The New York Times has dedicated a blog to the many accounts of spying on Americans, wiretapping journalists, consorting with the mob, breaking and entering, plotting assassinations, and other varieties of skulduggery found in the CIA’s “family jewels” file. So far the family jewels–unsurprisingly–have revealed very little that wasn’t wasn’t already known. NYT reporter Tim Weiner, whose Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA is the one of the most important books that’s been published this year, is among the bloggers.
General Hayden, former wiretapper in chief and now Bush's nominee to head the CIA, is used to giving orders and not used to such unmilitary institutions as a free press. In his confirmation hearings yesterday he said CIA officers "deserve not to have every action analyzed, second-guessed and criticized on the front pages of the morning paper." Press criticism is to be condemned, but Hayden would like to have a rapport with the American people; he wants the public's trust. And he wants Congress to sell the public on the agency's activities:
…I would redouble our efforts to act consistent with both the law and a broader sense of American ideals. And while the bulk of the agency's work must, in order to be effective, remain secret, fighting this long war on the terrorists who seek to do us harm requires [emphasis added] that the American people and you, their elected representatives, know that the CIA is protecting them effectively and in a way consistent with the core values of our nation.
I did that at NSA and if confirmed will do that at the Central Intelligence Agency.
In that regard, I view it to be particularly important that the director of CIA have an open and honest relationship with congressional committees such as yours so that the American people will know that their elected representatives are conducting oversight effectively.
I would also look to the members of the committee who have been briefed and who have acknowledged the appropriateness of activities to say so when selected links, accusations and inaccuracies distort the public's picture of legitimate intelligence activities.
Color me skeptical. We haven't seen much sign of "effective" Congressional oversight of Hayden's earlier wiretapping activities or of the various questionable methods employed by the CIA lately. Hayden assured the Senate intelligence committee yesterday that the CIA is bound by federal anti-torture statute and the Detainee Treatment Act, but when asked specifically about "waterboarding," he became evasive:
FEINSTEIN: On March 17th, 2005, Director Porter Goss stated to the Senate Armed Service Committee that waterboarding fell into, quote, "an area of what I will call professional interrogation techniques," end quote.
Do you agree with that assessment? Do you agree with Mr. Goss's statement that waterboarding may be acceptable?
If not, what steps have been taken or do you plan to take to correct the impression that may have been left with agency employees by Mr. Goss' remarks?
HAYDEN: Yes, ma'am. Again, let me defer that to closed session, and I would be happy to discuss it in some detail.
Obviously, Hayden would not be deferring this question to closed session if his answer were simply that waterboarding is unacceptable and that he intends to make that clear to CIA operatives.
Hayden's record and statements on data mining, torture, and the role of the press and of Congress don't exactly inspire confidence in his assurances that as director he will respect the law and Americans' privacy. If the Senate confirms him, it will be a measure of just what Congressional oversight amounts to under Republican control.
The CIA has always had a leftist bent, well represented in its upper echelons even under directors of staunchly anti-Communist and pro-national-security orientation.
There is a glimmer of truth to what the NR gang says, of course, but the sense in which the CIA was left-wing, or anti-right anyway, was that it opposed the non-interventionist Old Right from the very beginning.
Judging from Bush's attitude toward professional intelligence — he would rather have yes-men then analysts — and pieces like this NR editorial and the neocons' emphasis on alleged whistleblower Mary McCarthy's ties to Democrats, it seems to me that something like a "K Street stragegy" for Langley is what the neoconservatives have in mind. Only Republicans, and only Bush loyalist Republicans at that, should have jobs at the agency, as NR-types would have it. The CIA has its problems, but they aren't about to be fixed by a wiretapping sycophant like General Hayden — quite the contrary.
News that the FBI is after Jack Anderson's papers reminds me that Bill Bennett's fondness for jailing reporters has some even nuttier antecedents. Like the plot to kill Jack Anderson. G. Gordon Liddy tells Playboy about it (via lefty blog Elementropy):
PLAYBOY: Why in God's name did you want to murder Jack Anderson in the first place?
LIDDY: I'd prefer to call it justifable homicide, since murder is a legal term for a specific type of homicide that by its very definition is unjustifiable…
Anderson is one of those mutant strains of columnist who are half legitimate, because he passes off biased interpretations and selective information as straight reporting. At one point, Anderson's systematic leaking of top-secret information rendered the effective conduct of American foriegn policy virtually impossible…
Here he explains how he might have done it:
Anyway, we [Liddy and E. Howard Hunt] had lunch over at the Hay-Adams across from the White House and discussed various methods of killing Anderson, including coating the steering wheel of his car with an LSD solution sufficiently potent to cause a crash, which we rejected as too chancy, and "aspirin roulette", which we also turned down.
They decided to keep it simple instead, with a fake mugging. "I would have knifed him or broken his neck, probably," the G-Man tells Playboy. In the end, though, he couldn't get the go-ahead and had to call the whole thing off.
Don't come away from this with the impression that Liddy is heartless: whacking liberal journalists may be one thing, but G. Gordon won't stand for cruelty toward monkeys (MP3 audio).
I've always kind of liked Liddy, actually.
Speaking of the New York Times, stashed away on page A25 we find out that the secretary of state — and also Stephen Hadley, Richard Armitage, and Elliott Abrams — might be called to testify in the trial of former AIPAC officials Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, the duo accused of passing secrets from Defense Department official Larry Franklin to an Israeli diplomat.
I live not far from the Tivoli restaurant where Franklin and friends used to get together to gossip about Bush’s plans for Iran. Can’t say I’ve ever run into them there, but then it’s not really one of my haunts. The food is lousy.