This week's New Yorker features a 7600 word profile of Leon Panetta, Obama's choice to lead the CIA. Most notable among those 7600 words: Panetta's been wondering the same thing many have about the depths of Dick Cheney's dark soul.
Panetta appears to be the first Obama adminsitration official to publicly voice what some in the media have been occasionally speculating, and what many have speculated in private conversation—That the recent Dick Cheney "Obama is going to get us all killed" media tour leads one to believe that Cheney may be secretly hoping for terrorists to strike again on American soil so that he can run around saying "I told you so."
A few miles from the agency's headquarters, which are in Langley, Virginia, former Vice-President Dick Cheney delivered an extraordinary attack on the Obama Administration's emerging national-security policies. Cheney, speaking at the American Enterprise Institute, accused the new Administration of making "the American people less safe" by banning brutal C.I.A. interrogations of terrorism suspects that had been sanctioned by the Bush Administration. Ruling out such interrogations "is unwise in the extreme," Cheney charged. "It is recklessness cloaked in righteousness."
In January, the Obama Administration banned the "enhanced" techniques that the Bush Administration had approved for the agency, including waterboarding and depriving prisoners of sleep for up to eleven days. Panetta, pouring a cup of coffee, responded to Cheney's speech with surprising candor. "I think he smells some blood in the water on the national-security issue," he told me. "It's almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it's almost as if he's wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that's dangerous politics."
The other interesting takeaway from the piece was a passage on Panetta's desire to find new, less brutal interrogation techniques for use in the future.
Panetta is already forging ahead on one important reform: he plans to replace the abusive interrogation program with a legally acceptable, non-coercive alternative. A task force led by the Harvard Law School professor Philip Heymann has been advising him on a proposal to create an élite U.S. government interrogation team, staffed by some of the best C.I.A., F.B.I., and military officers in the country, and drawing on the advice of social scientists, linguists, and other scholars. "What I'm pushing for is to establish a facility where we develop a team of interrogators trained in the latest techniques," Panetta said. "That's the one thing I'm worried about, frankly. There just aren't that many people who have the interrogation abilities we're going to need." Heymann describes the effort to create "the best non-coercive interrogation team in the world" as the equivalent of "a NASA-like, man-on-the-moon effort" for human-intelligence gathering. He said that members of his task force have travelled to France, England, Japan, Australia, and Israel, in order to compile comparative information on what interrogators do. "We also went to the best people in the U.S.," he added.
Somewhere in America over the next few days, Dick Cheney's copy of this week's New Yorker will arrive and he'll read Leon Panetta's remarks. Agitated, he'll toss the magazine across the room in disgust, accidentally shattering the glass on a framed photo Mary Cheney and her spouse Heather Poe resting on the mantle. He'll then call out to Lynne to prepare his favorite beverage, and Lynn will oblige by bringing him a highball glass filled with puppy's blood, on the rocks, garnished with two Napfilion olives on a yellow plastic spear, and all will be well once again in Dick Cheney's world.