Saturday, April 25, 2009

Porter J. Goss: Security Before Politics

Security Before Politics. By Porter J. Goss
WaPo, Saturday, April 25, 2009

Since leaving my post as CIA director almost three years ago, I have remained largely silent on the public stage. I am speaking out now because I feel our government has crossed the red line between properly protecting our national security and trying to gain partisan political advantage. We can't have a secret intelligence service if we keep giving away all the secrets. Americans have to decide now.

A disturbing epidemic of amnesia seems to be plaguing my former colleagues on Capitol Hill. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, members of the committees charged with overseeing our nation's intelligence services had no higher priority than stopping al-Qaeda. In the fall of 2002, while I was chairman of the House intelligence committee, senior members of Congress were briefed on the CIA's "High Value Terrorist Program," including the development of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and what those techniques were. This was not a one-time briefing but an ongoing subject with lots of back and forth between those members and the briefers.

Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as "waterboarding" were never mentioned. It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience.

Let me be clear. It is my recollection that:

-- The chairs and the ranking minority members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, known as the Gang of Four, were briefed that the CIA was holding and interrogating high-value terrorists.
-- We understood what the CIA was doing.
-- We gave the CIA our bipartisan support.
-- We gave the CIA funding to carry out its activities.
-- On a bipartisan basis, we asked if the CIA needed more support from Congress to carry out its mission against al-Qaeda.

I do not recall a single objection from my colleagues. They did not vote to stop authorizing CIA funding. And for those who now reveal filed "memorandums for the record" suggesting concern, real concern should have been expressed immediately -- to the committee chairs, the briefers, the House speaker or minority leader, the CIA director or the president's national security adviser -- and not quietly filed away in case the day came when the political winds shifted. And shifted they have.

Circuses are not new in Washington, and I can see preparations being made for tents from the Capitol straight down Pennsylvania Avenue. The CIA has been pulled into the center ring before. The result this time will be the same: a hollowed-out service of diminished capabilities. After Sept. 11, the general outcry was, "Why don't we have better overseas capabilities?" I fear that in the years to come this refrain will be heard again: once a threat -- or God forbid, another successful attack -- captures our attention and sends the pendulum swinging back. There is only one person who can shut down this dangerous show: President Obama.

Unfortunately, much of the damage to our capabilities has already been done. It is certainly not trust that is fostered when intelligence officers are told one day "I have your back" only to learn a day later that a knife is being held to it. After the events of this week, morale at the CIA has been shaken to its foundation.

We must not forget: Our intelligence allies overseas view our inability to maintain secrecy as a reason to question our worthiness as a partner. These allies have been vital in almost every capture of a terrorist.

The suggestion that we are safer now because information about interrogation techniques is in the public domain conjures up images of unicorns and fairy dust. We have given our enemy invaluable information about the rules by which we operate. The terrorists captured by the CIA perfected the act of beheading innocents using dull knives. Khalid Sheik Mohammed boasted of the tactic of placing explosives high enough in a building to ensure that innocents trapped above would die if they tried to escape through windows. There is simply no comparison between our professionalism and their brutality.

Our enemies do not subscribe to the rules of the Marquis of Queensbury. "Name, rank and serial number" does not apply to non-state actors but is, regrettably, the only question this administration wants us to ask. Instead of taking risks, our intelligence officers will soon resort to wordsmithing cables to headquarters while opportunities to neutralize brutal radicals are lost.

The days of fortress America are gone. We are the world's superpower. We can sit on our hands or we can become engaged to improve global human conditions. The bottom line is that we cannot succeed unless we have good intelligence. Trading security for partisan political popularity will ensure that our secrets are not secret and that our intelligence is destined to fail us.

The writer, a Republican, was director of the CIA from September 2004 to May 2006 and was chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from 1997 to 2004.

World Bank Report Card: 'Material weakness' on corruption

World Bank Report Card. WSJ Editorial
'Material weakness' on corruption.
WSJ, Apr 25, 2009

[The IEG report referred to can be requested from us]

The world's finance ministers are gathered in Washington this weekend for the spring meeting of the World Bank, which recently announced that it would spend up to $45 billion over three years for public-works projects alone. But as they shovel the money out the door, they might want to consider how carefully it will be spent -- or misspent.

Last week, the bank quietly released a review of the internal controls of its International Development Association, or IDA, which dispenses about $10 billion a year in long-term, interest-free loans to the world's poorest countries. While broadly congratulating the bank, the review discovered "significant deficiencies" in six areas, from "management oversight of project processes" to "operational risk management." The review also noted that the bank suffered "material weakness" in "the complex of controls to manage the risk of fraud and corruption" in IDA-financed projects. Material weakness is bank-speak for an "F."

The review was commissioned in 2006 during Paul Wolfowitz's tenure and is a first of its kind for the bank. It is the work of the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG), a misnamed unit since its staff are on secondment from the bank and have careers to consider in assessing the work of their colleagues. So consider the review to have been graded on a curve. And at 690 acronym-laced pages, it is almost purposely written to be read by as few people as possible.

Still, give the IEG credit for producing a remarkable rebuke of an institution that likes to boast of its "action plans" and "governance strategies" to reduce corruption. As the review gets around to noting on page 38 of Annex D, while the bank has initiated various initiatives to combat fraud and corruption, "the internal controls to make these effective are not yet in place."

Thus, the IEG reports that the bank's "treatment of F&C [fraud and corruption] considerations has often been sparse." That goes for the bank's design of country strategies and its project supervision. The bank's procurement guidelines, for instance, "were designed to ensure equity and economy, and there is no explicit F&C prevention in these guidelines."

The IEG also faults the bank for what it calls "tone at the top": "There is still fear among some staff that seeking out F&C issues in projects and reporting on observed improprieties may lead to reprisals from their managers, and managerial signals and behavior are not always consistent with these messages. Overall, mixed messages and ambivalence are still considered prevalent."

This ambivalence is reflected in the bank management's response to the IEG findings. While management acknowledged "significant deficiencies" in its handling of fraud and corruption, it rejected the finding of a material weakness. Instead it praised itself for the "assertive and concrete" actions it has taken since Robert Zoellick became president nearly two years ago.

This response reflects the bank management's belief that corruption, while regrettable, is a tolerable cost of the bank's good works. Meanwhile, the only real sanction that would matter -- cutting off corrupt projects -- almost never happens. To wit, the bank has just doled out another quarter-billion dollars to a Kenyan project the corruption of which we reported over a year ago. Bank staff will get the message.

World Malaria Day -- We Need DDT-Day

Tomorrow Is World Malaria Day -- We Need DDT-Day. By Todd Seavey
ACSH, April 24, 2009

In 2000, African leaders vowed to reduce malaria deaths by 50% in ten years. Tomorrow marks the ninth anniversary of the vow, and though it hasn't been fulfilled, we are drawing very close to another marker of malaria's toll: 100 million dead from malaria since the Environmental Protection Agency's 1972 ban on DDT, the insecticide best suited to combat malarial mosquitoes.

For comparison, the total number of people killed by cigarette smoking in the twentieth century is thought to be about 60 million, total casualties from World War II perhaps as high as 70 million, and the total killed by Communist regimes about 100 million. Thus, anti-chemical greens (inspired by Rachel Carson's fear-mongering book Silent Spring) may already be humanity's most prolific killers -- and surely the most widely praised.

Africa Malaria Day was declared on April 25, 2000. President Bush noted Malaria Awareness Day on April 25, 2006. The World Health Organization decided in 2007 to begin marking World Malaria Day, with 2008 officially being the first and tomorrow the second -- with just one year to go before the original ten-year deadline is reached.

To make real progress in time for World Malaria Day 2010, instead of gauging progress by government spending or how many times Jimmy Carter praises bed nets, how about simply getting government out of the way and letting DDT (which, at worst, has been accused, likely incorrectly, of thinning some bird eggshells) do its lifesaving work around the world, as it did in once-malarial Europe and America for three decades before the ban? (I made this point back in 2002, in an ACSH piece cited this year in the New York Times bestseller Liberty and Tyranny by Mark Levin.)

By means such as bed nets and an impending malaria vaccine, we are making commendable strides in fighting malaria, but this is not a fight we should be waging with the most effective weapon needlessly kept beyond our reach. End the ban. Save millions of lives. Not a hard choice.

Todd Seavey is Director of Publications at the American Council on Science and Health (, and will host a Debate at Lolita Bar at 8pm on Wednesday, May 6, on the question "Should Humans Radically Decrease Their Exploitation of Animals?"