Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 8, 2009

'SPYING ON SEA LIONS'.... A growing number of officials recognize the national security implications of global climate change. The NYT recently ran a report noting the ways in which a warming planet "will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics.... Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions."

With this in mind, the Central Intelligence Agency intends to develop a new division that would focus on intelligence gathering related to national security, unstable governments, and climate change. Sen. John Barrasso (R), a right-wing lawmaker from Wyoming, is working on making sure the new CIA office doesn't exist.

Senator John Barrasso, a conservative freshman Republican from Wyoming, said on Tuesday that he would try to stop the Central Intelligence Agency from opening a new climate change center by choking off its funding.

"The C.I.A. is responsible for gathering foreign intelligence information for the United States," Mr. Barrasso said in announcing an amendment to a 2010 spending bill to block any money being spent by the agency on the new office. "I don't believe creating a center on climate change is going to prevent terrorist attacks."

The agency announced late last month that it was creating a Center on Climate Change and National Security to look at how droughts, rising seas, mass migrations and competition for resources could affect the nation's military and economic priorities.

In a press release, the agency said it did not intend to duplicate scientific work done by other government and private institutions. Rather, the agency said, the new unit would advise policymakers as they negotiate and verify international environmental agreements, including whatever emerges from the 192-nation global warming talks in Copenhagen in December.

"Decision makers need information and analysis on the effects climate change can have on security," said Leon Panetta, the C.I.A. director. "The C.I.A. is well positioned to deliver that intelligence."

Well, it would be well positioned to deliver that intelligence, except John Barrasso doesn't think that information serves any purpose.

As he sees it, a Center on Climate Change and National Security would spend its time "sitting in a dark room watching polar ice caps" and "spying on sea lions."

I get the distinct impression that John Barrasso is conspicuously unintelligent, and should probably speak less and read more.

Steve Benen 9:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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It's sad that, as a child, I used to take civics lessons to heart and think that our elected representatives were honestly trying to serve the nation and keep our best interests at heart. I understood that a few were dishonest or corrupt, but thought that the bulk of them were serious and decent people. To now see, time and time again, that so many are "conspicuously unintelligent," venal, small-minded, and intellectually dishonest, and to think that these people were actually chosen in a free election by my fellow citizens, still--after all these years--is somewhat disappointing.

Oh, well...I guess I can go look for my old "Rosebud" sled somewhere...sigh.

Posted by: seriously on October 8, 2009 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

"I get the distinct impression that John Barrasso is conspicuously unintelligent, and should probably speak less and read more."

Yeah, I get the feeling that's likely impossible as he'll need to talk as he reads.

Posted by: Rob on October 8, 2009 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

The party of "no".

And of course if the GOP succeeds in blocking the office, watch them complain next week about how the democrats have left policymakers uninformed about crucial forces affecting national security.

Posted by: paul on October 8, 2009 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Barrasso is also on record as claiming that Medicare is virtually bankrupt, and that most people don't want a public health insurance option. Wyoming residents seem to have chosen a new senator of the Flight from Reality Party.

Posted by: Balakirev on October 8, 2009 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

and to think that these people were actually chosen in a free election by my fellow citizens, still--after all these years--is somewhat disappointing.

Wyoming residents seem to have chosen a new senator of the Flight from Reality Party.

Wyoming has the same problem that most of the country has. Namely, that special interest groups are the backbone for getting these creeps elected. It's not about constituents, it's about money and power. Once a politician aligns himself/herself with these special interests, the rest is easy as the "voting public" can be easily wooed with nice hair and "concern" about issues facing the "family".

Posted by: oh well on October 8, 2009 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

I get the distinct impression that John Barrasso is conspicuously unintelligent, and should probably speak less and read more.

That describes a lot of people in Congress and in the media. It could just be the $$$ talking, though.

Posted by: qwerty on October 8, 2009 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Not just the party of "no," but also of "know nothing." Or, maybe, the party that "knows what it knows, if you know what I mean."

It amazes me that my home state can't manage to do better than nulls like Barrasso or Enzi. Almost makes one nostalgic for Malcolm Wallop...almost!

Posted by: docdave on October 8, 2009 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

I have a few reading suggestions for Barrasso, starting with Jared Diamond's "Collapse," and proceeding from there to Rhys Carpenter's classic study "The Discontinuity in Greek Civilization." There are more recent excavation reports documenting how the great Akkadian empire, the first government to rule a united Mesopotamia, collapsed largely due to a climate change and prolonged drought. Climate change can kill more people and destroy more political systems than Osama bin Laden could even imagine in his wildest dreams.

Posted by: T-Rex on October 8, 2009 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

"I get the distinct impression that John Barrasso is conspicuously unintelligent, and should probably ____ rise rapidly in the Republican leadership."

Fixt for ya.

Better with strike, but...

Posted by: les on October 8, 2009 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

From the way Sheppard Smith took Barasso apart on Fox about health care, the guy is a total moron. But then, Wyoming makes Texas look like Periclean Athens.

Posted by: TCinLA on October 8, 2009 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps it would be better to give this responsibility to the State Department. They seem to have a better track record and it probably doesn't require any covert information gathering.

Posted by: MGW on October 8, 2009 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

To now see, time and time again, that so many are "conspicuously unintelligent," venal, small-minded, and intellectually dishonest, and to think that these people were actually chosen in a free election by my fellow citizens, still--after all these years--is somewhat disappointing.

"Consider a Congressman, then consider an idiot. Ah, but I repeat myself."
-- Mark Twain, 1872

Posted by: TCinLA on October 8, 2009 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

I get the distinct impression that John Barrasso is conspicuously unintelligent, and should probably speak less and read more.

Rep Barrosso is a fully representative member of his political tribe.

Posted by: SRW1 on October 8, 2009 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

The CIA monitoring Climate Change.

Dumbest idea since Volcano Monitoring. . .

Posted by: Gov. Jindal on October 8, 2009 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

I read in... National Geographic I think it was, that the Canadians and Russians, and the Danish to some extent, are already fully engaged in positioning themselves to take possession of oil/mineral rights under the north pole, once the ice melts and drilling becomes possible in the decades ahead. The Russians are busy building a whole new class of ice breaker to establish naval supremacy. I'd love to hear Barrasso's thoughts on these developments.

Posted by: pinson on October 8, 2009 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Here's an AP story on the same subject:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/10/russia-making-broad-claim_n_213966.html

Posted by: pinson on October 8, 2009 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

It's interesting that an MD who is a board certified Orthopedic Surgeon and who is a rodeo physician for the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association should be so strikingly uninformed.

Why is it that physicians in politics are so often so uninformed or even idiotic? Consider, for example, Ron Paul who is an obstetrician and was an Air Force flight surgeon.

Posted by: Rick B on October 8, 2009 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

Barrosso sounds aliteratively a little like Sargasso. It makes me wonder ...

Posted by: rbe1 on October 8, 2009 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

It's interesting that an MD who is a board certified Orthopedic Surgeon ...

Yes but he's from Wyoming. Is that Cheney's state ?

Posted by: rbe1 on October 8, 2009 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, to say that Barrasso was freely elected by the voters is a mistake. He is a symptom of the undemocratic methods so often used to choose Senators. According to Wikipedia, Barrasso had been a state Senator.

"Barrasso was chosen on June 22, 2007, by Democratic Governor Dave Freudenthal to replace the late U.S. Craig L. Thomas. Freudenthal was, as required under Wyoming state law, able to consider only three individuals whose names were submitted to him by the Republican State Central Committee because the seat was vacated by a Republican." Wikipedia He then ran in the special election for the remaining four years of the senate term. So he was appointed to the seat, and then was able to win a special election (probably low turnout) because he was the incumbent and the Republicans were committed to supporting him. In essence he was an administrative appointee assigned the position by bureaucrats in the Wyoming Republican Party.

I doubt that as a licensed physician he is unintelligent. But politically, instead of an education he is trapped in the conservative ideology and mentality. And why does a physician who is a graduate of Georgetown University School of Medicine with a residency at Yale Medical School move to Wyoming in the first place? He was looking for a conservative rural culture to live and work in.

Of course, Sen Tom Coburn from Oklahoma is another physician/Senator, and he doesn't display all that much intelligence, either.

It's too simplistic to say that Barrasso is just another stupid conservative. He's not stupid. Who doesn't want the CIA to set up that division and why? They've bought themselves a Senator.

Posted by: Rick B on October 8, 2009 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Sometimes people on the left are just entirely too nice. If the Republicans had a story like this to spin, it would be all about how Barrosso is trying to stop Obama from defending the nation. And of course from there they would go on to talk about how Barrosso obviously hates America and wants Osama bin Laden to marry his daughter.

Well, I'm not going to try to guess at Barrosso's hidden feelings (although I do often wonder how all these right-wingers can claim to love America so much even while they hate three quarters of the population). But it is factually accurate to says he's trying to block a program that's being set up to defend the nation. Why not run with that?

Posted by: Stephen Stralka on October 8, 2009 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, he's just grandstanding. He's not on the Senate Intelligence Committee, so he doesn't have any suasion over this. It's just grabbing headlines for the local press.

Posted by: Sock Puppet of the Great Satan on October 8, 2009 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

pinson: the Canadians and Russians, and the Danish to some extent, are already fully engaged in positioning themselves to take possession of oil/mineral rights under the north pole, once the ice melts and drilling becomes possible in the decades ahead. The Russians are busy building a whole new class of ice breaker to establish naval supremacy.

If that's true, then the Russians are preparing for both eventualities: more summer melting and return to average summer melting. Presumably, the CIA will also cover all contingencies: return to the previous 20th century average, continued cooling of the earth, resumption of warming. They might even conduct the first ever unbiased review of all the evidence relevant to the assertion of AGW.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on October 8, 2009 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

The CIA should focus its priorities on more pressing matters of national security, ones that they and only they can cover.

Let government agencies dealing with climate-related issues collect and analyze data on global climate issues and let the CIA focus on stuff like terrorism and espionage.

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