Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Democratic ingratitude for good intelligence work

Michael Gerson in the Washington Post on the Democrats' troubled relationship with the CIA:

To stanch the CIA's bleeding morale, Democrats have tried reassurance. President Obama, speaking at CIA headquarters, took the Fred Rogers approach: "Don't be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we've made some mistakes. That's how we learn." Yes, children, hypocritical congressional investigations and foreign kangaroo courts are really our friends. House intelligence committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes sent a sympathy note to Langley: "In recent days, as the public debate regarding CIA's interrogation practices has raged, you have been very much in my thoughts." There should be a section at Hallmark for intelligence operatives unfairly accused of war crimes.

The only effective reassurance came from Panetta, who pointed out to Pelosi and others that the CIA actually keeps records of its congressional briefings. "Our contemporaneous records from September 2002," Panetta wrote, "indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaida, describing 'the enhanced techniques that had been employed.' " A primary advocate of the "truth commission" has apparently misplaced her own supply.

Is there any precedent for a speaker of the House of Representatives seeking political shelter by blaming national security professionals? Or for a commander in chief exposing intelligence methods at the urging of the American Civil Liberties Union? Actually, such treatment has precedents. In 1975, the Church Committee nearly destroyed the human intelligence capabilities of the CIA. In the early 1990s, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan urged closing the agency entirely. The Clinton administration imposed massive budget cuts, leaving behind a demoralized institution.

And now Obama has described the post-Sept. 11 period as "a dark and painful chapter in our history." In fact, whatever your view of waterboarding, the response of intelligence professionals following Sept. 11 was impressive. Within days, the CIA had linked up with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan and begun preparations to remove the Taliban. The counterterrorism center run of out CIA headquarters was the war on terror in the months after the attacks, making daily progress in capturing high-value targets. Now the president and his party have done much to tarnish those accomplishments. So much for the thanks of a grateful nation.

I guess the days of fawning articles and Vanity Fair covers are over now that the Democrats no longer need the CIA to club President Bush. Unfortunately, the Democrats have reverted to form.