Monday, April 20, 2009

Obama acts to calm CIA crisis

Obama made a point to get in front of the TV cameras again today, with a live broadcast of his speech at CIA Headquarters. All Obama, all the time!

from the DEBKAfile
Special Report
April 21, 2009

President Barack Obama paid his first visit to Central Intelligence Agency headquarters at Langley, Virginia, Monday, April 20, to assure its staff that their work was "more important than ever." This morale-booster, unusually broadcast live, came after the criticism voiced by former agency director Gen. Michael Hayden of the president's decision last week to release memos which bared harsh CIA methods for extracting information from terrorists.

They included "waterboarding", week-long sleep deprivation, forced nudity and painful positions.

Obama assured the agency staff he stood behind them and America needed them more than ever before as his administration prepared for foreign policy changes.

He decided to release the memos, he said, because much of their content had already leaked, but also because he believed America must uphold the rule of law and the nation's values in its continued fight against terror.

Hayden said in a Fox News interview that the release would make it more difficult to get useful information from suspected terrorists. "I think that teaching our enemies our outer limits, by taking techniques off the table, we have made it more difficult… for CIA officers to defend the nation," he said.

He also denied that such methods were ineffective.

"The facts of the case are that the use of these techniques against these terrorists made us safer. It really did work," said the ex-Director of Central Intelligence.

DEBKAfile's counter-terror sources stresses five features of President Obama's Langley appearance:
1. He most probably responded to an appeal from the new Central Agency Director Leon Panetta to boost plunging morale and counter the memos' destructive impact on the agency's anti-terror operations..
2. He knew that Hayden was speaking for many key members of the agency's top echelon.
3. Continuing debate and controversy over CIA methods would encourage al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations to accelerate their plans for striking the US.
4. A close Obama adviser, David Axelrod earlier answered Hayden's charges by asserting the White House's confidence that it had all the information necessary for thwarting terrorist strikes.
DEBKAfile's sources stress: It is no secret that the US administration has long suffered from a shortage of solid intelligence on terrorist activities and plans. The president therefore needed to countermand Axelrod's assertion before it was refuted.
5. President Obama was confronted by a skeptical audience. While promising to protect them, he was not specific on how CIA staffers were to be shielded against domestic or international prosecution for torture practices, possibly even by a UN body.

CIA operatives, while not averse to prosecuting the war of terror "within the rule of law," have no illusions about their chances of victory within these limitations.
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