In this week’s article in the New Yorker by Jane Mayer – The Secret History – Panetta responds to Cheney’s recent criticism of Obama regarding Gitmo and terrorist interrogations.
“I think he smells some blood in the water on the national-security issue,” he told me. “It’s almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it’s almost as if he’s wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that’s dangerous politics.”
Naturally, this article condemns the CIA through the twisted logic of the Bush-haters on the left.
In the past few years, irrefutable evidence has emerged that after 9/11 the agency lost its moral bearings. A confidential Red Cross report has come into public view, along with formerly classified government documents, leaving no doubt that the agency subjected scores of terror suspects to prolonged physical and psychological cruelty.
The evidence is irrefutable, because they say it is. There is no debate on the issue. Instead, much like a banana republic, the call is to conduct a wartime prosecution of the the enemy – the political enemy that is.
Torture is a felony, and is sometimes treated as a capital crime. The Convention Against Torture, which America ratified in 1994, requires a government to prosecute all acts of torture; failure to do so is considered a breach of international law.
The CIA is also criticized for providing misleading evidence about WMD’s in Iraq.
The C.I.A.’s role in providing misleading intelligence about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has also provoked calls for reform. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the new chairman of the Intelligence Committee, told me, “There’s no vote that I regret more than the vote to authorize war with Iraq”; her vote was based on intelligence that she describes as “flat wrong.”
Even if one were to assume CIA incompetence or malfeasance on the WMD issue, it doesn’t square with the fact that intelligence agencies of other countries were saying the same thing at the same time, as were Democrat heavyweights going back into the Clinton administration. Feinstein, of course, condemns Bush for making the call based on this issue, while she merely has a “regret.” If she were consistent, she would resign and retire to private life.
Panetta does, however, grudgingly admit that the enhanced interrogation techniques worked.
The Senate investigation will, among other things, probe the question of torture’s efficacy. Dick Cheney has repeatedly claimed that “enhanced” interrogations yield results. Opponents say that torture is counterproductive. Panetta is more agnostic. He told me, “The bottom line would be this: Yes, important information was gathered from these detainees. It provided information that in fact was acted upon. Was this the only way to obtain this information? I think that will always be an open question.” But he is certain that “we did pay a price for using those methods.”
Despite putting forth the public perception that CIA employees will not be prosecuted, there is apparently a back-door effort to do just that, one that the Obama administration could disavow as the independent actions of an overzealous prosecutor (wink wink nudge nudge).
A prosecutor appointed by the Justice Department, John Durham, has convened a grand jury in Washington to weigh potential criminal charges against C.I.A. officers who were involved in the destruction of ninety-two videotapes documenting the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and other detainees. Mickum told me that he has met several times with Durham, and believes that the scope of his inquiry may have expanded to include a review of whether the C.I.A. began using brutal methods on Zubaydah before it received written authorization from the Justice Department. (This would provide an extra motive for destroying the videotapes.) Mickum said, “I got the sense he was very serious.”
Panetta has a plan for replacing the enhanced interrogation techniques with a kinder, gentler method.
Panetta is already forging ahead on one important reform: he plans to replace the abusive interrogation program with a legally acceptable, non-coercive alternative. A task force led by the Harvard Law School professor Philip Heymann has been advising him on a proposal to create an élite U.S. government interrogation team, staffed by some of the best C.I.A., F.B.I., and military officers in the country, and drawing on the advice of social scientists, linguists, and other scholars. “What I’m pushing for is to establish a facility where we develop a team of interrogators trained in the latest techniques,” Panetta said.
Enough with the soft pillows, bring out the comfy chair!!
Greetings from occupied territory!