Thursday, January 22, 2009

CIA In Motion

Spencer Ackerman gets a great scoop today about Obama's executive orders:

“It’s a great leap forward in terms of respect for human rights,” said John
Kiriakou, the retired CIA official who supervised the early interrogation of Al
Qaeda detainee Abu Zubaydah in 2002. “From the very beginning, the CIA should
not have been in the business of enhanced interrogation techniques and
detentions.” CIA interrogators waterboarded Abu Zubaydah, but not while Kiriakou
supervised the interrogation.

You may know Kiriakou from the right-wing defenses of torture that you see and hear every day. He claimed that torture saved lives and prevented attacks. And also said we need to stop enhanced interrogation. [Transcript] If your goal is to imagine someone who more perfectly fits the image of mixed bag, it's hard to top Kiriakou.

But to Ackerman he says:

"Kiriakou said that the reaction to Obama’s harmonization of interrogations
policy would get 'a very positive reaction' inside the CIA. 'There are people at
CIA who engaged in what were certified as enhanced [interrogation] techniques,
but were never supportive of it,' he said. 'This should make people very happy.
No one wants to be in harm’s way [legally]. Despite what the Bush White House
and Bush Justice Department said was legal, I think people at the CIA understood
that this was not legal and [the techniques] were torture.'”

Contrast Hayden - "If the techniques used are said to be legal, should they not be used?" (NYT).
Got some questions? Me too. Let's investigate.

Hayden responded to Obama's executive order today here.

Update: Sorry, it's creepy.

From Hayden's statement:

The legal and policy landscape under which the Agency has conducted itself in
the global war on terror has changed in the past and we have consistently and
scrupulously adjusted our efforts to reflect these changes
. [emphasis mine]

From the Senate Armed Services Committee report on the treatment of detainees:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was then the National Security Advisor,
said that, "in the spring of 2002, CIA sought policy approval from the National Security Council (NSC) to begin an interrogation program for high-level al-Qaida terrorists." (pg.5) [emphasis mine]
The other OLC opinion issued on August 1, 2002 is known commonly as theSecond
Bybee memo. That opinion, which responded to a request from the CIA, addressed the legality of specific interrogation tactics. (pg.6) [emphasis mine]
Mr. Bellinger, the NSC Legal Advisor, said that "the NSC’s Principals reviewed
CIA’s proposed program on several occasions in 2002 and 2003" and that he
"expressed concern that the proposed CIA interrogation techniques comply with
applicable U.S. law, including our international obligations." (pg.6) [emphasis mine]

Again...I do not understand this. Hayden and many other CIA management officials wish to collapse the whole process of obtaining legal authorization into an extremely simple interaction. It was assuredly not. Was it impossible for the CIA to request a copy of the Geneva Conventions? Was it impossible for CIA lawyers to do the lightest amount of research necessary to know that something was fishy with the memos that almost everyone in the legal community has dumped upon? Knowing if someone was told to shut up, or if someone decided to shut up, would be important. Last I checked, the Office of Legal Counsel is not the last word on the Law of the Land. The CIA would be within its rights to contest certain interpretations. There is a clear failure here, beyond the CIA's convenient mythologizing of its role. Determining the nature of that failure is essential to the interests of the country. If future Bushes are insistent upon torturing, let them waterboard their own suspects. Right now we do not have those conditions in place. We ought to.

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