They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

Hayden vs. Helgerson: Who Has The Chilling Effect?

Helgerson criticized Tenet for failure to properly manage what he considered, in many cases, competent and innovative work against al-Qaeda. His chief recommendation, the creation of an accountability board to recommend potential punishment for Tenet and his top deputies, was declined by both Hayden and his predecessor, Porter Goss.

Now it's the turn of critics of Hayden's investigation into Helgerson to accuse someone of having a chilling effect -- in this case, a chilling effect on internal investigations of potential wrongdoing. Perhaps that's a counter-chilling effect, since outside or inside inquiry seems to be, to many at CIA, what's responsible for causing perceived aversion to risk. Either way, Hayden's move is likely to chip at one of the most powerful bulwarks against CIA misconduct. "The role of CIA IG is extremely important, at least potentially, because it entails a degree of access that surpasses even that of Congressional oversight committees," explains Steven Aftergood, an intelligence expert with the Federation of American Scientists. "In principle, the IG can go anywhere and see anything. If he is so inclined, he can be a voice of law and sanity in places where these are otherwise absent."

It's hard to know how powerful Helgerson is, Aftergood continues, "since almost all of his work product is classified and leaves no public trace." But one thing's for sure: after Hayden's inquiry, the inspector general is sure to be diminished. Whether that leads to a less risk-averse CIA remains to be seen.