A lot of Republicans owe Pelosi an apology

In May a chorus of Republicans inside and outside Congress made hay out of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim that the Central Intelligence Agency had not revealed its waterboarding policy during a 2002 briefing. Many demanded an investigation into the allegations. Minority leader John Boehner said of Pelosi,

“She made this claim and it’s her responsibility to either put forward evidence that they did in fact lie to her, which would be a crime, or she needs to retract her statements and apologize.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was among the Republican talking heads who demanded Pelosi’s resignation. According to Gingrich’s, Pelosi’s assertion was “stunning” and “dishonest.”

Representative Steve “10 Worst” King (IA-05) accused Pelosi of “actively undermining our national security” and called for suspending the speaker’s security clearance:

Speaker Pelosi has accused the CIA of committing a federal crime – lying to Congress. The CIA and other American defense and intelligence agencies cannot trust Nancy Pelosi with our national secrets, let alone our national security, until this matter is resolved. If true, there has been a serious violation of federal law. If false, American national security requires a new Speaker of the House. The severity of Speaker Pelosi’s accusations leaves no middle ground, and her security clearance should be suspended pending investigation.

Now we have learned that

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday. […]

Mr. Panetta, who ended the program when he first learned of its existence from subordinates on June 23, briefed the two intelligence committees about it in separate closed sessions the next day.

So not only was Congress misled, CIA staff did not even inform Panetta about the program until four months after he was sworn in. Charles Lemos is absolutely right that it’s time for a special prosecutor to investigate this matter.

Republicans who trashed Pelosi in May and June owe her an apology, but like Rude Pundit, I’m not holding my breath. They’ve always been easygoing about Bush administration law-breaking while throwing fits about Democrats who criticized it.

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Obama taps Leon Panetta to head the CIA

In one of his most surprising picks, President-elect Barack Obama will nominate Leon Panetta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

I am inclined to think that this was a smart choice. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California was already griping that Panetta lacks significant intelligence experience, but I don’t want an insider at the CIA now. As Spencer Ackerman noted, Panetta is on record opposing the use of torture:

We cannot simply suspend [American ideals of human rights] in the name of national security. Those who support torture may believe that we can abuse captives in certain select circumstances and still be true to our values. But that is a false compromise. We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don’t. There is no middle ground.

We cannot and we must not use torture under any circumstances. We are better than that.

According to the New York Times, the Obama team was explicitly looking for someone without connections to controversial intelligence practices during George Bush’s presidency:

Aides have said Mr. Obama had originally hoped to select a C.I.A. head with extensive field experience, especially in combating terrorist networks. But his first choice for the job, John O. Brennan, had to withdraw his name amidst criticism over his role in the formation of the C.I.A’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Members of Mr. Obama’s transition also raised concerns about other candidates, even some Democratic lawmakers with intelligence experience. Representative Jane Harman of California, formerly the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, was considered for the job, but she was ruled out as a candidate in part because of her early support for some Bush administration programs like the domestic eavesdropping program.

In disclosing the pick, officials pointed to Mr. Panetta’s sharp managerial skills, his strong bipartisan standing on Capitol Hill, his significant foreign policy experience in the White House and his service on the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan panel that examined the war and made recommendations on United States policy. The officials noted that he had a handle on intelligence spending from his days as director of the Office and Management and Budget.

Panetta ran the OMB for Clinton before being promoted to chief of staff, where he would have been privy to the president’s daily intelligence briefings.

Feinstein seems way off-base to suggest Panetta lacks the qualifications for this job. Her comments to the New York Times suggest that she’s offended not to have been informed about this pick in advance.

I am pleasantly surprised that Obama was looking for someone without connections to Bush’s eavesdropping program, given the way Obama caved on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act last summer.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Laura Rozen quotes a bunch of former intelligence officials and finds a mixed reaction to the choice.

Also, Bleeding Heartland commenter amcsepboe provides more reaction and background.

SECOND UPDATE: Other bloggers are already compiling evidence to show that Feinstein and her colleague on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, repeatedly enabled the Bush administration on torture and wiretapping.

EmperorHadrian goes over Feinstein’s history of supporting pro-torture Bush nominees.

Kula2316 has lots more reaction to the Panetta appointment here. The more I hear about the people who don’t like the pick, the more I think Panetta is the right person for the job.

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