In today's blog-post, Charlie Pierce wins the Snark O'The Day award for a pair of wiseassisms: Dianne Feinstein's sudden "outbreak of oversight" and the description of Edward Snowden as the "international man of luggage." However, the best and most delicious expression of all is Pierce's contempt for official Washington's "cover[ing of] the asses of the criminals who committed the crimes [of torture, rendition, and perjury]." If this is (fair & balanced) treasonous hypocrisy, so be it.
Dianne Feinstein Takes On The CIA
By Charles P. Pierce
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The basic problem with Dianne Feinstein's sudden outbreak of oversight regarding the CIA is that Feinstein herself, and a number of congresscritters who are worse than she is on the issue, Feinstein at least being consistently critical of the idea of torture, have placed the possibility of remedy beyond democratic politics.
Feinstein described the escalating conflict as a "defining moment" for Congress's role in overseeing the nation's intelligence agencies and cited "grave concerns" that the CIA had "violated the separation-of-powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution." Brennan fired back during a previously scheduled speech in Washington, saying that "when the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong."
Yes, it is a profound constitutional question, just as it has been since the CIA was created, and the government of the United States began to worship with the covert priesthood of the surveillance state. 'Twas ever thus. In Legacy Of Ashes (2007), his essential history of CIA crimes and CIA bungling through the years, Tim Weiner recounts the reaction of then-CIA Director William Colby to Seymour Hersh's revelation of a massive campaign of illegal CIA domestic spying against Americans involved in the resistance to the Vietnam War.
"It is inconceivable," Colby said, "that a secret arm of the government has to comply with all the overt orders of the government." And nothing much has changed within the culture of the intelligence community since he said that.
The CIA began to suspect that the panel had obtained those files this year after lawmakers referred to the supposed "internal review" publicly. U.S. officials said CIA security personnel then checked the logs of the computer system it had set up for the committee, and found that the files had been moved to a part of the network that was off-limits to the CIA.
To anyone with a brain, this is the way oversight is supposed to work. You conduct your investigation beyond the reach of those people being investigated until you're ready to go public with your findings. If the CIA hacked the committee's computers to get this stuff back, then the CIA committed another crime. The covert priesthood can conjure and mumble its spells all that it wants. The law remains the law.
But the offenses against the Constitution here are not isolated merely to the clear violation of separation of powers that plainly occurred. That's bad enough. But the deeper offense against the Constitution is found in what the Senate and the CIA are fighting over. The whole hooley is about torture, and it is about public accountability, and it is or should be about identifying what precisely was done in our names for the purpose of shaming the people responsible for it so permanently and profoundly that they are disqualified from public life for the rest of their days.
The dueling claims exposed bitterness and distrust that have soared to new levels as the committee nears completion of a 6,000-page report that is expected to serve as a scathing historical record of the agency's use of waterboarding and other brutal interrogation methods on terrorism suspects held at secret CIA prisons overseas after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Displaying flashes of anger during her floor speech, Feinstein said her committee would soon deliver the report to the White House and push for declassification of a document that lays bare "the horrible details of the CIA program that never, never, never should have existed."
Yes, it is easy to argue, as Edward Snowden, international man of luggage, did, that Feinstein was remarkably blithe about the NSA's program to snoop on almost everyone, but that she is now outraged because the Senate staff has been targeted by another intelligence agency. But that is missing the point by the width of the Volga. (Equally lame are any stories that waste our time talking about the internal politics of the Senate.) The point is the report and the point is torture and the point is the absolute right of the American people to know the full history of what was done in our name. Every horrible bit of it. Keeping that report secret is nothing more than allowing the cancer with which the Avignon Presidency infected the government to further metastasize, and to cover the asses of the criminals who committed the crimes. What this controversy needs is another Otis Pike, another Dan Schorr. What it needs, seriously, is its own Edward Snowden. Ω
[Charles P. "Charlie" Pierce is a sportswriter, political blogger, author, and game show panelist. Pierce is the lead political blogger for Esquire, a position he has held since September 2011. He has written for Grantland, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Sports Illustrated, The National Sports Daily, GQ, and Slate. Pierce makes appearances on radio as a regular contributor to a pair of NPR programs: "Only A Game" and "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!" He graduated from Marquette University (BA, Journalism).]
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