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Dana Priest’s Global Show-n-Tell

Today’s Washington Post page-one round-up disclosing a little new and summarizing a lot of previously reported “highly classified” national security information is by Dana Priest: “Covert CIA program withstands new furor.” Here are the article’s opening paragraphs:

The effort President Bush authorized shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, to fight al Qaeda has grown into the largest CIA covert action program since the height of the Cold War, expanding in size and ambition despite a growing outcry at home and abroad over its clandestine tactics, according to former and current intelligence officials and congressional and administration sources.

The broad-based effort, known within the agency by the initials GST, is compartmentalized into dozens of highly classified individual programs, details of which are known mainly to those directly involved.

GST includes programs allowing the CIA to capture al Qaeda suspects with help from foreign intelligence services, to maintain secret prisons abroad, to use interrogation techniques that some lawyers say violate international treaties, and to maintain a fleet of aircraft to move detainees around the globe. Other compartments within GST give the CIA enhanced ability to mine international financial records and eavesdrop on suspects anywhere in the world.

Over the past two years, as aspects of this umbrella effort have burst into public view, the revelations have prompted protests and official investigations in countries that work with the United States, as well as condemnation by international human rights activists and criticism by members of Congress.

Still, virtually all the programs continue to operate largely as they were set up, according to current and former officials. These sources say Bush’s personal commitment to maintaining the GST program and his belief in its legality have been key to resisting any pressure to change course.

We’ve previously commented at length on several elements of Priest’s story. This morning we yield the floor to Bill Bennett, who has been talking about Priest’s story on his “Morning in America” show:

Here we go again…but at least we have no real new disclosures here–just basically an editorial and roundup of what we already know–thanks to her and the NYTIMES. It really is an editorial masquerading as a news story: she is describing a vast CIA program (what we might call “war footing”) known as GST (initials not explained) that is “compartmentalized into dozens of highly classified individual programs, details of which are known mainly to those directly involved.”

So no details. Good. But here is how she describes GST: “GST includes programs allowing the CIA to capture al Qaeda suspects with help from foreign intelligence services, to maintain secret prisons abroad, to use interrogation techniques that some lawyers say violate international treaties, and to maintain a fleet of aircraft to move detainees around the globe. Other compartments within GST give the CIA enhanced ability to mine international financial records and eavesdrop on suspects anywhere in the world.”

There you have it: this is the dark and dirty world we live in. Hardly a police state, hardly a truant officer or dog catcher state: we use foreign intelligence to capture and kill al-Qaeda and move detainees around the world; we look at international finanical records, and eavesdrop on suspected terrorists. If anyone told you we did that at a water cooler would you even blink an eye?

Of course not; you’d go nuts, wouldn’t you, if we weren’t doing that?

Here’s my favorite sentence from this long op-ed cum article: “The top-secret presidential finding Bush signed six days after the Sept. 11 attacks empowered the intelligence agencies in a way not seen since World War II.” Good–this means the administration sees the GWOT as important as FDR saw WWII.

Let me say this in conclusion: Priest preens in the piece that because of her revelations, the CIA has had to shut down its so called “black sites” in Europe–this is not something to celebrate: this means the WAPO openly and notoriously changed covert policy and operations, operations that no country before the publicity cared about. I can’t say it enough: shame on the WAPO, shame on Dana Priest. It boils down to this: So the WAPO creates a sound and fury and reports that there’s a sound and fury; they cause a sturm und drung, and report a sturm und drung; they report a hue and cry has been raised–they raised it.

When this war is over, there will be a lot of accounting to be had, and I hope a 9/11 commissioner who tells us we are not yet safe puts the blame not on this administration which is obviously working hard as you read this article, but on an alien media nation which sees itself not as a reporting agency but as an unelected fourth branch of government doing its level best to change effective policy for the sake of a headline.

Are the Post and the Times pursuing these stories for the sake of headlines, or for political purposes? It seems to me that the most notable political development of 2005 has been the emergence of the Copperhead Democrats as the core of the Democratic Party, abetted by their supporters such as the Times and the Post in the mainstream media. I would add only that I hope there is a reckoning with them well before the war is over. Otherwise, Bill Bennett speaks for me. (Transcript courtesy of “Morning in America” producer Seth Leibsohn.)

UPDATE: Tony Snow’s column today is on a related note: “Time for the president to call their bluff.”

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