The CIA as the fourth branch of government

The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence several years ago began an investigation into the use of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency.  In response the CIA stonewalled the investigation, broke into the committee computer system and e-mail files, lied about it, and filed false charges against Senate staff members.

Yet not only has nobody in the CIA been prosecuted or even fired, the CIA was allowed to censor the committee’s report.

bw_cia_logo_tNor is this unique.  Members of the Senate and House of Representatives have been subject to gag orders not only about the activities of secret intelligence organizations, but about secret negotiations concerning the Trans Pacific Partnership and other trade treaties.

Several have said the American people would be shocked if they knew the truth, but none have made the information public by reading it into the Congressional record, as Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska did in 1971 with the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of the Vietnam war.

U.S. intelligence agencies have become a permanent part of government, more powerful than the elected branches of government and unaccountable to them.  Why has this been allowed?

History may provide a clue.  President John F. Kennedy disapproved of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, but never dared to threaten to fire him, because the FBI files contained too much damaging information about JFK’s personal life.   Today the CIA and NSA have the means of spying on the personal lives of their critics orders of magnitude greater than the FBI’s illegal wiretapping in the Hoover era.

And J. Edgar Hoover was popular.  Firing him would have generated a huge political backlash, like President Truman’s firing of General MacArthur.  The CIA also is popular.  Many Americans believe that torture, preventive detention and assassination are necessary, and are exclusively directed against Muslim terrorists.  There is a whole genre of popular literature glorying secret agents and assassins who operate outside the constraints of law and morality.

Congress has the legal authority to declassify information on its own.  The President has the legal authority to declassify information.  But exercising their authority will be difficult, and probably unpopular.   President Truman’s decision to fire General MacArthur was hugely unpopular, but in retrospect we see that Truman preserved the principle of civilian control over the military.

If agencies of government are given authority to  break the law, lie about it and forbid disclosure of the facts,  that is a more absolute power than ever was exercised by King George III in 1776,


Who Rules Washington? by Tom Engelhardt.

The Senate Is Not Happy That the CIA Censored Its Report On CIA Torture by Jason Leopold for Vice News.

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2 Responses to “The CIA as the fourth branch of government”

  1. Gunny G Says:

    Reblogged this on BLOGGING BAD w/Gunny G ~ "CLINGERS of AMERICA!".


  2. Pat Says:

    Question for democracy is whether appearances count?

    Russia and America parallel universes since 1960?


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