When the best defense is . . . insurance?

CIA agents snap up government-paid liability policies. The GOP dumps money into negative ads.

Published September 11, 2006 3:41PM (EDT)

There are insurance policies, and then there are insurance policies.

Literally speaking: As the Washington Post reports today, increasing numbers of CIA counterterrorism officers are signing up for a government-paid insurance plan that would pay their legal defenses -- and judgments that could be entered against them -- in cases involving allegations of torture or other misconduct. The Post says that the CIA has "encouraged many of its officers to take out the insurance" at the same time that the White House is asking Congress to rewrite laws in order to exempt CIA officers and other civilians from prosecution for abusing terrorism suspects in U.S. custody.

Figuratively speaking: Hoping to avoid the results that public opinion polls on George W. Bush, Iraq and generic Democrat vs. Republican match-ups would predict, the Republican National Committee will spend more than $45 million in the next two months on negative ads against Democratic congressional candidates. The Post says that the RNC has "dispatched a half-dozen operatives to comb through tax, court and other records looking for damaging information on Democratic candidates," and will now begin using whatever they've found to "define" opponents in an effort to "shift the midterm debate away from Iraq and limit losses this fall."

Republican Rep. Tom Cole tells the Post: "When you run in an adverse political environment, you try to localize and personalize the race as much as you can." Of course, you could also try to address the reasons why you've got an "adverse political environment" in the first place. But when you can inoculate yourself instead by buying insurance, rewriting laws and smearing the other guy, why bother with all of that?

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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