Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mission Creep and Creepy Missions

I want to say some more about the Bush administration's alarming policy of deliberate mission creep - give them an inch and they will take as many miles as they can and do so as secretly as they can. It has been most obviously seen in the evolution of his "President as King" policy but at present there are another two areas where mission creep represents a direct threat to America's tradition of liberty and democracy.

The new plan to use military forces for a law enforcement function on the border is the first. So far, everyone has concentrated upon the possibility that National Guard troops might be used at the border under federal command. However, the Defense Dept. hasn't said anything about restricting the troops used to National Guard personnel and has left open the possibility of using the regular military. That's mission creep. Once you've gone that far, the fact that it is the border makes no difference at all legally speaking - it is still American soil. That sets a precedent and you can be certain that Bush (or imagine some future Dem president if you have a rightwing lean) will make use of that precedent. Now we have creepy mission creep.

The other area of threat is that of intelligence agency domestic surveillance. At first we were told that any NSA programs were aimed solely at calls where one end was outside the USA. Now we are told that the NSA has compiled the biggest database ever - of domestic US phone records - but since they aren't listening to domestic calls it still isn't spying on Americans so there's nothing to worry about. That's mission creep. Then we learn in the same breath that the NSA plans to share that database with the other intelligence agencies - the Dept. of Defense's various groups, the CIA and the FBI. That's creepy mission creep. Those other agencies will make use of the NSA database to do what the NSA says it doesn't - spy on American citizens talking to American citizens in a purely domestic framework. Its legal, technically. Are you entirely happy that the technicality preserves the spirit of the law and the constitution?

Now we hear that the NSA may well have been up to even more sly tricks, and that this time they are clearly illegal according to the whistleblower:
Russell Tice, who worked on what are known as "special access programs," has wanted to meet in a closed session with members of Congress and their staff since President Bush announced in December that he had secretly authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens without a court order. In an interview late Thursday, Tice said the Senate Armed Services Committee finally asked him to meet next week in a secure facility on Capitol Hill.

Tice was fired from the NSA last May. He said he plans to tell the committee staffers the NSA conducted illegal and unconstitutional surveillance of U.S. citizens while he was there with the knowledge of Hayden, who has been nominated to become director of the CIA. Tice said one of his co-workers personally informed Hayden that illegal and unconstitutional activity was occurring.
Yet more creepy missions and creepy mission creep. The White House say they are 100% behind Hayden and so they will be - mission creep is Bush policy.

That policy has already alienated many who used to support Bush. Take for instance Judge Micjael Luttig, who resigned recently in what was probably disgust at Bush administration mission creep over "enemy combatant" status and the case of Jose Padilla.

Finally today I want to tie the NSA's program to another kind of mission creep - that of corruption arising from a sense of power and entitlement. Many Bush supporters have defended the NSA data-trawl on the grounds of national security but there is one area that no-one has yet asked questions about where even they may find they have problems with that security - private contractors. It all comes down to whether you trust the guardians - and the guardians subcontract to some very untrustworthy people. Consider:

  • Porter Goss has resigned as head of the CIA with no reason given. He was a Bush appointee and both of Goss' chief appintees are now under investigation for possible involvement in Hokkergate, the ongoing web of corruption stemming from "Duke" Cunninghams convistion for bribe-taking. Both "Dusty" Foggo and "Nine Fingers" Brant Basset are now under investigation over possible involvement in the corrupt activities of the two defense contracting companies who bribed Cunningham.

  • Those same two companies,MZM Inc. and Wilkes Corp/ADCS Inc., were always intimately involved in the Bush administrations intelligence gathering efforts in pursuit of the "war on terror". So much so that MZM Inc. was experiencing a 35% annual growth rate after winning contracts worth hundreds of millions in total from "the Defense Department, the U.S. intelligence community, the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force and state and local governments". MZM may well have had an involvement in many of the seamier intelligence stories of the Bush administration.

  • Those same two contractors spent over a million dollars on campaign contributions - some of them illegal - to various political figures. Katherine Harris personally pushed an appropriation of $10 million for MZM to establish a "counterintelligence facility" at Sarasota. Harris received $50,000 in campaign contributions from MZM. Now the House Approprations Chairman, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), is also under investigation for possible corruption. He was the single biggest contribution receiver, other than Cunningham, from MZM and Wilkes Corp.

  • Every intelligence agency is now packed with civilian consultants - people who work for, say, the NSA or CIA but are employed by private companies. Those companies include MZM and its successor Athena Innovative Solutions Inc.

    The chance that employees of Wilkes Corp, MZM or its successor have had intimate involvement with the current NSA data-trawl approaches certainty.

    Now that really is creepy mission creep.
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