Commentary Magazine


Topic: inspector general

Hiding Facts in a Scandal Never Works

Since the Obama team pulled the plug on the voter-intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party, the administration has tried to keep the facts under wraps and the relevant documents and witnesses from surfacing. But this never works in Washington. In these sorts of scandals, the facts will still come out one way or another.

The new Congress with GOP chairmen will have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents and then take the administration to federal court if its stonewalling continues. Judicial Watch is already in federal court challenging the administration’s withholding of documents from Thomas Perrelli, the associate attorney general. Then there are Justice Department attorneys who fear they may be caught in the scandal — because they complied with Obama appointees’ directions to withhold documents improperly, provided misleading answers to discovery requests, or aided in obstructing investigations. Now they may very well decide to assist investigators in an effort to distance themselves from the wrongdoers. There are many witnesses to the meetings, e-mails, documents, and discussions described by  Chris Coates and J. Christian Adams. It’s inconceivable all of them will remain silent.

The Justice Department’s inspector general, Glenn Fine, is, or should be, another source of concern for the administration. When Reps. Frank Wolf and Lamar Smith were struggling in 2009 to get facts about the dismissal of the New Black Panther case, they wrote to Fine to implore him to open an investigation. Now, for many years, Fine has pushed for greater statutory authority to act as DOJ’s centralized watchdog, which in essence would overshadow the Office of Professional Responsibility (whose reputation has been poor and only deteriorated when its work on the John Yoo and Jay Bybee investigation was repudiated). In 2009, Fine said he lacked the authority to pursue the matter. But that was when the Obama team was riding high and ample evidence of systemic wrongdoing hadn’t been confirmed. In September 2010, both Obama’s political standing and the state of the evidence have changed.

Sure enough, Fine recently informed Wolf and Smith that he’s now undertaking that investigation. The New Black Panther Party scandal might finally give Fine the visibility and respect he has long sought. And it sure won’t harm his reputation with the new Congress.

Since the Obama team pulled the plug on the voter-intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party, the administration has tried to keep the facts under wraps and the relevant documents and witnesses from surfacing. But this never works in Washington. In these sorts of scandals, the facts will still come out one way or another.

The new Congress with GOP chairmen will have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents and then take the administration to federal court if its stonewalling continues. Judicial Watch is already in federal court challenging the administration’s withholding of documents from Thomas Perrelli, the associate attorney general. Then there are Justice Department attorneys who fear they may be caught in the scandal — because they complied with Obama appointees’ directions to withhold documents improperly, provided misleading answers to discovery requests, or aided in obstructing investigations. Now they may very well decide to assist investigators in an effort to distance themselves from the wrongdoers. There are many witnesses to the meetings, e-mails, documents, and discussions described by  Chris Coates and J. Christian Adams. It’s inconceivable all of them will remain silent.

The Justice Department’s inspector general, Glenn Fine, is, or should be, another source of concern for the administration. When Reps. Frank Wolf and Lamar Smith were struggling in 2009 to get facts about the dismissal of the New Black Panther case, they wrote to Fine to implore him to open an investigation. Now, for many years, Fine has pushed for greater statutory authority to act as DOJ’s centralized watchdog, which in essence would overshadow the Office of Professional Responsibility (whose reputation has been poor and only deteriorated when its work on the John Yoo and Jay Bybee investigation was repudiated). In 2009, Fine said he lacked the authority to pursue the matter. But that was when the Obama team was riding high and ample evidence of systemic wrongdoing hadn’t been confirmed. In September 2010, both Obama’s political standing and the state of the evidence have changed.

Sure enough, Fine recently informed Wolf and Smith that he’s now undertaking that investigation. The New Black Panther Party scandal might finally give Fine the visibility and respect he has long sought. And it sure won’t harm his reputation with the new Congress.

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RE: Where Is the International Community When You Need It?

Yesterday, the Polisario Front’s jackboots nabbed their former police chief, who had broken with the group and embraced an autonomy plan for Western Sahara put forth by Morocco. In true Orwellian fashion the Polisario Front justified the suppression of free speech and the arrest of a former official who threatened to rally the Polisario camps in favor of the autonomy plan:

Polisario Front on Wednesday justified the arrest of former Inspector General of Police Salma Mustafa Ould Sidi Mouloud, which supports the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco to solve the Western Sahara conflict, saying he is suspected of “espionage” for the “enemy.” “The policeman Mustafa Salma denied their legal obligations and responsibilities imposed by its membership of the Sahrawi police, including the defense of the integrity, sovereignty and unity of the country,” said a statement picked up by Saharawi Press Service (SPS).

The Polisario Front dubs Sidi Mouloud a “deserter” and accuses him of supporting the “enemy.” The Polisario Front claims he “revealed secrets related to the institutions of the Saharawi Republic and served spying for a country at war with the SADR with the aim of harming its security and sovereignty.” He’s now been deemed to have committed “treason and espionage.” To even casual students of totalitarian regimes, this is sickeningly familiar. The “trial” — if they bother – will be brief and unsuspenseful.

You wonder what it will take for liberal western elites, who have fawned over the Polisario Front and hosted them in salons, to sour on these thugs. I look at it this way: if stoning women, abusing little girls, hanging gays, and propounding virulent anti-Semitism in the “Muslim World” aren’t enough to persuade the left that Israel’s Muslim neighbors are not on the side of the angels, I suppose the kidnapping, jailing, and potential execution of a defector from the Polisario vanguard won’t have much of an impact on them either.

This is an issue that the Obama team actually got “right” — Hillary Clinton was extremely supportive of the Moroccan autonomy plan, which would spell the demise of the Polisario Front. Now the administration needs to act in support of Sidi Mouloud and push for a resolution to the Western Sahara issue — hopefully before more “deserters” are captured and/or slain.

Yesterday, the Polisario Front’s jackboots nabbed their former police chief, who had broken with the group and embraced an autonomy plan for Western Sahara put forth by Morocco. In true Orwellian fashion the Polisario Front justified the suppression of free speech and the arrest of a former official who threatened to rally the Polisario camps in favor of the autonomy plan:

Polisario Front on Wednesday justified the arrest of former Inspector General of Police Salma Mustafa Ould Sidi Mouloud, which supports the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco to solve the Western Sahara conflict, saying he is suspected of “espionage” for the “enemy.” “The policeman Mustafa Salma denied their legal obligations and responsibilities imposed by its membership of the Sahrawi police, including the defense of the integrity, sovereignty and unity of the country,” said a statement picked up by Saharawi Press Service (SPS).

The Polisario Front dubs Sidi Mouloud a “deserter” and accuses him of supporting the “enemy.” The Polisario Front claims he “revealed secrets related to the institutions of the Saharawi Republic and served spying for a country at war with the SADR with the aim of harming its security and sovereignty.” He’s now been deemed to have committed “treason and espionage.” To even casual students of totalitarian regimes, this is sickeningly familiar. The “trial” — if they bother – will be brief and unsuspenseful.

You wonder what it will take for liberal western elites, who have fawned over the Polisario Front and hosted them in salons, to sour on these thugs. I look at it this way: if stoning women, abusing little girls, hanging gays, and propounding virulent anti-Semitism in the “Muslim World” aren’t enough to persuade the left that Israel’s Muslim neighbors are not on the side of the angels, I suppose the kidnapping, jailing, and potential execution of a defector from the Polisario vanguard won’t have much of an impact on them either.

This is an issue that the Obama team actually got “right” — Hillary Clinton was extremely supportive of the Moroccan autonomy plan, which would spell the demise of the Polisario Front. Now the administration needs to act in support of Sidi Mouloud and push for a resolution to the Western Sahara issue — hopefully before more “deserters” are captured and/or slain.

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A Human Rights Breakthrough, No Thanks to the International Community

In April I wrote about the ongoing humanitarian crisis and political conflict concerning the Western Sahara. Morocco has offered an autonomy plan that would provide self-rule for Sahrawis and end the suffering of those warehoused in refugee camps in Algeria, which is actively working along with the Polisario Front (a 1970s Soviet-style “liberation” group) to thwart a resolution of the conflict. Now there seems to have been an important breakthrough. The Polisario’s police chief has broken with his comrades and their Algerian patrons, according to this report:

At a press conference Monday (August 9th) in Smara, Western Sahara, Police Inspector-General Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud said that the proposed initiative to give extensive autonomy to the Sahrawis was the best possible solution to the Western Sahara conflict.

It would allow them to preserve their culture, he said.

“In the past, we had two conflicting options: either to integrate into Morocco or become independent. Today we have a third option that helps us achieve our main objective, which is the Sahrawi distinction,” the police chief added.

How did this come about? Well, unlike those in the camps, who are denied full freedom of movement (you’d think the “human rights” groups and the flock of self-styled “humanitarian” groups would find this outrageous, but their focus is primarily on life in the Middle East’s only democracy), Ould Sidi Mouloud was able to wrangle a short visit with his family:

“After 31 years of separation, I was able to meet with my father and my relatives in Smara. I took the opportunity to tour Morocco. I was impressed by Morocco’s major progress in different sectors, and the major development boom in the Sahrawi territories, which made me change my position,” he said. …

“I wish this press conference had taken place at the camps, but we have no media or communication means over there. Tindouf camps are located in the middle of the desert, an area cut off from the rest of the world, and Polisario controls everything over there,” he stated. …

“There isn’t one single family that has all its members in only Tindouf or only Morocco. For instance, I was abducted from Smara with my mother and my four siblings during a Polisario raid in 1979. I was only 11 years old. We left behind my wounded father and four dead, three women and a child.”

Child abductions? Denial of basic human rights? You’d think the media would be interested in this sort of thing. But no, they’ve got other priorities.

In the meantime, however, this latest development may help weaken the Polisario’s grip on world public opinion. “It is time for Algeria to let the Sahrawi refugees living in Tindouf camps express and discuss their preferences and aspirations, and come up with what is best for them,” proclaimed African Federation of Strategic Studies chief Mohamed Benhamou. Yes, self-determination for those living in misery in the camps should be something the members of the “international community” would all get behind, unless, goodness gracious, there are many nations that don’t share our values and concerns.

In April I wrote about the ongoing humanitarian crisis and political conflict concerning the Western Sahara. Morocco has offered an autonomy plan that would provide self-rule for Sahrawis and end the suffering of those warehoused in refugee camps in Algeria, which is actively working along with the Polisario Front (a 1970s Soviet-style “liberation” group) to thwart a resolution of the conflict. Now there seems to have been an important breakthrough. The Polisario’s police chief has broken with his comrades and their Algerian patrons, according to this report:

At a press conference Monday (August 9th) in Smara, Western Sahara, Police Inspector-General Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud said that the proposed initiative to give extensive autonomy to the Sahrawis was the best possible solution to the Western Sahara conflict.

It would allow them to preserve their culture, he said.

“In the past, we had two conflicting options: either to integrate into Morocco or become independent. Today we have a third option that helps us achieve our main objective, which is the Sahrawi distinction,” the police chief added.

How did this come about? Well, unlike those in the camps, who are denied full freedom of movement (you’d think the “human rights” groups and the flock of self-styled “humanitarian” groups would find this outrageous, but their focus is primarily on life in the Middle East’s only democracy), Ould Sidi Mouloud was able to wrangle a short visit with his family:

“After 31 years of separation, I was able to meet with my father and my relatives in Smara. I took the opportunity to tour Morocco. I was impressed by Morocco’s major progress in different sectors, and the major development boom in the Sahrawi territories, which made me change my position,” he said. …

“I wish this press conference had taken place at the camps, but we have no media or communication means over there. Tindouf camps are located in the middle of the desert, an area cut off from the rest of the world, and Polisario controls everything over there,” he stated. …

“There isn’t one single family that has all its members in only Tindouf or only Morocco. For instance, I was abducted from Smara with my mother and my four siblings during a Polisario raid in 1979. I was only 11 years old. We left behind my wounded father and four dead, three women and a child.”

Child abductions? Denial of basic human rights? You’d think the media would be interested in this sort of thing. But no, they’ve got other priorities.

In the meantime, however, this latest development may help weaken the Polisario’s grip on world public opinion. “It is time for Algeria to let the Sahrawi refugees living in Tindouf camps express and discuss their preferences and aspirations, and come up with what is best for them,” proclaimed African Federation of Strategic Studies chief Mohamed Benhamou. Yes, self-determination for those living in misery in the camps should be something the members of the “international community” would all get behind, unless, goodness gracious, there are many nations that don’t share our values and concerns.

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Another Day, Another Security Leak

The New York Times reported Monday that General David Petraeus issued a secret directive in September, expanding covert military operations in the Middle East. The author, Mark Mazzetti, states that the Times’ staff has viewed a copy of the document. Preparation for the article included speaking to government officials who discussed its contents only on condition of anonymity, because it’s classified.

Fortunately, our information security usually works better than this. Leaks of national-security secrets are the exception and not the rule. But once again, someone on the government payroll, with a clearance, and with knowledge of classified current operations, has broken the law by disclosing what he knows to unauthorized recipients in the press.

It’s unlikely that we will be told someday that the leaker of the Petraeus directive took action because of sleepless nights and professional agony, as Newsweek reported in 2008 of one warrantless-wiretapping leaker who called the New York Times in 2004. In the case of the Petraeus directive, there is no apparent reason for a leaker to be motivated by concern about government overreach or civil rights. Perhaps the motive is disagreement with the policy.

But these leakers aren’t romantic heroes; they are people breaking their government’s security oaths. Thomas Tamm, the known wiretapping leaker, has been investigated (and lionized by the left) but never prosecuted. Yet it’s clear he broke his security oath by going to the media. It’s also clear from the Newsweek story that he came nowhere near exhausting his lawful options for registering concern about the wiretapping program. He apparently talked to a former colleague on the Senate Judiciary Committee — but not to his full chain of command at the Justice Department, to the Justice Department Inspector General, or to the intelligence oversight committee of either house of Congress.

James Risen, the Times reporter who broke the wiretapping story, was subpoenaed by Eric Holder last month to disclose the government sources for another of his classified revelations: this one involving information about U.S. efforts against Iran in his 2006 book State of War. Risen has refused to comply. His fate is uncertain; presumably, he might be jailed for contempt of court as Judith Miller was in the Valerie Plame Wilson case.

Miller ultimately agreed to testify after obtaining immunity. While the Plame Wilson case is not the best example of the real problems created by national-security leaks, the outcome with Miller was the right one for more genuinely damaging cases. The “journalist shield” exception should not protect government leakers who are committing felonies by the very act of disclosing classified information to the press.  Journalists should have to tell the authorities who they are.

The New York Times reported Monday that General David Petraeus issued a secret directive in September, expanding covert military operations in the Middle East. The author, Mark Mazzetti, states that the Times’ staff has viewed a copy of the document. Preparation for the article included speaking to government officials who discussed its contents only on condition of anonymity, because it’s classified.

Fortunately, our information security usually works better than this. Leaks of national-security secrets are the exception and not the rule. But once again, someone on the government payroll, with a clearance, and with knowledge of classified current operations, has broken the law by disclosing what he knows to unauthorized recipients in the press.

It’s unlikely that we will be told someday that the leaker of the Petraeus directive took action because of sleepless nights and professional agony, as Newsweek reported in 2008 of one warrantless-wiretapping leaker who called the New York Times in 2004. In the case of the Petraeus directive, there is no apparent reason for a leaker to be motivated by concern about government overreach or civil rights. Perhaps the motive is disagreement with the policy.

But these leakers aren’t romantic heroes; they are people breaking their government’s security oaths. Thomas Tamm, the known wiretapping leaker, has been investigated (and lionized by the left) but never prosecuted. Yet it’s clear he broke his security oath by going to the media. It’s also clear from the Newsweek story that he came nowhere near exhausting his lawful options for registering concern about the wiretapping program. He apparently talked to a former colleague on the Senate Judiciary Committee — but not to his full chain of command at the Justice Department, to the Justice Department Inspector General, or to the intelligence oversight committee of either house of Congress.

James Risen, the Times reporter who broke the wiretapping story, was subpoenaed by Eric Holder last month to disclose the government sources for another of his classified revelations: this one involving information about U.S. efforts against Iran in his 2006 book State of War. Risen has refused to comply. His fate is uncertain; presumably, he might be jailed for contempt of court as Judith Miller was in the Valerie Plame Wilson case.

Miller ultimately agreed to testify after obtaining immunity. While the Plame Wilson case is not the best example of the real problems created by national-security leaks, the outcome with Miller was the right one for more genuinely damaging cases. The “journalist shield” exception should not protect government leakers who are committing felonies by the very act of disclosing classified information to the press.  Journalists should have to tell the authorities who they are.

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Only a Detour Now and Then

The New York Times tells us that Obama took a “detour” from health-care reform to talk about the economy today. He is pushing Son of Stimulus that is to include the “cash of caulkers” program — modeled on the notoriously expensive and ineffective “cash for clunkers” (billions to shift car sales from September to August) — for weatherizing homes. Republicans point to an Inspector General’s Report, which suggests that a similar program in the original stimulus plan didn’t get much bang for the buck in economic acitvity. But any day Obama is not talking about ObamaCare, even for a little while, is a good one for incumbent Democrats, as the Times reports:

Representative Sanford Bishop, Democrat of Georgia, said he was delighted to hear the president change the subject from health care. “Health care is important,” Mr. Bishop said after the president’s speech. “But it’s jobs – period. The economy is on the rebound, but it won’t be there until we re-establish employment for every American who is able to work.”

And indeed, the latest Rasmussen poll shows that most Americans are glum about the state of the economy:

Views of the country’s short- and long-term economic future are gloomier these days than they have been at any time since President Obama took office in January of last year. Forty-two percent (42%) of American adults now expect the U.S. economy to be weaker in one year’s time, up three points from January and the highest level found in 14 months of regular tracking on the question, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.
Thirty-six percent (36%) believe the economy will be stronger in a year, down two points from last month. That’s the lowest level of confidence measured since tracking began in January 2009. Another 13% expect the state of the economy to be about the same in one year’s time.

After Scott Brown’s victory, Obama promised a “pivot” toward jobs. That never really happened, as Obama has, with the exception of occaisional “detours,” remained obsessed with ObamaCare. The debate on that issue, on which Americans think he’s spending too much time and for which he has devised a plan they intensely dislike, is going to take us through the end of the month. It seems as though no matter what the American people tell them, the Obami think they know best. In November the voters get to correct that misimpression.

The New York Times tells us that Obama took a “detour” from health-care reform to talk about the economy today. He is pushing Son of Stimulus that is to include the “cash of caulkers” program — modeled on the notoriously expensive and ineffective “cash for clunkers” (billions to shift car sales from September to August) — for weatherizing homes. Republicans point to an Inspector General’s Report, which suggests that a similar program in the original stimulus plan didn’t get much bang for the buck in economic acitvity. But any day Obama is not talking about ObamaCare, even for a little while, is a good one for incumbent Democrats, as the Times reports:

Representative Sanford Bishop, Democrat of Georgia, said he was delighted to hear the president change the subject from health care. “Health care is important,” Mr. Bishop said after the president’s speech. “But it’s jobs – period. The economy is on the rebound, but it won’t be there until we re-establish employment for every American who is able to work.”

And indeed, the latest Rasmussen poll shows that most Americans are glum about the state of the economy:

Views of the country’s short- and long-term economic future are gloomier these days than they have been at any time since President Obama took office in January of last year. Forty-two percent (42%) of American adults now expect the U.S. economy to be weaker in one year’s time, up three points from January and the highest level found in 14 months of regular tracking on the question, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.
Thirty-six percent (36%) believe the economy will be stronger in a year, down two points from last month. That’s the lowest level of confidence measured since tracking began in January 2009. Another 13% expect the state of the economy to be about the same in one year’s time.

After Scott Brown’s victory, Obama promised a “pivot” toward jobs. That never really happened, as Obama has, with the exception of occaisional “detours,” remained obsessed with ObamaCare. The debate on that issue, on which Americans think he’s spending too much time and for which he has devised a plan they intensely dislike, is going to take us through the end of the month. It seems as though no matter what the American people tell them, the Obami think they know best. In November the voters get to correct that misimpression.

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Michael Hayden vs. Obami’s Folly

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden is the latest and among the most credible critics of the administration’s handling of the Christmas Day bombing. He writes:

We got it wrong in Detroit on Christmas Day. We allowed an enemy combatant the protections of our Constitution before we had adequately interrogated him. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is not “an isolated extremist.” He is the tip of the spear of a complex al-Qaeda plot to kill Americans in our homeland.

In the 50 minutes the FBI had to question him, agents reportedly got actionable intelligence. Good. But were there any experts on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in the room (other than Abdulmutallab)? Was there anyone intimately familiar with any National Security Agency raw traffic to, from or about the captured terrorist? Did they have a list or photos of suspected recruits?

This is, as Hayden points out, one in a long list of misjudgments that began when we limited our interrogations to the Army Field Manual, stripped the CIA of its interrogation responsibilities (and then failed to implement the high-value detainee interrogation team), released the interrogation memos, began the re-investigation of CIA operatives, decided to try KSM, and, of course, determined to close Guantanamo without a reasonable alternative. Our anti-terror policies now have an entirely legalistic cast, and our intelligence-gathering has been subsumed to a new priority: the extension of constitutional protections to terrorists. As Hadyen dryly concludes:

In August, the government unveiled the [ High Value Interrogation Group] for questioning al-Qaeda and announced that the FBI would begin questioning CIA officers about the alleged abuses in the 2004 inspector general’s report. They are apparently still getting organized for the al-Qaeda interrogations. But the interrogations of CIA personnel are well underway.

Aside from the political controversy this has created and the lack of confidence it has inspired among the American people, the question remains whether we are now safer, and our intelligence agencies, more focused. Almost certainly, we are neither. This has been a grand experiment — allowing leftist lawyers to run our national-security policy. Perhaps after a year, we can now see how foolhardy the endeavor was. If the president cannot pivot (just as on domestic policy), it is time for Congress to step forward, use the power of the purse, and exercise its authority over the federal courts’ jurisdiction. Members of Congress, too, have an obligation to attend to the national security of the country. They would be well advised to review, assess, and then depart from the Obami’s ill-fated escapade.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden is the latest and among the most credible critics of the administration’s handling of the Christmas Day bombing. He writes:

We got it wrong in Detroit on Christmas Day. We allowed an enemy combatant the protections of our Constitution before we had adequately interrogated him. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is not “an isolated extremist.” He is the tip of the spear of a complex al-Qaeda plot to kill Americans in our homeland.

In the 50 minutes the FBI had to question him, agents reportedly got actionable intelligence. Good. But were there any experts on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in the room (other than Abdulmutallab)? Was there anyone intimately familiar with any National Security Agency raw traffic to, from or about the captured terrorist? Did they have a list or photos of suspected recruits?

This is, as Hayden points out, one in a long list of misjudgments that began when we limited our interrogations to the Army Field Manual, stripped the CIA of its interrogation responsibilities (and then failed to implement the high-value detainee interrogation team), released the interrogation memos, began the re-investigation of CIA operatives, decided to try KSM, and, of course, determined to close Guantanamo without a reasonable alternative. Our anti-terror policies now have an entirely legalistic cast, and our intelligence-gathering has been subsumed to a new priority: the extension of constitutional protections to terrorists. As Hadyen dryly concludes:

In August, the government unveiled the [ High Value Interrogation Group] for questioning al-Qaeda and announced that the FBI would begin questioning CIA officers about the alleged abuses in the 2004 inspector general’s report. They are apparently still getting organized for the al-Qaeda interrogations. But the interrogations of CIA personnel are well underway.

Aside from the political controversy this has created and the lack of confidence it has inspired among the American people, the question remains whether we are now safer, and our intelligence agencies, more focused. Almost certainly, we are neither. This has been a grand experiment — allowing leftist lawyers to run our national-security policy. Perhaps after a year, we can now see how foolhardy the endeavor was. If the president cannot pivot (just as on domestic policy), it is time for Congress to step forward, use the power of the purse, and exercise its authority over the federal courts’ jurisdiction. Members of Congress, too, have an obligation to attend to the national security of the country. They would be well advised to review, assess, and then depart from the Obami’s ill-fated escapade.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama tells us that we are “bearing witness”? Hard to see how that differs from enabling a murderous regime to avoid scrutiny: “At the height of Iran’s bloody civil unrest this year, a young doctor named Ramin Pourandarjani defied his superiors. He refused to sign death certificates at a Tehran prison that he said were falsified to cover up murder. He testified to a parliamentary committee that jailers were torturing and raping protesters, his family says. He told friends and family he feared for his life. And on Nov. 10, the 26-year-old doctor was found dead in the military clinic where he lived and worked.” 

The editorially liberal Seattle Times says “no” to ObamaCare: “The public option is in then out; the Medicare buy-in for 55-year-olds is in, then out. When the congressional dance stops, the Senate may have 60 votes, but for what? It will satisfy neither Obama’s frugal promise nor progressives’ lavish hopes. Already the Democratic Party’s former chairman, Howard Dean, says the bill is not worth passing in this form.”

You can see why the Daily Kos kids feel betrayed: “Senate Democratic leaders say last-minute changes to the health care bill include giving nonprofit health insurance companies an exemption from the excise tax on insurers, a revision pushed by Sen. Carl Levin, who is a major recipient of campaign contributions form mega nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield.”

On the Right, they are mad too. I think he means Ben Nelson: “Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oka.) said it is ‘absolutely fictitious’ that there is an anti-abortion provision in the Senate Democrats’ reworked healthcare reform bill. ‘The negotiations, whoever did them, threw unborn babies under the bus,’ Coburn said.” From Sen. Richard Burr: “You have to compliment Ben Nelson for playing the price is right. . This isn’t the Louisiana Purchase. This is the Nebraska windfall.” Well, Nelson couldn’t have thought he’d keep his conservative supporters, right?

Huffington Post or National Review? “With unemployment at 10%, the idea that you can pass a bill whose only merit is that ‘liberals hate it’ just because the media will eat it up and print your talking points in the process is so cynical and short-sighted it’s hard to comprehend anyone would pursue it. It reflects a total insensitivity to the rage that is brewing on the popular front, which is manifest in every single poll out there.”

Headline from the Washington Post or Washington Times? “Health-care debate wearing on Democrats’ unity, popularity.”

Frank Rich or Rich Lowry? “Though the American left and right don’t agree on much, they are both now coalescing around the suspicion that Obama’s brilliant presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger’s public image — a marketing scam designed to camouflage either his covert anti-American radicalism (as the right sees it) or spineless timidity (as the left sees it).”

James Carafano sums up the Obami’s spending priorities: “The White House priority is to push through a symbolic deal at Copenhagen which will justify spending hundreds-of-billions, cost up to two million American jobs and won’t actually really make us safe from the dangers of climate change…but they say we can’t afford spending two percent of the defense budget on missile defense which would provide real protection to a 13 trillion dollar economy.” Yup.

The Walpin scandal bubbles up to the surface of the mainstream media: “Congressional Republicans raised new concerns this week about the Obama administration’s firing of Gerald Walpin, who served as inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service. GOP lawmakers said White House visitors logs contradict statements made by the former chairman of CNCS, the agency that oversees AmeriCorps.”

Robert Wexler’s pro-Obami spin on the settlement-freeze debacle is too much even for Lestlie Gelb, who asks incredulously “So the Administration never asked Israel for freeze across the board — West Bank, East Jerusalem — on every and all kind of settlement activity?”

Kathleen Parker has figured out that Obama has a “grandiosity” problem, “an inflated self-confidence and a sense of power exceeding one’s means.” So he is reduced to passing a shlock health-care bill: “Thus, the man who was going to remain above the political fray has revealed himself as pluperfectly political, ready to settle for the very kind of mandate (without the public option) that he opposed as a candidate challenging Hillary Clinton. Rather than inspiring confidence, he has inspired a groundswell of disapproval and a populist uprising that may allow Republicans to clean House come November. In the meantime, left and right finally have discovered a common foe. Too bad for the country that his name is Obama.” And too bad so many pundits flacked for him during the campaign.

Obama tells us that we are “bearing witness”? Hard to see how that differs from enabling a murderous regime to avoid scrutiny: “At the height of Iran’s bloody civil unrest this year, a young doctor named Ramin Pourandarjani defied his superiors. He refused to sign death certificates at a Tehran prison that he said were falsified to cover up murder. He testified to a parliamentary committee that jailers were torturing and raping protesters, his family says. He told friends and family he feared for his life. And on Nov. 10, the 26-year-old doctor was found dead in the military clinic where he lived and worked.” 

The editorially liberal Seattle Times says “no” to ObamaCare: “The public option is in then out; the Medicare buy-in for 55-year-olds is in, then out. When the congressional dance stops, the Senate may have 60 votes, but for what? It will satisfy neither Obama’s frugal promise nor progressives’ lavish hopes. Already the Democratic Party’s former chairman, Howard Dean, says the bill is not worth passing in this form.”

You can see why the Daily Kos kids feel betrayed: “Senate Democratic leaders say last-minute changes to the health care bill include giving nonprofit health insurance companies an exemption from the excise tax on insurers, a revision pushed by Sen. Carl Levin, who is a major recipient of campaign contributions form mega nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield.”

On the Right, they are mad too. I think he means Ben Nelson: “Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oka.) said it is ‘absolutely fictitious’ that there is an anti-abortion provision in the Senate Democrats’ reworked healthcare reform bill. ‘The negotiations, whoever did them, threw unborn babies under the bus,’ Coburn said.” From Sen. Richard Burr: “You have to compliment Ben Nelson for playing the price is right. . This isn’t the Louisiana Purchase. This is the Nebraska windfall.” Well, Nelson couldn’t have thought he’d keep his conservative supporters, right?

Huffington Post or National Review? “With unemployment at 10%, the idea that you can pass a bill whose only merit is that ‘liberals hate it’ just because the media will eat it up and print your talking points in the process is so cynical and short-sighted it’s hard to comprehend anyone would pursue it. It reflects a total insensitivity to the rage that is brewing on the popular front, which is manifest in every single poll out there.”

Headline from the Washington Post or Washington Times? “Health-care debate wearing on Democrats’ unity, popularity.”

Frank Rich or Rich Lowry? “Though the American left and right don’t agree on much, they are both now coalescing around the suspicion that Obama’s brilliant presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger’s public image — a marketing scam designed to camouflage either his covert anti-American radicalism (as the right sees it) or spineless timidity (as the left sees it).”

James Carafano sums up the Obami’s spending priorities: “The White House priority is to push through a symbolic deal at Copenhagen which will justify spending hundreds-of-billions, cost up to two million American jobs and won’t actually really make us safe from the dangers of climate change…but they say we can’t afford spending two percent of the defense budget on missile defense which would provide real protection to a 13 trillion dollar economy.” Yup.

The Walpin scandal bubbles up to the surface of the mainstream media: “Congressional Republicans raised new concerns this week about the Obama administration’s firing of Gerald Walpin, who served as inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service. GOP lawmakers said White House visitors logs contradict statements made by the former chairman of CNCS, the agency that oversees AmeriCorps.”

Robert Wexler’s pro-Obami spin on the settlement-freeze debacle is too much even for Lestlie Gelb, who asks incredulously “So the Administration never asked Israel for freeze across the board — West Bank, East Jerusalem — on every and all kind of settlement activity?”

Kathleen Parker has figured out that Obama has a “grandiosity” problem, “an inflated self-confidence and a sense of power exceeding one’s means.” So he is reduced to passing a shlock health-care bill: “Thus, the man who was going to remain above the political fray has revealed himself as pluperfectly political, ready to settle for the very kind of mandate (without the public option) that he opposed as a candidate challenging Hillary Clinton. Rather than inspiring confidence, he has inspired a groundswell of disapproval and a populist uprising that may allow Republicans to clean House come November. In the meantime, left and right finally have discovered a common foe. Too bad for the country that his name is Obama.” And too bad so many pundits flacked for him during the campaign.

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The CIA’s Grand Champion

 From 2002-05, Mark M. Lowenthal was an assistant director of the CIA and vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council. He has written one of the more useful books by an intelligence official: Intelligence: From Secrets To Policy. An even more significant accomplishment to my mind — one that offers outside validation of his smarts — is having become a “Grand Champion” on Jeopardy in 1988.

In Sunday’s Washington Post, Lowenthal candidly admitted that the “U.S. intelligence community has failed” both as “a public institution and as a profession.” But the failure, in his eyes, does not reside in either inability to intercept the 9/11 plot or the erroneous assessment of Iraq weapons of mass destruction in 2003.

September 11, Lowenthal argues, was not something that could have been forestalled by intelligence:

No one has yet revealed the one or two or 10 things that, had they been done differently, might have prevented the attacks. In my view, and in the view of many of my colleagues, even the missed “operational opportunities” identified by the 9/11 Commission would have done little more than force al-Qaeda to send different terrorists into the United States, especially considering the legal rules in play at the time. Even if every “dot” had been connected, they would not have led to the tactical intelligence needed to stop those four planes on that Tuesday morning.

I am not fully persuaded, but, for the sake of argument, let’s grant Lowenthal the point. He makes a similar observation about the botched 2003 WMD National Intelligence Estimate. Even if the tradecraft in producing that NIE had not been so shoddy, the result, he contends, might well have been the same:

it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to envision an NIE based on good intelligence that would have come up with the correct answer. The best my fellow analysts could have done, I think, would have been to offer three analytical options: Saddam Hussein has WMD; he does not have WMD; or we simply do not know. And of course, given his track record of gassing Kurds, attacking neighbors and resisting U.N. weapons inspections, the most likely of the three still would have been that he had WMD. But analytical responses that cover the waterfront of possibilities are not seen as very useful to policymakers, for obvious reasons. Moreover, even if we had concluded that we just didn’t know what Iraq had, Bush would have probably favored going to war anyway, and Congress would have gone along, largely out of political expediency.

This is more persuasive. But if these two alleged failures were not really failures at all, why then is Lowenthal so down on U.S. intelligence? His answer:

We failed because we have not explained ourselves adequately and comprehensibly to the public — describing our role, the limits within which we work and our view of what can be reasonably expected from us. We have failed because we have allowed ourselves to be caricatured, vilified and misrepresented by people who do not know us, do not like us and do not understand us — or simply see us as convenient fall guys.

This is preposterous. Lowenthal is undoubtedly right that the public is ill informed about what can reasonably be expected from intelligence in view of the insuperable challenges it continually faces. I have made a similar observation in The CIA Follies (Cont’d.) in COMMENTARY. But the idea that intelligence officials have allowed themselves “to be caricatured, vilified and misrepresented by people who do not know us, do not like us and do not understand us — or simply see us as convenient fall guys” does not hold up.

I would point Lowenthal to the 2005 declassified summary of the Inspector General’s report on the CIA’s counterterrorism branch,  including its al-Qaeda unit run by Michael Scheuer. Perhaps the CIA could not have stopped the 9/11 plot no matter what it did. But the managerial and analytical ineptitude on display in that critical unit is staggering.  

I would point him to the decision to put Richard Immerman, an anti-war activist professor, in charge of analytical standards and integrity in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

I would point him to the tendentious declassified summary of the December 2007 NIE on Iran.

I would point him to the endless leaks from the intelligence community designed to undercut the policies of the administration it is tasked with serving. The intelligence community has not been vilified; rather, elements in it have been villainous and the entire operation has been paying the price. One doesn’t need to be a Jeopardy grand champion to understand that.

 From 2002-05, Mark M. Lowenthal was an assistant director of the CIA and vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council. He has written one of the more useful books by an intelligence official: Intelligence: From Secrets To Policy. An even more significant accomplishment to my mind — one that offers outside validation of his smarts — is having become a “Grand Champion” on Jeopardy in 1988.

In Sunday’s Washington Post, Lowenthal candidly admitted that the “U.S. intelligence community has failed” both as “a public institution and as a profession.” But the failure, in his eyes, does not reside in either inability to intercept the 9/11 plot or the erroneous assessment of Iraq weapons of mass destruction in 2003.

September 11, Lowenthal argues, was not something that could have been forestalled by intelligence:

No one has yet revealed the one or two or 10 things that, had they been done differently, might have prevented the attacks. In my view, and in the view of many of my colleagues, even the missed “operational opportunities” identified by the 9/11 Commission would have done little more than force al-Qaeda to send different terrorists into the United States, especially considering the legal rules in play at the time. Even if every “dot” had been connected, they would not have led to the tactical intelligence needed to stop those four planes on that Tuesday morning.

I am not fully persuaded, but, for the sake of argument, let’s grant Lowenthal the point. He makes a similar observation about the botched 2003 WMD National Intelligence Estimate. Even if the tradecraft in producing that NIE had not been so shoddy, the result, he contends, might well have been the same:

it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to envision an NIE based on good intelligence that would have come up with the correct answer. The best my fellow analysts could have done, I think, would have been to offer three analytical options: Saddam Hussein has WMD; he does not have WMD; or we simply do not know. And of course, given his track record of gassing Kurds, attacking neighbors and resisting U.N. weapons inspections, the most likely of the three still would have been that he had WMD. But analytical responses that cover the waterfront of possibilities are not seen as very useful to policymakers, for obvious reasons. Moreover, even if we had concluded that we just didn’t know what Iraq had, Bush would have probably favored going to war anyway, and Congress would have gone along, largely out of political expediency.

This is more persuasive. But if these two alleged failures were not really failures at all, why then is Lowenthal so down on U.S. intelligence? His answer:

We failed because we have not explained ourselves adequately and comprehensibly to the public — describing our role, the limits within which we work and our view of what can be reasonably expected from us. We have failed because we have allowed ourselves to be caricatured, vilified and misrepresented by people who do not know us, do not like us and do not understand us — or simply see us as convenient fall guys.

This is preposterous. Lowenthal is undoubtedly right that the public is ill informed about what can reasonably be expected from intelligence in view of the insuperable challenges it continually faces. I have made a similar observation in The CIA Follies (Cont’d.) in COMMENTARY. But the idea that intelligence officials have allowed themselves “to be caricatured, vilified and misrepresented by people who do not know us, do not like us and do not understand us — or simply see us as convenient fall guys” does not hold up.

I would point Lowenthal to the 2005 declassified summary of the Inspector General’s report on the CIA’s counterterrorism branch,  including its al-Qaeda unit run by Michael Scheuer. Perhaps the CIA could not have stopped the 9/11 plot no matter what it did. But the managerial and analytical ineptitude on display in that critical unit is staggering.  

I would point him to the decision to put Richard Immerman, an anti-war activist professor, in charge of analytical standards and integrity in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

I would point him to the tendentious declassified summary of the December 2007 NIE on Iran.

I would point him to the endless leaks from the intelligence community designed to undercut the policies of the administration it is tasked with serving. The intelligence community has not been vilified; rather, elements in it have been villainous and the entire operation has been paying the price. One doesn’t need to be a Jeopardy grand champion to understand that.

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Michael Scheuer Watch #6: Bad Apples and Basic Questions

Large organizations have difficulty keeping poor performers and misfits out of their ranks. This is often true even in their most mission-critical jobs. There are numerous cases of airline pilots, even on the major airlines, showing up at the cockpit drunk. A NASA astronaut who had won the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal allegedly wore space-flight diapers to drive hundreds of miles non-stop in order to menace or kidnap or murder another astronaut who was a rival in a love triangle.

The CIA has not been exempt from such difficulties. Here is an excerpt from a report by the agency’s Inspector General concerning the case of the Soviet mole Aldrich Ames, who steadily rose through the ranks of the mission-critical Soviet division despite some significant performance issues:

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Large organizations have difficulty keeping poor performers and misfits out of their ranks. This is often true even in their most mission-critical jobs. There are numerous cases of airline pilots, even on the major airlines, showing up at the cockpit drunk. A NASA astronaut who had won the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal allegedly wore space-flight diapers to drive hundreds of miles non-stop in order to menace or kidnap or murder another astronaut who was a rival in a love triangle.

The CIA has not been exempt from such difficulties. Here is an excerpt from a report by the agency’s Inspector General concerning the case of the Soviet mole Aldrich Ames, who steadily rose through the ranks of the mission-critical Soviet division despite some significant performance issues:

[W]e have uncovered a vast quantity of information about Ames’s professional sloppiness, his failure to file accountings, contact reports and requests for foreign travel on time or at all. We have found that Ames was oblivious to issues of personal security both professionally–he left classified files on a subway train–and in his espionage–he carried incriminating documents and large amounts of cash in his airline luggage; he carried classified documents out of CIA facilities in shopping bags; and he openly walked into the Soviet embassy in the United States and a Soviet compound in Rome. We have noted that Ames’s abuse of alcohol, while not constant throughout his career, was chronic and interfered with his judgment and the performance of his duties. . . . By and large his professional weaknesses were observed by Ames’s colleagues and supervisors and were tolerated by many who did not consider them highly unusual for Directorate of Operations officers on the “not going anywhere” promotion track.

Michael Scheuer was also for a time in charge of a mission-critical assignment in the CIA, running the group in charge of countering Osama bin Laden. I have written about his sub-par performance, most recently in The CIA Examines Itself.

How bad apples make their way through organizations large and small is a question that has long fascinated me. And Michael Scheuer is a particularly fascinating case, especially because he responds to my questions, even while seldom if ever answering them.

There are many dots about his life and career that I still intend to connect. And in the interests of piecing together the story, and using the Internet as a form of collaborative journalism, I have been wondering about some basic facts regarding his biography. I hope readers, if they have information, will assist me.

Some questions for today:

1. Wikipedia states that Scheuer resigned from the CIA in 2004 after a 22-year career. Is Wikipedia accurate on this point? If accurate, it would mean that Scheuer began his career in the agency in 1982.

2. But Scheuer earned a Ph.D. degree from the University of Manitoba in May 1986. Did he accomplish this while associated with the CIA? Was he stationed at Langley during this period, or was he based in that hotbed of international intrigue, Winnipeg, Canada?

3. Why did Scheuer choose to attend the University of Manitoba? That, too, seems interesting, and I admit that so far I’m stumped.

I have many more questions, but those are enough unconnected dots for today. If you can help me connect them, write to letters@commentarymagazine.com and put Michael Scheuer Watch in the subject line. Confidentiality is guaranteed. (But see my Why Journalists Are Not Above the Law to understand exactly how far I would go in protecting your identity.)

A complete guide to other items in this Michael Scheuer Watch series can be found here.

 

 

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Michael Scheuer Watch #2: Osama bin Laden’s Favorite Pundit

Osama bin Laden’s latest video is very peculiar, and not only because he is sporting a fake beard.

One of the oddest moments comes when he recommends that Americans read the works of two authors, Noam Chomsky and Michael Scheuer. Scheuer, who ran the CIA’s al-Qaeda unit from 1996 to 1999, has been making a great name for himself as a counterterrorism expert since leaving the agency in 2004. Among other high-visibility perches, he serves as a “consultant” to both CBS and ABC News and is cited frequently by leading journalists.

The question is: is bin Laden’s endorsement of Scheuer’s books good for this pundit’s career? Although one should never underestimate the media’s lack of curiosity, my own guess is that it is going to hurt, and hurt badly.

Bin Laden’s endorsement is not the direct reason. Rather, the increasing attention it will bring him will also bring him increasing scrutiny. And scrutiny is not something Scheuer will easily withstand.

Read More

Osama bin Laden’s latest video is very peculiar, and not only because he is sporting a fake beard.

One of the oddest moments comes when he recommends that Americans read the works of two authors, Noam Chomsky and Michael Scheuer. Scheuer, who ran the CIA’s al-Qaeda unit from 1996 to 1999, has been making a great name for himself as a counterterrorism expert since leaving the agency in 2004. Among other high-visibility perches, he serves as a “consultant” to both CBS and ABC News and is cited frequently by leading journalists.

The question is: is bin Laden’s endorsement of Scheuer’s books good for this pundit’s career? Although one should never underestimate the media’s lack of curiosity, my own guess is that it is going to hurt, and hurt badly.

Bin Laden’s endorsement is not the direct reason. Rather, the increasing attention it will bring him will also bring him increasing scrutiny. And scrutiny is not something Scheuer will easily withstand.

Along with a number of others, Scheuer has endorsed the findings of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt about the extraordinary influence wielded in the United States by the “Israel Lobby.” But Scheuer, explicating his views on a show called Antiwar Radio, goes much further than even they do. He believes that the machinations of the Israel Lobby are supplemented by the efforts of Israeli intelligence, which is “very active in the United States.” In fact, Israeli spies are “popping up all over” and they “do whatever they want inside of America and no one carries them to task for it.” Indeed, because both the Democratic and Republican parties are “owned by AIPAC,” the U.S. government “consistently tries to suppress any kind of publication” of information pertaining to the Israeli espionage.

This is already lunatic-asylum territory, but there is more. According to Scheuer, there is an ongoing “Israeli covert-action program” under way to silence defenders* of the Mearsheimer-Walt book. The results, says Scheuer, have been “stupendous.” In public, the Israelis didn’t have to raise a word—that’s the way covert action works, he helpfully explains—but the result of their behind-the-scenes manipulation is clear: in the attacks on Mearsheimer and Walt, “Americans are savaging other Americans in defense of a foreign country.”

I have previously written about Scheuer’s bizarre ideas and behavior in the pages of COMMENTARY. In the latest Weekly Standard, I examine how the CIA’s own Inspector General has evaluated Scheuer’s work as a counterterrorism operative. It turns out that as the CIA officer charged with the principal responsibility for countering Osama bin Laden, Scheuer was a walking calamity.

Osama bin Laden has a collection of excellent reasons, it would seem, for praising this American spy turned pundit.

*Corrected.

A complete guide to other items in this Michael Scheuer Watch series can be found here.

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