Can We Believe the CIA?

Not hardly. In 2003, the CIA staked its reputation on the claim that Iraq possessed usable weapons of mass destruction (WMD – the catch-all term meant to imply nuclear armaments). In reality, they knew for a fact no such weapons existed. Former President Bush then ordered an illegal invasion of a country that had not attacked us and posed no threat. More than a million people died.


“[T]he agency, fearful above all else of dismemberment by politicians outraged by its appalling track record, has lied with pathological consistency to Presidents and Congresses,” wrote Spencer Ackerman last June.

What, then, to make of the current media obsession about whether or not the CIA lied to Rep. Nancy Pelosi in a September 2002 briefing? The question ought to answer itself.

Matt Yglesias:

Just when it seemed to many that the right had lost its mojo, give conservatives credit: They’re still enormously good at ginning up controversies and controlling the news cycle. Thus a story that was once about the Bush administration’s decision to authorize barbaric and illegal acts of torture has successfully been morphed into a to-do about Nancy Pelosi’s account of CIA briefings.

As political gamesmanship, it’s been masterful. I particularly like the way the right has managed to trot out an endless procession of figures willing to express outrage that anyone would ever hint that the CIA might mislead a member of Congress.

…Obviously, I wasn’t in the room with Pelosi and whoever briefed her, but anyone with any recollection of history should be aware that it would hardly be unusual for the country’s marquee intelligence agency to do something like that. Indeed, deception of Congress has been a common occurrence in the agency’s history, and one former director, Richard Helms, was even convicted of lying to Congress.

The CIA has zero credibility. In fact, there’s no reason to maintain an expensive intelligence agency that can’t be believed. The U.S. government has 17 other intelligence agencies that do a better job than the CIA.

Oh, and the CIA is guilty of torturing detainees in order to coerce false information linking Iraq to the 9/11 attacks. Some were tortured to death.

UPDATE: The Rasmussen Poll is always right-shifted, but even Rasmussen says more people believe Speaker Pelosi than believe the CIA’s story.

From Josh Marshall:

Not too many people noticed. But yesterday on Meet the Press, the always on-message Michael Steele managed to stumble his way into endorsing a Bush/torture Truth Commission. He even said a lot of other Republicans are calling for one too.

UPDATE: In addition to the CIA, in late 2002 and early 2003 interrogators at Guantanamo were also tasked with producing evidence of Iraq-al Qaeda ties.

Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura was a guest on “The View” today and gave co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck a lesson about waterboarding (a former Navy SEAL, Ventura actually knows what he’s talking about).

UPDATE: What is the matter with Joe Scarborough? This morning on MSNBC, he launched — yet again — into an angry defense of torture. Later in the show, Bob Shum got Rudy Giuliani to back off his claim the CIA has never lied.

UPDATE: The accuracy of the CIA document that purports to document congressional briefings has now been challenged by: CIA Director Leon Panetta, Senator Jay Rockefeller, former Senator Bob Graham, Rep. David Obey, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

UPDATE: TPM points out that the CIA refers to briefings on “EITs,” or enhanced interrogation techniques going back to 2002. But according to a former intelligence professional who has participated in such briefings, that term wasn’t used until at least 2004.

UPDATE: The CIA has reiterated that the record of congressional briefings cannot be regarded as authoritative:

As the agency has pointed out more than once, its list — compiled in response to congressional requests — reflects the records it has. These are notes, memos, and recollections, not transcripts and recordings.

UPDATE: Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) has been going around vouching for the truthfulness of the CIA. Yet he himself accused the agency of lying to Congress last November and on other occasions.

  1. #1 by Becky on May 18, 2009 - 10:35 am

    It was 9-11 that exposed how closed and territorial the various intelligence agencies are — not sharing information even at the risk of national security. It’s good to be reminded of that.

    By the way, among those joining the “endless procession of figures willing to express outrage”, we can add Obama’s own CIA Director, Leon Panetta. Looks like he’s adopted the agency culture quickly.

  2. #2 by Richard Warnick on May 18, 2009 - 10:53 am

    I actually feel sorry for Panetta. His mandate ought to be to get the CIA under control or shut it down, but the Obama administration has too many other messes to clean up. Maybe the next Democrat in the White House can do something.

  3. #3 by Larry Bergan on May 18, 2009 - 2:37 pm

    I hate to be the one to defend Nancy Pelosi, because after years of carrying my Impeach Bush sign through the streets of my hometown, she flippantly, (to me anyway), announced, during the election, that any talk of impeachment was “off the table.”

    The woman is trying to defend herself and I’m shocked to see the media “news” shows booking only critics of her. Nancy seems to be getting close to something that most television pundits on both sides, (well, far right and center right) are fearing. I’m enticed by the prospect that somebody may finally be standing up to some very powerful players.

    But she’s not the only one. It seems former Senator Bob Graham was LIED to by the CIA.

    The panel of “This Week” was extremely harsh on Nancy and now it seems the “L” word is back in fashion. Gingrich is out there using his word list again and calling Pelosi a LIAR who must be investigated!

    She lied! She lied!

  4. #4 by Richard Warnick on May 18, 2009 - 2:42 pm


    I put the link in an update above. Former MN Governor Jesse Ventura was on “The View” today and had this to say about calls for Speaker Pelosi’s resignation:

    “They want her out because she lied?” asked Ventura. “Why didn’t they ask for Bush and Cheney to go out when they lied about why we went into Iraq?”

  5. #5 by Anonymous on May 18, 2009 - 2:46 pm

    You might hate to be the one, and by doing so prove yourself the shill. Do you really imagine she did not know what was up?

    This all for show, the powerful players are making her squirm, like these fish were not compromised before the fix was in. Please. It went on for years, the photos were all there in newsweek.

    Don’t be confused Larry, why the hell do you think she said impeachment was off the table, and as party leader enforced it?

  6. #6 by Larry Bergan on May 18, 2009 - 4:11 pm

    Jesse Ventura puzzles me sometimes, but the rest of the time he is right on the money. That was a great question he asked:

    “If waterboarding is okay, why don’t we let our police do it to suspects to learn what they know?”

    and answered his own question with:

    “We only seem to waterboard Muslims.”

    Of course that’s not true, since he, himself, was waterboarded, but as everybody knows the element of death was ABSENT in his waterboarding sessions. This was not true during any of the, literally, hundreds of times the procedure was executed on Cheney’s unlucky victims. Howard Dean always has a great way of putting things. He recently said

    (paraphrasing): If you have to waterboard somebody 187 times, that means the first 186 times didn’t work.

    By the way, it appears that Sean Hannity has chickened out of participating in a waterboarding session that would almost certainly be many times safer then what Ventura experienced. At least I haven’t heard anything.

  7. #7 by anonymouse on May 18, 2009 - 5:46 pm

  8. #8 by anonymouse on May 18, 2009 - 9:55 pm

    Gosh, it’s awfully quiet in here.

  9. #9 by Richard Warnick on May 19, 2009 - 8:12 am


    Bush administration defenders often pretend not to understand that waterboarding and other torture conducted for training purposes is not the same as torturing detainees. It’s done on volunteers, briefly, and not in the context of imprisonment or interrogation.

    Because the trainees are not “in custody,” the SERE training sessions do not meet the statutory definition of torture. I’m sure Jesse Ventura could explain this distinction.

    The Bush OLC lawyers tried to invent another circumstance that allowed for torture that wasn’t technically illegal. But they made the mistake of playing a cheap word game, claiming that some forms of torture don’t inflict “severe physical or mental pain or suffering,” even over long periods of time. That’s absurd. Unlike Jesse Ventura, the lawyers had no firsthand knowledge.

  10. #10 by Whoa Nelly! on May 19, 2009 - 8:37 am

    No comment on the torturer abuser general just appointed by Obama to “cure up” Afghanistan? No apologies to be sure.

    Jesse is in power of nothing but his bong and his surfboard. He hardly lives in this country anymore.

    • #11 by Richard Warnick on May 19, 2009 - 9:49 am

      Sorry, Gen. McChrystal is too far off-topic.

  11. #12 by anonymouse on May 19, 2009 - 10:34 am

    Too far off topic? Obama has just appointed another torturer to command the entire Afghan campaign. It is obvious that no one gives a shit, and the issue is just one of political posturing on all your parts. Good luck with that.

    Richard, you and your bias, just entered the world of KAFKA!

    • #13 by Richard Warnick on May 19, 2009 - 10:50 am

      McChrystal has to face a confirmation hearing. If there is proof of the torture allegations, it will come out then. This has nothing to do with the CIA, the topic of this post.

  12. #14 by anonymouse on May 19, 2009 - 11:57 am

    It is interesting watching the shuffle, you have to be military to compartmentalize so well. shut off one link before opening another. As if all these organizations somehow didn’t know, like Pelosi in her claims. It is all related. Pelosi has to be dumbest most powerful person on Earth, or a plain and simple liar, like Bush. There are no other options.

    Quit with club circle jerk and start looking at for what it is, the US Policy. As if Mac won’t be confirmed, torture allegations or not. There is no “proof” on any of it that will amount to a hill of beans.

    • #15 by Richard Warnick on May 19, 2009 - 2:13 pm

      Some of us have the discipline to discuss topics one at a time, when enough facts become available to have an intelligent debate.

      If you have evidence that Speaker Pelosi is lying, then tell us.

  13. #16 by anonymust on May 19, 2009 - 3:36 pm

    As I advise in the communal circle jerk, do you imagine that those looking in at the activity care about what you Richard require for a body of evidence? As in most civil cases, assumptions of behavior are made upon a preponderance of the evidence. The evidence is that America has and is torturing people, violating sovereignty, bombing innocents, etc etc., and to those that would prevent such things, they really don’t care what Nancy said, they care more about what she did not say, while she stood and watched.

    Discussing these topics that involve our entire government and war policy one off at a time, is just a template for you to make your political points. It is why we never get anywhere. Admitting that all these issues are related to the entirety of our failed leadership, would at least be an honest step in the right direction.

    To any person with a clue, they can see her covering her ass, and the tarp just isn’t big enough. Here let us use your logic, can you provide evidence that she is not lying?

  14. #17 by Larry Bergan on May 19, 2009 - 4:34 pm

    anonyman? says:

    To any person with a clue, they can see her covering her ass, and the tarp just isn’t big enough.

    Nancy Pelosi doesn’t have the “MSM” tarp; that belongs to the party of “finders keepers, losers weepers”, and “tick tock, game is locked, nobody else can play”, and “I can do anything better then you but I have to change laws to do it, and I will.

    Nonetheless, Nancy covers her ass quite tastefully lately, while most of the congress-vermin moon us; ALL of the Republicans.

  15. #18 by anonymust on May 19, 2009 - 8:06 pm

    Now you are going to tell me the media has right wing bias, the right says it has left wing bias, the truth is it job is to divide the people and allow the like of Pelosi to keep screwing us. Could it be possible that your own bias has somewhat blinded you?

    Right wing, left wing, all around the town

    to some it seem the right wing causes Larry to go frown

    blue dog, red slob, really all are brown

    god I need some whisky, wash the bullshit all way

    left wing progs, chirping like the frogs

    just as brown as all the rest, no way to flush them

    trusting in Pelosi, is sure way for us to drown…

  16. #19 by cav on May 19, 2009 - 9:39 pm

    She said the CIA lies all the time. Do you doubt that?

  17. #20 by anonymust on May 19, 2009 - 10:25 pm

    Never Cav.

    Do I think she lies? Like a rug.

    CIA? Mossad? KGB? La Cosa Nostra? Your mother when you were 3?

    “By way of deception, shall we make war” Or love.

    “All is fair in love and war”? Dunno, do you?

    If Nanner isn’t lying with whom she has to hang with, then she is really stupid, and we are then truly badly served…and in very great danger.

    Read Machiavelli, paraphrased, a virtuous man beset upon by the non virtuous, has not a prayer, he must adapt. Nancy just can’t evolve fast enough. She’s a dinosaur, about to go extinct. The weak sister in the Eagle’s nest gets devoured by its siblings.

    Ask yourself this question, if your child were taken, and you had in possession a person that was involved, had knowledge of the child and their whereabouts, what would do? Not talking about norms, but given the freedom to act, what would you do? You need not answer but to yourself. What we witness now, is what is seen in micro day to day, of real life on Earth, if fucking with people for control and their treasure is what you do for a living.

    Who knows? Maybe she has some sand, but I haven’t seen it, at the gut level of watching. She is waay out of her league. She serves a compromised purpose. Of course a woman can always cry, and often fool the most evil of men.

    If the Dems don’t let it go, we are certainly going to find out. Who are dealing with? The whole lot agreed to bomb the ever living shit out of mostly innocent people. They are still doing it. What becomes of them, they will all richly deserve.

    We sadly, are all on the hook for it.

  18. #21 by Ken on May 19, 2009 - 10:45 pm

    Yes, because they stand for TRUTH, JUSTICE, and the AMERICAN WAY!

  19. #22 by Larry Bergan on May 19, 2009 - 11:51 pm

    anonwhatever said:

    The whole lot agreed to bomb the ever living shit out of mostly innocent people.

    If you mean the Republicans, you’re absolutely correct, but we’ve SO been over this…

    Change your name dude.

  20. #23 by cav on May 20, 2009 - 5:06 am

    Also snookered: Colin Powell.

    While it may well be that members of both parties ‘signed on’ to the war and other crimes, you must admit it was furiously driven by the Cheney / Bush regime.

    The al-Libi case tells all too well, even though information from torture is notoriously unreliable, President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the me-too officials running U.S. intelligence ordered it anyway, since if it is untruthful information you are after, torture works just fine!

    All you really need to know is what you want the victims to “confess” to and then torture them, or render them abroad to “friendly” intelligence services toward the same end.

    “…as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 – well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion – its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but on discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq to al-Qaeda.

    Apparantly the whole deal was cooked up.

  21. #24 by Becky on May 20, 2009 - 5:14 am

    Colin Powell remains an enigma to me. As I watched him speaking to the U.N. and the world, I thought his tone reeked of insincerity. Yet everyone bought it because of who he is (isn’t that why he was selected to give that speech?). But why did he do it? Is he really just a loyal soldier?

    • #25 by Richard Warnick on May 20, 2009 - 9:01 am

      That was a weird moment in history. Powell made George Tenet sit right behind him, as if to say: “blame the CIA for these lies.” Then the presentation, as I recall, was pretty thin stuff compared to Adlai Stevenson during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Powell tried to make up for it by dint of personal credibility– the biggest mistake of his life.

      POWELL: My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.

      I remember the reaction from most countries, even U.S. allies, was skeptical at best. A day after Powell spoke, Mohamed el-Baradei of the IAEA declared the Niger uranium oxide document a forgery.

      Scott Ritter
      called Powell’s presentation “smoke and mirrors, nothing to do with reality (and) plain wrong.” Hans Blix called it “shaky,” and said U.S. officials such as National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice “chose to ignore us.”

  22. #26 by anonymust on May 20, 2009 - 6:37 am

    Nan voted to bomb the shit out of Iraq, no if ands or buts Larry.

    When are any of you going to admit that “torture” isn’t simply for information?

  23. #27 by anonymust on May 20, 2009 - 6:51 am

    Those you would willingly kill in war without a second thought, you would easily torture in premeditation. Just the way war is.

    Becky, Colin Powell is an idiot, plain and simple. In my world I wouldn’t let him clean my bathroom, being the known known that he is. His shilling for the deal has no excuse at his level, another person like Nancy, watching away and back peddling later.

    Cav, so Bush/Cheney pressed the war, and the rest supported it, more never once thought of stopping the funding. Do remember what your mother told you about idiots you hang out with and reference to a cliff? Stupid is as stupid does for those claiming they were taken in. Fuck them for being liars or stupid.

  24. #28 by Larry Bergan on May 20, 2009 - 11:04 pm


    Do you have to pull things out of your rear end to make your false points? You just threw this out there:

    Nan voted to bomb the shit out of Iraq, no if ands or buts Larry.

    Nancy Pelosi was one of HUNDREDS OF DEMOCRATS on the hill who voted AGAINST giving Bush his war of choice. Republicans were only able to come up with 6 votes against war. Like I said, we’ve been through this before.

    Why do you use the tactic of the pundit shills, and say both parties were just as culpable of starting the war in Iraq, when you know it’s a lie?

  25. #29 by anonymust on May 21, 2009 - 7:29 am

    She voted against it once, she voted to fund it EVERY time after!! Emergency funding, general funding, Spare us Larry, she is completely in on it. From her voting record we have to assume she was either utterly co-opted, or changed her mind about the whole thing. Her voting record speaks for itself.

    Why not Larry? I can watch Pelosi lie like a rug now, and as such to bring her down and have her removed, anything will do. Sorry about the mistake.

  26. #30 by anonymust on May 21, 2009 - 7:33 am

    Any comments on the current posture of your beloved party and its support and conduct on Afghanistan, or is that a alright “war”?

  27. #31 by Larry Bergan on May 21, 2009 - 11:45 am

    Nancy Pelsoi seems to want transparency and investigations which have already put the lying media spotlight on herself.

    All anonypunk can do is join in with the pundits attacking her.

    Sorry about the mistake.

    What mistake? Getting caught lying again.

  28. #32 by anonymust on May 21, 2009 - 6:12 pm

    Sarcasm is hard in print, especially with you Larry.

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