Senator Richard Burr is acting like a man who doesn't understand the role or duties that he now has. With the Republican Party assuming control of Congress, the North Carolinian is chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, the body charged with overseeing the CIA. His responsibilities are momentous. All senators are called to act as power-jealous checks on the executive branch. And the particular mission of the Senate intelligence committee, created in the wake of horrific CIA abuses, obligates Burr to “provide vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States" and "to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws.”
But as Senator Burr begins this job, he is behaving less like an overseer than a CIA asset. Rather than probe problems at the spy agency, of which there have been many, his first priority has been aiding CIA efforts to cover up past misdeeds. It is hard to imagine a more flagrantly inappropriate act by a head overseer.
Specifically, Burr is trying to help the CIA to suppress two reports on its torture of prisoners. Like the spy agency, he never wants the full reports to reach the public, and he is misusing his position on the oversight committee to advance that agenda. One report was commissioned by Leon Panetta, a former CIA director. Though it is classified, people who've seen it assert that it paints a scathing portrait of a spy agency that misled its overseers about the efficacy of tactics like waterboarding. No wonder current and former overseers on the intelligence committee, like Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, found great value in reading it.