OFF THE GRID

The CIA and Murdoch Will Get Away With It

Jul 9, 09 | 9:49 AM   byMichael Wolff
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The CIA tells lies to the rest of the American government. Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids engage in nefarious means, including illegal electronic eavesdropping, to get dirt on celebrities.

The current director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, has apparently admitted as much to Congress. The Guardian says Murdoch has paid out $1.6 million to secretly settle cases of phone hacking.

Each of these stories ought to be seismic. The CIA, at the center of the intelligence debacles of the last decade, ought to be investigated at least as intensely as it was in the late '70s after revelations of its internal spying. The Murdoch organization in the UK, which has as much influence on the British government as any other private business, ought to face the kind of independent examination that could, free from outside influence, send an impressive number of Murdoch lieutenants to jail.

And yet, the overwhelming likelihood is that Washington and London shrug. The CIA and the Murdoch organization are protected by their own consistently bad behavior and negative image.

People don’t get excited about what they already know.

Both the CIA and the Murdoch organization are merely being true to character. Only the most dreary naïf could be outraged by CIA lies and Murdoch’s unscrupulous snooping.

It’s the reverse of institutional integrity. What we have is an example of the power of institutional dubiousness, of a negative brand. Neither the CIA nor the Murdoch papers are living a lie—they’re just doing what we already assume they’re doing. What you see is what you get. The truth is not shocking. Oddly, in fact, it’s reassuring. Finding out that the CIA lies makes us feel that we haven’t been fooled. Learning that Murdoch’s tabloids are sleazy merely reaffirms our sense of taste and standards.

In a sense, they tricked us, the CIA and Murdoch, by being honest—in their way.

Even a smoking gun, and there do seem to be smoking guns here, won’t guarantee prosecution. There are just too many guns here and too much smoke. Both the CIA and Murdoch have been given so many incremental free passes, so much permission to be what they are, to indulge their own natures, they’ve pushed the envelope so consistently and thoroughly that too many people are involved in allowing them to over-step, infringe, abuse. There is no going back. Everybody has facilitated the CIA and the Murdoch organization.

They really have slipped the bonds of outrage.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com.

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