Monday, January 14, 2008

The President Throws US Intel Agencies Under the Bus

[updated some of my rambling and my less-than-clear indignation]
Starting off another incredible week of mind-bogglingly frightening developments and insane incidents, here is what amounts to a stunning revelation, one the media seems to have paid absolutely no heed as they stampede themselves through another round of meaningless primary races and celebrity news:

Bothersome Intel on Iran
By Michael Hirsh | NEWSWEEK
Jan 21, 2008 Issue

In public, President Bush has been careful to reassure Israel and other allies that he still sees Iran as a threat, while not disavowing his administration's recent National Intelligence Estimate. That NIE, made public Dec. 3, embarrassed the administration by concluding that Tehran had halted its weapons program in 2003, which seemed to undermine years of bellicose rhetoric from Bush and other senior officials about Iran's nuclear ambitions.

But in private conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week, the president all but disowned the document, said a senior administration official who accompanied Bush on his six-nation trip to the Mideast.

"He told the Israelis that he can't control what the intelligence community says, but that [the NIE's] conclusions don't reflect his own views" about Iran's nuclear-weapons program, said the official, who would discuss intelligence matters only on the condition of anonymity.

Yes--the President of the United States has "his own views" and those views are NOT informed by the work of the intelligence services that work for this country. That's "work for this country" and "not specifically to reinforce his policy choices and preferences."

Yeah, yeah--Cheney runs things. Cheney has his fingerprints all over this statement and this leak. We get that.

Why is this not page 1, and on every network, and screaming at you from all sides? How is it that the President of the United States of America can go to a foreign country and tell the leader of that country that the collective judgement and estimate of the massive intelligence community means nothing to him? When is he going to come out and tell the American people that the 43.5 billion dollars spent in 2007 by this country to defend itself might as well have been pissed away down the drain?

What are we paying for? Why bother to even have an intelligence community? He's just going to put on his Carnac hat and make the wrong guesses and not get any laughs, right?

How would you like to be a career intelligence professional, and know that your President went overseas and sat down with some other leader and, in a chummy sort of way, basically said that the work you've done to protect America is a joke and a fraud and that he knows more than you do?

Here are the reasons why this matters--the President hasn't fired the DNI or the head of any of the agencies that matter. He hasn't fired any of the people who aren't telling him what he wants to hear. But he holds the work of those people in obvious low regard. Why else would they "leak" that Bush told Olmert that he has his own ideas about what Iran is doing to develop nuclear weapons? Every one of these people is an appointee of his own choice. He nominated these people. He could fire all of them in one fell swoop. He is, ultimately, responsible for everything they oversee. And what they now know is this--he doesn't care what the people who work for them have to say about a critical issue. He'll just dismiss it and do whatever the hell he wants.

That's NOT a great way to go about things in a Democracy. Just wanted to mention that.

What country is this? Where do we live? What nation is this, again? I simply have no idea anymore.

The incredible hubris of a man who thinks he knows more than the tens of thousands of people who have spent their lives defending this country is astonishing. Isn't there someone close to him that can remind him that he has no viable track record for getting anything right? Someone to speak truth to power? Someone who can show him, at least in theory, "a DVD of what is going on in New Orleans", only tailored to show him why the US intel community downgraded the threat from Iran?

Why didn't someone, decades ago, basically sit down and explain to this man that his inability to get anything right means he doesn't get to dismiss the opinions, findings and research of tens of thousands of people who have a better track record than he does? Not a great track record, but significantly better. At least they have subjected themselves to criticism, review, and reorganization.

Apparently, the man who got it wrong about virtually everything knows more than the people who are there to figure these things out. So why bother funding them next year? We might as well spend the money erecting a monument to the fabulous insight and intellect of a President who will leave office at record low approval ratings, record high number of scandals and disasters yet to be sorted out, and with more hubris than any mad dictator who has ever lived. I mean, really. Does reality figure into any of this anymore?

So this is the way we start the week--with this leaked tidbit that throws our intelligence agencies under a bus. And that's what it really was--a leak. That leak places this country in serious jeopardy.

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