Remember the old Mad magazine staple, the cartoon “Spy vs. Spy?” Both characters were drawn to look exactly the same only one was in white, the other in black. Each was always trying to blow the other one up, knife them in the back or push them off a cliff, always ineptly and usually causing more damage to themselves than to their opponent.
It was a Cold War version of Rocky and Bullwinkle vs. Natasha and Boris only in “Spy vs. Spy” it was usually a stalemate whereas with Rocky, Bullwinkle, Natasha and Boris we always knew where the intelligence really resided and it was not with Fearless Leader.
Now comes the latest incarnation: The CIA vs. Congress, specifically the Senate Intelligence Committee. It was revealed this week that the CIA may have been monitoring the committee’s search of classified documents related to detentions and possible torture employed during the Bush administration and that, when committee staffers apparently were getting too close to the truth, the spy agency yanked documents it had previously agreed to provide to the committee.
The fact that the CIA knew which documents the committee staffers were interested in suggests the agency was spying on the investigation all along.
Imagine that. One branch of government spying on another branch of government. Now they must know how the rest of us feel.
It was enough to make Democrats lie down with Republicans, emphasis on the “lie.” Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, called it a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Sen. Lindsay Graham, a Republican, said Congress should declare war on the CIA although I suspect with the war in Afghanistan winding down Republicans are just looking for anyone to declare a new war on.
Tsk, tsk. Imagine that. Spying on your own countrymen. Let’s recap, shall we? When a former contractor working for the National Security Agency, Edward Snowden, revealed that that agency was intercepting the phone calls and emails of ordinary Americans, the reaction from the government was to brand him as a traitor and drive him into exile in Russia. Snowden had irreparably harmed national security and should be tried for treason, the government said.
So apparently it’s OK for the government to spy on its own citizens but when one branch of government is found to be spying on another, that’s cause for war.
Break out the little round bombs with the fuse sticking out the top and start lobbing them at each other a la “Spy vs. Spy.”
If it weren’t so sad because of the implications of distrust, double standards and lack of cooperation between government agencies it would be funny. But it’s not.
So, NSA, CIA, Congress and whoever else might be spying on us ordinary folk – and now I suppose each other – I can’t stop you from checking out what I’m watching on Netflix but, from now on, I think I’ll keep my cellphone wrapped in aluminum foil.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.