Tag Archives: Lawfare

Why Would Anybody Distrust The Spies? Ben Wittes on the “Intelligence Legitimacy Paradox”

Ben Wittes of the Brookings Institute has a new article on the popular security blog Lawfare in which he worries that the intelligence project has lost legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

No kidding.

Wittes argues,

the threat environment America faces is growing ever more complicated and multifaceted, and the ability to meet it is growing ever-more-deeply dependent on first-rate intelligence. Yet at precisely the same time, the public has grown deeply anxious about our intelligence authorities and our intelligence community is facing a profound crisis of legitimacy over its basic authorities to collect.

He ascribes this to “technology”, but technology is not the reason for public skepticism here. The immortal Marcy Wheeler over at Emptywheel correctly points out that bringing the nation into war based on false intelligence may just have played a role in public skepticism. Trevor Timm would probably add that lying to get cases dismissed should create further public skepticism about intelligence agents’ claims. However, there’s a still larger question raised by the article.

Let’s talk about the “complicated and multifaceted threat environment”.

A realistic assessment of the threats to American national security today, relative to 25 years (1989), 50 years (1964) or 75 years ago (1939), would be as follows.

America faces today no major threats to its way of life.

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