May 17, 2006
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
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 evade detection.
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
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 mass killings.
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
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.