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Sharpening Occam's Razor on the Forged Intelligence Documents

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  • DB
    This is a good follow-up to the Suskind article and suggests an answer to the question: How do you explain the intractable unwillingness of Congress to pursue
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 18, 2008
      This is a good follow-up to the Suskind article and suggests an answer
      to the question:

      How do you explain the intractable unwillingness of Congress to pursue
      the band of criminals currently occupying the White House and hold
      them accountable for their many well-documented legal transgressions?

      Might be an interesting election year after all....

      Sharpening Occam's Razor on the Forged Intelligence Documents


      Playing the “what if” speculation game makes for great sport when
      applied to the machinations of politics. Unfortunately, when carried too
      far it can sometimes draw one down the rabbit hole of rambling
      conspiracy theories where ostensibly innocuous statements become secret
      magical code words and neighborhood organizations become evil
      clandestine societies. Before you know it, you are mumbling to yourself
      and scribbling disjointed notes on dirty scraps of paper about how
      Freemasons are in league with aliens planting inter-galactic super
      viruses in puppies in order to infect our children.

      It this point, the principle of Occam’s Razor becomes a useful tool.
      Succinctly stated, this principle (generally attributed to 14th century
      logician, William of Ockham), states that other things being equal, it
      is usually best to stick to explanations of phenomena or events that are
      simple and avoid postulating unnecessary entities or actors. Perhaps it
      is the late Medieval equivalent of the modern adage, KISS (Keep it
      Simple Stupid).

      One weakness of Occam’s Razor, however, is sometimes it is difficult,
      especially when dealing with the convoluted twists of political
      intrigue, to decide exactly /what is/ the simplest explanation?

      With this in mind, I returned to a topic I recently discussed in
      /Forgery, Fakery, and Fatigue (Scandal, that is)
      <http://www.counterpunch.org/remington08132008.html>/ relating to Ron
      Suskand’s assertion that top White House officials directed the C.I.A.
      in December 2003 to concoct a forged letter to create a “link” between
      Saddam and the September 11th attacks. If Suskind is correct, the White
      House quite possibly violated a federal statute, 50 U.S.C. § 413b(f)
      which reads, “No covert action may be conducted which is intended to
      influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies,
      or media.”

      My first thought was, assuming that Ron Suskind’s reporting is accurate,
      that the White House, with its disdain for pesky little concepts like
      Separation of Powers and Congressional Oversight, simply ignored the
      statute entirely and went directly with their hare-brained scam to the

      This explanation raises a second issue relating to federal law. Title 50
      U.S.C. § 413(b), subsections b and c provide:

      *(b)* *Reports to congressional intelligence committees; production
      of information *

      To the extent consistent with due regard for the protection from
      unauthorized disclosure of classified information relating to
      sensitive intelligence sources and methods or other exceptionally
      sensitive matters, the Director of National Intelligence and the
      heads of all departments, agencies, and entities of the United
      States Government involved in a covert action—

      *(1)* shall keep the congressional intelligence committees fully and
      currently informed of all covert actions which are the
      responsibility of, are engaged in by, or are carried out for or on
      behalf of, any department, agency, or entity of the United States
      Government, including significant failures; and

      *(2)* shall furnish to the congressional intelligence committees any
      information or material concerning covert actions which is in the
      possession, custody, or control of any department, agency, or entity
      of the United States Government and which is requested by either of
      the congressional intelligence committees in order to carry out its
      authorized responsibilities.

      *(c)* *Timing of reports; access to finding *

      *(1)* The President shall ensure that any finding approved pursuant
      to subsection (a) of this section shall be reported to the
      congressional intelligence committees as soon as possible after such
      approval and before the initiation of the covert action authorized
      by the finding, except as otherwise provided in paragraph (2) and
      paragraph (3).

      *(2)* If the President determines that it is essential to limit
      access to the finding to meet extraordinary circumstances affecting
      vital interests of the United States, the finding may be reported to
      the chairmen and ranking minority members of the congressional
      intelligence committees, the Speaker and minority leader of the
      House of Representatives, the majority and minority leaders of the
      Senate, and such other member or members of the congressional
      leadership as may be included by the President.

      *(3)* Whenever a finding is not reported pursuant to paragraph (1)
      or (2) of this section,[1]
      President shall fully inform the congressional intelligence
      committees in a timely fashion and shall provide a statement of the
      reasons for not giving prior notice.

      *(4)* In a case under paragraph (1), (2), or (3), a copy of the
      finding, signed by the President, shall be provided to the chairman
      of each congressional intelligence committee. When access to a
      finding is limited to the Members of Congress specified in paragraph
      (2), a statement of the reasons for limiting such access shall also
      be provided.

      This statute explicitly requires that the President submit information
      regarding covert intelligence activities to Congress for oversight and
      review. If the President did an “end run” around Congress, then he
      violated those provisions of the statute, not only subsection “f”
      relating to covert actions intended to influence the U.S. media or
      public opinion.

      If the basic story went down as Suskind details, I suspect many people
      assumed automatically as I did, that the President choose to totally
      ignore the statute. But what if…/what if /the President did follow the
      guidelines of the statute and consulted with Congress as required, and
      Congress did nothing?

      Hence my opening discussion of Occam’s Razor. This, as they say, could
      explain some things. The standard account is that while Congress was
      quietly complicit in the Administration’s fabrications and propaganda
      regarding the invasion and destruction of Iraq, it did not “actively”
      participate in it (think about the dubious excuses of many congressional
      leaders, especially Democrats, cycling out the line that they were
      “deceived” by the White House – while no serious thinking person buys
      that rubbish, it has been a standard).

      But what hypothesis more clearly and simply explains the intractable
      unwillingness of Congress to pursue the band of criminals currently
      occupying the White House and take them to task for their multitude of
      clear and well-documented legal transgressions? Election year political
      expediency? The excuse, “Investigations and hearings will only distract
      from what we want to accomplish”?

      Or just perhaps, the cleanest, simplest hypothesis is this: pure,
      straight forward knowledge and complicity. In terms of Occam’s Razor
      this theory arguably explains more with less. No contorted intellectual
      gymnastics. Keep it Simple Stupid.

      In the meantime, I’m not putting away my tinfoil hat just yet…

      *David W. Remington, J.D.*, a former law professor, works as legal
      counsel in private industry in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. He
      can be reached at: drem1960@... <mailto:drem1960@...>
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