Michael Brenner, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, and Professor of International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh writes a scathing indictment our American Intelligence Failure in Iraq, tracing it back to delusional thinking and lack of accountability in the Bush-Cneney administration.
His last three paragraphs are such a brilliant indictment not only of the failure of our foreign intelligence function but also of our lack of accountability for violations of civil liberties and the Forth Amendment with of domestic intelligence agencies that I want to share them with you here without trying to summarize his entire analysis of intelligence failures in Iraq.
The theme Brenner builds up running into these three paragraphs are the problems that arise when "belief substitutes for strategy, policy results are automatically spun, failure is a world unspoken -- and, therefore, no one is held accountable for it, especially the intelligence agencies." He doesn't mention the neocons and Dick Cheney by name but I will plant the idea in you mind as we join Michael Brenner in his best tree paragraphs.
The distressing truth is that our leaders have inhabited a policy world so twisted out of shape by deceit and self-delusion that that their grip on reality has been dangerously loosened. The dishonesty at the core of George Bush's "war on terror" has had the deleterious effect of distorting the lens through which Americans -- including his successor -- view themselves, the world around them, and the dangers that emanate from it. Multiple delusions follow. One of these delusions -- shared by the President and his entourage -- is that we are protected by highly motivated, super competent and relentless intelligence agencies directed by people of great probity. A companion delusion is that it is unpatriotic to look too critically at those leaders and what they actually are doing. The inevitable outcome: abuse, failure and squandered resources.
Of course, there is an advantage to perpetuating delusions about the performance of the intelligence agencies: you don't learn things that inconveniently discredit other delusions. We have one striking example of this psychological pattern at work. Revelations about the NSA's trespass on the Fourth Amendment evoked a response conditioned by the near universal conviction among Washington elites that the Agency's activities were invaluable and, therefore, any conjectural curtailment -- however modest -- had to be balanced against that supposed benefit. Senior officials gave solemn testimony under oath that indeed the information gleaned had been vital in protecting Americans.
Those pronouncements by Clapper, Alexander, Brennan et al turn out to have been outright untruths. It is now established that there is no evidence that a single terrorist threat in the United States, of any magnitude, was prevented as a result of these massive assaults on civil liberties. Or the electronic surveillance of foreign leaders and other public figures. The President's own select Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies has so concluded. Yet, neither the Congress, nor any part of the Executive Branch nor the MSM have drawn the logical conclusion that the threat has been hugely inflated and the siege mentality that has driven American policies at home and abroad without sound basis. Concealing that logical connection helps to explain the absence of any serious effort to come to terms with the NSA abuses, those who have orchestrated the deception about their justification, those who lied about them and those (including the President) who have used the same methods against the Senate Intelligence Committee itself. To tear the tissue of delusion about the one is to risk the pain and embarrassment of tearing other tissues of delusion as well.
Freedom of conscience about the truth of the "terrorism years" is not prized or sought. It is the comfort and convenience promised by "corrected" truth that better serves what our leaders' crave and need most.
Damn, this is fine writing. How I wish I had written this. This is so important, however, I am pleased just cut and paste it here for your perusal and discussion.
Many of us here have struggled to find way to make the threat of an out-of-control NSA more compelling, but seem almost helpless as even our own Democratic leaders and President seem to go a long with massive wave of an unprecedented level of domestic intelligence that could not even have been imagined a few years ago, as if it is absolutely essential now, and if we were to leave untapped even one phone anywhere in the country we might miss a terrorist who could take out a major American city and Democrats could be blamed. So politicians seem fearful to challenge any aspect of these excessive programs.
We need to find a more succinct and less dense way of saying it but what I hear Micheal Brenner warning us about hear is the greater danger that if we do not challenge these incorrect assumptions, and hold those who have committed not only glaring monumental errors, but even fraud, accountable the performance of the entire intelligence function can and will degrade even further to the point that we see greater failures of the magnitude we've just seen in Iraq.
This failure land right at the doorstep of the House and Senate Intelligence Oversight Committees and also the Presidents who have not conducted the top to bottom reviews of the intelligence failures and abuses lead by former Vice President Dick Cheney, as I have called for twice this month, and Bobswern and others have written about numerous times over the last years.
This cancer can not be swept under the rug. The cost, pain, and damage will become greater the longer we wait. As I recommended two weeks ago, and last month, because it seems to be a job larger than the Congress can handle, perhaps, it needs to be conducted by an independent Blue Ribbon panel.
But, do it we must. Our nation's national security, as well as our civil rights and constitutional form of government remain at risk until we do it properly