As they go after Nancy Pelosi over those CIA briefings, Republicans have been putting the burden of proof on the Speaker, suggesting that it’s all but unheard of for the CIA to mislead others in government. But in fact, the agency is currently being probed for doing exactly that on a different issue — and the effort was initiated by one of Pelosi’s fiercest critics on the torture briefings kerfuffle.
Last night, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who chairs the oversight subcommittee of the House intelligence committee, told MSNBC’s Ed Schultz (h/t Democratic Underground):
On our subcommittee we are beginning an inquiry into a situation … initiated by the ranking minority member to look at a situation where the CIA did mislead the Congress … a documented issue of the CIA misleading the Congress.
A Schakowsky spokesman told TPMmuckraker that she was referring to the findings of a CIA inspector general report, portions of which were released last fall, which concluded that the agency had withheld crucial information from Congress and DOJ investigators who were probing whether CIA personnel committed crimes relating to the shooting of a missionary plane in Peru in 2001.
As the New York Times described it last November:
A C.I.A. surveillance aircraft mistakenly identified the plane as a drug-smuggling aircraft, and a Peruvian military jet shot it down, killing an American missionary and her 7-month-old daughter. The Justice Department closed its investigation into the matter in 2005, declining to prosecute agency officers for any actions related to the episode.
But [the inspector general’s] report, parts of which were made public on Thursday, said that the Justice Department investigators and Congress were never allowed access to internal C.I.A. reviews that portrayed the downing as one mistake among many in the agency’s counternarcotics program in Peru. The report said the agency routinely authorized interceptions of suspected drug planes “without adequate safeguards to protect against the loss of innocent life.” (our itals)
The inspector general’s report said that after the downing of the missionaries’ plane, the C.I.A. had conducted internal reviews “that documented sustained and significant violations of required intercept procedures.” But it said that the agency had denied Congress, the Department of Justice and the National Security Council access to these findings.
The report … says that C.I.A. lawyers from the office of the general counsel “advised agency managers to avoid written products lest they be subject to legal scrutiny” in connection with the downing of the plane.
Who was it who released portions of the report last fall, and, according to Schakowsky, initiated the current inquiry?
That would be Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the intel committee. At the same time that he released the report’s excerpts, Hoekstra said he was asking DOJ to look into whether the CIA had obstructed justice, and called the incident “about as ugly as it gets.” Schakowsky told Schultz last night that Hoekstra is “furious” about the incident.
That’s the same Pete Hoekstra, of course, who’s been front and center in portraying the agency as the embodiment of transparency and integrity in an effort to vilify Pelosi over the torture briefings. Appearing on CNN yesterday, Hoekstra called Pelosi’s claims that the CIA had misled her “outrageous accusations.”
But given that the agency is currently being probed on similar grounds — in an inquiry initiated by Hoekstra himself — perhaps Pelosi’s claims aren’t quite so outrageous after all.
Late Update: Thanks to reader XP, here’s a bit more on Hoekstra’s response to the IG report on the Peru shooting. Under the headline, “Republican Rep. Hoekstra Accuses CIA Of Coverup”, CNN reported last November:
Rep. Pete Hoekstra on Thursday criticized “rogue” CIA employees involved in a joint CIA-Peruvian anti-narcotics program of withholding information after declassification of a CIA report identifying “routine disregard” of safety procedures that led to the plane being shot down.
“This issue goes to the heart of the American people’s ability to trust the CIA,” the Michigan lawmaker said Thursday. “Americans deserve to know that agencies given the power to operate on their behalf aren’t abusing that power or their trust.”