Operationally, the torture story has already had a chilling effect in keeping CIA officers off the streets and out of the back alleys of a dangerous world. There is a deep and realistic concern that they could be captured and tortured themselves.
Old hands will recall the case of the CIA Beirut station chief, William Buckley, taken hostage in Beirut in 1984 by Hezbollah or Islamic Jihad, and held until his death there in 1985. An operational assignment to Beirut after the Buckley affair was a personal security nightmare -- but the heightened concerns were limited to that rough neighborhood. CIA officers could still do abroad what they did best -- move around and understand, perhaps as well as any, the lay of the land.
Today, for CIA officers, and literally all U.S. officials abroad, much of the world resembles Beirut in the mid-1980s. A look at any U.S. embassy must be through crash barriers and razor wire. These serve not only to keep America’s adversaries out, but to keep American officers in, crippling the intelligence and any foreign-policy missions at the worst possible time.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.