The so-called torture report is worthless as an investigation, but it’s valuable to our enemies.
December 13, 2014
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) discusses a newly released Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's anti-terrorism tactics, in a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, in this still image taken from video, on Capitol Hill in Washington December 9, 2014. (Reuters)
Jihadists are still waging their war against the civilized world. Check that: Jihadists are currently winning their war against the civilized world. Thank Barack Obama, who fails to grasp the difference between being “the president who ends wars” and the president who retreats from wars, and thus surrenders while the enemy is on the rise.
What is the response of Senate sages to this predicament? Dianne Feinstein and her fellow Democrats saw it as the perfect time to savage the CIA, further burn America’s bridges with anti-terrorism allies, and hand jihadists a huge propaganda victory.
The Islamic State had a response, too: They beheaded four Christian children for refusing to renounce Jesus Christ.
You see where this is going, no?
The Democrats’ “torture” report is a gratuitous hit job — brought to you by the same party that, out of political calculation, aggressively undermined the American war effort in Iraq — only after voting to send our men and women into grave danger there, also out of political calculation.
To be sure, the report is a highly disturbing document. It graphically illustrates the severity of enhanced interrogation tactics used against a small group of top-tier terrorists — terrorists who were responsible for brutally murdering thousands of Americans and who, at the time of their capture, were actively plotting to kill thousands more.
Still, notwithstanding the revelation of a few new gory details, this is old news and its disclosure serves no useful purpose — it is just a settling of scores.
“Old news” is not used here in the familiar Clinton/Obama sense of acknowledging a few embarrassing scandal details on Friday night to pave the way for dismissing scandal coverage as stale by Monday morning. The CIA’s interrogation program happened over a decade ago. It was investigated by Justice Department prosecutors for years — and not once but twice. The second time, even Eric Holder, the hyper-politicized, hard-Left attorney general who had promised Obama’s base a “reckoning,” could not help but concede that the case against our intelligence agents should be dropped because the evidence was insufficient to warrant torture prosecutions.
As I have frequently argued here over the years, there is a world of difference between what is couched in political rhetoric as “torture,” a conversation stopper that the Left cavalierly applies to every instance of prisoner abuse, and the federal crime of torture, which has a strict legal definition and is a difficult offense to prove, precisely to ensure that torture is not trivialized. Not surprisingly, then, the fact that the interrogations investigation was terminated has never been regarded as a clean bill of health.
To the contrary, disclosure was made to the public, through congressional investigations as well as through the criminal probe, that the tactics used were troubling. The treatment of a bare fraction of the tens of thousands of detainees held for a time raised concerns about abuse — far less than the norm in previous wars. The abuses that did occur, however, became notorious. And they were not trivial. Indeed, two detainees died: one under suspicious circumstances in Iraq, another of hypothermia in Afghanistan.
But we’ve known this for years. In conjunction with the Left’s shameful “Bush lied, people died” Iraq war meme — along with the Bush administration’s peculiar decision not to defend itself from scurrilous allegations — the “torture” narrative helped propel Democrats to decisive victories in the 2006 and 2008 elections.
Feinstein’s report similarly serves no useful purpose when it comes to the ostensible rationale for its release, namely: the quest to corroborate the strictly ideological — and demonstrably false — claim that coercive interrogation does not yield vital intelligence.
On this score, it is almost not worth pointing to the averments of current and former CIA directors and operatives that the techniques employed produced essential wartime intelligence. It is even tempting to omit mention of the fact that the 9/11 Commission Report — lauded by members of both parties as the definitive account of the 9/11 attacks and the foundation of American counterterrorism policy — is largely the product of intelligence culled from top terrorists subjected to waterboarding and other indignities.
These are time-wasting exercises because the Feinstein report, as a piece of government investigative work, is laughably incompetent — at least as much as a taxpayer can laugh at a $50 million political stunt. An investigation that, as Rich Lowry notes, neglects to interview a single participant in the relevant events is a fraud. There is no other word for it.
This one will cost us dearly — and I’m not just talking about the $50 mil. The allies we need to prosecute a global anti-terror campaign — the ones from whom Obama’s election was supposed to win us renewed respect and affection — despise us for what Senate Democrats have done. As someone who has been around the block as many times as Feinstein must be aware, the report embarrasses governments that cooperate with the United States and raises their vulnerability as terror targets.
And just as our allies are reminded that America is an unfaithful friend, so, too, have American national-security officials, intelligence agents, and warriors been given a cautionary lesson: If you take actions to protect the American people — in wartime, in the heat of the moment amid a palpably justified fear of mass-murder attacks after nearly 3,000 of your fellow citizens have been slaughtered — better prepare to be hounded as a war criminal for the succeeding decade or more.
Jihadists, meanwhile, will go on beheading teenagers and planning massive attacks.
It has been one thing to tell our ascendant enemies — in actions and omissions that speak louder than words — that we have no stomach to fight them where they must be fought: on the ground where, we know, given time and space, they plot to kill Americans. It is quite another thing to buoy them with the assurance that a major party in this country has a bottomless appetite to fight Americans whose major allegiance is to America.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.