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The CIA Director confirmation hearings

Written By: - Date published: 11:03 am, January 10th, 2017 - 17 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, Deep stuff, democracy under attack, International, us politics - Tags: ,

On January 11th Mr Michael Pompeo will have his confirmation hearing to be President Elect Donald Trump’s Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA. For some reason it reminds me of a diligent U.S. Senator called Frank Church.

In the summer of 1975, on NBC’s ‘Meet The Press’, Senator Church reported on completing a comprehensive investigation of the U.S. intelligence community.

He had come away stunned by what he had found at the National Security Agency (NSA), even in that digital stone age: “That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left. There would be no place to hide … I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America.” The report is worth having a look at, even over 40 years old.

His report was like a textbook example straight out of Robert Higgs’ famous work Crisis and Leviathan, where the state never decreases and always accretes power and scale by calling upon the necessity of crisis again and again and again to gain further executive capacity.

In 2013, Edward Snowden echoed Frank Church. “A new leader will be elected, they’ll find the switch, say that ‘Because of the crisis, because of the dangers in the world, some new and unprecedented threat, we need more authority, we need more power'”, Snowden said in an interview with Glenn Greenwald. “And there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it. And it will be turnkey tyranny.”

Trump is about to be handed those keys.

In a December 2015 radio interview Trump expressed support for the NSA collection of telephone metadata, which is now outlawed. “As far as I’m concerned, that would be fine. When you have the world looking at us and would like to destroy us as quickly as possible, I err on the side of security.” This interview was well before he was the Republican candidate for President. He is about to become the President. Trump’s view on Snowden was that in the past such spies had been executed.

Which brings me to Mr Pompeo. Mike Pompeo is Trump’s chosen head of the CIA. Mr Pompeo wrote in the Wall Street Journal in January 2016: “Congress should pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with all publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database. Legal and bureaucratic impediments to surveillance should be removed.”  He has also called for Snowden to be executed.

This is different to the current President’s approach. The Snowden revelations of 2014 had an effect. President Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive 28 of 2014 states that surveillance can’t ever be used, for instance, to give U.S. companies a competitive edge, or to quell dissent abroad.

I hope to see Mike Pompeo questioned about this, and about how he will execute President Trump’s policy intent. Trump of course now has the pen to rescind such Presidential orders.

Sure, I worry about Trump’s access to the nuclear codes. What should concern us all more is his direction on domestic spying through all kinds of metadata and all kinds of financial and lifestyle information, on all kinds of people.

17 comments on “The CIA Director confirmation hearings”

  1. tc 1

    Poacher and gamekeeper….what could possibly go wrong as they look after THEIR free world

  2. adam 2

    Some Muppet’s on this forum keeps banging on how trump will be the agent of change, except his cabinet choices are all 1%ers of the deranged persuasion.

    This guy is defiantly on the dangerously paranoid end of right wing politics. A believer – a true believer, one which that thinks just by me writing this, I hate him and america.

    You Ad, are right royally done.

    The state has effectively given up on all responsibility to the people, the US state is more and more just a tool with which to use it’s greatest monopoly – violence.

    I can’t see how this is going to change anytime soon.

  3. Colonial Viper 3

    1) Your summary on the front page says Pompey

    2) If intrusive mass surveillance continues under the Trump era it will be because of Obama’s approval of those systems, and also Obama’s crushing of whistleblowers during the tenure of his Administration.

    3) Trump has filled up his Cabinet with strong men and alpha females. Good on him. Snowflakes won’t cut it.

    • Ad 3.1

      If President Trump chooses to override PPD 28 and enable really intrusive data collection of persons as well as metadata collection, it will be because President Trump has chosen to do so.

      It will also be the responsibility of the Head of the CIA, which is his appointment.

      President Trump has a chance to change the intelligence community. On the one hand he has shown a healthy skepticism of their capacity. On the other hand he would prefer to execute whistleblowers.

      President Trump will, together with the leadership he hires to execute his will, be solely responsible for the intelligence gathering policies of his new government.

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.1

        If President Trump chooses to override PPD 28 and enable really intrusive data collection of persons as well as metadata collection, it will be because President Trump has chosen to do so.

        The NSA didn’t build hundred thousand square feet data storage facilities for the sake of storing metadata.

        And I didn’t hear any news of any of these data storage facilities, eg in Utah, shutting down after PPD 28.

        President Trump has a chance to change the intelligence community…On the other hand he would prefer to execute whistleblowers.

        Let’s see what happens. I think Trump understands the importance of whistleblowers in a different way now.

        He’ll have to work very hard to persecute whistleblowers more than Barack Hussein Obama. Forcing down the official jet of a foreign leader etc because they thought Snowden was onboard etc.

        • Ad 3.1.1.1

          The President Elect has been inferring for a while that a comprehensive and structural review of all the intelligence agencies is on the cards. But I don’t see that turning into an actuality until the main overall head of intelligence is confirmed, and until Trump actually generates some solid structural policy about intelligence full stop.

          Hopefully the intelligence community gets a proper direction out of his first confirmation speech, if not the first State of the Union.

          My one piece of CIA wish list is that there be a single entity responsible for operating drone craft, rather than continuing to allow the CIA to run its own programme separate to the military. IMHO it should all be until one military command, and subject to the Joint Chief of Staff and the President as directly as possible. Needs more sunlight.

          • Colonial Viper 3.1.1.1.1

            Also need to avoid situations where Pentagon supported Kurds end up fighting CIA supported “moderate” jihadists in Northern Syria.

  4. One Two 4

    Explaining the genesis of The CIA would provide the required context

    It’s nothing to do with the ‘colour’ of the POTUS. GHWB aside!

    • Ad 4.1

      Crikey. You have to go back to 1946 and President Truman.
      He established the National Intelligence Authority. This was the immediate predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency.

      Lawrence Houston, head counsel of the SSU, CIG, and, later CIA, was principal draftsman of the National Security Act of 1947, which dissolved the NIA and the CIG, and established both the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency. In 1949 Houston helped to draft the Central Intelligence Agency Act (Public law 81-110), which authorized the agency to use confidential fiscal and administrative procedures, and exempted it from most limitations on the use of Federal funds.

      You can have a trawl through Wikipedia if you like.

      But my personal fictional account of its operations is James Ellroy’s The Cold 6000.
      It’s huge fun with Hoover.

      • Colonial Viper 4.1.1

        Biggest mistake ever was allowing the CIA to have an ops function.

        • McFlock 4.1.1.1

          lol

          Yeah, all intelligence agencies should be restricted to open-source data like everyone else is.

          No need for any intelligence organisation to actually run an intelligence operation. /sarc

          • Colonial Viper 4.1.1.1.1

            Sorry my bad for not being clear, I meant a paramilitary operations function, as opposed to legitimate intelligence gathering in the field.

            • McFlock 4.1.1.1.1.1

              Ok, so according to you they should be able to place spies, but not protect those spies?

              • Colonial Viper

                No, not what I mean. CIA clandestine services group are capable of black ops taking down small governments and waging wars against small armies. Their purpose goes far beyond the protection of agents or assets.

                • McFlock

                  Well, you’ve already okayed the deployment of undercover armed personnel into other nations in order to protect your spying activities on their soil. Why shouldn’t they overheat the odd pump-station or stab someone with an umbrella while they’re there, if it serves their own national interest? They’re already well into illegal activity in any nation.

  5. Nick 5

    Whatever Trump says about anything is subject to complete reversal or denial that he ever said it in the first place….much like other politicians sadly….I better add shonkeys favourites….I dont remember and I dont have the information.

    That mexican wall will not even be built…..

  6. Conal 6

    From the front page teaser: “Are we going to see the unprecedented destruction of rights of privacy?”

    Well, maybe, but not just yet. The situation has improved recently (because Snowden’s revelations of mass surveillance have led to courts actually enforcing the law, and because of the expiry of PATRIOT Act provisions), so things will have to worsen quite a bit before the loss of privacy rights become as bad as they were, or worse, “unprecedented”.

    It’s interesting to note how easily “intelligence” agencies (I prefer the term “secret police”) can flout government policy, or national or international law, and get away with it for years, and when caught, get let off with a stern warning. How many people went to jail because they illegally spied on hundreds of millions of people, or worse, because they “tortured some folks” (as Obama put it)? There were clear and serious breaches of the law, and yet Obama was inclined to let it slide because he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, take on the “intelligence community”. The US has this myth that it’s a “state of laws, not of men”, but it’s just that – a myth.

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