September 11 Anniversary: Step Up Resistance!
Lawless Violence Made the Norm
As people in the U.S. and worldwide mark the tenth anniversary of September 11, we again mourn all those killed that day, as well as all the first responders now dying from cancer and other illnesses, and the many hundreds of thousands worldwide killed as a result of U.S. aggression. And in mourning, we also take up the necessity to step up our resistance to U.S. wars and repression. Our security lies in the fight for the rights of all, abroad and at home!
Today the working class and people are contending with a situation where the war on terror has intensified insecurity, expanded U.S. wars and increased the threat of world war. Lawless violence on the part of the U.S. has been made the norm.
The invasion of Libya further shows that international law, with its respect for sovereignty, human rights and opposition to aggression has been destroyed. Ten years since 9/11, the U.S/NATO war against Libya was launched with the lie of “potential civilian” massacre by the Libyan government and open interference in Libya’s internal affairs when there was no threat or attack by her. Thousands of brutal bombings of civilians, destruction of civilian infrastructure including water supplies and refusal to negotiate a political settlement has characterized the assault. In place of rule of law there is the lawless violence of the U.S. with its thoroughly backward extortion of might makes right.
This reality is being further underlined by headlines about the CIA as a killing machine and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) as an armed force unto itself, both with impunity to use violence wherever they please. Both openly carry out black ops, meaning those operations that go against international and military laws and standards. Both are known for their assassinations and use of drones against civilians.
The use of drones itself reflects the lawlessness imposed, as they are used against countries the U.S. is not at war with, such as Pakistan and Yemen, most commonly for assassinations of U.S. determined “targets.” The CIA and JSOC themselves admit that at best their “intelligence” concerning the human beings targeted is only accurate about 50 percent of the time. Even then the people are only “suspected” of what the U.S. calls “terrorism” and "support for terrorism." In both cases, whole families and thousands of civilians have been killed.
The government also keeps secret how a human being is branded as a “target,” and who is actually involved in the civilian slaughter. Military forces at a base inside the U.S., which the government refuses to make public, are involved in remotely launching and guiding the drones at the people to be assassinated – all of them, so far, in foreign countries.
To a large degree, the public nature of war, including debate in Congress and a declaration of war by Congress has been eliminated. Reporting to Congress and more generally the public — an important part of the military coming under civilian rule, also does not occur. A situation of constant insecurity exists. As a leading spokesman for the ruling class, Richard Hass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations put it, the lesson of 9/11 is “Learning to live with insecurity.”
The public, including public bodies like Congress, are removed from knowledge and any say about the wars being waged. The operations are conducted by the president, are kept secret and even the soldiers involved removed from the killing fields. Accountability, in terms of requirements for meeting rule of law, including even military law and standards does not apply. The president sanctions the missions, and as a senior official put it “When the CIA does covert action, who does the president turn to to judge its effectiveness? The CIA.”
The elimination of the role of the public is a significant part of the destruction of rule of law and establishing violence as the weapon of choice. We are witnessing a great strengthening of police powers – powers separate from the existing laws and norms enabling the executive to act with impunity and without regard to elected bodies. Obama has been largely responsible for institutionalizing this direction. This includes, for example, authorizing the assassination of a U.S. citizen in the name of the “war on terror.”
It also involves his efforts to line the people up behind him and against Congress. Instead of acting on the basis of taking proposals to Congress and publicly arguing them out, he calls on the people to join him, first in demanding that Congress act, and if they do not, then in supporting executive action as necessary to “get things done.”
The further strengthening of police powers alongside these efforts to divert the people from their striving for empowerment and a democracy that favors them is a dangerous direction that must be firmly rejected. The problem to be solved is further developing a democracy of our own making, where the people govern and decide!
Step Up Resistance! Our Security Lies in the Fight for the Rights of All
Recent news reports are emphasizing that the CIA has shifted its focus from spying and providing assessments of developments to becoming a paramilitary killing machine. As a report in the Washington Post put it, in the decade since 9/11, “The agency has undergone a fundamental transformation…its focus and resources are increasingly centered on the cold counterterrorism objective of finding targets to capture or kill.” The report goes on to say that the CIA’s drone attacks have killed more than 2,000 people, many civilians, since 2001 – called a “staggering figure,” as compared to CIA assassinations before 9/11, including during the Cold War. The size of their Counterterrorism Center (CTC) engaged in this warfare has gone from 300 to about 2,000 people. About 20 percent of CIA analysts are involved in data mining to target individuals for killing, indefinite detention or coercion into becoming informants. And, much like the mass roundups of Muslims after 9/11 – where many guilty of nothing were imprisoned and killed, at Guantanamo, Bagram and elsewhere – many of the people targeted are not those involved in any act of terrorism. They are simply suspected of potential association or support for what the government decides is a “threat.”
The CIA has a special Afghanistan-Pakistan department and ones for Yemen and Somalia. It also has secret bases and secret runways for drones in foreign countries without their permission, including Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The CIA is increasingly given command for various joint operations with JSOC and mercenaries. A senior U.S. official reported that in Afghanistan, “You couldn’t tell the difference between CIA officers, Special Forces guys and contractors.” He added, “They’re all three blended together. All under CIA command.” And the CIA reports directly to the president.
CIA operations and budgets are secret and do not come under the same requirements as the military. Even the minimal reporting to congressional armed services and intelligence committees is limited and congresspeople “rarely get a comprehensive view,” the Post reports. These joint operations involved “practice runs” where the CIA and JSOC secretly went into Pakistan and got out without being detected by Pakistan authorities – all of which is completely illegal. And while such black ops used to be kept secret, they are now done openly and the lawlessness openly applauded.
As the drone assassinations indicate, what the president and CIA call “counterterrorism” is state terrorism by the U.S. against the peoples worldwide, in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. The growing role of the CIA as a killing machine is part of U.S. lawlessness and further development of mechanisms within the bureaucracy directly accountable to the president.
The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) operates in secrecy and often under CIA, not military, command. It includes the Navy’s top SEAL Team 6; the Army’s Delta Force, Special Operations Aviation Regiment and 75th Ranger Regiment; and the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron. As such it serves to unite the top military forces in common operations, directly under the president.
Like the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC), JSOC has grown significantly since 9/11, though its full size and weaponry is kept secret. It is estimated to have grown from about 1800 troops prior to 9/11 to 25,000 today. According to recent news reports, it has its own “intelligence divisions, its own drones and reconnaissance planes, its own dedicated satellite, its own cyberwarriors” capable of shutting down websites and the internet as a whole. While JSOC largely operates abroad, their command is currently based in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
JSOC has conducted killing operations not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Somalia, Nigeria and the Philippines. In 2003, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld authorized JSOC to operate in 15 countries, with pre-approval to conduct psychological and other disruptive operations. Assassinations needed presidential approval. In addition to the countries given above these countries included Algeria, Iran, Malaysia, and Mali. More recently, the president has given JSOC the rare authority to put individuals on its lists for assassination and kill them without prior presidential approval for each assassination. This is another example of police powers taken by the president, as assassinations remain illegal under U.S. and international law.
JSOC is not supposed to engage in covert operations like those of the CIA. However top officials admit that JSOC operations are “so similar to the CIA’s that they amount to covert action,” as the Washington Post recently put it. JSOC also often participates with the CIA in what are becoming open “black ops.” It is JSOC forces that bombed wedding parties in Afghanistan. They have largely been responsible for horrific torture of prisoners, conducting massive sweeps in civilian areas and detaining women and children – actions made common and acceptable. In fact JSOC has now been given authority to hold individuals in isolation for 90 days, without charges of any kind.
Like the CIA, JSOC reports directly to the president and his secretary of defense. JSOC operations are rarely briefed to Congress, in advance or after, as it is claimed that they are “traditional military activities” not requiring such notification. Thus its growth and use are serving to put in place arrangements where the president engages in military action on a worldscale without even notification to Congress, let alone approval by it. An elite united military force, set in motion by the president and capable of rapid targeted actions, has been established and is regularly trained in its killing operations.
As a force for unifying various military and police agencies, JSOC operations involve not only the CIA, but the National Security Agency (NSA) and FBI. Its operatives have been placed in non-military agencies in both Washington, DC and worldwide. The military also now controls most of the satellite capabilities in existence and JSOC not only its own dedicated satellite but access to many more. These are used in drone operations, spying in other countries, disruption of the internet and so forth.
JSOC engages in illegally gathering massive amounts of information, using constant surveillance and data mining of cell phones and emails. It then acts on such information, conducting raids and assassinations, often using drones. It conducts many hundreds of operations killing thousands of people. In Iraq, for example, JSOC located all electronic signals in the entire country. The location of specific cell phones was then used as a means to locate a “target” for assassination — whichever human being happened to be using the cell phone at the time. While at present its actions mainly occur in foreign countries, given that both the CIA and JSOC are emphasizing the “growing danger” of “homegrown terrorists,” it is likely that they are also secretly being used inside the country. Already, for example, a CIA operation together with the New York Police Department to conduct secret terrorism operations has been reported (see article p.10). As well, drones and disruptions of cell phones have already been used at demonstrations in the U.S., in the name of “national security.”
JSOC also conducts “psychological” warfare. Teams dressed as civilians are commonly sent to U.S. embassies to organize media and “messaging” campaigns which promote lies and disinformation to discredit those opposing U.S. aggression while painting the U.S. as a savior necessary to “secure” democracy. Given that it also now has a huge office across from the Pentagon and an operation known as JSOC-National Capital Region, it is likely that its spying and disinformation campaigns inside the country will greatly increase. And significantly, connected with this, JSOC is working together with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the second largest policing agency inside the country. The two together are targeting border regions, Mexico itself and the growing movement defending the rights of immigrants.
CIA and New York Police Department Organize Anti-People Terrorism Unit
The New York Police Department, working directly with the CIA, has organized a special “Counterterrorism” unit, used to conduct racist government profiling operations against Muslims and to spy on and infiltrate groups opposing war and defending rights. It is an entirely illegal operation, with police and CIA together gathering information, spying on and disrupting activities with no probable cause of any crime. The CIA is not supposed to be engaged in domestic spying and police are not supposed to act without at least some probable cause. But the new unit is based on exactly such lawless activities.
These activities have included a human mapping program, where undercover agents go into neighborhoods to spy on people in restaurants, beauty parlors and barbershops, internet cafes, libraries, bookstores, nightclubs and so forth. Daily life is monitored and activities of people “mapped,” so as to target groups and individuals the police considered “suspicious” and “potential” terrorism suspects – although no crimes or terrorist activity was involved. As a main CIA force involved put it, “To wait for an indication of a crime before investigating is to wait for too long.” Thus not even an “indication of a crime” is involved!
The CIA has trained the NYPD to conduct these operations, including training police at the CIA’s special spy school. The CIA also sent its own senior spies to work undercover with the NYPD, including inside police headquarters. The “mapping” included browsing internet history and if “radical” sites, as decided by the police, were visited, the library or bookstore or internet café was branded a “hotpsot.” Those involved in the spying and infiltration became known as “rakers” encouraged to “rake the coals” looking for and fanning the “hotspots.”
Considering that groups such as the Quakers and other religious forces opposing war, the ACLU and other legal groups defending rights, those defending Palestine, anti-war groups that organized protests at the 2004 and 2008 Republican National Convention, have all been considered “radical,” the mapping and targeting is no doubt very broad. It encompasses mostly groups and individuals not engaged in criminal activity but engaged in organizing resistance to U.S. crimes. That racist government profiling is involved is seen in the fact that national minority neighborhoods are the ones primarily targeted. This despite a city law forbidding using religion or ethnicity “as the determinative factor for initiating law enforcement action” and federal laws blocking investigations by undercover agents without evidence of criminal activity. The CIA/NYPD officials deal with this not by abiding by the law, but by keeping the actions of their terrorism unit secret.
In addition, the illegal terrorism unit is responsible for infiltrating and mapping every mosque within a 100-mile radius of New York City. The spying was so extensive those involved were called “mosque crawlers.” For years they have been monitoring and reporting on sermons and people simply attending the mosques. The unit also organized to get information on every Pakistani taxi cab driver in the city, and likely other nationalities, like Palestinians, as well, although this has not yet been made public.
The CIA/NYPD joint operation also involves typical CIA-style blackmail, where individuals are forced into becoming informants. The NYPD sent police into national minority neighborhoods, stopped people for traffic violations and then used threats of jail and/or deportation to secure informants. Much as occurs in the prisons, a “debriefing” program is used where people are forced to name others as “potential” suspects to secure release, even when those named are guilty of no crime. The informants gained are then used not only for the “human mapping” but to foment and organize violence. It is well known that New York cases where the government claims there are “terrorists,” involve informants who instigated, paid for supplies and lied about the so-called “plans.” The unit also sends agents into the prisons to secure yet more informants. Developing informants has become such a central part of the unit that a special division just for this has been developed, complete with specialized CIA training.
The new unit is an effort to both infiltrate and spy on people and groups guilty of no crime while securing informants in every neighborhood in the city – informants that then will make certain the “potential” for terrorism can be verified. These informants have admitted attending hundreds of services and spying on people who showed no signs of “radical” activity. In addition to the insecurity generated by such police repression, an atmosphere of fear and turning against one another is instilled in the neighborhoods. And the unit now carries out extensive undercover operations far beyond its jurisdiction, in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. And it does so without -informing local police or even the FBI.
The CIA/NYPD unit is state organized terrorism. It is lawless anti-people activity designed to terrorize the city while fabricating “proof” of “threats” to justify yet more police repression. These efforts are reflective of the lawlessness now being imposed, where restraints on police agencies, whether the NYPD, FBI and CIA are removed and impunity to commit crimes against the people, including spying and infiltration and disruption of groups, is sanctioned.
The new unit to terrorize New York is also specifically part of CIA efforts to be more directly involved in domestic spying, while contending with the FBI. Since 9/11 especially, both agencies are engaged in more and more illegal activities, with the CIA spying domestically and the FBI engaged internationally. According to reports the NYPD unit relies on the CIA to pass on information the FBI does not share and in many cases is not supposed to share as it involves federal, not local crimes. So it can be seen that there is both illegal collusion and contention among the various policing agencies.
There is broad outrage in New York City and across the state with this NYPD/CIA operation and the clear attack on rights it involves. As people organize to mark September 11 and the upcoming anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan in October, their stand for united action for rights is firm and unwavering.
Our Security Lies in the Fight for the Rights of All!
What almost $8 trillion in national security spending bought you.
The killing of Osama Bin Laden did not put cuts in national security spending on the table, but the debt-ceiling debate finally did. And mild as those projected cuts might have been (at most $400 billion over ten years or about one half of one year’s current budget), last week newly minted Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was already digging in his heels and decrying the modest potential cost-cutting plans as a “doomsday mechanism” for the military. Pentagon allies on Capitol Hill were similarly raising the alarm as they moved forward with this year’s even larger military budget.
None of this should surprise you. As with all addictions, once you’re hooked on massive military spending, it’s hard to think realistically or ask the obvious questions. So, at a moment when discussion about cutting military spending is actually on the rise for the first time in years, let me offer some little known basics about the spending spree this country has been on since September 11, 2001, and raise just a few simple questions about what all that money has actually bought Americans.
Consider this my contribution to a future 12-step program for national security sobriety.
Let’s start with the three basic post-9/11 numbers that Washington’s addicts need to know:
1. $5.9 trillion: That’s the sum of taxpayer dollars that’s gone into the Pentagon’s annual “base budget,” from 2000 to today. Note that the base budget includes nuclear weapons activities, even though they are overseen by the Department of Energy, but — and this is crucial — not the cost of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nonetheless, even without those war costs, the Pentagon budget managed to grow from $302.9 billion in 2000, to $545.1 billion in 2011. That’s a dollar increase of $242.2 billion or an 80% jump ($163.6 billion and 44% if you adjust for inflation). It is enough to make your head swim, and we are barely started.
2. $1.36 trillion: That is the total cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars by this September 30, the end of the current fiscal year, including all moneys spent for those wars by the Pentagon, the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other federal agencies. Of this, $869 billion will have been for Iraq, $487.6 billion for Afghanistan.
Add up our first two key national security spending numbers and you are already at $7.2 trillion since the September 11 attacks. And even that staggering figure does not catch the full extent of Washington spending in these years. So onward to our third number:
3. $636 billion: Most people usually ignore this part of the national security budget and we seldom see any figures for it, but it is the amount, adjusted for inflation, that the U.S. government has spent so far on “homeland security.” This is not an easy figure to arrive at because homeland-security funding flows through literally dozens of federal agencies and not just the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). A mere $16 billion was requested for homeland security in 2001. For 2012, the figure is $71.6 billion, only $37 billion of which will go through DHS. A substantial part, $18.1 billion, will be funneled through — do not be surprised — the Department of Defense, while other agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services ($4.6 billion) and the Department of Justice ($4.1 billion) pick up the slack.
Add those three figures together and you are at the edge of $8 trillion in national security spending for the last decade-plus and perhaps wondering where the nearest group for compulsive-spending addiction meets.
Now, for a few of those questions I mentioned, just to bring reality further into focus: How does that nearly $8 trillion compare with past spending?
In the decade before the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon base budget added up to an impressive $4.2 trillion, only one-third less than for the past decade. But add in the cost of the Afghan and Iraq wars and total Pentagon spending post-9/11 is actually two-thirds greater than in the previous decade. That is quite a jump. As for homeland-security funding, spending figures for the years prior to 2000 are hard to identify because the category did not exist (nor did anyone who mattered in Washington even think to use that word “homeland”). But there can be no question that whatever it was, it would pale next to present spending.
Is that nearly $8 trillion the real total for these years, or could it be even higher?
The war-cost calculations I have used above, which come from my own organization, the National Priorities Project , only take into account funds that have been requested by the President and appropriated by Congress. This, however, is just one way of considering the problem of war and national security spending. A recent study published by the Watson Institute of Brown University took a much broader approach. In the summary of their work, the Watson Institute analysts wrote, “There are at least three ways to think about the economic costs of these wars: what has been spent already, what could or must be spent in the future, and the comparative economic effects of spending money on war instead of something else.”
By including funding for such things as veterans benefits, future costs for treating the war-wounded, and interest payments on war-related borrowing, they came up with $3.2 trillion to $4 trillion in war costs, which would put those overall national security figures since 2001 at around $11 trillion.
I took a similar approach in an earlier TomDispatch piece in which I calculated the true costs of national security at $1.2 trillion annually.
All of this brings another simple, but seldom-asked question to mind:
Are we safer?
Regardless of what figures you choose to use, one thing is certain: we are talking about trillions and trillions of dollars. And given the debate raging in Washington this summer about how to rein in trillion-dollar deficits and a spiraling debt, it is surprising that no one thinks to ask just how much safety bang for its buck the U.S. is getting from those trillions.
Of course, it is not an easy question to answer, but there are some troubling facts out there that should give one pause. Let us start with government accounting, which, like military music, is something of an oxymoron. Despite decades of complaints from Capitol Hill and various congressional attempts to force changes via legislation, the Department of Defense still cannot pass an audit. Believe it or not, it never has.
Members of Congress have become so exasperated that several have tried (albeit unsuccessfully) to cap or cut military spending until the Pentagon is capable of passing an annual audit as required by the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990. So even as they fight to preserve record levels of military spending, Pentagon officials really have no way of telling American taxpayers how their money is being spent, or what kind of security it actually buys.
And this particular disease seems to be catching. The Department of Homeland Security has been part of the “high risk” series of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) since 2003. In case being “high risk” in GAO terms is not part of your dinner-table chitchat, here’s the definition: “Agencies and program areas that are high risk due to their vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or are most in need of broad reform.”
Put in layman’s terms: no organization crucial to national security spending really has much of an idea of how well or badly it is spending vast sums of taxpayer money — and worse yet, Congress knows even less.
Which leads us to a broader issue and another question:
Are we spending money on the right types of security?
This June, the Institute for Policy Studies released the latest version of what it calls “a Unified Security Budget for the United States” that could make the country safer for far less than the current military budget. Known more familiarly as the USB, it has been produced annually since 2004 by the website Foreign Policy in Focus and draws on a task force of experts.
As in previous years, the report found — again in layman’s terms — that the U.S. invests its security dollars mainly in making war, slighting both real homeland security and anything that might pass for preventive diplomacy. In the Obama administration’s proposed 2012 budget, for example, 85 percent of security spending goes to the military (and if you included the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that percentage would only rise); just 7 percent goes to real homeland security and a modest 8 percent to what might, even generously speaking, be termed non-military international engagement. […]
In truth, given the current lack of assessment tools, it is virtually impossible for outsiders — and probably insiders as well — to evaluate the effectiveness of this country’s many security-related programs. And this stymies our ability to properly determine the allocation of federal resources on the basis of program efficiency and the relative levels of the threats addressed.
So here’s one final question that just about no one asks:
Could we be less safe?
It is possible that all that funding, especially the moneys that have gone into our various wars and conflicts, our secret drone campaigns and “black sites,” our various forays into Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and other places may actually have made us less safe. Certainly, they have exacerbated existing tensions and created new ones, eroded our standing in some of the most volatile regions of the world, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the misery of many more, and made Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places, potential recruiting and training grounds for future generations of insurgents and terrorists. Does anything remain of the international goodwill toward our country that was the one positive legacy of the infamous attacks of September 11, 2001? Unlikely.
Now, is it not time for those 12 steps?