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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Pretext for War by Bamford

James Bamford makes a convincing case that the United States was ill-served by our intelligence communities before 9-11 in Pretext for War. Part of the problem was the agencies were still fighting the Cold War and agents were enjoying the perks traditional with service in overseas embassies: good food, cars, great shopping, and other fringe benefits.

The beginning of the book provides a nice compliment to the 9/11 Commission report of the hijackings, a step-by-step reenactment, fascinating yet horrifying. He then provides how the spy agencies work in this country and how information was transmitted to the policy makers. The overall effect is not reassuring as evidence is provided that shows intelligence manufactured to support a policy and how Congress is routinely bypassed. The implications for balance of power and the tri-partite government created by the Founding Fathers are disturbing. The trend is away from public scrutiny, when, in my opinion, more is needed. The Bush administration appears to be heading toward increased secrecy and less congressional oversight.

Rumsfeld has gradually lobbied for and been giving extraordinary powers for "black bag" operations around the world (see Seymour Hersh's article in the January 24th, 2005 issue of The New Yorker.) The idea is that we have to become more like the enemy and act like them, i.e. giving them a taste of their own medicine. Aside from the questionable morality of such behavior, one wonders whether it will work in the long run or perhaps come back to bite us in the ass.
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