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Obama’s Intelligence Agenda: More of the Same from the “Change Administration”

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Tom Burghardt
Dissident Voice
Sunday, Nov 16, 2008

While expectations may be high that the incoming Obama administration will reverse many of the worst features of the Bush regime–from warrantless wiretapping, illegal detention, torture, “targeted assassinations” and preemptive war–now that the cheering has stopped, expect more of the same.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “President-elect Barack Obama is unlikely to radically overhaul controversial Bush administration intelligence policies, advisers say, an approach that is almost certain to create tension within the Democratic Party.”

With hyperbolic “change” rhetoric in the air, Obama is relying on a gaggle of former intelligence insiders, warmed-over Clinton administration officials and “moderate” Republicans, many of whom helped Bush craft his administration’s illegal policies.

With U.S. street cred at an all-time low, due in no small measure to Washington’s hubristic fantasies that it really is an empire and not a rapidly decaying failed state, ruling elites have literally banked on Obama to deliver the goods.

During his run for the White House, the Illinois senator may have mildly criticized some of the administration’s so-called “counterterrorism” policies including the Bushist penchant for secrecy, the disappearance of “terrorist” suspects, driftnet surveillance of American citizens and legal residents, CIA “black site” gulags and the crushing of domestic dissent.


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But in the few scant days since the November 4 general election, the contours of what Democratic party corporatist grifters will roll-out come January 20 are taking shape. Citing Obama’s carefully-crafted public relations blitz on the campaign trail opposing illegal spying, the Journal reports:

Yet he … voted for a White House-backed law to expand eavesdropping powers for the National Security Agency. Mr. Obama said he opposed providing legal immunity to telecommunications companies that aided warrantless surveillance, but ultimately voted for the bill, which included an immunity provision.

The new president could take a similar approach to revising the rules for CIA interrogations, said one current government official familiar with the transition. Upon review, Mr. Obama may decide he wants to keep the road open in certain cases for the CIA to use techniques not approved by the military, but with much greater oversight. (Siobhan Gorman, “Intelligence Policy to Stay Largely Intact,” The Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2008)

The “current government official” cited by the Journal fails to specify precisely what it means to “keep the road open” when it comes to torturing prisoners of war in violation of the Geneva Conventions.


Considering that top Bush administration officials “repeatedly discussed and approved specific details of exactly how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency,” as ABC News reported back in April, and that “high-level discussions about these ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ were so detailed … some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed–down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic,” one is left to ponder what “much greater oversight” would actually mean.Perhaps such “oversight” entails a cosmetic shake-up at the top rungs of U.S. intelligence agencies? The Washington Post reports that “The nation’s top two intelligence officers expect to be replaced by President-elect Barack Obama early in his administration, according to senior intelligence officials.”

But would the replacement of Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, a former admiral who oversaw spooky Booz Allen Hamilton corporate contracts with the “intelligence community,” and CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, an Air Force general who implemented Bushist warrantless wiretapping programs while NSA Director, represent “change” or continuity?

While some Democrats may oppose retaining America’s top spooks because of their public support of Bushist policies, “other Democrats and many intelligence experts,” according to the Post “give high marks to the current cadre of intelligence leaders, crediting them with restoring stability and professionalism to a community rocked by multiple scandals in recent years.”

With a subtext arguing in favor of retaining McConnell and Hayden, Post journalists Walter Pincus (who has a dubious history of collaboration with the CIA as researchers Daniel Brandt and Steve Badrich note) and Karen DeYoung, cite unnamed “intelligence officials” who think their early departure “could be seen as politicizing their offices and setting a precedent for automatic turnover when the White House changes hands.”

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This article was posted: Sunday, November 16, 2008 at 1:19 am

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