August 25th, 2009
05:13 PM ET
11 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. Whatever!

    Doesn't seem to matter WHAT it is our President does...these idiots are all over him spreading lies and hate! saying NO to everything he proposes...they've been told YES for so long, they've forgotten what it's like to NOT get their way!!! I for one have had enough of this non sense coming from the right! I would never ever vote republican! EVER!

    August 25, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  2. Nathan,

    Crime is crime and it should be investigated. How many investigations did we have of the Clintons when they were in office. I believe the only reason those morons are angry over investigations is because it will reveal just how high the criminal activity went in the most rogue administration this country has ever seen.

    August 25, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  3. toby hill

    If the so-called investigation proves one iota to endanger any American then Obama and his administration has failed to perform their Constitutional Duty to protect Americans from all enemies. Then again, when has a Communist ever respected our Constitution.

    August 25, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  4. eolufemi

    Smart move by the president. This is why we have an independent Attorney General. So the politics don't get in the way of justice and law enforcement.

    August 25, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  5. LIP

    Somebody fill me in on this one.
    Isn't it true that according to the Geneva convention any person that does not wear a uniform and commits acts of violence towards another country is guilty of terrorism, which is punishable by death?
    If this is the case, then why all the excitement over a little torture to extract information that will save American lives?

    August 25, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  6. Aunt Bea and Opie

    Its been said that the 99% of CIA employees want the bad ones removed from their ranks.

    August 25, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  7. Jose

    GOP supports the Rich who amass Wealth by Plunder, Embezzlement, Extortion and Defrauding the Poor and the Middle Class.

    August 25, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  8. kevin

    madam bodger, please get your head out of the toliet bowl and get some facts will you please. this is all false,. you are un american, those there to protect you by getting statements, you now spit in their faces, how could you. you are an awful awful, dirty person. May god help you, and the devil welcome you

    August 25, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  9. Dawn Ada, Ohio

    What are all these Republicans worried about??? Are they worried that everyone will know that we tortured people??? Guess what guys, they already know it!!! What they are worried about is that they will be prosecuted for their illegal doings. It seems that Republicans don't mind if people air their dirty laundry, they just don't want anyone to receive an consequences for them. There is no doubt in my mind that the illegal doings go all the way to the top. We can't be any more embarrassed than what we already are!! Prosecute those who allowed this kind of illegal questioning and the rest of the World will finally think that we do as we say.

    August 25, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  10. Jonathan

    If this is a gamble on Obama's part to try and distract from the complete mess that is health care reform it's not going to work. Most people could care less about the CIA choking a muslim thug or threatening (only threatening mind you) their faimly if it's an attempt to save American lives. This administration is showing itslef for what it really is...weak.

    August 25, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  11. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    The President is part of the Executive branch of the gov't NOT the Legislative branch. I know, I know, we're NOT used to that, but that's the way the Constitution says it works. Having said that.... let the Attorney General do his job. And may he do it in DEPTH, and to the best of his abilities with the assistance of brilliant legal minds, so that we may have CLOSURE on an abhorrent period in America: the reign of terro of Bush II.

    August 25, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  12. Zaley

    President Obama has inherited soooo much crap from George W. and his cohorts. What a mess!!

    August 25, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  13. Kevin B

    The very idea that we would go against our ideals as a nation, automatically put us in league with the very enemy we fight and give the enemy a victory.

    The GOP got all twisted in a push for some sort of permenant reich according to Karl Rove.

    If the Bush people where so confident that what they were doing in america's defense was legal, why did they ensure so many of the tapes of these tortures were destroyed.

    Now lets all watch as the GOP twist themselves into some fake indignation and unleash the hounds of hell upon the american people for wanting the truth be told.

    False patrioism is the last refuge of scoundrels.

    August 25, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  14. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    So let's get this straight, the bad guys get to attack and kill thousands but such 'man made disasters' are the acceptable price of not doing all we can to extract information to prevent these attacks. Personnally I care more about my right to be safe than some vermin's 'right' to not be made uncomfortable for a few hours.

    August 25, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  15. Tim

    Note to Obama, you can quit creating "headaches" for yourself if you stop banging your head on the door jamb on the way out. All of his headaches are self-created, because he lacks the courage to lead, and instead always wants it both ways. It's obvious with the CIA flap. He could have put this to rest long ago by simply saying we will look ahead and not back, it's time to move on. Instead, he said, I would prefer to look ahead, but ultimately it's up to the AG. That way, he can take credit with both sides by saying he was "reasonable". Sorry, he needs to lead. He does this same exact thing on everything he touts. He has no core values.

    August 25, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  16. Proud Member..Party of No

    My only questions for the CIA would be why they didn't beat those animals even harder during the interrogations. Our military and CIA are awesome. Leave them alone to do their jobs. Too bad you limp-wristed democrats don't have the same abhorrence for the terrorists that you have for our military and intelligence people.

    August 25, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  17. kevin

    hey investigate as much as you want. stop your wining about terrorists being beat down, punched in their face, stomped on their arms. wow. just please

    August 25, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  18. Tim

    There is no crime here, the Bush administration has said what they did, they have legal backing for what they did, they are proud of what they did, what they did saved lives, what they did was necessary, what they did probably did not go far enough, and what the Obama administration says they will do is political and pathetic.

    Get over it, the Bush administration did a first rate job protecting this country. Obama is trying hard to undo all of that, so that we can experience another 9-11, after which everyone will act as if we couldn't prevent it.

    August 25, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  19. JonDie

    Obama needs to investigate and indict the members of the Bush administration, including if possible Bush and Cheney, and NOT go after the foot soldiers. They committed their crimes on order from Bush and Cheney.

    August 25, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  20. Gallimimus

    9/11 does not mean that the CIA gets to run rampant on our legal system. Terrorist bad, yes, we all get that. Terrorism does not mean that the CIA gets a "get out of jail free card". Those that did these deeds, knew darn good and well that it was wrong.
    The Taliban cut off fingers for voting in Afghanistan. Do we cut off fingers in the states. NO! We live in a civilized society, don't bring ourselves down to there level.

    August 25, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  21. Farrell in Houston

    Former Atty General Gonzales of the Bush administration fled his position because he didn't act independently and allowed Bush and Cheney to lead him down an illegal path. This administration is smart and will seek and get justice against those who committed crimes. If they don't get the job done, members of the Geneva Convention will intervene and that's when it will get very ugly.

    August 25, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  22. Lisa in Shelton

    It is not a big flap for the President. It is a big flap for people who may have broken the law. What is the GOP afraid of – if they did no wrong, they'll be exonerated.

    August 25, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  23. Suzan

    If these crimes would have been commited during a Democratic administration with a democratic President, the republicans would have already started the investigations long ago..........but now that it is against the Republican administration they don't want an investigation because it will show the American people how many criminal minds were behind all this.......from Bush/ Chaney and on down through the ranks.........these people broke the laws and if it was you or me we would be sitting in a prison somewhere rotting I say GO FOR IT and put these so called CIA American Thugs in prison.......they are a disgrace to this country......I don't care how much information they got from them.......this kind of treatment only caused the rest of the World to Hate America

    August 25, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  24. Realist

    I personally have no remorse for what is done to terrorists. You reap what you sew. If you cut someone innocent persons head off, maybe the same should be done to you. Its like the liberals want to apologize and shake the hands of people WHO WANT TO KILL THEM. Anything to feel better about yourself right? If this was an enemy soldier of a soverign nation in wartime, different story, they are doing their duty in accordance with the direction of their government and were fighting our soldiers. These terrorists kill woman and children as its there job, no mercy for them.

    August 25, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  25. Beverly - NYC

    Wow all this Republican foaming at the mouth, makes one wonder what the Republicans have to fear. Are they scared that one of the little fish won't be hung out to dry on their own and will name names. I thought Cheney and his daughter said they would welcome an investigation and release of the memos? What's changed ? Or I know Mr. Holder unlike the Bush Stooge Gonzalez is actually interested in upholding the law.

    August 25, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
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