, December 15, 2014 — The press has heavily reported the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program
. The response of the CIA and allies of the Intelligence Community is not focused on repairing the damage torture has done to the institution. Instead, it is suppressing the wrongs that were done and protecting the perpetrators. Under the guise of protecting security, the CIA is attempting to protect itself from criticism.
The report and the CIA response reinforce the perception that the powerful are above the law. This same perception has spurred protests across America over police killings of 18-year-old Michael Brown
, 12-year-old Tamir Rice
, and Eric Garner
by police. The CIA and its allies appear to believe the spy agency is immune from justice and exempt from following the law. This arrogance is what drives anger against the CIA and those who shield the CIA from the consequences of their worst behavior.
This report would likely have been quietly released and forgotten by the American people if not for Edward Snowden. Snowden’s revelations about the Prism program forced the sins of America’s national security apparatus into the light of day. Those sins were magnified after Senator Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA had hacked into computers belonging to the congressional investigators researching CIA abuses.
The CIA is struggling to deal with overstepping ethical and legal boundaries, not attempting to manage a public relations problem as defenders claim.
Intelligence organizations are charged with protecting America and should be the most trusted instruments of government. Instead, they are the least trusted. A large part of the problem is a perception of immunity for wrongdoing, which leaves temptation unchecked. Not only does the CIA need actual oversight, a greater level of transparency, and criminal prosecution for those who step over the line; it also needs a more focused mandate and to transfer some of its functions to other agencies to weaken its corrupting power.
Defenders of the CIA believe the spy agency is being treated as a whipping boy for carrying out the intentions of policy makers. They argue that the Agency should be protected for taking a role no one else would consider. They can point to the human rights abuses of other countries, particularly in the Middle East, as far harsher than anything the CIA has ever done. The reality, however, is that the institution needs to rebuilt itself and the trust it depends on if it is going to be effective.
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Critics who still believe torture is effective and necessary, who ironically include religious conservatives, may want to consider the work of monsters like Dr. Eduard Wirths and Dr. Shiro Ishii. Although the experiments of both serial killer physicians offered beneficial insights to the field of medicine, as well as national defense, only the deranged would support the way in which that information was obtained.
Like the CIA torture programs, any benefits derived could have been gathered in an alternative manner.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks gave some in the CIA an opportunity to indulge their darkest fantasies. Consequently, the CIA needs to take this opportunity as an institution to rebuild and reflect. It needs to eliminate those who seek to do harm rather than good, so it can help secure America, instead of making us less secure.
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