Sunday :: Jan 23, 2005

Rummy's Been Running Clandestine Intelligence Operation Unknown To Congress For Nearly Three Years


by Steve

At the start of another four year term when the only major holdover is your defense secretary, and after seeing several instances where the Pentagon used questionable intelligence, some of it generated in house to suit political needs, and redirected monies towards unauthorized campaigns without the knowledge of Congress, we now have confirmation that George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld have run their own intelligence operation without accountability or congressional oversight. And this goes beyond the Office of Special Plans, and of course is revealed after the November election.

Barton Gellman in today’s Post reveals that Donald Rumsfeld created the Strategic Support Branch, nearly three years ago, which has been conducting espionage activities separate from the CIA and congressional oversight, to gather human intelligence and to conduct other activities in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Military and civilian participants said in interviews that the new unit has been operating in secret for two years -- in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places they declined to name. According to an early planning memorandum to Rumsfeld from Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the focus of the intelligence initiative is on "emerging target countries such as Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia, Philippines and Georgia." Myers and his staff declined to be interviewed.

And Congress has known nothing about it.

(T)he creation of the espionage branch, the scope of its clandestine operations and the breadth of Rumsfeld's asserted legal authority have not been detailed publicly before. Two longtime members of the House Intelligence Committee, a Democrat and a Republican, said they knew no details before being interviewed for this article.

Pentagon officials said they established the Strategic Support Branch using "reprogrammed" funds, without explicit congressional authority or appropriation. Defense intelligence missions, they said, are subject to less stringent congressional oversight than comparable operations by the CIA.

Worse yet, some of the people running this operation are the true believers who appear to be the least qualified to provide capable and objective assessments of threats before sending men and women into harm’s way. Yes, this means that General William “Jerry” Boykin must be involved, as is a newcomer to the zealot brigade.

The new unit's performance in the field -- and its latest commander, reserve Army Col. George Waldroup – are controversial among those involved in the closely held program. Pentagon officials acknowledged that Waldroup and many of those brought quickly into his service lack the experience and training typical of intelligence officers and special operators. In his civilian career as a federal manager, according to a Justice Department inspector general's report, Waldroup was at the center of a 1996 probe into alleged deception of Congress concerning staffing problems at Miami International Airport.

Congress has already signaled apprehension at the news.

"Operations the CIA runs have one set of restrictions and oversight, and the military has another," said a Republican member of Congress with a substantial role in national security oversight, declining to speak publicly against political allies. "It sounds like there's an angle here of, 'Let's get around having any oversight by having the military do something that normally the [CIA] does, and not tell anybody.' That immediately raises all kinds of red flags for me. Why aren't they telling us?"

John McCain has come out today and announced that he will question the Pentagon about this at the Senate Armed Services Committee. Note that it was McCain, and not the worthless John Warner that is making the noise here.

Now, I can understand the need for better intelligence than what the CIA has been providing before sending our men and women into battle. But this crew has already shown that they will let a political agenda overtake objective information and facts on the ground, to the extent of squandering the blood and treasure of our nation in wars of choice. So this is the wrong crowd to be running their own spy administration without congressional oversight and accountability. Plus, why would anyone trust any intelligence generating by Don Rumsfeld and Steve Cambone, both of whom are named in war crimes complaints overseas? The next time you hear anyone from the Administration tell you that either Syria or Iran is a strategic threat based on intelligence that was acquired by this administration, why should you believe it, especially if you find out that the intelligence was purchased by Rummy himself from questionable sources?

It is time that we regular citizens pressure the members of the House and Senate committees to get involved here and draw a line around the Pentagon developing its own unaccountable intelligence through unauthorized activities as a pretext for war. Because when the Pentagon and the military industrial complex can generate its own reasons for war without accountability, objective analyses, and oversight, then we have lost control of this country, and we have in fact become the rogue nation we profess to abhor in others.

Steve :: 3:09 PM :: Comments (8) :: Digg It!