Barack Obama: The CIA Has ‘Tarnished’ the Image of America

The fruit of three years of investigation: a report that shined the light on the secret program used to interrogate presumed militants of al-Qaida after September 11. The American president severely commented on the methods employed by the agency.

Tuesday, Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee, brandished a remarkably stone-like face to journalists and to the American nation on live television. The 400-page document, presented by the senator — who leans on 6,000 still classified pages of the report , which are themselves fed from the examination of near 6.4 million documents internal to the Central Intelligence Agency and to the administration — released the conclusions of more than five years of Senate investigation on the utilization of torture by the CIA after Sept. 11.

“An ugly truth,” said Feinstein with a lot of gravity, before exposing, with the luxury of impressive detail for over an hour, the methods of disturbing brutality used by the agency within its program of “enhanced techniques.” Water boarding, sleep deprivation 24 out of 24 hours, stripping detainees naked, who were sometimes led with hoods on their heads to dirty hallways where they were physically beaten. Use of dogs in their cells to tear confessions out of dozens of detainees suspected of terrorist enterprises after the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center towers and against the Pentagon. Feinstein did not manage CIA for the previous administration.

Methods without Any Effectiveness

In addition, she affirmed a devastating accusation that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” had not shown any effectiveness in obtaining crucial information, and that the CIA had misled President Bush, the Department of Justice, and Congress on what was happening. It was a grave and surprising moment for American democracy. A documented confession launched in the face of the world by a nation fed by puritan traditions that believes in morals and perfecting its mechanisms.

Across the world, the on-alert Obama administration had asked American military commanders “to be on a high state of alert.” On Tuesday, Dianne Feinstein recognized the risks of the great unpacking for America. “Over the past couple of weeks, I have gone through a great deal of introspection about whether to delay the release of this report to a later time. There are those who will seize upon the report and say ‘see what Americans did,’ and they will try to use it to justify evil actions or to incite more violence. But history will judge us by our commitment to a just society governed by law and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say ‘never again’” she said.

Barack Obama’s Support

With the exception of Senator John McCain, who experienced torture in Vietnam, the Republicans in Congress were against this big unpacking, invoking the risks of fire abroad. They also worry about the consequences for those who helped, like Poland, and who could thereafter hesitate to cooperate. Many also contest the idea of a CIA that would override its prerogatives and act without knowledge of power. On Monday, the ex vice-president, Dick Cheney, defended the program with ardor and reminded the world that he had been in close cooperation with the White House and the Department of Justice. Some former members of the agency note with an irony mixed with bitterness that the Senate Intelligence Committee is doing a lot given that it had approved the program. Far from being a rogue CIA operation, the arsenal of methods used was put in place with the approval of the Department of Justice, the White House, and Congress, argued John Rizzo, the main lawyer for the CIA, to the Figaro in the spring.

Despite the potential consequences that the revelations of the report could have for the safety of embassies, Barack Obama supported the publication of the report. In a press release on Tuesday, he denounced the methods “contrary” to the values of the United States. “These techniques have highly tarnished the reputation of America in the word,” he said.

And in reality, Obama seems split, himself. This summer, he called on his country to not be “too moralistic” regarding the past, forcefully defending his spies. The White House also contributed to expunging a portion of the report. Deep inside, the president is torn between his very American conviction of the teaching value of the mea culpa America and the obligations of the reality of a power necessarily more cynical and less forgiving.

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