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Gingrich: Only Republicans — Like Me — Are Allowed To Accuse The CIA Of Misleading Congress

By ThinkProgress on May 20, 2009 at 1:00 pm

"Gingrich: Only Republicans — Like Me — Are Allowed To Accuse The CIA Of Misleading Congress"

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This morning, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich went on ABC’s Good Morning America and called on Democrats to pressure Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to resign her position as Speaker. He claimed that she has “disqualified herself” for the leadership spot, because “if I were a person trying to defend this country, I’d have very little confidence that the Speaker of the House had any regard for what we were doing.”

Host Diane Sawyer challenged Gingrich, noting that he never criticized Rep. Peter Hoekstra’s (R-MI) repeated criticism of the agency, including this statement in 2007: “We cannot have an intelligence community that covers up what it does and then lies to Congress.” Gingrich struggled uncomfortably and repeatedly attempted to change the subject:

GINGRICH: Well, in that case, he’s writing a specific letter asking them to change something they were doing. He did not say the CIA routinely lies —

SAWYER: “Lies,” he said —

GINGRICH: — to the Congress.

SAWYER: Well, he says “lies.” He says “what it does and then lies to Congress.”

GINGRICH: And I think they actually had to come back and testify.

Watch it:

But more hypocritical than his silence in response to Hoekstra’s criticisms of the CIA is the fact that in 2007 Gingrich himself accused the CIA, among other U.S. intelligence agencies, of not just misleading Congress but actively undermining the President of the United States. In response to the release of the 2007 Iran National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) — which concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program — Gingrich said that he believed the NIE and its authors were “damaging to our own national security”:

[The NIE] is so professionally unworthy, so intellectually indefensible and so fundamentally misleading that it is damaging to our national security.

The NIE appears to be a deliberate attempt to undermine the policies of President Bush by members of his own government by suggesting that Iran no longer poses a serious threat to U.S. national security because we apparently have credible reports that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

While Gingrich claimed to be aiming his criticisms at “partisan State Department bureaucrats,” the reality is that the NIE was compiled and authored by the Director of National Intelligence and the National Intelligence Council, in which the CIA plays an integral role. It was regarded as the “intelligence community’s most authoritative and coordinated written assessment” of Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Transcript:

SAWYER: Former Speaker, political gladiator, Newt Gingrich, here with us this morning. We heard about, we heard you were saying it, we saw that you were writing it. What do you want to happen?

GINGRICH: Well, I think that with Speaker Pelosi’s comments last Thursday, particularly the ones in which she alleged that the Central Intelligence Agency routinely lies to Congress, that she really disqualified herself to be Speaker. I mean, there’s no problem with her being a member of the House, but —

SAWYER: So you think —

GINGRICH: I think the Democrats should get a new Speaker. [...]

SAWYER: But as you know, some people have said that you’re doing this for political reasons. It’s really a political salvo that you’re hurling at her and a kind of double standard. For instance, Congressman Peter Hoekstra, who is head of the House Intelligence Committee at the time, wrote a letter in which he, on another issue, said this about the CIA: “We cannot have an intelligence community that covers up what it does and then lies to Congress.” That’s a Republican saying it and they’re saying, “Where were you then? You didn’t call for him to resign.”

GINGRICH: Well, I think in that particular he’s fighting with them over a particular report he wants. This is about a year and a half ago. But I’ve had a similar standard of toughness with Republicans on other issues. For example, Secretary Paulson, when I thought he was failing as Secretary of the Treasury.

SAWYER: So should he [Hoekstra] be repudiated for those words too?

GINGRICH: Well, in that case, he’s writing a specific letter asking them to change something they were doing. He did not say the CIA routinely lies —

SAWYER: “Lies,” he said —

GINGRICH: — to the Congress.

SAWYER: Well, he says “lies.” He says “what it does and then lies to Congress.”

GINGRICH: And I think they actually had to come back and testify.

I think that it’s important for Congress to keep the CIA under observation, it’s important for the CIA to report regularly, but I think what Panetta said Friday is very telling. It is illegal to lie to Congress. And the CIA doesn’t do it, and Panetta said it is harming this institution. He made a speech Monday in which he said this is harming the institution. And I have no sense that — I mean, I would certainly, if I were a person trying to defend this country, I’d have very little confidence that the Speaker of the House had any regard for what we were doing and what we’re trying to do to stop terrorism.

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