Sunday, December 06, 2015

On "Spymasters: CIA in the crosshairs" ... by gimleteye

Extraordinary. The producers of the must-see Showtime special, "The Spymasters: CIA in the Crosshairs", frame interviews with living, past directors of the CIA within the context of the news cycle. The documentary includes scenes of the terrorist massacre in France, only a few weeks ago, but the killings in San Bernardino, CA happened too fast, despite the anxiety articulated by one CIA director anticipating last week's event: a home-grown terrorist who flies under the radar.

There are two conclusions reached by America's top spymasters. They concur on the following points, whether appointed by Republican or Democratic presidents.

The first is that terrorism is impervious to surveillance. In other words, no matter how much money we spend on tracking our enemies (or citizens), we will never root out every terrorist before they inflict their mayhem. This point stands in sharp contrast to headline stories: we have entered a new phase of "the war against terror" demanding new techniques of surveillance.

The second: we can't kill our way out of terrorism. Readers, pay attention: these are definitively not pronouncements by liberals.

Both these points need emphasis since the (GOP) Congress is rife with jingoistic calls for "more boots on the ground" in the Mideast, blaming President Obama for everything from the sun rising to the sun setting.

The documentary appears almost as though the past CIA directors, to a man, believe something strange and difficult is happening within the body politic of the United States. One can sense, in their direct appeals to the camera filming them, a need -- not to expiate, far from it -- but to explain the limits of CIA power.

It is highly unusual for top officials of the CIA to speak candidly for the record. Consider, for example, that CIA Cold War directors would scarcely allow their photos to be taken, much less be quoted in the media. So "Spymasters" signals a sense of utmost urgency for calm, rational reflection of mistakes we made, to chart a path forward.

The most shocking revelation, widely noted, is by George Tenet, an appointee of George W. Bush. Tenet explains how Condoleezza Rice, the Bush Secretary of State, failed to acknowledge and act on CIA warnings of an imminent attack on America during the summer of 2001. He brings new information to the charge.

Up to this time, the 9/11 narrative has been that a briefing paper on Al Qaeda's plan to attack America was sitting on the president's desk in August. Tenet recounts that after his staff briefed him on concrete information gleaned from surveillance of some of the 9/11 terrorists in June 2001, he was so worried that he instantly disrupted Rice's schedule to convene a meeting with her and his senior staff. In her memoir, Rice reports she does not recall the meeting of any special significance because the terrorism threat had been a constant agenda item during this period of time, but Tenet contradicts Rice. He "slammed his fist on her desk" in an emergency meeting. Afterwards? "Nothing."

The second admission -- by Robert Gates, a Bush CIA director held over by President Obama in his first term -- is self-evident to anyone who has paid attention to the tragic costs of war since 9/11. Gates says to the camera, and to the world, in effect: "Imagine how the world would have been different, if we had not gone to war in Iraq under false pretenses."

In the end, what these CIA directors emphasize -- except perhaps George HW Bush -- is that the best we can hope for through the application of CIA involvement in the Mideast is to "buy time and space" for politicians with the will and moral authority to solve problems that cannot be resolved by war. The key message is "we cannot kill our way out of terror".


Geniusofdespair said...

I watched it. It was a harrowing experience and what they didn't say but you knew they were saying about Condoleezza Rice was very disturbing. 9/11 was such a botch job. And they say we need Republicans to protect us? No thanks.

Anonymous said...

"He kept us safe". Jeb

cyndi said...

This afternoon there was a great piece put together by CNN called something like "Blindsided by ISIS" and basically it give the whole history. If we never went to war with Iraq I doubt we would be in the situation we are in.
Our biggest threat right now is the mainstream media who manipulates the public minute by minute.

Anonymous said...

The bottom line is violence almost always has roots in poverty.