On Sept. 11, President Barack Obama said all the right words to commemorate the tragedy that took place eight years earlier.
“Nearly 3,000 days have passed, almost one for each of those taken from us,” Obama said outside the Pentagon. “Let us renew our resolve against those who perpetrated this barbaric act and who plot against us still. In defense of our nation we will never waiver; in pursuit of al-Qaida and its extremist allies, we will never falter.”
Yet, as when Obama claimed his budget moves America “from an era of borrow and spend” to one of “save and invest,” his actions belied his words.
Obama has turned the CIA into a personal punching bag, dealing one blow after another to the agency which is our first line of defense against another attack. After releasing Justice Department memos detailing the CIA’s enhanced interrogation tactics, Obama spoke to CIA employees. As if speaking to a kindergarten class, Obama said, “Don’t be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we’ve made some mistakes. That’s how we learn.”
What mistakes did CIA officers make? Their “mistake” was to patriotically do what their government told them to do and subject three terrorists to waterboarding. While Obama has referred to waterboarding as a “brutal” tactic, it inflicts no pain. If it were brutal, we would not subject our own special forces to waterboarding during training.
As the Washington Post said in its lead story on Aug. 29, the technique produced valuable intelligence that led to pinpointing plots and rolling up key operatives, thwarting planned attacks.
Focusing on the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 plot, the paper described “the transformation of the man known to U.S. officials as KSM from an avowed and truculent enemy of the United States into what the CIA called its ‘preeminent source’ on al-Qaida. This reversal occurred after Mohammed was subjected to simulated drowning and prolonged sleep deprivation, among other harsh interrogation techniques.”
After being subjected to waterboarding, Mohammed described plans to strike targets in Saudi Arabia, East Asia, and the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks, including using a network of Pakistanis “to target gas stations, railroad tracks, and the Brooklyn Bridge in New York,” the paper said, quoting from a CIA summary. “Cross-referencing material from different detainees, and leveraging information from one to extract more detail from another, the CIA and FBI went on to round up operatives both in the United States and abroad.”
Similarly, during initial interrogations, Abu Zubaydah was reluctant to give up individuals who were close to him. After he was waterboarded he gave up Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a member of Osama bin Laden’s inner circle. In turn, that led to the capture of Mohammed and the uncovering of a plot to target the West Coast in a second wave of attacks.
For these “mistakes,” Obama has been demonizing the CIA and threatening prosecutions, with predictable results. CIA operatives are either leaving the agency or insisting on so many approvals that their effectiveness is destroyed. Potential recruits are deciding not to apply.
As described in the Newsmax story Obama Has Paralyzed the CIA, the risk-averse atmosphere imposed by Obama is even worse than the culture that contributed to the failure to detect the 9/11 plot.
When Obama visited the CIA and pronounced on the agency’s “mistakes,” he claimed he fully supports CIA officers. As with Obama’s speech on 9/11, his words were empty. Then and now, Obama is undermining what has been a successful effort to prevent another terrorist attack that took the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.