Today's New York Times has an article about the difficulty President-Elect Obama faces in reining in a CIA tainted by George W. Bush's counter-terrorism policies.
Officially, CIA exists to collect, evaluate and disseminate foreign intelligence to assist the President and senior United States government policymakers in making decisions about national security. Epic Fail.
CIA is hardly new to secret detention facilities and "harsh interrogation." Going back to the 1950s and Project ARTICHOKE, the company had "black sites" and engaged in physically hostile examinations of suspected double-agents (and U.S. citizens). The goal of ARTICHOKE, according to a recently declassified memo, was to "get control of an individual to the point where he will do our bidding against his will and even against fundamental laws of nature, such as self preservation."
ARTICHOKE utilized off-grid bases in Panama, Japan and Germany, and eventually became MK-ULTRA — a notorious mind-control and chemical interrogation research program that ran through the late-1960s.
I only bring this up to point out that CIA has a long history of torture and undisclosed detention facilities. As their work is conducted in the dark, I'm not convinced they'll start playing nice just because the new guy says so.
Another thing to consider about the agency: they love to lie to the Commander in Chief. This can take the form of outright distortions/omissions, or in the case of Dubya, only supplying him with information that conforms to his worldview. This is why Presidents initially hold CIA in high regard, but often threaten to dismantle the agency once they figure out they've been systematically mislead.
Perhaps it is time to put the Company out of its misery. Throughout the years, CIA has wasted an shocking amount of treasure and countless lives (mostly foreign) through sundry covert misadventures. Tragically, they've always left the intelligence gathering for last. Which helps explain how they were clueless about Russia getting The Bomb, Chinese involvement in the Korean War, the immanent collapse of the Soviet Union and 9/11. And that's just scratching the surface. Despite CIA's storied history, we're nearly as blind in the Middle East as we were at the start of the First World War.
So yeah, good luck with the spooks at Langley, Barry.
Crap. This post means I'll really never be able to work for CIA.