Conservative media call review of interrogations a "war on the CIA"

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Following Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement that a federal prosecutor will be conducting "a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated" during interrogations of detainees suspected of terrorism, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) asserted that the investigation would be a "declaration of war against the CIA, and against common sense." Several conservative media figures have similarly advanced the claim that by looking into interrogation abuses, the Obama administration or the Justice Department has "declared war" on the CIA.

Justice Dept. opens "preliminary review" into whether laws were violated in interrogations

Holder: "Information known to me warrants opening a preliminary review into whether laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations." In his August 24 statement regarding the opening of the preliminary review, Holder also stated "previous decisions to decline prosecution" would be reviewed:

The Office of Professional Responsibility has now submitted to me its report regarding the Office of Legal Counsel memoranda related to so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. I hope to be able to make as much of that report available as possible after it undergoes a declassification review and other steps. Among other findings, the report recommends that the Department reexamine previous decisions to decline prosecution in several cases related to the interrogation of certain detainees.

I have reviewed the OPR report in depth. Moreover, I have closely examined the full, still-classified version of the 2004 CIA Inspector General's report, as well as other relevant information available to the Department. As a result of my analysis of all of this material, I have concluded that the information known to me warrants opening a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations. The Department regularly uses preliminary reviews to gather information to determine whether there is sufficient predication to warrant a full investigation of a matter. I want to emphasize that neither the opening of a preliminary review nor, if evidence warrants it, the commencement of a full investigation, means that charges will necessarily follow.

Rep. King claims investigation is a "declaration of war against the CIA"

Rep. King: Investigation is a "declaration of war." In an August 25 interview with Politico, King stated of the investigation, "It's bulls***. It's disgraceful. You wonder which side they're on." He also described Holder's decision as a "declaration of war against the CIA, and against common sense." [Ben Smith, Politico, 8/25/09]

Conservative media echo claim that Obama administration has declared war on the CIA

Buchanan: To investigate abuses is "to have the Justice Department declare war on the Central Intelligence Agency." MSNBC's Pat Buchanan stated of the investigation:

[I]t's dreadful in particular for this president, who is perceived as increasingly a man of the left, who have been traditionally, you know, in the caricature of the right, hostile to the security agencies of the country. To have the Justice Department declare war on the Central Intelligence Agency, to expose Leon Panetta, the CIA director as someone who can't defend his own troops, to attack the guys who did the dirty work to keep us safe for seven years and succeeded -- for a liberal president to do this is just to re-enact the worst mistakes of the Carter administration and just before it when Democratic Congress went after the CIA and the FBI, as though those were the enemies in the Cold War against communism and those were the enemies in the effort to prevent people blowing up buildings in the 1960s. [Morning Joe, 8/25/09]

NY Post: "How best for Obama to re claim a left-wing base[?] ... Simple: Declare war on the CIA." In an editorial, the New York Post stated, "How best for President Obama to re claim a left-wing base grown restive over what it sees as administration backtracking on health-care reform? Simple: Declare war on the CIA. George W. Bush's CIA, that is." [New York Post, 8/25/09]

Jed Babbin: "Obama's War on our Spies." In a column titled "Obama's War on our Spies," Human Events editor Jed Babbin wrote that "The Democrats' war on our intelligence agencies has now become a two-front war with the Obama administration attacking where Congressional Democrats couldn't." [Human Events, 8/25/09]

Peter Brookes: "[I]t's almost as if" the administration "has now declared war on the CIA." Columnist and Heritage Foundation senior fellow Peter Brookes wrote in an op-ed, "It's almost as if - in addition to the war in Iraq, Afghanistan and on terror - the Obama administration has now declared war on the CIA, which is one of our most important assets in gathering intelligence for winning these conflicts." [Boston Herald, 8/26/09] Brookes also appeared on the August 28 edition of Fox & Friends to assert that he thinks the investigation "means the Obama administration's at war with the CIA."

Wash. Times: "The Obama administration's war on the CIA continued in force this week." The Washington Times asserted in an editorial that the "Obama administration's war on the CIA continued in force this week. The result may be prosecution of CIA interrogators who work to uncover threats to national security. This witch hunt does not make America safer." [The Washington Times, 8/26/09]

Wash. Examiner: "A Justice Department war on the CIA is a high-risk, low-reward proposition." The Washington Examiner wrote in an editorial that "Attorney General Eric Holder is going to break the people who broke" Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and that "[p]rincipled liberals view a torture investigation as a moral necessity. Yet, even assuming that they have a point, every relevant fact argues against it. A Justice Department war on the CIA is a high-risk, low-reward proposition." [The Washington Examiner, 8/27/09]

Fox & Friends: "Has the Obama administration declared war on the CIA?" Fox & Friends co-hosts Dave Briggs and Gretchen Carlson teased an interview with King by asking, in Carlson's words, "Has the administration declared war on the CIA? And how are agents supposed to protect national security when they're fighting our own government?" King replied, "I've said that I believe the attorney general and the Obama administration have declared war on the CIA, and this is dramatically, dramatically weakening our defenses." [Fox & Friends, 8/28/09]

Transcripts

From the August 28 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): He's the type of person who also, for this moment, is trying to urge the attorney general's office not to start investigating past interrogation techniques. So, Peter Brookes, they're doing it anyway. What does that mean to the CIA?

BROOKES: I think it means the Obama administration's at war with the CIA. You know, today you're gonna have fellows in the field out there deciding whether they need to be more concerned about getting the terrorists or getting lawyers and getting liability insurance. I don't think this is good at all for the country. It may be a victory for some on the left, but it's certainly not a victory for our country.

[...]

BRIGGS: And has the Obama administration declared war on the CIA? And how are agents supposed to protect national security when they're fighting our own government? Congressman and ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee Peter King joins us live in minutes.

[...]

CARLSON: Coming up on the show: Has the Obama administration declared war on the CIA? Congressman Peter King will tell us why investigating them puts our own security at risk.

[...]

CARLSON: Seventeen minutes after the top of the hour. This question for you: Has the Obama administration effectively declared war on the CIA and in turn put our nation's security at risk?

KLIMEADE: Yeah, we're paying the price. Ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Peter King joins us. Congressman, how shocked are you that we have an investigation and possible prosecution into the interrogations that happened in 2002 to 2004?

KING: Brian, this is an absolute disgrace. I can't believe it. If anyone had told us on September 12th that we were gonna be investigating the CIA because they were interrogating terrorists and threatening them, not even using any harm against them, threatening --

KILMEADE: High-value, too.

KING: Yes, high -- oh yeah, these are -- Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, he was the architect of September 11th. And the terrible crime here is that they threatened to shoot him, knowing all along they wouldn't shoot him, never intended to hurt him, just wanted to scare the guy to get information which ended up saving countless American lives. This is absolute insanity, and I've said that I believe the attorney general and the Obama administration have declared war on the CIA, and this is dramatically, dramatically weakening our defenses.

From the August 25 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

JOE SCARBOROUGH (co-host): Regardless of what -- how you feel on this issue, Pat, isn't this just politically the worst time in the world for a president whose numbers are dropping and who's losing the health care battle in public opinion across America, isn't this the worst time for this president to take on the CIA again?

BUCHANAN: And it's dreadful in particular for this president, who is perceived as increasingly a man of the left, who have been traditionally, you know, in the caricature of the right, hostile to the security agencies of the country. To have the Justice Department declare war on the Central Intelligence Agency, to expose Leon Panetta, the CIA director as someone who can't defend his own troops, to attack the guys who did the dirty work to keep us safe for seven years and succeeded -- for a liberal president to do this is just to re-enact the worst mistakes of the Carter administration and just before it when Democratic Congress went after the CIA and the FBI, as though those were the enemies in the Cold War against communism and those were the enemies in the effort to prevent people blowing up buildings in the 1960s.

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