Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Too Little. Too Late.

It was a coincidence that I started reading “State of War” the very same week that the “Senate Select Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program” was released to the public (Dec. 2014), providing the most comprehensive public accounting of the interrogation techniques used by the CIA after the terrorist attacks in New York on 9/11. In light of that report, most everything in Risen’s book, published in 2006, is all well known by now and extremely documented and expanded upon by other writers, journalists, reporters and confidential “unnamed” sources. But Risen’s book is still a good addition and complement to any serious student’s library of books on war history, US spying programs, surveillance, intelligence and foreign policy. It creates context.

Incidentally, perhaps the most interesting footnote to this book is the legal case the US government brought against Risen because he refused to disclose his sources for parts of the book. Fortunately, as of Dec. 13, 2014, US Attorney General Eric Holder has decided not to subpoena Risen in an effort to force him to reveal the sources for his book, “State of War”. Risen has been battling for years to stop prosecutors from forcing him to name his source revealing the CIA’s efforts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Risen was facing the difficult decision between revealing a source or jail time for contempt of court.

In Risen’s last chapter, he writes about “checks and balances” to weaken the Bush Administration's lawless use of warrantless wire taps, unlawful imprisonment, torture, executive orders that circumvented the US Constitution, etc. However, eight years after Risen’s book was published, these so-called “checks and balances” are laughable and absurd! Since “State of War” was published, Edward Snowden has exposed the vast and powerful NSA program that dwarfs anything Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld knew about; the CIA torture report has been released and confirms everything and more that the country thought about CIA torture programs; Osama bin Laden is dead but now ISIS and other home-grown terrorists are on the scene fighting harder than ever and using Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan as staging areas; and America “ended” the war in Iraq only to send more troops back in 2014.

Risen’s book has significance and importance as a reporter’s true account of history and an attempt to offer an explanation. But in the final analysis, this so-called “explosive book on the abuse of power of the Bush Administration” was back in 2006 and is now, in 2014, too little, too late. 

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