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Monday, August 24, 2009

The Politicization of Intelligence?

Today, the news cycle was dominated by news related to intelligence. Let's start with this story about potential CIA investigations.

After months of consideration, Attorney General Eric Holder plans to appoint a special prosecutor to examine allegations that terror suspects were abused at the hands of their CIA interrogators.

The highly controversial decision comes as the Department of Justice releases a 2004 report from the CIA's inspector general detailing allegations of harsh interrogation practices -- which Holder cited in his decision.

"As a result of my analysis of all of this material, I have concluded that the information known to me warrants opening a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations," Holder said in a written statement Monday.

Here's what I said about this potential investigation about a month and a half ago.

There may still be plenty of reason to be upset. That said, the WAPO article makes clear that the investigation is only going after "rogue" CIA agents that stepped outside of the guidelines set up justice department lawyers. The article goes on to state that no lawyers would be targeted and that all CIA employees that followed guidelines would NOT be targeted.

For all those that believe that the CIA agents were just trying to get valuable information out of terrorists that have no rights anyway, you may be right. However, we should all keep this in mind. If these charges are true, then those that committed these acts disregarded a direct order that ultimately came from the Commander in Chief himself. If that sort of a chain of command is NOT followed, then we have no functioning military and intelligence apparatus.

Now, if in fact this investigation is only going after rogue CIA agents that specifically dis obeyed orders then I believe that they should be prosecuted. There are two more things to consider. First, will the investigation center strictly on "rogue" agents that went above and beyond what their orders were? Second, presumably this information has long been out there and investigated by the Bush administration. So, either the Bush administration looked the other way, or the new administration is attempting to re write history. Either way, we have a serious problem on our hands.

The second story is only slightly less intriguing.

The Obama administration on Monday unveiled its latest takeover of a troubled industry -- this one the interrogation sector.

The White House announced that President Obama has approved the creation of a specialized interrogation unit that would focus on key terror suspects and report to the White House-based National Security Council.

The decision, which comes as the CIA faces fresh scrutiny about interrogations it conducted under the Bush administration, paves the way for the president to appoint a de facto interrogation czar -- to join the ranks of White House-based directors for health care reform, the auto industry overhaul, energy and other issues.

If the first story is explicable depending on how the investigation proceeds, the second is inexplicable. This makes no sense both as a matter of policy and politics. Taking interrogations from the CIA and moving them into the White House only enflames the ware between the White House and our intelligence apparatus. There is a even a rumor that Leon Panetta, the CIA chief, got into a heated confrontation with members of the White House and may have even threatened to quit. (A charge the White House denies)

The White House is denying a report that CIA Director Leon Panetta threatened to
quit. on Monday cited reports that Panetta, frustrated by several administration actions and discussions with regard to the CIA, got in a "profanity-laced screaming match" with a senior staff member last month and has also threatened to leave. Panetta reportedly was upset over potential plans to open an investigation into alleged CIA abuse of terror suspects. also reported that White House staff are discussing a broader potential shake-up of national security officials.

So, it appears the White House has created a high stakes political food fight with its own intelligence apparatus. It's going to hurt this country's ability to gather intelligence but on top of it, it will hurt the president's standing. Only the very far left wants show trials. For all clear thinking people, the security of this country is a priority. Now, the White House is taking intelligence gathering and moving it from the experienced interrogators and moving it into the White House. Furthermore, the range of techniques that interrogators will be able to use will be diminished to the Army field manual. Does anyone really think that a high level terrorist will break from standard questioning?

I don't know why both of these things came out on the same day, though some have speculated that it was to change the debate. It certainly has. Though, if the president thinks that changing the debate from health care to prosecuting CIA officials will help him politically, he is in for a rude awakening.

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