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 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.