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It has been difficult to follow the soap-opera like drama of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats’ accusations against our nation’s intelligence community. However, through the fog of half truths and contradictory statements, one unmistakable pattern has emerged: the House Democrats have shown a shameless willingness to play politics with our national security. And that should leave us all very worried.
Recall that on May 14th, Pelosi made the stunning accusation that the CIA misled Congress “all the time.” In other words, Pelosi charged that the CIA, deliberately and as a matter of policy, violated the law by lying to Congress.
When challenged to produce proof of this astonishing assertion or apologize, Pelosi suddenly retreated behind her members, and since then House Democrats have pulled out all the stops to protect their leader.
Their latest and most shameful tactic was revealed this week.
On Wednesday evening, Rep. Rush Holt, D-NJ, released a June letter sent to CIA Chief Leon Panetta in which he and six other Democratic members of the House Intelligence Community asked Panetta to “correct” his fairly benign and self-evident May 15th rebuttal to Pelosi that “It is not [the CIA's] policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and values.”
They justified this extraordinary demand by referring to recent secret testimony from Panetta, during which, according to the letter’s signatories, he told members that on a number of occasions, CIA officials did not adequately brief Congress on certain actions.
Revealingly, the letter was only signed by seven of the thirteen Democratic members of the House Intelligence Community. Nor were any Republican members informed it had been sent. In addition, the letter was not written on official congressional letterhead, suggesting this it was intended as an “official” communication from the House Intelligence Community.
What then was the point of writing this letter?
Simple. The point was not to communicate with Panetta. The point was to release the letter to the press and create a political sideshow to defend Pelosi. Now, her defenders are trying to make the argument that Panetta’s recent testimony vindicates her outrageous claim that the CIA lies to Congress “all the time.”
However, even if we are to take these seven Democrat’s claims about the content of his testimony at face value, this news does not vindicate Pelosi words, it vindicates Panetta’s–exactly those words which he is now being asked to retract.
After all, it was Panetta himself who informed Congress of these past infractions. By making it a point to correct the record with Congress, his testimony is a demonstration indeed that “It is not [the CIA's] policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our laws and values.”
Worse still is the conspicuous timing of this letter’s release, occurring the night before a scheduled vote on the Intelligence Authorization bill, which, as of the writing of this column, contains a provision backed by House Democrats that would risk serious breaches in national security. The changes they are seeking are so irresponsible that President Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it contains the provision.
Our nation’s intelligence agencies have done an extraordinary job of keeping us safe since the attacks of September 11, 001. One would think the attitude from our House Democrats would be gratitude for the service of our intelligence community, shown by a willingness to work with them to settle congressional concerns in a private matter.
Instead, some House Democrats have elected to use the CIA chief as a political prop to bolster the chances of passing irresponsible legislation and protecting Pelosi.
In the politically calculated manner in which they timed the release of this statement, and the petulant nature of its demand, those House Democrats have made it clear they don’t care how much they tarnish the good name of the men and women of our intelligence community, so long as their political ends are met.
This begs the obvious question: Once the Pelosi Democrats have sufficiently weakened and demoralized our intelligence community to protect themselves, who will protect Americans from those trying to kill us? And that’s why we should all be worried.
Newt Gingrich is a senior fellow at AEI.
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