Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Saturday, August 01, 2009

  CIA Director: Mistakes were made

The Sunday Washington Post publishes an extraordinarily disingenuous op-ed (I know!) in which Leon Panetta, taking his cue from a foreign spook, argues that Congress should not hold anyone in the CIA accountable for past wrongdoing because the country needs to be "totally focused" on the present.

Last month, at a meeting overseas of intelligence service chiefs, one of my counterparts from a major Western ally pulled me aside. Why, he asked, is Washington so consumed with what the CIA did in the past, when the most pressing national security concerns are in the present? It was a very good question.

Panetta evidently did not point out to this foreigner that the US is a nation of laws, or that other significant parts of the federal government (such as the Justice Department and FBI, SEC, FEC, Treasury Department, the EPA, and Interior Department) regularly manage to investigate wrongdoing in the past (where wrongdoing traditionally is to be found) while performing other duties as well. It would be interesting to know whether the IRS is finding that tax cheats have adopted the Obama administration's line, "No investigating the past!"

Panetta lards his preposterous argument with several bizarre assertions. For example:

The CIA no longer operates black sites and no longer employs "enhanced" interrogation techniques.

Tell that to the hundreds of prisoners who are still held and abused in total isolation at Bagram.

The most galling passage, however, is this one:

The time has come for both Democrats and Republicans to take a deep breath and recognize the reality of what happened after Sept. 11, 2001. The question is not the sincerity or the patriotism of those who were dealing with the aftermath of Sept. 11. The country was frightened, and political leaders were trying to respond as best they could. Judgments were made. Some of them were wrong. But that should not taint those public servants who did their duty pursuant to the legal guidance provided. The last election made clear that the public wanted to move in a new direction.

In other words, sincerely frightened fools – as long as they're patriotic - may arrange to violate the law with impunity if they make sure legal memoranda get passed around. And when one party loses the White House in an election, all its crimes get forgiven.

crossposted at

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