Public shaming is the order of the day if one suggests that our plethora of intelligence services might be influenced by politics. Aside from the inference that Donald Trump may not have the chops to direct the American Executive seriously (a charge also leveled against his predecessor), the previous sentence might be one of the most ludicrous notions Progressives have percolated since they lost the election.
I’m pretty sure Woodward and Bernstein popped that proverbial bubble in 1972 and over the last 45 years, in administrations of both parties, political influence is normal, to be expected, and exercised without consequence.
Watergate and DNC
Am I the only one who finds the irony striking that the Watergate scandal that marked the start of this fundamental distrust of the impartiality of the American governmental structure and the Russian “hacking” scandal both involved attacks on the Democratic National Committee?
Is this because the DNC is some Marvel Comic-like League of Justice protecting the rights of ordinary Americans against the forces of corruption or rather is it a place where events or confessions are held and if revealed might embarrass the powerful?
Watergate revealed multilayers of political corruption: the existence of a black ops group overseen by the President’s closest advisers; a secret system of taping conversations in the White House; a break-in at DNC headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in a search for illegal campaign contributions. This was preceded by the theft and release of The Pentagon Papers, authored by the Department of Defense, by Dr. Daniel Ellsberg in 1971 which demonstrated that the Johnson Administration had secretly expanded the Vietnam War and lied to Congress and the American public. The New York Times published this stolen material and Nixon’s black ops group was also charged with finding material to discredit Ellsberg.
This was preceded by the theft and release of The Pentagon Papers, authored by the Department of Defense, by Dr. Daniel Ellsberg in 1971 which demonstrated that the Johnson Administration had secretly expanded the Vietnam War and lied to Congress and the American public. The New York Times published this stolen material and Nixon’s black ops group was also charged with seeking material to discredit Ellsberg.
Wikileaks and DNC
How closely this resembles the charges leveled against Russia in the “hacking” scandal. Emails from the DNC and specifically John Podesta were stolen and leaked to Wikileaks to embarrass Hillary Clinton and tip the election in Trump’s favor. Or so the story is told.
Of course, these days we no longer need to dispatch a group of men to break into a physical facility and risk apprehension. All we have to do is send an unsophisticated target a phishing email and hope he is idiotic enough to use the word “password” as his password, and hope he is naive enough to open an attachment. Poof. Done. It is difficult to conceive that Vladimir Putin’s FSB spent much time operationalizing this technically sophisticated tradecraft.
So, we can extrapolate that the stolen Pentagon Papers, along with other Watergate transgressions, led to Nixon’s decision to resign from office. One could argue that The New York Times and Washington Post drove him from office by publishing this stolen material and swung the political direction of the country. The Supreme Court defended the right of those publications to print that stolen material and Ellsberg admitted to having stolen it when he surrendered to authorities in Boston. He was hailed a hero by Progressives and rightfully so.
Ellsberg and Assange
But how different, really, are his actions from those of Julian Assange and Wikileaks? Were the DNC and Podesta emails stolen? It appears so. Has anyone challenged, even those who authored many of those emails, the veracity of that material or suggested they have been altered in any way? In 2006, Assange wrote, “The more secretive or unjust an organisation is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership….” Who is Assange, you might ask, to make the moral judgment of what qualifies an organization as “secretive or unjust”? The same code, I suppose, that drove Ellsberg to make the determination that the documents “demonstrated unconstitutional behavior by a succession of presidents.”
Let us be honest with ourselves and acknowledge that intelligence product – at least that which is released to the public – is often employed to support a particular point of view or policy. Was there an active WMD program in Iraq before the American invasion? Many intelligence agencies besides the Americans seemed to believe so. How close or far were the Iranians to developing a nuclear weapon before the JCPOA was negotiated in order to delay its completion? Was this used to justify the pursuit of the JCPOA? Was the intelligence community aware of the construction of a nuclear facility in Syria before it was destroyed by the Israelis since the existence of the facility nor its destruction was ever acknowledged? Where did Syria obtain the WMD’s it used in Aleppo from which the Russians, Iranians, and their proxies were to protect the population?
Clapper and Brennan
James Clapper lied to Congress and the American people about the nature and extent of daily surveillance regularly conducted by the NSA. Edward Snowden seemed to be in possession of information that contradicted Clapper’s testimony. We would never have known that without him.
As arrogant and sanctimonious as Clapper appears, he pales in comparison to John Brennan. Brennan, of course, succeeded General David Petraeus after he was found to have mishandled classified information. Prosecuted by Eric Holder, father of “Fast and Furious”, only Attorney General to be held in contempt of Congress. Brennan was CIA station chief in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia when the Khobar Towers were bombed. He is fluent in Arabic. He voted for Gus Hall of the US Communist Party for President. In 2010 he accused Republican lawmakers of using “national security issues like terrorism as a political football”.
But his shining moment was his 2010 address to the Islamic Center at NYU where his remarks seemed eerily similar to those of his future boss. He said Islam “helped to shape my own world view”. That “like the President…I came to see Islam [as] a faith of peace and tolerance…” He spoke in Arabic for a portion of the speech and referred to Jerusalem as “Al-Quds” which is only used in the Arab world because Muslims refuse to call it by the name the city has had since 4500 BCE.
He objects to the use of the word “jihadist” to describe terrorists who act in the name of Islam. “They are not jihadists for jihad is a holy struggle, an effort to purify, for a legitimate purpose.” I cannot tell you the sense of relief I feel that our Director of Central Intelligence is there to help me with the nuance of Islamic dogma. Perhaps he can also help me understand why they hand out candies when 20-year-old girls get run over by trucks.
As excited as I am to see the moving trucks transporting the Obama’s to their new Washington home, I really can’t wait for the Clapper’s and Brennan’s and Koskinen’s and Jarrett’s and Lynch’s to finally vacate the premises.