Trump bails on surveillance treaty used to monitor Russia, guts program of resources Rachel Maddow describes how Donald Trump in his lame duck period has not only abruptly removed the U.S from the decades old Open Skies Treaty that supplies the U.S. and its allies with surveillance data on Russian military activities, but has taken …
Dec 06 2020
Dec 28 2015
The Obama administration is hell bent to oust Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Determined to repeat the mistakes of Iraq and Libya, and caving to congressional war hawks, the CIA began arming rebels opposed to Assad. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty, apparently the CIA program was hijacked by Turkey and the weapons were diverted …
Jul 18 2013
One of the many provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 that was signed by Pres. Barack Obama late in the night of December 30, 2012, was the repeal of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. The original act outlined the State Department’s dissemination of information outside the boarders of the United States:
authorizes the U.S. State Department to communicate to audiences outside of the borders of the United States through broadcasting, face-to-face contacts, exchanges (including educational, cultural, and technical), online activities, the publishing of books, magazines, and other media of communication and engagement.
The legislation included three key provision the first, and most important was a prohibition on domestic dissemination of materials intended for foreign audiences by the State Department.
Section 501(a) of the Act (care of the Voice of America website) provides that
“information produced by VOA for audiences outside the United States shall not be disseminated within the United States … but, on request, shall be available in the English language at VOA, at all reasonable times following its release as information abroad, for examination only by representatives of United States press associations, newspapers, magazines, radio systems, and stations, and by research students and scholars, and, on request, shall be made available for examination only to Members of Congress.”
“This means that VOA is forbidden to broadcast within the United States.” In reality, of course, any American with a shortwave receiver or an Internet connection can listen to VOA. That’s incidental, however. VOA cannot direct or intend its programs to be “for” Americans. This distinction is often lost on experts who see the letter of the law but with no real understanding of the media. George W. Bush-era State Department official James K. Glassman has called for directing VOA at American audiences.
The 2013 NDAA ended that restriction on July 2:
(T)he Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) was given permission to let US households tune-in to hear the type of programming that has previously only been allowed in outside nations.
The BBG is the independent government agency that broadcasts Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other networks created “to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy” – and a new law now allows the agency to provide members of the American public with program materials originally meant to be disseminated abroad.
Back in 1972, Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright equated those government stories with propaganda when he said they “should be given the opportunity to take their rightful place in the graveyard of Cold War relics.” A couple of current lawmakers were singing a different tune when they proposed the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 last year, though, which became official just two weeks ago.
Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA), who introduced the changes to the Smith Mundt last year argued
“Effective strategic communication and public diplomacy should be front-and-center as we work to roll back al-Qaeda’s and other violent extremists’ influence among disaffected opulations,” [..]
“An essential part of our efforts must be a coordinated, comprehensive, adequately resourced plan to counter their radical messages and undermine their recruitment abilities. To do this, Smith-Mundt must be updated to bolster our strategic communications and public diplomacy capacity on all fronts and mediums – especially online.“
According to Tim Cushing at Techdirt, there is the good news and bad news of the government’s ability to aim its pre-approved news at US citizens. The “good new”:
BBG spokesperson Lynne Weil says these efforts aren’t simply pro-government hype machines. [..]
As Weil points out, this will bring a new level of transparency to the BBG as communicating to Americans is no longer prohibited. If nothing else, transcripts of BBG programming will be easier for Americans to get ahold of. A court ruled in 1998 that the limitations of the Smith-Mundt Act exempted the Voice of America from releasing transcripts in response to FOIA requests.
Another possible plus is the fact that the BBG will provide a free, “local” news source for immigrant populations. [..]
However, there is the “bad news”:
(T)he thought of a state-run news agency being allowed to direct its efforts at Americans is still uncomfortable. Despite claims of independence, it’s hard to believe the source is 100% trustworthy when its stated purpose is to run flack for the State Department in foreign nations. (Of course, the mainstream media outlets haven’t shown much reluctance to regurgitate talking points, which almost makes the BBG’s efforts seem redundant.)
While the BBG may provide a less-biased source of news for many foreigners (or at least provide a different bias), the purpose of its broadcasts to its new American audience is less clear. The fact that the State Department is behind the effort doesn’t do much to allay fears that the BBG will become a tool of domestic propaganda. The State Department’s reaction to the leak of diplomatic correspondence by Wikileaks was to block its employees’ access to the site (or any site containing the word “Wikileaks”) and demand the digital documents be “returned.” How will a state-run press react to developments like these? Will it be forced to play by the department’s rules, no matter how illogical, or will it be able to deal with them in a more forthright manner?
In a time where the administration seems to be forced to play defense with increasing frequency, it’s hard to believe it won’t be willing to exploit this addition to its PR arsenal.
In a May 18, 2012 BuzzFeded article, the late Michael Hastings warned that this revision would open the door to Pentagon propaganda:
The evaporation of Smith-Mundt and other provisions to safeguard U.S. citizens against government propaganda campaigns is part of a larger trend within the diplomatic and military establishment.
In December, the Pentagon used software to monitor the Twitter debate over Bradley Manning’s pre-trial hearing; another program being developed by the Pentagon would design software to create “sock puppets” on social media outlets; and, last year, General William Caldwell, deployed an information operations team under his command that had been trained in psychological operations to influence visiting American politicians to Kabul.
A U.S. Army whistleblower, Lieutenant Col. Daniel Davis, noted recently in his scathing 84-page unclassified report on Afghanistan that there remains a strong desire within the defense establishment “to enable Public Affairs officers to influence American public opinion when they deem it necessary to “protect a key friendly center of gravity, to wit US national will,” he wrote, quoting a well-regarded general.
Not only is the government creating an state approved press, it will now have its own news agencies within the US to disseminate its own sanctioned news stories, a true Pravda on the Potomac.
Jun 20 2013
The US government works closely with thousands of corporations to bring you everything from national security to the drivers of climate change. The connections between these entities are diverse and often quite opaque making it difficult for citizens to tell who is really in charge. Is it the corporations with their ultimate responsibility to make a profit for their owners and shareholders, or is it the government with its ultimate responsibility to the electorate? Do the principles of government or business apply to joint decision making processes when government invests in businesses and sits on their boards, or when government agencies have representatives of business sit on task forces and decision making structures?
The economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith wrote, “people of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”
What happens when the interests of business and government so align, that they are fundamentally, “in the same business?”
Disclosures by whistleblowers have led to a heightened interest by the press in these government-corporate linkages particularly in relation to intelligence gathering. Bloomberg recently posted this article which describes in some detail cooperation between government spies and industry:
Thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with U.S. national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence, four people familiar with the process said. …
Makers of hardware and software, banks, Internet security providers, satellite telecommunications companies and many other companies also participate in the government programs. … Along with the NSA, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and branches of the U.S. military have agreements with such companies to gather data that might seem innocuous but could be highly useful in the hands of U.S. intelligence or cyber warfare units, according to the people, who have either worked for the government or are in companies that have these accords. …
Some U.S. telecommunications companies willingly provide intelligence agencies with access to facilities and data offshore that would require a judge’s order if it were done in the U.S., one of the four people said. [hmmm. think carefully about the ramifications of that statement, could the spy agencies just maybe be evading the law on collecting our information by collecting it from outside of our borders? pfffttt]… The extensive cooperation between commercial companies and intelligence agencies is legal and reaches deeply into many aspects of everyday life, though little of it is scrutinized by more than a small number of lawyers, company leaders and spies.
The article also points out the minimal oversight that these programs receive and quotes Senator Rockefeller’s cybersecurity assistant explaining that most congresspeople and their staffs charged with overseeing these programs lack the technical background and expertise to fully understand what they are responsible for overseeing. Further, the article notes that within the companies that are entering into “arrangements” with the government, knowledge of these agreements is very closely held, suggesting that corporate governance structures are undermined and unable to perform their duty to oversee the activities of their corporation or withhold consent in behalf of the (kept in the dark) shareholders for actions taken by management. The secrecy involved creates a situation where loosely supervised government officials are allowed to compel or conspire with corporate chieftains to hijack corporations and undermine democratic governance structures.
Many of the corporations that have cooperated with the government are now, since being exposed, struggling with the public relations fallout that has come from customers finding out that the corporations have helped the government spy on them. Surely they understood this risk, which is why many of these corporations demanded legal immunity for their cooperation.
So what made it worth the risk, because, as the Bloomberg article reveals, much of the participation by these firms was voluntary? From the same article:
Michael Hayden, who formerly directed the National Security Agency and the CIA, described the attention paid to important company partners: “If I were the director and had a relationship with a company who was doing things that were not just directed by law but were also valuable to the defense of the Republic, I would go out of my way to thank them and give them a sense as to why this is necessary and useful.”
Ah, there was a corporate rewards program…
One is left to speculate about what sort of rewards might be handed out to corporations from a government with trillions of dollars to spend. They probably aren’t just giving out key chains and coffee mugs. Hmmm… Facebook cooperates with the NSA. Was its precipitous rise in the market due to Zuckerberg’s ideas and business acumen or… something else?
May 23 2013
In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D- VT) (pdf), Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that four American citizens have been killed in drone strikes since 2009 in Pakistan and Yemen.
In conducting U.S. counterterrorism operations against al-Qaida and its associated forces, the government has targeted and killed one American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, and is aware of the killing by U.S. drones of three others, Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy.
Al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric, was killed in a drone strike in September 2011 in Yemen. Holder said three other Americans were killed by drones in counterterrorism operations since 2009 but were not targeted. The three are Samir Khan, who was killed in the same drone strike as al-Awlaki; al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, a native of Denver, who also was killed in Yemen two weeks later; and Jude Kenan Mohammed, who was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan.
The biggest revelation in Holder’s letter – that the U.S. has droned a fourth American, Jude Kenen Mohammed – is also the greatest of many deficiencies. All Holder says is the U.S. killed but didn’t target these two American men (Mohammed and Samir Kahn) and one American child (al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son). [..]
Ms. Raddack points out that while the letter includes new and credulous accusations about al-Awlaki posing an “imminent threat”, it tells us nothing about how the other Americans ended up being killed by drones. Good question, that I doubt we’ll ever get an answer.
The other point MS. Raddack makes goes to the public’s right to know the legal justification that was given to the president by the Office of Legal Council:
If Holder wants to draw a distinction between Americans that the U.S. government targets and kills without due process and those Americans that the U.S. government kills without due process but doesn’t target, then the American people are entitled to know the legal basis for when the government finds it acceptable to make Americans collateral damage in the legally-unsustainable, morally-reprehensible unilateral drone drops.
There are lots of questions. If these three Americans were not the targets, then who were they targeting? And why?
In an interview this morning on Democracy Now, author and journalist, Jeremy Scahill say that this admission “raises more questions than it answers“:
“In Eric Holder’s letter,” Scahill stated, “he talks about how Anwar Awlaki was actively involved in imminent plots against the United States, that he had directed the so-called underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a U.S. airplane over the city of Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. And what’s interesting is that all of these allegations are made by Eric Holder, but no actual evidence has ever been presented against Awlaki to indicate that he played the role that Eric Holder is asserting. His trial was basically just litigated through leaks in the press. He was never indicted on any of these charges. And Holder, in fact, in his letter, says that we have all of this evidence, but it’s too dangerous to be made public. And so, there’s really a continuation of a posthumous trial of Anwar Awlaki through leaks and now through this letter from Eric Holder.”
Scahill notes that the details of the death of Jude Mohammad, who had been indicted, have not been released; that there were no criminal charges against Samir Khan, a Pakistani-American from North Carolina who was killed alongside al-Awlaki; and Holder used an curious phrase, “not specifically targeted,” referencing the death of 16 year old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.
Full transcript is here
He goes on:
“You know, what does that phrase mean? It’s almost like an Orwellian statement, ‘not specifically targeted.’ Well, it could mean that these individuals were killed in the signature strikes that you mentioned, which is a sort of form of pre-crime, where the U.S. determines that any military-aged males in a targeted area are in fact terrorists, and their deaths will be registered as having killed terrorists or militants. So, it’s possible that the other Americans that were killed were killed in these so-called signature strikes.
“But in the case of this 16-year-old boy, it’s almost impossible to believe that it’s a coincidence that two weeks after his father is killed, he just happens to be killed in a U.S. drone strike. And there were leaks at the time from U.S. officials telling journalists that, oh, he actually was 21 years old, he was at an al-Qaida meeting. But they’ve never been able to identify who they killed in that strike. And the Obama administration has never publicly taken on the fact that they killed one of their own citizens who was a teenage boy. There are no answers to that question. So, I think that there has to be a far more intense scrutiny of the statements of the attorney general and also what we understand the president is going to say later.”
Yes, the Obama administration assassinated four Americans, but …..
President Barack Obama’s speech on his never ending war on terror.
In short, war for without end anywhere on earth because the president said so.
May 21 2013
The Authorization to Use Military Force is a joint resolution passed by the United States Congress on September 14, 2001, authorizing the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001. During a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Pentagon officials testified that the authorization would be needed for another 10 to 20 years and could be used anywhere from “Boston to FATA (Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas).” According to the interpretation of these officials this could be done under the current AUMF without any further authorization from Congress. Those claims elicited disbelief, even from war hawk Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) who said, “For you to come here and say we don’t need to change it or revise or update it, I think is, well, disturbing.”
Indeed, but disturbing is an understatement, but none of the Senators suggested that the powers under the AUMF be dialed back.
Testifying before the committee on May 16 were Assistant Defense Secretary Michael Sheehan; Robert Taylor, the acting general counsel for the Department of Defense; Brig. Gen. Richard Gross, Legal Counsel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Gen. Michael Nagata, Deputy Director for Special Operations/Counterterrorism, J-37, Joint Staff
This excerpt of the hearing from Democracy Now includes Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Robert Taylor, acting general counsel, Department of Defense; Michael Sheehan, assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict, Department of Defense; and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).
Transcript is here
From Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian on Pres. Obama’s permanent war on terror:
That the Obama administration is now repeatedly declaring that the “war on terror” will last at least another decade (or two) is vastly more significant than all three of this week’s big media controversies (Benghazi, IRS, and AP/DOJ) combined. The military historian Andrew Bacevich has spent years warning that US policy planners have adopted an explicit doctrine of “endless war”. Obama officials, despite repeatedly boasting that they have delivered permanently crippling blows to al-Qaida, are now, as clearly as the English language permits, openly declaring this to be so.
It is hard to resist the conclusion that this war has no purpose other than its own eternal perpetuation. This war is not a means to any end but rather is the end in itself. Not only is it the end itself, but it is also its own fuel: it is precisely this endless war – justified in the name of stopping the threat of terrorism – that is the single greatest cause of that threat. [..]
The genius of America’s endless war machine is that, learning from the unplesantness of the Vietnam war protests, it has rendered the costs of war largely invisible. That is accomplished by heaping all of the fighting burden on a tiny and mostly economically marginalized faction of the population, by using sterile, mechanized instruments to deliver the violence, and by suppressing any real discussion in establishment media circles of America’s innocent victims and the worldwide anti-American rage that generates.
Though rarely visible, the costs are nonetheless gargantuan. Just in financial terms, as Americans are told they must sacrifice Social Security and Medicare benefits and place their children in a crumbling educational system, the Pentagon remains the world’s largest employer and continues to militarily outspend the rest of the world by a significant margin. The mythology of the Reagan presidency is that he induced the collapse of the Soviet Union by luring it into unsustainable military spending and wars: should there come a point when we think about applying that lesson to ourselves?
Then there are the threats to Americans’ security. Having their government spend decades proudly touting itself as “A Nation at War” and bringing horrific violence to the world is certain to prompt more and more people to want to attack Americans, as the US government itself claims took place just recently in Boston (and as clearly took place multiple other times over the last several years). [..]
The Obama administration already claims the power to wage endless and boundless war, in virtually total secrecy, and without a single meaningful check or constraint. No institution with any power disputes this. To the contrary, the only ones which exert real influence – Congress, the courts, the establishment media, the plutocratic class – clearly favor its continuation and only think about how further to enable it. That will continue unless and until Americans begin to realize just what a mammoth price they’re paying for this ongoing splurge of war spending and endless aggression.
Harvard Law professor and former Bush DOJ official Jack Goldsmith, who also testified, wrote this at the end of his brief summery of the hearing:
My general impression of the hearing was that (1) DOD officials were very uncomfortable talking about how they interpret the AUMF and what groups are covered by it, (2) those officials interpret the AUMF very broadly, and (3) several members of the Committee were surprised by the breadth of DOD’s interpretation of the AUMF. I came away thinking that Congress cannot address the problem of extra-AUMF threats until it gets a handle on how the AUMF is being interpreted and deployed. I also came away thinking more than ever that Congress needs to re-engage in a serious way about the nature and scope of the conflict against al Qaeda and affiliates. Amazingly, there is a very large question even in the Armed Services Committee about who the United States is at war against and where, and how those determinations are made.
The solutions are for Congress to repeal the AUMF or for the Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional. Don’t hold your breath for either of those things happening.
Mar 22 2013
Earlier this week it was leaked to the press by those “anonymous White House sources” that the CIA’s drone program would be gradually transferred to the Pentagon supposedly making oversight by Congress more transparent and according to Daniel Klaidman, who first reported the shift at the Daily Beast it would also toughen the “criteria for drone” strikes and “strengthen the program’s accountability:”
Currently, the government maintains parallel drone programs, one housed in the CIA and the other run by the Department of Defense. The proposed plan would unify the command and control structure of targeted killings and create a uniform set of rules and procedures. The CIA would maintain a role, but the military would have operational control over targeting. Lethal missions would take place under Title 10 of the U.S. Code, which governs military operations, rather than Title 50, which sets out the legal authorities for intelligence activities and covert operations. [..]
Officials anticipate a phased-in transition in which the CIA’s drone operations would be gradually shifted over to the military, a process that could take as little as a year. Others say it might take longer but would occur during President Obama’s second term. [..]
uring that time, CIA and DOD operators would begin to work more closely together to ensure a smooth hand-off. The CIA would remain involved in lethal targeting, at least on the intelligence side, but would not actually control the unmanned aerial vehicles. Officials told The Daily Beast that a potential downside of the agency’s relinquishing control of the program was the loss of a decade of expertise that the CIA has developed since it has been prosecuting its war in Pakistan and beyond. At least for a period of transition, CIA operators would likely work alongside their military counterparts to target suspected terrorists.
Spencer Ackerman at The Wire, doesn’t think that this is much of a change. The CIA will still be involved telling military personnel what and who to target. Nor does Ackerman think that the program will be more transparent:
The congressional reporting requirements for so-called Title 50 programs (stuff CIA does, to be reductive) are more specific than those for Title 10 (stuff the military does, to be reductive). But the armed services committees tend to have unquestioned and broader oversight functions than the intelligence committees enjoy, not to mention better relationships with the committees: Witness the recent anger in the Senate intelligence committee that the CIA lied to it about its torture programs. The military is more likely than the CIA to openly testify about future drone operations, allow knowledgeable congressional staff into closed-door operational briefings and allow members of Congress to take tours of drone airbases.
As, Klaidman pointed out this could lead to even less transparency since there is nothing in the law that requires the military to account for its lethal operations while the CIA is obligated to report its activities.
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee which has oversight of the CIA, expressed her concerns
Feinstein told reporters her “mind, certainly, is not made up.” But she quickly added she has reservations about turning over to the military the CIA’s armed drone fleet and the missions they conduct.
During the last few years, she said, “We’ve watched the intelligence aspect of the drone program: how they function. The quality of the intelligence. Watching the agency exercise patience and discretion,” Feinstein said.
“The military [armed drone] program has not done that nearly as well,” she said. “That causes me concern. This is a discipline that is learned, that is carried out without infractions…. It’s not a hasty decision that’s made. And I would really have to be convinced that the military would carry it out that way.”
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) preferred the program be transferred to Defense bringing it under the House and Senate Armed Services Committees:
“I believe the majority of the responsibility for this should rest with the military,” McCain told reporters Tuesday. [..]
“The majority of it can be conducted by the Department of Defense,” McCain said. “It’s not the job of the Central Intelligence Agency. … It’s the military’s job.”
Transferring the program to the Pentagon — and under the auspices of the House and Senate Armed Services committees — would create more “openness” and “oversight” and public hearings about the program, he said.
In reality, the Obama administration would still be running a secretive and questionably legal program.
Rachel Maddow, host of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” gives a a short history of the CIA and talks with former congressman and now MSNBC contributor, Patrick Murphy, who served on the House Armed Services Committee, about oversight of the drone program.
Mar 20 2012
In the last week or so two news stories have broken that are both quite important and remarkably underreported. First is the story about the issuance of an official accusation by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture that the Obama administration has engaged in cruel and inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning and the rapporteur cannot say whether torture has occurred because of the refusal of the Obama administration to grant him the usual and customary access to Bradley Manning for evaluation purposes.
Second, there is a journalist, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who is being held in a Yemeni gulag at the behest of President Obama. Despite the fact that major human rights and journalism organizations are standing up and calling out the President on this, the issue has gotten little attention from the mainstream press.
These two stories add to the growing body of evidence of the Obama administration’s extraordinary actions to chill the speech of journalists and whistleblowers in an effort to control information about US actions in the Global War on Terror.
Mar 01 2012
Over that last few weeks with the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there has been much hype over Iran and its nuclear capability and threats from Israel of military intervention. Despite all the intelligence and statements from the ruling Ayatollahs that Iran is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons, the US government and pundits continue to push the meme in the media that Iran must not be allowed to continue to develop nuclear “capabilities.” Much of this sounds very familiar hearkening back to the lies of 2003’s run up to the war in Iraq. The major media is banging out the message that a war with Iran is inevitable and have failed to disclose to the public the relationship of some of its guests to government agencies or their guests own self interests for monetary gain should there be a war. As Talking Points Media points out the talk of a war with Iran has reached “fever pitch”:
The tone in reporting on a potential military conflict with Iran has entered a new phase in recent weeks, with the saber rattling seemingly reaching a fever pitch.
From the New York Times recently reporting on how Israel would carry out a strike against Iran, to pundits casually throwing around the words “bomb Iran,” to presidential candidates trying to out-tough each other on a daily basis, the prospect of a potential military conflict with Iran is increasingly discussed less in terms of “if” but of “when.”
Glen Greenwald at Salon focused on the relationship of NBC News with retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey whose reliability has come into question:
In 2009, The New York Times‘ David Barstow won the Pulitzer Prize for his two–part series on the use by television networks of retired Generals posing as objective “analysts” at exactly the same time they were participating – unbeknownst to viewers – in a Pentagon propaganda program. Many were also plagued by undisclosed conflicts of interest whereby they had financial stakes in many of the policies they were pushing on-air. One of the prime offenders was Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who was not only a member of the Pentagon’s propaganda program, but also, according to Barstow’s second stand-alone article, had his own “Military-Industrial-Media Complex,” deeply invested in many of the very war policies he pushed and advocated while posing as an NBC “analyst”:
Through seven years of war an exclusive club has quietly flourished at the intersection of network news and wartime commerce. Its members, mostly retired generals, have had a foot in both camps as influential network military analysts and defense industry rainmakers. It is a deeply opaque world, a place of privileged access to senior government officials, where war commentary can fit hand in glove with undisclosed commercial interests and network executives are sometimes oblivious to possible conflicts of interest.
Few illustrate the submerged complexities of this world better than Barry McCaffrey. . . . General McCaffrey has immersed himself in businesses that have grown with the fight against terrorism. . . .
Many retired officers hold a perch in the world of military contracting, but General McCaffrey is among a select few who also command platforms in the news media and as government advisers on military matters. These overlapping roles offer them an array of opportunities to advance policy goals as well as business objectives. But with their business ties left undisclosed, it can be difficult for policy makers and the public to fully understand their interests.
On NBC and in other public forums, General McCaffrey has consistently advocated wartime policies and spending priorities that are in line with his corporate interests. But those interests are not described to NBC’s viewers. He is held out as a dispassionate expert, not someone who helps companies win contracts related to the wars he discusses on television.
Not exactly an unbiased reliable source nor especially coherent:
Among the many attributes one might attribute to McCaffrey and his report, incoherence is near the top of the list. He does, as I noted, make statements suggesting imminent military conflict, including his claim that “there is a significant probability of Iranian escalation in the coming 90 days” and “they are likely to further escalate,” along with the title of his first page: “Creeping toward war.” But as several emailers point out, he also tacks onto the end of the discussion on the first page the assessment of “15% probability of major military action in the coming 90 days.” The document is devoted to making military conflict appear quite likely, though he places a relatively low percentage on “major military action in the coming 90 days.”
Knowing all this, NBC News still calls McCaffrey an analyst, gives him an unchallenged platform and beats the drums of another unnecessary war.
Dec 31 2010
Big Tent Democrat commented earlier today at Talkleft in his post Policy And Politics: The Economy that:
Considering that [the column] is supposed to be about [Dems] regaining the initiative, it’s pretty weak to lecture the White House about its tendency to defend itself and “the left” about never being satisfied. Those things aren’t going to change. We can be critical of that reality, but we ought not offer it up as something to fix so that we can get our mojo back.
In fact it is not something to fix. The White House should tout its accomplishments. They are in the politics business after all. And people dissatisfied with what the White House is doing should say so and work to make them do what they want. That’s how it works. But both Booman and Dionne miss the connection between the political problems Dems have and the economic policies of the Obama Administration.
And these failures explain almost all of the political trouble the Democrats are in. Booman writes:
There are two things that will help us get our mojo back: Speaker Boehner and Obama’s reelection campaign. That’s all we need. And improving economy would be nice, but realistically we are going to be fighting over who is to blame for high unemployment and who has a better plan to get something through Congress that will create jobs.
(Emphasis supplied.) If that is where the political battle is going to be fought, then the Dems’ political fortunes do not look bright.
“An improving economy would be nice but realistically we are going to be fighting over who is to blame for high unemployment”?
Booman of course and as usual has his finger on the pulse of reality, and like many strong Obama supporters knows deep in his heart that it’s far more important for them to “win” than it is to have the administration produce results, even if he has to lose to win.