Monday, May 08, 2006

Hayden a frightening choice for CIA post

If you thought your civil liberties were in peril now, mes amis, just wait until Gen. Michael Hayden becomes the director of central intelligence. The general has been reported as President Bush's likely choice to fill the spot from which Porter Goss was pushed on Friday. And if he name is unfamiliar to you, that's just the way the administration would like it, since he's the man who has done its dirty work in the spying on Americans conducted -- without warrants -- by the National Security Agency (NSA) which, until recently, was led by Hayden. (Media Matters has done some in-depth work on the nature of the scandal and its misreporting by many of the major news outlets.)

Then there's the idea of having a military man lead a civilian spy agency. The Pentagon already has its spy shop, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), not to mention the off-the-shelf operations created by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during his tenure. Oh, yeah -- and the NSA itself is part of the military.

At the risk of harping on the April issue of Harper's, your blogstress urges her readers to check out the roundtable discussion of the possiblity of a coup d'etat taking place in the U.S. Among the scenarios discussed is one in which we might find ourselves at this very moment: that of the "creeping coup."

Participants in the roundtable include Andrew J. Bacevich, Brig. Gen. Charles J. Dunlap, Jr.; Richard H. Kohn; Edward N. Luttwak and Harper's Senior Editor Bill Wasik.

BACEVICH: The question that arises is whether, in fact, we're not already experiencing what is in essence a creeping coup d'etat. But it's not people in uniform who are seizing power. It's militarized civilians, who conceive of the world as such a dangerous place that military power has to predominate, that constitutional constraints on the military need to be loosened...

KOHN: The Constitution is being warped.

BACEVICH: Here we don't need to conjure up hypothetical scenarios of the president deploying troops, et cetera. We have a president who created a program that directs the National Security Agency, which is part of the military, to engage in domestic eavesdropping.

LUTTWAK: I don't know if this would be called a coup.

KOHN: Because it's so incremental?

LUTTWAK: It's more like an erosion. The president is usurping additional powers. Although what's interesting is that the president's usurption of this particular power was entirely unnecessary. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, which approves terrorism-related requests for wiretaps, can be summoned over the telephone in a matter of minutes. In its entire history, it has said no to a request for surveillance only a handful of times, and those were cases where there was a mistake in the request...
Note that Bacevich, the fellow who introduced the idea of a creeping coup, served as a U.S. Army officer for 23 years. (He is now a Boston University professor.) Kohn chairs the Peace, War and Defense curriculum at the University of North Carolina. Luttwak is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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