Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

You can trust us, we’re the CIA!

Jerry Stratton, July 4, 2007

The Libby commutation debate appears to be separating law-and-order Republicans from civil liberties Republicans. You can see an example in this conversation on the Volokh Conspiracy.

The basic disputes between the two sides can be seen in their reaction to these statements on the case:

  • The CIA said she was covert. They are the final authority.
  • The prosecutor said that he saw secret documents that said she was covert. He can be trusted even though he will not show us that evidence.
  • She must have been covered by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act even if she only went overseas for brief periods of a few days at a time. The Act should be interpreted as broadly as possible to cover as many CIA employees as possible.

The first two are difficult to answer. The CIA might be telling the truth; they might not be. The prosecutor might be telling the truth; he might not be. In this debate I’ve been surprised that people on the left believe we must implicitly trust anything that prosecutors and the CIA say, even without evidence. It isn’t surprising to hear it from law-and-order folks like Orin and others, however.

The third is interesting, because it is one of the things that the IIPA was crafted to avoid. This interpretation of “served outside the United States” basically makes the entire CIA off-limits for discussion and whistle-blowing. If we accept week-end travel as fitting the definition of serving outside the United States, the CIA can block discussion of any CIA activity by sending employees involved in that activity to Canada or Mexico on an “undercover” mission for a weekend.

In response to Who controls discussion of CIA activities?: When the CIA wins the battle of defining who can and cannot be talked about, there may be a partisan victory in the short run, but in the long run we all lose.

  1. <- CIA Role