The U.S. Intelligence Community Now Operates Like the Cartels

FILE - In this March 3, 2005 file photo, a workman slides a dustmop over the floor at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Va. Senate investigators have delivered a damning indictment of CIA interrogation practices after the 9/11 attacks, accusing the agency of inflicting pain and suffering on prisoners with tactics that went well beyond legal limits. The torture report released Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee says the CIA deceived the nation with its insistence that the harsh interrogation tactics had saved lives. It says those claims are unsubstantiated by the CIA's own records. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Political operatives always couch their selfish goals as “concern for America.” Usually it’s just horse manure to help grow their own garden.

But not always.

Former Trump adviser Steven Bannon subjected himself to an appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher the other night. Bannon laid out a cataclysmic truth about the U.S. Intelligence Community that Americans across the political spectrum ought to consider. Bannon said:

It’s not just about Trump. This is about going for the office of the presidency. If Bernie gets in, and you are his adviser, trust me, the same thing is going to happen. If you think the neo-liberal, neo-con national security apparatus is just going to sit there and let Bernie as commander in chief make the decisions that he’s empowered to as commander in chief– They are going to fight him every step of the way.

And that’s why this [Intelligence Community crusade against President Trump] has to be vetted. The abuses of the FBI and the CIA in the 50s and 60s culminated in the Church Commission in the 70s. That is what we need today. I think the Senate Judiciary Committee ought to start calling witnesses.

Translated from Bannonese: “Bill, this isn’t about vindicating Trump to score points against the Democrats. If we don’t drag this Intelligence Community filth into the sunlight, it will happen to your boy, too.”

Maher reflexively pounded Bannon with loaded rhetorical questions and bypassed Bannon’s point. Self-awareness and nuance do not handicap Maher, to be sure.

But liberal investigative journalists who dwarf Maher both in seriousness and understanding have been echoing Bannon’s point, calling for bipartisan action against the Intelligence Community (IC).

Trump critic and liberal investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald (of Salon and the Guardian) wrote a must-read meta-analysis of the IC situation, saying:

[N]o rational person should allow standard partisan bickering to distort or hide this severe FBI corruption. The IG Report leaves no doubt about it. It’s brimming with proof of FBI subterfuge and deceit, all in service of persuading a FISA court of something that was not true: that U.S. citizen and former Trump campaign official Carter Page was an agent of the Russian government and therefore needed to have his communications surveilled.

In the same vein, Trump critic and liberal Rolling Stone investigative reporter Matt Taibbi, said in his essay “We Are in a Permanent Coup”:

My discomfort in the last few years, first with Russiagate and now with Ukrainegate and impeachment, stems from the belief that the people [in the Intelligence Community] pushing hardest for Trump’s early removal are more dangerous than Trump. Many Americans don’t see this because they’re not used to waking up in a country where you’re not sure who the president will be by nightfall. They don’t understand that this predicament is worse than having a bad president.

The Trump presidency is the first to reveal a full-blown schism between the intelligence community and the White House. Senior figures in the CIA, NSA, FBI and other agencies made an open break from their would-be boss before Trump’s inauguration, commencing a public war of leaks that has not stopped.

In a nutshell: Russian intelligence didn’t meddle much in the 2016 election. The FBI, CIA, NSA and other AMERICAN intelligence meddled in the 2016 election a whole lot.

Do you see the emerging pattern? Well-informed, very intelligent liberals and STEVE BANNON (a.k.a. “Lucifer”) are singing in harmony. Try to remember the last time THAT happened.

People who never agree on ANYTHING now agree: the Intelligence Community has come untethered from oversight and threatens to interfere in politics as regular participants, unless Congress and the president catch them and put them back on the leash.

The problem is, the American people don’t want to hear what Bannon, Greenwald, and Taibbi have to say. Like Maher, they live under rocks of ignorance and denial when it comes to the Intelligence Community:

“Yeah, yeah there’s evidence that American spook-bureaucrats are jiggering political campaigns. Whatever. Let’s get back to how the president called some people ‘evil’ and ‘scum.’ Now THAT’S a threat to democracy ….”

Real-world intelligence work (not the James Bond stuff) is hard to grasp, abstract, often boring. There’s no mustachioed villain to point to, and no smoking gun in said villain’s hand. When it comes to the likes of Brennan, Comey, and McCabe, they may not have all explicitly conspired, only cooperated toward institutional goals they tacitly understood as a group.

And of course in their own minds, they aren’t villains at all but defenders of freedom and democracy, patriots performing the dirty work average Americans and lawmakers are too dumb and cowardly to accomplish:

Drug lords don’t see themselves as criminals, either. They see themselves as Robin Hood figures who “dared to rebuke” the corrupt and oppressive government that wants to quash their entrepreneurial spirit.

In a way, you could say the American Intelligence Community–at least The Resistance part of it–has come to resemble a network of cartels.

First, it doesn’t matter if you prosecute and jail El Chapo/Brennan. The beast grows two more heads where one was cut off and gets angrier. Brennan, Comey, McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Alexander Vindman, Eric Ciaramella … these operatives and leaders–like drug mules and drug kingpins–are interchangeable and quickly replaced in the machine.

When one sicario falls, another picks up the dagger and runs at the president without missing a step. The more operatives get caught trying to subvert the president, the more vengeful and determined the machine becomes.

What is the solution? Like the fabled Hydra, all the heads must be chopped off and cauterized, swiftly and in series.

That’s what Bannon is suggesting. Congress must perform a racketeering-style sweep of the IC Resistance cartels, identifying and smashing systemic defiance and resistance to Executive authority and lawful congressional oversight.

If they don’t, the American government could find itself in a situation analogous to Mexico.

The president (whether named Bernie or Donald) winds up serving at the pleasure of unelected IC cartel bureaucrats. Soon, no one ascends the presidency without the collective blessing of the IC cartels. If a candidate tries, he either (1) finds himself subverted by leaks, smears, and spying; or (2) finds himself obstructed and harassed to death in office.

Cartels defy the might of law enforcement and government through alliances. To be sure, cartels often fight with one another; but they all share the same meta-goal of weakened lawful authority. Cartels know that whatever they can do to weaken enforcement and oversight overall will benefit their ecosystem and their particular organizations.

One of the most effective ways for cartels to weaken lawful authority is to form alliances with lawmakers. The Mexican drug cartels build alliances with Mexican lawmakers through bribery, or failing that, violent intimidation.

In America, the situation unfolds more subtly. Democratic lawmakers do not receive financial bribes or death threats to pull them into alliances with IC Resistance cartels. Instead, the IC Resistance cartels proffer information and bureaucratic cooperation against the president: slow walking, obstruction, whistleblower complaints, hearsay testimony on demand, lawsuits, investigations, floods of leaks, a blind eye to Democrat illegal actions, etc.

This is not to suggest that some vast conspiracy is at work. Far from it. Cooperation doesn’t require elaborate plans or explicit discussion, any more than motorists on the freeway need to discuss and plan in order to roll along the road in the same direction, all in perfect order. Drivers tacitly cooperate because everyone understands the rules. They don’t need to conspire; coordinated action simply EMERGES.

Therein lies the problem. Conspiracies are difficult to conceal; leave evidence; and are relatively easy to root out. In contrast, tacit cooperation is easy to conceal; leaves little evidence; and resists eradication more fiercely than kudsu vines in a garden.

The intractable cooperative power of cartels is the reason the United States has racketeering laws on the books. If the IC Resistance cartels were outlaw drug syndicates, the solution would be simple: send the DOJ and FBI after them, armed with RICO statutes.

But in this case, the IC Resistance cartels ARE the law. The makeup of the IC Resistance cartels is unknown and unclear; but what IS clear is that SOME personnel in the FBI and DOJ happen to be IC Resistance cartel members.

That leaves only Congress and the president able to act, or risk putting the fox in charge of cleaning out the coop. And in Congress, only Senate Republicans have any reason to disassemble the IC Resistance cartels.

The president and Senate Republicans have a Herculean task in front of them. Time will tell if they possess the will and the resources to flush out the Augean Stables.