Torture Yes We Can?
- Obama and the national security question: the sellout accelerates
Torture Yes We Can?
by Justin Raimondo
November 14, 2008
Most politicians wait at least until they've been sworn in before
they start breaking their campaign promises. In this sense, as in so
many others, Barack Obama represents an entirely new phenomenon: the
politician who preemptively reneges.
A recent Wall Street Journal piece describing the transition process
as it relates to intelligence-gathering reveals we aren't going to
see much change in this vitally important realm, the one in which the
Bush administration truly made its blackest mark. This will "create
tension within the Democratic party," we are told, apparently because
even the worst party hacks will have a hard time going along with the
revised Obama Doctrine on the issue of torture.
According to the Journal, Obama's advisors on intelligence matters
are "centrists" in the Clinton mold and outright Republicans, who
favor torture "with oversight." These, we are told, are
the "pragmatists," likely candidates for positions in Obama's
national security bureaucracy. "He's going to take a very centrist
approach to these issues," avers Roger Cressey, who served as a
counter-terrorism official under Clinton as well as Bush II.
It's a grotesque commentary on the moral health of the nation when
advocacy of torture is considered "centrist." One shudders to imagine
what it means to be right-of-center.
A big problem for the pro-torture faction of Team Obama, however, is
their Leader's pronouncements on this subject during the campaign,
when he came out unequivocally against "'enhanced interrogation
techniques' like simulated drowning that qualify as torture through
any careful measure of the law or appeal to human decency."
Human decency and government, however, are opposites in a dichotomy.
Now that the Obama-ites have the power, all the pious rhetoric and
self-righteousness of the Bush-hating Obama-loving "progressives"
falls by the wayside, like so much confetti, to be swept up and
trashed the morning after the election. It's an old story, but true
and yet with a rather grotesque twist that is all too indicative of
the age we live in.
After all, we are talking about torture, here, the apotheosis of
barbarism and the signature issue of the sort of limousine liberals
who just adore the Dear Leader, and wouldn't think of criticizing him
in public, especially this early on. This betrayal is a real slap in
the face to these people, and one wonders if it will sting enough to
provoke a reaction.
So how will Obama's cheerleaders square this circle, and reconcile
his campaign pronouncements with the emerging reality? The Journal
avers that, just as he said he was against providing immunity to
telecom companies that permitted illegal spying on thousands of
Americans, yet voted for it, so he could finesse the torture issue in
an all too familiar fashion:
"The new president could take a similar approach to revising the
rules for CIA interrogations, said one current government official
familiar with the transition. Upon review, Mr. Obama may decide he
wants to keep the road open in certain cases for the CIA to use
techniques not approved by the military, but with much greater
The elastic Obama doll is stretching to the breaking point but,
then again, everybody has their own breaking point. Mine came well
before this, it's true, but surely such a slimy attempt to slink
around the black-and-white issue of torture has got to shock Obama's
supporters, many of whom, I realize, are big fans of this web site.
In the mainstream media and its blogospheric extensions, Obama's
loyal partisans have so far confined themselves to ordinary
apologetics: touting Rahm Emanuel's "toughness" while ignoring his
pro-war pro-DLC bias as head of the party's national congressional
campaign committee, and mumbling "Brent Scowcroft" under their breath
in explaining away the likelihood of Robert Gates staying on at
Defense. How will they spin the persistence of Jack Bauer in Obama-
Oh well, that's their problem. Ours' is finding out who's behind all
this, and figuring out how to stop it. In this regard, the Journal
"The intelligence-transition team is led by former National
Counterterrorism Center chief John Brennan and former CIA
intelligence-analysis director Jami Miscik, say officials close to
the matter. Mr. Brennan is viewed as a potential candidate for a top
intelligence post. Ms. Miscik left amid a slew of departures from the
CIA under then-Director Porter Goss."
Who are these people? Well, go here if you want to see a dress
rehearsal for Obama's climb-down on torture, given by Brennan in an
interview last year, in which he agrees that waterboarding, for
example, is torture, and "should be prohibited," but then comes back
"There has been a lot of information that has come out from these
interrogation procedures that the agency has, in fact, used against
the real hardcore terrorists. It has saved lives. And let's not
forget, these are hardened terrorists who have been responsible for
9/11, who have shown no remorse at all for the death of 3,000
So which is it to torture or not to torture?
Brennan, by the way, is the former head of the National
Counterterrorism Center, a former deputy executive director of the
CIA, and is being talked about as a leading candidate for CIA chief.
He is also CEO of the Analysis Corporation, a company that employs
many former intelligence officials: it was an employee of Analysis,
you'll remember, who was caught prying into the passport records of
prominent persons including Obama and John McCain. The company
insisted at the time that the whole affair was an "isolated
incident." And now their CEO is in the running for CIA chief. Welcome
to Bizarro World please check your hat, and your rationality, at
As for Ms. Miscik, none other than she was in charge of intelligence
analysis in 2002, when the big debate about Iraq's alleged "weapons
of mass destruction" reached its crescendo, and the War Party was
howling that Al Qaeda and Iraq were working hand-in-hand. Both these
fantasies were pushed by Miscik, who outflanked the CIA's Mideast
directorate and handed the job of intelligence assessment over to her
compliant flunkies within the "counterrorism" community. A two-year
old piece in Salon by Spencer Ackerman describes Miscik's role:
"CIA analysts prepared a report titled `Iraq and al-Qaida: Assessing
a Murky Relationship.' Or at least a few of them did. Circulated that
June, as the administration sought rationales for an invasion of
Iraq, the report excluded the assessments of the agency's Near East
and South Asia (NESA) office, which generally cast doubt on either an
existing or a prospective alliance between Saddam and Osama bin
Laden. The paper was chiefly the product of the CIA's terrorism
analysts, who explained that their approach was `purposefully
aggressive in seeking to draw connections, on the assumption that any
indication of a relationship between these two elements could carry
great dangers.' Jami Miscik, the CIA's deputy director for
intelligence, told Senate Intelligence Committee investigators that
the paper was intended to `stretch to the maximum the evidence you
had.' The exclusion of NESA prompted an inquiry by the agency's
ombudsman into politicization."
A profile of Miscik in Fortune documenting her career change from CIA
to Wall Street, published in the summer of 2007, avers
"Ex-CIA Intelligence Chief Jami Miscik was wrong about WMD in Iraq.
But in her new career, Lehman Brothers depends on her to say where
it's safe to put billions. An exclusive tale of intrigue and
From George Tenet's CIA to Lehman Brothers from intellectual
bankruptcy to financial bankruptcy in a year's time is a narrative
of daunting consistency, albeit not one that bodes well for the
competence of the incoming administration.
This just isn't about torture: it's about how we gather intelligence,
and to what end. Brennan and Miscik are part of the problem, not part
of the solution. Far more important than whether Joe Lieberman is
allowed to keep his chairmanship of the Senate Intelligence Committee
is whether these two are going to be allowed to determine the shape
of intelligence policy for the next four years.
You aren't hearing about any of this from the "mainstream" news media
and the left-wing of the blogosphere with certain stellar
exceptions because of the red-state/blue state mindset that still
persists, in spite of Obama's explicit rejection of the "old
politics." MSNBC, for example, has turned into a blue state version
of Fox News, with its openly adulatory "reporting" on the Obama
transition, and systematic denigration of the President-elect's
critics. Don't expect to see the torture issue brought up by Rachel
Maddow and Keith Olbermann would rather join a Trappist monastery
than utter one word about it.
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