Sunday, August 3, 2014

Coup In America

There aren’t too many parts of our government that I have high regard for—there are some, which might come as a surprise to those who misunderstand me when I label myself an anarchist—but it’s beginning to become clear that some agencies pose a unique threat to maintaining anything like an open society. Not surprisingly, the CIA is at the top of the list—it’s an agency with a long, incredibly ugly history that includes coups, assassinations, human experimentation, and of course, more recently, torture.

It’s the last of these that, in a convoluted way, is at the heart of the most recent controversy involving the agency. The US Senate has been working on a report, soon to be released, that concludes that “enhance interrogation techniques” and the like were unnecessary and excessive. Even though the CIA is no longer authorized to practice those measures, its members apparently took serious issue with such a report, as it has now come out that five CIA employees searched computer files and read emails of Senate investigators.

This is after Director John Brennan had denied any wrongdoing on the part of the agency—probably a move he regrets, in retrospect. What’s troubling about this isn’t that it’s extraordinarily bad by CIA standards—let’s keep in mind the drone strikes they’ve executed and the innocent civilians that have been needlessly killed by them (and those are just some of their crimes in recent history)—but that this seems to indicate that, by the standards of those in the CIA, even the US Senate is so radical and anti-authoritarian that it has to be spied on to keep it in line.

I won’t bother pretending we have anything resembling democracy in the United States (or that we’ve had any such thing for at least numerous decades), but we’re getting into some particularly dangerous territory when even those who have gotten past the phony, corporate-run elections we hold are still not the ones who are really in charge. Furthermore, the CIA had no real motive for any of this—everyone knows they tortured people, and the Senate report is not that likely to cause some huge change. One almost has to conclude that the CIA abused its power here just because it could.

To many it might be unthinkable, but we need to abolish the CIA. It’s hard to come up with much of a cogent defense of the agency. It came about as part of the US’s absurd Cold War strategy; its historical role largely seems to have been the violent imposition of US interests on every country that threatens them; it’s committed numerous human rights abuses all throughout its existence, up to the present; and at this point, it’s gotten so out of hand that it doesn’t even respect Congress’s authorized powers, essentially defying the very branch that helped give birth to it. Whatever legitimate duties it performs, there has to be some better way to achieve them than to keep this radically anti-freedom, anti-transparency, anti-accountability cancer on both our society and the world at large, that calls itself the CIA.

Lawmakers have called for Brennan to be fired—appropriate, sure, but not something that will accomplish much of anything. Doubtless, if he’s fired he’ll be replaced by some other insider who can keep the CIA on the same dictatorial path it’s always been on. The only solution is to simply abolish the agency. The CIA has on more than one occasion displayed its lack of respect for Congress. It’s time for Congress to return the favor and display the ultimate lack of respect for the CIA by revoking its right to exist. But, of course, this is Congress we’re talking about. Even when their own powers are threatened, it’s hard to imagine they’ll actually achieve something worthwhile. That’s our system at work.

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