Unacceptable Culture Of Lying in US Intelligence Leadership Gets Obama’s “Full Support”
This week it became clear that the head of the CIA, John Brennan lied when he said: “As far as the allegations of CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. We wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s just beyond the scope of reason.”
Yes, it is beyond the scope of reason, but it turns out that in fact the CIA was spying on the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Last year, James Clapper, the head of the NSA, responded falsely to a question from Sen. Ron Wyden when he claimed that the NSA did not spy on Americans. Sen. Ron Wyden asked whether the National Security Agency “collected data on millions of Americans.” Clapper testified falsely, saying: “No sir, not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect but not wittingly.” Documents leaked by Edward Snowden showed his statement to be false and in fact Americans are subjected to dragnet surveillance by the NSA.
President Obama has expressed his full support for both men, the Department of Justice has taken no action to investigate or prosecute either.
These are not minor lies. The separation of powers that gives Congress the power to be a check on the executive branch is foundational to the US Constitution. We are supposed to have three equal branches in order to prevent abuse. How can there be any check on the intelligence community if they spy on Congress and then lie about it in congressional testimony? Already intelligence oversight is too weak and allows intelligence abuse, this practice will surely intimidate Congress and create an even weaker check on intelligence agencies.
And, the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution which was clearly designed to prevent law enforcement searches of Americans unless there is a warrant based on probable cause loses all its meaning if an intelligence agency can conduct dragnet surveillance of the American people as the NSA is doing. The Fourth Amendment has been weakened over the years by courts interpreting it to allow searches based on less than probable cause, without warrants or based on warrants justified by anonymous sources; but the NSA went further to decimate it of all meaning.
President Obama who advertised himself as a constitutional scholar has put an imprimatur of approval on the actions by the leaders of the CIA and NSA by not demanding their resignation. His actions are an affront to the Constitution and to every American. Does he really see these lies as minor offenses that do not require action to hold Clapper and Brennan responsible? Is President Obama, for some reason, afraid of the intelligence agencies?
Surely there must be some people in the field of US intelligence who could replace these men and bring some integrity to these agencies. What message is President Obama sending to the people who work in the CIA and NSA about the need to respond honestly when testifying before Congress? Or, the necessity of telling the truth to the American people? The failure to demand accountability ensures these practices will grow.
US intelligence agencies are in a crisis. Their role in foreign affairs has included supporting coups of democratic governments, spying on foreign leaders, taking leadership in illegal actions such as torture and drone murders as well as other unethical actions. The massive intelligence complex, closely intertwined with corporate security and intelligence actions, put the privacy of all Americans at risk. We cannot have leaders who have shown deep ethical failures. It is time for Clapper and Brennan to go. This makes it even more important for Obama to demand the resignations of the heads of the CIA and FBI.
Kevin Zeese is an advisory board member of the Courage Foundation. He is an organizer with Popular Resistance, serves as the Attorney General of the Green Shadow Cabinet and on the steering committee of the Chelsea Manning Support Network.