Sunday, August 03, 2014

If You Let Criminals Off Lightly, You Guarantee One Thing: More Crime


The end of last week saw a lot of outrage on the left. It was primarily directed towards the House Republican racism and xenophobia on display Thursday and Friday. Even left-wing rags like the NY Times and Wall Street Journal were outraged. There was less left-wing outrage directed towards President Obama's horrifying defense of CIA criminal John Brennan, a defense that will dog Obama's legacy for all time. Obama's premise was that some fine folks illegally tortured some other people and then lied about it and now… well, what's past is past; let's move on. Sound familiar? Elites escaping Justice leads to other elites ramping up the criminal behavior. Had Kissinger faced a firing squad for his war crimes in-- just pick a place; I'll say Chile-- maybe Cheney would have taken the Constitution a little more seriously when he was running the government. Maybe. And Kissinger still walks among us; it isn't too late. Same for Cheney. There are no statutes of limitation on war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Watch the disgraceful video above. Obama has "full confidence" in Brennan, who should be in prison without bail awaiting trial. After all, he "directly apologized to Senator Feinstein." End of story right there! He apologized for unconstitutional spying on the Senate. Isn't that good enough? Don't apologies count for anything anymore? In Obamaspeak that unconstitutional spying went through a Madison Avenue wash cycle and came out as, "CIA personnel did not properly handle an investigation… and some very poor judgement was shown in terms of how that was handled." And Brennan will have the CIA investigate itself and make sure "lessons are learned."

Of course, the only lesson that will be learned is that you can get away with everything and anything. But that's a lesson the CIA learned long ago and keeps learning. Let me quote a former Wall Street lawyer who explained the kind of ethos that grows up around a feeling that accountability is for other people but not for "us." Oliver Budde wrote that "you don't sweat morals or ethics; if it looks doable without getting caught or at least without serious risk of penalty to the executives (who couldn't care less if the corporation has to kick back some of the loot later), you do it. So subprime MBS and CDOs rated safe as mothers' milk, lying to and stealing from clients, misleading investors and the public (including Congress, even under oath), cheating on taxes, financing drug lords, laundering terrorist and Ponzi cash, ripping off the central bank that just saved your bacon, hell, even proclaiming love for America while simultaneously raking in hundreds of millions persuading American corporations to move offshore or even driving your own bank right off the cliff if the money's right: it's all good in the 'hood if you like the odds. If you can just not think about the morals and ethics-- very easy to do when you are paid in the hundreds of thousands or more-- it's a sweet life. For the players, that is. As for the rest of the country, hey, tough luck; you should've gone to work on Wall Street." Or the CIA.

Even worse, from Obama: "We tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values." Really? Contrary to the CIA's values? Contrary to Dick Cheney's values? Contrary to whose values? And how contrary? Apparently not contrary enough to take it seriously, aside from covering it up, calling the torturers "real patriots" (yes he did that) and moving on. But we love him because he says soaring stuff like "the character of our country has to be measured, in part, not by what we do when things are easy but what we do when things are hard." And then he called torture "enhanced interrogation techniques" and said we have to take responsibility "as a country… so that hopefully we don't do it again in the future." What a load of crap! That isn't what Justice is all about. And he's knows it; he isn't George W. Bush. He's defending Brennan from Justice and he's thereby taking part in the coverup.
“The CIA unconstitutionally spied on Congress by hacking into Senate intelligence committee computers,” Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat from Colorado, said on Thursday, calling on Brennan to step down. “This grave misconduct is not only illegal but it violates the US constitution’s requirement of separation of powers.”

However, the president stood by his CIA director. “I have full confidence in John Brennan,” Obama said.

While “some very poor judgment” was shown by the agency, Obama said, he added: “Keep in mind though that John Brennan was the person who called for the [inspector general] report and he’s already stood-up a task force to ensure that lessons are learned and mistakes are resolved.”

The row involving Brennan and the spying on congressional staff is the latest in a string of controversies involving the US intelligence community, including documents leaked by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that revealed the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, had misled Congress.

Obama has been steadfastly supportive of the top echelons of the intelligence establishment, while occasionally criticising their methods. His remarks about torture conducted by the CIA were among his most candid to date.

While condemning the CIA’s use of torture techniques, Obama voiced sympathy for the intelligence community, saying it was placed under incredible pressure in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

“It is important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job those folks had,” he said. “A lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.”

Seeking to explain the context in which the CIA adopted its controversial programme, the president continued: “It is important, when we look back, to recall how afraid people were after the twin towers fell, and the Pentagon had been hit, and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent.”

He added: “We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values. I understand why it happened.”
Trevor Timm, also writing for The Guardian didn't tiptoe through the tulips the same way Paul Lewis, who's based in DC, did. "John Brennan blatantly lied to the American public. Again… Private apologies are not enough for a defender of torture, the architect of America’s drone program and the most talented liar in Washington," he wrote. "The nation’s top spy needs to go."
The latest row isn’t the lone CIA-spying-on-the-Senate scandal on Brennan’s watch. In a little noticed story last week, McClatchy reported that the CIA has also been spying on emails from whistleblower officials and Congress:
The CIA got hold of the legally protected email and other unspecified communications between whistleblower officials and lawmakers this spring, people familiar with the matter told McClatchy. It’s unclear how the agency obtained the material.
That spying scandal, as well as the one Brennan has actually owned up to, both spawn from the Senate’s damning 6,000-page report on CIA torture, part of which is supposed to be publicly released any day now. The document will serve as yet another reminder that Brennan, when he worked in the CIA during the Bush years, supported many of the barbaric techniques used on prisoners after 9/11, which the Obama administration claims to oppose.

Brennan’s one-time torture endorsement made a newly elected President Obama pass him over when the CIA director job was open in 2009. But failing upwards has been a Langley specialty over the past decade. As the Associated Press has documented, many agency officials involved in the CIA’s worst human rights abuses and intelligence disasters have not only be shielded from punishment, but promoted. In 2013, after a signature drone strike-filled stint as Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor, Brennan was successfully confirmed as CIA director.

…Lest we forget, Brennan’s most recent false statement is not his first James Clapper-esque experiment in misinformation. The nation’s top spy is, in fact, a proficient and skilled liar. As Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor for his entire first term in the White House, Brennan built, oversaw, executed and excused America’s robotic assassination program. During a speech in 2011, the keeper of the kill list said there had not been “a single collateral death” from US drone strikes because of their “exceptional proficiency [and] precision”. But as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported:
[J]ust three months beforehand, a major US drone strike had killed 42 Pakistanis, most of them civilians. As well as being widely reported by the media at the time, Islamabad’s concerns regarding those deaths were also directly conveyed to the ‘highest levels of the Administration’ by Washington’s then-ambassador to Pakistan, it has been confirmed to the Bureau.
Internal intelligence documents leaked to McClatchy later confirmed Brennan to have lied at the time, not to mention the countless media reports before and since documenting other cases of US drone strikes killing civilians. During his confirmations hearings, Brennan promised to be “as open as possible with these programs”; we know almost nothing. What we do know, has been pried from the CIA by lawsuits and court orders.

…Brennan also fed the public wildly inaccurate details about the Osama bin Laden raid in 2011, and despite condemning leaks of classified information from others, he has often leaked classified information himself to suit his own needs. This is not the type of guy who is going to resign because of some report he doesn’t like; this is the type of spy who apologizes even though he’s not sorry, who lies because he doesn’t like to tell the truth.

The National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency have been allowed to lie brazenly to Congress, the courts and the public for far too long. It’s far past time for the Obama administration to bring a little accountability to the intelligence community. It’s time for Barack Obama to fire John Brennan.
The senators knew what they were getting when they confirmed him on March 7, 2013, by a vote of 63-34. Only 2 Democrats (Jeff Merkley and Pat Leahy) + independent Bernie Sanders had the guts to stand up and say no the that sickening bipartisan rush to confirm. Maine faux-moderate Susan Collins, always a kiss-up to the National Securuity State Brennan represents, helped persuade a dozen Republicans to back Obama on this repulsive nomination. Blue America has endorsed Shenna Bellows, the progressive Democrat running for the Maine Senate seat being occupied and wasted by Collins. Bellows is the former Executive Director of the Maine ACLU and we asked her for her perspective on the developing Brennan scandal. It's short and to the point and if you think she would make a better member of the U.S. Senate than Collins, please consider contributing whatever you can afford.
"We saw what happened during the Bush years when a security state operates without real, enforceable checks and balances. I spent eight years as head of the ACLU of Maine to help restore those checks and balances in our state. The worrying 'spy on everyone, everywhere, at every time' trend that began a decade ago has not ended, and it's gone on long enough. The people making crucial decisions about our nation's safety need to be accountable for those decisions, and they need to answer for their mistakes. CIA agents spying on Senate staff is no less serious than NSA agents monitoring domestic phone calls without a warrant. Security agencies, like the rest of the federal government, operate within the framework of the Constitution, and so does Mr. Brennan. He needs to do his part to end the culture of impunity in our intelligence services and step down."

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