Obama Must "Tame" CIA; Fire CIA Director John Brennan, Argues Washington Post Columnist Eugene Robinson


John Brennan

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson has a terrific column today, "Time to tame the intelligence monster," in which he calls for the resignation of CIA Director John Brennan over his agency's illegal spying on Congress. From the column:

The CIA now admits that it spied on a Senate investigation into the agency's shameful program of secret detention and torture. Do we need any more proof that the spooks are out of control?

An internal "accountability board" will look into the incident, an agency statement said, and might recommend "potential disciplinary measures" or even "steps to address systemic issues."

Somehow, I don't feel reassured.

You will recall that when Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) alleged in March that the CIA was rummaging through her panel's computer files without permission, CIA Director John Brennan scoffed at the complaint with high-handed derision. "I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong," he said.

Oops. An internal CIA probe discovered that, well, a good deal of spying and monitoring and hacking did take place. Brennan reportedly has apologized to Feinstein and Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the committee — both of whom have been among the CIA's staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill.

The White House has taken a la-de-dah attitude toward the revelation that the agency charged with spying on the machinations of our foreign enemies instead trained its focus on the official work of our elected officials. Asked whether Brennan now has a credibility problem, press secretary Josh Earnest said, "Not at all."

Earnest is wrong on that score, but the problem is much bigger than Brennan. At stake is the principle that our intelligence agencies — like our military forces — must be subject to civilian oversight and control. The spooks apparently have a different arrangement in mind. …

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), a member of the intelligence panel, stated the obvious: "This grave misconduct not only is illegal, but it violates the U.S. Constitution's requirement of separation of powers." He called on Brennan to resign.

As I said, however, this is bigger than Brennan. At issue is whether a vastly expanded and empowered U.S. intelligence establishment will be fully and properly brought under civilian control and oversight…. Obama, in the time he has left in office, had better tame it.

Robinson is absolutely right that the national security surveillance state is out of control and must be reined in. He properly calls on President Obama to "tame it."

Somehow, I don't feel reassured.