Recently, I was discussing the CIA with a friend of mine who formerly worked in intelligence. I told him that as long as the CIA is going to be acting illegally, it needed to be dismantled. This in light of more recent allegations and their past misconduct. My friend told me we could not dismantle the CIA because they handle much of the US’s intelligence gathering and we will be significantly less safe without them. I also read a comment on a blog post regarding Attorney General Eric Holder’s investigation of murders that took place at the hands of the CIA. The comment blamed the Church Committee for the CIA’s failures, including missing September 11 (pdf) and the mistaken intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Now, I promise I have been thinking about this awhile, it just so happens that so has Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald makes the very valid point that the “extra-legal” activities the CIA engages in are, in fact, illegal. And if stopping them from doing illegal activities will discourage their use of illegal activities in the future, then good.
The CIA is operating above the law in a way that isn’t keeping us safe. I know the gentleman who commented that it is all the Church Committee’s fault was attempting to support the CIA, but all he did, for me, was further build the case against them. They are torturing people, murdering some of them, and all in an effort to keep us safe from terrorists, when the intelligence organizations missed 9/11 due to employees not doing their jobs properly (So the CIA is above the rules the govern the rest of us, and also, apparently, above the rules that govern them in their workplace.)
The problems with the CIA do not stop at torture and murder. The CIA is frequently involved in coups, many of which are public knowledge. These coups were not in defense of United States security, but were often at the behest of large corporations. Many of the worst things the CIA did were in the name of fighting communism, which was not exactly a huge threat. And quashing non-violent political ideology should not be the goal of any United States intelligence agency. And the attempted coup of Hugo Chavez in 2002? Even the Heritage Foundation state we should just monitor Venezuela and support democracy. (Please read FAIR‘s coverage of Chavez for a more accurate picture of Chavez). I know the CIA’s involvement in that coup is not confirmed, but if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…
The CIA may be doing us some favors, but not any that cannot be taken over by an organization with more transparency, respect for the law, and a less ingrained history of corruption.
A new Justice Department rule should help with these problems. Under the policy, security agencies would have to present an evidentiary memo to an assistant attorney general. Furthermore, “the new policy would also direct the Justice Department to reject a request to use the privilege if officials decide the motivation for doing so is to ‘conceal violations of the law, inefficiency or administrative error’ or to ‘prevent embarrassment.'”