Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Making Sense of the Previous Post

The following are excerpts from two journal articles with background for understanding the previous post. The "round and round" refers to the "singular acts of discretion that are often undertaken in secret and are thus effectively insulated from public view..."

Zaring, David, and Elena A. Baylis. "Sending the bureaucracy to war." Iowa Law Review 92.4 (May 2007): 1359(70). David Zaring is Assistant Professor, Legal Studies Department, Wharton School of Business.

"Second, these anti-terrorist measures diminish administrative effectiveness by going to extraordinary lengths to privilege agency discretion, thereby reducing agency accountability and, predictably, resulting in increasingly arbitrary and unreviewable agency action. We call this the problem of overdiscretion. It is a maxim of administrative law that the authority delegated to administrative agencies should be paired with safeguards on the abuse of that authority. Accordingly, administrative agencies have traditionally operated publicly and openly and usually pursuant to a tested and established framework of rules. Agency rulemaking is governed by requirements for public notice and comment, while agency adjudication is subject to judicial review or, at a minimum, to supervision by senior executive branch officials. But the administrative initiatives against terror routinely reduce what have traditionally been participatory, reviewable rulemaking or adjudicatory processes to singular acts of discretion that are often undertaken in secret and are thus effectively insulated from public view and from judicial, or even supervisory, review. Furthermore, these measures often place this decision-making authority in the hands of mid-level or even street-level bureaucrats, such as office directors in the Department of the Treasury in the case of the terrorist financing programs, or low-level state employees in the case of the drivers' license programs created by the REAL ID Act. The allocation of discretion to bureaucrats who are all but insulated from oversight has, at least in the case of anti-terrorism regulation, become a license for arbitrariness."

Ward, Ian. "Terrorists and equivocators." Law and Humanities 1.1 (Summer 2007): 111(21). Ian Ward is Professor of Law at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

"This rhetoric, of testament and crusade, is as reckless as it is ignorant and perverse. Slavoj Zizek warns against 'our warriors on terror' seemingly 'ready to wreck their own democratic world' out of a visceral 'hatred for the Muslim other'. He is right. There is little to be gained by situating Islam as an enemy, just as there is little to be gained by constructing fantastical bogey-men. But we continue to do so all the same. Islamophobia has become a hallmark of modern western popular culture, the image of the devious, rapacious, endemically violent Islamic terrorist a staple of our cinematic and literary diet. Where the 'chosen people' were once terrified by the dreaded papist, they are now terrified by the dreaded Islamist. It is a fear, as Edward Said suggests, that has, over the centuries, become 'woven into the fabric' of western cultural 'life'. Here again, our craving for terror, and to be terrified, seems to be unquenchable. We live, as Benjamin Barber has rightly suggested, in an 'empire of fear, possessed of a terror that we have essentially 'conjured' for ourselves. . . .
Ultimately, the presumed, or contested, acuity of the 'clash' of civilisations thesis is less important than the insinuation. There maybe no necessary association between militant jihad and the philosophy or jurisprudence of Islam. It may well be the mutant figment of an orientalist, even racist, political and cultural imagination. But it does not need to be accurate or apposite. What matters, sadly, is that so many are deluded by the supposition. Again, the prophecy fulfils itself. On the one hand, there are plenty of disenchanted and dispossessed young Muslims who are all too easily persuaded into thinking that theology justifies terror. To them, bin Laden's rhetoric 'makes sense', in the same way as Borromeo's Testament impelled young Catholics such as Robert and Thomas Catesby to risk their lives 400 years ago. On the other there is a 'western' populace that appears to be all too ready to embrace the rhetoric of the apocalypse, to suppose that the 'blatant Beast' is abroad once more, to believe that America and its allies have a moral duty, a divine calling even, one which justifies the presence of their crusaders across vast tracts of the Middle East, from Qom to Kabul. The alternative fantasies, as is so often the case, are mutually sustaining. They nurture the terror, and the tragedy."


From 1934 to 1970, in a total of 1,651 broadcasts, Americans loved THE ORIGINAL AMATEUR HOUR.

Ellen Druda describes our reaction to the phenomenon (does America REALLY have talent?) as, “It's fun to see ourselves from this gentler time, when the corniest family and the nuttiest novelty act held our attention and competed equally for viewers' votes” (Druda, Ellen. “The Original Amateur Hour.” Library Journal 131.4 March 1, 2006: 132).

Ted Mack made us believe that all these nice folks could be stars. The contestants were chosen by the spin of a huge wheel. While the wheel was spinning, Ted Mack repeated the words:


We Americans will believe in anything as long as it's either funny or scary enough.

We also have a tendency to believe anything we hear repeated enough times, regardless of the source. We (at least Americans in general, and the entire Congress and executive branch of government) have been lulled into not paying attention to a small cadre of terror-mongers and Muslim-bashers who are in charge of the day to day policy making at the “street level” in our government. Matthew Levitt and Stuart Levey are prime examples although Levitt no longer works directly for the government.

The “round and round” is obvious enough. What makes it scary is that these people are amateurs who have come to positions of incredible power.

Let me demonstrate (this is tedious; ROUND AND ROUND SHE GOES, AND WHERE SHE STOPS NOBODY KNOWS).

In their article, “The U.S. campaign to squeeze terrorists' financing,” in the Journal of International Affairs 62.1 (Fall-Winter 2008), Matthew Levitt and Michael Jacobson report that, “Stuart Levey, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at Treasury, emphasized that 'counterterrorism officials place a heavy premium on financial intelligence' in part because 'money trails don't lie.' (Their footnote 2)
(2) Testimony by Stuart Levey, Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, U.S. Dpartment of the Treasury, before the United States House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, 109th Congress, 2nd Session, 11 July 2006, http://www.treas.gov/press/releases/hp05.htm.
U.S. Department of the Treasury, “Statement of Under Secretary Stuart Levey on the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program,” 23 June 2006, http://www.treas.gov/press/releases/js4334.htm.

Levey begins his testimony by saying, “This is my fifth time appearing before your Committee in the past two years in what has been an ongoing and fruitful discussion of our government's efforts to track and combat terrorist financing. These sessions have advanced our shared mission to undermine terrorist networks and disrupt their vicious objectives. “ Levey's fifth time appearing.

Interestingly enough, Levitt quotes another of these Levey testimonies before Congress as a source in his book, Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad. (Yale University Press, 2006). On page 301, note 49, Levitt cites Levey's testimony before the same committee on May 4, 2005. The citation is, however, more interesting than that.

Levitt also cites: Israeli 2004 report CSS Special Information Bulletin. "IRFAN, A Hamas Front Organization Operating in Canada to Enlist Financial Suuport for Hamas Institutions in the Palestinian Authority-Administered Territories," November 2004. http://www.intelligence.or.il/eng/sib/11_04/irfan.htm

CSS is the Israeli Center for Special Studies. This “information bulletin” is based on a report by the Israel Security Agency. The CSS is a non-governmental agency that is fed information by the Israeli government and issues reports based on the secret information, information that can never be corroborated. The original sources are, of course, “classified” information of the Israeli government to anyone else.

One might well ask here if these articles, books, footnotes, and sources (to say nothing of Levitt and Levey) are connected in any significant way. I'm not sure. But there is definitely a pattern here. One quotes the other and the other quotes the first, and neither of them relies on any information that does not come from a closed coterie of informants, “scholars,” and government operatives. I invite you to read the articles I have referenced for yourself.

However, I want to take this one step farther.

Sometime after April of 2008, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy published an op-ed piece by Matthew Levitt that was originally published in the CTC Sentinel at West Point. (The CTC Sentinel 1.5 April 2008). The Combating Terrorism Center “is an independent educational and research institution based in the Department of Social Sciences at the United States Military Academy, West Point.” http://www.ctc.usma.edu/sentinel/ Levitt's article, “Al-Qa'ida's Finances: Evidence of Organizational Decline?” is at http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC06.php?CID=1150

Levitt says: “Speaking before congress in February, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Michael McConnell commented that during the previous 12-18 months the intelligence community noticed that “al Qaeda has had difficulty in raising funds and sustaining themselves.” In early April, Undersecretary of the Treasury Stuart Levey echoed the DNI's assessment, adding that the government's efforts to combat terrorist financing “are more integrated than ever before” and have enabled the government to disrupt or deter some sources of al-Qa'ida financing and make “significant progress mapping terrorist networks.” This statement comes from yet another Levey testimony, this one on April 1, 2008 before the Senate Committee on Finance. http://www.treas.gov/press/releases/hp898.htm

WINEP reprints an article in a quasi-governmental (Army) publication by Levitt in which he quotes Sturat Levey (one is tempted to say, “of course”) in support of the Director of Nation Intelligence. Or, one might ask, is the DNI relying on the work of Matthew Levitt and Stuart Levey?

One more go ‘round. From the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

WASHINGTON - The effort to apply economic pressure on the regime in Tehran through divestment has intensified in the United States. The pressure, which involves divestment on the part of international firms, is being carried out in parallel with continuous efforts at the United Nations Security Council to impose a second round of sanctions against Iran in response to its failure to abide by the world body's call to end uranium enrichment. . . . A senior U.S. Treasury official, Stuart Levey, has recently returned to Washington from a visit to the Middle East, which included a visit to Israel. His team has revealed that in coming months banks and credit companies may decide to freeze their ties with Iran after having been presented with data on the types of activities supported by the Iranian financial transactions. . . . Dr. Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who worked on Levey's team at the Treasury, said Sunday that, “If the effort is focused on several dozen corporations, it will be sufficient,” because this is the number of firms invested in Iranian petroleum, the critical area of that country's economy. (Shmuel Rosner. “U.S. campaign calls for major Iran divestment.” Haaretz.com. Tue., March 13, 2007 Adar 23, 5767.) http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/836468.html