Now that the CIA has found Osama bin Laden in part by following leads elicited through enhanced interrogation, apologies are in order from a range of critics.
No less an authority than Leon Panetta, President Barack Obama’s pick for CIA director, has confirmed on NBC that the CIA obtained some of the intelligence that led to bin Laden from enhanced interrogation, including waterboarding.
Ever since the first reports surfaced in the press in 2004 that the CIA had used enhanced interrogation, liberal-leaning media and Democrats have gone on a witch hunt to demonize President Gerorge W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the intelligence community.
|Bin Laden Compound
Invariably, they have ignored the fact that only three terrorists had been waterboarded, that no one had been waterboarded after 2003, and that our own troops are waterboarded as part of their training.
Even though waterboarding causes no injury, the critics denounced it as torture.
Playing a key role in the demonization was Obama himself, who ultimately courageously approved the assault on Osama bin Laden’s compound. In 2009, Obama released Justice Department memos describing the enhanced interrogation techniques that had been used on the three terrorists.
At the same time, Obama chose not to release CIA documents that showed that the interrogations provided leads that rolled up terrorist plots, saving thousands of American lives. The White House even went so far as to edit out a statement by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair that enhanced interrogations provided valuable information.
Even though a Justice Department investigation had concluded that CIA officers who conducted enhanced interrogation violated no laws, Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder Jr., reopened the cases to determine whether prosecutions were warranted. That was despite the fact that President Bush, the Justice Department, and key members of Congress had approved — or not objected to — the techniques. Holder ordered a new review even while acknowledging that he had not read the memos explaining why prosecutions had previously been declined.
Obama’s message to the intelligence community has been clear: Even if techniques have been approved by the country’s elected leaders, you take your career in your hands if you engage in any operation that could be considered close to the edge.
As former CIA Director Michael Hayden has told me, these actions have had a “chilling” effect on the CIA, to the point where CIA officers will decline assignments to fight terrorism.
If apologies are in order from critics of waterboarding, they are also in order from those who have said the intelligence community and particularly the CIA are broken. Last year, two Washington Post reporters took two years to unearth this story: The intelligence community is big and secret and uses a lot of contractors.
Presented as an exposé, the three-part series, “Top Secret America,” uncovered no abuse. Instead, it presented the conclusion that the intelligence community is a “hidden world” that is “growing beyond control.” A front-page subhead read: “The government has built a national security and intelligence system so big, so complex and so hard to manage, no one really knows if it’s fulfilling its most important purpose: keeping citizens safe.”
Quite the contrary, the intelligence community has kept us safe since 9/11. That is a tribute to the hard work of the men and women of the FBI, CIA and other agencies, which constantly pinpoint and roll up terrorists.
As noted in my story "Intelligence Officials: More Warnings of al-Qaida Terror Plots Coming," the treasure trove of material from bin Laden’s compound will lead to roll-ups of terrorists for years to come.
Back when the forerunner of the CIA started in 1942, its first director, William J. Donovan, called it an “unusual experiment” — a secret agency in a free society. While the CIA failed to uncover the plots of 9/11 and was wrong about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it has scored a dazzling success in the war on terror.
Despite failures and gaffes, Donovan’s “unusual experiment” has paid off.
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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