I’d argue that one of Barack Obama’s core weaknesses these past six years has been his appeasement of the CIA. It’s an agency that has come to believe that it is above the law, outside any constitutional accountability, and empowered to fight countless little wars – undeclared, covert, and with no democratic checks – and to spy and torture and become what is in effect a paramilitary adjunct to our constitutional armed CIA Director John Brennan Speaks At The Council On Foreign Relations forces. With that kind of untrammeled power, as well as the capacity to hide itself under the vast cloak of government secrecy, it is not surprising that its chiefs dictate to presidents rather than the other way round.
And so, in its concerted and passionate attempt to conceal its war crimes under Bush and Cheney, it has done all it can to stymie and delay and censor the Senate Intelligence Committee’s inquiry into the torture years. It has tried to turn this vital act of accountability and truth into a partisan affair, in league with Republicans who see nothing wrong with torture anyway and are committed to bringing it back. It actually spied on the Senate Committee itself, an act that is not so much remarkable for its illegality (the law is for others, not the CIA), as indicative of its conviction that it can get away with anything.
The CIA chief, John Brennan, initially denied any such thing – either a transparent, bald-faced lie or a sign that even he doesn’t control the agency he runs. The CIA is, in fact, now so out of control that one of its key defenders and enablers for years, Senator Feinstein, has finally seen it as the threat to our democracy that it is. And yet we stillhaven’t seen the Senate report, because the CIA so censored it to render it unintelligible, and the bare-knuckled Beltway brawl to bring it to light is still underway. The CIA top brass are not just content with their legal impunity for some of the foulest war crimes, but they want the record erased, obliterated and classified. That way, they set a precedent for future wars and war crimes over which the American people and the American president have little or no control.
The Guardian covers the proceedings with an article headed “CIA chief: ‘If I’ve done something wrong, I’ll stand up and admit it’ John Brennan expresses frustration with Senate and media while decrying lack of trust in agency at intelligence conference”.