Spooks of the Senate

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The Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogations is a moment for reflection, but not for the reasons you’re hearing. The outrage at this or that ugly detail is politically convenient. The report is more important for illustrating how fickle Americans are about their security, and so unfair to those who provide it.

“The report’s greatest offense is its dishonest treatment of political accountability. The authors portray a rogue CIA operating without legal authority and hiding information from Congress, the public and even President Bush. This charge is rebutted even by current CIA director John Brennan , who otherwise dries his predecessors out to hang.”

After the trauma of 9/11 and amid the anthrax letters in 2001, Americans wanted protection from another terror attack. The political class fired up a commission to examine what went wrong so it “would never happen again.” So the CIA, blamed for not stopping 9/11, tried to oblige. It captured the plotters, detained and interrogated them—sometimes harshly. There hasn’t been another successful al Qaeda plot on the homeland.

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“Ms. Feinstein has had an admirable career, so it is a shame to see her mar her legacy with this one-sided report. Mr. Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper are also not profiles in courage, issuing everyone-has-a-point statements while endorsing release of the report. Better leaders would have resigned for the morale of their agencies…”

But political memories are short. As the Iraq war became unpopular, the anti-antiterror left fought back. Democrats who sensed a political opening began to fault the details of how the CIA and Bush Administration had protected the country—on surveillance, detention and interrogation. Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin, the lead Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, unleashed their staff to second-guess the CIA.

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“Then there is President Obama, who issued his own have-it-both-ways statement that condemned the Bush-era practices but extolled our intelligence services. He could have taken executive responsibility by having Mr. Brennan issue his own report or release the one done by former CIA director Leon Panetta , but that would have meant more personal political risk. Better to leave the public wet work to Senate staff.”

That’s the context in which to understand the Senate report, which reads like a prosecutor’s brief. It devotes 6,000 pages to marshalling evidence to indict the CIA program, and nothing was going to interfere with its appointed verdict. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Senate report: Attack on U.S. compound in Benghazi could have been prevented

STR/AFP/Getty Images -  A vehicle and the surrounding area are engulfed in flames inside the U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi late on Sept. 11, 2012.

STR/AFP/Getty Images – A vehicle engulfed in flames inside the U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi, Sept. 11, 2012.

Reporting by by Adam Goldman and Anne Gearan:  A long-delayed Senate intelligence committee report released on Wednesday spreads blame among the State Department and intelligence agencies for not preventing attacks on two outposts in Libya that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

The bipartisan report lays out more than a dozen findings regarding the assaults on Sept. 11 and 12, 2012 on the diplomatic compound and a CIA annex in the Libyan city of Benghazi. It says the State Department failed to increase security at the sites despite warnings, and faults intelligence agencies for not sharing information about the existence of the CIA outpost with the U.S. military.

The committee determined that the U.S. military command in Africa didn’t know about the CIA annex and didn’t have the resources to defend the diplomatic compound in an emergency.

“The attacks were preventable, based on extensive intelligence reporting on the terrorist activity in Libya—to include prior threats and attacks against Western targets—and given the known security shortfalls at the U.S. Mission,” the panel said in a statement.

Read the rest of this entry »


Radical Right and Institutional Left on Same Page: NY Times Editorial Board Endorses Breitbart News Editor’s Book “Extortion”

extorAll sides of the political spectrum, from Gov. Sarah Palin to the New York Times editorial board, are endorsing the new book Extortion by senior Breitbart News editor-at-large Peter Schweizer.

In a rare moment of ideological similitude, a Wednesday piece by New York Times editorial board member David Firestone titled “The Conservative Who Hates Slush Funds” hailed Schweizer’s book as one “sure to wind up on the nightstands of all campaign finance geeks.” Firestone added, “The issue cannot get enough publicity, but the best news of all is that the book was written by a conservative” who is “a fellow at the Hoover Institution and an editor-at-large at Breitbart.”

The Times’ article ran even as Breitbart News had as its lead story a book endorsement by Gov. Sarah Palin.

On Sunday, 60 Minutes partnered with Schweizer, who is also president of the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), on an investigation exposing how politicians use their leadership PACs as private slush funds to bankroll lavish lifestyle upgrades for themselves and their families, such as Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) spending $35,000 on NFL tickets; Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) using $64,500 to buy a painting of himself; or Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) spending $107,752 at the Breakers resort in Palm Beach. The Times said outrages such as these should raise bipartisan ire. Read the rest of this entry »