August 25th, 2009
05:13 PM ET
13 years ago

Borger: CIA flap a huge headache for Obama

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="The Central Intelligence Agency is under fire for harsh interrogation techniques used after 9/11."]
Gloria Borger is a senior political analyst for CNN, appearing regularly on CNN's "The Situation Room," "Campbell Brown," "AC360°" and "State of the Union With John King," as well as special event coverage.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - No matter which way you look at it, the question is painfully difficult: What - if anything - do we do about the post 9/11 behavior of some CIA agents who worked feverishly to interrogate prisoners they believed had information that could save American lives?

First, we now know definitively what we always suspected - that agent actions were sometimes abusive, perhaps even illegal, as they tried to obtain information.

The just-released Justice Department report shows, among other things, that agents choked one detainee repeatedly and threatened to kill another prisoner's children. Not pretty stuff.

But here's what we also know, thanks to another report (purposefully) released by the CIA as a response to the Justice document: Some interrogations worked.

According to these agency reports, chronicling 2004 and 2005, the intelligence community gleaned valuable information in real-time - like tracking down a terrorist network and securing key information from the notorious Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind.

The CIA's message is clear: Whatever we did helped us get what we needed to save lives. So get off our backs and let us do our jobs.

But here's the catch, and it's what complicates all of this: The CIA report does not draw a straight line between any specific interrogation methods and success. Indeed, the report says the "effectiveness" of any particular interrogation technique in gaining star-quality information "cannot be so easily measured."

That is an understatement.

So it's easy to see why the president, who doesn't need another political headache, was happy to toss the hot potato over to Attorney General Eric Holder for review. Holder is independent, the president reminded us. He is supposed to make decisions about whether to prosecute criminal cases without the president. That notion could provide a smidgeon of political cover, but it looks like it won't be enough.

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soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Smiff

    Guess what? The enemy knows how far they can go and effectively get away with it. Pol Pot had this country of slackers pegged in the sixties when he told his minions not to worry" The American public neither have the stomach nor the patience for long hard wars. Patience is on our side!" HE WAS RIGHT!!!!! War is a dirty business. Never has an American during war time been NOT interrogated harshly or even tortured for info?? WHEN DO YOU SUGGEST WE SET OUR PRECEDENT FOR THESE ANIMALS WHO ARE AFTER US? Weakness is an true American least to the reigning generation! BTW The sixties are over!!! Its today and your enemy appreciates the carried over sentiment.

    August 25, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  2. Marie Laveaux

    This investigation is justifiable, and those who authorized the use of banned interrogation methods are the ones who should be held liable and brought to justice. While it is true that our enemies might do the same or worse to us , resorting to their thinking and tactics makes us little better then they are. It is not so much a sign of weakness, but of strenght to obey the law. Wanting to see the law respected is not the same as wanting to "coddle" our enemies.

    That being said, I think the timing of the investigations is wrong. We need to get health care reform passed, and move on to the next thing.

    August 25, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  3. Realist

    Obama would give the terrorists health care if he could and make us pay for it. Liberals love to be feel good moronsuntil something personally happens to them. I wonder how many would be terrorist rights advocates if the guy killed their child or bombed their house...

    August 25, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  4. Peoples Voice

    The president's headache is not a big as the torture victims nor will it be as big as the ones who get convicted of torture.

    August 25, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  5. Red

    A lot of you out there, red/blue/green etc., are leaving out a critical point, many of these "detainees" were never proved to be terrorists, these acts were perpetrated on "suspected terrorists." All of you who are arguing that these people didn't show us any mercy so don't show them any are fools. There was no trial, and as a matter of fact the only reason we had to do this in cuba, was to circumvent that pesky quick/speedy trail part of the constitution, and that whole innocent till proven guilty pain in the ass.

    August 25, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  6. mike

    The interrogations worked. Blame Bush.

    August 25, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  7. RNC = DNC = politics as usual

    Classic Umbama double speak: " I want to move forward" so I am telling Holder to look backward and investigate. I am representing the majority who do not want an investigation, so I am asking Holder to do an investigation.

    Has anyone actually figured out Umbama's position on anything?

    August 25, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  8. Wake Up

    Can these obamabots forget about Bush in any line they have about anything? We have the radical 5% fringe of the country, running things, and it is scary. We have 10 trillion dollar deficit that will only go up, and a president skirting the constitution, making apologies to everyone, and hurting America. Obamabots, wake up. YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.

    August 25, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  9. victim of republican greed

    Maybe you right wing nuts should post that you were wrong and Obama was right about fixing the economy. The stimulus is working and the party of "No!' looks like an out of touch junior high school organization. Health care needs to be fixed and the GOP wants to represent the health care industry instead on the American people.

    If they do not start telling the truth, their party should take their guns to the RNC and not to Washington.

    August 25, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  10. gigi

    Hey! Mrs. Border did the president tell it is a huge headache?

    August 25, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Really people? For all those who think this is about Bush, think again. They are talking about CIA agents, right wing, left wing, it doesn't matter. This won't be a blow "against the Bush admin" for all the haters. This will be a blow against the agents in the field.

    I have no doubt that the CIA uses methods that most of us don't want to know about and have ALWAYS

    August 25, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  12. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    CNN: What — if anything — do we do about the post 9/11 behavior of some CIA agents who worked feverishly to interrogate prisoners they believed had information that could save American lives?


    Allowing the rough interrogation of suspected terrorists was one of the few things that Bush actually got right.

    August 25, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
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