August 17, 2009
By Elaine Chao
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 conside
An awful lot of people who have never even run a lemonade stand
are presuming to micromanage corporate conglomerates. General
Motors Corp., now headquartered at the White House, is the most
prominent example. Less well-known are the legions of left-wing
activists attempting to micromanage companies through shareholder
A legitimate right of those who own company stock, the
shareholder proxy process is increasingly being co-opted by
political-issue activists. Their quest is, as a shareholder
activist group called Green America puts it, "a socially just and
environmentally sustainable society."
Activists have every right to espouse their views of utopia. But
when they hijack the proxy process to advance their agenda, their
advocacy comes at the expense of the millions of workers and
ordinary shareholders -- like pension beneficiaries and mutual-fund
investors -- who count on the bottom-line performance of these
companies for jobs and retirement security.
Left-wing shareholder activists seek to leverage the mass
economic power of institutional investors, such as pension funds
whose managers are supposed focus strictly on their fiduciary
responsibilities to retirees.
This trend has become so alarming that in 2008, the U.S.
Department of Labor issued new guidance to pension managers and
trustees, putting them on notice that such politically motivated
proxy activity could violate their fiduciary duties under the
Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).
In addition to leveraging pension funds without the consent, or
even knowledge, of most workers and retirees, these activists also
pressure religious institutions and universities to use their
investment funds to advance left-wing agendas.
They are aided by some unions that try to push union expansion
and labor issues under the rubric of social responsibility. They
are pressuring mutual-fund companies such as Vanguard Group Inc.,
Fidelity Investments and Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. to, as Green
America stipulates, "wake up to the reality of climate change" and
"vote for shareholder resolutions addressing climate risk at the
companies in their portfolios, each and every time they have the
Activist shareholder resolutions do not have to pass to succeed.
The process itself can be so injurious to a company that management
will cave to demands. Green America observes that: "shareholder
action campaigns are often accompanied by coordinated consumer and
media campaigns, resolutions represent damage to a company's
reputation and branding, and a potential loss of revenue through
negative publicity, consumer boycotts, and loss of investor
confidence. In fact, the mere act of filing a proposal has prompted
some companies to amend their policies. When a resolution succeeds
even before it comes to a vote, investors will usually withdraw it
from the ballot."
Shareholder resolutions have also been directed at corporate
governance. Structural matters like these are of legitimate
interest to stockholders, but it is noteworthy there is no concrete
evidence that shareholder resolutions in this vein have had a
positive bottom-line benefit for companies or shareholders.
If you work at one of these companies, own stock in them, are a
mutual-fund investor, a pension-fund beneficiary or just have an
interest in any institutional investment fund, you may want to find
out if your and your family's interests are being compromised to
advance a political agenda you may not support.
Chao was secretary of labor in the Bush administration
from 2001 to 2009 and is a distinguished fellow at The Heritage
Peter Brookes is senior fellow for National
Security Affairs in the Davis Institute at The Heritage
First appeared in The Washington Times
An awful lot of people who have never even run a lemonade stand are presuming to micromanage corporate conglomerates. General Motors Corp., now headquartered at the White House, is the most prominent example.
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