July 14, 2009

Lies Wide Shut Too: Mystery Solved!

Hatched by Dafydd

Four days ago, in the first installation of Lies Wide Shut (I didn't realize there would be a second), we discussed the mystery presented to us by the Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence:

On June 26th, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX, 82%), sent a letter to ranking Republican member Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI, 88%); Reyes claimed that two days earlier, in a classified briefing by CIA Director Leon Panetta (a hyper-partisan Democratic former House member), the director admitted the CIA routinely misled and even lied to Congress under George W. Bush....

(A CIA spokesman says Panetta denies saying any such thing in his briefing.)

Then yesterday, somebody on the committee or at CIA leaked a second letter (obtained by Politico), sent by seven other Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, also to the director; in it, the seven echo Reyes's claim: That Panetta testified that "top CIA officials" concealed CIA operations from Congress and "misled them over the span of last eight years."

But of course, all eight accusers coyly refuse to say exactly what the CIA is supposed to have misled them about; they just allow the nation to draw the "obvious," but not necessarily accurate, conclusion.

Democrats are using this bit of fluff to prop up the wobbly Squeaker of the House, insinuating -- with no lawful way to debunk it -- that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) was truthful when she said the CIA "never told her" we had already waterboarded a terrorist detainee and planned to waterboard a couple more.

The mystery, of course, is exactly what CIA Director Leon Panetta "admitted" to the House Intelligence Committee. Did he actually say, quote, "The CIA routinely misled and even lied to Congress under George W. Bush?" Did he literally say, "Top CIA officials concealed CIA operations from Congress and misled them over the span of last eight years?" I think such a suggestion is not only fabricated, it's risible. Particularly since he stands by his previous publicly released statement that the CIA has never had a policy of misleading or lying to Congress: Say what you will about Panetta's politics, nobody has ever accused him of being a dope.

But the Democratic members of the House Intel Committee steadfastly refuse to tell us exactly what he confessed that so riled them... though they repeatedly imply (nudge nudge, wink wink) that it "vindicated" Pelosi's claim that the CIA lied to her about waterboarding.

But over the last couple, three days, enough information has crept out that I think we can finally make a very shrewd guess what Chairman Reyes, et al, really meant: Several newspapers have reported that Panetta testified that the CIA kicked around a plan to assassinate top al-Qaeda leaders using ground-ops teams... but despite eight years of blue-skying, they could never figure out how even to start.

And the "misleading Congress" part? Then-Vice President Dick Cheney evidently told the CIA not to brief Congress on the vague ideas and inchoate dreams -- not until an operational plan came to fruition. Why not? Because legally, they didn't have to; and strategically, it would have been catastrophic to do so:

CIA Director Leon Panetta told Congress on June 24 that he had canceled the effort to kill al-Qaida leaders with hit teams soon after learning about the operation. Panetta also told lawmakers that former Vice President Dick Cheney directed the CIA not to inform Congress of the specifics of the secret program.

Intelligence officials say the operation never progressed passed a planning stage and therefore didn't merit congressional notification.

The New York Times concurs:

Since 2001, the Central Intelligence Agency has developed plans to dispatch small teams overseas to kill senior Qaeda terrorists, according to current and former government officials.

The plans remained vague and were never carried out, the officials said, and Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, canceled the program last month....

Mr. Panetta scuttled the program, which would have relied on paramilitary teams, shortly after the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center recently informed him of its existence. The next day, June 24, he told Congressional Intelligence Committees that the plan had been hidden from lawmakers, initially at the instruction of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Evidently, Democrats on the House I-Com are absolutely beside themselves that they were not immediately and completely informed of every single thought, idea, suggestion, or pious hope of a plan the CIA might discuss during a meeting -- even those that are "never carried out." They appear to believe "oversight" means the same as "managed," and that congressmen should be privy to all internal CIA discussions -- so that they can "call the shots," right?

But as I indicated in the previous Big Lizards piece, informing Congress is equivalent to calling the TImes and the Washington Post, because that's exactly where the top-secret briefing will end up within a week. This raises an interesting question: Are these Intel members actually bothered because Cheney denied them yet another opportunity to accuse the CIA and Bush administration of war crimes, atrocities, and crimes against humanity? Sadly, Panetta had already canceled the program (that never got off the tarmac) before congressmen had a chance to out it!

But back to the real issue: the still unadmitted yet unrebutted charge that Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) lied in her teeth when she swore, over and over again (alas not under oath), that the CIA never told her we had waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed... and that we were going to do it again!

You'll recall that when we last left this tidbit hanging, the House I-Com Democrats suggested -- but never explicitly claimed -- that the Panetta revelations now made Pelosi's story more credible; it's now clear that the reason they were so coy is that they knew very well what Panetta had really said... and it had nothing to do with Pelosi's hysterical denials that she knew anything about waterboarding, and that by her silence in the face of that knowledge, she had tacitly assented to its use.

To this day, she still refuses to "put up or shut up" on that accusation:

It's been almost two months since Pelosi claimed the CIA lied to her about what interrogation methods they'd used on detainees. That accusation prompted Panetta's statement defending the agency.

Since then, the speaker has refused to take any more questions on the subject. While Pelosi took numerous questions today, she deflected most and left matters in the hands of the House Intelligence Committee....

[House Minority Leader John] Boehner [R-OH, 92%] renewed his call today for Pelosi to either "put up the facts or retract her statement and apologize" to the intelligence committee.

So we've learned something over the past halfweek; we've learned the exact syllogism by which Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee (including its chairman) vindicate Pelosi on the eve of the new Intel-bill debate in Congress:

  1. After the attacks on September 11th, 2001, George W. Bush issued an executive order that we could kill high-value targets (HVTs) in al-Qaeda;
  2. In order to minimize civilian casualties from missile strikes on HVTs (of the kind that now plague our efforts in Pakistan), the CIA tried to figure out how to take out al-Qaeda leaders via ground teams;
  3. Alas, they never could develop a workable plan, and they never carried through;
  4. Dick Cheney told the CIA to keep a lid on the floating ideas until they were actually ready for implementation (no sense spilling beans prematurely, endangering future operations);
  5. So he instructed the CIA not to report all the non-plans that they didn't carry out to Congress -- it not being a normal part of oversight duties for House members to demand an inventory of all random and unactualized thoughts, blue-sky hopes, and dreams of CIA agents;
  6. Years later, new CIA Director Leon Panetta canceled the non-project that was never operational anyway -- and told appropriate members of Congress that the CIA had failed to report that it never executed a plan that it didn't tell Congress about because it was never anything but a will'o'wisp;
  7. Therefore, the CIA must surely have lied to Squeaker Pelosi about waterboarding.

Hey, it only stands to reason!

It's nice to know that Ms. Pelosi presides over not just "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history," but also the Congress with the most incisive grasp of formal logic. Gosh, I just can't wait for the full congressional probe!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 14, 2009, at the time of 6:45 PM

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