Former Vice President Dick Cheney has defended the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and its enhanced interrogation program–what critics (and even some supporters) have called “torture.” Cheney’s defense–that what the terrorists did was worse–was a non sequitur, albeit expressing what the majority of Americans feel. More broadly, he may have just saved lives–even assuming, for argument’s sake, that the program was wrong.
Without Cheney’s full-throated defense, the CIA interrogators would have had no public advocate to match, in sheer enthusiasm, the denunciations of media pundits and so-called human rights activists who have often given the Obama administration’s drone program a pass. Thanks to Cheney, CIA interrogators will feel slightly less intimidated by the prospect of prosecution for performing what they are told are their legal responsibilities.
Wherever you draw the line–whether you believe each detainee should be given a lawyer immediately, or that waterboarding is not torture at all–you should want the CIA to go as far as possible up to the legal line, and no further. That is the only way to ensure that they extract the maximum intelligence possible under the law. If they fear that the standard for interrogations will become more strict–and retroactive–they will be less diligent.
If–again, for argument’s sake–the CIA procedures were wrong, that is Congress’s fault, not the agency’s. The same legislators grandstanding today about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s partisan report were made fully aware of what was happening, and arguably could have stopped it. The flip-flopping of other politicians has made Cheney’s strident (if flawed) defense of the CIA necessary so that it can do its best to stop future attacks.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak