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Saturday, January 22, 2005

D.I.Y. 

The Rottweiler has slipped the leash. According to the Washington Post, Donald Rumsfeld is free at last. He gets a special black ops unit to execute his wildest, most extralegal schemes, and Congress can't stop him, and the beauty part is he won't have to put up with analysts from rival agencies telling him he's bat-shit crazy -- because he don' need no steenkin' CIA . . . .
The Pentagon, expanding into the CIA's historic bailiwick, has created a new espionage arm and is reinterpreting U.S. law to give Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld broad authority over clandestine operations abroad, according to interviews with participants and documents obtained by The Washington Post . . . .

The Strategic Support Branch was created to provide Rumsfeld with independent tools for the "full spectrum of humint operations," according to an internal account of its origin and mission. Human intelligence operations, a term used in counterpoint to technical means such as satellite photography, range from interrogation of prisoners and scouting of targets in wartime to the peacetime recruitment of foreign spies. A recent Pentagon memo states that recruited agents may include "notorious figures" whose links to the U.S. government would be embarrassing if disclosed.

Perhaps the most significant shift is the Defense Department's bid to conduct surreptitious missions, in friendly and unfriendly states, when conventional war is a distant or unlikely prospect -- activities that have traditionally been the province of the CIA's Directorate of Operations. Senior Rumsfeld advisers said those missions are central to what they called the department's predominant role in combating terrorist threats.

The Pentagon has a vast bureaucracy devoted to gathering and analyzing intelligence, often in concert with the CIA, and news reports over more than a year have described Rumsfeld's drive for more and better human intelligence. But the creation of the espionage branch, the scope of its clandestine operations and the breadth of Rumsfeld's asserted legal authority have not been detailed publicly before. Two longtime members of the House Intelligence Committee, a Democrat and a Republican, said they knew no details before being interviewed for this article.

Pentagon officials said they established the Strategic Support Branch using "reprogrammed" funds, without explicit congressional authority or appropriation. Defense intelligence missions, they said, are subject to less stringent congressional oversight than comparable operations by the CIA.
A few of the details above will be familiar to you from "The Coming Wars," Seymour Hersh's most recent New Yorker article:
According to a former high-level intelligence official, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff shortly after the election and told them, in essence, that the naysayers had been heard and the American people did not accept their message. Rumsfeld added that America was committed to staying in Iraq and that there would be no second-guessing . . . .

Two former C.I.A. clandestine officers, Vince Cannistraro and Philip Giraldi, who publish Intelligence Brief, a newsletter for their business clients, reported last month on the existence of a broad counter-terrorism Presidential finding that permitted the Pentagon “to operate unilaterally in a number of countries where there is a perception of a clear and evident terrorist threat. . . . A number of the countries are friendly to the U.S. and are major trading partners. Most have been cooperating in the war on terrorism.” The two former officers listed some of the countries—Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, and Malaysia. (I was subsequently told by the former high-level intelligence official that Tunisia is also on the list) . . . .

Under Rumsfeld’s new approach, I was told, U.S. military operatives would be permitted to pose abroad as corrupt foreign businessmen seeking to buy contraband items that could be used in nuclear-weapons systems. In some cases, according to the Pentagon advisers, local citizens could be recruited and asked to join up with guerrillas or terrorists. This could potentially involve organizing and carrying out combat operations, or even terrorist activities. Some operations will likely take place in nations in which there is an American diplomatic mission, with an Ambassador and a C.I.A. station chief, the Pentagon consultant said. The Ambassador and the station chief would not necessarily have a need to know, under the Pentagon’s current interpretation of its reporting requirement . . . .

A retired four-star general said, “The basic concept has always been solid, but how do you insure that the people doing it operate within the concept of the law? This is pushing the edge of the envelope.” The general added, “It’s the oversight. And you’re not going to get Warner”—John Warner, of Virginia, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee—“and those guys to exercise oversight. This whole thing goes to the Fourth Deck.” He was referring to the floor in the Pentagon where Rumsfeld and Cambone have their offices.

“It’s a finesse to give power to Rumsfeld—giving him the right to act swiftly, decisively, and lethally,” the first Pentagon adviser told me. “It’s a global free-fire zone.”
Longtime Rumsfeld-watchers will recognize the Strategic Support Branch as the latest incarnation of a program known, in the remote past of 2002, as the Proactive Preemptive Operations Group. The P2OG, conceived by a Pentagon advisory group called the Defense Science Board, was described by military analyst William Arkin (writing in the L.A. Times) as a "super-Intelligence Support Activity, an organization [bringing] together CIA and military covert action, information warfare, intelligence, and cover and deception":
Among other things, this body would launch secret operations aimed at "stimulating reactions" among terrorists and states possessing weapons of mass destruction -- that is, for instance, prodding terrorist cells into action and exposing themselves to "quick-response" attacks by U.S. forces.

Such tactics would hold "states/sub-state actors accountable" and "signal to harboring states that their sovereignty will be at risk," the briefing paper declares.
If the deliberate banality of that hazy bureaucratic language leaves you in some doubt as to exactly what it is we're talking about, John Pilger elucidates:
[P2OG] will provoke terrorist attacks which would then require "counter-attack" by the United States on countries "harbouring the terrorists".

In other words, innocent people will be killed by the United States. This is reminiscent of
Operation Northwoods, the plan put to President Kennedy by his military chiefs for a phoney terrorist campaign - complete with bombings, hijackings, plane crashes and dead Americans - as justification for an invasion of Cuba. Kennedy rejected it. He was assassinated a few months later. Now Rumsfeld has resurrected Northwoods, but with resources undreamt of in 1963 and with no global rival to invite caution. You have to keep reminding yourself this is not fantasy: that truly dangerous men, such as Perle and Rumsfeld and Cheney, have power. The thread running through their ruminations is the importance of the media: "the prioritised task of bringing on board journalists of repute to accept our position".

"Our position" is code for lying. Certainly, as a journalist, I have never known official lying to be more pervasive than today. We may laugh at the vacuities in Tony Blair's "Iraq dossier" and Jack Straw's inept lie that Iraq has developed a nuclear bomb (which his minions rushed to "explain"). But the more insidious lies, justifying an unprovoked attack on Iraq and linking it to would-be terrorists who are said to lurk in every Tube station, are routinely channelled as news. They are not news; they are black propaganda.
Now, thanks to the ringing endorsement of 59 million satisfied consumers of black propaganda, Donald Rumsfeld, dismantler of the Geneva Conventions, architect of the torture at Abu Ghraib, not only gets to keep his freedom and his job; he is rewarded with unprecedented power. He now has free rein to Do As He Wilt on a global scale, unmonitored and unrestrained -- and a literal blank check to pursue the dream he shares with Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz, Libby et al of a worldwide Pax Americana, whatever it may cost in blood and treasure:
This group is determined to "whack Iran," as one insider put it, and they're not at all discouraged by the debacle in Iraq; indeed, to them it's a rousing success. Their first objective -- openly stated years ago, before Bush took office -- was the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime and the planting of a U.S. "military footprint" in Iraq. This has now been done. The fact that it has plunged the Iraqi people into a hell of violence, chaos, terror and extremism is of no real concern to the clique. Their lofty rhetoric about "freedom" and "liberation" is meaningless sham, shuck and jive for the rubes. By the admission of the clique's own publications, they seek strategic control over the world's energy resources in order to preserve and expand American geopolitical and economic hegemony in the new century. Everything else -- including the security of the American people, put at increasing risk by the clique's reckless policies -- is of secondary importance.
As long as he signs the condolence letters next time around.

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