David Ignatius: The Mainstream Media’s Chief Apologist for CIA Crimes

David_ignatiusThe Washington Post’s David Ignatius has become the mainstream media’s apologist for the Central Intelligence Agency.

In Thursday’s column, he has lambasted Attorney General Eric Holder for even considering the appointment of a prosecutor to investigate possible war crimes by CIA officers; congressional Democrats who want to conduct genuine oversight of the CIA; and President Obama who perhaps now understands that an investigation of the CIA is not merely about “petty grievances.”

Ignatius disingenuously argues that the Justice Department learned about CIA’s criminal actions five years ago and decided that no prosecution was warranted. But Ignatius knows the the politicized Justice Department was always part of the problem and never a part of the solution to the torture and abuse, the secret prisons, and the extraordinary renditions that have hurt U.S. credibility around the world.

Ignatius presumably also knows that Obama and Holder were never willing to investigate, let alone prosecute, CIA actions that followed the dubious legal authority to torture al Qaeda captives. We now know, however, in gruesome detail that sadistic CIA operatives went far beyond the so-called legal authority in their interrogation of these captives, and that there was the conduct of torture and abuse against captives who were never interrogated at all.

Obama never made a “grand bargain” with the CIA, as Ignatius alleges, and he certainly never intended to ignore criminal behavior.  But just as CIA director Leon Panetta never learned about a CIA assassination scheme until three weeks ago, five months after he was confirmed as director, President Obama was presumably late to learn the ugly details of CIA abuses under three CIA directors, George Tenet, Porter Goss, and Michael Hayden.

Both Obama and Holder now know that there has been a cover-up of these activities by the senior CIA leaders who never should have been retained by Panetta.

Ignatius’ apology for the CIA includes the typical handwringing of CIA clandestine officers whenever there have been CIA abuses. We heard these arguments in the wake of the Vietnam War and we heard them again after the discovery of Iran-contra.

Ignatius tells us that an investigation would “damage careers and morale at the CIA.”  Nonsense!  He cites the views of clandestine officers who state that the investigation will “leave a train of destroyed officers.” More nonsense! And he argues that “CIA employees will steer away from areas such as counterterrorism.” And even more nonsense!

The fact is that the CIA is staffed by professional officers who want to follow the law and a moral compass in order to strengthen the national security of the United States. Their morale is strengthened when they have the support and respect of the American people, and the majority of CIA intelligence analysts and clandestine operatives know that the abuses and transgressions of the Vietnam War, Iran-contra, and the Iraq War were damaging to their mission and to their charter.

Ignatius’s unnamed sources over the past 30 years have been from the CIA’s clandestine community. He had a strong source in the early 1980s, a senior clandestine officer–the late Robert Ames–who was the most impressive clandestine officer I met during my 24 years at the CIA.

Ignatius’s novel on CIA tradecraft, “Agents of Influence,” was based on material obtained from Ames. But Ames was killed in the attack on the U.S. embassy in Lebanon in 1983 and, since then, Ignatius has relied on a group of clandestine apparatchiks who have fed him stories that tell only one small side of the CIA picture.

Unfortunately, most of the news articles in the Post on the CIA use some of the same sources and provide only partial pictures from a small and self-serving segment of the intelligence community. The current CIA deputy director, Stephen Kappes, and the head of clandestine operations, Michael Sulick, are part of this community.

Ignatius concludes that the CIA must be depoliticized and that the only way to do that is for the Obama administration to drop any investigation of possible criminal activities. He even unconscionably states that the “unauthorized practices” merely involved “kicks, threats and other abuse.”

The fact is that the politicization of the CIA was a self-inflicted wound that began in the 1980s when CIA director William Casey and his deputy Robert Gates politicized intelligence on the Soviet Union, Central American, and Afghanistan. This politicization continued under director Tenet and his deputy John McLaughlin who provided phony intelligence to the Bush administration and Secretary of State Colin Powell to make the case for an unnecessary war against Iraq.

A phony intelligence White Paper was circulate on Capitol Hill only days before the vote to authorize force against Iraq, and phony intelligence was prepared to form Powell’s speech to the United Nations in February 2003 only several weeks before the start of the war. And now the cover-up is designed to include not only torture and abuse and secret prisons, but assassination teams that remind us of the Phoenix program from the Vietnam War.

It is long past time for President Obama to push a reset button at the CIA to stop the pattern of abuse, and perhaps the Washington Post should push a reset button to make sure that it will provide objective and balanced information on the intelligence community.

Melvin A. Goodman, a regular contributor to The Public Record, is senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and adjunct professor of government at Johns Hopkins University. He spent 42 years with the CIA, the National War College, and the U.S. Army. His latest book is Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA.

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6 Responses for “David Ignatius: The Mainstream Media’s Chief Apologist for CIA Crimes”

  1. How Many CIA Whistle-blowers did Senator Bill Nelson Snuff? The slow motion coup started by W.

    Senator Bill Nelson is on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that oversees the C.I.A. He is C.I.A. or is in their pocket. I don’t mind a C.I.A. operative running for political office. I do mind when he is in a position to compromise any investigation into the C.I.A. How many people with integrity who try to come forward did he rat out. You want to know why congress didn’t get the information it needed? Some of the people in the C.I.A. knew the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was compromised. And since Cheney could put surveillance on anybody in the agency, for any reason, he controlled all other channels for getting the truth out.

    Read the following and then investigate for yourself.

    Please acknowledge receiving this, and yes I am paranoid.

    Louis P. Quinn

    Excerpt From


    Florida’s own Bill Nelson was elected to the U.S. Senate in November 2000, after serving six years as a member of the Florida Cabinet. He currently serves on the Senate Commerce, Armed Services, Budget, Finance, Intelligence, and Aging committees and is recognized as the leading congressional expert on NASA.

    In January 1986, Nelson spent six days orbiting Earth as a payload specialist aboard the space shuttle Columbia. That experience gave him a new perspective on the Earth’s fragile environment and a greater appreciation of the importance of our nation’s space exploration program. –How did someone with these academic credentials get to be a payload specialist. —

    He attended the University of Florida for three years, where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi, and then transferred to Yale University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in 1965. –Why would someone with a a bachelor of arts (from Yale, the university of the CIA), get a coveted payload specialist job for what is typically a position filled by someone with a masters degree in engineering. The CIA was grooming him for politics and pulled strings to have him sent up as a payload specialist. An astronaut looks really good on a political resume.–

    From Wikipedia
    While at Yale he was also a member of the University’s secret society, Book and Snake.

    A fifth-generation Floridian, Nelson was born in Miami on Sept. 29, 1942, and educated in Melbourne’s public schools. He served his country as a captain in the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1971, both on active duty and in the Reserve. –Typical CIA background–

    From Wikipedia
    Nelson was born in Miami to Nannie Merle and C. W. Nelson.[2] In his youth, he served as the world’s International President of Key Club. He attended the University of Florida for three years, where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi, and then transferred to Yale University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in 1965. During his time at Yale, Nelson was tapped for membership in the University’s secret society, Book and Snake. He served in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1965 to 1971. During this time, Nelson studied at the University of Virginia, where he received his law degree in 1968.

    Bill Nelson (D) FL-Senate B.A., Yale University; J.D., University of Virginia

  2. Has the CIA become the new Praetorian Guard?

    Should a government organization have the ability, or the capability, to influence popular opinion? The recent Cheney problems had the CIA putting a lot of of spin and contrived information in the press. As an example, all the early disclosures by government officials, (on the record) only describe the program as secret, no other information.

    The press began circulating it was a plan to kill high members of Al Qaeda. Who could be against that, that is just like mom, apple pie, and napalm. Where in the constitution does it say that a government agency can compromise and influence the operation of a free press?

    Most of the CIAs real work is done below the political ruling class. The political ruling class are the problem. There are two ways to get a CIA that does not try to infringe the rights of citizens for political ends. The first is using massive political intervention and oversight accompanied by a waterfall of politically driven leaks. The second is to hire people with integrity and get out of their way.

    The job of the CIA should only be information, not covert operations. If an administration wants to go berserk on somebody it has to create, (and hide) those resources, not the CIA. A system of checks and balances could be created by separating the CIA along two teams. The reports produced by one team would be checked by the other team. The report could be graded in time periods, 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years etc. after the report was issued. The reports would be rated by the opposing team as to accuracy and content. The authors of the report would only be known to the team that generated the report. The grades would then be broken down and assigned to the people who wrote the reports.

    All reports must be given to the opposing team immediately. If a report is pure nonsense the opposing team can throw up an immediate red flag.

    After a while the system will give the administrators a track record and a concrete way of determining personnel strengths and weaknesses. Also reading the reports would give both teams insight and training through competition. This would also assume that the administrators can overcome their paranoia about having a few more people know what is really going on. Make any attempt to artificially limit information a hanging offense, since criminals really do like to hide what their doing.

    Get the politics out of the CIA and make it a meritocracy that understands integrity.

  3. Some of the ideas in my previous post are derived from the Rand Delphi Method.
    Louis P. Quinn

  4. Rob says:

    I don’t know what you all are talking about; since 9/11 and past times America and the democratic way of life have been targeted for destruction by communists and now more prevalent Islamic fundamentalists. These folks at the CIA are heroe’s to America that serve on the front lines so we can be safe back here; I know from experience that every CIA officer I’ve met has been a professional and had America’s interest at heart; if you don’t believe me, take a walk at CIA headquarters and see the stars of the fallen and read about their challenging history. I’m dissapointed for Americans to be talking this way and feeding into the our enemies agenda’s. Just some thoughts from a patriot serving for you.

  5. Rodney Chalfant says:

    well said . . . Melvin A. Goodman. The Truth Shall set us Free.

  6. Rodney Chalfant says:

    Guess Who before your read John 10:10 – he comes like a Lion, but John 3:16-17 he will set you free. All will pass as we are only live a certain amount of years in the physical, but our souls pass after death into the eternal which lives forever. Who will be your governing body when you pass on into the next life? Satan & the fallen angels or God & His holy angels. This is for you to decide now. Read I John 1:9 and become born of the Spirit as you were born of the flesh when you were a child who came out of your mothers womb.

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