Several of them, including Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss who had been briefed on the report's contents Monday, had sharp words. For instance, the most junior member of the Select Committee, the independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, said, “How do we do our oversight if we can’t believe what is being represented to us in our committee?”
And two members, Democratic Sens. Mark Udall of Colorado and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, called for Brennan's resignation.
While welcome, pushing Brennan out doesn't go nearly far enough. What's needed is a full-bore investigation of the agency, a new Church Committee or its like. However, that would require someone with the stature of Sen. Frank Church, the Idaho Democrat who was no shrinking violet when questioning agency officials in the committee's 1975 investigation of the CIA's assassinations and other actions dating back to the 1950s.
Former Sen. Evan Bayh, who Brennan has asked to lead an accountability board to review the issues covered in the IG's report, is certainly not of that stature. But then the internal investigation Bayh is charged with conducting would not come within a country mile of the Church Committee's efforts.
If an American citizen had done to the CIA (or to the NSA) what those agency employees did to the SSCI's staffers, they would most likely already be imprisoned—probably in solitary confinement—awaiting trial and facing long terms in the slam. Nobody at the CIA or the Justice Department would be tossing around terms like "inappropriate" behavior to describe what that citizen had done the way the IG has referred to the actions of the agency's employees. Calling that behavior "inappropriate" and calling the lying a "lack of candor" is the mealy-mouthed sort of criticism we've come to expect regarding an agency that established secret prisons where it could torture prisoners it grabbed off the street in several countries.
We need someone in charge of that investigation who will avoid euphemism. We need someone who will probe higher than the activities of the rank-and-file employees who surely did not monitor Select Committee staffers access to classified documents or dig into their emails without orders from above.
There is more on this below the fold.
It is well to remember that this spying by the CIA was all about covering up. It was not about getting to the bottom of the CIA's post-9/11 actions but rather of finding out how an internal CIA document critical of the agency's torture-related actions had come into the hands of the Select Committee when efforts had been made to keep that from happening.
All part of the CIA's campaign to keep as much as possible of what it had done out of the public spotlight.
The Select Committee spent years digging and finally completed a 6,300-page report in December 2012. By all accounts, it paints a dark picture of the CIA's actions. The committee sent the report to the CIA for review. The agency was, unsurprisingly, displeased with what it read. Consequently, after many months of what have been described as tense meetings between the agency and the committee, it was decided only to make public a 500-page declassified summary of the report. But first the CIA had to review and redact it. And then send it on to the White House for its review.
In its edited form, that summary report, according to Josh Rogin and Eli Lake at the Daily Beast, was to be passed on to Congress today, with public release expected as soon as next week:
And according to one person who has reviewed the document and three people who were briefed on its contents, the committee’s report will reveal new and shocking details about the CIA’s detention, rendition, and interrogation program in the years following the 9/11 attacks. But the report will not accuse the CIA outright of “torture,” an accusation that could have political, diplomatic, legal, and even criminal implications.Did you catch that? The torture report will not include the word "torture" because that could have "implications."
Instead, committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein has said, the report shows abuse that is “chilling” and “far more systematic and widespread than we thought.”
“The American people will be profoundly disturbed about what will be revealed in this report,” Sen. Ron Wyden, a member of the committee who has been vocal in his criticism of the CIA, told The Daily Beast this week.
It's tempting to call that unbelievable, except the record shows it to be quite believable, typical, in fact.
The CIA has been doing all it can to keep the torture report under wraps. After the Select Committee voted four months ago to declassify the summary, according to The New York Times last Saturday, Brennan:
...convened a meeting of the men who had played a role overseeing the program in its seven-year history.Fifty years ago, in 1964, The Invisible Government was published. Written by David Wise and Thomas B. Ross, it was the first real exposé of the CIA. Included in it were the CIA coups in Guatemala (1954) and Iran (1953) and the Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba. Also uncovered were the CIA's several attempts to overthrow President Sukarno in Indonesia and its covert operations in Laos and Vietnam. The agency planned briefly to buy up the entire printing of the book. But it gave up when Random House said it would print a second edition.
The spies, past and present, faced each other around the long wooden conference table on the seventh floor of the C.I.A.’s headquarters in Northern Virginia: J. Cofer Black, head of the agency’s counterterrorism center at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks; the undercover officer who now holds that job; and a number of other former officials from the C.I.A.’s clandestine service. Over the speakerphone came the distinctive, Queens-accented voice of George J. Tenet.
Over the past several months, Mr. Tenet has quietly engineered a counterattack against the Senate committee’s voluminous report, which could become public next month. The effort to discredit the report has set up a three-way showdown among former C.I.A. officials who believe history has been distorted, a White House carefully managing the process and politics of declassifying the document, and Senate Democrats convinced that the Obama administration is trying to protect the C.I.A. at all costs.
Since then, much more has been learned about the CIA's actions over time, with the Church Committee providing considerable depth. But that was nearly 40 years ago.
A new committee investigation, something that goes further than the torture report, something that gets into the details, for example, of who ordered the spying on the Senate staff, not just who carried out the orders. And that incident is surely just one of hundreds that ought to be exposed.