Monday, March 14, 2005

Saxby Chambliss on intelligence reform

The loathsome Saxby Chambliss, Republican Senator from Georgia, has an article out on reforming US intelligence: We Have Not Correctly Framed the Debate on Intelligence Reform by Saxby Chambliss Parameters (US Army War College quarterly), Spring 2005.

Joe Conason in Big Lies (2003) tells the story of Chambliss' shameful 2002 campaign against sitting Democratic Senator Max Cleland, a "Medal of Honor winner who returned from Vietnam without his legs and his right arm."  In a earlier version of the same kind of slander campaign the Republicans used against John Kerry's military service Chambliss attacked Cleland's patriotism, as Conason explains:

Such a sacrifice [as Cleland made in Vietnam] is not guarantee of respect from a right-wing opportunist, as Cleland discovered during his last [2002] campaign.  The wheelchair-bound senator had to listen to Representative Saxbv Chambliss, his Republican opponent, cast doubt on his dedication to his country, loudly attacking him "for breaking his oath to protect and defend the Constitution."

The blustering Chambliss had avoided service during Vietnam with four student deferments and a "football injury," but he explained that his own lack of service was "absolutely not an issue." He excoriate Cleland as "the most liberal senator Georgia has ever had." [Conason notes that "Cleland is in truth a moderate southern Democrat."]  And Georgia's voters responded to the vile assault on Cleland's patriotism by throwing a true hero out of office - and replacing him with a double-talking draft avoider.

Steve Soto (Rather Than Cut Corporate Farm Aid ... 03/12/05) recently described Chambliss in what might be considered a rather unflattering characterization:  "Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Saxby Chambliss,  the man who defeated Max Cleland by using a Bill Frist-approved campaign that questioned Cleland’s patriotism and implied support for Osama Bin Laden. ...  [Chambliss is a] knuckle-dragging, combat-dodging jackass ... "

Chambliss' analysis of US intelligence failures on Iraqi WMDs gives added credibility to Soto's characterization:

Subsequently the intelligence community failed the President by presenting an inaccurate analysis of the quantities and capabilities of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD). While there should be no doubt whatsoever that Saddam’s intentions were to reconstitute his WMD programs and become a supplier of these weapons to the radical Islamist terrorists who are bent on the destruction of democratic and secular Western societies, the fact remains that the CIA did not have a single agent inside Iraq to verify the true state of these programs before coalition forces, led by the United States, attacked Iraq in 2003. [my emphasis]

This is a typical but still disgusting failure to recognize that the war and killing he supported in the Iraq War were based on bogus claims, and tries to lay the blame exclusively with the CIA.  George Tenet and the CIA were partially to blame, because they endorsed many of the fake claims.  But a large part of the problem were the "lie factories" set up in the Pentagon and the Office of the Vice President to pass fake WMD claims directly from Iranian spy Ahmed Chalabi to senior policy-makers with professional vetting through the CIA's analysts.  We're also still waiting to see any indication that Saddam and his secular had even the "intention" of providing WMDs to Sunni Muslim extremist groups, who viewed his Baath regime as one of the "near enemy" (as opposed to the "far enemy" in the US).

Chambliss is happy that safeguards against the intelligence agencies employing the worst lowlifes have been relaxed, guidelines employed because of the appalling results the practice had produced in the past:

I am particularly pleased that immediately following the release of our report, the CIA rescinded the so called “Deutch guidelines” that were implemented in 1995. Those guidelines prohibited the expenditure of tax money being paid to individuals providing us intelligence if they had a criminal record or any kind of disparaging record in their past.

He seems to want a increase in the practical control of the Defense Secretary over intelligence operations:

Another element that needs to be added to our national debate on intelligence reform is how the Director of National Intelligence will interact with the military and vice-versa. The DNI will inherit an intelligence community made up of 15 separate members, eight of which are in the Department of Defense. Collectively, these eight members are huge, comprising tens of thousands of uniformed military and civilian personnel, and multibillion-dollar budgets. How someone outside the military, like the DNI, could adequately and efficiently manage these vast intelligence capabilities by dealing with eight separate Department of Defense members is beyond me. This is a major issue, and it must be addressed; otherwise the DNI may have an unrealistically large span of control.

That is why I, in conjunction with my Democrat [sic] colleague from Nebraska, Senator Ben Nelson, plan to reintroduce legislation in the 109th Congress to create a unified combatant command for military intelligence, to be called INTCOM. This command would, for the first time, bring the majority of the intelligence capabilities in the Department of Defense under a single commander.

Most of the article reads like cant from a campaign speech.  But what he's calling for here is literally a militarization of more of the government's intelligence operations.

Maybe with a set-up like this, Rummy can forego a special "lie factory" next time and just order his official agencies to crank out the phony justifications for war.

2 comments:

purcellneil said...

I wonder if we will ever get the government to investigate the way the Bush administration manipulated and intimidated the CIA to provide a case for war.  I wonder if we will ever see that effort connected to the public marketing by Bush, Cheney et al of the "mushroom cloud / 9/11 connection" case for war.

Apparently, such an investigation will await a change in control of the Senate or the House.

Neil

fdtate714 said...

Yeah, "loathsome" describes Chambliss perfectly.  He was one of my senators until I moved to Tennessee.  Now I have Bill Frist and Lamar Alexander.  Can't win for losing.