Category Archive 'Counterterrorism'

03 Dec 2008

Obama Has Some Problems Reconciling Liberalism With Running the CIA

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The New York Times reports that Barack Obama’s leftwing position during the campaign are now running into conflicts with reality as decisions on CIA appointments and policy need to be made.

Obama can’t appoint the best choice for CIA Director for fear of offending the leftwing base.

Last week, John O. Brennan, a C.I.A. veteran who was widely seen as Mr. Obama’s likeliest choice to head the intelligence agency, withdrew his name from consideration after liberal critics attacked his alleged role in the agency’s detention and interrogation program. Mr. Brennan protested that he had been a “strong opponent” within the agency of harsh interrogation tactics, yet Mr. Obama evidently decided that nominating Mr. Brennan was not worth a battle with some of his most ardent supporters on the left.

Mr. Obama’s search for someone else and his future relationship with the agency are complicated by the tension between his apparent desire to make a clean break with Bush administration policies he has condemned and concern about alienating an agency with a central role in the campaign against Al Qaeda.

Mark M. Lowenthal, an intelligence veteran who left a senior post at the C.I.A. in 2005, said Mr. Obama’s decision to exclude Mr. Brennan from contention for the top job had sent a message that “if you worked in the C.I.A. during the war on terror, you are now tainted,” and had created anxiety in the ranks of the agency’s clandestine service. …

The flap over Mr. Brennan, who served as a chief of staff to George J. Tenet when he ran the C.I.A., was the biggest glitch so far in what has been an otherwise smooth transition for Mr. Obama. Some C.I.A. veterans suggest that the president-elect may have difficulty finding a candidate who can be embraced by both veteran officials at the agency and the left flank of the Democratic Party.

Now that the decision-making power, and the responsibility, are theirs, democrats have to square the circle of contradiction between liberal pieties and effectively preventing terrorist attacks. Will “human and non-coercive” methods really get the villain to tell where the ticking time bomb is located, or will Jack Bauer just have to shoot him in the knee?

On Wednesday, a dozen retired generals and admirals are to meet with senior Obama advisers to urge him to stand firm against any deviation from the military’s noncoercive interrogation rules.

But even some senior Democratic lawmakers who are vehement critics of the Bush administration’s interrogation policies seemed reluctant in recent interviews to commit the new administration to following the Army Field Manual in all cases.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who will take over as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee in January, led the fight this year to force the C.I.A. to follow military interrogation rules. Her bill was passed by Congress but vetoed by President Bush.

But in an interview on Tuesday, Mrs. Feinstein indicated that extreme cases might call for flexibility. “I think that you have to use the noncoercive standard to the greatest extent possible,” she said, raising the possibility that an imminent terrorist threat might require special measures.

Afterward, however, Mrs. Feinstein issued a statement saying: “The law must reflect a single clear standard across the government, and right now, the best choice appears to be the Army Field Manual. I recognize that there are other views, and I am willing to work with the new administration to consider them.”

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, another top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said he would consult with the C.I.A. and approve interrogation techniques that went beyond the Army Field Manual as long as they were “legal, humane and noncoercive.” But Mr. Wyden declined to say whether C.I.A. techniques ought to be made public.

C.I.A. officials have long argued that publishing a list of interrogation techniques only allows Al Qaeda to train its operatives to resist them. But they say the secrecy has led to exaggeration and myth about the agency’s detention program.

14 Mar 2008

Counterterrorism, the French Way


Reuel Marc Gerecht & Gary Schmitt suggest American can learn something from France, the country possessing the most successful counter-terrorism record in the world.

Can America draw any lessons from France’s encounter with Islamic terrorism? The two countries have separate histories of interaction with the Muslim world and philosophical differences when it comes to legal systems and the role of the state domestically. But it is worth knowing how other democracies do things, particularly when what they do seems to work.

Counterterrorist personnel in the FBI, CIA, and National Security Council usually rotate out of the terrorism portfolio after a few years—a distinct disadvantage compared with the French system.And something the French do—and perhaps the hardest thing for Americans to appreciate, let alone adopt—is to grant highly intrusive powers to their internal security service, the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), and to their counterterrorist, investigative magistrates, the juges d’instruction. The latter institution is the lynchpin of France’s counterterrorist prowess, allowing the French to marry the powers of prevention, deterrence, and punishment under one man. These magistrates, who came into being after 1986, have no American parallel and in the powers they possess appear to be sui generis within Europe. They oversee and often direct the investigative potential of France’s myriad police services, especially the intelligence unit of the French national police, the Renseignements Généraux, and the DST.

This direction is exercised through a combination of administrative statutes and, just as important, informal relations. While the DST works primarily under the authority of the minister of interior, over the years a new cooperative relationship has evolved with the juges d’instruction. Because of the success of such magistrates as Jean-Louis Bruguière and Jean-François Ricard, who proved they could handle sensitive information collected by a domestic intelligence agency, the DST now works hand in glove with the magistrates and may even be directed by them in ongoing investigations.

These magistrates and their offices have become the repositories of counterterrorist information inside the French government. The advantage over the American system here is overwhelming: counterterrorist personnel in the FBI, CIA, Justice Department, and National Security Council usually rotate out of the terrorism portfolio after a few years. And few could be said to have monitored specific cases and particular Islamist organizations for years on end.

Also striking is the ability of the French to concentrate the resources of the state. From the use of wiretaps, to day-and-night physical surveillance, to “preventive detention” that can be directed against targets on whom authorities do not have sufficient evidence to seek criminal prosecution, magistrates and their allied police and intelligence services can rapidly monitor, harass, and paralyze those they suspect of terrorist activity. As the French government’s 2006 “White Paper” on domestic security and terrorism states, “To be effective, a judicial system for counterterrorism must combine a preventive element, whose objective is to prevent terrorists from acting, and a repressive element, to punish those who commit attacks as well as their organizers and accomplices. The French system follows this logic. But its originality and strength lie in the fact that the barrier between prevention and punishment is not airtight.” The juges have largely deconstructed this wall.

The French operate ruthlessly and informally, unhindered by our Constitutional system of limitations on searches or by habeas corpus. Their results may be enviable, but Americans are unlikely to wish to confer anything like those kinds of powers upon the State. Look at the successful fuss the Left has made over civil liberties with regard to automated datamining of emails transmitted overseas.

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