On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit the CIA’s headquarters in Virginia to thank intelligence professionals for helping to kill Osama bin Laden. According to practically all news reports detailing the operation earlier this month in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the CIA was integral in providing the actionable intelligence necessary to killing America’s most wanted terrorist. So it makes sense the president might want to pay his regards.
But what’s odd about tomorrow’s visit is that some members of the very intelligence community Obama intends to thank tomorrow are currently under investigation by the president’s own Department of Justice. In particular, Attorney General Eric Holder is investigating CIA interrogators who used so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. It is widely believed – and it has been confirmed by current CIA director Leon Panetta – that the intelligence learned by those CIA interrogators was necessary to finding bin Laden’s whereabouts.
Instead of the investigation, some senators on Capitol Hill believe that tomorrow, when the president goes to CIA headquarters, Obama should thank the intelligence community for their work – and announce that he will work toward ending the investigation of those who helped bring Osama bin Laden to justice.
“When the President visits the CIA on Friday, he should announce the end of DOJ’s unwarranted investigations of CIA interrogators,” said Mark Kirk, the Illinois senator who currently holds the seat once held by Obama. “These Americans did their jobs at the direction of the President of the United States and this politically motivated investigation will have a chilling effect on the work of their colleagues and other national security professionals in the U.S. Government.”
Texas senator John Cornyn agreed.
“I am glad President Obama plans to visit CIA headquarters to thank our intelligence professionals, but actions speak louder than words,” Cornyn said. “The President should tell these professionals that he is ending his Attorney General’s politically driven investigation of CIA interrogators who did their best to keep our country safe in the dark days after 9/11. Career prosecutors in the Justice Department fully investigated these cases years ago, and recommended against any legal action. The President should respect their opinion, and end the Attorney General’s witch hunt.”
Senators Kirk and Cornyn both signed a letter, along with 32 of their Senate Republican colleagues, urging the Obama administration to stop investigating the CIA interrogators.
“These Americans did their jobs at the direction of the President of the United States,” the Republican senators wrote in their letter to the president. “Punishing them for their actions, which likely saved lives by helping avert other terrorist attacks, will continue to have a chilling effect on the critical work of their colleagues and other national security professionals in the U.S. Government. Our nation cannot afford these politically motivated investigations to continue.”
The president, if he chooses not to end the investigation, might be seen as simply playing politics. On the hand, the CIA interrogators provided actionable intelligence necessary to killing America’s most wanted terrorist. On the other hand, the president will be seen as tacitly acknowledging that the information learned from these interrogations was necessary – and thus benefiting from their service – but as being too political to acknowledge that it was a policy that he campaigned against, and which was implemented by President George W. Bush, and not solely his very own policies.