One of the areas among many where candidate Barack Obama promised fundamental change from predecessors George W. Bush and Dick Cheney was in the national security realm.
Progressives were highly incensed over the use of torture under the Bush-Cheney team that made Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib household terms denoting harsh abrogation of fundamental liberties under the U.S. Constitution and international law.
As Massimo Calabresi noted in the July 12 issue of Time, the Obama "White House " has moved steadily to the right on national security in the past 18 months."
This movement by the Obama Administration has led to a rare clash between the executive branch and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi is pushing to expand congressional oversight of the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Pelosi's initiative is being met with the threat of a White House veto.
Speaker Pelosi wants the 2010 intelligence authorization bill to require the agencies, when launching any covert action, to inform all members of the House and Senate committees.
What Pelosi seeks is enhanced transparency extending beyond the top committee and party leaders. This group has been dubbed the Gang of Eight.
Pelosi also seeks another protective safeguard against excess under the guise of national security protection. She wants the committees to be able to task the Government Accountability Office with auditing any intelligence program, a power it currently possesses only regarding classified Pentagon programs.
Massimo Calabresi notes the dramatic moment at which Pelosi is challenging Obama:
"The Speaker has chosen a surprising moment to take a stand. She has rarely faced off against Obama over a veto threat, and with an election approaching, the last thing the Democrats want is a fight over a politically dangerous issue like national security. But Pelosi is blocking the bill even after Democratic allies, like Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, cut a deal with Republicans and the White House."
Some Democratic pragmatists look askance at Pelosi for "picking a fight" with the commander in chief of her own party during a critical mid-term election in which Republicans seek to take back control of the House and Senate.
The counter argument is one of principle. Many of the same intelligence operatives are still around who ran amok during the Bush-Cheney Administration.
These operatives used unfettered license to cook up a war in Iraq based on fallacious intelligence regarding alleged "weapons of mass destruction" that then CIA Director George Tenet called "a slam dunk" and used torture such as waterboarding to put words in victims' mouths to substantiate their own evil creations.
As a Gang of Eight member in 2002, Pelosi was briefed on the Bush Administration's enhanced interrogation methods. She claimed that the CIA did not disclose it was using waterboarding to extract information from terror suspects.
The CIA, as expected, responded by claiming that Pelosi was indeed informed as to what they were doing. When she charged last year that CIA officials "mislead us all the time" the far right launched a propaganda campaign to demand that Pelosi immediately resign as Speaker.
As Harry Truman conceded after leaving office, the CIA that was created during his administration has used its power to operate as a government of its own. It has operated in the world sphere acting in its own interest and beyond the scrutiny of government oversight.
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