Monday, December 10, 2007


Christopher Hitchens has an article in Slate dripping with typical Hitchenesque indignation about the incompetence of the CIA and the current imbroglio about the agency destroying interrogation tapes which in Hitchens's mind is nothing less than "mutiny and treason" (on the other hand, make what you will of Hitchens's utterances about Iran)
"And now we have further confirmation of the astonishing culture of lawlessness and insubordination that continues to prevail at the highest levels in Langley. At a time when Congress and the courts are conducting important hearings on the critical question of extreme interrogation, and at a time when accusations of outright torture are helping to besmirch and discredit the United States all around the world, a senior official of the CIA takes the unilateral decision to destroy the crucial evidence. This deserves to be described as what it is: mutiny and treason. Despite a string of exposures going back all the way to the Church Commission, the CIA cannot rid itself of the impression that it has the right to subvert the democratic process both abroad and at home. Its criminality and arrogance could perhaps have been partially excused if it had ever got anything right, but, from predicting the indefinite survival of the Soviet Union to denying that Saddam Hussein was going to invade Kuwait, our spymasters have a Clouseau-like record, one that they have earned yet again with their exculpation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was after the grotesque estimate of continued Soviet health and prosperity that the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan argued that the CIA should be abolished. It is high time for his proposal to be revived. The system is worse than useless—it's a positive menace. We need to shut the whole thing down and start again."
Indeed. And what is shameful is that this is hardly the first time this has happened. Throughout its history, the CIA has had an unbroken thread of incompetence, bungled up operations that led to the death of thousands of foreign agents, obstruction of justice, and an assertion of a fundamental right to act above Presidential, Congressional or any other authority. This is the same agency which among other things collaborated with ex-Nazi criminals to fight the Russians, has fewer case officers in the world than the FBI has agents in New York City, operated secret prisons in dozens of countries, routinely fell for con men and double agents in spite of its proclaimed abilities, and of course supported despots and dictators when it suited their whims and interests. The history of the CIA is one of the most sordid histories of any intelligence agency (I highly recommend Tim Weiner's devastating recent history of the CIA, which was one of the top 10 historical books of 2007 on Amazon)

But more importantly, if one wants to look for treason in the CIA, in my opinion one should look no further than the CIA's constant refusal in the 90s to share crucial information about Al Qaeda and its operatives with the FBI, rather preferring to dangle tantalizing and incomplete pieces of information like photos without names in front of the FBI. As Lawrence Wright documents in his superb history of Al Qaeda, The Looming Tower, one of the agents who later found out about the 9/11 hijackers threw up instantly; he had known about them all along and would have been able to apprehend them if only the CIA had cooperated. Why should this self-aggrandizing and dangerous behaviour of the CIA not be called treason? Seriously, the US has had enough number of people dying because of the incompetence and selfishness of its so-called premier intelligence agency. Ron Paul should really push for the abolition of this substandard institution.



Blogger Manasi said...

Agree. But then the CIA will continue to exist because it serves the interests of the leadership who can easily skirt the allegations of treason, inhumanity and what have you under the guise of CIA inefficiency.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

That's probably true. But the CIA is also not exactly helping those in power when it acts beyond Presidential authority. If the President could always truly use the CIA as a tool for his having the luxury of plausible deniability (as JFK did during the Bay of Pigs invasion) then it would have his continued support. But now it seems more like the President has to justify or explain the CIA's follies (not that I am complaining; anything that puts him in a tight spot is always applauded)

11:28 AM  

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