read Jose A. Rodriguez's defense of his actions ["I ran the CIA interrogation program. Whatever
the Senate report says, I know it worked," Outlook, April 6], and having listened to people I know
in the intelligence agencies discuss their actions over the past 12 years, I
picked up an aggrieved tone: We did what we had to do. This applies to the use
of torture in interrogations (because hanging people from walls, beating their
heads into walls and pouring ice water up their upturned noses is just that)
and to a variety of intrusions on our constitutional rights.
is, many of these people know they went over the line. I've actually had people
tell me that the CIA has learned its lesson and won't do it again. But they add
that hard times warranted hard measures.
argument, plus the agency's relations with Congress, seem to amount to civil
disobedience. That is, these people believed that the laws were wrong and that,
as patriots, they were compelled to obey a higher duty. There is a long and
honored tradition of such actions in this country. The difference is that
Martin Luther King Jr. and others were willing
to go to jail for their civil disobedience.
CIA and National Security Agency officials, I think the honorable course would
be to stand up and say: "These were the things we did. We thought them
necessary at the time. We still do. But we understand we broke the law and are
willing to accept the consequences of our actions, for which we remain proud.
We throw ourselves upon your mercy."