American Elephants

Politicizing Everything May Seem Like a Good Idea In the Short Run. In the Long Run, it is a Disgrace. by The Elephant's Child
July 17, 2009, 1:11 am
Filed under: Law, National Security, Politics, Terrorism | Tags: ,


The political assault on the CIA which has been created by the administration and the Democrats in the House of Representatives is disgraceful.  Not long ago the CIA was in the news with Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, accusing the CIA of lying to Congress about the interrogation of al Qaeda detainees.  The CIA promptly pointed out the authorization by Congress, and the dates on which Ms. Pelosi was briefed.

Then came news of a “secret program” which promptly appeared in the pages of the New York Times which seemed to be intended to kill or capture the top leaders of al Qaeda.  You know, the gentlemen now being targeted by Predator drones in Afghanistan.  Now “assassination” has been banned by order since the Ford administration.  This “secret program” was apparently initiated by a presidential order from George Bush in September, 2001, just after 9/11.  The order was to find a way to kill or capture the leaders of al Qaeda.  Which seemed to be what everybody in the United States wanted (except Code Pink of course) in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The assumption was that Democrats were trying to provide cover for Ms. Pelosi’s embarrassment.  Accusing the nation’s top intelligence agency of lying and not briefing Congress is a pretty serious accusation.

CIA Director Leon Panetta instantly leaped into the fray, and “closed down the program”, which had never done anything much but have meetings to try to figure out how to find the leaders of al Qaeda.  It had essentially been shelved several years previously.  But Mr. Panetta wanted to show Congress that he would brook no shilly-shallying, and reported to the House Intelligence Committee, and the Senate Intelligence Committee the same day.  Not a peep has been heard from the Senate, but the House wants everyone to know that the CIA is the problem, not Ms. Pelosi.

Then came the  insinuation that, um, Dick Cheney had told the CIA not to tell Congress.  Attorney General Eric Holder made appropriate noises about an investigation, and possible prosecution, with no legal cause, which clearly had nothing to do with President Obama’s sinking approval ratings or being lectured for 2 hours by Vladimir Putin about the “real” cold war, or the clear failure of the stimulus bill to reduce unemployment which was over 20 percent in Oregon, Michigan and California.

And of course, if “assassination” is forbidden by law, it doesn’t make the slightest difference whether it is done by a sharpshooter in Afghanistan or a Predator ordered up by Obama.  But that can be overridden by a presidential order anyway.

In the meantime, Admiral Dennis Blair, our chief intelligence officer, stepped forward to announce that there was no legal obligation to brief Congress on a program that never came to fruition.

So all the excitement is about a program that never got off the ground, and was shelved ages ago, the secrets of which have already shown up in the New York Times.  But the politics are fascinating, if you can just figure them out.

It’s demoralizing to the CIA, and damaging to our relations with our allies’ intelligence agencies. The name-calling, the threats of prosecution, the constant effort to distract attention by blaming Bush are a disgrace.  President Obama spent his entire campaign complaining that our military was not chasing down Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan; and denigrating the valliant efforts of our military, where they were changing the face of the Middle East by winning a difficult war and bringing the first free elections and tremors of democracy to Iraq.  The politicization of our intelligence community is a danger to our country.

Michael Ramirez’ splendid cartoons are available at IBD Editorials.

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