Last Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder made a bold move regarding the now extinct “war on terror”. Making an apparent 180° on his own stance towards looking back at Bush-era controversies, Holder appointed a special prosecutor to investigate alleged abuse of terror suspects. In April of this year, Mr. Holder said, “It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department.”
So what made Holder perform the about-face in the last 4 months to reopen these already exhaustive investigations? It may have been the lawsuit the ACLU just won ordering the release of former CIA Inspector General John Helgerson’s 2004 Report in which he said the CIA interrogators, “followed guidance and procedures and documented their activities well.” The report, which was sent to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and Department of Justice back in 2004, was already thoroughly reviewed, and in one case a prosecution was levied against one contractor for his part in an abusive interrogation in Afghanistan. It also provided new un-alarming details of the methods used previously during interrogations on a small number of terrorists. Whatever Holder’s root cause for appointing a special prosecutor, the damage has already been done as CIA morale and future prospects are in the dumps, and now we must relive all the posturing and demonizing of George W. Bush and his entire administration. Let’s start from the beginning.
Following the tragedy of 9-11, people were scared, tensions were high, and there was a sense of urgency put on President Bush and the intelligence communities to make sure something to this scale would never happen again. Bring in the CIA, working in collaboration with the Justice Department, the Pentagon, outside contractors and lawyers developed a new set of rules governing methods to extract information from captured terrorists called enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs). This was a well documented system, even employing psychologists to assure there was not a threat of prolonged emotional suffering due to the techniques. They also elicited the opinions of multiple lawyers to make sure they were operating within the confines of the law and not infringing on the terrorists human rights. As ridiculous as it seems, these necessary steps were taken to make sure our own interrogators didn’t go off the reservation, even though at the time I suspect most Americans would have been indifferent to the treatment of these terrorists, abusive or not.
In recent months the techniques have been talked to death, with non-lethal water boarding being the most widely know and ominous. The newly released reports and files did not uncover anything new or overly egregious in regards to EIT’s. The new details include such methods as, verbal threats against the suspect’s family, the revving of a power drill near the suspects head, a mock execution where an interrogator shot a gun in a nearby room, being lifted off of the ground by the arms, and blowing second hand smoke in one of the detainees faces. There was one case where the detainee had pressure applied to his carotid artery 3 times to induce a near fainting experience, and another in which a stiff brush was used on the detainee’s skin. Unpleasant experiences I’m sure, but “brutal” as the New York Times repeatedly puts it, I think not.
The CIA operatives were also vigorously trained before engaging in any of the questionable activities. They were all relegated to following strict guidelines and made to sign an acknowledgement of them. EIT’s were also not to be enacted unless specific and direct headquarters’ approval recommended applying them. Also, there is plenty of evidence that Congress knew all about the EIT’s before they were even used. Regardless of what Nancy Pelosi says, there are documents detailing the briefings giving to the Congressional Intelligence Oversight Committees that show there were never any concerns or doubts expressed by its members. So the argument that these agents were rogue officials acting with blatant disregard for authority and human life is bogus.
Unless there is something within these reports that we don’t know about or that hasn’t been leaked to the press yet, it seems as though the negative consequences of such an investigation outweigh the potential gains. One thing to worry about is the probable leaking of CIA interrogators names to either the public or al-Qaeda operatives. Obama said this at the CIA Headquarters in April of 2009, “There is nothing more important than protecting the identities of CIA officers. So I need everybody to be clear: We will protect your identities and your security as you vigorously pursue your mission.” Holder’s move seems to work actively against Obama’s statement, considering just last year the New York Times leaked the name of the CIA officer who interrogated Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, 9-11’s self proclaimed mastermind. Aside from the New York Times there are other groups currently working to oust other former interrogators such as the John Adams Project.
Also, the release of these reports and possible indictments against CIA interrogators may undermine our own intelligence capacity and decrease our own country’s credibility and standing in the world even further. We have heard as part of the liberal argument against ANY form of coercive interrogations, that George Bush and his minions have ruined our standing in the world, and that we should be the moral beacon upon which other countries should seek to use as THE example of compassion. And that if we play nice and reach out our hands to nations and peoples who would seek to do us harm, they will unclench their fists.
Personally, I believe this is a fantasy and the CIA did their best to keep our nation safe in a post 9-11 world. I think if anything has ruined our credibility and standing in the world it has been liberals constant attempts to try and vilify anything and everything George W. Bush did, and to expose as much sensitive information as possible, no matter the outcome. Even the anti-torture moderate John McCain who believes that we harmed our own standing in the world, violated the terrorists’ Geneva Convention rights, and provided al-Qaeda with a recruitment tool believes it would be a “serious mistake” for us to go back now and try for prosecutions.
Aside from the potential harm these political witch hunts can do to the morale of the CIA and safety of the interrogators, they will also work to further divide our nation which is seemingly at a partisan breaking point. Does our partisan divide make some forget what and who we’re dealing with here? These are people who celebrate death, and would stop at nothing to inflict the most damage possible, actively targeting civilians, women and children. Do we need to make everyone re-watch the beheading videos of American contractors; do we need to replay videos of people choosing to jump to their death from the Trade Centers instead of being burned alive?
This investigation also goes against statements made by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, White House Spokesman Bill Burton, current CIA Director Leon Panetta, President Obama, and even Eric Holder himself. After Holder appointed the special prosecutor last Monday, Missouri Senator Christopher Bond, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said, “He (Holder ) gave me assurances that he would not take those steps that would cause major disruptions in our intelligence system or cause political warfare. We don’t need that kind of political warfare. He gave me assurances he is looking forward.” Looks like Holder’s word is not bond.
Obviously there has to be more to this story. There has to be an underlying reason for Holder to pursue this divisive course of action. Could it be a diversionary tactic to overshadow Obama’s 2,000 billion budget deficit debacle from the previous week, or to take the spotlight away from waning support for ObamaCare? It’s possible, but not plausible. Can this simply be a showing of true democratic colors? Colors that honestly believe these investigations and possible prosecutions are mandated due to the shifting political winds, regardless of their effectiveness and thoughtful development. Judging by Holder’s own words and his decision in the Black Panther case, I am assuming we can no longer take him at face value. “This is an administration that is determined to conduct itself by the rule of law,” Eric Holder – April 29, 2009. Yeah right.
Torture is and will always be a hot button topic. Thoughtful people can disagree as to what constitutes torture, and what moral ground we should or shouldn’t take in combating radical Islam. My problem with Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to reopen a previously exhausted CIA interrogation case is basically that it can do no good. Much like the “birther” movement, if supporters get the outcome they are looking for, then what? We prosecute former CIA officials for performing previously legal interrogation techniques which supplied valuable and quantifiable information that helped keep Americans safe for 8 years to do what? Make a political point? Prove we are on the higher moral ground? Besides, I thought American Exceptionalism was not a value much liked by my liberal friends anyway. I honestly hope Eric Holder drops this investigation before the pending American outrage and his own lies catches up with him.