Friday, April 13, 2007

Do The Hokey Pokey: Spin Takes Over As Bush Threatens To Veto Senate Intel Bill

The Senate is trying to pass a bill which would make the White House and the nation's secret intelligence agencies a bit more responsive to their only source of "legitimate" funding, the US Congress.

Apparently the bill is so onerous that it can't be nullified by a simple presidential signing statement, so Bush is taking the unusual step of threatening to veto it.

Why? Katherine Shrader of AP spells out the administration's objections
in TIME magazine:

Bush Threatens Intel Bill Veto
(WASHINGTON) — President Bush is threatening to veto a Senate intelligence bill laced with provisions that would force the White House and spy agencies to be more responsive to Congress.

In a policy statement released Thursday, Bush's advisers said the bill fails to provide enough money, "with sufficient flexibility," to adequately pay for spying operations.
It's the same old Bush line: Can the restrictions, just give us the money. We've seen it over and over and over, but lately it's been more blatant than ever.
The Senate has struggled for two years to pass a spending blueprint for the roughly $45 billion-a-year spying budget. Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., made the legislation a top priority when he took over in January. "These provisions are all intended to improve our ability to make decisions, leading to better intelligence for the military and policy makers," Rockefeller said on the Senate floor.
If only it worked that way! Most of the time the policy makers decide what they want to do, then they go about gathering "intelligence" to "justify" their chosen course. This is the norm even for a reality-based government. But for a government that claims to make its own reality, it's only a starting point. It's a very serious point for Georgie the Boy Chimperor, though:
Among the provisions in the intelligence bill that the Bush Administration rejects:

Yearly disclosure of the total amount spent on intelligence. The Administration has long argued that releasing the figures would be a threat to national security.
Well that all depends on what you mean by national security, doesn't it? If by "national security" you mean the use of unaccountable secret funds for unaccountable secret purposes then by all means releasing the figures would be a threat. Not much of a threat, since the vast majority of the annual intelligence budget comes not from Congressional or Presidential appropriation, but from the international market of heroin, cocaine, and other delicacies. We're not supposed to know about that, by the way. We weren't supposed to know how much poppy was being grown in southeast Asia thirty-five or forty years ago, either. Just one more happy coincidence?
When lawmakers with jurisdiction ask for intelligence assessments and other information, the bill requires spy chiefs to turn the materials over within 15 days. The measure "would foster political gamesmanship and elevate routine disagreements to the level of constitutional crises," the Administration says.
It would only elevate the disagreements to the level of a crisis -- constitutional or otherwise -- if the agency in question refused its legal requirement to share the information it had been collecting at taxpayer expense! (well, partially, anyway.) Who do these people work for? Not the ones who pay them. Did you ever notice that? There's your constitutional crisis!
A mandate that the White House brief all members of the intelligence committees on extraordinarily sensitive matters — not just Congressional and intelligence committee leaders, as is often the practice now.
As well-documented by our friend Larisa Alexandrovna, the current practice consists of bottlenecking the intelligence to as few people as possible.
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush issued an order to the Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the State Department, and his cabinet members that severely curtailed intelligence oversight by restricting classified information to just eight members of Congress.

"The only Members of Congress whom you or your expressly designated officers may brief regarding classified or sensitive law enforcement information," he writes, "are the Speaker of the House, the House Minority Leader, the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, and the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Intelligence Committees in the House and Senate."

The order is aimed at protecting "military security" and "sensitive law enforcement."

But what was said to be an effort to protect the United States became a tool by which the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Pat Roberts (R-KS) ensured there was no serious investigation into how the administration fixed the intelligence that took the United States to war in Iraq or the fabricated documents used as evidence to do so.

Coupled with limited access to intelligence documents, RAW STORY has found that Roberts and a handful of other strategically-placed Washington players stymied all questions into pre-war intelligence on Iraq and post-invasion cover-ups, including the outing of a CIA covert agent, by using targeted leaks and artfully deflecting blame from the White House.
Why would they do this? The easier to control the spin? Who can tell? ... In fact anyone can tell who has half a dozen brain cells to rub together and the inclination to use more than three of them at the same time. In so many cases the brain cells are not in question, but the inclination seems to have evaporated, or should I say vaporized, along with key pieces of steel on the morning of 9/11.

TIME continues:
Required reports on interrogation activities and secret prisons, which the Administration says would raise "grave constitutional issues" and jeopardize sensitive information that should not be widely distributed.
Grave constitutional issues indeed, such as how and why can he current occupants of the White House possibly remain there? And if they do, how and why can the Constitution be considered still in effect? And as a side note, do the answers to these questions reflect badly on the classification of the USA as a civilized country?

Oh no, that was rhetorical. Of course they don't. The answers to these questions don't matter in the slightest. The mere fact that they must be asked shows clearly that the USA is no longer a civilized country.
Creation of a statutory inspector general for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence who would have the power to direct watchdogs in any of the 16 spy agencies. The Administration says the existing watchdogs are best suited to do the job without "dysfunctional interference" from the proposed new inspector general.
The so-called "dysfunctional interference" wouldn't be so dysfunctional if it could interfere with the dysfunctional habit of providing the White House with the intelligence that it wants, cherry picked and all sexed up to provide the basis for the spin that will provide the basis for the illusion that there is any support at all for whatever the administration has already decided to do. Make that what country the administration has decided to attack next. Maybe it wouldn't be so dysfunctional if it made sure that sensitive documents got translated accurately, and in a timely fashion. And maybe it wouldn't be dysfunctional at all if it ensured that investigations into possible terrorists training or living in the USA were followed up rather than suppressed. But then the real terrorists would surely see it as "interference" and it might make them a bit "dysfunctional" and that must be why Bush is threatening to veto the bill. Or could it be
A requirement that the heads of the National Security Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and National Reconnaissance Office be subject to Senate confirmation, as well as the CIA's deputy director. The Administration calls that unnecessary.
Given the past six years, it's fair to say that the administration sees any attempt at oversight by either of the other two branches of government as not only unnecessary but thoroughly unacceptable, and that's just oversight, let alone the quaint constitutional notion of checks and balances.

In fact the current administration seems to find unacceptable and unnecessary everything it is supposed to protect and defend, such as the Constitution, the well-being of the nation, and even -- perhaps most especially -- the sanctity of truth in a rational view of the world. Instead we now live in a bizarre web of lies in which it's almost always a safe bet that whatever any representative of the administration says is the exact inverse of a current and perhaps somewhat controversial truth.

In other words, if you want to know what's going on, listen carefully to what they say, and assume the opposite.

Kids know this better than adults, or so it seems:
You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around. That's what it's all about.