Thou hast committed fornication…
But that was in another country and, besides,
The wench is dead.
– Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta
The CIA Accountability Board has cleared the CIA of the wrongdoing that CIA Director John Brennan has admitted the CIA committed and that the CIA General Inspector found had occurred.. You may need to read that sentence again.
The AP photo may explain it more clearly, although the rug under which everything is being swept is out of the photo.
A quick refresher: The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s computer network created to give them access to the secret documents was hacked by the CIA, who thought that the Senate staffers might be seeing documents they shouldn’t. There are at least two things wrong there: first, that the CIA would secretly hack the folks who are charged by the U.S. Constitution with supervising the CIA, and second that the CIA thinks it can set the parameters of what its Congressional overseers can and cannot see. It’s not just outrageous; it’s deeply corrosive to our government, creating a federal agency that is beyond the control of the Congressional branch. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
The CIA has an Inspector General, whose job it is to call out when the CIA violates the law or its own procedures. The Inspector General, David Buckley, found very serious misconduct and implied some CIA staffers had obstructed his investigation, He referred the matter to the Justice Department for potential violations by agency officials of two federal laws: the Wiretap Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The Justice Department declined to prosecute.
Buckley, announced his resignation last month.
The CIA Accountability Board released its heavily redacted report on January 15, 2015. The report attacks former Inspectior General Buckley, finds that no laws were broken and clears the five CIA officials of any wrongdoing. Strangely, the Accountability Board admits wrongdoing occurred – the CIA hacked the Senate Committee’s network read emails, looked at files and read work product – but it was okay because one of the officials who oversaw the matter “reasonably believed” he was acting under the authority of CIA Director Brennan himself and that the director had cautioned against intruding on the Senate’s internal work product.
So, yes, laws were broken, but deniability was preserved, and that makes it all okay. CIA Director Brennan gets to deny he authorized the crimes and, better still, gets to say he had even cautioned against the hack. Sweet.
The CIA goon who authorized the hack – whose name is redacted from the Accountability Board’s report – gets to claim he thought it was authorized. And since we don’t know who it was we can’t ask him any hard questions. Sweet.
Just one problem: neither the CIA Director or anyone else in the CIA is authorized to hack computers in the United States, let alone the computers of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. At least not without a search warrant. Because, you know, the Fourth Amendment?
And remember, all the fury at the CIA that led to the heck was because the Senate Committee had stumbled on to the 2009 Panetta Report, commissioned by former CIA Director Leon Panetta. That not only disclosed the CIA had tortured folks; it concluded torture hadn’t worked. It didn’t involve any important intelligence secrets; it disclosed the CIA had committed war crimes. War crimes to no purpose. The CIA doesn’t want report like that getting out; they might show the CIA is a criminal organization, out of control, unsupervised and determined to stay that way.
And to emphasize that last point, CIA Inspector General David Buckley was thrown under the bus. A CIA spokesman said that Buckley, is departing at the end of the month, and “is currently traveling and not available for comment.” The spokesman said that he is resigning to pursue “an opportunity in the private sector” and that his decision to do so “is unrelated to this matter.”
Let’s summarize: No crimes were committed. Crimes were committed but it’s no one’s fault. The crimes could not have been legal, but the perps believed they were legal so that makes it okay. The CIA Director gets deniability. And the CIA employee who tried to call this out is sacked. Neither Congress nor the President do one damn thing. And the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is told to go suck its thumbs.
Which is appropriate, because the whole thing sucks.