The New York Times called Mitt Romney a liar today, but not CIA Director Michael Hayden.
What was Romney’s big one? He ran an ad in New Hampshire this week saying Sen. John McCain had called for allowing illegal workers in the US to collect Social Security, and the the paper of record said he was lying. That’s not what McCain had said. But When Gen. Hayden told a much bigger whopper, saying that the CIA had destroyed videotapes of the “interrogations” of two suspected Al Qaeda leaders because of concerns that the tapes might disclose the identities of CIA agents, thus exposing them and their families to danger, the Times, in the same issue of the paper, let it pass.
Near the end of the lengthy half-page, one-jump article, the paper did quote Tom Malinowski, director of the Washington office of Human Righst Watch, as saying that Hayden’s explanation “wasn’t credible,” which indeed it wasn’t. But you’d have to read a lot of verbiage to get to that gentle challenge.
The truth is that the CIA is full of documents that if leaked would disclose agents’ identities, and the CIA doesn’t destroy those records.
The truth is also that if the CIA wanted to keep the tapes, and even make them available if asked to, it has the means to easily wipe away the identities of any agency assets or agents who appear in the film, and even to mask their voices. News programs do that all the time. So the excuse doesn’t wash.
The reason the Agency destroyed those tapes is not because of concerns about agent safety, but because those tapes are the CIA’s Abu Ghraib moment. They are incontrovertible documentary evidence of the CIA’s blatant use of torture, which it was authorized and instructed to use against terror suspects by President Bush after 9-11, in what is clearly an impeachable act. And in Hayden’s view, and the view of the agency heads before him, it was better to break the law and destroy the evidence than to turn it over to Congressional investigators, defense attorneys for terrorism suspects on trial, and the 9-11 Commission, all of which groups had asked about the existence of such tapes, and about those tapes in particular. And all of which were lied to by the Agency.
So let’s at least call a lie a lie.
Chisled into the marble entranceway to the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency is the phrase: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”
Obviously that line is meant ironically. The CIA is not about truth. It is about shadows, secrecy and deceit.
The question is why someone like Hayden is accorded any credibility at all by the news media.
I’m past expecting Congress to do anything about this torture scandal, or about Hayden’s lies, since it hasn’t done anything about any of the other scandals of this administration. But it would be nice if the media, including the New York Times, would at least call a lie a lie.
We can only hope that some person of character at the CIA , or someone with a grudge or a problem who needs some insurance or payback potential, has kept a copy of those tapes, and that at some point they will see the light of day. (If you’re out there, please mail it to me at PO Box 846, Ambler, PA 19002. Confidentiality guaranteed.)
Maybe many Americans think torturing our enemies is a good thing. But they’re wrong. Torture not only is a poor and perhaps even a useless tool for learning anything of value (since the victim clearly will say anything, true or false, to get the torture to stop, and thus can send people on endless wild goose chases, wasting resources and time), but it is inevitable that some of the people who get tortured wil be innocent. Besides, once it is known that torture is the fate of those who are captured by American forces, people will go to much greater lengths to avoid capture, which means more fights to the death, and inevitably more casualties on our side. Better to let our enemies know that if they give up, they’ll be treated fairly, with respect and in accordance with the law.
Besides, if we torture, how are we any better than the terrorists and the rogue nations?
For that matter, if we have an agency that is founded and built on lies, what does that have to do with a democracy?