J. D. Heyes
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
As he campaigned for the presidency in 2007 and 2008, then Sen. Barack Obama made clear there would be no torturing of terrorism suspects on his watch, as had been done by the agency with White House and Justice Department approval during the Bush administration in the years following the 9/11 attacks.
And as it turned out, one of the first things Obama did after becoming president was sign an executive order that included a ban on the tortureof terror suspects.
That was in 2009, shortly after becoming president. But with the campaign over, now came the bitter reality of actually having togovern. As president, one of the things Obama, the new commander-in-chief, was expected to do was to continue successful prosecution of the so-called Global War On Terror begun Sept. 12, 2001. To do that would require action, not campaign promises. And action meant sticking with what worked.
That’s why, despite public protestations and campaign-like slogans of “change,” Obama used a presidential sleight of hand to disapprove torturingon U.S. soilwhile granting the CIA authority to continue the practice in countries whose record on human rights abuses was already well-known.
This is why the president, bowing the realities of office rather than the seductive sound bites of a campaign, agreed to allow the continuance of most other Bush-era anti-terrorism CIA tactics that may be distasteful to the well-heeled elite but that are vital to protect the integrity and national security of the world’s most powerful democracy.
In a soon-to-be released PBSFrontlinedocumentary John Rizzo, a top CIA lawyer, says the incoming Obama administration may have tut-tutted the agency’s anti-terrorism tactics on the campaign trail but went on to “endorse” nearly all of them when the time came to take over the reins of power.
“I was part of the transition briefings of the incoming Obama team, and they signaled fairly early on that the incoming president believed in a vigorous, aggressive, continuing counterterrorism effort,” Rizzo says in the documentary.
“Although they never said it exactly, it was clear that the interrogation program was going away. We all knew that,” he continued. “But his people were signaling to us, I think partly to try to assure us that they weren’t going to come in and dismantle the place, that they were going to be just as tough, if not tougher, than the Bush people.
“With a notable exception of the enhanced interrogation program, the incoming Obama administration changed virtually nothing with respect to existing CIA programs and operations,” he said. “Things continued. Authorities were continued that were originally granted by President Bush beginning shortly after 9/11. Those were all picked up, reviewed and endorsed by the Obama administration.”
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
In truth, the covert warfare programs under the Obama administration have actually expanded since the Bush team left office. While Obama may not be casting as wide a net for terror suspects around the world, that has given way to more deadlier operations, as in, an increased use of CIA-owned drones to strike terror suspects in places like Pakistan. Consider it the modern-day equivalent of President Richard Nixon’s ordering of secret bombing campaigns in Cambodia during the Vietnam War.
The Obama administration should be commended for its efforts to protect the nation from the growing global terrorist threat. Having said that, it would be a refreshing change of pace for the current White House to not just admit the preceding administration’s hard-core strategy of doing what it took to prevent future 9/11’s was effective, but also worthy of repetition.