Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) drew the ire of many in the intelligence community — as well as some of her own colleagues — on Tuesday as she divulged the contents of classified CIA documents relating to the use of questionable tactics aimed at extracting information from those suspected of engaging in or having knowledge of terrorist activities.
CIA Director John Brennan fended off criticism of his agency and its interrogation program during a press conference on Thursday and suggested Feinstein’s assertion that the use of EIT’s (Enhanced Interrogation Techniques) did not yield any valuable information from terror suspects, could not be definitively proven.
However, Brennan did describe some of the practices performed on those individuals as “abhorrent” and expressed doubt about the validity of information obtained from the use of methods that could be described as torture, ABC News reported.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio (FL) referred to the recently released archives as “a one-sided partisan Senate report that now places American lives in danger,” and the FBI concurred, CNN reported.
And herein lays the ensuing debate: Did Senator Feinstein act in accordance with the nation’s best interests by releasing the contents of said documents and was the CIA justified in using discernably harsh methods to acquire information from suspected terrorists?
Many would argue that the public has the right to know about the inner workings of the CIA, FBI, and Department of Defense, especially when it comes to activities that could tarnish the nation’s image. Former defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg’s decision to the leak the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971 brought this issue to the forefront.
Ellsberg’s actions were celebrated by the mainstream media, academia, and leaders of the anti-war movement. And while one could make a sound legal and constitutional argument that the public had the right to know about successive administrations misleading the public about America’s involvement in Vietnam, it is also fair to conclude that the revelation of such information may have indirectly cost the lives of untold numbers of American servicemen.
At the time of the leak, President Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, were taking unprecedented steps to ease Cold War tensions. Clandestine back-channel negotiations had begun between the United States and Communist China via Kissinger-in an effort to get Peking to pressure the North Vietnamese to agree to a cease-fire.
Kissinger was also trying to improve relations with the Soviet Union to achieve the same goal, and the revelation that Nixon had authorized the bombing of Laos and Cambodia to expedite an end to that conflict, only served to handicap the administration’s ability to conduct foreign policy and embolden the already belligerent anti-war movement.
The same is true with Feinstein’s decision to publicize CIA documents divulging the agency’s treatment of terror suspects. And again, one could make a reasonable argument that the public has the right to know what went on behind closed doors.
However, revealing such information has consequences.
While Al Qaeda, ISIS, and their progeny do not need any excuses to behave savagely towards their captives, it is equally unwise to provoke them even further. And it is safe to assume that they will not respond kindly to an official confirmation — that what they assumed was happening all along — occurred beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Furthermore, it is hard to deny that Feinstein did not act with the intention of further blackening the name of the previous administration — of whom she was no fan — and had initiated the current interrogation program.
Additionally, the 81-year old California senator has a habit of playing fast and loose with the Constitution. She is notorious for cherry-picking parts she agrees with: The First Amendment — and ignoring provisions she regards as inconvenient — such as the Second and Fourth Amendments.
This is especially relevant considering that she was extremely critical of former NSA programmer Edward Snowden’s decision to leak top secret information about that agency’s surveillance program-which included spying on American citizens — to several news organizations — but undoubtedly sees her own behavior in a far different light.
As for the use of EITs on suspected terrorists, practices such as water-boarding and sleep deprivation are generous when compared with decapitation, suicide-bombings, and the stoning of non-believers. And those who the make the argument that if Americans engage in the use of tactics that border on use of torture — that we are no better than the terrorists themselves — are in serious need of a history lesson.
CIA agents did not fly into the Twin Towers killing thousands of innocent men, women, and children. Nor did they crash into the Pentagon or any other building for that matter, as did the 9-11 hijackers. It is equally implausible to imagine that the agency’s personnel would provoke a situation where ordinary civilians would be forced to surrender their own lives and die in close proximity to a field in Pennsylvania, in a valiant effort to prevent an attack on the Capitol Dome or the White House.
The greatest error that our leaders can make is to buy into the folly that suggests terrorists are capable of maintaining a sense of morality and that if we treat them with decency, they will somehow reciprocate the favor.
It is equally important to remember that these individuals are not prisoners of war and are not privy to the terms of the Geneva Convention that would rightfully be accorded to them if they were. Such protocol is only intended for uniformed combatants.
Bryan has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and a life-long passion for politics at all levels. He has interned in the Maryland General Assembly and has volunteered for several congressional campaigns. Given this particular background, he has a unique insight into the dynamics of political analysis. When he is not writing, Bryan spends his time reading about history and frequenting Chinese restaurants.