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No Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Soil = Black Mark for CIA?

Pretzel logic: Since there's been no terrorist attacks on American soil since 9-11, the CIA was wrong in its harsh interrogation of Al Qaeda prisoners?

Scott Shane has a history of slanted reporting on intelligence (most notoriously his credulous acceptance of everything said by anti-war sideshow Joe Wilson). But a sentence in his Thursday "news analysis," "The C.I.A. and the Tapes: Sensing Support Shifting Away From Its Methods," was either sloppily written or just bizarre.



Shane began with some gloating, likening the CIA to a group of grifters afraid their luck may finally be running out.


"For six years, Central Intelligence Agency officers have worried that someday the tide of post-Sept. 11 opinion would turn, and their harsh treatment of prisoners from Al Qaeda would be subjected to hostile scrutiny and possible criminal prosecution.


"Now that day may have arrived, after years of shifting legal advice, searing criticism from rights groups - and no new terrorist attacks on American soil."


"The Justice Department, which in 2002 gave the C.I.A. legal approval for waterboarding and other tough interrogation methods, is reviewing whether agency officials broke the law by destroying videotapes of those very methods.


"The Congressional intelligence committees, whose leaders in 2002 gave at least tacit approval for the tough tactics, have voted in conference to ban all coercive techniques, and they have announced investigations of the destruction of the videotapes and the methods they documented.


"'Exactly what they feared is what's happening,' Jack Goldsmith, the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department, said of the C.I.A. officials he advised in that job. 'The winds change, and the recriminations begin.'


That part about "no new terrorist attacks" reminds us of the infamous Times headline from September 1997: "Crime Keeps on Falling, But Prisons Keep on Filling." Just like that old headline writer couldn't comprehend thatputting more criminals in jail leads to less crime, Shane apparently hasn't considered that perhaps the CIA's harshinterrogation of Al Qaeda suspectshas enabled it to gather the vital intelligence to prevent those "terrorist attacks on American soil."


Of course if there had been a terrorist attack after 9-11, Shane would have used it to prove the CIA's "harsh treatment" of terror suspects were a tactical failure.


There's more bias at the end:


"The Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, which unsuccessfully sought charges against former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld during a recent visit to France, has pledged to pursue criminal torture charges against former Bush administration officials when they travel abroad.


"'The only way to restore the moral authority of our country,' said Michael Ratner, the group's president, 'is accountability.'"


Shane doesn't delve into the deep nuttiness of CCR, the same way he failed to do so in a June 2006 story on CCR's attempt to shut down Guantanamo Bay. Leader Michael Ratner railed in a December 21, 2005 press release:


"The Bush administration has moved us from a government responsible and accountable to the people to one that dictates to the people. Every American should be in political rebellion against the criminals now running this country."