Monday, July 13, 2009

Playing Politics With National Security...Again!

The Democrats in Washington are at it again, playing fast and loose with national security simply to score political points.  Remember that whole dust-up with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accusing the CIA of lying to her and Congress?  Well, the Republicans haven't forgotten about it, and are keeping up the pressure on Pelosi to either put up the documentation to prove the CIA was lying, or to offer an apology and retract her statements.  Their continued pressure appears to be causing some problems for the Speaker:

As political spectacles go, one would be hard pressed to find anything as ridiculous as the Washington Romper Room now starring Congressional Democrats and the CIA. If only the consequences weren't potentially so damaging for national security.

The latest episode comes courtesy of Silvestre Reyes, Chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence. In a letter leaked to the press on Wednesday, he claims the agency "misled" Congress about its activities after 9/11. Recall that this all started when Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted the CIA failed to brief her in 2002 about aggressive interrogations during her time on Intelligence earlier this decade. CIA Director Leon Panetta in May said the agency didn't, as policy or practice, "mislead Congress." Briefing notes from the time showed Mrs. Pelosi was told and didn't object to waterboarding. The CIA this week felt compelled to issue another denial in response to the Reyes letter.

Panetta is a partisan Democrat hack, so it's kind of fun to watch the Dems tear each other's throats out.  Still, Panetta is trying to rebuild the bridges:

Mr. Panetta must feel burned. After the Pelosi blow-up, he has tried to repair relations with his own party's Congressional leaders, and last month he reached out to the Intelligence Committee. On June 24, in a classified hearing, Mr. Panetta produced so-called new information about CIA counterterrorism efforts in the months after the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. We're told that he informed the Members that the agency had considered, then abandoned, a major covert antiterror program. (Our sources wouldn't say what it was.) Bush-era CIA officials didn't tell Congress because it never got off the ground. But this is the "at least one case" Mr. Reyes claims his committee was "lied to" about in the Bush years.

So, Panetta offers up this juicy exit strategy, mentioning that there was 'at least one' specific incident on which the CIA did lie to Congress, but it was all Bush's fault.  Interestingly enough, much of the 'new' information coming out now originated with Democrats, so that further complicates the matter for Pelosi and her ability to attack her accusers.  For a thorough recap and layout of the scenario, the accusations and counter-accusations, the dodging, the weaving, and the lying, go here.  The bottom line is that pretty much all of the Democrats who are trying to defend Pelosi have latched onto this idea that there was 'at least one' instance where the CIA did, in fact, lie to (or mislead) Congress.

And now we get to the really interesting part...we have finally discovered what that 'one instance' actually was via Hot Air:

The CIA secretly planned … to capture and/or kill … al-Qaeda's top leaders.

I hear you gasp in shock over this news:

A secret Central Intelligence Agency initiative terminated by Director Leon Panetta was an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives, according to former intelligence officials familiar with the matter.

The precise nature of the highly classified effort isn't clear, and the CIA won't comment on its substance.

According to current and former government officials, the agency spent money on planning and possibly some training. It was acting on a 2001 presidential legal pronouncement, known as a finding, which authorized the CIA to pursue such efforts. The initiative hadn't become fully operational at the time Mr. Panetta ended it.

In 2001, the CIA also examined the subject of targeted assassinations of al Qaeda leaders, according to three former intelligence officials. It appears that those discussions tapered off within six months. It isn't clear whether they were an early part of the CIA initiative that Mr. Panetta stopped.

Let's see.  Democrats want to make hay over a program to kill Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the rest of the radical Islamist looney tunes?  Best of luck with that. Show of hands: who in the US doesn't want the heads of bin Laden and Zawahiri on a pike?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Bueller?

As a result of this ridiculous Pelosi-didn't-lie defense, there are some in Congress who now think that all major Presidential intelligence actions should be overseen by Congress.  That's an extremely bad idea for a couple of reasons.  First, it is the President's job to run military options and protect the nation, not Congress'.  Maybe they should consult the Constitution on that.  Second, well, just read this:

This is a recipe for more leaks and more compromised CIA operations. Congress claims it needs to better monitor Presidential intelligence decisions. But the real lesson of the last few years is that Congress wants to know about, and often second-guess, intelligence decisions without being responsible for the result.

In a common sense (and correct) move, the Obama administration is threatening to veto any such legislation that might come forth to enshrine that desire.  As the WSJ points out, Pelosi and these other Dems had plenty of opportunity to object to what the CIA was doing at the time, but they didn't.  This brings us to the third reason this is a bad idea:

House Members who are willing to put the politics of protecting their Speaker above national security can't be trusted with adult decisions on intelligence and war-fighting.

Amen to that!  And you know something is terribly wrong when Obama is the one with the sensible national security policy...

There's my two cents.

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