The report just published by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee about the
CIA’s interrogation of captured terrorists after 9-11 is so badly flawed — so
overtly partisan, so ideologically-driven, so far below the basic standards of reporting
and analysis — that the clowns who wrote it couldn’t even get hired by Rolling Stone.
In the interests of turning a lemon into lemonade, let’s use this report, and the
political explosion it’s triggered, as an opportunity to put the issue of how we want the
CIA to deal with captured terrorists into the public square — and let’s get it resolved,
finally, one way or the other.
First, a bit of background: In the aftermath of 9-11 the Bush administration —
reeling from an attack that killed more than 3,000 Americans, terrified that a second
attack could come at any time, facing a threat to our homeland no administration in
American history had confronted — pulled out all the stops and took down all the
guardrails. And the CIA was at the leading, or rather at the bleeding, edge of all these
efforts. Did the administration make mistakes? Of course it did. Did the president and
his top officials sometimes go too far to protect us? Alas, yes. Did the CIA sometimes
act clumsily, put the wrong officials in the wrong jobs, and sometimes make a mess
of things? Absolutely.
Still, in the more than 13 years since 9-11 there hasn’t been a second masscasualty
attack on our country. There’s nothing wrong with being critical about how this
miracle was accomplished. But just a bit of gratitude mixed into the criticism, and
perhaps even a dollop of admiration for the men and women who achieved it, would be
And here’s the problem: From the moment after 9-11 when President Bush
unleashed the CIA, Democrats in Congress and some Republicans have found fault
with the CIA’s efforts to get information from captured terrorists. In all fairness, this is
precisely what oversight is designed to accomplish. But at some point the CIA’s critics
crossed the line from oversight to — well, to whining. Everything the CIA did was wrong,
and nothing the CIA did was right. Every mistake was blown out of proportion, and
every success was ignored. In short, to the CIA’s critics there is simply no
connection between the absence of a second mass-casualty attack and the CIA’s
activities. (Come to think of it, to many of these very same people there was absolutely
no connection between President Reagan’s policies and our Cold War victory.
Enough is enough. Instead of telling us what they don’t want the CIA to do with captured
terrorists, it’s time for the agency’s critics to tell us what they do want the CIA to do with
captured terrorists. In short, to tell us once and for all how far the CIA should go to keep
us safe. Let’s use what’s called the Ticking-Time-Bomb scenario to illustrate this point:
A terrorist group announces that it’s placed a nuclear device somewhere in
San Francisco. They say it will detonate in 72 hours. The senior senator from California
— that would be Dianne Feinstein, outgoing chair of the Senate Intelligence
Committee and the former mayor of San Francisco — urges residents of her home town
to remain calm and not panic. The senator adds that while her thoughts and prayers are
with the people of San Francisco, she will remain at her post in Washington DC,
about 2,000 miles away from the likely blast radius.
The next day CIA undercover agents in Yemen capture one of the terrorists. They
ask him, politely, to tell them where the bomb is located. The terrorist remains silent.
“Please tell us,” one of the CIA agents begs. “Surely you don’t want to turn one of
the world’s most beautiful cities into a pile of radioactive rubble.” The terrorist
replies, “Allahu Akbar, God is Great, Americans must die.”
Okay, Senator, at this point what do you want the CIA to do with this terrorist?
Please don’t tell us — yet again — what you don’t want our agents to do. Tell us what
you want them to do. And if your answer is, in effect, to give this poor misguided wretch
a hot meal and put him in a cell with an iPhone 6 and a 54-inch flat-screen TV with
200 cable channels including Al Jazeera, then let’s make sure the doomed people of
San Francisco understand precisely what you’re saying, and what their likely fate will
be. Let’s make it absolutely clear that if Dianne Feinstein speaks for them, no CIA
official will risk his or her career — or his or her life — to save people who have no wish
to be saved.
I’ve been to San Francisco dozens of times. And even though the city’s lunatic-tosquare-
foot ratio is fairly high, I believe the overwhelming majority of its citizens
would want the CIA to waterboard this captured terrorist — and if that didn’t make him
talk they’d want the CIA to get really nasty with him. My guess is that even good liberals
in those multi-million-dollar condos overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, and maybe
even a majority of the left-wing crazies in nearby Berkeley, would want the CIA to pull
out the terrorist’s fingernails, break his legs, and do anything else — anything else —
to make him tell our agents where the bomb is located before it explodes. And my
guess is that the overwhelming majority of Americans in other cities would feel precisely
So, why don’t we just ask them? Why don’t we start organizing petitions from one end of
our country to the other — in as many cities, towns and states as we can — to put this
question to voters on the next election ballot:
How far should the CIA go to stop a terrorist attack on (Insert name of City, Town
Option One: The CIA should not use any of these so-called enhanced
interrogation techniques to stop an attack. I’d rather die.
Option Two: The CIA should do whatever it takes to keep my family safe, and if
that means beating the crap out of a captured terrorist so be it.
And, while we’re at it, why don’t we pose this same question to every candidate for
the House and Senate in the next elections? Shouldn’t we also ask this question of
every Republican and Democratic candidate for President? Of course we should, and
we should keep asking this question until each candidate gives us a
Okay, there may be better ways to word the question. But you get my point. And unless
everything I’ve ever learned about Americans is wrong, with the possible exception of
Ann Arbor Option One will win in a landslide from one end of the US to the other.
Reader, this could be the sleeper issue of 2016.