In another attempt to find something sinister to hang onto the Bush administration, another secret program constituting a major part of the war on terror has been exposed by another member of the Exempt Media. This time, the Washington Post uses its contacts in the CIA to expose an umbrella program called GST, the code for a loose affiliation of dozens of programs designed to locate and fight terrorists abroad rather than wait for them to show up here. Nothing about the article stands out as a smoking gun, it never alleges anything specifically illegal, but Dana Priest writes the front-pager as a warning that the President has gone out of control in defending the US from attack:
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.
“In the past, presidents set up buffers to distance themselves from covert action,” said A. John Radsan, assistant general counsel at the CIA from 2002 to 2004. “But this president, who is breaking down the boundaries between covert action and conventional war, seems to relish the secret findings and the dirty details of operations.”
The administration’s decisions to rely on a small circle of lawyers for legal interpretations that justify the CIA’s covert programs and not to consult widely with Congress on them have also helped insulate the efforts from the growing furor, said several sources who have been involved.
This effort by Priest mirrors the slop served up by the NY Times on the NSA surveillance of international communications, except in one regard — the activities described by Priest clearly fall under the category of the President’s war powers. One cannot even claim the limited ambiguity of the NSA position on that point. When Bush took on the war after Congress’ authorization, he made it clear that he would use all tools at his disposal, explicitly naming the CIA and other intelligence services to serve as front-line assets in this new kind of war. As an example, Priest spends time reporting on qualms over CIA “assassinations” of al-Qaeda leaders. Once AQ declared war on the US, those stopped being assassinations at all but attacks on command and control assets of our enemy. It no more constituted an “assassination” as would dropping a bomb on Hitler’s bunker in 1945 would have been.
Reading the lengthy article, it becomes clear that the sources feeding this to the Post come from the CIA. Not only does the article expose Langley programs exclusively, the entire end of the article is dedicated to the whining of CIA personnel over their public image:
Some former CIA officers now worry that the agency alone will be held responsible for actions authorized by Bush and approved by the White House’s lawyers.
Attacking the CIA is common when covert programs are exposed and controversial, said Gerald Haines, a former CIA historian who is a scholar in residence at the University of Virginia. “It seems to me the agency is taking the brunt of all the recent criticism.” …
But a former CIA officer said the agency “lost its way” after Sept. 11, rarely refusing or questioning an administration request. The unorthodox measures “have got to be flushed out of the system,” the former officer said. “That’s how it works in this country.”
In other words, Priest’s sources want to use the Post to fight the housecleaning that Porter Goss has initiated and to play a little CYA along with their years-long pushback against the Bush administration. They hijacked the front page of the newspaper to file complaints about having to engage the enemy in the war on terror, and when confronted about those rogue elements that have spent their efforts fighting the Bush administration rather than Islamofascists, they sob to Post reporters about their “image”.
One day, these leaks will end, but the question will then be whether we have any effective defense left against the terrorists, or if we have tipped our hand so badly that our enemies will adapt and find ways around our efforts to launch another attack. If that happens, these same media outlets will be screaming about the administration’s failure to keep us safe. However, we won’t be fooled; the responsibility will be on those who took it upon themselves to cripple the very programs that have kept us safe for the past four years.