Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Attempting to gill net bad guys"

Congressional Quarterly's Jeff Stein dissects the problem with FISA, and points to a New Yorker audio with The Looming Tower's Lawrence Wright, explaining how he himself fell under surveillance without a warrant, despite assurances to the contrary.

Electronic surveillance (and overdependence on it) is a kind of armchair way of gathering intelligence, and no substitute for "good human intelligence work out there — where the bad guys are."

CQ observes:

It’s just not true, no matter how many times administration officials say it, that critical operations to find the kidnappers of American soldiers in Iraq and an al Qaeda cell in Germany were held up by FISA regulations. McConnell himself said he was mistaken.

[. . .]

As former counterterror agent Michael Tanji put it on Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog: “It’s bad enough that the Director of National Intelligence is trotting out a bogus threat so the government can snoop on all Internet traffic. What’s worse is that this kind of mass surveillance is a pretty lame way to catch the honest-to-God bad guys.”

Tanji added, “The fact that we are essentially attempting to gill-net bad guys is a fairly strong indicator that the intelligence community has yet to come up with an effective strategy against information-age threats.”

Worth reading in full.

[h/t A-Tone Music]

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Bourne Spike

Every morning this week I've checked Google News for American coverage of former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds' bombshell in the London Sunday Times last week: For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets.

Nada. Zip. Bupkis.

Edmonds violated a State Secrets gag order to name "names" by posting uncaptioned photos of those she knows are involved. Pentagon and State Department officials selling nuclear information through Turkey to the AQ Khan network and from there to the black market (shades of Iran-Contra). Including this:
Following 9/11, a number of the foreign operatives were taken in for questioning by the FBI on suspicion that they knew about or somehow aided the attacks.

Edmonds said the State Department official once again proved useful. “A primary target [of an FBI investigation] would call the official and point to names on the list and say, ‘We need to get them out of the US because we can’t afford for them to spill the beans’,” she said. “The official said that he would ‘take care of it’.”

The four suspects on the list were released from interrogation and extradited.
The Jan. 6 Sunday Times story has popped up in Turkey, Italy, Iran, India, Pakistan, Germany, Australia, Azerbaijan, and even Somalia. But of the mere 30+ Google News hits, just one blogger commentary in the Baltimore Chronicle (which ties it to the BCCI scandal). What little else there is in the U.S. comes from "free press" type papers and blogs. The NYTs, the WaPos, LATs and the Gannetts are MIA. Even McClatchy?

Does somebody have photos of somebody with farm animals? Okay, but the whole US press corps? And 535 members of Congress?

Is it me, or does that strike you as just a little creepy? Like something out of a Bourne film?

How is that possible?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Freeze Dried and Sanctified

Another faith-based fiasco from the world-changers at BushCo.

Writing for Salon, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett analyze the Benazir Bhutto assassination and the same Bush faith-based foreign policy that led to Iraq and a Hamas victory in territories.
One of President Bush's more appalling flights of fancy in the foreign policy arena is his belief that democratically elected governments will somehow be more inclined than incumbent authoritarians to support U.S. policy objectives that are wildly unpopular with their own electorates. The logical absurdity of this proposition should be readily apparent, but, nevertheless, the Bush administration has proceeded blithely to test it in the real world: In January 2006, the White House and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted, over the objections of Palestinian and Israeli leaders, on holding elections in occupied Palestinian territories -- purportedly to elect a Palestinian government that would have the legitimacy to crack down on ongoing anti-Israeli violence. The result of this experiment, of course, was the victory of Hamas, long designated by the United States as a terrorist organization.
The prescriptions of Democratic presidential candidates fare little better, in their view.

Oh, for a nostalgic dose of realpolitik:
Sound policy toward Pakistan must start with a sober understanding of reality. That reality was described with admirable succinctness in 2004 by the 9/11 Commission, writing in its final report: "Musharraf's government represents the best hope for stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan." But insisting that Musharraf -- or any potential successor from the senior ranks of the Pakistani army -- break ranks with his military power base and the only institution that can limit the spread of militant violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan is only going to undermine the prospects for such stability.

Getting Pakistan "right" will require that we, first of all, get Afghanistan"right," and that we embed both of these troubled states in a broader regional strategy that includes the development of regional security institutions. Russia and China are already moving in this direction with their cultivation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, encompassing the former Soviet states of Central Asia -- which have largely abandoned their post-9/11 security ties to the United States -- and including Pakistan, India and Iran as observers. If the United States wants to preserve a serious leadership role in the region, or simply protect its critical security interests where Central and South Asia come together, it will need to abandon comforting illusions about "democratization" and begin working seriously to persuade Pakistan and other regional states that they can serve their interests best by working with us.
So sensible. So unfashionable.