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The crisis involving the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a Godsend to politicians, which is probably why the threat actually posed by the group is being hyped as it is while the White House and Pentagon continue to change the meaning of commonly used English expressions to enable the attacking of just about anyone anywhere. We are told that the United States will have a free hand in bombing Syria, an independent nation with which Washington is not at war. The Administration has warned that if Damascus attempts to defend itself from the air armada there will be consequences in the form of “retaliation,” suggesting that the US would be striking back after being attacked. Oddly enough, my dictionary suggests that it would be the Syrians who would be retaliating, but one supposes that in the Emerald City everything is not as it seems and certain words have little or no meaning.

The welcome distraction afforded by ISIS means that the issue of Gaza, which was recently devastated by the Israelis, has largely disappeared from the mainstream media, enabling Benjamin Netanyahu to steal still more land on the West Bank for new settlements. And remember MH-17? Still a whodunit and nobody cares anymore.

Back here at home, the dispute over the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) torture, a hot button issue earlier this year, has also benefited, largely disappearing from sight. The meticulously researched Senate report, covering 6000 pages and including 35,000 footnotes, apparently concluded that torturing terrorist suspects was not only illegal under the United Nations Convention on Torture, to which Washington is a signatory, it was also ineffective, producing no intelligence that was otherwise unobtainable.

Since a “forgive and forget” forward-looking White House has already indicated that no one will ever be punished for illegal actions undertaken in the wake of 9/11, why is the torture issue important beyond the prima facie case that a war crime that was authorized by the highest levels of the federal government? It is important because of its constitutional implications and its impact on rule of law in the United States, which is again being flouted by the Administration in its rush to “destroy” ISIS, which is little more than a terrorist group du jour being exploited to terrify the American public. The constitutional issue, in its simplest terms, is that the CIA works for the president and when it operates without legally mandated oversight by the legislative branch and judiciary it does so in defiance of separation of powers, making the Agency little better than a secret army run by POTUS.

The inability of the Senate Committee to compel the Agency and White House to come up with an acceptable draft of its report and agreement over what parts of it can be made public is also important because it reveals that the best the US Congress can do to oversee the country’s intelligence agencies is not very good at all. The past 22 months of delay in the report’s release have demonstrated that the intel community, with the support of the White House, can stonewall any issue until the cows come home.

The latest account of the head butting between the Agency and Congress reveals a bad working relationship between the Senate and CIA while also suggesting that Langley is again closing ranks against its critics. At a top secret behind closed doors meeting on September 9th Agency Director John Brennan refused to divulge who at CIA authorized the actual intrusion into the computers being used by Senate staffers to compile their report. Brennan would also not address what the presumed legal authority to do so was. A shouting match with several Senators, all Democrats, ensued with several Senators demanding to know how Brennan could refuse to answer their questions.

The Agency had initially contended in its defense that the computer search was motivated by the alleged accessing and removal of restricted CIA reports by the Senate staffers, but it is no longer making that claim. Brennan reportedly refused to answer the two questions posed by the Senators because he did not want to “compromise” the ongoing investigations by the Justice Department and the CIA Inspector General into the computer hacking, but the committee felt he was stonewalling over questions that invited a relatively simple response. If he did not know the answers he could have said so. It might also be noted in passing that the two investigations are hardly independent, one being conducted in house by CIA and the other by a highly politicized Attorney General who will be inclined to protect the president.

CIA has also been working on its own rebuttal of the Senate report which is intended to demonstrate that torture actually worked and that no one at the Agency broke any laws. It is also reportedly seeking to redact major sections of the sixty page summary, which is the part most likely to see the light of day, an effort, which, if successful, will likely make the end product largely unreadable. It would probably also avoid including any blame or suggestion of “mission failure” which would be damaging to broader Agency political interests.

There also has been some speculation that the CIA would like to drag out the process in hopes that the Republicans will take control of the Senate in November, making any release of any part of the report unlikely. The White House has been brokering the review process between the intelligence community and Senate but has been largely mum about its preferences. It would likely want the report to remain classified or in limbo as its release might increase pressure on President Barack Obama to do something about criminal activity that might be revealed, which would be politically dangerous ground.

CIA has also welcomed back former Director George Tenet to help in crafting its own rebuttal report that it hopes will exonerate it from any blame, or at least point the finger elsewhere. Tenet was in charge of the Agency when the torture took place, so on one hand he would be a logical choice to craft a defense though on the other hand he would be keen to conceal any direct role on the part of himself and his accomplices, if only to preserve what remains of their reputations since there is no chance that any of them will be going to jail.

Let’s review who George Tenet is. He is a Greek American from Queens who never was an actual spy or analyst but made his way upwards in the intelligence community through a series of staff positions in Congress. As senior staffer for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence he got to know many important politicians. George could talk the talk in an affable way with Bill Clinton, who eventually named him Director of Central Intelligence in 1997, and then went on to discuss baseball minutiae with George W Bush, cementing his tenure with the new Republican administration. Tenet also presided over 9/11, which was a bit of an embarrassment for the Agency. He later utterly destroyed his own credibility when he declared that making a case for war with Iraq was a “slam dunk” before misleading both the United Nations and Secretary of State Colin Powell about the threat posed by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Tenet later retired into some well remunerated directorships before writing a book called At the Center of the Storm which reportedly earned him an advance of $4 million while demonstrating clearly that he is a great American hero.

So George will be reviewing what George did when he was good ol’ George DCI. When I was with the government I once served in a foreign city where a new United States Consul General’s residence was being built. It was so poorly constructed that there were holes in the ceilings and water running down inside the walls but the State Department Admin officer who was responsible left post before the project was completed. He came back a year later, after complaints, as the inspector to review the project. He determined that everything was just fine. That is sort of like putting George in charge of investigating George, but if the ISIS thing continues to pick up steam everyone in the media and among the public will in any event forget that there was ever a Senate torture report. In intelligence slang, it will “be disappeared.”

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: CIA, George Tenet, Senate, Torture 
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  1. Don Nash says: • Website

    In the postmodern United States of Distraction, importance is defined by the news cycle. Really important, if not relevant news, hardly lives to it’s life expectancy. That’s what, 24 hours? The Georges are in the clear.

  2. Hey Phil, I’ll be you dollars against doughnuts that…

    ” The meticulously researched Senate report, covering 6000 pages and including 35,000 footnotes”

    …is actually a case of ‘softening the torture narrative’

    If it is inconvenient to release the torture report just now, it’s certainly not on account of Feinstein’s dishonest effort at covering her ass relating to USA track record on human rights (never mind civil liberties, Feinstein never encountered a FISA violation she didn’t like), more likely too many people realize (above link) there’s too many worms in the torture can to dare cracking it open, going far beyond CIA ‘black sites’ purportedly covered in the ‘missing’ report. So instead of writing about comic panic scenes at Langley, such as bringing Tenet back, how about generating some gonads and covering the ground the redacted report will skip altogether, like delivering ‘renditioned’ people to CIA torture darling Omar Sulieman’s jails?

  3. PS, everything anyone would ever need to know about Tenet and CIA fantasy reality can be read right here:


  4. Jim Bovard says: • Website

    Great piece, Phil. Thanks for providing an insider’s handle on how this charade is likely to play out.

  5. Escher says:

    The worldwide (at least west wide) mainstream media is complicit in generating these manufactured crises – almost like there are a few influential string pullers running the show behind the scenes, and the parliaments, congresses and bundestags are just window dressing. Or maybe that is just conspiracy theorizing.

    • Replies: @fnn
  6. fnn says:

    You wonder how the Congress became so impotent. It seems like it was so mighty in the days of the Watergate Committee and, earlier, in the era of (gasp) Joe McCarthy. But likely much of that was illusion and the really powerful actors were in the private sector and the permanent bureaucracy. Even still, it’s strange how the larger-than-life figures along the lines of Fulbright, Dirksen, Goldwater and Wayne Morse no longer exist.

    • Replies: @carroll price
  7. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Clearly our American democracy is on the ropes. All the grand ideals of our American patrimony are being destroyed and undermined by the conscious manipulation of one word “terrorism.” We are giving up our balanced government, our good name in the world, our freedoms to communication, and our blood and treasure – all because of the word “terror.”

    Two Americans are brutally murdered and the power elite want to go off the deep end into a conflagration with an outcome that no one can predict — 300,000,000 instantly follow – WHY?

    Are two brutal deaths a valid cause for war? Truly, in a world of 7,000,000,000 people – where hundreds of millions of people will be affected by this —- can this all be rational?

    The reason for the instant irrationality – is the power of propaganda over groups of people. When something is said over and over and over, the human mind just gives into it. Today someone says “terror” and we jump!

    The Zionist controlled Western media has pounded that word “terrorist” home to us for sixty years – it is working – they have won – we are suckers for it.

    • Replies: @Pete
  8. geokat62 says:

    The constitutional issue, in its simplest terms, is that the CIA works for the president and when it operates without legally mandated oversight by the executive branch and judiciary it does so in defiance of separation of powers, making the Agency little better than a secret army run by POTUS.

    Hi, Phil. Did you mean to write the “executive” or the “legislative” branch in this context?

    • Replies: @Philip Giraldi
  9. @geokat62

    Legislative – I corrected it. Thanks!

  10. geokat62 says:

    Speaking of “Still a whodunit and nobody cares anymore,” whatever happened to the investigation into the Anthrax attacks?

    The letters containing anthrax that were sent to Senators Patrick Leahy and Tom Daschle, (both had been attempting to slow the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act), read:


    It’d be fascinating to get a glimpse of the Mossad’s “to do” list!

    • Replies: @loraine
  11. loraine says:

    Didn’t you know, Dick Cheney wrote that note (just to get things stirred up more)!

  12. Abramcoss says: • Website

    America has always tortured from its inception the world knows this the magnitude of the torture unleashed in Iraq and world wide in the last ten years is unsurpassed in the history of torture delete/destroy/redact/hide/the report is futile.

  13. @fnn

    In his day, J. Edgar Hoover neutralized limited numbers of government officials through blackmail, but the NSA has neutered the entire US government with dossiers that apparently contains damning personal information on every government official from the president on down, including members of the Supreme Court. How else do you explain Obama’s sudden conversion from peace candidate to fire-breathing neocon? And what else explains congress’ total subservience to Israel, accompanied by an absence of any restrictive legislation limiting US sponsored wars that are plainly unconstitutional? Not to speak of Chief Justice John Robert’s strange, 180 degree turn in voting to uphold the constitutionality of The Affordable Health Care Act ?

    • Replies: @orly
  14. Joe Hill says:

    I don’t much like living in a fascist state. Did the Nazis openly brag about torturing people and producing reports about how well it worked? Maybe they did and I missed it. It’s still shocking that this goes on so openly and the whole world just yawns and tut-tuts, “What does one expect from those barbarian Americans?”

    I have this vague recollection that in the past no state would admit to torture, although many practiced it, past and present, including, of course, the US. But now “We” are proud of being the United States of Torture.

    This issue is personal for me. A number of years ago I audited a course at Colby College that was being taught by a visiting professor from Columbia. As a young man he worked as a community organizer. For his efforts he was arrested and tortured by the military. The officers in charge had been trained at the infamous School of the Americas. When I met him he still had problems with his hands. I don’t know what happened to the professor after his year at Colby, but there’s no doubt in my mind that one does not really ever recover from terrible abuse.

    Americans are not only almost completely class un-concious, they are brain-dead as well. Cradle-to-Adult institutions in the form of day care, nursery school, public school, and university have done an exceptional job of manufacturing unthinking debt slaves too scared to disobey or even question Our Dear Leaders.

    Some days it feels like the whole world is a prison.

  15. Pete says:

    Imagine, if you can; that there had been TV cameras on the job, and the same cast of clowns in world capitals in 1914 when Gavrilo Princip murdered the Austrian Archduke. Europe, even to this day, would resemble Berlin in May 1945.

  16. Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    Congress is anemic,yet so dangerous today, because it is no longer a branch of the U.S. Government, but of the Israeli Propaganda Ministry. No sooner were the three Israeli men reported missing than Netanyahu proclaimed, with no proof whatever, that Hamas was responsible, knowing that they were already dead and that he was merely waiting for a propitious time to reveal that information.
    He used the next few days to wangle a resolution from the Senate (100-0), unanimous, pledging support for Israel against Hamas, as is any Israeli official has to “wangle” anything from a compliant U.S. Senate.
    Propaganda does not succeed because of proof, but through constant repetition and Congress supports Israel well in that endeavor. An example: the CIA, in its National Intelligence Estimate for 2007, affirmed that Iran had no nuclear weapons and no nuclear weapons program, supported by Israel’s own Mossad. Yet, my lying Congressperson, Suzann Del Bene (Washington, Second District) and lying senior senator, Maria Cantwell, continue to send me blogs expressing their concern about Iran’s “nuclear weapons program.” Their motives are very clear: to support Israel’s push for the U.S. to attack Iran, a move that would benefit only Israel. As I have come to better recognize the extent of the Congressional-Israel alliance, I have quit referring to the Israel Lobby, but to the Treason Lobby, in recognition of Israel’s hold on Congress.

  17. Is it any wonder that half the American electorate don’t bother to vote? The USG and virtually all its agencies are so deeply corrupted as to be irredeemable. Obama has lost almost all of his credibility, both at home and abroad — except with those Obamamanics in denial, a shrinking group. Observing the decline of the US is like watching a slow-motion train wreck. If there weren’t so many in the underclass and the former middle class suffering because of it, it would actually be a satisfying thing to watch.

  18. orly says:
    @carroll price

    “How else do you explain Obama’s sudden conversion from peace candidate to fire-breathing neocon?”

    did you not follow his campaign it was to escalate the right war, peace candidates don’t run on escalating wars.

  19. Even the old Soviet gerontocracy found that it had ceded its own authority to the secret police, a circumstance that occurs regardless of political system. It is inevitable that any secret government, intrinsically unaccountable by its nature, once established, will take precedence over and usurp more legitimate governance, always worse than that hapless one that tries in vain to supervise it.

  20. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I think you are mistaken in your assertion that the CIA works for the president. If you read Pulitzer Prizer winner Tim Weiner’s book, Legacy of Ashes, about the history of the CIA, you’ll find CIA directors walking into the president’s office and lying their heads off about what they were doing, right from the start. So, who does the CIA work for? As in every other mystery, follow the money.

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