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About this blog: The Raucous Caucus shares the southpaw perspectives of this Boomer on the state of the nation, the world, and, sometimes, other stuff. I enjoy crafting it to keep current, and occasionally to rant on some issue I care about deeply...  (More)

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Extraordinary Transgression

Uploaded: Aug 5, 2014
When last we checked-in on the Senate Intelligence Committee (DiFi vs Spy, RC March 12), our own Senator What, Me Worry? had taken to the Senate floor to accuse the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of rifling through her Committee's investigation-related computer files. That's an exceptionally serious charge: it fundamentally offends the Separation of Powers, and violates the CIA's unequivocal ban on domestic spying.

If proved, that brand of spookery would go to the heart of our system of government in ways that delaying the implementation of ObamaCare can only dream about. Put it this way: if tinkering with the timing of bill implementation is backyard whiffle ball (and it is), then spying on your overseers is the Major League play-offs, at least. Oddly, no one thought it would be a good idea to sue the President to make 'em stop.

The multi-year investigation examined the practices of the CIA in the post-9/11 era, focusing on "extraordinary rendition" of suspects to countries that countenance torture, whether US agents themselves tortured detainees, and whether such torture resulted in much useful information. Is it a political exercise? You bet ? it's a Dem-controlled committee investigating a GOP Presidency. But it's also a chance to examine an important foreign affairs issue and learn its lessons ? the better to inform policy-setting for the future. It needed doing, and at least it wouldn't be a whitewash ? that is, unless the spy agency had anything to say about it.

They certainly tried. The CIA immediately fired back at DiFi's Committee. First, they counter-charged the Senate staffers with hacking the Agency's firewall (thus tacitly admitting that the CIA sucks at firewalls. Comforting thought). They said they knew that this must have happened because the Senators had an internal CIA memo that documented all those files that they should have provided to the Committee, but hadn't. A senior Agency lawyer who is deeply implicated in the Senate investigation asked DOJ to investigate, to facilitate criminal charges against the Senate staff.

Second, CIA Director John Brennan denied the DiFi accusations emphatically, as follows: "As far as the allegations of the CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. ... We wouldn't do that. I mean, that's just beyond the, you know, the scope of reason in terms of what we do." Something had to give.

Last Friday it gave, big time. In the wake of an Inspector General Report that verified the Senate charges, Brennan 'apologized' to Senators Feinstein and ranking Republican Saxby Chambliss. In other words, the CIA DID do that, and it IS within the scope of reason, at least in spy-think. He ordered an internal review regarding possible disciplinary action against the five participants (no word on whether the Agency defines the problem as 'abjectly illegal hacking' or 'getting caught' at same).

The report also found no merit in the counter-charges of Senate snooping, using bloodless language throughout the report (e.g., "lack of candor," which is what your teens exercise when you ask about that rumored no-parents party) and failing to recommend prosecution of those involved.

For his part, the Prez pronounced the Brennan apologies sufficient, and expressed his continuing confidence in our Spookmaster-in-Chief. He also made reference to the impending publication of the Senate's Report from its investigation that started all this. The full Report itself is 6,300 pages; we may be confident that the unclassified edition to be made public will be, ahem, abridged.

To leave Brennan in-place is just wrong. This appears to be one of those either/or situations, and neither option ought to result in Brennan's extending his tenure (at best). First, he might have known of the violations, and ordered or allowed them to go forward. Or, he might have been kept in the dark ? by design, or underling plot, or accident. In the former case it's a serious sin of commission, and surely just-cause for termination. In the latter, it is a thorough dereliction of his internal management responsibilities in an Agency whose crest appears in the dictionary next to the word "arrogant." The issue of these limits had to be near the top of the oversight challenges he faced, in the institution that he leads.

The best explanation I can conjure is that the upcoming Torture Report will be sufficiently damning that IT will provide the basis for Brennan's resignation, followed by a promised house-cleaning and disinfection of the Langley environs with a 'brand new team' of spooks. Brennan is a CIA careerist, working in or around the Agency throughout his working life. He was there for those renditions; he had to have been involved in those limits decisions.

He has to go.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Aug 5, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Resign? That?s it? No criminal punishment? Just pinky swear not to do it again?

What about Obama?s role in all this? Did Obama know about and/or approve of the spying? If so, shouldn?t Obama be punished too?

Posted by Tom Cushing, a DanvilleSanRamon.com blogger,
on Aug 5, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Tom Cushing is a registered user.

S-P: I didn't indicate 'that's it.' I haven't researched the Criminal Code for this column, which is why I left the door open to more (the 'at best' language). If you wish to do the work instead of asking the Qs, I hope you will render us a thorough legal memorandum and assessment of the available charges.

As a general comment, I am unhappy with how reluctant DOJ is to bring criminal charges against living breathing persons. The banksters are one example -- this may be another. There's probably an upcoming blog in there, somewhere.

Posted by Doug Miller, a resident of Country Fair,
on Aug 6, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Doug Miller is a registered user.

"it fundamentally offends the Separation of Powers"

Why just this minor incident? So much of what this administration does fundamentally offends the Separation of Powers.

Brennan was nominated by the president for this job and was presumably doing what the president wanted done. And the president apparently wants him to stay in the job. And so he will.

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Aug 7, 2014 at 7:29 am


Liberals like Tom will support the Obama police state so long as it furthers their liberal objectives.

Republicans did the same for Bush.

America used to stand for freedom from tyrannical government. It?s sad we?ve lost that as a priority.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Aug 7, 2014 at 7:46 am

Hi Doug: Maybe this will help. Let's assume you work in a company. Which situation would you view as more serious:

1 -- delaying one part of an important software upgrade you are implementing, at the request of the affected department, to smooth the transition to the new platform, or

2 -- sneaking into your boss's office after hours, breaking into her computer, reading her files and removing critical documents that you don't want her to see?

I think 2 is a great deal worse than 1, and to me it represents the difference between delaying the employer mandate on the ACA, and the CIA's hacking the Senate CIA oversight committee's files.

On the so-called imperial Presidency, I believe that it's yet another mythology that distorts the actual record. There are those on the Right who, having stymied the Administration's legislative agenda, would also like to bottle-up the Executive Branch from doing what it can (some would call it 'making progress') on matters that are clearly the province of the Prez.

Min wage is an example: it is $7.25/hour, having gone up about 20% over the same period that cost-of-living has risen 67%. 23 states have raised theirs above that figure, but Congress will not act. You don't control Congress, but you can control what the Executive Branch pays its contractors, so you order that the min wage on federal work be raised.

Now, is that really an Imperial Presidency, or is it doing what you can, where you can? Obviously, that's only one example and one robin does not make the spring, but this Prez has issued many fewer Executive Orders than his predecessors, on the raw numbers, as well. I understand why there's a drum-beat about this issue from the Right, but I just don't think that Imperial Presidency charge sticks.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Aug 7, 2014 at 8:12 am

S-P: if you want to tar somebody, you really need to use a better brush. The CIA's misdeeds, unequivocally opposed in this blog, are directionally those of a police state. Perhaps you missed that part?

Posted by Doug Miller, a resident of Country Fair,
on Aug 7, 2014 at 9:18 am

Doug Miller is a registered user.

And whose police state, exactly? Mr. Obama's police state.

He nominated the current director. The president just announced that he has confidence in the director. The president will not fire him. Therefore the president owns these "police state" tactics.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Aug 7, 2014 at 9:57 am

Doug? I'm having a little trouble squaring your two comments. Which is it: a 'minor incident' or 'a police state tactic?'

Or is it ODS?

Posted by Doug Miller, a resident of Country Fair,
on Aug 7, 2014 at 11:11 am

Doug Miller is a registered user.

The author of this blog called the referenced CIA actions those of a police state. My comment was that in comparison to other actions of this administration, it is a minor incident.

But if they are, as the author suggests, the actions of a police state, then the president owns them. The president will not fire the director. The director will not resign. One has to conclude that the president likes what the director is doing.

But, of course, this is just my opinion.

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Aug 7, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Tom wants Brennan to be the fall guy to make this scandal go away so Obama and Democrats can continue forcing the liberal agenda down people?s throats.

If Obama knew and actually approved of Brennen?s activities, which is what Senator Mark Udall (D-Colorado) claims, Web Link then Tom should be asking for Obama to resign.

If Bush had done it, you can bet Tom would demand that Bush resign.

Double standard.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Aug 7, 2014 at 12:48 pm

S-P: You often know what YOU think -- sometimes you even express it here. That's quite enough of a job for you. Instead, you insist on presuming, incorrectly, to know what I think. I want a thorough-going reform of the CIA. That won't happen until after the publication of the Senate report, coming soon to a blogatorium near you.

One of the problems with living in a fact-free zone is that it's hard for folks to wait for Actual Facts -- they are rarely as much fun as Fantasy and Hyperbole, anyway. The Udall quote is obviously wishful thinking -- it does not say what you hope it does, at all.

It's kind of like Benghazi -- remember how much fun it was to speculate darkly? And how sad it is to learn that there's no 'there,' there? Web Link

Time will tell who did what, and knew what, and ordered what, when. There will be time enough, at THAT time, to decide what to think about implications. Try to be more like the zen master: learn to say: "we'll see." Web Link (one nsfw word in that clip).

Posted by Doug Miller, a resident of Country Fair,
on Aug 7, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Doug Miller is a registered user.

The blogger always gets a little snarky when someone persists in disagreeing with his opinion. He then resorts to distractions from the subject to steer away from his chosen topic. In this case his topic was CIA snooping on the senate. His chosen distractions? Benghazi, Fox News on Benghazi, software upgrades, the minimum wage.

The blogger wants the CIA Director fired. The president seems to like his work. How will this blogger resolve this dilemma?

And try to stay focused on your chosen topic.

Posted by Formerly Dan from BC, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Aug 7, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Formerly Dan from BC is a registered user.


Said blogger also brought up global warming too.

But..."look over there"!

Posted by BF, a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 8, 2014 at 12:03 am

When the Dems do something with a negative twist, Tommy pretends to criticize them and act impartial. It's a trick that does not work. Take Tom Tom's current rant for example. He flails and flops about telling everyone how horrible it is that the CIA snooped. Okay, I agree. But does Tom go out on a limb and really slam the President for his inaction? Nope. Tomster uses the old slight of hand to shift blame.

Tommy's Magic Show is see through.

Posted by The Blogger, a resident of Alamo,
on Aug 8, 2014 at 7:02 am

Let's examine the Dougger's distraction premise: in his first comment, he considered this to be a minor matter, especially in the context of wider presumed Separation of Powers offenses. The blogger responded first with a business analogy that explained why this is serious -- it was a pretty good'un, and not snarky. That's not a 'software distraction'.

The blogger responded to the second point -- the Imperial Presidency complaint for short, by suggesting that it is over-blown. He chose another example of an Administration action: the min wage, because the complaint generalized the President's actions. Hard to avoid another subject when the complaint is general, and hardly a distraction. That one was so unsnarkified that the blogger even acknowledged it was only one example.

The blogger could go on -- and be accused of dreaded 'defensiveness' for his labors. As for any sleight-of-hand, however, the blogger was mighty clear: he thinks the Prez should fire Brennan, at minimum. He predicts In.The.Blog that it might happen after the Senate report that implicates Brennan's prior actions (under a different President who favored torture, but who's counting?). Sometimes, if you will permit a 'distraction,' when a Chief Exec expresses 'full confidence' in someone, it's the kiss of death. The blogger hopes so.

Posted by Doug Miller, a resident of Country Fair,
on Aug 8, 2014 at 10:57 am

Doug Miller is a registered user.

The blogger continues to offer distractions when he should be spending more time looking at the basic facts.

This is not only a minor issue, it turns out that this is a false issue. It is now being reported that senate staffers were offered access to view relevant CIA "torture" documents while in a CIA facility and under an agreement between the parties. The senate staffers were prohibited from viewing non-relevant information and were prohibited from removing any document. Apparently these senate staffer violated both stipulations. The so-called spying consisted of the CIA auditing their own network in their own facility to determine that the senate staffers had abided by the agreement.

It is just a little more complicated than has been widely reported. But the better conclusion is that some senators have lied about the incident.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Aug 8, 2014 at 11:31 am

No links to your claims, and of course, if they were true, no apology would have been forthcoming. I think it's safe to stand by the Inspector General's Report that I linked in the blog. It reads, in part:

"Agency Access to Files on the SSCI RDINet: Five Agency employees, two attorneys and three IT staff members improperly accessed or caused to access to the SSCI Majority Staff shared drives on the RDINet."

The fact is that the CIA set up the network per negotiation with the Senate SSCI -- negotiation that forbade their access to the information provided to the Senate staffers. They violated that agreement with their overseers. It was worse than that, if DiFi is to be believed (and given the choice, I do). Those CIA personnel not only "improperly accessed" the drives, they did so by deleting files they did not want the staff to see. In the pithy, if unrelated words of the VP: "That's a big ... deal!"

'They' say that cognitive dissonance is a cruel phenomenon, so much so that some folks will go to great lengths to avoid it. Obviously, 'they' are right.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Aug 9, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Posted by Yadda Yadda, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood, On the Roz blog.
22 minutes ago
Kinna out of your element over in this part of the swamp, aren't you Tom? With no control over a censorship button, what in the world are you going to do?

Tell ya one thing. If I were a part-time, hired-off-the-street, lecturer at a university -- even a half-assed one like GGU -- I wouldn't be flaunting my name about this swampland. Shouldn't you be [have been] doing some serious research? (You know, where people cite Rawls and they don't mean Lou? Or where they cite Marx and don't mean the Marx Brothers?) I dare say, had you applied yourself over the years in a more diligent manner, you'd probably have something of substance to say on your blog. You'd also probably have something of substance to say in your classroom. Say hi to Dan and the rest of the intellectual dwarves when you ooze on back to your on site.

Y: I've copied your comment over here, to free up Roz in case anyone wants to say something relevant to her blog.

First off, someone suggested that you have a man-crush on me, which might account for your odd obsession with seeking my attention. Maybe so, but I'm taken, man -- give it up.

Second, your comment suggests that GGU is a research institution, and that, as an Adjunct prof, I am there for the scholarship. Neither is correct. GGU provides a quality education in applied academics -- we are relentlessly applications-oriented -- the better to actually equip our capable students for careers in various fields. We are not propagating a new generation of scholars -- that's somebody else's business, and good for them.

As Adjuncts, we are chosen precisely for our actual experiential expertise in the fields we teach, and rewarded for our androgogical skill. You know, the Real World, and adult learners -- or perhaps you don't.

My teaching has real world application; my cases have real world application; their research has real world application and my tests -- you guessed it. You might not approve -- we are short on snoot. But I'll tell you one damn thing -- my students approve. And they're doing well in the Real World.

Do you see why your wild swings at GGU, and me, don't land? You may be in a different fight, but none of your crap matters in my ring. Or on my blog. And it Is my blog, and I Will delete you if you continue to act like an imperious ass, or try to 'improve' me instead of commenting on the subject of the blog.

It's like that old quotation: mediocre minds are interested in people and gossip. Good minds are interested in discussing events. And Really good minds inhabit the world of ideas. You might consider elevating your commentary.

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