Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The SD

From the NYT on the CIA program Cheney hid from everyone:

But in practice, creating and training the teams proved difficult.

“It sounds great in the movies, but when you try to do it, it’s not that easy,” a former intelligence official said. “Where do you base them? What do they look like? Are they going to be sitting around at headquarters on 24-hour alert waiting to be called?”
The answer is in the question! You get an irascible army major who has achieved rank despite his record of a lack of respect for authority. You have him recruit a bunch of sociopaths, criminals who can be offered pardons in exchange for their service (joke's on them, ha ha, as they'll surely be killed on this mission). Then, the major and the criminals gradually find some common ground and grow in the course of the mission, despite themselves, to care for one another; the cause, you see, the justness and the goodness of their project, will reform them all to one degree or another. Side note: it will help, narratively, if each of these guys can have a kind of particular problem or hangup. Though they may die anyway, they will die redeemed. And we all might cry a little and savor the paradox, which has something to do with morality and transgression and how this big guy, who seemed so gruff, he was really soft inside.

Sometimes, we would learn, the rules have to be broken in order for right to prevail. The nice part is that the notion of goodness can be transferred, in the telling, to the redemption of the sociopaths, so that we don't have to sweat the international legal stuff or the deeper questions about secret operations that violate our own laws and decades of attempts to keep the CIA from totally fucking things up over the long term.

Really, I don't think any of us was surprised to find that Cheney had been sitting on a secret program, but I was hoping for something a little cleverer and more romantic. Something like the SD, the Shit Department, the supersecret CIA auxiliary in Paco Ignacio Taibo's Four Hands. Now they were involved in some reprehensible stuff that redeemed no one. In fact, I'm pretty sure that Cheney was hiding more than this Lee Marvin fantasy. In fact, the whole story itself, given the quote from the "former intelligence official" about the movies, is beginning to seem like it might be the work of the SD. Because, speaking of Marvin and Borgnine, don't loose lips sink ships? I mean--and this is really a question, maybe Helmut can offer an opinion--don't we expect that military operations could include something like a highly-trained clandestine unit that seeks such targets? Or does the problem have to do with the administrative desire not really to be at war with a state because that restricts you from certain behaviors among state actors? Like rendition and torture? Like having the CIA assassinate whomever you can identify as non-state terrorists?


helmut said...

There must be more to it than we've heard thus far. It doesn't make sense that Cheney would be so uptight about a plan to kill al Qaeda leaders or that Panetta would react so strongly. If it is an assassination program, even if it involved carrying out assassinations in foreign countries without their knowledge, I can't see post-9-11 Congress being too terribly upset about this or Cheney too worried about later legal consequences.

What if it was indeed an assassination program, but that it also carried out some high profile murders? Or targeted government officials elsewhere?

If were a journalist on this case, I'd be scouring the world for unexplained murders, suicides, "accidents," over the years the program is said to cover.

MT said...

I'd be scouring the 50 states and the paper trail for reference to said squad's area of jurisdiction.

helmut said...

It is also possible it had nothing at all to do with al Qaeda?

Maybe Chavez wasn't just doing his usual blustering when he said the US was trying to assassinate him.

barba de chiva said...

Right . . . seems funny that torturing people would be a foil for going after known enemies and not the other way around. Something bigger has to be there.