When asked to respond to revelations of a CIA plot directed by Dick Cheney to form hit squads targeting al-Qaida leaders, the former American vice president responded with nothing but a mocking silence. His defense was undertaken by his daughter Liz Cheney, with a line of argument that reminds us of the truth behind Samuel Johnson’s famous adage: «Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.» In an interview with MSNBC, Liz Cheney said she felt her father had done nothing wrong and also accused the administration of US President Barack Obama of trying to politicize issues of national security. When it came, however, to responding as to whether her father broke the law when he ordered that Congress should not be informed of the CIA’s plans, she skillfully laid the blame on her father’s subordinates by suggesting that CIA officers have the discretion to decide when and how they will inform Congress of their plans. Any annoying question was immediately deflected by citing national security and classified information. The issue here is that, in times of fear, those wielding power can use it at will. More often than not they use it to advance their own interests, dubbing them «national interests.» They avoid having any control or restrictions imposed upon them by evoking the specter of the «enemy.» The immoral nature of such practices is not the crux of this issue. Neither is the fact that fundamental human rights are being violated. The problem is that history has already taught us how destructive they can be. The US has a long record of classified programs getting out of control and ultimately costing the country dearly. It was programs such as these that turned Iran into an Islamic republic and it was the CIA’s Bay of Pigs operation that drove Fidel Castro into the arms of the Soviet Union and pushed the world to the brink of a nuclear war. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s proposal for a probe into all the dark recesses of George W. Bush’s administration may be a step in the right direction for putting an end to such practices.