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Will Obama Rein in the CIA?

In the wake of allegations that the CIA spied on the Senate committee that oversees it and hid evidence from them, along with revelations about the NSA’s data mining activities, there is at least some pressure on President Obama to rein in the power of America’s intelligence community. Will he? I think that’s unlikely. Eli Lake suggests that doing so would lead the CIA to retaliate by leaking damaging details about the administration’s policies.

It’s possible the investigations will vindicate Brennan. But Feinstein has a very different view of the facts and that could put pressure on Obama to let one of his closest advisers go. If Obama decides to do that, though, he could face the same kind of political problems that many observers believe besieged the George W. Bush administration after the invasion of Iraq. During the 2004 election, many of Bush’s closest allies suspected the CIA was orchestrating a leak campaign to discredit the war in Iraq in protest of what they saw as a politicized decision-making process to invade.

“Any agency can undermine just about anyone,” said Hoekstra, who served as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during the first two years of Bush’s second term. “We saw that under the Bush administration, there were leaks coming out all over the place. You never knew where they were coming from and some of them were coming from the intelligence community and the objective was to embarrass President Bush.”

If the CIA and the broader intelligence community come to feel the same way about Obama, the White House could find itself as under siege as Bush was in his second term. Then Obama would not only have to face opposition to his foreign policy from Republicans in Congress, but also the bureaucracy of spies that know many of his darkest secrets.

All of this is very, very dangerous for the country. It means that our intelligence agencies are essentially independent of both executive control and legislative oversight. That should be no surprise at all to anyone who has been paying attention. But it’s clearly time for another Church committee to expose the lawlessness of our intelligence agencies and to push for real reform. But who would such an effort today? Certainly not Dianne Feinstein, even after she feels betrayed by the CIA in the latest scandal. She’s been a staunch defender of the intelligence department for decades, even when they’ve flagrantly violated the law.

Ron Wyden or Mark Udall? Maybe. I think they’d like to, but they don’t chair the intelligence committee. And you can be damn sure that Harry Reid isn’t going to appoint a special committee to do it. I think Rand Paul would gladly join them in that effort, but none of them actually have the power to launch an investigation. And I don’t think anyone can have any confidence that Obama would be behind any such investigations.

Comments

  1. Irreverend Bastard says

    Why would Obama rein in the CIA? Both Bush and Obama wanted a 1984 society. Now they have it. Obama has made his Frankenstein bed. Now let him lie in it.

    The problem with creating a powerful independent entity, is that you end up having to deal with a … powerful independent entity.

  2. dingojack says

    Irreverend Bastard – “The problem with creating a powerful independent entity….”

    And here was I thinking Eisenhower created the CIA in the 50’s.

    Silly old Dingo.

  3. D. C. Sessions says

    Will Obama Rein in the CIA?

    More like the other way around. After all, how many Presidents worked under J. Edgar Hoover?

    Knowledge is power, Hoover didn’t have anything near the ability to collect it as today’s surveillance community does.

  4. colnago80 says

    Re Dingojack @ #2

    Actually, the CIA was formed in 1947 when Truman was president. Truman later stated in his memoir that the establishment of the CIA was one of the biggest mistakes he made as president.

    http://goo.gl/rUCPou

    Re D. C. Sessions @ #3

    Hoover used the intelligence gathered by the FBI to blackmail presidents into not firing him. He used Eisenhower’s dalliance with Kay Summersby, John Kennedy’s numerous extra marital affairs to blackmail him, and Johnson’s extra marital affairs and dubious Texas financial shenanigans to blackmail him. He famously used Martin Luther King’s extra marital affairs to shut off criticism of him.

  5. naturalcynic says

    Once again the mice think it’s a good idea to put a bell on the cat. Now we just need a volunteer.

  6. says

    He said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

    .
    Jack said it best.

  7. freemage says

    Honestly, any effort from Obama on this front is gonna be too little, too late. 2 years of a second term left? Nah, not enough time to get the political capital together to start, let alone actually get anything done.

    My bigger worry is whether or not the next President will do anything.

    I see no evidence of the GOP putting up anyone who would be inclined to do so. (They’ll continue to let Paul have his fun, then pick someone more easily controlled. I’m not a fan of Paul’s, by any stretch, but I at least realize he’s a loose cannon among a group that prefers lockstep loyalty.)

    And the one Democrat consistently being named as a presumed heir to the Office is… Hillary Clinton. I didn’t trust her on these issues 6 years ago, and that’s BEFORE we saw how she managed as Sec’y of State.

    It’s.. disheartening.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    … doing so would lead the CIA to retaliate by leaking damaging details about the administration’s policies.

    Why didn’t The Company™ do that when Bush/Cheney (via their temp agency head Porter Goss) conducted a massive purge of the de facto leadership level less than 10 years ago?

  9. colnago80 says

    Re #12

    Probably because those purged opposed the administration’s policies and those remaining supported them.

    Of course, the classic case was Mark Felt, aka “Deep Throat”, whose leaks to Woodward and Bernstein helped bring down Richard Nixon.

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