The CIA Should Take the Lead of the Defense Department and Abide by the Rules

In case you missed it, this post by former CIA officer Milt Bearden at Huffingtonpost brings an important perspective to the debate on torture: that of CIA officers themselves. The piece is worth reading in full, but here are some key insights about how the current Administration’s torture policies risk leaving American intelligence officers out to dry:

Here is the crunch for the CIA: as eminent British lawyer Philippe Sands writes in his coming book, The Torture Team, “the simple fact of establishing immunity under the 2006 (Military Commissions) Act opens the door to investigations and possible prosecutions abroad. So long as the U.S. is able to investigate and prosecute grave breaches of Geneva (Conventions, Common Article 3), the courts of other countries would be likely to decline to exercise jurisdiction. With that possibility gone, the prospects for foreign investigation increase considerably, as Senator Pinochet found to his cost in 1999.”

There are already more than two dozen CIA officers under indictment by an Italian court for the extraordinary rendition of Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr (known as Abu Omar). Though the trial has been stayed, pending a ruling on Italian secrecy issues, this is still a very big deal. Just imagine the historical irony of the en masse indictment of 26 U.S. Government employees by a NATO ally!

Regardless of how the Italian court case plays out, it is only the beginning. One can expect a torrent of cases to be filed against the men and women of the CIA in the coming months and years. They’ll have to get used to either staying pretty close to home, or taking their ski holidays in North Korea. Stepping off a plane anywhere in Europe will become a little dicey.

The CIA’s men and women are putting themselves at enough risk already. They deserve better and we owe them more than this. The sway of feckless leadership at CIA has gone on long enough. It’s time that the CIA takes the Defense Department lead and play by the rules again.


Published on October 11, 2007


Seeking asylum?

If you do not already have legal representation, cannot afford an attorney, and need help with a claim for asylum or other protection-based form of immigration status, we can help.