Speaking truth to power is a brave act wherever it is carried out. But when that power is the strongest military force on earth and the one speaking truth is coming from within the ranks of that force to point out blatant lies promulgated at the very top of the organization, then it is indeed a rare form of bravery.
Earlier this week, Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis published a short report in the Armed Forces Journal and coupled that with discussions with the New York Times’ Scott Shane for an article hitting on the same subject area. In those reports, we learned that Davis had prepared much longer reports, both a classified one which he shared with several members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and a non-classified one which he intended to publish. In the Armed Forces Journal piece, Davis noted that he intended to publish the longer report at his afghanreport.com website, and in an editor’s note, it was pointed out that “At press time, Army public affairs had not yet ruled on whether Davis could post this longer version.” In a very interesting twist, Davis’ long report now has been published, but not at his website. Instead, Michael Hastings, whose The Runaway General article at Rolling Stone eventually resulted in the firing of Stanley McChrystal, has posted Davis’ report (pdf) at the Rolling Stone website, along with a brief introduction from Hastings. There will be a post soon from bmaz addressing Davis’ approach to whistle-blowing and his treatment of classified information.
Davis’ thesis in the longer report remains unchanged from the original. He maintains that despite persistent claims by top military brass that progress is being made in Afghanistan, there is in fact no progress. Violence continues on a steady increase and Afghan forces are nowhere near a point where they can maintain security in the absence of ISAF forces. On the final page, he has this to say about his “final take-away” from the report. He prepared a graphic based on the one reproduced above:
If there were only one thing I could ask you to take away from this rather lengthy brief, it would be this one page. Below you see charted over time, the rising violence from the end of 2005 through the first quarter 2011 (chart source: ANSO, 2011). All spin aside, you see regardless of who was in command, what strategy they used, or what claims they made, nothing impacted the rising arc of violence from 2005 through today. The one thing, however, that has never changed: the upward arc of violence, which continues its rise and is expected to continue at least through this summer. Continue reading
The answer to that question is actually early on the morning of April 17, 2010, at least if you read chapter 11 of Michael Hastings’ “The Operators” (the chapter is titled “Totally Shit-faced”).
Well, it was Stanley McChrystal and his entourage who were shit-faced drunk on the streets of Paris, but one of McChrystal’s many nicknames is The Pope. It comes from Dalton Fury’s fawning profile (pdf): “Later on, about the time he started to wear shiny silver stars, we started to refer to him as The Pope.” To drive his point home, Fury’s profile was also titled “The Pope”.
A much different version of Stanley McChrystal is found in Hastings’ book. He paints a vivid picture of McChrystal and his closest aides, where the group can be viewed as “operators” whose primary role was to manage public profiles while putting the best possible spin on what happened, rather than really achieving the objectives of the war which they commanded.
As part of the briefing that McChrystal is shown delivering in the photo on the left, from March of 2010, you can see his “protect the people” message. This was but one aspect of the overall strategy of his COIN (counterinsurgency) approach that was aimed at the proverbial battle for “hearts and minds”.
Early in Hastings’ book, we see Hastings visiting McChyrstal and his aides in Paris. After Hastings sits in on a meeting in which McChrystal is preparing to deliver a speech at the Ecole Militaire later that evening, Hastings steps outside with an aide:
After the meeting, I waited outside the hotel for Duncan. I noticed an Arab guy, around five-feet-five, walking by in shorts and sneakers. I continued to smoke my cigarette. Duncan and I walked to the Metro to catch a train to the Ecole Militaire. At the top of the Metro steps, I saw the same Arab guy again.
“Hey, man, do people really spy on you guys?”
“Yes, they try,” Duncan said.
“I think I just saw a guy I’d seen earlier walking by the hotel.”
“He’s not doing a very good job then, is he?”
So here we have the leader of NATO’s military effort in Afghanistan visiting Paris to promote cooperation within the coalition. McChrystal is also using his operators to push the aspects of his “new” COIN strategy that will protect the people of Afghanistan and to put the coalition into a better relationship with the people of Afghanistan who practice a conservative version of Islam. The group knows it is under scrutiny by Arab spies.
Despite all those important background points, and despite the fact that the entourage rented a significant portion of a large hotel and undoubtedly could have socialized in a reserved meeting room there, after the lecture and after dinner, the group went to Kitty O’Shea’s Irish pub, which Hastings described as “right around the corner from the hotel”.`They weren’t exactly discreet: Continue reading
The WSJ has a scathing critique of Michael Hastings’ The Operators (see Spencer’s more interesting take here). While it complains that Hastings doesn’t profile local indigenous groups and conflates hating the Afghan war with being antiwar, its chief complaint is that “antiwar” journalists damage war efforts.
During the Vietnam War, the generation of David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan transformed America’s mainstream media into a hotbed of antiwar and antimilitary muckraking. By the time a major war effort returned, in 2003, that generation had grown too old to visit the trenches, allowing the emergence of Generation X reporters like Dexter Filkins and George Packer, who did not share their predecessors’ contempt for the military. Most Americans welcomed the change.
Not so Michael Hastings, as we learn in “The Operators,” his account of events in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2011. Mr. Hastings asserts that this generational change drove him to write “The Runaway General,” the Rolling Stone article of June 2010 that doomed the career of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan. With characteristic acerbity, Mr. Hastings laments that his press colleagues have abandoned the spirit of Vietnam, when “war had been exposed as the Giant Lying Machine, in Halberstam’s words.” Instead, he says, they write glowing profiles of generals and other officials in the hope of gaining greater access to sources.
Mr. Hastings singles out, as an example of such truckling, “Stanley McChrystal’s Long War,” an October 2009 profile by Mr. Filkins in the New York Times. Yet the most cursory reading of that piece reveals that Mr. Filkins soberly detailed Gen. McChrystal’s mistakes as well as his triumphs. Mr. Filkins is perhaps now a target because he publicly expressed doubts about “The Runaway General” after its publication. Charlie Rose, on his PBS program, asked Mr. Filkins about quotes in the article that appeared to show Gen. McChrystal and his staff disrespecting President Obama, Vice President Biden, National Security Adviser James Jones and Special Representative Richard Holbrooke, not to mention the French. Mr. Filkins responded: “I spent a lot of time with General McChrystal and the people around him, and I never heard that.”
Like David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan, Mr. Hastings ignores the harm that his reporting caused to America’s overseas interests. The firing of Gen. McChrystal removed the one American who enjoyed the confidence of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and of Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of staff of Pakistan’s army.
Hastings is a bad journalist, according to reviewer Mark Moyar, because he exposes that war is built on lies. (Never mind that Moyar provides no proof for his claim that “most Americans” welcomed having shills cover wars rather than journalists.)
Which is why McChrystal’s own comments about war and lies–as reported by Hastings–are so interesting. McChrystal–who, as Hastings reminded, had been a spokesperson during the Iraq War–admitted that the military co-opted the media to cover up the (correct) fact that they believed the war was a bad idea.
We started talking about larger issues within the media, which I felt he was in a unique position to discuss. McChrystal was a spokesperson at the Pentagon during the invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, his first national exposure to the public.
“We co-opted the media on that one,” he said. “You could see it coming. There were a lot of us who didn’t think Iraq was a good idea.”
As Marcy pointed out yesterday, Rolling Stone has published an excerpt from Michael Hastings’ new book The Operators. As she predicted, I am unable to refrain from commenting on it. The polarizing figure of Stanley McChrystal has always intrigued me. The way that McChrystal’s “Pope” persona was embraced by a large portion of the press never made sense to me, given how deeply McChrystal was involved as the primary agent behind the “success” of David Petraeus’ brutal night raids and massive detention program in Iraq. For those paying attention, it was known as early as 2006 that McChrystal’s JSOC was at the heart of the abuses at Camp Nama and even that he was responsible for preventing the ICRC from visiting the camp.
In preparing for the short passage from Hastings that I want to highlight, it is important to keep in mind that McChrystal’s mode of operation when heading JSOC was to bypass both the normal chain of command and Congressional oversight by working directly for Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. From Jeremy Scahill:
While JSOC has long played a central role in US counterterrorism and covert operations, military and civilian officials who worked at the Defense and State Departments during the Bush administration described in interviews with The Nation an extremely cozy relationship that developed between the executive branch (primarily through Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld) and JSOC. During the Bush era, Special Forces turned into a virtual stand-alone operation that acted outside the military chain of command and in direct coordination with the White House. Throughout the Bush years, it was largely General McChrystal who ran JSOC.
Next, we need to consider the figure of Michael Flynn, whom Hastings quotes. Flynn served under McChrystal in a number of positions related to intelligence gathering. From his biography:
Major General Michael T. Flynn assumed duties as the Chief, CJ2, International Security Assistance Force, with the additional appointment as the CJ2, US Forces – Afghanistan on 15 June 2009. Prior to serving in this capacity, he served as the Director of Intelligence, Joint Staff from 11 July 2008 to 14 June 2009. He also served as the Director of Intelligence, United States Central Command from June 2007 to July 2008 and the Director of Intelligence for Joint Special Operations Command from July 2004 to June 2007, with service in Operations ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF) and IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF). Major General Flynn commanded the 111th Military Intelligence Brigade from June 2002 to June 2004. Major General Flynn served as the Assistant Chief of Staff, G2, XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina from June 2001 and the Director of Intelligence, Joint Task Force 180 in Afghanistan until July, 2002.
Both the New York Times and Esquire articles linked above on torture at Camp Nama discuss events primarily from early 2004. From Flynn’s biography, that coincides with his duty as heading the 111th Military Intelligence Brigade and being promoted to Director of Intelligence for all of JSOC. Given those roles, it seems impossible that Flynn could have been unaware of what took place at Camp Nama, as he would have been assessing the information gleaned from interrogations there at the very least. It’s likely he spent a lot of time there. From the Esquire article: Continue reading
Rolling Stone just published an excerpt from Michael Hastings’ new book, The Operators.
Click through to read the whole thing (I expect Jim will weigh in as well). But for the moment, consider the irony of this passage, given all that has transpired.
I asked him about Petraeus. He said his relationship with Petraeus was “complex.” He’d replaced Dave three times in five years in jobs. “You know, I’ve been one step behind him.”
Petraeus had uncharacteristically kept a low profile over the past year. He didn’t seem to want to get publicly attached to the war in Afghanistan. He’d had his triumph in Iraq, and military officials speculated that he knew there was no way the Afghanistan war was going to turn out well. That it was a loser, and he was happy enough to let McChrystal be left holding the bag.
“He couldn’t command this,” McChrystal said. “Plus, he’s one and ‘oh.’ This one is very questionable.”
Petraeus had been “wonderfully supportive,” though, despite the competition between the two. Within military circles, there was a long-standing debate over who should get more credit for what was considered the success in Iraq—McChrystal running JSOC in the shadows, or Petraeus for instituting the overall counterinsurgency strategy. After Obama took office, the White House had told Petraeus to stay out of the spot-light—they were worried about the general’s presidential ambitions and they were afraid he would overshadow the young president, McChrystal explained.
The White House told McChrystal, “‘We don’t want a man on horseback.’ I said I don’t even have a horse. They are very worried about Petraeus. They certainly don’t have to be worried about me,” McChrystal said. “But Petraeus, if he wanted to run, he’s had a lot of offers. He says he doesn’t want to, and I believe him.”
“I think he seems like a smart enough guy that in 2012, as a journalist, as someone who covered the campaign—” I started to say.
“Do you think he could win?” McChrystal asked me.
“Not in 2012,” I said. “I think in 2016 it would be a no-brainer. But I’ve seen it happen to these guys who get built up, built up, built up . . . If he steps into it in 2012, the narrative is ‘Oh, he shouldn’t have done that. Is that a dishonorable thing to do for an honorable general?’ And that is the narrative. That’s the first cover of Time.” [my emphasis]
McChrystal speculates to Hastings about the Obama Administration’s insecurity regarding David Petraeus (a speculation I agree with). That’s why, McChrystal claims, the showboat Petraeus had gotten so quiet.
But McChrystal offered another reason for Petraeus’ silence: Petraeus wanted to stay away from the taint of Afghanistan, which everyone seemed sure wasn’t going to work out so well.
So after Hastings’ original article–revealing the frank comments of McChrystal’s staffers came out, what happens? Petraeus has to follow McChrystal, commanding the war that everyone seems anxious to blame someone else for. Obama gets rid of McChrystal, but also taints Petraeus with precisely the stinker war he seems to want to avoid.
Mind you, Petraeus has since moved on, now commanding the purportedly secret drone campaigns in other countries.
Still, read now, against the background of Administration attempts (partly negotiated by Petraeus, I wonder?) to get a face-saving peace with the Taliban, it seems all the more sordid.
Afghanistan–where a purportedly broke America continues to dump billions of dollars–seemed to be treated more as a battleground for arrogant men to fight their own political battles than a war anyone aspired to winning.
Yesterday, the Washington Post finally caught up to where Marcy was over two weeks ago and discussed the UN report “Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees in Afghan Custody” (pdf). I’d like to move beyond the primary findings of the report, that torture is widespread in Afghan detention facilities and that the US continued bringing prisoners to these facilities long after other nations discontinued the practice due to concerns over reports of torture, and to examine US denials of knowledge regarding the torture.
First, to set the stage from the Post article:
Department 124 was long sealed off from the outside world; the ICRC, the United Nations and other organizations concerned with human rights were barred by Afghan officials from monitoring conditions there.
But American officials frequently went inside, according to Afghan officials and others familiar with the site. U.S. Special Operations troops brought detainees there, and CIA officials met with Department 124’s leadership on a weekly basis, reviewed their interrogation reports and used the intelligence gleaned from interrogations to inform their operations, the officials said.
And now the denial I’m most interested in:
One U.S. official in Kabul said the CIA officers and Special Operations troops would not have ignored torture. “Not in the post-Abu Ghraib era,” the official said. “All American entities out there are hyper-aware of these allegations and would report them up the chain.”
We will dismiss the CIA denial out of hand: documentation of CIA torture practices and the CIA’s attempts to have DOJ provide legal cover for them now fills many books. However, JSOC involvement in torture is less well-documented despite the fact that JSOC torture played a central, but under-reported, role in David Petraeus’ COIN strategy as implemented in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Petraeus’ primary operative in implementing the torture strategy in both countries was Stanley McChrystal. Continue reading
On Sunday, Carol Rosenberg informed us that there will be a new Chief Prosecutor in charge of military commissions at Guantanamo:
The Obama administration’s handpicked choice to run prosecutions at the Guantánamo war crimes court is pledging a new era of transparency from the remote base, complete with near simultaneous transmissions of the proceedings to victims and reporters on U.S. soil.
Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins made the disclosure in a profile published Sunday in the Weekly Standard that likened the West Point, Oxford and Harvard Law graduate to a James Bond-style problem solver. It also cast Martins as “The Rebrander” of the at-times denounced military commissions system, which Barack Obama scorned as a candidate and senator then reformed with Congress as president.
Despite the Weekly Standard’s fawning profile of Martins as some sort of savior to the system who will lend an air of legitimacy to the military commissions, Martins is in reality a hack who is dragged out periodically by the Pentagon to cover up its worst abuses. Martins was chosen by Obama to head the committee that attempted to re-brand indefinite detention as legal, has served as Commander and Deputy Commander of JTF 435, the notorious JSOC group charged with running detention programs in Afghanistan, has served as legal adviser to David Petraeus, and, in the most outrageously named position of all, now commands “the newly established Rule of Law Field Force-Afghanistan”.
Here is how Martins’ recent positions are spun in his official biography from which I took the quote on his current position:
Brigadier General Martins assumed command of the newly established Rule of Law Field Force-Afghanistan on 1 September 2010. During the previous year, he served as the first Commander of Joint Task Force 435 and then as its first Deputy Commander upon Senate Confirmation of Vice Admiral Robert Harward. In these roles, Brigadier General Martins led the effort to reform United States detention operations in Afghanistan. Immediately prior to his deployment to Afghanistan, Brigadier General Martins co-led the interagency Detention Policy Task Force created by the President in January 2009.
Martins’ career, then, consists of using his “West Point, Oxford and Harvard Law” degrees to cover up the blatantly illegal indefinite detention policy of the US, along with justifying torture and improper arrest of civilians in night raids in Afghanistan.
Back in April of 2010, I described how Martins had been chosen first to review detention policy and then to go to Afghanistan to implement the “new” policy he had designed. Here is how that description ended:
I fail to see how the process described above is any kind of improvement in achieving release of prisoners who have been improperly detained. This description of the process also serves to expose as a sham the entire Special Task Force’s charge of improving how the US handles prisoners. And right in the middle of this mess is Obama’s hand-picked (through Gates) architect of the process, who now is dutifully overseeing its implementation.
There is no getting around the fact that it would have been known that Martins would come up with a program designed to continue the efforts to cover up the imprisonment of innocent citizens. As I noted above, his previous assignments overlap with previous significant cover-ups. Also, as just one more example, Martins wrote an article (pdf) in 2004 that lovingly described the legal justification for the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) in Iraq. This program was in reality so loosely set up that it has been the subject of significant attention for misuse of funds.
So while there is perhaps an improvement of conditions for reporters such as Rosenberg who will be covering the proceedings of the military commissions with the advent of near real-time broadcasts of the hearings, don’t expect any sudden changes in favor of the rule of law. Mark Martins has built his career around covering up the worst of Pentagon abuses and he now is in charge of covering up what can be considered its most prominent legal quagmire. Martins was chosen for this position precisely because the Pentagon knows it can count of him to promote the status quo while lending a false air of legitimacy.
There was an odd pair of stories in the WaPo last week. On Thursday, there was a story by two reporters on the CIA’s increased focus on killing its targets, whether by drone or paramilitary strike.
In the decade since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the agency has undergone a fundamental transformation. Although the CIA continues to gather intelligence and furnish analysis on a vast array of subjects, its focus and resources are increasingly centered on the cold counterterrorism objective of finding targets to capture or kill.
Then, on Friday, there was an excerpt of the chapter from Dana Priest and Will Arkin’s book on JSOC. In addition to describing JSOC’s own lethality…
JSOC’s lethality was evident in its body counts: In 2008, in Afghanistan alone, JSOC commandos struck 550 targets and killed roughly a thousand people, officials said. In 2009, they executed 464 operations and killed 400 to 500 enemy forces. As Iraq descended into chaos in the summer of 2005, JSOC conducted 300 raids a month.
…. It also described how JSOC has been infiltrating DC’s bureaucracy.
Then he gave access to it to JSOC’s bureaucratic rivals: the CIA, NSA, FBI and others. He also began salting every national security agency in Washington with his top commandos. In all, he deployed 75 officers to Washington agencies and 100 more around the world. They rotated every four months so none would become disconnected from combat.
Some thought of the liaisons as spies for an organization that was already too important.
Both stories were good additions to earlier reports that have already laid this groundwork. But I found them notable for the way they were featured at the WaPo with nary a nod at each other. Sure, the CIA story noted that it has collaborated with JSOC. And the JSOC story talks about them feeding targeting information to CIA. Both stories claim their paramilitary force has the greater authority. Both at least mention Leon Panetta; the CIA one mentions David Petraeus; neither mentions Panetta and Petraeus swapping agencies.
But what we’re really talking about is an increasing focus on paramilitary approaches to security, using both JSOC and CIA, with the reporting agency seemingly chosen based on which offers the neatest legal cover.
The point, though, is to have super-lethal organizations unbound by the bureaucracy or law that puts limits to them.
And, as the CIA story admits, the civilian leadership–the President–matters less and less, at least in terms of receiving analysis (and presumably making decisions based on that analysis) or judging efficacy.
“We were originally set up with a more singular focus on policymakers,” said Moore, the head of the CIA’s analytic branch. But for a growing number of analysts, “it’s not just about writing for the president. It’s about gaining leads.”
“When CIA does covert action, who does the president turn to to judge its effectiveness?” a former senior U.S. intelligence official. “To the CIA.”
Which brings us to this David Swanson piece, relating an exchange Susan Harman had with Berkeley’s Law School Dean, Chris Edley. When asked why the Obama Administration had not prosecuted torture or wiretapping, Edley revealed the Administration was worried about the CIA, NSA, and military “revolting.”
“Then Dean Chris Edley volunteered that he’d been party to very high level discussions during Obama’s transition about prosecuting the criminals. He said they decided against it. I asked why. Two reasons: 1) it was thought that the CIA, NSA, and military would revolt, and 2) it was thought the Repugnants would retaliate by blocking every piece of legislation they tried to move (which, of course, they’ve done anyhow).
“Afterwards I told him that CIA friends confirmed that Obama would have been in danger, but I added that he bent over backwards to protect the criminals, and gave as an example the DoJ’s defense (state secrets) of Jeppesen (the rendition arm of Boeing) a few days after his inauguration.
“He shrugged and said they will never be prosecuted, and that sometimes politics trumps rule of law.
Now I’ve long suspected that Obama backed off all rule of law for both the national security establishment and the banks out of fear he’d end up like John F. Kennedy. And Edley’s comments, at least, don’t suggest Obama was worried the “revolt” would involve physical threats to himself.
Nevertheless, these three developments together really ought to be a worry.
We’re expanding two lethal paramilitary forces–death squads–that (taken together, especially) evade normal oversight. It’s not clear whether the civilian leadership controls them–or vice versa.
Is it really a good idea to make them even more lethal?
As we’ve known for years, the May 6, 2004 OLC opinion authorizing the warrantless wiretap program shifted the claimed basis for the program from inherent Article II power to a claim the Afghanistan AUMF trumped FISA.
But one problem with that argument (hard to fathom now that Afghanistan has once again become our main forever war) is to sustain the claim that we were still at war in 2004, given that so many of the troops had been redeployed to Iraq. And to sustain the claim that the threat to the US from al Qaeda was sufficiently serious to justify eviscerating the Fourth Amendment.
So, they used politicized intelligence and (accidentally) propaganda to support it.
Use of the Pat Tillman Propaganda to Support Case of Ongoing War
Acting under his constitutional authority as Commander in Chief, and with the support of Congress, the President dispatched forces to Afghanistan and, with the cooperation of the Northern Alliance, toppled the Taliban regime from power. Military operations to seek out resurgent elements of the Taliban regime and al Qaeda fighters continue in Afghanistan to this day. See e.g., Mike Wise and Josh White, Ex-NFL Player Tillman Killed in Combat, Wash. Post, Apr. 24, 2004, at A1 (noting that “there are still more than 10,000 U.S. troops in the country and fighting continues against remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda”).
That article was not really about the ongoing war in Afghanistan; rather, it told a lie, the lie that war hero Pat Tillman had died in combat, rather than in a friendly fire incident.
Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinals safety who forfeited a multimillion dollar contract and the celebrity of the National Football League to become a U.S. Army Ranger, was killed in Afghanistan during a firefight near the Pakistan border on Thursday, U.S. officials said yesterday.
Tillman, 27, was killed when the combat patrol unit he was serving in was ambushed by militia forces near the village of Spera, about 90 miles south of Kabul, the Afghan capital. Tillman was hit when his unit returned fire, according to officials at the Pentagon. He was medically evacuated from the scene and pronounced dead by U.S. officials at approximately 11:45 a.m. Thursday. Two other U.S. soldiers were injured and one Afghan solider fighting alongside the U.S. troops was killed.
The death of Tillman, the first prominent U.S. athlete to be killed in combat since Vietnam, cast a spotlight on a war that has receded in the American public consciousness. As Iraq has come into the foreground with daily casualty updates, the military campaign in Afghanistan has not garnered the same attention, though there are still more than 10,000 U.S. troops in the country and fighting continues against remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Now, I say the choice was unfortunate because, in spite of the fact that Tillman’s commanding officers knew within 24 hours of his death on April 22 that it was a friendly fire incident, in spite of the fact that General Stanley McChrystal sent an urgent memo within DOD on April 29 that the death was probably friendly fire, and in spite of the fact that the White House learned enough about the real circumstances of Tillman’s death by May 1 to make no claims about how he died in a Bush speech, there’s no reason to believe that Jack Goldsmith would have learned how Tillman died until it was publicly announced on May 29, 2004.
In other words, it was just bad luck that Goldsmith happened to use what ultimately became an ugly propaganda stunt as his evidence that the Afghan war was still a going concern.
Producing Scary Memos to Justify Domestic Surveillance
I’m less impressed with the description of the role of threat assessments that we’re beginning to get.
Goldsmith’s memo includes an odd redaction in its description of the threat assessment process.
As the period of each reauthorization nears an end, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) prepares a memorandum for the President outlining selected current information concerning the continuing threat that al Qaeda poses for conducting attacks in the United States, as well as information describing the broader context of al Qaeda plans to attack U.S. interests around the world. Both the DCI and the [redacted] review that memorandum and sign a recommendation that the President should reauthorize [redacted name of program] based on the continuing threat posed by potential terrorist attacks within the United States. That recommendation is then reviewed by this Office. Based upon the information provided in the recommendation, and also taking into account information available to the President from all sources, this Office assess whether there is a sufficient factual basis demonstrating a threat of terrorist attacks in the United States for it to continue to be reasonable under the standards of the Fourth Amendment for the President to authorize the warrantless involved in [redacted, probably name of program]. [my emphasis]
Now, there are any number of possibilities for the person who, in addition to the DCI, reviewed the threat assessment: John Brennan and others who oversaw the threat assessment are one possibility, David Addington or Dick Cheney are another.
But the IG Report provides another possibility or two that makes this whole passage that much more interesting:
The CIA initially prepared the threat assessment memoranda that were used to support the Presidential Authorization and periodic reauthorizations of the PSP. The memoranda documented intelligence assessments of the terrorist threats to the United States and to U.S. interests abroad from al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist organizations. These assessments were prepared approximately every 45 days to correspond with the President’s Authorizations of the PSP.
The Director of the Central Intelligence’s (DCI) Chief of Staff was the initial focus point for preparing the threat assessment memoranda. According to the former DCI Chief of Staff, he directed CIA terrorism analysts to prepare objective appraisals of the current terrorist threat, focusing primarily on threats to the U.S. homeland, and to document those appraisals in a memorandum. Initially, the analysts who prepared the threat assessments were not read into the PSP and did not know how the threat assessments would be used. CIA’s terrorism analysts drew upon all sources of intelligence in preparing these threat assessments.
After the terrorism analysts completed their portion of the memoranda, the DCI Chief of Staff added a paragraph at the end of the memoranda stating that the individuals and organizations involved in global terrorism (and discussed in the memoranda) possessed the capability and intention to undertake further attacks within the United States. The DCI Chief of Staff recalled that the paragraph was provided to him initially by a senior White House official. The paragraph included the DCI’s recommendation to the President that he authorize the NSA to conduct surveillance activities under the PSP. CIA Office of General Counsel (OGC) attorneys reviewed the draft threat assessment memoranda to determine whether they contained sufficient threat information and a compelling case for reauthorization of the PSP. If either was lacking, an OGC attorney would request that the analysts provide additional threat information or make revisions to the draft memoranda.
The story of the day is from Michael Hastings, fresh off winning a Polk Award for his reporting on the insubordination of key members of Stanley McChrystal’s staff. In today’s story, he describes how Lieutenant General William Caldwell ordered a PsyOp unit to manipulate Senators–including John McCain, Carl Levin, Jack Reed, and Al Franken–to support increased troops and funding for training Afghan soldiers. When the commander of that unit objected, he was investigated and disciplined. (See Jim White’s post on it here.)
It’s a troubling picture of the extent to which individual members of our military will push the war in Afghanistan, knowing how unpopular it is in the States.
But there’s an equally troubling story reporting on the disdain with which our military treats public opinion. Josh Rogin reports on a regularly scheduled meeting between the Pakistani and American military in Oman that took place on Tuesday; because of the Raymond Davis affair, the meeting had heightened importance. The US was represented by, among others, Admiral Mullen and Generals Petraeus, Olson (SOCOM) and Mattis (CENTCOM).
As Rogin describes it, the Americans, whose views were represented in a written summary from General Jehangir Karamat with confirmation from another Pakistani participant, believed the two militaries had to restore the Pakistani-American relationship before it got completely destroyed by the press and the public.
“The US had to point out that once beyond a tipping point the situation would be taken over by political forces that could not be controlled,” Karamat wrote about the meeting, referring to the reported split between the CIA and the Pakistani Inter-services Intelligence (ISI) that erupted following the Davis shooting.
“[T]he US did not want the US-Pakistan relationship to go into a free fall under media and domestic pressures,” Karamat wrote. “These considerations drove it to ask the [Pakistani] Generals to step in and do what the governments were failing to do-especially because the US military was at a critical stage in Afghanistan and Pakistan was the key to control and resolution.”
“The militaries will now brief and guide their civilian masters and hopefully bring about a qualitative change in the US-Pakistan Relationship by arresting the downhill descent and moving it in the right direction.” [my emphasis]
In short, the US military wants to make sure that military intervenes to counteract the fury of the people and the press over the Davis affair.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d rather have the military ensure close relations with this nuclear-armed unstable state. I’m cognizant of how, in different situations (notably the Egyptian uprising), close ties between our military and others’ have helped to foster greater democracy. As Dana Priest’s The Mission makes clear our military has increasingly become the best functioning “diplomatic” service we’ve got. And though I think a great deal of stupidity and arrogance got Davis into the pickle he’s in, I certainly back our government’s efforts to get him returned to our country (Rogin also provides details of the plan to do that).
But particularly coming as it does in the same theater and on the same day as news of PsyOps being waged against my Senator, I’m troubled that our military isn’t more concerned with reining in the behavior that has rightly ticked off so many Pakistanis, rather than coordinating with the Pakistani military to make sure the people of Pakistan’s concerns are ignored.