Wednesday, December 10, 2014




(Wednesday December 10, 2014, NY, NY)  In a city that never seems to cease shocking and dismaying us, yesterday in Washington, DC was among the days that will long be considered a low point for the Senate.  For no apparent reason aside from bitter partisanship, in one of the last acts the Democratic controlled Senate can make before the new Republican dominated Senate is sworn in next January, the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee for Intelligence, the poorly aging California Senator Dianne Feinstein, with great hype, released information that should never have been revealed at this time.  The blatant move to tarnish the efforts of the CIA and our military and the use of “black sites” for imprisonment and interrogation in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2009 is a direct affront to the committed men and women who were tasked with waging a new kind of war against a new kind of enemy after September 11, 2001.  While the focus of this “report” was concentrated on CIA and military contractors operating with “enemy combatants” from 2002 through 2004, the document contains information that reveal it to be nothing more than a half-assed attempt at a witch hunt. Senator Feinstein once again demonstrated her inability to put politics aside from national security. 

It appears the passage of time has dulled the sharp images and memories of the death and destruction in New York City, Washington, DC, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania on that sunny Tuesday morning 13 years ago.  It was on that day that the Taliban protected Muslim extremist terrorist organization known as al Qaeda pulled the United States into a war that would see them ultimately routed by mid December 2001.  Within weeks of September 11, 2001 the CIA and Special Forces had been inserted into Afghanistan in advance of what we would see as the successful aerial assault that it was,  followed by a near extinction of al Qaeda fighters.  Those who remained were trapped in the Khyber Pass.  Many “enemy combatants” were captured and the CIA began to set up “black sites” in countries supportive of our fight against terrorists with a global reach.  It was at some of these black sites that the enemy combatants were held and interrogated.  Remember, from September 11, 2001 until December 31, 2001 we had seen ricin laced letters sent to public officials and news reporters; the belief that another “follow-up” attack was imminent.  The Congress quickly granted the President and military broad authority to conduct this new type of asymmetrical warfare in the firm belief that the United States, New York City in particular, remained a “high value target rich” environment. The basics of what came to be known as “The Patriot Act” were passed with bipartisan support.  This was not a war of our choosing; this was a most urgent matter of engaging in a rapid and overwhelming display of American might while the fires from the collapsed World Trade Center towers still smoldered entombing dozens of unrecovered bodies including the remains of several hundred fallen members of the FDNY.


Our federal government has a long history of nondisclosure even for the most petty of information.  Some of the secrets our government has kept from us are the details of actions ranging from criminal to inhumane.  One needs look no further than the infamous “Tuskegee Experiment” where government doctors infected African American men in Tuskegee Alabama with syphilis and observed the advance of their disease for decades without ever calling the “experiment” off to do the moral and medically ethical thing they should have done.  There were trials using LSD on servicemen in the 1960’s as well as a host of human experiments to assess the biological effects of radiation from nuclear material, inserting non-toxic gas into the New York City Subway system to study the flow of air within the network of tunnels and a variety of an unknown number of studies all conducted under the guise of “national security”.  Even the bogus claims of alien bodies from an alleged 1947 UFO crash being stored at an Air Force Base near Roswell, New Mexico was kept under wraps for decades as was the voluminous amount of data and information accumulated throughout the years concerning the existence of UFO’s. Yes, our federal government was extremely tight-lipped about matters large and small, of extreme sensitivity and small consequence. With the advent of the “Sunshine Laws” and the “Freedom of Information Act” (FIFA) researchers, journalists and scholars have gained access to a wealth of information, a literal treasure trove of federal secrets, embarrassments, and even crimes.

The list of governmental secrets, deceptions and outright lies is long and sordid but, some secrets were kept for a period of decades for reasons of discretion and decorum, in some circumstances, before being released.  Some of the revelations kept hidden from the public for long periods of time, once revealed seemed laughably  inane while others portrayed in chilling detail clandestine operations both here and abroad.  Secrecy has its place as do security clearances and other measures constructed to protect United States interests abroad.  


Given what the feds have kept from the public over the years, the release yesterday of the 600 page summary of the Senate Select Committee’s investigation into the alleged use of enhanced interrogation techniques in the immediate aftermath of the al Qaeda attack on the United States on September 11, 2001 is inexplicable.  Consuming $50 million and five years of Senate staffers’ time and efforts, the actual report is close to 6,000 pages and contains information that could cost the lives of our men and women in the military still on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq.  If nothing else the particulars spelled out in this summary will likely be used as “recruiting” material by ISIL and the other terrorist groups still hell-bent on attacking us here at home and at our foreign embassies, consulates and other locations of vital interest. 

Long touted as “The Torture Report” the critics of the document, many of whom were intimately involved in the CIA programs and operated the black sites, cite its many flaws and inaccuracies as well as the tone and tenor of the report that at times is merely accusatory, at other times incriminating.  That our own Senate would publically air for all the world to see some of our most closely held information regarding intelligence gathering and analysis and tradecraft, has the distinct feel of a negligent act at best; a matter of criminality, gross irresponsibility, with a slight tincture of treason.

It is the nature of this report that makes its public release all the more reckless, irresponsible and indefensible.  We are currently still engaged militarily in Afghanistan, Iraq and other less known places around the world as our efforts to eradicate as many terrorist groups and their infrastructure such as it is, as we possibly can.  The interrogation of the enemy combatants, many of whom are still held at the Naval Base – Guantanamo, Cuba, - had, at the time, the greatest sense of urgency.  The efficacy and value of information gleamed through the use of “enhanced” techniques can be hotly debated.  There are those who say that a prisoner being tortured will say anything to appease his captors and others who attest that the various “enhanced” techniques did in fact yield “actionable intelligence”; information that had “real time value”. 


The hypocrisy surrounding the Senate “investigation”, the compilation and release of this flawed report is astounding.  Actually, the most grievous error made by Feinstein’s Committee was the charade perpetrated yesterday on the floor of the Senate and in front of the press in the Capitol Rotunda.  To hear the self-righteous Democrats standing up for the “honor” of our country was sickening.  They speak of a virtue they lack when they call upon honor.  The men and women of the CIA and Special Forces live by a code that includes “Duty, Honor, Country” and, for those brave souls, those are life and death traits. For a career politician like Feinstein to publically excoriate the personal character and motives of those she is unfit to even tie their shoes, was a sad hour indeed. 

The United States has written some of the language contained in the Geneva Conventions regarding the conduct of a military during war time. We are also Party to many other international pacts and treaties that address wartime matters of conduct and protocol.  They specifically address the treatment to be afforded prisoners of war but those who were swept up on the high plains of Rawalpindi and the foothills of the Hindu Kush were not part of any Nation/ State’s uniformed organized armed forces; they were al Qaeda fighters, terrorists being protected by the harsh, brutal extremist regime of The Taliban.  That these prisoners were to be afforded all the rights of prisoners of war was a rigorous debate at the Pentagon, Department of Justice, the Office of White House Counsel, the Attorney General, as well as in the Office of the President and Vice President and the National Security Council.  As a rule and historic precedent we do not engage in torture.

The CIA and Special Forces as well as the military contractors functioned under the secure belief that their actions were sanctioned by those at the highest level of the Administration and were legally sound methods and techniques.  Now there are people on both sides of the issue blaming the other for what was and was not lawful.  If Americans had been polled regularly in the weeks and months after 9-11-2001 about the use of “torture” to extract information from enemy combatants in our custody overseas, most would have agreed that it was prudent to do so.  Everything about this investigation and report must be kept in context not just chronologically but also within the public sentiments and the reality of further attacks after al Qaeda  struck from the clear blue skies unprovoked on September 11, 2001.    


For all those who vigorously protest the alleged and actual treatment of some in our custody received in the early days of our “War on Terror”, there have been transgressions that were such dramatic divergence from our historical behavior that it is difficult to equate those actions with what was done in the aftermath of 9-11-2001.  Afghanistan was a righteous and just cause as we have mentioned earlier.  Once the Cheney/Bush Administration shifted their focus far afield towards a confrontation with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, we lost the moral high ground, such as it had been.  Never before in our history had we waged a war of aggression, a war of choice.  But, for reasons to this day not fully understood, yet fair to say were somewhat dubious at best, absolutely greedy, belligerent and petulant at worst, all military assets were shunted away from the real battlefield in Afghanistan.  It has been well documented that had the Administration provided authorization as requested from the commanders in the field to seal off the rugged, lawless border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, we very well might have had Osama bin Laden captured or killed prior to New Year’s Day of 2002.  It was in this ill-conceived, poorly planned, and utterly unnecessary war in Iraq that the American soul was most soiled and tarnished in the eyes of the world and in the conscience of Americans at large.

But the American soul was born out of armed revolution, forged in the brutality of our own Civil War and has repeatedly, steadfastly stood up and sided with those seeking to obtain our democratic ideals.  We live in a “Democratic Republic”; sometimes the designations assumed by our political Parties occlude our true identity. We have fought against Fascism, Nazism, Totalitarianism, and the inhumane ideologies of ethnic and sectarian genocide, oppression, religious sectarianism, and for the basic human rights endowed by our Creator.  Generally speaking we are a fine and decent people and have used our vast military and diplomatic might and influence judiciously and with great restraint on the international stage.   


Time, as in hindsight, provides a different perspective on events from the past.  It often takes the distance of years to fully objectively assess what was and what wasn’t done, the entirety of the decision making process, and how events evolved based on the circumstances of the day.  Lost in this retrospective process is the immediacy of the moments now under scrutiny.  History is written well after the fact by historians just as the analysts and critics have the luxury of time; for those who were not present in the arena, far away from the theater of battle with all its confusion and hot blood spilling, it is easy to deconstruct the past.  It is only natural.  But what should be first and foremost in the minds of all involved today is the simple fact that what was done was done with the balance of the greater good in mind.  Yes, the Cheney/Bush Administration are guilty of a number of sins but those sins came later in the game.  In the months and years, from the end of 2001 until 2004 they authorized actions that appear suspect today but back then seemed to serve the public interest and national security.

The arguments of today will turn into thesis topics of tomorrow and will long be studied in our military academies and our intelligence community.  Hopefully they have learned lessons but all bets are off when an event of the magnitude of 9-11-2001 tears at the very heart of who we are as a nation and as a people.  We sought, as always, to engage from the high ground but soon realized that perch did not exist in the war on terror, in the fight against zealots so committed to a cause they would much rather die than capitulate.  Men unafraid of death are adversaries of a vastly different nature than we are accustomed to.  We fight to defend our nation and people; they attack to promote an ideology that has no life beyond the remote corners of the planet they are permitted to live and plot, plan, and ready themselves for an unwinnable war.

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