Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The CIA can't cover their tracks

Nothing really bothered me more -- in the early blogging days -- than to come to the realization that the United States, represented by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, was kidnapping and torturing people in the wake of 9/11.  And close behind that, what we came to quaintly call warrantless wiretapping of American citizens.

A decade has passed and there remains no proper accounting for either of those atrocities.  The NYT op-ed board presents the state of that union today. (My emphasis throughout.)

It was outrageous enough when two successive presidents papered over the Central Intelligence Agency’s history of illegal detention, rendition, torture and fruitless harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects. Now the leader of the Senate intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein, has provided stark and convincing evidence that the C.I.A. may have committed crimes to prevent the exposure of interrogations that she said were “far different and far more harsh” than anything the agency had described to Congress.

Senator DiFi, both long and recently a staunch defender of the surveillance state as it evolved over the past 12 years, has flip-flopped.  Her transformed thinking came about as a result of her discovery this week that yes, the CIA spies on senators too, just like it does the rest of us.  David Corn at Mother Jones immediately recognized the constitutional crisis, but you can read about that in a moment.

Feinstein’s speech detailed the lengths to which the C.I.A. had gone to hinder the committee’s investigation, which it began in 2009 after senators learned the agency had destroyed videotapes of the interrogations under President George W. Bush. Under President Obama, prosecutors exonerated the officials who ordered those tapes destroyed.

Feinstein said that when Senate staff members reviewed thousands of documents describing those interrogations in 2009, they found that the C.I.A.’s leadership seriously misled the committee when it described the interrogations program to the panel in 2006, “only hours before President Bush disclosed the program to the public.”

When the Senate staff compiled a still undisclosed 6,300-page report, it described these acts and also concluded that the C.I.A. had falsely claimed that torture and other brutality produced useful intelligence. The report has been going through the snail’s pace review and declassification process since December 2012. The C.I.A. disputed some of its findings. But Feinstein publicly confirmed on Tuesday that an internal review by the C.I.A. had reached conclusions similar to those in the Senate staff report. 

Almost flushed down the memory hole, but like a massive dump in a low-flow toilet, the CIA couldn't plunge fast enough.

It was the committee staff’s possession of that internal review — which the C.I.A. has refused to give to the Senate — that spurred what Ms. Feinstein said was an illegal search of computers (provided to the Senate staff by the C.I.A.) that contained drafts of the internal review. 

Ms. Feinstein said that staff members found the drafts among the documents that the C.I.A. had made available to the committee. She said she did not know whether the drafts were put there inadvertently, or by a whistle-blower. The Senate’s possession of the documents was entirely legal, she said.

Are we all caught up now?  This isn't an episode of Homeland, or 24, or House of Cards.  No teevee show can concoct a plot this nefarious.  It would be rejected as too outlandish by the producers.

The Justice Department now has a criminal investigation to conduct, but the C.I.A. internal review and the Senate report must be released. Feinstein called on President Obama to make public the Senate report, which he has supported doing in the past. She said that this would “ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.”

The lingering fog about the C.I.A. detentions is a result of Mr. Obama’s decision when he took office to conduct no investigation of them. We can only hope he knows that when he has lost Dianne Feinstein, he has no choice but to act in favor of disclosure and accountability.

Mo Dowd breaks it down for you if you're still not feeling any sense of urgency.

In his mad odyssey through the dark side — waterboarding, secret rendition, indefinite detention, unnecessary war and manipulation of C.I.A. analysis — Dick Cheney did his best to vitiate our system of checks and balances. His nefarious work is still warping our intelligence system more than a decade later.

Barack Obama, the former Constitutional law teacher who became president vowing to clean up the excesses and Constitutional corrosion of W. and Cheney, will now have to clean up the excesses and Constitutional corrosion in his own administration. And he’d better get out from between two ferns and get in between the warring Congressional Democrats and administration officials — all opening criminal investigations of each other — because it looks as if the C.I.A. is continuing to run amok to cover up what happened in the years W. and Vice encouraged it to run amok.

Langley needs a come-to-Jesus moment — pronto.

One last bit.

In June, Brennan had issued a 122-page classified rebuttal to the still-classified $40 million, 6,300-page Senate report. But Feinstein said on the floor that she found the C.I.A. riposte “puzzling,” given that the Panetta internal review admitted to what the C.I.A.’s rebuttal objected to. Given the C.I.A.’s 2005 destruction of videotapes showing the torture of two Al Qaeda operatives, Feinstein said she has now locked up in the committee vault in the Hart Office Building the parts of the (former CIA chief) Panetta review that her staff had printed out before it disappeared. She has also requested in writing that Brennan turn over a complete version of the review to the committee.

She said she has received no answers from Brennan, who is no fan of Congress or the media, to her formal questions about the agency’s actions and no response to her request for an apology. She was clearly appalled by the nerve of the agency’s acting general counsel, Robert Eatinger, in making a criminal referral to the Justice Department suggesting her staff is guilty of wrongdoing.

She noted that Eatinger, whom she identified only by job title, worked in the Bush administration as a lawyer in the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, which carried out the notorious detention and interrogation program. She observed archly that Eatinger’s name was cited more than 1,600 times in the Senate report.

In 2007, The Times’s Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane reported that when a C.I.A. official trashed those interrogation videotapes, he told superiors that two C.I.A. lawyers had signed off on it. One was Eatinger. In a Q. & A. at the Council on Foreign Relations just after Feinstein’s floor speech, Brennan told Andrea Mitchell that he is in no way trying to “thwart” the Senate. He denied that the C.I.A. hacked into Senate computers, noting that it was beyond “the scope of reason in terms of what we would do.”

But is anything beyond the scope of reason for the C.I.A. anymore? Shouldn’t someone have gone to jail now besides the guy who blew the whistle on waterboarding? It’s typical that Langley, which has bungled so much for decades, couldn’t even spy on the Senate properly without getting caught. 

Another appropriate question: was the CIA too busy spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee to notice that Vladimir Putin was about to usurp the Ukraine?  To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, we apparently are going to have refight the Cold War with the spies -- and their lawyers -- that we have, not the ones we wish we had.

And I don't trust any of those fuckers one little bit.  To David Corn, as referenced above.

What Feinstein didn't say—but it's surely implied—is that without effective monitoring, secret government cannot be justified in a democracy. This is indeed a defining moment. It's a big deal for President Barack Obama, who, as is often noted in these situations, once upon a time taught constitutional law. Feinstein has ripped open a scab to reveal a deep wound that has been festering for decades. The president needs to respond in a way that demonstrates he is serious about making the system work and restoring faith in the oversight of the intelligence establishment.

We'll stand by patiently as we wait for the president's bold, firm, authoritative response.


Gadfly said...

Sen. Betty Crocker, you mean? A waste of a good Senate seat from California that could theoretically be more liberal.

As for Corn? I think he's wrong and doubt this is illegal. I'll venture that, at least with the Patriot Act, in its rush to pass it and look patriotic, Members of Congress forgot their usual rigamarole about exempting themselves from its oversight.

PDiddie said...

Is Mo Dowd and the NYT op-e board also wrong? If none of this is illegal, then what is? Nothing? Something else?

And if there is a line drawn somewhere... then where? Forget the fact that nobody wants to enforce it; WHERE in the fuck is it?

Gadfly said...

Oh, I agree totally it **should be** illegal, as I think you know.

But, I bet Congress blew it on not exempting itself on some of this.

That said, next time the Patriot Act and other legislation is revisited, that line will be drawn ... for Congress to exempt itself. Same shit, different day.

PDiddie said...

It is illegal, it's just not being prosecuted. That's my problem.

Gadfly said...

Oh, some of it's illegal, yes. But, there's also stuff that should be illegal and isn't. And, in the past, of course, whenever Congress sees that, they just expand the boundaries of whatever's legal.

You know, like Dear Leader did for telecoms back when he was Senator Dear Leader in 2008.

With Sen. Betty Crocker, it's just all about whose ox is being gored, you know.

Elderlady said...

So, Senator DIFI is fine with .... the CIA looking at what you and me do.... but not what she does.... or Senate Staff does.... whom I'm sure, are all TOTALLY ABOVE THE LAW.

I'm so damned tired of the hypocrisy of these people.

The CIA spies on people. It's their job.
So, are you going to have a Senate Hearing "al la Issa" on the CIA or what??

Are we still at war... or not??? That's the question...and nobody including Senator DIFI seems to have an answer. If we are. She and a lot of people just need to STFU. If we are let the CIA do their job.

If we are not. Fire all the Summbitches.... and let's all get on with our lives.

But for all our sakes.... CUT THE DAMNED DRAMA. PLEASE, AND THANK YOU.