Bob Franken

Cheney, Panetta and those Other Spy Guys

Under no circumstances can we ever allow Dick Cheney to watch programs like “24” or any James Bond flick.

For decades we have heard loud complaints that graphic movies and TV programs can cause violent and irrational behavior in their impressionable audience. Now we have irrefutable proof.

It’s obvious that as the real head of American intelligence, Cheney embraced shoot-’em-up programs and rigid secrecy.

The few who haven’t figured that out need look no further than the assassination program that the new guy at the CIA, Leon Panetta, has just, uh, terminated. All that ended up being killed was the operation itself.

Reportedly, the program would have created small teams trained to infiltrate enemies like al-Qaeda and take out their leaders. But it got hung up in bureaucracy for years and years. Osama bin Laden is still rattling around out there. Apparently, if you’re going to create killer teams, the people at headquarters should also be a gang that can shoot straight.

In spite of you-know-who’s order not to inform those pesky Congress people about the eight-year effort, word has leaked out.

It’s not that the idea was necessarily a bad one. There’s a valid debate about that, and it does not center on the need for robust and sinister American intelligence operations. We certainly require them in this dangerous world.

What we should determine is whether the ones we have are competently run. Did our spy-managers sanction torture, for instance, because they weren’t clever enough to outsmart the prisoners they were interrogating? Is it necessary to trample on domestic civil rights with intrusive wire-tapping because they can’t abide by the constraints imposed by the way of life they’re supposed to protect? Do they use their classified veils to hide the embarrassing possibility that they sometimes can be klutzy?

Maybe, instead of “Bond, James Bond,” our leaders should be watching “Smart, Maxwell Smart” when they play the couch-potato spy game. Spying is not TV shows and movies, and it’s not a political game. Our country needs to be better at it.

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