While CIA Director John Brennan was addressing the “torture” report released by Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Feinstein was…live tweeting. I kid you not.
A press conference by the director of the CIA is either unprecedented or pretty close to it and Brennan is maybe not the guy you expected to be a hero. But Brennan admirably defended the CIA against the harsh attacks lodged against the CIA and its people in Feinstein’s expensive, arguably politically motivated, and thinly-sourced report.
CIA Director John Brennan defended harsh interrogation techniques, saying they provided information — some of which was "useful" in the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden, but he said it was "unknowable" what information could specifically be attributed to those techniques.
"It is our considered view that the detainees who were subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques provided information that was useful and was used in the ultimate operation to go against Bin Laden," Brennan said.
Brennan's comments, in a rare news conference, come two days after a Senate panel released a blockbuster 528-page report detailing "enhanced interrogation techniques" — including mock executions, "rectal rehydration," sleep deprivation and beatings — in interrogations in the mid-2000s.
He admitted that some CIA officers' actions were "not authorized, were abhorrent and rightly should be repudiated by all. And we fell short in holding some officers accountable for their mistakes."
Holding a few officers responsible is not the same thing as Feinstein’s report, which basically rakes the CIA over the coals for doing what it took to ensure that we didn’t have that next terrorist attack we all expected after September 11, 2001. Does Feinstein remember that 3,000 Americans were killed by terrorists that day? (Tweet an answer, Di.)It should also be noted that, while we do have standards for how we treat captives, a terrorist should not enjoy the same legal rights as a soldier from a legitimate nation. David French points out why this is both wrong and productive of more terrorism:
First, it is immoral to establish legal doctrines that would provide unlawful combatants with all the same protections as lawful prisoners of war. The reason for this is simple. As I said yesterday, doing so provides a terrorist or other unlawful enemy with an incentive to keep violating legal norms and thus provides them with enormous tactical advantages. The laws of war originated in moral norms that aspire to limit combat to the combatants. Terrorists disrupt these legal and moral norms not just by intentionally targeting civilians but also by intentionally mingling with civilians.
My favorite response concerning possible ramifications of the report came from White House spokesman Josh Earnest, who was asked if the Feinstein release might provoke violence against Americans:
"There are some indications … that the release of the report could lead to a greater risk that is posed to U.S. facilities and individuals all around the world," Earnest acknowledged. "So, the administration has taken the prudent steps to ensure that the proper security precautions are in place at U.S. facilities around the globe."
Ensconced in a cushy office where the guy from Fox is the scariest person you will encounter all day, Earnest may not fully appreciate the risks to those who serve in more dangerous climbs.
With the Brennan presser, however, it is beginning to look like the Feinstein report may well backfire on Feinstein & Co.