Dear Col. Manners,
When Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, he insisted that we “look forward,” not backward. While he rejected the widespread use of torture and abuse by the CIA in the Bush years, his Department of Justice refused to prosecute a single torture case, even when death was the result. (The only CIA agent to go to jail during the Obama presidency was the guy who blew the whistle on the CIA torture program!)
Jump ahead five years, and instead of looking forward, it seems that we’re again looking backward big time. The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, usually the staunchest backer of US intelligence, seems to have sworn a vendetta against the CIA on the Senate floor for spying on her oversight committee as it prepared its still-unreleased report on the Agency’s torture program. The CIA denies it all and claims committee staffers spied on them. Once again, the Justice Department faces the issue of charges over the Agency’s torture program! It seems like little short of a constitutional catfight.
What gives, Colonel? Shouldn’t President Obama have prosecuted CIA torturers in the first place and isn’t it time that he and his Justice Department finally take all this to court?
Tortured in Tacoma
You’ve hit the nail on the head! When Senator Feinstein turns on the CIA, the situation couldn’t be more disturbing—or out of hand. But believe me, the answer is not to call on the Justice Department (of all places!) to sort this out. After all, as you indicate, it was incapable of prosecuting the killing of tortured prisoners, so it’s hardly likely to adopt a take-no-prisoners attitude toward either the CIA or the Senate Intelligence Committee over possible computer spying.
Instead, as the president long ago suggested, we need to look forward, not backward. And with that in mind, Senator John McCain has, I believe, made the most useful suggestion: that an independent investigative body be empaneled to get to the bottom of the dispute between Feinstein and the CIA. As you know, over the last five years, the Senate Intelligence Committee has managed to write a still-incomplete report on the CIA’s black sites and torture campaign. Though unreleased to the public even in redacted or summary form, it is reportedly 6,300 pages long. By comparison, the first novel in history, the Tale of Genji, is only 1,200 pages, and War and Peace only 1,800 pages. (And yes, Tortured, we in the secret world do have a certain attraction to fiction.)