Monday, August 31, 2009


"Demotivation - Sometimes the best solution to morale problems is just to fire all of the unhappy people."
~ Larry Kersten.

I just started listening to the new podcast at Sibel Edmonds place, an interview with investigative journalist Joe Trento, and I almost choked on my pastırma from laughing so hard at Trento's description of what happened after Jimmy Carter tried to rein in the CIA back in 1977.

Apparently, Carter wanted to clean up the CIA and link US foreign policy to human rights. In 1977 there was a purge of the "clandestine services" which Trento characterized as the "old boy club" of the CIA. Trento also referenced the investigation by the Church Committee, which was a congressional investigation into illegal activities of the CIA and FBI, and took place shortly before the 1977 purge. From that point on, the CIA became very political and came up with what has become it's usual response to any investigation into it's failures or wrongdoing: "It'll ruin our morale!"

Why is that so funny? Because I had just come across this earlier:

Morale has sagged at the CIA following the release of additional portions of an inspector general's review of the agency's interrogation program and the announcement that the Justice Department would investigate possible abuses by interrogators, according to former intelligence officials, especially those associated with the program.

A. B. "Buzzy" Krongard, the third-ranking CIA official at the time of the use of harsh interrogation practices, said that although vigorous oversight is crucial, the public airing of once-classified internal assessments and the prospect of further investigation are damaging the agency. "Morale at the agency is down to minus 50," he said.


Does that become even more hilarious if I mention that the author of the piece, Walter Pincus, was one of those journalists who helped to expose Valerie Plame in the old "Saddam has yellowcake from Niger" scam?

But wait, there's more! The son of Walter Pincus, Andrew Pincus, is one of the lawyers defending Blackwater's (now Xe's) Erik Prince in at least one of the lawsuits brought against Blackwater for murder of Iraqi nationals? Thanks to the little bird who dropped that in my email inbox.

Whoever has problems understanding why CIA morale is so low right now, let me direct you to Glenn Greenwald's blog:

To those blithely dismissing all of this as things that don't seem particularly bothersome, I'd say two things:

(1) The fact that we are not really bothered any more by taking helpless detainees in our custody and (a) threatening to blow their brains out, torture them with drills, rape their mothers, and murder their children; (b) choking them until they pass out; (c) pouring water down their throats to drown them; (d) hanging them by their arms until their shoulders are dislocated; (e) blowing smoke in their face until they vomit; (f) putting them in diapers, dousing them with cold water, and leaving them on a concrete floor to induce hypothermia; and (g) beating them with the butt of a rifle -- all things that we have always condemend as "torture" and which our laws explicitly criminalize as felonies ("torture means. . . the threat of imminent death; or the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering . . .") -- reveals better than all the words in the world could how degraded, barbaric and depraved a society becomes when it lifts the taboo on torturing captives.

(2) As I wrote rather clearly, numerous detainees died in U.S. custody, often as a direct result of our "interrogation methods." Those who doubt that can read the details here and here. Those claiming there was no physical harm are simply lying -- death qualifies as "physical harm" -- and those who oppose prosecutions are advocating that the people responsible literally be allowed to get away with murder.

Finally, as for the title of this post: it was just a way of expressing the view that Americans who want to justify or endorse the torture we engaged in should be required to know what was actually done -- not hide behind the comforting myth that "all we did was pour some water down the noses of 3 bad guys"; I wasn't trying to propose a new law compelling that every citizen read the IG Report.

UPDATE III: Torture defenders: please see here.

Anyway, go listen to the Trento interview. It sounds like it's got a lot of good information.