The AP reported January 10th that President-elect Barack Obama is reassuring the intelligence community "that his complaints are with the Bush administration, not them." If so, Obama's campaign slogan "change we can believe in" is turning out to be nothing more than chump change.
Obama's remarks are a literal signal to CIA officials and other unindicted war criminals that they will not be prosecuted no matter what vile and horrific tortures they inflicted. And that's not change; that's business as usual; that's what the CIA has done for years and gotten away with every time. Obama's words will embolden CIA goons to gin up the same "I was only following orders" defense Adolf Eichmann used when he exterminated Hungary's Jews.
Americans need to get one thing straight: The Central Intelligence Agency is a spiritual descendent of Hitler's Gestapo. Its directors over the past eight years have been willing pawns in a vast criminal enterprise spawned by George Bush. They have kidnapped, disappeared, imprisoned, tortured, and even murdered uncounted innocents, just as under previous presidents the CIA overthrew legitimate governments, just as it carried out President Bill Clinton's first criminal renditions. Today, the CIA brass is stuck in the Big Muddy up to their lying lips, vulnerable to prosecution as never before.
Yet AP's Pamela Hess writes Obama has not indicated "whether he thinks those who conducted harsh interrogations should be protected from lawsuits" but what's there to think about? Can a Harvard-educated constitutional law professor view a mountain of published evidence piled higher than Pike's Peak and not order his Attorney-General to indict?
If you think comparing the CIA to the Gestapo is a touch extravagant, check out Wikipedia: "The power of the Gestapo most open to misuse was called Schutzhaft---'protective custody'---a euphemism for the power to imprison people without judicial proceedings." And isn't this precisely what the CIA does when it kidnaps suspects off the streets of Milan and New York and whisks them to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan for what the Red Cross said included torture?
The CIA's Internet home page boasts its employees' "core values" require that they hold themselves and each other "to the highest standards," so when ordered to torture did CIA interrogators refuse? Didn't any of them know ratified treaties like the Geneva Conventions are incorporated in Article VI of our Constitution? Hadn't any of them ever read the Sermon on the Mount? Torture, after all, is what the Romans did to Jesus Christ. Any CIA payroller ordered to bash a man's head against a wall could have refused and resigned. There are Texas truck stops looking to hire toilet cleaners at $8 an hour whose work is infinitely more honorable and urgent. And as for the CIA boast (go to its Home Page) that its employees "embrace personal accountability" will those responsible for "disappearing" the waterboarding tapes of terrorism suspects please step forward?
The CIA is a gasbag of hypocrisy. Example: January 8th it spewed out a fountain of sentimental vomit praising Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as "one of America's greatest leaders." Has Langley ever pondered what King would think of their torture practices?
At his January 9th press conference to introduce his intelligence advisers, the president-elect said, "The men and women of the intelligence community have been on the front lines in this world of new and evolving dangers. They have served in the shadows, saved American lives, advanced our interests, and earned the respect of a grateful nation."
Well, pardon me, if I'm not grateful for having a chamber pot of criminality dumped on the Constitution by those heroic intelligence folks. To the contrary, the CIA has cost American lives by turning millions of people the world over against USA. If the Muslim world didn't hate the U.S. before the disclosures from Abu Ghraib, thanks to the CIA they sure hate us now! If the Iranians had no reason to despise Americans, the CIA sure gave them one in 1953, when it overthrew their elected government. And so on and so forth, in country after country the world over. (See William Blum's "Rogue State"(Common Courage Press).
Rather than let the CIA officials responsible for torture walk, the incoming Attorney General needs to hold them accountable, just like the CIA says in its "core statement." After all, the president is sworn "to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution" and this includes Article VI. That means the next Attorney General must indict former Director George Tenet, J. Cofer Black, head of the Counterterrorist Center, James Pavitt, former Deputy Director for Operations, and top legal counsels Scott Muller and John Rizzo, not merely the rank-and-file thugs.
How the 44th president deals with the CIA officials who abetted the Bush global crime syndicate will determine the fate of America's battered soul. Put simply, if Obama does not control the CIA, the CIA will control Obama. Its very existence is a threat to democratic governments everywhere, particularly our own. The best way to upgrade America's national security is to shut down the CIA and erase its totalitarian mindset forever.
(Sherwood Ross has worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, a wire service columnist, an executive in the civil rights movement, and as a radio station talk show host for WOL, Washington, D.C. He resides in Miami where he is a public relations consultant for magazines and good causes. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org )