martes, 9 de diciembre de 2014

The CIA report: what is the role of intelligence activities in a democracy?

        In a country such as the United States, which preaches democracy and respect for human rights abroad, can the use of torture against prisoners suspected of terrorist acts be justified? Is abuse an effective means of gathering information? To what extend do actions of the CIA and other undercover organizations influence the actions of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government? Can wars, invasions and support for coups against foreign governments be politically justified? Who actually controls the activities of the CIA, whose budget comes out of the income tax paid by all U.S. citizens?
       These are but some of the questions which are surfacing as a result of the release of an intensive Senate investigation which reaffirms what everyone knew—that the U.S. used torture against terrorist suspects in the wake of the attack against the Twin Towers—and asserts additionally that these methods were highly inefficient in getting information that would enable the saving of U.S. lives.
       Five years ago U.S. President Barrack Obama put an end to the CIA’s “rendition and interrogation program,” a response of the previous Bush Administration to the Twin Towers terrorist attack; on December 9th a long-worded Senate investigation into the CIA’s harsh methods was released, causing Obama to declare:
      “As Americans, we owe a profound debt of gratitude to our fellow citizens who serve to keep us safe, among them the dedicated men and women of our intelligence community, including the Central Intelligence Agency.” He added that the U.S. did “many things right, but also made mistakes…Some of the actions that were taken were contrary to our values…That is why I unequivocally banned torture when I took office, because one of our most effective tools in fighting terrorism and keeping Americans safe is staying true to our ideals at home and abroad.”
      Former President George Bush declared in an interview broadcast Sunday that “We’re fortunate to have men and women who work hard at the C.I.A. serving on our behalf.” He told CNN’s Candy Crowley that “these are patriots and whatever the report says, if it diminishes their contributions to our country, it is way off base.”
      Conservative politicians in general expressed opposition and concern over the release of the report, on the theory that it would stir anti-Americanism abroad and be detrimental to the country's counterterrorism efforts in the Middle East. Dick Cheney, Vice-president under Bush and a promoter of the questioned CIA tactics—which were approved as legal actions at the time—was quoted in the press as saying the harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects were “absolutely, totally justified…The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program.”
      The methods used by the CIA included not a few practices applied by military dictatorships in Latin America during the 1970’s, such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation. 
      It is difficult to determine if the abusive practices mentioned in the report have been completely suspended.
       As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama—a Nobel Prize winner—appeared to be strongly opposed to the counterterrorism tactics of the Bush Administration. However, in office liberal critics have questioned policies such as the use of drone planes to attack and kill suspected terrorists and mass internal and international surveillance.
       This controversy has surfaced as the political parties begin fueling their campaigns for the upcoming presidential elections, assuring a strong debate on the role of the CIA and tactics to be used in the “war” against terrorism, a war which has not gotten the approval of Congress. However, the deeper issue of the political role of the intelligence community in precipitating actions abroad and the justification for actions paid for but not approved by the citizens will likely be shelved.
      What do people think of this issue? Difficult to determine. But we reproduce here a few views by letters to the New York Times on December 9th. The opinions expressed are the exclusive views of the authors of the letters.
      Jack McGinniss of Las Vegas:       The Obama administration engaged in all sorts of gamesmanship to prevent the report’s release, including a last-minute call from John Kerry to Feinstein in which the Secretary of State warned that release of the report could endanger American lives (a warning affirmed yesterday by the White House).
      "A vital part of President Obama’s legacy will be his repeated and ultimately successful efforts to shield the torturers from all forms of legal accountability - which, aside from being a brazen breach of America’s treaty obligations, makes deterrence of future American torture almost impossible (Obama did that even in the face of some polls showing pluralities favored criminal investigations of torture).
    "To see how little accountability there still is for national security state officials, recall that the CIA got caught spying on the Senate Committee and then lying about it, yet John Brennan kept his job as CIA Director (just as James Clapper is still Director of National Intelligence despite getting caught lying about NSA domestic spying). "
     "Steve of Santa Barbara, California, in a letter to Dianne Feinstein: “Dear Dianne,
     "I am absolutely flummoxed by your publishing the CIA report to the general public of the entire world. What is achieved by releasing this information? I'm sure you're aware that every hostage that was beheaded by ISIS was wearing an orange jumpsuit and had been water-boarded for months before their horrendous moments of death in the desert. A direct result of previously released information.
    "If the question of CIA methods to extract information was put to the general public on September 12, 2001, the response would be an overwhelming, ‘do whatever’s necessary. Use whatever means it takes to find and destroy the perpetrators of September 11.’ Dianne, perhaps you've forgotten the images of the hopeless workers jumping from the flaming windows of the world trade center. Instead of spending your time and millions and millions of dollars attacking the CIA and its methods, why not bring to final justice the man who orchestrated and proudly claims complete responsibility for the murderous crimes of 9/11. The man who also personally decapitated Daniel Pearl. Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. For thirteen years he has luxuriated in his custom designed 'cell', wearing his beautifully fashioned, white linen outfits, while surrounded by teams of the finest lawyers in America, paid for by the United States government, to defend his civil rights.”
    Jamil Simaan, Boston: “Mild torture *may* be of some use in gathering information in a tight schedule but the only way to get information out of a mind is by coaxing it out. Horrific torture that pierces into the mind of a victim makes him think he is going to die - and when any person is put on God's doorstep, broken with despair, their mind becomes detached from the world. That is the most damning evidence of the Bush administration's foolishness - to believe that destroying a person's will gives you control over them. A person in despair doesn't say whatever the torturer wants, he says whatever he wants because he thinks he is certain he is going to die a terrible death. In accepting death, he becomes his own master, who may choose to help, hinder, or misled his captors; in rejecting it, it is doubtful much of his brain will function the maelstrom of pain and confusion, let alone divulge verifiable and useful information.Even though these methods are a product of the Bush Administration, they reflect a wider pattern in America where most people believe that all problems can be solved with either enough force, money, or popularity. America is in dire need of a cultural shift towards valuing ideas over the cudgel."

   For more information on this subject, we suggest the reader scan newspapers and other sources with varied political ideologies.

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