"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"

Rumsfeld's power grab from CIA is a threat
The Star Ledger
John Farmer
Monday, January 24, 2005

President Bush's inaugural pledge to make the world safe for democratic diversity has obscured his quiet campaign to do just the reverse in Washington -- to consolidate essential functions of the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency into Donald Rumsfeld's hydra-headed and increasingly powerful Pentagon. And to bypass Congress in the process.

Thanks to some acute reporting in the New Yorker magazine and the Washington Post, we learn that the Bush-Cheney crew has set up shops in the Pentagon that will take over some covert functions from the CIA as well as much of its intelligence-gathering operation. Something labeled innocently enough the "Strategic Support Branch" is supposed to provide Rumsfeld the intelligence he believes the CIA has to failed to produce.

Rumsfeld reportedly even plans to set up his own training camp for spooks, paralleling the CIA's own espionage school. He thinks big.

The Pentagon has long been in the intelligence trade; it oversees most of the estimated $30billion-plus intelligence budget. But, until now, its interest has been primarily order of battle intelligence -- the troop strength, morale, weaponry, intentions and logistical capacity of potential enemies and even of some friends. But Rumsfeld is reaching for far more -- nothing less than the replacement or emasculation of the CIA as the primary intelligence service in the fight against terrorism, with its political as well as military implications.

So far, nothing has been heard from Congress about Rumsfeld's power grab. And that's a serious oversight. For what's involved here is an attempt by the Bush administration to escape the legal requirement that Congress be kept informed of clandestine and covert (the deniable kind) operations. But shifting them (along with intelligence gathering) to the Pentagon -- in effect, giving them a military justification and cover -- makes the congressional notification requirement less clear, maybe even irrelevant.

Bush wants a free hand to fight terrorism. No quibbling by Congress; equally important, no interference by the new national intelligence director created by the intelligence reform act resulting from Tom Kean's 9/11 commission. The Pentagon and Rumsfeld are Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney's instruments in a blatant bid to end-run Congress and the CIA.

The installation of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state will complete the consolidation of the military, intelligence and diplomatic power in Washington into the speaks-with-one-voice instrument the Bush-Cheney team wants.

Rice is able and articulate but is essentially a staff functionary. She is an extension of Bush-Cheney thinking, not a source of competing ideas. Without a national following of her own, she's not likely to prove much of a match for Rumsfeld, one of Washington's most ferocious turf fighters, even in matters of foreign policy.

The military, despite its oft-stated deference to civilian authority, has long hankered for a role in shaping foreign policy. In fact, it maintains global area bureaucracies -- like its Near East and South Asia desk -- parallel to those of the State Department. (In my day in Washington, the Pentagon's area desk officers seemed sharper and more in tune with world reality than their counterparts at State.) The Army has a long record of running post-war civil administration operations, as it did in Vietnam, with less than happy results.

In truth, there's much to criticize about the CIA's recent record -- its lack of human intelligence assets and enough trained linguists, its failure to track alQaeda prior to 9/11 or to grasp that Saddam Hussein, instead of bristling with weapons of mass destruction, was a pussy cat. And the State Department hasn't been much better. As a source of competing ideas, it has been largely ineffective, in part because of Cheney's hostility to Colin Powell.

But the independence of the State Department and the CIA -- and their freedom to inform Congress -- is critical to the proper functioning of the American government and to an adequately informed electorate. And that is precisely what Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld would undermine.

Forty-five years ago, Dwight Eisenhower, in the prescient moment of his presidency, warned about the dangers of the military-industrial complex to American democracy. Bush's proposed military-political-intelligence complex looms as an even greater menace.

John Farmer is The Star-Ledger's national political correspondent.

The CIA told us Bush was lying his butt off but the no-minds in the White House and their slackers in the media refused to listen. Rumsfeld has a history of distorting intelligence, which by the way is a felony, and the congress is too chicken-shit to investigate. Now he wants his own CIA so he can better distort reality to his own making. The man has to go. Then we need to get rid of the slackers in the Congress and the media, then the White House. Truth-telling is rapidly becoming a lost art form.