9/11: Does the End Justify the Means?
Can anyone NOT remember where they were or what they were doing on September 11, 2001, the day the two planes hit the twin towers in New York? Will we ever be able to forget the images of innocent civilians jumping hundreds of floors to their death to avoid being consumed by flames? Who could imagine that when 125 people left their homes for work at the Pentagon that they would never return home to their families? What about the passengers who rushed the hijackers in the cockpit of flight 93 knowing they would lose their lives in order to prevent another purposeful attack on United States soil? On September 11, 2001, 3000 innocent people lost their lives due to terrorist attacks.
It is and will remain a day that will live in infamy to every citizen in the United States who sat in uninterrupted disbelief at what their own eyes were witnessing on television the morning of the attacks. Can any of us forget the images of family members desperately seeking their loved ones after the towers fell? We all watched in horror for weeks as the mangled pieces of the towers were searched for the slightest possibility that someone survived the collapse and could, miraculously, offer us a glimmer of hope among the devastation.
What would we be willing to do or give up to ensure that this kind of attack would never happen again? What would we be willing to do to find the people responsible for the attack and bring them to justice?
December 9, 2015, Diane Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence committee, insisted on the release of a 500 page summary of a 6200 page report by the Senate Intelligence committee on CIA intelligence activities. A report on the actions and activities of the CIA committed to ensure that the United States would never suffer another terrorist attack. Five and a half years and over $40 million taxpayer dollars were spent on investigating their actions post 9/11. The document investigates 119 individuals that were detained overseas and the use of "coercive interrogation techniques – in some cases amounting to torture.“
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and Senator Saxby Chambliss, the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee argued against the release of the report and claimed the interrogation techniques were necessary to gain needed intelligence. The report itself claims the "extreme” interrogation failed to produce any good intelligence that resulted in the prevention of any further deaths of Americans. However, the CIA disagreed with this conclusion.
On “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Michael Hayden, former CIA director said the report "would damage CIA morale by making the workforce, ‘feel as if it has been tried and convicted in absentia since the senate Democrats and their staff didn’t talk to anyone actively involved in the program.’ He also said the information would motivate people to attack Americans and American facilities overseas, and making U.S, allies wary about cooperating with America in the future.“
At a White House press conference, spokesman Josh Earnest said, "There are some indications that the release of the report could lead to a greater risk that is posed to U.S. facilities and individuals all around the world, so the administration has taken the prudent steps to ensure that the proper security precautions are in place at U.S. facilities around the world. The president believes that, on principle, it's important to release that report, so that people around the world and people here at home understand exactly what transpired….
The administration supported the release of the report, in the so-called "interest of public transparency,” even though a majority of the report was declassified and therefore not released, as stated by Earnest, “because of the scrupulous work of the committee and the administration and the intelligence community, in particular, we’ve declassified as much of that report as we can. And we want to be sure that we can release that report, be transparent about it, and be clear about what American values are, and be clear about the fact that the administration believes, in a way that’s consistent with American values, that something like this should never happen again.”
Senator Saxby Chambliss, the ranking Republican on the Intelligence committee, said “a number of significant errors, omissions, assumptions, and ambiguities – as well as a lot of cherry-picking – were found that call the conclusions into question.”
Dick Cheney, former Vice President during the Bush Administration said, “The report is full of crap……those interrogations achieved actionable intelligence.”
Interestingly enough, the report was released without the input or interviews from anyone in the CIA. When asked whether the President and the CIA agreed on whether the interrogation techniques were helpful in capturing Osama Bin Laden, Earnest replied, “Well, I think it is apparent from at least some of the anonymous sources that you and others have at the CIA that there are people who have a variety of opinions on this. But with all due respect to those, I think that the views of the Commander-in-Chief are the ones that are most important.”
Did Feinstein release the report, against the better judgement of many on the Hill, in retaliation for the actions of the CIA, who were caught spying on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee in March of 2014? Diane Feinstein quickly responded to their actions with an angry attack, demanding an apology and threatening legal action. However, months earlier she refused to react to the illegal spying on Americans, claiming the intelligence community was made of up professionals whose activities were “strictly vetted.”
In an interview with NBC News, Edward Snowden, who leaked vital security information, accused Feinstein of hypocrisy: “It’s clear the CIA was trying to play ‘keep away’ with documents relevant to an investigation by their overseers in Congress, and that’s a serious constitutional concern.”
“But it’s equally if not more concerning that we’re seeing another ‘Merkel Effect,’ where an elected official does not care at all that the rights of millions of ordinary citizens are violated by our spies, but suddenly it’s a scandal when a politician finds out the same thing happens to them.”
Even Secretary of State John Kerry strongly requested the report not be released at this time due to a potential dangerous backlash to American citizens abroad, and concerns for reactions from U.S. allies. Feinstein decided to release the report regardless of the repercussions because of the upcoming change of leadership, when the Republicans re-take control of the Senate in January.
Was the release of this report more important than the lives of Americans overseas? Was it so important to look back and judge the actions of the intelligence community when we all were suffering the recent loss of 3000 innocent people in a terrifying attack? Is politics, once again, trumping the needs of the American people? Is it necessary to air our dirty laundry to the world and once again apologize for protecting our own citizens and interests?
“The president believes that the use of those tactics was unwarranted, that they were inconsistent with our values and did not make us safer.”
However, on May 2, 2011, due to intelligence operations, President Obama was able to stand up in front of the American people and claim that Osama bin Laden, leader of al Qaeda had been killed by the United States.
“Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support. And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.”
We have now had 13 years without another terrorist attack on United States soil. Do you think the end justified the means?