Seven former CIA chiefs on Friday urged the Obama administration to halt its investigation of the agency's interrogation methods, predicting the latest inquiry would only foster "an atmosphere of continuous jeopardy."
The retired agency heads — John Deutch, Porter Goss, Michael Hayden, James R. Schlesinger, George Tenet, William Webster and R. James Woolsey — also warned the investigation could hamper the government's intelligence-gathering abilities and deter other nations from working with the United States.
"Success in intelligence often depends on surprise and deception and on creating uncertainty in the mind of an enemy," the seven former CIA directors wrote in a letter to the president. "But, the administration must be mindful that public disclosure about past intelligence operations can only help al Qaeda elude U.S. intelligence and plan future operations."
Scrutiny and criticism almost immediately greeted Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement in August that the Justice Department would investigate the CIA's interrogation techniques. A number of former Cabinet members and lawmakers — from former Vice President Dick Cheney to these seven former CIA directors — have asked Obama to call the probe off, even alleging the inquiry is little more than a political stunt.
But the Obama administration has said it stands behind Holder's decision, arguing it has no right to interfere with the Justice Department's work. It has also insisted the special prosecutor appointed to manage the case has no partisan motivations.
Despite the White House's assurances, the former intelligence chiefs argued on Friday that previous investigations into the CIA's conduct were sufficient. Additional inquiries, they added, would only burden some agents, deter others and damage the agency itself.
"Those men and women who undertake difficult intelligence assignments in the aftermath of an attack such as Sept. 11 must believe there is permanence in the legal rules that govern their actions," the former CIA leaders wrote.
"They must be free, as the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Lieberman, has put it: 'to do their dangerous and critical jobs without worrying that years from now a future attorney general will authorize a criminal investigation of them for behavior that a previous attorney general concluded was authorized and legal,'” they added.