PBS, Where It’s Always 9/10

Heard NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross yesterday. She interviewed, in Terry’s words, Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post investigative reporter Dana Priest. The interview was really a plug for a Frontline documentary on PBS aired last night that purports to expose something Priest refers to ominously as “Top-Secret America,” about which we are supposed to be terribly afraid.

Dana Priest


Priest tells us about how the Bush administration expanded our intelligence capabilities after 9/11 (and with a lot less emphasis, how the Obama administration kept just about all of it, despite Obama’s pledge on the campaign trail to dismantle it when he became president). In the interview, Priest repeatedly and inexplicably notes that all of this is ultra, ultra secret; yet she has managed to write a book about it despite her admission that she really doesn’t know what’s going on, at least not first hand.

The Frontline documentary makes clear, however, where she got the information about these secret programs: from a whole bunch of government officials who seemed completely comfortable talking about all this hush hush stuff on camera. Bush CIA director Michael Hayden was a veritable gusher of supposedly secret stuff that, in Priest’s words, nobody knows about.

Hayden and a long parade of former CIA agents were unapologetic and not the least bit shy about revealing how the administration recognized the weaknesses in America’s intelligence capabilities as a result of 9/11 and went to work quickly and frantically to deal with those weaknesses in order to prevent what most experts believed would be another devastating terrorist attack on the “homeland.”

But Priest and her Frontline collaborators will have none of that. What the CIA interviewees will not say – that all of the efforts to defend the country against another attack were unnecessary and sinister – Priest and her co-author, aided by a portentous narrator, emphasize shamelessly.

Richard A. Clarke


And then there’s one Richard A. Clarke, former intelligence maven and 9/11 Commission witness, who has made a lucrative post-government career out of Bush bashing for the liberal media. He is the one person in the documentary who enthusiastically puts the most sinister spin on every counter-terrorism effort after 9/11.

What nobody mentions, however, is how the 1960’s, Vietnam and Watergate eviscerated our intelligence capabilities. Nobody mentions the oleaginous Senator Frank Church and his committee of self-righteous, preening political hacks who did so much to destroy our intelligence agencies.

Thank God (excuse the expression) for the officials who recognized our self-inflicted vulnerability and worked so hard to keep us safe the last 10 years.

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