Friday, July 17, 2009

Learning the Wrong Lesson

I was listening to Morning Joe as they were going on and on about how horrible it was for the CIA that, yet again, they violated the law. This time by not informing Congress of a on-going program.
According to reports based on leaks and anonymous sources, the CIA had a program in place to insert assassination squads into different places to go after senior Al Queda operatives that we could not get other ways or that we could get by bombing but only at the cost of lost of civilian casualties as collateral damage.
Correct me if I am wrong here, but sending somebody out to put a bullet in Osama Bin Laden's head strikes me as a good idea. I don't know that anyone of the 8 members of Congress that the CIA is supposed to notify about this program would have had any objections to hunting down and killing senior Al Queda personnel if we didn't think we could capture them or kill them by other means.
I think it s good idea.
So we had this program though, according to the reports, we never actually sent a team anywhere to carry out these target killing/assassinations. Not because we didn't want to, but it just never came together well enough to risk the assets.
But instead of notifying Congress, as they are required to do by law, the previous administration decided to ignore law and never informed Congress.
Both Democrats and Republicans have stated, without acknowledging the content of the published reports, that Congress should have been notified.
So Bush/Cheney/the CIA collectively broke the law.
And that violation of the law now appears to have been exposed.
And what do we hear from Conservatives all over the place??
Exposing this operation and talking about investigations into potential violations of the law is bad for morale at the CIA.
Is that really the lesson here??
The Attorney General is considering appointing a Special Prosecutor to investigate if some CIA Operatives or their Contractors didn't exceed the written guidance that they had for the treatment of prisoners in our custody.
He is not investigating if the CIA followed the rules laid down in the noxious torture memos, he is considering and investigation into whether or not even those rules were violated.
And again we are supposed to pity the CIA???
In all the noise about the assassination program, I have heard few voices say this is a bad thing. We already kill them from the air with 500 pound bombs or Hellfire missiles, this is different only in that shooting a terrorist is far more personal than dropping high explosives on their ass. But the terrorists are still dead.
What the CIA and the Bush Administration did is break the law by not informing Congress.
The lesson here is not that we will destroy the effectiveness of the CIA by exposing their crimes, its that WE DON'T WANT THE CIA TO BREAK OUR LAWS.
We are after all, a nation of laws.
Why should I feel sorry for the CIA when they get caught breaking the law???
Can anybody explain this?


haypops said...

I wonder who is actually responsible to report to the gang of 8. If it is the CIA chief or other official and they are ordered not to do so by the CIC (Cheney), who really is to blame. I vote for Cheney as the villain.

Uncle Walt said...

By law, the responsiblilty formally rests with the President
Thats a fairly recent change, it used to be the Director of the CIA that was legally responsible, but it got changed (I think) during the Clinton administration.
After the Church Commission back in teh 70's, they were originally required to inform about 40 different members, that number has changed repeatedly over the years and is now at 8.
Speaker of the House
Majority Leader of the Senate
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee
Ranking Member of the HIC
Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee
Ranking Member of the SIC
Minority Leader of the House
Minority Leader of the Senate.

That having been said, the press reports seem to indicate that Cheney ordered the CIA NOT to brief the gang of 8. Not really his authority to give the order, but that seems to have been the in the nature of his Vice Presidency.

Matty said...

Ok, let's review this 'scandle.'

After 9/11 it was decided that it might be an option to actually attack in a targeted manner those who were involved in the events of that day. Congress was aware that the executive intended to take the fight to the enemy (it was all over CNN for crap sake). Apparently, as the institution responsible for foreign intelligence and operation, the CIA followed their orders and THOUGHT a bit about how this might be achieved - perhaps even looking into whether it might be possible with the assets available. It was never codified into an actual operation and may have even been dismissed by the White House.

Fast forward to the Hope and Change era....

Lefty Democrat Diane Feinstein tells the press that Bill Clinton's former chief of staff, err CIA director Panetta told her that Dick Cheney (for whom he never worked) told someone at the CIA (who later told Panetta) not to tell congress about a program that was never a program.

If you followed that and still believe there is a scandal, it says more about you than it does about Dick Cheney.

Uncle Walt said...

If its not a scandal, if Congress was properly informed, then let the investigation find that.
Your assertion that "Congress was aware that the executive intended to take the fight to the enemy (it was all over CNN for crap sake)." doesn't actually address the question of proper notification. Lots of stuff is on CNN, some of which later turns out to be overstated, or down right wrong or misinterpreted. Just because Seymour Hirsh writes an article doesn't constitute proper notification.
You might note that I and, I suspect, most Democrats, have no objection to putting Osama's face in a cross hairs and pulling the trigger.
What I object to, if it turns out to be the case, is tht the CIA was running a covert operation without properly informing the gang of 8.
If the CIA did everything by the book, whatever the book said at the time, then no one is in trouble and this is not an issue.
But if some in the CIA crossed whatever lines they weren't supposed to cross, then that needs to be addressed.
So I get back to my original point.
If the allegations are true, then I have no sympathy for people in the CIA or the Bush White House who broke the law.
If the allegations are not true, then no one is in trouble.

Matty said...

Ah, I see....

It's better to have alleged and lost that never to have alleged at all.

You original point isn't IF someone broke the law, then they are in trouble.

I quote, "So Bush/Cheney/the CIA collectively broke the law.
And that violation of the law now appears to have been exposed."

You are passing judgement as to guilt based on a political hack telling another political hack what he may or may not have learned from unnamed sources from before he was in the job.

Color me skeptical

Uncle Walt said...

Skeptical is a good color.
That being said, Cheney ordering the CIA not to brief Congress on a program they should have been briefed on is consistent with most of the reporting out of the Bush Administration about both Cheney's exercize of power, their penchant for secrecy, and their disdain for Congress and Congressional Oversight.
Remember, this controversy started because the new Director of the CIA was briefed on this program and immediately recognized that Congress should have been notified. Its not just unnamed sources and leaks, the Director of the CIA briefed Congress soon after he learned of a program that had been in place in the Bush Administration.
Remember also, its not just leaks and unnamed sources that has the Attorney General considering appointing a Special Prosecutor to investigate whether CIA Officers or contractors working for them exceeded the guidance that they were supposed to be working under in their treatment of prisoners in our custody.
Skeptical is a good color, but these alegations were not just created out of thin air, there appears to be some facts behind them.

Matty said...

It isn't the existence of the 'program' where hearsay is the issue

There is no doubt that the head of the CIA would become aware of it and it is within his discretion to decide if it is something that he feels needs to be presented to Congress.

I get skeptical when a political appointee like Panetta is making claims that someone he never worked for ordered someone not to brief Congress based on the word of another unnamed someone.

Of course this is all assuming that the brainstorm in question ever really got to the point where it might be labeled a program and thus need to be presented to Congress.

Obama's been playing many of the same executive privilege cards as Bush to much less fanfare so I gather the issue becomes whether you buy into the Darth Vader image that is placed on Cheney.

As a side note, the story to which I linked earlier adds some important details including the assertion that the White House appears to have decided against the methods that came out of the program/brainstorm in question.

Taken in it's totality, it all seems to be an absolute smokescreen non-story... wag the dog to distract from shine coming off.

Uncle Walt said...

Scepticism is not a bad thing.
Wherever the order came from, the President is obligated by law to brief Congress.
There appears to be a fairly consistent image of VP Cheney as believing the President's power in time of war is largely unconstrained, even by legislation or Congressional Oversight.
So do I "buy into the Darth Vader image that is placed on Cheney"?
Largely yes.
Time and the investigations in progress will tell if laws/regulations/guidelines were actually violated.