Monday, April 19, 2010

Spook Law for the Invisibile Government

Here’s a tidbit with plenty of room for cynical spin to share with all those out there with a skeptical eye towards law school. I just found out that McGeorge Law School in Sacramento is run by a powerful woman with one leg firmly planted into the world of spooks.

McGeorge’s Dean Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker used to be “the General Counsel” of the NSA under the Reagan Administration, and “the General Counsel" of the CIA under the George Herbert Walker Bush Administration. These are powerful positions that are nominated directly by the President and must get approval from the Senate. Finding this out sure made me wonder how these conservative Presidents would have had enough knowledge and wherewithal to nominate such a lawyer. During the Reagan/Bush Sr. Era, the U.S. Intelligence community was challenging the status quo of legality for paramilitary operations around the world, from bombing Libya to occupying Panama to arrest Manuel Noriega.

Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker probably first entered the U.S. intelligence community in the first half of the 1980s, working for the powerful Washington law firm Surrey & Morse (this law firm was absorbed into Jones Day). One of its co-founders, Walter Sterling Surrey (1915-1989), has been described by at least one U.S. intelligence community researcher, John Cummings, as “a charter member of the old boy network of U.S. intelligence.” (see Pete Brewton, The Mafia, CIA and Bush (1992)). In 1971, Surrey was one of the original founders of the infamous World Finance Corporation (WFC), which under the dubious leadership of its founder, Cuban Guillermo Hernández-Cartaya (b. 1932?), ran amuck into illegal activities, including money laundering for Colombian cocaine and international arms dealers. There were even connections to the banking scandals of Italy’s Propaganda Due (“P2”) and the Vatican Bank, as depicted in the movie Godfather Part III. Surrey resigned shortly before the collapse of the WFC, denying any knowledge of wrongdoing or criminality.

Although perhaps an obscure fact, it was by no means a State secret that Surrey apparently used his law firm to vet lawyers for future positions in the U.S. Intelligence community. Apparently he did this for at least Rindskopf Parker for the NSA General Counsel, as well as her successor (apparently his own son, Richard Sterling Surrey, although I can’t verify exactly who this and many others on these lists are). Here’s as complete a list of past NSA General Counsels as I can muster for this blog:

Sidney Smith 1953-1959
Roy R. Banner 1959-1978
Daniel B. Silver 1978-1979
Daniel C. Schwartz 1979-1981 Bryan Cave LLP
Jon T. Anderson 1981-1984
Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker 1984-1989 Dean, McGeorge Law School
Richard Sterling Surrey 1990-1992
Stewart A. Baker 1992-1994
Ronald D. Lee 1994-1998 Arnold & Porter LLP
Robert L. Deitz 1998-2006 currently George Mason University
Vito T. Potenza (acting general counsel)

These general counsels were supposed to know about and completely analyze every NSA operation to determine the legality of it. Rindskopf Parker took over at the NSA less than a month after the La Penca bombing in May 1984, and the Iran-Contra Affair was in full gear. Much of Lt. Col. Oliver North’s operations (including the infamous diversion of funds to the “Contras” in Nicaragua) ought to have come across her desk, but she never emerged as a prominent figure in this scandal or any other scandals for that matter.

She then was nominated to be the General Counsel of the CIA (head of the Office of General Counsel or OGC) and took over that post in 1990. The following is an incomplete list of people holding this position (please help me complete it):

Lawrence R. Houston 1947-1973 (died 1995)
John Warner 1975?
Anthony A. Lapham 1976-1979 (died 2006)
Daniel B. Silver 1981-1982 (see above)
Stanley Sporkin ????-1986 Gavel Consulting Group
David P. Doherty 1988 retired, NYSE Euronext, Inc.
Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker 1990-1992 (see above)
Jeffrey H. Smith 1995-1996 Arnold & Porter LLP
Robert M. McNamara, Jr. 1997-2000 OmniTrust Security Systems(?)
Scott W. Muller 2002-2004 Davis, Polk & Wardwell LLP
John A. Rizzo (acting) 2002-2005 currently in the news about destroying tapes
Stephen Preston 2009-

This would have been an interesting transitional period for the CIA, since the major reason for the Agency’s existence, the Soviet Union, had just collapsed. Still, her extracurricular activities in the U.S. Intelligence community include being a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and being a member of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security. When she makes public appearances as a pundit, her views strangely lean towards the liberal side.

I think Rindskopf Parker and other lawyers on these lists demonstrate that there is a deep connection to be drawn between the American Bar Association and the U.S. Intelligence Community. It’s no secret that the legal world has become one of the most important forces in the world of politics, but this means that setting public policy is not always a matter for the Courts or any other official procedure within the confines of our visible Government.

Talk of the “Shadow Government” reveals its implements in the U.S. Intelligence community. I lived through the 1980s watching Reagan and Papa Bush break one law after the other, using spin and control over the media to make it all seem like they were doing nothing wrong. In the 1990s, we then watched the exact opposite: every scandal possible stuck to the Clintons, including one of the most farcical sex scandals in political history, leading to only the second impeachment of a President in U.S. history. Then came Baby Bush, and pure lawlessness returned.

Make it through law school and into your cushy job and you’ll get to be one of the brats. For the rest of us, we need to stand up to the spooks, the ABA, and whatever other shadow entity tells us that we have been “eliminated,” for little other reason than “the tribe has spoken.”

Learn the law. Keep Government visible.

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