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Hullabaloo


Thursday, March 13, 2014

 
The CIA's aggressive, provocative move.

by digby


For those who haven't been following the ongoing sage over the torture report, this recap by Ari Melber will catch you up. Houston, we've got a problem with our intelligence agencies. All of them. It's possible they finally went too far by spying on lawmakers, but I think even that would have been excused if they hadn't done this:

T
he most dangerous move came from what the CIA did with the information that it gleaned from monitoring the Senate.

A top CIA lawyer took one of the most severe legal actions possible — officially asking the Justice Department to consider prosecuting the Senate investigators for doing their jobs.

Feinstein, backed by colleagues in both parties, said this tactic is an illegitimate attempt to get Senate staff to back off.

“There is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime,” she said on the Senate floor. “I view the acting general counsel’s referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff — and I am not taking it lightly.”

This week, I spoke with congressional staff members who said even a small risk of prosecution for investigating the CIA would have a chilling effect.

Feinstein also drew a direct line from the CIA’s aggressive, provocative move, which threw the grenade of a separation of powers crisis into President Barack Obama’s Justice Department — back to exposing the history of torture. Where this all started.

“The staff members who have been working on this study and this [torture] report have devoted years of their lives to it,” she explained, “They are now being threatened with legal jeopardy, just as the final revisions to the report are being made so that parts of it can be declassified and released to the American people.”

Melber gets right to the nub of what's so astonishingly aggressive about this:

Right now the Justice Department, which closed its own criminal investigation into torture by U.S. officials with no charges, is reviewing a high-level referral to investigate and possibly charge U.S. officials for investigating torture.

This is more than backward — it is dangerous for our separation of powers. Do we have a functioning democracy? Or are we sliding into a system where there are checks and balances for the rest of us, but no rules for the CIA?

Uhm. No there aren't. But there's no need. Both President Bush and President Obama assured us that "the United States does not torture" so we don't need to worry our pretty little heads about that. President Obama also said that he's committed to declassifying the report. Which is great. Except he failed to explain why his CIA chief is trying to stop it.

As Melber concludes in his piece:

So who is in charge here? The president either needs to get his CIA director in check, or get a new CIA director.

I wonder why he hasn't done that? You'd think that a president who won the Noble Peace Prize would be especially anxious not to have his legacy sullied by a torture cover-up. Oh well.

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