The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions

Calendar


HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.
Published: Thursday, March 13, 2014, 1:00 a.m.

A true Obama scandal

WASHINGTON — President Obama's foes have been trying for years to uncover scandal in his administration. But the most damning allegation of wrongdoing was leveled on the Senate floor Tuesday morning — by a friend.
California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been an ally of Obama and a staunch defender of the administration during the controversy over the National Security Agency's surveillance programs. So her credibility could not be questioned when she went public, reluctantly, to accuse Obama's CIA of illegal and unconstitutional actions: violating the separation of powers by searching the committee's computers and intimidating congressional staffers with bogus legal threats.
All of this was allegedly being done to keep quiet information about the CIA's detention and interrogation programs during the George W. Bush administration. Feinstein said that the CIA's actions may have violated the Constitution's speech-and-debate clause and the Fourth Amendment.
"I have asked for an apology," the 80-year-old legislator said toward the end of her devastating presentation, "and a recognition that this CIA search of computers used by its oversight committee was inappropriate."
Feinstein is owed much more than an apology. The White House needs to cough up documents it is withholding from the public, and it should remove the CIA officials involved and subject them to an independent prosecutor's investigation.
At the CIA's insistence, the agency had set up a "stand-alone computer system" for the committee to review 6.2 million pages of documents provided by the CIA in response to a Senate probe of the agency's interrogation and detention programs. But CIA officials breached the committee's network in 2010 to remove documents the agency had already turned over, including the "Panetta Review." That review, conducted by the CIA for then-Director Leon Panetta, found "significant CIA wrongdoing," Feinstein said, and corroborated the still-classified Senate report while contradicting the agency's statements disputing the report. The 2010 conflict was resolved, the senator said, only for the CIA to break into committee computers again this year, searching a network drive "containing the committee's own internal work product and communications." Senate staffers had by then printed the Panetta Review and put it in the committee safe — legally, Feinstein said. If the White House wishes to repair the damage, it would declassify the report done by Feinstein's committee. If the White House won't, Feinstein's panel and others would be justified in holding up CIA funding and nominations and conducting public hearings. First out should be Robert Eatinger, the CIA's acting general counsel. Previously, Eatinger had been a lawyer in the unit that conducted the interrogation program at the heart of the Senate's probe. Eatinger, Feinstein said, filed a "crimes report" with the Justice Department suggesting that congressional staffers had stolen the Panetta Review.
The staffers, Feinstein said, "were provided access to the Panetta Review by the CIA itself. As a result, there is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime." The president might also consider whether he wants to tolerate the imperious behavior of CIA Director John Brennan, who promptly dismissed Feinstein's allegations. Feinstein said that Brennan had previously told her that the CIA would continue snooping on the committee staff. The Justice Department is investigating the CIA's actions, but Feinstein said that the CIA had stated at one point that "the removal of the documents was ordered by the White House." The White House denied the claim. This would be a good matter for a special prosecutor.
Steven Aftergood, who runs the Federation of American Scientists' Government Secrecy Project, called Feinstein's allegations a "historic rupture" between the CIA and the committees that oversee it. The accusations of constitutional violations are more serious and better documented than wrongdoing alleged by Republicans in the IRS or Benghazi "scandals" subjected to numerous probes. In the House, Democrats say they'd support a bipartisan investigation of the CIA's actions. That's not likely to happen because the allegations don't suggest political motives and because the Obama administration is concealing information about the Bush administration's torture program. If Republicans care about protecting the Constitution, they'll join Feinstein in demanding justice.
Dana Milbank is a Washington Post columnist.

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.

loading...

Herald Editorial Board

Jon Bauer, Opinion Editor: jbauer@heraldnet.com

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer: cmacpherson@heraldnet.com

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor: npattison@heraldnet.com

Josh O'Connor, Publisher: joconnor@heraldnet.com

Have your say

Feel strongly about something? Share it with the community by writing a letter to the editor. Send letters by e-mail to letters@heraldnet.com, by fax to 425-339-3458 or mail to The Herald - Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We'll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 250 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it. If your letter is published, please wait 30 days before submitting another. Have a question about letters? Contact Carol MacPherson at cmacpherson@heraldnet.com or 425-339-3472.

HeraldNet highlights

A haircut for a dollar?
A haircut for a dollar?: At Everett barber school, it'll only cost you a hair
What's your number?
What's your number?: Find out what your Seahawks jersey says about you
Cooking for kickoff
Cooking for kickoff: Football-themed recipes for your Super Bowl crowd
Medieval times
Medieval times: Members of the kingdom of An Tir gather in Monroe
SnoCoSocial