No Comment — October 29, 2009, 9:05 am

CIA Misled Congress, Schakowsky Charges

When the New York Times disclosed yesterday that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s black sheep brother, Ahmed Wali, was on the payroll of the CIA, Congressional leaders were quick to note that this was the first they had learned of the agency’s relationship with a man widely thought to be at the center of Afghan drug smuggling operations, and they demanded a briefing. And House intelligence committee member Jan Schakowsky was also quick to make note of what seemed to her an increasingly familiar pattern: Congressional leaders learn about CIA operations from the press. Their complaints to the agency meet with a familiar retort, Schakowsky said: “We’ve been meaning to brief you about that…”

The House Intelligence Committee is systematically surveying the CIA’s compliance record with its briefing obligations over the last eight years. The committee’s work isn’t yet finished, but it’s already come up with five reasonably clear-cut cases in which the CIA either failed to brief or lied to Congressional oversight. TPM’s Zachary Roth sums up the comments:

Earlier this year, Speaker Nancy Pelosi charged that the agency had lied to her about its enhanced interrogation techniques program, during a September 2002 briefing — provoking outrage from Republicans. But that episode was among the examples that Schakowsky and Eshoo pointed to today.

• Another concerned the top secret program to assassinate al Qaeda operatives which CIA director Leon Panetta first told Congress about in June.

• A third concerned the CIA’s 2005 destruction of videotapes showing the interrogation of al Qaeda operatives.

• And a fourth, already known, related to the shooting down of a plane carrying missionaries over Peru in 2001, information about which was concealed [from] Congress.

The CIA isn’t issuing a ringing defense in response. In a statement released to The Hill, it stresses that under current management, it will do better:

It is the policy of the Central Intelligence Agency to be clear and candid with the United States Congress. Director Panetta has made a relationship of trust, confidence, and respect a top priority.

Back in June, a political flap erupted over Pelosi’s charge that the CIA misled her about its torture program, and particularly the use of waterboarding. Republican leaders accused Pelosi of lying and suggested that she should be investigated to see if she had authorized the waterboarding program—even as they were staunchly opposing an investigation of the program itself. This political reduction to absurdity missed the point of the question, of course, since it cannot be answered in a binary yes-no fashion. There is at this point no question that briefings about the torture program occurred, but that many of the briefings the CIA claimed happened in fact did not, and that the briefings fell far short of disclosing what was being done and on what authority. The crux of the matter lies, as usual, in the details, and the CIA operatives conducting the briefings unsurprisingly go no further than their political bosses want them to go. In any event, however, the latest conclusions give Speaker Pelosi and her allies more ammunition, and the CIA’s whimpering response is telling.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

Artwork by Imre Kinszki © Imre Kinszki Estate
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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

Photograph (detail) by Balazs Gardi
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"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
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