Last year, we found out that the CIA was spying on members of Congress in an effort to find out if the torture report included information from their internal Panetta Report. It was unauthorized, illegal and outside of their authority. It’s worse than the spying that was at the heart of the Watergate scandal. It was the kind of action you would expect in a dictatorship, not a constitutional Republic.
You’ll be pleased to know that a CIA panel — staffed entirely with people picked by Brennan — has concluded that the CIA did nothing wrong.
A CIA panel Wednesday cleared agency officials of any wrongdoing when they accessed the computers of a Senate committee investigating the agency’s involvement in torture. The finding ended a yearlong dispute marked by angry accusations of “hacking” and criminal misconduct.
Instead, the panel — whose members were appointed by CIA Director John Brennan — faulted the agency’s own outgoing inspector general for suggesting in a report that there may have been grounds to discipline five officials at the agency.
The findings by the so-called CIA accountability board drew sharp objections from some Senate staffers who were involved in the torture report, citing it as yet another example of the CIA’s own inability to police itself.
Their conclusion was that the five people who spied on the Senate and who were recommended by the Inspector General for punishment should be let off because they were, in essence, just following what they thought might be orders. Said orders supposedly came from Brennan, who initially lied about the spying on the Senate but insists he’s telling the truth now. So Brennan isn’t accountable because he says he didn’t give the order. And the people who did the spying aren’t accountable because they thought Brennan had told them to do it. And the real villain is the IG for having the temerity to suggest that spying on your own government might be a crime.
It reminds me of every cover-up we’ve enjoyed from government since forever. No one ever gives orders to spy on Senators, target Tea Party groups for audits or illegally look into political opponents’ FBI files. The idea to do these things just … appears … out of nowhere. Like a sort of mass hysteria, only focused on political enemies for some strange reason.
So … let’s sum up. The CIA tortured people. They covered it up by destroying the torture tapes and lying. They spied on the Senate committee that was investigating them, then lied about that. And the only people who did anything wrong, according to them, are John Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on the torture program, and David Buckley, the inspector general who determined that they had spied on the Senate after their repeated denials. All of this has come with the approval and support of President Obama.
So our national security is the hands of an unaccountable agency headed by a serial liar under the command of a “look forward, not backward, unless you cross me” Commander-in-Chief. Feeling safe yet?
As Andrew Sullivan pointed out, the President may have “ended” torture. But by refusing to hold anyone accountable, he has made it inevitable that it will come back. And it will probably be a lot worse. When you don’t punish people who do wrong, you only encourage more wrong-doing.
Update: The White House knew.