What Do You Think?
Daniel Schorr Asks "Can Lying Serve National Interest? "
One of the inherent powers of the president, apparently, is the right to lie in the perceived national interest. Senator Ted Kennedy from Massachusetts says "Congress can't roll over in the face of these outrageous claims...No president is above the law."
Can lying serve national interest?
By Daniel Schorr, NY TIMES
Fri Jan 27, 3:00 AM ET
One of the inherent powers of the president, apparently, is the right to lie in the perceived national interest.
In 1960, President Eisenhower had the State Department announce that a plane shot down over the Soviet Union was on a weather mission. He was left red-faced when the Russians produced the U-2 spy plane and its CIA pilot.
In 1962 President Kennedy cut short a trip to the West Coast and flew back to Washington from Chicago, suffering, it was announced, from an upper respiratory infection. The real reason for his hasty return was newly acquired photographic evidence that the Russians were putting nuclear missiles in Cuba - prompting the Cuban missile crisis.
In 1981, the Reagan White House condemned Israel for bombing the Osirak nuclear facility outside Baghdad saying, "The unprecedented attack would add to the tense situation in the Middle East." Left unsaid was that the CIA director, William Casey, had visited Israel and agreed to cooperate in the attack, using American-made planes and American reconnaissance satellites to pinpoint the target.
So now, 25 years later, once again we face the introduction to the nuclear waltz and the question of how far the administration will go in keeping Americans posted on the gathering storm. What we have heard so far leaves a lot to the imagination.
At a news conference last February President Bush said, "The notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous." He paused, and then added, "and having said that, all options are on the table."
Around the same time, Seymour Hersh reported in The New Yorker magazine that the United States was conducting secret reconnaissance flights over Iran to identify nuclear installations. The Pentagon, as you might expect, denied it.
More recently Vice President Dick Cheney said that Iran was operating "a fairly robust nuclear program" and that Israel might decide to act first if the United States and its allies failed to solve the problem by diplomacy.
"No president should ever take a military option off the table," he said.
So there you have it. Is the administration deceiving us about its true intentions? Or maybe it doesn't know its intentions. Maybe there are divided counsels within the administration. History tells us that a president will dissemble and even lie for his own purposes. I don't know how well the Bush administration is doing in keeping Iranian President Ahmadinejad off balance. But it's doing a fine job keeping the American public off balance.
" Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst at National Public Radio.
US propaganda aimed at foreigners reaches US public: Pentagon document Fri Jan 27, 10:23 AM ET
The Pentagon acknowledged in a newly declassified document that the US public is increasingly exposed to propaganda disseminated overseas in psychological operations.
But the document suggests that the Pentagon believes that US law that prohibits exposing the US public to propaganda does not apply to the unintended blowback from such operations.
"The increasing ability of people in most parts of the globe to access international information sources makes targeting particular audiences more difficult," said the document.
"Today the distinction between foreign and domestic audiences become more a question of USG (US government) intent rather than information dissemination practices," it said.
Called the "Information Operations Roadmap," the document was approved by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in October 2003.
It was made public by the National Security Archives, a private non-profit research group which obtained it through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The document said that psychological operations, or "psyops," are restricted by Pentagon policy and executive order from targeting US audiences, US military personnel and news agencies and outlets.
"However, information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and PSYOP, increasingly is consumed by our domestic audience and vice-versa."
In a press release, the National Security Archives said the document "calls for 'boundaries' between information operations abroad and the news media at home, but provides for no such limits and claims that as long as the American public is not 'targeted,' any leakage of PSYOP to the American public does not matter."
Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita vehemently denied that the Pentagon was unconcerned about possible blowback.
"I reject the premise of this release which is, 'Hey if it bleeds back we're okay with it.' We're not okay with it," he said.
DiRita said that, with the exception of "battlefield deception," psychological operations used to influence foreign publics were based on factual, accurate information.
He said that the Pentagon has sought to erect "firewalls" between psychological operations that aim to "influence" foreign publics and public affairs, which "inform" the press and the US public.
But he acknowledged that the distinction between the two has become blurred.
"It's an important distinction to understand, but increasingly in the world we're in it's a distinction that deserves scrutiny," he said.
Disclosures last month that US military psychological operations units were secretly planting paid-for stories with the Iraqi press through a contractor brought some of those issues to the surface.
General George Casey, the US commander in Iraq, is reviewing the results of an investigation into the case, but officials have said that the disclosures have so far prompted no changes.
Pentagon Document Shows Messages Boomerang
By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
Thu Jan 26, 9:46 PM ET
A Pentagon "road map" to more effective use of information as a weapon says psychological warfare messages targeted at foreign audiences are increasingly finding their way into the United States.
The 78-page document, released Thursday by the National Security Archive, a nonprofit research group, spells out the Pentagon's reasoning for putting greater emphasis on "information operations" as a military tool. It says this should be a core military capability and placed largely in the hands of war-fighting commanders.
"Information, always important in warfare, is now critical to military success and will only become more so in the foreseeable future," it says.
The National Security Archive obtained the document from the Pentagon with a Freedom of Information Act request.
It was classified secret and dated Oct. 30, 2003. It begins with a brief approval note signed by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who called it an attempt to "keep pace with emerging threats and to exploit new opportunities."
The Pentagon has faced a number of "information operations" controversies recently, including questions about a propaganda program that paid Iraqi media to run favorable stories. U.S. military officials in Iraq have defended that as part of their campaign to get the truth out about the war and the rebuilding effort.
The Rumsfeld document, portions of which were blacked out by Pentagon censors before release to the National Security Archive, says the increasing ability of people in much of the world to access information across boundaries makes it more difficult for the U.S. military to target specific foreign audiences.
It says psychological operations activities by military teams that use a range of communications systems to disseminate messages intended to influence a target audience abroad are restricted by Pentagon policy from targeting American audiences as well as U.S. military personnel and news organizations.
"However, information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and PSYOP (psychological operations) increasingly is consumed by our domestic audience, and vice-versa," it says.
"PSYOP messages disseminated to any audience except individual decision-makers and perhaps even then will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public."
It cited no specific examples.
In releasing the Rumsfeld document, the National Security Archive asserted that the language indicates that "as long as the American public is not `targeted'" by psychological warfare messages, "any leakage of PSYOP to the American public does not matter."
Larry Di Rita, a senior adviser to Rumsfeld and until recently his chief spokesman, strongly rejected that assertion.
"We feel very confident that we are operating in a manner that is appropriate for the world we're in and that is proper for the anxieties that people have," he said, while acknowledging that the Pentagon has yet to develop detailed doctrine, or written guidelines, to spell out all the limits and restrictions on information operations.
"I reject the premise" of the National Security Archive's interpretation of the Rumsfeld document, Di Rita said.
He said that since the document was signed in October 2003, the Pentagon has learned the importance of creating "firewalls" between the military's psychological warfare operations and its public affairs efforts, which are intended to be truthful at all times. That and other issues were examined as part of a broad, yearlong review of Pentagon priorities and strategies, to be publicly released Feb. 6.
Bush Reasserts Presidential Prerogatives
Eavesdropping, Katrina Probe Cited as Concerns
By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 27, 2006; A06
President Bush set limits yesterday on White House cooperation in three political disputes, saying he is determined to assert presidential prerogatives on such matters as domestic eavesdropping and congressional inquiries into Hurricane Katrina.
In a mid-morning news conference, Bush told reporters he is skeptical of a proposed law imposing new oversights on his use of the National Security Agency to listen in on electronic communications. He also said that he will block White House aides from testifying about the slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina, and that he will not release official White House photos of himself with former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Facing repeated questions, Bush distanced himself from Abramoff, who is at the center of the biggest political corruption and bribery scandal in a generation. Bush said he does not recall having his picture taken with Abramoff or ever meeting him. Abramoff was a member of the exclusive club of Bush's $100,000 fundraisers known as Pioneers.
"Having my picture taken with someone doesn't mean that I'm a friend with him or know him very well," Bush told reporters.
According to three people who reviewed half a dozen photos of the men, Bush is pictured at official gatherings and fundraisers with Abramoff and his children. He also attended a White House meeting with some of Abramoff's clients, including tribal leaders and the then-speaker of the House for the Northern Mariana Islands, the sources said. Abramoff has pictures from the event, they said.
If prosecutors "believe something was done inappropriately in the White House, they'll come and look and they're welcome to do so," Bush said. The White House has also refused to detail meetings between Abramoff and top White House aides.
The president was similarly adamant about not allowing top aides to testify about Hurricane Katrina. Bush, who has moved on several fronts over the past five years to strengthen the power of the presidency, said it would be damaging to him and future presidents if aides feared providing candid advice.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), a staunch supporter of Bush on foreign policy, has accused the White House of undermining the probe by refusing to detail the role of White House officials. "If people give me advice and they're forced to disclose that advice, it means the next time an issue comes up I might not be able to get unvarnished advice from my advisers," Bush said. "And that's just the way it works."
On the issue of NSA eavesdropping on overseas communications to or from U.S. citizens, Bush said he is concerned about Congress writing a new spying law because it could force the government to provide details and clues about a top-secret program used to hunt down terrorists.
"There's no doubt in my mind it is legal," Bush said. Democrats have accused Bush of breaking the law by authorizing the spying program without approval from Congress or the courts. The debate is expected to dominate hearings, scheduled to begin Feb. 6, on the highly classified NSA program.
"But it's important for people to understand that this program is so sensitive and so important that if information gets out to how we run it or how we operate it, it'll help the enemy," he said. "Why tell the enemy what we're doing?"
In his 10th news conference since winning reelection, Bush talked at length about presidential power but also previewed next week's State of the Union speech and weighed in on several foreign policy issues, including the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections.
The performance was quintessential Bush: He joked and sparred with reporters, and betrayed no sense of second-guessing his decisions. When pressed about the election victory of Hamas, which the United States and other countries have called a terrorist group, Bush initially portrayed the vote as a triumph of the democratic process and a wake-up call to the current Palestinian leadership. Later, he conceded the results could set back the Middle East peace process, a top Bush priority.
Bush was often blunt, at one point taking a reporter's challenge to declare with "Texas straight talk" that the United States will never torture prisoners. "No American will be allowed to torture another human being anywhere in the world," Bush shot back. He said that is why the White House supported the law sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that outlawed cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees. A statement released by the White House when Bush signed the law, however, left vague whether the administration is asserting that a loophole exists.
Bush endorsed a plan to allow Russia to help produce nuclear energy for Iran as a way to keep the anti-American regime from building nuclear weapons. But he mischaracterized Iran's public position by saying, "The Iranians have said, 'We want a weapon.' " Publicly, the Iranian government has insisted the opposite is true, though Tehran is widely believed to be actively seeking nuclear weapons.
Although he has not vetoed a spending bill since taking office, Bush warned he is "fully prepared to use the veto" if lawmakers overspend. The government is more than 25 percent larger today in total spending than it was the day Bush took office, and conservatives are calling on the president and Congress to reduce the size of the federal budget.
Bush is expected to talk about new spending restraint during his State of the Union address Tuesday night. The speech will be the official start of a legislative year that will be confined by high budget deficits and a tight legislative schedule. As Bush was speaking, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the 2006 deficit at $337 billion, up from 2005.
Bush will forgo expensive new programs in his speech, aides said, though he will call for new tax breaks to mitigate the cost of health insurance, which has skyrocketed in recent years. With the House and Senate up for grabs in November, politics, not policy, will likely drive much of the congressional agenda.
Bush said he is excited to be campaigning for GOP candidates in the midterm elections, which he predicted will be about "peace and prosperity."
At hearings on the NSA spying, Democrats plan to press administration officials to explain why Bush did not consult Congress more broadly about the program, why he does not believe Congress should write a new law governing eavesdropping programs such as the NSA operation, and why he believes the super-secret Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act courts should not be consulted before eavesdropping on communications to and from the United States. In his news conference, Bush emphasized that FISA was enacted in 1978 -- "a different world," he said.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said Bush's explanation that the Constitution and the war resolution passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks provide the president with extraordinary wartime power is wrong. "Congress can't roll over in the face of these outrageous claims," Kennedy said. "No president is above the law."
© 2006 The Washington Post Company
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