The behavior of the intelligence community post – 9/11 is a serious subject, requiring an honest and sometimes painful discussion. Ditto the relationship between local police forces and minority communities. Unfortunately, there is more upside for provocateurs like Al Sharpton and Sean Hannity in sensationalizing alleged misbehavior than in addressing the difficult realities, while politicians such as Diane Feinstein are so focused on their objectives that they do not understand the damage done to the argument, their credibility, and the country by leading with alleged facts that are easily proven to be false.
The 6000 page Feinstein report on “enhanced interrogation” contains four key conclusions:
1. The methods did not lead to the collection of critical intelligence;
2. The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to both lawmakers and the public;
3. The management of the program was deeply flawed; and
4. It was far more brutal than the CIA led lawmakers and the public to believe.
The concise response by six former CIA directors and Deputy Directors – none of whom were interviewed by the Senator’s committee – should be read in its entirety. Please do take a few minutes to read it. There is no denying what was done, and that in the heat of the battle there were mistakes made. What the directors discuss in detail are the results obtained – the start of the trail that led to Osama Bin Laden; the foiling of a Southeast Asia -based plot for a 9/11-type attack on the West Coast; the capture of numerous al Queda leaders, including the leader of the 2002 Bali bombing; much of the information in the instrumental 9/11 Commission Report and the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on al Queda. Likewise, the former Directors document their extensive communication about the program with the Bush White House, the Department of Justice, and leaders of Congress.
The Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee felt it necessary to release the report in their last week in the majority, and [mc_name name=’Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’F000062′ ] is apparently still miffed that the CIA monitored her committee. The report will have a greater impact internationally than domestically as leaders from ISIS to Moscow,Tehran, and Beijing use it to undermine American influence, threaten our diplomats, and recruit jihadists. Domestically, most people will see it as a confirmation of what they already knew as they cheer on Jack Bauer in the TV drama “24”. It will be hard to start the desired discussion since the highly partisan committee led with the obvious lie that 13 years of safety have nothing to do with the CIA’s aggressive actions in defense of the country.
The response to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri bears some similarities to the CIA report, in that it begins with a false premise which has made useful dialogue difficult. On the substance, we know that immediately before the confrontation with Officer Wilson, Brown had threatened a clerk as he robbed a convenience store, that he tried to reach into Officer Wilson’s car and grab his gun, that the forensics and credible witnesses show that he was charging the officer when he was shot, and that a properly convened and instructed grand jury – containing three African Americans – interviewed 60 witnesses and reviewed the forensics before deciding that he should not be indicted. If we are to be a nation of laws, the system worked.
The killing of Eric Garner in Staten Island a week later shows that a conversation about police procedures, community relations, and the grand jury system is needed in some places. Unfortunately, the anti-police Left had already used their ammunition in Ferguson where the story line was false – getting assurances of investigations from Eric Holder and President Obama, instigating riots and looting, pumping stories about racial profiling and police abuses. It was also inconvenient to the national story line that the cop in Missouri was innocent while the crew in ultra-liberal Mayor Bill De Blasio’s city, led by an African American squad leader no less, was caught on tape and looked to the world to be totally guilty. Unfortunately, the public’s attention span is short and the false narrative had been on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox beyond its shelf life.
If we are going to make progress, the conversation needs to be honest. Policing in high crime areas is difficult and dangerous. These areas are disproportionately African American. About 100 of the 400 people killed by local police each year are African American; about 20 of those are under 21 years old. About 150 police officers die each year in the line of duty. The great majority of the 6,000 or so African Americans murdered each year are killed by other African Americans. Much of the violence is directly due to gangs and drugs, and less directly due to broken families, poor education, and unemployment. Very little is due to police abuse. Ethnic communities need cops who are representative of the community, but qualified recruits are hard to find. These are the issues that need to be addressed.
Those who defend the public are due a debt of thanks and due process. One has to wonder what in the psychology of their attackers – whether idealistic or cynical – causes them to build their case on a premise that is easily disproven by the facts.
This week’s video is a short autobiography by Janet Nguyen, a Vietnamese refugee who is one of the “four flowers”, Asian American women Republicans who were elected for the first time in November in Southern California.