The Constitution Isn’t a Suicide Pact

This week we’ve witnessed Washington politics at its worst. I’m not referring to the efforts of “true believers” of both parties to scuttle the budget authorization for 2015 for ideological reasons. I’m referring to the blatant, self-serving hypocrisy that led to publication of a report detailing interrogation of prisoners captured in anti-terrorism operations 13 years ago.

The revelations of the report aren’t news; all of this has been hashed over before, the program cancelled and prohibited by executive order of the President in 2009. What happened this week was a national confession to the world that the United States engaged in extreme measures to obtain information at a time of national crisis.

What happened on September 11, 2001 was indelibly inscribed on the memories of most Americans, all the more so upon the consciousness of anyone directly engaged in intelligence collection and analysis. The underlying and only real purpose of any intelligence agency is to defeat the enemies of the nation by providing an edge, the inside track of a cunning and capable enemy, absolutely essential to the survival of the nation they serve.

After “9-11” I was engaged for the next several months in preparing a series of briefings for senior military commanders in all fifty states regarding the level of threat posed by those who organized the September attacks. We brought together the nation’s leading biological warfare experts along with the incident commanders at “Ground Zero” and the Pentagon to help senior Commanders formulate practical response plans for an attack that every intelligence, military and federal law enforcement agency was certain would occur. Communication cables “burned up” detailing threats of the “next attack,” likely to be nuclear or a major biological incident in a U.S. city. We were preparing for 100,000 civilian dead “the next time.”

In the greater Washington D.C. and Alexandria Virginia suburbs, civilians were being murdered by snipers, among the first was an off-duty FBI agent. Anthrax-laced letters showed up at the Capitol and other locations; an incident that eventually killed another five civilians. Those with security responsibilities were on a razor’s edge; political leaders demanded an effective response and a “blow-torch” was turned on every intelligence agency to produce “actionable intelligence.” By November American military units had invaded Afghanistan; Special Forces, CIA agents and Army Ranger units parachuted into combat as the Air Force blasted terrorist strongholds. Americans were wounded and some died, but they did so in the course of their duty to defend the nation and destroy its enemies. We promised them we had their back.

This week we broke that pledge as Senator Feinstein released a report graphically detailing for the world the techniques used to break terrorist suspects and collect the small details that analysts use to create the mosaic of terrorist operations. The report was not “bipartisan” as not a single Republican signed on to its release. It was written by politically motivated analysts without interviewing a single intelligence operative directly involved in the interrogations. Every former director of the CIA and of every other national intelligence agency condemned the release of the report and the blatant lies by politicians denying their past approval of these operations. Feinstein’s report promulgated a national apology while endangering every past, current and future intelligence officer overseas by exposing intelligence operatives to any nation or political activist with an axe to grind. It provides the basis for international legal prosecution.

To the Constitutional moral purist that applauds this action let me emphatically state that there is not one foreign intelligence agency in the world outside of the United States that does not engage in harsh interrogation of captives. They will deny it; it’s an unwritten code that nobody admits to spying let alone “torture” of captives, but they all do, even our closest allies. Only “leftist lawyers,” living in the fantasy world of legalism, have the luxury to pretend that courts keep nations safe from attack or that “torture doesn’t work.” The Nazis rolled up the entire British agent network in Holland in WWII through techniques “that don’t work.” As a Supreme Court Justice once stated, “the Constitution is not a suicide pact.”

Feinstein’s report insures American intelligence officers will never trust their government again and will refuse exposure to legal jeopardy to obtain vital information. Foreign intelligence services will treat American agents like lepers, cutting off vital information only they can provide lest their sources and deep-cover agents be exposed.

Worst of all, the American people will be placed in mortal danger. Should a nuclear weapon eventually be smuggled into a major city, don’t expect an intelligence officer to fall upon his sword by harshly interrogating a terrorist to save the neck of an ungrateful nation. You could, however, call a lawyer.

Al Fonzi
5th District Chairman, Republican Party, SLO County
Past President, SLO County Lincoln Club

Comments are closed.