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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Abolish the CIA!

    Justyn Dillingham columnist
    Justyn Dillingham
    columnist

    The Central Intelligence Agency is one of those things, such as Madonna, Styrofoam and mineral water, that seems to have been around forever. Omnipotent and all-powerful, it seems accountable to no one.

    Yet the CIA is, presumably, the instrument of a democratic republic, in which nothing ought to be omnipotent, all-powerful and accountable to no one. That is the first clue that something is amiss.

    “”The CIA has a track record of resisting accountability,”” Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Miss., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, recently said. I would go further: Since its birth, the CIA has functioned chiefly in one capacity – as the instrument of presidential tyranny.

    The CIA was created when Harry S. Truman signed the 1947 National Security Act, a document that consolidated the loosely associated military forces of the United States into what would one day be termed “”the military-industrial complex.”” It established a new agency, ostensibly to gather intelligence.

    With the coming of the Cold War, the new agency took the opportunity to cloak itself in overwhelming secrecy. As one 1947 expansion upon the original act noted: “”Nothing … shall require the Central Intelligence Agency to disclose operational details concerning its secret techniques, sources or contacts.””

    The Cold War, of course, would consist largely of subversion and deceit, not of diplomacy or even outright war. It was primarily fought at home, against “”subversives”” and the like, but a show had to be kept up of “”containing”” Soviet expansion. And so in 1948, the National Security Council gave the CIA unprecedented power to conduct “”espionage and counter-espionage operations abroad.””

    Alongside the familiar litany of wars since – Korea, Vietnam, Iraq -ÿruns a darker thread of coups, assassinations and illegal covert actions. And, despite its operation as a kind of self-empowering, autonomous force, rare was the operation that a president remained ignorant of.

    To Americans today, there may be little that is surprising or even alarming about this story. Growing up accustomed to the idea of spying and sabotage, we are apt to regard the CIA as, at worst, a necessary evil.

    But looking back, it’s remarkable how many of our current problems originated from an act of the CIA.

    In 1953, the CIA sent a lone operative, Kermit Roosevelt, into Iran to plot the overthrow of its democratic government. Remarkably, he succeeded. The Iranian democracy was replaced by a tyrant, then a theocracy. The CIA pushed the first domino in a line that resulted in the nightmarish standoff we face today.

    In 1963, after the U.S. backed a coup against Iraq’s government, the CIA helped the nationalist Baath Party consolidate its power. In 1968, it lent a hand yet again as the country’s new president was kicked out and replaced with the ruthless General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr – whose protégé and second-in-command was an ambitious young man named Saddam Hussein.

    In 1979, after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the CIA set out to recruit Muslim extremists to fight the Communist “”menace,”” providing them with weapons and training. Among their recruits was the young Saudi plutocrat Osama bin Laden.

    There we have it. Of all the significant threats that face us today, everything that prompts our leaders to call for “”action,”” everything that inspires pundits to call for endless war against tyrants abroad and dissidents at home – virtually all of them were created by an agency presumably established to keep the peace!

    An apologist might argue that these were simply honest mistakes made in pursuit of a humane foreign policy – a noble, Wilsonian goal of making the world “”safe for democracy.””

    The antidote to this sort of thinking is to examine how our leaders respond to democracy when it is practiced in America. As a rule, they panic. Americans have been arrested for approaching the vice president in a mall and politely telling him they disagree with a policy of his.

    This trend must be reversed. Democracy cannot survive long when crucial facts, facts necessary to make the most important decisions, are kept from us. Secret acts that rebound in the form of terrorist attacks and murderous dictators cannot be taken lightly.

    There is hope. The citizens of the American Republic always return, in the end, to republican principles, rejecting the temptations of empire, knowing that a vast and uncontrollable foreign policy almost always leads to the degradation of liberty at home.

    Among the citizens who came to agree was Harry Truman himself, who told an interviewer in 1962 that he deeply regretted the creation of the CIA. “”It’s become a government all of its own, and all secret. They don’t have to account to anybody. That’s a very dangerous thing in a democratic society, and it’s got to be stopped.””

    The CIA must be abolished and replaced with an agency that will devote itself solely to intelligence-gathering. Just as the needs of a rising empire demanded its creation, the needs of a reviving republic demand its demise.

    Justyn Dillingham is a senior majoring in history and political science and the wire editor of the Arizona Daily Wildcat. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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