Politicizing the CIA -- A Dangerous Game

| by Heritage Foundation

First came the May brouhaha between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and CIA Director Leon Panetta over the agency allegedly misleading Congress about interrogations, which the recently-minted head spook refuted at the time.

But like a double-agent, Panetta has now changed sides, reportedly briefing Congress the CIA withheld information from the Hill on another post-9/11 intelligence program, targeting al Qaeda.

According to the media, the CIA conceived the program, but it was never “operationalized,” that is, it was never put into practice. Moreover, then-Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly directed the program not be briefed to Congress.

Now, adding a new wrinkle, late breaking news reports Congress did actually authorize the 7-year old program in question, which Director Panetta deep-sixed after finding out about its existence in June and subsequently notifying Congress.

Regardless, some Democratic House members are still calling for an investigation into the matter, which some observers see as mostly an effort to rehabilitate the Speaker’s reputation, which took a bruising in the May go-around with Langley.

But while the unauthorized leaks to the media about the program in question are surely incomplete and selective, the fact is politicizing intelligence is a dangerous sport. For instance, the last thing we need is for our intelligence community to be distracted by a battle royal with Congress. They have real work to do in providing intelligence that protects our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We don’t need the CIA or others to become risk adverse in these dangerous times, but instead be willing to take on the “hard targets” like catching Osama bin Laden and collecting intelligence on the troubling Iranian and North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programs. If we’re not careful, we could end up tying up senior intelligence officials and resources in inconclusive, politically-motivated investigations rather having them expend their time and efforts in directing our first line of defense—the intelligence community.

Our national security is earned one tough day at a time by brave, well-intentioned Americans. We can’t allow some on the Left to kick around their efforts like a political football, keeping them from the important tasks at hand.

If we do, there’s sure to be a serious price to be paid.