11“I want to shatter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”
–President John F. Kennedy
The recent release of many CIA documents by the Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee detail: 1) the CIA’s secret and systematic use of torture after 9/11; 2) the CIA’s repeated denials that it was using torture; and 3) the CIA’s testimony before Congress, the Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee, and the American people that these “enhanced interrogation techniques” were highly successful in obtaining vitally important information about terrorist activity, and thus justifies its (continued) use. But there is only one problem: What the CIA said is not true! As we can now read in the newly-released documents by the Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee, torture was in fact used for many years after 9/11, though its use was a well-guarded secret; and that little valuable information was gained by means of these “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
As if this weren’t enough—to cast further doubt on the CIA and how it operates, John Brennan, its current director, knowingly violated the Constitution’s separation of powers clause by having the CIA (the executive branch) spy on the Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee (the legislative branch) by hacking into its computers. When the committee revealed to the American people that the CIA was spying on Congress, Brennan publically and forcefully denied it. “Nothing,” he emphatically told Congress, “could be further from the truth.” “We wouldn’t do that.” Yet it turns out that the CIA did in fact do it—and not only so, but that it was Brennan himself who ordered the hacking of the Committee’s computers in the first place! So Brennan, it now appears, has been lying all along. He lied to Congress, he lied to the Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee, and above all he lied to the American public. To highlight his contempt for Congress, he has refused to co-operate with the Committee by turning over the names of those agents involved in the planning and execution of the break-in. Unfortunately for our country, deceit, lies, and non-compliance by the CIA are simply business as usual. One can now perhaps better appreciate Kennedy’s anger and frustration towards an agency that believes and acts as if it is above the law.
President Truman himself, who created the CIA in 1947, slowly began to worry about its focus on clandestine operations. But it was not until the assassination of JFK that he finally took steps to share his concerns openly with the American people. One month after Kennedy’s murder, Truman aired his concerns. “For some time,” he wrote, “I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment [intelligence gathering and assessment]. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government (emphasis mine). This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.” Offering the only effective remedy he could think of, Truman urged that the CIA’s “operational duties” be “terminated.” Allen Dulles, the Director of the CIA, was livid with rage. In a stormy private meeting, Dulles tried to persuade Truman to retract his statement. But Truman stood his ground. Dulles, acting with complete disregard for truth and legality, then forged a retraction by Truman and slipped it into an official file! Luckily, Truman found out about it and wrote a second letter reiterating his concerns about the CIA. But that Dulles would forge a letter by a president of the United States, with absolute disregard for the truth—and suffer no consequences (not even losing his job)—is breath-taking in its audacity, shamefulness, and illegality. One wonders now what documents regarding the CIA are in fact genuine. How much of what they say or do can we really believe? This is but further proof that the CIA is indeed a “rogue agency,” above the law, accountable to no one.
Robert F. Kennedy, the Attorney General under his brother, President John F. Kennedy, saw first-hand that the CIA had become a rogue agency. Robert Kennedy, Jr. quoted his father Robert F Kennedy on the out-of-control CIA in an article for The Rolling Stone dated November 20, 2013, almost exactly fifty years to the day of the assassination of his uncle, President John F. Kennedy. In this article, Robert says that
[t]he Joint Chiefs, already in open revolt against JFK for failing to unleash the dogs of war in Cuba and Laos, were unanimous in urging a massive influx of ground troops and were incensed with talk of withdrawal. The mood in Langley [the CIA headquarters in Washington, D.C.] was even uglier. Journalist Richard Starnes, filing from Vietnam, gave a stark assessment in The Washington Daily News of the CIA’s unrestrained thirst for power in Vietnam. Starnes quoted high-level U.S. officials horrified by the CIA’s role in escalating the conflict. They described an insubordinate, out-of-control agency, which one top official called a ‘malignancy.’ He doubted that ‘even the White House could control it any longer.’ Another warned, ‘If the United States ever experiences a [coup], it will come from the CIA and not from the Pentagon.’ Added another, ‘[Members of the CIA] represent tremendous power and total unaccountability to anyone.
The documents released by the Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee describe in detail these “enhanced interrogation techniques.” And they are absolutely shocking—rectal hydration, beatings, endless nights without sleep, standing for unbelievably long periods of time, being forced to live in a small coffin-like box, water-boarding (i.e., virtual drowning, endlessly repeated), hypothermia (resulting in at least one death), extreme isolation, sexual assault, threats of harm to their spouse and children, etc. Sometimes the CIA even knew that the “terrorist” being tortured was in fact innocent (!), yet they continued with the “interrogation” anyway! Only an amoral person would do that. Is that the kind of person we entrust our security to? Do we really want amoral individuals in important and sensitive areas of government?
Worse yet, this shameful episode in CIA history—or should I say US history?—is only part of a larger unbroken sixty-eight-year-long chronicle of illegal and immoral activity, including: brain-washing, deception and lying, sexual entrapment, blackmail, forgery, drug-running and drug distribution, propaganda, suborning the press, planting of evidence, perjury, threats, extortion, breaking and entering, intimidation, theft, partnership with the Mafia and former Nazi SS officers, coup d’états, murder, inter alia. Yet the most troubling aspect of all is that the CIA answers to no one, as we can see clearly in the behavior of its current director, John Brennan, and his agents.
The CIA does whatever it wants because it believes that its ends justify the means. Yet it is axiomatic: one cannot effect good ends by evil means, for the evil inevitably taints the ends themselves. No, the means must be commensurate with the ends; and the ends do not, and cannot, justify any and all means. Terrorism, we all know, is Western civilization’s greatest threat. To combat this threat we must bring these terrorists to justice—but not by any means, and certainly not by means of torture. We must not descend into their Inferno and use their policies, their programs of hatred, or their instruments of terror. For in doing so we only become like them, and in the process sacrifice our humanity, our legal standing, and our moral high ground.
Moreover, terrorism is not just “irrational violence.” Properly understood, terrorism is about competing ideas of virtue: theirs versus ours. As we know from Socrates/Plato, the path to virtue is exceptionally arduous—by turns treacherous, difficult, exasperating, painful, lonely, humbling, frustrating and not seldom dangerous, if, like Socrates, one goes against the grain of society; which is why so many pilgrims on the road to Virtue drop out along the way.
In our Western culture the supreme virtue is Divine Love, which nourishes and sustains all the other virtues (justice, beauty, goodness, etc.); while hatred, by contrast, disrupts, degrades, and destroys everything good and beautiful in its path. The essence of being human, as God created us (in His image, let us not forget), is to love and care for one another just as He loves and cares for each of us. Community, then, is strengthened and deepened by Divine Love, but loosened and dissolved through hatred. Terrorism, which is nothing but ideology wrapped in hatred, rejects God’s saving Love and substitutes in its stead the “negative virtues” of cruelty, evil, injustice, etc.; but this only returns mankind to an earlier, uncivilized epoch, where barbarity, futility, and death reign undiminished and unchallenged. Like some giant black hole, religious extremism swallows up everything good, beautiful, and divine in its path. That is why we Westerners must not use torture. Torture degrades its practitioner; it separates him from the love of God; it poisons his spirituality; and it weakens his reason. Why? Because man was not made for evil. He was created by Divine Love for acts of Goodness. The strength of our cause and the cause of our strength lie in our culture’s supreme belief in the infinite worth and sanctity of every human life. But if for any reason we undermine this noblest and most sacred principle of all—which makes Life the wonderful gift it is meant to be—which undergirds, supports, sustains, and nourishes the whole of our Western culture—then our beliefs, and our actions, become indistinguishable from the terrorists whom we oppose.
Because of its on-going malevolent history, the CIA is profoundly incompatible with who we are as a nation and with what we represent, both to ourselves and to the world. That is why it must be dismantled, and a new agency, dedicated solely to intelligence-gathering and assessment, must be erected in its place: an agency that is indisputably moral, incorruptible, and prudent, yet practical and effective; which cannot, and will not, interfere with domestic or foreign policy; and which obeys and reveres our sacred constitutional way of life.
Every generation in our nation’s history receives the inestimable gift of the constitutional rule of law, both in life and in government (a blessing which terrorists will never know or bring to their government); but it is up to each of us to safeguard it and to pass it on intact to our children and our children’s children. It is the supreme gift that any nation can bequeath to its citizens: thus it demands our unwavering obedience, our deepest affection, and our enduring vigilance.
Len Sive Jr.