Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This week, President Obama made two incredibly dangerous and arrogant decisions involving the war on terror, or as his administration prefers to call it, the “global contingency operation” to prevent “man-made disasters.”

First, his administration announced the creation of a new, special interrogation unit to carry out the questioning of terrorist suspects that would be under the direct supervision of the White House. And second, he has authorized Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether CIA officers violated the law in applying some of the enhanced interrogation techniques on high-value al Qaeda detainees.

Both moves will catapult us back prior to Sept. 10, 2001, when our intelligence officers were denied the resources and latitude to destroy the enemy before it had the chance to destroy us.

The creation of an interrogations unit to be supervised directly by the White House is a breathtaking power grab by Mr. Obama, who has already demonstrated his penchant for expanding executive control by appointing three dozen issue-specific “czars” who are accountable to no one but him. Mr. Obama now aims to run terrorist interrogations right from the Oval Office.

When President Richard Nixon consolidated national security decision-making in the White House, his liberal critics went bananas, accusing him of trying to end-run Congress. Similar charges were made against President George W. Bush, with his opponents going even further, claiming he was a war criminal for trying to fight a shadowy enemy with the secrecy required for success.

For years, Mr. Bush’s critics blasted him for running much of the war on terror from the West Wing, with only Vice President Dick Cheney and a few others involved. They claimed his consolidation of national security decision-making was even more unconstitutional than Mr. Nixon’s.

And yet, Mr. Obama is now creating a new terrorist interrogation unit to be directed by him and perhaps several others (National Security Adviser James L. Jones? Special Adviser David Axelrod? Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel?). This is the national security equivalent of their seizure of control of the census.

This unit will invest Mr. Obama with unprecedented power for which there will be no congressional oversight. It will also strip the CIA of its ability to hunt, spy on and kill our enemies.

Which brings us to Mr. Obama’s second gravely irresponsible decision this week: permitting Mr. Holder to investigate CIA officers who took part in several terrorist interrogations to see if they broke the law. This opens them up to possible criminal prosecution, which in turn, will have a deathly chilling effect on all CIA officers in the field.

Why should they aggressively pursue terrorists if they might get hauled in for prosecution? Why would smart, talented young people who want to defend their country go to the CIA if first they need to lawyer up? Why would our current officers on the battlefield continue their dogged pursuit of al Qaeda if they are going to get nailed for trying to extract information in order to prevent another attack?

CIA interrogators are highly trained and dedicated professionals who have been trying to save their country from another Sept. 11 style horror show, and doing it within the legal guidance they were given at the time. Thanks to Mr. Obama’s new rules, our now-demonized intelligence folks will have to run around the battlefield carrying plastic evidence baggies.

There have been two successful terrorist strikes against the U.S. homeland, and in both cases, interrogations yielded valuable information.

On Feb. 26, 1993, Islamic terrorists car-bombed the World Trade Center, killing six and injuring 1,042. Once captured, convicted mastermind Ramzi Yousef admitted to interrogators that the bombs were intended to bring down the towers and that they were going to come back and do it right the next time.

Eight years later, Yousef’s uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — who had provided the financing for his nephew’s attack — conceived and executed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed 2,874.

Once captured in 2003, Mohammed was subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques, which produced life-saving results.

A Justice Department memo of May 30, 2005, notes, “Before the CIA used enhanced interrogation techniques … KSM resisted giving any answers to questions about future attacks, simply noting, ‘Soon you will find out.’ ” Once the techniques were applied, “interrogations have led to specific, actionable intelligence, as well as a general increase in the amount of information about al Qaeda and its affiliates.” A 2004 memo released this week called the enhanced interrogation techniques “extremely successful” in getting Mohammed to spill the terrorist beans.

Hunting al Qaeda isn’t child’s play. And interrogating captured terrorists isn’t a day at the beach. Those who do these hellish jobs should be heralded, not threatened with prosecution.

This is a staggeringly blatant and highly unethical politicization of the Justice Department. Where are all of those who accused Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney of engaging in this kind of power-grabbing, extra-constitutional behavior?

So far, the Left - which for eight years told us they cared about keeping the president’s powers within their constitutional limits — is looking the other way while Mr. Obama seizes greater and greater powers insulated from those inconvenient checks and balances.

To those who believed Mr. Bush was creating an “imperial presidency:” You haven’t seen anything yet.

Monica Crowley is a nationally syndicated radio host, a panelist on “The McLaughlin Group” and a Fox News contributor.

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