Saturday, December 21, 2013

Barack Obama, the Surveillance State, and the Secret Team

A senator campaigning for reform says
that the intelligence leadership drives
“how decisions get made at the
White House.” Illustration
by the Heads of State.
Barack Obama, the Surveillance State, and the Secret Team
Dec 21, 2013 | Sott.net | Don Hunt

The December 16th, 2013, edition of The New Yorker published an article with a revealing anecdote about the Obama administration's continuation of Bush era national security policies. Revealing, that is, for those who can see.

Ryan Lizza, in 'State of Deception: Why won't the President rein in the intelligence community?' asks why Obama, once a constitutional law professor who, when running for the Senate in 2003, called the Patriot Act "shoddy and dangerous," became a president who lobbied for the renewal of the Patriot Act and continued the Bush administration's surveillance state policies (minus the creepy 'Total Information Awareness' brand name). The easy answer is that no president has control over the secret government. The assassination of the last president who tried to exert control, John F. Kennedy, proves that point. As the comedian Bill Hicks once joked, whenever a new president gets elected, the real leaders call him into a room, show him the Zapruder film, then say, "Any questions?", and the new president answers, "Only what my agenda is."

But the spooks probably don't like to be so crude unless they have to be. It's much more fun for them to apply their skills in subtle manipulation. L. Fletcher Prouty, in his book The Secret Team: The CIA and its Allies in Control of the United States and the World, gives what I think is the best account of how the game is played. According to Prouty, it's done through 'the briefing'.
From President to Ambassador, Cabinet Officer to Commanding General, and from Senator to executive assistant -- all these men have their sources of information and guidance. Most of this information and guidance is the result of carefully laid schemes and ploys of pressure groups. In this influential coterie one of the most interesting and effective roles is that played by the behind the scenes, faceless, nameless, ubiquitous briefing officer.

He is the man who sees the President, the Secretary, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff almost daily, and who carries with him the most skillfully detailed information. He is trained by years of experience in the precise way to present that information to assure its effectiveness. He comes away day after day knowing more and more about the man he has been briefing and about what it is that the truly influential pressure groups at the center of power and authority are really trying to tell these key decision makers. In Washington, where such decisions shape and shake the world, the role of the regular briefing officer is critical...

The role of the briefing officer is quiet, effective, and most influential; and, in the CIA, specialized in the high art of top level indoctrination.
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