By Harry C. Blaney III
The revelations in the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report were horrendous only to those who either did not want to believe Americans could commit these acts of torture or who even to this day condone such acts. The same for people who were asleep during the many times that the media had reported, in less detail, that these acts had taken place during the Bush II administration.
Let us be clear on one point, while it was said that the President was “lied to” by the CIA, the fact of the matter is that the blame for these acts directly falls on President George W. Bush, Vice President Cheney, and others in the White House staff. Blame can also lay on the Justice Department, who justified the torture, and the past Congressional intelligence committees for, given what was in the public domain at that time as well as in secret briefings, overlooking the illegal techniques being used and that tough questions were not asked and not followed up on by compelled sworn testimonies and forceful investigations at the time. We likely need on these committees not “blind supporters” but rather hard headed and moral leaders with oversight, not back slapping as their role. One can question if this will occur given the types of people that the GOP will have on that committee.
In the coming weeks, as we read the full report, more details and revelations will emerge. What is important is not just the fact that we have the most comprehensive overview of this dark period in American history, but that we learn from it and make sure that it will “never again” be repeated.
We also need to know that those that are now criticizing the release of this report and are saying this release will endanger Americans, these same people are too often the ones who created those dangers by ordering these incredible acts, participating or overseeing them, approving them, or justifying and pushing for them. The blame rests squarely with these neo-cons and “hawks,” that with lying and prevarication brought us into a useless, thoughtless, and costly war in Iraq, but also now push for even more risks and military actions without any thought of the consequences or efficacy.
What we need to do now is to apply the lessons of our new knowledge to actions which will help prevent a repeat of these immoral and illegal acts which are already, and were when they occurred, stupid and depraved. To act wisely and to put in place institutional and legal barriers, we need to pass new restrictive laws. We need new Presidential orders. We need to strengthen the oversight of our intelligence agencies, give more powers to the Justice Department to prosecute those that order and carry out such acts, and not least reform the CIA’s procedures. We need to provide tighter oversight by outside authorities. We must harshly punish those officials that lie to the White House, Congress, and the Courts about their acts. The “Operations” section of the CIA needs to be reformed, cleansed of those that clearly do not understand American law and morality and act with impunity in base and vicious ways.
We need to give our thanks to the leaders of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee for not only drafting this report, but to not backing down to CIA pressure to withhold its truth to the American people, and also fighting to keep in the public report parts that are hard to read but absolutely necessary to know if corrective actions are to be taken. We will see in the coming months if the Republicans as well as the Democrats in Congress can face up to their responsibility to enact more restraints on these kind of activities, whether the White House will act, which it has done already to some measure, to tighten oversight, and discipline those that broke our laws, or at least bring them before a “truth commission” so we can know what they did, why, and for whom.
Lastly, we need an intelligence capability, but we need one that increases our security rather than act in ways that undermine our role in the world and our security by committing unspeakable acts. All this does is damage America’s positive role in the world.
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