When Seven Former CIA Directors Tell You You’re Drunk, You’d Better Lie Down

Ex-CIA Chiefs Decry Holder Interrogator Probe in Letter to Obama

Seven former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency on Friday urged President Obama to reverse Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to hold a criminal investigation of CIA interrogators who used enhanced techniques on detainees.

The directors, whose tenures span back as far as 35 years, wrote a letter to the president saying the cases have already been investigated by the CIA and career prosecutors, and to reconsider those decisions makes it difficult for agents to believe they can safely follow legal guidance.

“Attorney General Holder’s decision to re-open the criminal investigation creates an atmosphere of continuous jeopardy for those whose cases the Department of Justice had previously declined to prosecute,” they wrote.

“Those men and women who undertake difficult intelligence assignments in the aftermath of an attack such as September 11 must believe there is permanence in the legal rules that govern their actions,” the seven added.

The letter was signed by former directors Michael Hayden, Porter Goss, George Tenet, John Deutch, R. James Woolsey, William Webster and James R. Schlesinger.

. . .

in their letter to Obama, the directors wrote that not only is there a significant personal burden put on agents forced to defend themselves, “but this approach will seriously damage the willingness of many other intelligence officers to take risks to protect the country.”

They added that the president has the authority to decide which legal recommendations to permit for interrogation methods, but at no time is public disclosure helpful for intelligence officers trying to protect the U.S. from further attacks.

The directors also warned that if the investigations are opened up, they fear that the assistance given to the United States by foreign intelligence agencies may jeopardize future cooperation.

“Foreign services are already greatly concerned about the United States’ inability to maintain any secrets. They rightly fear that, through these additional investigations and the court proceedings that could follow, terrorists may learn how other countries came to our assistance in a time of peril,” they wrote. “As a result of the zeal on the part of some to uncover every action taken in the post-9/11 period, many countries may decide that they can no longer safely share intelligence or cooperate with us on future counter-terrorist operations.

See also:
Text of Letter (PDF)
Ex-CIA chiefs seek halt to interrogations probe
Former CIA Chiefs Ask Obama to Stop CIA Probe
Former C.I.A. Chiefs Protest Justice Inquiry of Interrogation Methods
Ex-CIA chiefs urge Obama to drop abuse investigation
CIA chiefs: Obama’s partisan witch hunt will compromise national defense
Former CIA chiefs promote a cover-up
Holder Declares War On The CIA

Let’s recap, these imnterrogations were already thoroughly investigated years ago by carreer prosecutors. Reopening these investigations will demoralize CIA employees, devestate morale at the agency, and compromise national security. Foreign intelligence agencies will be hesitant to cooperate with the CIA for fear any resulting U.S. legal proceedings will reveal their sources and methods.

/in light of this letter from 35 years worth of CIA directors that was delivered today, it should be a no-brainer for Obama to do the right thing and end Holder’s investigaton, but seeing as how we’ve gotten to this point in the first place, I have my serious doubts that the welfare of the United States will be Obama’s first priority

Someone’s Lying

Pelosi Stirs Questions With Denial She Was Briefed About Waterboarding

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she was never told during a congressional briefing in 2002 that waterboarding or other “enhanced” interrogation techniques were being used on terrorism suspects.

But in a story published in the Washington Post in December 2007, two officials were quoted saying that the California Democrat and three other lawmakers had received an hour-long secret briefing on the interrogation tactics, including waterboarding, and that they raised no objections at the time.

Really Nancy? Porter Goss begs to differ.

Security Before Politics

Since leaving my post as CIA director almost three years ago, I have remained largely silent on the public stage. I am speaking out now because I feel our government has crossed the red line between properly protecting our national security and trying to gain partisan political advantage. We can’t have a secret intelligence service if we keep giving away all the secrets. Americans have to decide now.

A disturbing epidemic of amnesia seems to be plaguing my former colleagues on Capitol Hill. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, members of the committees charged with overseeing our nation’s intelligence services had no higher priority than stopping al-Qaeda. In the fall of 2002, while I was chairman of the House intelligence committee, senior members of Congress were briefed on the CIA’s “High Value Terrorist Program,” including the development of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and what those techniques were. This was not a one-time briefing but an ongoing subject with lots of back and forth between those members and the briefers.

Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as “waterboarding” were never mentioned. It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience.

Let me be clear. It is my recollection that:

— The chairs and the ranking minority members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, known as the Gang of Four, were briefed that the CIA was holding and interrogating high-value terrorists.

— We understood what the CIA was doing.

— We gave the CIA our bipartisan support.

— We gave the CIA funding to carry out its activities.

— On a bipartisan basis, we asked if the CIA needed more support from Congress to carry out its mission against al-Qaeda.

I do not recall a single objection from my colleagues. They did not vote to stop authorizing CIA funding. And for those who now reveal filed “memorandums for the record” suggesting concern, real concern should have been expressed immediately — to the committee chairs, the briefers, the House speaker or minority leader, the CIA director or the president’s national security adviser — and not quietly filed away in case the day came when the political winds shifted. And shifted they have.

Circuses are not new in Washington, and I can see preparations being made for tents from the Capitol straight down Pennsylvania Avenue. The CIA has been pulled into the center ring before. The result this time will be the same: a hollowed-out service of diminished capabilities. After Sept. 11, the general outcry was, “Why don’t we have better overseas capabilities?” I fear that in the years to come this refrain will be heard again: once a threat — or God forbid, another successful attack — captures our attention and sends the pendulum swinging back. There is only one person who can shut down this dangerous show: President Obama.

Unfortunately, much of the damage to our capabilities has already been done. It is certainly not trust that is fostered when intelligence officers are told one day “I have your back” only to learn a day later that a knife is being held to it. After the events of this week, morale at the CIA has been shaken to its foundation.

We must not forget: Our intelligence allies overseas view our inability to maintain secrecy as a reason to question our worthiness as a partner. These allies have been vital in almost every capture of a terrorist.

The suggestion that we are safer now because information about interrogation techniques is in the public domain conjures up images of unicorns and fairy dust. We have given our enemy invaluable information about the rules by which we operate. The terrorists captured by the CIA perfected the act of beheading innocents using dull knives. Khalid Sheik Mohammed boasted of the tactic of placing explosives high enough in a building to ensure that innocents trapped above would die if they tried to escape through windows. There is simply no comparison between our professionalism and their brutality.

Our enemies do not subscribe to the rules of the Marquis of Queensbury. “Name, rank and serial number” does not apply to non-state actors but is, regrettably, the only question this administration wants us to ask. Instead of taking risks, our intelligence officers will soon resort to wordsmithing cables to headquarters while opportunities to neutralize brutal radicals are lost.

The days of fortress America are gone. We are the world’s superpower. We can sit on our hands or we can become engaged to improve global human conditions. The bottom line is that we cannot succeed unless we have good intelligence. Trading security for partisan political popularity will ensure that our secrets are not secret and that our intelligence is destined to fail us.

The writer, a Republican, was director of the CIA from September 2004 to May 2006 and was chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from 1997 to 2004.

So, who are you going to believe?

/I say let’s put Nancy under oath

Be Careful What You Wish For

So, does Eric Holder want to open this can of worms? Is giving a legal opinion now a criminal offense? Really?

Holder: Justice Department Will ‘Follow the Law’ in Probing Interrogation Tactics

The Justice Department will “follow the law” in investigating the Bush administration officials who cleared harsh interrogation techniques, Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday.

Holder reiterated his position a day after President Obama opened the door for potential prosecution against the lawyers who drafted memos that justified harsh interrogation tactics.

Obama has said the CIA operatives who employed those tactics using the legal guidance provided will be safe from criminal charges, but offered no such assurances to Bush administration lawyers.

“We’re going to follow the evidence wherever it takes us. We’re going to follow the law wherever that takes us,” Holder told reporters.

“No one is above the law,” Holder said.

Critics have said trying to prosecute lawyers for offering legal advice is a slippery slope toward criminalizing opinions.

“Will Democrats also investigate the members of Congress who were briefed on interrogation tactics in 2002 and raised no objection? If the lawyers are threatened with an investigation, why not the politicians who approved their actions?” asked Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas.

What about Congress?

Congress Debates Fresh Investigation Of Interrogations

Obama had hoped to put the whole matter behind him, first by banning those interrogation methods early in his presidency and then by releasing the memos last week with the proviso that no CIA official who carried out interrogations should be prosecuted.

Instead, the latest decision has stirred controversy on the right and the left. Obama has drawn sharp criticism from former vice president Richard B. Cheney, former CIA directors and Republican elected officials for releasing the memos. Those critics see softness in the commander in chief. He faces equally strong reaction from the left, where there is a desire to punish Bush administration officials for their actions and to conduct a more thorough investigation of what happened.

The controversy moved to Capitol Hill yesterday as lawmakers debated the wisdom of launching a fresh investigation into the Bush-era practices. Several top Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), withheld judgment, noting that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has begun an inquiry.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), however, endorsed the idea and said witnesses should not be immune from prosecution.

Even Speaker Pelosi is on the bandwagon.

Pelosi backs anti-terror ‘truth commission’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed today the establishment of a formal “truth commission” to investigate Bush administration anti-terrorism policies, including an examination of former top Justice Department lawyers who crafted the legal justifications for what critics say was torture.

Such a probe could target UC Berkeley law professor John Yoo, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Bush Justice Department who was instrumental in crafting the interrogation memoranda, and his former boss, Jay Bybee, now a judge on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Pelosi’s endorsement follows President Obama’s signal Tuesday that he was open to the idea. Obama’s shift, in tandem with last week’s release by the administration of past memos describing brutal interrogation techniques on terror suspects, has touched a match to the seething controversy over whether there should be a public or legal accounting for Bush administration policies on torture and detention.

But wait Nancy, didn’t you approve of these interrogation techniques, are you going to investigate yourself?

Top legislators knew of interrogations

The CIA briefed top Democrats and Republicans on the congressional intelligence committees on enhanced interrogation techniques more than 30 times, according to intelligence sources, who said those members tacitly approved the techniques which some Democrats in Congress now say should land Bush administration officials in prison.

Between 2002 and 2006, the top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees “each got complete, benchmark briefings on the program,” said one of the intelligence sources who is familiar with the briefings.

“If Congress wanted to kill this program, all it had to do was withhold funding,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the closed-door briefings.

Those who were briefed included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia and Rep. Jane Harman of California, all Democrats, and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, all Republicans.

See also:
Holding Pelosi Accountable For Torture
Opinion: Nancy Pelosi encouraged CIA water boarding

Oops! Hey Obama, still think opening this Pandora’s box was a good idea? If this gets any real traction, it will surely scuttle your presidency and you’ll never be reelected. Emotions are that strong on this issue.

Presidential Poison

Mark down the date. Tuesday, April 21, 2009, is the moment that any chance of a new era of bipartisan respect in Washington ended. By inviting the prosecution of Bush officials for their antiterror legal advice, President Obama has injected a poison into our politics that he and the country will live to regret.

Elections settle those battles, at least for a time, and Mr. Obama’s victory in November has given him the right to change policies on interrogations, Guantanamo, or anything on which he can muster enough support. But at least until now, the U.S. political system has avoided the spectacle of a new Administration prosecuting its predecessor for policy disagreements. This is what happens in Argentina, Malaysia or Peru, countries where the law is treated merely as an extension of political power.

If this analogy seems excessive, consider how Mr. Obama has framed the issue. He has absolved CIA operatives of any legal jeopardy, no doubt because his intelligence advisers told him how damaging that would be to CIA morale when Mr. Obama needs the agency to protect the country. But he has pointedly invited investigations against Republican legal advisers who offered their best advice at the request of CIA officials.

“Your intelligence indicates that there is currently a level of ‘chatter’ equal to that which preceded the September 11 attacks,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, in his August 1, 2002 memo. “In light of the information you believe [detainee Abu] Zubaydah has and the high level of threat you believe now exists, you wish to move the interrogations into what you have described as an ‘increased pressure phase.'”

So the CIA requests a legal review at a moment of heightened danger, the Justice Department obliges with an exceedingly detailed analysis of the law and interrogation practices — and, seven years later, Mr. Obama says only the legal advisers who are no longer in government should be investigated. The political convenience of this distinction for Mr. Obama betrays its basic injustice. And by the way, everyone agrees that senior officials, including President Bush, approved these interrogations. Is this President going to put his predecessor in the dock too?

Mr. Obama seemed to understand the peril of such an exercise when he said, before his inauguration, that he wanted to “look forward” and beyond the antiterror debates of the Bush years. As recently as Sunday, Rahm Emanuel said no prosecutions were contemplated and now is not a time for “anger and retribution.” Two days later the President disavowed his own chief of staff. Yet nothing had changed except that Mr. Obama’s decision last week to release the interrogation memos unleashed a revenge lust on the political left that he refuses to resist.

Just as with the AIG bonuses, he is trying to co-opt his left-wing base by playing to it — only to encourage it more. Within hours of Mr. Obama’s Tuesday comments, Senator Carl Levin piled on with his own accusatory Intelligence Committee report. The demands for a “special counsel” at Justice and a Congressional show trial are louder than ever, and both Europe’s left and the U.N. are signaling their desire to file their own charges against former U.S. officials.

Those officials won’t be the only ones who suffer if all of this goes forward. Congress will face questions about what the Members knew and when, especially Nancy Pelosi when she was on the House Intelligence Committee in 2002. The Speaker now says she remembers hearing about waterboarding, though not that it would actually be used. Does anyone believe that? Porter Goss, her GOP counterpart at the time, says he knew exactly what he was hearing and that, if anything, Ms. Pelosi worried the CIA wasn’t doing enough to stop another attack. By all means, put her under oath.

Mr. Obama may think he can soar above all of this, but he’ll soon learn otherwise. The Beltway’s political energy will focus more on the spectacle of revenge, and less on his agenda. The CIA will have its reputation smeared, and its agents second-guessing themselves. And if there is another terror attack against Americans, Mr. Obama will have set himself up for the argument that his campaign against the Bush policies is partly to blame.

Above all, the exercise will only embitter Republicans, including the moderates and national-security hawks Mr. Obama may need in the next four years. As patriotic officials who acted in good faith are indicted, smeared, impeached from judgeships or stripped of their academic tenure, the partisan anger and backlash will grow. And speaking of which, when will the GOP Members of Congress begin to denounce this partisan scapegoating? Senior Republicans like Mitch McConnell, Richard Lugar, John McCain, Orrin Hatch, Pat Roberts and have hardly been profiles in courage.

Mr. Obama is more popular than his policies, due in part to his personal charm and his seeming goodwill. By indulging his party’s desire to criminalize policy advice, he has unleashed furies that will haunt his Presidency.

See also:
Obama’s torture memo two-step
Obama pressed to back torture investigation
Torture Cases Would Face Legal Hurdles
Prosecuting Heroes

And hey, what about our extraordinary rendition programs? You know, where we send bad people to countries like Egypt to undergo real torture. Are we going to investigate that too?

/wasn’t Bill Clinton the one who first authorized extraordinary rendition, are we going to persecute the Clinton administration too, as long as we’re at it?