Man Without Qualities

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Uncuff Campaign Contributors and Voters

Mark Riebling presents an excellent outline of how and why liberal Democrats have demolished much of the nation's intelligence capability over the last thirty years - including the disastrous passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA). His analysis is consistent with those of the Man Without Qualities and KausFiles - and expands on them.

Mr. Riebling characterizes needed reforms - including but by no means limited to amendment of the FISA "probable cause" standard for monitoring and searching people who are not Americans as "uncuffing the FBI." That's a fair characterization. But what really needs doing is to Uncuff Campaign Contributors and Voters. It is unlikely that locating liberal Democratic culpability in the demolition of the intelligence services over the past thirty years - and especially during the Clinton Administration - will easily translate directly into a major campaign issue. The facts and circumstances are just too complex for the general voting public to absorb in the way campaign issues take on life. However, the large campaign contributors have more resources and sophistication than the general voting public - and it is possible that many of them will understand how destructive liberal Democrats both in the White House and in Congress have been - resulting in hugely increased vulnerability for the United States and its allies, including plucky and endangered Israel. Many traditionally Democratic donors may see the light and stop financially supporting the likes of Democrats who have done this. Perhaps particularly culpable actors - such as Senators Leahy, Daschle and Clinton - could be pressured to withdraw from attempts to run again and to keep quiet in their time remaining. Even the egregious career of Senator Kennedy - correctly identified by Mr. Riebling as a central malfeasant in this matter - may be eased to its effective and long-deserved end. The best way to uncuff the campaign contributors is to inform them - and, through them, the voters.

A growing number of media figures seem to be awakening. Mr. Adragna has received this e-mail from Stuart Taylor, columnist at National Journal:

"Hello. I just read your May 28 posting on Mickey Kaus re FISA, Mickey's response on Slate, and the Leahy statement that you cited. Unless I have missed something, Mickey has won the argument on a knockout."

"By the way, it means very little that Rowley, in asserting that FBIHQ blew it, complains not about the statute but about the HQ interpretation of the statute and evidence. It would hardly advance her cause to say that even if FBIHQ was right that the evidence didn't satisfy the statute, HQ should have sought a warrant anyway because the statute is too stringent."

"And your statement that everybody now agrees there was probable cause is inconsistent with my impression that FBIHQ STILL maintains (rightly or wrongly) that probable cause was lacking before 9/11."

"Will you have a rejoinder?"

"Sincerely, Stuart Taylor"

Mr. Adragna goes on to say that he "responds" - even while admitting that he offers nothing new: " I know that I'm sounding like a broken record."

In a later post, he rehearses the spurious Fourth Amendment arguments already addressed here. For example, Mr. Adragna quotes Representative Bob Barr's (R. Ga.) concern about expanding the government's ability to monitor Americans as relevant to what the FISA standard should be in monitoring non-Americans.

Slate's Fray includes additional undoing of Mr. Adragna's positions by Patrick Sullivan.

Another commentator, Mark R. Levin, has good observations.

As noted before, Nicholas Kristof has crafted a surprisingly introspective and insightful New York Times column, which includes this observation:

"So it's time for civil libertarians to examine themselves with the same rigor with which we are prone to examine others. The bottom line is that Mr. Moussaoui was thrown in jail — thank God — not because there was evidence he had committed a crime but because he was a young Arab man who behaved suspiciously and fit our stereotypes about terrorists. One of the most widespread canards since 9/11 is that he wanted to learn to fly a 747 but not how to take off or land. That is completely false; on the contrary, repeated F.B.I. statements show that he specifically asked for instruction on taking off and landing."

"Mr. Moussaoui aroused suspicion for much milder behavior: he paid $8,000 in cash for the flight lessons; he expressed "unusual interest" in the notion that a plane's doors could not be opened during flight; he was a wretched pilot and yet wanted to learn how to fly a jumbo jet."

If what Mr. Kristof writes is true, are civil libertarians or anyone else willing to assert that prior to September 11 there was indeed sufficient FISA "probable cause" for issuance of a warrant to search his property?

Where are the media interviews with the FBI(Washington) officials who denied the warrant? Where are the full evaluations of that "French intelligence" which the FBI did not present to the FISA court even after the events of September 11? Little seems to be known about it beyond the third-hand bits included by Agent Rowley in her now-famous memorandum.

And about Agent Rowley's memorandum. It also includes "Footnote Seven," which has been partially quoted by some (including Mr. Adragna) as suggesting that no amendment of the FISA "probable cause" standard is required. As noted in a prior post, even the portion of Footnote Seven that such people have quoted is quite unpersuasive. However, it is noteworthy that the rest of Agent Rowley's Footnote Seven somehow doesn't get quoted by such people. Indeed, Mr. Adragna admitted he hadn't even read the Footnote Seven in Rowley's memo before writing his first comments on it ("Yup -- I didn't read the footnote, because I thought the body of the letter was clear enough.), an astonishingly awful admission of a basic fact-checking felony by Mr. Adragna. The portion of Footnote Seven still omitted by Mr. Adragna - despite his lectures on the importance of completeness - says:

"Another factor that cannot be underestimated as to the HQ Supervisor's apparent reluctance to do anything was/is the ever present risk of being "written up" for an Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB) 'error.' In the year(s) preceding the September 11th acts of terrorism, numerous alleged IOB violations on the part of FBI personnel had to be submitted to the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) as well as the IOB. I believe the chilling effect upon all levels of FBI agents assigned to intelligence matters and their manager hampered us from aggressive investigation of terrorists."

The IOB was created in 1976 as a result of the pressures from the Church and Pike committees, and "reformed" during the Clinton administration. It would be helpful to know just what "alleged IOB violations on the part of FBI personnel" were actually "written up," especially since it seems that the IOB was responsible for the Clinton directive to not use "unsavory individuals" as sources:

"The Intelligence Oversight Board, a presidential advisory panel charged over a year ago with analyzing U.S. intelligence agencies' conduct in Guatemala, released a public version of its findings on June 28. The four-member panel began work in mid-1995, shortly after revelations that a Guatemalan colonel implicated in high-profile killings was on the CIA payroll."

"The long-overdue report found that the CIA maintained several known human rights abusers as paid "assets" as late as 1994, at the same time withholding from Congress information about its relationships with these 'unsavory' individuals. The report found no criminal wrongdoing and offered little new information on cases of U.S. citizens murdered or otherwise harmed in Guatemala. It did criticize agencies' failure to inform victims of their cases' progress."

"While claiming that the CIA mission in Guatemala was not a "rogue mission," the report asserts that intelligence officials became too close to their contacts, to the extent that they overlooked their criminal behavior."

Comments: Post a Comment