FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
This memorandum is VIPS’ first attempt to inform you on a major intelligence issue, as we did your predecessor; thus, some background might be helpful. Five former CIA officers established Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) in January 2003, when we saw our profession being corrupted to justify an attack on Iraq. Since then, our numbers have grown to 70 intelligence professionals, mostly retired, who have served in virtually all U.S. civilian and military intelligence agencies.
In our first Memorandum for the President (George W. Bush), dated February 5, 2002, we provided a same-day commentary on Colin Powell’s U.N. speech. We warned the president that “an invasion of Iraq would ensure overflowing recruitment centers for terrorists into the indefinite future [and that] far from eliminating the [terrorist] threat, it would enhance it exponentially.”
We strongly urged the former president to widen the discussion on Iraq “beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.” VIPS’ second pre-war Memorandum for the President was titled, “Forgery, Hyperbole, Half-Truth: A Problem”—a reference to the bogus intelligence we saw being ginned up to “justify” war.
President Bush ignored our warning and the warnings of other informed individuals and groups. The corporate media uncritically echoed the Bush administration’s misuse and misrepresentation of the intelligence, despite the questions raised—including those raised by our unique movement. (It was the first time an alumni group of intelligence officials had formed expressly to chronicle and to halt the corruption of intelligence.)
The cheerleading for war had begun—a war that would fit the post-WWII Nuremberg Tribunal’s description of a “war of aggression.” Nuremberg defined such a war as “the supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes only in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
Torture: An Accumulated Evil
Torture is one of those accumulated evils. Violating domestic laws like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 is another. You were right to unceremoniously jettison former CIA director Michael Hayden, who betrayed the thousands of NSA professionals who, until he directed that domestic law could be ignored, had adhered scrupulously to the 1978 FISA law as NSA’s “First Commandment”—Thou Shalt Not Eavesdrop on Americans Without a Court Warrant.
In contrast, we believe you were badly misguided in giving a prominent White House post to former CIA director George Tenet’s protégé John Brennan, who has publicly defended “extraordinary rendition” in full knowledge that its purpose was torture. Brennan also had complicit knowledge of the lengths to which Tenet conspired with the Department of Justice to distort history and the law in drafting opinions that attempted to “justify” torture.
With all due respect, Mr. President, it would be another mistake for you to believe what you are hearing from the likes of Brennan and Hayden and the journalists they have fed and domesticated. Please do not be deceived into thinking that most intelligence officials, past and present, condone torture—still less that they are angry that you have put a stop to such techniques. We are referring, of course, to what President Bush called “an alternative set of procedures” involving cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment that violates domestic and international law. We focus on torture in the VIPS statement that follows these introductory remarks.
The Senate Armed Services Committee recently concluded that it was President Bush himself who, by Executive Memorandum of February 7, 2002 exempting al-Qaeda and the Taliban from Geneva protections, “opened the door” to the abuse that ensued. You need to know that the vast majority of intelligence professionals deplore “extraordinary rendition” and the other torture procedures that were subsequently ordered by senior Bush administration officials.
Sadly, President Bush was not the first chief executive to find a small cabal of superpatriots, amateur thugs, and contractors to do his administration’s bidding. But never before in this country were lawless thugs given such free rein. The congressional “oversight” committees looked the other way.
Tenet and his acolytes successfully ingratiated themselves with President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the faux lawyers who devised what actually amounts to a very porous “legal” shield for those who carried out the torture. It was a shield designed for and applied exclusively to those “just following orders” at the CIA black sites, and not for the low-ranking soldiers doing similar things at Abu Ghraib.
Some of the latter have done time in prison; one is still there. It would appear that some are less equal than others. And, to this day, the organizers and apologists for torture have managed to escape the consequences of their actions.