February 24, 2010

Out of the Shadows

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Today marks the 66th anniversary of the completion of the final plans for codename Operation Overlord, the blueprint behind The Battle of Normandy in 1944. With over three years of planning, the Allies pulled off a top-secret, successful invasion across the English Channel, something that had not been done in the last nine centuries. The tide of war swiftly turned once the victory of D-day secured the establishment of a new major front, and Germany, who was caught off guard and ill equipped, was forced to retreat and loose most of its hold on France.

How could it be that Operation Overlord was the largest seaborne invasion in history, yet Germany’s networks of spies and informants did not see them coming? Well, because Washington can keep secrets. On top of all Overlord files being classified, decoys, plants, double agents feeding misinformation, balloon tanks and dead bodies with doctored messages kept the Gestapo, SS and Hitler guessing when and where the invasion was going to happen.

While blood was being shed on the French Riviera, across the Atlantic on American soil, Columbia University’s football team was being used to move loads of uranium across their campus. They, among 700 other Columbia professors and students, were part of a $22 billion plot that by 1944 involved 130,000 people across major cities of the U.S. The Manhattan Project was, like Overlord, an invisible giant; no one that wasn’t directly involved with the project knew that beneath the streets of U.S. cities and within secret labs Ivy League professors were partnering with European scientists in an attempt to produce plutonium guns, uranium fire bombs and nuclear weapons.

Washington’s mastery of secrecy and being able to move through underground channels gave America the edge during WWII. War calls for these desperate measures, but where do clandestine operations fall in times of peace?

Another anniversary is celebrated today; February 25th marks the date when Fidel Castro released 1,113 prisoners from the failed 1961 CIA-led Bay of Pigs Invasion. During the ’60s and ’70s Cuba was not alone — American-sponsored dictators put in power by armies of the night were running rampant across South America — Chile, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, no country was free from the reach of Washington’s shadow arm of imperialism.

The failed Bay of Pigs invasion brought unwanted heat and publicity on the CIA. The Church and Pike Committee were setup to divulge all secrets regarding Washington’s involvement with CIA assassination operations going on around Latin America and the world. After the release of these studies, which contained detailed conversations on the steps for assassinations and toppling of governments, Gerald R. Ford passed Executive Order 11905 to ban political assassinations and improve oversight on foreign intelligence activities.

But when political agendas hold more weight than the law, old habits die hard. Not long after Ford’s ban was in place, the CIA had dispatched agents to train Nicaraguan Contras for another coup d’etat. They provided them with weapons, supplies and taught them torture methods from a manual titled, “Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare.” This time the world took notice, and the International Court of Justice took the case of Nicaragua V. United States where the judgment in 1984 stated that the US should “cease and refrain from unlawful use of force against the government of Nicaragua”.

The International Court of Justice ruling against the U.S. was ignored, with the U.S. making the claim that the ICJ had no jurisdiction. The published committee reports on the clandestine assassinations and government toppling operation were also brushed aside. Washington’s shadow missions were not slowing down. But instead the U.S. began ramping back up its intelligence programs during the ’80s. With Ronald Reagan now in power, Executive Order 12333 was passed in 1984, which reversed Ford’s ban on political assassinations along with provisions to further grow the CIA’s power, influence and funding.

There are currently bills in today’s Congress that seek to broaden the statutory authorization of electronic surveillance within the US such as the National Security Surveillance Act, the Terrorist Surveillance Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Improvement and Enhancement Act. They would allow for warrantless electronic surveillance and increase the threshold of warrantless searches by changing the peacetime period for obtaining retroactive warrants to seven days.

Already we are seeing breaches of privacy and the relinquishing of liberties through unwarranted searches. In 2007 Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell made statement that confirmed that the private sector firms such as AT&T were not only being compliant, but engaging in for-profit business in regards to warrantless surveillance programs. Qwest Communications also came forward in 2007, alleging that the government proposed contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to engage in an unidentified National Security Agency program.

Everyday brings us closer to graduation, and these years have not only been about preparing ourselves for success in the real world, but also about coming to the realization that we must carry the heavy burdens we are inheriting. A resilient passion to question authority exists when were young. It is no coincidence that the window where our lives are void of the corruption of life’s tragedies, regrets and responsibilities exists only within the innocence found in our youth. The attraction to inquiry is instinctive as if the naive and inexperienced minds of youth were purposely designed by God and evolution to serve as humanity’s feedback loop. Destiny provides the blind positivity the children of the world need to brave the sins of their fathers in order to allow a new culture to grow, spread and guide society’s progress in directions opposite of extinction. The words — of what can always be the last act of the tragic comedy that is humanity’s timeline — are to be written by us, the members of the generation who within the coming decades will be handed the reins of society. It will be up to us to uphold a more righteous direction and impose these slumbered morals on society and the powers that be.

Vicente Gonzalez is a junior in the College of Industrial and Labor Relations. He may be reached at vgonzalez@cornellsun.com. Color Between the Lines appears alternate Thursdays this semester.

Original Author: Vicente Gonzalez