The violent reaction by US Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Kit Bond (R-MO) to the news about Leon Panetta being Obama's choice to head the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) speaks volumes about just how badly The Company needs a thorough brooming.
As three of the few members of Congress with committee positions that give them access to classified information about The Agency's doings, each of them - Feinstein, Rockefeller and Bond - are complicit in enabling (and keeping from public view) the CIA's activities around the world (and, illegally, at home).
The stench rising from the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, comes from places much deeper than the surface of that cesspool, where everybody has already seen and smelt some of the major wrongdoings that have floated to the top, notably The Agency's failure (or worse) to act on information prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001 (count me among the skeptics who doesn't trust the official story yet doesn't push any particular alternative theory either: I don't think we'll ever really know) and its role in providing short-order false intelligence claiming Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq to justify a war that has since siphoned a trillion dollars from the US economy.
No, it's worse than even those major events, larger than secret prisons, rendition and torture. The CIA routinely plays and partners in global narco-trafficking and weapons proliferation, money laundering and organized crime, the creation of violent acts of theater - made to look like "terrorist attacks" - to be blamed on countries or organizations in order to justify wars and repression and to manipulate public opinion, the illegal and unwarranted wiretapping of Americans abroad (using other governments to bypass US law, long before FISA bills were debated in Congress), an attempted coup in Venezuela, well documented attempts to assassinate Castro and other world leaders... The CIA is an agency run amok, and the Congressional leaders responsible for keeping it in check have either failed miserably to do their jobs or have, behind closed doors, authorized such rampant illegality.
And what's the argument that Feinstein and company are raising to try and block Panetta's taking of the helm? That he's not "experienced" inside the corrupted agency. (The "experience" argument, once again, a Trojan Horse for hidden agendas.)
To anybody that would suggest that an appointee from outside the CIA can't run the CIA, I have one simple question: You know that CIA building in Langley? Quick! Who is it named for?
In 1998, Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed legislation to name that building after a former CIA chief who, like Panetta, had no agency experience before taking over The Company. Today it is called "The George Bush Intelligence Center." (Bush, the elder, appointed by President Gerald Ford in 1976, had never worked in intelligence.)
Clearly, Feinstein and company don't have legitimate objections to Panetta, which makes the appointment of a liberal former US Representative - Time magazine notes that, in Congress, Panetta "repeatedly voted against President Ronald Reagan's military initiatives" - all the more attractive. They are merely scrambling to cover their own asses and cover up their own involvement in actions that, if ever exposed, would become the war crimes of two centuries.
The Panetta appointment also explains a lot about Obama's establishmentarian choices for Secretaries of Defense and State. He picked his battles, and it may be that Panetta is being sent in with a broom to sweep out the dirtiest, smelliest, most illegal enterprise in the United States government (one that has had a corrupting influence on Defense and State, too).
And if Feinstein et al really do try to head it off at the pass and deny Panetta's nomination, all the new president has to do is gather up some of the documents about illegal activities at the CIA - Drugs, anyone? Attempted coups? Illegal domestic surveillance? - in recent years that will be newly available to him on January 20, leak those documents to the press, cause a storm of controversy (and some Pulitzer Prizes to boot), have the new Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair, Senator Kerry, call for public hearings (reminiscent of his Iran-Contra and BCCI investigations), and, voila, place Feinstein and friends - and those who are behind them in this - in checkmate.
Joe Biden said, during the campaign, that Obama would be tested early in his presidency. I, for one, always knew it would come not from a foreign power or even from the Republicans, but from the old guard of his own Democratic Party. If Feinstein really wants to be the spear for that test, crush her, Mr. President-elect, ruthlessly and mercilessly, along with anybody and everybody that is in the shadows behind her transparent attempt to defend the indefensible. Game on!
Update: In the January/February/March 2008 issue of Washington Monthly - long before it was clear who would be the next president - Panetta penned this essay against the use of torture as interrogation techique:
Fear is blinding, hateful, and vengeful. It makes the end justify the means. And why not? If torture can stop the next terrorist attack, the next suicide bomber, then what's wrong with a little waterboarding or electric shock?
The simple answer is the rule of law. Our Constitution defines the rules that guide our nation. It was drafted by those who looked around the world of the eighteenth century and saw persecution, torture, and other crimes against humanity and believed that America could be better than that. This new nation would recognize that every individual has an inherent right to personal dignity, to justice, to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.
We have preached these values to the world. We have made clear that there are certain lines Americans will not cross because we respect the dignity of every human being. That pledge was written into the oath of office given to every president, "to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution." It's what is supposed to make our leaders different from every tyrant, dictator, or despot. We are sworn to govern by the rule of law, not by brute force.
We cannot simply suspend these beliefs in the name of national security...
Somewhere in the great beyond, Frank Church is smiling.
Update II: Feingold is pleased:
Fellow Intel Committee Democrat Russ Feingold had a different take on the nomination.
"My impression is this may have been a very good appointment as opposed to a questionable one," he told reporters.
Feingold made it clear he hadn't come to a final conclusion and wanted to examine it more.
"Of course it would be nice if he had more direct experience in terms of the intelligence issue," he said, "but there are so many issues here: trying to coordinate our foreign policy issues with intelligence issues with other government agencies."
He suggested as "a very effective" former chief of staff to President Clinton, Panetta "in some ways would be an ideal person for this role."
(Frank Church is now chuckling with glee.)