Senator Dianne Feinstein will be in the minority when the new Senate is installed next year, but she decided to go out with a bang—a “report” on U.S. interrogations of terrorists suspects that lacerates the United States. Key actors in the interrogation process were not even interviewed for this report. The report was released by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which Feinstein heads.
The report cost the taxpayer $50 million, and yet, as Rich Lowry points out, the Senate Intelligence Committee investigators did not bother to talk to General Michael Hayden, former CIA director, who is depicted as a liar in the final product.
You would have thought that they might have had some window dressing. But no. Lowry writes:
The committee’s chair, Dianne Feinstein, says such interviews were made impossible by Justice Department investigations into the people responsible for the interrogation program, but those investigations ended years ago.
The reality is that the committee didn’t want to include anything that might significantly complicate its cartoonish depiction of a CIA that misled everyone so it could maintain a secret prison system for the hell of it.
It isn’t an insult to call the resulting report partisan; it is a simple fact. Republicans stopped cooperating as soon as it became clear that Feinstein wanted a prosecutor’s brief, not a report tainted by any hint of fair-minded inquiry.
I don’t know what kind of political party releases a report damaging to the nation for its political advantage. Oh, yeah—I do know what kind of party does this. It is a party that views everything through the lens of political advantage.
Former FBI director Louis Freeh points out in today’s Wall Street Journal that the report does not take note of the “Pearl Harbor-esque” atmosphere immediately after the September 11 attacks. Freeh also notes that officials in positions such as Ms. Feinstein’s were briefed at the time, though now they are filled with apparent indignation about actions they surely knew about at the time. Freeh writes:
More important, the RDI program [Detention and Interrogation program]was not some rogue operation unilaterally launched by a Langley cabal—which is the impression that the Senate Intelligence Committee report tries to convey. Rather, the program was an initiative approved by the president, the national security adviser and the U.S. attorney general, backed by a legal opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which functions as the president’s outside counsel in such matters. President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and their closest advisers at the time have confirmed that they were unified behind the RDI program; they should have been interviewed by the Democratic majority in preparing the report on the CIA interrogations.
The RDI program, including the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, was fully briefed to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House intelligence committees. The Senate committee’s new report does not present any evidence that would support the notion that the CIA program was carried out for years without the concurrence of the House or Senate intelligence committees, or that any of the members were shocked to learn of the program after the fact.
Did the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program develop sufficient leads to connect the dots to Osama bin Laden ’s redoubt in Abbottabad, Pakistan, or serve to fulfill the executive and congressional mandate to prevent another 9/11? That is a fair operational and analytical question for the report by the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Democratic majority to raise and argue. Likewise, it can and should be debated whether America should ever again use such methods to prevent terrorist attacks.
Like Republicans, Democrats in the wake of September 11 saw the need for enhanced interrogation. As Lowry concludes:
This is why the impeccably liberal Jay Rockefeller, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, could at this time practically sound like the much-maligned Michael Hayden.
After the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in 2003, Rockefeller said on CNN that we should be “very, very tough with him”; that he has information that will save American lives and that “we have no business not getting that information”; and that we should consider shipping him to a country with no laws against torture. “I wouldn’t take anything off the table where he is concerned,” Rockefeller declared, “because this is a man who has killed hundreds and hundreds of Americans over the last 10 years.”
The interrogation program was born against this backdrop. When we caught KSM, no one was saying, “Let’s give him some dates and olives and hope, once he finds out what nice people we are, he spills his guts and gives up Osama bin Laden’s location.”
For all the moral posturing going on around this report, it is arguably a purely political document aimed at making the other political party look bad. Shameful.