Obama Frees CIA from Its Watchdog
Editor’s Note: President Barack Obama has treaded softly in regards to the national security community, failing to demand any meaningful accountability for the abuses of the Bush-43 administration.
But former CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman believes Obama's most inexplicable failure may be in not appointing a new inspector general for the CIA:
President Barack Obama has been a major disappointment to a liberal community that rallied to his call for genuine change.
For instance, his administration has made no attempt to investigate the crimes that were committed by the Bush administration, including torture and abuse, secret prisons and renditions. … And he has expanded the self-destructive war in Afghanistan, where there is no end in sight.
President Obama cannot be blamed for the failure to close Guantanamo, but he continues to favor preventive detention. The president's most inexplicable failure, in view of his Harvard Law School background and commitment to constitutional rights, is his unwillingness to name a statutory inspector general (IG) at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
First, some background. The CIA's transgressions in the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s led to the creation of a statutory and independent IG, appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate.
A powerful IG was required because the CIA's internal investigations of its role in the sale of arms to Iran were inadequate in comparison with the investigations of Congress and an independent counsel.
Until the creation of the statutory IG, congressional oversight committees were not given full access to the CIA investigations, and not even the Justice Department received reports detailing suspected illegalities.
The efforts of CIA Director William Casey to prevent the attorney general from receiving reports on illegalities led Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, and David Boren, D-Oklahoma, to sponsor a bill to create an independent IG.
The most recent IG, John Helgerson, proved to be an effective watchdog. This earned him the ire of the last four CIA directors, who mounted an unprecedented attack on the CIA's only genuinely independent watchdog. Helgerson retired in February 2009 and has not been replaced.
Clearly, CIA management prefers to operate without oversight. But it is less clear why President Obama, apparently with the shocking support of Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-California, has chosen to name no successor to Helgerson.
Melvin A. Goodman, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and adjunct professor of government at Johns Hopkins University, spent 42 years with the CIA, the National War College, and the U.S. Army. His latest book is Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA. [This story previously appeared at Truthout.org.]
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