The CIA's Coming Revenge on Obama

A gold-plated excuse for not stopping the next terrorist attack.

Ever since our military started capturing al-Qaeda terrorists and putting them to the question, the angry left has been screaming about "torture."  An end to such "torture" was a significant plank in Mr. Obama's victory platform, and perhaps surprisingly, he fulfilled it shortly after his inauguration: by executive order, there will be no more harsh interrogations performed on murderers who wish us harm, even if the information gained thereby would save countless American lives.

So far, so fair: elections have consequences.  Nobody can maintain that Mr. Obama did not clearly state his position on this issue during the campaign, but even though these techniques are, by his command, no longer in use, there remains the question of the past.

Many Obama appointees, and now he himself, have flatly stated that "waterboarding is torture" and there's ample proof that under the Bush administration, waterboarding was used on a handful of Islamist monsters.  Therefore, according to the President of the United States, the previous President and his administration were, in fact, torturers.

Now, one can debate whether the CIA's methods were torture or not, but legally, the time for debate has passed: the President said waterboarding is torture, so it is.

That declaration from a sitting President puts us under certain treaty obligations, signed and agreed to by Ronald Reagan, no less.  Upon delivering the UN "Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment" to the Senate for ratification, Mr. Reagan pointed out that under its terms:

Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.

Mr. Obama has been emphatic in saying that the United States will adopt a more cooperative posture towards other countries.  Now that he has declared that torture occurred in the previous administration, the Convention Against Torture requires that all alleged torturers be prosecuted regardless of race, creed, color, or national origin, and most important, regardless of rank.

The only thing the far left would like better than to see Bush, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the last administration hauled in chains to an American courtroom would be for them to be dragged to a European courtroom instead.  However, Mr. Obama is nobody's fool; he's well aware that while such a circus would send the leftmost 10% over the moon with joy, it would probably also send a clear majority of the rest to the barricades in opposition.

In an odd chain of flip-flops, Mr. Obama first said that the putatively tortuous past should be a closed book, then he said that it was his Attorney General's decision whether to prosecute, and then he said that only the national leadership was at risk but not the low-level operatives who did the actual torturing.  In fact, he made a special trip of reassurance to CIA headquarters to promise that no Jack Bauers would ever stand trial.

How does he plan to keep that promise and fulfill the obligations imposed by the Convention Against Torture?  As Mr. Reagan said, the United States is required to prosecute and and all torturers found in its territory.

Fool Me Once...

Just how reassuring is Mr. Obama's promise of no prosecutions?  After all, not only were the CIA's interrogation techniques approved by the President at the time, they were also vetted by administration lawyers as being in keeping with treaties and the law, and also by numerous elected representatives who've conveniently forgotten being told what was going on.

From the point of view of a lowly CIA operative, why should prosecution even be a question?  The very fact that anyone even raised the question is frightening enough to induce panic and a wave of behind-covering.  Any CIA employees considering an overseas vacation might ponder the fact that Spain, of all places, is looking into prosecuting accused American torturers - named as such, lest we forget, by their own President whom, the Spanish will assert, ought to know.

What's more, Mr. Obama has a long and sordid history of sticking with people as long as they are useful, then throwing them under the bus the moment the political liability becomes too great.  From Rev. Wright to his own grandma, you are Mr. Obama's friend... until suddenly one day you aren't.

There is a 100% guaranteed way for Mr. Obama to ensure that, as he promised verbally, nobody from the CIA would be tried: a signed presidential blanket pardon.  It cannot have escaped notice at Langley that such a pardon has been conspicuous by its absence.

However, Mr. Obama is not the only player with a history of betrayal.  As befits spies, the CIA is no stranger to inserting a knife in the back.  How many times over the last eight years did poor George W. wake up to find a shiv poking out from between his shoulderblades, whether it be the much-trumpeted (but false) "slam dunk" of Saddam's WMDs, or the even more-trumpeted (and equally false) National Intelligence Estimate that Iran had stopped developing nuclear weapons?  If the CIA says something publicly, you can know for sure it bears little if any relationship to reality - and, more often than not, it's designed to "do dirty" some politician that the CIA leadership and/or staff view as a threat.

As with every bureaucratic entity, the CIA has one and only one mission in life: survive and thrive via budget increases while staying out of jail.  Everything else is secondary.

If there was any organization that should have paid a price after 9-11, it would be the CIA, given that they already knew about the hijacker's "don't care about landings" pilot training and did nothing - yet, instead of their abject failure leading to a round of lopping off heads, failure was rewarded with budget increases.  The current CIA leadership is well aware of what even Mr. Obama's own appointees admit: harsh interrogation techniques do gather useful intelligence that cannot be had in any other way, and that the information so collected does save American lives.

What's more, the CIA also knows what Mr. Obama seemingly has yet to realize: there are an awful lot of conscienceless Islamic terrorists whose only goal in life is to kill as many Americans as possible.  There will come a day when they succeed again.  On that day, the CIA will once again be asked, "Why didn't you stop it?"

Mr. Obama has now handed the CIA a gold-plated "Get Out of Blame Free" card - after all, he has loudly stated that we can only ask terrorists questions if we say "please" whilst serving them tea and crumpets.  Of course that isn't going to work.

If we have even one terrorist in custody prior to the next attack, the CIA will say that Mr. Obama's restrictions are the sole reason why they couldn't wring a warning out of him.  Who knows - for once it might even be the truth!

Then yet again, the CIA will have dodged a bullet and arranged for a politician to catch it instead.  Mr. Obama may walk on water, but the CIA has a proven ability to summon sharks.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Bureaucracy.
Reader Comments
I can feel a lot of torture love going on here.
May 5, 2009 12:48 PM
It's REALLY good to know how to do it right when the time comes. Hilarious how moderates keep insisting that it "doesn't work". Torture is about the ONLY tool of war that is both simple and known to work throughout all of history. I sincerely hope that the CIA and Defense Intelligence are actively working to hone the craft. The better they are, they faster we can get the information we need from enemy combatants.
May 5, 2009 7:43 PM
When it's a terrorist monster like KSM who boasted of his participation in murdering thousands of Americans, and boasted to his interrogators that he knew information about more plots to murder more thousands... yeah, I'd be OK with it to have him tortured.

But seeing as the specific techniques used on KSM are the exact same ones we use on American soldiers in training, it's a vast stretch to call them actual torture no matter what Obama says.
May 5, 2009 8:31 PM
I do not feel that exposing persons to physical pain nor emotional trauma is by definition morally wrong. I do not, however, believe that reliable information can be gained from the use of positive punishment.

During the Korean war UN POWs very often cooperated with their captors. Not through use of positive punishment but rather by using both negative and positive reinforcement. They would put the prisoners in very unpleasant circumstances, but from my understanding would not use any torture on them. Then they would offer them better circumstances for their cooperation, small steps. No big jumps in circumstances nor in rewards.

Although in the long term there were few actual conversions to communist ideals, in the short term the Chinese were able to gain a lot of information from the prisoners.

Although I do agree with the previous scragged article that stated that anything that can be done 180 time is most likely not torture I still am unconvinced that it is as useful as other methods. Further, unless we plan on killing or jailing for life every person these methods are used on we are creating enemies that will never see reason and that have compelling stories to attract other people to their cause.
May 6, 2009 8:57 AM
But Jony, the Al Queda training manuals tell captured guys who get away to lie about having been tortured. They'll tell stories no matter what we do or don't do.

Give the number of Gitmo alumni who're fighting us again, it might be well to consider locking some of them up for life.
May 6, 2009 10:09 AM
Do we care that it makes us look bad to everyone else in the world?
May 6, 2009 7:36 PM
Considering that all we've done for the world hasn't made America loved by other governments, to say nothing of murderous terrorists, I think I'd just as soon we at least be feared.
May 6, 2009 7:44 PM
I'm also glad to see that innocent until proven guilty is out the window. Of course that's a useless antiquity nowadays...

But seriously, how can a reasonable person condone turture?? It's methods are ALWAYS unacceptable, and it's results are ALWAYS questionable.

I have an idea, the next time somebody pleads the fifth in a courtroom, then torture him. Then he'll certainly admit to something. Or wait, are there different standards for an American citizen? How about a landed immigrant? Refugee? Surely it's ok to torture an illegal immigrant...?

Or maybe it's their religion that decides whether they can be tortured? Definitely not christians, they are always lawabiding.

Or is it necessary that the person is a so-called enemy combatant? What does mean? That they come from the middle east? That they are muslim? That they were found within a certain radius of some kind of attack? That they look like somebody who was?

Or perhaps the severity of their alleged offense? How much money can be at risk? How many peoples lives? One? Two? Ten? 100? What is the threshold for "torture eligibility?"

If torture isn't at all wrong, then maybe we should just torture everybody. Everybody has done something wrong, right? That would save a lot of money on the justice system. With torture, we can figure out exactly which crimes everybody has committed and punish them appropriately.
May 7, 2009 2:12 AM
I assume we're only referring to torturing non-citizens. Anyone who is pleading the 5th in a courtroom is an American citizen. No one ever said anything about torturing citizens. That, I definitely do NOT condone.
May 7, 2009 9:28 AM
The CIA is already shooting at Pelosi!

The CIA last week contradicted Pelosi, saying she had been told about the use of methods such as waterboarding, or simulated drowning, in a September 2002 briefing.

The spy agency issued a chart saying Pelosi, then the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and Porter Goss, then the panel's chairman, were given "a description of the particular EITs (enhanced interrogation techniques) that had been employed."

A besieged Pelosi told reporters she had only been told that the Bush administration had legal opinions that concluded the use of these procedures were legal, not that the tactics had been used. "The only mention of waterboarding at that briefing was that it was not being employed," she said.

The CIA said then it had not used them yet when in fact they had already been used, Pelosi said.

Goss, however, wrote in The Washington Post on April 25 that he and Pelosi and their counterparts in the Senate had been briefed that "the CIA was holding and interrogating high-value terrorists."

"We understood what the CIA was doing," he said.
May 14, 2009 9:35 PM
Here's another one:

In Detainee Furor, a Rare Dent in Pelosi Armor
The C.I.A. pushed back against Nancy Pelosi's charge that agents misled her about detainee interrogations.
May 16, 2009 7:35 AM
The Times may be beginning to get it. In

which discusses Obama's detention policies, the Times seems to feel that he may end up with no credibility or support at all from either side. They said:

"The people on the left know there's more in common than not between the Obama policy and the Bush policy," he said. "And the people on the right know there's a credibility problem because there's a gap between what he tells the left and what he's doing."
May 22, 2009 10:48 AM
I thin they get it. Will they pass it on?

The C.I.A. in Double Jeopardy
To reopen cases of abuses inflicted upon detainees by Central Intelligence Agency employees does not look much like justice; it looks like politics.
August 30, 2009 6:49 AM
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