Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger
Through the years this site has produced a multitude of blogs that details the excesses that occur in the intelligence community of the United States. Whether it is about spying on us, or upon other governments, the disclosures of incidents where this group of agencies has overstepped the bounds of our Constitution have become too numerous to detail. Beyond that through the years there have been many instances where elements of our Intelligence Complex have interceded in other countries, under the rubric of protection of United States interests. There are many different Agencies within our government that deal with intelligence and in the post 9/11 era the prevention of threats to our country and its citizens has become a giant self serving industry. The Agencies that we know about have supposedly fallen under the egis of the Department of Homeland Security, which should mean from an organizational chart perspective, they are under the control of the President of the United States. To get the political issue out of the way I believe that President Obama has aided and abetted policies that go against the Constitution of the United States. However, not to justify his policies, which are clearly wrong, my opinion is that it has been a very long time since any American President had control of our Intelligence Complex. My belief is not informed by any information public or private, but from what I’ve gleaned from history and from what I know about the operations of bureaucracy. This Guest Blog is not a piece of investigative journalism, but the opinion of someone who understands both the workings of human nature and the workings of bureaucracy. I hope that this piece can engender discussions about the Intelligence Complex and elicit opinions as to what service it provides in protecting this country. The issue is not one of politics per se, because the guilt of enabling our Intelligence Complex falls equally on both political parties and the powerful elements within those parties who would support any action taken by the Intelligence Complex including abrogating our Constitution. The FBI is where I’d like to begin my perspective and that might surprise some, who consider the Federal Bureau of Investigation, basically a law enforcement agency. The history of the FBI is such that it has expanded its role with each upheaval, or new popular shibboleth that garners national attention.“In 1896, the National Bureau of Criminal Identification was founded, which provided agencies across the country with information to identify known criminals. The 1901 assassination of President McKinley created an urgent perception that America was under threat from anarchists. The Department of Justice and the Department of Labor had been keeping records on anarchists for years, but President Theodore Roosevelt wanted more power to monitor them.
The Justice Department had been tasked with regulating interstate commerce since 1887, though it lacked the staff to do so. It had made little effort to relieve its staff shortage until the Oregon land fraud scandal erupted around the start of the 20th century. President Roosevelt instructed Attorney General Charles Bonaparte to create an autonomous investigative service that would report only to the Attorney General.
Bonaparte reached out to other agencies, including the Secret Service, for personnel, investigators in particular. On May 27, 1908, Congress forbade this use of Treasury employees by the Justice Department, citing fears that the new agency would serve as a secret police. Again at Roosevelt’s urging, Bonaparte moved to organize a formal bureau of investigation with its own staff of special agents.
The Bureau of Investigation (BOI) was created on July 26, 1908, after Congress had adjourned for the summer. Attorney General Bonaparte, using Department of Justice expense funds, hired thirty-four people, including some veterans of the Secret Service, to work for a new investigative agency. Its first chief (the title is now known as director) was Stanley Finch. Bonaparte notified Congress of these actions in December, 1908.
The bureau’s first official task was visiting and making surveys of the houses of prostitution in preparation for enforcing the “White Slave Traffic Act,” or Mann Act, passed on June 25, 1910. In 1932, it was renamed the United States Bureau of Investigation. The following year it was linked to the Bureau of Prohibition and rechristened the Division of Investigation (DOI) before finally becoming an independent service within the Department of Justice in 1935. In the same year, its name was officially changed from the Division of Investigation to the present-day Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FBI
One of the aspects of bureaucracy, government or private, is that individual components within it will always seek to expand their roles. Conversely those components within a bureaucracy that are most willing to serve the needs of those in positions above them, will find their roles expanded to further serve their superiors. Within bureaucracy it is rare that the head of a component (sub-Agency) will remain with that component as their career succeeds. In the case of the nascent Bureau of Investigation the person appointed its leader in 1924, stayed with it for 48 years until his death. That person of course was J. Edgar Hoover. Mr. Hoover eschewed promotions that would have removed him from the FBI, but instead preferred to take his once small bureau and build it into a behemoth, whose reach has become worldwide. He remade his Agency from its original mission of crime fighting into one of Intelligence. The evolution of the FBI is rather fairly documented in the Wikipedia article linked above. My focus is upon how that Agency has morphed itself into one of the great power centers in the Federal Government, one that is to a great degree independent of the particular administration in power
Though he was probably a despicable human being J. Edgar Hoover was an organizational and public relations genius. His insight into empire building came from the early years of the Agency which was to keep track of people perceived as political radicals. It was Hoover’s lifelong mission, perhaps obsession, to keep track of those he perceived politically to be “radical” and thus what he saw as against the interests of the United States. This endeared him to the business and to the politically conservative establishment. Most of those who were politically radical in this country, particularly left wingers (though NAZI’s were also watched) were not guilty of any crime beyond espousing unpopular ideas. Nevertheless, Mr. Hoover tracked all of their movements and maintained meticulous files on their private activities. Hoover used these files to threaten those whose opinions clashed with his and sometimes the threat was quite vicious. The most well known case was that of Dr. Martin Luther King and Hoover’s recordings of a sexual tryst in a hotel. The FBI sent anonymous notes to MLK professing knowledge of his indiscretion and strongly suggesting suicide. That type of personal knowledge was not limited to radicals alone and the FBI was active in looking into the sex lives and other proclivities of powerful people. Despite the fact that he was despised by the Kennedy brothers, for instance, they were nevertheless unable to fire or to control him, precisely because of JFK’s now well known sexual excesses.
Hoover’s genius in public relations was shown in his manhunts for some of this country’s most notorious criminals in the 1930’s:
“During the “War on Crime” of the 1930s, FBI agents apprehended or killed a number of notorious criminals who carried out kidnappings, robberies, and murders throughout the nation, including John Dillinger, “Baby Face” Nelson, Kate “Ma” Barker, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, and George “Machine Gun” Kelly.”
While the murderousness of these criminals certainly doesn’t excuse them, their behavior was never a threat to this country or its people. They were common murderous thugs, which have been common coin throughout every society in history, but Hoover used their public notoriety to produce an image of the FBI as the country’s most intrepid protector. Hoover’s FBI also battled bootleggers during Prohibition by instituting wiretapping:
“Hoover began using wiretapping in the 1920s during Prohibition to arrest bootleggers. In the 1927 case Olmstead v. United States, in which a bootlegger was caught through telephone tapping, the United States Supreme Court ruled that FBI wiretaps did not violate the Fourth Amendment as unlawful search and seizure, as long as the FBI did not break into a person’s home to complete the tapping. After Prohibition’s repeal, Congress passed the Communications Act of 1934, which outlawed non-consensual phone tapping, but allowed bugging. In the 1939 case Nardone v. United States, the court ruled that due to the 1934 law, evidence the FBI obtained by phone tapping was inadmissible in court. After the 1967 case Katz v. United States overturned the 1927 case that had allowed bugging, Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control Act, allowing public authorities to tap telephones during investigations as long as they obtain a warrant beforehand.”
By developing “snooping” technologies, while presenting the FBI mission as vital to the protection of this country, the FBI laid the groundwork for much of what we see today as the excesses being perpetrated by the growing NSA database. In the history of this country there has been a tradition of frightening the public into actually wanting their rights to be abrogated in the name of public safety.
The mission of the CIA has also morphed through the years:
“The Central Intelligence Agency was created by Congress with the passage of the National Security Act of 1947, signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. Its creation was inspired by the successes of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) of World War II, which was dissolved in October 1945 and its functions transferred to the State and War Departments. Eleven months earlier, in 1944, William J. Donovan, the OSS’s creator, proposed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt to create a new organization directly supervised by the President: “which will procure intelligence both by overt and covert methods and will at the same time provide intelligence guidance, determine national intelligence objectives, and correlate the intelligence material collected by all government agencies.” Under his plan, a powerful, centralized civilian agency would have coordinated all the intelligence services. He also proposed that this agency have authority to conduct “subversive operations abroad,” but “no police or law enforcement functions, either at home or abroad.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIA#
Through the years the original mandate of the CIA as proposed by William Donavan has also changed. It has been related that Harry Truman had some reservations about the Agency, because of the possibilities for mischief in its mandate, but he signed off on it because of the internal clamor in Washington about our need as a country to oppose the Communist USSR:
“In September 1947, the National Security Act of 1947 established both the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency. Rear Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter was appointed as the first Director of Central Intelligence, and one of the first secret operations under him was the successful support of the Christian Democrats in Italy.
The National Security Council Directive on Office of Special Projects, June 18, 1948 (NSC 10/2) further gave the CIA the authority to carry out covert operations “against hostile foreign states or groups or in support of friendly foreign states or groups but which are so planned and conducted that any U.S. government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons.”
In 1949, the Central Intelligence Agency Act (Public law 81-110) authorized the agency to use confidential fiscal and administrative procedures, and exempted it from most of the usual limitations on the use of Federal funds. It also exempted the CIA from having to disclose its “organization, functions, officials, titles, salaries, or numbers of personnel employed.” It also created the program “PL-110”, to handle defectors and other “essential aliens” who fall outside normal immigration procedures, as well as giving those persons cover stories and economic support.”
You will note that the act of 1949 effectively removed the CIA from public oversight and in effect made their whole operation opaque, whether mission wise, or even budgetary. With this we see another trend that was working to take the Intelligence Complex out of both public debate and public scrutiny.
“Things came to a head in the mid-1970s, around the time of Watergate. A dominant feature of political life during that period were the attempts of Congress to assert oversight of the U.S. Presidency and the executive branch of the U.S. government. Revelations about past CIA activities, such as assassinations and attempted assassinations of foreign leaders (most notably Fidel Castro and Rafael Trujillo) and illegal domestic spying on U.S. citizens, provided the opportunities to increase Congressional oversight of U.S. intelligence operations.
Hastening the CIA’s fall from grace were the burglary of the Watergate headquarters of the Democratic Party by ex-CIA agents, and President Richard Nixon‘s subsequent attempt to use the CIA to impede the FBI’s investigation of the burglary. In the famous “smoking gun” recording that led to President Nixon’s resignation, Nixon ordered his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, to tell the CIA that further investigation of Watergate would “open the whole can of worms” about the Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba. In this way Nixon and Haldemann ensured that the CIA’s No. 1 and No. 2 ranking officials, Richard Helms and Vernon Walters, communicated to FBI Director L. Patrick Gray that the FBI should not follow the money trail from the burglars to the Committee to Re-elect the President, as it would uncover CIA informants in Mexico. The FBI initially agreed to this due to a long-standing agreement between the FBI and CIA not to uncover each other’s sources of information, though within a couple of weeks the FBI demanded this request in writing, and when no such formal request came, the FBI resumed its investigation into the money trail. Nonetheless, when the smoking gun tapes were made public, damage to the public’s perception of CIA’s top officials, and thus to the CIA as a whole, could not be avoided.
In 1973, then-Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) James R. Schlesinger commissioned reports – known as the “Family Jewels” – on illegal activities by the Agency. In December 1974, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh broke the news of the “Family Jewels” (after it was leaked to him by DCI William Colby) in a front-page article in The New York Times, claiming that the CIA had assassinated foreign leaders, and had illegally conducted surveillance on some 7,000 U.S. citizens involved in the antiwar movement (Operation CHAOS). The CIA had also experimented on people, who unknowingly took LSD (among other things).
Congress responded to the disturbing charges in 1975, investigating the CIA in the Senate via the Church Committee, chaired by Senator Frank Church (D-Idaho), and in the House of Representatives via the Pike Committee, chaired by Congressman Otis Pike (D-NY). In addition, President Gerald Ford created the Rockefeller Commission, and issued an executive order prohibiting the assassination of foreign leaders.
During the investigation, Schlesinger’s successor as DCI, William Colby, testified before Congress on 32 occasions in 1975, including about the “Family Jewels”. Colby later stated that he believed that providing Congress with this information was the correct thing to do, and ultimately in the CIA’s own interests. As the CIA fell out of favor with the public, Ford assured Americans that his administration was not involved: “There are no people presently employed in the White House who have a relationship with the CIA of which I am personally unaware.”
Repercussions from the Iran-Contra affair arms smuggling scandal included the creation of the Intelligence Authorization Act in 1991. It defined covert operations as secret missions in geopolitical areas where the U.S. is neither openly nor apparently engaged. This also required an authorizing chain of command, including an official, presidential finding report and the informing of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which, in emergencies, requires only “timely notification.””
Despite all the scandals and admissions regarding the CIA’s going rogue as an Agency, it exists today stronger than ever and out of the control of those who are presumed to have oversight, which to my mind includes any President. During the G.W. Bush administration Dick Cheney was criticized for running his own intelligence operation out of the Vice President’s Office. Perhaps Cheney who was wise in the minutia of governmental operations realized that the Administration was not being dealt with honestly by the CIA and formed the spy unit” to try to regain some semblance of unbiased information.
The third Agency to be mentioned is the National Security Administration (NSA) which seems ever present in today’s news as we learned from the Snowden files that they are not only spying on every American Citizen, but that they are even tapping the phones and capturing the E Mails of foreign governments that are our allies. Angela Merkel of Germany has been the latest foreign leader to protest. As we look at its history we see that the forerunner of the NSA started out as a military operation. It is important to keep this in mind:
“The predecessor of the National Security Agency was the Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA), created on May 20, 1949. This organization was originally established within the U.S. Department of Defense under the command of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The AFSA was to direct Department of Defense communications and electronic intelligence activities, except those of U.S. military intelligence units. AFSA failed to achieve a centralized communications intelligence mechanism, and failed to coordinate with civilian agencies that shared its interests (the Department of State, CIA, and FBI).
In December 1951, President Harry S. Truman ordered a study to correct AFSA’s failures. Six months later, the four members finished and issued the Brownell Report, which criticized AFSA, strengthened it and resulted in its redesignation as the National Security Agency. The agency was formally established by Truman in a memorandum of October 24, 1952, that revised National Security Council Intelligence Directive (NSCID) 9. Truman’s memo was later declassified.”
The Constitution and subsequent legal interpretations for years deemed the military should not be monitoring civilian affairs. We know now thanks to Edward Snowden that this has changed:
“NSA’s mission, as set forth in Executive Order 12333, is to collect information that constitutes “foreign intelligence or counterintelligence” while not “acquiring information concerning the domestic activities of United States persons”. NSA has declared that it relies on the FBI to collect information on foreign intelligence activities within the borders of the USA, while confining its own activities within the USA to the embassies and missions of foreign nations.
NSA’s domestic surveillance activities are limited by the requirements imposed by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for example held in October 2011, citing multiple Supreme Court precedents, that the Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures applies to the contents of all communications, whatever the means, because “a person’s private communications are akin to personal papers.” However, these protections do not apply to non-U.S. persons located outside of U.S. borders, so the NSA’s foreign surveillance efforts are subject to far fewer limitations under U.S. law. The specific requirements for domestic surveillance operations are contained in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA), which does not extend protection to non-U.S. citizens located outside of U.S. territory.
These activities, especially the publicly acknowledged domestic telephone tapping and call database programs, have prompted questions about the extent of the NSA’s activities and concerns about threats to privacy and the rule of law.
In August 2013 it was revealed that NSA intelligence intercepts and wiretaps, both foreign and domestic, were being supplied to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and were illegally used to launch criminal investigations of US citizens. Law enforcement agents were directed to conceal how the investigations began and recreate an apparently legal investigative trail by re-obtaining the same evidence by other means” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NSA
There is a long history of dubious NSA actions such as:
“In a secret 1960s operation code-named “Minaret”, the NSA monitored phone communications of Senators Frank Church and Howard Baker, major civil rights leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, and prominent U.S. journalists and athletes who criticized the U.S. war in Vietnam. A review by NSA of the NSA’s Minaret program concluded that Minaret was “disreputable if not outright illegal.”
“In the years after President Richard Nixon resigned, there were several investigations of suspected misuse of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and NSA facilities. Senator Frank Church headed a Senate investigating committee (the Church Committee) which uncovered previously unknown activity, such as a CIA plot (ordered by the administration of President John F. Kennedy) to assassinate Fidel Castro. The investigation also uncovered NSA’s wiretaps on targeted American citizens. After the Church Committee hearings, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 became law, limiting circumstances under which domestic surveillance was allowed”
We know now that the Presidency of Barack Obama has done little, if nothing to rein in the NSA’s violations of constitutional law and investigations of U.S. citizens:
“In 2009 the NSA intercepted the communications of American citizens, including a Congressman, although the Justice Department believed that the interception was unintentional. The Justice Department then took action to correct the issues and bring it into compliance with existing laws. United States Attorney General Eric Holder resumed the wiretapping according to his understanding of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act amendment of 2008, without explaining what had occurred.
On April 25, 2013, the NSA obtained a court order requiring Verizon‘s Business Network Services to provide information on all calls in its system to the NSA “on an ongoing daily basis”, as reported by The Guardian on June 6, 2013. This information includes “the numbers of both parties on a call … location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls” but not “[t]he contents of the conversation itself”.
I need not go into the Department of Homeland Security to make my point. In any bureaucracy its’ leaders will constantly look to expand their mission and thus grown their individual power and prestige. This is as true of a private corporation as it is of a government agency. The simple reason for this is that although we assume that professionals of all manner are interested solely in performing their given tasks, we humans for the most part are motivated by our own selfish needs and it is the rare individual that will maintain their personal integrity in the face of opportunity. The missions of all three of these Agencies began with rather simple, defined tasks. The assumption was that each of them would become expert in performing their task and thus deliver the “product” that was called for. Every one of these three agencies used the fruits of their supposed expertise to create the impression amongst their Executive and Congressional Overseers that unless their missions were expanded disaster would befall this country.
There is the psychological aspect of the bureaucratic minds that are bred within the confines of these Agencies that I think is vital to understand, but often gets overlooked. These people within these Agencies believe in their mission as they define it. They believe that they really are protecting this country, even as they ignore the Constitution that made it unique. They are the equivalent of Jack Nicholson in the move “A Few Brave Men” telling Tom Cruise “You don’t want to know the truth!” They live in a world where they alone “understand” the dangers to the country and they will brook no interference from “politicians”. These true believers share the mindset of those Viet Nam War Generals who would order towns destroyed to save them. Since the end of World War Two, beginning the Cold War only two Presidents dared to stand up to them. One was John F. Kennedy who fired CIA Director Allen Dulles and the other was Richard Nixon who believed he understood foreign policy better than the Intelligence community. Kennedy was murdered and Nixon was disgraced by a group of old CIA hands known as “The Plumbers”. I wrote about that here: http://jonathanturley.org/2012/03/17/a-real-history-of-the-last-sixty-two-years/ . I believe that the core leadership of these Agencies believes that they are the arbiters of truth and that they must remain unfettered by mere politicians as they perform their missions. They use to the fullest every incident that can be blown up to fearsome proportions to frighten the politicians and public into putting more power into their hand and they justify their action with an unshakeable belief that they alone understand the threat. The human capacity of justifying self-serving behavior is boundless and these are very determined people.
We saw one such opportunity for expansion of the Intelligence Communities powers arrive with 9/11. The fact that the attack was even foretold by ignored CIA intelligence exposes the oft unmentioned problem, which is that data is only as effective as those who receive it. The reaction to 9/11 saw an unprecedented expansion of these Agencies abetted by the Patriot Act and the impossibly huge Department of Homeland Security. As we Americans have steadily watched the erosion of our rights and freedom, these agencies are passing the tipping point of competence. Not only does the size make the Agencies to unwieldy to effectively manage, but the fact of that ineffective management reverberates out of control. Individuals within these Agencies are able to abrogate individual citizen’s rights at will and for sometimes criminal purposes, if you define criminal as violating the law. We are watching helplessly as the entire Intelligence Community spirals out of control and as the reverberations of it make this country more and more a police state. Who really runs this country at this point? Damned if I know, but I have my suspicions.
Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger