The NSA’s many, many surveillance programs. The TSA’s security theater. “See something, say something.” The DHS and its “Fusion Centers,” in which First Amendment-protected activity is viewed as inherently suspicious. The distribution of armored vehicles and high-powered weapons to law enforcement agencies. The FBI’s constantly expanding investigative scope and powers. The NYPD’s “Demographics Unit.” These are all things we do because of terrorism.
Those who believe the threat of terrorism can justify nearly anything are now claiming the threat of terrorism justifies NOT doing something. Daniel Drezner rounds up quotes from current and former officials who believe that the safety of our nation now hinges on not releasing the long-delayed “Torture Report.” Joining John Kerry in his statement that the release could have negative effects on “foreign policy” are a host of familiar names, starting with House Intelligence Committee head Mike Rogers.
“I think this is a terrible idea,” Rogers said. “Our foreign partners are telling us this will cause violence and deaths. . . . Foreign leaders have approached the government and said, ‘You do this, this will cause violence and deaths.’ Our own intelligence community has assessed that this will cause violence and deaths.”
Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA, echoes Rogers’ concerns.
“…[T]his will be used by our enemies to motivate people to attack Americans and American facilities overseas.”
As Drezner points out, the narrative these men are pushing makes no sense. According to Hayden, Rogers and (to a lesser extent) Kerry, the release of this report will be the tipping point for our enemies, rather than two lengthy, unending military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan… or years of drone strikes… the United States’ constant support of Israel… the revelations of torture occurring at Abu Ghraib…
According to this narrative, terrorists will be more outraged by a damning Senate report than by the previous decade-plus of actions in response to the 9/11 attacks.
I’m sorry, but this is just nuts. There is no shortage of US foreign policy actions and inactions in the region to inflame enemies. The Senate report is small potatoes compared to that.
The release of the report could actually be a net win for the US. Its reputation has taken several hits over the past year, and exposing its flaws to the world — in hopes of preventing this behavior from repeating itself — will show our allies, and our enemies, that the nation is stronger than its weakest moments. Delaying the release of the report, or rendering it meaningless via over-redaction, won’t send the same message. Instead, it will confirm our enemies’ (and allies’) worst suspicions: that the US government cares more about maintaining a facade than actually making an effort to rebuild its damaged reputation. Doing what Kerry, Rogers and Hayden suggest — bury the report until whenever (and at what point will we not have enemies?) — could actually provide more motivation to terrorists than being open, honest and contrite about the CIA’s actions.