The Appropriations Battle over Funding “Moderate” Terrorists

Two weeks ago, John Brennan admitted on a Sunday show that sometimes when we “push the envelope … to protect this country” it “stimulates and spurs additional threats to our national security interests.” In a post on his comments, I suggested he might be thinking specifically of Syria as much as generally of counterterrorism.

Today, the WaPo cites “U.S. officials” complaining that the House Intelligence Committee voted to cut 10% off CIA’s Syrian budget.

The measure has provoked concern among CIA and White House officials, who warned that pulling money out of the CIA effort could weaken U.S.-backed insurgents just as they have begun to emerge as effective fighters. The White House declined to comment.

Arrayed against those anonymous whiners, the WaPo cites Adam Schiff on the record and a senior aide anonymously, describing how the CIA effort isn’t tracked with real metrics and hasn’t done much to weaken Assad.

“There is a great deal of concern on a very bipartisan basis with our strategy in Syria,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the intelligence panel. He declined to comment on specific provisions of the committee’s bill but cited growing pessimism that the United States will be in a position “to help shape the aftermath” of Syria’s civil war.

[snip]

“Assad is increasingly in danger, and people may be taking bets on how long he can last, but it’s largely not as a result of action by so-called moderates on the ground,” said a senior Republican aide in Congress, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the subject.

[snip]

“Unfortunately, I think that ISIS, al-Nusra and some of the other radical Islamic factions are the best positioned to capi­tal­ize on the chaos that might accompany a rapid decline of the regime,” Schiff said.

Underlying it all, though, appears to be yet another effort (one we’ve seen with propaganda in the press as well) to claim those linked to al Qaeda in Syria are “moderate,” which in turn permits insiders to believe they’ll have some control over Syria after our Sunni and Israeli allies pull off his defeat.

Remember: Devin Nunes has long shown skepticism about our efforts to use proxy terrorists to spread democracy. And Adam Schiff is simply smarter than the kind of person who typically gets to be a ranking member of an Intelligence Committee. Good for them for finally insisting on metrics and — absent that — reining in the CIA’s gravy train.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

10 replies
  1. JohnT says:

    That’s the plan

    “Unfortunately, I think that ISIS, al-Nusra and some of the other radical Islamic factions are the best positioned to capi­tal­ize on the chaos that might accompany a rapid decline of the regime,” Schiff said.

    Without spending half a day digging up the links; the US government created ISIS

  2. orionATL says:

    i’m beginning to think congress may finally be getting a belly full of arrogant, uber-executive presidents like g.w. and b.h.

    but then, in the end, …….

  3. Don Bacon says:

    “sometimes when we “push the envelope …spurs additional threats to our national security interests.”
    .
    On one level, that means that some people rebel against the US military world control and assassination programs and actually resist US world hegemony with violent attacks on Americans, which is why the State Dept. has issued a world-wide travel caution for American travelers. The US traveler – unsafe in any country! Thanks, Washington for less personal security.
    .
    But less personal security is not anything they care about. It’s “national security” — the ability of the nation and its corporate promoters to be unfettered in their global pursuit of profit, when threats to “national security” are welcome because they mean more profits for Lockheed and Raytheon, among others. More radars, more anti-ballistic missile defense, more this and that.
    .
    So Brennan is doing the right things for the nation. Less national security is the objective. Be afraid, very afraid, of North Korea and Iran especially. Sure.

  4. Don Bacon says:

    The US has long allied with Islamic radicals to “get the job done.” Afghanistan, Libya, now Syria, it’s whatever promotes US interests and it could be anyone.
    .
    The US has a huge air base right down the road from al-Qaeda’s spiritual base and financial backer in Doha, Qatar. I bet the AQ’s are at the bar for happy hour every day.
    .
    US support of ISIS is described here. Saved JohnT half a day.

  5. ArizonaBumblebee says:

    As President Obama continues to vacillate over his responses to the Syrian civil war, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have stepped up their efforts to topple the Baathist regime of President Assad (with the tacit support of Israel). The state is being set for a Cambodian-style catastrophe in the heart of the Middle East. If this occurs, there will be millions of embittered refugees in camps throughout the Middle East and in Europe seeking revenge against the perpetrators of this outcome. So what will the jihadists do once they have Damascus in their grip? Surely, Amman, Jordan has to be in their sights. Given Israel’s seeming indifference to what is presently going on in Syria, many people in Tel Aviv will begin to ask in the aftermath, how did Israel allow itself to be surrounded by Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and al-Nusra in Syria and Jordan? As the saying goes, be careful what you for; your wish may be granted.

  6. P J Evans says:

    Has anyone ever told them that we’d be better off (and have much less of a budget deficit) if we stopped funding all these groups?

  7. Don Bacon says:

    MOA on the strategy of supporting AQ and creating instability, which lead to positive results in politics, profits and controlling the world. here.
    .
    “The CIA is also prominently helping AlQaeda by sponsoring “moderate rebels” in Syria and providing them with weapons at a cost of $1 billion per year. These weapons as well as the CIA trained fighters inevitable end up with the jihadists. . . . . It is now planning to steal the north eastern parts and to control the valuable water resources there. The excuse for doing so is the chaos it created itself by supporting AlQaeda against the Syrian army and the threat AlQaeda now poses against the local population on the Syrian side of the heights:”

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