Lost Among the Findings in Syria

The Neocons have been pressuring Obama to do something in Syria. So it’s thoroughly unsurprising that we’re officially learning what we’ve known for months: the CIA has been involved in Syria. According to Mark Hosenball the Finding Obama signed authorizing such actions permits us to collaborate at a “secret” command center on or close to our air base at Incirlik.

A U.S. government source acknowledged that under provisions of the presidential finding, the United States was collaborating with a secret command center operated by Turkey and its allies.


This “nerve center” is in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 60 miles from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, a U.S. air base where U.S. military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial presence.

The Finding doesn’t authorize arming the rebels (though Hosenball’s sources seem unsure about the general scope of the Finding), but NBC has reported that the Saudis and Qataris have already armed them with shoulder-launched missiles.

It’s just like old times! The US partnering with Saudis to get shoulder-launched missiles into the hands of rebels with dubious loyalties. Whatever could go wrong with that?

There are two details about this that deserve notice.

What happened to the leak hawks in Congress?

First, this story is based on the leak of a covert Finding–precisely the kind of leak that Congress has gone on the warpath against. Hosenball attributes his reporting to US sources–an attribution that can (though doesn’t necessarily) refer to Congressional sources.

U.S. sources familiar with the matter said.


A U.S. government source acknowledged

And while he notes–and names–the Senators who have been pressuring Obama to do precisely what he has been doing for months, Hosenball doesn’t name the members of Congress who are opposed to such an action.

Some U.S. lawmakers, such as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have criticized Obama for moving too slowly to assist the rebels and have suggested the U.S. government should become directly involved in arming Assad’s opponents.

Other lawmakers have suggested caution, saying too little is known about the many rebel groups.

In short, chances are not insignificant that a Congressional source leaked the contents of a Finding authorizing covert operations.

And yet … crickets!

Those same Senate Intelligence Committee leak hawks who have authorized a range of stupid actions to prevent leaks seem unperturbed by a leak revealing information that is as sensitive as the leaks they’re demanding be investigated.

How does anti-Assad Finding relate to the Assad-cooperation authorized under the Gloves Come Off Memorandum of Notification?

Then there’s this. In his description of all the things included in the Gloves Come Off Memorandum of Notification authorizing the war on terror, Bob Woodward said cooperation with Syria (and Libya) were included.

[George Tenet] called for initiating intelligence contact with some rogue states such as Libya and Syria that he said might be helpful in trying to destroy al Qaeda. For the CIA to obtain helpful information against the terrorists, they might have to get their hands dirty. (Bush at War 77)

We know the MON included such cooperation with Libya because liberated documents have reflected cooperation on renditions. And Maher Arar, who was rendered to Syria and tortured, can tell you all about what our cooperation with Syria entailed.

The thing is, the MON authorizing cooperation with Syria remains in effect. We know that to be true because Judge Richard Wesley, in enabling the government to keep all mention of this MON secret a few months ago, stated it pertained to “active intelligence activity.” Rather than writing a new MON–one that doesn’t give CIA carte blanche in deciding the limits of things like targeted killings–Obama is still relying on this MON for things like killing American citizens.

So does that mean the CIA is at once authorized to share intelligence with Bashar al-Assad (under the Gloves Come Off MON) and help rebels overthrow and probably kill him (under this new Finding)?

Probably, there is a very simple explanation for this (and for the fact that we helped to kill Moammar Qaddafi, as well). Probably, the new FInding (and whatever Finding authorized the activities our spooks engaged in in Libya) simply includes language canceling the prior language authorizing cooperation with Assad. So no big deal, really.

Still, doesn’t that give lie to the Administration’s seeming treatment of that 11 year old MON as inviolate? That is, if this Finding renders (heh) part of that MON meaningless, then maybe it wouldn’t be so hard for Obama to write a new MON, one that involved actual oversight.

7 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the covert “non-lethal” support provided to the rebel forces by the US (and its partners like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar) included the electronic communication intercepts of Syrian officials.

    This might include intercepts regarding Syrian troop and security forces movements as well as explicit location information regarding high-ranking Syrian officials.

    While not directly “lethal”, both types of information could in fact be used for lethal rebel operations.

    Remember that most cell phones provide highly accurate GPS location information of the cell phone user. Information that can be a real-time location as well as travel pattern information.

  2. lysias says:

    @MadDog: GPS location information that could no doubt allow a Predator missile to home in on Syrian intelligence headquarters in Damascus.

    We still don’t know precisely how those Syrian officials were killed in that bombing in Damascus, do we?

  3. MadDog says:

    @lysias: While there have been reports of US drones over-flying Syria, most that I’ve read have to do with RQ-4 Global Hawk drones (and possibly US RQ-170 Sentinal stealth drones) being used to keep Syria’s chemical and bacteriological weapons under surveillance.

    They may also be using US drones for communications intercepts (cell phone traffic, radio traffic, etc.)

    As to the bombing that took out Syria’s top defense, security and intelligence heads, since it happened I’ve had the belief that it was as a result of high-level insider rather than something put together by the rebels. The Syrian security had to be just too difficult to penetrate by some rag-tag outside group of rebels.

    Rumors are that the Saudis had some involvement such as a high-level double agent.

    There are also continuing recent rumors on the Internet about the supposed disappearance of the new Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan and his “supposed” assassination by an Iranian/Hezbollah hit team in retaliation for the “supposed” Saudi involvement in the bombing of the Syrian defense, security and intelligence heads.

    I suspect that at least in regard to the bombing of those Syrians, our government knows more than it is saying.

  4. Jeff Kaye says:

    Anyone who collaborates with a government, including the US govt, must known that political exigencies can render them expendable, even toxic, at a moment’s notice.

    I’ve no tears for Assad, but the US-led intervention in Syria, via proxies, is criminal, and imperialism of the worst stamp.

  5. Kathleen says:

    EW over at Race for Iran
    “Flynt Leverett on Al Jazeera: Syria as a Proxy Arena for the Obama Administration’s Campaign Against the Islamic Republic of Iran”

    Unable to link. Important interview

  6. Kathleen says:

    Hillary Clinton continues to be a serious warmonger. Former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden unit Micheal Schueer has a few things to say about Clintons and teams strategy in Syria
    …Over at Non Intervention
    “To President Obama: The 2nd Amendment is about fighting tyranny, not hunting deer
    By mike | Published: August 1, 2012
    Soon after the Denver shootings, President Obama said it was time to put stricter gun-control measures in place. With the failure of Attorney General Holder’s “Fast and Furious” ploy to void the 2nd Amendment, it seems Obama thought he might capitalize on the Denver shootings to further damage the Constitution. The negative public reaction to his words, however, sent Obama backtracking, and senior Democrats like Senator Reid and Representative Pelosi quickly made public remarks to bury the issue — for now.

    Before moving on, it is worth noting that Obama said gun laws must be changed but only in a way that protected Americans’ cherished tradition of hunting. Well, hunting game is not the central concern of the 2nd Amendment. What is central is that the 2nd Amendment protects the right of Americans to be armed in case they decide there is a need, in Jefferson’s words, “to alter or to abolish [the government]” and “to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

    In creating the 2nd Amendment, the Founders — through James Madison‘s pen — took their cue from the British Bill of Rights (1689) which recognized that an unarmed populace could not protect its rights, liberty, and economic welfare against a king backed by a standing army, and so it allowed for an armed populace. The Founders also recalled that when London cracked down on New England’s resistance to the Crown, one of British General Thomas Gates’ first moves was to try to seize the munitions and ordnance the colonists had stockpiled around Boston. One reason for the British Army’s ill-fated expedition to Lexington and Concord in April, 1775, for example, was to capture the colonists’ stores of cannon, muskets, and munitions.

    Even before Jefferson’s declaration, therefore, what in today’s parlance is called “gun control” was seen by Americans for what it was and is, a policy instituted by an oppressive government that fears its population and therefore aims at ensuring that citizens cannot arm to resist its will. The 2nd Amendment is meant, in part, to make sure that if the federal government created by the Constitution turns oppressive, Americans will have arms with which to defend their liberties and welfare.

    And this right is much more important today than it was when the 2nd Amendment was drafted because the federal government has over time deliberately and probably unconstitutionally eradicated the 2nd Amendment’s other anti-oppression provision, the one that made sure the several state governments had well-regulated — that is, well-trained — militias at their command. The state militias were of course meant to assist the U.S. government’s standing army in case of foreign attack or domestic insurrection, but they also were meant to defend the states and their populations if the federal government used its standing army to willfully violate the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, or acted in a manner harmful to the peoples’ security, economic welfare, and/or their society’s social cohesion.

    Except for Alexander Hamilton and a few other of the Founders, both Federalists and Anti-Federalists were very wary of — indeed, many hated — the idea of maintaining a strong standing army in time of peace, seeing it as an all-too-easy-to-use tool of would-be tyrants. The 2nd Amendment took cognizance of this historically genuine danger and established two hedges against it, an armed citizenry and effective state militias. The much stronger hedge — state militias — is long gone, and only the weaker hedge of an armed citizenry remains. And there seems nothing outrageous about the idea that, as the 2nd Amendment allowed citizens to be ready to resist federal-government oppression by matching it musket-for-musket in the 1790s, today’s citizens ought to be free to face the same potential threat of tyranny assault rifle-for-assault rifle.

    Now, in response to the foregoing, I am sure President Obama and other recent presidents, their administrations, and their media shills would argue there is no chance of the federal government ever acting in a manner so oppressive to the liberty and welfare of Americans that the latter would decide to take up arms against it. And they may well be right. I hope they are.

    But just for the sake of argument, let us imagine a future circumstance — far off and wildly unlikely though it may be — in which the federal government did violate the Constitution, threaten the destruction of the U.S. economy, tore the fabric of American society, and made the American political system a cesspool of financial corruption. And to add to the unreality of our scenario, let us further imagine that these actions are much more substantively threatening than those which motivated the Founding Fathers to rebel against Britain and those that led to the creation of the Confederate States of America and a civil war.

    Just imagine, for example,

    –1.) That a single unelected federal bureaucrat issues a mandate that clearly violates the 1st Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom for more than 70 million American Catholics, Jews, and Muslims.

    –2.) That multiple U.S. presidents take the United States to war without the formal declaration of war irrefutably demanded by the U.S. Constitution, and then intentionally fail to win the wars they start and so kill thousands of America‘s solider-children for nothing.

    –3.) That the federal government each year reaches into its citizens’ pockets and takes between $40 and $50 billion dollars and then gives it to foreigners, even in times when 25-percent of America’s youngsters are malnourished, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed, and the country’s critical infrastructure is crumbling.

    –4.) That senior elected officials in both parties, as well as senior federal bureaucrats constantly leak highly classified intelligence information to advance their partisan interests and thereby knowingly undermine U.S. national security.

    –5.) That presidents and attorney generals from both parties pick and choose what laws they will enforce, in direct and flagrant violation of the oath to execute all laws that the Constitution mandates they swear on taking office.

    –6.) That a long list of presidential administrations under both parties refuse to enforce laws designed to control U.S. borders, thereby knowingly compromising U.S. security and causing several U.S. states to have their economies damaged and social fabric weakened. In addition, imagine that those federal administrations also take legal action to prevent state governors from defending their populations.

    –7.) That the Congress and the Senate regularly and knowingly act to bankrupt and destroy such essential national institutions as the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Post Office by siphoning off their funds for other pet or less-important projects.

    –8.) That cabinet members and would-be cabinet members who do not file income tax returns, leak classified intelligence information, mislead Congress, and knowingly hire illegal aliens are never prosecuted.

    –9.) That the federal government so overspends the public treasury that the national debt can never be repaid, and that in funding the debt it also compromises U.S. independence and citizens’ economic well-being via massive borrowing from malign foreign powers and by exacting half-a-year’s wages from each American taxpayer.

    –10.) That the unaccountable U.S. Supreme Court interprets the Constitution in a way that makes the nation’s political system a cesspool of financial corruption, endorses the murder of more than 50 million-plus unborn U.S. citizens, and empowers the federal government to wage unrelenting war on religion, especially on Christianity.

    –11.) That the federal government’s executive and legislative branches permit multiple lobbies to act as agents of foreign powers to corrupt our political system; to influence our foreign policy in a manner destructive of U.S. security and leading to war; and then protects them by not making them register as agents of foreign powers and by passing “hate-speech laws” — the latter a clear violation of the 1st Amendment.

    12.) That the federal education department ensures the school curriculum taught to U.S. children negatively distorts U.S. history, denigrates the Founding Fathers, and keeps students ignorant of the meaning and purposes of the country’s founding documents — such as the 2nd Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

    While it is hard, nay, nearly impossible to imagine that even one — let alone all — of these severely oppressive and destructive actions could be deliberately perpetrated by the federal government, we each learn over the course of a lifetime never to say never. And if the sorry day ever dawns when one or more of the above depredations occur, I would suggest Americans might well think about taking recourse to the arms guaranteed them by the 2nd Amendment, arms with which to defend their liberty, economic welfare, national independence, and their Constitution’s viability.

    And who knows what the future will bring, some of the foregoing hard-to-imagine actions may not be all so far fetched. If one or more came to pass, I suppose the 2nd Amendment would be the last, best resort for Americans after, as Jefferson recommended, a patient and prolonged effort to peacefully undo the oppressive measures imposed on them. “Prudence, indeed,” Jefferson wrote, “will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

    At day’s end, then, the 2nd Amendment exists to permit American citizens to perform the “duty” Jefferson describes by resisting and defeating with arms a federal government that knowingly produces a “train of abuses and usurpations” that is designed “to reduce them under absolute Despotism.” The 2nd Amendment should not be altered or diluted a whit, but should stand, as the Founders intended, as a stark reminder to all elected federal officials and their bureaucrats that, in extremis, the 2nd Amendment ensures that Americans have the right and the means with which to hunt down and remove those who use the federal government to oppress them.

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    Posted in Articles | Tagged Attorney General Holder, British Bill, England, Founding Fathers, James Madison, President Obama, Representative Pelosi, Senator Reid | Leave a comment
    Galloping toward the abyss: The price of U.S. interventionism in Syria and Israel
    By mike | Published: July 25, 2012
    While the presidential election campaign is focused on the economy and Barack Obama’s transparent desire for class war in the United States, Americans ought to take a quick look at the outside world to examine the approaching wave of interventionist-wrought disaster, a wave for which both parties are equally culpable.

    Secretary of State Clinton’s drive to destroy the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad appears to be moving closer to a conclusion. The democracy-thirsty folks Mrs. Clinton champions have moved into parts of Damascus and Aleppo and last week conducted a suicide car-bomb attack that killed al-Assad’s minister of defense and other top security officials. This may not be the death knell of the Syrian regime but its deteriorating condition seems clear.

    There is, of course, no appreciable number of pro-democracy advocates in the Syrian resistance; such people — as in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere — exist only in the minds of Clinton, Obama, McCain, Graham, and Lieberman. Indeed, the correct spelling of the name of those fighting against al-Assad’s regime is “MUJAHEDIN”.

    These fighters come from the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which has been patiently waiting to exact revenge for al-Assad’s father’s early 1980s destruction of the city of Hama, and with it the death of 20,000 Brotherhood members, their families, and innocent civilians. In addition, al-Qaeda and its allies are heavily involved in attacking the regime and clearly have brought with them their admirable skill in conducting suicide operations and organizing the logistics needed to keep the resistance supplied and in the field.

    Also fighting in Syria are Islamist fighters who transited the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-built highway through Iraq that now connects Syria with Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Finally, some of the other democrats Mrs. Clinton and Senator McCain supported in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya are fighting in Syria and brought with them many of the weapons they looted from the regimes they overthrew while bipartisan Washington mindlessly applauded and prated about the birth of “Arab democracies.”

    If and when the al-Assad regime falls, Americans can watch the delights that will emanate from the Mrs. Clinton-led bipartisan effort to destroy it: (a) the slaughter of some portion of Syria’s Alawite and Shia communities; (b) the triumph of Islamist forces, although they may deign to temporarily disguise themselves in more innocent garb as has Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood; (c) the opening of Syria’s prisons and the release of thousands of veteran and hardened Sunni Islamist insurgents; and (d) the looting of the Syrian military’s fully stocked arsenals of conventional arms and chemical weapons; the latter is the largest in the Middle East and perhaps in the world.

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