CIA Criminality Grounds for Impeachment
It comes as no surprise to at least some citizens that the CIA is an intelligence agency that operates outside US law and defies congressional oversight. Interestingly this week, one of its strongest and most consistent apologists, Senator Dianne Feinstein, has outrightly charged the CIA with perpetrating criminal behaviors.
Joseph Kishore and Barry Grey in “high crimes and misdemeanors” write:
The speech delivered Tuesday on the Senate floor by Senator Dianne Feinstein provides clear and direct evidence of crimes against the US Constitution and the democratic rights of the American people, implicating top officials of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the White House, up to and including the president. Feinstein’s allegations of CIA intimidation, obstruction and spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which she chairs, constitute “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the constitutional basis for impeachment.
Senator Feinstein in an hour long speech charged the CIA with spying on and withholding documents from Congress to cover up facts about the torture program of the Bush regime.
CIA Director Brennan -- coincidentally Brennan was the director of counter-terrorism under Bush and implicated in the torture program under investigation -- has been accused by Feinstein of attempting to intimidate the Senate Intelligence Committee by accusing its staff members of stealing classified documents and demanding that the Justice Department launch an investigation of the Committee.
Kishore and Grey call out the corporate mainstream media for too readily dismissing and minimizing this extraordinary situation as a “turf war” between Congress and the CIA. They see it as far more profound. The CIA and the Justice Department fall under the jurisdiction of the executive branch. Senator Feinstein represents the legislative branch:
What is involved is nothing less than an open attack on the constitutional order that arose on the basis of the American Revolution, which is founded on the “separation of powers” and a system of “checks and balances” between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government—something the founders deemed essential to prevent the emergence of a dictatorship.
The CIA’s subversion of the Senate probe into its activities—including its refusal to sanction the publication of a declassified version of the Intelligence Committee’s 6,300 page report—is a milestone in the establishment of a de facto dictatorship of the military/intelligence establishment over the people.
On Wednesday, President Obama performed his familiar innocent and bemused onlooker act. The White House is implicated in the CIA's criminal behavior. In his feigning detachment statement, Obama referred to the “issues that are going back and forth between the Senate committee and the CIA.” It seemed clear Obama is backing the CIA Director’s intimidation threat to have the Senate Intelligence Committee criminally investigated when he declared that “Brennan has referred them to the appropriate authorities.” Appropriate authorities, i.e., The Department of Justice. Jay Carney had emphasized on Tuesday that Obama had “great confidence” in Brennan.
So once again, Obama's executive branch assumes rank OVER the legislative branch. A branch, by the way, which very rarely protests that usurpation.
The CIA’s crimes and the individuals implicated as explained by Kishore and Grey:
1. The initiation in 2002 under CIA Director George Tenet of a SECRET detention system known as “black sites” around the world to hold and torture prisoners in profoundly cruel conditions using “chilling” (Feinstein’s word) means of interrogation.
2. The November 2005 destruction of 92 videotapes of CIA torture, including water boarding. Robert Eatinger was then a CIA lawyer and made the decision. He is now the acting CIA general counsel. Implicated as well as Brennan, Eatinger was the one who informed the White House about the plans to demand a criminal investigation of the Senate Intelligence Committee staffers. In 2010, by the way, Obama’s Justice Department chose NOT to file criminal charges related to the destruction of the torture tape.
3. In 2009 the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to investigate the CIA detention program. The CIA according to Feinstein has continuously attempted to obstruct this investigation. Staffers were not allowed to receive copies of the documents but had to visit a special office at the CIA. At this point in time, Leon Panetta was CIA Director. Then, in 2010, the documents that were accessible in the special CIA office location became no longer accessible. The CIA explained the removal as an order directly from the White House.
Kishore and Grey write:
If true, the White House is guilty of obstructing a congressional investigation into illegal activity on the part of the executive branch, which includes the CIA. Feinstein noted that the White House denied giving this order.
4. In 2010 the committee discovered drafts of an internal CIA investigation by Panetta which included an “acknowledgment of significant CIA wrongdoing.” These documents were subsequently removed from the computers accessible to the Senate Intelligence Committee, though some documents had been copied by the staffers.
5. In December 2012, the Senate Intelligence Committee completed its review of the CIA program. In June of 2013 Brennan returned a 122-page rebuttal to the report. His rebuttal is deemed classified and contradicts the internal review done under Panetta’s watch according to Feinstein and others on the Committee. In December of 2013 the Intelligence Committee requested the complete version of the Panetta reivew and was denied it by Brennan. On January 15 of this year Brennan told the Committee the computers of the Committee staff had been searched and that the staff would continue to be investigated by the CIA.
According to Kishore and Grey:
Feinstein charged that this “may well have violated the separation of powers” as well as “the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act [and] Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.”
6. The CIA then filed a complaint with the Justice Department to have a criminal investigation launched of the Committee staff and possibly the Committee itself, including Feinstein. The White House was informed of this in January AND DID NOTHING. As Kishore and Grey write “giving these actions its tacit support.” Feinstein regarded such behavior as intimidation of not only the staff members but the Senate Intelligence Committee.
7, Kishore and Grey write:
A report by McClatchy on Wednesday states that more than 9,000 documents have been withheld from the Intelligence Committee at the direct order of the White House, even though Obama has not claimed executive privilege. The news agency quotes Elizabeth Goitein of the New York University Law School as noting, “These documents certainly raise the specter that the White House has been involved in stonewalling the investigation.”
Kishore and Grey point out that 15 or so years ago an election was “stolen” from the American people. Since then, they maintain, “the attack on democratic rights has escalated” under BOTH Republican and Democratic administrations. This has resulted in a stunning degree of economic and social inequality domestically and a escalation of militarism internationally. The political class becomes more and more dismissive of democratic rights and accountability to the citizenry for its activities, INCLUDING criminal covert one.
Grey and Kishore compare this CIA/Executive Branch coverup to Watergate and conclude:
These actions go far beyond the extremely serious crimes carried out by Nixon in the Watergate scandal, which led to his resignation in 1974 in the face of near-certain impeachment and removal from office. Revealed are, at the very least, violations of international and domestic law (torture), the destruction of evidence, obstruction of justice, violation of the separation of powers, and illegal spying.
They implicate the top CIA officials throughout this period as well as the leading White House officials, including Obama himself. They have been carried out by Obama’s appointees and people who work very closely with him. Brennan was Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser during his first term.
Impeachment proceedings against government officials are fully warranted, but by no means sufficient. These crimes against the American people must not go unpunished. All of the facts, including the names of all of the perpetrators and accomplices, must be published.
What is it going to be? Once again "ruling class" criminals are TOO BIG TO IMPEACH? TOO BIG TO JAIL?
Freedom in America shouldn't mean those in power are FREE FREE FREE to break any laws they want, intimidate any who challenge them on this, and defy our Constitution.
As for any professing the innocence of Obama in all of this, it either reveals colossal incompetence or collusion, take your pick. Keeping in mind that Obama promoted both the implicated Brennan and Eatinger within his own administration after their significant participations in the horrifying Bush torture program currently under Congressional investigation. Letting them both launch this obvious conflict-of-interest and collusively dictated cover-up via intimidation using the power of the Justice Department should be regarded as outrageously inappropriate as well as unethical -- as should the executive branch once again over-flexing its weight against the legislative one.
[cross-posted on open salon and daily kos]