A total fiasco. If you missed Ed’s posts about it yesterday, make sure to read them now — especially the one in which Democrat Mark Udall wonders if the CIA monitored investigative activity by the committee with Obama’s knowledge. Quickie background: The Intel Committee’s spent $40 million investigating CIA interrogation techniques under Bush. As part of the investigation, they asked to review top-secret documents held at CIA HQ. The CIA agreed and set aside some computers for them at Langley to access the document database — and, if committee members are to be believed, then proceeded to secretly monitor the process to see which docs committee staffers were looking at. Can the executive branch spy on the legislative branch? More specifically, can an executive agency spy on its own oversight committee in Congress?
The CIA’s rebuttal to all this: Why beat up on us when the committee’s stealing documents?
The CIA disputed significant portions of the committee’s findings in its official response to the report, which it submitted in June, three months after the deadline set by the committee. The agency also disputes that it conducted an internal review of the detention and interrogation program, asserting that it only compiled summaries of documents provided to the committee and not an analytical report.
Several months after the CIA submitted its official response to the committee report, aides discovered in the database of top-secret documents at CIA headquarters a draft of an internal review ordered by former CIA Director Leon Panetta of the materials released to the panel, said the knowledgeable person.
They determined that it showed that the CIA leadership disputed report findings that they knew were corroborated by the so-called Panetta review, said the knowledgeable person.
The aides printed the material, walked out of CIA headquarters with it and took it to Capitol Hill, said the knowledgeable person.
In other words, the CIA challenged the Intel Committee’s findings on enhanced interrogation even though those findings were allegedly confirmed by its own internal Panetta-led review. They lied, flat out — if the committee is to be believed. Having stumbled across the review, and probably fearing that the document would be wiped from the database if they didn’t obtain hard proof immediately, the committee’s investigators evidently decided to break protocol and print out a hard copy of the smoking gun to take with them. And not without reason: Per McClatchy, White House officials are mystified as to why the Panetta review was included in the document database that was made available to committee staffers — which sounds like they fully intended to hide the review’s findings from the committee if they could have. Have we really reached the point in Obama’s counterterrorism evolution where he’s trying to cover up CIA malfeasance on enhanced interrogation from Democratic investigators?
No wonder war analogies are being thrown around:
Senators on Wednesday expressed alarm at explosive allegations that the CIA might have spied on their computers to keep tabs on their controversial review of Bush-era “enhanced interrogation” techniques…
“I’m assuming that’s it’s not true, but if it is true, it should be World War III in terms of Congress standing up for itself against the CIA, ” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told The Hill…
Sen. Mark Udall (Colo.) and two other Democrats on the Intelligence panel have criticized the CIA and its director, John Brennan, for blocking their efforts to declassify the 6,300-page investigation.
“The CIA tried to intimidate the Intelligence Committee, plain and simple,” Udall said. “I’m going to keep fighting like hell to make sure the CIA never dodges congressional oversight again.”
You know Obama’s in a jam when even Grahamnesty isn’t willing to back presidential power in a matter related to surveillance and counterterrorism. One thing that’s unclear to me in all this, though, is the precise timeline. Did the CIA somehow discover that staffers had stolen the Panetta review and then start monitoring their computer use at Langley? Or were they monitoring their computers all along and that’s how they discovered that the review had been accessed and printed? Might not matter legally, but it’ll matter for spin purposes now that this is a PR war.
Exit question: If the decision on whether to release the CIA report ends up coming to a vote of the entire Senate, which way will Republicans vote? The instinct, I assume, will be to protect the agency (and Bush) in aggressively fighting counterterrorism by voting not to release it, but now that there’s evidence that the agency (and Obama) might be behaving inappropriately in trying to suppress it, that points to voting yes. Which way?