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"Let me be clear about this,"- CIA director Leon Panetta told his troops last week, "it was not CIA policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values."
Of course, Panetta is entitled to his opinions, but he cannot create his own facts. And, as a long-time member of the House of Representatives, he surely must know that there is a long and substantiated record of CIA deceit and dissembling to the congressional intelligence committees. Here are some highlights of that record.
In 1973, CIA director Richard Helms deceived the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, refusing to acknowledge the role of the CIA in overthrowing the elected government in Chile. Helms falsely testified that the CIA had not passed money to the opposition movement in Chile, and a grand jury was called to see if Helms should be indicted for perjury.
In 1977, the Justice Department brought a lesser charge against Helms, who pleaded nolo contendere; he was fined $2,000 and given a suspended two-year prison sentence. Helms went from the courthouse to the CIA where he was given a hero's welcome and a gift of $2,000 to cover the fine. It was one of the saddest experiences in my 24 years at CIA.
In the new Ford administration, Secretary of State Kissinger, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and White House chief of staff Cheney orchestrated phony intelligence for the Congress in order to get an endorsement for covert arms shipments to anti-government forces in Angola.
The CIA lied to Senator Dick Clark, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who was a critic of the Agency's illegal collaborations with the government of South Africa against Angola and Mozambique. Agency briefers exaggerated the classification of their materials so that Senate and House members could not publicize this information. Agency shields of secrecy and falsehood were extremely effective.
Gates' lies on Iran-contra led to the Senate intelligence committee's unwillingness to vote him out of the committee in 1985, when he was nominated to be CIA director by President Ronald Reagan. Gates was nominated again in 1991 and this time he was confirmed, but not before the hearings produced rhyme and verse on Gates' tailoring of intelligence to fit the biases of Bill Casey.
Throughout the 1980s and the early 1990s, Aldrich Ames performed as the most destructive traitor in the history of the CIA, but CIA directors Gates, William Webster, and Jim Woolsey failed to inform the congressional oversight committees of the serious counter-intelligence problems that had been created.
In the late 1980s, the CIA concealed from the Congress that Saddam Hussein was diverting U.S. farm credits through an Atlanta bank to pay for nuclear technology and sophisticated weapons. The chairman of the Senate and House intelligence committees, Senator Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ) and Representative Dan Glickman (D-KS) respectively, were furious with the deception tactics of CIA briefers.
The greatest CIA disinformation campaign in the congress took place in 2002-2003, when CIA director George Tenet and his deputy, John McLaughlin, consistently lied about Iraqi training for al Qaeda members on chemical and biological weapons as well as the existence of mobile labs to manufacture such weapons.
Several days before the congressional vote on the authorization to use force, CIA senior analyst Paul Pillar delivered an unclassified memorandum to the Hill with a series of false charges about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Pillar's memorandum and a national intelligence estimate on the same subject were also used to develop Secretary of State Colin Powell's address to the United Nations in February 2003.
The CIA still has not addressed the serious procedural and institutional problems that were exposed in a report from the Office of the Inspector General on the Peru program, which concluded that Agency officials deliberately misled Congress, the White House, and the Justice Department.
In closing, Panetta emphasized that it was the CIA's task to "tell it like it is, even if that's not what people always want to hear. Keep it up. Our national security depends on it."-