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Moment of Truth: Bush prepares pardons, Obama prepares to ban torture.

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As President Bush prepares his final pardons that will probably include those who committed acts of torture, the only president America will have in a few short days, Barack Obama, has named a first-rate CIA director and prepares a ban on acts of torture that violate American and international law and have stained our reputation around the world. Obama stands with George Washington and every American president since Washington, until Bush. The law stands with Obama: Torture is against it.

Let’s be crystal-clear about one thing. For a generation I have been a supporter of the intelligence community, which has made its share of mistakes but has its share of triumphs. I was one of the original writers of the CIA Identities Protection Act, made famous in the Wilson case, and made a mockery of by Scooter Libby and other neoconservatives who claim to support the agency by supporting torture, but put a dagger in the heart of agents' very safety by one of the most unpatriotic acts I have seen in my lifetime, the disclosure of the identity of Valerie Plame. These people do not support intelligence; they support the abuse, distortion and misrepresentation of intelligence for ideological and partisan ends.

Leon Panetta will be a great CIA director. He has rock-solid integrity, great management skills and political leadership, and was at the center of the intelligence as White House chief of staff. It is also very good that Obama and Panetta will retain Steve Kappes as deputy director. Kappes is steeped in the history and operations of intelligence, including covert operations, which are needed in our dangerous world, while torture is not needed.

We have begun a great and historic battle on torture. Stories have begun about "Obama under pressure." Low-end partisans who have never known about or cared about intelligence, such as Dick Morris and various neocon courtiers who have never served in the military or intelligence communities, are already attacking Obama with the pretense that they support intelligence and Obama is endangering American security.

Don’t belive it; don’t believe them. Do you believe George Washington, who hated and opposed torture, and knew a little bit about war, or George Bush? Do you believe every American president from Washington through Clinton, who unanimously opposed torture, or Bush and Cheney, who claim they know better than all of them? Do you believe the overwhelming majority of commanders in every branch of the services through every generation of American military history since Washington, who in overwhelming numbers have opposed torture, or do you believe ideologues from the right, most of whom have never worn the uniform or served our country covertly?

The way to support our intelligence community, as I have done for many years, is to protect the lives and safety of covert officers from what people such as Scooter Libby do to them. The way to support intelligence is to promote honest intelligence, to support appropriate covert actions that are needed in a dangerous world, to honor those who risk their lives in intelligence and to protect the intelligence community from those who would distort their findings, expose their identities, abuse intelligence for ideological extremism or partisan ends, and use them as political football to pursue unwise goals or attack far wiser opponents of those unwise goals.

George Washington was right. George Bush is wrong. The moment of truth has arrived. Barack Obama will lead America back to the rule of law and commonly held values throughout the community of democratic nations and we will be better, and safer, for it.

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Brent Budowsky is a regular columnist on He served as Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, responsible for commerce and intelligence matters, including one of the core drafters of the CIA Identities Law. Served (more...)

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