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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Sophomore LHP Shane Sdao (38) reacts after a strikeout during Texas A&Ms game against Texas at Disch-Falk Field on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
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Junior Mary Stoiana reacts during Texas A&M’s match against Oklahoma at the NCAA Women’s Tennis Regional at Mitchell Tennis Center on Sunday, May 5, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
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No. 13 Texas A&M women’s tennis met Virginia in the quarterfinal of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, May 17 at the Greenwood Tennis Center...

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Beekeeper Shelby Dittman scoops bees back into their hive during a visit on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)
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Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
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Scenes from 74
Scenes from '74
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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The Battalion May 4, 2024

Guest column: Ten years of safety

America has been kept safe for the last ten years because of the sacrifices of our brave men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 6,000 Americans have died in the Global War on Terror since 2001. We will forever be grateful for what they have done for us and we rightfully honor them today and always.
But my purpose here is to respectfully remind all of us that there is another group of Americans, faceless and often forgotten, who have worked tirelessly and bravely to keep our homeland safe: America’s spies.
More Americans died on 9/11 than at Pearl Harbor. Al-Qaida’s attack on the United States was nothing less than a declaration of war. It was Vice President Dick Cheney, acting on behalf of President George W. Bush, who tasked the CIA to engage in a full-scale campaign to defeat al-Qaida and to decapitate its leadership. Vice President Cheney famously announced shortly after 9/11 that the CIA’s war on al-Qaida would, if necessary, take us to the “dark side.” What he meant, of course, was that the CIA would fight tough and that techniques ordinarily shunned might come into play in the war against this new kind of enemy. Terrorists operate without any moral constraints on their behavior and it would be folly to expect the CIA to go after them like boy scouts with their hands tied behind their backs. With the blessing of the White House, appropriate legal guidance and approval of most of the Congressional leadership, the CIA was unleashed.
The result was the dispatch of CIA covert action teams to Afghanistan, the kidnapping of al-Qaida terrorists around the world, the establishment of Guantanamo and secret prisons in other locations to hold the prisoners, enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, and targeted killings, primarily using Hellfire missiles fired from Predator drones. These activities, together with U.S. military operations, pinned al-Qaida down, decimated its leadership, kept it on the defensive, and prevented it, for the most part, in exporting terrorism to the United States itself. It was not just coincidence or good luck that kept our homeland safe for these last ten years. The public is aware of some of the attacks that have been thwarted during this period, such as the attempted Times Square bombing and the underwear bomber, and there have been others that have not been publicized. A combined CIA and U.S. Navy Seal team delivered the coup de grace to Osama bin Laden in a brilliant operation this past May. There can be no doubt about it. Effective intelligence has been our first line of defense in protecting Americans from terrorist attacks.
What has been the public and media response to the CIA’s efforts? Some praise, but mostly criticism of the CIA’s secret prisons, enhanced interrogations, renditions, and targeted killings. CIA officers have been notified by the U.S. Department of Justice that they are targets of criminal prosecution for activities they carried out in the line of duty in their efforts to protect American citizens from terrorist attacks. The Speaker of the House publicly criticized the CIA for allegedly lying to her about its activities, a charge the Director of the CIA quickly repudiated. Media coverage of the CIA is consistently negative. Hollywood movies like “Rendition” and “The Good Shepherd” portray CIA officers as killers and human rights violators.
That’s not the CIA I was privileged to serve in for more than thirty years. It rankles me that the brave men and women of the CIA, including many Aggies, are out there right now risking their lives on our behalf and are receiving so much acrimony and abuse in return. I for one, and I hope there are others who feel the same way, would like to send them a simple “thank you.”
James Olson teaches courses on intelligence and national security at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service. He served in the CIA’s clandestine service before coming to Texas A&M.

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