Yesterday, John Brennan was confirmed by the Senate to become the director of the CIA. This whole brouhaha over John Brennan, national security, drone attacks, Benghazi and the like should seem very familiar to you. This is almost exactly what we went through just a couple weeks ago with Chuck Hagel. Republicans were mad. They were furious. They demanded answers from the Obama administration. They were gonna block this nominee at all costs. Yet, in the end, nothing changed. Best I can tell, the White House did not fork over any mysterious, all-telling documents. There were no significant policy changes. Nothing. Both John Brennan and Chuck Hagel were confirmed. What we did see was the internal struggle within the Republican Party. They simply don’t know who they are. (more…)
There seems to be a lot of intentional confusion over who said what. Republicans, including former CIA chief and minority leader of the House Intelligence Committee, Porter Goss, have been accusing Nancy Pelosi of lying. Marcy Wheeler has an absolutely fabulous summation.
There is a long tradition in Washington of making political hay out of our business. It predates my service with this great institution, and it will be around long after I’m gone. But the political debates about interrogation reached a new decibel level yesterday when the CIA was accused of misleading Congress.
Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values. As the Agency indicated previously in response to Congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing “the enhanced techniques that had been employed.” Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened.
My advice — indeed, my direction — to you is straightforward: ignore the noise and stay focused on your mission. We have too much work to do to be distracted from our job of protecting this country.
We are an Agency of high integrity, professionalism, and dedication. Our task is to tell it like it is—even if that’s not what people always want to hear. Keep it up. Our national security depends on it.
But there’s a better way to understand this.
First, look at Panetta’s statement about the briefings themselves.
As the Agency indicated previously in response to Congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing “the enhanced techniques that had been employed.” Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened.
Panetta is stating two things:
- The contemporaneous records (that is, the CIA briefer’s own notes on the briefing) show that the briefers “briefed truthfully … describing ‘the enhanced techniques that had been employed'” on Zubaydah.
- It is up to Congress to evaluate this evidence and “reach its own conclusions about what happened.”
Now, first of all, Panetta is not saying (nor has anyone said, not even Porter Goss) that the briefers briefed Congress that these techniques had been used. I know this sounds weasely, but until someone says, in plain language, that the CIA told Congress those techniques had already been used on Abu Zubaydah, we should assume that’s not what the notes reflect, because if they did, you can be sure both the briefing list and the public statements would say so. But no one is saying that. And against that background, Panetta is reiterating the statement that Congress should determine what happened–a reiteration of the admission that CIA’s own briefing records are not the totality of the story.
The CIA briefing list records that the following people participated in the briefing: Nancy Pelosi, her staffer Michael Sheehy, Porter Goss, his staffer Tim Sample, briefers from the CounterTerrorism Center (CTC), and the Office of Congressional Affairs (OCA; elsewhere, we’ve been told four people, total, from CIA attended). (more…)