Last week, seven former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency, who made their own contributions to the CIA’s low esteem over the past 35 years, asked President Barack Obama to make sure there is no criminal investigation of the crimes associated with the Agency’s detentions and interrogations policies over the past eight years.
Their letter to the president is particularly self-serving for three of the directors (Michael Hayden, Porter Goss, and George Tenet), who would presumably be the subject of any investigation, and simply self-aggrandizing for the others (John Deutch, James Woolsey, William Webster, and James Schlesinger), whose stewardship of the CIA since the early 1970s has contributed to the Agency’s loss of influence and credibility.
The key to managing a complex organization such as the CIA is based on the integrity and competence of the director and his senior management. These traits were certainly lacking during the two decades these “magnificent seven” were at the helm.
The letter itself represents a stunning display of irrelevance and wrong-headedness. The former directors argue, for example, that any reopened investigation would damage the intelligence community’s ability to obtain cooperation of foreign intelligence agencies.
In fact, the opposite is the case. Foreign intelligence agencies have been holding back their liaison activities and their cooperation with the CIA because of the crimes associated with secret prisons, torture and abuse, and extraordinary renditions. It is quite unbelievable that CIA leaders decided to compromise the governments and intelligence services of the European community by locating secret prisons and using logistical facilities within their borders. It is very unlikely that any member of the European Union will cooperate with such CIA activities in the future.
The seven directors argue predictably that career prosecutors have already investigated the relevant cases where “Agency officers appeared to have acted beyond their existing legal authorities,” but with the exception of a prosecution of a CIA contractor there was a determination that prosecutions were not warranted. They do not mention that a political appointee in the Bush administration, Paul McNulty, was responsible for these decisions and they do not refer to the unconscionable politicization of the Bush administration’s Justice Department.