Torture Report: Another Obama Insult to Allies

Torture Report: Another Obama Insult to Allies

It’s not enough that the Obama administration has offended nearly every ally of the United States. Now, the Democratic Party with the full approval of the White House has endangered them as well. That is the likely upshot of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogations, which is evidently so threatening to some of the countries that participated in our post-9/11 security measures that their leaders pleaded against its release.  

What countries? A 2013 report from the George Soros-sponsored Open Society Justice Initiative says 54 governments cooperated with the U.S. in our interrogation and detention measures, including 25 European countries and Canada.

Among those is Poland, a nation that stood with the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan until it was thrown under the bus in President Obama’s infamous “reset” with Russia. As reported by Foreign Policy Magazine, “In late 2010, WikiLeaks released U.S. State Department cables revealing that Obama had scrapped a Bush-era plan to station missile defense systems in Poland to intercept Iranian missiles in hopes of securing Russia’s support for sanctions against Iran. The cables confirmed Poland’s worst suspicions and contradicted the administration’s denials that the change in plans was prompted by concerns about Russia.”

Related: CIA’s Spying on Senate Staff Complicates Torture Report

Last July, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Poland had illegally participated with the U.S. in the detention and interrogation of prisoners. The court ordered Warsaw to pay hundreds of thousands in damages to two terrorists – one who planned the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, and one who ran an al-Qaeda facility in Pakistan. Just to remind, these are the folks on the other side of the table. Although Poland has denied all involvement, the Senate report may make them more vulnerable to reprisals.

It is not just foreign countries that might be endangered by the release of the 500-page executive summary of the CIA report. American GIs and embassy employees could also be threatened. Expressing the risks, the White House has some 6,000 Marines on full alert around the world. Secretary of State John Kerry, taking a break from his crusade against climate change, called Intelligence Committee Chair Diane Feinstein last week to warn of possible unrest. The New York Times reports that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also sounded warnings about possible fall-out from the release, which might include attacks on our installations overseas.

What exactly, you might ask, is to be gained from releasing this highly controversial and dangerous document? It is one more opportunity for President Obama to bolster his progressive bona fides as he rides out of office. Just like enacting a divisive immigration program that sets back real reform and pushing through growth-stunting clean air regulations, damning the Bush-era CIA  will check another important box for Obama’s liberal legacy. 

Related: Prosecutions for CIA Torture Still Seem Unlike After Report

It’s a political stunt, which has been blasted by, among others, 31-year CIA veteran Jose Rodriguez Jr., who ran the program. He writes in a Washington Post op-ed that “the interrogation program brought no intelligence value is an egregious falsehood; it’s a dishonest attempt to rewrite history.” He adds, “I’m bemused that the Senate could devote so many resources to studying the interrogation program and yet never once speak to any of the key people involved in it, including the guy who ran it (that would be me).”

That assertion is apparently true; a Senate official is quoted by The Times explaining that the committee did not conduct interviews “largely because of what was then a Justice Department criminal investigation….requests to coordinate interviews with the department had been rejected.” The lapse will surely diminish the credibility of the report, which took 6 years to complete and cost taxpayers $40 million.

Obama Press Secretary Josh Earnest says the White House wants to be “as transparent as we possibly can about what exactly transpired so we can just be clear to the American public and people around the world that something like this can never happen again.”  But the president has already banned the techniques that caused such a furor, so presumably it will never happen again. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that this or future administrations may not resort to unpopular measures to get ahead of terrorists. Many in our country – and around the world -- might consider unauthorized spying on citizens equally noxious. In fighting bad guys, transparency is not always an option, nor is it always the wisest option.

Related: U.S. Senate Panel’s Findings on CIA Torture

One of the more damning conclusions of the report, first leaked last spring, is that CIA officers used interrogation techniques not approved by the Justice Department or by their own officials and illegally held dozens in CIA custody. That charge has been debunked by senior officials in the Bush White House and former CIA leaders. Moreover, as Rodriguez notes, “The leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and of both parties in Congress were briefed on the program more than 40 times between 2002 and 2009.” He reminds us that “Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tried to deny that she was told in 2002 that detainees had been waterboarded. That is simply not true. I was among those who briefed her.” Apparently Ms. Pelosi didn’t get the transparency memo.

Another assertion -- that the questioning of prisoners under extreme conditions revealed no information -- has been widely challenged, including by Senator Saxby Chambliss. When the report’s initial conclusions were first revealed, he was quoted saying, “There is absolutely concrete evidence that has been gleaned from the individuals who have been interrogated in this program that led not only to bin Laden’s takedown but to the interruption and disruption of other terrorist plots over the years.” My guess is even Obama is happy Osama bin Laden is dead.

Related: CIA Paid Poland to Ease Qualms Over Secret Prison

Diane Feinstein, head of the Select Committee on Intelligence, defended the release of the report on the floor of the Senate. She claims that the CIA enhanced interrogation techniques constituted torture and were a “stain on our values”; she may be right. However, since the conclusions of the report will be contested, it is unclear that 6,000 pages spent rehashing this controversial episode will put the issue to rest, or serve the nation’s interests.  President Obama, who has systematically insulted our allies – including Canada, Australia, Israel, India, Germany, England, France, Honduras, and Norway, among others, extended his winning streak by condoning the release.   

Prior to its release, former Vice President Dick Cheney called the CIA report a “bunch of hooey.” He’s got that exactly right.

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