Saturday, November 27, 2004
Part of the background to the Goss memo is a widespread misunderstanding of why the CIA was created and what it actually does. For example, Bush apostle David Brooks writes in the New York Times that the CIA is engaged "in slow-motion brazen insubordination, which violate[s] all standards of honorable public service. ... It is time to reassert some harsh authority so CIA employees know they must defer to the people who win elections. ... If they [people in the CIA] ever want their information to be trusted, they can't break the law with self-serving leaks of classified data." Brooks seems to think that the CIA is the President's personal advertising agency and that its employees owe their livelihoods to him. About Michael Scheuer, the head of the "bin Laden Unit" in the agency's Counterterrorism Center from 1996 to 1999 and the anonymous author of "Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror," Brooks fumes, "Here was an official on the president's payroll publicly campaigning against his boss."
Leave aside the fact that the president doesn't pay any government official's salary, at least not legally, and that Scheuer was more interested in educating the public about Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, on which he is an authority, than in covering up the president's mistakes; the point is that the issue of the CIA's intelligence on the Iraq war is bringing back into our political life once again the figure most feared by presidents: the truth-teller. During a previous period of falsified intelligence, National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger said in the Oval Office in front of President Nixon and his Special Counsel Charles Colson, "Daniel Ellsberg is the most dangerous man in America. He must be stopped at all costs." Kissinger and Nixon subsequently ordered up felonies, such as a break-in at Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office, in order to try to smear and discredit the man who had revealed to the public the systematic lying of three presidents – Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson – about the war in Vietnam.