Editor’s Note: The Obama administration has angered some of its liberal supporters by continuing the Bush administration’s broad assertion of the so-called “state secrets privilege” which seeks to terminate lawsuits on national security grounds.

President Barack Obama, who criticized his predecessor’s indiscriminate use of the privilege, vowed to set new limits but – in the meantime – has supported President George W. Bush’s old claims, as noted in a New York Times story entitled “Obama Administration Weighs In on State Secrets, Raising Concern on the Left,”

That article prompted former CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman to pen the following letter to the editor, which was published by the Times:

My 24 years as an analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency (1966-90) taught me that national security is only the ostensible reason for using the state secrets privilege in cases before the court. The real reason usually has more to do with national embarrassment and not national security.    

National embarrassment is the reason we have not seen the additional photographic evidence of torture and abuse; the C.I.A. investigation from 2004 on detentions and interrogations; a C.I.A. investigation on the agency’s role in the downing of a missionary plane in Peru in 2001; and numerous documents that reveal the C.I.A.’s politicization of intelligence on the Soviet Union and Central America in the 1980s.

If Congress ever got around to giving genuine whistleblower protection to members of the intelligence community, this country might get some idea of the extent of the perfidy and duplicity of some government officials.

Melvin A. Goodman, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and adjunct professor of government at Johns Hopkins University, spent 42 years with the CIA, the National War College, and the U.S. Army. His latest book is Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA.

To comment at Consortiumblog, click here. (To make a blog comment about this or other stories, you can use your normal e-mail address and password. Ignore the prompt for a Google account.) To comment to us by e-mail, click here. To donate so we can continue reporting and publishing stories like the one you just read, click here.

Back to Home Page