[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/17/congress.cia/art.cheney.gi.jpg caption="Former Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly ordered the CIA to withhold information about counterterrorism."]
Julian E. Zelizer
Special to CNN
In response to the growing pressure for an investigation into potential abuses by the CIA and former Bush administration officials, Republican Sen. John Cornyn warned: "This is high-risk stuff. Because if we chill the ability or the willingness of our intelligence operatives and others to get information that's necessary to protect America, there could be disastrous consequences."
But Cornyn has it wrong. What chills our national security operations is not the discovery of wrongdoing. Rather, what chills our national security operations is tolerating programs that undermine the credibility of our institutions. When Americans are asked to go to war or are warned of dangerous threats, they must be able to believe the people they are hearing from.
Following the most recent revelations about the CIA, we have reached a tipping point where it is becoming impossible to continue dismissing these allegations as part of the past.
The House Intelligence Committee has announced that it will begin an investigation into the CIA's plans for a covert assassination program to target al Qaeda operatives, including allegations that then-Vice President Dick Cheney instructed the agency to hide the operation from Congress.
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