Secret CIA Program Targeted Senior Al-Qaeda Leadership

Former Agents Say Stop Picking on CIA

Former spies and some political leaders are saying that a lack of trust between Congress and the CIA is putting the country's security in jeopardy.

"It's one of the last nails in the CIA's coffin. It's finished. It's over. It's done," said former Central Intelligence Agency operative Robert Baer, whose exploits in the Middle East were the model for George Clooney's role in "Syriana."

"I know I've been lied to," Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said.

The rift between Congress and the CIA has been so bitter that when analysts have headed to Capitol Hill, the agency gave them this stock response: "I'm sorry, but I will be unable to continue our dialogue if you continue to question my integrity or that of my agency."

"The danger is today that we might go too far," said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas. "And that could cause us to not have that critical bit of intelligence that could protect this country."

Not all intelligence experts agree.

"There's absolutely no reason to believe that congressional oversight will lead to terrorist attacks," said former counterterrorism official and ABC News consultant Richard Clarke. "And that's essentially what some people are saying -- morale will go down and we'll be risk averse, and we won't talk to the FBI, we won't do our jobs and we'll all die of terrorist attacks. That's way exaggerated."

Clarke added that the "CIA has become a master of saying to Congress, 'If you do your job and supervise us, it will hurt our morale. If our morale is hurt we won't be able to do our job.' That is largely a myth."

CIA insiders say they haven't seen anything like this since the 1970s, when the Church Committee probed extreme tactics, such as hiring the mafia to kill Cuba's Fidel Castro.

"We're heading back into this Frank Church atmosphere in this Senate and in this Congress, where, basically, where people use the CIA as a whipping boy," said Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H.

The Church Committee led to congressional hearings that spawned new rules barring the FBI and CIA from sharing intelligence -- rules now blamed for allowing Sept. 11 hijackers to carry out their attacks.

"You have people running for the doors there, continue running for the doors, and it's going to hurt our national security," Baer said. "It's going to interfere with stopping another 9/11."

With rising criticism and poisoned relations with Congress, the agency's headquarters feel like a morgue, he says.

Another blow for morale could come if Holder goes ahead with criminal investigations into so-called enhanced interrogation tactics.

Republicans say the appointment of a special prosecutor and prosecutions of high-level career CIA operatives is a bad idea.

"This continued attack on the CIA and our intelligence-gathering organizations is undermining the morale and capacity of those organizations to gather intelligence," Gregg said.

The swirl of investigations seems to be exactly what President Obama has repeatedly said he does not want.

"I think that we should be looking forward, and not backwards. I do worry about this getting so politicized that we cannot function effectively," Obama said in April.

But looking backward is exactly what is happening. With a special prosecutor likely to be named and congressional Democrats preparing their own investigations, the debate over the Bush administration's actions after the Sept. 11 attacks remains front-and-center in Washington.

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