Preparing for NATO in Chicago: 65 Years of War Is More Than Enough

This is the fourth diary about the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago. The other diaries are:

Why I Am Protesting at the NATO Summit

Preparing for NATO in Chicago: The World as NATO Sees It

Preparing for NATO in Chicago: NATO’s 2012 Agenda

Although slowly devolving to its member nations and partners as a result of constraints on the US budget, NATO is still fundamentally a US-dominated alliance. The US is the most powerful member and provides the most funding. The US insists on exceptional control of what NATO does. The US is the only nation ever to invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which states that an attack on one is an attack on all; the US did this in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

After 65 Years, the Consequences
The effect of the US being in the NATO alliance was to magnify the processes that were transforming the US into a national security state whose foreign policy was dominated by the commercial interests of a now trans-national military and intelligence industrial complex. It provided the first instance of US permanent forward deployment in other countries. It gradually created interchangeability of weapons and interoperability of forces across the NATO alliance and, in some instances, to NATO partners. This enlarged the commercial opportunities for arms sales and defense contracting. It diverted resources into military spending, now to over $1 trillion a year within the alliance. For the US, it placed large sections of the federal budget off limits to public review or Congressional scrutiny. It put large tracts of land off limits and destroyed the environment in them through bomb tests or bombing and gunnery practice. It placed large numbers of people beyond the accountability of the laws of any country. It formalized the doctrine of state secrets. It denied justice through classifying as state secrets non-secret materials to avoid lawsuits. It eventually created the environment in which allies assisted in secret renditions and torturing of captured “enemy combatants” on the instructions of the US CIA. It now is morphing into a state that has claimed the power to indefinitely detain anyone of the administration’s choosing (as long as a story can be created about their support of al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations) and the power to assassinate anyone, including US citizens, under a similar story without due process or real judicial review.

How did we start down this slippery slope? The institutions were put into place between 1947 and 1950.

The National Security Act of 1947
The North Atlantic Treaty of 1949 was the result of a process of US politics and international relations that began after World War II and took shape beginning in 1947 with the National Security Act of 1947. That legislation centralized the War Department and Navy Department in a Department of Defense, created the Air Force as a service independent of the Army, created the Central Intelligence Agency, established a National Security Council in the White House, and formed the uniformed military Joint Chiefs of Staff to advise the President and the Secretary of Defense. With some tweaks here and there over the past 65 years, this is still the national security institutions that we have. The major change came in 2002 with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

The Berlin Blockade and the US-European Response
The Berlin Blockade by the Soviets in 1948 caused the first forward deployment of US military equipment since World War II. To reinforce the appearance that the US was determined, at all costs, to ensure the success of the airlift, Gen. Curtis Lemay deployed B-29s to Europe.

Also in response, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, and the United Kingdom concluded the Treaty of Brussels, a collective defense treaty. This created the Western European Union’s defense organization in September 1948. To counter the Soviet response to the Berlin Airlift, the European countries sought to include the US and so negotiated the North Atlantic Treaty that established NATO. The Korean War raised (in Western circles) the worst-case scenario that all of the Communist countries were working together. NATO, as a result, began creating military plans in expectation of real conflict. The NATO countries began standardizing military terminology, operational procedures, and technology. By 1952, NATO was conducting joint military exercises, and the US was opening military bases in NATO countries.

In March 1948, President Truman addressed Congress on the Communist threat to Greece and Turkey. That speech contained the following line, which became US policy known as the Truman Doctrine: “…the policy of the United States to support free people who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” The Truman Doctrine has been the justification used for intervention in the internal affairs of other countries ever since.

In April 1948, the Marshall Plan was signed into law. It began economic aid for the reconstruction of Europe (especially Germany) that prevented a repetition of the experience of post-World War I punishment of Germany. It was also a direct challenge to the Soviet Union that military competition would include economic competition. It also had the benefit of creating markets for US production.

Israeli Independence and the Partition of Palestine
The United Nations in 1947 adopted Resolution 181, which partitioned Palestine into independent Jewish and Palestinian states. The geographical lines of the partition were guarantees of conflict, which started almost immediately. In May 1948, the State of Israel declared its independence. Conflict continued until an armistice agreement in 1949. Both the US and the Soviet Union supported Israel, which sought to remain non-aligned. In 1952, an anti-Semitic trial in the Soviet Union caused Israel to align away from the Soviet Union and failure of Israel to be included in the Bandung Conference separated Israel from the non-aligned movement. France became Israel’s main arms supplier. Lyndon Johnson shifted US policy towards Israel, but not without question. It was not until 1981, when Secretary of Defense Weinberger and Israeli Secretary of Defense Ariel Sharon signed the Strategic Cooperation Agreement that America’s “special relationship” with Israel was established. And although not a member of NATO, Israel was important to the security of the Mediterranean. Through the US, NATO and Israeli interests became entangled.

The Central Intelligence Act of 1949
In May 1949, the Congress passed the Central Intelligence Act of 1949. The act allowed military and civilian federal employees to be detailed to the CIA. The Act contains this section:

In the interests of the security of the foreign intelligence activities of the United States and in order further to implement section 403–1 (i) of this title that the Director of National Intelligence shall be responsible for protecting intelligence sources and methods from unauthorized disclosure, the Agency shall be exempted from the provisions of sections 1 and 2 of the Act of August 28, 1935 (49 Stat. 956, 957; 5 U.S.C. 654), and the provisions of any other law which require the publication or disclosure of the organization, functions, names, official titles, salaries, or numbers of personnel employed by the Agency: Provided, That in furtherance of this section, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall make no reports to the Congress in connection with the Agency under section 607 of the Act of June 30, 1945, as amended (5 U.S.C. 947(b)).

That became the template for all “black budgets” in the US national security establishment.

But the bill itself (and presumably the law as codified) contains secret provisions. That means that most members of Congress voted on it without knowing the totality of the bill. In his opposition to the bill, Rep. Vito Marcantonio of New York said:

[In the following excerpt from a lengthy argument against the Central Intelligence Agency Bill, Congressman Marcantonio stressed the unprecedented nature of the Committee report recommending the bill. The committee report said: “The report does not contain a full and detailed explanation of all of the provisions of the proposed legislation in view of the fact that much information is of a highly confidential nature. However, the Committee on the Armed Services received a complete explanation of all features of the proposed measure. The committee is satisfied that all sections of the proposed legislation are fully justified.”]

We have gone through two world wars; we have gone through a civil war; and the Congress has never been asked to vote for any legislation without explanation of all the provisions of the bill, and that is what this report asks the members of this House to do.

There has never been, and there can never be, any justification at anytime for the representatives of the people, who are elected to Congress, to abdicate their function of legislating with full knowledge on the matters which come before them. This bill suspends that function and says, “You must not have knowledge of all of the provisions of the bill.” It says, “You must vote blindly and must take the word of a committee.” No one challenges the good faith of the committee members, but the fact is that with 435 members from 435 different districts, we are all entitled to have our own viewpoint on legislation, based on at least a full explanation of all of the sections of a bill. For that reason, at all times in the history of the Congress of the United States the membership has been given full explanation in a report which is intended to explain the bill. Never has Congress been told in a report accompanying a bill, as this one does, that Congress cannot have a full explanation of all provisions in the bill. This is the first time that Members of the House are told “You cannot have any full explanation of this legislation. It is highly confidential. It deals with espionage.”

As a result of the hysteria under which this bill is being passed I suppose a majority of the House will vote for this bill, even though in doing so you are suspending your legislative prerogatives and evading your duty to the people of this Nation.

Now, without having been given explanation of all of the provisions, I have been trying to find out something about this bill by reading the bill, as well as the report. Here are a few things that the Members of the House ought to know. 1 deal with section 4, on page 3:

“Sec. 4 (a) Any officer or employee of the Agency may be assigned or detailed for special instruction, research, or training, at or with domestic or foreign public or private institutions; trade, labor, agricultural, or scientific associations; courses or training programs under the National Military Establishment; or commercial firms.”

What does this mean? With all of the vast powers that are given this agency under the guise of research and study, you are subjecting labor unions and business firms to the will of the military. You are opening the door for the placing of these intelligence agents, supposed to deal with security pertaining to foreign as well as internal affairs, in the midst of labor organizations.

You are opening the doors for the entrance of intelligence agents into labor organizations; yes, to spy on labor and carry out anti-labor activities. I am sure if it were not for the cold war hysteria, very few Members of the Congress would vote for that provision. Certainly the majority would not vote to suspend the rules so that you must take this bill as it is without any opportunity for amendment, despite its serious implications against the security of the liberties of the American people.

Given the interoperability within NATO, what does this mean for the citizens within NATO countries? What does that mean for foreign nationals employed by US military or intelligence contractors?

United States v. Reynolds
In October 1947, a B-29 crashed into the Okefenokee Swamp. The flight was a test mission of avionics equipment and there were vendor personnel on board. After the crash, the Air Force established a security perimeter and handled the rescue and recovery. The widows filed a suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, alleging that the Air Force was negligent in the events leading to the crash. The attorney representing them sought documents, such as accident reports, during discovery in hopes that the documents would satisfy the widows that there had been no negligence involved. The Air Force refused discovery claiming the executive privilege. There was no mention of national security. When the widows went to court, the judge found no existence in the law for the privilege the Air Force was claiming and ordered the Air Force to turn over the documents; the Air Force refused. In the next court session, the Air Force presented affidavits from the Secretary of the Air Force claiming “state secrets.” The judge demanded to review the documents in camera. The Air Force refused, asserting that the findings of the head of the department were binding and not subject to judicial review. The judge ruled in favor of the widows. On appeal, the Third Circuit upheld the judge’s decision. The Supreme Court overturned the decision with Justice Vinson asserting that extraordinary times justify extraordinary powers.

In 2000, the daughter of one of the widows, curious about the fate of her dad, searched for information about the accident. She got a hit on accident and sent for the accident report, which by then had been declassified. The accident report contained overwhelming evidence of negligence and no secrets. She sought unsuccessfully to reopen the case. The lawyer filed a writ of coram nobis; the Supreme Court clerk who took the petition claimed that no such writ could be filed. A more senior clerk suggested that the attorney file a motion to file; the motion to file was denied by the Supreme Court in 2003 after Solicitor General Ted Olson argued that the law favors finality and asserting once again that the particular accident reports or witness statements in the case contained military secrets.

Undoing the Legislative Authority and Judicial Precedent

The legislative authority for the national security state has been created by panicked Congresses in response to executive branch appointees seeking authority and avoiding accountability. The judicial precedents have been enshrined by the accident of lazy thinking of a judge or justice in responding to what seemed to be an insignificant case. (Compare the origin of “state secrets” with that of corporations as persons.)

The result has grown the size of the national security functions through trying to solve turf battles through centralization, which in turn spawns the next turf battles. This process costs the American taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 trillion a year, has created 16 known intelligence agencies in the newly centralized “intelligence community,” duplication in purchases of hardware, gold-plating in contracts even as the use of contractors expands to hide total government activity head counts.

And with each year, and each crisis, the institution grows.

Sixty-five years is enough. At some point the public will demand the legislative action to undo this monstrosity.

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