ML: Yes, it is pretty funny, isn’t it? But apparently the interrogations went well, and we got some really good information that way, and lives were saved. Full marks to the interrogators.
JJA: Right. At least somebody knew what he was doing. And full marks to the lawyers who approved the methods, which don’t seem to have been particularly grisly.
ML: Well, there’s the horror of blowing cigar smoke…
ML: So what’s happening here? It seemed pretty clear during the Bush years that CIA was in opposition, trying to sabotage the war policy against Saddam, and then very violently tried to prevent us from doing anything mean to the Iranian regime.
JJA: Yes, no doubt that is correct. Look at that blatantly phony NIE on the Iranian nuclear weapons program, in which CIA claimed that the program had been “suspended” and never resumed. It’s preposterous to believe that they were sufficiently informed to know that.
ML: In fact, you’d probably think that any “source” who said such a thing was odds-on to be spreading disinformation, wouldn’t you?
JJA: Certainly, any sensible person would. Just a few weeks ago, the German Intelligence Agency, the BND, presented information in open court to show that the Iranian nuclear weapons program is going full steam ahead. And if I remember rightly, most every service in the Western world thought the NIE was trash.
ML: OK, we agree. So CIA was acting as an ally of the Democrats. Thwarting Bush’s aggressive tendencies. Accusing Cheney of “politicizing intelligence,” when they were the ones doing it. Now, all of a sudden, they’re getting slammed by the Democrats and defended by Cheney. Wazzup?
JJA: It’s the Divine wit at work.
ML: How’s that?
JJA: If you were here with me you’d understand it better. But you left out something, namely that although CIA opposed a big Middle East war–they were not alone in that, and it’s not irrational at all–they certainly don’t want to have their own country blown up by al Qaeda and its friends.
ML: If you say so, but I have to wonder a bit. If they were so gung-ho to get al Qaeda why did they put a flickering bulb like Michael Scheuer in charge of the special unit?
JJA: That was before 9/11, when that job was akin to tracking polar bears. It was a big nothingburger. Once things got serious, he left, you might notice. They wouldn’t let him do anything that mattered. His main role was to spread anti-Israel propaganda, anyway.
ML: More politics. Very well, they wanted to fight al Qaeda. And then?
JJA: So they went all out to get to the bottom of the plot against us. They played Jack Bauer for once. And it worked. They were proud, they felt they’d done a really good thing, which they had.
ML: Haha, I get it…
JJA: Yes, I see that you do. So they were punished for the one thing they did well, the interrogations. And they got slammed by the very people they were avidly helping.
ML: It’s the same politics as before, actually. Because the “blame Bushitlercheney” theme is very important to the new administration…
JJA: Exactly, and the new crowd couldn’t accept the notion that one aspect of the war was done well, and did good. They had to demonize somebody, that somebody was of course Bush, and the CIA got trapped in the middle, despite its hatred of Bush and fondness for the Democrats.
ML: And the ultimate irony is that Cheney, their bete noire, is now their most effective defender.
JJA: Yes, lots of laughter on Cloud Nine.
ML: Where’s Tenet in all this?
JJA: Good question.
ML: And do you agree that CIA people will run away if anybody asks them to do anything controversial?
JJA: No, not at all. There will always be somebody who will insist on doing something, if he sees that it just has to be done.
ML: Even if he knows he’s going to get an appearance in front of the grand jury?
JJA: You can tell him that, but he won’t KNOW it. He’ll believe that things will be different this time around. And he will find evidence for that, too. Nobody is in danger of being dragged in front of the grand jury for those renditions, so far as I know.
ML: It’s like the people who keep talking on the telephone about secret things, even though they know that their calls are likely intercepted…
JJA: Yeah, especially in the Middle East. Isn’t it astonishing how many Arab terrorists get blown up in their cars or at their mistress’s house? That happens because the Israelis have located their cell phone. But no matter how many times it happens, the next generation does the same stupid thing.
ML: And the spooks are like that?
JJA: You bet. Everyone thinks he’s different, special, and called upon to do a great thing.
At which point there was a very loud noise, rather like a thunderclap, and he was gone.