A Radical Question about the CIA in the Mainstream Press
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Several days ago, the New York Times, which of course epitomizes the mainstream press in America, asked a question that ordinarily would be found mainly on libertarian websites like that of The Future of Freedom Foundation. In the Room for Debate section of the Times’ Opinion Pages, the Times asked: “Do We Need the C.I.A.?”
In the introduction to the debate, the Times pointed out:
Since Senator Daniel Patrick Moynahan introduced bills in 1991 and 1995 to abolish the Central Intelligence Agency and transfer its powers to the State Department, many have continued to share his concerns about the agency’s competence and performance. The Senate intelligence committee’s report on the use of torture is the latest example of the agency’s controversies.
The Times concludes its introduction with this remarkable question:
Would the security needs of the United States be better served if the C.I.A. were dismantled?
That is a remarkable development. When was the last time you read that question being asked by anyone in the mainstream press? Wouldn’t we ordinarily see the question posed in the following manner: “Is It Time to Reform the CIA?”
Some of the debaters, not surprisingly, said that the CIA is more important than ever, especially to keep us safe and to protect “national security.”
Others argued for defanging the CIA by limiting it to intelligence gathering and ending its power to engage in covert operations. That would obviously be an improvement but these debaters fail to understand something important about the CIA: If it is left in existence, it will do whatever it wants to do because it knows that no one is able to do anything about it anyway.
Juan Tokatlian, an Argentinian professor, stated, “A thorough reorganization, even dismantling, of the agency is needed, but the details of how that should be done will only be clear once the agency’s impunity is ended, a vigorous accountability is put in place and an independent scrutiny and new leadership are established.”
The existence of an agency like the CIA is totally contrary to the principles of a free society. There were many people who pointed that out when the Truman administration called the CIA into existence in 1947 to wage a “cold war” against America’s World War II partner and ally, the Soviet Union. Critics pointed out that it was wrong for America to embrace totalitarian methods in the name of combating totalitarianism. They pointed out that the federal government would end up looking like a totalitarian regime.
Who can deny that those critics have been proven correct? It’s not just the post-9/11 torture scandal. The CIA has been engaged in evil, immoral, dark-side activities since its inception, all guided by the mindset of “patriots” who were protecting “national security” from the communists and, later, from the drug dealers, the “terrorists,” and anyone else who could be used to scare Americans into keeping quiet about the CIA’s steady acquisition of secret, omnipotent power.
The CIA knowingly employed Nazis, including ones who had participated in the Holocaust, all the while keeping it secret from the American people.
The CIA destroyed democratic regimes all the over the world and installed brutal and tyrannical dictatorships in their stead.
The CIA initiated horrendous medical experiments on unsuspecting Americans in its MKULTRA program and then destroyed its records so that the American people would not discover the full details of what they had done.
The CIA partnered with the Mafia, one of the biggest criminal organizations in the world, in formal assassination program directed against the communist president of Cuba, a country that has never attacked the United States. It also orchestrated a sneak attack on the island, which was an ignominious failure. It also initiated destructive terrorist attacks within Cuba itself and, in fact, is still obsessed with ousting the Castro regime and installing another pro-U.S. dictatorial regime in its stead, much like the pro-U.S. dictatorial regime in Egypt.
The CIA initiated a formal program of assassination and, in fact, participated in the assassination or execution of people around the world, including as a partner in the infamous DINA assassination ring run by Chilean military strongman Augusto Pinoche, who the CIA helped install into power after destroying Chile’s longtime democratic tradition. To this day, there is still no reckoning on the CIA’s participation in the execution of two innocent American men, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, during the Chilean coup in 1973, which the CIA helped to orchestrate. For that matter, there is still no accountability for the CIA’s participation in the assassination of Chilean Army Commander General Rene Schneider, whose only “crime” was to support and defend the Chilean constitution against the CIA’s illegal and unconstitutional coup.
The CIA has engaged in assassination and torture since at least the 1950s, as reflected by the mysterious Project X, another CIA program whose records were destroyed in 1992 to prevent the American people from learning about them. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, it continues to assassinate people in different parts of the world, just as Pinochet’s international assassination ring did.
From its inception, the CIA has meddled in the affairs of other countries and continues to do so. It is without a doubt the world’s biggest troublemaker, and it is the American people who are bearing the brunt of all the trouble.
Where in the Constitution does it authorize an agency like the CIA? The fact is that the very existence of the CIA has converted the original concept of limited government into unlimited government. For as long as one part of the government has unlimited powers, that automatically means that the federal government has unlimited powers.
More important, how are the CIA’s policies and practices consistent with moral principles and a society supposedly guided by Judeo-Christian ethics?
President Truman recognized the sinister nature of this monster that he himself had brought into existence. Thirty days after the JFK assassination, Truman wrote an op-ed that was published in the Washington Post stating that the CIA had gone far beyond what he had imagined for it.
The problem, of course, is that most Americans are convinced that they live in a free society and that the CIA is necessary to protect their freedom. Today’s Americans epitomize Goethe’s dictum, “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
Libertarians have long called for the abolition, not the reform, of the CIA. Naturally, there are those who think that that’s just tilting at windmills. The CIA has become a permanent part of America’s governmental structure, they say, and there isn’t any point going outside the “correct and proper” parameters of debate and discussion regarding the role of government in a free society.
And yet, here is the New York Times asking: Is it time to abolish the CIA? The fact that the Times even asks the question is a testament to the importance of hewing to libertarian principles rather settling for reform proposals. Over time, ideas on liberty percolate and find their way into the minds of others. And suddenly there are prominent people in mainstream American life asking, “Why not abolish the CIA?”
Finally, for those who are still convinced that the CIA is necessary to “keep us safe,” let’s not forget one important fact: The CIA failed to detect or prevent the biggest terrorist attack in American history — the 9/11 attacks. What good is it if it couldn’t even “keep us safe” from that? Moreover, let’s also not forget that the 9/11 attacks were the direct consequence of U.S. foreign policy abroad, including the dark-side policies and practices of the CIA.
So, New York Times, the answer to your question is: Yes, most definitely, the time for abolishing the CIA is long past due. It’s a key to restoring a free, prosperous, and secure society to our land. Thanks for asking the question because it will almost certainly cause others to ponder it.
For more articles on abolishing the CIA, see:
Don’t Reform the CIA, Abolish It by Jacob G. Hornberger
Once Again, the Only Solution Is: Abolish the CIA by Jacob G. Hornberger
Improve the CIA? Better to Abolish It by Chalmers Johnson
Abolish the CIA! By Chalmers Johnson