Tina K. Russell

June 3, 2008

We Have Met the Enemy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 3:17 pm

Chávez Decree Tightens Hold on Intelligence – NYTimes.com
President Hugo Chávez has used his decree powers to carry out a major overhaul of this country’s intelligence agencies, provoking a fierce backlash here from human rights groups and legal scholars who say the measures will force citizens to inform on one another to avoid prison terms.

Under the new intelligence law, which took effect last week, Venezuela’s two main intelligence services, the DISIP secret police and the DIM military intelligence agency, will be replaced with new agencies, the General Intelligence Office and General Counterintelligence Office, under the control of Mr. Chávez.

The new law requires people in the country to comply with requests to assist the agencies, secret police or community activist groups loyal to Mr. Chávez. Refusal can result in prison terms of two to four years for most people and four to six years for government employees.

On Sunday, Mr. Chávez referred to critics of the intelligence law as de facto supporters of the Bush administration and of the Patriot Act, the American antiterrorism law that enhances the ability of security agencies to monitor personal telephone and e-mail communications.

Mr. Chávez’s new intelligence law has similar flourishes. For instance, it authorizes his new intelligence agencies to use “any special or technically designed method” to intercept and obtain information.

There’s a saying that you know a man by his enemies; if you really want to know all about someone, look at the people he or she hates. And so, Hugo Chávez, while rightly criticizing American imperialism, chooses to fight it with a Patriot Act on steroids. Believe me, I loathe the federal government’s newfound love affair with spying on its own citizens, the national security letters, and the scandals of FBI agents seeding terrorist plots only to unmask them in hope of getting promoted. But the US government still has yet to propose a merged FBI and CIA (though the Department of Homeland Security could be considered a messy, understaffed, and ineffective version of that vision) and place it solely under Dick Cheney’s control, and meanwhile, the national security letter flood has subsided (though it’s our lawmakers’ responsibility to make them explicitly illegal). There’s a reason why we have separate domestic investigation and foreign intelligence agencies: while we should encourage the agencies to share the kind of information that could have prevented 9/11, it must be clear from the start that investigating criminal gangs in the United States is separate from keeping tabs on foreign governments, lest we begin spying on our own citizens. (Whoops…)

Shame on you, Hugo Chávez, for employing Bush-style “look over there!” tactics to distract people from your imperialist power grabs. You shoulda listened to the King of Spain when you had the chance.

–Hold on a second. There’s an “intelligence” and a “counterintelligence” agency? That sounds suspiciously like an attempt to portray all criminals as being insidious foreign actors. That’s what we do, Chávez! He’s like a Japanese automaker; he surprises us all by taking our models and making new ones far more advanced and efficient. That’s… terrifying.

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