Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"A Goddamned Murder Incorporated!"*

The New York Times, 4/6/2013, A Secret Deal on Drones, Sealed in Blood:
The Predator had been considered a blunt and unsophisticated killing tool, and many at the C.I.A. were glad that the agency had gotten out of the assassination business long ago. Three years before Mr. Muhammad’s death, and one year before the C.I.A. carried out its first targeted killing outside a war zone — in Yemen in 2002 — a debate raged over the legality and morality of using drones to kill suspected terrorists. A new generation of C.I.A. officers had ascended to leadership positions, having joined the agency after the 1975 Congressional committee led by Senator Frank Church, Democrat of Idaho, which revealed extensive C.I.A. plots to kill foreign leaders, and President Gerald Ford’s subsequent ban on assassinations. The rise to power of this post-Church generation had a direct impact on the type of clandestine operations the C.I.A. chose to conduct. The debate pitted a group of senior officers at the Counterterrorism Center against James L. Pavitt, the head of the C.I.A.’s clandestine service, and others who worried about the repercussions of the agency’s getting back into assassinations. Mr. Tenet told the 9/11 commission that he was not sure that a spy agency should be flying armed drones. John E. McLaughlin, then the C.I.A.’s deputy director, who the 9/11 commission reported had raised concerns about the C.I.A.’s being in charge of the Predator, said: “You can’t underestimate the cultural change that comes with gaining lethal authority. “When people say to me, ‘It’s not a big deal,’ ” he said, “I say to them, ‘Have you ever killed anyone?’ “It is a big deal. You start thinking about things differently,” he added. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, these concerns about the use of the C.I.A. to kill were quickly swept side.
The American Prospect, 11/5/2001, "Back to Church"
In the wake of September 11.....The hawks have flung blame all around for the massive intelligence failure that permitted the September attacks, targeting Bill Clinton, CIA Director George Tenet, and the defenseless Frank Church. September 11 was Church's fault, these critics explain, because his bipartisan committee--which probed not just CIA assassination plots but covert operations, domestic-mail-intercept programs, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's hounding of Martin Luther King, Jr., and other abuses--broke the spirit of the nation's intelligence community by exposing its embarrassing missteps. The Church bashing began the day of the World Trade Center massacre on ABC, when former Secretary of State James Baker said that Church's hearings had caused us to "unilaterally disarm in terms of our intelligence capabilities." The allegation was soon repeated by Republican Senator Christopher "Kit" Bond of Missouri and numerous conservative commentators. The Wall Street Journal editorial page called the opening of Church's public hearings "the moment that our nation moved from an intelligence to anti-intelligence footing." And the spy-mongering novelist Tom Clancy attacked Church on Fox News's O'Reilly Factor: "The CIA was gutted by people on the political left who don't like intelligence operations," he said. "And as a result of that, as an indirect result of that, we've lost 5,000 citizens last week."
It was James Baker's performance, which I caught live that day, that snapped me out of stupor and back into an even deeper cynicism of the Bush administration than I'd held after the stolen 2000 election. I knew then that whatever they did post 9/11 in military retaliation (and political retaliation at home) would be in massive bad faith. I'm not saying I'm awesome or especially prescient; I didn't predict an invasion of Iraq, didn't predict Skynet flying over Pakistan, nor, indeed, did I predict a Democratic successor running with the same bullshit into the next decade.

9/11 allowed a relatively easy repeal of every post-Watergate protection against unhinged executive power, plus some. Torture, assassination, flying robotic death squads are a result of Power winning the pot; Baker's little comment was the first 'tell' of what sort of cards Power would be playing.

*Supposedly uttered by a dumbfounded LBJ when informed of the Kennedy boys' many cloak-and-dagger operations in Latin America.