Monday, July 13, 2009

Who Knew?

I must admit that I am feeling some uncharitable glee at the current posturing of the congress critters over the fact that the CIA apparently withheld information, and possibly lied, about a super-duper-super-secret program it had been running during the Bush administration. Once the news hit that the CIA had been less than forthcoming about the existence of this program (about which we of the unwashed public still know nothing) because then Vice President Dick Cheney ordered them not to mention its existence to Congress, things got really heated.

Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, got riled by the news, so much so that she is calling for an investigation, according to this NY Times article, because laws may have been broken.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Sunday that the Bush administration may have broken the law if the Central Intelligence Agency concealed a covert spy program from Congress.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that the agency’s current director, Leon E. Panetta, had told the Senate and House intelligence committees that the C.I.A. withheld the information about a secret counterterrorism program on direct orders from then Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Times said that according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter, Panetta ended the program when he first learned of its existence from subordinates on June 23 and briefed the two intelligence committees about it in separate closed sessions the next day.
[Emphasis added]

Now it's bad enough that the information was at the very least withheld from the congressional oversight committees, but even the new director wasn't aware of the program until several months after he took over the CIA. If Leon Panetta didn't know about the program, I think a safe assumption is that the new President and Vice President didn't know about it either. That means that the CIA has been operating with absolutely no oversight at all for the past six months. There's something dreadfully wrong with this picture.

Of course, Republicans don't seem to mind much. After all, the Unitary President concept only applies when a Republican holds the White House. Proof of that came from John Kyl:

Jon Kyl, ... a Republican from Arizona, also said that it’s too soon to say whether an investigation needs to take place.

“What if it’s a top-secret program?” he asked. “Let’s not jump to conclusions.”

So secret that even the President and the Director of the CIA don't know about the program? So secret that the congressional committees charged with oversight of the agency don't even get a hint?

Lewis Carroll would have been proud.

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