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August 19, 2009

CIA Had No Secret, Illegal Assassin Squad; Panetta Is a Fool; Pelosi Still Lied

Back in May, Nancy Pelosi stuck her foot in it when she said that the CIA had a pattern and practice of lying to Congress over the years. She was defending herself from charges coming from the Left that she knew all about the CIA's harsh interrogation program. (Her excuse was that she wasn't briefed. Then that she didn't pay attention when she was briefed. Then that she sent an aide to the briefing, who didn't tell her about it. Then that the CIA lied to her and Congress.) She ended up having one of the most entertaining press conferences I have ever seen.

CIA Director Leon Panetta smacked her down hard, defending his agency. San Fran Nan then sulked, but continued her claims that the CIA had lied to her.

Then, out of nowhere came the bombshell: Panetta announced that the CIA had been running a secret, illegal assassination program for eight years and it had failed to brief Congress. "VINDICATION!" trumpeted Pelosi. Then the whole thing died down and no one remembers Pelosi's stunning sequence of CYA lies.

Turns out Leon Panetta is an idiot.

The Daily Beast has learned that shortly after his electrifying June 24 disclosure, Panetta spoke personally with each of his three predecessors—George Tenet, Porter Goss, and Michael Hayden—and only then realized the mistake he’d made about the program. An innocent mistake, but the consequences of his gaffe, which he’s unable to admit without damaging his own reputation further, will likely subject U.S. intelligence capabilities to unnecessary and intrusive oversight for years to come.

But once Panetta had spoken with Tenet, Goss, and Hayden, he learned that this secret “program” wasn’t much more than a PowerPoint presentation and a task force assigned to think it through. “Sensitive information” had been collected in a single foreign country, my sources tell me. That’s about it. It wasn’t really a coherent program at all so much as a collection of schemes, each attempting to achieve the same objective: to kill terrorists. This was one of perhaps dozens of ideas that had been kicked around at Langley since September 2001, when George W. Bush issued a presidential “finding” authorizing the agency to use deadly force against Osama bin Laden or other terrorists.

Under three successive CIA directors, these plans for paramilitary hit squads had been given three different names. (In the CIA, a program isn’t real until it’s given a codename.) But they never got off the ground. The logistical, legal, and political obstacles proved to be insurmountable. George Tenet gave up on it—too many moving parts. Porter Goss took another stab at it, but nothing, and then Gen. Michael V. Hayden’s team studied it for a while but envisioned nothing but trouble. So there was a reason that none of the last three CIA directors had briefed Congress about it: There was nothing to brief.

There's much, much more at the link. The gist is that Panetta successfuly covered for Pelosi by fabricating a secret, illegal spy program.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 11:19 AM

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