Rich Galen

Those shipments of paper bags to the House and Senate Office Buildings over the weekend are to treat the hyperventilating of Members and staff over the news that the CIA did some spying about which it did not tell the Congress.

The New York Times front pager yesterday started thus: The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency's director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

I have now idea - nor, by the way, do most Members of the House and Senate - what that "secret counterterrorism program" did or didn't do, whether it worked or didn't work, whether it was legal or illegal.

Here's what I do know. This upping the ante between the Congress - especially the U.S. House - and the CIA has got to stop.

Read the last clause of that opening graf from the NY Times piece again. I'll help you: "… two people with direct knowledge of the matter said …"

This is why the CIA is so eager to run up to the Hill every hour or so to report on how many bathroom flushes there have been at Langley this week.

Because no sooner does the CIA keep members of the Intelligence Committees informed of important activities than "two people with direct knowledge of the matter" race out of the room in the Capitol and grab their cell phones to call a newspaper like reporters in a 1930's black and white courtroom drama after a witness has spilled the beans racing to the payphones in the courthouse hallway shouting for "rewrite!"

The CIA is largely a group of analysts who do things like look at the prescriptions of foreign heads of state and deduce the medical conditions for which they are being treated.

Some member of a spy agency, stationed in a foreign land, has to convince the person who cleans the foreign leader's bathroom to write down what's on the labels in the medicine cabinet so the analysts have something to analyze.

Not exactly Burn Notice, but there you are.

The Times reported that Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the CIA not to report whatever this particular surveillance activity was to its Congressional overseers.

How can the Veep do that? If the CIA leadership agreed with the Vice President then they were just following the policies as directed by what is called "the National Command Authority."

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at