This report sheds some light on the utter breakdown in the “relationship” between the CIA and Congress. As for the Democrats’ latest claim — apparently based on Leon Panetta’s accusation — that Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the CIA not to brief Congress on a plan to take out top al Qaeda operatives, former CIA chief Michael Hayden says it isn’t so: “I never felt I had any impediment in briefing Congress.”
But the depth of the hostility between Congress and the CIA is now out in the open:
Former spies and some political leaders are saying that a lack of trust between Congress and the CIA is putting the country’s security in jeopardy.
“It’s one of the last nails in the CIA’s coffin. It’s finished. It’s over. It’s done,” said former Central Intelligence Agency operative Robert Baer, whose exploits in the Middle East were the model for George Clooney’s role in “Syriana.”
“I know I’ve been lied to,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said.
The rift between Congress and the CIA has been so bitter that when analysts have headed to Capitol Hill, the agency gave them this stock response: “I’m sorry, but I will be unable to continue our dialogue if you continue to question my integrity or that of my agency.”
“The danger is today that we might go too far,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas. “And that could cause us to not have that critical bit of intelligence that could protect this country.”
The current administration and Congress have, as Sen Judd Gregg put it, brought us full circle back to “this Frank Church atmosphere in this Senate and in this Congress, where, basically, where people use the CIA as a whipping boy.” How’s morale over at Langley?
“You have people running for the doors there, continue running for the doors, and it’s going to hurt our national security,” Baer said. “It’s going to interfere with stopping another 9/11.”
With rising criticism and poisoned relations with Congress, the agency’s headquarters feel like a morgue, he says.
Another blow for morale could come if Holder goes ahead with criminal investigations into so-called enhanced interrogation tactics.
Republicans say the appointment of a special prosecutor and prosecutions of high-level career CIA operatives is a bad idea.
“This continued attack on the CIA and our intelligence-gathering organizations is undermining the morale and capacity of those organizations to gather intelligence,” Gregg said.
The swirl of investigations seems to be exactly what President Obama has repeatedly said he does not want. . . But looking backward is exactly what is happening. With a special prosecutor likely to be named and congressional Democrats preparing their own investigations, the debate over the Bush administration’s actions after the Sept. 11 attacks remains front-and-center in Washington.
So that would make Obama’s national-security policy a failure then, if we take him at his word. We are doing nothing but looking back and telling those whose job it is to protect us that they will not be protected but indicted, smeared, and second-guessed. The president and his CIA chief Panetta, despite their pretty words and a glad-handing visit to Langley earlier in the year, seem intent on stirring the pot and playing another round of “get the Bush administration,” rather than striving to maintain and improve our national-security apparatus. It would be hard to imagine how so much damage could be infliected in such a short time. But this crew managed to do it. It’s a “change” alright.