Category Archive 'CIA Terrorist Interrogations'

13 May 2011

The Littleness (and Mendacity) of Barack Obama

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William McGurn, in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, observed that catching up with bin Laden failed to bring out the best in the president and inevitably caused him a major political problem by bringing up the issue of his past statements and policies on interrogation.

Sunday night.. Mr. Obama rushed a national address on the bin Laden killing. Notwithstanding his later comment to “60 Minutes” that Americans do not “spike the football,” the president appears incapable of doing what would serve him best here: Letting the action speak for itself, and heaping praise on his predecessors (Bill Clinton as well as George W. Bush) for their contributions. Instead we got the implication that no one was trying to get bin Laden until Barack Obama arrived in town.

At the same time, all the president’s men were put in the position of denying something the Navy SEALs had made obvious: They owed much of their success to information resulting from policies authorized by President Bush but opposed by Mr. Obama. Thus Leon Panetta found himself bobbing and weaving when NBC’s Brian Williams kept asking the CIA chief whether waterboarding had anything to do with finding bin Laden. When you’ve lost Brian Williams, you’re really lost.

In the end, Mr. Panetta allowed that intelligence often comes from “a lot” of sources. In the past, Mr. Obama and his team could get away with this kind of non-answer, mostly because the connections between Mr. Bush’s policies and his success in keeping us safe from another attack were highly abstract. The bin Laden raid, however, has now thrown them all into sharp relief.

During the 2008 campaign, for example, Mr. Obama asserted it was “the fact” that Mr. Bush “championed a strategy that distracted us from capturing bin Laden, that focused on Iraq, that had nothing to do with 9/11.” Now, however, we learn that we discovered the courier’s close tie to bin Laden through a top al Qaeda operative, Hassan Ghul, captured in 2004 . . . in Iraq.

During the campaign, we learned that waterboarding and other enhanced interrogations were “torture” plain and simple—”something that undermines our long-term security.” Now we learn that these interrogations in fact gave us operable clues about the courier’s identity.

During the campaign, Mr. Obama told a crowd at an Iowa rally that he was “frustrated with warrantless wiretaps and the undermining of our civil liberties”—and he voted against allowing the National Security Agency to listen in on foreign terrorists calling the U.S. (before flip-flopping on the issue six months later). Now we learn that intercepts of overseas phone calls helped give us the courier’s real name.

So obvious are these connections that Mr. Obama’s smallness in not admitting them is now working against him. For it invites the question that both Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum effectively raised in last week’s debate among would-be GOP contenders: Would we ever have gotten bin Laden if then-Sen. Obama’s policies had been put into effect instead of Mr. Bush’s?

15 Feb 2010

Obama Administration Killing Rather Than Capturing Insurgents

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Hellfire missiles don’t take prisoners.

The Washington Post is reporting that Obama Administration policies are having precisely the result that critics like MacRanger predicted long ago: [L]ook for many terrorist suspects not to get to the interrogation stage as they will most likely be “dispatched” in the field.

It’s inevitable. There is nowhere uncontroversial to imprison them. Presumably they will all be Mirandized now and given civilian trials, and even mildly coercive interrogation techniques have been absolutely ruled out. A captured terrorist leader is now never going to be a useful source of intelligence and, on the other hand, he is highly likely to become a political embarrassment. The choice becomes obvious.

The Obama administration has authorized [lethal] attacks more frequently than the George W. Bush administration did in its final years, including in countries where U.S. ground operations are officially unwelcome or especially dangerous. Improvements in electronic surveillance and precision targeting have made killing from a distance much more of a sure thing. At the same time, options for where to keep U.S. captives have dwindled.

Republican critics, already scornful of limits placed on interrogation of the suspect in the Christmas Day bombing attempt, charge that the administration has been too reluctant to risk an international incident or a domestic lawsuit to capture senior terrorism figures alive and imprison them.

“Over a year after taking office, the administration has still failed to answer the hard questions about what to do if we have the opportunity to capture and detain a terrorist overseas, which has made our terror-fighters reluctant to capture and left our allies confused,” Sen. Christopher S. Bond (Mo.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Friday. “If given a choice between killing or capturing, we would probably kill.”

Some military and intelligence officials, citing what they see as a new bias toward kills, questioned whether valuable intelligence is being lost in the process. “We wanted to take a prisoner,” a senior military officer said of the Nabhan operation. “It was not a decision that we made.”

Even during the Bush administration, “there was an inclination to ‘just shoot the bastard,’ ” said a former intelligence official briefed on current operations. “But now there’s an even greater proclivity for doing it that way. . . . We need to have the capability to snatch when the situation calls for it.”

One problem identified by those within and outside the government is the question of where to take captives apprehended outside established war zones and cooperating countries. “We’ve been trying to decide this for over a year,” the senior military officer said. “When you don’t have a detention policy or a set of facilities,” he said, operational decisions become more difficult.

The administration has pledged to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Congress has resisted moving any of the about 190 detainees remaining there, let alone terrorism suspects who have been recently captured, to this country. All of the CIA’s former “black site” prisons have been shut down, and a U.S. official involved in operations planning confirmed that the agency has no terrorism suspects in its custody.

27 Aug 2009

Panetta Being Ousted at CIA?

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All the denials quoted in this ABC News story suggest that Leon Panetta fought too hard to protect Agency employees from a Justice Department witchhunt, and the skids are already greased to ease him out of the CIA Directorship.

Amid reports that Panetta had threatened to quit just seven months after taking over at the spy agency, other insiders tell that senior White House staff members are already discussing a possible shake-up of top national security officials.

“You can expect a larger than normal turnover in the next year,” a senior adviser to Obama on intelligence matters told

Since 9/11, the CIA has had five directors or acting directors.

A White House spokesperson, Denis McDonough, said reports that Panetta had threatened to quit and that the White House was seeking a replacement were “inaccurate.”

According to intelligence officials, Panetta erupted in a tirade last month during a meeting with a senior White House staff member. Panetta was reportedly upset over plans by Attorney General Eric Holder to open a criminal investigation of allegations that CIA officers broke the law in carrying out certain interrogation techniques that President Obama has termed “torture.”

A CIA spokesman quoted Panetta as saying “it is absolutely untrue” that he has any plans to leave the CIA. As to the reported White House tirade, the spokesman said Panetta is known to use “salty language.” CIA spokesman George Little said the report was “wrong, inaccurate, bogus and false.”…

In addition to concerns about the CIA’s reputation and its legal exposure, other White House insiders say Panetta has been frustrated by what he perceives to be less of a role than he was promised in the administration’s intelligence structure. Panetta has reportedly chafed at reporting through the director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, according to the senior adviser who said Blair is equally unhappy with Panetta.

“Leon will be leaving,” predicted a former top U.S. intelligence official, citing the conflict with Blair. The former official said Panetta is also “uncomfortable” with some of the operations being carried out by the CIA that he did not know about until he took the job.


Commentators from the perspective of the right were not pleased by the prospect of Leon Panetta’s appointment, and back in January we were rooting for him to withdraw his name.

If Leon Panetta has actually fallen on his own sword as the result of defending the Agency against the desire of the democrat party’s moonbat base for sacrificial victims, I’m prepared to say that I did not give Panetta enough credit. He’s a better man, and made a much more worthy CIA director, than I had believed.


Spook86 adds support to the stories of Panetta’s impending ouster by quoting a particularly horrifying rumor.

Under ordinary circumstances, we’d call for Panetta’s resignation, but his potential replacements would be far worse. One name making the rounds is Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry, who served in Vietnam.

Kerry as CIA Director? God help us.

A traitor for CIA director? What could be a more obvious choice for Barack Obama?

26 Aug 2009

A Presidency in Serious Trouble

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Charles Murray wonders what the Obama Administration thinks it’s doing.

The late New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael famously said after Nixon’s landslide reelection, “How can he have won? Nobody I know voted for him.” My proposition for today is that the entire White House suffers from the Kael syndrome.

It was the only explanation I could think of as I watched the news last night about the coming prosecution of CIA interrogators. When it comes to political analysis, I’m no Barone or Bowman or Ornstein, but this is not a really tough call. Attempts to put men on trial who obtained information that most Americans will believe (probably rightly) saved the nation from more terrorist attacks will be a political catastrophe, all the more so because I bet that the defendants will come across as straight-arrow good guys (and probably are), while the prosecutors come across as self-righteous wimps (and…). How could the White House not have thought this through? …

(E)very white socioeconomic class in America has become more conservative in the last four decades, with the Traditional Middles moving the most decisively rightward. But the Intellectual Uppers have not just moved slightly in the other direction, they have careened in the other direction.

They won the election with a candidate who sounded centrist running against an exceptionally weak Republican opponent. But they’ve been in the bubble too long. They really think that the rest of America thinks as they do. Nothing but the Pauline Kael syndrome can explain the political idiocy of letting Attorney General Eric Holder go after the interrogators.

Read the whole thing.


Meanwhile in the Wall Street Journal, Fouad Ajami concludes that Barack Obama’s moment has passed. Health Care Reform finished it. Barack Obama is definitely not Ronald Reagan, and the American people who gambled on his governing as a centrist are gradually coming to recognize his real agenda and are growing increasingly frightened and appalled.

In one of the revealing moments of the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama rightly observed that the Reagan presidency was a transformational presidency in a way Clinton’s wasn’t. And by that Reagan precedent, that Reagan standard, the faults of the Obama presidency are laid bare. Ronald Reagan, it should be recalled, had been swept into office by a wave of dissatisfaction with Jimmy Carter and his failures. At the core of the Reagan mission was the recovery of the nation’s esteem and self-regard. Reagan was an optimist. He was Hollywood glamour to be sure, but he was also Peoria, Ill. His faith in the country was boundless, and when he said it was “morning in America” he meant it; he believed in America’s miracle and had seen it in his own life, in his rise from a child of the Depression to the summit of political power.

The failure of the Carter years was, in Reagan’s view, the failure of the man at the helm and the policies he had pursued at home and abroad. At no time had Ronald Reagan believed that the American covenant had failed, that America should apologize for itself in the world beyond its shores. There was no narcissism in Reagan. It was stirring that the man who headed into the sunset of his life would bid his country farewell by reminding it that its best days were yet to come.

In contrast, there is joylessness in Mr. Obama. He is a scold, the “Yes we can!” mantra is shallow, and at any rate, it is about the coming to power of a man, and a political class, invested in its own sense of smarts and wisdom, and its right to alter the social contract of the land. In this view, the country had lost its way and the new leader and the political class arrayed around him will bring it back to the right path.

Thus the moment of crisis would become an opportunity to push through a political economy of redistribution and a foreign policy of American penance. The independent voters were the first to break ranks. They hadn’t underwritten this fundamental change in the American polity when they cast their votes for Mr. Obama.

American democracy has never been democracy by plebiscite, a process by which a leader is anointed, then the populace steps out of the way, and the anointed one puts his political program in place. In the American tradition, the “mandate of heaven” is gained and lost every day and people talk back to their leaders. They are not held in thrall by them. The leaders are not infallible or a breed apart. That way is the Third World way, the way it plays out in Arab and Latin American politics.

Those protesters in those town-hall meetings have served notice that Mr. Obama’s charismatic moment has passed. Once again, the belief in that American exception that set this nation apart from other lands is re-emerging. Health care is the tip of the iceberg. Beneath it is an unease with the way the verdict of the 2008 election was read by those who prevailed. It shall be seen whether the man swept into office in the moment of national panic will adjust to the nation’s recovery of its self-confidence.

Read the whole thing.


Barack Obama’s determination to govern de haute en bas, to impose on the rest of the country the ideological preferences of what Charles Murray calls the “Intellectual Upper,” really the community of fashion, places him in serious conflict with the uncommitted political center which gave him his margin of victory. Rather than giving Obama and the democrat party a mandate for Socialism and a blank check for revenge, the centrists mistakenly accepted Obama’s soft talk and tone of moderation. They voted for a calm and emollient presidency, desiring an end to the ideological furor of George W. Bush’s presidency. Barack Obama is fatally misinterpreting the voters’ message.

25 Aug 2009

Obama Administration Launches Prosecutorial Investigation of CIA and US Contractor Interrogations

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John H. Durham

Barack Obama may be happily vacationing on Martha’s Vinyard, but his administration swerved suddenly left and hit the accelerator hard yesterday, when Attorney-General Eric Holder announced that he was bringing in a big gun, and turning him loose on the CIA officers and contractors who questioned captured Al Qaeda terrorists and prevented the repetition of successful mass terrorist attacks in the aftermath of 9/11.

Holder is feeding red meat to the irredentist leftwing base of the democrat party, at the expense of US Intelligence. Whom do you suppose they’re going to be able to get to take the risk of performing any Intelligence-related job that could be argued to be a crime by the most hydrophobic US-hating Marxist in Berkeley after this?

Intelligence operations do very commonly feature activities which are illegal somewhere or are which potentially illegal by some standards or from some perspective. That is kind of why Intelligence operations tend to be covert.

We already have physicians in this country forced to practice defensive medicine in order to avoid the personal risk of falling into the clutches of the US Tort Bar. Now, we are going to have an Intelligence service whose officers will need to practice defensive operations, for as the Bible says (Matthew 10:36): “a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

(Attorney General Eric H.) Holder (Jr.) has named longtime prosecutor John H. Durham, who has parachuted into crisis situations for both political parties over three decades, to open an early review of nearly a dozen cases of alleged detainee mistreatment at the hands of CIA interrogators and contractors.

The announcement raised fresh tensions in an intelligence community fearful that it will bear the brunt of the punishment for Bush-era national security policy, and it immediately provoked criticism from congressional Republicans. …

In a statement Monday afternoon, Holder cautioned that the inquiry is far from a full-blown criminal investigation. Rather, he said, it is unknown whether indictments or prosecutions of CIA contractors and employees will follow. …

“I fully realize that my decision to commence this preliminary review will be controversial,” Holder added. “As attorney general, my duty is to examine the facts and to follow the law. In this case, given all of the information currently available, it is clear to me that this review is the only responsible course of action for me to take.”

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