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CIA Catch 22?

Dianne Feinstein says she's being spied on, and she doesn't like it.

Is some greater judicial oversight of the CIA possible?

Special forces

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Is some greater judicial oversight of the CIA possible?



[Comments] Here we go again. You can almost set your watch by it. It's like washing your car. You know if you wash your car, it will soon rain.

Every time I receive assurances that the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) is following the letter of the law and the Constitution in its secret intelligence programs making the world safer for me, in ways that I don't need to know anything about---

Every time that happens, and it's happened a couple times now, receiving assurances from someone in the know that everything with the agency is legal and okay... Every time, a newspaper article appears within the week about the agency doing something wrong and running wild.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, long a defender of the Patriot Act and secret government despite her liberal stance, and serving as head of a Senate Intelligence Committee, publicly said CIA operatives tried to "intimidate" congressional leaders investigating the use of torture in terror interrogations during the administration of George W. Bush.

It's evidently to her a case of obstruction of justice.

This can be seen as a classic moment, a Catch-22. For those of you too young to remember the book and movie that coined the phrase, Catch-22 means a situation in which a goal is impossible to obtain because of conflicting circumstances. In other words, the impossibility of marrying what is supposed to be a civilian-run form of representative government (democracy) based supposedly on openness, and a clandestine secret operation (CIA) whose adherents always say "We're protecting you for your own good, and you don't need to know how."

Like a Catch-22, I agree with the above statement in part, and disagree with it in part.

I have no intention here to mislead readers that I know anything about the CIA, its workings, organization structure, goals or anything. I'm also not going to urge the abolishing of our intelligence community or the public exposure of classified operations or an end to anonymity for operatives acting on our behalf (sometimes at the risk of their lives) to ferret out international plots against us by our enemies.

But I will resort to common sense as I see it.

If you are a CIA agent, a former agent, or someone who believes in the value of the agency, you should at least be able to meet me half way, to understand my position as an "Average Joe." I hate double standards, one set of rules and conduct for you, and a different set of rules and conduct for me.

Feinstein said CIA actions may have violated criminal laws and the U.S. Constitution. She added that CIA eavesdropping violated an agreement previously worked out in 2009 between her investigating committee and then-CIA Director Leon Panetta.

Feinstein has been an ardent defender of widespread surveillance of American citizens including wire phone tapping by the NSA (National Security Agency).

I have been a vocal critic of it.

Apparently, this newest flap between the CIA and congressional representatives investigating torture during the Bush years had been going on for five years before you and I heard about it.

John Brennan

John Owen Brennan (born September 22, 1955) is Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and former chief counterterrorism advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama; officially his title was Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, and Assistant to the President. | Photo: Associated Press | John Brennan, Cia, Counterterrorism, Homeland Security,

I'm old enough to have been lied to many times before, Watergate, the Pentagon Papers, Iran-Contra and the "plausible deniability" of Ronald Reagan, the non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Abu Ghraib Prison torture dungeon of lust episode, and on and on. Time and again people in government have said one thing and then do another, and even my conservative friends on this website (everybody is my friend until they tell me different) will likely agree with me on that.

It seems that CIA Director John Brennan, who denied any wrongdoing had taken place, gave the go-ahead for CIA technocrats to audit the computer systems being used by Senate staffers in the Bush torture investigation that has been looking into the use of water boarding, interrogating prisoners by simulated drowning.

Thus, Feinstein, who previously backed massive spying on American citizens, is herself being spied upon. And guess what, Dianne doesn't like it. I guess this is a case of people in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks.

This is supposed to be a civilian and not military-run form of government. I will make one recommendation. Is there any way to have a little more independent judicial oversight (judicial, legal, governmental) of the CIA than presently exists? I expect my CIA-knowledgeable friends can explain this.

When you do so, just promise me two things. Don't patronize me in your explanation, put me down as a dummy, and a CIA outsider who is not a member of the exclusive club, or say "We know what's best for you." And if you say my ignorance of what you're up to is patriotic, please, just don't ask me to agree with that.

I think the bottom line is that unless Feinstein is dead wrong, the CIA, for me to become more positive about it, has to stop disturbing me with its "leaked" behavior.

John Sammon

John Sammon, : John Sammon is a writer whose experience includes newspaper reporting, magazine writing, personality profiles, interviews, celebrity interviews (Clint Eastwood), historical pieces, investigative and crime. He was selected “Most Valuable Reporter” for California’s oldest continually operating newspaper, and covered the weekend crime beat for a daily newspaper in Nevada. If you beat your wife on Friday, he wrote about it and got you in deep trouble on Saturday. He covered business,... (more...)