I am speaking out now because I feel our government has crossed the red line between properly protecting our national security and trying to gain partisan political advantage. We can't have a secret intelligence service if we keep giving away all the secrets. Americans have to decide now.Well, this is one of those things that each generation has to do for itself. Now is our time to decide.
Mr Goss points out:
Unfortunately, much of the damage to our capabilities has already been done. It is certainly not trust that is fostered when intelligence officers are told one day "I have your back" only to learn a day later that a knife is being held to it. After the events of this week, morale at the CIA has been shaken to its foundation.On the other hand, we can go back to 1929, when Secretary of State Henry L Stimson shut down our decryption program, saying famously, "Gentlemen do not read each other's mail." (Mr Stimson, as Secretary of War during WWII, changed his position.)
We must not forget: Our intelligence allies overseas view our inability to maintain secrecy as a reason to question our worthiness as a partner. These allies have been vital in almost every capture of a terrorist.
Then there is the view expressed by General Paul Aussaresses. In his book, The Battle of the Casbah: Terrorism and Counterterrorism in Algeria 1955-1957, he says that he used torture to extract information. The other thing he said was that you had to get the information in the first 24 hours for it to be actionable and that after such an interrogation the best thing was to kill the person who had been interrogated. Needless to say, after publication of his book he lost his French Legion of Honor. (For those wondering, during 1955 to 1957 the key Premiers were Pierre Mendès France and Guy Mollet and moving from Minister of the Interior to Minister of Justice in this time frame was future President François Mitterrand. Of course they didn't know anything about it.)
Is there a middle ground? Of course there is. We need intelligence, so we have to interrogate. We have standards to maintain so we don't abuse people. At least that is the way it should be done. Further, there is a whole school that believes you get more information with kindness than with harsh interrogation techniques.
On the other hand, if you are standing in your living room and a bullet comes through the front window and lodges in the wall behind you, the brave will stroll over to the window to see what is going on. The rest of us will be hugging the floor and dialing 911 on our cell phones and wonder why it takes them so long to respond.
That is were we were on the 12th of September 2001. On the floor and wondering if it was one random shot or the opening of a major assault.
Still, we crossed a line, just as we did at the beginning of World War II, when we interned German, Italian and especially Japanese and put them in camps.
Now it is clean-up time and the question is, what are we really going to do about it. We now have time to think about the long term implications of any action. Will we destroy our human intelligence program, and seriously damage other intelligence programs? Will we start a Dryfus like affair that will go on for decades, dividing us needlessly? Will we, as a people, sink into some sort of Latin American political turmoil where the incoming administration turns on those going out of office, devouring them?
On the other hand, will a passing over of this situation be taken as a wink and a nod by those involved in intelligence gathering? The reason the François Mitterrand issue is important is that later on, when he was President of the Republic he ran his own personal wiretap operation, often going against those he thought might expose dirt on him, like his illegitimate daughter. The message that some things are wrong needs to be sent.
Finally, there is the question of how much pushback we want from the bureaucrats over new Government policies, brought in by new Administrations. What if General Tommy Franks, Commander of US Central Command, had told Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2003 that his command, USCENTCOM, was not going to invade Iraq, because he (Franks) thought it was against International Law? What if someone in the Department of the Interior says to the Secretary that he is not going to sign off on drilling in ANWAR, not withstanding what the President thinks is best for America?
I would be happy to hear someone say: "There are no good solutions to this problem."
My thoughts, at this point, are:
- First off we need to understand to what degree these procedures are what we do to our own Service members to prepare them for the possibility of capture.
- Then, IMHO, those who directly participated in this need to do some community service and then be rehabilitated and allowed to get on with their lives.
- Those who worked up the legal theories would benefit from explaining it to the US Congress or an independent commission.
- Finally, we would benefit from some up front candidness from the Members of Congress. If Mr Porter Goss is to be believed, those folks on Capitol Hill knew a lot about what was going on and in some sense, their lack of knowledge may well have been a deliberate abdication of responsibility.
We are hearing a lot of words, but not a lot of wisdom just yet.
Regards — Cliff