Recommended: Epitaph for a Four Star

Colonel Douglas Macgregor, Ret. addresses the now dispirited aura surrounding General David Petraeus, Ret., an officer who surely was the product of corrupt, ineffective and wasteful institutions — the Pentagon specifically and the security-surveillance establishment generally. Macgregor uses conclusive evidence to make his point: The United States has known defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Petraeus notably led the failed efforts to pacify both countries while also consolidating America’s power in the region. These failures were costly, of course, wasting American lives, money and prestige. The empire is weaker now because of these ventures. Despite his personal failures, Petraeus received promotion after promotion, eventually reaching four star rank and subsequently finding a post-retirement spot atop the CIA, a job which gave him a public platform from which to launch his presidential campaign.

Let us hope that the militaristic component of America’s civil religion also takes a hit from the Petraeus Affair.

Quote of the day

The state of the world today is in such a condition that a Nobel Peace Prize winner affirms permanent war and political murder. As Glenn Greenwald reports:

The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to
Seal of the Office of the Director of National...make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.

Based on interviews with “current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies”, Miller reports that as “the United States‘ conventional wars are winding down”, the Obama administration “expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years” (the “capture” part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the “kill” part). Specifically, “among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.” As Miller puts it: “That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.”

In pursuit of this goal, “White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration’s approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced.” All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates “the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.”

Greenwald continues by noting that the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which reports to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and which generates the “kill lists” for the President, has access to the extensive and diverse information collected at home and abroad, information nominally meant to provide a resource for deterring terrorists but information which also includes every American who has left a digital record from his or her life. Thus the federal institution charged with generating (unconstitutional) “kill lists” also surveys the behavior of and accumulates data on every American. Americans watch other Americans. They collect data on them — themselves! — and generate profiles which allegedly encapsulate the lives of those they study.
Greenwald summarizes his argument:

What has been created here — permanently institutionalized —is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a “matrix” that determines the “disposition” of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be “disposed” of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.

The upshot: What Greenwald depicts is the institutionalization and exercise of prerogative powers by the de facto sovereign of the United States. These powers are, by definition, extra-legal. The President with access to these powers governs unencumbered by the rule of law.

Yet, as Miller reports, “For an administration that is the first to embrace targeted killing on a wide scale, officials seem confident that they have devised an approach that is so bureaucratically, legally and morally sound that future administrations will follow suit.”

These administration officials and permanent government apparatchiks they work with are, in a word, deluded.

Update

Chris Floyd has this (among other things) to say about Barack Obama’s newly instituted system of murder:

Like last year’s NY Times piece that first detailed the murder racket being run directly out of the White House, the new Washington Post story is replete with quotes from “senior Administration officials” who have obviously been authorized to speak. Once again, this is a story that Obama and his team WANT to tell. They want you to know about the murder program and their strenuous exertions to make it permanent; they are proud of this, they think it makes them look good. They want it to be part of their legacy, something they can pass on to future generations: arbitrary, lawless, systematic murder.

Perhaps this fact should be borne in mind by all those anguished progressives out there who keep telling themselves that Obama will “be different, that he will “turn to the left,” if we can only get him a second term. No; the legacy of arbitrary, lawless, systematic murder is the legacy he wants. It is the legacy he has been building, with remarkable energy and meticulous attention to detail, day after day, week after week, for the past four years. This is what he cares about. And it is this — not jobs, not peace, not the environment, not equal rights for women and ethnic and sexual minorities, not the poor, not the middle class, not education, not infrastructure, not science, not diplomacy — that he will apply himself to in a second term. (Along with his only other political passion: forging a “grand bargain” with Big Money to gut the remaining shreds of the New Deal.)

Floyd had previously addressed this topic:

It is, I confess, beyond all my imagining that a national leader so deeply immersed in murdering people would trumpet his atrocity so openly, so gleefully — and so deliberately, sending his top aides out to collude in a major story in the nation’s leading newspaper, to ensure maximum exposure of his killing spree. Although many leaders have wielded such powers, they almost always seek to hide or obscure the reality of the operation. Even the Nazis took enormous pains to hide the true nature of their murder programs from the public. And one can scarcely conceive of Stalin inviting reporters from Pravda into the Politburo meetings where he and Molotov and Beria debated the lists of counterrevolutionary “terrorists” given to them by the KGB and ticked off those who would live and those who would die. Of course, those lists too were based on “intelligence reports,” often gathered through “strenuous interrogation techniques” or the reports of informers. No doubt these reports were every bit as credible as the PowerPoint presentations reviewed each week by Obama and his team.

And no doubt Stalin and his team were just as sincerely concerned about “national security” as the Aquinas acolyte in the White House today — and just as determined to do “whatever it takes” to preserve that security. As Stalin liked to say of the innocent people caught up in his national security efforts: “When wood is chopped, chips fly.”

Barack Obama has been a “system politician.” He will remain a system politician as long as he is President. Mitt Romney is a system politician. He will remain a system politician if he is elected President. The reforms Americans need to implement will not be the product of system politicians, especially those politicians who embrace death squads, murder by drone strikes and, to be sure, empire.

License plate readers

They’re good with faces too.

Fazaga v. FBI

Writing for the People’s Blog for the Constitution, Shahid Buttar observed that:

On Tuesday, August 14, a federal judge issued a disturbing ruling allowing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to evade public accountability for infiltrating faith institutions, monitoring law-abiding people, recording sexual encounters, and then lying about all of it. Carney’s decision erodes democracy in two dimensions at once, enabling ongoing constitutional violations by the executive branch while, at the same time, eroding judicial independence.

What Buttar depicts above and throughout his article is a dualism intrinsic to a political system which observes the rule of law in some areas but not all areas. This dualism features prominently in Ernst Frankel’s seminal The Dual State. Frankel’s analysis focuses on the post-Weimar German state as used by the National Socialist to govern Germany. The gist of his analytical edifice rests upon a division of the German state into two coexisting but not equal domains. He calls one domain the Normative State. The Normative State is a domain in which the rule of law regulates social life. He calls the second and superior domain the Prerogative State. The Prerogative State is a domain defined and governed by the prerogative powers of the political sovereign, the kind of powers once available only to a Monarch. In the Prerogative State the law becomes a component of force available to the sovereign. Thus it can be said that the rule by law and coercion replaces the rule of law and legitimate authority in domain of the Prerogative State. In Nazi Germany, the object of Frankel’s analysis, Der Führer was the source of the state’s prerogative powers. In the United States today the state’s prerogative power originated in the President construed as Commander in Chief and the source of authority for the massive security-surveillance apparatus which now exists in the United States. It is this apparatus which operates beyond the reaches of the Normative State, a claim supported by Fazaga v. FBI. In his principal Fazaga ruling, a Federal Judge, Cormac J. Carney, ruled in favor of the Federal Bureau of Investigation:

After careful deliberation and skeptical scrutiny of the public and classified filings, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs’ claims against Defendants, aside from their FISA claim, must be dismissed under the state secrets privilege. Further litigation of those claims would require or unjustifiably risk disclosure of secret and classified information regarding the nature and scope of the FBI’s counterterrorism investigations, the specific individuals under investigation and their associates, and the tactics and sources of information used in combating possible terrorist attacks on the United States and its allies. The state secrets privilege is specifically designed to protect against disclosure of such information that is so vital to our country’s national security.

In his ruling Judge Carney recognized the separate and superior domain of the Prerogative State. It is, by definition, a legal space which lacks rule of law safeguards, as the victims of the FBI in Southern California can claim based on their experiences.

Oops

Global Post reports that:

Mohammed Merah, the gunman who killed seven people including three Jewish children, may have been a protected asset of French Intelligence, Il Foglio, an Italian newspaper reported today, raising further questions about whether authorities may have had a chance to prevent the attacks.

The 23-year-old, who was a French citizen of Algerian origin, also killed three Muslim soldiers, before being killed at the end of a 32-hour standoff in an apartment in Toulouse.

Benard Squarcini, the head of the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence (DCRI), claimed Merah was not in the employ of his agency.

Evidence Homeland Security Coordinated Occupy Crackdown » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

A David Lindorff report presents evidence that the Department of Homeland Security co-ordinated the late-2011 suppression of the Occupy Movement: Evidence Homeland Security Coordinated Occupy Crackdown » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.

Quote of the day

Chris Hedges states that:

There is a recipe for breaking popular movements. I watched it play out over five years in the war in El Salvador. I now see these familiar patterns in the assault against the Occupy movement. It goes like this. Physically eradicate the insurgents’ logistical base of operations to disrupt communication and organization. Dry up financial and material support. Create rival organizations — the group Stand for Oakland seems to be one of these attempts — to discredit and purge the rebel leadership. Infiltrate the movement to foster internal divisions and rivalries, a tactic carried out consciously, or perhaps unconsciously, by an anonymous West Coast group known as OLAASM — Occupy Los Angeles Anti Social Media. Provoke the movement — or front groups acting in the name of the movement — to carry out actions such as vandalism and physical confrontations with the police that alienate the wider populace from the insurgency. Invent atrocities and repugnant acts supposedly carried out by the movement and plant these stories in the media. Finally, offer up a political alternative. In the war in El Salvador it was Jose Napoleon Duarte. For the Occupy movement it is someone like Van Jones. And use this “reformist” to co-opt the language of the movement and promise to promote the movement’s core aims through the electoral process.

Counterinsurgency campaigns, although they involve arms and weapons, are primarily about, in the old cliché, hearts and minds. And the tactics employed by our intelligence operatives abroad are not dissimilar to those employed by our intelligence operatives at home. These operatives are, in fact, often the same people. The state has expended external resources to break the movement. It is reasonable to assume it has expended internal resources to break the movement.

Checks and balances

The two parties must ensure that the Federal government has the powers needed to check up on The People. That way, the Federal government will be able to balance its budgets by extracting wealth from The People.

We've got the power!

Photo of the Day

Our Garrison State

John Ashcroft gets a new job

Spencer Ackerman reports that:

The consortium in charge of restructuring the world’s most infamous private security firm just added a new chief in charge of keeping the company on the straight and narrow. Yes, John Ashcroft, the former attorney general, is now an “independent director” of Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater.

Ashcroft will head Xe’s new “subcommittee on governance,” its backers announced early Wednesday in a statement, an entity designed to “maximize governance, compliance and accountability” and “promote the highest degrees of ethics and professionalism within the private security industry.”

In other words, no more shooting civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan; no more signing for weapons its guards aren’t authorized to carry in warzones; no more impersonations of cartoon characters to acquire said weaponry; and no more ‘roids and coke on the job.

Ashcroft was George Bush’s first Attorney General and, as such, the law enforcement officer who oversaw Bush era lawlessness, which included the implementation of the security regime authorized by the Patriot Act (this and this).