For how bad it is, the Bush Administration has actually achieved a lot. It's amazing to sit back and reflect on the number of systemic flaws they have duly exposed, without without any intent to do so. The way I look at these things, and I could be very wrong, the biggest problems right now are gross inefficiencies and corruption at the very highest levels of the government apparatus.

Things were not always this way. At one time, federal government had the integrity and the will to get things done, and the state governments and prior to those, the local ward systems, were filled with overwhelming special interests, corruption and stagnation. Not to say the latter has gotten notably better either (and ward systems don't exist anymore), yet under this administration, it is clear that federal government has veered disturbingly toward a kind of boss system as well.

It's pretty clear to me that the administration has been manufactured to make this as palatable on a federal scale as possible. Everyone's suspicion back in the pre-9/11 days that Bush couldn't possibly be in charge has turned out to look correct. Now we know more about how decisions - important decisions - are made in the Bush Whitehouse: An idea has been on the agenda for a while. When the opportunity is ripe, Bush gathers his closest advisers together for a relatively unextensive briefing / series of briefings. Not being a "details person," Bush accepts their briefings without looking any further into alternative views or other information, or intelligence or whatever. I can say that he doesn't look at alternatives because it is a fact the every high-level appointee in that administration has an agenda! With few exceptions, every single appointee has come in with an agenda that is plainly evident from even their surface histories. I have no idea who exactly, but many belong to the Federalist Society. Cheney has been a part of the same group of White House administrators who for over a decade have wanted a toppled Iraq with an American military and contractor presence. Rumsfeld is head-over-heels about the prospect of sleek and stealthy global American military dominance and capability. All these men's advisers and counsels and undersecretaries are in the same boat. I don't think the force of persuasion and coercion of these two groups should be underestimated. The rest of the appointees to the State Department and especially the Intelligence Agencies are either highly screened, or highly loyal. The ones who defect just literally leave, for whatever reason.

The facts have finally come to light that the pre-Iraq intelligence community was dealt with in three ways. The nuts and bolts officials who presented contravening information were literally funneled into oblivion, or if they refused to shut up, threatened or removed. Secondly, the higher-ups on the intelligence community who were ordained to communicated with the Departments were quite simply used. They were exploited to cherry-pick the "right" intelligence. Results-based intelligence inquiries were the norm, and when contrary evidence was presented despite this, it was discriminated against and ignored by the Administration. It's completely known that various department and vice-president officials of various strata said to intelligence officials "give me every piece of credible intelligence that supports this point." Thirdly, officials then pressured the intelligence community to adopt the Administration line, which worked. It's now known that the majority of the intelligence community was not convinced enough to share the Iraq-WMD link claim.

Proceduraly, the genius of this set-up is that it evades scrutiny. Bush is the head of state, and a kind of hard to ignore one at that, so people and the press naturally put their attention on that. Then, one scandal or another happens and the press immediately turns to a presidential press conference or the press spokesman or Laura Bush or whoever, which then proceed to categorically deny any knowledge, involvement, or culpability in the proceedings. The thing is, it may be true. But meanwhile, these various undertakers in the background, many of whom no one has even heard about, actually enforce the order and do the dirty-work. I think the Vice President's recent terse statement in response to the issue of executive leaks is telling in this repect. He said that the Vice President has the authority to de-classify classified information, which apropo the ongoing investigation, would include the identity of covert intelligence officials. Nevermind the fact that no one knew this, because it was signed into law by the President with little notice shortly into his first term. Or the fact that it is an unrestricted power, or that it embodies an ongoing mandate from the President without any oversight or two-way notification.

The Administration has been able to use existing intelligence agency codes and the absence of whistle-blower laws for intelligence officials to its advantage. These laws, which are designed to protect state secrets and information pertaining to national security interests, are now being used to enforce deep conformity to a narrow definition of these things, which is actually equivalent to the administration agenda, sanctioned by executive powers. Only now are we finally seeing a swelling in those willing to give an inside story. And as more are emboldened by their example, it will not be a pretty picture.

It is truly distrubing the degree to which the Adminstration uses and controls information. Their conduct with intelligence is only one example. They don't appear before the press, except in highly scripted events. Even then, they don't actually give any information. They claim executive privillege at every turn, from confirmation hearings, to indictments, to congressional hearings. The public doesn't get to know anything about national security threats, probably for legitimate reasons, but at the same time, vague warnings about that information are used to justify all sorts of things, from terror alerts to continued policies of war to controversial domestic programs such as warrantless wiretapping and indefinite detentions. Some even suggest that the warnings are used tactically. The wiretapping program is by definition another appropriation of information by the Adminstration, and whether it is legal or not will be eventually settled. Allegations that the program and other surveillance programs involve data-mining, the collection of large, encompassing amounts of information and then sifting through all of it according to certain ordained criteria, would be potentially even more of an information offense, because of the implication that acquisition at the first phase at least is non-specific. The known collaboration in this endeavor of telecom giants, and the majority of major search engines brings the picture of informational hegemony to Orwellian new heights. Finally, the creepy way they enforce a groupthink is a huge form of information control comparable to the others listed above.

However, in this way, the Administration may be prescient. I admit, I have no more acceptable alternative to managing national security in this information age. One way or another, presumably a way equivalent to the existing methods that can remain lawful will be found. In contrast, enemies are not encumbered by the same constitutional considerations, so the pressure will be steep. It also might be the case that the age of global, instantaneous media and information transmission has been ushered in, in which all future Administrations will be wise to conduct their own affairs in a much more secretive and controlled way. This does not involve breaking the law, of course, but it does involve disassembling some of the customs developed so far. This might include things like internal transparency, and much more aggressive use of info-ops. In the global age, any piece of the major media has the power to spoil an info campaign, so instead of being formally enslisted, the media has to be managed.

Next time, I will address the premise, which is how the Bush Administration has unintentionally revealed flaws in an accelerating fashion...

No comments: