A Letter to the United States Congress
July 17, 2009
To members of the House of Representatives Committee on Intelligence,
On this day, July 17, 2009, I write to you as a concerned American citizen and as a staunch supporter of the Central Intelligence Agency. While your committee is already informed of this development, CIA Director Leon Panetta has recently discovered a covert operation inside the Central Intelligence Agency designed to assassinate leaders of the Al’Qaeda terrorist organization. According to a variety of news sources familiar with the activities of the CIA, including testimony by an anonymous official inside the United States Congress, at least $1 million was dedicated to improving, sustaining and eventually expanding this “hit-squad” program over an eight-year period. The rational for the implementation of these assassination teams is quite straightforward: the United States, under the direction of the executive branch, must possess every tool at its disposal to combat international terrorism against American civilians. With the September 11, 2001 attacks claiming the lives of so many innocent Americans, there is no debate as to why former Director George Tenant decided to approve the killing of the Al’Qaeda leadership…following international law and the bureaucratic malaise that often dominates the American political establishment is too irrational and cumbersome to successfully conduct the War on Terrorism. I would hope that even the most senior Democratic lawmakers would agree with this statement. Any obstacle that undermines the intelligence community’s ability to adequately protect the homeland should be cast away with the utmost vigor.
The nature of the program is not what frightens me. After all, the U.S. Military is performing similar “assassination” missions by striking remote Pakistani villages thought to harbor members of Al’Qaeda and the Taliban (consequently, President Obama’s decision to escalate this military policy is only proof that drone-strikes are highly successful in diminishing the morale of Islamic fundamentalists). What does give me uneasiness is the fact that the United States Congress seems adamant in making the “hit squad”- disclosure a public spectacle.
Decades of American history have routinely exposed the tendencies of both the House and the Senate to exaggerate minimalistic situations. Whether it involves a senior-level confirmation hearing, a military probe, investigations of wrongdoing, or simply debates on the House and Senate floors, it appears that Americans have come to fully expect callous behavior on the part of Congress as a whole. Fortunately for the American electorate, your committee has continued to please their desires: taking a sensitive matter of national security and transforming it into a partisan fight over power and influence. It only took one day for your colleagues in the House to begin demanding documents associated with Mr. Tenant’s counterterrorism strategy.
A majority of congressmen/women do not even possess the knowledge and familiarity with the unique responsibilities of the House Intelligence Committee. Yet, these same officials have continually bashed the Central Intelligence Agency…threatening to open a full-scale investigation as to why the U.S. Congress was not made aware of the CIA-plot. Failing to abide by politically-correct protocol should be kept in perspective and not overblown to maximum proportions…especially when our military and intelligence apparatus is expected to keep Americans safe and secure from ever-adapting methods of terrorism. A question that Americans are beginning to ask across the country is whether the main concern of the U.S. Congress is protecting their personal powers and privileges: perhaps at the expense of the president’s unwavering commitment against political extremism.
I completely understand that national law and the Constitution of the United States may have been broken when the Bush administration failed to report the program to House and Senate leaders. I am also fully aware that secrecy gone unchecked could potentially result in a dangerous precedent: namely a continued increase of presidential power at the expense of our elected politicians. However, with that being said, members of Congress should be familiar with the type of war our military is currently engaging in. Washington is no longer fighting an enemy with a large conventional army dictated by a top-down command structure. Our brave soldiers are no longer resisting adversaries with clear-cut uniforms, sophisticated tanks, B-52 bombers, and a defining doctrine of war. Rather, our president is forced to confront decentralized cells that quickly adapt to U.S. strikes. The surveillance, technology, and intelligence normally used to spy on hostile nation-states is no longer relevant in the 21st century. Terrorists and insurgents are especially difficult to track down, easily dispersing into mountainous terrain when the authorities acquire important information about their whereabouts. Asymmetrical warfare is now the norm in international conflict, whether one is discussing the battles being fought in Central Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, or Sub-Sahara Africa.
While all of these characteristics are especially unique, the one major difference in 21st century warfare is the fact that our foes no longer accept the rules of engagement. Innocents and military personnel are now targeted with equal ferocity, resulting in a widespread loss of life that could drastically counter a stronger retaliation. Lucky for Al’Qaeda, the Taliban, and Islamic insurgents in Iraq, following protocol can easily be bypassed and ignored. The lack of such bureaucracy is what makes these fanatics so difficult to monitor and defeat. Meanwhile, the CIA, NSA, and FBI are coerced into blindly informing politicians that may have no understanding of the mission…risking the possibility of politically-motivated leaks that only help the capabilities of Osama bin-Laden, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Hezbollah.
With each difficulty presented in black and white, Mr. Tenant’s refusal to inform the House Intelligence Community was a purely rational move. How many times has the White House experienced a leak to the press on the whereabouts of the next U.S. military operation? The answer is too many. With the War on Terrorism Washington’s top priority, and with our enemies constantly evolving in Europe, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and inside the United States, shouldn’t it be time for the U.S. Government to evolve themselves?
I plead to this distinguished committee in the hopes that its members will call off the upcoming CIA inquiry. Members of the House would not only be doing a great service to our young men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq … each delegate would also provide a much-needed affirmation to the American electorate: the U.S. Congress recognizes and comprehends what it takes to adequately confront America’s challenges and dangers.
Daniel R. DePetris
Concerned citizen and advocate of the U.S. Intelligence Community
-Information from Pamela Hess of the Associated Press contributed to this blog