James Risen’s compelling book, State of War
James Risen’s Compelling
State of War,
The Secret History Of The C.I.A. And The Bush Administration
by Henry Edward Hardy
State of War, (Free Press, 2006) is the bestselling expose of the Bush administration’s manipulations of the U.S. intelligence community. In State of War, New York Times national security reporter James Risen accuses the George W. Bush administration of massaging intelligence to support their post-9/11 political agenda.
Risen has written one-ninth of a blockbuster book about the CIA and the Bush administration. That is to say, one of the nine chapters has spawned a continuing national controversy and talk of impeaching George W. Bush. Curiously, the no-less explosive material in the rest of the book has been met with resounding silence by the mainstream American media.
Risen’s most resounding charge is that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has engaged in widespread and systematic surveillance within the United States in contravention of the law.
According to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978:
“A person is guilty of an offense if he intentionally —
(1) engages in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute; or
(2) discloses or uses information obtained under color of law by electronic surveillance, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through electronic surveillance not authorized by statute.”
The imminent publication of Risen’s book caused The New York Times to reveal that it had known of, and suppressed, news of warrantless National Security Agency surveillance of Americans for a year. In a Times story on Dec. 16, 2005 titled, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” Risen and co-author Eric Lichtblau revealed that the NSA, under direction from the Bush administration, had engaged in widespread violations of the FISA law by engaging in warrantless surveillance of Americans.
The reason The New York Times waited so long to run the NSA eavesdropping story remains murky. In a New Year’s Day column titled, “Behind the Eavesdropping Story, a Loud Silence,” the Times Public Editor, Brian Calame wrote, “For the first time since I became public editor, the executive editor and the publisher have declined to respond to my requests for information about news-related decision-making,” leaving both Mr. Calame and the public to wonder what machinations underlay the year-long hold on the story and the subsequent decision to publish.
The NSA program was fueled by concern that foreign calls routed through the U.S. were not being monitored because of the probable cause stipulation under FISA. But once the “back door” capability was in place at the major telecommunications hubs, the program expanded to include calls in which one, and sometimes both callers were physically within the U.S. In the absence of any congressional or judicial oversight, there must be tremendous temptation to listen first, and seek a warrant later if at all. The implications of such widespread illegality raises a number of questions. Have we seen the beginnings of an electronic police state such as was envisaged in George Orwell’s 1984 or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World ?
Risen recounts a fascinating story of 30 relatives of people who were known to have had a role in Iraq’s pre-1991 nuclear bomb effort. Recruited by the CIA before the Iraq war to investigate their relatives’ knowledge of alleged WMDs, all 30, according to Risen, returned from Iraq with the same message: the programs had been shut down and the personnel mothballed.
What Risen does not provide is evidence. Much of the book has the odor of sour grapes from CIA, FBI and State Department lifers who have been run over or shunted aside by the gun-happy Vice President Dick Cheney. For more in this vein the curious reader might consult Imperial Hubris by Anonymous, as well as former Bush counter-terror czar Richard Clarke’s Against All Enemies.
The allegations in State of War deserve a full public inquiry. If true, then the republic stands at a crisis, having fallen into the hands of fools and/or traitors. On the other hand, if false, then these accusations deserve to be discredited and laid to rest. Either way, one should read this book in order to gain a clearer perspective on what these charges against the administration are and how much or how little evidence there is to support them.
A version of this review was previously published in Current Magazine and at eCurrent.com.
State of War (Metacritic)
James Risen (wikipedia)
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Federation of American Scientists)
Behind the Eavesdropping Story, a Loud Silence. New York Times, January 1, 2006.
Copyright © 2006, 2007 Henry Edward Hardy
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