bureaucracybusters

Posts Tagged ‘CIA’

HOSTAGE NEGOTIATION: KGB STYLE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on June 18, 2014 at 10:12 am

Retrieving hostages is always a difficult task.

Even when you get your hostages back, there can be serious reprecussions–as President Barack Obama is fast learning.

Several Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate believe that Obama broke the law by exchanging five Taliban leaders for captured U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

And they are urging Congress to investigate whether this is grounds for impeachment.

A Federal law requires the Secretary of Defense to notify Congress 30 days before releasing any detainees from prison.  He must also explain why they are not expected to again pose a threat to the United States.

“I think in the eyes of many, he broke the law by not informing Congress 30 days before that,” California Rep. Buck McKeon, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in an interview on MSNBC Monday.

“[National Security Advisor Susan] Rice said Congress has been informed of this along the way. I don’t know who they were talking to. I have not been a part of this, and I’m the chairman of the committee.”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is highly concerned that the five released Taliban prisoners could will return to wage war against Americans.

Senator Lindsey Graham

In a letter he recently sent to Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Graham stated:

“The five terrorists released were the hardest of the hard-core. They have American blood on their hands and surely as night follows day they will return to the fight.

“In effect, we released the ‘Taliban Dream Team.’ The United States is less safe because of these actions.”

Graham predicted that the release will “inevitably lead to more Americans being kidnapped and held hostage throughout the world.”

Meanwhile, in Israel, tensions are high over the kidnapping, on June 12, of three teenagers in the West Bank.  They were hitchhiking home near the Palestinian city of Hebron.  Two of the teens are Israelis; the third is an American.

Their kidnappers are presumed to be Palestinian militants.

Israeli soldiers scoured the West Bank but, so far, no signs of the missing teens have turned up.  And, so far, no one has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, warned his countrymen in a televised statement: “We are in the midst of a complex operation. We need to be prepared for the possibility that it will take time.”

Usually, political kidnappings trigger ransom demands and agonizing decisions by high-ranking government officials as to whether they should be met.

But there is another way governments can respond to such terroristic blackmail.  It might be called, “The KGB Method.”

On September 30 1985, four attaches from the Soviet Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, were kidnapped by men linked to Hizbollah (“Party of God”), the Iranian-supported terrorist group.

The kidnappers sent photos of the four men to Western news agencies.  Each captive was shown with an automatic pistol pressed to his head.

The militants demanded that Moscow pressure pro-Syrian militiamen to stop shelling the pro-Iranian militia in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli.

And they threatened to execute the four Soviet captives, one by one, unless this demand was met.

The Soviet Union began negotiations with the kidnappers, but could not secure a halt to the shelling of Tripoli.

Only two days after the kidnappings, the body of Arkady Katov, a 30-year-old consular secretary, was found in a Beirut trash dump.  He had been shot through the head.

That was when the KGB took over negotiations.

Insignia of the KGB

They kidnapped a man known to be a close relative of a prominent Hizbollah leader. Then they castrated him, stuffed his testicles in his mouth, shot him in the head, and sent the body back to Hizbollah.

The KGB then informed the Hizbollah leader: We know the names of other close relatives of yours, and the same will happen to them if our diplomats are not released immediately.

Soon afterward, the remaining three Soviet attaches were released only 150 yards from the Soviet Embassy.

Hizbollah telephoned a statement to news agencies claiming that the release was a gesture of “goodwill.”

In Washington, D.C., then-CIA Director William Casey decided that the Soviets knew the language of Hizbollah.

Click here: Hostages? No Problem Soviets Offer ‘How-to’ Lesson In Kidnapping – Philly.com

Both the United States and Israel–the two nations most commonly targeted for terrorist kidnappings–have elite Special Forces units.

These could be ordered to similarly kidnap the relatives of whichever Islamic terrorist leaders are responsible for the latest outrages.

Ordering such action would instantly send an unmistakable message to Islamic terrorist grouops: Screw with us at your own immediate peril.

As Niccolo Machiavelli warned more than 500 years ago: “Men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared. 

“For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

In the United States, the U.S. Navy SEALS, Green Berets and Delta Force stand ready.  They require only the orders.

MERCS FOR HIRE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 15, 2014 at 12:33 am

The 1960 Kirk Douglas epic, Spartacus, may soon prove to be more than great entertainment. It may also turn out to be a prophecy of the end of the American Republic.

Throughout the movie, wealthy Romans assume they can buy anything–or anyone.  When seeking a favor, Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Oliver) says bluntly: “Name your price.”

Today, “Name your price” has become the password for entry into America’s Intelligence community.

Althugh not portrayed in Spartacus, one of the reasons for the fall of the Roman empire lay in its reliance on foreign mercenaries.

Roman citizens, who had for centuries manned their city’s legions, decided to outsource these hardships and dangers to hired soldiers from Germany and Gaul (now France).

Although Germans and Gauls had proven capable fighters when defending their own countries, they proved highly unrelible as paid mercenaries.

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, drew heavily on ancient history for his examples of how liberty could best be preserved within a republic.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Fully aware of the Romans’ disastrous experience with mercenaries, Machiavelli believed that a nation’s army should be driven by patriotism, not greed.  Speaking of mercenaries, he warned:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal; they are brave among friends, among enemies they are cowards.”

Americans–generally disdainful of history–have blatantly ignored both the examples of history and the counsel of Machiavelli.  To their own peril.

Mark Mazzetti, author of the bestselling The Way of the Knife, chronicles how the CIA has been transformed from a primarily fact-finding agency into a terrorist-killing one.

Along with this transformation has come a dangerous dependency on private contractors to supply information that government agents used to dig up for themselves.

America’s defense and Intelligence industries, writes Mazzetti, once spread across the country, have relocated to the Washington area.

They want to be close to “the customer”: The National Security Agency, the Pentagon, the CIA and an array of other Intelligence agencies.

The U.S. Navy SEALS raid that killed Osama bin Laden has been the subject of books, documentaries and even an Oscar-nominated movie: “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Almost unknown by comparison is a program the CIA developed with Blackwater, a private security company, to locate and assassinate Islamic terrorists.

“We were building a unilateral, unattributable capability,” Erik Prince, CEO of Blackwater, said in an interview.  “If it went bad, we weren’t expecting the [CIA] chief of station, the ambassador or anyone to bail us out.”

But the program never got past the planning stage.  Senior CIA officials feared the agency would not be able to  permanently hide its own role in the effort.

“The more you outsource an operation,” said a CIA official, “the more deniable it becomes.  But you’re also giving up control of the operation.  And if that guy screws up, it’s still your fault.”

Increased reliance on “outsourcing” has created a “brain-drain” within the Intelligence community. Jobs with private security companies usually pay 50% more than government jobs.

Many employees at the CIA, NSA and other Intelligence agencies leave government service–and then return to it as private contractors earning far higher salaries.

Many within the Intelligence community fear that too much Intelligence work has been outsourced and the government has effectively lost control of its own information channels.

And, as always with the hiring of mercenaries, there is an even more basic fear: How fully can they be trusted?

“There’s an inevitable tension as to where the contractor’s loyalties lie,” said Jeffrey Smith, a former general counsel for the CIA.  “Do they lie with the flag?  Or do they lie with the bottom line?”

Yet another concern: How much can Intelligence agencies count on private contractors to effectively screen the people they hire?

Edward Snowden, it should be remembered, was an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting/security firm.  It was through this company that Snowden gained access to a treasury of NSA secrets.

In March 2007, the Bush administration revealed that it paid 70% of its intelligence budget to private security contractors.  That remains the case today–and the Intelligence budget for 2012 was $75.4 billion.

A 2010 investigative series by the Washington Post found that “1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the country.”

Jesus never served as a spy or soldier.  But he clearly understood a truth too many officials within the American Intelligence community have forgotten:

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

MERCS FOR HIRE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 14, 2014 at 1:49 am

A movie critic, reviewing John Wayne’s 1968 gung-ho film, The Green Berets, said that Wayne had reduced the complex issues behind the Vietnam war to the simplicity of a barroom brawl.

In the same vein, the American news media displays a genius for ignoring the complexities of a major news story and focusing on just a single, sensationalistic aspect of it.

Take the Paula Deen scandal.  The media universally focused on Deen’s admitted use of the “N-word”–and utterly ignored far more important aspects of the story.

According to the complaint filed in the lawsuit, employees at the restaurant were routinely subjected to violent behavior, racial and sexual harassment, assault, bettery and sexual discrimination in pay.

Similarly, in covering the odyssey of Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) employee turned mass secret leaker, the media have followed the same path.

Edward Snowden

Following Snowden’s disappearance from the United States, the media focused their attention on charting the almost daily whereabouts of Snowden.

Would Snowden receive amnesty in Hong Kong?  In Russia?  In Cuba?  China?  Venezuela?  Nicaragua?

For the moment, he has settled on Russia, whose president, Vladimir Putin, is keeping a protective eye on him.

Yet even though he has momentarily obtained asylum, there’s no guarantee it will last.

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, the international terrorist better known as “Carlos the Jackal,” can attest to that.

By 1994, he had spent almost 20 years on the run from the French Intellilgence agents.  They were seeking him for a series of terrorist attacks across France–and for the 1975 murders of two counter-intellilgence agents and their informant.

Carlos “The jackal”

After living in a series of countries that had no extradition treaty with France–such as Syria, Iraq and Jordan–he settled down in the Sudanese city of Khartoum.

He felt utterly safe, since he had been accorded official protection by the Sudanese government.  But he had misjudged his protectors.

French and American Intelligence agencies offered a number of deals to the Sudanese authorities. In 1994, Carlos was scheduled to undergo a minor testicular operation in a Sudanese hospital.

Two days after the operation, Sudanese officials warned him of an assassination plot–and moved him to a villa for protection.  They also provided him with bodyguards.

One night later, the bodyguards entered his room while he slept, tranquilized and tied him up–and slipped him into the custody of his longtime pursuers.

On August 14, 1994, Sudan transferred him to French Intelligence agents, who flew him to Paris for trial.  He is now serving two sentences of life imprisonment.

There is no guarantee that any nation that guarantees the security of Edward Snowden today won’t decide, in the future, to betray him.

And, eventually he will run out of secrets to spill.  That’s assuming that Russian and/or Chinese Intelligence agents haven’t already helped themselves to the secrets on his laptop.

As Mr. Spock once famously said during an episode of Star Trek: “Military secrets are the most fleeting of all.”

So where does the significance of the Snowden story lie?

In the fact that Americans have become too lazy or fearful to do most of their own spying.

Yes, that’s right–60 to 70% of America’s Intelligence budget doesn’t go to the CIA or the National Security Agency (NSA) or the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

Instead, it goes to private contractors who supply secrets or “soldiers of fortune.”

One such contractor is Booz Allen Hamilton–which employed Snowden and gave him access to the super-secret NSA.

The outsourcing of government intelligence work to private contractors took off after 9/11.

This was especially true after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003–and found its Intelligence and armed services stretched to their furtherest limits.

The DIA estimates that, from the mid-1990s to 2005, the number of private contracts awarded by Intelligence agencies rose by 38%.

During that same period, government spending on “spies/guns for hire” doubled, from about $18 billion in 1995 to about $42 billion in 2005.

Many tasks and services once performed only by government employees are being “outsourced” to civilian contractors:

  • Analyzing Intelligence collected by drones and satellites;
  • Writing reports;
  • Creating and maintaining software programs to manipulate data for tracking terrorist suspects;
  • Staffing overseas CIA stations;
  • Serving as bodyguards to government officials stationed overseas;
  • Providing disguises used by agents working undercover.

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, warned of the dangers of relying on mercenaries:

“There are two types of armies that a prince may use to defend his state: armies made up of his own people or mercenaries….

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal.

“They are brave among friends, among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”

Machiavelli, on meeting Edward Snowden, would no doubt find his judgment confirmed.

SAFETY LOSES, TERRARABISM WINS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 30, 2014 at 12:00 am

Since 1993, New York City–as the financial capital of the nation–has been Target Number Two for Islamic extremists.

Only Washington, D.C.–the nation’s political capital–outranks it as the city Islamic terrorists most want to destroy.

But for large numbers of New York’s Islamic community, this is unimportant.  What is important, to them, is their being viewed with distrust by the NYPD.

“The Demographics Unit created psychological warfare in our community,” said Linda Sarsour, of the Arab American Association of New York.

‘Those documents, they showed where we live. That’s the cafe where I eat. That’s where I pray. That’s where I buy my groceries.

“They were able to see [our] entire lives on those maps. And it completely messed with the psyche of the community.”

But that’s entirely the point of having an effective Intelligence unit: To disrupt “the psyche” of those who plan acts of violence against a community.

In 1964, the FBI launched such a counterintelligence program–in Bureau-speak, a COINTELPRO–against the Ku Klux Klan.

Up to that point, Klansmen had shot, lynched and bombed their way across the Deep South, especially in Alabama and Mississippi.  Many Southern sheriffs and police chiefs were Klan sympathizers, if not outright members and accomplices.

Ku Klux Klansmen in a meeting

The FBI’s covert action program aimed to “expose, disrupt and otherwise neutralize” Ku Klux Klan groups through a wide range of legal and extra-legal methods.

FBI Special Agents:

  • Planted electronic surveillance devices in Klan meeting places.
  • Carried out “black bag jobs”–burglaries–to steal Klan membership lists.
  • Contacted the news media to publicize arrests and identify Klan leaders.
  • Informed the employers of known Klansmen of their employees’ criminal activity, resulting in the firing of untold numbers of them.
  • Developed informants within Klans and sewed a climate of distrust and fear among Klansmen.
  • Beat and harassed Klansmen who threatened and harassed them.

“They were dirty, rough fellows,” recalled William C. Sullivan, who headed the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division in the 1960s.  “And we went after them with rough, tough methods.

William C. Sullivan

“When the Klan reached 14,000 in the mid-sixties, I asked to take over the investigation of the Klan.  When I left the Bureau in 1971, the Klan was down to a completely disorganized 4,300.  It was broken.”

Click here: The Bureau My Thirty Years in Hoover’s FBI: William C Sullivan, Sam Sloan, Bill Brown: 9784871873383: Amazon.com:

And for more than a decade, the Demographics Unit of the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Division worked diligently to prevent another major terrorist attack on New York City.

Agent at NYPD Counterterrorism Division Center

Then, in 2013, New York City voters elected Democrat Bill de Blazio as Michael Bloomberg’s successor as mayor.

For de Blasio, scoring Politically Correct points with New York’s uber-liberal community was more important than supporting a proven deterrent to terrorism.

Click here: New York Drops Unit That Spied on Muslims – NYTimes.com

De Blazio promised to give new Yorkers “a police force that keeps our city safe, but that is also respectful and fair.

“This reform [disbanding the Demographics Unit] is a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and our citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys,” he claimed.

In Washington, 34 members of Congress demanded an FBI investigation into the NYPD’s covert surveillance program.

Attorney General Eric Holder said he found reports about the operations disturbing.  The Department of Justice said it was reviewing complaints received from Muslims and their supporters.

All of this contradicted the warning provided by a Federal judge on February 20, 2014.

U.S. District Judge William Martini in Newark, N.J., threw out a suit brought against the NYPD by eight New Jersey Muslims.

They claimed that the NYPD’s surveillance of mosques, restaurants and schools in the state since 2002 was unconstitutional because Muslims were being targeted solely on the basis of their religion.

In his ruling, however, Martini disagreed:

“The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself.

“The motive for the program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but rather to find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary, law-abiding Muslims.”

Both NYPD Cmmissioner Raymond Kelly and Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence David Cohen chose to retire in 2013.

The Demographics Unit of the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Division was officially disbanded on April 15.  Detectives that had been assigned to it were transferred to other duties within the Intelligence Division.

Jawad Rasul, one of the students on the whitewater rafting trip in upstate New York, was enraged when he learned that his name was included in the police report.

“It forces me to look around wherever I am now,” Rasul said.

So now he knows how Americans feel when they spot Muslim women wearing chadors that hide their faces from view, or even burqas that cover their entire bodies (and any explosive devices they might be carrying).

Political Correctness mavens might laugh or sneer at such a warning.  But Al Qaeda has used exactly that tactic repeatedly–and successfully–against Afghan military forces.

Osama bin Laden was forced to spend his last years in a Pakistani house watching movies on TV. But that didn’t stop him from continuing to plot further acts of destruction against “infidel Crusaders.”

Among the plots he sought to unleash was the assassination of President Barack Obama.

It was simply America’s good fortune that the Navy SEALS got him first.

–30–

SAFETY LOSES, TERRARABISM WINS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 29, 2014 at 12:02 am

In creating the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Division, David Cohen had a secret weapon: The latent resources of the NYPD.  Many of its officers were foreign-born, making them ideal espionage operatives

His Afghan- or Pakistan-born linguists could easily monitor chat rooms in Kabul or Peshawar, looking for Islamics seeking to carry out attacks on New York City.

The FBI, on the other hand, fearing divided loyalties, usually rejected hiring foreign-born applicants: “Oooh, [you] grew up in Pakistan,” mocked Cohen. “We can’t use you.”

Cohen realized that some analysts made better report-writers than streetwise detectives.  And some detectives were better at unearthing criminal secrets than desk-bound analysts.

So Cohen decided to pair Ivy-league-educated analysts with veteran detectives.  Together, they could pool their talents and compensate for each other’s weaknesses.

Perhaps most importantly, Cohen’s unit was not judged by the number of arrests or convictions generated by its activities.

Its purpose was to disrupt terror cells and prevent terrorist acts, not to prosecute individuals after they had unleashed destruction.

Agents of NYPD’s Counterterrorism Unit

Meanwhile, the CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency watched with growing anger as the NYPD trespassed on their jealously guarded turf.

What right did a mere local police department–even one of 33,000 sworn officers–have to conduct overseas Intelligence operations?

Cohen, in turn, was not shy in answering: We relied on you Feds to protect us in 1993 and 2001–and look at what happened.

And events soon proved the need for such a stepped-up anti-terrorism effort.

Since September 11, 2001, there have been 16 known terrorist plots against New York City.  Among these:

  • In 2002, Iyman Faris, a U.S.-based al-Qaeda operative, planned to cut the Brooklyn Bridge’s support cables.  But due to NYPD anti-terrorism efforts, Faris called off the plot, telling al-Qaeda leaders that “the weather is too hot.”  He was arrested, pled guilty, and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.
  • In 2006, Dhiren Barot was sentenced to life in prison by a United Kingdom court for planning to attack  targets both in the UK and the United States.  These included the New York Stock Exchange and, Citigroup’s headquarters in Midtown Manhattan.
  • Shahawar Matin Siraj and James Elshafay plotted in 2004 to place bombs in the Herald Square subway station in Manhattan. Elshafay had already chosen potential targets before he met an NYPD informant in early 2004.  Both men were arrested, convicted and sentenced to prison.
  • In 2006, four men plotted to detonate the jet-fuel storage tanks and supply lines for John F. Kennedy Airport in order to cause wide-scale destruction and economic disruption.   All four were arrested and sentenced to prison–three of them for life.
  • In September 2009, the New York City subway system was targeted by three men who planned to set off bombs in the subway during rush hour shortly after the eighth anniversary of 9/11.  All three were arrested.  Two pled guilty and await sentencing; the third has been sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistan-American residing in Connecticut, tried but failed to set explode a car bomb in Times Square on May 1, 2010.  Cooperation between NYPD and the FBI led to his identification and arrest 53 hours after the attempt, as he tried to flee the country. Shahzad pled guilty to all charges against him and was sentenced to life in prison.

All of these plots were foiled by the NYPD, the FBI, or by a combination of these agencies.

Then, after more than a decade’s successes in foiling a series of Islamic plots against New York City, disaster struck the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Division.

On February 18, 2012, the Associated Press (AP) broke the news that the NYPD had monitored Muslim college students far more broadly than previously known.

According to the AP:

  • The NYPD conducted surveillance at schools far removed from New York.
  • These included Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Detectives daily tracked Muslim student websites and recorded the names of professors and students.

  • The NYPD, with CIA help, monitored Muslims where they ate, shopped and worshiped.
  • The NYPD placed undercover officers at Muslim student associations in colleges within New York City.
  • In one NYPD operation, an undercover officer accompanied 18 Muslim City College students on a whitewater rafting trip in upstate New York. He noted the names of those who were officers of the Muslim Student Association.

To put this act of journalistic treachery into historical context: Imagine the New York Times leaking the exact timetable for the D-Day invasion to agents of Nazi Germany.

New York’s Islamic community had long accused the NYPD of “profiling” its members.  Armed with the AP’s revelations, Islamics rushed to capitalize on them.

“I see a violation of civil rights here,” said Tanweer Haq, chaplain of the Muslim Student Association at Syracuse University, upon learning of the AP’s revelations.

“Nobody wants to be on the list of the FBI or the NYPD or whatever. Muslim students want to have their own lives, their own privacy and enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities that everybody else has.”

That’s true. But no other nationality has so often attacked Americans within the last 35 years–nor continues to pose so great a threat to this country.

END OF PART TWO

SAFETY LOSES, TERRARABISM WINS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 28, 2014 at 12:01 am

There is a famous joke about racial profiling that’s long made the rounds of the Internet. It appears in the guise of a “history test,” and offers such multiple-choice questions as:

In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, athletes were kidnapped and massacred by:

  • Olga Corbett
  • Sitting Bull
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was taken over by:

  • Lost Norwegians
  • Elvis
  • A tour bus full of 80-year-old women
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

During the 1980s a number of Americans were kidnapped in Lebanon by:

  • John Dillinger
  • The King of Sweden
  • The Boy Scouts
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by:

  • A pizza delivery boy
  • Pee Wee Herman
  • Geraldo Rivera
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1985, the cruise ship Achille Lauro was highjacked and a 70-year-old American passenger was murdered and thrown overboard in his wheelchair by:

  • The Smurfs
  • Davy Jones
  • The Little Mermaid
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed by:

  • Scooby Doo
  • The Tooth Fairy
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

On September 11, 2001, four airliners were hijacked. Two were used as missiles to take out the World Trade Center; one crashed into the Pentagon; and the other was diverted and crashed by the passengers. Thousands of people were killed by:

  • Bugs Bunny, Wiley E. Coyote, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd
  • The Supreme Court of Florida
  • Mr. Bean
  • Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

Do you see a pattern here to justify profiling?

To ensure that we Americans never offend anyone, particularly fanatics intent on killing us, airport security screeners should not profile certain people.

They must conduct random searches of 80-year-old women, little kids, airline pilots with proper identification, Secret Service agents of the President’s security detail, 85-year-old Congressmen with metal hips, and Medal of Honor winner-winning and former Governor Joe Foss.

But they should leave Muslim males between the ages of 17 and 40 alone because profiling is not Politically Correct.

When are we going to wake up to reality?

* * * * *

It’s well to remember the bitter truth behind this joke, especially in light of the April 15 headline on the National Public Radio website:

NYPD SHUTS DOWN

CONTROVERSIAL UNIT

THAT SPIED ON MUSLIMS

Click here: NYPD Shuts Down Controversial Unit That Spied On Muslims : The Two-Way : NPR

Yes, on April 15, the New York Police Department said it would disband a special unit charged with carrying out secret surveillance of Muslim groups.

Formed in 2003, the Demographics Unit had sent plainclothes detectives to secretly listen in on Islamic sermons in mosques, infiltrate Muslim neighborhoods and spy on individuals and groups.

The goal: To unearth terror cells before they could launch deadly attacks against New York City residents.

The unit had been established–as part of a worldwide Intelligence network operated by the NYPD–during the Mayorship of Republican/Independent Michael Bloomberg.

Commanding the NYPD was Raymond Kelly, a veteran of 47 years in the agency.  Kelly had served in 25 different commands and as Police Commissioner from 1992 to 1994.  Reappointed in 2002, he retired from the NYPD in 2013.

A lifelong New Yorker, Kelly had seen his city twice targeted by Islamic extremists in eight years.

The first attack had come in 1993, with the unsuccessful bombing attempt on the World Trade Center.  The second–and this time successful–attack on the Center had come eight years later, on September 11, 2001.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

With 2,977 New Yorkers obliterated in less than two hours, Kelly knew his city could no longer rely on the FBI and CIA to safeguard its residents.

He decided to borrow a page from the FBI’s own history.

Decades ago, the Bureau had created legal attaches–“Legats,” in Bureau-speak–in police departments around the world.  These contacts had provided the FBI with invaluable Intelligence on wanted fugitives and imminent acts of criminality.

Now the NYPD would arm itself with the same weapon.

Through these liaisons, the NYPD would tap into the Intelligence resources of police departments and espionage agencies throughout the world.

The NYPD greatly expanded the ranks of its Counterterrorism Division. More than 600 officers and operatives both stateside and worldwide now stood guard over New York City.

Click here: Amazon.com: Securing the City: Inside America’s Best Counterterror Force–The NYPD eBook: Christopher Dickey: Book 

Heading this division was David Cohen as Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence.  He had previously served as Deputy Director for Operations at the CIA, overseeing domestic missions in the 1980s and overseas assignments in the 1990s.

Given the full backing of Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly, Cohen soon had twice as many fluent Arabic speakers on his staff as the entire FBI.

His agents spoke some 50 languages and dialects, which matched the reported linguistic capabilities of the CIA.

END OF PART ONE

GOVERNMENT AS IT REALLY WORKS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 22, 2014 at 12:40 am

In 1972, 41 years before Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency was spying on the Internet, David Halberstam issued a warning about government secrecy.

As a young reporter for the New York Times covering the early years of the Vietnam war, Halberstam had repeatedly confronted government duplicity and obstruction.

David Halberstam (on left)

Halberstam arrived in South Vietnam in 1962.  Almost at once he realized that the war was not going well for the United States Army and its supposed South Vietnamese allies.

The South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) was ill-trained and staffed with incompetent officers who sought to avoid military action.

Reports to military superiors were filled with career-boosting lies about “progress” being made against Viet Cong guerrillas and North Vietnamese soldiers.

“Screw up and move up” was the way Americans described the ARVN promotion system.

Halberstam soon learned that the phrase applied just as much to the American Army as well–for reasons of the same incompetence and duplicity.

Returning from Vietnam and resigning from the Times, Halberstam set to work on his landmark history of how the United States had become entangled in a militarily and economically unimportant country.

He would call it The Best and the Brightest, and the title would become a sarcastic reference to those men in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations whose arrogance and deceit plunged the United States into disaster.

Halberstam outlined how the culture of secrecy and unchecked power led American policymakers to play God with the lives of other nations.

Out of this grew a willingness to use covert operations.  And this meant keeping these secret from Americans generally and Congress in particular.

This ignorance allowed citizens to believe that America was a different country.  One that didn’t engage in the same brutalities and corruptions of other nations.

Thus, President Lyndon B. Johnson claimed to be the peace candidate during the 1964 election.  Meanwhile, he was secretly sending U.S. Navy ships to attack coastal cities in North Vietnam.

When North Vietnam responded militarily, Johnson feigned outrage and vowed that the United States would vigorously resist “Communist aggression.”

The history of covert operations has had its own in- and -out-of seasons:

  • During the Eisenhower Administration, the Central Intelligence Agency overthrew the governments of Iran (1953) and Guatemala (1954).
  • During the Kennedy Administration, the CIA repeatedly tried to assassinate Cuba’s “Maximum Leader,” Fidel Castro.
  • During the Nixon Adminisdtration, the CIA plotted with right-wing army leaders to successfully overthrow Salvador Allende, the Leftist, legally-elected President of Chile (1973).
  • In 1975, the CIA’s history of assassination attempts became public through an expose by New York Times Investigative Reporter Seymour Hersh.
  • Following nationwide outrage, President Gerald Ford signed an executive order banning the agency from assassinating foreign leaders.

After 9/11, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney decided to “take off the gloves.”

The CIA drew up an ever-expanding list of targets and used killer drones and Special Operations troops (such as SEALs and Green Berets) to hunt them down.

Predator drone firing Hellfire missile

And when these weren’t enough, the CIA called on expensive mercenaries (such as Blackwater), untrustworthy foreign Intelligence services, proxy armies and mercurial dictators.

In his 2013 book, The Way of the Knife, New York Times national security correspondent Mark Mazzetti traces the origins of this high-tech, “surgical” approach to warfare.

Within the course of a decade, the CIA has moved largely from being an intelligence-gathering agency to being a “find-and-kill” one.

And this newfound lethality came at a price: The CIA would no longer be able to provide the crucial Intelligence Presidents need to make wise decisions in a dangerous world.

While the CIA sought to become a more discreet version of the Pentagon, the Pentagon began setting up its own Intelligence network in out-of-the-way Third World outposts.

And, ready to service America’s military and Intelligence agencies at a mercenary’s prices, are a host of private security and Intelligence companies.

Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA general counsel, warns of the potential for trouble: “There is an inevitable tension as to where the contractor’s loyalties lie.  Do they lie with the flag?  Or do they lie with the bottom line?”

Mazzetti warns of the dark side of these new developments. On one hand, this high-tech approach to war has been embraced by Washington as a low-risk, low-cost alternative to huge troop commitments and quagmire occupations.

On the other hand, it’s created new enemies, fomented resentments among allies and fueled regional instability.  It has also created new weapons unbound by the normal rules of accountability in wartime.

Finally, it’s raised new and troubling ethical questions, such as:

  • What is the moral difference between blowing apart a man at a remote distance with a drone-fired missile and shooting him in the back of the head at close range?
  • Why is the first considered a legitimate act of war–and the second considered an illegal assassination?

In time, there will be answers to many of the uncertainties this new era of push-button and hired-soldier warfare  has unleashed.  And at least some of those answers may come at a high price.

PRIDE GOETH BEFORE A FALL

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on April 10, 2014 at 12:01 am

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
–Proverbs 16:18

People often talk about the role sex plays in motivating behavior.  But the power of ego to determine history is often more profound.

Consider the role that ego played in igniting the American Civil War (1861 – 1865).

According to The Destructive War, by Charles Royster, it wasn’t the cause of “states’ rights” that led 13 Southern states to withdraw from the Union in 1960-61.

It was their demand for “respect,” which, in reality, translates into “e-g-o.”

“The respect Southerners demanded did not consist simply of the states’ sovereignty or of the equal rights of Northern and Southern citizens, including slaveholders’ right to take their chattels into Northern territory.

“It entailed, too, respect for their assertion of the moral superiority of slaveholding society over free society,” writes Royster.

It was not enough for Southerners to claim equal standing with Northerners; Northerners must acknowledge it.

But this was something that the North was less and less willing to do.  Finally, its citizens dared to elect Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

Lincoln and his new Republican party damned slavery–and slaveholders–as morally evil, obsolete and ultimately doomed.

And they were determined to prevent slavery from spreading any further throughout the country.

Southerners found all of this intolerable.

The British author, Anthony Trollope, explained to his readers:

“It is no light thing to be told daily, by our fellow citizens…that you are guilty of the one damning sin that cannot be forgiven.

“All this [Southerners] could partly moderate, partly rebuke and partly bear as long as political power remained in their hands.

“But they have gradually felt that this was going, and were prepared to cut the rope and run as soon as it was gone.”

Only 10% of Southerners owned slaves.  The other 90% of the population “had no dog in this fight,” as Southerners liked to say.

Yet they so admired and aspired to be like their “gentleman betters” that they threw in their lot with them.

There were some Southerners who could see what was coming–and vainly warned their fellow citizens.

One of these was Sam Houston, the man who had won Texas independence at the 1836 battle of San Jacinto and later served as that state’s governor.

Sam Houston

On April 19, 1860, addressing a crowd in Galveston, he said:

“Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you.

“But I doubt it.

“I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of states’ rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates.

“But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South.”

Four years later, on April 9, 1865, Houston’s warning became history.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.

Huge sections of the South had been laid waste by Union troops and more than 258,000 Southerners had been killed.

The South had paid an expensive price for its fixation on ego.

Even more proved at risk a century later, when President John F. Kennedy faced off with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

In April, Kennedy had been humiliated at the Bay of Pigs when a CIA-sponsored invasion failed to overthrow the Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

So he was already on the defensive when he and Khrushchev met in Vienna.

Khrushchev pressed his advantage, threatening Kennedy with nuclear war unless the Americans abandoned their protection of West Berlin.

That August, faced with the embarrassment of East Berliners fleeing by the thousands into West Germany, the Soviet leader backed off from his threat.

In its place, he erected the infamous Berlin Wall, sealing off East and West Berlin.

Kennedy’s reaction: “That son of a bitch won’t pay any attention to words. He has to see you move.”

Then, most ominously: “If Khrushchev wants to rub my nose in the dirt, it’s all over.”

In short: Kennedy was prepared to incinerate the planet if he felt his almighty ego was about to get smacked.

Nuclear missile in silo

What has proved true for states and nations proves equally true for those leading every other type of institution.

Although most people like to believe they are guided by rationality and morality, all-too-often, what truly decides the course of events is their ego.

For pre-Civil War Southerners, it meant demanding that “Yankees” show respect for slave-owning society.  Otherwise, they would leave the Union.

For Kennedy, it meant playing a game of “chicken,” backed up with nuclear missiles, to show Khrushchev who Numero Uno really was.

It is well to keep these lessons from history in mind when making our own major decisions.

CRIMINALS WILL ALWAYS BE CRIMINALS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 21, 2014 at 4:08 pm

State and local governments are trying to deny their part-time employees healthcare benefits under the Affordable Care Act.

These workers include prison guards, police dispatchers and substitute teachers.

President Barack Obama’s health-care reform law requires employers to provide insurance for part-time employees who work more than 30 hours per week.

Yet many government employers claim they can’t afford it–and plan to limit worker hours to 29 per week instead.  Among those states affected:

  • “Our choice was to cut the hours or give them health care, and we could not afford the latter,” Dennis Hanwell, the Republican mayor of Medina, Ohio, said in an interview with the New York Times.
  • Lawrence County, in western Pennsylvania, reduced the limit for part-time employees to 28 hours a week, from 32.
  • In Virginia, part-time state employees are generally not allowed to work more than 29 hours a week on average over a 12-month period.

President Obama and those who helped craft the Affordable Care Act may be surprised at what has happened.  But they shouldn’t be.

It was, in fact, entirely predictable.  Consider the following:

When William J. Casey wa a young attorney during the Great Depression, he learned an important lesson.

Jobs were hard to come by, so Casey thought himself lucky to land one at the Tax Research Institute of America in New York.

His task was to closely read New Deal legislation and write reports explaining it to corporate chieftains.

He quickly learned that businessmen neither understood nor welcomed Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts to reform American capitalism.

Businessmen didn’t want legal commentary.  Instead, they wanted to know: “What must we do to achieve minimum compliance with the law?”

In short: How do we get by FDR’s new programs?

Fifty years later, Casey would bring a similar mindset to his duties as director of the Central Intelligence Agency for President Ronald Reagan.

He was presiding over the CIA when it deliberately violated Congress’ ban on funding the “Contras,” the right-wing death squads of Nicaragua.

But the “Casey Doctrine” of minimum compliance didn’t die with Casey (who expired of a brain tumor in 1987).

It’s very much alive among the American business and political communities as President Obama seeks to give medical coverage to all Americans, and not simply the ultra-wealthy.

For part-time employees, who work fewer than 30 hours, a company isn’t penalized for failing to provide health insurance coverage.

Obama prides himself on being a tough-minded practitioner of “Chicago politics.”  So it’s easy to assume that he took the “Casey Doctrine” into account when he shepherded the ACA through Congress.

But he didn’t.

The result was predictable.  And its consequences are daily becoming more clear.

Employers feel motivated to move fulltime workers into part-time positions–and thus avoid

  • providing their employees with medical insurance and 
  • a fine for non-compliance with the law.

Some employers have openly shown their contempt for President Obama–and the idea that employers actually have an obligation to those who make their profits a reality.

One of these is John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, who has been quoted as saying:

  1. The prices of his pizzas will go up–by eleven to fourteen cents price increase per pizza, or fifteen to twenty cents per order; and
  2. He will pass along these costs to his customers.

“If Obamacare is in fact not repealed,” Schnatter told Politico, “we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests.”

After all, why should a multi-million-dollar company show any concern for those who make its profits a reality?

Consider:

  • Papa John’s is the third-largest pizza takeout and delivery chain in the United States.
  • Its 2012 revenues were $318.6 million, an 8.5 percent increase from 2011 revenues of $293.5 million.
  • Its 2012 net income was $14.8 million, compared to its 2012 net income of $12.1 million.

Had Obama been the serious student of Realpolitick that he claims to be, he would have predicted that most businesses would seek to avoid compliance with his law.

To counter that, he need only have required all employers to provide insurance coverage for all of their employees—regardless of their fulltime or part-time status.

This, in turn, would have provided two substantial benefits:

  1. All employees would have been able to obtain medical coverage; and
  2. Employers would have been encouraged to provide fulltime positions rather than part-time ones, since they would feel: “Since I’m paying for fulltime insurance coverage, I should be getting fulltime work in return.”

The “Casey Doctrine” needs to be kept constantly in mind when reformers try to protect Americans from predatory employers.

JFK’S LEGACY 50 YEARS LATER: PART TEN (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 22, 2013 at 12:30 am

Fifty years ago this November 22, two bullets slammed into the neck and head of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

It has been said that he left his country with three great legacies:

  • The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;
  • The Apollo moon landing; and
  • The Vietnam war.

Of these, the following can be said with certainty:

  • The Test Ban Treaty has prevented atmosphereic testing–and poisoning–by almost all the world’s nuclear powers.
  • After reaching the moon–in 1969–Americans quickly lost interest in space and have today largely abandoned plans for manned exploration.
  • Under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam; 153,303 were wounded; and billions of dollars were squandered in a hopeless effort to intervene in what was essentially a Vietnamese civil war.  From 1965 to 1972, the war angrily divided Americas as had no event since the Civil War.

But there was a fourth legacy–and perhaps the most important of all: The belief that mankind could overcome its greatest challenges through rationality and perseverence.

White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy called upon his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War.

And he declared that the search for peace was by no means absurd:

“Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man.  And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

“Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.”

Today, politicians from both parties cannot agree on solutions to even the most vital national problems.

On November 21, 2011,  the 12 members of the “Super-Committee” of Congress, tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts in government spending, threw up their hands in defeat.

President Kennedy speed-read several newspapers every morning. He nourished personal relationships with the press-–and not for entirely altruistic reasons.

These journalistic relationships gave Kennedy additional sources of information and perspectives on national and international issues.

In 2012, Republican Presidential candidates celebrated their ignorance of both.

Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain famously said, “We need a leader, not a reader.”  Thus he excused his ignorance of the reasons for President Barack Obama’s intervention in Libya.

Texas Governor Rick Perry showed similar pride in not knowing there are nine judges on the United States Supreme Court:

“Well, obviously, I know there are nine Supreme Court judges. I don’t know how eight came out my mouth. But the, uh, the fact is, I can tell you–I don’t have memorized all of those Supreme Ccourt judges. And, uh, ah–

“Here’s what I do know. That when I put an individual on the Supreme Court, just like I done in Texas, ah, we got nine Supreme Court justices in Texas, ah, they will be strict constructionists….”

In short, it’s the media’s fault if they ask you a question and your answer reveals your own ignorance, stupidity or criminality.

During the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke with aides about a book he had just finished: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, on the events leading to World War 1.

He said that the book’s most important revelation was how European leaders had blindly rushed into war, without thought to the possible consequences.

Kennedy told his aides he did not intend to make the same mistake-–that, having read his history, he was determined to learn from it.

Contrast that with today’s woeful historical ignorance among Republican Presidential candidates-–and those who aspire to be.

Consider Sarah Palin’s rewriting of history via “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”:

“He warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and, um, making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that, uh, we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.”

In fact, Revere wasn’t warning the British about anything.  Instead, he was warning his fellow Americans about an impending British attack–as his celebrated catchphrase “The British are coming!” made clear.

Republicans have attacked President Obama for his Harvard education and articulate use of language. Among their taunts: “Hitler also gave good speeches.”

And they resent his having earned most of his income as a writer of two books: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope.  As if being a writer is somehow subversive.

When knowledge and literacy are attacked as “highfalutin’” arrogance, and ignorance and incoherence are embraced as sincerity, national decline lies just around the corner.

In retrospect, the funeral for President Kennedy marked the death of more than a rational and optimistic human being.  It marked the death of Americans’ pride in choosing reasoning and educated citizens for their leaders.

The Eternal Flame at the grave of President John F. Kennedy

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 939 other followers

%d bloggers like this: