Obama’s proposed CIA Director

US president elect Obama has now nominated Leon Panetta for the position of CIA Director. Last year, Panetta wrote this in the Washington Monthly.

Fear is blinding, hateful, and vengeful. It makes the end justify the means. And why not? If torture can stop the next terrorist attack, the next suicide bomber, then what’s wrong with a little waterboarding or electric shock?

The simple answer is the rule of law. Our Constitution defines the rules that guide our nation. It was drafted by those who looked around the world of the eighteenth century and saw persecution, torture, and other crimes against humanity and believed that America could be better than that. This new nation would recognize that every individual has an inherent right to personal dignity, to justice, to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

We have preached these values to the world. We have made clear that there are certain lines Americans will not cross because we respect the dignity of every human being. That pledge was written into the oath of office given to every president, “to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.” It’s what is supposed to make our leaders different from every tyrant, dictator, or despot. We are sworn to govern by the rule of law, not by brute force.

We cannot simply suspend these beliefs in the name of national security. Those who support torture may believe that we can abuse captives in certain select circumstances and still be true to our values. But that is a false compromise. We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don’t. There is no middle ground.

We cannot and we must not use torture under any circumstances. We are better than that.

As long as Panetta holds to these ideals, there is hope. But of course, there are still those who deny that any torture has taken place.

Reading up a little on Panetta reveals that this is a man of principles. In 1970 he resigned from the Nixon administration because of racism. After he resigned he said:

The cause of justice is being destroyed not by direct challenge but by indirection, by confusion, by disunity, and by a lack of leadership and commitment to a truly equal society.

Change? Let’s hope he can.

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6 Responses

  1. Panetta better be ready to make waves. As anyone who has worked in a government department knows, a new boss simply means another person signing off on the same bureaucratic procedures.

    Or in the case of the CIA, a new boss simply means a different person who “doesn’t need to know” in order to maintain “plausible deniability”. The beliefs and behaviour of the CIA are not going to change because someone says jump… they’ll change when people with power in (or because of) the CIA are threatened with losing said power. Like with most things – people with power only change when they fear losing it.

  2. B.Tolputt:

    “a new boss simply means another person signing off on the same bureaucratic procedures.”

    Often the case, (but not always), if the ‘new’ boss is simply an internal promotion. Internal promotions have at least some ‘skin’ in the game.

    In the case of Panetta, he is a complete outsider re the ‘intelligence community’. No ‘skin’. No history. Nothing to hide. Every incentive to expose the mire.

    Generally speaking, if you want continuity, then promote internally. If you want change then bring in an outsider. Obama wants change. A good and necessary move.

  3. I should imagine that a number of CIA personnel are currently looking for a new job. I am not certain but does the CIA Director have the power to hire and fire?

    This quote from Panetta I think explains where Bush went wrong. Bush thought that he could manipulate the Constitution via PR exercises.

    “The simple answer is the rule of law. Our Constitution defines the rules that guide our nation…”

    I could not understand how the American people could accept the hypocracy of preaching ‘democracy’ to the world yet simultaneously tried to justify indefinite detention, torture, renditions.

    And it is optimistic that the American people didn’t accept, but have elected Obama as their President.

    Maybe it is because Obama is not a traditional American that he has such strong feelings for her history.

  4. Courtesy of The Age at: http://news.theage.com.au/world/passionate-bush-defends-legacy-in-final-news-conference-20090113-7fjy.html
    “The unpopular Republican president next week bequeaths Democrat Barack Obama a nation locked in two foreign wars, traumatized by the worst economic slump since the 1930s and with the budget deficit heading towards a trillion US dollars.”.

  5. Like all the players in the previous administration, he will play their game, ultimately it will be Obamas policies that prevail. Hopefully, this guy will have the intestinal fortitude to stand up for what he believes is right, but we all saw Colin Powell when he was the UN making his case for war. He was opposed to a war, but George Dubbya and his neocons won out in the end. There are some worrying signs of more of the same, the reports are that Obama will defer the closure of Gtmo. Strike 1 Obama.

  6. Am thinking that it’s all very well for Obama to state, I’ll close Gitmo. But how to do it? Bush got in first by approaching other nations with mixed success.

    Gitmo is certainly a mixed bag, many people completely innocent, some slightly guilty and others very guilty.

    And of course the whole thing becoming completely mixed around by tossing the whole lot into the same bag by calling them The Worst of the Worse.

    To me Australia is quite right in refusing to take any former detainees until America clarifies this statement. Surely the US can’t expect other countries to take the worst of the worse’?

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