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Reply #63: COUNTER-TERRORISM: Some Things Are Too Important to Let Bush Decide [View All]

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leveymg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Aug-16-06 03:09 PM
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63. COUNTER-TERRORISM: Some Things Are Too Important to Let Bush Decide
* Do you trust George W. Bush to make important decisions about capturing terrorists?
* Should Joe Lieberman and Dick Cheney be told operational details about counter-terrorism programs, and then freely use that information for political gain?
* Should the Director and head staff of Homeland Security be political posts, jobs given out as spoils to GOP loyalists, who then go on to make the operational decisions that may determine life or death for thousands of Americans?

If your answer to any of those questions was no, or not sure, you might want to read this post.


We don't trust the President to control the money supply, so we have the Chairman and Board of the Federal Reserve, a semi-autonomous agency run by bankers, do it since passage of the Federal Reserve Act. 12 USC; ch. 6, 38 Stat. 251 (December 23, 1913. The President does not necessarily get to appoint a Fed Chairman, as that post is for a fixed four-year term that does not coincide with the presidential election cycle. The seven Members serve fourteen-year terms, and new Members of the Board are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The professional staff are selected by merit, and have civil service protection. It's not a perfect arrangement, but most informed observers agree, it's proven to work better than the previous system of political patronage and partisan agendas that made prior federal management of the banking system, money supply and economy captive to the electoral cycle.

Similarly, the President has limited powers of hiring and firing over the uniformed military. (FTN. 1) The President nominates an incoming Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the end of a normal four-year term, which again does not coincide with presidential elections, and appoints the commanders of the various combatant commands. (FTN. 2) But, the list of candidates is put together by the uniformed services on the basis of merit selection. The staff that serves the JCS are selected by the Services on the basis of merit by the Services for fixed, extendable terms.

Thus, is Bush entitled by law to select who he wants to run the federal government? No. The most important permanent institutions in Government are not run as political fiefdoms by all the President's men. Those agencies which critical functions, such the Armed Services and Banking, have independent, merit-based mechanisms for executive and staff appointments, promotions and retention.

That's a separate question from the changes the Bushites have, in fact, attempted to actually impose. There has indeed been an effort to impose more or less absolute control over the militarty, intelligence services, and law enforcement agencies. During the Bush Administration, the independence and integrity of the Armed Services and agencies have come under severe attack. Witness what happened to those who questioned the Administration's assessments regarding Iran and Iraq -- Valerie Plame at CIA, and Lt. Col. Karen Kwaitowski who was forced out as Near East Desk Officer at DIA by Sec. Rumsfeld and the neocons -- but, these institutions have fought back, and are reasserting their independence. The Scooter Libby and OSP-AIPAC prosecutions are the most visible sign of that push-back by the U.S. military and intel.

So it has been with counter-terrorism. This is an area of power within the bureaucracy that has undergone enormous growth and fundamental change under Bush with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and appointment of Michael Chertoff, and the post of National Intelligence Director, filled by John Negroponte, both political and ideological appointments of the highest order.

It should thus be not be a surprise that there's been a politicization of counter-terrorism. The frequent terrorism alerts were strategically timed to keep the American people in a state of anxiety during Bush's first term, but few or any of them seem to have much basis in an immediate threat to the public. Since the 2004 elections, there have been none, until a week ago. Now, the Bush Administration is trying to politically exploit the U.K. Liquid Bomb Plot as a club to beat Democrats as "terrorist supporters". This is an outrage, and the Democratic leadership is also -- finally -- calling foul.

We have begun to hear serious allegations of White House meddling in a major British counter-terrorism operation, and evidence that the plot has been cultivated and controlled by UK, US and Pakistani intelligence agencies for more than a year. The corporate media is backpeddling away from the story. This leads to an important question:

Is counter-terrorism too important to the survival and well-being of the United States to be trusted to George Bush and his political appointees?

The unncessary and preventable deaths of 3,000 Americans on 9/11 demonstrated beyond any doubt that the Bush Administration is utterly incompetent to prevent major terrorist attacks. Subsequent events, including the massive secret warrantless wiretapping by the NSA, and other outright violations of the law, along with the sidetracking of the "war on terrorism" in the rush to occupy Iraq, and the utter miscarriage of that unncessary and aggressive war, did not vindicate the Bush Administration. In fact, it proved they lack the necessary judgment, strategic understanding, and respect for basic American liberties to continue doing the most important job in the land, protecting American lives from attack on our own soil.


The deadly failures in national security by the Bush Administration shows the need for a fundamental change in how these security functions are performed. George Bush, Dick Cheney. Karl Rove and Michael Chertoff should be fired from the job of top counter-terrorism chiefs. The Department of Homeland Security should be dissolved, and its functions taken over by an independent, non-partisan institution led by experts who serve fixed terms, staffed by career professionals with full civil service protection, who are free from the threats of Presidential enforcers and corrupt lobbyists. Never again should a Dick Cheney be able to march into CIA headquarters and badger staff to produce intelligence to order. Never again should the enticements of corrupt lobbyists such as Jack Abramoff be granted a free pass to enter the White House and Executive Office Building to dictate the desired terms by which intelligence is gathered by private contractors.

Those changes should be a promise made to the American people by the Democratic Party, to be delivered if the GOP control over Congress is lifted. I believe that remaining Republicans in Congress can be persuaded to see the advantages of such a plan to professionalize counter-terrorism, as it will of course curtail the partisan powers weilded by the next President, who is likely to be a Democrat.

Given the extraordinary powers of federal counter-terrorism agencies since 9/11, and the manifest failures of ad hoc arrangements that have given President Bush near-dictatorial powers, a better solution is needed. One can only hope that once the shape of a solution is suggested, that the need for reform is obvious to nearly everyone.

The Bush Administration's counter-terrorism program has been an expensive failure. The Administrations's attempts to exploit the liquid bomb plot to smeer Democrats as terrorism supporters -- shows that counter-terrorism is a matter that is not best directed by political bodies, such as the Presidency. It is a function that should be institutionalized and performed by an independent agency run by professionals, like the Fed, who operate separate from any particular Administration and are captive to no political party.

- END -
Mark G. Levey, 2006.

FTN. 1), See, TITLE 10 > Subtitle A > PART I > CHAPTER 5 > 155.
Furthermore, the various uniformed services create their own lists of candidates for the elite positions on the staff of the Committee of the Joint Chiefs. DoD Directive 5158.1, (May 1, 1985). As provided in Section 143 (reference (c)), the selection of the Director, Joint Staff, and of the members of the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. .

FTN, 2), The heads of the combatant commands -- SoCom, CentCom, StratCom, etc. -- answer directly to the Secretary of Defense and are appointed by the President, but are selected by merit from a list provided by the Armed Services: "The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 (Public Law 99-433) envisioned that officers would be selected for recommendation to the President for appointment as the commander of a combatant command under chapter 6 of title 10, United States Code (as added by that Act), on the basis of being the best qualified officer for that position." House Report 107-333 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002 CONFERENCE REPORT, SEC. 598. SENSE OF CONGRESS REGARDING THE SELECTION OF OFFICERS FOR RECOMMENDATION FOR APPOINTMENT AS COMMANDER, UNITED STATES TRANSPORTATION COMMAND.

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