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Why Reform the CIA?

CIA Worldwide

Just as I predicted in my article “Why Not Simply Abolish the CIA?” critics of the CIA’s illegally hacking into the computers of U.S. senators who were investigating CIA torture are calling for reform, rather than abolition, of the CIA. Stuck in the mindset of the national-security state, they simply cannot raise their vision to a higher level—to one that restores a constitutionally limited government republic to our land.

Here’s one example: an op-ed today entitled “The CIA vs. the Senate: The Constitution Demands Action” by constitutional scholar Bruce Ackerman in the Los Angeles Times, in which the author states: “CIA spying on the Senate is the constitutional equivalent of the Watergate break-in. In both cases, the executive branch attacked the very foundations of checks and balances.”

After criticizing some of the reform proposals being circulated, Ackerman does the predicable: He himself calls for reform.

Or consider this one: “Obama and the CIA” by Melvin A. Goodman, which is posted at Counterpunch. Detailing some of the CIA’s transgressions, Goodman wants to “restore the rule of law at the CIA.” How does he propose that that be done? Through reform, primarily by getting better people into public office.
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'We Tortured Some Folks' — Obama Admits United States Committed Acts Violating Federal and International Law

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Following the admission that the CIA hacked Senate computers and lied to Congress, President Obama today affirmed that it did indeed torture people. This admission (while belated) is an important recognition by the United States of what is obvious from a legal standpoint. However, that also means that CIA officials violated both federal and international law. The question is why Obama began his first term by promising CIA employees that they would not be tried for what he now describes as “tortur[ing] some folks.”

Despite the prior lying to Congress, Obama insisted that he had “full confidence in John Brennan.” As noted before, the Obama Administration is clearly unwilling again to discipline, let alone charged, any CIA personnel for hacking into congressional computers.

The President then turned to the Senate report on our torture program and affirmed his earlier 2009 statement that this was torture — plain and simple...
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CIA Admits Hacking Senate Computers After Months of Denials

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In the same week as the State Department report endorsing findings that the CIA lied to Congress and brutalized suspects, the CIA is now admitting that its recent denials of hacking Senate computers was also false. Once again, however, there is not even a suggestion of discipline, let alone criminal charges, for CIA officials who lied to Congress (or allowed others to lie) and hacked into congressional computers.

CIA Director John Brennan used the type of Orwellian speech that we have come to expect when discussing CIA abuses. He admitted that employees “acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding” between the agency and the Senate. That “inconsistency” just happened to involve hacking into computers during an investigation of the CIA itself on Bush-era interrogation practices.

Keep in mind that it was Brennan who just a few months ago mocked the allegations and said “As far as the allegations of the CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. … That’s beyond the scope of reason.” Now one of two possibilities exist. First, Brennan lied to the Senate and then lied to the American people. Second, high-ranking CIA officials lied to Brennan and then sat back as he lied to the Senate and the public. I am not sure which is worse but both would seem a logical basis for a criminal investigation.
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End Torture, Shut Down the CIA!

Remember back in April, 2007, when then-CIA director George Tenet appeared on 60 Minutes, angrily telling the program host, “we don’t torture people”? Remember a few months later, in October, President George W. Bush saying, “this government does not torture people”? We knew then it was not true because we had already seen the photos of Iraqis tortured at Abu Ghraib prison four years earlier. 
Still the US administration denied that torture was torture, preferring to call it “enhanced interrogation” and claiming that it had disrupted so many terrorist plots. Of course, we later found out that the CIA had not only lied about the torture of large numbers of people after 9/11, but it had vastly exaggerated any valuable information that came from such practices.
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Ron Paul, the CIA, and Dr. Zhivago

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It is no secret that Boris Pasternak’s 1957 novel Dr. Zhivago influenced RPI Chairman and Founder Ron Paul. Indeed, Dr. Zhivago and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged are the only two works of fiction included in the list of 48 books at the end of Paul’s The Revolution: A Manifesto that Paul says influenced him over the years. What has long been a secret, though, is that the United States Central Intelligence Agency played a significant role in helping promote the Pasternak novel.

A peek at the influence Dr. Zhivago had on Paul may be found in ABC News and National Public Radio profiles of Paul from 2011 that report on how Paul reading in his 20s a copy of Dr. Zhivago that his mother had given him put Paul on course reading many other books that helped him develop his understanding of libertarian ideas. This reading led directly to Paul first running for Congress in 1974 and continuing to communicate regarding political topics to this day. As Paul has explained many times, his runs for political office have been motivated largely by a desire to share ideas related to freedom with a larger audience.

Might Paul’s mother not have given him Dr. Zhivago if the CIA had not boosted the book’s popularity? Without reading the book, may Paul not have proceeded in the study that led him to help build support for liberty and nonintervention in the US and abroad?
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CIA Terror Chief Pulls Rank in Kiev


There could hardly be an American official more sinister than CIA director John Brennan, yet when his mysterious visit to Kiev at the weekend is exposed in various news media the White House responded with vacuous naiveté and as if Russia is foolishly over-reacting.

It is not without good reason that Brennan is known unofficially as Obama’s “assassination and torture tsar”. The 58-year-old spymaster is the embodiment of how Washington has itself become a secret, unaccountable government that has set itself above the law in the running of torture and assassination programs by presidential command. Brennan is the “éminence grise” of the White House’s covert world of state terrorism. 

Following disclosure of Brennan’s weekend visit to the Ukrainian capital, the White House was evidently caught on the back foot. The Oval Office made the somewhat unconvincing attempt to portray it as a perfunctory meeting between security officials. Well, if it was merely a routine itinerary then why was the fact of the meeting such a closely guarded secret – up until the matter was leaked by parliamentary sources in Kiev?

The timing of Brennan’s sojourn in Kiev comes at a crucial juncture. The unelected Western-backed junta in Kiev is threatening a violent crackdown on pro-Russian protesters in the east and south of the country…
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If Spying on Senate is So Bad, Why is it OK For Them To Spy On Us?

The reaction of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to last week’s revelations that the CIA secretly searched Senate Intelligence Committee computers reveals much about what the elites in government think about the rest of us. “Spy on thee, but not on me!”
The hypocrisy of Sen. Feinstein is astounding. She is the biggest backer of the NSA spying on the rest of us, but when the tables are turned and her staff is the target she becomes irate. But there is more to it than that. There is an attitude in Washington that the laws Congress passes do not apply to Members. They can trample our civil liberties, they believe, but it should never affect their own freedom.
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Ron Paul on CIA Targeting Congress

RPI Chairman and Founder Ron Paul, speaking on the Fox Business show The Independents Wednesday night, addresses the Central Intelligence Agency’s spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee -- seemingly to cover up torture revelations against the agency. Paul notes the irony that Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) “doesn’t care about our privacy, but, lo and behold, she does care about her own.”
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We're The Good Guys


My Christmas holiday frequently includes a series of reunions with other former CIA people, often grouped by the overseas stations that we served in. This year the Istanbul gathering preceded Spain and the Rome Station ca. 1980 soon followed. Some of the retirees are still working for the government as contractors so I try to keep a low profile at such functions, rarely asking questions about what anyone might be doing and seldom venturing into any detailed critiques of current government policy. But sometimes my wife and I find the occasional gung ho expressions of solidarity with torturers and drone operators to be just a bit too much and we are forced to react.

My former colleagues are politically a mixed bag, mostly Republicans but with a considerable number of Democrats, some of whom are fairly progressive regarding domestic politics and social programs. Working overseas for some bosses who would kill their own mothers to get promoted has made most of them quite cynical about how CIA operates and how policy is shaped, but they nevertheless regard their time in harness as a dirty job that someone had to do and they take pride in that fact. They are also fairly monolithic in their views of "traitors" like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, not because they support NSA spying (they do not) but because in their reckoning both would-be whistleblowers far exceeded any reasonable limits in their exposures of classified information.
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