Yes, intelligence agencies work against their own governments

Yonatan Sindel/Pool via AP

After the past several years it should come as no surprise that intelligence agencies are not mere servants to their government masters, but rather sophisticated and nefarious political players of both the domestic and international political game.

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The history of the FBI and CIA meddling in domestic politics is long and not especially heartwarming. Despite being lionized by the media, “Deep Throat” was nothing more than a disaffected FBI bureaucrat named Mark Felt who despised Nixon because he didn’t get the promotion to FBI director he wanted. He started leaking right after he was passed over for the directorship after J. Edgar Hoover died. Hoover himself was a vile political player, and his passing led to major reforms at the FBI.

Most people don’t know this, but Felt himself was convicted of violating the civil rights of political opponents he suspected to be in the Weather Underground. He ordered agents to break into people’s houses looking for evidence of wrongdoing. He was pardoned for his crimes while appealing his case. He was a real Hoover acolyte.

There are many other examples in the US, of course. The most recent was the campaign waged against Donald Trump both during the 2016 political campaign and the relentless and often illegal hounding of Trump and his associates. Lying to courts, illegal leaks, constant misinformation spreading. The works. And, of course, the FBI has helped cover up Hunter Biden’s crimes, as we all know through the Twitter files.

Well, it’s not just in the United States that this happens. You can bet it happens everywhere. And through some very disturbing leaks of top secret information that was tossed out onto the Internet, we have learned about Mossad plotting to discredit the current Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu.

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First the leaks: they come from the very highest sources in the US, although we haven’t been told who. They come from briefing documents that were at the highest level of classification. They were paper copies that were not to be viewed outside a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility), so you can be sure that somebody very highly placed did this–stealing and then photographing them.

They claim to be investigating, but I would wager they know exactly how they escaped into the wild. It’s almost impossible that they don’t, given their nature. It’s not like the source could be that many people.

Top Secret documents were apparently just folded up, stuffed in a pocket, and taken out of a SCIF. Then photographed and posted on the web. The White House and the Pentagon are freaked out because all the information is very sensitive in itself, revealing sources, methods, and the extent of the US spying on our allies. They also included military plans for Ukraine, which isn’t cool at all. Information about Russian and Ukrainian casualties was said to have been digitally altered before posting. Nothing else apparently was.

Documents aren’t supposed to just walk out of SCIFs, but these apparently did, and the number of people who might have done it is very small.

Among those documents was this tidbit: the Mossad helped organize protests against Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu.

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That should be a no-no, one would think. Last I checked they worked for him, not the other way around.

Now I should note that both Netanyahu and Mossad deny it ever happened, but if you believe that I have a bridge in Brooklyn I want to sell you before you buy that swampland in Florida my brother has for sale.

The Israeli government issued a statement on Sunday firmly rejecting assertions contained in the leaked Pentagon documents that the leadership of the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service, had encouraged the agency’s staff and Israeli citizens to participate in the anti-government protests that roiled the country in March.

Mossad and other senior Israeli defense officials denied the assessment’s findings, and The New York Times was unable to independently verify the U.S. intelligence assessment.

The statement issued on Sunday by the Israeli prime minister’s office on behalf of the Mossad described the assertion as “mendacious and without any foundation whatsoever.”

Senior U.S. officials said the F.B.I. was working to determine the source of the leaked documents. The officials acknowledged that the documents appeared to be legitimate intelligence and operational briefs compiled by the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, using reports from the government’s intelligence community, but that at least one had been modified from the original at some later point.

The New York Times is pretty clear that the documents are genuine and nobody is denying it. The US itself isn’t disputing the provenance of the documents or the information, so unless this is a sophisticated double-bluff disinformation campaign to embarrass ourselves and our allies it sure looks like a huge leak happened.

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According to the leaked documents, an assessment attributed to a Central Intelligence Update from March 1, leaders of the Mossad “advocated for Mossad officials and Israeli citizens to protest against the new Israeli Government’s proposed judicial reforms, including several explicit calls to action that decried the Israeli Government.”

I would be willing to put money on that being true.

Which proves my point. As a practical matter governments just don’t work as the civics textbooks would like us to think. Wherever there is money and power there are people who do everything they can to control it for their own benefit. There are lots of centers of power in any government, even the most autocratic. In a democratic government, the centers of power are legion.

Toss in the secrecy that is a natural part of the law enforcement and intelligence communities and you have a recipe for abuses of power that go far beyond mere corruption. Remember Mark Felt? The hero who took down Nixon? Also, the felon who was convicted of abusing his power. Same guy. Do you think the first isn’t related to the second?

He decided to take down a president, so he did. The second-in-command of the FBI. This is how things really work. Taking down Nixon was the “or else,” after Nixon told him “no” to being appointed FBI Director.

The intelligence and law enforcement agencies are independent actors as often as they are servants of the state and its leaders. The reforms after the Church committee didn’t stick. In fact, intelligence agencies are more powerful today than at any point in history, and their retired leaders move more swiftly and higher into the civilian world of power than ever before.

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So it goes here, and so it goes elsewhere. If you wonder why Netanyahu keeps having such a hard time getting anything done despite the repeated mandates he gets through the ballot box, now you know. His own government keeps working against him.

Remind you of anybody else?

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John Stossel 5:30 PM | July 13, 2024
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