Inquest of CIA None Too Smart


Inquest of CIA None Too Smart

Aug 27th, 2009 1 min read
Peter Brookes

Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs

Peter helps develop and communicate The Heritage Foundation's stance on foreign and defense policy through his research and writing.

The Obama administration's decision to release a previously classified 2004 CIA interrogation report and appoint a special prosecutor to look into possible misdeeds by personnel involved in questioning high-value terrorists is a huge mistake.

It's almost as if - in addition to the war in Iraq, Afghanistan and on terror - the Obama administration has now declared war on the CIA, which is one of our most important assets in gathering intelligence for winning these conflicts.

First, these choices will likely have a chilling effect on the morale at the agency. Earlier this year Barack Obama himself vowed it was time to look forward, not back. (Of course, that is until it's time to look back.)

In addition to being another Obama policy flip-flop, these decisions will likely leave officers in the field wondering whether they should be more concerned about getting terrorists or getting lawyers.

It's also a major distraction to the CIA's embattled director Leon Panetta, who seems to be drowning in a sea of inquiries from his White House and the Democratic Congress. Doesn't he have more important things to look after, like Iran and North Korea?

(Some believe Panetta won't be around much longer, giving the already-rattled CIA its sixth leader since 9/11.)

The public release of such information will also allow al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorists to use it for propaganda purposes, allowing them to recruit new members and raise funds for training and operations.

The discretionary publication of national security information, though redacted, will also give allies pause. Why share secrets with the Americans if it's going to end up on the front page and the Internet? That could be very dangerous to our national security.

These events have a distasteful political dimension, too. It helps Obama distract from the disastrous health care debate, skyrocketing deficit predictions and concerns over his energy and environment agenda. It also demonizes the Bush administration.

In a clearly mixed message, the Obama administration did release a few additional CIA memos, showing the interrogation of some high-value terrorists yielded information that disrupted post-9/11 attacks.

Indeed, in the heavily-redacted 2004-2005 memos, the unidentified author calls the interrogations a "crucial pillar of U.S. counterterrorism efforts," helping foil 9/11-style attacks planned for Los Angeles and London.

It isn't by chance that we haven't been attacked in nearly eight years. Former Vice President Dick Cheney said that we owe the CIA a debt of gratitude for keeping us safe.

It's a sentiment the Obama administration should really consider before it goes any further.

Peter Brookes is senior fellow for National Security Affairs in the Davis Institute at The Heritage Foundation.

First Appeared in Family Security Matters