Its ostensible, official function as a gatherer of actual intelligence has mostly been an abysmal failure for its entire 60-plus year life. It tends to make stuff up as it bumbles along. Which is why its warning on its own creation -- Al Qaeda -- fell mostly upon deaf Bushie ears.
The CIA failed to see the fall of Communism until the Wall came tumbling down. Though feebly warning of bin Laden's "determination to attack", it failed to stop 9/11. As a matter of fact, as the late Chalmers Johnson laid out in his series of books, the airplane attacks were "blowback" against CIA dirty tricks. Before he was a terrorist, Osama bin Laden was a paid (and later abandoned) CIA resource in America's proxy war against the Soviet Union.
And as Tim Weiner tells it in Legacy of Ashes, the CIA has been one long litany of failure ever since its misbegotten inception as a weapon against Communism in the days after World War II, when the first of a long line of unaccountable slush funds was known as the Marshall Plan.
Over the years, the agency threw around a lot of money and adopted a certain swagger. “We went all over the world and we did what we wanted,” said Al Ulmer, the C.I.A.’s Far East division chief in the 1950s. “God, we had fun.” But even their successes turned out to be failures. In 1963, the C.I.A. backed a coup to install the Baath Party in Iraq. “We came to power on a C.I.A. train,” said Ali Saleh Saadi, the Baath Party interior minister. One of the train’s passengers, Weiner notes, was a young assassin named Saddam Hussein. Weiner quotes Donald Gregg, a former C.I.A. station chief in South Korea, later the national security adviser to Vice President George H. W. Bush: “The record in Europe was bad. The record in Asia was bad. The agency had a terrible record in its early days — a great reputation and a terrible record.” And yet the myth of the C.I.A. as an all-knowing, all-powerful spy agency persisted for years, not just in the minds of America’s enemies but in the imagination of many American television-watchers and moviegoers. Among those fooled, at least initially, were most modern presidents of the United States. The promise of a secret intelligence organization that could not only spy on America’s enemies but also influence events abroad, by sleight of hand and at relatively low cost, was just too alluring.The crimes exposed in the Senate Torture Report That Shook the World should come as no surprise to those who've been paying attention, or read such books as Jane Mayer's "The Dark Side" and Dana Priest's "Top Secret America" or Weiner's exhaustive history of the CIA cited above. We knew, through Mayer, about the Dr. Mengele-like psychologists who culled the literature to devise the methods to the madness. We knew, through Priest, about the black site prisons and the unlimited supply of cash thrown around with no accountability expected or even required by Congress. We knew about the murder-by-hypothermia of the detainee chained outside the Afghanistan gulag. We knew about the waterboarding (though the new report confirms there were more cases than previously realized.)
The difference is that the report released yesterday is getting a zillion times the attention the various excellent books, articles and other occasional exposes got when they were first published or aired. This, finally, is the US Government itself airing its own dirty laundry for all the world to see. Thanks to the Bush Crime Family, the real meaning of the CIA is finally out there: Criminally Insane A-Holes.
And the upshot is --- a screeching halt. A whimper, not a bang. No prosecutions. No firings. (At least in the Homeland.) To the contrary, the architects of torture are being amply rewarded and given air time to complain about how unfairly they're being portrayed. The "debate" is not whether torture is morally reprehensible and legally forbidden, but whether it worked.
President Obama, accessory-after-the-fact of the Bush administration's crimes, refuses to even talk much about the release of the report. From all indications, he fought tooth and nail, until the last minute, against even having the redacted form released. I suspect it was the threat of its leakage by someone he couldn't easily prosecute -- say, outgoing Senate Intelligence Committee member Udall -- that forced him to pretend to wave his pathetic white flag.
Ever the conciliator, the president is also a centrist when it comes to the effectiveness of torture, which he is again euphemising as "enhanced interrogation techniques." Ever the coward, he lets one of his flacks do the post-game torturesplaining:
That debate, after all, has left Mr. Obama facing an uncomfortable choice between two allies: the close adviser and former aide he installed as director of the C.I.A. versus his fellow Democrats who control the Senate committee and the liberal base that backs their findings. “We are not going to engage in this debate,” said a senior administration official close to Mr. Obama who briefed reporters under ground rules that did not allow him to be identified.(Ever the willing CIA propaganda vessel, as most recently outlined in the Senate report itself, the Times still persists in granting immunity and anonymity to the government bigwigs in order to spread the sympathy message of how uncomfortable Obama is feeling.)
The written statement Mr. Obama released in response to the report tried to straddle that divide. He opened by expressing appreciation to C.I.A. employees as “patriots” to whom “we owe a debt of gratitude” for trying to protect the country after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Then he judged that the methods they used in doing so “did significant damage to America’s standing in the world.”(Give the Times credit where it's due. They perfectly encapsulated the Orwellian presidency in one paragraph. We should be thankful to the torturers because they tortured even though torture is wrong. And it's wrong because anything that damages exceptional America's reputation and power is wrong. You can hate the crime, but you sure gotta love those wascally criminals! They got the American flag in one hand, and a rectal feeding tube in the other.)
And finally, Mr. Obama asked the nation to stop fighting about what happened so many years ago before he took office. “Rather than another reason to refight old arguments,” he said, “I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong — in the past.”(When crimes against humanity are downgraded to outmoded "techniques," and public outrage is denigrated to "old arguments," we can forget all about them and go on to the next big technique -- such as the Disposition Matrix, in which Muslims can be summarily executed by drone strike for the mere fact that they exist.)
Since Obama will not prosecute and will continue protecting the jobs of CIA employees who participated in torture, as well as the livelihoods of the torture contractors and the filthy rich Bush architects/retirees, how about Congress just abolish the CIA outright? The agency not only serves no positive purpose, it has been amply proven to be a clear and present danger to everybody, everywhere.
Cut off their money. Cut them out of society. They had no sense of decency then, and they're not about to develop one now. And why should they? Obama has just declared them to be patriots.
We have seen the future. We are indeed, as Obama ordered, "looking ahead." The future is bleak. The war on terror has come home, and is now being waged against us by a cabal of Criminally Insane A-holes.... some elected, some self-appointed, and all of them very dangerous.
So we should be both angry, and scared to death.