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Hullabaloo


Saturday, December 07, 2013

 
Saturday long read: the Jason Bourne Strategy

by digby

Hollywood Without the Happy Ending: How the CIA Bungled the War on Terror By Pratap Chatterjee
Call it the Jason Bourne strategy.

Think of it as the CIA’s plunge into Hollywood -- or into the absurd. As recent revelations have made clear, that Agency’s moves couldn’t be have been more far-fetched or more real. In its post-9/11 global shadow war, it has employed both private contractors and some of the world’s most notorious prisoners in ways that leave the latest episode of the Bourne films in the dust: hired gunmen trained to kill as well as former inmates who cashed in on the notoriety of having worn an orange jumpsuit in the world's most infamous jail.

The first group of undercover agents were recruited by private companies from the Army Special Forces and the Navy SEALs and then repurposed to the CIA at handsome salaries averaging around $140,000 a year; the second crew was recruited from the prison cells at Guantanamo Bay and paid out of a secret multimillion dollar slush fund called “the Pledge.”

Last month, the Associated Press revealed that the CIA had selected a few dozen men from among the hundreds of terror suspects being held at Guantanamo and trained them to be double agents at a cluster of eight cottages in a program dubbed "Penny Lane." (Yes, indeed, the name was taken from the Beatles song, as was "Strawberry Fields," a Guantanamo program that involved torturing “high-value” detainees.) These men were then returned to what the Bush administration liked to call the “global battlefield,” where their mission was to befriend members of al-Qaeda and supply targeting information for the Agency’s drone assassination program.

Such a secret double-agent program, while colorful and remarkably unsuccessful, should have surprised no one. After all, plea bargaining or persuading criminals to snitch on their associates -- a tactic frowned upon by international legal experts -- is widely used in the U.S. police and legal system. Over the last year or so, however, a trickle of information about the other secret program has come to light and it opens an astonishing new window into the privatization of U.S. intelligence.

In July 2010, at his confirmation hearings for the post of the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper explained the use of private contractors in the intelligence community: "In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War... we were under a congressional mandate to reduce the community by on the order of 20%... Then 9/11 occurred... With the gusher... of funding that has accrued particularly from supplemental or overseas contingency operations funding, which, of course, is one year at a time, it is very difficult to hire government employees one year at a time. So the obvious outlet for that has been the growth of contractors." (read on ...)
That's obviously a feature not a bug. In fact, there are a lot of people who feel this "dynamic" form of outsourcing makes good sense since defense costs are obviously volatile in a time of war. Except, of course, they aren't are they? They just keep going up. And the "wars" just keep keeping on.

Clapper very conveniently blames the necessity of private contracting on the fact that the government pulled back intelligence funding in the aftermath of the Cold War. But think about that. We know now that the cold war was hyped unmercifully and the level of overkill had been massive for decades. The pullback in funding was hardly precipitous and spending never came back down to a reasonable level. The idea that they were hurting for resources is absolute nonsense.

The real problem then, for this sector, was that there existed official entities with whom we could mutually agree that the "war", such as it was, had ended and precipitate some small shrinking of spending on defense. And that's not going to be possible with the war on terror, is it? Again, feature not bug. They won't make that mistake again.

Some people knew how this would go a long time ago:


Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Still true.  Unfortunately, those who try to inform the people are labeled traitors.
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