Monday, August 24, 2009

Obama Versus CIA: New WH Interrogation Unit Created As Panetta Threatens To Resign

Deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton announced today that President Obama has approved creating a brand new anti-terrorism interrogation squad that will report directly to the White House:

The administration has also decided that all U.S. interrogators will follow the rules for detainees laid out by the Army Field Manual, according to senior administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the decision. That decision aims to end years of fierce debate over how rough U.S. personnel can get with terror suspects in custody. {...}

Burton said the unit will include "all these different elements under one group," and it said that it will be situated at the FBI headquarters in Washington.

The unit would be led by an FBI official, with a deputy director from somewhere in the government's vast intelligence apparatus, and members from across agencies.
It will be directly supervised by the White House, but the senior administration officials insisted the unit's agency bosses will make operational decisions, not the White House.

The officials also said that in cases where terror suspects are transferred to other countries, the U.S. will work harder to ensure the suspect is not tortured.

Separately, Burton said that a recommendation now before Attorney General Eric Holder to reopen and pursue prisoner abuse cases is a decision solely for Holder to make without any intervention from the president.

The structure of the new unit the White House is creating would depart significantly from such work under the previous administration, when the CIA had the lead and sometimes exclusive role in questioning al-Qaida suspects.

There quite a bit of meat here, and I'm not surprised that Obama waited until he was on vacation to have one of his spokesmouths announce it to avoid any awkward questions for awhile.

First, the formation of this new unit reporting directly to the president is yet one more example of this Administration's obsessive consolidating of power in its own hands through minions and 'czars' and 'special envoys' who report directly to the White House and undercut the normal congressional oversight.

To name just two examples of how this has worked , at the State Department, the UN envoys' seat was changed into a cabinet level post reporting directly to Obama and presidential special envoys were named to handle all the major diplomatic hot spots to the point where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's role is basically that of messenger girl and occasional spokeswoman.

And in the Department of Commerce, cabinet nominee Judd Gregg removed his name from consideration once he found out that Obama and Rahm Emanuel were going to politicize the 2010 census by running it out of the White House instead of allowing the Department of Commerce to conduct it as it always has.

Second, this statement is a clear indication that Obama has decided to reduce the CIA to a mere figurehead, and the fact that the FBI is taking the lead is a clear indication that this White House considers Islamist fascism as primarily a law enforcement problem.

Obama started out by putting a political apparatchnik in charge of the CIA and severely downgrading the Agency's mission, even overseas. As I reported previously, the Obama Administration now has FBI agents conducting interrogations and actually reading captured jihadis in Afghanistan and elsewhere their Miranda Rights as part of what the Administration policy known as the Global Justice Initiative, which allows the FBI and the most far Left Justice Department in American history to essentially take over global counter-terrorism operations and design their investigations with court cases in mind.

The final blow is allowing Attorney General Eric Holder carte blanche to conduct a witch hunt on CIA personnel for any activities deemed as 'torture' during the Bush Administration, and probably to extend it to higher level members of the Bush Administration itself.

This is something new in American politics, the use of the Justice Department to prosecute the out of power political opposition. It's the sort of move more associated with coups and juntas than America's traditional democracy, which has always been noted for peaceful transitions.

In fact, that's the entire rationale for this. It isn't about 'justice' or reforming the way we interrogate people. It's politics, as always with Obama. He badly needs to distract attention from the health care debacle, and he's going to do it by attacking the Bush Administration again and grabbing a few scalps to excite his base.

This is very different from what Obama has said about the matter in the past, but with this president, who's counting?

Actually, it's probably just as well the CIA isn't going to be handling terrorism investigations and interrogations in the future. After this, one couldn't blame the agents for anything if they're merely going through the motions.After all, why risk getting hauled before Holder's Star Chamber and risk losing your livelyhood and your retirement just for trying to do your job properly?

Speaking of the political apparatchnik, Leon Panetta is apparently pretty upset about all this and is reportedly talking resignation.Apparently he actually figured on having some real input in US security policy:

A "profanity-laced screaming match" at the White House involving CIA Director Leon Panetta, and the expected release today of another damning internal investigation, has administration officials worrying about the direction of its newly-appoint intelligence team, current and former senior intelligence officials tell ABC {...}

According to intelligence officials, Panetta erupted in a tirade last month during a meeting with a senior White House staff member. Panetta was reportedly upset over plans by Attorney General Eric Holder to open a criminal investigation of allegations that CIA officers broke the law in carrying out certain interrogation techniques that President Obama has termed "torture." {..}

In addition to concerns about the CIA's reputation and its legal exposure, other White House insiders say Panetta has been frustrated by what he perceives to be less of a role than he was promised in the administration's intelligence structure. Panetta has reportedly chafed at reporting through the director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, according to the senior adviser who said Blair is equally unhappy with Panetta.

Panetta was already in hot water with the CIA rank and file for being an outsider with no knowledge of espionage, and for insulting the Agency during his confirmation by shooting his mouth off in an AP interview.

He tried to make nice by promising his men - 'on the every highest authority'- that they didn't have to worry about an Obama Administration witch hunt.But now Obama and Attorney General Holder just made him a liar to his own men publicly. While lying per se has never been a problem for Panetta, it can't be pleasant wondering if today's the day the limo blows up when the ignition key's turned on, or having some low level secretary taste your coffee every morning. Not to mention someone of Panetta's inflated sense of self-importance being reduced to a chair sitter with absolutely no power whatsoever.

I'll permit myself a malicious giggle at the way people like Hillary and Panetta thought that they were co-opting Obama while all the while he was umm....out-Clintoning them.

What isn't funny is the idea of treating the Islamist threat like a law enforcement problem. We tried that before prior to 9-11 and it didn't work out so well.

In many ways, we've regressed to exactly where we were the day before the jihadis struck our country and turned the World Trade Center into a smoldering, ash laden burial ground for a large number of our fellow Americans.

And that's a sobering thought.


B.Poster said...

In addtion to all of this we have countries like Russia, China, and Venezeuela on the move and growing in strength. All of this has happened while American strength has wanned significantly. At no point since some time prior to WWII has America been less powerful relative to its enemies than it is right now.

Given this situation, it makes no sense to weaken the role of the main intellegence agency. It appears a weakened America is now going to be essentially blind with regards to its enemies. How are we supposed to counter the moves of Russia, China, and Venezuela if we don't even know what they are doing?

Tom Degan said...

Yeah. Let the investigations proceed and the chips fall where they may. In the course of destroying this country, George W. Bush (the First Fool as I loved to call him) undid DECADES of diplomatic protocol.

Were these morons able to get information via torture? Sure they did. Most of that info was false. You see, under those circumstances, the person being tortured will say just about anything. It is quite interesting: no one in this administration (Excuse me, I meant to say, “THAT administration) was smart enough to figure this out.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Freedom Fighter said...

Mornin' Poster,
The trend towards weakening US intel started with the Carter Administration,when he put Admiral Stanfield Turner, a man with no intel experience whatsoever, in charge of the CIA. Carter subsequently fired most of the CIA's field agents and never replaced them.

Important to remember that with Obama, it's always all about the politics.Just as the stimulus wasn't about the economy, cap n' tax isn't about the environment and the healthcare bill isn't about reforming healthcare,this isn't about 'justice' or reforming the way we interrogate people.

It's about providing a distraction to the healthcare debacle by trashing Bush and exciting his base ,and about Obama controlling yet another area of government.

As such, it's despicable but understandable.


Freedom Fighter said...

Mornin' Tom,
It might surprise you that based on my own historical criteria, I named George W. Bush as one of our four worst presidents.

I still haven't changed that opinion, but the current denizen of the White House almost makes Bush look like Mt. Rushmore material by comparison.

I think you and I would likely have very different definitions of torture, and you might find my American Thinker piece that examined torture and interrogation techniques interesting, especially given whom we're dealing with.

That said, you're simply incorrect that the interrogation of al-Qaeda figures like Khalid Sheik Muhammed provided no useful info.That's precisely why Dick Cheney formally petitioned the Obama Administration to release ALL of the so-called 'torture memos' instead of just excerpts, so Americans could see exactly what information was gleaned by these interrogations.He reasoned that since national security had already been breached, it was better to have an honest debate on the subject with all the info in plain view.

The Obama Administration refused to do so. Why?

You also might consider a few other things -

1) The effect on people who are conducting interrogations who will now be faced with a climate where they are constrained from any meaningful ability to interrogate terrorists who may have info regarding an imminent attack but who know exactly how far the interrogator may go and who are now being given Miranda Rights by the Administration allowing them to delay saying anything unless they have a lawyer.

2)The damage to America's political legacy caused by the opposition party witch hunting members of the previous administration.You really want that to become the norm?

3)the precedent created by Obama bypassing Congressional oversight by naming various czars, special envoys and now creating a security apparatus reporting directly to the White House..especially in view of this president's use of 'snitch' URLs and encouraging his supporters to report political opponents for an enemies list.

I'm afraid your also incorrect in citing the Obama Administration as a paragon of diplomatic protocol particularly when it comes to our allies, but that's another topic.


Christian Atheist said...

Hello All,
Let me just say that the One's refusal to release the "torture memos" is of a piece with his policies on any information. e.g. College records and theses,full birth certificate (no,I'm not a birther, but I do think when something's being hidden, there's probably something to hide).I'm quite sure I'm leaving things out but you get my drift.This guy's all about selected snippets of information and a stonewall the rest of the time.This used to be called propaganda.The question is ,why?
That's the issue that gives me pause.