The Big Secret Behind the CIA-Congressional Battle

George Washington's picture

The Deeper Story

You’ve heard that there’s a big battle between the CIA and Congress over the CIA spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s review of documents related to the Bush-era torture program.

Many are calling it a “constitutional crisis“. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa calls it potential “treason“.

The congress members complaining about spying by the CIA are right, of course.

But they are hypocrites. Specifically, these same congress members  didn’t raise a peep when the government was spying on the people … and instead defended the government’s mass surveillance at every opportunity.

There are hundreds of thousands of Google hits for the search term “Hypocrisy CIA Senate Feinstein“.

High-level NSA whistleblower Bill Binney, Edward Snowden, a very high-level former CIA officer, a former FBI agent and many others are all slamming Congress for the hypocrisy

Even Jon Stewart has lambasted them:

 

 

(And this isn’t the first time that Congress has been hypocritical when the spying was turned against them personally.)

A corrupt CIA is certainly part of the problem.   After all, the same guy who was the lawyer for the CIA torture unit – and who was mentioned 1,600 times in the Senate intelligence report on torture – is now the chief counsel for the CIA … the guy working so hard to make sure the torture report is never released. (He was also involved in the destruction of tapes documenting CIA torture … discussed more fully below).

And don’t let Obama fool you: The White House is a big part of the problem as well.

Obama has for years prevented the Senate Intelligence report on torture – what the CIA’s spying is all about – from being declassified.

Glenn Greenwald tweets:

Could someone remind me who appointed [CIA director] John Brennan and to whom he reports? Having trouble finding it in most discussions ….

Obama appointed current CIA-director John Brennan, who – before the appointment – had expressly endorsed torture, assassination of unidentified strangers (including Americans) without due process, and spying on all Americans, and got caught in numerous lies related to national security and defense.   (Indeed, Brennan insisted that he be sworn in with a copy of the Constitution which didn’t include the Bill of Rights.)

The White House has also withheld 9,400 documents from the Senate’s CIA torture investigation. McClatchy reports:

The White House has been withholding for five years more than 9,000 top-secret documents sought by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for its investigation into the now-defunct CIA detention and interrogation program, even though President Barack Obama hasn’t exercised a claim of executive privilege.

 

In contrast to public assertions that it supports the committee’s work, the White House has ignored or rejected offers in multiple meetings and in letters to find ways for the committee to review the records, a McClatchy investigation has found.

And Senator Mark Udall said that Obama knew about the CIA’s spying on Congress.

Not Just the CIA … And Not a New Problem

But it’s not just the CIA.   And there has been a constitutional crisis for a long time.

For example, the FBI collected files on everyone.  As the New York Times reports:

J. Edgar Hoover compiled secret dossiers on the sexual peccadillos and private misbehavior of those he labeled as enemies — really dangerous people like … President John F. Kennedy, for example.

The NSA has been spying on – and intimidating – its “overseers” in Washington.  Indeed, the NSA spied on anti-war Congress members in the 1970s … including the chair of the Congressional Committee investigating illegal NSA spying.

One of the NSA  whistleblower sources for the big 2005 New York Times exposé on illegal spying – Russel Tice – says that the NSA illegally spied on General Petraeus and other generals, Supreme Court Justice Alito and all of the other supreme court justices, the White House spokesman, and many other top officials.

The Washington Times reported in 2006 that – when Tice offered to testify to Congress about this illegal spying – he was informed by the NSA that the Senate intelligence committee was not cleared to hear such information:

Renee Seymour, director of NSA special access programs stated in a Jan. 9 letter to Russ Tice that he should not testify about secret electronic intelligence programs because members and staff of the House and Senate intelligence committees do not have the proper security clearances for the secret intelligence.

(And see this.)

Former high-level NSA executive Bill Binney points out how absurd that statement is:

Russ Tice ... was prepared to testify to Congress to this, too, and so NSA sent him a letter saying, we agree that you have a right to go to Congress to testify, but we have to advise you that the intelligence committees that you want to testify to are not cleared for the programs you want to speak about. Now, that fundamentally is an open admission ... by NSA that they are violating the intelligence acts of 1947 and 1978, which require NSA and all other intelligence agencies to notify Congress of all the programs that they're running so they can have effective oversight, which they've never had anyway.

Binney confirmed to Washington's Blog:

The violations of law and the constitution are being openly admitted by both Congress and the NSA.

The Other Story Getting Lost In the Shuffle

And there’s another story getting lost in the shuffle …

Sure, the top independent interrogation experts say that torture is ineffective … and actually harms national security. You’ve probably already heard arguments one way or the other on this issue, and likely have made up your mind about it.

But remember, the torture used by the U.S. on the Guantanamo suspects was of a “special” type.

Specifically, Senator Levin revealed that the the U.S. used Communist torture techniques specifically aimed at creating false confessions. And see these important reports from McClatchy, New York Times, CNN and Huffington Post.

In other words, were not just talking about torture.  We’re talking about deploying a special type of torture in order to get FALSE confessions.

In addition, the Atlantic notes:

America is likely to torture again, if we aren’t doing it already.

(And see this and this.)

A related part of this underreported part of the torture story is that the CIA’s torture program ended up deceiving the 9/11 Commission. Specifically, the 9/11 Commission Report was largely based on third-hand accounts of what tortured detainees said, with two of the three parties in the communication being government employees. The 9/11 Commissioners were not allowed to speak with the detainees, or even their interrogators. Instead, they got their information third-hand. The Commission itself didn’t really trust the interrogation testimony… yet published it as if it were Gospel.

New York Times investigative reporter Philip Shenon noted in a 2009 essay in Newsweek that the 9/11 Commission Report was unreliable because most of the information was based on the statements of tortured detainees.

NBC News reported:

  • Much of the 9/11 Commission Report was based upon the testimony of people who were tortured
  • At least four of the people whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report have claimed that they told interrogators information as a way to stop being “tortured.”
  • One of the Commission’s main sources of information was tortured until he agreed to sign a confession that he was NOT EVEN ALLOWED TO READ
  • The 9/11 Commission itself doubted the accuracy of the torture confessions, and yet kept their doubts to themselves

And the CIA videotaped the interrogation of 9/11 suspects, but falsely told the 9/11 Commission that there were no videotapes or other records of the interrogations, and then illegally destroyed all of the tapes and transcripts of the interrogations. (As discussed above, the current head CIA lawyer helped to destroy the tapes.)

9/11 Commission co-chairs Thomas Keane and Lee Hamilton wrote:

Those who knew about those videotapes — and did not tell us about them — obstructed our investigation.

 

***

 

Government officials decided not to inform a lawfully constituted body, created by Congress and the president, to investigate one the greatest tragedies to confront this country. We call that obstruction.

In other words,  we’ve got a rogue governmentThat’s the big story behind the CIA-congressional battle.