Monday, July 18, 2005

Riding with the Bad Boys 

Only an abiding respect for the rules of blogging etiquette constrains us from linking to everything our venerated colleague Chris Floyd writes. It is testimony to our discipline and self-control that, despite overwhelming temptation, we have so far managed to resist directing you to this item, and this one, but third time is the charm, as they say, and when we saw the post below we knew our vaunted willpower had found its limit. You will remember the name of John Yoo, professor of law at UC Berkeley, who, during his brief tenure at the Ashcroft DoJ, devised the legal doctrine that established the President's right to authorize torture in direct violation of U.S. statutes and international treaty obligations: do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. After the London bombings, that distinguished academic turtled into view just long enough to suggest, in the pages of the L.A. Times, that Al Qaeda can only be defeated if we are willing to A) gut the first amendment, and B) get into the terrorism business ourselves:
Under the Constitution's religion clauses, government neither can support nor interfere with religion — as the Supreme Court has reminded us. To create an alternative network, however, the U.S. must discredit Al Qaeda's fundamentalist vision of Islam, and it must support moderate versions compatible with democracy and markets. The U.S. must ask the courts to give us flexibility to combat fundamentalist Islam as it would any other hostile ideology, such as communism during the Cold War.

Another tool would have our intelligence agencies create a false terrorist organization. It could have its own websites, recruitment centers, training camps and fundraising operations. It could launch fake terrorist operations and claim credit for real terrorist strikes, helping to sow confusion within Al Qaeda's ranks, causing operatives to doubt others' identities and to question the validity of communications.
As Mr. Floyd points out, Mr. Yoo's motives in putting forth such a proposal are suspect -- not because his suggestion is outrageous, but rather because it's superfluous:
Yoo presents this as a new idea; it is nothing of the sort, of course. What he is doing is laying the groundwork for the public acceptance of a practice that is already going on -- much as administration insiders floated stories about the "possible" use of torture and "taking the gloves off" and "rendering" prisoners to torture states in the first months after 9/11, saying that such things "might" be necessary, when they were already taking place on a wide, systematic scale. Just as the ostensibly hypothetical torture plans were actually existing realities, so too with Yoo's "suggestion."

I first wrote about the Bush plans to set up its own terrorist organizations in
November 2002. And it was clear from the plans revealed then -- by William Arkin -- that such groups needn't confine themselves to "fake" operations. Indeed, the plan called for Pentagon operatives to also penetrate existing groups and "provoke terrorists into action." There is simply no way of knowing which of the countless terrorist attacks that have beset the world since then can be traced back to these groups and operatives.

All of these operations take place in a shadowland, where "terrorists" are actually "police informers" and vice versa, where "security agencies" and "terrorist groups" operate in impenetrable knots of interpenetration.
See also Floyd's post from January 2005 on the so-called "Salvador option."

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