The “Torture Report” of the Senate Intelligence Committee shows that the Central Intelligence Agency has engaged in extensive criminality. By committing horrific abuses against illegally detained suspects, the CIA has systematically violated U.S. and international law. By spying upon and impeding the work of Senate investigators, the Agency has subverted the U.S. constitution and the role of Congress in overseeing the federal government.
The latest evidence of CIA criminality comes as no surprise to those who have studied the Agency’s history—detailed in Mark Mazzetti’s recent The Way of the Knife, or Tim Weiner’s magisterial Legacy of Ashes, or in earlier classics like John Marks and Victor Marchetti’s The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, or Philip Agee’s The Company.
The CIA exists precisely to deceive and engage in illegal activities. For more than six decades the covert operations division of the CIA has overthrown governments, fought secret wars, fomented military coups, assassinated political leaders, destabilized economies, subverted political parties, supported right wing fascists and extremists, and disseminated lies and disinformation all over the world.
In recent years the CIA has conducted more covert operations than at any time in its history, according to Mazzetti. It has been assigned an unprecedented role in conducting military operations—launching drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen and conducting commando raids in several countries. The Agency has become “a killing machine,” in Mazzetti’s words, obsessed with hunting down and killing alleged terrorists.
CIA operations have caused enormous damage to America’s reputation and have undermined U.S. and international security. The latest revelations add to the Agency’s legacy of crime and deceit.
In my view the CIA is a menace to democracy and should be abolished. Perhaps a modest analysis division could be retained, but the entire operations branch should be eliminated.
Of course there is no chance of this happening. Admiral Dennis Blair wanted to impose modest controls on covert operations when he was Director of National Intelligence in the early Obama administration, but the forces of reaction rose up against him and he was promptly cashiered. The current CIA director, John Brennan, advocated that the CIA end its “paramilitary” operations, turning them over to the Defense Department. Congress said no.
Even to suggest the idea of abolishing the CIA will be seen in official Washington as foolish and naïve. It is worth observing nonetheless that the United States and the world would be better off without the CIA.