Spies Come Out to Criticize Memos' Release

One said we can't have intelligence if we "keep giving away all the secrets."

WASHINGTON, April 25, 2009— -- The debate over the interrogation memos is so intense that now even the spies are speaking up.

Former Bush CIA chief Porter Goss said in an op-ed published today in the Washington Post, that the Obama administration had "crossed the line" by releasing the memos.

"We can't have a secret intelligence service, if we keep giving away all the secrets," he wrote.

Goss excoriates lawmakers who say they were never given a full and clear picture about the interrogation tactics the CIA was considering using against high value terrorist suspects in U.S. detention.

"In the fall of 2002, while I was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, senior members of Congress were briefed on the CIA's 'high value terrorist program,' including the development of 'enhanced interrogation techniques' and what those techniques were," he wrote.

"Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as 'waterboarding' were never mentioned," Goss' op-ed continued. "It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience."

Other former CIA officials have also spoken out against the Obama administratin's decision to release the memos, saying it has put intelligence gathering operations at risk and demoralized the agency writ large.

"People in the intelligence community have the sense that they're really not being backed up, that this administration is not really giving them their cover that they feel they need," former intelligence officer Mark Lowenthal said.

And it has put former agents like Mike Scheuer, the former head of the CIA unit in charge of tracking Osama bin Laden, on the defensive.

"The real problem for a lot of the officers who were involved in this, including myself, was we were very certain that the interrogation procedures procured information that was worth having," he said.

The outcry comes alongside yet another revelation. The Pentagon has recently released a two-page memo written by the defense agency in charge of counterterrorism training courses to prepare military and intelligence officers to handle harsh interrogation tactics if they are captured by enemy forces.

The memo raises some operational concerns about the use of these harsh tactics, including waterboarding.

"The application of extreme physical and/or psychological duress (torture) has some serious operational deficits, most notably, the potential to result in unreliable information," it said.

Excerpts from the memo were included in a report released this week by the Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. treatment of detainees.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., told ABC News that this memo is just the latest evidence that there were dissenting voices about the effects and utility of these harsh interrogation tactics, and they were voices that were ignored.

It's unclear how far the memo travelled up the chain of command and if any of the top officials at the White House ever laid eyes on it.

But the more documents that are released, the greater the potential rift between the administration and the intelligence agencies. Because despite assurances from current CIA chief Leon Panetta and the president himself that the officers who carried out these tactics will not be prosecuted, Lowenthal said that fear has paralyzed agents on the ground.

"Every release creates a greater drumbeat for prosecutions and investigations," he said.

And in turn, that creates more pressure on the Obama administration as it tries to account for history and move past it at the same time.