Lies Wide Shut
posted at 9:29 pm on July 9, 2009 by Dafydd ab Hugh
On June 26th, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX, 82%), sent a letter to ranking Republican member Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI, 88%); Reyes claimed that two days earlier, in a classified briefing by CIA Director Leon Panetta (a hyper-partisan Democratic former House member), the director admitted the CIA routinely misled and even lied to Congress under George W. Bush:
Exactly what actions Panetta disclosed to the House Intelligence Committee on June 24 is unclear, but committee chairman Silvestre Reyes said that the CIA outright lied in one case.
“These notifications have led me to conclude that this committee has been misled, has not been provided full and complete notifications, and (in at least one case) was affirmatively lied to,” Reyes wrote in a letter Tuesday to Michigan Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the committee’s senior Republican. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press.
Reyes said in the letter that he is considering opening a full investigation.
(A CIA spokesman says Panetta denies saying any such thing in his briefing; see below)
Then yesterday, somebody on the committee or at CIA leaked a second letter (obtained by Politico), sent by seven other Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, also to the director; in it, the seven echo Reyes’s claim: That Panetta testified that “top CIA officials” concealed CIA operations from Congress and “misled them over the span of last eight years.” (For the full text of this second letter, see the end of this post.)
But of course, all eight accusers coyly refuse to say exactly what the CIA is supposed to have misled them about; they just allow the nation to draw the “obvious,” but not necessarily accurate, conclusion.
Democrats are using this bit of fluff to prop up the wobbly Squeaker of the House, insinuating — with no lawful way to debunk it — that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) was truthful when she said the CIA “never told her” we had already waterboarded a terrorist detainee and planned to waterboard a couple more:
In the letter [from the seven], Democrats demanded that Panetta correct a statement he issued on May 15 — just after Pelosi accused the CIA of misleading her during the Bush years about the agency’s use of waterboarding techniques — stating that it is not the CIA’s “policy or practice to mislead Congress….”
Democrats refused to say today what exactly Panetta told the members during the June meeting, citing the need to keep sensitive intelligence information classified. But committee members said they were appalled to learn from Panetta that the CIA had been misled them over the span of last eight years….
Asked if the letter should silence debate about whether she was fair in her characterization that the CIA had misled about its use of waterboarding, Pelosi shot back, “I didn’t know there was any question about propriety.” [sic — “propriety?”]
And here is another one of those remarkably convenient coincidences that seem to crop up with great frequency in the Pelosi Congress:
[Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ, 100%), one of the seven signers] said that the release of the letter [from the seven] was timed to coincide today with the start of debate on an intelligence reauthorization bill. Among those issues up for debate is whether the number of lawmakers briefed on the CIA’s actions should be expanded.
How amazing that the letter from the seven insinuators was sent nearly two weeks ago, but leaked only yesterday, just before the hearings… during which Republicans intend once again to demand that Speaker Pelosi either put up or shut up — that she either show some evidence to back her accusation that the CIA lied to her, or else retract her bizarre claim and apologize:
Reyes and other committee Democrats sent Hoekstra a letter saying that CIA Director Leon Panetta had acknowledged that senior CIA officials have misled lawmakers repeatedly since 2001. But a GOP spokesman has suggested that the letter was timed to deflect a controversy involving House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s knowledge of CIA interrogation techniques.
Hoekstra told CBS’ “The Early Show” on Thursday that it appears that Reyes is “working on the political equation.”
Meanwhile, Pelosi herself is busy ducking questions and pretending she had no knowledge of the leaked letters and didn’t orchestrate them to save her own shaky reputation and increasingly untenable tenure as Squeaker of the House:
It’s been almost two months since Pelosi claimed the CIA lied to her about what interrogation methods they’d used on detainees. That accusation prompted Panetta’s statement defending the agency.
Since then, the speaker has refused to take any more questions on the subject. While Pelosi took numerous questions today, she deflected most and left matters in the hands of the House Intelligence Committee….
[House Minority Leader John] Boehner [R-OH, 92%] renewed his call today for Pelosi to either “put up the facts or retract her statement and apologize” to the intelligence committee.
Nobody privy to the actual intelligence, not even Reyes and the seven dwarfs, has explicitly claimed that Panetta said the CIA lied about briefing Pelosi or anyone else on waterboarding; but neither can anyone explicitly dispute it without winding up in la calabooza. And for that matter, Panetta’s spokesman denies that Panetta said any such thing in the first place; from the Politico piece:
CIA spokesman George Little told the Washington Independent late Wednesday that the claim that Panetta admitted his agency has misled Congress is “completely wrong.” He added, “Director Panetta stands by his May 15 statement.”
The charge — that one of these supposed “misleadings” was whether Pelosi and other Democrats were briefed on waterboarding — is inuendo, based upon unavailable evidence that cannot be checked or validated in any way. It just hovers overhead as an a priori accusation: unverifiable, unrebuttable, irrefutable. Well, who can argue with that!
The Democrats get to wallow in triumphalism: See? We Democrats had no inkling we were torturing detainees; we surely would have stopped it if we knew; so don’t blame us, it’s all George Bush’s fault! And Republicans are stymied, since the only way to rebut the claim is to leak classified intelligence.
Meanwhile, the Democrats are using this alleged (and denied) “misleading” to demand that henceforth, the CIA must brief every member of both House and Senate Intelligence Committees on every CIA action; from the Washington Times piece:
House Republicans oppose at least one provision in the intelligence authorization bill, and they have an unusual ally: the White House.
Obama’s aides have said they will recommend he veto the bill if it includes a Democratic-written provision requiring the president to notify the intelligence committees in their entirety about covert CIA activities.
Under current law, the president is only obligated to notify the top Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate and the senior Democratic and Republican members on each chamber’s intelligence committee.
Democrats want to open the briefings to all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees unless committee leaders agreed otherwise. That would be about 40 lawmakers, depending on shifting membership rosters, instead of the eight required by law.
They claim the Bush administration sought to undermine congressional oversight. However, the White House is concerned that briefing more lawmakers might compromise the most sensitive U.S. intelligence operations.
Gee, you think?
To demonstrate the insanity of this proposal — pushed by congressional Democrats and opposed by Republicans and President Barack H. Obama — all we need do is take a look at some of the Democrats on the two committees.
When Sen. John “Jay” Rockefeller (D-WV, 94%) was the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (he is still a member but no longer chairman), he was one of the leaders in abusing his intelligence access to perpetuate the “Bush lied, people died” meme; he repeatedly stated that no prewar intelligence supported the idea that Saddam Hussein had ongoing chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons programs — even though he himself had earlier stated the exact opposite, and despite a wealth of intelligence indicating exactly that, published in the committee’s own report on pre-war intelligence during Rockefeller tenure.
Rockefeller also agreed with a CBS interviewer’s question, on September 9th, 2006, that “the world would be better off today if the United States had never invaded Iraq — even if it means Saddam Hussein would still be running Iraq.”
Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 100%), Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI, 90%), all current members of the Senate Intelligence Committee — Feinstein is the chairman — wrote a letter in July, 2007, demanding a “special prosecutor” be appointed to investigate then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for perjury… because of a trivial difference between Gonzales’ testimony and that of then-FBI Director Robert Mueller over the exact subject of a hospital-room discussion between Gonzales and former Attorney General John Ashcroft three years earlier.
Mueller, who was not present during the conversation itself, gained the impression afterwards that the discussion had been about the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP); but Gonzales testified to Congress three years later that it was about a different but similar surveillance program. And for that, four Democratic senators wanted to send Gonzales to federal prison — the three mentioned above, plus Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%).
To complete the humiliation, the very next day — July 29th, 2007 — the New York Times published a story revealing that the subject was not, in fact, the TSP… it was the “data mining” surveillance program. So Gonzales had been telling the truth all along, and it was Mueller who misunderstood which program was under discussion. None of the senators who had called for Gonzales to be jugged for perjury ever apologized, including the three who today sit on the Senate Intelligence Commmittee; they just quietly dropped their demand.
This bespeaks such unseriousness of purpose — at a time when the Iraq war was flagging, Gen. David Petraeus’ new counterinsurgency strategy was just starting, and more than ever we needed our government to show solidarity and steadfastness — that I question whether any of these three should even be allowed to serve on such a delicate and supposedly bipartisan committee as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Turning to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the current chairman, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-CA, 82%), flunked an intelligence quiz just a month before he was slated to assume that position; the quiz included such tricky, unfair questions as whether al Qaeda is Sunni or Shiite. (Reyes’ answer: “They are probably both,” followed by “Predominantly — probably Shiite.”)
Note: The CNN site is a shambles; when you first go to the link, you may see nothing but black where the text should be. But I discovered that if you click inside the text area, then Select All, you should be able to see a ghostly image of the selected text. Thank goodness for the “multiple layers of editing” we find in the elite news media.
The next ranking Democrat on the committee is Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL, 100%)… a former federal judge who was impeached and removed from office for accepting a $150,000 bribe, then perjuring himself when caught.
Yep, there’s a reliable, trustworthy, expert gaggle of folks that I’d love to see be constantly apprised of the most vital, ongoing, and heavily classified CIA operations. American’s national security would be vitally compromised if congressmen like Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Rep. Alcee Hastings weren’t allowed to fully exert their “oversight authority” over our primary intelligence-gathering agency.
Let the full committee in both houses see everything. Better yet, why not the entire Congress, all 435 of them? Why should we slight former vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Sen. Patrick “Leaky” Leahy (D-VT, %) — who leaked an intelligence report, unclassified but still strictly confidential, to a CBS reporter, so compromising himself that he resigned from the committee?
Heck, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation keeps telling us, “Information wants to be free.”
Full text of the letter from the seven insinuators to the Director of the CIA, Leon Panetta
The Honorable Leon E. Panetta, Director
Central Intelligence Agency
Washington, D.C. 20505
Dear Director Panetta,
You recall, no doubt, that on May 15, 2009, you stated the following in a letter to CIA employees:
Recently you testified that you have determined that top CIA officials have concealed significant actions from all Members of Congress, and misled Members for a number of years from 2001 to this week. This is similar to other deceptions of which we are aware from other recent periods.
In light of your testimony, we ask that you publicly correct your statement of May 15, 2009.
Anna G. Eshoo
Rush D. Holt
Alcee L. Hastings
John F. Tierny
Janice D. Schakowsky
Cross-posted on Big Lizards…