The Looming Tower offers a smart look into the pursuit of bin Laden, but the show misses a chance to show the origins of Islamist terror.
In my last post, I discussed serious, partisan wrongdoing that was discussed in the House Intelligence Committee Memo. But the wrongdoing goes far beyond that detailed in the Memo. It also extends to the arguments and efforts to prevent it from being released.
This is hardly the first time to American or World history that there has been accusations of wrongdoing done in secret by an intelligence agency. We know how the game is played. The first line of defense of the agency is to argue that the material cannot be released because it would undermine national security. Now sometimes this is true, but often it is not. When it is not true, this lie – like all lies – creates a problem for the future, because people will be less willing to accept the genuine claims that there is a genuine national security need for confidentiality.
In the case of the Memo, many critics of the release, including those with information of the Memo, argued it would undermine the intelligence agencies. But now that the Memo has been released, we can see that this was simply false. They lied. Yet the mainstream press simply ignores this.
Another argument used against releasing the Memo is that it will hurt the overall ability of the agencies to conduct surveillance in the future, including that it will hurt the reputation of the FBI with the FISA court. But it is not clear why, except in one important way – it will hurt the reputation of the FBI (and perhaps the FISA court). But if this is the reason not to release the information, this is worse than no reason. Every scandal hurts the institution that has engaged in the scandal. But that is no reason not to release the information. The normal assumption is that the scandal plagued institution requires reform and the best way to do that in a democracy is to release the information to the public. Duh!
The FBI has been engaged in wrongdoing. And some changes will certainly be needed there. Personnel changes are already underway, but perhaps other changes are needed.
The matter of the FISA court is more complicated. Yes, the FBI does not appear to have been honest with the FISA court. If that causes the court to rubber stamp the FBI less than it currently does, all for the better. But perhaps the wrongdoing extends in a way to the FISA court. It is said that the Steele dossier read like a National Enquirer article. If so, one might have hoped a FISA court worth its name would have scrutinized it. Instead, the court appears to have simply approved the continuing warrants.
Ultimately, then, the arguments against releasing the Memo appear to be of the following sort – don’t release the Memo, because that will hurt our reputation and that would not be good for us. This type of argument is outrageous. It should be ridiculed. Yet, it is treated with seriousness by the mainstream press.