Obama Working to Protect Brennan From Senate Torture Report

The Huffington Post reports on the many ways President Obama is working overtime to protect CIA Director John Brennan from the fallout that will result from the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the Bush torture regime, including having the chief of staff pressure lawmakers not to go after him.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough is personally negotiating how much of the Senate’s so-called torture report, a probe into the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program, will be redacted, according to sources involved in the negotiations.

McDonough’s leading role in the redaction discussion has raised eyebrows in the Senate, given that his position comes with a broad array of urgent responsibilities and that the Obama White House has a team of qualified national security advisers.

Despite the White House’s public reluctance to get involved in the widely aired spat between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over the report, McDonough’s role suggests that the Oval Office sees the feud as a high-stakes one…

Sources involved in the discussions also said McDonough’s involvement has gone beyond negotiating redactions. During the last weeks of July, the intelligence community was bracing itself for the release of the Senate investigation’s executive summary, which is expected to be damning in its findings against the CIA. The report was due to be returned to the Senate panel after undergoing an extensive declassification review, and its public release seemed imminent.

Over the span of just a few days, McDonough, who makes infrequent trips down Pennsylvania Avenue, was a regular fixture, according to people with knowledge of his visits. Sources said he pleaded with key Senate figures not to go after CIA Director John Brennan in the expected furor that would follow the release of the report’s 500-page executive summary.

And then there’s this, about the CIA spying on Senate staffers during that investigation:

Although it had proved reluctant to wade into the dispute, the White House rose to Brennan’s defense and firmly silenced calls for his resignation. Despite what sources described as sensational conclusions about the CIA’s apparent access to Senate computers, the Oval Office expressed “full confidence” in its chief spy leader, who previously served as an Obama White House counterterrorism advisor.

According to sources familiar with the CIA inspector general report that details the alleged abuses by agency officials, CIA agents impersonated Senate staffers in order to gain access to Senate communications and drafts of the Intelligence Committee investigation. These sources requested anonymity because the details of the agency’s inspector general report remain classified.

“If people knew the details of what they actually did to hack into the Senate computers to go search for the torture document, jaws would drop. It’s straight out of a movie,” said one Senate source familiar with the document.

I said when Brennan was named a national security adviser in 2009 and again when he was elevated to CIA director that he should never have been there in the first place. Brennan was one of the chief public defenders of the torture regime during the Bush administration, which should have ruled him out of such a job forever. But Obama nominated him, promoted him and has continued to defend him even as he has spied on the committee in place to oversee the CIA and then lied about that spying. He should not only be fired, he should be facing criminal charges.

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  • eric

    CIA agents impersonated Senate staffers in order to gain access to Senate communications and drafts of the Intelligence Committee investigation.

    Drop their budget by 70%, conditional on legal behavior (i.e., no intentional spying on any American or legal resident) for the next 5 years.

  • Chiroptera

    Look, goddammit, we’re gonna look forward not back whether you like it or not!

  • colnago80

    It would appear that Brennen has some major dirt on Obama. As I said in a comment on a previous post, J. Edgar Hoover had dirt on Eisenhower (probably his wartime affair with Kay Summersby), Kennedy (his affair with Marilyn Monroe, as well as the mistress of Mafia boss Sam Giancana, Judith Exner among others), Johnson (his financial shenanigans in Texas, as well as extramarital affairs), and Nixon (don’t know what he had on Nixon). This prevented then from firing him.

  • D. C. Sessions

    It looks like Obama has one key characteristic in common with conservatives (and notably Ronald Reagan): he believes in people more than principles. Reagan famously believed that evil deeds done by “good” people were justified, just as apparently good deeds done by “evil” people were never to be trusted.

    So when Obama launched himself from the Senate to the snakepit of the Administration with the naiive expectation of being “post-partisan” and surrounded himself with Bush Administration holdovers, he also bought into the rationalizations that they (and by extension those reporting to them) were Good Guys and thus no blame should attach to what they had done or tolerated.

    Whistleblowers, of course, are a threat to the Good Guys. No quarter.

  • dhall

    Maybe Brennan has Obama’s real birth certificate. Or knows who his real father is.

    Just kidding. But it is more than a damned shame that Obama has chosen to protect torturers and those who authorized such despicable actions.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    Drop their budget by 70%

    Drop it by more than that. Delenda Carthago!

    Seriously, the CIA has never been a good intelligence agency; it’s always been more of a “department of dirty tricks” which is not consonant with democracy.

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    Anyone interested in the CIA really ought to read Weiner’s “Legacy of Ashes.” It’s absolutely appalling!!! And when you’re done that, read “Enemies” which is about the FBI. When you’re done you’ll be ready to just scream your head off with ragefrustration!

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Marcus Ranum @ # 7: … Weiner’s “Legacy of Ashes.”

    Worth a read – but after I finished it, I made a little list of important stories Weiner left out entirely. Off the top of my head, I came up with 22 (e.g., Operation Paperclip, BCCI, Indochina heroin) , and didn’t include anything from the usual “conspiracy theory” roster.

  • caseloweraz

    Yes, BCCI… A reporter who was investigating that was found dead in a motel in the south (Nashville, IIRC) and very little was said about that afterward.

  • eric

    Drop their budget by 70%

    Drop it by more than that. Delenda Carthago!

    I was assuming Congress would want them to clean house or refrom their ways. You can’t do with a budget of $0. But yes, if your goal isn’t an improved, more legally operating CIA but rather no CIA, you can drop that down to $0.

  • colnago80

    Unfortunately, we need an intelligence agency that collects and analyzes intelligence. The department of dirty tricks should be removed from the intelligence agency and placed in a separate agency with much greater oversight to be instituted by the Congress. That’s part of their job which they have neglected.

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    Thank goodness that “the most open administration” is different from the Republicans.