Senate Republicans, Trying To Score Political Points, Claim Democrats Revealing Spying Scandal Puts Lives At Risk

from the insanity dept

The Senate/CIA spying scandal continues to get more and more ridiculous. The latest is that it's turning into a political fight between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, rather than what it really is: a Constitutional crisis concerning the separation of powers and the ability of Congress to oversee the executive branch's intelligence community. You would think that other Senators would line up behind Senator Feinstein's anger over the CIA directly spying on Senate Intelligence Committee staffers who were compiling a detailed report into the CIA's use of torture.

But, they're not. This first became clear when the top two Republicans on the Committee more or less spoke out against Feinstein:
Many of the Republicans on the intelligence committee didn't share her position. The panel's top Republican, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, said he and Ms. Feinstein "have some disagreements as to what the actual facts are."

Others criticized her for airing her concerns so openly. "I personally don't believe that anything that goes on in the intelligence committee should ever be discussed publicly," said Sen. Richard Burr (R., N.C.).
Burr's comments are particularly chilling, as he's actually likely to replace Chambliss as the top Republican -- meaning that if the Republicans recapture the Senate, he's likely to take over Feinstein's job as the chair of the Intelligence Committee. Think about all the stonewalling the Committee currently does. Then picture the guy who said that quote above in charge.

And, in the last day it's gone even more haywire, as Burr and other Republicans are now trying to use this as a political gambit to claim that Senator Mark Udall (a Democrat and the one who really called attention to the CIA's actions) somehow leaked classified info in revealing the CIA's actions. According to Politico, even though Republicans have leaked far more info, they see this as a chance to attack Udall, a first term Democrat known for actually standing up for civil liberties and the rights of the public (how dare he):
Republicans say that not only has the committee’s chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), provided selective information to the public about improper CIA conduct, but they are also now pointing the finger at Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.).

The Colorado Democrat, Republicans say, shouldn’t have disclosed internal Senate proceedings over the CIA investigation — something that some Republicans privately say should warrant an ethics committee review.

Democrats counter that Republicans are now engaging in a partisan witch hunt aimed at hurting Udall politically and providing cover to the CIA and the George W. Bush’s administration’s handling of the controversial interrogation and detention program.
I've made it clear before few things annoy me more than partisan bickering in Congress (which is why we rarely even mention which party politicians belong to -- unless, as here, it's a part of the story). And this is a particularly stupid issue to have partisan bickering over. Senate Republicans really think that bashing Udall is a better strategy than making sure that they can have real oversight of the CIA without having the CIA spy on their own staff?

Besides even the arguments that Udall revealed sensitive information, or that it deserves an "ethics" review are incredibly weak. The concern stems from the letter Udall sent the President last week concerning the nomination of a new CIA General Counsel. In it, he mentioned the following:
As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the Committee in relation to the internal CIA review, and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee's oversight responsibilities and for our democracy. It is essential that the Committee be able to do its oversight work -- consistent with our constitutional principle of the separation of powers -- without the CIA posing impediments or obstacles as it is today.
That reveals nothing that appears to be particularly sensitive or classified. Instead, it actually was general enough that it left many people scratching their heads. But to hear Senator Burr talk about it, he acts as if this information puts the lives of people at danger:
“I think Mark did make some public releases that were committee sensitive information, but that’s for the committee internally to handle,” said Burr. “That’s being reviewed right now.”

Burr added: “If you look historically, the committee has cleaned up any mistakes that members have made. Members can do whatever they want to. My concern is that the release of information could potentially causes the losses of life to Americans. That to me, is a threshold that should be addressed.”
Oh come on. Seriously? By mentioning the fact that the CIA searched the network of the Senate Intelligence Committee staffers, it means people will die? Who does he think he's kidding? We know that there are always ridiculous claims whenever there are intelligence community leaks about "lives in danger" (which almost never pan out to be true). But at least in those cases, there's an argument that could be made how the revelations might tie back to national security issues. There is no such thread here at all. This is not about the CIA spying on potential terrorists. It's about them spying on their overseers, and rather than recognize what this means for their own interests Senate Republicans are pretending that its putting people's lives at risk?
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Filed Under: democrats, dianne feinstein, mark udall, politics, republicans, richard burr, saxby chambliss, senate intelligence committee, spying scandal

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2014 @ 2:27pm

    The funny thing is Democrats said this too about Snowden, but now they have to do it themselves against CIA. Maybe next time they won't be so stupid to say that in the first place, especially when it's false.

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