Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Real CIA "Hit Squad" Scandal

Today's Washington Post reports that CIA Director Leon Panetta (I still don't see what qualified this man for this job) pulled the plug on the agency's Al-Qaeda hit squad plan when it threatened to move from talk to action. But I enthusiastically endorse what the CIA was planning -- and I think the real scandal here is that the pusillanimous putzes in the Obama administration killed a program designed to kill or capture Al-Qaeda.

Didn't we all assume -- and all hope -- in the wake of 9/11, that this is precisely what the agency ought to be doing, and was doing -- sending out teams of operatives to track down and kill AQ? Isn't this the kind of bold action we said we wanted from an agency that was perceived as too legalistic, too cautious and too technocratic in its approach to the spy trade?

What's shocking here isn't that such a plan existed; it's that such a plan took so long to move from the talk phase to the implementation phase. What's shocking here isn't that such a plan existed (since everyone in Congress knew, and most of the American public assumed, that assassinations of AQ had been given the presidential green light in the wake of 9/11); it's that the program was killed by the ninnies in the Obama administration, just as the rubber was going to meet the road.

This suggests to me that this country, and this agency, still aren't equipped to deal with the threat at hand. It suggests to me that the CIA still hasn't gotten its act together when it comes to taking the fight to the enemy -- except when it comes to launching long-range shots in the dark from drones. The CIA has made measurable progress when it comes to wiping out Afghan of Pakistani wedding parties: Bravo! But it's evidently no closer to the infiltration and in-close killing of AQ than before 9/11.

And the Obama administration's evidently OK with that. Instead of just informing Congress that this on-paper program was moving forward, and apologizing for the extra secrecy, Panetta and Obama pulled the plug. And isn't that, rather than whether Congress was thoroughly briefed on the program, the real shocker here?

I wonder how average Americans will view this episode in the wake of the next act of AQ mass murder on our shores? Won't they once again be asking what aggressive steps the CIA has taken to deal with the threat? Won't they be bemoaning our continued vulnerability? Won't the same Congresspeople now calling for an investigation be castigating the CIA for its lack of results?

Let's just hope, when that day comes, that Americans look back on Panetta's plug-pulling as I do -- as an act of defeatism and retreat, which signals a return to the sort of sanitized, white-gloved, gizmocentric spycraft at CIA that set the stage for the surprise of 9/11. I don't find the existence of such a program scandalous. On the contrary, I find its non-existence to be the real outrage.

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