The Intercept Becomes Its Own Punchline in Weak War-Profiteer Exposés

Low-key Intercept hire Ken Silverstein has been writing a series of articles billed as exposés of war profiteering. Connecting these dots is always useful and interesting. But while I would love to read the dirty details of what beltway assholes got rich off Iraqi evisceration and Afghan obliteration, the series is kneecapped by a goofy lack of analytical awareness that pervades all of The Intercept’s coverage. And most of the pieces have little to do with war, aside from the fact that most of what Washington does is funded by the lucre siphoned off US foreign policy. Silverstein relies more on mild invective than establishing a real case and peppers his revelations with positively Greenwaldian smears, though he lacks his founding editor’s infamous piquancy.

An oceanfront Palm Beach penthouse is a sexy backdrop for former FBI chief Louis Freeh’s sliminess and greed. Freeh runs a consultancy that helps represent the naughty rich and connected, and Silverstein hinges his entire case against Freeh on the fact that his client Saudi Prince Bandar’s country was “home to fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers” and on that government’s “export of Wahhabism.” Everyone involved is scum. But Saudi Arabia is a US ally, acting in the interests of the very US foreign policy from which Freeh benefits. No aberration from the imperial playbook is noted. If all he’s got to pick on Bandar is that his country raised some bad people and has nasty policies, the national character of the US must be absolutely unmentionable. And lo, it somehow always is.

In another smack at Freeh, we’re meant to be outraged at his involvement in defending an Israeli billionaire — the first time we’ve seen the word used with an implied negative connotation at The Intercept? — on bribery charges. The entire article is about the accused, capped only by a schmucky assurance that “Freeh could be just the right guy to exonerate” his client.

When former head of the CIA George Tenet comes up, with his four million-dollar book deal and $200,000 salary, we’re treated to his list of “failures” that are apparently supposed to make us shake our heads in disbelief.

As head of the CIA, he missed multiple signs of a major Al Qaeda attack directed against the United States,

The CIA is supposed to protect us!

called the case against Saddam building Weapons of Mass Destruction a “slam dunk,”

Um, is this not an article on how war has made certain people very very rich?

and approved the Bush administration’s torturing of terror suspects.

Torture is no good for information-gathering that would have, say, helped the CIA protect us from those dirty Saudis. But it’s actually great for sowing terror among your enemies and subjects, a thing the government spends a hell of a lot of money to do.

And yet, Silverstein thinks that “in any fair world Tenet would be tried for criminal incompetence.”

The idea that Tenet has somehow not done precisely what was expected of him echoes back through the evidence against Freeh. He “botched” cases against America’s enemies! Can you believe he’s so rich! Ken Silverstein can’t. What would the Founding Fathers say about letting Wen Ho Lee get away with betraying Washington’s nuclear dominance? The guy was “asleep at the wheel” of the FBI, that other heroic defender of American liberty.

Silverstein’s latest piece summarizes how House staffer cum lobbyist Stephen Rademaker and his wife, AEI apparatchik Danielle Pletka, double-team the foreign-policy establishment for the big bucks that pay for their 6,000+ square-foot suburban DC spread. It’s gross, but this is classic revolving-door shit. You can tune into Rachel Maddow for more of that. In noting Rademaker drafted the legislation that created the Dept. of Homeland Security, Silverstein says the agency is “now widely regarded as the most dysfunctional part of the federal government.” I thought this was supposed to be a series on how war profiteering makes connected people wealthy. In what way is DHS “dysfunctional” in this equation?

Freeh’s penthouse, by the way, isn’t connected to the War on Terror, but to his involvement in the Penn State child molestation scandal. In fact, Silverstein’s story is really just about how connected officials move on to well-remunerated gigs in their post-official lives, which is true of them all, not just ones who ran war-connected bureaucracies.

More pieces, like this one full of details on the rise of political consultant Jim Messina and another on the very unethical ethics professor Robert Deitz, fit the Intercept pattern of pointing out the alleged hypocrisy of a system that promotes the scum of the earth to lofty positions.

Ultimately, it’s a briefer, less interesting rehash of the much more exhaustive work others have done showing the murky web of neocon operatives, their foreign elite co-conspirators, multinational corporations, and the US government and the death and destruction that feeds this machine. In that way it’s typical of all Intercept coverage: Greenwaldized reblogs of things already covered elsewhere, lots of dry facts recited in lengthy articles with unsubstantive conclusions and no important impact.

Neh.

But perhaps the punchline is when Silverstein described his investigatory visit to Messina’s corporate trust-owned house. He took with him on that trip The Intercept‘s new editor, Sharon Weinberger, whose shilling for the military-industrial complex puts some of these other guys to shame. Maybe she gets a pass from Silverstein since so far the only riches she seems to have been gifted is the helm of a publication whose main product is self-unaware mountebankery.

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