Opinion

This is what happens when you put a CIA apologist in charge of CIA oversight

The new chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence wants to keep you in the dark

If you ask them, Republicans will tell you their biggest problem with President Obama is his abuse of executive power. Delaying ObamaCare's employer mandate was an example of "cynical lawlessness." His immigration plan made him an "elected caesar," an "American caudillo." 

This hair-trigger tyranny detector doesn't seem to apply to America's security agencies, however, even when it's President Obama at the helm.

When it comes to the CIA's torture of innocent people, or unconstitutional dragnet surveillance, or assassination of American citizens, Republicans are eager to enable the executive branch. No fiddling with immigration regulations, because tyranny. But go ahead and kill whoever you want. We trust you.

Witness Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the brand-new chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Instead of carrying out the oversight functions that are the very reason the committee exists, he is being every bit the CIA lickspittle that I said he was going to be last March.

During the final days of the lame duck Congress, the SSCI released the executive summary of its investigation into the CIA's gruesome torture program, as was reported widely. But then-Chair Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) also sent the full report — which is over 6,000 pages long and considered classified — to various executive branch agencies.

Now Burr, in a probably unprecedented move, is asking for all copies of the classified report to be returned to the Senate. Why? To protect the CIA. As Jason Leopold points out, the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to Congress (Leopold already has several FOIA lawsuits open trying to get the report). So if Burr gets all copies of the report removed from executive branch agencies, then it can be suppressed. Permanently. 

Burr is also preparing to return another still-classified document to the CIA, something called the Panetta Review. This is an internal CIA document which reportedly confirms the sharply critical view of the Senate report — in contrast to the CIA's public claims that the Senate got it all wrong. Thus, it is of special significance because it lends extra credibility to the Senate report — especially their dozens of documented instances of CIA mendacity.

This move from Burr is part of a broader CIA whitewash. Recall that in a Senate speech last year, Feinstein accused the CIA of spying on and attempting to intimidate her staff. This was confirmed by the CIA inspector general, and CIA Director John Brennan apologized to Feinstein. But just last week, an internal CIA "accountability board" reversed the inspector general, asserting that the CIA did nothing wrong and it was Senate staffers who actually spied on the CIA.

Sure they did. As always when it comes to their extensive crimes and failures, the CIA says to trust the CIA.

As I have repeatedly argued, the CIA and its apologists simply have zero credibility on these matters. What this is about is obvious: making sure the Panetta Review never sees the light of day. Squelching internal dissent is key to presenting a united front in the propaganda war — and so the inspector general is also going to resign soon.

And congressional Republicans are going to do everything they can to help that effort. Placing America's security bureaucracy above the law is, it seems, a top GOP priority. Some might call that rather tyrannical.

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