What the CIA did not tell us about its War on Terror

12 Sep, 2021 at 11:04 | Posted in Politics & Society | 1 Comment

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  1. The Anniversary of 9/11 is a Great Day to Reflect on Republican Hypocrisy
    GOP pols in the Bush years set the constitution afire and cheered America’s march toward authoritarianism, but now want you to know Joe Biden has them Petrified For Democracy. Are you laughing yet?

    Matt Taibbi
    Sep 11

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    Well, that didn’t take long. Within a day after Joe Biden announced his vaccine mandate plan, a conga line of exultant blue-friendly pundits rushed to offer their hottest hot takes on the many exciting authoritarian possibilities that might now be open, with government unshackled at last.

    CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen had a busy end of the week, proposing the equivalent of a no-fly list for the unvaccinated, explaining, “It’s not a constitutional right as far as I know to board a plane.” She also compared walking outside unvaccinated to driving drunk, suggested the penalties should be similar, and praised Biden’s plan by saying, “if you endanger other people, there is an obligation by society to do something about that.”

    Twitter avatar for @DrLeanaWen
    Leana Wen, M.D.
    @DrLeanaWen
    Remaining unvaccinated & going out in public is equivalent to driving under the influence. You want to be intoxicated? That’s your choice, but if you want to drive a car, that endangers others. No one should have the “choice” to infect others with a potentially deadly disease.
    Image
    September 10th 2021

    1,162 Retweets4,335 Likes
    USA Today said the mandate was a great start, but now we need “data-driven mask mandates, too.” FBI agent-turned-“journalist” Asha Rangappa playfully retweeted one poster’s all-in-one solution, in which the government would simply conscript all unvaccinated people into the service, vaccinate them as required for active duty personnel, then discharge them.

    The Biden speech inspiring all this was pure catnip to those yearning to punish all the obstinate ignoramuses said to be causing America’s problems. It was announced that the TSA would double fines for people on planes not wearing masks, with Biden snapping, “If you break the rules, be prepared to pay.” President DodderGramps then took a hard stance on the “nearly 80 million Americans” who still aren’t vaccinated, saying through gritted teeth, “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” and “your refusal has cost all of us.” It was the most pointed presidential warning since 2001, when George W. Bush all but rolled out Ennio Morricone’s The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly theme as he promised to “smoke [terrorists] out of their holes.”

    The Republican Party’s collective response to Biden’s mandate plan reminded me of the Zucker brothers take on how to deal with adversity in “a mature and adult fashion”:

    Republican Senator John Thune decried an “extreme government overreach,” Arizona governor Doug Ducey called the vaccine mandate a “dictatorial approach,” while a Kentucky congressman denounced Biden’s move as “absolutely unconstitutional.” Mark Meadows said Biden was a “lawless President” who will “trample over the constitution” to achieve partisan goals. Utah’s Mike Lee, who clerked for Samuel Alito in the early War on Terror years, said Biden was a “would-be autocrat” who’d exhibited a “wanton disregard for the U.S. Constitution.” Hillbilly Elegy author and likely presidential hopeful J.D. Vance denounced Biden as a “geriatric tyrant” and outlined a plan of “mass civil disobedience” against what he called the “illegal and unconstitutional” vaccine mandate:

    It’s not easy to pick which of the above actors deserves the biggest belly laugh — there were enough authoritarian inanities emanating just from CNN Friday to power ten years of scientific research on the International Space Station — but my early vote goes with the Republicans, whose self-righteous wig-out will surely end up in the Unintentional Comedy Hall of Fame. Is the 20-year anniversary of 9/11 really the moment when Republican politicians want to hold a mass cry-in about “extreme government overreach,” a “dictatorial approach” to governance, and ignoring the constitution?

    That party has centuries of amends to make before it should ever get a whiff of being taken seriously again on questions of “overreach” and extraconstitutional mischief. Even the current meandering, messageless version of the GOP would have a powerful weapon against Democrats if it could just admit, “We spent much of the early 2000s building some of the most heinously extrajudicial and anti-democratic governmental infrastructure the world has ever seen, and we designed those mechanisms to be secret and exempt from oversight. So it’s somewhere between totally and mostly on us that a Democratic administration is now deploying these ideas in all directions, including against our voters. That’s our bad, and we’re sorry.”

    Of course, this Republican party — whose modus operandi for decades has been gobbling defense and oil and gas donations in exchange for tax and regulatory giveaways while winning votes of actual people by waving the flag and pretending to know scripture — is incapable of that kind of epiphany. It just wants to have its cake and eat it too, wailing at maximum volume about Democratic Party authoritarianism while keeping schtum about the fact that almost every policy they’re now complaining about was a Bush-era invention they once applauded. Bush even founded the TSA, the original prying federal pain in the ass! Forget about doubled fines for mask violators — during the War on Terror years, they doled out $1,500 tickets to randos who showed the wrong “attitude” when passing through TSA checkpoints.

    On the anniversary of 9/11, it’s worth remembering exactly how many freedoms were lost in pursuit of Dick Cheney’s Middle East science project, and how lustily Republicans cheered each one of those changes.

    Congressional passage of the first Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) after 9/11 symbolized the breadth of the coming power grab. It gave Bush unilateral authority to deploy the military against “nations, organizations, or persons” who “planned, committed, or aided” the 9/11 attacks. This should have been broad enough, but White House lawyer John Yoo more or less immediately added a memo interpreting the AUMF to also give the president the “pre-emptive” authority to wage war against any target deemed necessary, “whether or not they can be linked to the specific terrorist incidents of September 11.” The absurdity of this legal construct was such that it has since been invoked on countless occasions to launch military strikes and assassinations against groups and members of groups that didn’t even exist on 9/11.

    It’s been suggested by some of Biden’s critics that he should have sought congressional approval for something so significant as a vaccine mandate. I’d agree, but I’m not interested in hearing that criticism from any Republican who cheered the “I’m the decider!” years, when Bush used executive orders so often and for so many things — including warrantless surveillance — that a whole generation grew up unaware that things like sending troops into combat once required congressional approval.

    A short list of the more obscene authoritarian practices Republicans rammed into being since 9/11/2001, most of which have stuck with us in stubborn fashion ever since, like venereal disease:

    — They created a new term of war, “unlawful combatant,” which allowed them to unilaterally opt out of both the Geneva convention and the due process protections of American criminal law, when it came to the growing population of persons around the world not charged with anything, but in our custody;

    — They asserted the right to kidnap and remove to this indefinite secret detention any person anywhere in the world, with or without formal charge, even an American citizen;

    — With the aid of then-NSA director Michael Hayden, who’s since become a star in #Resistance circles, they unilaterally put into service a surveillance program that mass-violated the rights and privacy of every person on earth, including every American, and bluntly violated our own existing foreign surveillance law;

    — They created a secret master list of undesirables via the establishment of a program called the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), which had as a sub-project the infamous “No-Fly List.” This program affected the lives of as many as a million people without any due process or transparency, not just impacting the ability of the listed to fly but permitting the state to intervene to affect the chances of those listed at getting jobs, admission to schools, access to loans, and so on;

    — They ostensibly made assassination legal again and secretly gave themselves the right to employ their new “targeted killing” policy anywhere in the world. A Democrat, Barack Obama, would be the first to assert the legal right to drone without trial two Americans, al-Qaeda member Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16 year-old son;

    — They entered into agreements with telecom companies and other institutions that gave them ongoing, warrantless access to the medical, educational, and communications records of millions of Americans and foreigners alike. In most of these arrangements, whether formalized via a “National Security Letter” or not, the companies warehousing data were barred by law from informing their customer they’d been coerced by the government into sharing private data;

    And so on, and so on. Republicans scarcely protested any of this until Obama got elected, and even then it wasn’t Obama’s acceleration of the worst excesses like drone murder that was the problem. Instead, the Democrats’ public flirtation with deploying a few of these tools in unpredictable directions finally triggered the Republican outrage center. An early preview of what that looked like came in May, 2015, when congressional Democrats in the wake of a series of mass shootings tried to deny purchases of certain kinds of firearms to people on the no-fly list.

    Republicans were aghast. Who ever said anything about using these insane and clearly unconstitutional programs against our constituents? One Republican politician after the next now stood up and made speeches that sounded culled from old ACLU circulars:

    “Look at the number of errors on the no fly list,” mortified South Carolina Republican Tim Scott complained. “One estimate was that there were up to 50 percent errors!”

    “If the president believes that people on no-fly lists are a threat to the public, then how come his Department of Justice doesn’t indict them, try them and convict them and put them behind bars?” asked Texas Senator John Cornyn. In other words, whatever happened to goldarned due process? The voices of pols like Cornyn choked with emotion. They really sounded sad!

    Things got even sadder over the next five years as two things happened. One, the rich white suburban districts with median incomes above $250,000 that had been Republican strongholds — places even Mitt Romney once won by 20-point margins — became completely lost to the GOP during the Trump years, as even the most rapacious capitalists abandoned them for competence reasons. In 2016, Hillary won those same districts by an average of 37 points.

    The skew was even more pronounced in the 2020 race, when Biden won a fifth of the counties Trump did, but those 509 counties accounted for 71% of National GDP, compared to 29% for Trump. The Democrats by 2020 in other words were officially the party of the rich, even winning all ten of the ten richest congressional seats, while the GOP was not just beaten in these places, but now completely non-viable there.

    In the second, related phenomenon, the Democratic Party in the Trump years became the new intellectual home of the Bush-Cheney authoritarian revolution, with famed War on Terror architects like Bill Kristol and David Frum crossing over and Democrats like Adam Schiff suddenly capable of out-monstering even the worst Republicans on civil liberties issues. Blue-friendly pundits regularly hammered the theme that concern over civil liberties was just a stalking horse for right-wing treachery (Salon’s “For Trump and his man-baby fans, ‘free speech’ means they get to act out with no consequences” was a typical Trump-era headline), while they also lionized War on Terror scum-lords like Hayden and John Brennan and James Clapper, who all got paid TV gigs. Special worship was reserved for Bob Mueller, however.

    Pundits cheered as one when Mueller raided the office of the president’s lawyer (who cared about the long-term concerns over attorney-client privilege, this was Trump!) or when he employed the increasingly common practice of using secret counterintelligence evidence in a domestic criminal case (as in the Maria Butina episode), or when Mueller tried to refuse basic discovery to the defense on the grounds that his evidence might end up “discrediting ongoing investigations” by his team, or when he wiped his graying hind-parts with the presumption of innocence, via absurd constructions like the idea that Trump would not be charged but was still “not exonerated.” This much-cheered conclusion asserted the power to confer innocence resided solely with the state.

    I know, because I talked to some of them, that there were Republican politicians in the Trump years who had genuine come-to-Jesus moments about War on Terror spy programs they now saw deployed either against themselves or the Trump administration, or were genuinely freaked out to see people they considered liberals, as opposed to their own kind, popping wood over Mueller’s years-long egging of the Bill of Rights. A small contingent of Republicans in congress was suddenly worried in a new way about the misuse of surveillance programs like FISA, about the systematic deployment of illegal classified leaks to drive news cycles against Trump, or the manufacture of bogus spookworld narratives about Russians using bot armies to help this or that politician, supposedly in their desperation to undermine Democrats. There were some real converts — but alas, not enough to come out and call for an actual mea culpa over their own party’s decades of rights abuse in the War on Terror.

    After January 6th, the TSA was suddenly investigating what names among America’s “DVEs” (i.e. Domestic Violent Extremists) might need to be added to the No-Fly List, and Meghan McCain, of all people, said she was “not against sending these people to Gitmo.” When Elizabeth Neumann, former assistant secretary for counterterrorism and threat prevention at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, compared Trump to Osama bin Laden, the cycle was complete. Republicans had essentially become the new version of “unlawful combatants,” and many of their supporters found themselves staring directly at the business end of the War on Terror machine their party created.

    The same Democratic Party that once elected a constitutional lawyer in the (vain, as it turned out) hope that he would unmake Bush’s War on Terror machine has now fully embraced Bush’s logic, and vice versa. Bush today gave a speech at Shanksville, Pennsylvania in which he compared the trrsts he hunted then with the domestic evildoers of today. “We have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders but from violence that gathers within,” he said, adding, “they are children of the same foul spirit and it is our continuing duty to confront them.” A supercomputer 20 years ago fed the information that DNC organ-grinder Aaron Rupar would someday be approvingly re-tweeting the Republican architect of the first War on Terror might have shorted out, but that combo makes unfortunately perfect sense now.

    The Biden vaccine mandate will probably presage a host of new hardcore measures that will be our next versions of policy herpes — get ready for vaccine passports and facial recognition and permanent online surveillance of the “vaccine hesitant,” among countless other things — and though I’m not sure how worked up I’m prepared to get about the mandate itself, it’d be nice if there was at least one serious political organization watching out for rights issues.

    Unfortunately, Republican complaints about such problems will be impossible to take seriously until the party repudiates its role in building the first War on Terror. We didn’t hear many horrified Republican objections when a CIA official boasted to the Washington Post years ago about its drone program, “We are killing these sons of bitches faster than they can grow them now.” In fact, Republicans cheered when Donald Trump promised to “bomb the shit out of ISIS” and lower the standard for who could be droned, from high-level militants to foot-soldier jihadists with no special skills or roles. And in fact, drone murders massively increased under Trump, and Republican lawmakers sure didn’t seem to care much.

    We also didn’t hear Republicans demanding hearings when a Guantanamo prisoner had to appear for hearings seated sideways on a special pillow, his insides wrecked from years of “rectal re-feeding,” since it was apparently okay with the bulk of the party’s leaders that being in American custody now means having to submit to ritual sodomy in addition to having no right to trial. The closest thing to a critic of Guantanamo Bay on the Republican side, Rand Paul, restricted his empathy to American citizens. “You do not get the Bill of Rights if you are fighting in a battlefield against America,” was his take.

    The legacy of 9/11 was a complete assault on individual rights, the rule of law, transparency, oversight, due process, and the democratic process, with Bush and Cheney building a whole extralegal justice system, complete with secret budgets and prisons, whose entire purpose was to deny rights to America’s “enemies.” This period was so devastating to the principles of fairness and transparency that even the ACLU eventually gave up caring, eventually becoming just another undisguised partisan collection plate that recently reversed course from previous vaccine mandate policy just in time for Biden’s vaccine plan.

    These John Thunes and Mike Meadowses and Mike Lees whining about Biden’s “dictatorial” vaccine mandate this week would have a lot more credibility if they could bring themselves to denounce things like no-fly lists or “targeted killing” or rendition or indefinite detention or a dozen other horrors committed in their party’s name in the last twenty years on general principle, not just for partisan reasons. If you only care now that some of these tools are being aimed at your voters, that makes you more of an asshole, not less.

    What’s happening to Republicans now also should, but won’t be, an object lesson to all the triumphalist armchair Stalins watching MSNBC this weekend who can’t wait to unleash the hounds of state on vaccine holdouts, insurrectionists and other pests. When it comes to authoritarian politics, if you make the bed, you’d better be prepared to lie in it yourself. Because sooner or later, you will, and unless you had principled objections throughout, no one will shed a tear when it happens.

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