Obama to Ignore CIA’s War Crimes

If President-elect Barack Obama is reassuring the intelligence community “that his complaints are with the Bush administration, not them,” as AP’s Pamela Hess reported January 10th, his campaign slogan “change we can believe in” is headed for an early grave.

Obama’s remarks are a literal signal to CIA officials and other unindicted war criminals that they will not be prosecuted no matter what vile and horrific tortures they inflicted. And that’s not change; that’s business as usual; that’s what the CIA has done for years and gotten away with every time. Obama’s words will embolden CIA goons to gin up the same Adolf Eichmann defense, “I was only following orders” he used when he murdered Hungary’s Jews.

Americans need to get one thing straight: The Central Intelligence Agency is a spiritual descendent of Hitler’s Gestapo. Its directors over the past eight years have been willing pawns in a vast criminal enterprise spawned by George Bush. They have kidnapped, disappeared, imprisoned, tortured, and even murdered uncounted innocents, just as under previous presidents the CIA overthrew legitimate governments, just as it carried out President Bill Clinton’s first criminal renditions. Today, the CIA brass is stuck in the Big Muddy up to their lying lips, vulnerable to prosecution as never before.

Yet AP’s Hess writes Obama has not indicated “whether he thinks those who conducted harsh interrogations should be protected from lawsuits” but what’s there to think about? Can a Harvard-educated constitutional law professor view a mountain of published evidence piled higher than Pike’s Peak and not order his Attorney-General to indict?

If you think comparing the CIA to the Gestapo is a touch extravagant, check out Wikipedia: “The power of the Gestapo most open to misuse was called Schutzhaft—‘protective custody’—a euphemism for the power to imprison people without judicial proceedings.” And isn’t this precisely what the CIA does when it kidnaps suspects off the streets of Milan and New York and whisks them to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan for what the Red Cross said included torture?

The CIA’s Internet home page boasts its employees’ “core values” require that they hold themselves and each other “to the highest standards,” so when ordered to torture did CIA interrogators refuse? Didn’t any of them know ratified treaties like the Geneva Conventions are incorporated in Article VI of our Constitution? Hadn’t any of them ever read the Sermon on the Mount? Torture, after all, is what the Romans did to Jesus Christ. Any CIA payroller ordered to bash a man’s head against a wall could have refused and resigned. There are Texas truck stops looking to hire toilet cleaners at $8 an hour whose work is infinitely more honorable and urgent. And as for the CIA boast (go to its Home Page) that its employees “embrace personal accountability” will those responsible for “disappearing” the waterboarding tapes of terrorism suspects please step forward?

The CIA is a gasbag of hypocrisy. Example: January 8th it spewed out a fountain of sentimental vomit praising Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as “one of America’s greatest leaders.” Has Langley ever pondered what King would think of their torture practices?

At his January 9th press conference to introduce his intelligence advisers, the president-elect said, “The men and women of the intelligence community have been on the front lines in this world of new and evolving dangers. They have served in the shadows, saved American lives, advanced our interests, and earned the respect of a grateful nation.”


Well, pardon me, if I’m not grateful for having a chamber pot of criminality dumped on the ideals of our Founders by those heroic intelligence folks. To the contrary, the CIA has cost American lives by turning millions of people the world over against USA. If the Muslim world didn’t hate the U.S. before the disclosures from Abu Ghraib, thanks to the CIA they sure hate us now! If the Iranians had no reason to despise Americans, the CIA sure gave them one in 1953, when it overthrew their elected government. And so on and so forth, in country after country the world over. (See William Blum’s “Rogue State”(Common Courage Press).

Rather than let the CIA officials responsible for torture walk, the incoming Attorney General needs to hold them accountable, just like the CIA says in its “core statement.” After all, the president is sworn “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” and this includes Article VI. That means the next Attorney General must indict former Director George Tenet, J. Cofer Black, head of the Counterterrorist Center, James Pavitt, former Deputy Director for Operations, and top legal counsels Scott Muller and John Rizzo, not merely the rank-and-file thugs.

sherwood-ross.jpgHow the 44th president deals with the CIA officials who abetted the Bush global crime syndicate will determine the fate of America’s battered soul. Put simply, if Obama does not control the CIA, the CIA will control Obama. Its very existence is a threat to democratic governments everywhere, particularly our own. The best way to upgrade America’s national security is to shut down the CIA and erase its totalitarian mindset forever.

Sherwood Ross

Sherwood Ross has worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, a wire service columnist, an executive in the civil rights movement, and as a radio station talk show host for WOL, Washington, D.C. He resides in Miami where he is a public relations consultant for magazines and good causes.


  1. says


    Your article is very nicely done and, IMHO, its logic and conclusions sound. However, in commentary I was shocked to see reference to A Bomb Harry Truman surely one of our most unambiguous war criminal presidents>

    Do you still (3/7/9)feel Obama has not yet failed in his duties? What will it take?

    Has he not committed war crimes on his own in ordering drone warfare that had consistently reportedly killed many more innocents than claimed suspects?

    Is not drone warfare, in an undeclared war of preemptive aggression against a third world power in which civilians are killed with impunity, with no apology, and with no colorable independently substantiated justification… a bevy of war crimes?

    I recall Obama taking pains to confirm he was not a Muslim but a Christian. Wow! A Christian blind to the golden rule when it comes to the exercise of military force? Where are the Christians who should be condemning his barbaric use of force?



  2. Sherwood Ross says

    Dear Mark, you’re using the ticking bomb theory. It’s a “what if” hypothetical argument that kidnappers hold a child and so a prisoner must be tortured to learn the whereabouts of that child. Same as what if terrorists were planning to nuke a U.S. city. What the Bush regime has been doing is just torturing everybody indiscriminately.Even children, even teenage girls, for pity sake, that obviously have no information, are being tortured in Iraq. And torture spreads like gangrene. The Army pleaded with Fox-TV to tone down “24” because it was giving interrogators in Iraq bad ideas. (The patriots at Fox refused.) The reality is that there are no nuke weapons being readied for use against us that we know of (Bush found that out in Iraq). The reality is there is no country plotting to use biological weapons such as anthrax against us (the October, 2001, attacks came from Ft. Detrick, Md.,) etc.; the Bush regime has been arming America to the teeth to fatten at your expense its corporate cronies. It has been arming America against illusions, like plowing $50-billion into germ warfare research when the experts in the field say there is no threat. The supposition in each case is that high-tech “mushroom cloud” atomic-type destruction awaits us, which is just plain crazy. The attacks on USA were made with boxcutters and the ammunition was our own jet fuel.The “what ifs” so popular on Fox’s “24” show are all hypotheticals. By contrast, the torture used on Arab and Muslim prisoners is very real. It is criminal conduct and criminals need to be prosecuted, assuming you believe in law and order. That’s all there is to it. As for my daughter, anyone trying to kidnap here had better have a lead shield over his gonads. Sherwood

  3. Mark Culleton says

    My point is this. Our democracy will not lose its way if our soldiers or operatives choose to inflict pain as one way to save lives. Let’s be real. If you knew that I had knowledge of the whereabouts of your daughter, that was just kidnapped and that my associates have a pattern of executing our captives, you would not be upset if every possible means was employed to find her. In certain situations when lives are in danger and you are clear that you have the right bad guy it is justified. Some day another terrorist will threaten thousands of lives and torture should be one of the options. It’s not a pretty world. I’m not someone who has ever suffered such treatment, nor have I ever had to employ such measures, and I would venture to say, that there are more sophisticated and humane ways to interrogate.

    You make an excellent argument against torture. Torture is extremely dangerous to our democratic values and if people were held accountable and the torturers (especially the policy makers) were exposed, it would be likely to keep occurring. You’re a truely human being who has a belief in the ethic that should govern our behavior i. e. do unto others….. It just doesn’t always work. When something you value more than your life is at risk, the last thing you’re going to think about is the person’s (who is clearly guilty) rights.
    Obama has skills, but he is soon to become a different person, with one main responsibility. He’ll will use whatever means and go to whatever ends possible to protect and defend the constitution.
    There is nothing that you need to reconsider and I hope you see that there is nothing that I need to reconsider.

    Most individuals would agree that your thinking and judgement is reasonable. Most individuals would agree that there comes a time and a place were there is no time to be just and reasonable. Can’t we both be right? You and I live in a country that allows us to not have to stand guard on the walls or walk the beat, because others choose to do this for us. If they were not there civilization wouldn’t exist. Nations rise and fall. This nation will not succumb because of torture. There are more important matters that threaten our nation that the law makers need to address.

    You and I can afford to have ethics and think about things. Maybe JFK shouldn’t have tried to assassinate Castro?
    The President has to make some tuff calls and he’ll make these without change.gov’s imput. We need to limit our advice to what we know best. I’m in healthcare and you’re an writer. You seem knowledgable about history and ethics.

  4. Sherwood Ross says

    Dear Mark, thanks for your observations. I’m baffled, though, how you can consider torture a “combat situation”? When you tie a man’s hands behind his back and then bash his head into a wall how is that “combat”? The interrogator is not a courageous soldier facing enemy fire. His act is a cowardly act. Any courage in that situation is displayed by the victim. Torture has zero to do with battlefield courage such as that displayed, for example, by Navy pilot George H.W. Bush in the Pacific in World War Two. As for political fallout, so what? Harry Truman famously said if a president can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Finally, you write prosecuting the Bush gang for their war crimes “not being a battle (Obama) can win.” But nobody knows that because it’s never been attempted before. Neither Nixon or Johnson were tried for war crimes against Viet Nam and Truman was never tried for his war crimes against Japan. If each succeeding president fails to prosecute his predecessor for his crimes we will only continue the imperial presidency and U.S. imperialism. What we’ve had has been a succession of kings, no different than England. If you opposed World War I, Woodrow Wilson’s Justice Department could lock you in jail and apply the water torture—which was done, by the way, to pacifists. If you took to the streets to protest Viet Nam you could be mowed down by the Ohio National Guard. It has to end. Obama has the political skill, brains, and ingenuity to put an end to it. If he makes the case (hell, he’s got some of the principal confessions already!) he could have an easy time of it. Please reconsider your views. Sherwood

  5. Mark Culleton says

    The acts of torture are common place in combat situations. Soldiers in every war do unspeakable things in assisting their government accomplish its mission. In a perfect world the new executive should appoint a special prosecutor to identify the culprits. The investigation and charges would have too much political fallout and our best hope is that the new team will create a culture that limits putting soldiers in these situations. Excellent piece on one of many shortcomings of our inexperienced, but pragmatic president elect. He’ll choose his battles carefully, and this, although, being about who we are as human beings, is not a battle he can win.

  6. Sherwood Ross says

    Obama hasn’t failed, not yet, anyway. It’s plain, though, as any number of constitutional authorities are stating, that Obama must go after the former president and defense secretaries and CIA directors that violated the Constitution whether he likes it or not, even if he only wants to look forward. This is not a matter of preference. You don’t let criminals remain at large, period. The New York Times reported December 30th that five banks were robbed Monday, December 29th, in New York City and you can bet the police went after all the perps. Maybe they’d just like to look forward, too. Duty is duty. And it starts in the White House.

    Sherwood Ross

  7. Rosalio Munoz says

    I remember a Bob Dylan talking blues bit that said “Lone Ranger and Tonto coming down the line, fixing everybodies troubles, everybodies cept mine, someone must have told him I was doing fine!
    Obama-Biden will not fix all the problems, if they try they may not fix any. Every
    yone can squeak their wheels for their priorities, but the sound could get paralyzing. Pressure also has to go elsewhere, we need to pressure the McCains, and other GOP Senators up for election, Feinstein too, did you see how fast she moved to defend the CIA, as well as Kennedy, Conyers, Grijalva, etc. And yes support Kucinich and Waters and the like as well. People are now declaring Obama has already failed!

  8. Kim says

    The next 4 years will be make or break for the USA . Not only restoring the rule of law but also holding everyone accountable for what has gone on over the last 8 years is vital if the USA is going to restore it’s reputation . The USA is in deep trouble – massive debt – a seriously tanked economy – a very dysfunctional country – a violence obsessed society – and a very bad international reputation . It’s going to take a huge amount of honest work to try to fix that up .

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