"Obama selects Leon Panetta to head CIA."
NBC News reports that Leon Panetta, former chief of staff to President Clinton, will be named as President Obama’s nominee to be CIA Director. The former California congressman “has a reputation in Washington as a competent manager with strong background in budget issues, but has little hands-on intelligence experience,” writes the New York Times. Panetta would report to Dennis Blair, Obama’s nominee to be national intelligence director.
One of the factors that may have contributed to Panetta’s selection was Obama’s reported desire to pick intelligence officials who weren’t “associated with the Bush administration’s controversial interrogation policies.”
More recently, President Bush vetoed a law that would require the CIA and all the intelligence services to abide by the same rules on torture as contained in the U.S. Army Field Manual. But all forms of torture have long been prohibited by American law and international treaties respected by Republican and Democratic presidents alike.
Our forefathers prohibited “cruel and unusual punishment” because that was how tyrants and despots ruled in the 1700s. They wanted an America that was better than that. Torture is illegal, immoral, dangerous and counterproductive. And yet, the president is using fear to trump the law.
We cannot simply suspend these beliefs in the name of national security. Those who support torture may believe that we can abuse captives in certain select circumstances and still be true to our values. But that is a false compromise. We either believe in the dignity of the individual, the rule of law, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, or we don’t. There is no middle ground.