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Obama’s Disclosures and the World of Intelligence

What would a former spy who risked life and limb for his country think of Obama's release of the secret memorandum on torture?

by
Abraham H. Miller

Bio

April 29, 2009 - 12:00 am
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My friend came back safely from East Berlin and subsequently parachuted behind enemy lines in the Balkans to fight a war  that America was “never involved” in but had perceived interests in.

Like a number of denizens of the netherworld where America’s secret wars are waged, my friend could not have been roused to sit in the audience at Langley and applaud President Obama’s rationale for releasing the secret memorandum on what is being called “torture.” My friend would have left others to determine what is and isn’t torture and what should be the new administration’s appropriate policy prescriptions. His anger would be directed at the public disclosure of intelligence that ultimately would have put him in harm’s way because the foreign nationals we need to work for us would have scurried into oblivion. Once again, vital networks would have imploded, and once again the process of recruiting new networks would be more arduous and ultimately comprised of lesser stuff. All of this would have been inconsequential to the secretaries, administrators, and analysts who formed the compliant audience that applauded President Obama at the CIA. My friend would have thought about what a foreign national working for us would think of his own security if he could turn on the television and watch the Obama administration threaten to throw Condoleezza Rice to the jackals.

Maybe my friend would look at his leg that never healed properly after he was caught and beaten by police in a foreign country for being where he shouldn’t have been. He never admitted that he was spying or  even that he was an American, and despite the beating, he talked his way out of a dangerous situation. His injury disqualified him for field work, and he was not the type to sit at a desk and push paper. Last I saw him, he was thinking about exchanging some of those preferred currencies and going into business. No doubt, he watched Obama’s CIA press conference and thought he was seeing a rerun of the Church Committee. He probably thought that beating years ago was a blessing in disguise.

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Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science and a former head of the Intelligence Studies Section of the International Studies Association.
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