The release of a Senate report on Bush-era interrogation policies could have prompted an informed, responsible debate over intelligence and the war on terror. But not the report that saw the light of day Tuesday. Because of fundamental mistakes made at its very birth, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s accounting offers a dispiriting, partisan attack on American intelligence agencies at a time when we need them more than ever.
Bizarrely, Feinstein and her staffers refused even to interview the very CIA officials who ordered and carried out the program in question. Because Republicans saw where the train was headed, they refused to participate in the review. The slanted approach to the investigation sadly colored its conclusions — which are questionable, to put it charitably.
Yoo lays out the shameless partisanship of the Democrats’ heading-out-the-door-and-into-the-electoral-wilderness poke in the eye of the Bush administration, of which John (full disclosure: we’re friends) was an important part. He’s one of the smartest guys I know, so pay attention:
As a Justice Department lawyer who worked on the legality of the interrogation methods in 2002, I believed that the federal law prohibiting torture allowed the CIA to use interrogation methods that did not cause injury — including, in extraordinary cases, waterboarding — because of the grave threat to the nation’s security in the months after the 9/11 attacks.
I was swayed by the fact that our military used waterboarding in training thousands of its own soldiers without harm, and that the CIA would use the technique only on top Al Qaeda leaders thought to have actionable information on pending plots.
Does anybody, besides the bedwetters in the media, really care about whether a few al-Qaeda operatives were discomfited by “harsh” interrogation techniques? Tell Saul Alinsky to take his Rule No. 4 and shove it. As Mr. Dooley should have said, war ain’t beanbag.
This release marks a new low in congressional oversight of intelligence. In both the 1975 Church Committee and 1987 Iran-Contra investigations of intelligence scandals, Republicans and Democrats cooperated to conduct a thorough, fair inquiry that settled the factual record and laid the groundwork for significant reform.
A credible review in this case would have involved both political parties. It would have given CIA officials an opportunity to be heard. It would have questioned key officials under oath.
The Feinstein report did none of this. Worst, it risks undermining the ability of our intelligence agencies to protect the nation at a time when threats abroad are rising, not falling.
Not that the Democrats give a damn.