Cheney Ordered CIA Concealment
An amusing headline from NYT: “Cheney Is Linked to Concealment of C.I.A. Project.” I mean, obviously, Cheney is going to be linked. He’s everyone’s favorite evil mastermind.
The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.
The report that Mr. Cheney was behind the decision to conceal the still-unidentified program from Congress deepened the mystery surrounding it, suggesting that the Bush administration had put a high priority on the program and its secrecy.
Now, if there’s anything we know about the CIA during the Bush years, they only kept secrets when they felt like it. Senior CIA officials routinely leaked to the press to cover their own backsides or when they disapproved of administration policy. Do we really think were going to break the law by lying to Congress on the orders of the vice president?
For that matter, it’s not entirely clear why they would consider Cheney part of their chain of command. Until early 2005, the CIA Director was dual hatted as Director of Central Intelligence, reporting directly to the president. Subsequently, the roles were split and the CIA Director reported to the Director of National Intelligence. The vice president has only referent power based on the strength of his relationship with the president. Indeed, some would argue that Dick Cheney wasn’t even a member of the executive branch!
UPDATE: Steven Taylor observes, “The broader problem here is that the current congressional oversight process over intelligence doesn’t work very well (if at all).” Ultimately, that’s the key takeaway. CIA simply doesn’t feel like it answers to Congress.