Too Much or Not Enough?

I didn’t really have time to listen Tuesday evening when I flipped on the video of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) speech on the dispute between the Senate Intelligence Committee (she’s the chair) and the Central Intelligence Agency, but once I started listening, I couldn’t stop.

I’m not a fan of Sen. Feinstein, I think she’s been far too defending of various intelligence agencies as they trammel civil liberties at home and worse abroad.  That said, I believe her when she says the CIA illegally interfered with her committee’s business and I agree that it’s a huge deal.  Again the despairing thought, “This is happening, in my country.”

What’s most depressing is not that the CIA is populated by thugs.  I expect that.  It’s not that politicians are shocked when the same people they allow to tamper with our liberties start to mess with theirs; I expect that, too.  It’s the dense fog emanating from the west wing of the White House.  President Obama’s spokesoids said he’s “staying out” of this feud, until McClatchy newspapers reported that the administration is also undermining the work of the Senate committee by withholding documents.  As with my other low expectations, I knew Mr. Obama’s deeds would fall short of his rhetoric.  I just didn’t expect it to fall this far short.

I don’t like quoting John McCain (R-AZ), but it’s true – that’s not change we can believe in.  This evil didn’t start with Mr. Obama – it began in the torture cells of the Bush/Cheney administration, where the authorized activities were – in Sen. Feinstein’s words – “far different and far more harsh” than the CIA had described to the Senate committee charged with oversight.  In other words, they lied.  Our crimes against humanity are worse then we know.

So, it’s evil and evil metastasizes.  That’s no excuse.  Barack Obama was an adult – a professor of constitutional law, no less – when he took the oath of office and learned, or should have learned, what his predecessors had done.  And he took no action to expose or correct it.

Sunshine is still the best disinfectant and these lights are not kind.  It’s one thing to know about drone strikes and extra-judicial killings, but then the beam of Edward Snowden’s (still think he’s a traitor?) revelations blinks on and we see more clearly.  Sen. Feinstein tells us there’s important information about CIA crimes being withheld from us.  The story it will tell – and the fight to get it released – will illuminate the tenures of Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama alike.

This is when I feel I’m turning into a middle-aged curmudgeon.  (Turning?)  This is when I think, “I’ve gone as far into the future as I want.”  Is there no end to these disgraces committed in our name and against our will?

Or is it a repeat of the past?  My senator, Pat Leahy (D-VT) said it reminded him of the Church Committee, formed in 1975 to rein in excesses of federal intelligence agencies, like the overthrow of democratically-elected governments in Iran, Guatamala and Chile.  I was thinking the same thing.  Sen. Leahy had just arrived in Congress’s upper house; I was just arriving at political awareness.  (OK, yes, fine – I was a nerd.  Get over it.)

My question now: Am I too cynical or not cynical enough?

© Mark Floegel, 2014

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