The CIA Lost Its Soul and Took Ours With It


Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

This past week’s news reports of the Senate report on the CIA Torture program were both distressing and enlightening.   I was dismayed to not only read what the full extent of the CIA’s Torture program was, but also when I read pundits and former CIA officials claim that rectal rehydration was merely a medical procedure! I was further discouraged when commenters on this blog made claims that waterboarding and other torture tactics were either necessary or what the devils deserved.

Very few pundits or commenters seem to care if the so-called Enhanced Interrogation techniques were legal or ethical when the CIA resorted to them shortly after 9/11.  This “debate” over the actions taken in our name by the CIA has gone from a report based on the CIA’s own words to denials that the techniques were torture, to claims that great intelligence value was gained using the torture and claims that it was a biased report written by Democrats.

When we were attacked on September 11, 2001, most of the world was supporting the United States in its hours of grief and anger.  What happened after the attacks quickly turned the tide of world opinion against us and created new enemies.  When the CIA delved into its historical “playbook” to devise black sites and brutal interrogation techniques, the result, in my opinion, was a loss of our ethical and legal bearings that are still out of whack today.

When our greatest generation fought enemies stronger and just as brutal as what we face today, our forces were held to a higher standard than the enemy we were fighting.  The idea that America does not torture or mistreat its prisoners or enemies is not a new one.  It dates back at least to when General George Washington decided that British regulars and paid mercenaries fighting for the British were not to be mistreated in our detention facilities.

He made that decision knowing what too many of our soldiers had experienced under the hands of the British forces.  We were supposed to be better than our enemies.

When the CIA delved into the black sites and torture techniques, another US agency, the FBI balked and questioned the tactics being practiced by the CIA.  The FBI was gaining valuable information from al Qaeda operative, Abu Zubaydah, after his capture in March of 2002, but that all changed when he was put into isolation for 47 days.

“The Senate report describes the F.B.I. questioning — both in the hospital and later at the black site — as successful. Intelligence reports indicate he provided valuable information, but denied knowing anything about plots against America. But agency officials believed he was holding out. In response, Mr. Mitchell offered a menu of interrogation options.

While C.I.A. and Justice Department lawyers debated the legality of the tactics, the report reveals, Mr. Zubaydah was left alone in a cell in Thailand for 47 days. The Senate report asserts that isolation, not resistance, was the reason he stopped talking in June. Mr. Soufan said he was livid when he read that. “What kind of ticking-bomb scenario is this if you can leave him in isolation for 47 days?” he said.

For three weeks in August 2002, Mr. Zubaydah was questioned using the harshest measures available, including waterboarding. But the Senate report says he never revealed information about a plot against the United States. The C.I.A. concluded he had no such information.” New York Times

The CIA has used harsh interrogation and torture during past wars and conflicts and eventually the agency was brought under control.  Waterboarding is torture, no matter what name it is given.  Isolation, rectal rehydration, sleep deprivation, to name a few, are torture.  We have prosecuted past enemies for waterboarding and even some of our soldiers who crossed the legal and moral line.

Why is it now only a crime if our enemies do it to us?  Will we regain the soul of America again and finally get past partisan grievances to retake the moral standing of our nation?

We talk often on this blog about the rule of law.  Whether it is a President who is grabbing more power for the Executive Branch or citizens of color who seemingly are undervalued by our Justice system.  An argument can be made that ever since money starting taking control of our government, we have lost our rule of law because the wealthy and powerful seem to be immune to prosecution. Does the CIA stand above the rule of law?

Will the CIA be brought under control?  Will government officials who authorized the torture and those that carried it out and those that refused to prosecute it be brought to justice?  I submit that if we do not get control over the CIA our collective souls will continue to suffer in our eyes and in the eyes of the world.  As Ali H. Soufan, the former FBI interrogator mentioned earlier says, our actions have consequences.

“‘We played into the enemy’s hand,” said Ali H. Soufan, a former F.B.I. agent who clashed with the C.I.A. over its interrogation tactics. “Now we have American hostages in orange jumpsuits because we put people in orange jumpsuits.”’ New York Times  It is an overused phrase, but it fits here:

“The whole world is watching.”

Only we can resurrect the soul of America. We are better than torture.  At least we used to be.

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463 thoughts on “The CIA Lost Its Soul and Took Ours With It”

  1. You’re right, Sandi.

    An assassin’s ethics only change for a little teeny bit (while the victim bleeds out, I presume) and don’t count at all.

    Let’s just call it a momentary displacement of ethics.

    1. We could assume (for the sake of argument) that the victim’s ethics caused his or her demise.

  2. This thread is too long to read at this point. But Paul’s comment on ethics was worth defending. No one can know how deeply anyone else’s ethics go, we sometimes surprise ourselves questioning our own. To do the job required means setting aside some personal ethics.

    I don’t think someone in the course of their assignment killing someone means that those ethics change forever. If we’d discovered that 19 people were going to crash planes into buildings, and killed everyone of them before, look what could have been averted. It doesn’t mean someone is walking around looking to kill people everyday.

    People risk their lives doing what they can to protect their country. I refuse to attack what they do. I’m just thankful they are willing to do it.

  3. I fully agree with your viewpoints on the loss of ethics in the CIA. As an 8 year veteran employee of the Agency who recently left there due to severe ethical concerns, I just blogged about ethics in our CIA work this afternoon. Good to see everyone so involved with this conversation.


    1. Chalen – you are presupposing the CIA had ethics to begin with. At best the CIA is amoral, at worst immoral.

      1. You are somewhat correct, but I will bend it a bit… when I first started in the IC, I “believed” they would be doing the “right thing”. Shortly after that, I realised how naïve I was, and how immoral that line of work could be. Hell, *I* was misled from the beginning! But yes, you are right with the use of your latter adjective in describing the Agency. “Amoral” isn’t strong enough.

        1. Chalen – I have never hoped that the CIA had ethics. I do not think they can do their job effectively if they are ethical. I did a lot of reading on spying and spycraft during and after WWII. Ethical is not a word that was used. 😉

          1. You are correct about the effectiveness of their work without having one of their main desired (and slowly cultivated) personality traits of a gray moral compass.

  4. On a related note to my assertion earlier that the CIA does not act alone…this morning Cuba has released an American who had been jailed for actions taken while working in Cuba as a representative of USAID. It has been stated in early news reports that it was a covert USAID operation. Did we know that USAID even had covert operations? Precisely what does USAID do “covertly?” What do they aid, abet, and sponsor in this activity? I’ll guess that the comments about covert operations will be excised from further news reports.

    Current reports assert he was distributing communications devices banned by the Cuban government, including satellite telephones. How does this fit with the stated, approved, mission of USAID: USAID is the lead U.S. Government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential.

    Not “torture” but still well outside the published mission and known constructs of law in the places they operate. Perhaps, sometimes we are better off not knowing everything. It makes blaming one individual or agency for things done jointly very difficult.

  5. I’m just your average, every-day, middle-aged, conservative woman so few people who post comments here are going to care about my opinion, but you may be interested in the fact that the vast majority of my friends and acquaintances have no problem with what the CIA did, and believe Diane Feinstein should be prosecuted if any of the agents or their family members are harmed because of this report. What a whiny, immature, weasily brat she is.

    I’ve asked before when “torture” is being discussed and I’ll ask again – if you or someone you love is ever at risk due to a pending terrorist attack and one of the planners is captured – what level of interrogation would be acceptable to you?

  6. The definition of interrogate is “to ask questions of (a person), sometimes to seek answers or information that the person questioned considers personal or secret.” Since when does “rectal rehydration” fall under the notion of “interrogation”? Coercive interrogation would be shouting in the face of the person and giving him verbal abuse and “the good cop bad cop” treatment or prolonged and unrelenting questioning. Waterboarding is not interrogation; it is suffocation. If we are going to be honest with ourselves, we must stop employing euphemisms to avoid the ugly truth.

  7. Never mind, I’m not an English expert. I just know I can get my thoughts intertwined with other thoughts when I’m in a hurry to type out my message. I don’t mean to correct anyone, I’m just trying to smooth over differences. 🙂

  8. Jettexas, I went by what Sandi said at 1:43 on Dec. 16th and nothing else. I hope that clears it up.

  9. Inga ~ I think Sandi meant this:

    Sandi Hemming
    “Inga, Professor Turley has been on Megyn Kelly’s show several times. He (Dr. Mitchell) has discussed torture and you can see on his face the difficulty he has talking about torture. He thinks water boarding is, others say no. JT is on Fox quite a bit, you should watch him”.

    She was referring to Dr. Mitchell and the look on his face when he talked about torture on Megan Kelly. She is right, I saw the interview and I understood what she meant.

    Maybe because you didn’t see the interview, you thought she was referring to Prof. Turley because of her previous sentence. Does that help? 🙂

  10. Sandi Hemming said:
    I never said being on Megyn’s show meant agreement with her views.
    Professor Turley has been on discussing many legal decisions.

    My comment said, when he talks about torture I can see a sad man, who believes torture is wrong and wishes his country would not use it. It’s very hard to keep up with how others characterize what I said.

    Do I think he questions his views? Of course, he’s a smart man.

    I think the confusion was that Sandi was referring to Dr. Mitchell being on Megan Kelly tonight, and that just because Professor Turley was on Megan Kelly’s show talking about legal stuff, which he was on November 18th, doesn’t mean he agrees with her views. Does it make more sense now? 🙂

    Am I correct Sandi? lol I feel like I’m stepping into a alligator pit. Yikes! lol

  11. I found this on ‘Fox Showing results 1 – 10 of 27807 for jonathan turley’. I do know the last time Prof. Turley was on Fox was November 18th and he was on Megan Kelly’s show. He has not spoken on the intelligence report on Fox, but maybe on one of their radio shows. I think the Libs are po’d at him and why he may not be on the usual propaganda networks like CNN, MSNBC or ABC.

  12. on 1, December 16, 2014 at 1:43 amSandi Hemming
    Inga, Professor Turley has been on Megyn Kelly’s show several times. He has discussed torture and you can see on his face the difficulty he has talking about torture. He thinks water boarding is, others say no. JT is on Fox quite a bit, you should watch him.

    1. Inga – perception is reality and you may be perceiving things on JT’s face that you would like to be there but actually are not.

  13. on 1, December 16, 2014 at 1:34 amSandi Hemming
    Inga, there are Dr’s certificates for each and every rehydration performed at GITMO. If they are unwieldy, a simple injection would knock them out. Should we not rehydrate? Fine by me. I wouldn’t force feed them either. If that’s what they want to do, let them. This report is just dishonest. How dan you do a report without asking people who worked at GITMO? Or the CIA? It’s completely useless. $40 Million?

  14. So Sandi, why then did you assume they were sedated? Also why indicate you saw JT on the Megyn Kelley show speaking about torture, when you now say you never saw him on Fox speaking abou torture? See your OWN comments regarding sedation and JT’s appearance on Fox speaking about torture. Have you forgotten what you yourself said upstream?

  15. Rafflaw,would you be able to ask our host on this site what he prefers. Does JT bother him? I would get tired of reading my full name over and over.

  16. Inga, I’m not a computer whiz and don’t link. Dr. Mitchell spoke about sedation. Watch him on Megyn tonight and listen to him personally. I’d like you to see the pain on his face when discussing his family’s danger.

  17. Sandi, not trying to be unkind, but you seem to often miss the nuances of what people say. You also seem to miss the entire thrust of a commenter’s arguments at times. So perhaps you should mind your own business here.

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