Garbage time at CIA

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Filed Under General on Apr 23 

It has often been said that the political process is much the same as that used in the production of hot dogs. Most everybody likes the hot dog, but nobody wants to know just exactly how they are made and even fewer care to know the exact ingredients.

The same thing could be said about the shadowy world of the clandestine service. The Intelligence Community of the United States Government – made up of several three-letter acronym agencies – has been given the very difficult mission of spying on the world’s terrorists and extracting information from them when we’re lucky (or good) enough to catch one of them.

In the aftermath of September 11, a premium was placed on intelligence information gathered from captured terrorists. The President, and Congress, ordered this nation’s intelligence apparatus to gather any and all information from all possible sources in order to prevent another terrorist attack on American soil.

This nation’s shadow warriors took the President and Congress at their collective word and went forth to do the duty required by their nation. They were authorized to interrogate captured terrorists using techniques and methods that would get any American cop tossed off the force and thrown in jail. The fruits of their interrogative labors will most likely never be fully known. That said, however, George Tenet – former director of the CIA (appointed by Bill Clinton and kept on by W) made this statement about the information gathered by “enhanced interrogation techniques”:

I know this program alone is worth more than the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us.


The current Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, had this to say:

[h]igh value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country.

Despite those statements by people “in the know” on the issue, President Barack Obama saw fit to release hitherto classified information on the interrogation program along with the promise that CIA interrogators would not be prosecuted for having been less than gentlemanly while interrogating the Islamofascist Murdering Thugs captured on the battlefields of the Global War on Terror. Oops, excuse me. I forgot. It’s now the Overseas Contingency Operation.

All debate about “torture” aside, Obama’s decision to release these “torture” memos is yet another colossal mistake. By standing before his TelePrompTer and boldly declaring we will only interrogate captured terrorists according to the dictates of the Army Field Manual, Obama has emasculated those charged with interrogating said thugs. Now bin Laden’s boys will know exactly what to expect from their captors, and they will also know just how far their interrogators can go in questioning them. They will train accordingly.

But at least we’ll be able to feel good about ourselves.

Obama’s juvenile declarations will have a chilling effect on the field operations of the intelligence community. The Washington Post’s David Ignatius referred to this effect as “slow rolling” – a process where field operatives “go through the motions; they pass cables back and forth; they take other jobs out of the danger zone; they cover their backsides.”

Sports fans will better understand this concept as “garbage time”. This is the time after the game has all but been decided and the two teams are running out the clock. They go through the motions, but only half-heartedly and in a way that makes sure the CYA factor is maximized.

If I may be so bold, I believe that a field operative who is concerned that he or she might be prosecuted for actions taken to prevent terrorism and terrorist attacks is far less effective than one who knows they have the full confidence of the people who sent them to do the job in the first place. Do we really want our clandestine intelligence operatives and interrogators to “phone in” the job we rely on to keep this nation secure?

Please spare me the self-righteous rants about how coercive interrogations hurt the image of the United States in the eyes of the world. These are people who fly into a collective rage sparked by an offensive cartoon. They behead people they capture or kidnap with rusty, dull butcher knives yet if we deprive them of their fruit loops the stinky cheese eating surrender monkeys scream “TORTURE!”. Spare me the moral relativism.

Tom Clancy knows a thing or two about the CIA. Sadly there is no Jack Ryan in the Oval Office today. He had this to say about America’s relationship with her principal agency charged with spying on her enemies:

American society doesn’t love its CIA, for the same reason that it doesn’t always love its cops. We too often regard them as a threat to ourselves rather than our enemies.

The best defense against terrorist incidents is to prevent them from happening. You do that by finding out what a potential enemy is thinking before he is able to act. What the field intelligence officers do is no different from what Special Agent Joe Pistone of the FBI did when he infiltrated the mafia under the cover name of Donnie Brasco. The purpose of these operations is to find out what people are thinking and talking about. However good your satellites are, they cannot see inside a human head. Only people can go and do that.

It is a lamentably common practice in Washington and elsewhere to shoot people in the back and then complain when they fail to win the race. The loss of so many lives in New York and Washington is now called an “intelligence failure,” mostly by those who crippled the CIA in the first place, and by those who celebrated the loss of its invaluable capabilities.

What a pity that they cannot stand up like adults now and say: “See, we gutted our intelligence agencies because we don’t much like them, and now we can bury thousands of American citizens as an indirect result.” This, of course, will not happen, because those who inflict their aesthetic on the rest of us are never around to clean up the resulting mess, though they seem to enjoy further assaulting those whom they crippled to begin with.

You might think these words were recently penned by Mr. Clancy. Sadly, they are not. They come from a Wall Street Journal editorial written not last week, but on September 18, 2001.

Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.

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