Reality of National Security State Trumps ‘Delusions’ of U.S. Democracy

In the halls of U.S. government, “policy in the national security realm is made by the concealed institutions,” political scientist argues in new book

“I think the American people are deluded.”

So says Tufts University political scientist Michael J. Glennon, whose new book, National Security and Double Government (Oxford University Press), describes a powerful bureaucratic network that's really pulling the strings on key aspects of U.S. foreign policy.

The 'double government' explains why the Obama version of national security is virtually indistinguishable from the one he inherited from President George W. Bush.

The American public believes “that when they vote for a president or member of Congress or succeed in bringing a case before the courts, that policy is going to change,” Glennon told the Boston Globe in an interview published Sunday. “Now, there are many counter-examples in which these branches do affect policy… But the larger picture is still true—policy by and large in the national security realm is made by the concealed institutions.”

Glennon argues that because managers of the military, intelligence, diplomatic, and law enforcement agencies operate largely outside the institutions meant to check or constrain them—the executive branch, the courts, Congress—national security policy changes very little from one administration to the next.

This explains, he says, why the Obama version of national security is virtually indistinguishable from the one he inherited from President George W. Bush. It's also why Guantanamo is still open; why whistleblowers are being prosecuted more; why NSA surveillance has expanded; why drone strikes have increased.

“I was curious why a president such as Barack Obama would embrace the very same national security and counterterrorism policies that he campaigned eloquently against,” Glennon said. Drawing on his own personal experiences as former legal counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as conversations with dozens of individuals in U.S. military, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies and elected officials, Glennon drew the following conclusion: “National security policy actually bubbles up from within the bureaucracy. Many of the more controversial policies, from the mining of Nicaragua’s harbors to the NSA surveillance program, originated within the bureaucracy.”

To dismantle this so-called “double government”—a phrase coined by British journalist and businessman Walter Bagehot to describe the British government in the 1860s—will be a challenge, Glennon admits. After all, “There is very little profit to be had in learning about, and being active about, problems that you can’t affect, policies that you can’t change.”

But he is not hopeless. “The ultimate problem is the pervasive political ignorance on the part of the American people. And indifference to the threat that is emerging from these concealed institutions. That is where the energy for reform has to come from: the American people,” he said. “The people have to take the bull by the horns.” More

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

 

The West’s Repeated Mistakes Over Eastern Europe

Something very similar is happening now in the countries east of the European Union and west of Russia. As the people of Ukraine’s Euromaidan protest movement showed in January 2014 on Kiev’s Independence Square, they were not going to accept a post–Cold War status quo in which Russia sets the agenda. They wanted to choose their own political path.

It seems that history is repeating itself. This time round, NATO is not prepared to help the countries in Europe’s East, while the EU is divided and weak over how to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of eastern Ukraine and illegal annexation of Crimea in March.

During a press conference with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on September 4 at the NATO summit in Wales, the alliance’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen tried to put the best spin on NATO help to Ukraine. Since NATO is not prepared even to consider the idea of Ukraine one day becoming a member of the organization, Rasmussen—and indeed Poroshenko—didn’t mention the “m-word.”

“It is for the Ukrainian people to decide . . . [their] future relationship with NATO,” the secretary general said—as if Putin will allow that to happen.

Rasmussen did say that NATO allies had pledged to provide support to help Ukraine improve its own security. “Our support is concrete and tangible. . . . Ukraine has stood by NATO. Now in these difficult times, NATO stands by Ukraine.”

Rasmussen explained how the allies had established “a comprehensive and tailored package of measures” to help Ukraine. The focus of NATO support would be on four areas: rehabilitation for injured troops, cyberdefense, logistics, and command and control and communications. “And allies will assist Ukraine with around €15 million [$19 million] through NATO,” Rasmussen added. NATO would not be supplying weapons. But that won’t stop individual countries from doing so.

Above all, the NATO chief insisted that an independent, sovereign, and stable Ukraine firmly committed to democracy and the rule of law was key to Euro-Atlantic security. “We stand united in our support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.

Actually, the West is only rhetorically united over Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Western nations have no real intentions of matching that statement with deeds to allow Ukraine to regain territory in eastern Ukraine that has been taken over by rebels backed by Russian troops and tanks—let alone Crimea.

As for the EU, it is prepared to impose more sanctions on Russia—but with many misgivings and criticisms from several member states, especially Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. That is despite the fact that until twenty-five years ago, these countries were under the Soviet yoke.

The measures undertaken by NATO and the EU are insufficient because they perpetuate the new rules of the game that Putin is writing across Eastern Europe. And because the West’s responses give him no reason to desist, at least for the moment, Western countries are repeating the mistakes they made when Eastern European civil society reared its head during the Communist era. The West is not prepared to stand up to Putin’s Russia.

Instead, willy-nilly, the West is allowing a new cordon sanitaire of countries to take hold between Russia and the EU. But if Putin and European leaders believe that this buffer zone is going to represent a new, stable “post-post–Cold War” status quo, they are seriously mistaken.

The reason is that civil society across these countries, from Belarus to Armenia, will not accept these new demarcation lines on a permanent basis. Just as Poles challenged their country’s Communist regime in 1980, the same will happen across the states in Europe’s East.

That has already happened in Ukraine. And despite the war in eastern Ukraine and the continuing influence of the country’s oligarchs, the supporters of the Euromaidan are not prepared to let this revolution fail. They are not naive enough to believe that the EU and NATO will come to their rescue. Instead, against all the odds, they will continue to struggle for their freedom to choose their own political path. More

 

Britain ‘attempts to censor’ US report on torture sites

The government stands accused of seeking to conceal Britain’s role in extraordinary rendition, ahead of the release of a declassified intelligence report that exposes the use of torture at US secret prisons around the world.

Diego Garcia

The Senate report on the CIA’s interrogation programme, due to be released in days, will confirm that the US tortured terrorist suspects after 9/11. In advance of the release, Barack Obama admitted on Friday: “We tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.”

Now, in a letter to the human rights group Reprieve, former foreign secretary William Hague has confirmed that the UK government has held discussions with the US about what it intends to reveal in the report which, according to al-Jazeera, acknowledges that the British territory of Diego Garcia was used for extraordinary rendition.

“We have made representations to seek assurances that ordinary procedures for clearance of UK material will be followed in the event that UK material provide[d] to the Senate committee were to be disclosed,” Hague wrote.

Cori Crider, a director at Reprieve, accused the UK government of seeking to redact embarrassing information: “This shows that the UK government is attempting to censor the US Senate’s torture report. In plain English, it is a request to the US to keep Britain’s role in rendition out of the public domain.”

Lawyers representing a number of terrorist suspects held at Guantánamo Bay believe their clients were rendered via Diego Garcia. Papers found in Libya indicated that the US planned to transport Abdul-Hakim Belhaj, an opponent of Muammar Gaddafi, and his wife via the territory, an atoll in the Indian Ocean leased by Britain to the US. The government has denied Belhaj was rendered via Diego Garcia, but there are suspicions that others were held on the atoll.

Crider said the UK’s attempts to lobby the US into redacting parts of the report “turns the government’s defence in the Libyan renditions case of Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and his wife entirely on its head”.

The government has consistently sought to block Belhaj from bringing a case against it.

“The government protested America would be angered if this kidnap case ever went to trial – and now we learn the British government is leaning on the Americans not to air Britain’s dirty laundry. It exposes their litigation stance as mere posturing,” she added.

Confirmation that a British territory was involved in extraordinary rendition could leave the government vulnerable to legal action. Last month the European court of human rights ruled that the Polish government actively assisted the CIA’s European “black site” programme, which saw detainees interrogated in secret prisons across the continent.

The court concluded it was “established beyond reasonable doubt” that Abu Zubaydah, a Guantánamo detainee the US mistakenly believed to be a senior member of al-Qaida, was flown from a secret site in Thailand to another CIA prison in Stare Kiejkuty in northern Poland.

The judges concluded that not only was Poland “informed of and involved in the preparation and execution of the [High Value Detainee] Programme on its territory”, but also “for all practical purposes, facilitated the whole process, created the conditions for it to happen and made no attempt to prevent it”, prompting lawyers to ask what else it has been used for since. More