Tags: CIA | Panetta | security

Bond: CIA Must Assure Agents It Has Their Backs Despite Criticism

Wednesday, 10 Jun 2009 09:42 AM

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Given recent chilling developments, the CIA needs to take steps to assure operations officers that the agency backs them, Republican Sen. Kit Bond told Newsmax.

The Missouri Republican, vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, cited Philip Mudd’s withdrawal from consideration as chief of intelligence of the Department of Homeland Security because Democrats were planning to raise the fact that he had participated in CIA briefings of members of Congress about enhanced interrogation techniques.

Bond also cited President Obama’s condemnation of enhanced interrogation and his release of memos dealing with the subject, sending a message that, even if the president, members of Congress, and the Justice Department approve sensitive operations, CIA officers could face recriminations when a new administration takes over.

“They’re all at risk at the CIA,” Bond said. “That’s extremely unfortunate. We had a risk-averse CIA in the past, and many of our problems stem from that.”

From what Bond has heard from agency employees, “It’s pretty much keep your head way down.”

CIA Director Leon Panetta will have to take steps to reassure employees that they must take risks to keep the country safe, despite the repercussions, Bond said.

“President Obama went out to the CIA and said nice things about the CIA, but he said they made mistakes,” Bond said. “When you come at it that way and say I’m not going to prosecute you, that doesn’t cover the waterfront. They’re out on the fringes, have to be. That’s the only way they’ve kept us safe for more than seven years.”

Mudd was deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and more recently has been detailed to the FBI, in charge of the bureau’s national security analytical programs.

As noted in the Newsmax article "Democrats Undercut Our Security Again," besides being tremendously knowledgeable, Mudd is known for being open-minded and nonpartisan.

Yet as Mudd was about to undergo questioning before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, it became clear that Democrats planned to use him as a whipping boy for Bush administration policies, especially enhanced interrogation.

Other Democrats did not want to revisit House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim that she knew nothing about enhanced interrogation, even though the CIA briefed her on the operation in September 2002.

As Hill staffers investigated Mudd, they found that his name appeared in CIA documents listing those who briefed members of Congress about the interrogation techniques. Regardless of what Mudd's personal views may have been, he touted the coercive techniques based on their success at rolling up plots, as did key members of Congress, such as Pelosi. Indeed, she and other members of Congress asked whether the CIA should be doing even more to extract intelligence from terrorists about possible plots.

When Mudd’s nomination ran into political headwinds, Obama was willing to toss one of the country’s most respected intelligence professionals, depriving Homeland Security of expertise in a position that is vital to protecting the country.

Calling the Newsmax account “right on target,” Bond said he plans to ask Panetta what steps he plans to take to try to counteract the CIA’s reversion to the kind of risk aversion that contributed to the failure to detect the 9/11 plot.

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
e-mail. Go here now.

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