Last week, House Democrats launched a sneak attack on the CIA, inserting into the intelligence authorization bill — without advance notice to Republicans or the CIA — a provision that would have criminalized the intelligence services’ use of certain interrogation tactics. People such as Andy McCarthy exposed this effort, and Democrats were forced to pull the entire bill.
This was a good outcome for the intelligence community and the people who care about it, but the ploy was just the latest attempt of many by the Left to score political points at the expense of the men and women who defend our national security. The most damaging blow came six months ago, when Attorney General Eric Holder announced he would reopen an investigation of the CIA’s interrogations of certain suspected terrorists — an investigation that had been closed for four years.
Although the usual suspects in left-wing corners hailed Holder, others panned the decision. Seven former CIA directors, who had served under Democratic and Republican presidents, wrote a letter reminding President Obama of his pledge to look forward, a pledge that could be kept only “if the investigation of these interrogations that Attorney General Holder has re-opened is now re-closed.” The former directors were concerned not only about the unfairness to the individuals involved but also that Holder’s decision would “seriously damage the willingness of many other intelligence officers to take risks to protect the country.” Such risk-taking, the directors explained, “is vital to success in the long and difficult fight against the terrorists who continue to threaten us.” The president rejected their advice, though the White House has tried to distance itself from Holder’s decision.
Was Holder merely reversing a “CYA” decision of the Bush administration? Hardly. During the Bush years, the CIA asked the Justice Department to consider whether criminal charges were warranted in a number of instances. In all but one case (which concluded with the successful prosecution of the interrogator), two sets of career federal prosecutors with extensive experience trying terrorism and national-security cases, in two rounds of review, decided the answer was no. As is their practice, the prosecutors wrote memos — known as “declination memos” (because they declined to prosecute) — explaining their reasoning.
Did Holder find some flaw in their work? Was there some evidence of bias? No. There has been no hint that these prosecutors were mistaken or intimidated or biased or compromised in any way. By all indications, they did their jobs carefully and objectively. Nonetheless, Holder declared it was open season on the intelligence community.