On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released the 500-page executive summary of the report on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation of terrorist detainees. Democrats, the media and Republican Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) are using it as an opportunity to hammer the CIA and the Bush administration, while American embassies, military units and other U.S. interests are preparing for possible reprisals. But adding further threats to Americans already in harm’s way matters not. Beleaguered congressional Democrats are desperate for a political boon and have turned to an old standby: sabotaging national security and sacrificing American lives.
Since their betrayal of the Iraq war, Democrats, particularly in the Senate, have panned the techniques used by the CIA to garner critical information in the days following 9/11 as “torture,” and have claimed that they yielded no useful intel. Though the use of these techniques was long known to Democrats — with virtual indifference toward them at the outset — many Democrats have since claimed they were unaware of what was occurring, which explains their lack of opposition to their government supposedly engaging in “torture.”
Leading the way on the latter fabrication was then-House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Her ongoing denials regarding knowledge of the CIA’s waterboarding of terrorists were ultimately undone by Pelosi herself in 2009, when she finally admitted she had known about the program since 2003. Yet even as she admitted it, she continued to promote the “Bush lied, people died” lie, insisting that “the C.I.A. was misleading the Congress and at the same time the administration was misleading the Congress on weapons of mass destruction.”
Those would be the same weapons of mass destruction whose existence was acknowledged by the New York Times last October.
As for so-called torture, the report cited sleep deprivation, threatening subjects with death, “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration” described by the CIA’s chief of interrogations as a way to exert “total control over detainees,” and waterboarding, as in simulating near drowning. The report further stated that former CIA directors George J. Tenet, Porter J. Goss and Michael V. Hayden hyped the value of those techniques in secret briefings with the White House and Congress.
Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein admitted that she “could understand the C.I.A.’s impulse to consider the use of every possible tool to gather intelligence and remove terrorists from the battlefield, and the C.I.A. was encouraged by political leaders and the public to do whatever it could to prevent another attack,” but that “such pressure, fear and expectation of further terrorist plots do not justify, temper or excuse improper actions taken by individuals or organizations in the name of national security. The major lesson of this report is that regardless of the pressures and the need to act, the intelligence community’s actions must always reflect who we are as a nation, and adhere to our laws and standards.”
The hypocrisy is breathtaking. While the Left wrings its collective hands about “torture,” they remain silent to Barack Obama’s drone program. One that has not only killed terrorists, but America citizens, Samir Khan, and Anwar al-Awlaki. Both men were traitors, but they were executed without the due process the Left supposedly reveres so much in the case of terrorist detainees. So was Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, as well as innocents who were victims of collateral damage. No one was reported to have been killed by the Bush administration’s enhanced interrogation techniques, yet somehow Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney are routinely referred to as “war criminals” while Obama largely gets a pass.
The Washington Post’s Bill Gerson cuts right through the double-standard, noting intelligence personnel now being excoriated received the same “direction and protection,” consisting of presidential approval, congressional briefing, lawfulness determined by the U.S. Attorney General and target value determined by the CIA Director as those currently participating in the drone program. “Some may argue a subtle moral distinction between harshly interrogating a terrorist and blowing his limbs apart,” Gerson writes. “But international human rights groups and legal authorities generally look down on both. The main difference? One is Obama’s favorite program. A few years from now, a new president and new congressional leaders may take a different view.”
This double standard puts the lie to Democrats’ seriousness toward the claim that the Bush administration engaged in “torture,” illegality and human rights abuses in its mission to thwart terrorist attacks against the homeland. In truth, the campaign against tough interrogation is a political cudgel that Democrats have employed to bludgeon their political enemies, no matter the national security cost. It amounts to nothing less than a revisionist effort to turn those entrusted with protecting the country in the immediate aftermath of the worst domestic attack in American history into pariahs, even as the war remains ongoing. As Gerson so rightly notes, the report’s release is an act of “exceptional congressional recklessness” engineered by Feinstein, whose “legacy is a massive dump of intelligence details useful to the enemy in a time of war.”
Our allies are equally appalled. ”Foreign leaders have approached the government and said, ‘You do this, this will cause violence and deaths,”’ warned Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “Our own intelligence community has assessed that this will cause violence and deaths.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest acknowledged such concerns, but insisted the administration “strongly supports the release of this declassified summary of the report.”
No doubt. The release neatly coincided with ObamaCare mega-consultant Jonathan Gruber’s Congressional testimony regarding his contempt for the American public, and the deception employed to get the ACA passed. Thus, the administration has once again employed a bait and switch effort to distract the public, despite the fact that distraction imperils Americans and our allies.
CIA veteran Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who ran the enhanced interrogation program, destroys the contention that Democrats were out of the loop, and that the enhanced interrogation techniques yielded no useful information. “The leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and of both parties in Congress were briefed on the program more than 40 times between 2002 and 2009,” he reveals, noting those same lawmakers “urged us to do everything possible to prevent another attack on our soil.” He was equally forthright about the intel that was garnered. “After extraordinary CIA efforts, aided by information obtained through the enhanced-interrogation program, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed architect of the 9/11 attacks, was captured in Pakistan,” he explains.
He is especially critical of “hypocritical” Democrats. He cites Feinstein’s 2002 assertion that “we have to do some things that historically we have not wanted to do to protect ourselves,” as well as an interview between CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WVA), then the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. In response to Blitzer’s question about whether Khalid Sheik Mohammed might be turned over to friendly countries with no restrictions on torture, the Senator admitted it was possible. “I wouldn’t take anything off the table where he is concerned, because this is the man who has killed hundreds and hundreds of Americans over the last 10 years,” he replied.
Rodriguez then adds a dose of devastating perspective to the mix. “If Feinstein, Rockefeller and other politicians were saying such things in print and on national TV, imagine what they were saying to us in private….Our reward, a decade later, is to hear some of these same politicians expressing outrage for what was done and, even worse, mischaracterizing the actions taken and understating the successes achieved,” he states.
Current and former CIA leaders bitterly contested the report. Bush-era CIA Director George Tenet labeled it “biased, inaccurate, and destructive,” adding that it “does damage to U.S. national security, to the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency, and most of all to the truth.” CIA Director John Brennan said the agency made mistakes, but insisted “the record does not support the study’s inference that the agency systematically and intentionally misled each of these audiences on the effectiveness of the program.” A website launched by a number of intelligence officials blasted the report:
The recently released Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) Majority report on the CIA’s Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program is marred by errors of facts and interpretation and is completely at odds with the reality that the leaders and officers of the Central Intelligence Agency lived through. It represents the single worst example of Congressional oversight in our many years of government service.
Cheney also remains resolute about the necessity and legality of the program. “What I keep hearing out there is they portray this as a rogue operation, and the agency was way out of bounds and then they lied about it,” he said in a telephone interview with the New York Times. “I think that’s all a bunch of hooey. The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program.” Cheney also had nothing but praise for those who participated. “As far as I’m concerned, they ought to be decorated, not criticized,” he added.
The alternative viewpoint? “Showing respect even for ones enemies. Trying to understand and in so far as psychologically possible, empathize with their perspective and point of view,” said Secretary of State and likely presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Americans have a choice to make between competing worldviews. The wrong choice will have deadly consequences.