Friday, December 30, 2005

GST exposed by WaPo

It's NYT's NSA wiretaps all over again. We just got done with talking about the Department of Justice probing those leaks. I guess they better put another shrimp on the barbie.

The effort President Bush authorized shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, to fight al Qaeda has grown into the largest CIA covert action program since the height of the Cold War, expanding in size and ambition despite a growing outcry at home and abroad over its clandestine tactics, according to former and current intelligence officials and congressional and administration sources.

The broad-based effort, known within the agency by the initials GST, is compartmentalized into dozens of highly classified individual programs, details of which are known mainly to those directly involved.

Growing outcry? If you mean growing in that 64% of the country approved of the NSA wiretaps, then yeah, you're right. You would also be living in an alternate universe where up is down, left is right, and writing a article breaching national security gets you a pulitzer. Fortunately we don't live in that alternate universe so hopefully your ass gets nailed to the wall along with the NYT's.

GST includes programs allowing the CIA to capture al Qaeda suspects with help from foreign intelligence services, to maintain secret prisons abroad, to use interrogation techniques that some lawyers say violate international treaties, and to maintain a fleet of aircraft to move detainees around the globe. Other compartments within GST give the CIA enhanced ability to mine international financial records and eavesdrop on suspects anywhere in the world.

Haven't we covered all this stuff before? It's like talking to a three year old. Constantly repeating the same thing over and over, ad nauseum. There are no original ideas coming out of the left's attack machine.

[...] Bush has never publicly confirmed the existence of a covert program, but he was recently forced to defend the approach in general terms, citing his wartime responsibilities to protect the nation. In November, responding to questions about the CIA's clandestine prisons, he said the nation must defend against an enemy that "lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again."

This month he went into more detail, defending the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping within the United States. That program is separate from the GST program, but three lawyers involved said the legal rationale for the NSA program is essentially the same one used to support GST, which is an abbreviation of a classified code name for the umbrella covert action program.

Did you even think for a moment that you should publish an article about a program so secret that you don't know what GST stands for? What rationale in your warped mind led you to believe that this was in the best interest for our national security!? What on earth were you thinking?! You better hope that your small circle of lawyers will keep you out of jail because everything we've seen so far on the wiretaps says Bush acted within his rights as the president.

[...] "Everything is done in the name of self-defense, so they can do anything because nothing is forbidden in the war powers act," said one official who was briefed on the CIA's original cover program and who is skeptical of its legal underpinnings. "It's an amazing legal justification that allows them to do anything," said the official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issues.

Allows Bush to do anything? Really? If he could do anything, I think he'd much rather be nuking Iran so far back in time, dinosaurs would start walking out of their oil fields. If he could do anything, he'd be profiling Muslims to the extent that we did with the Japanese in WWII: internment camps. If he could do anything, he'd cut off the foreign aid to all nations not supporting us and refuse to fund anything the UN does until they agreed to help with the GWOT. If he could do anything, he'd be authorizing torture: electroshock, hobbling, cutting off fingers; not that "put a sheet on your head or strip you to your tighty-whities and make you pose for a picture" stuff. That's either embarassing or an average Tuesday night at the local frat house. Do you see any of these? Didn't think so. Next stupid point...

[...] Behind the scenes, CIA Director Porter J. Goss -- until last year the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee -- has gathered ammunition to defend the program.

After a CIA inspector general's report in the spring of 2004 stated that some authorized interrogation techniques violated international law, Goss asked two national security experts to study the program's effectiveness.

[...] The only apparent roadblock that could yet prompt significant change in the CIA's approach is a law passed this month prohibiting torture and cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody, including in CIA hands.

Goss is doing his job, which apparently has to now be ammended to to include defending covert programs to the press after they publish articles outing those secret programs. What do they expect? Of course they're secretly salivating at catching someone, anyone important associated in any way with the administration off guard, so they get that "deer in the headlights" look in their eyes on national television. That's what they're aiming for here. It's not about informing the public, and it's certianly not about national security. It's about the chance to humiliate the administration, about attempting to make them look stupid. And as far as the interrogation techniques... they work. 'Nuff said.

[...]Written findings are required by the National Security Act of 1947 before the CIA can undertake a covert action. A covert action may not violate the Constitution or any U.S. law. But such actions can, and often do, violate laws of the foreign countries in which they take place, said intelligence experts.

The CIA faced the day after the 2001 attacks with few al Qaeda informants, a tiny paramilitary division and no interrogators, much less a system for transporting terrorism suspects and keeping them hidden for interrogation.

Besides fighting the war in Afghanistan, the agency set about to put in place an intelligence-gathering network that relies heavily on foreign security services and their deeper knowledge of local terrorist groups. With billions of dollars appropriated each year by Congress, the CIA has established joint counterterrorism intelligence centers in more than two dozen countries, and it has enlisted at least eight countries, including several in Eastern Europe, to allow secret prisons on their soil.

Working behind the scenes, the CIA has gained approval from foreign governments to whisk terrorism suspects off the streets or out of police custody into a clandestine prison system that includes the CIA's black sites and facilities run by intelligence agencies in other countries.

First off, if one of our operations fractures a law in Syria or Iran, I could really care less. These are soceities where honor killings are still practiced regularly. Maybe the WaPo ought to think about what sacred laws they may be defending in those countries.

Secondly, what this really speaks to is the decrepit condition our intelligence agency was in after 8 years of Clinton. That we had nothing in place to deal with some sort of terrorist attack is truly sad. Quick way to fix it? Piggyback our clandestine ops on foreign intelligence communities that are in place until we get our own roots firmly planted in the area in question. That we had to abandon prisons in Europe because of the WaPo is sad, but what do you expect from the Europeans? Hell they run from a fight, made Arnold take his name off the stadium in his home town because he upheld the will of the people and executed Tookie Williams, and let a terrorist go to get a hostage released who decided she'd rather sympathize with the terrorists. We really care what they think?

The presidential finding also permitted the CIA to create paramilitary teams to hunt and kill designated individuals anywhere in the world, according to a dozen current and former intelligence officials and congressional and executive branch sources.

In four years, the GST has become larger than the CIA's covert action programs in Afghanistan and Central America in the 1980s, according to current and former intelligence officials. Indeed, the CIA, working with foreign counterparts, has been responsible for virtually all of the success the United States has had in capturing or killing al Qaeda leaders since Sept. 11, 2001.

That's the unfortunate reality of the world we live in that we need this type capability. But when you've got terrorists organizations that are now firing missiles at Israel, as opposed to just blowing their dumb ass' up at roadblocks, you ought to be able to see why they are a necessity.

[...]One way the White House limited debate over its program was to virtually shut out Congress during the early years. Congress, for its part, raised only weak and sporadic protests. The administration sometimes refused to give the committees charged with overseeing intelligence agencies the details they requested. It also cut the number of members of Congress routinely briefed on these matters, usually to four members -- the chairmen and ranking Democratic members of the House and Senate intelligence panels.

As we discussed with the wiretaps (and this article confirms this as well, actually) Bush notified the Senate Intelligence Committee, including Republicans and Democrats, as well as getting authorization from the AG. How many more people in Congress do they want us to notify? Maybe we should just broadcast it on CSPAN. Would that satisfy the WaPo?

Attacking the CIA is common when covert programs are exposed and controversial, said Gerald Haines, a former CIA historian who is a scholar in residence at the University of Virginia. "It seems to me the agency is taking the brunt of all the recent criticism."

Duane R. "Dewey" Clarridge, who directed the CIA's covert efforts to support the Nicaraguan contras in the 1980s, said the nature of CIA work overseas is, and should be, risky and sometimes ugly. "You have a spy agency because the spy agency is going to break laws overseas. If you don't want it to do those dastardly things, don't have it. You can have the State Department."

Someone who makes a little sense! Finally! That's the CIA's job, dirty deeds done very expensively. If we're not going to let them do their job, let's just dismantle the whole agency, save a bundle of money, and totally make ourselves vulnerable to another terrorist attack.

So, can we have the probes of the NYT and WaPo videotaped? If I can make a request, can we make sure the probes are painful? They deserve it.

UPDATE: Couterterrorism blog post an interview with Steve Emerson:

No, I do not want to imply that we shouldn't be debating them [Patriot Act, secret camps, wiretaps] nor do I want to take away the legitimacy of those who advocate those positions. What I am suggesting is that the debate itself has a natural consequence and that consequence is that we've now focused more on threats to our, quote, "civil liberties" as more of an imminent threat than we do focus of the threat of terrorism and that's a byproduct of all of these internal squabbles that have developed. Now, that's a natural development. I am not positing a moral statement on that. But, the reality is, Matt, that the War on Terrorism will naturally suffer. I am not putting in the war in Iraq in that, because I put that in a separate category. But I think that in terms of arresting people, in terms of identifying the radical Islamic groups overseas and trying to seize their monies, all of that has reached a much more difficult stage in the last four years. It's no longer cherry picking.

Arresting people, seizing monies... sounds like CIA ops to me.