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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/8/09

Obama Picks a Conscience for the CIA

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Ironies abound. In June 2004, after the obscene photos surfaced from Abu Ghraib, Gonzales screwed up again — royally.

Casting about to show that the President never authorized torture, Gonzales came up with the bright idea of adducing the Feb. 7, 2002, executive order as proof! No, I'm not kidding.

Gonzales apparently thought no one would read beyond the overly clever, first-word adjectival euphemism in the memo's title: Humane Treatment of al-Qaeda and Taliban Detainees.

So on June 22, 2004, the White House had the Feb 7, 2002, memorandum, together with other memos, declassified and released. At a press conference that day, Gonzales said the release was motivated by a desire to address "confusion" over whether the torture techniques on display in the Abu Ghraib photos had been approved by higher-ups.

Gonzales explained that the government felt that the confusion "was harmful to this country, in terms of the notion that perhaps we may be engaging in torture. That's contrary to the values of this President and this administration. And we felt that was harmful, also."

Harmful in more ways than one. It appears that the chickens may now be coming home to roost, as those who are informed by alternative media, including many supporters of President-elect Obama, are demanding accountability for Bush's torture policies and are objecting strongly to any appointments tainted by complicity in those policies.

That sentiment led Obama to look for a CIA director outside the usual list of intelligence professionals who had carefully positioned themselves – and their careers – so as not to offend the Bush administration the past eight years.

Placing managerial skills and personal integrity over direct intelligence experience, Obama made the surprise choice of Leon Panetta, who followed up his resignation from the Nixon administration with a varied career as a congressman, federal budget director, White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, and a member of the Iraq Study Group.

Opposing Panetta

It was no surprise that the current and former intelligence officials on the Washington Post's contact list have been upset at the naming of Panetta and the imminent cleaning and disinfecting of the Augean stables in Langley.  A lot of horse___ and bull___ is to be found on the ground there, and Panetta will need heavy equipment—and some time—to clean it up.

As flagship of the FCM, the Post seldom checks with us in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, so let me simply state that those in our movement are virtually unanimous in welcoming the naming of Panetta.

The clean-up is likely to begin before the end of the month, and the Post will be losing many of its inside sources, since they will no longer be in the swing of things. Those tightly tied to torture will be gone. And good riddance.

Understanding the importance for change, Tyler Drumheller, former chief of the European Division in the operations directorate, has warned that "the problem with the agency is that people will be defending what they've done" in the realm of interrogations and detentions.

Drumheller, who was not directly involved in those activities, said he thinks Panetta will make a fine director. Still, by force of habit, he used the collective "we" in stating matter-of-factly: "We did what we did because we were told to by the President."

That is clearly the case. It is also the case that Nuremburg put the kibosh on the we-were-only-following-orders defense.  People shall have to be reminded of that. And I mean people on "both sides of the house," as the CIA saying goes — analysis as well as operations.

To "justify" Bush's Iraq War, CIA Director George Tenet – along with his deputy John McLaughlin and the malleable managers in the CIA's analysis directorate – supervised the "fixing" of intelligence.  The head of State Department intelligence at the time, Carl Ford, later said, "They should have been shot" for the way they served up "fundamentally dishonest" intelligence to please the White House.

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)
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