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Friday, December 12, 2014

Can't Help Myself - My Comments On This Torture Business

Link: Senator Kirk Telling It Like It Is

Before this issue exploded on the front page of the NY Times, I did not have much to say about Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois.  Interestingly enough, today he became my choice for President in 2016.  I have read the Congressional Report on Torture three times cover to cover, and I have yet to see the justification for all the drama.  Obviously some CIA personnel stepped outside the bounds of their authority.  This FACT was determined years ago, by the CIA's own internal investigation.  Individuals were punished appropriately as far as the process allows.  If you don't like the process, and want to bring CIA personnel to trial for alleged acts against foreign nationals, more power to you.  But you have to change the process (and law) first.  The release of this report was nothing more than rehashing information that was already available to the public.  I never saw any of the disgusting acts described in the report, which isn't surprising since they were the exception, not the rule. One, possibly two detainees were put through some process called "anal feeding".  Its horrible, inhumane and not allowed.  Anyone who participated in that type of behavior should be punished to the furthest extent according to the policies that are in place.  The same can be said for anyone who engaged in slapping, punching, or kicking detainees.  I'm also appalled by the allegation of Agency officers putting restraints on legs of persons with leg or ankle injuries.  I am not opposed to the use of Waterboarding in extreme circumstances.  A clearly defined set of guidelines should determine the proper use of this form of enhanced interrogation.  I know Waterboarding has saved lives.  It will do so again in the future if it is "recalled" to use.  But that decision was, and always will remain above my pay grade. Otherwise, in my opinion the least amount of physical contact between guards and detainees is the best policy.

I had a short but important conversation with my friend Joseph.  JJ and I seldom agree on politics but otherwise we get along famously.  I put great value on humor, and JJ sure knows how to make me laugh.  I think JJ was a bit worried that I would be one of those stereotypical bully-types that are usually associated with intimidating others.  Actually, I don't think he thought I was "one of them", but he was concerned that I might be a sympathizer.  Truth be told, I've met more than a handful of the kind of folks who are usually suffering from a permanent case of The Napoleon Syndrome (or Small Man's Syndrome).  I'm not comfortable around anyone who derives pleasure from degrading others.  I am convinced that people who get pleasure from dominating or humiliating others are suffering from some form of psychosis.  I'm sure that the U.S. Government at one time or another has hired both men and women who fit that description.  But I don't believe it was ever a planned strategy.  I'm sure the CIA has hired persons like this as well, but I'm convinced it was the rare exception as opposed to the rule.  I can assure you that the persons the CIA chooses to interview detainees have no intention of physical interaction.  I believe that the rare (singular?) instances detailed in the recently released Congressional Report shed light on a few bad apples who have since been appropriately disciplined.  As usual, what the report does not mention are the thousands and  thousands of lives that have been saved through enhanced interrogation techniques.  I am personally offended and angered when a Congressman or Congresswoman allege that CIA interrogation techniques have not been successful.  Its not only a false allegation, its libelous. But Congress can say whatever it chooses because the Agency is an easy target.  The CIA has no built-in mechanism to defend itself from internal attack.  I guess the men who built the organization did not anticipate that the U.S. Government would become so self-destructive as to turn on the nation's professional clandestine service.  Some people will not be happy until the CIA is disbanded.

The September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the intended attack which tragically ended in a field in Pennsylvania, initiated a great deal of commentary from both Congress and the mainstream media.  I remember it like it was yesterday, because I felt like I had a bullseye on my back.  How could these butchers and cowards have managed to pull this off?  Where was the CIA?  Why didn't our intelligence services discover the plot beforehand?  The process has become so predictable.  The Intelligence Agencies, responding to intense pressure from whatever Administration is in power, leaves no stone unturned to improve intel collection, particularly human intelligence, which has proven time and again to be the most valuable.  Almost immediately, the media starts the countdown until they are in a position to point out that the CIA hasn't changed; that its still nothing but a bunch of bully-types who are looking for weaker folks to dominate.  Occasionally the CIA is able to walk the thin line between the "not enough" and "too much" cacophony, but at the end of the day, I believe the Agency's days are numbered.  You have no idea how painful it is to give consideration to such a thought.  But something that used to be whispered about (how will the USG delegate the distribution of Agency responsibilities to other Departments, Agencies and Bureaus) is now discussed openly.

I was really encouraged to learn about Senator Kirk's justified and accurate portrayal of the events leading up to this post.  Feinstein's staffers, already less-than enthusiastic towards the CIA, took full advantage of the opportunity to re-introduce information that has already been disseminated in DC.  But the story was broadcasted in a manner which all but labeled the details as "previously confidential".  Who is Diane Feinstein (and her staffers) to accuse anyone of anything?  They are so out of their league in this business.  And we all know that if, God forbid, the enemy strikes again, this time in California, Feinstein will be the first in line, wanting to know why the Intelligence Agencies weren't more aggressive in their collection efforts.  Like most people, occasionally I can get a bit of the gorilla red-ass about things in DC, but Feinstein's release of this document has upset me more than usual.  She should no longer be allowed to participate in classified briefings.  If I were soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader McConnell I would make sure she was not present during classified briefings.  Since she has decided that she is the only one smart enough to decide what should be released for public consumption and what shouldn't (I don't recall any Feinstein wadded panties during the Clinton Administration's flirtation with missiles to China or the bombing of Serbia to move the conversation away from Monica Lewinsky), then I don't believe she should have access to classified information.

Congress needs to address entitlements and stop digging around in the military and intelligence budgets to save a quarter here and there.  The big money is in entitlement reform.  A sincere effort by Congress and the President, with politics not allowed in the room, can result in serious tax and entitlement reform.  Fraud needs to be addressed and eradicated, and congressional junkets and airports to nowhere must become a thing of the past.  All manner of entitlements must be addressed: no more multi-million dollar grants to the University of South Commode to determine why sober college students have sex less often than drunk college students, or five million dollars to Ass Napkin University to research the causes of color blindness in worms (the schools were invented but the research and grants were real).  Also, someone in Congress please pass legislation that outlaws an incoming president from rewarding donors with absurd billion-dollar grants for eco-friendly research.  Give me the red marker for a week; I'm more than ready to tackle DC spending.  And I can do it without cutting the budgets of the military or the intelligence community.

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