Tuesday, April 13, 2004
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Thrilling for a grilling
I'm very curious to see how the 9/11 Commission treats former FBI director Louis Freeh at today's hearings. Even more than the Bushies, Freeh was Richard Clarke's nemesis in Against All Enemies. Freeh launched a pre-emptive strike laying out his position in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. The key paragraph:
This is an able defense, but Clarke makes repeated assertions in his book that Freeh failed to follow through on counterterrorism, failed to update the FBI's antiquated computer systems, and reallocated resources officially allocated to the task towards more traditional FBI crime-fighting. [Could Clarke be leaving anything out because of his desire to exact his measure of bureaucratic revenge?--ed. Certainly -- And Freeh is correct to cite the marked increase of FBI legal attaches in U.S. embassies abroad, which were/are useful in combating terrorism.] Bush's official campaign blog is touting the op-ed, but I'm not sure that's the best thinking. The Bushies have the understandable defense of only having been on the job for eight months. Freeh has less of an excuse.
The questioning of Freeh is also a test for the 9/11 Commission to see just how much partisanship will affect their judgment. It would be very fishy if the Dems are not as hard on Freeh as they were on Rice.
UPDATE: Reuters has the precis of the Commission's staff report on the FBI. A "culture resistant to change" figures prominently.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Pandagon links to an old Tim Noah piece in Slate that blasts Freeh's handling of counterintelligence. Noah links to this New Yorker profile of Freeh's role in the Khobar Towers bombing.posted by Dan on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM
I hope they hand him his head on a platter. Louis Freeh presided over some of the greatest failures of American law enforcement history, and got praised for it by his cuddling partners in the WH and Congress. Not sacking him used to be one of my biggest beefs against Clinton. How could a President worthy of the name tolerate such serial incompetency?
Well, little did I know that it was just about to get much much worse.posted by: Oldman on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
IIRC, the only reason Freeh wasn't fired during the Clinton administration was that he had a number of contacts with congressional republicans who would have thrown a fit. I don't think putting him in the Dem column is really appropriate -- I'm not sure anyone in the Clinton administration liked him.
But, then again, I may not remember correctly.posted by: Aaron on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
1) I've mentioned this before so I'll be brief. The Commission really needs to lay the screws to Tom Pickard (Freeh's Deputy and the man who became Acting Director of the FBI in early 2001 up through Sept 11. ) In particular, they need to demand why FBI Agent John O'Neill in New York was repeatedly blocked in his hunt for Al Qaeda --and then stabbed in the back via leaks to the New York Times.
Then they need to bring Freeh back and ensure that incompetent little weasel never gets another position of trust in the US Government.
Again, PBS did an excellent documentary --titled "The Man Who Knew " --on this over a year ago -- see http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/knew/ ,
Re Freeh's Wall Street Journal article, the last time the WSJ let that little buttcovering weasel publish something was in 1995 --when Freeh explained how Ruby Ridge was not the FBI's management's fault. See http://www.jimbovard.com/Diatribe%20FBI%20Freeh%20%201%2026%2095.htm
posted by: Don Williams on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
I am a Democrat and Freeh was a lousy FBI director. He refused to institute procedures that would have guarded information and found Hansen. He was a technophobe and the computer system was primitive.
He was too busy infighting with Janet Reno as he tried to smear the man who appointed him. And if I remember, once appointed the FBI director can not be fired for the entirety of the ten year term; for the very reason that you don't want him to be subject to political pressure.
Some have said, to be charitable, he was an example of the Peter principle, a good agent, a horrendous manager and administrator lacking vision. A cramped view of the world.posted by: Debra on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
"In 1993, we had fewer than 600 special agents and 500 support positions funded for CT. By 1999, we'd more than doubled our personnel and trebled the FBI's CT budget to $301 million."
So by those numbers that's 2200 staff at a cost of 300 million, which works out to about 136k per head.
"By contrast, after Sept. 11, the FBI's FY 2002 Emergency Supplemental CT budget was increased overnight by 823 positions for $745 million"
Hmm you can read this two ways,
Hmm costs seem to have gone up rather quickly.posted by: Factory on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
One need not be the fastest to outrun the hungry lion, merely not the slowest. Perhaps Freeh wasn't the one who was exhibiting the most incompetency.
posted by: Bithead on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
Worst. FBI. Director. Ever.posted by: praktike on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
Add my vote to those who hope the commission gives Freeh the treatment he deserves.posted by: Atrios on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
Ben Veniste is questioning Freeh now. He just took up half of his time sleep-talking and then asked Freeh if he ever spoke with John O'Neil. And--suposing that there might have been a point--there was no follup question to that. His entire question period was lethargic and unfocused. Can that man be taken off the panel? He's wasting everyone's time.
Let me say it again. Once appointed to a ten year term the FBI director con not be fired.posted by: Debra on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
Ben Veniste is questioning Freeh now. He just took up half of his time sleep-talking and then asked Freeh if he ever spoke with John O'Neil.
Well, now isn't THAT a shock?
He who has ears to hear, let him hear...
Bithead, did we listen to the same thing? I heard Ben-Veniste rip him a new one -- he asked Freeh if he thought that reforms could succeed under his successor, given that they had failed completely under Freeh? And how about pointedly asking him to explain the difference between the 9/11 staff commission reports describing the poor cooperation between agencies and Freeh's still-warm description of the fine cooperation he observed?
I'm not a campaign professional, but if I were running the Bush campaign's web site I wouldn't touch Louis Freeh. No way does he come out of these hearings undamaged, and for most voters (i.e. the ones who are not political junkies) his image coming out of the commission's hearings will be the sum total of what they know about him.
Modern campaigns are apt to think they have to react to everything just to show they are doing something. It's a mistake in this case -- maybe small potatoes in the scheme of things, but still a mistake.posted by: Zathras on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
Ross Judson - I'm going to have to wait for the testimony to finish before I can review the BenVeniste-Freeh exchange to answer definitively. But, from what I recall, BV asked several questions that had some teeth, but simply accepted Freeh's response of: "Things were different pre-9/11. I/We/the Gov't didn't have the same priorities." and didn't ask any follow-up questions. BV also seemed like he couldn't care less what was said either by himself or Freeh. Hardly the same tone as his attempted grilling of Rice.posted by: john jay on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
1) It's rather ridiculous to have the FBI protecting the nation with a counterterrorism budget of $300 million.
2) In the mid 1990s, the Director and Deputy Director of the National Reconnaissance Office were relieved of command. Someone had asked who had built a huge, new , lavish ($500 million) office building in Fairfax county outside Washington DC -- it turned out to be the NRO and it turned out that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence knewed nothing of it. A further investigator showed that the NRO had a $2 billion slush fund hidden away from the Congressional oversight committees (I think the investigators ultimately found $4 Billion) This at a time when
In case you're wondering what huge defense and intelligence corporation would benefit from the the NRO slush fund, recalled that Lockheed Martin gave NRO Director Jeffery Harris a high-paying executive position --president of Space Imaging Inc --after Harris was relieved of command.
Oh , it gets better. A few years later,circa 2000, Congress discovers that they have given the NRO billions to build spy satellites --but NRO forgot to tell them back in 1995 that billions more would be needed to disseminate the collected information to users. Kinda like a used car dealer saying "Oh, you want an engine also?" See the reports of the 2001 NRO Commission and NIMA Commission. A cynical person might wonder if the NRO, realizing in 1995 that it's multibillion chunk of pork was too big for COngress to swallow , decided to split it up into two pieces. If you look at the Commission Reports, check the Appendix to see what managers of what huge corporation were interviewed by the Commission re this particular trainwreck. Consider also that a lot more money can be made fixing things after a trainwreck than in making the trains run on time. Consider also that Lockheeds current VP for "Special Programs" --Bob Dumais -- was Director of NRO's Imint Division back in the mid-1990s.
Oh wait, it gets even better. Circa 1998-1999, the US government lost over $2 billion when three Lockheed Martin Titan launches blew up, one after the other. Probably more, if rumors that one of the launches carried a $1 billion NRO satellite were true.
News reports in Sept 1999 reported that the government had decided to give the contract for the next generation of Spy Satellites (aka FIA for Future Imagery Architecture) to Boeing. Lockheed's stock fell to $16+ , down from $55 a few months before. To save the CEO's butt, Chief Operating Officer Pete Teets resigned circa November 1999.
But again, those in alleged disgrace staged a miraculous recovery a few months later. After surviving the shareholders meeting in spring 2000, Lockheed CEO Vance Coffman gave Pete Teets a sweetheart consulting contract in summer 2000, providing $1 million per year for three years--in exchange for vaguely defined services requiring--as I recall --a maximum of six months work per year, less if Lockheed wanted. In 2001, when the Bush Administration chose it's new Director of the NRO, it chose--you guessed it-- Pete Teets.
As a totally unrelated item, note that Dick Cheney's wife , Lynne Cheney, served on Lockheed's Board of Directors from 1994 until the inaugural in Jan 2001.
Since leaving the Senate, Bob Kerrey has been Dean of the New School in New York-- a position which I suspect does not pay as well as Lockheed. But then the New School does not received roughly $23 billion/year from the US Taxpayer.posted by: Don Williams on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
1)If we're talking about a "culture resistant to change" , how about if we consider the Pentagon and the Executive Branch? On Sept 11 2001, almost 11 YEARS after the fall of the Soviet Union, was the Intelligence Community set up the same way it was in 1960 -- or was it set up to monitor the modern terrorist threat to America?
4) Lest some of you blame the Republican Congress for not shifting spending from Cold War programs to the terrorist threat, recall that Congressmen spending most of their time raising money and their limited staff have little time to spend on any specific problem.
The person ultimately responsible for 911 is Janet Reno. Congress depends upon US citizens --including military and federal employees --warning them of pending goatfucks. However, Janet Reno stopped that in 1996 when she issued a ruling that people with intelligence clearances could be prosecuted for talking with their members of Congress about classified matters. Cleared people could not even warn the Intelligence Committees of Congress of problems. If you think I'm kidding, look at the background report for the 1998 Intelligence Whistleblower Protection Act passed by House Intelligence Chairman Porter Goss over the opposition of the Clinton Administration.
Even that Act ,due to compromises with Clinton, has major problems. Today, a cleared person wanting to report clusterfucks to the Intelligence Committees must first give a 30 day warning to the Executive Branch before going to COngress. In other words, a lowly employee or engineer must stand up and yell "I'm a snitch" -- knowing that Congress can not protect him, that his 10-20 years of work experience in Intelligence has zero value in the civilian job market, and that he is putting his family on Welfare by his act of patriotism. Hence, a Congress too stupid to know of the real problems has ensured that it will never be warned in time by the people who do know.
During the Congressional hearings, remember this if you're inclined to take those stupid fucks seriously.posted by: Don Williams on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
I suggest you ask President Andrew Johnson whether Congress can prohibit the President from terminating the distinguished federal careers of estimable appointed officers of the Executive branch.
Or you can check out these URL's if you don't mind your ears flaming red:
"MYERS v. UNITED STATES, 272 U.S. 52 (1926)posted by: Tom Holsinger on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
1) To get an idea of what of Louie Freeh's dishonesty, compare his testimony today re lack of Congressional funding with the testimony provided to COngress in 1998 by Freeh's own
2) If you look at Watson's statement, you don't see warnings of major budget shortfalls -- or problems with the wall between counterintelligence ops and legal prosecutation.
3) What you see is Watson saying that the "most important step" is for Congress to take a "balanced" policy on encryption and privacy -- i.e., requiring that US citizens used encryption that the FBI can break.
Which shows Watson's stupidity and incompetence.
The only value Watson's proposal would have is to allow the FBI to spy on the financial transactions of law abiding US citizens. What books we buy from Amazon. Who among us pays to watch porn. Real terrorists would laugh at Watson's ignorant proposal. But neither the American people nor members of Congress nor the US news media realized that Watson's testimony showed the FBI was being run by incompetent morons.
Some would argue that Watson's proposal would ban the transmittal of encrypted text. How can you ban anonymous emails sent by Hotmail accounts from library terminals? How can you even recognize encrypted text when the random number strings in the emails are disguised as scientific measurements of sea water temperatures, business financial results, cost estimates, financial calculations on stocks or commodity futures, etc?
4) Watson and the FBI's stupidity circa 1998 are future shown in his testimony by his assurances to Congress that the FBI has woke up since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing --that they have effective monitoring of terrorist groups in the US, and that they are watching the bad guys.
Palestinian Hamas, Iranian-backed Hizballah, and Egyptian-based al-Gama' at al Islamiyya each has established an active presence in the United States"
What in hell is going on? Why is everyone pretending that the two ton elephant isn’t in the room? Even Dan Drezner seems hesitant to address the real unavoidable issue. The Muslim radicals were not blue eyed and blond---and that’s the number one reason why 9/11 occurred. What explains the awkward silence? Political correctness pervaded every one of our intelligence agencies and police organizations. Nobody was going to risk their careers investigating a racial minority.
It is hysterically funny when a number of people argue that the Bush administration should have alerted the airports about an outside possibility of a hijacking. Can anyone guess what would have been the result? Almost certainly, someone would have leaked this information to the New York Times, CBS News, and the ACLU. The crap would have hit the fan. I can see it now:
“White House Order Racial Profiling. Senator Kennedy Demands an Investigation.”posted by: David Thomson on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
John Jay (And by extension, a reply to Ross Judson as well)
BV asked several questions that had some teeth, but simply accepted Freeh's response of: "Things were different pre-9/11. I/We/the Gov't didn't have the same priorities." and didn't ask any follow-up questions. BV also seemed like he couldn't care less what was said either by himself or Freeh. Hardly the same tone as his attempted grilling of Rice.
That's my read on it, as well. In fairness that mere acceptance of the answers as such may well be time limits, but why are the Democrats not bitching about this the way they were the other day with Rice?
National Review Online, particularly its Corner, and Drudge are running stories indicating that Attorney General Ashcroft is conducting the Bush Administration counterattack at the 9/11 Commission hearings.
Partisan charades can go both ways.
The Democrats seem to have really screwed up by having Gorelick on the Commission. Her memo is absolutely damning.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
1) The new media's meme that Sept 11 occurred because the FBI and CIA didn't do more information sharing shows reporters lack of understanding. There is always reluctance to share "source and methods" with outsiders because of the danger of traitors,spies,etc.
Yes, you can dump everything you know into a huge database which everyone can access. But then
The New York Times never can hold more than one idea in its head --or remember farther back than last week. In the 1990s, the CIA and FBI were engaged in several desperate moles hunts. They knew --from loss of agents overseas --that they had one or more traitors within. That doesn't encourage information sharing.
It's very hard to recruit people to risk their lives spying for you when you leak like a sieve.
Some of the same egotistical assholes opining on the need for "reform" will disavow responsibility a year or so from now when their "reforms" let several moles once more blind the FBI and CIA (by locating and revealing our spies) -- or worse, manipulate the US Presidency via con games. (One of the reasons for compartmentation is to have several independent and totally separate channels of information that you can check for inconsistency. If a mole in the Clandestine Service can't see your reports from the NSA or NRO, for example, then he finds it harder and riskier to make stuff up that can fool you. Consider Chalabi and the mythical Iraqi WMDs, for example.)posted by: Don Williams on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
Maybe if Mulder and Scully hadn't wasted so many resources on wild alien chases, the FBI would have done a better job.posted by: Bruce Bartlett on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
Actually, Bruce, the FBI and CIA were distracted by the search for the space aliens who conspired to foist the Constitution on us. See Don Williams' post about the Articles of Confederacy and the Constitution in an earlier thread.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
Ashcroft isn't so much as defending the administration as attempting to launch a pre-emptive strike to save his ass. Preliminary draft reports of the comission are said to harshly criticize Aschroft for deemphasizing terrorism (even more so than his predecessors) at the FBI. Number of FBI officials have stated this and moreover Aschroft rejected budget increases necessary to fight t errorism. Article in the Times.
When will incompetence lead to heads rolling? When?posted by: Jor on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
You will notice that the 911 Commission was careful NOT to investigate one question: WHY did the Sept 11 attack occur. What provoked it.
No discussion of Bin Ladin's warnings in US TV network interviews in 1998.
No mention of the DAWN newspaper interview in November 2001, where Bin Ladin stated that US arms sales to Israel were the motivation for the attack.
No discussion of Bush's sale of 52 F16s fighters to Sharon in June 2001 --fighters which Sharon uses to bomb Palestinians.
No mention of the F16 contractor (Lockheed Martin)-- and Lynne Cheney's long service on Lockheed's Board of Directors.
Maybe Bush should wear his white cowboy hat at the press conference tonight. I enjoy a good display of two faced hypocrisy and deceit as much as anyone.posted by: Don Williams on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
Re: Technophobes in the FBI
I was shocked to hear Thomas Picard (temp FBI Director, former Asst. Director) chuckle and say, "I don't type, haw haw haw." It was, like, such a 1960s kind of thing to say. He mumbled something about his secretary doing that kind of stuff. I worked in an office with a lawyer who refused to "type." Pure technophobe. Wouldn't learn to use email. Really slowed things down when dealing with him. Everyone else could get info in an email but he had to have stuff hand delivered. Hard to believe someone like that could be appointed temp head of the FBI.posted by: raff on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
1) Interesting moment at Bush's press conference tonight. A reporter noted the intelligence warning before Sept 11 that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US airliner and hold it (and the 200+ Americans on board). The reporter then asked Bush point blank what he did to prevent it. Bush spent 5 minutes explaining that he was not told that someone would fly an airliner into the World Trade Center.
Which leaves the interesting question of whether Bush will do nothing if someone merely plans to hijack a plane and fly it into the ground.
2) Given the warnings, it seems strange that Bush could not spend a few million to put air marshalls on the airlines prior to Sept 11. After all, he spent $70 BILLION to bail out the Airline CEOs for their incompetent security. He spends $400 BILLION per year , much of it going to defense corporations, for national defense that did nothing to prevent Sept 11.posted by: Don Williams on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
Concerning the testimony,
Listening to it for several hours today. Several things made themselves apparent to me.
(i) Everyone was in CYA mode.
Personally, I've never thought much good or bad about Ashcroft considering him a harmless social crank. However, it seems apparent to me that this sunnavab*tch actually interfered on two seperate occasions attempts at terrorism handling and in other cases completely neglected his responsibility to hold the FBI's feet to the fire to proactively pursue it. This guy is nuts, and in my estimation is a national liability on the WoT. We got to get him out of there.
That alone might improve FBI performance!!!posted by: Oldman on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
Interesting article on David Richard Ben-Veniste this morning on Late Final.
"Ben-Veniste is a member of the Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw law firm based in Washington, D.C., and has had his shingle hanging there since 2002.
In eny event, that's two people who should not be on this commission for conflict of interest.... BenVineste and Gorelick. and what do you know; they're both partisan Democrats... and act like it in the hearings.posted by: Bithead on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
Fascinating about the 1926 decision by Taft. I don't know the actual case before the court; it would seem that matters.. All I know is that by statute the term of the FBI director is 10 years. It used to be 15 years when Hoover was in charge.
It would seem that there would have to be a very compelling case for malfeasance to take this to court, which is what would have happened as Freeh, besides his incompetence, was very hostile to the Clinton administration.posted by: Debra on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
You sure you want to go down this path?
Jamie Gorelick was almost the Attorney General...twice. I'll explain.
Gorelick was one of a handful of names that the White House was considering in 1993 after the Zoe Baird debacle. After it was leaked that almost all the names on the Clinton's list were women there were some letters sent to the White House from various ethics organizations to ensure the White House was not excluding men from the AG position.
Too bad America, Hillary Clinton was running the AG selection show. All the choices were women whether the ABA liked it or not. Gorelick eventually didn't get the top job as they chose Reno instead. So they made Gorelick #2 at DoJ. The DoJ went on to leak thousands of documents to key White House officials that ended up in the hands of lawfirms with the most connections to the Clinton White House. Holy No Way How?
That was the first chance for Gorelick to become AG. Her second chance was in 1997. Reno was under fire for being one of the worst attorney generals ever and the White House was considering replacing her. Gorelick was the the obvious choice to take over but she was told in 97 that Reno was staying in her position as AG. Gorelick resigned a few months later. She then moved on to the board of directors at the first stop on the Political Retirement Train known as Fannie Mae. Soon she was Vice-Chairman of the board banking about a half mil per. What did she do with her salary? She gave $67,800 to Democratic candidates, Democratic PAC and other campaign financing houses.
In June 2003 she gave $2000 to Dick Gephardt's Presidential campaign. In late 2002 Dick Gephardt chose Gorelick as one of the 2 democratic appointees from house democrats.
I'm not even touching Ben-Veniste right now, but I bet he stinks as much if not more than Jamie Gorelick.posted by: Brennan Stout on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
I'm not even touching Ben-Veniste right now, but I bet he stinks as much if not more than Jamie Gorelick.
I will. He smells of conflict of interest, too.
A bit posted on Late Final.com suggests that the DNC's 'attack poodle' may have some questionable connections. Why is this man still on the commission? Why, in fact, is this man not being arrested?
"Ben-Veniste is a member of the Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw law firm based in Washington, D.C., and has had his shingle hanging there since 2002.
In eny event, that's two people who should not be on this commission for a clear conflict of interest.... BenVineste and Gorelick. and what do you know; they're both partisan Democrats... and act like it in the hearings.
I suspect Gorelick will be gone before next mid-week. The attck poodle may take a bit longer to fell.... but fall he will.posted by: Bithead on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
"The questioning of Freeh is also a test for the 9/11 Commission to see just how much partisanship will affect their judgment. It would be very fishy if the Dems are not as hard on Freeh as they were on Rice."
Huh? What on earth gives you the idea that Democrats like Freeh? Liberal (or in any event pro-Clinton) web sites have been denouncing him for years for "going after phony Clinton administration 'scandals'" instead of "real" crime, etc.posted by: David T on 04.13.04 at 12:36 AM [permalink]
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