From Tom DispatchAs many now know, Patrick Fitzgerald, the Special Counsel in the Plame case, set up an official website last week. Something tells me he isn't planning on going anywhere soon.
While we await the indictments to come, consider the strange history of the 1982 CIA shield law that triggered the process (as Steve Weissman explains it below). It was a backlash law, a dream law of the right; it was a response to the 1960s, to the Church Committee's revelations of CIA assassination plots, coup attempts, black propaganda operations and the like, to the urge to put even minimal constraints on an "intelligence" agency that had run amok in the world; and it was a response to the "rogue" CIA agent Philip Agee who named names.
In 1975, with his book Inside the Company: CIA Diary, Agee became the agent-outer of all times. It's true, of course, that many CIA employees are simply in the business of analyzing information, much as reporters or scholarly experts might (though obviously -- since it's "intelligence" -- at least some of their analysis comes from other kinds of sources than a reporter or scholar would have access to). As an insider, the task of the analyst is to privately connect the dots (just as Tomdispatch tries to do in a completely open way) for those who run our government. This is a perfectly sensible thing for any set of government administrators to want and it was, of course, the original stated purpose for the founding of the Central Intelligence Agency. The usually ignored word "central" in the Agency's title once had a real meaning. In the wake of Pearl Harbor, the thought was to centralize scattered and ill-coordinated government intelligence, put it in a for! m the president could use, and get it to him in a timely manner to prevent any future surprise attacks.
The reality of the CIA's half-century-plus run through our world has been quite another matter though: the formation and funding of secret armies and death squads from Laos and El Salvador to Afghanistan; the corruption of democratic political parties; the assassination, or attempted assassination, of leaders of other countries; the investment of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars in torture research, and then the teaching of new methods of torture (as well as time-tested ones) to allied police and military forces globally; the running of torture centers and secret prisons abroad; and the overthrow of democratically-elected governments from Guatemala and Chile to Iran. Through all these years, CIA agents have acted with impunity. The intricate tale ! of CIA "covert" operations is quite a grim little history, drenched in blood and pain -- and a history that finally blew back on Americans.
In his prophetic book Blowback (published before the 9/11 attacks), Chalmers Johnson made that CIA term -- for covert operations about which Americans know nothing which nonetheless inspire retaliation against us -- a part of our language. In many ways, the present nightmare can be traced all the way back to the first (successful) CIA attempt to overthrow a foreign government, that of Iranian Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadegh in 1953. The Agency was then only six years old. That act -- like the famous shin bone that's connected to the knee bone -- can be connected to the brutal Shah who succeeded Mossadegh (with vast American backing); to Ayatollah Khomeini who overthrew the Shah and brought Islamic fundamentalism to power in one crucial Middle Eastern country; to Saddam Hussein who, again with our backing, fought Khomeini; ! to the Afghan anti-Soviet war where the CIA supported the most fundamentalist and extreme of the mujahedeen fighters (including one Osama bin Laden); and so on down to the present.
If Patrick Fitzgerald indicts anyone this week for violating the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act (as opposed to a myriad of other possible charges), there will be a certain blowback aspect to it as well. After all, the Plame case lies at the unexpected end of a cycle of blowback (defined more loosely) that started with the right's response to Agee. Now, the most extreme government in American memory could buckle under the weight of the dream law its predecessors came up with at a moment when George Bush the elder, a former CIA director (January 1976 to January 1977) was Ronald Reagan's vice president. So, as you prepare for this week, consider the strange, circuitous route we've taken to the present moment and where we might be heading.