Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Intelligence Revelations

Over the last week we've learned a few interesting things about intelligence programs being run by the NSA and the CIA, and the participation of Bush administration officials in those programs. Last Wednesday it was revealed that the CIA concealed a top secret program from Congress for eight years. Congress became aware of the program only after they were of informed of it by current CIA director Leon Panetta, who himsefl learned of the program only last month. Over the weekend we learned that the CIA withheld information from Congress on the direct orders of Vice President Cheney, according to testimony before Congress by Leon Panetta. Panetta also indicated that the program had been canceled. And yesterday we learned that the program was an effort to assassinate Al Qaeda terrorists wherever they might be found, including in friendly countries. Now officials say that no assassination was ever carried out and due to legal and logistical problems, the program never left the planning stages. Of course, that leads one to wonder just why there was an effort to keep the program away from Congress completely, especially given that we have been assassinating Al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan (a "friendly" country) for years now. If anything, one would think that Congress and the public in general would approve of targeted killings, which have the benefit of at least not killing dozens of civilians along with the terrorist you're trying to get. I'm almost willing to bet there's still more about the program we don't know yet, but we'll see.

Also, last Friday saw the release of a report compiled by the various agencies Inspectors General regarding the warrantless wiretapping program whose existence was revealed by the New York Times in late 2005. The report doesn't offer an opinion on the program's legality, but it does discuss the program's effectiveness, finding that most leads generated by the program were dead ends and that this was due in part to the extensive secrecy that surrounded the program.

The report also touches on the other intelligence-gathering program maintained by the Bush administration, the "unprecedented" data mining operation that we learned in December was the cause of a now infamous showdown between the Department of Justice and senior Bush administration officials. The report provides little detail about the program though, so though we are well aware that it existed at one time and was canceled when the DOJ officials threatened to resign over it, we still don't know exactly what it did or where all the data it collected has gone off to.

So, an interesting weekend to say the least.

UPDATE: Via Tim F, Philip Giraldi with an informative post on why the CIA assassination program would be so problematic and thus why it likely never came to fruition.

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