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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Prosecuting the good guys: Why going after CIA interrogators puts us all at risk 


Reuel Marc Gerecht, a retired CIA operative and outstanding essayist, explains why the Obama administration's decision to investigate counterterrorism interrogators and put the FBI in charge is a terrible idea and will make it impossible to recruit competent interrogators in the future. You probably will not read anything more important all weekend (which, I appreciate, is not a bold claim in the last weekend of August).

This is a huge topic that many have explored more deeply than me (scroll through The Corner for the last few days, for example), but I have two thoughts of some small originality.

First, every American over the age of 45 with an interest in such things remembers the "Church Committee," which is as infamous in intelligence affairs as the House un-American Activities Committee is to Hollywood. The Church Committee hearings and the subsequent Carter-era "Halloween massacre" of more than 800 operations personnel -- and, indeed, the entire reign of Carter's director Stansfield Turner -- cemented the reputation of the Democrats as foreign policy weenies for a generation to come. Barack Obama has just reminded us of this history, a load that will burden all Democratic presidential candidates the next time the voters remember that the world is a dangerous place.

Second, Gerecht argues that the Obama administrations investigations will make it impossible to recruit good interrogators: "A good case officer with Middle Eastern languages and a penchant for understanding Islamic radicalism would now have to be insane to accept an assignment that detailed him to interrogate Islamic terrorist suspects." Perhaps, but it does seem to me that there is a way back if we wake up and realize that there are indeed wars that must be fought in the shadows. We could indemnify CIA interrogators for their legal fees, whether or not they are found to be guilty of, or plead to, a crime. This would preserve the rule of law insofar as actual criminals could still be prosecuted and punished, but it would ensure that poorly paid operatives would not have to consign their families to financial ruin because they have to defend themselves after the voters install a new president. Otherwise, the actions of this president will impossibly hamper subsequent presidents, whom the voters will also have installed, who might want to wage war differently.

Now, I don't ask for proclamations condoning distasteful methods of war, but I do say that we must take for granted that it does happen. Let's not give our officers hazy, vague instructions about what they may and may not do. Let's not reprimand them on the one hand, for hampering the column with prisoners, and at another time, and another place, haul them up as murderers for obeying orders.

Release the hounds.

26 Comments:

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Aug 29, 09:34:00 AM:

We need a new tail gunner Joe McCarthy pretty soon, and there will be one.

This is just One act by Holder and the Justice Dept. There are already many others. In just 7 short months of this Admin., not prosecuting the black panthers, not prosecuting Gov. Richardson of New Mexico, staffing the Dept with nmuerous anti- American anti- Democracy radicals, etc.

You get the "Obama picture": Do not stop at European style socialism, go DIRECTLY to stalinist marxist communism.

Wake uip, Vicki from Pasadena.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Aug 29, 10:07:00 AM:

If the Kenyan gave all these guys a blanket pardon, then the next president would be expected to give all the criminal Kenyan worshipers a pardon as well. We are in this mess largely because of the captive media andI'd like to see some of them indicted, as well.
It may be moot,however, because the country may never be free again. Take back the Congress in 2010? Thousands (millions?) of ACORNers, union thugs and inner city gangsters (black panthers) are, as we write, training to steal that election  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Aug 29, 10:46:00 AM:

I've commented on this before here on TH. Obama needed to play a card to create distraction in MSM -- so he could hit the reset button on Healthcare. If Obama had known Teddy would die this week, Obama would have held the Holder card until after Labor Day.

Weeks ago, Holder participated in MSM stories about how we was wrestling with this decision on his own -- it's laughable to think Holder would do this without consulting with Obama, but now Obama can deny he was involved -- Obama's faithful, MSM and small children may believe this, the rest of us shouldn't.

Cheney has already come out of his dundgeon to respond, etc etc .... it's all so predictable. Holder could have done this back in March, or not at all. Note that Holder only announced an investigation, not charges. This didn't require Dept of Justice fanfare. Expect this to stay on simmer for awhile, Obama may or may not bring it to a boil later -- depending on how he and Axlerod decide to manipulate MSM. Newsweek put on the Gucci kneepads to get a Holder exclusive a few weeks ago -- they should be especially called out for it.

Meanwhile the Washington Post is reporting that "Tax Pledge Is a Target As Deficits, Debt Grow -- Obama Advisers Will Not Rule Out Broad-Based Hike." This could have been published weeks ago, but the fact that it's in WaPo at all shows the tide may be turning -- MSM may start to call out Obama on the obvious. Full story here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/28/AR2009082803526.html?hpid=topnews

Link, over  

By Blogger Elijah, at Sat Aug 29, 11:40:00 AM:

Of course the Obama Administration is using the Justice Department to manipulate the MSM and attempt to control communication narratives.

Back in 2008, a photo of Obama was taken with him
holding Fareed Zakaria’s “The Post-American World.”

Didn't realize at the time that Obama would work so hard to reach that destination.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Aug 29, 11:59:00 AM:

Bush could have asked for and received Congressional approval in a law. That would have made this whole mess a non-issue, and Pelosi would have shepherded that law through the Congress herself. Remember, she was pressing the administration to get rougher with these awful devils!

Sadly, Bush didn't do it. Cheney is going on TV tomorrow to defend the CIA (what an irony!!). I'd love to hear him answer the question of why the administration did not get legislation when they could.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Aug 29, 04:20:00 PM:

The media cocoon is closing to protect the CIA now. How interesting! The Post chooses the CIA over Obama; one wouldn't have thought it possible.  

By Blogger Kinuachdrach, at Sat Aug 29, 07:12:00 PM:

From the article: "Constrained by new rules and hostile lawyers, can the CIA in the future successfully interrogate uncooperative jihadists ,,,"

From other Obamination news:

Constrained by new rules and hostile lawyers, can doctors in the future successfully treat sick patients?

Constrained by new rules and hostile lawyers, can utility companies in the future successfully keep the lights on?

We are beginning to see a pattern.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Aug 29, 08:22:00 PM:

"Bush could have asked for and received Congressional approval in a law."

He got Congressional approval to go to war with Saddam. Fat lot of good it did him.  

By Anonymous Timber, at Sat Aug 29, 08:30:00 PM:

I'd love to hear him answer the question of why the administration did not get legislation when they could.

What's the matter? Got cotton in your ears or your fingers when convenient?

CHENEY: We briefed them on the program and what we’d achieved and how it worked and asked them should we continue the program. They were unanimous, Republican and Democrat alike. All agreed: Absolutely essential to continue the program. I then said, Do we need to come to the Congress and get additional legislating authorization to continue what we’re doing? They said absolutely not. Don’t do it.

Remember, Pelosi lies.  

By Blogger Bert, at Sat Aug 29, 08:53:00 PM:

Thanks for the historical background Tigerhawk. I also remember the children of missionaries being shot in the head, and a general in Chile opposed to a coup being taken out by a guy from Cedar Falls. What was that all about again?

Signed,

Marshalltown Beto  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Sat Aug 29, 10:06:00 PM:

"...more deeply than I. Good post, though.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sat Aug 29, 10:09:00 PM:

Thanks, AVI. I kneel before thee.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Aug 29, 10:20:00 PM:

Dear Timber: You wrote "Remember, Pelosi lies."

That's been known for years. All the more reason for Boss Dick to have pressed for a law authorizing the rough stuff. He didn't care to. He took the gamble that the war could be completed before such an authorization, following Dean Acheson's advice to Harry Truman during the Korean War: Don't get Congress involved.

It's never worked. As distasteful as the Executive finds it, the Legislative is a co-equal branch. If you have a real belief in the American system of government, as opposed to an easily copped attitude for a blog post, the Legislative must act with the Executive. It always seems easier at the time not to. It never works.

Dear TigerHawk: The Halloween massacre was equalled, if not surpassed by the slaughter that took place under James Schlesinger's tenure at CIA, well documented in Thomas Powers's biography of Richard Helms THE MAN WHO KEPT THE SECRETS. More interesting, the slaughter took place under Nixon's explicit direction and full backing. So assaults on the CIA have been bipartisan.

Let's not kid ourselves that the CIA is a dewy, trembling lamb. This agency did its damnedest to bring down Geo. W., and certainly gave him much grief. They've done this in the shadows, throwing a sizable bill onto the nation. It may be time to consider abolishing the works, plowing it under with salt, making CIA wives widows, their children fatherless, and their homes a dunghill in Lord Fisher's vivid phrase. There will be a high price to pay for this action. It may be worth it. Add up CIA successes and failures in all its 63 years, and I think the pointer will come out on the minus side. That established, it is only a question of summoning the political will to counter the administrative won't and get on with the job.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster  

By Blogger James82, at Sun Aug 30, 07:23:00 AM:

I can't even read it ... this is the Carter 1970s reincarnated. This is only liberal red-meat demogoguery for their paranoid loony constituents, the type of constituency that believes the CIA listens to their phone calls/reads their emails, and was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Just hope the loons drive this congress over the cliff fast, so we can fast forward to the 1980s reincarnation!  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Sun Aug 30, 09:04:00 AM:

Remember how 9/11 cemented George W's popularity (at least transiently) and let him have his way with the Congress and the military?

Jump forward to 2010. What better way to bypass electoral intent and establish the supremacy of the central government that a massive attack on the US mainland...a suitcase nuke kind of attack.

Obama seems to be intentionally dismantling all of our security routines that have prevented such a disaster.

Is the guy a big enough narcissist that the process is intentional and is, in effect, BEGGING the terrorist third world to do something to cement his authority?

I wouldn't pu ANYTHING past this miscreant.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Aug 30, 11:14:00 AM:

The effect on Obama would be completely different. 9/11 was a bolt from a blue sky, as far as the population was concerned. On the other hand, everyone knows now what al Qaeda is, what they do, and that we've been locked in mortal combat with them for going on 10 years.

It's a different world, and being taken by surprise by another major terrorist strike will not be so forgivable. Especially since anyone can think, 'hmm, when was the last time we were hit by a terrorist attack? 2001. Then 8 years of nothing. This guy takes over and starts doing things like calling them 'man-made catastrophes' and prosecuting CIA operatives who were mean to terrorists, and we get attacked again. This guy sucks!'

The administration's knee jerk reaction ('Don't blame us! We inherited this! It's Bush's fault!') will not hold water and will solidify their image (already held in many places abroad, like France and Russia) as weak and inept. And thanks to their shake-down of the CIA, they aren't going to be able to call upon the same tools that the Bush administration did when they had to ramp up counter-terrorism capabilities. I sure as hell wouldn't go back to work for them... I'd just end up in prison, later.

We'd be stuck using the FBI, a passive law enforcement agency which is already seeing an exodus of counter-terrorism agents [that isn't really advertised, but being in CT is seen as a dead-end career now with Obama and Holder in charge), and/or the military, which has strict legal restrictions on how it can be used in US territory. ('sorry sir, we can't use our [redacted] to listen to the radical imam's cell phone conversations; it's been illegal since the Democrats took over in 2006 and repealed the part of the Patriot Act that authorized that' [seriously])

Operationally handicapped and politically knee-capped.

Then, take into consideration the economic effects. We *might* be bottoming out in this recession. Land an economically disruptive terrorist strike and watch the madness resume.

This would be a fantastic time for a major Islamist operation in the continental US.  

By Blogger narciso, at Sun Aug 30, 11:43:00 AM:

I don't see a positive, anywhere in this, we were able to recover from September 11th, because harsh
methods were employed; this prevented a series of follow up attacks like those that happen in Israel, for instance. This administration's character is totally against this kind of thinking, in fact it marginalizes those that even consider it.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Aug 30, 12:40:00 PM:

I'm still fascinated by the fact that the WashPo took the CIA's side in a major political battle against Obama. That is as cynical a political calculation as I've seen working against the president, so far. Unemployment in the heartland didn't move them, and neither did the spectacle of a failed Porkulus. The ridiculous Cash-for-Clunkers screw ups might have shaken the confidence of the press in efficient government, but that didn't cause them to write any negative stories. The coming month of Iranian news in September hasn't provoked anything either. The assorted failures of Kneecap and Trade, Gitmo closing, offending various allies, Terrorist rendition and prisoner mistreatment to move the public polling needle also didn't cause anything negative to be written.

Only a threat to investigate the CIA was enough.

That's spooky (no pun intended).  

By Anonymous Jim - PRS, at Sun Aug 30, 03:13:00 PM:

I am so glad we are not fighting WWII now. We'd have no shot.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Aug 30, 04:45:00 PM:

WashPo has also recently acknowledged that Obama might not be able to keep his promise not to raise taxes on those under $200,000, citing Geithner and Summers. You could have written the exact same piece weeks ago, but better late than never.

My bet is that Stewart-Colbert will turn on Obama, but it may take a year ... The New York Times never.

Link, over  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Sun Aug 30, 05:36:00 PM:

I heard some nameless pundit opine about the purpose behind the CIA Inquisition...and he made a chilling point.

It serves Obama no political purpose to do this...UNLESS...Obama's true allegiance is NOT to the United States, but to a more GLOBAL power concentration that is composed of "Progressives" who are not encased by geographical boundaries.

Evidence for this movement is not insubstantial.

It may well be that Mr. Obama was weaned for his current role by a faction of mover and shakers that transcend political parties and national boundaries.

Sounds a bit strange...but it would explain a lot. I'm troubled by the fact that Obama is acting like a political imbecile, despite the fact that he is obviously a intelligent and well educated man.

It's all a matter of one's priorities. It may very well be that Mr. Obama's priorities transcend national and party politics.

Somewhat chilling concept, heh?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Aug 30, 06:51:00 PM:

WashPo doubles down, with another story. If Obama had decided to investigate Bush/Cheney I doubt they'd be writing a story a day against it. I guess we now know who rates in the eyes of the editors of the Washington Post.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Aug 30, 07:31:00 PM:

"It may well be that Mr. Obama was weaned for his current role by a faction of mover and shakers that transcend political parties and national boundaries."

Let's not move into tin-foil hat Illuminati territory now.

That there is an trans-national 'progressive' movement is not a surprise, or even a question. And it's not beyond probability that Obama is an adherent. But let's not make it into something it isn't.  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Sun Aug 30, 07:55:00 PM:

JPMcT: There is a much simpler explanation why Obama is presently attempting to prosecute the CIA agents. Actually two. First, it promotes the meme of “The CIA under Bush was a terrible monster”. Secondly it smacks the CIA on the nose, like a bad dog. Any horrible leaks that the CIA should happen to release against Obama can be blamed on “Rogue Bush-era agents, obviously making things up to take the heat off their criminal actions.”  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Sun Aug 30, 09:31:00 PM:

Yeah...the concept is on the verge. Either Obama is a hopeless poltroon...or there is something else afoot. The big question is...what. Here's another analysis that is on the verge, but chilling nonetheless.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Sep 01, 08:23:00 AM:

This thread is becoming buried on the page, and so I don't know if anyone is still reading it, but Gen. Jim Jones, the National Security Adviser, made what seemed to me to be the first really effective argument back on the Cheney points today. He argues the administration policy is more successful than the previous administration's policy not less successful, as Cheney would have it. While Jones isn't responsive to the CIA morale issue, and the politicization of the security agencies (which is Cheney's main point now), he is at least undercutting Cheney on the terror issue (which has been Cheney's lead point for some months now). The administration has been oddly and uncharacteristically unable to come up with a response to Cheney up until now. Very strange battle going on in Washington.  

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