Back during John Brennan’s confirmation process, I noted he got zero questions about cybersecurity, in spite of the fact that that is a big part of the portfolio of the White House Homeland Security Czar (as has been made evident by Lisa Monaco’s central role in the Sony hack response).
Since then, John Brennan permitted his subordinates to hack the email accounts supposedly designated for the Senate Intelligence Committee’s designated use.
Those are both reasons you should be concerned by the news that — as part of a larger “subject matter” reorganization of CIA, Brennan wants to hack.
U.S. officials said Brennan’s plans call for increased use of cyber capabilities in almost every category of operations — whether identifying foreign officials to recruit as CIA informants, confirming the identities of targets of drone strikes or penetrating Internet-savvy adversaries such asthe Islamic State.
Several officials said that Brennan’s team has even considered creating a new cyber directorate — a step that would put the agency’s technology experts on equal footing with the operations and analysis branches that have been pillars of the CIA’s organizational structure for decades.
All the more so given that neither all of the Intelligence Committees nor NSA’s leadership knows what Brennan is up to.
Brennan provided only broad outlines of his plan in recent congressional meetings that excluded all but the four highest-ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence panels. A senior U.S. intelligence official said that some senior NSA executives remain in the dark on Brennan’s cyber ambitions.
But then, if all of SSCI knew what Brennan was up to, I guess it’d be harder for him to hack them in the future.
This is a detail I’ve meant to post on for some time, but the discussion of ODNI’s latest on leaks has finally prompted me to point to this detail.
As part of the standard questionnaire for Intelligence Committee nominees, Rasmussen was asked if he had been interviewed in the last 10 years in a leak investigation (question 42). He responded that he had been interviewed in two investigations:
The latter one is likely to be the 2014 investigation into who leaked a terrorist watch list document to the Intercept. Rasmussen would clearly be among the (as he describes it “large number of people who had access by virtue of position to the information that was reportedly compromised.”
It’s the other investigation I’m interested in. The best known “disrupted” terrorist plot in 2010 was the AQAP toner cartridge plot. And while it could be a different thwarted plot (like Faisal Shahzad’s attack, though not much got leaked about it except from Pakistan), no one has ever reported an investigation into that, even though aspects of that leak largely resembled the UndieBomb 2.0 leak that DOJ subpoenaed the AP over.
But I’m just as struck by Rasmussen’s silence about the UndieBomb 2.0 leak investigation. Rasmussen remained at the same counterterrorism position in the White House until June 2012, through the UndieBomb 2.0 leak. Unless those investigations merged (which might explain why they were investigating a 2010 leak in 2013), it would seem to suggest that Rasmussen was not read into the UndieBomb 2.0 infiltration, in spite of its significant similarities to the Toner Cartridge infiltration.
By way of comparison, here’s how John Brennan answered the same question (he was going to be interviewed on the UndieBomb 2.0 leak during his confirmation process).
The comparison raises the same questions: There’s no way Brennan wasn’t read into whatever 2010 thwarted attack got compromised, because he would have been read into everything (he was a key point person on both the Faisal Shahzad attack, and did a big dog-and-pony show around the Toner Cartridge plot).
Were Rasmussen and Brennan just discussing the same investigation, into how details of double agents in AQAP kept getting exposed (in large part, by our Saudi and AQAP allies). In any case, was Rasmussen not interviewed in the latter part, in which case it would suggest the compartment for the latter was much more closely held?
Katherine Hawkins has a very good review of the results of the CIA IG Report and “Accountability Review Board” over the Senate Intelligence Committee staffers’ access to CIA documents on torture; you should read the whole thing. Hawkins points out that the CIA’s own review of the Torture Report admitted it needs to approach individual failures from a broader systemic approach, but that their treatment of this issues shows they continue to fail to do so.
While the CIA’s official response to the Senate torture report acknowledges “significant shortcomings in CIA’s handling of accountability” for failures and abuses that occurred during the rendition and black site program, it still does not recommend any corrective action. The response instead states that the agency “do[es] not believe it would be practical or productive to revisit any [rendition, detention and interrogation program]-related case so long after the events unfolded,” thinking it sufficient to say:
Looking forward, the Agency should ensure that leaders who run accountability exercises do not limit their sights to the perpetrators of the specific failure or misconduct, but look more broadly at management responsibility and more consistently at any systemic issues … [N]o board should cite a broader issue as a mitigating factor in its accountability decision on an individual without addressing that issue head on.
The CIA Accountability Board’s December report on the agency’s search of Senate computers is the first test of whether these reforms have any meaning or effect. And the answer is: they do not.
Critically, Hawkins points to something the ARB ignores: the rationalization the CIA General Counsel lawyer used to justify searching the Senate side of the RDI server hosting the torture documents. She describes how this lawyer justified treating Senate Intelligence Committee staffers doing their job as criminals.
[T]he CIA lawyer assigned IT staff to search Senate staffers’ side of RDINet, the computer network that staffers used to review documents for the torture study. The attorney presents himself as having not only the legal right, but also the duty, to take these actions because of the CIA’s statutory obligation to protect “sources and methods.”
Incredibly, the Accountability Board report repeatedly cites the need to preserve the CIA’s relationship with the Senate as a justification for searching Senate computers without informing the committee. The board writes that the initial search was “reasonable given the embarrassment to the Agency and harm to the Agency-SSCI relationship that would have resulted from a false allegation.” Further searches were “reasonable” because “this was no normal potential security problem; it involved the United States Senate,” which made it more important to “have explored all alternatives and possible solutions before the problem was confirmed and the D/CIA would have raised it with Senate leaders.”
But the CIA lawyer’s memo makes it very clear that the purpose of not informing the Senate was not to verify evidence and explore alternatives — which could have been accomplished through dialogue with the committee. The purpose was to gather evidence for a potential criminal prosecution of Senate staff, before Senators could protest or staff could “get their stories straight.” The agency went on to file an inaccurate crimes report against Senate staff with the Department of Justice — a fact that the Accountability Board does not dispute, but barely acknowledges. It is hard to think of anything that could be more damaging to the oversight relationship that the CIA and the White House claim to value so highly. But the Accountability Board fails to identify who was responsible for the inaccurate report to DOJ, fails to recommend that anyone be disciplined for it, and fails to recommend any safeguards against a repetition of the incident.
As Hawkins summarizes, the crime report was based off a flaw in the Google search that CIA’s own contractor had built into the system.
On February 7, 2014, the CIA’s Acting General Counsel Robert Eatinger (whose name is redacted from the OIG report) filed a crimes report against Senate staff with the Department of Justice. The OIG report found that the crimes report “was unfounded,” in part because Eatinger “had been provided inaccurate information on which the letter was based.” In particular, the OIG wrote:
[T]he crimes report stated that SSCI staffers might have exploited a software vulnerability on RDINet to obtain access to the [Panetta Review documents], in violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act … The report was solely based on inaccurate information provided by the two [Office of the General Counsel] attorneys [to the Office of Security].
The OIG report found that there was indeed “a vulnerability” with the Google search tool that the CIA provided to the committee, which was “not configured to enforce access rights or search permissions within RDINet and its holdings” from 2009 to April 2013. But contrary to the CIA lawyer’s memorandum and the crimes report to DOJ, OIG found no evidence that Senate staff had deliberately “exploited” this flaw until CIA personnel “confronted them” with inappropriately accessed documents. Rather, it was SSCI staff who brought the vulnerability to the CIA’s attention. On November 1, 2012, a SSCI staff member alerted CIA staff that the search tool “was indexing the Majority staff work product on a shared drive,” and asked them to make it stop. The CIA did not act on this request for months. Then in 2013, a SSCI staff member requested “a number of detainee videos not provided to the SSCI by the CIA,” based on a spreadsheet that a CIA employee recognized as being from the Panetta Review. After this incident, in April 2013, CIA IT staff finally discovered and repaired the flaw with the Google search tool.
In other words, CIA set up an expensive server, accessed by Google searches, so SSCI staffers could do their job. And then tried to get them prosecuted for using what turned out to be a flaw in that Google search function.
There’s just one question Hawkins leaves out of this. This entire server set-up (as well as multiple contractor reviews of each document) reportedly accounts for the bulk of the $40 million the Torture Report cost to complete.
But it apparently didn’t even accomplish the function it was supposed to (or did it?). Why is CIA trying to prosecute oversight rather than reclaiming some chunk of that $40 million?
Back in a Twitter discussion with Jack Goldsmith about whether President Obama could force a peace settlement with Iran through Congress, I suggested the way to change the politics in DC would be to exercise Executive discretion over all the intelligence we’ve got that shows the Saudis backed 9/11, continued ignore support for al Qaeda until at least 2010, and haven’t really tried all that hard to crack down on other Islamic extremists either.
As luck would have it, just as Obama faces a renewed 2 month deadline for his peace plan with Iran (which reportedly is showing progress), and just as Democrats are being forced to snub Bibi’s address to Congress, lawyers for victims of 9/11 submitted a large filing on their case against Saudi Arabia accompanied by Zacarias Moussaoui’s description of high-level Saudi involvement in 9/11. Moussaoui, you see, claims to have been in charge of a database of all funders to what he called Bin Laden Group (you call it al Qaeda, he said) back in 1998 and 1999 — significantly, in the wake of the African Embassy bombings. (Exhibit 5, Exhibit 6, Exhibit 7, Exhibit 8) And it reads like a who’s who of Saudi elite.
The timing on this is quite curious. The plaintiffs actually took Moussaoui’s deposition on October 20 and 21 of last year — not long after a public report that Florence prison authorities had been using the Special Administrative Measures against Moussaoui to prevent the deposition. That deposition, of course, would have come a month before the initial peace deadline with Iran. Since then, the suit has been in a bit of a stall (particularly as it relates to Saudi involvement) up to the submission of this filing. While the timing seems incidental, this means that just before this came out, all the powers that be were in Riyadh celebrating King Abdullah (and surely trying to ensure the longevity of the US-Saudi embrace), and Bandar was getting fired — again — though surely for palace politics.
Even more curious timing, however, is Alwaleed bin Talal’s decision to sell most of his News Corp stocks, even while reiterating his love for all things Murdoch.
Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding cut its ownership of Class B shares to 2 million from 13.2 million, or 6.6 percent, it said in a statement to the Saudi bourse today. The sale generated 705 million riyals ($188 million), which will be used for other investments, it said. Through Kingdom, Prince Alwaleed holds stakes in companies including Citigroup Inc. and Twitter Inc.
Alwaleed, who had the second-largest holding of voting stock in News Corp. after the Murdoch family, has been a staunch ally of the Australian media baron. He publicly supported the family’s running of News Corp. amid phone-hacking revelations in 2011 that saw the company abandon its bid to take over the rest of European pay-TV operator Sky Plc.
“The reduction of Kingdom’s holding in News Corp. has been decided in the context of a general portfolio review,” Alwaleed said in a separate e-mailed statement. “We remain firm believers in News Corp.’s competent management and are fully supportive of Rupert Murdoch and his family.”
This move also comes just after DOJ announced it would not be pursuing News Corp under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, so at a time when News Corp should be politically safer here in the US.
Who knows whether we’ll let Moussoui change the narrative on Saudi support for 9/11. Especially given the underlying risk: Moussaoui’s testimony dates all this financial (and logistical) support to the period just after the Embassy bombings, but it suggests these figures supported bin Laden both before and after. That would back the claims of a number of former CIA types who argue Riyadh Station Chief John Brennan prevented the CIA from investigating these ties in the lead-up to the attack on our Embassies.
That is, Moussaoui’s testimony carries risks not just for key Saudi elites. But also for the CIA Director.
Since the release of the summary of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on torture, I don’t think we’ve seen a return of the fawning press pieces over John Brennan where we see reverent mention of his moral rectitude. That’s a good thing, since the hummus incident in the report would suggest that those he leads at the CIA display something more like moral rectaltude. Sadly, though, it seems that outgoing Senator Mark Udall of Colorado is the lone voice in the wilderness calling for Brennan to be fired. Here he is on Wednesday, in the Senate, disclosing more information from the Panetta review on torture and calling for Brennan to be fired over his continued lies to Congress and the American people (at 3:09 of the video, “In other words, the CIA is lying.”):
As Udall notes, Brennan has continued to cover for CIA lies and misrepresentations to Congressional overseers. He also has mostly claimed that CIA torture saved lives, although yesterday he did engage in some semantics over that point, presumably in response to Udall’s Wednesday speech.
But besides Udall’s point about Brennan needing to be fired over his failure to clean house over torture or even to fully recognize it, there is another, stronger, reason to call for Brennan’s removal. Brennan has demonstrated, multiple times, that he will allow political vindictiveness to drive his actions. And he has done so in the worst possible way: in his previous counterterrorism role and then at CIA in his control of drone strikes. As I have noted in this post and this one, drone strikes in which Brennan would have played a controlling role can be seen as being driven by political retaliation rather than security.
A man who has used drone strikes as political retaliation tools has no business running a CIA that is once again under siege for its crimes. Even though few in the US are calling for prosecutions, calls for prosecutions have now come from more than one UN figure.
Also, don’t forget another event that will factor into Brennan’s anger over calls for prosecutions and/or his removal: he undoubtedly feels that the anti-torture crowd caused him to have to wait to take his rightful role as head of CIA. Recall that he withdrew his name for consideration in 2008 due to his association with the torture program and has been director now for less than two years.
How can Barack Obama leave in office a man who has used lethal drone strikes in the past to score political points to remain in office when the organization he leads is under siege for its demonstrated breaches of international law? Brennan makes the case for his removal even more urgent when he says that a return to torture is simply a question for future policymakers rather than something that is clearly illegal.
As one of the last things Carl Levin did before retiring, he released a letter he received from John Brennan demonstrating what a liar Dick Cheney is.
For years, Levin has been trying to get the CIA to declassify a March 13, 2003 cable assessing a source’s claim that Mohammed Atta met Iraqi intelligence officer Ahmad Samir al-Ani in Prague before 9/11, a purported meeting Cheney repeatedly used to insinuate a tie between Iraq and al Qaeda justified the war in Iraq. While Brennan still refuses to declassify the cable, but his letter does explain some of CIA’s assessment of that source.
On 13 March 2003, CIA headquarters received a communication from the field responding to a request that the field look into a single-source intelligence report indicating that Mohammed Atta met with former Iraqi intelligence officer al-Ani in Praque in April 20001. In that communication, the field expressed significant concern regarding the possibility of an official public statement by the United States Government indicating that such a meeting took place. The communication noted that information received after the single-source report raised serious doubts about that report’s accuracy.
The context — and CIA’s long refusal to declassify the cable — suggests that the source was yet another planted lead designed to justify the war, a last ditch attempt to create a tie between Iraq and al Qaeda that did not exist.
Brennan’s letter goes on to quote on line from the report.
The field added that, to its knowledge, “there is not one USG [counterterrorism] or FBI expert that … has said they have evidence of ‘know’ that [Atta] was indeed [in Prague]. In fact, the analysis has been quite the opposite. [brackets original]
Four days after this report, Cheney fought mightily to make the Atta claim once more, just before the attack, even though the entire intelligence community thought the claim was not credible.
I raise all this when I should instead be talking about the torture report because it gets to the point I made here, which I keep making in every radio appearance I do on the torture report.
This all was about exploitation, not intelligence. And for over a year, Dick Cheney’s goal for exploitation was to create a fraudulent case for the Iraq war, whether via torture or dubious single source claims in Prague. As Cheney complains that the torture report (which reported on the anal rape done in the guise of rectal rehydration done on his order) is “full of crap,” we should never forget that one end result of this was the disastrous Iraq war.
At the request of some on Twitter, I’m bringing together a Twitter rant of some facts on torture here.
1) Contrary to popular belief, torture was not authorized primarily by the OLC memos John Yoo wrote. It was first authorized by the September 17, 2001 Memorandum of Notification (that is, a Presidential Finding) crafted by Cofer Black. See details on the structure and intent of that Finding here. While the Intelligence Committees were briefed on that Finding, even Gang of Four members were not told that the Finding authorized torture or that the torture had been authorized by that Finding until 2004.
2) That means torture was authorized by the same Finding that authorized drone killing, heavily subsidizing the intelligence services of countries like Jordan and Egypt, cooperating with Syria and Libya, and the training of Afghan special forces (the last detail is part of why David Passaro wanted the Finding for his defense against abuse charges — because he had been directly authorized to kill terror suspects by the President as part of his role in training Afghan special forces).
3) Torture started by proxy (though with Americans present) at least as early as February 2002 and first-hand by April 2002, months before the August 2002 memos. During this period, the torturers were operating with close White House involvement.
4) Something happened — probably Ali Soufan’s concerns about seeing a coffin to be used with Abu Zubaydah — that led CIA to ask for more formal legal protection, which is why they got the OLC memos. CIA asked for, but never got approved, the mock burial that may have elicited their concern.
5) According to the OPR report, when CIA wrote up its own internal guidance, it did not rely on the August 1, 2002 techniques memo, but rather a July 13, 2002 fax that John Yoo had written that was more vague, which also happened to be written on the day Michael Chertoff refused to give advance declination on torture prosecutions.
6) Even after CIA got the August 1, 2002 memo, they did not adhere to it. When they got into trouble — such as when they froze Gul Rahman to death after hosing him down — they went to John Yoo and had him freelance another document, the Legal Principles, which pretend-authorized these techniques. Jack Goldsmith would later deem those Principles not an OLC product.
7) During both the August 1, 2002 and May 2005 OLC memo writing processes, CIA lied to DOJ (or provided false documentation) about what they had done and when they had done it. This was done, in part, to authorize the things Yoo had pretend-authorized in the Legal Principles.
8) In late 2002, then SSCI Chair Bob Graham made initial efforts to conduct oversight over torture (asking, for example, to send a staffer to observe interrogations). CIA got Pat Roberts, who became Chair in 2003, to quash these efforts, though even he claims CIA lied about how he did so.
9) CIA also lied, for years, to Congress. Here are some details of the lies told before 2004. Even after CIA briefed Congress in 2006, they kept lying. Here is Michael Hayden lying to Congress in 2007
10) We do know that some people in the White House were not fully briefed (and probably provided misleading information, particularly as to what CIA got from torture). But we also know that CIA withheld and/or stole back documents implicating the White House. So while it is true that CIA lied to the White House, it is also true that SSCI will not present the full extent of White House (read, David Addington’s) personal, sometimes daily, involvement in the torture.
11) The torturers are absolutely right to be pissed that these documents were withheld, basically hanging them out to dry while protecting Bush, Cheney, and Addington (and people like Tim Flanigan).
12) Obama’s role in covering up the Bush White House’s role in torture has received far too little attention. But Obama’s White House actually successfully intervened to reverse Judge Alvin Hellerstein’s attempt to release to ACLU a short phrase making it clear torture was done pursuant to a Presidential Finding. So while Obama was happy to have CIA’s role in torture exposed, he went to great lengths, both with that FOIA, with criminal discovery, and with the Torture Report, to hide how deeply implicated the Office of the President was in torture.
Bonus 13) John Brennan has admitted to using information from the torture program in declarations he wrote for the FISA Court. This means that information derived from torture was used to scare Colleen Kollar-Kotelly into approving the Internet dragnet in 2004.
I would have thought by this point journalists would cease comparing John Brennan with Jesuits, unless it’s a coded reference to the corrupt spookish reputation the sect had in past centuries.
Such a Jesuitical response will do absolutely nothing to satisfy critics of the program or its supporters—some of whom still go work at Langley every day.
And I find it downright disgusting for a journalist to use an extended Christmas present metaphor to discuss basic transparency in a democracy, as if democracy were just a gleeful romp on Santa’s lap.
There may have been bourbon punch and festive lights at the CIA’s holiday party Friday night, but a frosty gloom hung in the air. As everyone in the agency’s Langley, Va., headquarters knew, the long-awaited “torture report” from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Democrats was set to drop early the next week, perhaps as soon as Monday morning. It seemed a rather awkward time for a party.
For pro-release activists, the dissemination of the report would be a holiday present, years in the making.
As of Friday, just how the final publication would play out remained a mystery, like so many Christmas presents under the tree.
So as CIA brass passed the punch and mini-pecan pies Friday evening, they wondered: would next week would bring sugarplum fairies, or lumps of coal?
Since when are journalists not among those who want official reports to be released?
Like it or not we will learn what primary sources from the CIA document they did over a 5 year period.
Which means no credible journalist should parrot this claim …
Chief among the agency’s complaints will be that Senate investigators failed to interview anyone who worked on the program, leaving them to base their findings solely on classified documents that, officials argue, couldn’t be fully understood without some elaboration and context.
… without noting the implication of it: that the primary thing the CIA does, which is generate cables and reports, is so flawed that literally millions of cables are inaccurate or so misleadingly written they don’t present a fair record of what we paid the CIA to do.
Seriously: if you have multiple sources you consider credible repeating this claim, your job should immediately be to chase down how it is that so much of the CIA’s work is fraudulent, which would be a truly epic scandal. But no one is doing that, somehow, which suggests even those who are pitching the story know that their own emails and other documents show that they conspired to (among other things) lie to Congress.
That is what the record — even that which is already public — clearly shows. If the CIA did not, along the way, cover its ass sufficiently to make it clear that David Addington was cheering the torture at every step, welp, I hope they develop better self-preservation skills in the future (though it’s quite clear the CIA only documented those aspects of congressional briefings that helped their case, and suppressed or altered those that did not, so it’s not likely they weren’t involved in any CYA).
Finally, the main jist of the complaint Harris documents here is that Brennan made a deal with the White House: to protect that office (by protecting the aforementioned David Addington) in exchange for protecting the CIA officers who got promoted for being good torturers. Brennan succeeded in delivering some version of that deal, though it’s unclear just how far he went. If that’s the case, the CIA officers have already gotten what they signed up for: continued career advancement for remaining silent about who instigated the torture, even as critics of torture were ousted from the agency and even, in John Kiriakou’s case, prosecuted. That was the deal, and they fared better than the critics did.
If they sold their soul too cheaply, perhaps they won’t sell it so cheaply in the future. That’s the entire point of this report, no?
Approximately 358 days ago, I wrote a post titled,
Yup, John Brennan Rolled DiFi on the Torture Report
In it, I predicted,
Since I was right about John Brennan being completely untrustworthy about bringing an open mind to the evidence presented in the Torture Report, let me make another prediction based on this detail.
Committee aides said the panel hoped to finish work on an updated version of the report, taking note of CIA comments, by the end of the year. The committee could then vote to request declassification, which would allow the public to see the report, or at least parts of it.
What’s going to happen is the SSCI will water down the report, ignoring the clear implications of the evidence, in hopes of getting support for declassification. The Republicans on the committee, at least, still won’t vote to declassify it. Some section of the watered-down report will be released. And the historical record on torture will not reflect the clear evidence in the documentary record.
Dianne Feinstein could, of course, move to declassify the report in its current state.
But she won’t do that, and John Brennan knows it. You see, he knows DiFi wants to be loved by the spooks she oversees, and they could care less what she thinks of them, so long as they continue to hide the true nature of their organizations. And her desire to be loved by those she oversees makes her an easy mark.
When that post said, “by the end of the year”? That meant last year. 2013.
Meanwhile, in recent days, we’ve learned that Brennan prevailed on one of the key fights between CIA and SSCI, succeeding in having the pseudonyms of pseudonyms redacted so we can’t track all the things Alfreda Bikowsky did, beyond the torture tourism we know she engaged in and the torture she subjected an innocent Khalid el-Masri to, before she got several more promotions at CIA.
And while I think today’s report, confirming that “Yup, John Brennan Rolled DiFi on the Torture Report,” adds another dynamic — that of CIA and the President and State publicly making clear that Dianne Feinstein will bear responsibility for any backlash over the revelations in the Torture Report, I think Brennan is still doing a victory lap.
Secretary of State John Kerry personally phoned Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Friday morning to ask her to delay the imminent release of her committee’s report on CIA torture and rendition during the George W. Bush administration, according to administration and Congressional officials.
“What he raised was timing of report release, because a lot is going on in the world — including parts of the world particularly implicated — and wanting to make sure foreign policy implications were being appropriately factored into timing,” an administration official told me. “He had a responsibility to do so because this isn’t just an intel issue — it’s a foreign policy issue.”
“That’s a nice Torture Report you’ve got there, Dianne,” these men seem to be saying, “and we’ll happily take credit for your work. Unless something bad happens in which case expect us to throw you to the wolves.”
CIA (and NSA) always get Congress to back off oversight with threats like this — kudos to Senator Feinstein for remaining committed to releasing the report.
It’s just really really frustrating that we are here, a year later, with the men in charge still levying these kinds of threats. If the torture CIA did will cause blowback, then that’s CIA’s fault, George Bush’s fault. Dick Cheney’s fault.
The NYT has a long story claiming to show that Obama is “lurching from crisis to crisis” but ultimately providing evidence to support this observation, which appears at the very end of the story.
Yet he remains deliberative, methodical and not swayed by outside criticism of his style.
It seems DC has decided it is a Big Story that Obama doesn’t show senseless panic, like the inept members of Congress do.
What the story also shows is that Obama — like all Presidents going back to Reagan — relies too much on his National Security Council and not enough on his agencies. There’s a hint of an argument that that is what leads to Obama’s apparent lack of strategy (which as I said earlier this week, may be an appearance or may be real, I’m not sure anyone knows).
And to support that, the story includes this incident (which is by far the most interesting part of the article aside from where it says Chuck Hagel doesn’t speak up often in larger meetings for fear it will leak to the press, as his explanation for not speaking up got leaked to the press).
Over the Columbus Day weekend, the White House chief of staff, Denis R. McDonough, traveled to the San Francisco home of Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to negotiate personally over redactions in a Senate report on the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation policies after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
That Mr. McDonough would get involved in such an arcane matter puzzles some legislative aides on Capitol Hill, given the other demands on his time.
Some liberals have been deeply disappointed with Mr. Obama’s slowness in embracing the Senate report, and have questioned Mr. McDonough’s involvement in redacting it, noting his close ties to the C.I.A. director, John O. Brennan, with whom he served as a deputy national security adviser during the president’s first term. Mr. McDonough said he traveled to Mrs. Feinstein’s home because he views the role of Congress in foreign policy as sacrosanct.
“This is an important case study of the role of Congress in foreign policy,” he said, “and I want to get it right.”
Forgive me if you spat up your drink, reading about McDonough’s deep respect for Congress’ “sacrosanct” role in foreign policy. What a load of baloney!
But of course McDonough needed to provide an alternate explanation for the real one — the one that explains why McDonough’s investment in the torture report is no surprise.
President Obama’s White House has been heavily involved in the torture declassification process for years, since when National Security Advisor James Jones intervened to keep a short phrase secret making it clear torture was authorized by a Presidential finding, not by OLC memos. This is more of the same (and probably arises out of precisely the same instincts). That’s not in the least news, even if the NYT hasn’t acknowledged what is going on.
The headline for this story should be, “BREAKING White House intervening to protect torture.” Instead, the NYT has taken a No Drama Obama story and turned into a demand for MOAR PANIC.