When the OSS morphed into the CIA in 1947 it was difficult to set up guidelines for a secret service functioning in a representative democracy. Secrecy is what struck fear in the minds of Americans. Lots has changed since then. We have had ebbs and flows of secrecy and illegal actions by the CIA. While Republican administrations seem to lean in the direction of using secrecy and manipulating the CIA to use this secrecy to advance Republican agendas, it has not been limited to GOP presidents.
A Democratic president, Lyndon B. Johnson, enlarged American involvement in Vietnam, even using lies about the Gulf of Tomkin to justify our expanded role in military operations there. In truth, this lie was inside action to prevent the Vietnamese from holding their promised elections because Ho Chi Minh would have won handily. And a so-called democratic nation, the USA, acted to prevent democratic elections. And what followed in Vietnam were a long series of lies and secret operations by both Johnson and Republican President Richard M. Nixon. Henry Kissinger, serving with Nixon, seemed to relish secret actions.
Serving as chief of staff with GOP President Gerald Ford, Dick Cheney used secret power, and thought that the executive branch of government in the U.S. did not have to bother to get Congress to approve actions. It was the beginning of Cheney's long trek to promoting executive power, free from Congress.
Ronald Reagan could not get Congress to approve financing the Contras in Nicaragua, so Reagan traded with Iran [that's right, IRAN!], to sell armaments and use the money to fund the Contras. Like in Vietnam, we were told the Nicaraguan government was terrrible and would cause problems all over Latin America. Well, we now know that Nicaragua never became this monster. And we now know that Vietnam is not the monster we were told we had to attack. And in the process we financed illegally some atrocious people in both Vietnam and with the Contras. These were low points in American history. Interestingly, all through the Iran-Contra affair, Congress was vehement in criticizing Reagan. But one man in Congress sided with the executive branch's use of secrecy and lies: Dick Cheney.
Now we find out every day some new secrecy that was not only illegal but downright anti-democratic that Vice President Dick Cheney used to foster Bush administrations plans without Congressional approval. There is no question that Cheney has trouble with democracy and democratic institutions. It is apparent now that Cheney has no qualms about using torture. It is clear that Dick Cheney has no respect for the U.S. Constitution and uses whatever means he chooses to foster secret and illegal actions. He is a disgrace to American values and American law.
What to do with Cheney now? Is he a war criminal? Is he guilty of breaking U.S. laws? Certainly he broke U.S. laws in approving torturing of men held captive from 2002-2008. And there are many in the international community that want Cheney tried as a war criminal. Newly-elected Barack Obama is trying to put a lid on Congressional and Justice Department probes, and Obama wants to move on, to move past investigating the Bush administration. Once again, the Bush administration has put us in a terrrible bind. Is it a desire to see Cheney punished that motivates so many to demand he be investigated? What to do with this unsavory character who played such an important role in recent American history? Lying is his modus operendi. Secrecy is his method of operation. Sinister is the man. Should we simply let him fade off into the sunset? Have we learned from any of this?