Rush to Judgment

In a tele-conference (he’s vacationing at his pretend ‘ranch’ again) with Washington, Junior pushed his gang to prepare the ground for swift implementation of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations.

CRAWFORD, Texas — President Bush tried to seize the initiative on intelligence reform Monday, meeting with aides and urging them to accelerate their review of proposals issued by the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks.The president, who is keeping out of sight at his Texas ranch during the Democratic National Convention, used a video link to take part in the meeting at the White House that included Vice President Dick Cheney, Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., acting CIA Director John McLaughlin, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice.

Cheney joined the call from Jackson, Wyo., where he was campaigning.

“The president has asked the group to fast-track their review and the implementation of the recommendations,” White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan told reporters during a briefing in Crawford. “To the extent that there are some recommendations that could be acted on sooner rather than later, the president could certainly act within days on some, obviously longer on others.”

Buchan said the president has been reading the commission’s 567-page report and expects to be in daily contact about it with Card, who is heading the White House review.

Cheney said that he was halfway through reading the report, calling it “engrossing.”

“I don’t agree with absolutely everything in it,” he said without elaborating.

No kidding.

This is not a particularly surprising development. Besides its being an election year (a really lousy time to be rushing through changes as sweeping as the ones the 9/11C recommends) when no one wants to perceived as ‘foot-dragging’ by asking uncomfortable questions or, god forbid, counseling prudence in the face of (yet another) potential terrorist attack, the 9/11C’s suggestions would concentrate even more power in the hands of the executive by removing the last vestiges of independence from the IC.

Investigative reporter Robert Dreyfuss, in a post called ‘Five Things Wrong With The 9/11 Report (Thing One)’ on his blog, The Dreyfuss Report at TomPaine, lays out the two most divisive and disruptive changes.

First, the commission proposes the creation of a National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). It would have two functions: intelligence and operations. Of its intelligence function, the commission says: “The NCTC should lead strategic analysis, pooling all-source intelligence, foreign and domestic, about transnational terrorist organizations of global reach.” Operationally, “The NCTC should perform joint planning. The plans would assign operational responsibilities to lead agencies, such as State, the CIA, the FBI, Defense and its combatant commands, Homeland Security, and other agencies.” According to the commission, the head of the NCTC “must have the right to concur in the choices of personnel to lead the operating entities of departments and agencies focused on counterterrorism, specifically to include the head of the Counterterrorist Center, the head of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, the commanders of the Defense Department’s Special Operations Command and Northern Command, and the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism.”

While it would seem to centralize decision-making and promote co-ordination in theory, the practical ramifications of an all-powerful anti-terrorism brigade are frightening. As envisioned by the 9/11C, the NCTC would have the power to direct US intel resources in any direction it wanted since it would have control of the IC purse-strings. This raises the specter of turning the whole IC into a giant version of Doug Feith’s OSP/C-TEG operations with raw intel stovepiped straight to the top if it serves an admin’s political objectives and buried deep in the catacombs if it doesn’t. Worse, it would put intel objectives at the mercy of political ops who want to score points.

Then the commission would couple this all-powerful new entity with the creation of a National Intelligence Director. The NID would be an intelligence czar, overseeing both foreign and domestic intelligence collection and analysis. “The National Intelligence Director must be able to directly oversee intelligence collection inside the United States.” The NID would also have authority to “approve and submit nominations to the president of the individuals who would lead the CIA, DIA, FBI Intelligence Office, NSA, NGA, NRO, [parts of] Homeland Security and other national intelligence capabilities.” And the NID would control their budgets. The NID would also oversee covert operations. And: “The head of the NCTC would report to the national intelligence director.”

The creation of the NID would all but eliminate the differences between the CIA and the FBI, mashing them together under one all-purpose Director, shifting the focus of the agencies almost completely and making them political arms of the President, pesonally.

In tandem, the NCTC and the NID would create an intelligence power of truly awesome scope. Because terrorism is essentially a political crime, as the ACLU reminds us constantly, counterterrorist investigations always involve politics, dissidents and rebels. It’s not like investigating crimes, or like intelligence on war-making capabilities of nations. Just as the Patriot Act knocked down the “wall” between the CIA and the FBI, making it far easier to conduct domestic spying operations against American citizens not suspected of a crime, the NCTC-NID combination would concentrate the power to carry out domestic spying in all-powerful nexus, located (where?) in the White House. The NID would report directly to the president, or to the “POTUS,” in the pompous wiring diagram in the commission report. Says the report: “The intelligence entity inside the NCTC .. would sit there alongside the operations management unit, … with both making up the NCTC, in the Executive Office of the President.”

This is nothing less than the operations diagram setting out America’s first Secret Police, and, either accidentally or deliberately, is copied from the operational charts of the old Soviet system where the NKVD and the KGB were simply different aspects of the same function–protecting the State from dissidents and political troublemakers–under the overall control of a single department directly responsible to the Premier. This was, as those of you old enough will remember, a very effective mechanism for strangling free speech and controlling the political activities of the Russian people.

It is on the one hand ironic and on the other frightening that the 9/11C has looked to the Soviets for a model. One wonders what they’re trying to tell us.

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