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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Is James Risen a "real" journalist or should we be ignoring him too?

by digby

It would appear that New York Times national security reporter James Risen must be a fool who knows nothing about national security because he sounded an awful lot like Glenn Greenwald (and me) this morning when he went on Meet the Press and said the following:
There's some limited evidence of abuse. It's been anecdotal and there's never been a thorough investigation inside the government of that. One of the problems going back to the Bush administration was all of this was kept so secret, even after we began to report about it, that the inspectors general and the internal investigations were kept secret. 
So there's never been a full public accounting of the level of abuse, the level of-- there's virtually no transparency at all about how much of this really has caught up American citizens. And I think that's really one of the issues here is you've got the creation of a modern surveillance infrastructure with no debate publicly except on a ad hoc basis whenever someone in the press reports about it.
The only reason we've been having these public debates, the only reason these laws have been passed, and that we're now sitting here talking about this is because of a series of whistleblowers. That the government has never wanted any of this reported, never wanted any of it disclosed.

If it was up to the government over the last ten years, this surveillance infrastructure would have grown enormously with no public debate whatsoever. And so every time we talk about how someone is a traitor for disclosing something, we have to remember the only reason we're talking about it is because of it.
I'm sorry. One of the things that really I think concerns people is that you've created something that never existed in America history before, and that is a surveillance state. The infrastructure that I'm basically using software technology and data mining and eavesdropping, very sophisticated technology to create an infrastructure that a police state would love.

And that's what really should concern Americans, is because we haven't had a full national debate about the creation of a massive surveillance state and surveillance infrastructure, that if we had some radical change in our politics could lead to a police state.
And I think one of the reasons that's happened [whistleblowers going to the press] and has repeatedly happened throughout the War on Terror is that the system, the internal system for whistle-blowing, for the watchdog and oversight system is broken. There is no good way for anyone inside the government do go through the chain of command and report about something like this. They all fear retaliation, they fear prosecution.

And so most whistleblowers, the really, the only way they now have is to go to the press or to go to someone, go outside like Snowden did. He chose people in the press to go to. He picked and chose who he wanted. But the problem is people inside the system who try to go through the chain of command get retaliated against, punished, and they eventually learn not to do it anymore.

ANDREA MITCHELL:Jim, I think they can go to Congress, they can go to the Intelligence Committee. They can go to--

RISEN: If you go-- if you're not in the intelligence community, if you're a low-ranking person in the intelligence community and you go to the Congress, to the Senate, or the House, you'll-- you will be going outside the normal bounds of-- going to Congress would be an--unauthorized disclosure

He's obviously some low-life blogger who is completely unqualified to speak on this topic. Let us pay no further attention to anything he says.

The good news is that David Ignatius was there to tell us that we have already had full debate on all this and that the Supreme Court affirmed these programs [!] so we must follow the law --- which in his view is that the government has carte blanche and that's that. I'm thinking he must be talking about that other dimension he apparently lives in.

Andrea Mitchell piped up to complain about the fact that a lowly GED holder could possibly make more than a mere subsistence wage (what's become of our caste system anyway?) and to point out that Peggy Noonan observed that people don't trust government anymore after Banghazi and the IRS scandal. (She really said it, I swear.)

Finally we had Sub-Commandante Michael Hayden just ... well, it's hard to describe. I'll let him speak for himself. This was in answer to Andrea Mitchell asking about Snowden's qualifications:
No, no, that's not the issue. It's people of this personality type having access to this, whether they're--a green badge or a blue badge. Contractor or a government employee, all right? So it's not so much contractors. Contractors don't grant themselves clearances, all right? The government grants government employees and government contractors clearances. So this is a government issue. Remember I said as people learn about the facts of the case, they'll ...

Snowden's wrong. He could not possibly have done the things he claimed he was able to do in terms of tapping communications. James, five inspectors general looked at the program I governed and which he wrote about, and a public report said there were no abuses. Controversial program, but no abuses.

DAVID GREGORY: Well, respond to Jim, too. You as head of the C.I.A. or N.S.A., you didn't want to have a debate.

No, you give up operational capacity the more these programs are known. And I know honest men argue, "Oh, they knew they were doing that all the time." But they don't know the details. And actually, what I fear Al Qaeda learns about this program is not what we're allowed to do, but they learn what we're not allowed to do. And they learn the limits of the program. [Hide all copies of the Constitution, stat!]

And just one comment, the programs we're talking about here now, prism and the metadata program were established under the court, under President Bush in 2006 and 2008. And although Candidate Obama had problems with it, President Elect Obama was briefed on it and embraced them as they existed when he came to office.[Zing ...]

David, for part of my life when I was running the N.S.A. program, I thought lawful, effective, and appropriate were enough. By the time I got to C.I.A., I discovered I had a fourth requirement, and that's politically sustainable. And by the time I got to C.I.A., I was of the belief that I would have to probably have to shave points off of operational or effectiveness to inform enough people that we had the political sustainability and the comfort of the American population concerning what it was we were doing. So I think it's living in this kind of a democracy, we're going to have to be a little bit less effective in order to be a little bit more transparent to get to do anything to defend the American people.
"I'm not saying we won't get our hair mussed ...." 

This man was a General running the CIA before it occurred to him that the people for whom he worked might have some interests at stake beyond "daddy knows best." And I'm afraid I don't have a lot of faith that he means it, even now. After all, he's a proven liar.

For some reason I feel the overwhelming urge to watch Dr Strangelove again. I hope it's on Netflix.