Independent Christian Voice


Former CIA counsel: Exempting the CIA from the McCain Amendment sends the wrong signal to our officers

Former CIA general counsel Jeffrey H. Smith wrote this in today's Washington Post:
Sen. John McCain, himself a victim of brutal torture by the North Vietnamese, introduced an amendment to the 2006 Defense Appropriations Act that would, in essence, require all agencies of the U.S. government to comply with the Geneva Conventions and international law, which prohibit torture. Over strong administration objection, McCain's amendment passed 90 to 9. It will soon be considered by a conference committee with the House, which has no similar provision in its version of the bill. Enter the vice president.

Cheney and Porter Goss, director of the CIA, have proposed a modification of the McCain amendment that would permit the president to exempt the CIA from its strictures. McCain wisely rejected that proposal. So should the conferees.

If the administration's proposal passed, what would be the consequences? Why should we adhere to the Geneva Conventions when our terrorist enemies do not?

The answers are simple. First, we have long championed the Geneva Conventions because we want our citizens treated humanely when they are captured. Second, morally it is the right thing to do. If this amendment passes, what weight will our complaints have when other governments use their intelligence services to torture Americans?

There are also practical considerations that argue against the administration's proposal. It would sow even further confusion in the field, where decisions must be made by young officers who act under enormous stress and often in fear for their lives. Those officers demand, and we must provide, clear guidance with respect to what they may and may not do. The CIA and the military operate cheek-by-jowl, often in small teams far from command structures and lawyers. If those teams operate with two sets of rules, confusion will reign and abuses will occur. […]

The Post reported on Oct. 27 that John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, has directed intelligence agencies to "bolster the growth of democracy" and support the rule of law in other nations. Those are noble causes that will be embraced by all intelligence officers. But if the vice president's proposal is adopted, the CIA will presumably be free to bolster democracy by torturing anyone who does not embrace it with sufficient enthusiasm. Some democracy.

Democracy? Only the Pax Americana version of democracy.


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