Tuesday, December 30, 2014

necropolitics: after scrutiny, cia mandate is untouched...,


NYTimes |  But the scathing report the Senate Intelligence Committee delivered this month is unlikely to significantly change the role the C.I.A. now plays in running America’s secret wars. A number of factors — from steadfast backing by Congress and the White House to strong public support for clandestine operations — ensure that an agency that has been ascendant since President Obama came into office is not likely to see its mission diminished, either during his waning years in the White House or for some time after that.

The Church Committee’s revelations about the abuses committed by the intelligence community — and a parallel House investigation led by Representative Otis G. Pike of New York — came at the end of America’s wrenching military involvement in Vietnam, and during a period of détente with the Soviet Union. The disclosures of C.I.A. assassination schemes and spying on Vietnam War protesters fueled a post-Watergate fury among many Americans who had grown cynical about secret plots hatched in Washington.

The grim details, shocking at the time, led to a gutting of the agency’s ranks and a ban on assassinations, imposed by President Gerald R. Ford. They also led to the creation of the congressional intelligence committees and a requirement that the C.I.A. regularly report its covert activities to the oversight panels.

By contrast, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s recent report on C.I.A. excesses since the Sept. 11 attacks arrived in the midst of renewed fears of global terrorism, the rise of the Islamic State and grisly beheading videos of American hostages.

Loch K. Johnson, a professor at the University of Georgia and a former Church Committee investigator, said that the committee did its work “in a semi-benign period of international affairs.”
“There wasn’t the same kind of fear in the air,” he said.

A CBS News poll released last week found that though 69 percent of those asked consider waterboarding to be torture, 49 percent think that brutal interrogation methods are sometimes justified. More than half, 57 percent, believe that the tactics are at least sometimes effective in producing valuable intelligence to help stop terrorist attacks.

Senator Angus King, a member of the Intelligence Committee, said that Hollywood depictions of torture have distorted the public’s view of its efficacy.

“Every week, Jack Bauer saves civilization by torturing someone, and it works,” said Mr. King, the independent from Maine, referring to the lead character of the television show “24.”

Mr. King said that he was initially skeptical about the need to release the torture report, but when he spent five straight evenings reading it in a secure room on Capitol Hill he decided that the C.I.A. abuses needed a public airing.

“It went from interest, to a sick feeling, to disgust, and finally to anger,” he said.

But the Obama administration has made clear that it has no plans to make anyone legally accountable for the practices described by the C.I.A. as enhanced interrogation techniques and the Intelligence Committee as torture.