This is a development that doesn't surprise me at all.
I saw the news reports this morning on TV and just rolled my eyes.
President Obama's belief in his "commitment to transparency" overrides "the sanctity of covert operations", "keeping faith with the people who do them, and the impact on national security".
So, national security, covert operations are sacrificed on the altar of "transparency"; further, those involved are being given a blanket amnesty - gee, that went over really well with the opponents of US covert operations - because they "acted in good faith".
One could despair that any Democratic President will ever understand the nature of covert operation, the necessity of secrecy, and understanding even the basic fundamentals of international relations. This is, bluntly, a complete and total muck up: most of all, this is not something to be done in the glare of public scrutiny.
And here's the ... rest of the story:
It was a weighty decision," Axelrod said. "As with so many issues, there are competing points of view that flow from very genuine interests and concerns that are to be respected. And then the president has to synthesize all of it and make a decision that's in the broad national interest. He's been thinking about this for four weeks, really.
If he's been thinking about this for four weeks, then we have significantly more serious problems than we think: this is a decision of no more than five minutes. It is also not the job of the President of the US to synthesize conflicting interests and make a decision that is in the "broad" national interest: it's the job of the President of the US to understand US national interests and get that across. This is tantamount to saying that there is no understanding of what US national interests are, and that the President decides, on a case-by-case basis, after weighing all the differing view points, create a synthesis solution that makes no one happy and doesn't reflect fundamental US policies?
What will President Obama then do when push comes to shove somewhere? Contemplate understanding the motives of someone who is butchering innocents or our allies somewhere and then deciding, ex post facto, that we should have helped, but that we needed to understand the issues first?
This allows any and all enemies to get inside our reaction loop and do to the US, politically, what the US military did to the Iraqi Army during the invasion of Iraq. Getting inside the reaction loop means nothing less than forcing your enemy to only react to your moves, never allowing them to show initiative and start their own strategy.
President Obama has a lot to learn, and he is not doing a good job on issues like this. All he's done is destroy morale at the CIA - gee, Democratic Presidents seem to have a long, long history of doing this regularly - and made those who want Bush officials frog-marched off to show trials angry and insistent for more.
That really worked out well.
What should he have done?
If he is opposed to the position laid out in the memoranda, then he cancels those as ruling legal opinion and implements his own. You do this very quietly and internally. You tell those demanding publicity that there are things that gentlemen do not talk about, and you tell them to back off: the policy has been changed and that is all they are going to get: trying to prosecute CIA officers and others for "torture" is not in the interest of the US, never will be, and that if they continue to press this, they will lose all contacts and influence in the White House, which places national security interests above the desire of political pressure groups to achieve their political goals.
Instead we have this muddle.
Folks, this is Carter redux. It's gonna be a long 4 years...