Paul Fallavollita: Spann and Afghan War Gain CIA Mileage

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is reaping the benefits of the Afghan war, according to John Donnelly’s recent report in the Boston Globe, "CIA takes on major new military role." He assembles an array of revealing facts and quotes of interest to patriots and constitutionalists, including from an agent who stated on condition of anonymity, "we are doing things I never believed we would do – and I mean killing people." Donnelly notes that the CIA’s 200 operatives in Afghanistan represent the "largest on-ground military presence since Vietnam," and that many analysts believe the agency is "building a shadow military organization." With Clinton appointee George Tenet as DCI, we should be wary of this opportunistic power grab.

Tenet will appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee next month, and a senior intelligence official, predictably speaking without attribution, admits Tenet "is not anxious to talk to reporters and we will not go out of our way to be forthcoming." The CIA, an agency presumably dedicated to preserving truth, justice, and the American way, has jettisoned the old American ideal of the press serving as a check on the power of government. Tenet’s reserved stance also discards the CIA’s "Vision, Mission, and Values" statement, which promises acceptance of "accountability for [its] actions."

The anonymous official reassured Donnelly about the CIA’s role in Afghanistan, stating, "if we didn’t think it was appropriate, we wouldn’t be doing it. If the commander in chief didn’t think it appropriate, we wouldn’t be doing it. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?" Apparently, our man in black hasn’t figured out that it’s impossible to determine if anything is "broke," since Tenet will not be forthcoming with information. The shadow man trusts Tenet, and "the commander in chief." That level of trust, once called the fuhrerprinzip in some quarters, stands far removed from the American way, whether Bush is comfortable having "Hail to the Chief" played for him or not.

Perhaps there were deeper motives behind the string of human interest stories that emerged when CIA agent Mike Spann was killed in the November 25 prison uprising at the Kala Jangi fortress outside Mazar-e Sharif, soon after interrogating the American Taliban, John Walker. Spann became the first American combat death in Afghanistan. The Company doesn’t like to publicize the identities and activities of their agents, even in death. Spann will become the 79th star in the lobby of the CIA building, and many of those stars commemorating the deaths of agents bear no names. Spann’s star will bear his name. Spann’s length of service with the Marines had been too short to qualify him for burial in Arlington National Cemetery, so Bush granted him a waiver. It's part of an effort to condition the American people into accepting the CIA as a nice, huggable agency, so that as news of the CIA’s enhanced strength and scope comes out, no one will look askance.

After all, what patriot would object to doing whatever it takes to nail the terrorists, right? Who could possibly suggest the CIA isn’t as wholesome as the smile on Spann’s face as he leans against a tree, in his widely distributed sepia tone photo? Of course, Spann was playing the "good cop" in the routine we saw on the video of Walker’s interrogation, making Spann a more sympathetic character. Spann interrogated Walker with a fellow Special Activities Division agent only known as "Dave." The "bad cop," Dave, made an unforgettable statement in earshot of Walker, "we can only get the Red Cross to help so many guys." Spann’s father had said his son joined the CIA because he "felt that he would be able to make the world a better place to live in." The CIA is ostensibly building that better world by "trading favors and distributing blocks of cash in Pakistani and US currency to warlords who do their bidding," according to Donnelly’s article.

What we do today sets a precedent for the future. Today, the CIA wields power against the terrorists that could be used against the American people tomorrow. Government agencies and programs are not known for voluntarily shrinking or abolishing themselves. Income tax withholding, introduced as a wartime measure, persists to this day and masks the level of taxation reaming Americans. Why should we expect the CIA to give up its new toys? As Donnelly writes, the CIA in Afghanistan "has operated under greatly relaxed rules of engagement." The CIA is just getting comfortable.

Paul Fallovollita

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