Biting the Hand That Feeds You

by Dave Schuler on April 8, 2014

I can’t help but wonder if this episode:

Senate Democrats ripped former CIA Director Michael Hayden on Monday for describing Sen. Dianne Feinstein as “emotional,” calling Hayden’s remarks both a “baseless smear” and condescending.

Hayden on Sunday said the Senate Intelligence chairwoman may have been motivated by a “deep, emotional feeling” in her move last week to declassify a five-year investigation into the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation policies. He concluded the report may not be objective, though the report’s findings have not yet been been made public and Hayden said he hadn’t read it.

isn’t emblematic of a whole mindset in the military and CIA rather than just one of Republicans, as maintained by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The reality is that Sen. Feinstein is the superior of both generals and the CIA and, even more importantly, their patron. If anybody’s going to be condescending, it should be the other way around.

You just don’t treat your patrons that way. It’s as though the CIA thinks that it has some sort of claim on the public purse without any sort of oversight. I can understand how they might think that since that’s more or less the way it’s been throughout the organization’s history but it ain’t necessarily so.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

... April 8, 2014 at 9:08 am

You just don’t treat your patrons that way. It’s as though the CIA thinks that it has some sort of claim on the public purse without any sort of oversight. I can understand how they might think that since that’s more or less the way it’s been throughout the organization’s history but it ain’t necessarily so.

That depends entirely on what kind of dirt the CIA et al have on Senator Feinstein et al. Call it the J. Edgar Hoover Rule.

It also depends on the ability of the Senators and Congressmen to care about any goddamned thing other than lining their own pockets and holding onto their seats.

The second condition is probably more important than the first.

Dave Schuler April 8, 2014 at 9:10 am

Never underestimate the power of the self-importance of senators. Lèse-majesté is always and everywhere a capital offense.

... April 8, 2014 at 9:11 am

The J. Edgar Hoover Rule could be phrased thusly: He who has the mostest smelliest dirt rules.

... April 8, 2014 at 9:12 am

Self-importance does not imply either competence or a desire to do one’s job.

Dave Schuler April 8, 2014 at 9:45 am

I think that a senator’s sense of self-importance is inextricably entwined with the desire to hold his or her seat.

amspirnational April 8, 2014 at 2:39 pm

http://www.emptywheel.net/

nevertheless, if you’re not checking this blog regularly, you’re not caring enough.

Andy April 8, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Well, I think the fact that Hayden made those comments as a “former” CIA director is a pretty important fact. And it seems to me that people who are still public officials generally do a pretty good job of not criticizing Congress regardless of their personal views.

Underlying all this, however, is the authority to classify information, which rests almost exclusively with the executive branch governed by Executive Order. There always has been a tension between the Executive and the Legislative branch attempts to exercise oversight.

What’s kind of interesting is that, over the decades, Congress did not attempt to pass its own classification criteria and require the Executive to adopt it. The notable exception, of course, is information related to nuclear weapons, which is classified under the authority of the Atomic Energy Act.

It also doesn’t help that most of Congress, with few exceptions, is completely uninterested in intelligence matters – very, very few have a staffer with either the clearance or expertise to provide advice on intelligence matters. The reality is that for most people in Congress, there’s little money in intelligence in terms of “bringing the bacon” back to the home state or district….

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