Deep Cover Democrats

January 13, 2017

Ever since President-elect Donald Trump initiated his feud with the intelligence community, Democrats have discovered strange new respect for the nation's spooks.

"They are now briefing the president elect, a person who has tried to discredit, disparage, and dismantle the existing intelligence community," Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said primly at a press conference.

The House Minority Leader struck a very different tone than she did in 2009, when she accused the CIA of intentionally "misleading" her with "inaccurate and incomplete information" about its interrogation techniques.

Likewise, Vice President Joe Biden called Trump's criticism of the intelligence community "damaging"—but he was a famous antagonist of the CIA as a senator, voting to ban all covert operations during the height of the Cold War, a move that would have seriously endangered the United States in its spy war with the Soviet Union.

The Democrats' sudden chumminess with the intelligence community is a big change after decades of lurid accusations and aggressive congressional oversight intended to tame the CIA and bring its covert activities into the light. Their battle for control over the agency lasted decades, from the Church Committee hearings of 1975, through the Latin American upheaval of the 1980s, to the interrogation and NSA surveillance debates of recent years.

Congressional attempts to sanitize the CIA, led by Democratic lawmakers like Frank Church, Robert Torricelli, John Kerry, and Walter Mondale, had a "crippling" effect on the agency's ability to protect the country, according to Stephen Knott of the Naval War College.

We can hope that Democrats have undergone a real change of heart about the intelligence community. The timing of their supposed change, and decades of evidence, suggest otherwise.