Commentary: CIA memos don't tell the whole story

This editorial appeared in The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

Does the release of the now-infamous set of memos on harsh methods used by CIA operatives to obtain information from terror suspects constitute honest, refreshing government openness or a Pandora's Box? For the Obama administration, the answer is probably some of both. Now the question is, what's next?

Obama on Monday rightly sought to reassure CIA staffers that their work is valuable, that the apparent excesses employed under the Bush administration can provide lessons learned without being a catastrophe for credibility.

Previously, he had vowed that those officers who carried out interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, which many critics believe to be torture, will not be prosecuted. That was fair, because they were, after all, operating under directives approved by the Justice Department.

But the administration indicates that all may not be legally forgiven so far as the Bush administration Justice officials who devised the policies are concerned. Indeed, the actions of those officials are worth a closer look. Members of Congress who are considering a further investigation of the interrogation techniques may have a point as well regarding the value of full disclosure – who did what, on whose authority, by what rationale and with what results.

From Obama's standpoint, the country needs a functioning CIA, not one torn apart by recriminations over past actions taken in good faith, even if misguided. And Director Leon Panetta is a smart and savvy former congressman and Clinton administration official who can be counted upon to keep things on the straight and narrow from here forward.

To read the complete editorial, visit The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

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