Congress: Beware of Secret Briefings

The Obama administration has refused to release its supposed evidence implicating the Syrian government in the alleged chemical weapons attack of Aug. 21, and it now appears the “classified briefings” to Congress have been more a sales job than a dispassionate review of facts, a danger cited by activist John M. Repp.

By John M. Repp

U.S. congressional representatives and senators were called back to Washington D.C. last week and briefed about Syria before the fall session starts. They will have to decide whether to support Obama’s call for a military attack against the Syrian government.

I shudder when I think about this whole process. I remember that just before the invasion of Iraq, a few peace activists here in Seattle found out where one of our U.S. senators had a speaking engagement. We showed up and after the senator was finished, we buttonholed her and her two aides.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 4, 2013. Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey joined Hagel for the testimony. DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)

We asked her how she was going to vote on the upcoming resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq. She said several times “If you knew what I know, you would support the invasion.” She could not tell us what she knew. It was classified!

About three years later, I was again able to talk to this same senator when a peace delegation visited her office. She told us then that she had been given a top secret briefing before the invasion of Iraq that turned out to be full of false intelligence. She recognized too late that she had been fooled.

How do we know what the U.S. Congress will be told in strict confidence during the current briefings? They cannot divulge and even refer to classified intelligence in their debates. How can we the public check the validity of this information if we cannot even know what it is?

Furthermore, are not some of the same high-level people who were involved in the run-up to the Iraq invasion still part of the intelligence agencies? At that time those agencies were not able to distinguish false intelligence, even falsified intelligence from real intelligence. How do we know it will be different now?

Some of these same intelligence agencies tortured captives and then used what the captives “confessed” as good intelligence. When the intelligence services use methods like these, how can we accept their legitimacy? This all feels like something medieval, for example witch trials, or something totalitarian, like the secret police of a dictatorship.

We always hear that the intelligence services must protect their “sources and methods.” We understand why they must protect the “sources” because their sources are people, i.e., spies who could be in danger if exposed. But why are they protecting some of these more dubious “methods” in the 21st Century?

If the vote in Congress is close, could not false intelligence sway some of the less experienced representatives and senators? And, why the rush to attack Syria? This is too important a decision to be hurried.

A responsible Congress must be aware of the possibility of manipulation by classified briefing. Call or write to your representative or senator to warn them.

John M. Repp ([email protected]) Seattle, Washington, is retired and devoted to activism in the public interest.

6 comments for “Congress: Beware of Secret Briefings

  1. Hillary
    September 9, 2013 at 12:40

    Great comment Bill thank you.
    We all had the same intelligence was the “excuse” for Iraq.
    The excuse for Syria is another deja vu for neocons and AIPAC.
    Paul Wolfowitz et al who promoted the Iraq war by saying we would be welcomed there with flowers are all STILL the favored pundits in the US media.

  2. BillB
    September 9, 2013 at 12:25

    Some time after even the dumbest of Americans recognized that the Iraq war was a disaster, Dick Durbin (D-Durbin) revealed in a speech in the senate that the classified briefings given to the senate intelligence (sic) committee contradicted the lies concocted by the Bush administration and relayed by the fawning corporate media (FCM). Durbin said he couldn’t reveal this to the public because it was classified. No profile in courage there so the march of folly into Iraq continued bringing death and devastation to millions of people. At least, Durbin still had a smidgen of integrity and voted against the war. Others, similarly informed, voted for the war.

  3. MM
    September 9, 2013 at 10:16

    All wars are fought for economic/geopolitical reasons.

    This is no different.

    It’s not about “punishing” an evil act that may or may not have occurred. The alleged gassing is being used as a pretext.

  4. Yaj
    September 9, 2013 at 10:02

    All well and good, but besides the lies from the Obama administration the New York Times and the likes of old warmongers like John McCain, manipulation, and weakly only sort of barely confirmed “intelligence” regarding a still ostensive Sarin gas attack perhaps by Syrian army forces: Would real and verified evidence (unlikely to exist) of such an attack by the Syrian army really warrant the US bombing Syria?

    Our rebel proxies have committed horrors in Syria. This isn’t even close to the civil war in say Yugoslavia 1994. Assad though a dictator is not rounding up minorities and killing them, nor is he threatening the invasion of neighbors.

    Did the US threaten to bomb Israel when Israel used White Phosphorous? Oh wait the US used that chemical weapon in the punishment siege of Fallujah.

  5. F. G. Sanford
    September 9, 2013 at 09:46

    Literally thousands of veterans like myself have been trained to respond to a nerve gas attack. Survival is tenuous under the best of circumstances. The first thing required is a gas mask, which must be donned immediately and successfully sealed. Any veteran can attest that is simpler said than done. Upon confirmation of the nature of the attack, or onset of symptoms, administration of atropine, usually by “auto-injector”, must occur immediately. The device, back in my day, required a leap of faith due to its somewhat medieval nature. Upon slamming it into one’s own thigh, an inch and a half long18 gauge spring-loaded needle injects the contents of the syringe. But there’s more.

    Symptoms include twitching and uncontrolled salivation followed by vomiting and loss of bladder and bowel control progressing to convulsions. Tonic-clonic seizure symptoms make autonomic respiratory efforts ineffective. Parasympathetic effects flood the respiratory system with secretions. Blood volume drastically decreases due to secretion of fluids. I would ask the reader to imagine all this occurring inside the confines of a gas mask. Death occurs due to a combination of respiratory failure, drowning, circulatory collapse and exhaustion occurring in the post-ictal phase of convulsions.

    If the atropine injection fails, the next step in treatment is even more horrific. In my day, it was a tube containing Pralidoxime (PAM-2). The tube looked much like a tube of model airplane glue, but it was equipped with a 14 gauge needle which the victim, or his buddy, would have to insert and then squeeze the contents into a large muscle. Anyone fearing needles would be unlikely to “self administer” this, but the treatment could be repeated three times if no improvement. Sticking the spent needle in the victim’s uniform collar in order to track the cumulative dosage was the recommended procedure.

    Those administering first aid would also require gas masks and protective garments (“MOPP gear”) in order to avoid poisoning from the victims’ skin and clothing. NONE of these symptoms, treatment modalities or precautions were observed in ANY of the films or photographs publicly available.

    Believe what you will. But what occurred in Syria on 21 August WAS NOT an attack using a weapons grade nerve agent deployed by an effective delivery system. Any assertion that it was is a lie. I’m not saying something didn’t happen. I just don’t believe the official story. Too many people survived. Many of the “corpses” in the apparently staged photos did not actually look dead.

    I would also add, poison gas IS NOT a “weapon of mass destruction”. It is, first and foremost, a psychological weapon and always has been. The horrific reasons outlined above explain why. In this case, the psychological advantage is being deployed against the American public. Ordinary bombs have always been a cheaper and more effective way to kill people. So is white phosphorus (“Willie Pete”), and we’ve used plenty of that ourselves.

    • Yaj
      September 9, 2013 at 10:08

      Which raises the another point, the Obama administration, the New York Times, etc haven’t even waited for confirmation of an attack with a refined chemical weapon.

      They all have clearly forgotten the lessons of the Gulf of Tonkin.

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