|CIA Director John Brennan is working to protect terrorists|
In the aftermath of the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush declared that the U.S. could not tolerate the violence of international terrorism, and that the country would pursue terrorists wherever they could be found, dismantling, if necessary, those regimes which harbored them.
This promise provided the casus belli for the administration’s war on Iraq—not only illegal, but based on lies constructed by the Vice President and others in the administration. But it was also what opened up the possibility for the ill-judged U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
Today, the United States and other countries are threatened or destabilized not only by the existence of international, non-state terrorism—much of it disseminated or catalyzed by our imperial foreign policy which yields little in the way of public benefits and much in the way of U.S. and global insecurity.
We also face a pernicious internal threat from the military and security apparatus that grew alongside our government’s prosecution of the War of Terror, now fought across multiple continents on many fronts.
Dictionary.com defines “terrorism” as “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes”. The entire premise of the War on Terror—with its embrace of methods of barbarism—is about using violence to create political change.
An entire industry of state terror now exists in the United States. Our government developed torture programs that outran their remit and evaded official scrutiny, in part because the CIA lied to Congress and the administration about the barbarism of their program. When the Senate sought to investigate the terrorism of the CIA, the organization, along with its supporters in the Obama administration, sought to frustrate the investigation.
Our government dramatically expanded domestic and international surveillance, intruding into people’s personal communications in a way calculated to create a more servile and fearful population, arguing that such spying (about which the NSA lied to Congress) was necessary to protect the public, although they can’t actually tell us what they are protecting us from.
In conjunction with the torture program, our government deployed the methods of state terror developed in other parts of the world by military dictatorships: disappearance, abduction, rendition, and extrajudicial killing.
The latter method has ballooned under President Obama, who now uses “disposition matrices” to order the murder of people using drones. The murder of people on two continents using this method relies on a statistical evaluation of a person’s movements and behavior, not on any recognizable legal process. And investigations have proven Obama’s program of mass murder to be woefully inaccurate when it comes to targeting only imminent threats.
The Bush administration waged war in flagrant defiance of law, conspiring to wage aggressive war in Iraq—the crime for which Nazis were tried at Nuremberg, one of the first applications of laws about war crimes, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity.
But the Obama administration has tried to put a legal gloss on its war-making powers, arguing that no Congressional oversight is necessary for a war waged by drones because there are no “boots on the ground” and therefore there is no war. That is a fine hair to split for the people whose family members are killed or whose livelihoods are destroyed by Obama’s wars.
So if part of our task as a nation is to recognize that something has been terribly wrong with our conduct during the past decade or more, we also need to pursue justice: to make it clear that there is no impunity for state terrorists, and to ensure that our institutions are cleaned up.
Senator Mark Udall outlined part of the problem in a speech before the Senate, arguing that “[CIA] director [John] Brennan and the CIA today are continuing to willfully provide inaccurate information and misrepresent the efficacy of torture. In other words, the CIA is lying…the deeper, more endemic problem [than the original torture program] lies in a CIA, assisted by a White House, that continues to try to cover up the truth”.
In 2001, George W. Bush declared that the United States would “pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime”.
It was a crude basis on which to wage what is now a 13-year war, with no end in sight. But it gets at part of our current problem. We now have, within the United States, within the fastness of our federal government, institutions whose membership includes practitioners, promoters, and defenders of state terror.
John Brennan, the head of the CIA, is harboring terrorists and shielding them, his agency, and the institutional culture of our security and intelligence services, from democratic scrutiny, accountability, and justice. He is working to protect terrorists and promote terrorism by frustrating the efforts of our democratic institutions—the Senate, for example—to investigate wrongdoing.
In this way, Brennan and others like him in this administration and the previous one have drawn battle lines and are going to war with our democracy, arguing that the right of the CIA to break the law and commit acts of terrorism is more important than our political and judicial framework.
Brennan makes this argument by saying that the CIA’s terrorism has been somehow misunderstood. He is undermined by the likes of Dick Cheney who says that everyone in the administration knew exactly what unspeakable things they were authorizing the CIA to do. Brennan is trying to hide state terror, while Dick Cheney is glorifying it.
Both of these men—and many others like them—represent a sickness in our government and our democracy. Whether they are harboring, defending, or enabling state terrorists and state terrorism, they pose an imminent threat to our democracy—a threat that today seems in precious little danger of being brought to heel without a systematic effort to hold people accountable.
Writing in the Los Angeles Times, UC Irvine law professor and dean Erwin Chemerinsky reminded us that “torture is a federal crime, and those who authorized it and engaged in it must be criminally prosecuted…The only way to ensure that it does not happen again is to criminally prosecute those involved”.
“Those who authorized and engaged in torture should not be able to escape punishment because they thought that they were acting to protect national security”, Chemerinsky argued, “The ends came to justify the means, and the means were inhumane and abhorrent. The debate should not be about whether the torture worked. The federal criminal law and the [international] treaty [to which the U.S. is a signatory] have no exception for effective torture”.
The ACLU has a petition asking that those who authorized this awful state terrorism be held accountable. Adding your name to such a petition is one way of trying to ensure that criminality does not go unpunished and that we make headway against those operating from the shadows of the military intelligence complex who would see our democracy become a casualty of their imperial war.