I was watching CIA Director Brennan’s press conference the other day in which he responded to the Feinstein Report.
A press conference! Direct from the inner sanctum, the holy of holies, at Langley! The first press conference in the 67-year history of CIA secret activities.
And just because the world might be appalled at the agency’s interrogation techniques such as locking up alleged suspects in coffin-sized boxes for days, handcuffing a prisoner to an overhead bar for 22 hours a day, rectal feeding including their favorite foods (humus, beans, tabouli salad). There was a perceived sense that these things violated American values, as well as producing little or no useful intelligence.
Now I realize “The Company,” as it Is know, is facing an image crisis, and is under a lot of pressure with the release of what Dick Cheney characterized as “a load of crap.” He should know, having turned the shoveling of it into an art form during his years as the cheerleader-in-charge of the glory years of enhanced interrogation in the Bush administration.
But a press conference —on TV! Holy Allen Dulles.
What was going on here, I found myself wondering as a student of CIA public relations techniques.
In ye olde days, CIA had a policy of neither confirming nor denying stories about the Company. And there were lots of bad stories that needed confirmation or denial. Journalists kept finding activities that were low on the morality and American values scale, which intrepid reporters by breaking risked being put on the “Don’t Send Christmas Gifts List.”
The groundbreaking CIA TV press conference gave Director Brennan the opportunity to reveal that he is a hypocrite. As Pres. Obama’s right-hand man for intelligence affairs, he said in 2008 that enhanced interrogation methods “led us astray from ideals as Americans,” and tactics such as water boarding “are not in keeping with our values as Americans.’
The experiment in transparency also gave him a chance to say, yes, there had been some chaos and bungling post 9/11, including incarcerating in unpleasant surroundings wrong guys whose crime was having similar Arabic names The Director said, nevertheless, he stood by his people, if on one foot or two, was not indicated.
All of this was dismaying to someone like myself, a patriotic citizen who always believed we had the best secret intelligence agency taxpayer money could buy.
It’s okay for an insurance agent to make mistakes, but not my CIA agents.
Let’s face it, I say to myself. Nobody is a gentleman in the spying biz. This is not “Stover at Yale,” a game played by Skulls and Bones men as social workers coddling alleged perpetrators.
CIA had always been the Trappist monastery of government agencies. A vow of silence protected them from discussing the means to justify the ends that might unsettle the public?
Does this mean now that every time Agent 008 does something heinous, morally depraved, inhumane, and disgusting we can expect The Company boss to come forward before the people on TV and do his best to explain, or lie, or combination thereof.
In all these past years of doing their job as democracy’s representative, should they have told us what we did to Mossadegh in Iran? He was a lunatic who was taking away the oil from patriotic American oil companies.
Should we have been explaining it was necessary to arrange the hit on Allende the socialist in Chile?
After the Bay of Pigs, should the Agency have explained how somebody forgot to order the air cover protecting the landing of CIA –trained Battista thugs, as Fidel called the folks from Miami.
Or how the plots to kill Castro with exploding cigars and poison fizzled.
Should the agency be explaining how it was wrong in advising three presidents we needed to fight in Vietnam in order to prevent all the dominos falling into China’s hands?
And its failure to connect the dots in the collapse of the Soviet Union.
I tell you The Company is opening up a can of worms with this press conference nonsense.
The least Director Brennan could have done to assuage the worries of patriotic citizens like myself is ended this wild and crazy experiment in transparency by saying everything he said was “off the record.”
Dec. 15, 2014