As we begin 2015, we can take solace that the “torture” debate is finally behind us. But before we close the book on six sordid years of Democratic demagoguery and investigations, let the record show that the opponents of the CIA interrogation program were completely and utterly defeated.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, launched a six-year, 6,000-page, $40 million investigation into the CIA interrogation program, with the goal of convincing Americans that a) the program did not work and that b) enhanced interrogations were wrong and should never again be permitted.
She failed on all counts.
Just before Christmas, a Post poll revealed the American people’s final verdict. The vast majority agree with the CIA that these techniques were necessary and justified. A majority think that Feinstein should never have released her report. And — most importantly — 76 percent said they would do it again to protect the country.
Americans were asked, “Looking ahead, do you feel that torture of suspected terrorists can often be justified, sometimes justified, rarely justified or never justified?” Note that the pollsters used the loaded word “torture” (even though the CIA contends that the techniques did not constitute torture), which should have biased the question in favor of the critics. Instead, 17 percent replied they would support using the techniques “often,” 40 percent “sometimes” and 19 percent “rarely.” Only 20 percent said the techniques should “never” be justified.
The fact is, in actual practice the techniques were only used “rarely.” Of the tens of thousands of individuals captured since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, only about 30 were subjected to enhanced interrogation of any kind, and just three underwent waterboarding. So “rarely” is the answer that most closely approximates what actually took place. That means 57 percent of Americans would actually be willing to support the use of enhanced interrogation techniques more frequently than they were actually employed.
Indeed, the poll shows that Feinstein and the opponents of CIA interrogations have actually lost ground over the past five years. In April 2009, the Pew Poll asked almost the exact same question. Back then, 71 percent said they would support enhanced interrogation (15 percent “often”; 34 percent “sometimes”; 22 percent “rarely”). Only 25 percent said “never.” So in five years, we’ve seen a 5 percentage point shift in support of enhanced interrogation.
The more Feinstein and the CIA critics voiced their objections, the more the needle of public opinion has moved in favor of the CIA’s position.
That’s not all. While Feinstein was pressing ahead with her politicized investigation, President Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, reopened a criminal investigation of CIA officials involved in the interrogation program. He did this despite the fact that Obama came to office in 2009 pledging to “look forward as opposed to looking backwards” and promising the men and women of the CIA that they would not have to “feel like they’ve got spend their all their time looking over their shoulders.” He did this over the objections of seven former CIA directors, without so much as reading the detailed “declination memos” prepared by career prosecutors from the Eastern District of Virginia, who had conducted an exhaustive inquiry into allegations of abuse in the CIA program during the George W. Bush administration and found no crimes to prosecute.
Like Feinstein, Holder was driven by a desire to reach a predetermined conclusion. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Holder had told the left-wing American Constitution Society that “our government authorized the use of torture” and promised the crowd, “We owe the American people a reckoning.”
Result? After two years of wasted resources and untold grief for these dedicated intelligence officers, Holder came up empty. The special prosecutor he assigned to deliver that day of “reckoning” came to the same conclusion as the career prosecutors before him: There was no criminal wrongdoing by CIA officials.
So, despite the best efforts of Holder and Feinstein, the CIA has been cleared both by the Department of Justice and by the court of public opinion.
One of the architects of the CIA program, James Mitchell, recently revealed on “The Kelly File” that at one point Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM) told him: “Your country will turn on you. The liberal media will turn on you. The people will grow tired of this, they will turn on you. And when they do, you are going to be abandoned.”
KSM was wrong. Yes, the liberal media turned on Mitchell and the other CIA officials who got captured al-Qaeda leaders to reveal their plans for new attacks. So did Eric Holder and Dianne Feinstein.
But the American people never did.