A commentary by J. F. Kelly, Jr.
The much-maligned Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is not among America’s most cherished institutions. Few mothers encourage their children to grow up to be CIA agents. Americans have been conditioned by a liberal media to expect the worst of the CIA and, to be sure, the CIA sometimes obliges with clumsy operations and flawed intelligence estimates. No institution is perfect, least of all spy agencies. It’s a dirty job but somebody’s got to do it.
A Rasmussen poll in 2007 revealed that 29% of all voters actually believed that the CIA knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance. Among Democrats, young people and minorities, the percentage was even higher. Oh, well—the agency can take comfort in the fact that at least it has a higher public approval rating than Congress but that’s not saying much.
The CIA has long been a target of liberals and liberal organizations like the ACLU. Nevertheless, recall that liberals flocked to the aid of “outed” CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson not long ago. Ah, but times were different. A Republican Administration was in power and here was a chance to embarrass it and its vice-president, the hated Dick Cheney.
There’s little evidence of any concern for the identities or reputations of CIA personnel these days as Attorney General Eric Holder appointed a federal prosecutor, John Durham, to investigate a dozen or so previously closed cases involving alleged detainee abuse by CIA agents or its contractors. The occasion for this action was the release of findings compiled by the CIA’s own inspector general in 2004 on the agency’s detention and interrogation of terrorists.
The ACLU obtained a court order for release of the findings. The CIA reportedly had sent an unredacted copy of the findings to both the Senate and House Intelligence Committees in 2004 and to the Department of Justice. According to current CIA Director Leon Panetta, career prosecutors, not Bush appointees, already had carefully and thoroughly evaluated these claims of abuse. Only one case was brought by the Justice Department. No other cases were deemed to warrant prosecution.
There is little new in these findings, some of which, have already been leaked to the press. Cigar smoke was blown in the faces of detainees. Horrors! Detainees were threatened with actions against family members. Shots were fired in adjacent rooms. A step beyond what may have gone on in some police interrogations or the treatment of prisoners by fellow inmates at some of our more notorious prisons, perhaps. But this was, after all, the aftermath of 9/11 and the nation actually believed that we were at war and that other terrorist attacks were to be expected. And most of the techniques had been sanctioned by superiors and declared to be legal.
But this is 2009, the liberals are in power and apparently it’s payback time or, to put it more delicately, elections have consequences-- especially for the losers. President Barack Obama had said he wished to put all this sort of thing behind us and move on. Perhaps Mr. Holder wasn’t listening.
There is good reason for not proceeding down this road. No administration is free from mistakes, least of all these last three. If we dig back through enough garbage at the urging of groups driven by hatred of past administrations, we will open many Pandora’s boxes and it won’t stop with this administration. If the actions outlined in these findings are determined in retrospect to be illegal and individuals must be prosecuted, where will it end? How about the members of Congress who had access to the findings?
Then there is the identity of the CIA operatives that liberals so recently in the Valerie Plame case were passionate about protecting. “There is nothing more important than protecting the identity of CIA officers,” said Mr. Obama in April at CIA headquarters. “So I want everybody to be clear. We will protect your identity as you vigorously pursue your mission.” Vigorously was the president’s word. Were you listening, Mr. Holder, and will Special Counsel John Durham be attentive to the president’s promise?
This latest kick in the stomach to the CIA comes even as Mr. Obama is trying to step up the war in Afghanistan while the situation there is rapidly deteriorating. Who do you suppose is heavily involved in that war? Why, the CIA, of course, and legions of contractors, who now actually outnumber the military there. That’s because our overextended military isn’t big enough anymore to go it alone or provide all of their required logistical support.
If this is the way our commander-in-chief plans to prosecute the war on terrorism, I fear for the outcome.
Copyright 2009 by J. F. Kelly, Jr.