The broad-based effort, known within the agency by the initials GST, is compartmentalized into dozens of highly classified individual programs, details of which are known mainly to those directly involved.As jane says: "Good God! What's next?"
GST includes programs allowing the CIA to capture al Qaeda suspects with help from foreign intelligence services, to maintain secret prisons abroad, to use interrogation techniques that some lawyers say violate international treaties, and to maintain a fleet of aircraft to move detainees around the globe. Other compartments within GST give the CIA enhanced ability to mine international financial records and eavesdrop on suspects anywhere in the world.
Over the past two years, as aspects of this umbrella effort have burst into public view, the revelations have prompted protests and official investigations in countries that work with the United States, as well as condemnation by international human rights activists and criticism by members of Congress.
Still, virtually all the programs continue to operate largely as they were set up, according to current and former officials. These sources say Bush's personal commitment to maintaining the GST program and his belief in its legality have been key to resisting any pressure to change course.
"In the past, presidents set up buffers to distance themselves from covert action," said A. John Radsan, assistant general counsel at the CIA from 2002 to 2004. "But this president, who is breaking down the boundaries between covert action and conventional war, seems to relish the secret findings and the dirty details of operations."
This does explain, at least in part, why Bush is comfortable revelling publicly in such operations, and why it's not just political expediency that has driven him to investigate the "leak" of this illegal program. What it doesn't explain is why Democratic congressional leaders are not speaking out more forcibly about this travesty of governance. This is not malfeasance; this is active and intentional violations of law.
When that happens in Britain, the opposition demands an investigation.
A British opposition politician called on Thursday for an inquiry into allegations that British intelligence officers took part in the interrogation of Pakistani terror suspects, said to have been abducted and tortured in Greece after the London bombings in July.The covert prisons in Europe were broken by the European Union's insistence that its members comply with its own laws. Why can't we do as much?
Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, has called the accusations "complete nonsense" and the government has issued a gag order known as a D- notice to prevent British media from identifying a purported British agent named in Greek press reports.
But some opposition politicians have drawn oblique parallels between the Greek allegations and the debate across Europe over the so-called extraordinary rendition of suspects by American agencies to third countries where torture is practiced.
Menzies Campbell, the foreign affairs spokesman of the opposition Liberal Democrats, told a BBC radio interviewer on Thursday: "I believe the appropriate course now would be for the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament to investigate these matters."
All we are hearing during the Christmas break is how Bush had to break the law in order to catch the bad guys (just like every cops 'n' robbers movie since "Dirty Harry"), or now how the DOJ will find out who illegally leaked the information about this illegal operation.
The British have learned how to at least appear to be retaining their form of government. Have we?