Monday, August 31, 2009

CIA and the Justice Dept

The WSJ Saturday ran a long article by a former CIA clandestine operative, Reuel Marc Gerecht, expressing deep concern about the decision by the Obama justice department to go after CIA interrogators. He argues that this arguably unnecessary move--undertaken for political reasons alone--will completely undermine the agency's ability to do its job.

"A good case officer with Middle Eastern languages and a penchant for understanding Islamic radicalism would now have to be insane to accept an assignment that detailed him to interrogate Islamic terrorist suspects. No self-respecting case officer wants to be constantly surveilledby his boss. That's not the way the intelligence business works, which is, when it works, an idiosyncratic, intimate affair. We should be horrified by the idea that holy warriors will now be questioned by operatives who tolerate all the cover-your-trash paperwork, who don't mind being videoed when they go to work, who want to be second-guessed by their CIA bosses, let alone by FBI agents, and intelligence-committee Congressional staffers, and now White House officials."
While Obama has retained the practice of rendition, and while we are likely in a period--unlike the years 2001 to 2003--when interrogation will be less frequent, what Gerecht most deplores is the removal of the tools of the trade for interrogators.

"...With enhanced interrogation off-limits, CIA operatives could easily find themselves face-to-face with a jihadist who tells them to bugger off. What are they then to do? Will their superiors be professionally sensitive to their inability to make further progress? Could they get promoted after they pass suspected jihadists to the FBI? Would the FBI even take them, knowing that they might have to be rendered to an unsavory foreign power and thereby quite possibly compromise the bureau's more pristine image?..."
The CIA "hardly did a superlative job.." in its fight against Islamic militarism. Nevertheless, I have to believe we're back on the clock again, awaiting the next major strike. Thanks to the Obama justice department, America is once again much less safe.


Ethan said...


That's really all I have to say.

Well, I thought of a responsive metaphor but I will not post it in the interests of keeping this a family (-ish) blog.

Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake said...

I've been convinced (in some cases by interrogators) that we don't need "enhanced interrogation". I'm even more convinced that whatever intelligence-gathering value it might have is minimal compared to the public-relations losses we've sustained. Sure, there will be terrorists who stonewall. But our interrogators are really good, and even a terrorist who thinks he's stonewalling is still giving up information. And interrogation is only one facet of a much bigger intelligence-gathering picture. It's not fair, for sure, but the US is held to an impossible standard, and if trying to live up to that standard means fighting the war on terror with a pinky tied behind our backs, I think we can handle it.

Of course, none of that contradicts your point; President Obama has made politically-motivated ex post facto attacks on agents who operated with the confidence that comes from obeying the rules of the game. Covert intelligence relies on risk-taking, but who would go out on a limb now, when even procedures that are spelled out on paper might torpedo your career in the next administration?

Bruce Gee said...

Well, Evan, you've got more and better access to people who know than I do, so I may have to bow to your superior info. The thing is, we're going to find out, aren't we? Another ten years of attack-free living, and I'll sign on. But the little science experiment is on.

Steve said...

3 out of the thousands captured were waterboarded.

Info. was obtained that prevented a 9/11 type attack in L.A..

These people are not innocents. They desire to kill us...all of us if possible.

Thet won't give up info. if we tell them bedtime stories and take away their desserts.

I think we have lost our minds when we forget that fact.