Exit Strategies

FBI Make-Work

Alexander Cockburn at Counterpunch makes the case that this sexy Russian spy story is much to do about nothing.

There’s been ripe chortling about the spy network run in the U.S.A. by the Russian SVR – successor to the KGB in the area of foreign intelligence. The eleven accused were supposedly a bunch of bumblers so deficient in remitting secrets to Moscow across nearly a decade that the FBI can’t even muster the evidence to charge them with espionage. The ten who have been arrested are accused of conspiracy to act as agents of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. attorney general, which is what lobbyists here do if they are working for, say, Georgia or China. Their filings are available for public review at the Commerce Department. If the Russians are convicted, they could be sentenced up to five years in prison.

All of the defendants who appeared in the New York court except one, the fetching Anna Chapman, are also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years of prison.

Assuming their lawyers don’t get them off, a doubtful proposition, we can assume the Russians will round up 11 Americans, accuse them of spying and then do a trade. Then both sides will start again, the Russians training fresh sets of agents to spout American baseball records, burn hamburgers over the backyard grill, jog and do other all-American things like have negative equity on their houses and owe the IRS money, and the Americans forcing their agents to read Dostoevsky.

 He goes into the possible motivations of the FBI.

The Russians say darkly that it was an effort by neoconservative forces to mar the pleasant encounter between presidents Medvedev and Obama. Maybe. But as a right-wing conspiracy to bring back the Cold War it was pretty pathetic. The Obama administration made haste to discount any serious diplomatic backwash from the arrests. Maybe the Russians were about to roll up the ring and the FBI wanted to grab a few headlines and justify their next budget request. Maybe it was part of some internecine feud between U.S. intelligence agencies. If there is – as seems likely – a back story, it will be years, if ever, before it comes out.

The FBI is probably thrilled to come up with some spies who aren’t Israelis or Americans working for the Israelis who are routinely spared the inconvenience of any trial by the intervention of Israeli-backed U.S. politicians and speedily released.

I have a hard time believing that the FBI is crawling with neo-conservative ideologues hell-bent on confronting Russia, though I could be wrong.  More likely they want to make sure that they continue giving Congress reasons to fund them.

A fundamental difference between us and the mainstream right is the latter divides government into categories of good and bad.  The parasitic state employees-social workers, run of the mill paper pushers, etc.- and their departments are subject to all the evil effects of bureaucratization while the more masculine government workers-law enforcement, firemen, soldiers-are selfless public servants who always need “support.”  In reality, like with anyone else who lives off the taxpayer, if there’s no real reason to justify an intelligence agency or large army it becomes in the interests of those working in these fields to “make work.”  The problem is even worse than it is in the rest of government because make-work military and law enforcement employees, unlike superfluous teacher's aides for example, need to kill people or throw them in jail in order to remain necessary.  

Those who see the state as something that either should be minimized or cease to exist all together need to be just as suspicious of government workers who carry guns as they are of those who don't, if not more so.