Recently by Justin Raimondo: If This Be u2018Isolationism'. . .
The revelation by Glenn Carle, a former CIA official, that the Bush White House sought information on Prof. Juan Cole, an academic and critic of the Iraq war, in order to discredit him is hardly shocking, at least to anyone of my generation. After all, I reached political consciousness during the administration of Richard M. Nixon, whose hijinks — the Watergate break-in, the infamous COINTELPRO operation — are well known. Less well-known is the long history of police state tactics by previous administrations, running all the way back to FDR and Woodrow Wilson, two wartime presidents who set the pace for their successors.
Sure, now we have laws supposedly forbidding a repeat of history, and yet, existing right alongside these prohibitions, we have legislation like the PATRIOT Act, which empowers the feds to read our emails, monitor our political activities, and pretty much do what it pleases in the name of fighting our endless u201Cwar on terrorism.u201D Congress has renewed the Act, year after year, with clocklike regularity, and the nation's liberals, as well as the supposedly u201Climited governmentu201D conservatives, aren't making much of a fuss about it. As the first in a series of articles by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin in the Washington Post, u201CTop Secret America,u201D pointed out,
u201CThe top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.u201D
It's the only growth industry we have left, apparently:
u201CSome 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States. An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances. In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings — about 17 million square feet of space.u201D
Granted near absolute power to operate with impunity — to collect information on us, through fair means or foul — this vast army of spies, stool pigeons, and u201Canalystsu201D is bound to do precisely what they were doing to Professor Cole because that's their job. The idea that the information-gathering function of our national security bureaucracy can be separated out from any malign intent — and that it was this intent, rather than the act of collecting information, that was the real transgression — is reflected in the New York Times' account:
u201CThe experts said it might not be unlawful for the C.I.A. to provide the White House with open source material — from public databases or published material, for example — about an American citizen. But if the intent was to discredit a political critic, that would be improper, they said.u201D
For what purpose would the CIA or any similar government agency be collecting information on American citizens other than to discover facts that might bring discredit on them? The idea that such intelligence gathering is basically benign, and can only be considered illegal and/or impermissible on account of intent, is how they manage to get away with it.
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.