Lifesaving Memos

April 23, 2009

I sincerely hope our justifiable anxiety over government spending and taxes will not obscure our vision in regard to other alarming threats to our liberties resulting from radical policy changes from the Obama administration, including those concerning our national security.

The administration’s endless multi-continent America-bashing expeditions, its hostility to strategic missile defense, its look-the-other-way approach to the ongoing nuclear and ballistic missile advancements of rogue nations while flirting with dismantling our own, and its reported termination of assembly line production of F-22 fighters — while China and Russia are engaged in the full-tilt manufacturing of fifth-generation fighter jets — are representative of its new approach.

But in my view, the second-biggest outrage unfolded this week, with the administration’s gratuitous decision to release internal CIA memos broadcasting our enhanced interrogation techniques against enemy combatant prisoners following the 9/11 attacks. The ultimate outrage is the administration’s green light to Congress to prosecute Bush administration officials for these policies, which manifestly prevented terrorist attacks and saved American lives. If these efforts make it past the partisan fantasies of such congressional charlatans as Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont, the slumbering public might finally awaken to the totalitarian thuggery of the leftists currently in charge of the government.

Here are just a few things to consider as we contemplate these outrages:

–The administration voluntarily surrendered and published these memos instead of objecting to their discovery by the American Civil Liberties Union, assuring us, quite unconvincingly, that President Obama wrestled deeply with the issue.

–The administration’s subsequent statements betray his disingenuousness about agonizing over this decision, as he has made clear his belief that it is a false choice to say we have to decide between our safety and our values. If there was no real choice, there was no real agonizing.

–It might be a false choice all right, but it’s false in the exact opposite way Obama suggests because releasing the memos clearly undermines our national security, whereas withholding them does not compromise our values — nor does the use of the enhanced interrogation techniques they describe.

–Four former CIA chiefs — Michael Hayden, Porter Goss, George Tenet and John Deutch — and Obama’s current CIA chief, Leon Panetta, all warned Obama not to release the documents because it could compromise intelligence operations. The director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, admitted, “High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qaida organization that was attacking this country.”

–Hillary’s Clinton’s insolent slander of Dick Cheney’s integrity to evade the question regarding the proven effectiveness of the interrogation techniques notwithstanding, the techniques worked to save lives. Before 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, his only answer to interrogators inquiring about future attacks on the United States was, “Soon, you will know.” Indeed, soon they did know because they waterboarded him and extracted information leading to the capture of key al-Qaida operatives and the closing down of an East Asian terrorist cell that was planning to attack Los Angeles — the “second wave” plot.

–In releasing the memos, the administration proved it was playing politics instead of promoting our values or national security, because it deliberately redacted information in those memos detailing the success of the interrogations, information that would justify the administration’s actions but the release of which would not compromise our national security. So the administration released information that will undermine our trust with foreign intelligence services, compromise our intelligence capacities in the future, and enable terrorists to train and prepare for us, but it blacked out portions solely because they would place Bush officials in a more favorable light.

–Administration officials and congressional Democrats want to prosecute Bush officials, including law professors who provided good-faith legal opinions on torture — criminalizing policy and legal differences — when we know Congress members themselves approved of the interrogation techniques in advance.

–Reasonable people can disagree as to whether waterboarding or other enhanced interrogation techniques constitute torture. Reasonable people can also disagree whether use of those techniques — or even more severe techniques, which we might objectively call torture — to save lives violates American values. It’s easy for the ivory tower partisans to say “never,” but I question the morality of those who would sit idly by in moral superiority while their own loved ones and others are massacred. What American value is promoted by sacrificing fellow Americans?

–Reasonable people must admit, however, that members of al-Qaida are not entitled to Geneva Conventions protections. Attorney General Eric Holder himself said in 2002 that they are not. One may reasonably say Americans should nonetheless still not engage in these interrogation practices, but they may not reasonably say that authors of legal opinions condoning the practice should be the subject of criminal retribution.

God help us all.