Obama's War on our Spies

The criminal indictments may as well be captioned, “The United States vs. The Central Intelligence Agency,” because that’s the correct way to identify the adversaries.  The Democrats’ war on our intelligence agencies has now become a two-front war with the Obama administration attacking where Congressional Democrats couldn’t.

Attorney General Eric Holder has announced he will appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the CIA interrogators who used tough interrogation techniques to see which of them will be prosecuted.  Holder has drawn a line in the sand.

On one side stands the US Department of Justice, its army of second-guessers and scalp-hunters at the ready, with unlimited time and an unlimited budget to pursue whatever theory of the law it chooses.  On the other sits the interrogators and CIA bureaucrats who have been trying — sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing — to get terrorist detainees to give up intelligence information that will save American lives.

Unlike the Justice Department, they don’t have unlimited funds to fight in court for years. There won’t be gaggles of high-priced lawyers donating their services to defend these people.  Many of their lives will be ruined, and fortunes lost.

Grinning on the sidelines will be the terrorists and the nations that sponsor them, wondering how America can be so incredibly stupid as to hobble its principal spy agency in the middle of a war that cannot be won without that agency’s success in everything it does.

But the enemy is more understanding of our history than we are.  They remember that Gen. George S. Patton was sidelined for many critical months during World War 2 for the minor infraction of slapping a soldier across the face.  They know that though espionage is probably the world’s second-oldest profession, our politicians and academics treat its professionals worse than they treat the practitioners of the oldest profession.  And they know how soft-brained we have become.

Holder’s about to appoint career federal prosecutor James Durham — who is already investigating the CIA’s destruction of videotapes of many of the interrogations — to investigate whether crimes were committed in the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” including waterboarding by CIA interrogators.

Holder’s announcement came a day after what ABC News reported as a “profanity-laced screaming match” at the White House involving CIA Director Leon Panetta who may have threatened to quit over the release of a CIA Inspector General’s report on the interrogations and — almost certainly — the Obama-Holder decision to go forward with the appointment of Durham.

That screaming match might also have been about the White House’s sudden move to take direct charge of the interrogation of terrorist detainees. No, Barry and Rahm won’t be going into the closed cells to face off with the world’s worst people. But they will be approving what can and can’t be done by those who do.

Congressional Democrats — led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — have been at war against our intelligence agencies ever since it became clear that Pelosi had been briefed on CIA waterboarding of terrorist detainees in 2002.  Pelosi has repeatedly accused the CIA of lying and driven Panetta — himself a partisan Democrat — to write a scathing defense of his agency in an August 2 Washington Post op-ed.  

In that article, Panetta condemned the Congressional jihad against the CIA saying it was characterized by “…an atmosphere of declining trust, growing frustration and more frequent leaks of properly classified information.”  For short-term political advantage, and to cover up for Pelosi’s lies, the Congress of the United States is making war on the CIA.  Now the White House and the Justice Department have lined up with Pelosi.

Sen. Chrisopher Bond (R-Mo), ranking Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, summed it all up yesterday. Bond said, “First the White House usurps control over terrorist interrogations, signaling to the world they have lost confidence in Leon Panetta and our intelligence community, and now the Obama Justice Department launches a witch-hunt targeting the terror-fighters who have kept us safe since 9-11.  With a criminal investigation hanging over the Agency’s head, every CIA terror fighter will be in CYA mode.  With things heating up in Afghanistan and Iraq, this looking back and unwarranted "redo" of prior Justice Department decisions couldn’t come at a worse time for the safety of our troops in harm’s way and our nation.”

Bond’s statement came on the day when the Obama administration released a heavily-redacted version of the CIA Inspector General’s report dated May 7, 2004 on the alleged abuses of detainees in CIA custody. The report was selectively redacted to remove apparent references to the information gleaned during the interrogations with two very important exceptions.

As soon as he was inaugurated, President Obama prohibited the use of the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” on terrorist detainees, condemning them as “torture”, though that is not what American law said in 2002 and 2003 when they were employed.

One al-Quaida detainee, Al-Nashiri, was subjected to some of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” – the ten methods described with specificity on page 15 of the report – on the first day he arrived at the prison.  As the report says, “Al-Nashiri provided lead information on other terrorists during his first day of interrogation.”

Abu Zubaydeh – who was subjected to waterboarding as Pelosi was told on September 4, 2002 – gave information that “helped lead to the identification of Jose Padilla and Binyam Muhammed – operatives who had plans to detonate a uranium-topped dirty bomb in either Washington, DC or New York City,” as the report says on page 87.  

And Khalid Shayk Muhammad, who was one of three detainees who were waterboarded?  He was “probably the most prolific.”

KSM “provided information that helped lead to the arrests of terrorists including Sayfullah Paracha and his son Uzair Paracha, businessmen whom Khalid Shayk Muhammad planned to use to smuggle explosives into the United States; Saleh Almari, a sleeper operative in New York; and Majid Khan, an operative who could enter the United States easily and was tasked to research attacks (part redacted). Khalid Shauk Muhammad’s information also led to the investigation and prosecution of Iyman Faris, a truck driver arrested in early 2003 in Ohio.” (Page 87 of the report).

The IG report alleges a number of abuses of detainees including “mock executions” and threats to relatives of the prisoners.  But this CIA IG report was given to the Justice Department when it was written five years ago.  

According to an August 19, 2009 letter signed by Sen. Bond and eight other Republicans, “Three former Attorneys General and numerous career prosecutors have examined the findings of that report and other evidence and determined that the facts do not support criminal prosecution.”

But Holder’s appointment of Durham willfully disregards that fact and implicitly says that all those former Attorneys General and career prosecutors didn’t know what the law is – actually, what it was when the acts occurred.  Holder and Obama know better.

Conspicuously absent from the documents released yesterday are the ones that former Vice President Cheney asked for: two memoranda that show the information that was gleaned by the rough interrogation methods.  

Most importantly to the Democrats all of the congressional investigations into the treatment of detainees — and Nancy Pelosi’s knowledge of it — will be foreclosed as long as the criminal investigation goes on.  At least as long as it takes to get through the 2010 congressional elections.

But, in the end, it’s not the fate of Nancy Pelosi that matters.  It’s just as Cong. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mi) said yesterday.

“At the same time the situation in Afghanistan is getting decidedly worse and the Taliban is advancing, the Obama Justice Department is launching an investigation that risks disrupting CIA counter terrorism initiatives. This is the last thing that should happen when the president is sending more troops into harm’s way, and the nation’s top military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, said over the weekend that al-Qaeda still remains a threat to America and our interests abroad.”

But all of that is of no importance to Obama and Holder.  All that counts is treating our spies as our enemies, and our enemies as our friends.  Take heart, Messrs. Ahmadinejad, bin Laden and Assad.  These men are more dangerous to us than to you. And, it must be said, that can no longer be thought an accident.  Not after yesterday.