Barack Obama visited the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia Monday in
an apparent effort to mitigate the harm he did by making public the
so-called "terror" memos which described in explicit detail the coercive
interrogation techniques CIA officers used to obtain information from captured al
Release of the memoranda which were written by the Justice Department's
Office of Legal Counsel between 2002 and 2005 was strongly opposed by
the four previous CIA directors (two appointed by President George W. Bush,
two appointed by President Clinton). The current CIA director, Leon
Panetta, did not object to the release in principle, but said the memoranda
should have been heavily censored before being made public.
The release of the memoranda means that we are unlikely ever again to get
valuable information from terror suspects, because now our enemies know the
precise lengths to which our interrogators are willing to go to coerce
information, and that those limits stop well short of actually causing the
terror suspect injury.
"Public disclosure of the OLC opinions, and thus of the techniques
themselves, assures that terrorists are now aware of the absolute limit of what
the U.S. government could do to extract information from them and can
supplement their training accordingly and thus diminish the effectiveness of these
techniques," wrote former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former CIA
Director Michael Hayden in the Wall Street Journal April 17.
The memoranda make it clear the interrogation techniques were legal. The
Congressional leadership including current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
were aware of them and made no objection to them.
Indeed, most of the techniques are used routinely on the pilots and
Special Operations Forces personnel who undergo SERE (Survival, Evasion,
Resistance, Escape) training.
Despite this, some Democrats in Congress are urging that the CIA
interrogators who used these techniques and Justice department lawyers who
authorized them be prosecuted. Fear of prosecution in the future for actions that
were legal at the time they were conducted will make CIA interrogators more
timid, Mr. Hayden said on Fox News Sunday.
"The basic foundation of the limits of the agency's action has shifted
from some durability of law to a product of the American political process,"
Mr. Hayden said. "That puts agency officers in a horrible position. The
really dangerous effect of this is that you will have agency officers
stepping back from the kinds of things the nation expects them to do."
The vast majority of Americans oppose torture…except possibly to prevent
an imminent mass casualty attack. But the Obama administration is defining
as "torture" anything that makes captive terrorists uncomfortable. That'
The use of coercive interrogation techniques on a handful of al Qaida
bigwigs shames us in the eyes of world opinion, apologists for the Obama
administration argue. But is appeasing a "world opinion" that is outraged that
the CIA would put a caterpillar in Abu Zubaydah's cell, but utters not a
murmur when Al Qaida routinely maims and murders its captives more important
than the safety of Americans? How can we appease such a biased and fickle
world opinion? And what benefit is there to us if we could?
President Obama went to Langley Monday to assure CIA officers they wouldn'
t be prosecuted for the interrogation techniques used in the past, even
though he described the use of them as "a dark and painful chapter."
"Those methods, read on a bright, sunny safe day in April 2009, appear
graphic and disturbing," said the Director of National Intelligence, retired
Admiral Dennis Blair. "As the president has made clear, and as both CIA
Director Panetta and I have stated, we will not use those techniques in the
future. But we will absolutely defend those who relied on these memos and
Mr. Blair speaks as if the threat from Al Qaida is now a thing of the
past. If that is so, then what the administration has done may cause us little
harm. But if al Qaida is still trying to follow up on the 9/11 attacks,
President Obama has made it much easier for them.