Thursday, April 15, 2004

We Want...Information

So it's been suggested that the US should have a domestic intelligence agency, like the UK's MI5, that would not be a law enforcement agency, but strictly an intelligence outfit. The agency would only gather and analyze intelligence about activities within the US, presumably with an eye towards stopping terrorist attacks. Like MI5 stopped the IRA bombings. cough cough

So there are some problems with this. First, these agencies have had a wee bit of trouble with political snooping. MI5 unfortunately kinda did some Parliament snooping, and I'm not talking about motherships here. Of course, maybe the US could rise above this particular problem. Of course, the current administration illegally leaked and thereby ruined the cover of a CIA operative simply to shit on one of their opponents, so maybe this aspect of a domestic intelligence agency might prove a problem, too.

Also, I think we're starting to get the impression by now that a big problem with the current intelligence setup is the lack of communication and intelligence sharing between the CIA and FBI. Why just yesterday the Washington Post had a story about how both agencies were tracking two of the 9/11 hijackers, dudes name Alhazmi and Almadhir, but just sort of didn't bother doing anything about them. They could have picked them up for questioning on the Cole bombing, to which they'd been connected, and they were both here under bad visas. What'd we do? We sort of had a memo on it sort of somewhere. What would a new agency do? Since much of the power of the new agency comes from its lack of enforcement powers - it's essentially a big pulsating brain without any police powers, so they wouldn't have been able to do anything with them. In fact, they'd be just another agency in Washington which potentially wouldn't communicate with the other two guys in order to get shit done. I mean, is another layer of bureaucracy really what's needed now? Do we need yet another place for memos to get lost, misfiled, misprioritized, or otherwise ignored?

Finally, how much do you really want to have a secret agency gathering intelligence on the United States? Would they really just limit themselves to nutball ragheads taking flying lessons? The current establishment already has a record of gathering intelligence on movements within the US, like civil rights movements, and attempting to disrupt them lest some freaky Black Moses arise and lead to civil unrest. As a free society, do we really want a KGB? This is particularly relevant now because we're politically polarized to the extent that we refer to people who disagree with a particular program to fight terrorism as "un-American." Shit, HIV+ barebacker and Republican blogger (yeah, try and figure that shit out) Andrew Sullivan spent countless words describing those opposed the Iraq war as "objectively pro-Saddam." With the culture dealing in rhetoric like that, it's no stretch to think that such an agency could receive a mandate to investigate people of opposition parties with a goal of hurting them politically. I mean, after all, if they're opposed to the current administration's plans to fight terror, they must be opposed to fighting terror at all, and so are inherently suspicious. It's sad that this is the level of discourse in America, but since it is, we have to tear a page from the conservative's book and say that governmental power in this area must be limited.

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