Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hitch on the CIA

Shut it down.

At a time when Congress and the courts are conducting important hearings on the critical question of extreme interrogation, and at a time when accusations of outright torture are helping to besmirch and discredit the United States all around the world, a senior official of the CIA takes the unilateral decision to destroy the crucial evidence. This deserves to be described as what it is: mutiny and treason. Despite a string of exposures going back all the way to the Church Commission, the CIA cannot rid itself of the impression that it has the right to subvert the democratic process both abroad and at home. Its criminality and arrogance could perhaps have been partially excused if it had ever got anything right, but, from predicting the indefinite survival of the Soviet Union to denying that Saddam Hussein was going to invade Kuwait, our spymasters have a Clouseau-like record, one that they have earned yet again with their exculpation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was after the grotesque estimate of continued Soviet health and prosperity that the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan argued that the CIA should be abolished. It is high time for his proposal to be revived. The system is worse than useless—it's a positive menace. We need to shut the whole thing down and start again.

Not to mislead you with that snippet: Most of his piece is based on his perception that the recent U.S. intell report on Iran's (lack of a) nuclear weapons program is misleading, perhaps deliberately so.

I don't know enough about Iran to know whether that is so or not. Apparently, based on what I read elsewhere, that admission disqualifies me as a serious blogger. Not my lack of relevant information, but my admission that the lack of it disqualifies me from pointless speculation cloaked in the rhetoric of certainty.

And really there are two questions: Whether or not Iran has an active nuclear weapons program, and whether the CIA's guess about that is based on good guesswork or on political considerations.

I suspect the fact that we have to weigh and worry about both, when the first alone is worrisome enough, is a sign that there's something wrong with the CIA.

My opinions about that have been too often expressed for me to bore my few readers with their repetition. I'm with Moynihan on that. Just remember what Acheson said to Truman about it when it was created: "I had the gravest forebodings about this organization and warned the President that as set up neither he, the National Security Council, nor anyone else would be in a position to know what it was doing or to control it."