House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still under fire for her words that the Central Intelligence Agency misled her about enhanced interrogation techniques. Many responded with surprise and some with outrage at the claim, but should we really expect America’s chief spy agency, known for its covert operations and layers of secrecy, to tell Congress everything?
Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson says not necessarily. He was the Chief of Staff for former Secretary of State Colin Powell. He spoke to Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Wednesday.
Chetry: You say it’s a common practice for the CIA not to tell Congress everything they’re doing. It might not be policy, but you say it happens all the time. Give us some examples.
Wilkerson: Well, it does happen. And let me say right off the bat - let me just say something about my bona fides, as opposed to Michael Gerson’s, for example, writing on the op-ed page of the "Washington Post" this morning. The "Post" continues to stun me with what they allow to appear on their op-ed pages, lambasting the Democratic and others who might as he calls it "attack the CIA."
Well, Michael Gerson has no bona fides. I’ve got 35 years of bona fides. I have used tactical, operational, strategic intelligence from the agency for 35 years from Vietnam all the way forward to Iraq. I’ve studied it as an academic. I know about its origins in the OSS during World War II. I know about its institution in the 1947 National Security Act. And I know the crimes and the ravages that have been perpetrated in the name of the American people, the blood and the treasure that's been expended by the CIA over that half century. Plus, I also know the successes that it’s achieved. So, it's a mixed bag.
But to answer your question directly – the CIA does not have the leadership, not the good people in the ranks of the CIA, but the leadership of the CIA does not have a stellar record about telling the full and unequivocal truth about its covert operations.
President Obama's own party is undercutting his plans to try to close the detainee camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Senate Democrats say they're pulling the $80 million from the war spending bill he requested to close Gitmo. They say they need to know more about what the president plans to do with the detainees first.
Republican Senator James Inhofe says he will do everything possible to make sure that Gitmo detainees do not end up here on U.S. soil. He spoke to Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Wednesday.
Kiran Chetry: Why are you so strongly opposed to allowing detainees from Guantanamo in to the U.S. either for detention or trial?
James Inhofe: The problem is – and they had suggested at one time, this came out of the White House, that they had some 17 places in the United States where they would put these detainees. The problem with that is they becomes magnets to terrorism... In fact, 27 of our states have passed resolutions to their state legislatures not to allow them to come in to their particular states. So there's a good reason for that.
The other problem that I have is that if somehow they come in to our country and we can't use tribunals because we don't have facilities for that, they go into the court system, they could very well be turned loose because the rules of evidence are different with tribunals… with detainees than they are with criminals. So that's a serious problem. I go one step further though, Kiran. I don't want to close Gitmo. It’s a great resource. Every team that's gone there including Eric Holder has come back with glowing reports – how well people are treated, one doctor for every two detainees. There’s no place where they can be treated as well as Gitmo. It’s a great resource.
From CNN's Carol Costello and Ronni Berke
It's a promise President Barack Obama keeps on making: “Don't Ask. Don't Tell” will go away. In February 2008, he told a crowd: "I'm going to do it by putting together a military panel made up of people like General [John Shalikashvili]."
The president said that as a candidate last year. So far no panel of any kind has been convened to discuss the best way to allow gays to serve openly. Critics say Mr. Obama hasn't even issued an executive order prohibiting the military from firing gay soldiers like Lt. David Choi, until that "panel" is born.
"I want to serve," Choi told CNN. "I want to fight, I want to serve my country but because I'm gay and nobody wants to do anything about it right now of course that's supremely frustrating."
Nobody is doing much about it right now because, despite presidential support, there is still some opposition to repealing the measure.
Some, like retired Army Lt. Colonel Robert Maginnis, oppose repealing the law. “You have forced intimate situations where you say, look, you know, you're going to room with this person, and that's an order. Then, in fact, you can begin to have the residuals, the morale issue, the whole issue about retention and recruitment come up.”
The Pentagon says they can't move on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" until Congress does first.
“This building views 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' as the law of the land until Congress acts otherwise,” says Defense Department Press Secretary Geoff Morrell. “We can't willy-nilly choose which laws we wish to abide by and those we don't.”
One military attorney is speaking out – accusing the military and the government of beating, drugging, and abusing some detainees under former President Bush. The allegations are disturbing – and go much further than anything documented in memos released so far.
Government documents show 28 CIA detainees were subjected to harsh interrogation techniques. But a military attorney for one detainee who was freed from Guantanamo told us in her first on-camera interview in the U.S. She believes there may be more.
Warning: Interview contains graphic language
Related: Watch the FULL interview