By lex, on April 29th, 2011
When Barack Obama was a presidential candidate, he ran against George W. Bush, who of course wasn’t even in the race. Having been sworn in to a job that he pursued with relentless energy, he spent most of his first two years blaming his predecessor for the country’s woes. Time has run out on that political tactic, but the deep seated conviction that everything that Bush did must be undone has resulted in some unwise policy decisions, according to Alabama senator Jeff Sessions:
Over the past two years, America has come alarmingly close to multiple large-scale attacks by terrorists linked to al-Qaeda. For President Obama to effectively secure this country against attacks, he must stop weakening the capabilities of the CIA and diminishing our intelligence-gathering efforts.
On April 10, for instance, it was publicly reported that Umar Patek had been apprehended by Pakistani officials. Patek is described by foreign and domestic intelligence officials as a central figure among Islamic extremists in Southeast Asia and is said to possess a “gold mine” of information about al-Qaeda sympathizers across the region. The Bush administration had offered a $1 million bounty for his capture in 2005.
Yet the CIA, it was reported this month, had taken no steps to detain or interrogate Patek. The CIA’s deeply diminished role in interrogating newly captured terrorists is one of several dangerous roadblocks that this administration has thrown up, constraining our ability to gather crucial intelligence and, ultimately, putting this country at grave risk.
The CIA’s reluctance to act is hardly surprising, given the second-guessing and retroactive inquiries to which it has been subjected in recent years. In April 2009 the president ordered the release of highly classified memos detailing the legal authority the CIA relied upon to guide its interrogation efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He also forced the CIA to limit its interrogation methods to those contained in the Army Field Manual, much of which is publicly available to the very terrorists who would be the subject of such interrogations.
In August 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder took the extraordinary step of appointing a special prosecutor to launch a criminal probe of the CIA’s interrogation efforts, an investigation that is ongoing. These actions are counterproductive and ignore the lessons of recent history.
“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer” is a quote attributed to Sun Tzu, the brilliant Chinese general from the 6th Century BC. Perhaps this was why the president is taking General Petraeus out of the fight and placing him atop the CIA. That will be a new battle ground for the general, as he seeks to reassure the entrenched bureaucracy that he understands and supports their efforts.
Rolling Holder back might make a good first fight.