Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Of, By, and For the Corporations

The Federal Communications Commission is doing a swell job communicating with lobbyists, but with the public? Not so good, according to a government report.

The Government Accountability Office says the agency tips off some people with business before the commission in advance about what items are coming up for a vote, usually before the public is notified.

"Situations where some, but not all, stakeholders know what FCC is considering for an upcoming vote undermine the fairness and transparency of the process and constitute a violation of FCC's rules," the GAO said.

Just SOP for an administration run on cronyism.

A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.

Slightly more over the line toward actual recklessness. On par with the outing of Valerie Plame. Of course, when the extent of one's foreign policy expertise is dependent on leaking sensitive, classified information to Fox News sometimes one has to blow valuable intelligence cover in order to do it.

Those who recall the indignity of President Richard Nixon having to declare, in response to a question from the press, “I am not a crook,” must have winced yesterday when President George W. Bush, also talking to the press, was forced to avow, “This government does not torture people.”

That the questions had to be asked speaks volumes in itself. That the answers from both presidents were thoroughly unconvincing says just as much.

Or perhaps Bush was only suggesting that our military and our private contractors may torture people but "this government" does not.

We already knew about the "few bad apples" at Abu Ghraib. But are we still performing extraordinary rendition to countries like Turkey or is "this government" outsourcing torture to firms like Blackwater?

Is this the real reason for having 130,000 soldiers and 180,000 mercenaries? And what is the point of extracting intelligence data by waterboarding if you're going to leak it to the media? To keep the low-grade fear factor going among the general (sheeple) population?

Andrew Sullivan, formerly one of Bush's buddies:

The way in which conservative lawyers, and conservative intellectuals, and conservative journalists aided and abetted these war crimes; the way in which the president of the United States revealed so much contempt for the law that he put a candidate to run the Office of Legal Counsel on probation before he appointed him in order to keep the torture regime in place, the way in which Republicans and Democrats in the Congress pathetically refused to stand up to these violations of American honor and decency in any serious way (and, I'm sorry, Senator McCain, but in the end, you caved, as you always do lately): these will go down in history as some of the most shameful decisions these people ever made. Perhaps a sudden, panicked decision by the president to use torture after 9/11 is understandable if unforgivable. But the relentless, sustained attempt to make torture permanent part of the war-powers of the president, even to the point of abusing the law beyond recognition, removes any benefit of the doubt from these people. And they did it all in secret - and lied about it when Abu Ghraib emerged. They upended two centuries of American humane detention and interrogation practices without even letting us know. And the decision to allow one man - the decider - to pre-empt and knowingly distort the rule of law in order to detain and torture anyone he wants - is a function not of conservatism, but of fascism.

Fascism? I think I've heard that mentioned before. Mussolini: "Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power."

There is no doubt - no doubt at all - that these tactics are torture and subject to prosecution as war crimes. We know this because the law is very clear when you don't have war criminals like AEI's John Yoo rewriting it to give one man unchecked power. We know this because the very same techniques - hypothermia, long-time standing, beating - and even the very same term "enhanced interrogation techniques" - "verschaerfte Vernehmung" in the original German - were once prosecuted by American forces as war crimes. The perpetrators were the Gestapo. The penalty was death. You can verify the history here.

We have war criminals in the White House. What are we going to do about it?

What, indeed.

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