Within the narrow confines of debate within the US political and media
establishment over the various spying programs that have come to light in recent
months, one basic fact is assumed by all participants: the Bush administration,
whatever mistakes it may make or civil liberties it may transgress, is waging
a war on terrorism, the basic aim of which must be supported by everyone.
On the one hand, the Bush administration insists that the American people must
take the government at its word, that they must trust that the government is
using the massive new spying powers it has arrogated to itself to target Al
Qaeda. The government has released no concrete information about the nature
of the various spying programs it has initiated, programs that are intended
to accumulate databases of telephone and Internet communications of tens of
millions of American citizens. There are any number of other programs that are
still completely hidden from the population. This secrecy is supposedly justified
on the grounds that any publicly available information would help terrorists
On the other hand, the nominal opposition within the political establishment
proceeds always from the basic assumption that the administration is prosecuting
a “war on terrorism” that must be won. The tactics may be criticized,
as to whether they are appropriate or necessary, but the basic motives are not
even questioned. Typical was a statement from Patrick Leahy, the leading Democrat
on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who declared on Sunday, “We should
be spying on terrorists, not on innocent Americans. I want us to be safe, but
I don’t think this administration is doing it the right way.”
Besides accepting the basic premise of the war on terror, such statements are
highly disingenuous, given the fact that the Democratic Party leadership was
briefed on aspects of the NSA spying program long before they were reported
in the media.
Is it not possible that the US government is spying on the American people
for the express purpose of gathering names and information on potential or actual
political opponents, is using the “war on terrorism” as an excuse
to lay the foundations for the roundup of thousands of individuals because of
their views in opposition to the war or other aspects of the policy of the American
ruling class? To even raise this question would be denounced as a conspiracy
theory, if it were not so studiously ignored.
The actual purpose of the administration’s actions, however, is evident
in considering the individuals who have been tasked with carrying it out. In
particular, it is worth reexamining the record of John Negroponte, the current
Director of National Intelligence, who is in charge of centralizing and coordinating
the various different American spy agencies. Negroponte has emerged as a critical
figure in the vast expansion of US domestic surveillance.
Negroponte is generally considered to have played the critical role in forcing
out CIA director Porter Goss, who resigned earlier this month. To fill his place,
the Bush administration has nominated Michael Hayden, Negroponte’s deputy
and a former head of the NSA.
Negroponte was nominated as DNI in February 2005. While the post was created
in response to a recommendation from the panel set up to investigate the September
11 attacks, the real purpose of the position is to step up attacks on democratic
rights and prepare for repressive measures against the American people.
It was for this reason the Negroponte was selected. One of his main qualifications
was his role as US Ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985. In that position,
he helped oversee the American intervention in support of the “contras,”
who were waging a vicious war against the nationalist Sandinista government
in Nicaragua. During the course of the CIA-funded war, 50,000 people died and
the right-wing contras employed brutal methods of disappearances, torture and
Negroponte also oversaw a massive increase in US aid to the Honduran military,
which was supporting the contras. He praised the country’s military regime
as a model of democracy, and helped to cover up evidence of extrajudicial killings
and torture. Shortly before a bipartisan vote in April 2005 by the Senate to
confirm Negroponte in his new post, the Washington Post reported on new documents
detailing his close ties to the Honduran military. Negroponte opposed any attempts
to reach a negotiated settlement with the Sandinistas, and instead favored a
policy of “regime change.”
Negroponte campaigned for the Reagan administration to continue its funding
of the contras even after the US Congress voted to deny further aid. This policy
eventually led to the Iran-Contra scandal, in which it was revealed that the
Reagan administration was secretly funding the contras through illegal sales
of arms to Iran. This policy was fully developed, however, only after Negroponte
left his post in 1985.
Prior to serving in Honduras, Negroponte held important posts in the Nixon
administration and dealt especially with Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, he
was a staunch opponent of any concessions to Hanoi. In the late 1980s and 1990s,
he spent most of his time in various diplomatic posts, including as an ambassador
to Mexico and later to the Philippines.
Then, in 2001, the Bush administration named him US ambassador to the United
Nations, a post that he held until 2004. There he played a critical role in
promoting the lies of the Bush administration used to justify the invasion of
Iraq. During the run-up to the invasion, the US engaged in spying on other countries
at the UN in an attempt to push through votes that would justify the invasion.
He left the UN to take post of US ambassador to Iraq in 2004, where he oversaw
the escalation of violence against the Iraqi population, including the devastating
siege against the city of Fallujah in November 2004.
Despite his past association with the Iran-contra scandal, Negroponte was confirmed
with overwhelming support from both the Democrats and Republicans to all of
the posts to which he was nominated.
Since becoming director of national intelligence, Negroponte has helped transfer
to the US the anti-democratic and repressive measures he has overseen in other
parts of the world, particularly in Latin America.
Along with other members of the administration, he has lied in an attempt to
hide from the American people the vast scope of the attacks on democratic rights.
A Washington Post article on May 15 noted that Negroponte said on May 8 that
the US was “absolutely not” monitoring domestic calls without warrants.
Only a few days before the revelation of precisely such monitoring—in
the USA Today article on the NSA’s accumulation of databases of the phone
records of millions of Americans—Negroponte declared, “I wouldn’t
call it domestic spying. This is about international terrorism and telephone
calls between people thought to be working for international terrorism and people
here in the United States.”
In an interview with CNN at the time of his nomination to the UN, Negroponte
sought to defend aspects of his own history in aiding military dictatorships
in Latin America: “Some of these regimes, to the outside observer, may
not have been as savory as Americans would have liked,” he reasoned. “They
may have been dictators, or likely to [become] dictators, when you would have
been wanting to support democracy in the area. But with the turmoil that [was
there], it was perhaps not possible to do that.”
The statement reflects not only the attitude that Negroponte has toward the
past, but also toward the present and future. The American ruling class is confronting
ever-greater “turmoil” within the United States, with mounting opposition
to the Bush administration and the entire direction of American policy. Social
conditions for masses of people are deteriorating while social inequality increases.
In an effort to secure hegemony on the world stage, the American ruling elite
is planning further military aggression against Iran, China, Russia or any other
country that poses a threat to its interests, even as domestic opposition to
the occupation of Iraq steadily increases.
The turmoil that Negroponte discovered in Honduras and Nicaragua (and
later in Iraq)—popular opposition to the policies of the American banks
and corporations—is not fundamentally different from the turmoil that
is now building up at home. For this reason, the same dictatorial forms of rule
that the American government has for decades promoted and buttressed elsewhere
will be increasingly applied within the United States itself.