So this is how democracy dies. The good 'ol deniability factor. Interesting ...<br><br><br><blockquote><font size=1>In reply to:</font><hr><p>With the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and the appointment of William<br>Casey as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, covert actions were once<br>again in vogue--or, as a Newsweek cover phrased it, "The CIA Is Back in<br>Business."<br><br>Casey had been an Office of Special Services (OSS) officer during World War II<br>and harbored great enthusiasm for covert activities. Indeed, during 1980 to<br>1984, Reagan's first term, covert operations increased fivefold over 1979.<br>Reagan both continued and greatly expanded the war against the Soviets in<br>Afghanistan and selected new battlefields ranging from Libya to Nicaragua.<br>According to John Prados, a writer on intelligence affairs, more than 50 covert<br>operations were reportedly in progress by 1984, about half of them in Central<br>and South America.<br><br>One of the more unsavory actions was the aligning of the CIA with Bashir<br>Gemayel, a murderous warlord, former head of Lebanon's rightist Phalangist<br>party, and Lebanese president-elect until his assassination. At the urging of<br>Casey, President Reagan signed a top-secret authorization of $10 million in<br>covert aid to Gemayel's militia.<br><br>Under Casey there were serious breakdowns in planning covert operations,<br>evaluating risks, and complying with congressional oversight regulations. In<br>advocating covert operations against Nicaragua during 1983-84, Casey repeatedly<br>displayed disdain for Congress. As director of the CIA, he stopped various<br>kinds of reporting that had been routine under the Carter administration. After<br>the international controversy over the mining of Nicaraguan harbors, it was<br>revealed that the House Intelligence Committee had learned of the CIA's<br>direction of the mining only when two congressmen's persistent questioning<br>elicited Casey's admission. And Casey had been equally reticent with the<br>committee's Senate counterpart, which extracted a single 27-word sentence during<br>a March 8, 1984, briefing of more than two hours' duration and 84 pages of text.<br>This statement merely said that mines had been placed in Nicaraguan harbors by<br>U.S.- backed groups. In effect, the CIA cover story was given to the oversight<br>committee.<br><br>Casey's policies did nothing to improve relations between the executive and<br>legislative branches. In fact, during the confirmation hearings of John McMahon<br>as deputy director of the CIA, heightened distrust of Casey encouraged Sen.<br>Patrick Moynihan to ask McMahon, "If you ever learned that wrong information is<br>being given to this committee--that the committee is being misinformed or<br>misled--would you consider it a matter of personal honor and professional<br>responsibility to tell this committee that was happening?"<br><br>Dissatisfaction with the Reagan administration's performance was so great that<br>the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded in its 1984 report that<br>"there was a need for explicit, written procedures to ensure Executive Branch<br>compliance with the requirements for reporting covert action<br>activities." This statement probably had more to do with perceptions<br>about Casey's actions than with any concern about policies enacted on the part<br>of the Reagan administration. But such a distinction was naive. In reality,<br>under Reagan the CIA was fairly tightly controlled. John Ranelagh, a British<br>investigative reporter, comments:<br><br>Following through the one-amongst-equals philosophy of decision making in the<br>administration, the agency most interested in or affected by a covert operation<br>chaired the operational oversight group . . . . In Nicaragua, for example, the<br>agency became in effect an executive arm for a decision by the National Security<br>Council and overseen by the State Department.<br><br>Implications of the Iran-Contra Affair<br><br>The American public is still pondering the revelations about the Iran-contra<br>affair, and it seems likely that they will influence debate and policy for years<br>to come. A spate of books on that subject and on associated intelligence<br>activities has already been published.<br><br>Lost in the furor over the Iran-contra affair is the fact that it had<br>antecedents in earlier Reagan years. On November 19, 1986, at the beginning of<br>the controversy, Bob Woodward of the Washington Post wrote that the Reagan<br>administration's secret overtures and arms shipments to Iran were part of a<br>seven-year pattern of covert CIA operations designed both to curry favor with<br>Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's regime and to support the Iranian exiles seeking<br>to overthrow it.<br><br>From the viewpoint of evaluating covert operations, one of the most important<br>questions about the Iran-contra affair is why it happened. Some say that the<br>fundamental cause was a lack of oversight. The congressional report comments:<br><br>The confusion, deception, and privatization which marked the Iran-Contra<br>Affair were the inevitable products of an attempt to avoid accountability.<br>Congress, the Cabinet, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were denied information and<br>excluded from the decisionmaking process. Democratic procedures were<br>disregarded.<br><br>Officials who make public policy must be accountable to the public. But the<br>public cannot hold officials accountable for policies of which the public is<br>unaware. Policies that are known can be subjected to the test of reason, and<br>mistakes can be corrected after consultations with the Congress and<br>deliberations within the Executive branch itself. Policies that are secret<br>become the private preserve of the few, mistakes are inevitably perpetuated, and<br>the public loses control over Government. That is what happened in the<br>Iran-Contra Affair.<br><br>However, some critics find that rhetoric self-serving. Peter Kornbluh, an<br>information analyst at the National Security Archive, writes:<br><br>The report's main conclusion reflects its protection of the status quo. In its<br>identification of the roots of malfeasance, the Iran-contra report concludes<br>that the scandal "resulted from the failure of individuals to observe the law,<br>not from deficiencies in existing law or in our system of governance." This<br>assessment makes it easy to avoid the critical but logical questions that should<br>have been part of the inquiry--and part of a broad public debate over how to<br>prevent similar abuses of power.<br><br>Was the scandal really an aberration or was this "disdain for law" and<br>"pervasive deception" the natural outgrowth of a system of covert operations<br>that has become integral to U.S. foreign policy? What was Congress's<br>institutional role in the scandal? . . . To these questions the committees<br>provide no answers. . . . The need for covert operations is not challenged but<br>ratified. Thus, The Iran-Contra Affair fails to confront, let alone resolve,<br>the most critical problem that has plagued the American polity since World War<br>II--the incompatibility between a constitutional political system premised on<br>the active consent of the governed, and an antidemocratic, autonomous, national<br>security system predicated on secrecy, stealth, and nonaccountability.<br><br>In the wake of the controversy, Congress considered a number of bills pertaining<br>to congressional oversight of intelligence activities. The bill considered most<br>likely to pass required that at least the top congressional leadership be<br>notified of covert activities within 48 hours of their initiation. In contrast,<br>the current legislation requires that Congress be notified in a "timely<br>fashion." It is worth remembering that in November 1986, when asked to comment<br>on "the prolonged deception of Congress" about the Iran arms deal, President<br>Reagan said:<br><br>I was not breaking any law in doing that. It is provided for me to do that. I<br>have the right under law to defer reporting to Congress, to the proper<br>congressional committees, on an action, and defer it until such time as I<br>believe it can safely be done with no risk to others.<p><hr></blockquote><p> <br>Link<br><br><br>
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