How convenient. In saying so, House and Senate members who were briefed and by all previous accounts did not ask for many, if any, details get off the hook. It incidentally also exonerates the George W. Bush administration, although it would deny ever being lied to. And there is the first issue: If the CIA doesn’t say it lied to the White House and the Bush White House said it did not, how in the world can the Senate Democrats claim otherwise?
John Yoo, who was vilified for his legal analysis on the interrogation memos, told Right Turn that “you have some mistakes (such as getting the number of detainees wrong) and keeping track of where all of the detainees were in the system” but little if any real evidence of intentional misleading. “The committee can argue with the CIA about adjectives used to describe how important the intelligence gathered was, or whether it could have been found otherwise — where I think the CIA directors have the better of the argument,” says Yoo. “But I don’t think you can say that the directors lied to the White House or [the Justice Department]. If you look at what President Bush and Vice President Cheney have said, they do not think that the CIA lied to them. Maybe Senator [Dianne] Feinstein thinks the CIA lied to her, but then she is free to produce the notes of her meetings with the agency to make the claim, and she should give the CIA officials a chance to testify to explain — which she did not.”
It is not as though this is the only investigation into CIA actions. A Senate aide reiterates: “The IG was no friend of this program. He had independent authority to report to Congress on any wrongdoing he discovered. In fact, when he did report to Congress, he said the program was effective and that meaningful intelligence was came from it, something that Feinstein must’ve forgotten to mention.”
Much attention has focused on whether the results of the enhanced interrogations were useful. The Bush and Obama administrations strongly believe that they were and that the stream of information, among other things, helped lead to Osama bin Laden’s killing. The Senate Democrats — who, remember, GOP critics point out, interviewed no one from the CIA — think otherwise, but I am inclined to believe the people (IG, two administrations’ CIA directors) who had direct knowledge of what transpired and/or access to the officials.
Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey slams the report. “Either Dianne Feinstein actually believes that successive directors of the CIA and their deputies lied to successive administrations and to Congress, and that only she, with the help of staffers who resolutely refrained from talking to anyone with actual knowledge of the underlying events, managed to uncover it, or she doesn’t but figures we will.” He adds, “She has out-Grubered [Jonathan] Gruber.”
It is also curious that prior reports of briefings do not indicate any level of specificity about which the CIA could “lie.” Indeed, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had to work hard to attempt to deny that any briefing took place. Which is it, Democrats: the CIA never briefed, or it briefed at such a level that Congress was misled about the specifics of the procedures?
The media, of course, play along with the charade, treating the Senate Democrats’ report — which they like to call the work of the “Senate” — as gospel, ignoring the contradictory IG report and (from the same people who excoriate Rolling Stone for not checking with the purported perpetrators) minimizing the failure to talk to people who actually knew what was going on. Moreover, it is a cowardly effort to evade “blame” for not raising objections at the time. That used to be their excuse — they were not told about the program — before it became more convenient to hide behind “the CIA lied.”
It is telling that the Bush administration won’t hide behind the lie that the CIA misled it, but the Senate Democrats will. In that regard, and in releasing a report they have been told poses a security risk to Americans, they should — if it were ever possible — be ashamed.
UPDATE: A compelling rebuttal from three former CIA directors and three former deputy directors is quite extraordinary in scope and certainty.