Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that people respond to incentives: If spying on, and lying to, Congress is dangerous, and the results of being caught unpleasant, then there will be less of it. If, on the other hand, the worst risk is a slap on the wrist and a seven-figure career in the private sector, then I suspect we’ll see more of this kind of bad behavior.
Congress can, of course, charge Brennan with contempt of Congress, or refer him for prosecution under the False Statements Act. But in both cases, the decision to prosecute would be made by Attorney General Eric Holder, who seems to see his role not as administering justice, but as running interference for the Obama administration and protecting its officials from consequences. (Holder himself has already been held in contempt of Congress for stonewalling an investigation into ATF gun-running to Mexican drug gangs). Likewise, Sen. Udall’s call for a criminal investigation of the CIA will go nowhere so long as Holder continues to play scandal-goalie.
Alas, as with the IRS’ stonewalling of investigations into its targeting of Obama’s political opponents, consequences for offenders seem hard to come by in the face of an administration that has no shame. Probably the best that Congress can do is to punish the entire CIA by using its budgetary power to make employees’ lives worse: Cutting back on bonuses, raises, conferences, and other perks. Where the IRS is involved, there’s some talk of abolishing most of it in favor of a national sales tax that would require much less bureaucracy and provide fewer opportunities for abuse, but that’s unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon.