Friday, June 22, 2007

CIA Admits Secrets? I Do Not Hold My Breath

The CIA is going to reveal years of misdeeds from the time period from the 50s to the 70s. The article specifically talks about assassination plots, domestic spying and wiretapping, kidnapping and human experiments. Most watchers of the CIA, even such dilettantes as myself, have known about many of them. If it's honest, the accounts will be grim. CIA chief Michael Hayden said that the time period was "unflattering".

Here's the gig, though. This is pure public relations. By revealing what happened no later than the 70s, they're shifting blame for historic CIA misdeeds to people who are either dead or secure in their retirements, and will indict no living Presidents. While I do await the release with some interest, what I'm even more interested in is extraordinary rendition. The treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are still deeply unresolved issues concerning Iran-Contra scandal or the CIA's role in the murderous wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador. The difference between these misdeeds and the ones from the 70s backwards is, well, chief amongst them is that the people who perpetrated them are still alive and could be held accountable, and many of them are in positions of power and influence. That other stuff? The main players are safely dead. The other main difference between older CIA misdeeds and newer ones is that some of the newer ones are still ongoing, of course, such as the case of extraordinary rendition, which is the policy of kidnapping people and sending them to be tortured in other countries, or the open question of how many illegal prisons has the CIA run, who was there, and what happened in these prisons.

To my eyes, the main purpose behind this CIA admission of historical guilts is to say that today we have a kinder, gentler CIA. A CIA that admits it's mistakes, see, they're admitting their shameful misdeeds -- but they're not like that anymore. In the words of the great Chuck D, don't believe the hype. This is a snow job. While I am interested in the historic crimes of the organization, I think it's even more important to keep in mind that these sorts of crimes aren't in the past. The CIA is has a continuity of abuse of power. These things are not in the past. Torture, illegal human experimentation, assassination, human trafficking -- this is not the CIA's past, it is very much it's present as can be seen, obviously seen, from its secret prisons, extraordinary renditions, and the numerous torture scandals of the past couple of years.

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