Commentary by James Shott
President Barack Obama has made another horrid decision, deciding not to put an immediate stop to the dangerous probe into activities of the CIA in working to protect the United States from terrorist attacks during the Bush administration.
Attorney General Eric Holder launched a preliminary investigation in August into some old cases that had already been reviewed by the Justice Department and determined to be without merit. The reviews were performed by career employees who are non-partisan and have no ideological or political motives.
In a letter to the president, seven past directors of the CIA – representing the administrations of George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon – asked that the investigation be dropped, and, Mr. Obama’s own CIA chief, Leon Panetta, has also voiced opposition to the investigation.
“Those men and women who undertake difficult intelligence assignments in the aftermath of an attack such as September 11 must believe there is permanence in the legal rules that govern their actions,” the former director’s wrote. And they told the president that reopening these cases “creates an atmosphere of continuous jeopardy,” which will inhibit CIA officers in their efforts to thwart terrorist activities.
The investigation will make them less willing to take risks and will damage relationships with foreign intelligence agencies that assist US efforts, the former directors said. The investigation requires the CIA officers to obtain expensive legal counsel, and distracts them from their important work. Now, instead of working to prevent attacks by fanatics who want to kill Americans, they will be defending themselves against politically-motivated attacks from the government they have successfully defended from terrorism for the last eight years.
So how did the president respond to the former CIA directors request to put the kibosh on this reckless and partisan investigation? The White House said Mr. Obama – who didn’t hesitate to take over an auto company and some banks, and wants to take over your health care – doesn’t involve himself in these activities.
Perhaps President Obama and his followers believe the terrorist threat isn’t real. After all, 9-11 was eight whole years ago. Maybe they believe the terrorist threat and the entire War on Terror were cooked up by George Bush and Dick Cheney as an excuse to encroach on the freedoms of the American people, and to illegally imprison innocent Muslims in that hell-hole in Cuba where they must endure three square meals of special food, accommodation on religious issues, and American-quality health care. That is, however, a very dangerous position, given the recent discovery of three separate home-grown terrorist cells. The US is absolutely under attack by terrorists.
Much credit is due to the FBI in uncovering these terrorist activities on our own soil, but we must understand that it had help from folks like the CIA employees the attorney general wants to investigate. Ideally, we want to find the terrorists at work here in America before they kill people, and we want to find their support networks overseas, and for that to happen, the CIA has to be at the top of its game. By his equivocation on stopping the investigation, Barack Obama has insured that the CIA will not be at the top of its game, and that puts every American at increased risk of being a victim of terrorism.
At the root of this inquisition are political motives, an obsession with destroying George W. Bush, and a naïve view of war and how to win. This is the attitude that caused the United States to lose in Vietnam; we cannot afford to lose this one.
There are abundant quotes from famous people about the inhuman and evil nature of war. These ideas are certainly noble, and worthy of being held up as goals for mankind. But they ignore the reality that some people think differently and will eagerly indulge in violence to achieve their goals. Those are the sort who attacked us on September 11, 2001, and are determined still to bring us down.
When Aristotle said, “We make war that we may live in peace,” he was saying that when confronted by an enemy, if you want to survive, you have to defeat him.
We must defeat our terrorist enemies by capturing or killing them before they act and kill innocent Americans, and we will accomplish that through the intelligence work of the CIA. We cannot allow it to be shackled by goofy platitudes and high-minded but self-defeating policies that protect the enemy and put Americans at risk. And to do this we must have the assistance of foreign intelligence organizations, but if they are afraid to work with us because our president behaves stupidly and puts their lives in jeopardy through ill-advised and dangerous policies, we will lose their assistance.
Through his recent actions Mr. Obama appears to believe that our CIA presents a greater danger to the country than the terrorists the CIA is fighting. Can our country survive this type of leadership? Community organizing may be a useful skill set in our cities, but it is a poor substitute for the wisdom of warriors when you are in a war.
Cross-posted from Observations