By Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law
Responding on Friday to the completion of a highly critical Senate report on the C.I.A.’s former interrogation program, the agency’s acting director expressed support for “officers who are on the front line of the fight against terrorism.” The director, Michael J. Morell, said in a statement to the C.I.A.’s work force, “I want to be clear that the agency’s senior leaders and I are very proud of the courage and commitment each of you brings to the mission of protecting our country from the many threats and other national security challenges it faces.” Mr. Morell said the agency would prepare comments on the still-classified, 6,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee report by Feb. 15 and expressed appreciation for a statement from the committee’s chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein, that the report is “open to revision.” – C.I.A. Director Reacts to Report Critical of Detainee Interrogations, Washington Post, December 14, 2012 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/us/cia-director-reacts-to-report-critical-of-detainee-interrogations.html?emc=eta1
Here we go again. For those who remember the Inspector General’s report on the Department of Justice in the last Administration this comment process will seem familiar. The heart of such a process is that with each iteration, the criticisms are revised in a negotiation on the truth pushed by those initially criticized. The “terrible mistakes” in the current version are lightened into a future released version of “mistakes were made” or “misjudgments were made.”
So the Acting CIA head jumps up on friday to defend the middle schoolers with security clearances whose ineffectiveness and counterproductiveness is at the core of the still classified devastating Senate Intelligence Committee Report that reviewed millions of documents on the “enhanced interrogation program” and was approved on Thursday. Of course, his effort gives cover for incompetence and goes on to now begin a meme of defense of these people that will stretch across the political class and the media in a misguided view of patriotism and “support our intelligence community” that will – along with Zero Dark Thirty government-embedded propaganda (taking Glenn Greenwald’s term of this past weekend) – try to somatize America into acquiescing in the torture.
This is another iteration in a process that feels to an ordinary citizen that he is shadowboxing with people who are paid by his taxes to protect him and who have tortured in his name, betraying the very values we were told they were going to protect.
Enough of this nonsense! Release the Senate Intelligence Committee Report as is and, if they so wish, let the comments of the President and the Intelligence types be released in due course so that – in the light of day – we ordinary citizens can make up our own minds about what our government has been doing all these years in an ineffective and counterproductive program that has been ballyhooed at us for nearly 12 years as to its necessity and effectiveness.
(Update 12/18 - the National Religous Coalition Against Torture has called for the release of the report and has a sign-up page to write to Obama at http://www.nrcat.org/about-us/nrcat-press-releases/713-national-interfaith-coalition-calls-for-public-release-of-torture-report-findings. They specific mention Zero Dark Thirty coming out as a reason for the need to have the report released.)
Enough already! This citizen has no need for a CIA director or members of the political class to cover for the torturers in their midst. Neither a person in that job nor the general counsel should be protagonists of protecting official lawlessness that is a crime, ineffective and counterproductive.
Yes, we can see the bureaucratic knives are out in a further effort by those who tortured to protect themselves from accountability – draping themselves in the flag of “protecting Americans.” But, as what they have done has been found to be ineffective and counterproductive by as august a group as the Senate Intelligence Committee (who more than them would be seen as defenders of America), in a post-9/11 world where ineffectiveness and counter-productiveness in this most deathly serious aspect of our protection can not be tolerated, it is simply unconscionable for us to go back to “bureaucracy as usual.”
So let us keep up the effort to bring the light, bring the light on this dark passage of criminality, ineffectiveness and counterproductiveness. Bring the light on the lies that were systematically said to the American citizen to seek our acquiescence in this torture program under the famous “torture works” meme.
I note that the only one who has come forward in the chattering classes in defense is the titular head of the agency. It’s cold being alone brother but that is the Washington game that has been thrust upon you. The question for that person is whether he is on the side of the middle schoolers with security clearances castigated in the report that he has read, or is he on the side of the ordinary citizen that he knows has been duped for all these years by his government about a program that besmirches the American name.
That’s is where the rubber hits the road. You took control of that car – now you can drive it in accordance with the law instead of taking America on another joy ride of hubris, vengefulness, and ineffective and counterproductive infliction of pain.
This time is not the time for acting, it is the time to lead by example.