Where Were These Dems Asking about CIA-on-the-Hudson During Brennan’s Confirmation?

I have always been a huge fan of what Thomas Perez has done in DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. But this sentence, from Adam Serwer’s query on what happened to DOJ’s review of the CIA-on-the-Hudson, ought to give pause.

Since taking office, the special litigation section of the civil rights division has investigated more local police departments for unconstitutional policing than ever before, but never on behalf of American Muslims profiled by law enforcement.

But the rest of Serwer’s piece barely touches a big missed opportunity — and, potentially, an explanation for why DOJ has slow-walked its investigation of the profiling of Muslims in NYC. Serwer notes that Brennan complimented the program, in contrast to Eric Holder’s stated concerns about it.

Although Holder referred to the reports of the NYPD’s actions as “disturbing,” that’s not the view of everyone in the Obama administration. CIA Director John Brennan, formerly a top White House counterterrorism adviser, praised the NYPD’s surveillance program in April 2012. “I have full confidence that the NYPD is doing things consistent with the law, and it’s something that again has been responsible for keeping this city safe over the past decade,” Brennan said.

Brennan is not just the former White House counterterrorism [and homeland security] czar, but he’s also the guy who, when CIA-on-the-Hudson was being set up in the days after 9/11, was in charge of logistics and personnel at the CIA. Which means there’s a pretty decent chance he had a role in dual-hatting the CIA guy who operated domestically to help NYPD spy on Americans.

But Brennan’s role in finding a way to use CIA tactics domestically barely came up in his confirmation hearings. As I noted, he was asked whether he knew about the program (and acknowledged knowing about it), but he was not asked — at least not in any of the public materials — whether he had a role in setting it up.

Sort of a key question for the guy now in charge of the entire CIA, whether he thinks the CIA should find loopholes to get around prohibitions on CIA working domestically, don’t you think?

Serwer names several House Democrats — Rush Holt, Mike Honda, Judy Chu — who have been asking about this investigation. Obviously, they didn’t get a vote on Brennan’s nomination. But it seems the nomination period would have been a very good time to ask questions about how and why, at a time when Brennan played a key role in logistics and personnel at the agency, the government decided to set up this workaround. Asking at that time might have clarified why it is that the Administration seems uninterested in investigating this program.

As it is, we’re now left with a guy who publicly applauded such work-arounds — and CIA involvement through cooperation in fusion centers — in charge of the entire CIA.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

4 replies
  1. peasantparty says:

    Thanks for bringing us the people asking questions. I too have been trying to figure out what loops and hoops the CIA is using to give the appearance their ops on US soil is legal.

    As far as Holder goes, I think we’ve all seen that he is not really into his job. He would rather do whatever it takes to protect banks and friends.

  2. P J Evans says:

    We know that when terrorism is mentioned most congresscritters (including far too many Dems) automatically cower and believe whatever they’re told. If they were fed the story that it was an anti-terrorism op and not that the CIA was involved, they’d never think to ask about Brennan’s involvement. (They might not have asked, anyway.)

    What worries me is that the WH seems to believe he’s a really good guy, with a white hat and everything, and isn’t seeing the pattern behind his actions.

  3. matt carmody says:

    For those who do not know, when Ray Kelly came back to the NYPD post-9/11, he created the post of Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence. Intel had previously been a bureau under a deputy chief reporting to the PC.
    The man named for the position was David Cohen, Robert Gates’ number two in the Soviet section of the CIA under Casey when they missed the breakup of the Soviet Union while trying to tell the Reagan administration what it wanted to hear about the Soviet threat.

Comments are closed.