The Corner

Where Are the Responsible Individuals at the CIA?

The CIA torture/interrogation issue just won’t die, as interest in a recent New Yorker article by Jane Mayer shows. Many principled people voted for Barack Obama because they believed he would bring accountability to the CIA’s torture/interrogations of terrorists. Millions of kind-hearted people, humanitarians, ministers, priests, rabbis, Girl Scout leaders, and members of my own family voted for President Obama for this reason.  

But they’re all suckers. There will never be a “truth commission” on terrorist interrogations. Not one person will ever be brought to trial. No one will even be demoted, reassigned to a less desirable government job, or slapped on the wrist. There will be absolutely no accountability of any kind.

This is in part because CIA torture was an Obama campaign issue which served its purpose. He won, and the issue no longer has as much political value. Campaign promises were meant to be broken.

More importantly, though, accountability will never occur because it is not possible to pin down responsible managers at the CIA. The CIA’s chain of command is octopus-like, doubling back upon itself. Like relationships in a polygamist compound, a person’s uncle by one limb of the family tree might be his nephew by another. Successful CIA operations have dozens of managers claiming credit; embarrassing operations mysteriously prove to be connected to no one.

There is one person who is widely recognized as the most influential CIA manager and the real power behind the curtain: Steve Kappes. President Obama made a point of paying court to Kappes during his April visit to CIA headquarters. As part of the deal for Obama’s choice of Leon Panetta as CIA chief, Sen. Dianne Feinstein required that Obama retain Kappes as his number two. Although media reports describe Kappes as a real field operative and a “case offcer’s case officer,” Kappes is in fact a Washington political infighter.

Kappes’s political instincts would never have allowed him to get anywhere near something as risky as terrorist interrogations. But if Kappes, as possibly the most powerful bureaucrat the CIA has ever produced, and a darling of the Democratic establishment and the news media, cannot be connected to CIA torture/interrogation, then it would be unconscionable, and legally indefensible, to target any other individual at the CIA.

 — “Ishmael Jones is a former deep-cover officer with the Central Intelligence Agency. He is author of The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture, published last year by Encounter Books.  

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