This April, the family of spy agencies in the USA received a new member agency, which will focus on Iran, North Korea and China. The new Defense Clandestine Service has now increased the number of intelligence agencies in the US to seventeen.
The US is attempting to cover all its counterparts. According to the defense secretary, Leon Panetta, the US is attempting to “do global coverage.” The new agency has been designed to assist Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in strategic issues. So far, DIA has been swamped with intelligence gathering in Afghanistan, according to the Secretary Panetta. The long term issues such as nuclear proliferation and terrorism will be addressed through this agency.
However, there are institutional problems arising from this increase in intelligence agencies. In the onset of the 9/11 attacks, US intelligence agencies proved uncoordinated and disjointed. Their efficiency was impaired by a lack of cooperation. The Bush administration restructured the hierarchy by bringing all of the agencies under one director of national intelligence. With a new member agency, coordination might prove difficult again. To avoid problems with the CIA, the new agency will be in close collaboration with the CIA.
While these agencies keep all of us under surveillance, who is to keep them in check? Tom Drake, a former National Security Agency (NSA) is a living proof of corruption and inefficiency in the US secret service sector. While he believed he was protecting his constitutional rights, the Department of Defense thought otherwise:
“A military veteran with intelligence experience, Drake discovered the NSA’s use of a data collection program that was costly, threatening to Americans’ privacy rights, and wholly undeveloped, despite the availability of a cost-effective, functional alternative that respected Americans’ privacy. He did everything by the book, raising concerns through official channels first — including senior NSA management, the Defense Department’s inspector general, and Congress. His concerns were ignored.”
While Drake is being prosecuted, we are being denied our constitutional rights. Under the 5th Amendment, personal information must be protected. While Drake was defending our 5th Amendment, some argue that the government denied him his rights under the 6th Amendment. The 6th Amendment states that everyone is entitled to a fair trial, which again some argue Drake did not receive. He was indicted for retention of classified information under the Espionage Act.
Besides the infringement upon the American lives, secret agencies infringe upon the privacy and rights of citizens abroad as well. Former CIA officer John Kiriakou was indicted only a few days ago for having leaked the information about waterboarding. Waterboarding is a torturing technique, where the subject is drowned to the point of suffocation. Foreign subjects are exposed to it when under the suspicion of terrorism. Human rights rarely matter anymore once in the hand of the US intelligence agencies. The human rights perpetrators, on the other hand, are able to go about their business unpunished.
The new intelligence agency might increase the safety of American citizens and the US property. However, without checks and balances it will become another source of human rights violations, domestically and internationally. The Government Accountability Project attempts to aid whistleblowers such as Drake and Kiriakou, but without more respect for human rights on behalf of the US government and its agencies, little will change. An unfortunate lesson to prospective whistleblowers from this will be that silence is golden, and raising one’s voice brings no good.