It’s hard to know what will rile up the left, or ekg, since some things that seem innocuous to me will set off her red alert button. To be fair, it works both ways. The allegation that the President was breaking the law in firing an Inspector General who was investigating a supporter of the President draws not even a yawn from her or the left. Whether or not a real crime comes from that remains to be seen, but I doubt it will ever be a story on the level of Bush’s firing of his Justice Department Attorney Generals, which generated quite a bit media angst and airplay, even though Bush’s actions were perfectly legal.
That’s why I don’t get wound up at each Bush/Rove/Cheney “war crime.” I expect the media to pick apart the Bush administration memo by memo and I have a perfect ironic faith that the media will leave no stone unturned. If the Bush administration is guilty of crimes, they won’t stay hidden. Every parking ticket will generate a Congressional committee to investigate the heinous atrocity of double parking by the evil denizens of the Bush White House.
So, when I’m told that the Bush administration falsified CIA threat assessments to justify shitting (once again) on the Constitution, I tend to think, “been there, done that.” Like a conspiracy theorist, no amount of debunking will disprove it. For the conspiracist, debunking is always proof of just how far reaching the conspiracy is.
So, when presented with this:
The IG report said an unnamed White House official inserted a paragraph into the first threat assessment prepared by the CIA after the Sept. 11 attacks, which was used to justify the extraordinary intelligence measures.
The paragraph said that the “individuals and organizations involved in global terrorism possessed the capability and intention to undertake further terrorist attacks within the United States,” according to the report. It also said that the president should authorize the NSA to conduct the surveillance activities.
I admit it, I shrugged.
So with my ironic faith in the media, I assume that if there was something really to this, Brian Williams would have informed me promptly at 6:30 pm, every single evening until Bush was arrested and perp walked to a paddy wagon. Mr. Williams has not made a peep. If taken at face value, it does sound bad, but then I have to remember, if it’s so bad, why isn’t it a bigger story? So I went right to the source material itself.
The unclassified version of the IG report on The President’s Surveillance Program is the source of the blurb in the above news article. What’s interesting to me is what the news article left out. Editing I suppose although the purpose of that article was more general than the insertion of one paragraph into a threat assessment:
After the terrorism analysts completed their portion of the memoranda, the DCI Chief of Staff added a paragraph at the end of the memoranda stating that the individuals and organizations involved in global terrorism (and discussed in the memoranda) possessed the capability and intention to undertake further terrorist attacks within the United States. The DCI Chief of Staff recalled that the paragraph was provided to him by a senior White House official. The paragraph included the DCI’s recommendation to the President that he authorize the NSA to conduct surveillance activities under the PSP. CIA Office of General Counsel Attorneys reviewed the draft threat assessment memoranda to determine whether they contained sufficient threat information and an compelling case for reauthorization of the PSP. If either was lacking, an OCG attorney would request that an analysts provide additional threat information or make revisions to the draft memoranda.
The threat assessment memoranda were then signed by the DCI. George Tenent signed most of the threat memoranda prepared during his tenure as DCI. On the few occasions he was unavailable, the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, John E. McLaughlin, signed the memoranda on behalf of Tenent. McLaughlin also signed the memoranda in the capacity of acting DCI in August and September 2004.
So the paragraph added by the unnamed White House official was inserted by the DCI Chief of Staff, and signed by the DCI, George Tenent in this case, every 45 days. This sounds a lot less like threat assessment fraud by the White House and more like standard boilerplate on the threat assessment template in Word. So forget the White House for a second, these threat assessments were reviewed by the CIA lawyers as well; presumably before Tenent signed each version.
There were no occasions in which the DCI or acting DCI withheld their signatures from the threat assessment memoranda. The memoranda were co-signed by the Secretary of Defense, reviewed by the Attorney General, and delivered to the White House to be attached to the PSP Presidential Authorizations signed by the President.
Well if the former President goes down for this, he will be taking a lot of people with him.
My take? No laws were broken and nothing will come of this. If there is something to it, I have faith in the old media routing it out. They are constantly on the look out for a new Watergate In the meantime, if you’ve ever seen a threat assessment, there is a lot of boilerplate to them. I suspect this is more of the same. In the meantime, the left screams. They are in charge and they still can’t purge the old guard that’s already gone home.