Democrats in Congress, in reversal, have become CIA’s staunchest defenders

by WorldTribune Staff, January 8, 2017

Democrats who not long ago were lambasting the CIA on the Senate floor, are now solidly in the intelligence agency’s corner, slamming anyone who questions the intelligence agency’s conclusions on Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“It was less than two years ago that Democrats were bashing the CIA enhanced interrogation of terrorism suspects and accusing the agency of providing false information,” Rowan Scarborough wrote for The Washington Times on Jan. 5.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 5. /AP
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 5. /AP

“But to hear Democrats today, in the wake of the CIA and fellow intelligence agencies saying the Russians hacked their political party, the intelligence community is infallible and patriotic and should not be questioned by President-elect Donald Trump.”

In 2014, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, denounced the CIA on the Senate floor for asserting that the agency’s enhanced interrogation techniques led to stopping terrorist plots and led to the location where Osama bin Laden was killed.

“In each case, the CIA claimed that critical and unique information came from one or more detainees in its custody after they were subjected to the CIA’s coercive techniques, and that information led to a specific counterterrorism success,” she said. “Our staff reviewed every one of the 20 cases, and not a single case holds up.”

Feinstein now has no doubt on whether or not the CIA’s conclusions on Russia hold up.

“I’m appalled the Russian government took the extreme step of interfering with our presidential election, particularly with the goal of tilting the playing field to increase one candidate’s chance of winning. There’s no question in my mind that Russia engaged in a classic covert action campaign, and today’s report (from the intelligence community) confirms that,” Feinstein said on Jan. 5.

Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, has been a long-time critic of the intelligence community. But when Trump expressed doubts about the accusations of Russian interference in the election, Wyden bashed the president-elect for voicing skepticism about the same agencies the senator had criticized.

“How can you serve as commander-in-chief while running a political campaign against your own intelligence officials?” Wyden tweeted on Dec. 10.

The Trump transition team “is now trying to discredit the entire intelligence community,” he said. Earlier, Wyden tweeted: “And all while denying intelligence community statements that Russia interfered with our elections. This is dangerous.”

In 2011, Wyden had suggested that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper misled him at a hearing about bulk surveillance of phone calls. Following Clapper’s testimony, Wyden said in a statement: “After the hearing was over my staff and I gave his office a chance to amend his answer. Now public hearings are needed to address the recent disclosures and the American people have the right to expect straight answers from the intelligence leadership to the questions asked by their representatives.”

Democrats on Jan. 5 had nothing but praise for Clapper at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in which Clapper and other intelligence community witnesses discussed their conclusion that the Russians hacked the Democrats.

“For any of you who want to answer this, I’d like to know how the president-elect’s at least inferred dismissive attitude toward the intelligence community broadly impacted morale in your agencies,” Sen. Martin Heinrich, New Mexico Democrat, asked Clapper and other witnesses.

In 2014, Heinrich accused the CIA of providing “false” information on the work of the intelligence committee.

“The Senate Intelligence Committee oversees the CIA, not the other way around,” he said. “Since I joined the committee, the CIA has refused to engage in good faith on the committee’s study of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. Instead, the CIA has consistently tried to cast doubt on the accuracy and quality of this report by publicly making false representations about what is and is not in it.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, also criticized Trump for questioning the intelligence community’s findings on Russia.

“So let’s talk about who benefits from a president-elect trashing the intelligence community. Who benefits from that, Director Clapper? The American people? Them losing confidence in the intelligence community and the work of the intelligence community? Who actually is the benefactor of someone who is about to become commander in chief trashing the intelligence community?” she said.