The new CIA scandal

I don’t feel I have an original or substantive point to make on this matter, but it is worthy of note nonetheless.  I was favorably impressed with Dana Milbank’s opinion piece today.  This is a Richard Nixon-kind of scandal, the CIA does report to the Executive Branch, and so far I haven’t seen the attempt to set things right or even clarify what has happened.  Milbank writes:

If the White House wishes to repair the damage, it would declassify without further delay the report done by Feinstein’s committee — along with the Panetta Review. If the White House won’t, Feinstein’s panel and others would be justified in holding up CIA funding and nominations and conducting public hearings.

Obama also should remove those people involved in spying on the Senate panel and in harassing Senate staffers. First out should be Robert Eatinger, the CIA’s acting general counsel. Previously, Eatinger had been a lawyer in the unit that conducted the interrogation program at the heart of the Senate’s probe. Eatinger, Feinstein said, filed a “crimes report” with the Justice Department suggesting that congressional staffers had stolen the Panetta Review.

If somehow you haven’t been following the issue, here is what is up:

California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, has been an ally of Obama and a staunch defender of the administration during the controversy over the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. So her credibility could not be questioned when she went public, reluctantly, to accuse Obama’s CIA of illegal and unconstitutional actions: violating the separation of powers by searching the committee’s computers and intimidating congressional staffers with bogus legal threats.

Comments

I would tell you to quit giving these sellout politicians more publicity. But that's really your gig, isn't it? Validating those at the top with polite discussion and talking-point redistribution without ever really getting down to the nitty gritty....and without ever pointing out the total hypocrisy of the whole thing in everyday terms. Keep it polite and validate, right?

That is one of the foundations of academia--validation of those at the top by draining the blood from the discussion.

Hmmm ... Dr. Cowen writes a blog about issues of interest. A lot us find that blog, at various occasions, interesting and informative. In addition to being a respected economist, and a respected university professor, that's his "other gig."

You disapprove. So what do you think he should be doing? Going downtown and lobbing grenades?

No, Prof. Cowen is quite content to do his lobbying from Hazel Hall's hallowed halls in Arlington.

He is part of the 'establishment,' after all, to stay with our Nixonian theme.

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dana milbank: broken link

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dana-milbank-allegations-of-cia-spying-on-the-senate-deserve-investigation/2014/03/11/96105150-a95b-11e3-8d62-419db477a0e6_story.html

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One odd thing about this is the underlying issue - the CIA attempting to cover up Bush era torture.

There's also the joy of watching Feinstein play "Fourth Amendment for me but not for thee".

Why is it restricted to Bush-era? Is O-era torture less painful?

http://tinyurl.com/pb4xprx

The Cult never forgets.

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Indeed. Whether or not this particular incident happened as alleged, Feinstein's hypocrisy on the subject is breathtaking. She has consistently been one of the loudest apologists for the surveillance state. I'm amazed this angle has got so little attention in media reports on the matter.

As much as I agree with you about Diane Feinstein, better late than never.

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Quite eye opening when big brother screws with YOU!

We all know that what happens to important government figures like Diane Feinstein is far more important than what happens to the hoi polloi. I mean, they're senators, for goodness sake, it is vital that they be protected from executive overreach! That's the whole reason we have the constitution in the first place - to protect from one branch of the government the prerogatives of another to abuse the rest of us.

"That’s the whole reason we have the constitution in the first place – to protect from one branch of the government the prerogatives of another to abuse the rest of us."

Maybe not the whole reason, but Separation of Powers is in fact a big part of the reason. When you think about why, your comment actually comes quite close.

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I'm actually more concerned about this than I am about an potential spying on me. I'm just not interesting enough to be worth their time abusing their powers by looking into y mail. I can absolutely see how there's more threat, albeit indirect, from violating the separation of powers.

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MP apparently think it's still the '60s, and intelligence involves specifically targeting you. That's not how dragnet surveillance, backed by mass data storage and machine learning, works. Everyone is spied on, no matter how interesting, and has an elaborate profile built on them.

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And not one mention of the "I" word - we have come a long way from Watergate...

Pull up a chart of the stock market from 1972 to 1974. The "I" word will be back in a flash if the recovery falters.

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What did O know and when did he know it? Add in, if he did not know then the CIA/NSA/FBI need to be seriously reigned in legislatively. ($$$)

"liberal" here, i can honestly say if it goes up to obama i would also call for impeachment.

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"the CIA does report to the Executive Branch"

Maybe nominally, but I'm more of the impression that the CIA/NSA does whatever the hell it wants.

No kidding. I love the innuendo here that Obama instructed them to spy on the committee and that it's "Obama's CIA." lol. Way to be a political hack Tyler. Barack Obama and Dianne Feinstein can certainly share credit for failing to reign in the CIA/NSA beast, but let's be real: the CIA/NSA is off their leash (if they ever actually had one).

Yes, poor Mr. Obama is being unfairly blamed here. After all, he's only six years into his reign as President of the United States after being elected on a mandate to roll back Mr. Bush's policies that were seen as excessive. Why would he think to look into the NSA and CIA until now?

I understand this is the story we are being asked to swallow. The stimulus was a wasteful mess because Congress managed it. Obamacare has problems because we needed to pass it to see what was in it. The IRS ran an intimidation campaign against the administration's perceived enemies all on their own. Guantanamo is surprisingly hard to close. Nobody knew anything about PRISM when their are fricking network television shows about it. We're being asked to accept that the administration is just terrible, terrible at management because the alternative is that they aren't really as nice as they seem.

And don't forget that whether political considerations led to Americans being abandoned to die at the hands of Al Qaeda affiliates in Libya is something that, at this point, makes no difference. Also, Solyndra and Beaconpower and the dozens of other failed "green energy" boondoggles failed not because government shoved taxpayers dollar at Obama donors without proper due diligence, but due to totally unforeseeable circumstances, such as the existence of a Chinese solar power company (which also just went bankrupt).

And don't forget the Justice Department giving automatic weapons to Mexican drug lords, just to make US gun dealers look bad when their guns turned up in cartel hands. Obama had no idea about this, of course.

Well, at least Eric Holder went down for that one. Oh wait! No he didn't!

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Yes, no one is more angry than the president when it comes to this issue. No one.

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Uh huh. When the CIA spies on Congress under Obama, that's just the CIA doing whatever the %^$%# it wants.

But let me guess: when the CIA claims Iraq is teeming with WMD under Bush, that's proof that BUSH LIED!!!!!

+1

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Second day in a row I find myself defending Obama, but yeah I agree. The day to day operations of the CIA are not run by the Director of Central Intelligence but the Deputy Director.

Chances are good that someone in CIA tipped off Feinstein. The relationship between intel services and Congress have always been strained because Congressmen can't keep secrets but they hold the purse. The services don't trust the Executive Branch much more.

I agree with the others on the double standards applied to Obama and Bush by both Feinstein and the media.

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Indeed. Whether or not this particular incident happened as alleged, Feinstein's hypocrisy on the subject is breathtaking. She has consistently been one of the loudest apologists for the surveillance state. I'm amazed this angle has got so little attention in media reports on the matter.

Oops, was supposed to be in reply to foosian above. Please use blog software that enables comment editing.

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I'm at the age where I can look back and see just how far the culture has drifted from the shore. At least what seemed like the shore in my youth. Nixon was driven from office on the claim he misused the IRS, FBI and CIA. The proof was always flimsy. The Nixon people tried hard to co-opt the IRS, but failed. His misuse of the FBI looks like standard operating procedure today. The cover-up which was the heart of the matter in Watergate, is now common with both Republican and Democrat administrations.

Obama is everything Nixon hoped to be plus some. Instead of the press savaging him as they did Nixon, they are locking shields in defense of him. The temptation is to say it is just partisanship, as the media is almost exclusively liberal. A better answer, I think, is the mass media is now thoroughly co-opted by the state. Look at the revolving door between journalism and government.

But Nixon was an R. And he looked like a crook (like DC's current mayor, a D).

Actually, Nixon was a war criminal, which tends to be the sort of thing that transcends party affiliation.

Though thankfully, no one ever gave him a Nobel Peace Prize.

Has there ever been a more worthless label that invokes more emotion in simpletons than "war criminal"?

I don't know - I live in Germany, and here, the term 'war criminal' is taken quite seriously.

Mainly because so many of the famous ones were German. Much like how many of the most famous figures found guilty of crimes against humanity were German. Though an early reference to the term seems to be this - 'In 1860 the American National Republican Convention included in their electoral platform, on which Abraham Lincoln ran for President, the following statement: "... We brand the recent re-opening of the African slave trade, under the cover of our national flag, aided by perversions of judicial power, as a crime against humanity"' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimes_against_humanity#Historical_development

Though admittedly, a few Germans don't believe that those that were hung for waging offensive war or crimes against were war criminals, but instead victims of Siegerjustiz.

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>Has there ever been a more worthless label that invokes more emotion in simpletons than “war criminal”?

Sure! "Nobel Prize Winner."

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http://nailheadtom.blogspot.com/2013/07/orders-of-george-washington-to-general.html

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the mass media is now thoroughly co-opted by the state

LOL.

No co-opting necessary. The mass media love being near power and if not members at least being courtiers of the ruling class, which includes the political class, the crony capitalists, and the leaders of large "organized" labor. As Lord Action pointed out long ago, power corrupts, etc.

"Irish democracy" is the answer: mockery and truculence. And minimizing taxable income.

Lord Acton.

Though Lord Action would be an awesome name.

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Often quoted as "Power tends to corrupt, ….", which sounds more judicious to me.

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"Worthy of note" sounds right. Not a full-blown outrage because we are talking about the executive branch's secret activities vs. the legislative branch's secret activities. Perhaps they will invite the judiciary to resolve the dispute in secret court proceedings.

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Am I the only one who does not understand what is going on from that report? It seems to me like a lot of "he said - she said".

One theory is the Senate aides did take documents that they were not authorized to take with them. The CIA is not a well oiled machine, but they have a pretty good system for monitoring this. It is not as uncommon as you would think for non-CIA people to be looking at documents in CIA facilities. Imagine a library that kills people for overdue books. The Senators are now using this bogus spying claim to put pressure on the CIA. The politics are simple. The administration has to make it look like they are being forced to rat out Bush era people. This little bit of theater provides a nice smokescreen.

Another theory is the security state let the cat out of the bag and it has spooked some senators. Why any of them would be so naive as to think they were not being monitored is anyone's guess. Perhaps in the course of investigating this document pilfering, an agent let something slip and that is sounding alarms in the senate. This seems unlikely to me.

"It is not as uncommon as you would think for non-CIA people to be looking at documents in CIA facilities. Imagine a library that kills people for overdue books"

Bravo.

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I suppose the executive in charge can use his executive pen and sign an executive order making such actions legal. Why not?

It worked for sweeping up all that Iran-Contra mess, after all.

Though why Bush didn't follow his father's example and pardon everybody involved in torture can probably be explained using the same reason of why the younger Bush did not follow his father's example by avoiding a costly occupation of Iraq.

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You don't have checks and balances if one of the parties gets to examine your C drive.

As to the committee or its staff having documents that may not have been authorized: I am reminded of a general counsel telling me of an example where someone left, literally, money on a table in an envelope with the bills sticking out when that person left the room, for one of the other sides negotiators to pick up: advice: don't pick up the money, because, had you picked it up, the other side, first would have bribed you, and second, would have had something to hold over you in the future.

So, let's say the committee staff were given a hot document...placed on the C drive or given by an agency employee...great opportunity to muddy the waters and have the finger be pointed at the investigator.

Bottom line: the legislature is a separate branch of government, and if there were a problem with something, it is for the legislative body to investigate. How does the Justice Department investigate the legislative branch. Very carefully, or not at all if it is within the scope of its investigative and oversight authority.

I am going to qualify my opinion a bit upon reflection: the executive branch could obtain a search warrant to examine the C drive if it met the standards for the issuance of a search warrant. This involves another branch overseeing the investigation of what the executive branch claims are illegally obtained documents. But, if the agency were to go into the C drive without a warrant, that is illegal.

I'm not sure why this particular search should be "illegal" in the time of "legal" computer-based complete dragnets and "legal" government-sponsored backdoors in software. To some, Feinstein's having been made victim of the type of surveillance policy she shills, may seem very amusing.

If you don't appreciate the value of having the legislative branch (theoretically co-equal to the executive branch) to be protected from bullying and syping by the executive, I don't know what to tell you. Spying on citizens may be bad. The executive bullying the legislature is worse. This is not about Feinstein's hurt feelings. It's about sharing access to power.

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Thomas, unfortunately the Patriot Act makes broad searches of metadata "legal". Amend the law.

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The administration needs to publicly split with the intelligence services so they're drumming up a scandal. Feinstein is just being a good soldier. The Snowden press is too bad to do nothing. If the NSA revelations had happened in March 2009, there'd be some case to be made with respect to culpability for the various practices. As it is, somebody's head needs to role for all this, and it sure as heck isn't going to be Obama.

It's interesting that the story is becoming "Obama was played by all these hardball insiders" because that's preferable to "Obama is an active supporter of things like PRISM and Guantanamo." But the new story is not actually all that reassuring. And I'm not at all sure I believe it.

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Government (and parts of government) can really do pretty much whatever they want these days.

I'm trying to imagine a situation in which public outcry against some government behaviour could be strong enough to stop it or at least get major sympathetic attention from the media. It would have to be pretty extreme.

Most people despise liberty more than anything imaginable. That's why the permission state is unopposed, outside of cranks and trouble makers. Turn on Fox News or talk radio and you will hear Conservative Inc defending the security state all day. The liberal side extols the nanny state at every turn. Put the two together and you get what we got.

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“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
- Mark Twain, a Biography

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Hey!

Latest CIA achievement: the idiotocracy was blind-sided by the Russians in the Crimea/Ukraine.

When was the last time the CIA got it right?

The CIA feeding the idiocracy. It could not possibly be more ineffectual. If the moronic Congress defunded it, how could spy things not improve.

My understanding was that the intelligence services called this a real possibility but that they weren't taken very seriously by their superiors.

But, your general point is correct. With the exception of the recent mess with Iraq, the intelligence services reputations are to underestimate the capability and hostile intent of other nations and actors.

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'This is a Richard Nixon-kind of scandal'

Where Richard Nixon is covering up the torture of justified and performed by LBJ's minions.

When the documents come out, the demand for Bush et al to be tried as war criminals will undoubtedly grow.

'in the unit that conducted the interrogation program'

No - what they conducted was a torture program, authorized by Bush et al. That the American media continues to play along with this misdirection is an indication of just how corrupt the 'establishment' has become, to bring it back to that Nixonian level.

You seen them docs?

Nope - the committee has though. Which is one reason that certain people are so nervous, even after they erased a set of tapes.

And we do have the testimony of those who were tortured, of course.

Then there is also an indictment, which seems to have kept Bush from flying to Switzerland in 2011 - to keep anyone's delicate sensibilities from being offended, the link in this case is to Cato - http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/bush-torture-indictment

I'm pretty sure there won't be too much surprising in the documents - after all, the U.S. seems to have mainly used methods that it used to execute people for when those methods were used against Americans. 'In a CNN debate with Ari Fleischer, I said the United States executed Japanese war criminals for waterboarding. My point was that it is disingenuous for Bush Republicans to argue that waterboarding is not torture and thus illegal. It's kind of awkward to argue that waterboarding is not a crime when you hanged someone for doing it to our troops. My precise words were: "Our country executed Japanese soldiers who waterboarded American POWs. We executed them for the same crime we are now committing ourselves."

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On November 29, 2007, Sen. McCain, while campaigning in St. Petersburg, Florida, said, "Following World War II war crime trials were convened. The Japanese were tried and convicted and hung for war crimes committed against American POWs. Among those charges for which they were convicted was waterboarding."

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The folks at Politifact interviewed R. John Pritchard, the author of The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: The Complete Transcripts of the Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. They also interviewed Yuma Totani, history professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and consulted the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, which published a law review article entitled, "Drop by Drop: Forgetting the History of Water Torture in U.S. Courts."' http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-begala/yes-inational-reviewi-we_b_191153.html

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So her credibility could not be questioned when she went public, reluctantly, to accuse Obama’s CIA of illegal and unconstitutional actions: violating the separation of powers by searching the committee’s computers and intimidating congressional staffers with bogus legal threats.

I hate to sound like a Reddit commenter, but when they spy on virtually every American, it's business-as-usual; when they spy on Congress, Congress gets excited.

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Curious we call it a CIA scandal. Or an IRS scandal. Or an ACA scandal. How about we call them Obama scandals?

That would be racist.

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What in hell does this have to do with Nixon or Bush?

Well, the CIA is apparently doing its best to ensure that crimes committed during the Bush administration remain hidden from the official record.

Somewhat like how Iran-Contra was a Reagan administration scandal, but it was George Bush, Reagan's successor, who pardoned those involved. The pardons did not involve crimes committed during the Bush presidency.

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Why does Congress think they should be immune?

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The question no one will ask is why we need the reports. They collect the (meta)data and compile the information into reports and we get to debate whether or not we should be given access to the reports, and whether or not it is spooky or constitutional that the people who compile Report A do so by collecting data on the compilation process for Report B.

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"This is a Richard Nixon-kind of scandal, the CIA does report to the Executive Branch, and so far I haven’t seen the attempt to set things right or even clarify what has happened."

Just like Benghazi. And the IRS abuses. And the "green energy" scams. And labelling Fox News reporters as terrorists. And the Fast and Furious gunrunning. And the HHS strongarming. And the EPA abuses.

The Obama admin is all politics, no principles. They lie constantly, blame the GOP for everything, and accept responsibility for nothing. They will do anything they can get away with, and they can get away with a lot because the press doesn't hold them accountable.

What Dana Milbank said:

"In the House, Democrats say they’d support a bipartisan investigation of the CIA’s actions.

That’s not likely to happen because the allegations don’t suggest political motives and because the Obama administration is concealing information about the Bush administration’s torture program. But if Republicans really care about protecting the Constitution, they’ll join Feinstein in demanding justice."

Let me say it again: If Republicans really care about protecting the Constitution, they'll join Feinstein in demanding justice."

What say you Mr. TallDave? Do you care about the Constitution or just about accusing Obama of all the sins Republicans routinely commit?

The IRS did not routinely harass Democratic nonprofits, lie about the murder of Ambassadors, hurl money at green energy, label reporters as terrorists, etc.

Let me know when Feinstein is ready to hold the hearings on all those, plus the notion Obama gets to rewrite laws in an election year to benefit his party. Then, byall means, let us have those House CIA hearings.

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The press reports the results of al the investigations. You want there to be scandals, but none are being found. Bummer for you.

Steve

Is that what happened to Nixon?

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I am totally confused how this could be called spying? It is as if the Senate expected the CIA to not record what documents senate staffers accessed from a CIA system and then they properly referred the matter to DOJ to investigate whether the said staffers then illegally removed said documents.

Also, I would assume that the report mentioned falls directly within the class of internal deliberations over national security that the Supreme Court declared is subject to executive privledge. Whether or not one agrees with the doctrine, the implied content of the report seems a more valid exercise of privledge than when Bush didn't give the reports from Pat Tillman's friendly fire death or the Cheney energy meeting.

If the Senate wants to investigate Bush era torture they can, whether they can use a document that seems to be an examination of Bush era policies and procedures prepared for internally examining what a new CIA director should do in executing his executive duties is a different issue.

'whether they can use a document that seems to be an examination of Bush era policies and procedures prepared for internally examining what a new CIA director should do in executing his executive duties is a different issue'

Nixonian indeed.

However, torture is a violation of any oath sworn to uphold the Constitution, and as Nixon was forced to accept, the president does not get decide which laws apply to him.

Not that Cheney ever seemed to accept that lesson, of course.

What exactly did Cheney do that indicated he didn't seem to accept a lesson? What specifically?

Not revealing who attended the Energy Task Force meetings comes instantly to mind, much more successfully than Nixon ever hid his intermingling of private and public business (ITT comes to mind) -

'Most of the activities of the Energy Task Force have not been disclosed to the public, even though Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests (since 19 April 2001) have sought to gain access to its materials. The organisations Judicial Watch and Sierra Club launched a law suit (U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia: Judicial Watch Inc. v. Department of Energy, et al., Civil Action No. 01-0981) under the FOIA to gain access to the task force's materials. After several years of legal wrangling, in May, 2005 an appeals court permitted the Energy Task Force's records to remain secret.

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The Washington Post reported on November 15, 2005, that it had obtained documents listing executives from major oil corporations, including Exxon-Mobil Corp., Conoco, Royal Dutch Shell Oil Corp., and the American subsidiary of British Petroleum who met with Energy Task Force participants while they were developing national energy policy. Vice President Cheney was reported to have met personally with the Chief Executive Officer of BP (formerly British Petroleum) during the time of the Energy Task Force's activities. In the week prior to this article revealing oil executive involvement, the Chief Executives of Exxon-Mobil and ConocoPhillips told members of the US Senate that they had not participated as part of the Energy Task Force, while the CEO of British Petroleum stated that he did not know. In response to questions regarding the article, Cheney spokesperson Lea Ann McBride was quoted as saying that the courts have upheld "the constitutional right of the president and vice president to obtain information in confidentiality."'
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_Task_Force#Controversy

Not to mention destruction of documents - 'But when Zelikow testified to Congress about his warning, his classified memo was withheld, and two unclassified documents were released in its stead. Zelikow told Mother Jones in 2009 that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had attempted to destroy any evidence of the classified memo, but that some copies might survive in the State Department's archives.

It appears that Zelikow was right about the archives: the secret memo, which he called a "direct assault on [the Bush Justice Department's] interpretation of American law," was finally released by the State Department on Tuesday, three years after the National Security Archive and WIRED reporter Spencer Ackerman (then at the Washington Independent) first requested it under the Freedom of Information Act.' http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2012/04/secret-torture-memo-cheney-hid

Just a couple of examples that I'm sure the typical commenter at this web site was already thoroughly aware of.

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"Tibet independence" by several steps under the guise of a "middle way" and "non-violence", according to the article. No matter how the Dalai clique changed their approach, their attempt to internationalize the "Tibetan issue" has remained the same

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