Another reason to miss President Bush

John Rizzo spent 34 years as a lawyer at the Central Intelligence Agency. The memoir of his service between 1976 and 2009 — Company Man — has just been published. It was the subject of a harshly negative review by Fred Kaplan in the New York Times Book Review a few weeks back. By contrast, in a review behind the Wall Street Journal’s loosely guarded paywall (you can dig it up via Google), former Attorney General Michael Mukasey finds it a valuable account. Mukasey hold it to be “emphatically a book for anyone who cares about the security of this country and about how the political classes treat those charged with protecting it.”

Mukasey makes the following point without drawing any contrast with the current president:

In “Company Man,” Mr. Bush emerges as a hero. Mr. Rizzo recounts that although the president claimed in his memoir, “Decision Points,” to have approved the absurdly named enhanced-interrogation techniques before they were employed to loose a torrent of information from the few detainees subjected to them, the timing was such that he couldn’t conceivably have done so. Rather than resort to the plausible deniability that generally protects presidents, Mr. Rizzo writes, “Bush does the exact opposite: He squarely puts himself up to his neck in the creation and implementation of the most contentious counterterrorist program in the post-9/11 era when, in fact, he wasn’t. Now that’s a stand-up guy.”

As I say, Mukasey leaves the contrast with Obama unspoken. Mukasey notes that Rizzo also salutes Leon Panetta in this context, but he otherwise closes in on the contrast in the review’s conclusion:

Another hero is Leon Panetta, who became head of the CIA in 2009 and sought to protect agency operators from the pointless disclosure of the so-called torture memos long after the interrogation program they described had been terminated. But for the most part, the political appointees come off no better than the congressmen.

Consider the current attorney general, Eric Holder, who in 2009 reopened investigations of CIA operators that had been closed by career prosecutors without prosecution years earlier. He did so without even reading the memos describing why the investigations had been closed—only to close them himself without prosecution in 2012 after having spent millions of dollars and caused unnecessary anguish to the targets of these investigations. As Mr. Rizzo reports, even Mr. Holder’s statement closing the investigation again included a graceless slap at the agency: “It said the decision not to prosecute ‘was not intended to, and does not resolve, broader questions regarding the propriety of the examined conduct.’ The conduct Holder was referring to was that of the Agency, not his own.” Eric Holder, Carl Levin and their ilk are here portrayed as unworthy of the agency they are supposed to oversee. It is a judgment hard to argue with.


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