August 27, 2009
By Peter Brookes
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
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
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
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
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
First Appeared in Family Security Matters
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.
Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
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