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David Doody: On Dealing With the C.I.A.

January 13, 2009

Is anyone else concerned about the apparently necessary way the C.I.A. has to be dealt with? As though if the organization is offended in any way they will just take their ball and go home and leave the rest of the country to figure out “intelligence” on our own, or at least one of the other members of the Intelligence Community will have to figure it out without them.

This is from the New York Times yesterday in an article entitled “Obama Reluctant to Look Into Bush Programs”:

“At the Central Intelligence Agency, in particular, many officers flatly oppose any further review and may protest the prospect of a broad inquiry into their past conduct.”

Of course they do and of course they would. For the last eight years they’ve been taking directions from an administration that arrogantly changed the definition of torture, so that when its members said they did not torture, they would have a definition that made that statement true. Using the old definitions and agreements between nations simply would not do, so they made their own rules. It’s no wonder that those involved with this redefining would “oppose any further review.” But who cares?

Obama says that “at the C.I.A. you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got [to] spend all their time looking over their shoulders,” and the Times article says, “Mark Lowenthal, who was the assistant director for analysis and production at the C.I.A. from 2002 to 2005, said if agents were criminally investigated for doing something that top Bush administration officials asked them to do and that they were assured was legal, intelligence officers would be less willing to take risks to protect the country.”

I realize that clandestinity is inherent in an organization like the C.I.A., but the law is the law, or should be. The Bush administration didn’t necessarily think so, and the C.I.A. was presumably willing to go along with that administration and its new definitions.

If wrongdoing occurred, then we can get into the discussion of whether the C.I.A. was only acting on orders and therefore if its members should or should not be the ones held accountable. But that is a different discussion (See: Donald Rumsfeld, the Army, and Abu Ghraib). To simply not examine the C.I.A.’s past actions because “any effort to conduct a wider re-examination would almost certainly provoke a backlash at the country’s intelligence agencies” is not a good enough reason. To not move forward on a re-examination because it might offend some people and make them less willing to do their job in the future should not be the basis upon which we decide whether or not to take a look at the last eight years.

David Doody is Guernica’s blog editor. He is also the founding editor of InDigest Magazine. His writing and interviews have appeared in these magazines and the Huffington Post, among other places.

To read more entries from David Doody and others at GUERNICA click here.

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