In the fall of 2002, while I was chairman of the House intelligence committee, senior members of Congress were briefed on the CIA's "High Value Terrorist Program," including the development of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and what those techniques were. This was not a one-time briefing but an ongoing subject with lots of back and forth between those members and the briefers. ... Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as "waterboarding" were never mentioned. It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience. ... The chairs and the ranking minority members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, known as the Gang of Four, were briefed that the CIA was holding and interrogating high-value terrorists.
The Congressional leadership needs to 'man-up,' now, before their own words and deeds are released by name for the public to examine. Those in glass houses need to be careful of what they throw.
UPDATE 1: To further illustrate the confused message coming from the administration, read both the President's call on the CIA to change their wicked ways, and his assurance to the agency that its members have his full support.
ABCs Jake Tapper published an article yesterday in which he cited a number of current and former CIA officers who shared their concerns that the Obama Administration is now on a path that leaves them exposed and 'without cover.' A former lawyer for the agency, Mark Lowenthal was one of the sources:
"We ask these people to do extremely dangerous things, things they've been ordered to do by legal authorities, with the understanding that they will get top cover if something goes wrong," Lowenthal says. "They don't believe they have that cover anymore." Releasing the photographs "will make it much worse," he said.
Even though President Obama has announced that the Justice Department will not prosecute CIA officers who were operating within the four corners of what they'd been told was the law, Lowenthal says members of the CIA are worried. "They feel exposed already, and this is going to increase drumbeat for an investigation or a commission" to explore detainee treatment during the Bush years, he said. "It's going to make it much harder to resist, and they fear they're then going to be thrown over."
The officers have good reason to fear this, if history is any guide. The Washington Examiner related the story of Ted Olson, who provided legal advice to President Reagan. Olson became the subject of a long-running independent counsel investigation for providing legal advice that later became politically unpopular among members of Congress. The investigation took up years of his life, went nowhere in the long run, and damaged his reputation. There's a great danger that the current thirst for 'truth' turns to a thirst for vengeance. Persecuting those who did their jobs believing their actions to be legally correct and acceptable, and possibly endangering members of the military and intelligence communities who are currently deployed when further exposures are made, is irresponsible at best. Giving a pep talk to Langley won't reassure officers who have done a dangerous job for years, and expected to be covered by the White House, no matter who holds the presidency.
The way that the administration seems to be handling this issue has, at times, appeared almost schizophrenic. Stephen Hayes exposed some of the confusion in the recent edition of The Weekly Standard. The gravest concern raised in his article is not the apparent internal debate in the administration, and between various factions of the Democratic Party, but rather than selective leaking of the memos and possible investigations, will be only for political gain. That possibility should concern any citizen.