Friday, April 28, 2006

SHANE HARRIS WRITES IN NATIONAL JOURNAL about the C.I.A.'s new policy of forbidding employees, including independent contractors, to publish books critical of the C.I.A. or of the Bush administration:

The CIA has imposed new and tighter restrictions on the books, articles, and opinion pieces published by former employees who are still contractors with the intelligence agency. According to several former CIA officials affected by the new policy, the rules are intended to suppress criticism of the Bush administration and of the CIA. The officials say the restrictions amount to an unprecedented political "appropriateness" test at odds with earlier CIA policies on outside publishing.

The move is a significant departure from the CIA's longtime practice of allowing ex-employees to take critical or contrary positions in public, particularly when they are contractors paid to advise the CIA on important topics and to publish their assessments.

What's significant about this change in policy is that it's not the security classification of the information that determines whether an employee will be allowed to publish; it's the opinions being expressed.

Not only is this a clear violation of C.I.A. employees' First Amendment rights; it's also counterproductive to national security in the long run. You're not going to get objective, well-researched, accurate intelligence by creating a climate that is hostile to dissenting views. People have to be free to say what they really believe to be true to do their jobs right, and they won't be able to do that if they have to fear being punished for political incorrectness.

The new restrictions are not just a change in practice; they actually violate the agency's preexisting rules:

The CIA acknowledged for the first time last week that the Publications Review Board subjects former officials under contract to a two-part test. "First, material submitted for publication cannot contain classified information," CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano wrote in an e-mail. "Second, it cannot impair the individual's ability to do his or her job or the CIA's ability to conduct its mission as a nonpartisan, nonpolicy agency of the executive branch."

That new criterion is at odds with the agency's earlier rules. According to a July 2005 unclassified regulation, signed by Goss, "The [Publications Review Board] will review material ... solely to determine whether it contains any classified information. Permission to publish will not be denied solely because the material may be embarrassing to or critical of the agency."

Current and former contract employees predict a backlash:

... "If this is the direction in which it's going ... the agency would be shooting itself in the foot," said one former official who was involved in contracting with outside experts to solicit reviews of draft intelligence assessments. "At a time when the agency is being criticized at least as much as it ever has for 'groupthink,' unchallenged assumptions, and not practicing alternative analysis rigorously, this is one of the last changes it ought to be making."

The former official predicted, "Those contractors who tend to express opposing viewpoints would be among the first to terminate their contracts." If they bolt, the agency's efforts will have been for naught: The CIA will have lost them, and they'll publish their writings anyway, because the new policy review doesn't apply to former employees who don't have CIA contracts, the former official explained.

Another former official under contract, who has written critically about intelligence analysis, said the policy would encourage people to share their views with journalists anonymously. "I know they did it to scare people," the former official said. "The problem is, they're not dealing with fools here.... In my case, they took someone who is reasonably familiar with [the CIA] and made it so that anytime I can torpedo them, I will."

John at AMERICAblog sees us morphing into the evil empire -- and he speaks from the standpoint of a cold warrior and an expert on the Soviet Union:

Jesus Christ. Where are we, the Soviet Union? A week after the Chinese communist dictator is welcomed to the White House we're told that former government officials are no longer allowed to criticize the government?

In America?

Is this what 51% of the American people voted for? Outlawing all dissent? Not to mention, if there's such a crisis of former intelligence experts wanting to criticize George Bush then maybe that ought to tell us something -- about George Bush.
studied the Soviet Union in grad school, it was one of my main areas of expertise. I'm a hawk on defense. I hated the Soviets and there was little Ronald Reagan could do wrong vis-a-vis the evil empire, in my eye. And I'm telling you, what is happening in our country today is right out of the Soviet playbook. (It's also right out of the Nazi playbook.) You slowly criminalize dissent so that the public accepts infringements on civil liberties that it would never accept in one fell swoop (and, well, in the Soviet Union there was no slowly to it at all - it was pretty instantaneous).

Has America become the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany? No. Have we started down the path to a more totalitarian government that no longer respects, that no longer fears, its citizenry? Absolutely. Do we tolerate today in America presidential policies that would have been unconscionable under any circumstance just ten years ago. Sadly, yes.

And to hell with this war on terror crap.

America wasn't created in order to throw away everything it stands for in order to survive. That was not the intent of our founding fathers, that we protect and defend our God-given -- remember, God-given they told us -- rights only when it was convenient. If they're God-given rights, then how can man suspend them, even for a war on terror?

The Republican party no longer represents freedom or democracy or America. They have become the worst historical caricature of what liberals were always supposd to be (but actually weren't). Un-American, loose-spending, wimps who are ultimately terribly dangerous to our freedom in troubled times.

Steven D. at Booman Tribune says it's not about the leaks:

Remember, we are talking about former CIA employees voicing their own opinions publicly on matters not related to any classified information to which they might be privy. This is not an attempt to prevent national security secrets from being leaked. No, this is purely and simply an attempt to stifle legitimate criticism of the Bush administration and its numerous policy failures.

Joe Gandelman notes that a few years ago we wouldn't have been able to imagine Republicans endorsing Big Government:

... [W]hat we have seen increasingly under the Bush administration is that more and more the goalposts are being systematically moved so that members of the Republican party who once would scream bloody political murder about this and other matters 2, 5, 10 or 15 years ago now placidly go along with it. It's as if the Bush administration is being given a blank check by GOPers to put in place the kind of Big Government with Ultra Powers that Republicans used to vigorously try to keep from materializing.

Yes, indeedy. In fact, a few short years ago, the Republicans would have been crying Communism and Soviet infiltration if an administration had tried expanding government and squelching dissent the way the Bush administration has been doing.

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