Wow. The New York Times has two sources reporting: C.I.A. director Leon E. Panetta's been testifying to Congress that Dick Cheney ordered the C.I.A. to withhold information regarding a secret counter-terrorism project. And just how sketchy is this Dick?
Sketchier than your weed dealer, Dan Abrams, the Gotti family, the guys who buried Hoffa, whoever makes the Shake Shack sauce, and anybody who's ever tried to conceal anything that probably shouldn't be hidden...combined. The Times' sources say that Panetta is pointing the finger to Cheney to the intelligence committees in the House and the Senate. From what's understood, it only took Panetta actually learning of the program - the nature of which is still widely unknown - to shut it down, which happened on June 23.
The report that Mr. Cheney was behind the decision to conceal the still-unidentified program from Congress deepened the mystery surrounding it, suggesting that the Bush administration had put a high priority on the program and its secrecy.
So, what do we know about it?
- It wasn't the C.I.A.'s interrogation program.
- It didn't involve anything regarding domestic intelligence.
- The program never went operational. ""Because this program never went fully operational and hadn't been briefed as Panetta thought it should have been, his decision to kill it was neither difficult nor controversial," one intelligence official, who would speak about the classified program only on condition of anonymity. "That's worth remembering amid all the drama.""
- People think it was really, really bad, whatever it was. "Most of those interviewed, however, have said that it was an important activity that they felt should have been disclosed."
What isn't shady about this? Counter-terrorism - which quickly became a euphemism for "constitution-negating government action" in the Bush administration's "Homeland Security" efforts - has always been, by nature, a sketchy enterprise. It requires the government to (literally) tap into networks of people who operate under the most clandestine circumstances possible, in some of the most low-tech ways one can engage in criminal action. But still: the Bush administration was as transparent (regarding anything) as a brick wall. As the Times helpfully points out:
In the eight years of his vice presidency, Mr. Cheney was the Bush administration's most vehement defender of the secrecy of government activities, particularly in the intelligence arena. He went to the Supreme Court to keep secret the advisers to his task force on energy, and won.
Yes, it's true: the guy even kept his solar panel fetish in the closet. Either way, whatever this is, it wouldn't be a far stretch to imagine it as one of several reasons President Obama's sympathetically protecting Dick, still. Also, as much as we don't like to think about it, he probably wants to keep some things in his administration a secret. Shit, might as well learn from the best, right?