All Cheney is being accused of is that he may have told the CIA not to brief Congress on its methods until it actually had something concrete to report. Even that appears to be an exaggeration, since Michael Hayden, head of the CIA from 2006 through 2008, has insisted he was never told to keep this plan secret from Congress.
And, again, the main scandal is that the CIA couldn't ever get its act together enough to have anything concrete to report.
Now, one plausible defense of the Bush administration is that it determined that "targeted killings" via unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) such as Predator drones were a safer and more cost-effective way of killing the bad guys. Presumably Congress has no moral objection to that practice since we do that sort of thing all the time.
But there's an additional problem. It's bad enough to learn that our intelligence operatives haven't been able to kill our enemies. But it compounds the outrage when you broadcast that fact to the world.
It's an intelligence boon to al-Qaida's senior leaders when we inform them that America's spooks can't, or won't, get close enough to kill them.
It's hard to know what Panetta's motives are in all of this. But it's hard not to conclude that his agenda is political. Last month, in a seeming effort to appease Pelosi after he contradicted her slanderous claim that the CIA routinely lied to Congress, Panetta turned into a partisan attack dog. He claimed that Cheney hoped America would be attacked again, just so he could be proven right. Panetta later backpedaled, but the initial broadside seemed like an indication that he considers carrying water for the Democrats to be part of his job description.
Now Democrats are clamoring yet again for an investigation into Bush-era policies at precisely the moment their agenda is starting to unravel. The stimulus is looking more like a dud every day, Obama's health-care and cap-and-trade schemes are acquiring an increasingly bad odor politically, and suddenly Democrats, Panetta included, are looking to offer up a big, distracting spectacle by turning the CIA into a partisan cudgel.
Again, Where's the outrage?