From Our Future
A movement without memory is adrift. And a movement that picks the wrong heroes is lost.
Two milestones should serve as reminders to self-styled members of the Resistance. One marks a turning point in the life of an ill-chosen hero. The other is a reminder that true heroism calls for self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-sacrifice.
We'll get to those milestones. But first there's the matter of torture.
Donald Trump has nominated Gina Haspel to run the Central Intelligence Agency. Haspel, a career intelligence operative, led torture operations and ran a CIA "black site" in Thailand which was used to interrogate suspected Al Quaeda members after 9/11. She also signed the order to destroy the videotaped evidence of the agency's illegal acts, which itself appears to have been illegal.
Haspel was apparently present for the torture of a detainee named Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, (It was incorrectly reported that she was also present for the torture of Abu Zubaydah, a more famous prisoner.) There have even been calls for Haspel's arrest.
As CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou wrote in a Washington Post op-ed:
"The message this sends to the CIA workforce is simple: Engage in war crimes, in crimes against humanity, and you'll get promoted. Don't worry about the law. Don't worry about ethics. Don't worry about morality or the fact that torture doesn't even work. Go ahead and do it anyway. We'll cover for you. And you can destroy the evidence, too."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, notes that Haspel "was involved in one of the darkest chapters in American history" and has called on the CIA to declassify documents regarding her role in overseeing torture.The Operative
And yet, in their understandable zeal to remove Donald Trump from the presidency, some liberals and Democrats are treating Haspel's moral peers like heroes. Consider this tweet from Samantha Power, Barack Obama's U.N. Ambassador, which reads: "Not a good idea to piss off John Brennan."
Power was reacting to a tweet from Brennan, a former CIA Director, which addressed Trump after the brutal mistreatment and firing of FBI Associate Director Andrew McCabe, a day or two before he was due to retire with a pension. Brennan wrote:
"When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America...America will triumph over you."
Brennan's anger toward Trump may be welcome, but it should also raise questions about the proper role of the intelligence community in political affairs. (On a more positive note, Rep. Mark Pocan has offered to hire McCabe so that he can collect his pension -- and it may work.)
Brennan's tweet was widely praised by some liberals, presumably including many who were appalled by Haspel's nomination. But Brennan, who replaced Haspel as head of the CIA's clandestine division, defended the CIA's use of torture in 2013. He agreed that some agents had gone too far, but disagreed with the Senate Intelligence Committee's conclusion, backed by other experts, that torture had not yielded "useful" information.
Brennan also attacked the democratic principle of transparency. "I think there's been more than enough transparency that's happened over the last couple days," he said of the Intelligence Committee's report. "I think it's over the top."