Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, was irate this Sunday in declaring that the CIA lied to him and to Congress about a retired FBI agent, Robert Levinson, being held in Iran. However, unlike demands for the jailing of whistleblowers like Edward Snowden for revealing government abuses, McCain notably did not even suggest prosecuting CIA officials who allegedly consistently and repeatedly lied to Congress. No, he suggests that the latest example of false statements to Congress might require a reexamination of congressional oversight. Now that must be chilling for people who could be charged with federal crimes ranging from perjury to obstruction to false statements to federal officers.
I previously wrote a column how our country seems to have developed separate rules for the ruling elite and the rest of us. There is no better example than the lack of response of the Senate to the admitted perjury of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper before Congress. While the Justice Department has prosecuted people for the smallest departure from the truth, including testimony before Congress, no one in the Senate is calling for an investigation, let alone a prosecution, of Clapper. For his part, Attorney General Eric Holder is continuing his political approach to enforcing the law and declining to even acknowledge the admitted perjury of Clapper. Now, in a truly bizarre moment, Clapper has written a letter of apology like an errant schoolboy to excuse his commission of a felony crime . . . and it appears to have been accepted. What is curious is that we do not have letters from senators like Dianne Feinstein apologizing to doing nothing when they were all aware that Clapper was lying in his public testimony. Welcome to America’s Animal Farm.
The greatest irony is that McCain’s outrage is anything should embolden security officials who can rest assured that even if they lie to Congress, the most that they will face is a threat of more oversight by an institution with a laughable record of oversight.
News reports suggest that Levinson may have been on an assignment for the CIA after the government denied such allegations for years. Levinson disappeared in Iran in March 2007 — purportedly on a business trip. The Associated Press has reported that he was a CIA operative. Yet, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who sits on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, says that the CIA officials may have looked him in the eye and lied. He told CNN “If that’s true, then you put this on top of things that our intelligence committees didn’t know about other activities, which have been revealed by (NSA leaker Edward) Snowden — maybe it means that we should be examining the oversight role of Congress over our different intelligence agencies.” Wow, senators are now citing Snowden’s revelations as a source while demanding that he be hunted down and jailed. However, if CIA officials lied, they could look forward to the Clapper treatment: a choreographed hearing and appointment to a federal commission to review their own conduct.