The New CIA

The selection of lifelong Washington insider, Leon Panetta, as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency is troubling on its face due to his lack of experience in the intelligence community. However, during a time of war, it is a horrible mistake that may have tremendous repercussions for our entire nation. His selection does not just signal the selection of a typical loyal party soldier, it also signals the end of the War on Terror as what it fact is, a war. By this selection, President-elect Obama has decided that we should return to the days of viewing the scourge of terrorism as a minor nuisance that should be handled in a law enforcement context.

Of course, the War on Terror cannot be handled in a law enforcement context. That approach resulted in 3,000 dead US citizens in the streets of New York and Washington. Since we began to prosecute this matter as a war, we have no dead citizens in the streets of our homeland. This is not a coincidence. It is a result of successful policies of the Bush Administration.

The CIA is at the point of the spear in the War on Terror. It, along with the military, is the principal agency involved in keeping the United States and her citizens safe from Islamist extremists. Through its covert operations, it has been able to eliminate or capture numerous high level Al-Qaeda operatives (as recently as January 1, 2009). This has resulted in a significant diminution in Al-Qaeda's capacity to carry out attacks. Instead of having a centralized command and control structure, Al-Qaeda now operates more like a franchise operation. Although it still presents a clear and present danger, the lack of centralization means that it is much more difficult for Al-Qaeda to launch a spectacular, 9/11 style attack.

Of course, in addition to its operational function, the CIA also engages in intelligence gathering. This has been the most controversial aspect of the CIA in the post-9/11 era. Principally, those on the left object to the agency's use of coercive interrogation and the Rendition program. If you will recall, Mr. Obama's first choice for CIA Director, John Brennan, was forced to withdraw his name from consideration in order to placate the left. Mr. Brennan, an intelligence professional, has made the fatal mistake of speaking out publicly in favor of the Rendition Program.

The Rendition Program has often been credited with providing valuable intelligence that would have otherwise never been obtained. Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's Bin Laden unit and an architect of the Rendition Program, has often told of the program's effectiveness. The fact that Mr. Obama will stop this program endangers us all.

As to coercive interrogation, it to has been proven to have saved American lives. On only three occasions, the so called water boarding technique was used. During the interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the CIA learned of an Al-Qaeda plot to bomb the Brooklyn Bridge. Had they not learned of that plot, thousands more Americans could be dead in New York.

Not every detainee is subjected to coercive interrogation, nor should they. But, there are certain circumstances when it is necessary. It is an important arrow that the CIA must have in its quiver.

The leftist line, that has been been stated by Mr. Panetta himself, that all of our interrogators should abide by the terms of the Army Field Manual for the interrogation of unlawful enemy combatants is ridiculous. The Army Field Manual is meant for the typical soldier in a combat zone. It was never meant to be applied intelligence professionals acting in controlled circumstances.

Mr. Obama has stated several times that he plans on changing the role of our intelligence agencies. This will have a devastating impact on the agencies ability to protect us. If this change results in a successful attack against the United States, Mr. Obama will regret this decision and the American people will not reelect him.

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