Seven former CIA chiefs to Holder: Drop the interrogation probe

posted at 8:08 pm on September 18, 2009 by Allahpundit

The good news: Two of them served under Clinton, making this plea very bipartisan indeed.

The bad news: Evidently we’ve had seven racists in charge of the CIA.

Allowing future investigations and prosecutions “will seriously damage the willingness of many other intelligence officers to take risks to protect the country,” the seven men write. “In our judgment such risk-taking is vital to success in the long and difficult fight against the terrorists who continue to threaten us.”

Moreover, they argue, “public disclosure about past intelligence operations can only help Al Qaeda elude US intelligence and plan future operations. Disclosures about CIA collection operations have and will continue to make it harder for intelligence officers to maintain the momentum of operations that have saved lives and helped protect America from further attacks.”

The seven former directors are Michael Hayden and Porter Goss, who served under President George W. Bush; George Tenet, who served under Bush and President Bill Clinton; John Deutch and R. James Woolsey, who served under Clinton; William Webster, who served under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan; and James R. Schlesinger, who served under President Richard Nixon…

The former directors who wrote the letter also argue that a “certain result of these reopened investigations is the serious damage done to our intelligence community’s ability to obtain the cooperation of foreign intelligence agencies,” which are “already greatly concerned about the United States’ inability to maintain any secrets.”

Points well taken. And needless to say, I’m no dove. But look: If it’s inappropriate for Holder to investigate even agents who went beyond the interrogation guidelines drafted by Bush’s legal team, what exactly is the limiting principle on CIA actions here? Some claim that the problem is his decision to reopen cases that Bush’s DOJ declined to prosecute, but I have a hunch that the real issue is putting any agent in legal jeopardy who’s acting in good faith — no matter how extremely — to foil a terrorist plot. Cheney admitted as much to Chris Wallace last month, in fact:

WALLACE: Do you think what they did, now that you’ve heard about it, do you think what they did was wrong?

CHENEY: Chris, my sort of overwhelming view is that the enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives and preventing further attacks against the United States, and giving us the intelligence we needed to go find Al Qaeda, to find their camps, to find out how they were being financed. Those interrogations were involved in the arrest of nearly all the Al Qaeda members that we were able to bring to justice. I think they were directly responsible for the fact that for eight years, we had no further mass casualty attacks against the United States.

It was good policy. It was properly carried out. It worked very, very well.

WALLACE: So even these cases where they went beyond the specific legal authorization, you’re OK with it?

CHENEY: I am.

That’s nothing less than carte blanche for U.S. security to do whatever it needs or wants to defend the country. But in that case, why bother with specific legal authorization? If counterterrorism forces have free rein then it’s pointless to debate whether waterboarding goes too far since they’ll simply go beyond waterboarding if and when they choose. What’s the limiting principle here?


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That’s nothing less than carte blanche for U.S. security to do whatever it needs or wants to defend the country. But in that case, why bother with specific legal authorization? If counterterrorism forces have free rein then it’s pointless to debate whether waterboarding goes too far since they’ll simply go beyond waterboarding if and when they choose. What’s the limiting principle here?

It’s not carte blanche. We don’t know what was exceeded and by how much. What we do know is that nobody died, nobody’s health was permanently damaged, and nobody suffered long term psychological harm (other than the stuff associated with being a jihadi in the first place). In other words, the limits on interrogation were well outside the envelope of US law regarding what is torture.

If you draw the Venn Diagram, you have to nonoverlapping circles which do not touch anywhere. Move the boundary of the circle representing interrogation techniques further toward the other circle (which represents things the US considers torture), but don’t let it touch that circle. Do we have torture? A: No.

What Holder wants to do is move the torture circle so it overlaps the other circle (interrogation techniques used). I think it’s sort of like a teacher changing the announced grading curve after the test to assure that the student the teacher doesn’t like fails. It’s that simple.

unclesmrgol on September 19, 2009 at 12:49 AM

Rightwingguy on September 19, 2009 at 12:48 AM

Apologies for the typos, I’m tired.

Rightwingguy on September 19, 2009 at 12:50 AM

Holder needs to prosecute CIA agents who were torturing, but he’s ignoring the Gonzo six and the lawyers who authorized a lot of this at the highest levels.

It’s annoying that he refuses to go after Cheney and the lawyers.

Spathi on September 19, 2009 at 1:23 AM

Spathi on September 19, 2009 at 1:23 AM

Rage against the machine Ron Paul…

daesleeper on September 19, 2009 at 1:24 AM

The limiting principle should be the Geneva accords. Until terrorists beging wearing uniforms, stop hiding among and targeting non-military personnel and come out to meet our troops in open battle, they are entitled to none of the protection the accords would offer.

Our guys could beat every terrorist prisoner with an aluminum baseball bat slathered in pork fat and, as long as the prisoner doesn’t die from his injuries, we maintain the moral high ground.

As long as we refrain from sawing off their heads, mutilating their corpses, and dragging them through the streets we maintain the moral high ground.

As long as we continue to be careful not to kill the women, children, sick and elderly from behind whom they launch their cowardly attacks, we maintain the moral high ground.

Terrorists, through their tactics, show no respect for life. It is a testament to the decency of our armed forces, intelligence agents and our country that any of these prisoners receive the treatment they do. They are not worthy of the respect or courtesy our troops show them.

Wingo on September 19, 2009 at 1:52 AM

Rightwingguy on September 19, 2009 at 12:50 AM

For me, it’s no big deal.

While your points are well taken [the division of labor within the intel community], HUMIT is where the rubber hits the road, for external and internal ops against the Jihadi threat [and other major players].

SIGINT is very important, but history shows us that they are NOT immune to ‘political’ winds, and they CAN be spoofed. Sat intel is also important but ultimately they’re just decision-making tools on where the ‘spooks’ need to go sniffing.

And it’s because our HUMINT capacity was steadily diminished that we found ourselves behind the eight-ball when 9-11 hit. Dubya gave them their teeth and claws back and THAT”S what drove the Left crazy for 8 years.

That’s important distinction to be made. Teh One’s pre-election posturing about the Evil Bush’s ‘police state’ was pure red meat for the moonbats. Period. His retaining those ‘evil’ intel tools [post-election] was NOT going over well with the moonbats.

The mob must be fed, hence the coming show trials since he has NO intention of ridding himself of the toolbox Dubya assembled.

Why?

While Dubya was concerned about enemies of the Republic, Teh One is chiefly concerned [IMO] about ‘enemies’.

[Anybody think Holder's concerned about the WH gathering up Facebook and My Space posts saying unkind things about the Teh One? No, I didn't think so.]

CPT. Charles on September 19, 2009 at 1:57 AM

What’s the limiting principle here?

Where’s the Green Room thread by Dr. Zero, wherein he discusses waterboarding, etc.?

.
We’re dealing with people who are terrorists. They do things like plant bombs and launch rockets to kill civilians, many of them women and children, and as many at a time as they can.

Recall 9/11.

Recall that one of the bombers of the second, failed London bombing operation intentionally pointed the bomb he was carrying at an infant as he tried to detonate.

We are not dealing with people who will follow a common code of conduct with us, or extend reciprocity.

Expected casualties from the detonation of a crude nuclear device, like the NK device, or the expected Iranian device, might be 15,000 dead, 30,000 critically wounded, 50,000 severely wounded.

For what reason should we assign rights and due process to people with knowledge of such a plan? Why should we take chances? In what way are their lives more valuable or their rights more precious than those of their victims?

The answers seem clear.

Moving down to train bombings, the same questions still apply, and the answers are the same. In fact, any terrorist activity generates the same questions and answers.

I’m happy to see captured terrorists receive appropriate due process once the situation(s) end(s), “appropriate” referring to their Geneva Convention status at time of capture, and the situation involved.

Can any of the more dangerous Gitmo inmates handle 5-10 in gladiator school (Huntsville, Folsom, San Quentin, etc.)? We shall see.

But the argument I’ve heard for extending such people US citizen rights, certainly when a threat is imminent, aren’t credible.

Arbalest on September 19, 2009 at 2:11 AM

[Anybody think Holder's concerned about the WH gathering up Facebook and My Space posts saying unkind things about the Teh One? No, I didn't think so.]

CPT. Charles on September 19, 2009 at 1:57 AM

Where in particular on Facebook and MySpace are these comments being gathered from, do you think?

bileduct on September 19, 2009 at 2:14 AM

CPT. Charles on September 19, 2009 at 1:57 AM

Point well taken, CPT. The intel community is interconnected. No matter what discipline, the morale has to be pretty low now that Holder is holding people accountable for things that were legal only a year ago. You and I may disagree on whether HUMINT is better than SIGINT, but when intel is being thrashed from the outside, we can both agree that it is a bad thing.

Rightwingguy on September 19, 2009 at 2:56 AM

bileduct on September 19, 2009 at 2:14 AM

Hopefully, not from mine. :-) I’m always loyal to my President even if I disagree with his policies.

Rightwingguy on September 19, 2009 at 3:00 AM

Unfortunately, the best thing for the defeat of 0bama in ’12 is for Holder to pursue this BS. Those 67 mil. dolts who voted for Soetero are going to have to learn the hard way with the rest of us.

Lou Budvis on September 19, 2009 at 3:40 AM

Well that can’t be good for their credibility.

What a spectacular failure this administration has been on EVERY level. It is worse than amateur hour. Amateurs are gonna get an issue right once in a while out of sheer dumb luck.

This is nothing short of a deliberate assault on America.

Mr Purple on September 19, 2009 at 3:54 AM

My advice to Holder;
Drop your attack on the CIA and go after the John Adams Project who are committing TREASON.

nelsonknows on September 19, 2009 at 5:12 AM

Hopefully, not from mine. :-) I’m always loyal to my President even if I disagree with his policies.

Rightwingguy on September 19, 2009 at 3:00 AM

I get the impression that people here are of the understanding that what is being implemented applies to all of Facebook and MySpace.

The report clearly stated that they would be archiving correspondence received through the White House presensce on Facebook and MySpace, the justification being that it was mandatory under the Presidential Records Act, 1978.

I remember that one of the Democrats complaints in recent years was that Republicans in the executive branch were circumventing the PR Act by using a non-White House email systems, impeding investigations.

It could be reasonable construed that archival of all electronic systems controlled or maintained by the executive branch actually enhances transparency, not reducing it.

bileduct on September 19, 2009 at 5:50 AM

Rightwingguy on September 19, 2009 at 3:00 AM

That was not an attack directed at you (or anyone else, really), by the way. Just summing up my general feelings of this topic as it has been discussed on Hot Air, and not necessarily directly related to anything you said.

bileduct on September 19, 2009 at 5:52 AM

Allahpundant asks,

What’s the limiting principle here?

The answer tio that question is very complex. First, one must consider the question of is this nation at war or peace? If one believes we are at war one must ask, is it the responsibility of the government to keep our citizens safe during wartime? If one answers yes it is, one can clearly see that Cheney is correct. On that basis I agree with Cheney. I am okay with what the CIA did to keep us safe.

kanda on September 19, 2009 at 6:03 AM

Wingo on September 19, 2009 at 1:52 AM

Well said.

DrMagnolias on September 19, 2009 at 6:16 AM

Exactly Allahpundit.

The Geneva Conventions said that if one of the two parties do a nasty, the other may also do so in kind. That’s exactly why we gave Saddam chemical weapons, because Iran was using them on Iraq.

We have altogether forgotten everything about warfare since then, and somehow dream that if we fight “fairly”, the enemy will crumble out of guilt.

If they go through with the Holder probe and prosecute CIA agents, that will have one of two results, both of which are disastrous. The first is that the CIA backs off from terrorist interrogations altogether, and the second… quickly following a capture, as few CIA agents as possible secretly interrogates until they get what they feel is good info, then kills that enemy and disposes of the evidence. The capture is never reported. Going to the courts leaves few alternatives to an intelligence agency with a VERY serious job to do.

In a twisted way, the latter method IS following the Geneva Conventions.

Danzo on September 19, 2009 at 6:36 AM

It’s percentages.

What are the odds that you, I or someone in our families will actually get taken out by terrorists? Pretty low. That’s someone else’s problem. And if they do buy the farm, so what? We can raise our heads high knowing that we took the high moral road.

Signed,
Your Average Libtard

Dr. ZhivBlago on September 19, 2009 at 7:09 AM

Speaking of Holder…has he started the Acorn investigation yet?

becki51758 on September 19, 2009 at 7:40 AM

I think this is insane, it will back fire on the Democrats..and Allah, I don’t think anyone is talking about carte blanche here.

Terrye on September 19, 2009 at 8:06 AM

If counterterrorism forces have free rein then it’s pointless to debate whether waterboarding goes too far since they’ll simply go beyond waterboarding if and when they choose. What’s the limiting principle here?

AP, the problem here is that we can’t have politicians performing oversight of these agencies because politicians are driven by POLITICAL motivations that are directly contradictory to the correct and proper functioning of these agencies.

We need non political oversight not full of political hacks. I would need to spend some time designing such an oversight panel so I won’t try to do it here. But that is the correct answer. None of our existing three branches of government can be trusted with running these agencies.

dogsoldier on September 19, 2009 at 8:41 AM

Holder to the seven: “Thanks for your input – we will be investigating you next.”

Friendly21 on September 19, 2009 at 9:03 AM

Speaking of Holder…has he started the Acorn investigation yet?

And in that light, how’s Holder’s racial discussion initiative going? What with charges of racism flying from the left, he must be quite pleased with all this courageous racial back-and-forth (OK, so it’s all one-way) going on…

karl9000 on September 19, 2009 at 9:21 AM

So the focus is on people who are trying to prevent well-funded mass murderers from killing my kids, your husband, his mother and her grandparents while they’re shopping at the mall?

Shouldn’t we be just a little more concerned with stopping mass murderers?

perroviejo on September 19, 2009 at 10:16 AM

Related graphic: “Justice Department Releases Woodcut Depicting CIA Investigation Procedures” http://optoons.blogspot.com/2009/08/dunking-to-be-used-as-part-of-cia.html

Mervis Winter on September 19, 2009 at 10:51 AM

What’s the limiting principle here?

Sounding a bit naive here

There never has been a limiting principle worth mentioning. The CIA has fought entire wars illegally.

This is all what Brock would call a distraction.

Anders on September 19, 2009 at 11:17 AM

MEMO TO ERIC HOLDER
REFERENCE: HEARING PROBLEM

Mr. Holder,

BellTone makes great digital hearing aids that filter out the noise and brings the wearer rich, clear sound. Don’t let life pass you by. Be part of it.

kens on September 19, 2009 at 2:44 PM

That’s nothing less than carte blanche for U.S. security to do whatever it needs or wants to defend the country. No, it is not . . . .But in that case, why bother with specific legal authorization? If counterterrorism forces have free rein then it’s pointless to debate whether waterboarding goes too far since they’ll simply go beyond waterboarding if and when they choose. They will?? I disagree with that assumption and that is what it is: an assumption. What’s the limiting principle here? The limiting principle here is that the US does not hack off limbs and heads, especially heads, of those who DO commit these acts with impunity, nay, with joy, even against civilians. Nor does the US permanently maim even the most vile terrorist beasts in any way. Although I do not object to that IF it protects American lives and the lives of innocents. Nor would you, were you the one on tape and ready for the slaughter like a trussed up lamb. For those in need of a bit of reality, please find the videos of innocents who have been beheaded by terrorists, then watch them. Your blood will boil and you will need a week or so to recover from watching these brutal beheadings. The head is slowly sliced from the body of the victim as the victim continues to plead for mercy, begins to gurgle, then silence. Then the head is placed on the victim`s chest and the hooded beasts cry to Allah. My advice to watch these executions for yourself is not given lightly. My blood did boil in anger and I was and remain haunted by what I saw. But it is the truth. Better to know the enemy. If you are worried about limiting factors now, perhaps I wager you will NOT be after viewing this stark, evil, reality. Cheney is right.

Sherman1864 on September 19, 2009 at 5:45 PM

What’s the limiting principle here? The limiting principle here is that the US does not hack off limbs and heads, especially heads, of those who DO commit these acts with impunity, nay, with joy, even against civilians. Nor does the US permanently maim even the most vile terrorist beasts in any way. Although I do not object to that IF it protects American lives and the lives of innocents. Nor would you, were you the one on tape and ready for the slaughter like a trussed up lamb. For those in need of a bit of reality, please find the videos of innocents who have been beheaded by terrorists, then watch them. Your blood will boil and you will need a week or so to recover from watching these brutal beheadings. The head is slowly sliced from the body of the victim as the victim continues to plead for mercy, begins to gurgle, then silence. Then the head is placed on the victim`s chest and the hooded beasts cry to Allah. My advice to watch these executions for yourself is not given lightly. My blood did boil in anger and I was and remain haunted by what I saw. But it is the truth. Better to know the enemy. If you are worried about limiting factors now, perhaps I wager you will NOT be after viewing this stark, evil, reality. Cheney is right.

Sherman1864 on September 19, 2009 at 5:45 PM

Terribly true advice.

Against an enemy as sickening as an incarnate, humanoid cancer.

profitsbeard on September 20, 2009 at 12:44 AM

Holder needs to prosecute CIA agents who were torturing,
Spathi on September 19,

In order to prosecute CIA agents who were torturing, you have to change the definition of “the torture”.

If you change the definition so that today what they did is illegal, but was not illegal when they did you would be charging them retroactively.

And that is not now or ever (that I know) legal in the USA.
Example:

It would be akin to changing the national speed limit to 55 mph and then sending out speeding tickets to EVERY legal driver in the USA for SPEEDING!

After all we could assume they all drove over 55 mph in the last ten years!

Waterboarding isn’t Waterboarding if NO water fills the nose and mouth!

When we did it the nose and mouth were covered.

Now Obama/Holder wants to change the definition to include Covering the face so that no water fills the nose and mouth is also Waterboarding, fine.

You just can’t retroactively charge them with torture, for something that wasn’t torture when they did it!

DSchoen on September 20, 2009 at 4:35 AM

I expect that Mr. Holder will proceed apace… No surprise there…

Khun Joe on September 20, 2009 at 2:37 PM

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