The New York Times reports that Barack Obama’s leftwing position during the campaign are now running into conflicts with reality as decisions on CIA appointments and policy need to be made.
Obama can’t appoint the best choice for CIA Director for fear of offending the leftwing base.
Last week, John O. Brennan, a C.I.A. veteran who was widely seen as Mr. Obamaâ€™s likeliest choice to head the intelligence agency, withdrew his name from consideration after liberal critics attacked his alleged role in the agencyâ€™s detention and interrogation program. Mr. Brennan protested that he had been a â€œstrong opponentâ€ within the agency of harsh interrogation tactics, yet Mr. Obama evidently decided that nominating Mr. Brennan was not worth a battle with some of his most ardent supporters on the left.
Mr. Obamaâ€™s search for someone else and his future relationship with the agency are complicated by the tension between his apparent desire to make a clean break with Bush administration policies he has condemned and concern about alienating an agency with a central role in the campaign against Al Qaeda.
Mark M. Lowenthal, an intelligence veteran who left a senior post at the C.I.A. in 2005, said Mr. Obamaâ€™s decision to exclude Mr. Brennan from contention for the top job had sent a message that â€œif you worked in the C.I.A. during the war on terror, you are now tainted,â€ and had created anxiety in the ranks of the agencyâ€™s clandestine service. …
The flap over Mr. Brennan, who served as a chief of staff to George J. Tenet when he ran the C.I.A., was the biggest glitch so far in what has been an otherwise smooth transition for Mr. Obama. Some C.I.A. veterans suggest that the president-elect may have difficulty finding a candidate who can be embraced by both veteran officials at the agency and the left flank of the Democratic Party.
Now that the decision-making power, and the responsibility, are theirs, democrats have to square the circle of contradiction between liberal pieties and effectively preventing terrorist attacks. Will “human and non-coercive” methods really get the villain to tell where the ticking time bomb is located, or will Jack Bauer just have to shoot him in the knee?
On Wednesday, a dozen retired generals and admirals are to meet with senior Obama advisers to urge him to stand firm against any deviation from the militaryâ€™s noncoercive interrogation rules.
But even some senior Democratic lawmakers who are vehement critics of the Bush administrationâ€™s interrogation policies seemed reluctant in recent interviews to commit the new administration to following the Army Field Manual in all cases.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who will take over as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee in January, led the fight this year to force the C.I.A. to follow military interrogation rules. Her bill was passed by Congress but vetoed by President Bush.
But in an interview on Tuesday, Mrs. Feinstein indicated that extreme cases might call for flexibility. â€œI think that you have to use the noncoercive standard to the greatest extent possible,â€ she said, raising the possibility that an imminent terrorist threat might require special measures.
Afterward, however, Mrs. Feinstein issued a statement saying: â€œThe law must reflect a single clear standard across the government, and right now, the best choice appears to be the Army Field Manual. I recognize that there are other views, and I am willing to work with the new administration to consider them.â€
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, another top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said he would consult with the C.I.A. and approve interrogation techniques that went beyond the Army Field Manual as long as they were â€œlegal, humane and noncoercive.â€ But Mr. Wyden declined to say whether C.I.A. techniques ought to be made public.
C.I.A. officials have long argued that publishing a list of interrogation techniques only allows Al Qaeda to train its operatives to resist them. But they say the secrecy has led to exaggeration and myth about the agencyâ€™s detention program.