Former Agents Say Stop Picking on the CIA

Some say national security could be put at risk, others dispel that notion.

ByABC News
July 12, 2009, 5:47 PM

WASHINGTON, July 12, 2009— -- Former spies and some political leaders are saying that a lack of trust between Congress and the CIA is putting the county'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 was the model for George Clooney's role in "Syriana."

The intelligence agency is back in the hot seat again after reports today that the agency, for eight years, withheld information from Congress on a secret counterterrorism program on the direct orders of then Vice President Dick Cheney.

Also today, word came that Attorney General Eric Holder is likely to push forward with a criminal investigation into the Bush administration's interrogation practices on suspected terrorists.

"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," 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 Richard Clarke and ABC consultant. "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."