FROM POLITICS DAILY
You have to give CIA Director Leon Panetta credit. He's now apparently making it clear that his statement in May that it is not agency "policy or practice to mislead Congress" was misleading.
Yes, it gets confusing. You have to follow the bouncing deceptions. Remember a couple of months back, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was battered by Republicans and outraged spies for having the audacity to say congressional leaders had been deceived about harsh interrogation techniques during highly classified briefings from intelligence officials?
Pelosi's problem was that she wasn't allowed to back up her accusation with any specifics. They were ultra-secret -- then and now. That gave the opposition a clear track to pile on. And they did.
Meanwhile, Panetta was just beginning his new gig as head of the CIA. His appointment was viewed with suspicion by many in the agency because he was an outsider with no direct spook experience. Hence, the "we do not mislead" statement was widely viewed as an inter-office morale builder.
Fast-forward to July. We're now told by several House Intelligence Committee members that Panetta sent a letter last month admitting that the CIA indeed had "misled members" of Congress.
It's time for a little word-parsing: While Panetta says there was deception, it isn't "policy or practice." Got it?
The truth is that truth is what the briefers were always trying to hide. Several who have attended these sessions describe the information provided as opaque and incomplete, where the super-spies would try to camouflage their information in language designed to confuse.
The irony is that these revelations come just as President Obama has issued a veto threat against legislation that would expand briefings about covert actions to all members of the intelligence committees.
Right now, the information is provided only to what's known as the "Gang of Eight" -- House and Senate leaders in both parties along with the chairman and ranking member of each intelligence committee. Supporters of the new bill say it would enhance the congressional oversight envisioned in the Constitution.
Obviously the president, the former "Mr. Transparency" and a onetime constitutional law professor, has evolved. He now believes that the Gang of Eight is enough. In a letter, the White House contends that growing the number would undermine "decades of comity between the branches regarding intelligence matters."
In fact, there is a much stronger argument: If you increase the number of people who get access to this sensitive information, it only adds to the number of people who will be misled.
Not only that, but the next thing you know, people will be demanding an "open government." We can't have that.