National Commentary

National Intelligence Priorities Framework

nfbentonpicThe revelations coming to light now, thanks to Edward Snowden, about the extent of the U.S. National Security Agency’s spying on domestic and foreign populations, including the leaders of important allied nations, will require the toughest, most ruthless prosecution of holy force to redress.

The president and everyone in positions of power who’ve been held clueless by an operation that has made a mockery of their claims to oversight are now challenged with perhaps the greatest claim ever on their personal courage and fortitude to take down this bastion of soulless disdain for civility and integrity.

One saw in the unrepentant faces of Lt. Gen. James Clapper, Gen. Keith Alexander and the others who defended these spying methods and means before the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday the expressions of contempt for the justified shock and disbelief that honest lawmakers brought to that hearing.

It is increasingly clear that entire elements of the spying operations were done without the knowledge and oversight of the president or key people in Congress.

This confronts the nation, and President Obama in particular, with an enormous challenge to defend the tenants of democracy by a forceful takeover, reclamation and overhaul of this runaway apparatus.

This won’t be easy. It is not a matter of an interoffice memo. The forces in control of this effort have kept it secret from civilian oversight for a reason. They see themselves engaged in a separate command and control structure apart from democratically-elected officials in a manner far more dangerous than the worst perpetrators of the Iran-Contra operation in the 1980s.

This having now come to light, nothing short of a full-scale effort in the name of free society to wrest away the reins of this insidious operation is required. Obama must lead this effort openly, aggressively and with the moral suasion of an avenging angel.

All the affectations of this grievous NSA overreach were nurtured in the foul petri dish called the Bush/Cheney administration. That was when the so-called National Intelligence Priorities Framework (NIPF) was created and empowered as a heaving, decentralized behemoth capable of adding and augmenting the exercise of maximum spying power without any civilian oversight of its details.

Not appreciated yet is how this rogue capability involves far more than passive eavesdropping on the general public and our allies abroad. The same technical capabilities that this level of intrusion utilizes must also by logical extension provide the resources for proactive interventions into the lives of those being scrutinized.

Means undoubtedly exist that if Germany’s Ms. Merkel, for example, is planning to do something that is not perceived in the best interests of the NIPF – note we say here, not in the best interests of the U.S., because those interests are presumably defined by elected officials and especially the president, but the best interests of the NIPF, this secret octopus – then the NIPF has the capabilities to make sure her plans are interrupted.

If that capability is extended to domestic and foreign general populations, then this capability becomes exposed as a major meddler in the political affairs of the world, separate from our own government, far beyond any concern for genuine terrorist enemy networks that pose a threat.

Now, these NIPF overlords insist that their efforts are justified because other nations are spying, too. But it is hard to imagine anyone having the zeal and means dedicated to the level of global intrusion that the NIPF network has had full license for the last decade to develop and deploy.

It may be that the NIPF is already too entrenched and dug in to be wrested away from its managers and put it into the hands of the president and designated elected officials. But if that is so, then we can look forward to a future in which we will always live with the menacing realization that any serious effort to re-frame our democracy to rein in the rich and powerful in order to achieve greater economic equality, for example, will be bounded by the extent to which our NIPF overlords allow it. That and no more.

Our democracy will be in name only. No Second Amendment bravado can hold a candle to that.