John Walker: Why Remember One of the Worst?

August 31, 2014–We learned on Friday that John Walker had died. Walker, the greedy and narcissistic ringleader of a circle of U.S. Navy spies from the 1960s into the 80s, became the most notorious spy our sea service has ever seen. The extent of the damage he wrought remains unknown but it is enormous–something I’ll return to in a moment. He died in a federal prison hospital in North Carolina on August 28. Ironically Walker’s brother Arthur passed away, likely in that very same Butner, North Carolina prison, barely six weeks earlier, on July 7. It was a measure of John Walker’s selfish desire that the best people he could come up with as subagents were family–his son Michael, a sailor; his brother Arthur, a naval officer; and Jerry Whitworth, a fellow petty officer. Thus the Walkers’ case became known as the “family of spies,” after the book-length account published by Peter Earley.

Beginning in 1967, and until his 1985 arrest, John Walker sold U.S. secrets to the Russians. From what we know these consisted of documents concerning the movement and dispositions of U.S. naval vessels plus, most important, lists of codenames and encryption machine settings used in top secret U.S. military communications. These were of vital importance to the Soviets, who actively intercepted American communications traffic. The code keys Walker handed over corresponded to on-line encryption devices in U.S. service at the time. Those same types of machines were aboard the Navy spy ship Pueblo, which was pirated by North Koreans off their coast in 1968. Although it has never been clear whether the North Koreans actually captured the encoding devices or the technical manuals for them–crewmen assured the Navy the equipment had been successfully destroyed–the U.S. security services have always assumed the North Koreans passed the machines to the Russians and these were compromised. If so, the Walker code keys would have given the Soviets access to a wide assortment of U. S. military communications.

I shed no tears for Mr. Walker. His brother, nephew (Michael Walker spent fifteen years in prison) and Navy buddy (Whitworth still serves a 365-year sentence) deserve slightly more sympathy for being cajoled and duped into serving Walker’s conspiracy. Never mind that. What I want to address here is the then-and-now question.

Walker would be turned in by his divorced wife, who phoned the FBI one day to say she suspected the ex- was up to no good. After a seven months investigation the Bureau arrested him and his cohorts. The Walker ring became just one of the cases of 1985, which included those of the Israeli spy Jonathan Jay Pollard, who also targeted the U.S. Navy; Ronald Pelton, who spied for the Russians against the National Security Agency; the Soviet defector case of Vitali Yurchenko, and a number of CIA spies, the most important of whom was probably Edward Lee Howard, whose defection to Russia helped cloak the truly serious penetration of Aldrich Ames. That period became known as “The Year of the Spy” in much the same way that 1975, the time of the Church and Pike committees and the Rockefeller commission, was called the “Year of Intelligence.”

In typical Washington fashion the shortcomings of security systems that had failed to uncover all these spies led to demands for reforms in American counterespionage, and ultimately to the creation of what is now known as the National Counterintelligence Executive. That represented an expansion of a center that had been revealed by the Ames and Robert Hanssen affairs to be essentially moribund.

During the Year of the Spy the U.S. counterintelligence apparatus had its hands full combating the efforts of agents working for adversaries. What an inversion, today, where the counterspies are chasing the U.S. Congress, terrified that it is going to reveal the sordid truth of the CIA torture program; as well as intelligence community whistleblowers, whom the agencies fear will reveal other abuses. This is the world turned upside down, where the spooks create an apparatus to fight foreign spies and then turn it on Americans. Sounds just like the NSA surveillance dragnet doesn’t it?

What America needs today is a mechanism to change direction,  implement course corrections to get the spooks back on track. In The Family Jewels I called for a national commission to investigate the abuses. The paperback edition of that book, now out, discusses this option in greater detail with new material on recent cases of abuse.

Normandy Breakout: Paris Didn’t Burn!

August 27, 2014–Seventy years ago yesterday General Charles de Gaulle, leader of the provisional government of the French Republic entered newly-liberated Paris for a victory parade. Marching with him were French soldiers of their 2nd Armored Division and American GIs of the 4th Infantry Division. They were in a city that in large part had been freed by the civilian irregulars of the Resistance, also known as the French Forces of the Interior. The actions of the irregulars still stand in history among the most notable achievements of partisans against regular military forces. Indeed, the Resistance frustrated Adolf Hitler’s orders to his Wehrmacht to destroy the City of Light.

The battle of Paris formed the capstone of the long and frustrating Allied slog through Normandy, and their final breakout which resulted in the battle of the Falaise Pocket, all documented in the book Normandy Crucible.

While I don’t have enough time today, and shall have to complete this piece tomorrow or Friday, the Normandy battle and the associated one for Paris have some elements of interest for us today. Stay tuned!


Wargamers’ Corner: Cobra II

August 27, 2014–I’ve been asked several times now, in connection with  my book Normandy Crucible, about making available to gamers the modifications I made in the wargame Cobra for purposes of creating the “wargame laboratory” I used as part of the research for that book. Most recently that question was posed directly on this website by gamers William Barnett-Lewis and Sergeant Skip Franklin. As we pass the 70th anniversary date I wanted to post something about why I don’t feel comfortable doing that. But I’ll also describe my process–and alert gamers will be able to craft their own “house” versions of the modifications.

Fundamentally it’s a question of publication rights. When I worked on that book and I wanted to put together a lab apparatus, that was for my own research and the only question was a suitable vehicle. The Simulations Publications (SPI) game Cobra had the right qualifications: a suitable geographic scope, a good level of unit representation; and, at one map, a game that was not impossible to keep up and get out of the way so that it could be used in spurts on a long-term basis.

But as for publishing amendments to the game, I would not want to do that without reference to the rights holders, and that’s a more ambiguous situation. Brad Hessel is the designer of record, but the game had editions from SPI and TSR Hobbies both. Most of the SPI/TSR games’ rights today belong to Decision Games but some do not, having been covered by direct contract between the publishers and designers (for example, my games Monty’s D-Day, Warsaw Rising, and Kanev reverted after publication). The situation with Brad I don’t know about. I asked around a bit, but no one I know seems to have his current address so I was unable to clarify the rights situation.

Now, if a publisher comes to me and wants a new Normandy breakout & pursuit game, I’ll gladly incorporate the features I am about to discuss. But short of that you’ll have to bear with me.

OK. There were certain problems with the Hessel Cobra design. One was that the Falaise Pocket battle rarely occurred with the game since the German line simply disintegrated, the German armies were destroyed and the Allied pieces rushed for the map edge. There were several reasons for this:

(a) One was the time scale. The game had three-day turns. The historical period for the Falaise Pocket typically ran out before the game reached the “pocket” stage. Switching to two-day turns allowed the history more time to develop.

(b) Most important was the issue of the Combat Results Table (CRT). This was an odds ratio CRT–very common for that time–and required mathematical calculation of a strength ratio between attacker and defender. Not only is that very cumbersome, since the society has moved so far away from these kinds of routine math problems, but all the trouble didn’t seem to be worth it–the strength disparities between the two sides were such that the vast majority of combats were resolved on the top few columns of the CRT.

This also meant that the German player had very few possibilities for counterattack, because his forces were just too thin to generate decent odds.

A related issue was with terrain effects. The requirements of the Terrain Effects Chart (TEC) were typically to shift columns, inserting an element of asymmetry with the odds ratio calculation. I thought that gave the idea. Change the CRT to a differential calculation. Now the attacker simply compares his strength with the opponent and immediately derives the CRT column. The “0” differential occurs at 1-2. Columns increase to advantage (+1), then by 5s to +25, then to +50, +75, +85, and 99+. Below zero the splits are at disadvantage (-1), -5, and -10 or less. The CRT generates step losses for both sides. In keeping with the larger differentials at high levels of advantage I used more higher-level loss results (e.g. 1/3, __/4) on high columns.

The one mathematical calculation I required was for troops attacking across rivers, who are halved or reduced to one-third strength depending on whether the river is minor or major. In general I converted most game effects to column shifts in keeping with this procedure. (For example, instead of doubling a stack (division), in this game unit integrity conveys a column-shift advantage.)

(c) Players might want to experiment with ZOC rules, giving Allied units and German mobile forces (because all are motorized) ZOCs but none to German infantry. That opened the game up when I used it.

(d) At the time of the original game the existence of intelligence (ULTRA) was just becoming known, much less understood in any detail. A major element was to insert intelligence rules. I added both sigint and combat intelligence (interrogation of prisoners). The former depended on an ULTRA table on which the players rolled each turn. That allowed the player to neutralize the divisional integrity of a certain number of opposing stacks and pre-emptively exhaust the column shift advantage of a number of Headquarters. (I also added Allied HQs for Bradley and Monty in addition to Patton). With combat intelligence, for every three losses the previous turn the player could neutralize the integrity of an opposing division.


Some German capabilities (Tiger Battalions, Nebelwerfer Brigades) were never modeled in the game. I added counters for these and endowed them with column-shift capabilities.

On the Allied side the rules governing the “Cobra” air strike were both too restrictive and too loose–too restrictive because they did not permit the Allies to create an actual break in the lines by means of a saturation attack, and too loose in that the player could stage a “Cobra”-level air mission every turn if he wanted to. (The Allies actually managed two “Cobra” equivalents plus two attacks that were of the same type but smaller.) I inserted a radically different rule on air strike effects that widened the sector struck and had target units incur losses, temporarily disappear, and reappear afterwards next to a friendly headquarters. This afforded the opportunity to open an actual hole.

At the time this game appeared in the 1970s, our knowledge of the Allied order of arrival, funneling fresh combat divisions into Normandy, was well developed, but our knowledge of the German side was much less perfect. So I created a new German order of appearance with units (and even replacements) arriving according to the historical record.

Apart from anything else I think these changes resulted in greatly improved historicity in this game. You can try it at home.


Amazon v. Authors United

August 11, 2014–It’s always uncomfortable–and, here, frightening–to be caught in between two giants locked in deadly embrace. Here I refer to the ongoing fight between the book (and everything else) -seller Amazon and the publisher Hachette. Yesterday’s New York Times contained an enormous ad from an ad hoc coalition of writers, “Authors United,” with a page of explication and a full one of names of those who had signed on. I wrestled with whether to sign on to the Authors United appeal, did not finally do so, and I want to take this opportunity to say why. Some things are being left out of the whole question, and that is really the central problem for writers today.

First, on the open letter from Authors United. Those who took the lead in organizing this move are absolutely right. It is intolerable that authors are caught in the middle of a fight between massive corporations–and outrageous that this happens not through any action of authors but entirely at the whim of one of the offenders here, Amazon. On the other hand, the Authors United letter does not go far enough, meekly “encouraging” Amazon “in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business.” There is no easily glimpsed solution here, but Authors United fails to convey the degree to which this dispute actually harms the whole profession of letters.

Authors depend on book sales for a living. For years sales have been decreasing for a host of reasons, among them the rise of electronic media, including the transformation of libraries into media centers; but primarily readers’ adoption of electronic formats for obtaining their books and periodicals. Libraries’ creation of consortia with similar institutions is a result of both lean budgets in hard times and also the drive to free dollars to acquire different kinds of products. The consolidation among publishers, distributors, and bookstores means fewer outlets selling our books. Greater difficulty finding them on sale translates into fewer sales. –And there is an elephant in the closet: we are publishing more things,  in more formats, than ever before. That too contributes to reduced sales. Authors are already hurting.

Amazon has been a prime mover in this whole process. It progressively absorbed much of the sales volume, putting increasing pressure on the retail trade network. That the phrase “bricks and mortar” has been used as a pejorative for stores already suggests the extent to which this penetration of the marketplace has gone. The market is evolving toward a cartel or even monopoly framework with just a handful of outlets. In that climate, to have a seller like Amazon deny products to customers (not accepting pre-orders, slowing deliveries, not discounting [as it does do with everything else], and suggesting alternatives to the named items) is more than hurtful to authors.

Amazon’s dispute is over the percentage discounts at which publishers like Hachette provide it with product to sell. Unfortunately the author stands to be hurt at both ends: Publishers already acquire books from authors with contracts that take percentage royalties, small as they are, and minimize them in a blinding array of ways, from pass-alongs of shipping costs to royalty reductions for items sold at given discounts. Typically a publisher’s sales report is so littered with subcategories of sales justifying reduced royalties as to be barely intelligible. A favorite ploy is to base royalty payments on “net” rather than “gross” income. Every penny that Amazon squeezes out of the publishers translates into both reduced income and reduced rates for authors.

Either way the Amazon-Hachette fight turns out, authors and readers lose. Authors lose because they are being targeted directly. Readers lose because the market consolidation has reduced their means of access to one or a few outlets, and if that one suddenly refused to provide the product they are out of luck. I have a bad feeling about this.

Obama’s Train Wreck

August 8, 2014–We’re in the soup now! Barack Obama has been notoriously shy with White House television cameras. If you pay attention to these things you’ll have noticed that Obama shuns newsmaking appearances at the White House, preferring to show himself only on social occasions. So when the president suddenly interrupted prime time television for a personal appearance last night, you have to agree it’s important. And it was: the United States is going back into Iraq. After exiting from that costly and stupid war–a withdrawal on which Obama campaigned for the presidency–he is heading back in because the Islamic Caliphate (also called ISIS) threatens the residual Iraqi government.

What a mess. Fighting the Caliphate, which controls portions of both Iraq and Syria; and which, in Syria, is part of the effort to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, may be a humanitarian response but it puts the United States in an impossible position. In Syria, after all, the U.S. is with the rebels pushing to oust Assad too. So the U.S. is allied with ISIS in Syria and fighting it in Iraq? This is worse that “the enemy of your enemy is your friend.” This puts the U.S. on both sides of the Syrian civil war while pretending to have nothing to do with it. And in Iraq we are on the verge of full scale intervention in a senseless conflict.

Sad to say this kind of muddle is becoming characteristic of Obama policies. The healthcare rollout disaster is a domestic example. Time and again Mr. Obama makes a good analysis of the problem but is then incapable of sticking to his guns. President Obama is also tragically inconsistent. Consider the other major development yesterday–Obama’s signature of a law trying to make corrections in another mess we have, that of care at Veterans Administration hospitals. Compare that to . . . wait for it! . . . his treatment of intelligence matters. Here are some quotes from what Mr. Obama said on August 7 at Fort Belvoir, Virginia:

“Over the last few months, we’ve discovered some inexcusable misconduct. . . . It was outrageous.” He said that about VA hospitals. But what about the CIA? Its infiltration of computer systems belonging to Congress was excusable? No it wasn’t. What about intelligence boss Fearful Clapper deliberately lying to Congress when asked a direct question on dragnet surveillance of Americans? Excusable? No. What about the NSA surveillance itself? Mr. Obama seems to think that’s OK. Many would disagree.

At Fort Belvoir about the VA: “We’re instituting a critical culture of accountability.” Where is the equivalent action taken in regard to the spies?

On the VA scandal: “If you engage in an unethical practice, if you cover up a serious problem, you should be fired. Period. It shouldn’t be that difficult.” The CIA not only engaged in an “unethical practice,” it tried to evade accountability by accusing Congress of criminality. Repeated lying by the ODNI and the directors of NSA and CIA have not only not been met by accountability, the president has invited these people to White House dinners.

“And if you blow the whistle on an unethical practice, or bring a problem to the attention of higher-ups, you should be thanked. You should be protected for doing the right thing. You shouldn’t be ignored, and you certainly shouldn’t be punished.” Edward Snowden has not only not been thanked, President Obama failed to speak up when characters like Representative Mike Rogers or former NSA/CIA director Michael Hayden talked about wanting him dead. And there has been plentiful mention of punishing the whistleblower at all levels in the Obama administration. Indeed, the criminal indictment the CIA couldn’t get away with, in its attempt to chill Congress, has already been opened for Snowden.

President Obama has good instincts but he can’t seem to apply them consistently. Accountability is good for the Veterans Administration but it does not apply to the intelligence community. Non-intervention is good in Syria but does not apply in Iraq, even if it leaves the United States mired on both sides of the conflict. Whistleblowers should be protected, except where they should get life in prison.

A recent poll that sought opinions on the performance of recent American presidents found Mr. Obama in last place. Even behind Richard Nixon if you can imagine that. If you want an explanation, here’s mine: President Obama’s expressed intentions have fallen so far short of his actions that citizens no longer feel they can believe in him.

Feinstein’s Defining Moment

August 6, 2014–Senator Diane Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is now at the center of the storm over release of the report her investigators assembled after looking into CIA torture. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) made an exhaustive documentary inquiry into the black prison and torture programs the CIA conducted during the Bush administration and is now being stalled on releasing it. The California Democrat and chairwoman said publicly not long ago that the nation has reached “a defining moment” in terms of our system for oversight of the intelligence agencies. This is a defining moment for Feinstein as well.

At every turn the CIA dragged its feet and played the angles on the SSCI investigation. They were slow to produce evidence, finicky about what the inquisitors would be permitted to see, difficult about the conditions for access. The agency encouraged political maneuvers to isolate the investigators. Langley’s denizens trumped up allegations the SSCI had violated classification regulations, then not only made illegal entries into congressional computer networks but read congressional emails and filed a criminal complaint with the Justice Department against the SSCI–which the CIA’s own investigation of the matter has found was filed under false pretenses by an individual implicated in the torture report. True to form, once it came time for “declassification review” the CIA sat on the Senate report for twenty months before returning the document with just the combination of redactions that robs the SSCI document of its meaning. In my book The Family Jewels I showed at considerable length the construction of the CIA secrecy system. Here, the declassification review that CIA Director John Brennan referred to as ensuring the Senate report gives a “fair and balanced” account results in a version of the SSCI document shorn of the evidence demonstrating the falsity of CIA claims as to the effectiveness of its torture, not to mention removing references to the perpetrators. This is a corrupt process.

The Senate resolution which originally created its Select Committee on Intelligence includes a procedure for the SSCI itself to release classified material. Ms Feinstein has never invoked that provision. The time to do so is now. Sending letters of complaint to President Barack Obama and holding up any release of the Senate torture report accomplishes nothing. A Senate assertion of its own co-equal power, on the other hand, will put down a marker that not even the blind savants of Langley can miss. This is a defining moment for Chairwoman Feinstein, not just for the intelligence oversight system.

Lessons of Tonkin Gulf

August 4, 2014–Many things give pause on this day in the calendar. One is the burning summer in Mississippi in 1964, when the bodies of slain civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were found in Philadelphia, Mississippi. It reminds us that today, even with an African-American president, there is work still to be done on that front. Another is the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, a major milestone on America’s road to war in Vietnam. I am reminded of Mississippi Burning when I think of Tonkin Gulf–a while back I did a book-CD project on president who recorded themselves on audiotape (see The White House Tapes). It wasn’t just Richard Nixon. Seven U.S. presidents did that, including Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ), the president at the time of Tonkin Gulf. Anyway, for each of the characters, I selected tapes from both at home and abroad. For LBJ, who recorded phone calls at will, August 4, 1964 seemed a perfect choice, since there you have the president facing foreign and domestic crises all at once.

You could hear LBJ’s urgency as he cajoled and almost called out the governor of Mississippi. On Vietnam, speaking to defense secretary Robert S. McNamara, you could hear how both of them already had it in mind to attack North Vietnam and were trading notes on desirable targets and so forth. We know today that the so-called “August 4th incident” in the Gulf was phony, a product of overheated imaginations and mistaken intelligence reporting, and that a previous encounter, with North Vietnamese torpedo boats on August 2nd, had been related to CIA-backed raids along the Vietnamese coast. LBJ and McNamara talk about that in these phone calls. To Congress at the time McNamara denied it. Based on false representations President Johnson obtained the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which the U.S. then used as its legal justification for conducting an entire war in Vietnam.

A Vietnam veteran friend of mine reminded me the other day that the Tonkin Gulf resolution was/is an “Authorization for the Use of Military Force” (AUMF), today’s jargon for congressional resolutions that recognize the president’s resort to troops. Congress passed one of these after 9/11 for chasing Al Qaeda, and another for Iraq, under false representations similar to those of Vietnam. The 9/11 AUMF, President Obama tells us, is outdated and can usefully be changed. American forces today are fighting where the resolution did not envision, and pulling out of the place where it did. Congress has not been able to take any action on the increasingly thin justification furnished by this AUMF.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the push for the Tonkin AUMF. Its lesson is that an “authorization” for force is a lot easier to get into than to get out of. We should have taken that into account at 9/11, making the authority expire as of a date certain, explicitly bounding it geographically, and by other means. In the case of the Tonkin Gulf resolution, despite its increasing disproportionality with what the United States was doing in Vietnam, and the growing doubts on the veracity of the August 4 attack, it took years to repeal the AUMF. For part of that time the Johnson administration lied about alleged events it knew to be doubtful (sound like George Bush and Iraq?).

This is also the centenary of World War I, the measure of whose lessons many statesmen and scholars are currently mulling. That makes today the 100th anniversary of the day the United States declared its neutrality in the War to End All Wars. The lesson of 1914 is that an AUMF is not the only answer to alleged crisis. We would do well to be much more careful about just what measures of force we approve, and how we approve them.

Obama and the CIA: The Limb Gets Thinner

August 1, 2014–President Barack Obama must rue the day when he renounced initiating an inquiry on CIA behavior during the war on terror in favor of moving forward into the future. Had there been a truth commission back in 2009, today all this would be in the past. Instead the scandals of the torture and the black prisons have come back to bite–hard. And as for the future to which Mr. Obama aspired, that now appears dark indeed. The Central Intelligence Agency is so far from telling truth to power that one begins to wonder if it can be saved.

First, far from marching into the future the CIA has become so mired in the past that it cannot keep its hands out of the till. A presumptive obstruction of justice, perpetrated at the agency in 2005, has been covered up. Agency stalwarts employed every legal maneuver imaginable in their efforts to avoid any serious investigation of these events. When Mr. Obama rejected any deeper inquiry and Attorney General Eric Holder dropped the last remaining criminal investigations, it seemed the spooks were almost out of the woods.

When the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) launched its investigation, as a substitute for the truth commission, Langley considered that a threat because it could rekindle the fire. No doubt the spooks did whatever they could to encourage Republicans on the SSCI to withdraw from the investigation. Reducing the stature of the SSCI’s eventual report to something like sour grapes from a disgruntled political party was the next best thing to getting the investigation cancelled.

It did not work. The gravity of the criminal offenses of torture and illegal imprisonment leveled at the torture program demanded serious attention. Everything revealed about the Senate report so far indicates that the SSCI found, to its horror, that the charges were true.

The CIA fallback was to have its own people spy on the investigators. Lawyers from the General Counsel’s Office kept watch on the SSCI people. Last December, when senators began asking questions about the so-called “Panetta Report,” a CIA document constructed to broadly review the set of evidence SSCI inquisitors might view, Langley went into convulsions. The CIA claimed the Senate intelligence committee had no right to view the document. The spooks claimed it was “predecisional”–a category of secrets that supposedly shields documents leading to presidential choices but which in fact has been manipulated to deep six everything from official histories of the Bay of Pigs to this very same Panetta Report, which had nothing “decisional” about it.

If Mr. Obama’s rationale in 2009 lay in avoiding a waste of staff time and principals’ attention on these delicate matters, that turned out to be a bad judgment call. It’s a fair estimate that by now more time and effort has been expended attempting to avoid an investigation than would have been invested in one had it occurred. –And, given the nature of the latest developments, it is probable that a real inquisition is coming.

The CIA lawyers went berserk. Two of them, along with several agency IT specialists, shared access to the database network that had been set up for the SSCI investigators. From what has emerged thus far it appears the lawyers orchestrated a penetration operation into the Senate’s network and had their IT people carry it out, creating a fake identity and entering the database on multiple occasions, disguising their intrusions. Among other things, they discovered the senators already had the Panetta report.

Advisers made this an issue for CIA Director John Brennan who became their champion. On January 15 he went to Senator Diane Feinstein, chairwoman of the SSCI, to accuse the committee of breaking secrecy regulations. Brennan threatened to file a criminal complaint with the Department of Justice. Feinstein accused the CIA of breaching the security of its computer network–and violation of the separation of powers provisions of the U.S. Constitution. On January 30 the CIA went ahead, its lawyer Robert Eatinger writing Justice to seek a criminal prosecution of SSCI investigators. Brennan also instructed inspector general David Buckley to review the SSCI’s allegations against the agency. And he ordered intrusions into the Senate’s computers to be halted.

Inspector General Buckley found that the CIA’s criminal referral to Justice was phony–“the author of the referral had been provided inaccurate information on which the letter was based.” Put differently, the CIA lawyers, those guardians of truth, law, and the American way, lied to instigate this action. The maneuver was entirely about the chilling effect it could have on the Senate investigators–who all this time were waiting for the CIA to act on the declassification of their torture report, and had become increasingly restive in demanding its release. Langley’s lawyer here, Mr. Eatinger, has a conflict of interest–he played a significant role in the CIA torture project and is a prominent character in the SSCI report. Eatinger should have recused himself. The CIA has had access to the intelligence committee report for more than eighteen months and Eatinger certainly knows what it has to say about him. The twin facts that he participated in this manipulation, and that CIA brass permitted him to do so, throw a blinding light on the collapse of the agency’s integrity. It has none left.

Equally ominous, the CIA Office of Security started its own investigation of the alleged SSCI security breach after Director Brennan ordered his minions to cease and desist. The Office of Security penetrated the Senate computers again and looked at email traffic while also conducting keyword searches. According to Inspector General Buckley the agency security officials were not aware of Brennan’s stand down order.

On March 11 Senator Feinstein took the floor to deliver a speech laying out her view of this case, which has been completely affirmed by the CIA inspector general. Director Brennan’s response to the Feinstein speech was to assert the CIA has a duty to make the SSCI report “balanced and accurate.” Former CIA director Michael V. Hayden argued that Feinstein had gotten too “emotional.” Cheerleader Hayden, of course, is a principle character in the SSCI report. Attorney General Holder has declined to prosecute anyone in Congress based on the bogus CIA complaint. On April 3 the Senate committee voted to release the report’s summary and recommendations sections. Today, four months later, the public still awaits executive action.

Inspector General Buckley issued his conclusions on July 18. This puts new light on the odd interplay that occurred around that time where former CIA directors like General Hayden were told they could review the torture report in advance of its release while lesser fry, first informed they could do so also, had that approval revoked. The criminal referrals may be going the other way.

News of the Buckley report appeared yesterday. The latest damage control gimmick, needless to say, is to release this inflammatory news more than ten days after it was available on the classified level, and on the eve of Capitol Hill’s summer recess. No question but that CIA and the White House hope all this will be forgotten before Congress returns to work.

But for that one day Washington has been in an uproar. President Obama’s spokesman assures us that CIA’s Brennan enjoys his full confidence. Chairwoman Feinstein has been notably reticent, but her Republican vice-chairman is demanding the heads of those who breached the computers. Senator Mark Udall has called for Brennan’s resignation. Senator Jay Rockefeller commented, “it shouldn’t take five months and an Inspector General investigation for [Brennan] to know and acknowledge what is happening inside the agency he runs.”

–And that is exactly the problem. The CIA is so consumed with manipulating this outcome that its integrity has been compromised. And Mr. Obama, by his blind support of a corrupted process, has played a contributing role. There is no easy way to say this. The entire matter of the torture program needs to be taken out of the hands of our line officials. I have, for months, been advocating a national commission–for the NSA abuses as much as these. It should now be obvious that that is the only way forward.