Fat Steve's Blatherings

Monday, December 19, 2005

St.Onge/Monaco Error

        Due to fatigue, and a lack of proper organization on my part, a chunk of what I intended for this post got left out.  So, I've put it here.


        You wrote:
        You are partially correct in your evaluation of the CIA but only correct from a very weird point of view. The coterie in the administration (that is often labeled "neo-conservative") looks upon the CIA as a "liberal" organization. All liberalism is by definition "weak" and therefore against the powerful expansion of the U.S. as they conceive of it.

        This is so completely at variance from anything I said that I'm at a loss about what you think you're responding to.

        My view of the CIA is that it is a government agency.  Like all government agencies (including the White House staff, or the Pentagon), it operates firstly to preserve itself.  I see no reason to regard the CIA as "weak," but I do see reason to regard them as biased in certain directions, intellectually and emotionally, and not particularly trustworthy.  (For that matter, the CIA has a record of intelligence analysis errors that make it untrustworthy even when they're trying to be accurate — but that's another post.)

        The CIA, as you've mentioned, has worked to overthrow governments, assassinate foreign leaders, and do other things that aren't very pretty viewed in the light of day.  I doubt the White House views it as "weak."  I certainly don't.  But the CIA seems to have been institutionally opposed to Bush's plans to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and still opposed to Bush's foreign policy.  So they try to sabotage it.  That, at least, is my evaluation.

      Sometime, look up Thinking in Time: The Uses of History For Decision Makers, by Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May, and read how the Center for Disease Control manipulated President Ford into the swine flu vaccine program.  There was zero scientific evidence that a swine flu epidemic would hit the United States in 1976, but the Ford Administration had threatened the CDC's budget, and steps had to be taken.  They made up a threat to enhance their funding.  I think we're seeing the stories in the press that we do about CIA activities is because part of the bureaucracy is defending its turf.  I don't think the CIA is distressed by torture, I think its panicked at the thought of losing influence, access, and money.

        I am curious, though, as to when abolishing the CIA was a conservative position.  Citation?  Or is that not what you were trying to convey when you wrote:
        Now, personally I believe that secret organizations are harmful to the Republic so I am all for abolishing the CIA.  (By the way at one time this was considered a "conservative" belief but now days you have to be a radical in order to have a conservative belief in things like openness and the rule of law.)

        No, you didn't say anything about George Tenet — but then, I didn't say anything about Latin America.  Comment drift happens.  ;-D  I brought him up to make a point, which was apparently obscure.  We know who Tenet was (Director of Central Intelligence), we know what information he had available to him (all the U.S. collects, or close to it), we know he testified under oath about various matters.  The MSM has lately been printing things they ascribe to CIA employees, all anonymous, all of uncertain access to information.  I'd say we have much better reason to believe Tenet than the people who allegedly leaked to the New York Times or Washington Post.

        And just who leaked what to the newspapers?  Did they actually work for the CIA?  Once, I wouldn't have asked that question.  I would have ass/u/me/d that whatever the Times said it was told was what it was in fact told, that we could depend on them to describe their sources honestly, even if they did slant the things.  But if you visit this post in my archives, you'll see a whole bunch of statements, all sourced, that CBS made during the Rathergate fiasco, which were provably false, and known to be false when CBS made them.  I was genuinely amazed at these outright inventions.  So I no longer take the media's statements at face value, especially when the source is anonymous, and very especially when the media outlet's political positions are at stake.  The MSM disapproves of Bush's policies concerning terrorism, and I don't trust them to report honestly on this administration.

        Which connects to why I brought up Saddam's quest for nuclear weapons.  Valerie Plame Wilson, CIA employee who's supposed to be monitoring the spread of WMDs, hears a report that Saddam is trying to import uranium into Iraq, secretly.  She immediately terms the report "crazy," without investigation.  To me, this suggest a certain intellectual dishonesty, and a desire to influence policy by controlling information.  Her husband Joe goes to Niger, and is told that Iraq approached Niger about expanding trade.  After looking up Niger and Iraq in the CIA's World Factbook, it's hard to see how that could have been anything but an attempt to buy uranium.  That's certainly what the Nigeriens said they believed it was, and the CIA analysts agreed.  But Joe told reporters that he'd found evidence that Iraq didn't try to buy uranium.

        Or did he?  Wilson has since denied saying to reporters what the Times and Post claim he told them.

        We might also usefully recall here Michael Isikoff's story in Newsweek about Koran flushing.  Isikoff's source appears to have been Emily Emily Litella: 'The report I claimed said one thing has become public, and it says the opposite of my recollection?  Never mind!'  Or is Isikoff lying?  Or was there some misunderstanding?  We'll probably never know, but we should know enough now to be highly skeptical of anonymous leaks that aren't backed up with some way of checking them objectively.

        And why am I harping on possible dishonesty by the MSM and the leakers within the government, assuming they exist?  Because we don't know who these people are, what information they have access to, what their motivations might be, or anything about them really.  There's been enough sources saying the CIA holds people secretly to make it credible to me, but the details remain doubtful.  What seems certain is only that the people pushing this story want to undercut Bush's policy.  To accomplish that, they well lie.

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