I know we have some former spooks in the readership here. Would any of you care to comment on this?

CIA Director Michael Hayden has mounted a highly unusual challenge to his agency’s chief watchdog, ordering an internal investigation of an inspector general who has issued a series of reports sharply critical of top CIA officials, according to government officials familiar with the matter.

The move has prompted concerns that Hayden is seeking to rein in an inspector general who has used the office to bring harsh scrutiny upon CIA figures from former Director George Tenet to undercover operatives running secret overseas prison sites.

The investigation is focused on the conduct of CIA Inspector General John Helgerson and his office, particularly whether they were fair and impartial in their scrutiny of the agency’s terrorist detention and interrogation programs.

Officials said that the investigation also will span other subjects and that it already has expanded since its start months ago.

U.S. intelligence officials concerned about the inquiry said it is unprecedented and could threaten the independence of the inspector general position. The investigation “could at least lead to appearances he’s trying to interfere with the IG, or intimidate the IG, or get the IG to back off,” one U.S. official familiar with the investigation said.

Frederick Hitz, who served as the CIA’s inspector general from 1990 to 1998, said the move will be perceived as an attempt by Hayden “to call off the dogs.”

“What it would lead to is an undercutting of the inspector general’s authority and his ability to investigate allegations of wrongdoing,” Hitz said. “The rank and file will become aware of it, and it will undercut the inspector general’s ability to get the truth from them.”

My impression when Porter Goss became the DCI was that he was being brought in to clean out the agents who were leaking sensitive programs and secrets to the press. Goss left shortly thereafter, signaling (at least in my mind anyway) that he’d lost that battle. Hayden may have been brought in to do similar work, but the last time we heard from him, he was publicly slamming the CIA’s IG for criticizing former DCI George Tenet and others for all kinds of malfeasance before 9-11. And now we learn that he’s actually investigating the IG and has been for months. Strange.

The LAT story spins it as Hayden going after Helgerson because the latter vocally opposed the CIA’s overseas terrorist prisons and so forth, but there’s no public record of that. The only public record is of Helgerson tacking up some very legitimate criticisms of Tenet and his inner circle for essentially being too soft on terrorism. So just what is Hayden up to?

Tags: terrorism