Former DNI General Michael Hayden, writing an opinion for CNN, barely suppresses his glee in describing the irony of Attorney General Eric Holder's current predicament arising from the Fast and Furious scandal, and the schadenfreude likely delighting the Intelligence community.
Schadenfreude -- joy at the misfortune of others -- is a bad thing.
So I've been trying to resist temptation these past months as I watch Attorney General Eric Holder deal with public and congressional reaction to the "Fast and Furious" scheme, the failed attempt by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to seed and then track U.S. firearms to Mexican drug cartels.
Fast and Furious was a secretive, high-risk operation seemingly intended to deal with an intractable problem abroad. On those grounds, some may be tempted to equate it to a CIA covert action.
But even if some attributes are similar -- tough problem, edgy solution, inherent complexity, great secrecy, high operational and political risk -- it was definitely not a covert action since those are clearly defined in an executive order as the province of the Central Intelligence Agency
Beyond that, if it had been a true covert action, the attorney general would have had to give his opinion as to its lawfulness beforehand; the implementing agency would have been required to exhaustively articulate risk; the National Security Council would have had to judge it favorably; President Barack Obama would have had to authorize it; and the Congress would have had to have been briefed before its implementation.
And all concerned would have had the opportunity to reject a bad idea, whatever its rationale.
AG Holder eagerly accused the intelligence professionals of the CIA of torture, even releasing secret internal documents in the name of "transparency", a principle notably lacking in Department of Justice efforts at covering up the Fast and Furious decisions made by his own agency.
General Hayden observes:
Attorney General Eric Holder has made it clear that he thinks he has been subjected to a heavily politicized process over Fast and Furious.
If he has -- and that's still an if -- I suspect that some folks at CIA know exactly how he feels.
Read the entire Hayden opinion for its full flavor.