In Savaging Pelosi For “Attacking” CIA, GOP Ignores Its Own Record Of Similar Attacks

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May 20, 2009 9:08 a.m.

We really shouldn’t have to do this. As we’ve said before, the idea that it’s some kind of outlandish and unconscionable slur to point out that the CIA — the CIA, for chrissakes! — can sometimes be economical with the truth is absurd on its face. But the Republican attacks on Nancy Pelosi for daring to make that claim just keep coming, so it looks like we’re going to have to point this out:

Shocking as it sounds, the GOP hasn’t always been so sensitive about harsh criticism of the CIA — including leveling the charge that the CIA is being deliberately deceptive — when it’s served the party’s political interest.Before we delve into what Republicans have said about the spy agency in the past, let’s refresh our memories on what they’ve been saying lately about Pelosi’s charge that the CIA misled her, in a briefing on torture, about whether waterboarding had already been used.

  • Sen. Kit Bond, the vice chair of the Senate intel committee, today said Pelosi should apologize to CIA employees and called it “a tragedy that we are seeing this massive attack on our intelligence community.” Elsewhere, Bond said: “It’s outrageous that a member of Congress would call our terror-fighters liars.”
  • Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the ranking GOP member of the House intel committee, called Pelosi’s claim “outrageous.”
  • Rep. John Boehner, the GOP House leader, said Pelosi “ought to either present the evidence or apologize.”
  • Former speaker Newt Gingrich judged that Pelosi “disqualified herself to be the speaker.” He said the allegation “smears everyone who’s trying to defend her.”
  • And former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, in a column in today’s Washington Post, called Pelosi’s charge one of “a series of blows to the pride and morale of the Central Intelligence Agency” leveled lately by Democrats.
  • So that’s the now. (And believe us, we could go on, but we know your time is limited.) What about then then? What have Republicans said about the CIA over the last few years?

    As we reported yesterday, top Pelosi antagonist Hoekstra has gone so far as to initiate a congressional inquiry into whether the CIA misled Congress on a different matter — the 2001 shooting of a plane carrying an American missionary in Peru. Here’s what Hoekstra said about the subject last fall:

    “This issue goes to the heart of the American people’s ability to trust the CIA,” the Michigan lawmaker said Thursday. “Americans deserve to know that agencies given the power to operate on their behalf aren’t abusing that power or their trust.”

    And here’s another case of Hoekstra questioning the CIA’s veracity — on an issue remarkably similar to the Pelosi controversy — dug up by commenter juccikucci. When CIA director Michael Hayden said that Congress had been briefed in advance on the agency’s decision to destroy tapes that showed torture, a Hoekstra spokesman contradicted that claim, saying that Hoekstra was “never briefed or advised that these tapes existed, or that they were going to be destroyed.”

    And here’s yet another, from Laura Rozen. Last year, Hoekstra accused the CIA of withholding from Congress information about negotiations with North Korea. Hoekstra accused the administration of failing to treat Congress with “respect,” adding: “We regret to say the administration has deliberately attempted to sideline Congress in the fear that providing us with information about the North Korean regime’s continuing lies and reckless behavior would undermine the current diplomatic approach.”

    It’s not just Hoekstra, of course, who’s been smearing our terror-fighters. When, in 2007, the CIA contributed to a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran that Republicans viewed as insufficiently alarmist, Boehner told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: “Either I don’t have confidence in what they told me several months ago or I don’t have confidence in what they’re telling me today.”

    In 2006, Sen. Pat Roberts, who then chaired the Senate intel committee, accused the CIA of an “egregious intelligence failure” in declaring, under White House pressure, that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Said Roberts: “This committee simply cannot accept intelligence assessments at face value,” Roberts said. “Not having your actions second-guessed is something that is earned.”

    We could go on here, too. We haven’t even gotten into the 2001-2003 period, when it was fashionable in hawkish Republican circles to depict the CIA as a nest of liberal bureaucrats who, in order to undermine President Bush, were deliberately downplaying evidence that Saddam had WMD and was tied to al Qaeda, .

    Needless to say, it doesn’t look like any of the Republicans who are now going after Pelosi expressed similar outrage at their own party’s CIA bashing. In fact, in several cases it’s been the same people on both sides of the issue.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with criticizing the CIA when it’s deserved. In fact, when the Church commission recommended giving Congress a role in overseeing the CIA, back in the 1970s, everyone probably understood that criticizing the agency might be part of the job. And even that that criticism might sometimes involve suggesting that the agency was being less than truthful. As harsh as those words might be for the tender ears of some of today’s Republicans.

    Late Update: Think Progress finds Gingrich in 2007 referring to that NIE document on Iran as “fundamentally misleading” and “a deliberate attempt to undermine the policies of President Bush by members of his own government.”

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