Debra J. Saunders

The agency's behavior isn't that of a coverup, but quite the opposite. A contractor was prosecuted in 2007. John L. Helgerson, the former CIA inspector general who issued the 2004 report, told the New York Times that he "personally" would not prosecute the other cases.

The Helgerson report and other documents revealed that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed gave up crucial information about planned terrorist attacks as a result of the CIA's detention and interrogation program. There's no way to prove that the enhanced interrogation techniques -- also known as "torture" -- led to those disclosures, but they may have saved lives by thwarting plans for attacks on London's Heathrow airport, to fly planes into tall buildings in California and even a plan to weaponize anthrax. The Washington Post notes that there is no proof that the attacks were "imminent." OK, but they were in the works.

Now the reward for those who stuck out their necks to uncover these plots is the very thing that they feared -- that their names may end up in a World Court "most wanted" list. As one operative told the IG, "Ten years from now, we're going to be sorry we're doing this ... (but) it has to be done."

As a candidate for the White House, President Obama left the door open for prosecuting alleged intelligence abuses, but straddled the controversy by noting that, if elected, he would not want to see his tenure consumed with what might be perceived "as a partisan witch hunt."

Sorry, but there is no escaping that perception now.

And it doesn't help when his own attorney general was able to support the pardon of unrepentant (but left-leaning) offenders, but he can't stop hounding professionals whose biggest fear was that they might fail to prevent another large-scale terrorist attack.

I don't know why Obama bothered to keep the Bush rendition policy in play -- there can't be many operatives who would be willing to so much as raise their voices during interrogations after Holder played the special-prosecutor card.

Hey, all operatives have to do is read a newspaper to know that inside the Beltway in 2009, there is more outrage that agents might have threatened to kill Khalid Sheikh Mohammad's kids to prevent a terrorist attack than at KSM for claiming to have beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Likewise, the public seems more exercised at the kill-KSM's-kids threat than at today's preferred (but necessary) method of fighting al-Qaida: lobbing missiles that sometimes kill innocent people.

If Obama truly wants to move "forward," as his aides contend, he has the means -- as Holder well knows. Obama could use the presidential pardon to immunize CIA interrogators from the threat of criminal prosecution and end the constant flogging of serial investigations.

It's true, the CIA interrogators may lack the political connections enjoyed by Rich and the FALN guys. But maybe this once, Holder can overlook that.

Debra J. Saunders

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