It was a busy week of preening for the President. All gussied up for the television cameras; he looked smart and presidential as he laid bare the details (a few too many details) of the raid that lead to the death of Osama Bin Laden.
While managing to work in a word or two of praise for the military and for the work of the intelligence community that identified Bin Laden’s Pakistani villa, Obama made a very critical error, an error no military man would ever commit: He’s abandoned a few of his soldiers on the battlefield and in doing so he’s managed to ruin this American victory.
Those soldiers-six CIA officials who conducted critical interrogations immediately following the 9-11 terrorist attacks-stand accused of criminal misconduct and are now the subject of a witch hunt conducted by Attorney General Eric Holder. The always thorough Andrew McCarthy wrote about the state of the Justice Department case against the interrogators in 2009 on NRO:
They [The CIA interrogators] are retaining counsel and preparing for a lengthy investigation that likely will prove personally and professionally ruinous. The Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend that Holder is close to naming a prosecutor to probe whether the agency and its officers committed criminal misconduct.
Let’s take a moment to consider the lives of these CIA officials. McCarthy isn’t kidding when he says this action by the Justice Department has the potential to ruin the lives of these men-government employees making a fine living but not enough to pay off the team of Washington lawyers each was forced to hire.
In light of the fact that Obama administration officials have begrudgingly admitted that the enhanced interrogation techniques may have played a hand in getting the necessary information to track down Osama’s courier (this is what that favorite Washington term “connecting the dots” means), perhaps the Administration-particularly the President-could take a moment to reflect on what this prosecution means for these men; how it will, indeed, ruin their lives and livelihoods.
But the President seems oddly cold about this issue and unwavering in his support for Holder. He even seems unmoved by the pleading of one of the 9-11 victim’s relatives. When meeting with the families at Ground Zero just after Bin Laden’s death, the President reportedly turned his back on Deborah Burlingham (sister of American Airlines pilot Chic Burlingham) when she questioned him about the case.
At least Congress is paying attention. In a letter sent to the President last week, Rep. Vern Buchanan reminded President Obama that the techniques used by these CIA interrogators were authorized by President Bush and approved by the Justice Department and that the relevant members of Congress were briefed. Buchanan said:
“No one is above the law, but prosecuting CIA officials for implementing a policy approved by the president and his Justice Department will send a chilling message to current intelligence officials. What assurances will they have that policies they are enforcing today will not lead to their prosecution in the future by a different administration?”
While many on the right and left continue to debate whether the killing of Osama bin Laden justifies the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, my hope is that more attention is spent asking a better question: If these techniques worked (as Obama officials have admitted) and proved to help in ridding the world of this hideous monster, shouldn’t the government, at the very least, drop the case against the men who acted with the approval of their President, congressional leadership (yes, I mean you, Nancy), and the Justice Department?
It might make this American victory complete.