Barry McCaffrey and Robert Baer: Investigate the Bush White House on Torture
How shall I put this? To say four-star General Barry McCaffrey is no sycophant of the Bush/Cheney regime is to say it's damp at the bottom of the Marianas trench. But McCaffrey, who's got some cred with such veterans as H. Norman Schwarzkopf, wants an investigation into the Bush White House concerning torture. Moreover, he has a strong opinion about the matter with which I completely agree:
"We should never, as a policy, maltreat people under our control, detainees. We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A."
in every sense of both words of that phrase).
The last point I completely agree with. Since 9/11, I have regularly gotten calls from very smart, talented people who intend to join the CIA. Competing against their résumés, I would never make the cut today. So I'll split the difference and help the CIA figure out how to keep a new generation from running for the door like I did.
For a start, current management has got to go. For too long it has truckled to power, spending its day scurrying down to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for orders. If it's not Cheney treating George Tenet as a court jester, it's some analyst badgered until he changes his assessment. What I'm trying to say is that it's not the CIA that is broken, it's Washington — which means the quick fix is to build a firewall between a hopelessly partisan Washington and the CIA. And it wouldn't cost much:1. Move the CIA out of Washington. Maybe to Spokane, Wash. Or at least far enough away from D.C. that directors and the rank and file cannot be summoned to the White House for a browbeating. (See 10 things to do in Washington, D.C.)
2. Give CIA directors tenure, with terms of 10 years. Knowing that he couldn't lose his job, a director would be more inclined to tell the truth. (Under my plan, a director could be removed only by the President for gross incompetence, with the concurrence of Congress.)
3. Take covert action away from the CIA. Covert action is little more than propaganda, which only gets in the way of looking at the world objectively.
4. End the revolving door between the CIA and Beltway bandits — in other words, stop the featherbedding. There would be no more resigning from the CIA on Friday afternoon and coming back Monday morning as a contractor making three or four times the salary.
5. Closing that revolving door would mean a serious increase in salaries. We can't ask our spies to live in the back of beyond for 20 years and not pay them a professional's salary.
6. Create two classes of CIA employees. For example, there are hundreds of ethnic American Pashtuns ready to go work for the CIA in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but their murky family and tribal ties prevent them from being hired. However, they could be brought in with lower security clearances. Spies in the field rarely need to see the crown jewels to do their job.
I don't want us to hurry into this. I don't want us to mess this up. I sure as hell, as a vet and the mother of boys who might be soldiers in some dark future day, don't want us to let this go. Not only do we owe the people who were tortured and murdered, we owe their families. We owe our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guards, past, present, and future.