Jewish World Review Sept. 16, 2009 / 27 Elul 5769
History lesson for Holder: Targeting the CIA is perilous move
By John Yoo
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | A young, fresh face campaigns for the presidency by attacking the CIA: "Our government should justify the character and moral principles of the American people, and our foreign policy should not short-circuit that for temporary advantage," he says. He promises to never "do anything as president that would be a contravention of the moral and ethical standards that I would exemplify in my own life as an individual."
He wins the election and begins to decimate the intelligence agencies.
The Carter administration's national-security record should not serve as a model for any president. But unless Obama changes course, he risks duplicating the intelligence disasters of the '70s, and endangering the nation.
Last month, the president and Attorney General
Our nation's leaders made the difficult decision to use coercive interrogation methods to learn as quickly as possible what these hardened al-Qaeda operatives knew. As one of many government lawyers who worked on these counterterrorism programs, I can attest to the terrible pressure of time and events in the months after the
Knowledgeable officials expected that al-Qaeda would try again — soon — and in a more devastating fashion. But as we pause to remember the
Their reward is an open-ended investigation, and in some instances the disturbing reopening of cases closed by career prosecutors. Others have written about the financial ruin in store for agents and analysts whose focus will shift from the enemy to their legal bills. What has gone less well understood is what the investigation will do to the CIA as an institution at a time when it serves as the nation's eyes and ears and, sometimes, the sword and shield, during war against a shadowy, covert enemy.
The Carter presidency serves as a warning. Attacking "Watergate,
The message was clear, and as a result CIA agents became risk-averse. After all, if you might be fired or prosecuted for doing something, the safest thing to do is nothing. America's ability to gather human intelligence and conduct covert operations swiftly fell apart. The CIA failed to predict the fall of the shah. Iranian students — one of them now the president of
The effects of this decimation of our intelligence capabilities continue. The intelligence agencies failed to stop the 9/11 attacks and do not appear to have penetrated al-Qaeda's leadership. As the
Even the most fervent antiwar activists should welcome an effective intelligence service. If the CIA had accurately judged
All intelligence involves probabilities and educated guesses, but effective intelligence can actually provide the information needed to avoid costly wars.
Persecuting the CIA risks another surprise attack or major intelligence failure
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John Yoo is a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He has served as a law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas. Comment by clicking here.
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