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Payback Time: CIA Director Investigates His Inspector General

October 12, 2007

Just one week after the New York Times revealed the existence of secret Bush administration memos condoning an uninterrupted policy of detainee torture by the CIA, it appears to be payback time. In a highly unusual move, CIA Director Michael Hayden has ordered an investigation into the agency's watchdog office itself, led by Inspector General John L. Helgerson.
According to the New York Times, Hayden and Helgerson have clashed over a number of issues, including the IG's scathing assessment of the agency's performance leading up to the 9/11 attacks. But the ongoing tempest regarding the Bush administration's endorsement of torture by CIA interrogators dating back to the August 2002 Bybee memo could be a key factor in Hayden's internal review:

A report by Mr. Helgerson's office completed in the spring of 2004 warned that some C.I.A.-approved interrogation procedures appeared to constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as defined by the international Convention Against Torture.
Some of the inspector general's work on detention issues was conducted by Mary O. McCarthy, who was fired from the agency last year after being accused of leaking classified information. Officials said Mr. Helgerson's office was nearing completion on a number of inquiries into C.I.A. detention, interrogation, and "renditions" - the practice of seizing suspects and delivering them to the authorities in other nations.

One former agency official praised Hayden's inquiry as "a smart move" which help protect agents burdened by the IG's long investigations and concomitant legal costs. "These are good people who thought they were doing the right thing," he said, "and now they are getting beat up pretty bad and they have to go out an hire a lawyer."
But Frederick P. Hitz, who served as C.I.A. inspector general from 1990 to 1998, said any move by the agency's director to examine the work of the inspector general would "not be proper," stressing:

"I think it's a terrible idea. Under the statute, the inspector general has the right to investigate the director. How can you do that and have the director turn around and investigate the I.G.?"

Regardless of the motivation and propriety of Hayden's probe, the timing is highly suspect to say the least. It comes just two weeks after the White House withdrew the nomination of John Rizzo, Hayden's choice for CIA general counsel. (The Senate Intelligence Committee blocked his confirmation after Rizzo's June 19th testimony that "I can't say I should have objected at the time" to the 2002 Bybee torture memo.) Just one week later, the New York Times secret memo revelations suggested President Bush's signing statement with the December 2005 Detainee Treatment Act along with Alberto Gonzales' likely perjury during his Attorney General confirmation hearings in February 2005 combined to conceal the administration's torture policy. Aggravating matters further is Congressman Henry Waxman's (D-CA) investigation into State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard, accused of running political interference for the Bush White House by retaliating against whistleblowers.
Time will whether there is less here than meets the eye. But if the case of suspected NSA domestic surveillance leaker Thomas Tamm is any indication, this could be just another case of the Bush administration's payback principle.


About

Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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