The only real surprise about the release of the declassified CIA documents was the suggestion by Robert Gates that these events belonged to a chapter of the CIA that has been consigned to history. The sad fact is that by today’s standards, these scandalous revelations are not even regarded as extreme.
What’s different today is merely a question of scale: yet the general outlines of the neocon program of warmongering, waterboarding, and the waylaying of innocents took shape long ago. The Bush administration has merely refined and perfected the details. And that’s the main difference: yesterday our rulers had the decency to keep their immoral means and methods a secret, which meant they knew they had not only broken the law, but had done something profoundly wrong. Today, they invent elaborate legal and political theories designed to justify and even valorize their police-state methods.
While we are forever reminded that 9/11 changed everything, the fact is that it merely brought the extremists into the mainstream. What was regarded as unthinkable a decade ago is old news by today’s standards.
Much of what was “revealed” in the “family jewels” was already known, and in detail not recounted in the released documents. Furthermore, the history of the FBI and other U.S. government agencies is replete with precedents for the activities detailed in this particular document dump. In particular, it is well known that the “liberal” heroes FDR and Harry Truman utilized police-state methods to go after their political opponents, the former going so far as to order a “sedition” trial of war opponents and the latter instituting “loyalty oaths” and greatly expanding the domestic spying apparatus he inherited from That Man in the White House.