Harold Pease, Ph. D
In yet another emerging scary scandal, not well publicized, the CIA recently acknowledged that it “had secretly searched Senate computer files related to an investigation of the agency’s Bush-era harsh interrogation program.” Searched Senate computer files!!! Good grief, that is our own government that they spied on!! Is there nobody safe from spying??? Their admission that they had lied for several months when accused of having done so and their apology to the senators to whom they had spied, does not make such acceptable. They readily placed the blame on three lower level technology staff members who, they said, “demonstrated a lack of candor” when doing so. Is there no punishment?
Left out of their “limp” apology is who directed them to spy on the Senate in the first place? Also minimized by existing coverage is the fact that this wasn’t just any group of U.S. Senators that the CIA decided to spy on, it was the Senate Intelligence Committee, charged with overseeing all spying sponsored by our government. In effect, the CIA was spying on its congressional boss.
The loudest complainant, and the one to take to the Senate floor to blast the unruly organization of lifting material from committee computers, was the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein. Six months ago, Feinstein insisted that the CIA removed from committee computers information that cast the agency’s post-9/11 interrogation tactics in a harsh and negative light, this presumably to avoid embarrassment and legal entanglements. Meddling with the Oversight Committee’s findings effectively tramples on the constitutional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government and, if not checked, destroys that balance.
What caused the CIA to spy on its own government was that the Senate was investigating them and about to release its incriminating findings. Despite CIA interference the Committee voted 11-3 to release a 431-page summary of its four-year 6,200 page, $40 million scathing indictment. Just why the complete document will remain classified, and thus secret, has not been disclosed but it can be assumed that the released version is the sanitized version. As a result the extent of the Bush-era CIA torture practice continues into the Obama-era and CIA misdeeds will not come to light fully until those responsible are safely out of danger of prosecution. With respect to the part that remains classified Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein threatened, “If someone distributed any part of this classified report, they broke the law and should be prosecuted.” Perhaps she should be reminded that secrecy and free government are incompatible.
The part released concluded “that the CIA’s use of brutal interrogation measures did not produce valuable intelligence and that the agency repeatedly misled government officials about the severity and success of the program.” Feinstein called the torture practice shocking, “The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation. It chronicles a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen,” she said. She was referring to the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh tactics against dozens of terrorism suspects.
Maine Senator Angus King, an independent on the Committee, called the practice torture. “I don’t have any doubts on that fact. It’s a pretty hard read. It’s very disappointing.” But he was especially bothered by the amount of inaccurate statements emanating from the CIA that influenced the president and congress for years. He might have included the mainstream media and the falsehoods that will continue for decades in our history textbooks until everything is declassified and scrutinized by historians.
What appears clear is that the CIA used interrogation methods reportedly not approved by the Justice Department, that the agency evaded congressional oversight, and that the agency self-empowered itself as though independent and accountable to only itself. Also, clear is that the extent of its wrongdoing will remain hidden and classified so that no one is punished. This is the sanitized version.
But back to our original concern, apparently the CIA is so brazen that it spies on, and removes evidence from, the Senate Intelligence Committee charged with its oversight. Amazingly this to the point that they too, knowing more than any other organization the power and danger of the way-ward child, participated in keeping a part of the organizations wrong doings secret. One wonders if the U.S. Senate is that independent of the CIA, especially when this organization receives little more than a verbal retribution for spying and lifting evidence on it, an activity that should be criminal.