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Goss: Obama Decision "Crossed a Red Line"

1:53 PM, Apr 23, 2009 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Porter Goss, former CIA Director and past chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, blasted the Obama administration for releasing Justice Department memos on harsh interrogation techniques. "For the first time in my experience we've crossed the red line of properly protecting our national security in order to gain partisan political advantage," Goss said in an interview.

Goss, a former CIA operative, has made few public comments since leaving his post as DCI in September 2006. In December 2007, he told a Washington Post reporter that members of Congress had been fully briefed on the CIA's special interrogation program. "Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing," Goss told the Post. "And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement."

In a letter to his intelligence community colleagues last Thursday, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair described those briefings. "From 2002 through 2006 when the use of these techniques ended, the leadership of the CIA repeatedly reported their activities both to Executive Branch policymakers and to members of Congress, and received permission to continue to use the techniques."

That passage from Blair's letter - along with another confirming that the interrogations produced "high-value information" that provided a "deeper understanding of the al Qaeda organization attacking this country" - was dropped when language from the letter was released publicly. A spokesman for Blair attributed to the omission to normal editing procedures.

In an interview this morning, senior Bush administration official accused the DNI of "politicizing intelligence" by attempting to hide his judgment that the program had produced valuable results. This official also accused the Obama administration of double standards, citing its professed belief in transparency and its unwillingness - at least so far - to declassify memos that demonstrate the value of the interrogation techniques Obama has banned.

Other Republicans have pointed out that with the exception of Blair, the Obama administration has defended the policies using political figures - like Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod - rather than top national security advisers.

"You can imagine what it would have looked like, if on a sensitive intelligence matter involving the CIA and this controversy, if we sent Karl Rove out to do this briefing. And that's in effect what's happened here," says a high-ranking official from the Bush White House. "And I assume that's because they saw it primarily as a political issue - because it's being debated inside as a political issue -because it's about appeasing the left, whose support they sought during the campaign. And Axelrod is more of an expert on that crowd that anybody else. It also says to me he was in all the meetings where they were debating this question - whether or not Obama had better go forward with some kind of investigation."

The official was referring to an article by Politico's Mike Allen, in which Axelrod characterized Obama's move as "a weighty decision." Axelrod added: "He thought very long and hard about it, consulted widely. … He's been thinking about this for four weeks, really."

Allen later reported that Axelrod made the comments during an interview he and others at Politico conducted for another article. Axelrod, Allen wrote, gave he and his colleagues a "preview of the decision on the memos."