Central Interference Agency


Yesterday, we learned that the CIA spied on Congress’ investigation of the agency’s torture program. Dan Froomkin puts the revelation in context:

The resistance to oversight about torture mirrors similar problems legislators have experienced when it comes to trying to monitor surveillance programs and other secret activities, with one huge exception: The torture report was championed and endorsed by Senate intelligence committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and other senior members of that committee. By contrast, Feinstein and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) have emerged as the strongest defenders of surveillance activity, leaving the so-far-losing battle for disclosure to be fought by more rebellious legislators.

Alex Ruthrauff makes the obvious point that the agency must have something to hide:

Agencies that operate in good faith and within the law have no need to obstruct investigations. If you’re doing that, you’re admitting guilt.

That might actually be the worst part of all of this — beyond the torture and the law breaking, the CIA is actually incompetent enough 1) to let Congress discover the CIA was spying on them, and 2) not to realize that their best chance of making this go away is to cooperate, say “sorry,” re-arrange the deck chairs, and move on. A lawless CIA is one thing, but a lawless CIA run by people who apparently can’t even manage a simple PR crisis is pretty fucking scary.

Drum quotes yours truly saying the same:

It’s enough to make you think that the CIA committed crimes so damning and lied so aggressively during the torture regime that it is now doing what all criminals do when confronted with the evidence: stonewall, attack the prosecution, try to remove or suppress evidence, police its employees’ testimony, and generally throw up as much dust as possible.

Actually, the funny thing is that this might not be true. It’s possible that spying is simply so ingrained in the CIA’s culture that they do it anytime they can, even if there’s no good reason for it. Alternatively it’s possible that the CIA committed crimes so damning and lied so aggressively during the torture regime that it’s now terrified of a full accounting of what it did. I could believe either possibility.

I fear the second. The zeal and passion with which the CIA has tried to justify the unjustifiable strongly suggests to me that the Senate Report, along with the CIA’s internal report, is correct: the US practised horrifying torture on a large scale and did so under cover of darkness, lying to the Congress, lying to itself, destroying tapes of its own atrocities and covering up all the way. They must be exposed and returned to democratic civilian control.

(Illustration: an anti-torture poster, from the days when the US opposed the use of torture in warfare.)