In a surprising letter to President Barack Obama, seven former CIA chiefs asked for an end to the investigation by Attorney General Eric Holder into the conduct of CIA officers. The former directors argue that further investigations “will seriously damage the willingness of many other intelligence officers to take risks to protect the country.” They also argue that allegations of CIA misconduct have already been investigated:
The seven men also argue that violations of the law have already been investigated, with the CIA having “forwarded fewer than 20 instances where Agency officers appeared to have acted beyond their existing legal authorities,” and career prosecutors under the supervision of the US Attorney determining that one prosecution was warranted, of a CIA contractor, who was later convicted.
“They determined that prosecutions were not warranted in the other cases,” the former CIA directors write. “In a number of these cases the CIA subsequently took administrative disciplinary steps against the individuals involved. Attorney General Holder’s decision to re-open the criminal investigation creates an atmosphere of continuous jeopardy for those whose cases the Department of Justice had previously declined to prosecute. Moreover, there is no reason to expect that the re-opened criminal investigation will remain narrowly focused.”
The idea that an investigation won’t remain narrowly focused is a valid one, as politics plays as large, if not bigger, role in the investigation as the search for true misconduct. The point really isn’t to punish those evil torturers at the CIA, but a further attempt to drag out more evidence of the evil nature of the previous administration. It’s politically motivated and not forward-looking, and as these former CIA directors indicate, it harms the morale of the intelligence community.
The CIA directors are a bipartisan group, two having served under Pres. Clinton, which gives their plea some added weight. But it’s not one that I expect this administration to listen to. They’ve committed themselves to this investigation after initially showing they wouldn’t perform one, and to pull back now would signal weakness and give critics a political victory. But the letter is worth remembering as this politically loaded investigation steamrolls forward.