On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder appointed veteran federal prosecutor John Durham to investigate nearly a dozen CIA interrogators and contractors suspected of abusing terrorism suspects in 2002 and 2003.
"This is nothing but a an all out war on the CIA by the left at a time when the President desperately needs to shore up trust with his base in the face of his declining poll numbers," writes Heritage's Conn Carroll in Tuesday's Morning Bell.
Reopening the investigation of CIA personnel to settle policy differences could open the door to new threats and attacks against the United States, Heritage national security expert Peter Brooks warns in the Boston Herald. This controversial decision could distract the agency from its national security responsibilities and release highly-sensitive information to those who show no qualms with using it against us.
"That could be very dangerous to our national security," writes Brookes. "It isn't by chance that we haven't been attacked for nearly eight years."
In the Los Angeles Times, Heritage's Robert Alt argues that the investigation could lead to a "chilling effect" among CIA agents.
Prior to Monday's announcement, Alt and Heritage legal expert Todd Gaziano recommended against appointing a special prosecutor. "Holder most definitely should not appoint a special prosecutor, even assuming a criminal investigation is warranted," since such an appointment would be redundant, politically-charged and harmful to our national security.
Brooks warns of the "distasteful political dimension" of the appointment and ensuing investigation. By appointing an investigator "independent" of the administration, the White House can effectively "demonize the Bush administration" and not be held accountable or deemed biased. In addition, the case could prompt drastic policy changes and reversals.
Holder argues the new investigation is warranted in light of "new details" exposed in a 2004 CIA report. However, these "details" are only new to the public. The Department of Justice and heads of the Congressional intelligence committees have had the report since 2004. Even Holder read the report months ago.
Not only is it old information, it's an old case. Department of Justice prosecutors have already investigated the individuals in question and found no reason to bring criminal charges to any of them, with the exception of one contractor. The only thing new, Carroll explains, is that the Obama administration now runs the Justice Department.
A record-breaking deficit
As a result of massive government overspending, "America will run its first ever trillion-dollar budget deficit this year," writes Heritage budget policy analyst Brian Riedl.
Riedl reveals the shocking numbers.
In 2009, the federal government will:
- Spend $30,958 per household -- the highest level in American history;
- Tax $17,576 per household; and
- Borrow $13,392 per household.
These numbers reflect a 22 percent year-on-year increase in spending, Riedl explains. This represents "the largest government expansion since the 1952 height of the Korean War."
The government's spending spree will likely cause this year's deficit to top 11.2 percent of gross domestic product, nearly double the post-World War II record of six percent.
"The new spending estimates are alarming and absolutely unsustainable -- and are the true cause of these appalling levels of deficit and debt," explains Riedl. "The result will be the highest level of spending -- and debt -- in American history."
President Obama claims to have inherited this staggering deficit of $1.58 trillion -- an amount greater than the combined deficits between 2002 and 2007. But his budget blueprint, which includes $1.4 trillion in tax increases and $9 trillion of new borrowing over the next decade, does little to tame it. And this doesn't even include the President's high-priced health care overhaul.
President Obama also claims he can cut the deficit in half by 2013. But that's not really an improvement: this year's deficit is nearly four times what it was last year, so cutting it in half would still leave a deficit that is double what it was under President Bush.
> Other Heritage work of note
Many Americans are rightfully concerned that a new government-run health care system would cover millions of illegal immigrants at the taxpayers' expense.
While the White House rejects this as a pure myth, Heritage fellow Ernest Istook dissects Section 246 of the health care bill and explains what it actually says. "It says [illegal immigrants] should not receive the bill's new insurance subsidies. It doesn't say they can't receive taxpayer-paid health care. It doesn't say they can't receive other benefits from HR 3200, such as the expanded Medicaid." The language may be vague, but the consequences won't be.
"Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have proposed to cut roughly $150 billion from the highly popular Medicare Advantage program," writes Heritage's Gerrit Lansing. Nearly one in five seniors benefits from this program, which allows them to choose a private health plan. Any savings that can be found in Medicare "need to go toward lowering Medicare's long-term cost" and not fund yet another big-government program.» Watch Heritage's video about how government-run health care would affect Medicare.
As the economy recovers, prices at the pump are likely to surge again, and this could cause economic problems. "Of course, rational solutions, such as unlocking America's restricted oil potential, appear to be off the table for the Obama Administration and the current Congress," writes Heritage energy analyst Ben Lieberman.
Instead, policymakers are looking to regulate energy and impose controls on energy markets. Lieberman notes that when oil prices topped $4 a year ago, "the public was shouting 'drill, baby, drill' not 'regulate, baby, regulate.'"