"Weapons of Mass Deception"


Global Intelligence Domination

NY Times Editorial
December 21, 2004

Of all the bad ideas we heard during what passed for a Congressional debate over intelligence reform, none were as awful as a new plan being drawn up by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's staff to actually expand the Pentagon's authority over intelligence.

Apparently Mr. Rumsfeld is not satisfied with controlling 80 percent of the intelligence budget, an absurd situation that would have been remedied in the intelligence bill if Congress had not caved in to the Pentagon's lobbying. In this latest power grab, the Defense Department wants to elbow its way into more traditional intelligence gathering, which has been and should be done by the Central Intelligence Agency.

An article in Sunday's Times by Douglas Jehl and Eric Schmitt reported that a plan was being drafted that calls for the Pentagon to undertake more "human intelligence missions." That's militaryspeak for spying by actual people rather than satellites, often to get specific information sought by civilian policy makers rather than generals. The Pentagon's plan is to focus on terrorist groups and those involved in weapons proliferation.

That would be great for the purposes of expanding Mr. Rumsfeld's empire, but it flies in the face of the rationale behind the intelligence reform bill, and the suggestions from the 9/11 commission that inspired it. The wisdom of the reforms lay in making the nation's spy network more coherent, not more disorganized. It's already a superhuman task to coordinate the C.I.A. and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Adding a Pentagon agency could only make it harder to forestall another attack like the one on Sept. 11, 2001.

And there's something even more outlandish on the table: the idea of "fighting for intelligence," or using combat operations chiefly to get intelligence. If this country accepts the idea that military force is justified simply to find out what's on the other side, it opens itself up to a string of potentially disastrous preventive strikes. We've already seen how well that idea worked out when American troops invaded Iraq to find out whether Saddam Hussein really had dangerous weapons.

The American military exists to carry out policies set by the country's civilian leaders. The intelligence community is supposed to provide those same leaders with the best possible information on which to base those decisions. Mixing up those missions is a recipe for disaster.

The last time Mr. Rumsfeld tried to force himself into the intelligence collection and analysis business, he created a boutique C.I.A. in the bowels of the Pentagon under the command of Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy. The office essentially fabricated a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden - a link used to justify the Iraq invasion, and one that Mr. Rumsfeld was not getting from the C.I.A.

The person in charge of the new project is Lt. Gen. William Boykin, a deputy under secretary of defense who, while running the failed manhunt for Osama bin Laden, made himself into a national disgrace by parading to church pulpits in his uniform to preach that Islamic terrorists could be defeated only "if we come at them in the name of Jesus." He once said Muslims worship "an idol."

The Times's article said the Pentagon's plans were evolving and had not yet been brought to the president. We hope that means there's still time to avoid this train wreck. But in general, Mr. Bush has not shown much inclination to deny Mr. Rumsfeld what he wants.

Mr. Rumsfeld, who was responsible for putting together an invasion force that was too small and too lightly armed to battle the utterly predictable insurgency in Iraq, has inexplicably survived first the second-term cabinet purge and then harsh criticism from top Republican lawmakers. Just yesterday, Mr. Bush said the bungling defense secretary was doing a "fine job."


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Milton Frihetsson, 17:15


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