David Wise (1930- ) went into the newspaper business as soon as he got out of college. Working for the “New York Herald-Tribune,” he became its White House correspondent in 1960. He served as the paper’s Washington bureau chief from 1963 to 1966. Wise came to know a lot of people and a bunch of them were in the intelligence community. The CIA, NSA, and Defense Department are as much a snake-pit of personal rivalries and tortured consciences as anywhere else. People told Wise things and gave him leads. Nobody ever got paid for just sitting around, so Wise ran down the leads. He published a series of books on what he found out.
            The books revealed to the reading public details of the development of the U-2 spy-plane; CIA efforts to overthrow hostile governments (Guatemala, Iran, Cuba, Indonesia); and covert operations in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.[1] Subsequently, he moved on to books on the struggle between Soviet intelligence (KGB) and its American opponents (CIA, FBI).[2]
            However, three of Wise’s books had a longer half-life in American politics than did his topical works on espionage. The Invisible Government, in 1964; The Politics of Lying: Government Deception, Secrecy, and Power (1973); and The American Police State: The Government Against the People (1976), all raised alarms about the growing power of the career professionals in agencies charged with protecting America from enemies. Wise warned against the encroachment of intelligence and police professionals on powers that traditionally were the responsibility of democratically elected officials. These books resonated with the public because of the times in which they were published. The “Pentagon Papers,” the fall of President Richard Nixon over the “Watergate” scandal; and the hearings chaired by Senator Frank Church on the intelligence community all inspired alarm among American citizens. Subsequently, the alarm died down after various reforms were put in place.

Recent events have revived concern. The 9/11 attacks, the war with Islamists, and the revelations by Edward Snowden all have contributed to concern about the erosion of individual civil rights and democratic government. This time the herald comes from academia.

Echoing David Wise lo these many years, Michael Glennon[3] argues that the elected officials charged with oversight of the government bureaucracy have abdicated their role. In part, this abdication springs from deference to experts on complicated issues.[4] In part, this abdication results from the decay of Congress from a participant in shared government to a freak-show. Without rigorous oversight and with the best of intentions, the national security organizations that were created to fight the Cold War with the Soviet Union have not only escaped control, but have actually gained the upper hand over constitutional government. The national security experts control the formulation of policy choices laid before the Executive. These same organizations help draft the laws that the Legislature passes; they then implement (or ignore) that legislation. They serve up the rationales for actions which the Judiciary usually approves. The National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff figure as the big dogs in what Wise would have called a “secret government.”

[1] The U-2 Affair, with Thomas B. Ross (1962); The Invisible Government, with Thomas B. Ross (1964); The Espionage Establishment, with Thomas B. Ross (1967).

[2] Molehunt: the secret search for traitors that shattered the CIA (1992); Nightmover: How Aldrich Ames Sold the CIA to the KGB for $4.6 million (1995); Spy: The Inside Story on How the FBI’s Robert Hanssen Betrayed America (2002).

[3] Michael Glennon, National Security and Double Government (New York: Oxford University Press, 20 14).

[4] Pearl Harbor and 9/11 loom over this deference like a mushroom cloud.


1 thought on “CINAY-sayers.

  1. Pingback: The Deep State. | waroftheworldblog

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