Michael Gerson

WASHINGTON -- In a little over 100 days, the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress have delivered a series of blows to the pride and morale of the Central Intelligence Agency.

It began with the release of the Justice Department memos -- a move opposed by CIA Director Leon Panetta along with four previous directors. Then, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. did not rule out Justice Department cooperation with foreign lawsuits against American intelligence operatives. Then, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the CIA of lying to her in 2002 about waterboarding, which she admitted learning about five months later anyway but did nothing to oppose because her real job was to "change the leadership in Congress and in the White House."

To stanch the CIA's bleeding morale, Democrats have tried reassurance. President Obama, speaking at CIA headquarters, took the Fred Rogers approach: "Don't be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we've made some mistakes. That's how we learn." Yes, children, hypocritical congressional investigations and foreign kangaroo courts are really our friends. House intelligence committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes sent a sympathy note to Langley: "In recent days, as the public debate regarding CIA's interrogation practices has raged, you have been very much in my thoughts." There should be a section at Hallmark for intelligence operatives unfairly accused of war crimes.

The only effective reassurance came from Panetta, who pointed out to Pelosi and others that the CIA actually keeps records of its congressional briefings. "Our contemporaneous records from September 2002," Panetta wrote, "indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaida, describing 'the enhanced techniques that had been employed.'" A primary advocate of the "truth commission" has apparently misplaced her own supply.

Is there any precedent for a speaker of the House of Representatives seeking political shelter by blaming national security professionals? Or for a commander in chief exposing intelligence methods at the urging of the ACLU? Actually, such treatment has precedents. In 1975, the Church Committee nearly destroyed the human intelligence capabilities of the CIA. In the early 1990s, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan urged closing the agency entirely. The Clinton administration imposed massive budget cuts, leaving behind a demoralized institution.


Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson writes a twice-weekly column for The Post on issues that include politics, global health, development, religion and foreign policy. Michael Gerson is the author of the book "Heroic Conservatism" and a contributor to Newsweek magazine.
 
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Michael Gerson's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.