While I tend to agree with the Senate intelligence committee report on a number of substantive matters about the use of torture to gain intelligence after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks–during the early years in particular–the report itself is needlessly controversial.
It is redundant with many reviews of American intelligence-gathering efforts–both in and outside the government.
As such, it is needlessly inflammatory for the U.S. role in the world and, on balance, unfair to the men and women who gather intelligence for our country. Whether or not one agrees with all their methods–and I did not–they were clearly working to protect this country in the scary months and years after 9/11.
There have been so many reviews of the use of various intelligence methods that a comprehensive list would be beyond the patience of a typical reader. But notable ones include:
* Reviews of Army interrogation manuals in the last decade that explicitly disallowed the use of methods such as waterboarding for the U.S. military;
* Additional scrutiny, criticism, and legislation from distinguished Americans such as Sen. John McCain that imposed more significant legal barriers to any future use of “enhanced methods”;
* Memoirs by military officers such as Gen. Stanley McChrystal who argued that these methods were not productive in most cases and, on balance, bad for the morale and mental well-being of the Americans asked to implement them.
And CIA practices have long since changed, with enhanced methods banned by both internal review and executive order.
Given all this, I think this latest round of legislative review treads over ground that has already been worked quite well. It implies that new material and issues have come to light lately that make the issues even more salient–which impedes us from moving on to more legitimately difficult and fresh issues in intelligence reform, such as how to handle National Security Agency procedures after Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks. U.S. intelligence personnel have strived for the past 13 years to make sure a 9/11-like attack, or worse, never happens again to this nation or its allies. Their integrity is being called into question, implicitly if not explicitly.
We have so much more to do, and so many more forward-looking issues to address, as a nation. It is time to move on.
This opinion originally appeared at Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire.