena the documents if they were not turned over within weeks....

Mr. Kean's comments on Friday came as another member of the commission, Max Cleland, the former Democratic senator from Georgia, became the first panel member to say publicly that the commission could not complete its work by its May 2004 deadline and the first to accuse the White House of withholding classified information from the panel for purely political reasons.

"It's obvious that the White House wants to run out the clock here," he said in an interview in Washington. "It's Halloween, and we're still in negotiations with some assistant White House counsel about getting these documents - it's disgusting." [NOTE: This sounds very similar to Sen. Shelby's comments above regarding the congressional committee.]

He said that the White House and President Bush's re-election campaign had reason to fear what the commission was uncovering in its investigation of intelligence and law enforcement failures before Sept. 11. "As each day goes by, we learn that this government knew a whole lot more about these terrorists before Sept. 11 than it has ever admitted."

Interviews with several other members of the commission show that Mr. Kean's concerns are widely shared on the panel, and that the concern is bipartisan.

Slade Gorton, a Republican member of the panel who served in the Senate from Washington from 1982 to 2000, said that he was startled by the "indifference" of some executive branch agencies in making material available to the commission. "This lack of cooperation, if it extends anywhere else, is going to make it very difficult" for the commission to finish its work by next May, he said.

Timothy J. Roemer, president of the Center for National Policy in Washington and a former Democratic member of the House from Indiana, said that "our May deadline may, in fact, be jeopardized - many of us are frustrated that we're still dealing with questions about document access when we should be sinking our teeth into hearings and to making recommendations for the future."

Congress would need to approve an extension if the panel requested one, a potentially difficult proposition given the reluctance of the White House and many senior Republican lawmakers to see the commission created in the first place.

"If the families of the victims weighed in - and heavily, as they did before - then we'd have a chance of succeeding," said Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who was an important sponsor of the legislation creating the commission. He said that, given the "obfuscation" of the administration in meeting document requests, he was ready to pursue an extension "if the commission feels it can't get its work done."

Sadly, I could go on. Remember how hard it was to get Condi Rice to testify under oath after Richard Clark's testimony? They claim they have their reasons (national security, for example), but the result, nevertheless, is that the Bush Administration's actions (or lack of action) have hampered efforts by the 9/11 commission to "determin[e] the causes of America's security failures and [find] and [remedy] its weak points" and this runs counter to Hannity's claim. Hannity, once again, is wrong.

4.) When Hannity said "[o]ther Republicans concurred" with Bush, did he mean that they concurred with Bush on just an investigation or was he also including the previous statement about hunting down the guilty parties, too? Hannity said that Bush "made it clear that his first priority would be to hunt down the evildoers and bring them to justice". Was there an insinuation that the Democrats didn't concur? Just in case there was, here's a rebuttal:

In a statement on September 12, 2001, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a Democrat and a liberal, said that "[t]he world should know that the members of both parties, in both houses, stand united in this: the full resources of our government will be brought to bear ...in hunting down those responsible, and those who may have aided or harbored them."

What about a commitment to defending America? Were the Democrats on board? In the October 22 article Hannity cited, in addition to the "witch hunt" remark, Jane Harman is also quoted as saying: "Protecting against the next waves [of terror attacks] is job No. 1, job No. 2 and job No. 3." So, it wasn't just the GOP that concurred with the president.

* * *

I think that at this point it's pretty clear that Hannity's assertions about liberal Democrats, as a rule, being against investigating the intelligence community until it was politically advantageous (whenever that would have been) are false.

We're working backwards, so the next assertion to tackle is if Clinton refused to recognize terrorism for what it was (and thus effectively helped bring about 9/11). We'll look at that next time.

*This is a "pay-per-view" article on the New York Times' web site.

**This is a free version of the New York Times article that appears on the Chicago Tribunes web site.

***This is a free version of a Time article that appears on the "SkyScraperSafety" web site.

****This is a free version of the New York Times article that appears on the "GlobalIssues.org" web site.

Monday, June 21, 2004

"Political Expediency"

Let's "Hannalyze" the section called "Political Expediency" from Chapter 8 ("I'm Pro-Choice") of "Let Freedom Ring".

Hannity starts off the section by saying:

A good rule of thumb to help determine the relative righteousness of one side in a debate over the other is to check their respect for openness and truth. If one side is less than forthcoming about its positions or tries to disguise it in euphemistic language, you ought to be suspicious about the virtue of their cause. Truth has nothing to hide. Let me illustrate the point with a little quiz. The answers might surprise you.

Okay, my take on this section is that he's going to show how people "hem and haw" around when they have an indefensible position. This chapter is on abortion, so I'm assuming the indefensible position to be discussed is the "pro-choice" position. But is it?

Hannity goes on to ask the first multiple choice question of his quiz:

Who said, "I am opposed to abortion and to government funding of abortions"?

a. Pat Robertson

b. Jerry Falwell

c. Bill Clinton

Of course, the answer turns out to be Bill Clinton. However, Hannity doesn't give an example of Clinton being less than forthcoming on the issue or using "euphemistic language" to explain his position, which he had just said was what we should look for to determine the "relative righteousness of one side". Hannity merely states that Clinton was once "pro-life" and is now so "pro-choice" that he vetoed a ban on partial birth abortions.

So Clinton flip-flopped. If memory serves, Jimmy Carter did, too. Hannity blames this on political expediency: Democrats with presidential aspirations changing positions to appeal to the party base.

Republicans have done it, too, though. Let me illustrate the point with a little quiz of my own. The answers might surprise you.

Which president, while still a governor signed the "Therapeutic Abortion Act of 1967", decriminalizing abortion in their state years before Roe v. Wade?

a. Bill Clinton

b. Jimmy Carter

c. Ronald Reagan

If you guessed C-Ronald Reagan, you'd be right. An article appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times recently described the bill Reagan signed as "allowing abortion in cases of rape and incest or to protect the mother's mental and physical health". It became law in California years ahead of Roe v. Wade. This is not to say that Reagan was enthusiastic about it. An article by Tom Curry on MSNBC.com said that "Reagan agonized over the measure, fearing that doctors would exploit a mental heath loophole to approve many abortions. But in the end he signed it."

Of course, back in those days, abortion wasn't the polarizing political issue that it has become. Fred Barnes said in a 2003 opinion piece that:

Even here [in the U.S.], full-throated conservative opposition to abortion is a relatively recent phenomenon....The most telling example of conservative indifference to the abortion issue [in decades past] occurred in California. At the time, Mr. Reagan was troubled by the passionate lobbying against the bill by Cardinal Francis McIntyre. But on the advice of two of his most conservatives advisers, Ed Meese and Lyn Nofziger, Mr. Reagan signed anyway. He persuaded himself that the measure would have little impact. Instead, it prompted a surge in abortions.

Apparently (when not looking through an ideological filter like a conservative would do today) Reagan, while not comfortable with what he saw as a "mental health loophole" in the bill, must have seen some merit in the other reasons justifying a "therapeutic abortion" (rape, incest or to protect the physical health of the mother) or he wouldn't have signed it. Again, whatever Reagan's reasons for signing the bill, whatever gave him doubts, he nevertheless did sign it. While some politicians talk about "a woman's right to choose", Reagan actually signed a bill into law that "prompted a surge in abortions" and later when running for president billed himself as "pro-life". At the end of this section, Hannity derides politicians who became "pro-choice" when they decided to run for president. But one statement stands out. Hannity says that he realizes "that at times politicians feel they have to adjust or change their positions to be successful. But it's completely reprehensible for them to do so with respect to a fundamental moral issue." However, didn't Reagan do an about-face in this case, or at least "adjust" his position as Hannity put it?

Hannity continues with his quiz:

Who once voted for civil rights legislation defining an unborn baby from the moment of conception as "a person"?

a. Jesse Helms

b. Henry Hyde

c. Al Gore

Of course, the answer is Al Gore. In this case, Hannity quotes a Michael Kramer article* in the March 7, 1988 edition of U.S. News and World Report where Gore's advisors admitted to trying to obfuscate Gore's long "pro-life" voting record (a position unpopular with the national party's base). Their strategy? "In effect, what we have to do is deny, deny, deny."

Again, jumping to the end of the section, Hannity sums thing up by saying that Gore and others in the Democratic Party either "never believed in their earlier stated moral position, or their lust for high office overpowered their moral convictions. In either case, their conduct is deceitful."

Okay, my turn again.

Who once said they opposed a pro-life amendment to the Constitution and favored leaving the abortion question up to a woman and her doctor?

a. Tom Daschle

b. Edward Kennedy

c. George W. Bush

Yep, it was Dubya who said it while running for Congress back in 1978. Here's the quote in context from an article by David Corn:

In 1978, Bush, a 31-year-old oilman, was seeking the Republican nomination in Texas' 19th Congressional District, which included Midland, Odessa and Lubbock. He was locked in a fierce battle with Jim Reese, a veteran campaigner and Reagan Republican. Days before the June 3 primary runoff, Bush was interviewed by a reporter for the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Reese had attacked Bush for being cozy with liberal Rockefeller Republicans. In response, Bush listed conservative positions he held. "I'm not for the extension of the time to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment," he told the paper. "I feel the ERA is unnecessary. I'm not for the federal funding of abortions. I've done nothing to promote homosexuality in our society." But he went on to explain his view on abortion. The Avalanche-Journal reported: "Bush said he opposes the pro-life amendment favored by Reese and favors leaving up to a woman and her doctor the abortion question. 'That does not mean I'm for abortion,' he said."

So, Bush opposed the main goal of the antiabortion movement, a constitutional amendment banning abortion, which the GOP had endorsed. Moreover, he echoed the language of abortion-rights supporters: Abortion is a matter best left to a woman and her doctor.

Now, let's go back to the main premise of this section where Hannity says that "[i]f one side is less than forthcoming about its positions or tries to disguise it in euphemistic language, you ought to be suspicious about the virtue of their cause." Hannity had said that a "good rule of thumb to help determine the relative righteousness of one side in a debate over the other is to check their respect for openness and truth", so let's see what the Bush campaign's response was when confronted by Corn:

On the day the story [of Bush's abortion statements from the 1978 campaign] was to go to press, I called the Bush press office at 8:00 a.m, Austin time. I explained to a press aide that I had unearthed this article and needed a reply from the campaign by noon. Someone will get back to you, she told me. Fifteen minutes later, she called and asked me to fax her the Lubbock newspaper article. I did so, and less than a hour later, the Bush campaign telephoned with a response.

"We consider this a misinterpretation," spokesman Dan Bartlett said. "He is prolife. He was always opposed to abortion." You're saying, I remarked, that the reporter got it wrong? "We're saying this is a misinterpretation," he repeated. He also pointed out that the relevant passage had not been a direct quote -- as if that diminished the article's accuracy.

I was disappointed. The campaign had resorted to the oldest dodge: the candidate was misquoted. But note the careful use of the word "misinterpretation." Clearly, someone at Bush HQ had decided this was the best noun to use. After all, it was less confrontational or incendiary than "damn foolish, idiotic mistake" -- which was actually what the campaign was accusing the reporter of committing. And note who was challenging the account. Bartlett did not note that the Bush press office had contacted Bush and that Bush categorically denied having expressed these pro-choice positions in 1978. Bartlett had used the royal "we." In doing so, he had distanced Bush from this reaction. It was not Bush who was calling the reporter incompetent. Instead, "we" were "considering" the 22-year-old newspaper account a "misinterpretation." Given the quickness of the response, I doubted that the press team had checked with the boss, who was then in Kennebunkport, before crafting this line.

Hmm. So, does this somehow reflect on the "relative righteousness" and "virtue" of Bush's side of the abortion debate? When both sides are using "euphemistic language" to explain their flip-flops, then doesn't Hannity's whole premise come into question?

Hannity insinuates that it's only the "pro-choice" candidates that need to bob and weave if they had changed their view from a "pro-life" stance. He even says on page 184 of "Let Freedom Ring" that: "I'm convinced that somewhere in the recesses of their souls,...pro-abortion leaders know that abortion is morally wrong, which is why they refuse to deal squarely with the issue." But the fact that the Bush camp dances around policy changes, too, just shows that "Political Expediency" is a two-way street. It's not so much that the Gore and Bush campaigns dodged out of a guilty conscience over abortion so much as an effort to disguise moves meant to appeal to their party's base.

*NOTE: I couldn't find an online copy of the Michael Kramer 1988 U.S. News article, so I have linked to an archived Salon.com article that has an extended quote from it.

**For those of you out there thinking that Bush may have had a change of heart on abortion after being born again. Here's another quote from the second David Corn article I quoted from in this section:

Bush could, as Gore eventually did, maintain that he experienced a change of heart. In fact, Bush has claimed he under went a religious awakening in the mid-1980s. So he possessed an easy way out: a new relationship with Jesus, a new position on abortion. Hard to argue wth that. But some die-hard anti-abortion activists have been wary of Bush, because he has refused to commit to appointing anti-abortion judges and to selecting an anti-abortion running mate. (They have a point. If you believe abortion is murder, then you ought to name judges who will curtail such wrongdoing -- and you damn well ought to be certain your number-two is not a supporter of a murderous practice.) Among these hardliners, news that Bush had once been pro-choice might reignite suspicions. And Bush's campaign had derided Gore for pulling a switch. Could Bush now confess to having done the same?

So it seems that Bush is suspected by many on the Christian Right of being a "closet pro-choicer"!

Friday, June 18, 2004

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

Executive Summary

Book: "Let Freedom Ring"
Chapter: "The Left vs. The CIA"
Section: "The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy"

Accusation 1: Liberals don't like the CIA

Hannity starts off the section with this:

"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)

Reality: There are many instances where the Right has attempted to undermine and discredit the CIA when it suited them. The Team B experiment in the 1970's was one such occasion. More recently, the neocons created the Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon in order to bypass the CIA with regard to intel on Iraq.

There are also many instances where liberals have strengthened and expanded our intelligence services. One example is that the CIA was established by a liberal: Harry Truman.

So Hannity opens the section with a tremendous overgeneralization.

Accusation 2: Liberals want to dismantle the CIA just when we need it most.

Reality: Ted Gup, author of a book honoring CIA operatives who had fallen in the line of duty, wrote an article where he expressed his concern that today's CIA may not be up to the job of shaking off its Cold War mentality and might need to be replaced by a new agency in order for the U.S. to effectively fight terrorism.

Hannity distorts the article's meaning and mischaracterizes it as an attack on intelligence (if not the nation as a whole) and a call to dismantle the CIA and apparently replace it with nothing, effectively blinding the U.S. with regard to intel.

Accusation 3: Liberals have a visceral contempt for the CIA.

Reality: Two journalists apparently disagree with each other in magazine articles written seven years apart. The disagreement? Whether human intelligence (spies) or technical intelligence (satellites, phone taps, etc.) is the best way to gather information. This is offered as proof of liberal incoherence.

One article was essentially criticizing an economic espionage program the CIA was running (which turns out to have been opposed by many conservatives, as well). The fact that the author apparently feels that we have too many spies is supposedly evidence of a visceral contempt by liberals against the CIA.

But the worst thing in the section was a pretty obvious act of deception. The very same Ted Gup article that Hannity had just attacked for supposedly calling for the elimination of the CIA, is now being cited as a complaint that we need more spies! Hannity apparently tries to cover his tracks by referring to Gup's article as "an article...in its [Mother Jones'] January/February 2002 issue" instead of "the same article by Ted Gup I just cited in the previous paragraph as an example of a call for getting rid of our most important intelligence organization."

Accusation 4: Liberals mocked a prescient CIA's warnings about catastrophic terrorism (read: 9/11) and anthrax attacks on Washington.

Reality: Actually, the article Hannity cites defines "catastrophic terrorism" as an attack with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons causing mass casualties. An attack of the 9/11 variety, while massive, would fall under the "conventional terrorism" label.

The anthrax issue wasn't even brought up by the CIA, but rather then-Defense Secretary William Cohen. Author Peter Pringle was stating that Cohen exaggerated when describing the potency of weaponized anthrax while testifying before a Senate committee (NOTE: Pringle did NOT say that such an attack couldn't happen).

Probably the greatest irony of this particular section is that most of the politicos criticized in the Pringle article for overstating the threat of catastrophic terrorism were members of the Clinton Administration (including Clinton himself), whom Hannity had accused earlier in his book of turning a "blind eye" to the terror threat. Hannity even starts off his attack on the Pringle article by defending former CIA Director John Deutch while failing to note that he served under Clinton.

Accusation 5: Liberals attacked demands to strengthen intel after 9/11.

Reality: Author David Corn is accused of hostility toward the CIA and failing to see the need for a strong intel community; unmoved even after the murder of thousands on 9/11. Yet, Corn's article is simply cautioning the country to carefully consider the actions we take in response to 9/11 (this was confirmed by Corn via e-mail).


Hannity was setting out to provide examples that illustrate a vast conspiracy against the CIA in this section. I didn't see any evidence to support this. Having different views on how best to gather info (e.g., humint vs. techint) or use the intel community in the War on Terror doesn't make someone an opponent of the CIA or intelligence in general.

Monday, June 07, 2004

"The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy", Part 5 of 6

The final example Hannity cites in this section of "Let Freedom Ring" is an article written by David Corn shortly after 9/11.

Here's the excerpt:

In an October 1, 2001 essay, David Corn, Washington editor of The Nation and a Fox News contributor, attacked Republicans, conservatives, and "the national security cadre" for raising questions "of how best to bolster the military and intelligence establishment." He criticized former secretary of state James Baker "for blaming the Church Committee, the Senate panel that investigated CIA misdeeds in the 1970's for what happened: 'We went on a real witch hunt with our CIA...the Church Committee. We unilaterally disarmed in terms of intelligence.'" Corn also couldn't resist taking a shot at former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who "assailed rules on intelligence gathering that limit CIA interaction with known terrorists, and he asserted that the intelligence budget (about $30 billion) was 'too small.'"

Is it really all that surprising that a leading leftist like Corn would vilify the CIA and those who have tried to strengthen it? Of course not. Corn has never been a fan of the CIA. In 1994 he wrote a book entitled Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA's Crusades, which the New York Times described as "a scorchingly critical account" of the career of a major agency figure.

What was surprising and disappointing-to me, at least-was that Corn's ideological disdain for the CIA runs so deep that even the murder of three thousand Americans didn't persuade him of our need for a strong intelligence agency. But frankly I shouldn't be surprised. This is part of the liberals' pattern of hamstringing various reform measures (such as efforts to bolster the CIA or reduce marginal tax rates to stimulate the economy), then blaming the other side for the inevitable consequences (security failures and recession, respectively).
("Let Freedom Ring" page 31-32)

Pretty harsh words. I read Corn's column to see what a "leading leftist" with an "ideological disdain for the CIA" would write in an essay for a "leading left-wing magazine" that's "long been a foe of the CIA" in order to "vilify" the Agency. Being the "leading leftist" of the "leading left-wing magazine" would put David Corn towards the outer reaches of the political spectrum, I would think, so this is probably some pretty hardcore stuff that he wrote. Let's have a look:

1.) Corn is first accused of having "attacked Republicans, conservatives, and 'the national security cadre" for raising questions "of how best to bolster the military and intelligence establishment.'"

Here's the quote in context:

The issue for [the national security hawks] is not what causes such unimaginable actions [as 9/11]. On Day One did you hear anyone--in an attempt to understand, not justify, the horror--ask, Why would someone want to commit this evil act? Or note that in this globalized age, US policy--its actions and inactions overseas (justified or not)--can easily lead to consequences at home? No, the national security cadre, out in force, mainly raised questions of how best to bolster the military and intelligence establishment.

Corn is essentially saying that if we hope to defeat the terrorists, wouldn't it be wise to determine the root causes of the 9/11 attacks?

The oft-quoted general, Sun Tzu, once said:

If you know yourself and know your enemy, you will not fear a 100 battles. If you know yourself, but do not know your enemy, for each battle you win, you'll have a defeat. If you do not know yourself and do not know your enemy, you'll never win a battle.

Simply saying you enemy attacked you because they are "evil" is just that: simple. Attacking blindly or, worse yet, based on false assumptions about the enemy could be inviting disaster.

2.) As far as criticizing Baker and Gingrich, Corn was simply describing their media offensive (Baker blamed intel failures on the Church Committee and Gingrich cited inadequate funding).

He goes on to describe how not everyone in the "national security cadre" was so quick to defend the CIA:

Some hawks and others [criticized] US intelligence for failing to detect the [9/11] plot. [One such hawk was] Kenneth Katzman, a terrorism expert at the Congressional Research Service, [who] said, "How nothing could have been picked up is beyond me--way beyond me. There's a major, major intelligence failure, specially since the [previous] Trade Center bombing produced such an investigation of the networks and so much monitoring."

Corn continues by saying "[n]o doubt, there will be official inquiries [into intelligence failures]. But the knee-jerk goal for most of the inquirers will be additional funds for the intelligence community and the Pentagon. The spies will defend their actions and plead, if only our hands were not tied, if only we had more money." Some will no doubt see that as an attack on the intel hawks and the CIA, but consider this: why is it that when schools are failing, increasing their funding is derided by some as "rewarding failure" and "throwing money at the problem", yet when it comes to intelligence, it is seen as the only rational solution and questioning it is to attack it?

Hannity himself says on page 144 of "Let Freedom Ring" that:

[The] gains in student achievement we'd made in the 1950s and early 1960s...had long since been squandered by an educational bureacracy that no longer placed an emphasis on high standards and world-class achievement....Liberals say we're not spending enough money to solve the problem. But that's simply not true. We've invested hundreds of billions of dollars in "reforming" our public schools over the past two decades, and we're spending more today than at any time in our history....The question isn't whether we're spending enough money. We are. The question is whether we're seeing dramatically improved results as a result of our investment. The painful truth is, we aren't. In fact, the results have been disastrous.

Hannity says repeatedly in Chapter 7, "Setting Parents Free", that he considers children's educations vital to our country's survival (just like intel, I would assume). So questioning the strategy of simply increasing spending on education or intelligence doesn't make you an opponent of either. Just as asking the question, "how did we get to this point?" doesn't make you an apologist.

So when Hannity says, "Is it really all that surprising that a leading leftist like Corn would vilify the CIA and those who have tried to strengthen it? Of course not." It's pretty obvious that he either missed the point or didn't read the article. Corn may simply have a different idea of the best strategy for strengthening our intelligence.

3.) Besides questioning the hawks' strategy, Corn also points out that some of the tactics that they put forward may not be as effective as they might think.

Corn says:

[In additon to calls for more money,] the operating assumptions at work deserve close assessment. Human intelligence [(advocated by John McCain, Orrin Hatch and Bob Graham in Corn's column)] against closed societies and secret outfits has long been a difficult, almost impossible, endeavor. Hurling money at it is likely no solution [my emphasis]. During the Vietnam War, when resources were unlimited, the CIA failed spectacularly at humint, essentially never penetrating the inner sanctums of the enemy. Its record of infiltrating the Soviet government was unimpressive (and the same goes for China, Cuba and other targets). As for lifting existing restrictions [on whom the CIA can recruit as informants], imagine the dilemmas posed if the CIA actually managed to recruit and pay murderous members of terrorist groups. What would the reaction be, if one of the September 11 conspirators turns out to have had a US intelligence connection?

Is this what Hannity means by vilifying the CIA? "Vilify" is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary as "To make vicious and defamatory statements about." If anything, statements by Hannity such as "Corn's ideological disdain for the CIA runs so deep that even the murder of three thousand Americans didn't persuade him of our need for a strong intelligence agency" sound more vilifying than Corn's "the operating assumptions at work deserve close assessment".

Bottom line again, most everyone wants strong intelligence and agree that 9/11 underscored that need. We all have the same goal, just different ideas of how to get there.

4.) Hannity says that "Corn has never been a fan of the CIA. In 1994 he wrote a book entitled Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA's Crusades, which the New York Times described as 'a scorchingly critical account' of the career of a major agency figure."

In Corn's bio on The Nation's web site, the quote goes:

The Washington Monthly called Blond Ghost "an amazing compendium of CIA fact and lore." The Washington Post noted that this biography "deserves a space on that small shelf of worthwhile books about the agency." The New York Times termed it "a scorchingly critical account of an enigmatic figure who for two decades ran some of the agency's most important, and most controversial, covert operations."

Which "controversial, covert operations" did this "major agency figure" Ted Shackley run? In an article Corn wrote about Shackley for TomPaine.com he said that:

In the 1950s, he served in Berlin, a center for espionage, running agents across the Iron Curtain. Agency efforts at that time were generally abysmal; most agents the CIA sent to spy on East European were captured or turned into double agents. In the early 1960s, he was in charge of the CIA's massive station in Miami, which failed to penetrate Fidel Castro?s government but conducted sabotage operations against Cuba and occasionally supported cockamamie assassination efforts (some using mob connections) against Castro.

Shackley went on to become chief of station in Laos and managed a secret war in which U.S.-encouraged tribal forces fought against the North Vietnamese. The tribes ended up decimated -- in part because Shackley and others pushed them to do what was best for the U.S. military not themselves. Then Shackley was chief of station in Vietnam, where the agency never succeeded in collecting much valuable intelligence on the Viet Cong and where it was involved in the controversial Phoenix program, a supposed intelligence-gathering operation in which U.S.-assisted South Vietnamese units sometimes assassinated rather than apprehended their targets.

After years in the field, Shackley rose through the ranks at headquarters, leading the Western Hemisphere division (and overseeing the CIA's operations in Chile to overthrow Salvador Allende, the democratically-elected president) and then heading the East Asia division, which miscalled the fall of Saigon. In 1976, when George Bush the elder was CIA director, Shackley was named the second in command of the CIA's clandestine service. And he was a contender for higher posts in the CIA -- perhaps the director's chair -- until his hard-to-explain relationship with Edwin Wilson, a CIA-operative-turned-rogue-arms dealer -- who illegally peddled weapons to Libyan dictator Moammar Qadaffi -- hit the headlines.

In the mid-1980s, Shackley played a cameo role in the Iran-contra affair. He engaged in back-channel talks with a disreputable Iranian wheeler-dealer who suggested U.S. hostages held in Iran might be released in return for cash or weapons. Shackley indirectly passed this information to a little-known White House aide named Oliver North.

Who were Corn's sources for this "scorchingly critical account"? According to Publishers Weekly, the book is "[b]ased on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and more than 100 interviews with former CIA officers". It is these same CIA officers that provided Corn with a glimpse into what the Washington Monthly called "an amazing compendium of CIA fact and lore". Back to the TomPaine.com article:

When I was interviewing CIA veterans for my book, I asked them about Shackley's rise and the internal culture of the agency. Several said that what counted was not always results but whether it appeared that an officer was doing all he could. After all, the missions at hand were often nearly impossible. Penetrate the VC? Infiltrate Castro's circle or the Kremlin or the inner sanctum of Beijing? If no one could do that, Shackley could not be held accountable for falling short as well.

Accountability has not been a dominant value within the CIA over the years. That was evident in the case of Aldrich Ames, the CIA mole who left clues right and left that he was working for the Soviets yet escaped detection for years. It is somewhat understandable that members of a covert community tend to be protective of one another. But the absence of strict accountability in this ends-justifies-the-means bureaucracy is cause for concern. Especially now that intelligence agencies -- with their information -- gathering responsibilities -- are the first line of defense against Al Qaeda and Osama wannabes.

When the congressional intelligence committees released their final 9/11 report..., Senator Richard Shelby, the senior Republican on the Senate panel, issued a dissent. It was more critical [my emphasis] than the majority report. He noted, for example, the CIA's "chronic failure, before 9/11, to share with other agencies the names of known Al Qaeda terrorists who it knew to be in the country allowed at least two such terrorists the opportunity to live, move and prepare for the attacks without hindrance.... Sadly, the CIA seems to have concluded that the maintenance of its information monopoly was more important than stopping terrorists."

But Shelby was angrier about the lack of accountability within the intelligence establishment. "It is disappointing to me," he wrote, that the majority report "has not seen fit to identify any of the individuals whose decisions left us so unprepared." He added, "Wise presidents dispose of their faltering generals under fire." Yet Bush has embraced Tenet and the CIA rather than hold anyone responsible for the pre-9/11 intelligence screw-ups -- and the intelligence committees, with the exception of Shelby, have not protested.

With remarks like "the CIA seems to have concluded that the maintenance of its information monopoly was more important than stopping terrorists", Shelby sounds more "scorchingly critical" of the CIA in general than Corn's account of one operative. And Shelby's a Republican. Furthermore, institutional issues like lack of accountability, as well as a resistance to sharing information with other agencies are not the product of underfunding and won't be fixed by a bigger budget.

4.) Corn warned against some people taking advantage of 9/11 to advance SDI:

Do not be surprised if the national security establishment even tries to accelerate its push for Star Wars II before the debris is cleared. The event tragically demonstrated the limits of a national missile defense system. (And consider how much worse the day would have been had the evildoers smuggled a pound of uranium onto any of the hijacked flights.) But the loudest theme in American politics--perhaps the only audible theme--in the time ahead will be the quest for security.

I did a quick search on Google and came up with lots of examples of just such a thing. One such article was by neo-con Kenneth Adelman and dated 10/24/2001. Adelman says that "President Bush, showing real leadership and foresight, preaches how missile defense is essential to winning America’s war against terrorism."

He goes on to say that:

[O]pponents of missile defense have been wrong in one sense, but they have been quite right in another. They were wrong that America's today foes couldn't match the degree of evil of Hitler, Stalin, or Mao Tse-Tung. September 11 showed what evil rogue leaders can do. Nonetheless, these critics were right to point out that our foes can use other terrorist methods - in this case, turning American airliners into guided missiles.

But next time it could be actual missiles falling on American or European cities. Imagine how much easier it would be for America's attackers to buy a long-range missile or two from North Korea or Iraq, arm it with nuclear or chemical weapons fire it at America`s still defenseless shores.

Why make it easy for America's enemies? Why not shield America and its allies from one of the easiest means of inflicting the greatest horror?

Is this really the best way "to bolster the military and intelligence establishment" to fight terrorism?

5.) Corn's last point was that since our leaders were urging us to show our resolve after 9/11 by continuing with our lives as normal (which he called a "nostrum"), then likewise, they need to try and go on governing without allowing 9/11 to affect debates on the issues of the day.

Unfortunately, that's not the way it works. Though we try to go back to normal, acts of extremism aren't easily put aside and "extremism begets extremism."

* * *

I recently sent an e-mail to David Corn and asked him to read today's excerpt from "Let Freedom Ring" and get his opinion. Here's the complete text of his response:

Mitch Krannert: I [read your article] and didn't see it as an attack on the CIA or intelligence at all. Rather, I saw it as a call for the country to carefully consider its response to 9/11 and not simply accept the assertions of the intel hawks.

David Corn: I think you have it right. I'd be happy if anyone who read that portion of Sean's book would read the original piece. To any sentient person, it would be obvious that I was not attacking the need for strong and effective intelligence. I was merely noting that the simplistic nostrums of the hawks deserved examination and scrutiny.."

* * *

That was the last of this section's examples of supposed liberal hostility towards the CIA. Next time, we'll wrap it up for this section with some conclusions.



Thursday, June 03, 2004

"The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy", Part 4 of 6

So far, "The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy" section of "Let Freedom Ring" has yet to prove anything other than it was poorly researched. Nevertheless, let's push ahead and take a look at the next accusation: that liberals mocked "the CIA's prescient concerns about terrorism".

Hannity says:

The Nation, another leading left-wing magazine, has also long been a foe of the CIA. But a 1998 feature story really takes the cake. Writing just three years before September 11, author Peter Pringle mocked former CIA director John Deutch and his colleagues for warning that "an act of catastrophic terrorism" could "have the effect of Pearl Harbor" and "divide America into a 'before and after.'"

The Nation article conceded that terrorism's toll in the 1990's was rising. "In 1983, 271 Americans were killed by terrorist attacks, most of them in the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon. Then came bombs at the World Trade Center in 1993 (six dead, 1,000 injured), the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 (168 dead, 500 injured) and the Khobar Towers Air Force housing complex in Saudi Arabia in 1996 (nineteen dead, 500 injured)." But then Pringle sniped, "In the rush to play a new war game there is always a tendency to hype the threat," specifically ridiculing the potential threat of an anthrax attack in Washington. It also quoted a professor who argued that "despite the lurid rhetoric, a massive terrorist attack with nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons is hardly inevitable. It is not even likely. ... Terrorists wish to convince us that they are capable of striking from anywhere at any time, but there is really no chaos. In fact, terrorism involves predictable behavior, and the vast majority of terrorist organizations can be identified well in advance."

The article concluded by criticizing Republicans for adding $9 billion to the military budget, "including several additional millions for antiterrorism projects" and suggested the GOP might try to politicize the issue in the future.

Then came September 11 and subsequent anthrax attacks. Did The Nation's staff possess the intellectual integrity to admit or reassess its monumentally flawed judgement? Did it refrain from mocking further the CIA's prescient concerns about terrorism? Did it come to value a strong, vibrant, aggressive CIA to make sure such attacks could never happen again? Hardly.
("Let Freedom Ring" pages 30 - 31)

Since this excerpt comes from a chapter titled "The Left vs. The CIA" and it contains quotes like

"The Nation...magazine...has long been a foe of the CIA...[b]ut a 1998 feature story really takes the cake"


"[after] September 11 and subsequent anthrax attacks[, d]id [The Nation] refrain from mocking further the CIA's prescient concerns about terrorism?"

I guess it would be safe to assume that the article Hannity is quoting from is about the CIA. And was the Pringle article about the CIA? No.

Let's get to parsing:

1.) Hannity says that "The Nation...magazine...has...long been a foe of the CIA" without offering any proof, so I guess we'll just take that on faith. And if we accept that The Nation has been hostile for a long time, saying that the Pringle article "really takes the cake" makes me think that this is going to be some pretty powerful stuff. But consider Hannity's opening remark:

Writing just three years before September 11, author Peter Pringle mocked former CIA director John Deutch and his colleagues for warning that "an act of catastrophic terrorism" could "have the effect of Pearl Harbor" and "divide America into a 'before and after.'"

Now, when you first read this passage, what do you think it means? Sounds like Pringle is ripping the CIA, or at least its director, for warning way ahead of time against a terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11. You might think that Hannity called him a "former CIA director" because he's no longer there, not because he made the remarks after he left. Furthermore, if the reader is assuming John Deutch made these comments while still at the CIA, and Hannity says the remarks came from "John Deutch and his colleagues", it's probably not too much of a stretch to say that some readers might assume "his colleagues" were other sitting intelligence officials. Not an unreasonable assumption since Webster's Dictionary defines a "colleague" as "A partner or associate in some civil or ecclesiastical office or employment. It is never used of partners in trade or manufactures." If true, these actions would no doubt indicate a certain hostility towards the CIA, wouldn't they?

Actually, the comments that Pringle is quoting are from an article Deutch wrote for Foreign Affairs magazine after he left office (George Tenet was CIA Director when both Deutch's and Pringle's articles were written in 1998). The article, entitled "Catastrophic Terrorism" was written together with "Ashton Carter, an ex-Pentagon assistant secretary; and Philip Zelikow, a former member of the National Security Council", whom Pringle refers to as its "distinguished authors". True, one could make the argument that these were Deutch's "former colleagues" if the definition is stretched to include the entire administration and they all served at the same time, or "colleagues" since they are all three now professors, though at different colleges, but Hannity was pretty vague.

So vague, in fact, that more than one interpretation of that first accusation can be plausibly defended. Maybe he honestly expected the reader to understand that Pringle was quoting an article written by a former CIA director and other former Administration officials. One part that's especially susceptible to misinterpretation, though, is the mention of "catastrophic terrorism" because Hannity doesn't define the term. Sure, we may think we know what it means. After all, 9/11 seemed pretty catastrophic to all who witnessed it. But for the sake of Pringle's and Deutch's articles, "[c]onventional terrorist weapons are truck bombs filled with fertilizer explosive... [and] catastrophic terrorist weapons [my emphasis] are nuclear, chemical and especially [my emphasis] biological." Which sounds more like 9/11? Catastrophic terrorism is concerned with the use of WMD's by terrorists. Didn't Hannity read the article? Do I always end up asking this question?

2.) I read Pringle's article. While he obviously felt that Deutch had indulged in bit of hyperbole, Pringle didn't seem to doubt that catastrophic terrorism would "have the effect of Pearl Harbor". In fact, he even says that "no one denies the threat of catastrophic terrorism." What Pringle took issue with was the fact that "the pace at which it has taken center stage as the prime threat to US security is almost as unnerving as the threat itself." It wasn't the impact that such an attack would have that Pringle questioned, it was a matter of how imminent such WMD threats really were and how it was leading to calls for the creation of new bureaucracies (something Pringle called "Manhattan Project syndrome"). Focussing much of his attention in the article on biological weapons, Pringle seems to feel that many in the defense industry (whom he called "New Threat merchants") were simply hyping the threat in order to drum up business for themselves at the federal trough.

Pringle says that according to "the government auditor, ...it's hard to keep track of where all the money is going, let alone whether it is being spent wisely."

3.) As far as mocking Deutch: while Pringle does point out Deutch's vested interests in putting the terror threat in the spotlight and calls him "the quintessential academic/consultant to the Pentagon and the defense industry",
his article for The Nation also says that "[t]he thrust of [Deutch's article] is a grand reorganization of the Pentagon, CIA and FBI bureaucracies to eliminate the perennial agency overlaps and gaps between 'foreign' and 'domestic' terrorism" and that "a new, multi-agency National Intelligence Center, as proposed by Deutch et al. in Foreign Affairs, might not only be a good idea but a necessity".

And in a piece for Slate, Pringle says almost the exact same thing:

Adequate intelligence is one need. And we do know the CIA screwed up over Aum Shinrikyo [(who perpetrated a nerve gas attack in the Tokyo subway)]. In hearings before Congress in 1995, the CIA admitted it had somehow missed the activities of the Aum, even though the event had been reported in the Japanese and European press and even in the U.S.-owned International Herald Tribune. This suggests that a new intelligence center for terrorism, as proposed by former CIA director John Deutch et al. in their Foreign Affairs article on "Catastrophic Terrorism," is not only a good idea but a necessity.

Pringle goes on in his article for The Nation to single out Deutch's article for praise:

In the article on catastrophic terrorism, Deutch et al. mention the proposal of Harvard professor Meselson and his law professor colleague, Philip Heymann, for an international c onvention making it a crime for individuals to engage in the production of biological or chemical weapons. The existing chemical and biological conventions apply only to states. The idea is to deter national leaders, such as Saddam Hussein, and groups such as Aum Shinrikyo, from seeking to develop chemical or biological weapons, and to discourage corporations from assisting them because the scientist or the CEO could be arrested. If such a treaty had existed and been supported by the United States in the eighties when Iraq was using poison gas and developing biological weapons, the suppliers and advisers on whom Saddam depended could have been brought to trial.

4.) Hannity begins the next paragraph by saying that "The Nation article conceded that terrorism's toll in the 1990's was on the rise" and then followed it with a quote from Pringle about the casualties from various attacks. But if you read Pringle's article, you'll see that he starts that paragraph off by saying "in most recent years since 1980 the number of Americans killed by terrorism has been fewer than ten, but the toll can suddenly jump." The list of casualties from terrorist attacks was not indicating a rise in "terrorism's toll" but rather spikes in casualties.

5.) As far as "specifically ridiculing the potential threat of an anthrax attack in Washington", here's the quote from Pringle's article:

In the rush to play a new war game there is always a tendency to hype the threat. Last November Defense Secretary William Cohen appeared on TV holding a bag of sugar claiming the equivalent amount of anthrax spores would be enough to kill half the population of Washington, DC, an illustration that would only be valid if the dispersal were perfect and the wind were always blowing in the right dire ction. Republican Senator Fred Thompson, chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, asked meekly of the terrorist threat, "Is it being overblown?" (The pun was apparently unintended.)

First, this has nothing to do with the CIA, it was the Secretary of Defense making the argument. Second, how is pointing out an exaggeration "ridiculing the potential threat"? Exaggerations don't help inform the public, they merely serve to alarm it. Enough such false alarms and the public becomes desensitized to a legitimate threat.

6.) The professor that Pringle quoted was Ehud Sprinzak of Jerusalem's Hebrew University and he's talking about the threat of terrorists using WMD's, as evidenced by Hannity quoting him as saying that "despite the lurid rhetoric, a massive terrorist attack with nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons is hardly inevitable. It is not even likely."

To quote NPR: "Altogether, the anthrax attacks killed five people and made 17 others ill, according to the Centers for Disease Control."

Obviously, the anthrax attacks aren't something to be taken lightly and were a tragedy for those affected. But they hardly constituted a massive attack. That's not to say it can't happen, just that Hannity's assertion that The Nation should apologize is unfounded.

7.) Pringle did point out at the end of his article that the Republicans added $9 billion to the military budget, but what he was criticizing was the tactics they used to accomplish it: "by emphasizing unpreparedness", playing on the public's fears. What Hannity also forgets to mention, is that the bulk of Pringle's criticism in the article is for the Media and the Clinton Administration whom he sees as guilty of spreading alarm and throwing money around.

He takes issue with Richard Preston of The New Yorker magazine and Diane Sawyer of ABC for promoting the claims of Kanatjan Alibekov, who had worked in the Soviet bio-weapons program. Alibekov, who changed his name to Ken Alibek when he moved to the U.S. (Pringle used the word "defected" even though it happened in 1992 after the Soviet collapse), asserted that the Soviets had developed a vast array of bio-weapons and "had built huge plants for the production of biological weapons....
Alibek claims that the Russians had actually used these [huge] facilities to produce tons of deadly anthrax, some of which had been genetically engineered so that available vaccines were useless, and some of which may have been put into the warheads of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Alibek also asserted that the Russians had experimented with deadly cocktails of smallpox spiked with the Ebola virus, which causes internal hemorrhaging, and with Venezuelan equine encephalitis, a brain virus."

Pringle points out that there were many experts who took issue with Alibek but weren't really heard.

Dr. Peter Jahrling, the chief scientist at the US Army medical research Institute of Infectious Diseases...[and] one of Alibek's original debriefers[, ]told The New Yorker, "His [Alibek's] talk about chimeras [mixtures] of Ebola is sheer fantasy, in my opinion." Preston also consulted Joshua Lederberg, the Nobel Prize–winning molecular biologist and a member of a working group at the National Academy of Sciences who advises the government on biological weapons and the potential for terrorism. Lederberg told Preston, "It's not even clear to me that adding Ebola genes to smallpox would make it more deadly." Putting these comments higher up in the article would have been more responsible journalism, clearly, but it would also have spoiled the story.

I already mentioned Clinton's Secretary of Defense, William Cohen. Bill Clinton himself, whom Hannity accused of turning a blind eye to terrorism in Chapter 1 of "Let Freedom Ring", is also criticized by Pringle:

One of the true believers in the need for elaborate defenses against germ weapons is none other than President Clinton [my emphasis]. He became a convert, and started pushing for stockpiles of vaccines, after reading--among all the intelligence reports on terrorism and the Iraq crisis--a novel titled The Cobra Event [by the same Richard Preston who wrote the New Yorker article on Alibek], about a fictitious germ attack on Manhattan using a mixture of smallpox and cold viruses. Chemical and biological warfare is great fiction material, of course, but are we in danger of being unable to separate fact from fiction?

8.) Where's the CIA in all this? For what's supposed to be an attack on the CIA, Pringle only mentions the agency by name 3 times; and they are hardly attacks. Here's one: "The thrust of [Deutch's article] "Catastrophic Terrorism" is a grand reorganization of the Pentagon, CIA and FBI bureaucracies to eliminate the perennial agency overlaps and gaps between 'foreign' and 'domestic' terrorism." And two: "[A]s a defector who has apparently outlived his usefulness to the CIA's covert intelligence world, [was Ken Alibek] trying to make a buck in civvy street by exaggerating the importance of his information?"

Probably the toughest remark I read about the CIA was number three, which was describing the dash to the federal trough for anti-terror dollars:

The FBI wants to send more agents into embassies abroad and is demanding its own planes to shuttle investigative teams around the world. Local and state governments used to dealing with flu epidemics are preparing for the nightmare gas or microbe attack. And one can only imagine what antiterrorist projects the CIA has been dreaming up with its "black" budget of covert ops.

U.S. and Western intelligence in general, are mentioned several times, and it comes in statements like "building a production line for...[biological] weapons and keeping it in reserve...[is something] the Soviets did--something US intelligence had known about for some time." That is not an attack.

* * *

So here we have an article that is criticizing Washington's rush to embrace a new threat in order to justify spending billions of dollars. I don't see where it mocked "the CIA's prescient concerns about terrorism" or, for that matter, where the CIA's "prescient concerns about terrorism" even appeared in the article.

NOTE: I used the URL "http://www.bridgeoflove.com...bioterrorism.html" to look up Pringle's article because the copy in The Nation's archive doesn't seem to show up. The Nation URL is listed as "http://www.thenation.com/issue/981109/1109PRIN.HTM".

"The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy", Part 3 of 6

So far, nothing Hannity has said in this section has held up to scrutiny. Not his overgeneralizing about liberals being the enemies of the CIA, not his claim that conservatives have been its steadfast ally "for decades", and definitely not his accusation that Ted Gup's article in Mother Jones was calling for the CIA's abolition.

His second example must be more convincing, though, since he claims that it exposes a "visceral...contempt [that is held by liberals] for the CIA".

Hannity continues on with his attack in this section by saying:

"Mother Jones [magazine] also condemned the CIA for having too few spies-or was that too many spies? 'Human intelligence-the network of spies on the ground-was allowed to degrade steadily," an article argued in its January/February 2002 issue. "To the fore came satellite imagery and National Security Agency's capacity to intercept communications. High-tech spying had proved effective against foreign states during the Cold War. Against terrorism, its value was dubious at best.'

"But in a previous issue of Mother Jones, in January/February 1995, writer Robert Dreyfuss seemed to be saying that conservatives were unwise in wanting to build up the CIA's human intelligence capabilities.

"'Though the CIA is being downsized and there are calls to abolish it, there are also calls from CIA insiders, some congressional Republicans, and a few outside conservatives to expand the CIA's use of spies-known in the trade as human intelligence (humint)-at the expense of techint, or intelligence gathered by satellites, listening devices and other technical means,' wrote Dreyfuss. 'Robert Steele, a former CIA officer who has put forward a number of otherwise thoughtful ideas about reforming the CIA, recently called for a doubling of the agency's clandestine espionage and for placing all of the new spies under "nonofficial cover."' Dreyfuss went on to point out that Congress may have been more receptive to expanding the CIA given a greater number of Republicans and the commitment of soon to be House Speaker Newt Gingrich to the idea.

"So which is it? Are there too few Mike Spanns or too many? Are we conservatives off base for wanting to make the CIA too big or too small? Or is that really the point? Rather, isn't this just the Left demonstrating its visceral (and incoherent) contempt for the CIA-and ultimately seeking to diminish its effectiveness and public support?"
("Let Freedom Ring", pages 29-30)

Well, what about it? Was this apparent disagreement over CIA staffing levels a case of the Left demonstrating a "visceral ... and incoherent ... contempt for the CIA"? Let's start digging and find out.

1.) Hannity claims that Mother Jones magazine has "condemned" (a pretty strong word) the CIA for having too few spies and then later accusing it of not having enough.

First off, this whole episode wasn't a case of the Mother Jones editorial staff speaking to an issue in the name of the magazine. Rather, it was two different writers, expressing their own viewpoints, seven years apart, in two unrelated articles (in fact the disagreement, if there was one, seems to be more about "humint vs. techint" than "too many spies vs. too few spies"). Secondly, since when is it an indictment of a magazine when it allows journalists writing for it to reach different conclusions? It's as if he's criticizing Mother Jones for not having an agenda, or perhaps he's so convinced that they do have one he thinks he's exposed a hole in it. Lastly, how in the world does a perceived inconsistency in one magazine over the span of nearly a decade prove "incoherence" on the part of the entire liberal community? That's pretty weak.

So weak in fact that, if anything, Hannity is hurting his own case. Wasn't he supposed to be illustrating the existence of a vast left-wing conspiracy against the CIA in this section of the book? How does showing disagreement among liberals help make the case that they are conspiring? Don't conspirators usually share a common set of beliefs?

2.) Another criticism of this excerpt's first paragraph is when Hannity says that the pro-humint quote comes from "an article ... [in Mother Jones'] January/February 2002 issue." The title of this article? "Clueless in Langley" by Ted Gup. You might remember Ted Gup from Part 2 of this critique on "The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy". He's the guy that Hannity railed against for writing an article calling for the overhaul or replacement of the CIA (Hannity mischaracterized it as a call to simply get rid of the CIA and, presumably, replace it with nothing and leave us blind).

Now Hannity's quoting from the very same article he just claimed was a call to abolish the CIA, quoting it in the very next paragraph of his book and, incredibly, framing it as a call to increase the number of spies! The way the excerpt reads, saying that it's quoting from "an article ... [in Mother Jones'] January/February 2002 issue" instead of saying "the same article by Ted Gup I just quoted at length in the previous paragraph" leaves me with the impression that he's trying to mislead the reader into thinking that he's quoting from a different article. Misleading the reader to think that you're quoting from more sources than you actually are? Using the same article to prove an opposite point? That would be intellectually dishonest. Maybe it was just an error in editing.

3.) Hannity quotes Robert Dreyfuss as saying that "Robert Steele, a former CIA officer who has put forward a number of otherwise thoughtful ideas about reforming the CIA, recently called for a doubling of the agency's clandestine espionage and for placing all of the new spies under 'nonofficial cover'."

The second part of the quote, which mentions "nonofficial cover", isn't really explained, seemingly left in as an afterthought. But what does "nonoffical cover" mean? To find out, I read the Robert Dreyfuss article that Hannity quoted from.

"The CIA Crosses Over" is an article that chronicles "a [CIA] program revived by the late director in the 1980s, [William Casey, that] marries the spy agency to corporate America in order to gather intelligence on economics, trade, and technology. ... [At the time the article was written, 1995,] dozens of U.S. corporations--from Fortune 500 companies to small, high-tech firms--[were] secretly assisting the CIA, allowing the agency to place full-time officers from its operations divisions into corporate offices abroad."

Dreyfuss goes on to describe the program in greater depth, defining the term "nonofficial cover":

Serving under what is referred to as "nonofficial cover" (NOC), CIA officers pose as American businessmen in friendly countries [my emphasis], from Asia to Central America to Western Europe. There, they recruit agents from the ranks of foreign officials and business leaders, pilfer secrets, and even conduct special operations and paramilitary activities.

The story of the CIA's NOC (pronounced "knock") program, ... raises serious questions about the CIA at a time [(1995)] when the agency is already beset by scandal [(such as the Aldrich Ames case)]. Yet the NOC program has grown to its present bloated size without any public scrutiny--and with no open discussion within the companies whose interests could be harmed by a spy scandal.

From there the article tells the NOC program's story through the eyes of former members, pointing out some of its many problems:

Interviews with former CIA officers who have served overseas and with midlevel and senior retired CIA officials reveal that the NOC program is beset with bungling, corruption, and poor tradecraft. The program is so badly run that NOCs are resigning from the CIA in droves, many after serious mistakes by the CIA that could have resulted in their exposure, arrest, or worse.

Tom Darcy is a former CIA officer who served for five years as a NOC in Western Europe. Asked whether the CIA's clumsy management has caused any NOC to land in a prison overseas, Darcy says, "Yes. More than once. Or die."

While the article concentrates on economic espionage and tends to be very critical of the NOC program, Dreyfuss does say that the "CIA's operations within terrorist (my emphasis), drug trafficking, and arms dealer networks often involve NOCs, who can move more easily in such circles without raising suspicion." So there may be cases where having agents risk operating under nonofficial cover is preferable; at least in concept. Dreyfuss' main thrust is that the actual program is being run incompetently and doesn't seem to really get the results the CIA had hoped for.

Even with the criticism of Robert Steele's idea that we need more spies, the article is mostly calling attention to a program that (a) is a symptom of an ossified Cold War bureaucracy trying to justify continuing to exist at its present size and (b) needs to go away.

NOTE: I wrote to Robert Dreyfuss and, to make sure I had the right take on his article, asked him to describe the basic points he was trying to make in "The CIA Crosses Over" This is the full text of his response:

My Mother Jones piece, "The CIA Crosses Over," did criticize what amounted then to a failed program. On the other hand, I think I tried to make clear that it is a program that ought to have failed. I'm troubled by the idea of U.S. corporations and other private groups giving covert support to a CIA presence overseas. Not only does it put all U.S. businessmen, journalists and others under suspicion of working for the CIA, but it is improper on its face. My broader criticism was that after the Cold War, we could have vastly reduced the size of the U.S. intelligence community, and we did not. It seems incomprehensible that we'd need to maintain the CIA at its Cold War strength in the 1990s--and the threat of terrorism doesn’t change my mind. You're right that Hannity takes cheap shots whereever he can take them, and I don't respect him enough to care what he says about my work. Believe it or not, I've never once watched the guy. I don't plan to.

This leaves me with the impression that he's not so much for reducing humint at the expense of techint or vice versa, rather he would like to see both reduced.

4.) As far as accusations by Hannity of the Left's "contempt" for the CIA: it may not be visceral, but the Dreyfuss article's contemptuous quotes like "glorious ineptitude" and "horribly mismanaged" came from the CIA officers themselves.

One quote decries the CIA's favoring "inside officers" and using NOC's as whipping boys:

A CIA officer says, "Just like the way the Catholic Church protects priests accused of sexual abuse or wrongdoing, headquarters will always cover up for the division chief, the chief of station, or the deputy chief of station--and they will discipline the NOC."

Imagine Hannity's reaction to that quote if it hadn't been said by a CIA officer! Then again, it's really a pretty juicy comment to pass up on. Maybe the fact that he didn't pounce on it just shows that he didn't read the entire article. Who can say?

5.) Now on to the people mentioned: Robert Dreyfuss and Robert Steele. According to the Columbia Journalism Review, Dreyfuss worked for Ralph Nader's Public Citizen organization before becoming a freelance journalist. Currently, "he's on the mastheads of Mother Jones, The Nation, and American Prospect, and a regular contributor to half-a-dozen magazines". It's pretty safe to assume he's not going to be asked to write a piece for The National Review or American Spectator, so you would think he would be a good candidate for demonstrating the visceral contempt Hannity talks about. If you look at his "The CIA Crosses Over" article, though, you'll see that the last section is titled "Let's get smart about intelligence" and not "Let's get rid of intelligence".

And it's also worth noting that Dreyfuss does say in the quote that Steele "has put forward a number of otherwise thoughtful ideas about reforming the CIA". Not abolishing the CIA, mind you, reforming it. And these ideas for reform were generally thoughtful ones, in Dreyfuss' opinion. Do words like these indicate a visceral contempt for the CIA?

6.) Another point of interest is that in a different article he wrote on economic espionage (Mother Jones May/June 1994), Dreyfuss says that:

Hidebound--one wants to say "rock-ribbed Republican"--conservatives, who worship the free enterprise system, oppose any government interference in the marketplace. While endorsing CIA efforts to prevent economic espionage by other governments, notably Japan and France, the right vigorously opposes the CIA getting into any economic spying of its own.

Sounds like conservatives were against the NOC program's primary mission. If conservatives don't like the NOC program and want it cancelled; then, using Hannity's logic, doesn't a desire to eliminate the NOC positions mean they think there are too many spies and are calling for a cut? Couldn't they be accused weakening our intelligence community by opposing one of its programs?

7.) Hannity never explains who Robert Steele is, so to be thorough, I will.

Steele has been known for some time as a proponent of CIA reform. In a 2002 piece written by John Perry Barlow for Forbes, Steele gets mentioned:

After a decade of both fighting with and consulting to the intelligence community, I've concluded that the American intelligence system is broken beyond repair, self-protective beyond reform, and permanently fixated on a world that no longer exists.

I was introduced to this world by a former spy named Robert Steele, who called me in the fall of 1992 and asked me to speak at a Washington conference that would be "attended primarily by intelligence professionals." Steele seemed interesting, if unsettling. A former Marine intelligence officer, Steele moved to the CIA and served three overseas tours in clandestine intelligence, at least one of them "in a combat environment" in Central America.

After nearly two decades of service in the shadows, Steele emerged with a lust for light and a belief in what he calls, in characteristic spook-speak, OSINT, or open source intelligence. Open source intelligence is assembled from what is publicly available, in media, public documents, the Net, wherever. It's a given that such materials--and the technological tools for analyzing them--are growing exponentially these days. But while OSINT may be a timely notion, it's not popular in a culture where the phrase "information is power" means something brutally concrete and where sources are "owned."

Steele has also written books on CIA reform: "On Intelligence" and "The New Craft of Intelligence".

His opinions might surprise you, too. Here's some quotes from a departmentofintelligence.com interview Steele gave, titled "Robert Steele answers our questions about US Intelligence 2 years after September 11th" (In fairness, Steele made these comments after "Let Freedom Ring" went into print.):

- "Unfortunately, 9-11 did not change U.S. intelligence in any significant manner."

- "Sadly, America must see another 5,000 body-bags, and elect a new President, before we might possibly come to our senses."

- "There is no Global War on Terrorism. That is propaganda."

- "The US is losing the war on terrorism."

- "[T]he White House is 'out of control' and severely undermining global stability and legitimacy."

- "The neo-conservatives and their corporate paymasters remind me of Hitler and Goering. Everything they are doing is built on a platform of lies and the abuse of executive power. They have carried the big-hearted but very naive American people into a situation where American unilateralism is literally destroying the world. We have become, in a word, immoral as a Nation."

- "America is a great Nation and can survive massive incompetence and malfeasance within the White House, but I worry that in this delicate time, we cannot survive another four years of George Bush and his 'stupid white men.' We need Europe as a partner of the people, as a partner for truth, as a partner in stabilizing the world and achieving legitimate governance everywhere. France saved us once from the British, now we need France's help in saving us from ourselves."

Robert Steele sounds a lot harsher with regard to U.S. intelligence and foreign policy than the authors Hannity has criticized.

* * *

I think it's pretty obvious at this point that the idea of today's excerpt somehow demonstrating either a "visceral (and incoherent) contempt for the CIA" or a desire "to attack and undermine America's intelligence community" by liberals is pretty laughable. Criticizing the CIA when criticism is justified (such as the case of the NOC program) is not an attempt to undermine our country's intelligence; allowing a failed program to continue is. The fact that some of the roughest remarks in the articles Hannity cited came from CIA operatives indicates questionable research methods, since it undermines his accusation of ideological motives by the authors. But not citing Ted Gup as the author of the first article seems suspiciously deliberate (since it helps conceal a contradiction) and adds to the sense that poor research may not be the only issue here. In any event, the point about Mother Jones being conflicted over CIA staffing levels is erroneous and irrelevant.

Next time, yet another example of the "Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy". And this next one, in Hannity's words, "really takes the cake."