Spooks frightened
September 11, 2006 12:45 PM   Subscribe

CIA Staff Worried Following on this previous (archived) post, it appears that some CIA staff are concerned the Justice Department might not defend them from charges of torture or human rights violations. " . . . some CIA officers have worried privately that they may have violated international law or domestic criminal statutes."
posted by Kirth Gerson (25 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you don't have the time, don't do the crime.
posted by edgeways at 12:48 PM on September 11, 2006


I wonder if the W has purchased this insurance?
posted by JJ86 at 12:48 PM on September 11, 2006

Maybe they should have thought of that before they started torturing people.
posted by empath at 12:49 PM on September 11, 2006

Do they wonder how their victims feel?
posted by fluffycreature at 12:54 PM on September 11, 2006

Poor 'lil honey babies.
posted by grimcity at 12:55 PM on September 11, 2006

The mindset behind this kind of thing, at every level, utterly baffles me. From the WaPo article:

In December 2001, with congressional authorization, the CIA expanded the reimbursements to 100 percent for CIA counterterrorism officers. That was about the time J. Cofer Black, then the CIA's counterterrorism chief, told Bush that "the gloves come off" and promised "heads on spikes" in the counterterrorism effort.

"Why would [CIA officers] take any risks in their professional duties if the government was unwilling to cover the cost of their liability?" asked Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.), a former CIA officer, during congressional debate that year.

So the Congressional subcommittee debating this realizes there's a problem, and rather than trying to address the root cause, instead elects to remove all traces of individual culpability? I had always kind of held out hope that, even when things break down entirely and horrible things are authorized at a high level, that the little guy doing the actual torturing would stop to consider, if not the moral implications, then at least the idea that HE PERSONALLY is doing a vile, illegal thing for which he is personally responsible.

Guess that's not necessary, in a Post 9/11 World.
posted by Mayor West at 1:02 PM on September 11, 2006

In other news, some detainees worry privately that they may have been tortured.

Of course, the reason they have been worrying privately is that we don't necessarily know who they are, or where they're being held.

I'd venture to say that a whole lot more public worry would clear the whole thing right up.
posted by hermitosis at 1:10 PM on September 11, 2006

Oh, this is good!

Keep the disappointments coming to the guys who know where the bodies are buried... they might no have come through in 2004, but that doesn't mean they can't help out in November!
posted by vhsiv at 1:17 PM on September 11, 2006

no = not
posted by vhsiv at 1:18 PM on September 11, 2006

I keep the torturing confined to my bedroom; no worries.
posted by wumpus at 1:24 PM on September 11, 2006

What the hell kind of company would sell liability insurance for people who torture?
posted by delmoi at 1:27 PM on September 11, 2006

A profitable company.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:28 PM on September 11, 2006

unless democrats win in 2006.
posted by empath at 1:30 PM on September 11, 2006

Is it too late for Saddam to buy into this insurance?
posted by Nahum Tate at 1:43 PM on September 11, 2006

Nahum Tate wins!
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:25 PM on September 11, 2006

This is a somewhat new trend among the judicial branch, and I for one like the direction they are taking. Even the Supreme Court (who I still think is loaded) has been siding against Bush and his friends' harebrained schemes recently.
posted by Sukiari at 2:40 PM on September 11, 2006

It's okay. They were just following orders.
posted by unSane at 2:59 PM on September 11, 2006

They had better worry, and so should Bush, Rummy and crew.
posted by caddis at 3:20 PM on September 11, 2006

“...then at least the idea that HE PERSONALLY is doing a vile, illegal thing for which he is personally responsible.”

It’s not that kind of argument. I agree with your position, but this can’t be fought, practically, from that position. Personally, I’d put a bullet into my superior before carrying out an order to torture someone (I’d look for other options first of course). However the case can’t really be made from a moral position.
It is also, for example, morally wrong to kill.
But there are degrees, such as killing during war time, in self-defense, and other considerations. We make allowances for people who are absolutists on that moral position for military service (consciencious objectors). But one cannot remain a soldier and argue against killing in wartime. (Certainly cases can be made for what is appropriate in killing but that’s another ball of wax).

By the same token, one cannot be an interrogator and take an absolute moral position on tactics of coercion - at least as a practical matter (one can always quit the CIA of course, and many have). So to firm up the line on what is appropriate in interrogation - similar to a soldier arguing against an illegal order - you have this deviation from standard operating procedure which raises arguments against what the administration is doing and is (as stated in the piece) a barometer of how people in the community feel about things.
Of course this administration isn’t big on paying attention to honest feedback from the intelligence community.
And I’m concerned that if too many government people become worried about the swing back of the pendulum, they might be tempted to allow it to freeze.
But the simple fact they distrust this administration to the extent that they feel the need to cover themselves instead of trusting the justice department to do that is encouraging.

I’ve posited more than a few times that soldiers are not responsible for the wars they are asked to fight and I still maintain that position. (On the whole most military folks would rather be home with their families that off fighting somewhere, so they’re generally not the ones starting the wars)
Within the war individual actions certainly matter and individuals must be held accountable for their actions whether they are illegal or immoral. There are long standing traditional rules of engagement, not only legal, but ethical and certainly self-preserving. I would not tolerate an individual under me wontonly targeting civilians (whether that was the policy from higher up or not). So by the same token while I agree with Jeffrey H. Smith in this piece that most of the blame lay at the feet of the senior officers, I agree with you that “the officers who carried it out” should be held responsible for carrying out those orders. Apart from the obvious moral considerations (and practical - long term, torture is self-defeating and self-endangering) it is poor policy to not hold your officials personally responsible for their actions. Certainly there are civil rights and other human considerations, but operationally it degrades not only internal cohesion and external communication, but it discourages individual initiative. It leads to nihilism. If you’re not responsible for your screw ups and you don’t take ownership of your work and other members of the organization, who cares what happens day to day?

But this kind of lifestyle fracture is an obvious symptom of that, which means it either changes or goes down the tubes.
Imagine if this kind of thing was happening in your local police department. Where the city council and police administration was at odds with the police union and the PBA had to pay for cops’ health insurance because the city wasn’t making good on it’s benefits.
You’d be expecting a strike.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:11 PM on September 11, 2006

Just five minutes ago I was listening to a piece on Market Place about this.
posted by pwb503 at 4:26 PM on September 11, 2006

The spooks should be frightened. The CIA was Bush's fall-guy writ-large for the 9/11 intelligence debacle (even though they actually did a pretty good job—it's just no one listened to them). If the heat gets turned up, I'm sure Bush wouldn't mind sacrificing a few good men to shield him from the deadly fangs of a media feeding frenzy. "Yep, those are the crazy killer-torturers right over there!"

Maybe he'll even ask a couple of 'em to pull an Oliver North and fall on their own sword for God and country.

If the fine folks in Langley were really smart, they'd start talking to a federal prosecutor now about coming forward with what they know in return for immunity.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:54 PM on September 11, 2006

If the fine folks in Langley weren't evil bastards they wouldn't have to worry.

F'rinstance, if you don't overthrow legitimate governments, you don't have to worry about being prosecuted.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:33 PM on September 11, 2006

Matt Lauer asked some surprisingly ballsy questions about torture when he interviewed the President on Friday.
posted by EarBucket at 8:01 PM on September 11, 2006

I blame the whole mess on 24 and Jack Bauer's childhood bullying trauma.
posted by srboisvert at 3:40 PM on September 12, 2006

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