Friday, November 21, 2014


A recent article reveals that there was institutional resistance within NSA to domestic mass surveillance. I am not surprised. There is no question that suspicionless mass surveillance of Americans violates the very DNA of NSA. Since the Church and Pike Committees of 1976, the mantra of the agency was Thou Shalt Not Surveil Americans.

When they began doing precisely that with the inception of "the Program," as President Bush's program of warrantless domestic mass surveillance was called, the early NSA whistleblowers resigned from their positions, and they filed formal complaints alleging waste, fraud and abuse with the Inspectors General of DOD, NSA, and DOJ.

Diane Roarke, the ranking staffer handling the NSA account at the House Committee on Intelligence, complained repeatedly to then-DCI Michael Hayden. Her account of their last meeting is memorable. She says that Hayden could not look her in the eye, and he explained to her that he had approval to conduct mass surveillance on Americans from the highest levels of government, from the President himself.

President George Bush was certainly aware of the Program, it was called the President's Terrorist Surveillance Program, or alternatively the President's Surveillance Program (PSP), and he did authorize it, but multiple accounts indicate that it was the brainchild of Vice President Dick Cheney. It was the office of the Vice President that championed the Program and steamrolled over all bureaucratic resistance. 

I suspect that somebody else was pulling Cheney's strings, but I also believe in the existence of the Illuminati and I subscribe to a conspiratorial view of history, so pay me no mind. Cheney's staff lawyer, David Addington, was the prime mover. Hayden was the DCI who re-authorized the Program, after then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey got hinky, uncomfortable with a radical reinterpretation of the President's powers under Article II of the Constitution.

This is how freedom in America died. Cheney put Addington in play, Addington wrote the foundational legal opinions rationalizing the mass surveillance of Americans, and good soldiers Michael Hayden and Keith Alexander executed the plan. Many protested, but to no avail. Most early NSA critics were destroyed financially and professionally, though their protests were legal, proper, and founded on a deep appreciation of their duty to uphold the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The way that these critics were treated may represent the nadir of our history as a Republic. Their prosecution was shameful. I am not aware that any apology was ever rendered.

Edward Snowden emphasizes that the experiences of earlier NSA whistleblowers and dissenters like Diane Roarke, Kurt Wiebe, Thomas Drake, Ed Loomis, William Binney, Russell Tice, James Risen and Thomas Tamm led him to the realization that he would have to steal a massive cache of classified documents, lest he be marginalized and neutralized as they were. As the saying goes, the rest is history.

There is no question in my mind that these gentlemen, Cheney, Addington, Hayden, Alexander, all need to be called to testify before a Joint Special Committee on Mass Surveillance, and they need to be read their rights before they open their mouths.

Many of them should be in a Supermax wearing orange jumpsuits, along with other conspirators.

Appearing before a joint congressional hearing will do for a start.

American Warmongers

Americans are warmongers. Most of us just do not realize it.

Most Americans are not impacted by our wars. We fight them using a praetorian class of professional soldiers who volunteer to go to war.

At worst, we Americans grumble about our taxes, but we pay them. Sometimes editorialists will complain about American imperialism, and strategists will claim that our wars are stupid and counterproductive, but that is pretty much the limit of popular resistance to American wars. There are no hippies complaining and protesting as there were in the Vietnam war era. We have no modern Jane Fonda, though the "winter soldier" John Kerry merits mockery as Secretary of State. 

Our soldiers die in our wars, and we mourn their loss deeply, but we also lavish our military with equipment and technology to a point where more of us survive incidents that used to be fatal than any previous time in history. We have never had so many amputees.

If there is a quid pro quo between America and its soldiers, this is probably it: Just keep the Veteran's Administration funded. We will fight your wars.

No other Army in the annals of warfare is so capable of demolishing enemies and suffering minimal effects from the exercise. We used to lose thousands of lives during the Vietnam conflict in a single day. Modern kill ratios are monstrously in our favor. I would not have it any other way.

We soldiers mourn our dead, and we would like it if our leaders were worthy of our sacrifice. But we mostly do not care. We are soldiers. We will go to other countries and dispense American policies at gunpoint whether it is a nice thing to do or not. We will not follow illegal orders, but short of that we obey our commanders. We are soldiers.

The American military industrial complex that Ike warned us about has found its sweet spot. Civilians are not inconvenienced by war, and the arms industry makes more guns and bullets and bombs and missiles than ever, getting paid with money that is barely worthy of the term. When the government needs more funds to pay for more munitions, the Treasury just sends over an IOU to the Fed, and it prints them. This is a vast oversimplification, of course, but fundamentally, this is what happens. 

Every bomb dropped overseas represents a job that an American worker retains. We drop a lot of bombs. The corporations that make them are crazy wealthy, and they charge our military top dollar for weapons systems and munitions. So the Pentagon goes to Congress and says "we need more money to buy more bombs." Our Congress marks up the budget, Treasury sends that IOU over to the Fed, and the war machine gets fed.

Nobody is troubled by our hypocrisy or our immorality except foreign critics, and most Americans pay them no mind. Americans just keep going to the mall. Soldiers go to war, mostly for the adventure of it all, I guess. American politicians are never held responsible for any of this, and the losers are the people that we kill overseas, in antiseptic campaigns that we experience as YouTube clips.

It is a pretty sweet racket. Except for those that we kill.

Very few of us truly care about the victims. They are out of sight, out of mind. No adversary has brought the war home to America, excepting the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, and Al Qaeda on 9-11. God help them if they do it again.

The difference between Americans going to the mall, and Americans baying for the blood of "terrorists™," will be something to behold.

Mark my words.