Since the days of Harry Truman's rude awakening to the fact that the Military had been developing the A-Bomb for years without him having a clue, it's become a sorry fact of American life that most of our Executives have been largely kept in the dark about the goings-on of the departments supposedly under their jurisdiction as "Commander-in-Chief". Arguably, Ike Eisenhower was the last President to have a full handle on the military under his command and it's pretty clear to me that his prophetic warning has long since come to pass.
After seeing the Jon Stewart clip, reposted above, I decided to look into things a bit. A once-vital part of our national defense, the shadowy alphabet soup we call the Intelligence Community is not, in fact, legally accountable to any particular branch of government, but to a National Intelligence Priorities Framework, in which the Director of National Intelligence is the highest authority.
Let me repeat that. The Director of National Intelligence is the highest authority over the wing of the military that arguably does most of our geopolitical dirty work. Not the President. Not Congress. Not the Citizenry. None of us are legally entitled to a single byte of information from our Intelligence Community unless the DNI decides to tell us.
So who is the DNI? The Honorable James R. Clapper -- a retired Lieutenant-General of the Air Force and former Marine who, before serving as Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence in the Bush II administration, "worked in industry for six years as an executive in three successive companies with his business focus being the Intelligence Community". Which three companies? Records of those are all-but-impossible to find. The article on him on Wikipedia (I know, not the most reliable of sources!) links him to those who lied to Congress regarding WMDs in Iraq and as lists him as one of the brains behind the current NSA domestic spying scandals.
So, let's do a little logical reasoning here. If the DNI, ostensibly an advisor to the President and Congress, isn't actually obliged to give real information to the President and Congress, and has sole command over a whole swath of our military, who's really in charge, here? You'll notice that while Congress and the Executive Branches were recently shut down by the Regressive Party, the military and intelligence communities continued operating with full funding and no interruption of service.
What I see here is that our Tri-branch government has largely been de facto replaced by a 4th Branch -- Ike's Military-Industrial Complex. Our entire civilian government can go the way of the do-do and this 4th Branch will still operate with full impunity -- and full immunity from any redress to the citizenry.
If ever there was a person upon whom both Progressive and Regressive alike could -- and should -- agree to place the powerful microscopic glare of the media, it is upon former Gen. Clapper. For it is he -- not Congress, not the President, and certainly not we, the People -- who commands the greatest power in our nation.
As Douglas Adams famously asserted: A President's job is not to wield power, but to distract us from those who truly wield it. One can argue that these days Congress fills that role just as much.