In an unprecedented move, CIA director Michael Hayden has ordered an internal inquiry into the work of the Inspector General over the agency. The IG, John L. Helgerson, has been dedicated to the investigation of the CIA’s detention and interrogation programs, and this stern oversight has rankled many operatives.
Helgerson’s willingness to look into the dark crannies has prompted Hayden to order an investigation of the IG’s office, focusing on complaints that the Inspector General’s office has not acted in a fair and impartial manner when judging agency operations. Hayden accuses the IG of embarking on a “crusade” against those who have gone along with the morally bankrupt Bush administrations detention and interrogation programs.
This move by Hayden has taken many aback, as it threatens to undermine the independence of the IG’s office. Former IG for the CIA, Frederick Hitz, who served in that capacity from 1990 to 1998, was astounded by Hayden’s order. In his opinion, any move by the agency’s director to examine the work of the inspector general would “not be proper.”
“I think it’s a terrible idea,” said Mr. Hitz, who now teaches at the University of Virginia. “Under the statute, the inspector general has the right to investigate the director. How can you do that and have the director turn around and investigate the I.G.?”
Current and former officials said that Hayden’s inquest had involved formal interviews with members of the IG’s staff, and his little inquisition is being headed up by a loyal minion to Hayden, Robert L. Deitz, who served as General Counsel to the NSA when Hayden ran that agency.
Inspectors General are not immune from accountability – but Hayden’s approach is astounding in it’s brazen nature. In a normal, sane administration, the proscribed grievance process would be followed. That would involve filing a complaint with the Integrity Committee of the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency, which oversees all the inspectors general. The second option is for the director of the aggrieved agency to plead his or her case directly to the President, and if the case is made, the President can remove the Inspector General from his post.
How quaint. These proscribed mechanisms afford accountability, and would have avoided the current awkwardness; while protecting the independence of the IG’s office.
The existing mechanisms just didn’t have the right element of authoritarian and histrionic theatrics about them to suit Hayden’s fancy, apparently.
And therein lies the rub…maybe the IG has been overreaching. I don’t know – But now it isn’t likely that we will find out. Another important issue has been reduced to political Kabuki, when what is needed is sober assessment.