FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Who is Watching the CIA?

by

Prior to the start of the Church Committee hearings in 1975, Senator Frank Church (D/ID) referred to the CIA as a “rogue elephant out of control.”  I had a conversation with Senator Church in the late 1970s, and he agreed that his remarks were an overstatement and that there were no examples of the CIA conducting even unsavory operations that were not in response to instructions or guidance from the White House.

However, we now have an example of the CIA as a “rogue elephant out of control” in its efforts to block the investigation of the Senate intelligence committee into CIA torture and abuse.  For the first time in my memory, the CIA has challenged the constitutional principle of separation of powers, and the oversight committee–the Senate intelligence committee–seems unable to respond effectively.

In March 2014, CIA director John Brennan emphatically denied that CIA officers had penetrated a computer network used by the Senate intelligence committee and had removed seminal documents relevant to the investigation.  Brennan, who is known for having tight control over the departments and the decisions of the CIA, said the charge was “beyond the scope of reason.”

Five months later, Brennan apologized to the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee for the CIA’s surreptitious search of congressional computers as well as for the fact that CIA officers created a false online identity to access congressional computers and even to read the email of committee staffers.  If Brennan knew in advance about this activity, he should have been immediately fired;  if Brennan didn’t know, he should have been immediately fired because it testified to the fact that he has lost control of his Agency.

President Obama expressed “full confidence” in Brennan in the wake of these disclosures, but key members of the Senate intelligence committee, including minority chairman Saxby Chambliss, have emphasized that there is a total lack of trust between the committee and the CIA director.  Twenty years ago, the Senate similarly made it clear that it had lost confidence in President Bill Clinton’s CIA director, James Woolsey, and Woolsey was forced to resign.  It is bizarre to learn that the CIA spied on the oversight committee of the Senate and lied about it to the committee chairman, but that Brennan received a vote of confidence from the President.  Once again, President Obama has demonstrated his insecurity in dealing with the national security community, particularly the Pentagon and the CIA.

All of this points to the claxon that I sounded at the Senate confirmation hearings in 1991 regarding the damage to the moral compass of the CIA as well as my book in 2008 that tracked the failures in operational and analytical tradecraft, particularly the false intelligence that helped to justify the war against Iraq in 2003.  But the most recent crisis is worse than any of these because the CIA destroyed the “torture tapes” in 2005 and then repeatedly lied to the White House and the Congress about sadistic torture and abuse as well as the results of its so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques.”  The involvement of CIA lawyers in the campaign to block oversight is more than an example of egregious dysfunction, and the failure of the Department of Justice to prosecute the obvious obstruction of justice and the violation of the separation of powers points to a constitutional crisis.

I felt that no one was really paying attention to the travesty of politicized intelligence that I documented in 1991.  And now I must ask again, “Is anyone paying attention to any of this?”  In addition to the limited attention that the issue received from the mainstream media, President Obama answered a question at a news conference last week about the Senate report by stating that “We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks.”  Well, if we “tortured some folks,” then perhaps we need to know the folks that did the torturing.  Of course, the CIA’s redaction of the report included the pseudonyms of the operations officers who conducted the “enhanced interrogation techniques.”  It is “beyond the scope of reason” that anyone, including the commander in chief, could read or even be briefed on the sadistic activity that dominates the torture report and blithely answer any question on the topic.

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and adjunct professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  He is the author of “The Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA” (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008) and “National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism” (City Lights Publishers, 2013).

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. His latest book is A Whistleblower at the CIA. (City Lights Publishers, 2017).  Goodman is the national security columnist for counterpunch.org.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail