Monday, January 19, 2009

Investigate Now

On the subject of the CIA, Digby writes a very good piece on torture - referring to a piece by BTD "Why The Torture Issue Can't Be Swept Under the Rug." To quote mutual source Hayden from the LA Times again:

"These techniques worked," Hayden said of the agency's interrogation program
during a farewell session with reporters who cover the CIA. "One needs to be
very careful" about eliminating CIA authorities, he said, because "if you create
barriers to doing things . . . there's no wink, no nod, no secret handshake. We
won't do it."

Give them an inch, they'll take a mile. And again it makes you wonder - if the only way the CIA tortures is through rules (at least by their logic - Digby points out that the CIA has been torturing for a long time) and we now have the appropriate authorization for torture...well, how exactly DID that authorization come about? Go searching for material that exonerates the CIA, and you'll likely only find the quotes from CIA sources - saying it wasn't their fault. Meanwhile, other material suggests the CIA asked for authorization to implement "its" programs.

To quote from the recent official Senate Armed Services Committee report on the treatment fo detainees :

page 5:

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." Secretary Rice said that she asked Director of Central
Intelligence George Tenet to brief NSC Principals on the program and asked the
Attorney General John Ashcroft "personally to review and confirm the legal
advice prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel." She also said that Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld participated in the NSC review of CIA’s program. [emphasis mine]

page 6:

The other OLC opinion issued on August 1, 2002 is known commonly as the
Second Bybee memo. That opinion, which responded to a request from the CIA, addressed the legality of specific interrogation tactics.


And Steven Bradbury, the current Assistant Attorney General of the OLC,
testified before the House Judiciary Committee on February 14, 2008 that the
CIA’s use of waterboarding was "adapted from the SERE training program."


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." [emphasis mine]

Some of these sources are most certainly implicated in the worst of what the Bush administration authorized (Rice? Bradbury?). That said, is the picture that emerges of the CIA any more flattering? We know that Cofer Black came up with a lot of ideas - the CIA was able to feed the Bush Administration's thirst for blood. Now as the Bush Administration leaves, the CIA is left alone, pushing to further institutionalize that thirst for blood.

As has been said again and again, this is not about case officers. This is about taking a serious look at the conduct of senior management in the CIA. I can't think of any law that would say that is inappropriate. There are so many good reasons to do it:

1. Investigate the CIA now so we at least know. The CIA should welcome this opportunity to air their dirty laundry. If they are secondary, we will find out that they are, and how. Otherwise future political opponents will accuse them of being the masterminds behind all of this. See Dick Cheney:

Soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, Cheney said, the CIA "in effect came in and
wanted to know what they could and couldn't do. And they talked to me, as well
as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it."

2. To restore the moral authority of the CIA and the US. See Jack Devine on human rights and the CIA.

3. Because the CIA is not just accountable to the executive branch -they are accountable to us.

Each side has a story. Cheney deserves a thorough investigation. The CIA does as well. Hayden has been very forthcoming about his side of the story:

Hayden said the agency did not undertake the controversial program of rendition
and interrogations out of "enthusiasm, it did it out of duty and it did it with
the best legal advice it had."

Are you effing kidding me? The CIA, as it represents itself, is a massively conservative organization - so much so that the lightest investigation would decimate their operational capacity - they can't be interrupted or interfered with - and yet their best legal advice was, screw the Geneva Conventions, let's go for broke? Scott Horton, in my mind, effectively debunked that in December in an interview with Professor Mary Ellen O’Connell, who said:

As I told one former CIA lawyer who asked me about the “good faith” defense in
these cases, the quality of the memos is so poor, the process of producing them
so at odds with government standards, and the general knowledge is so high that
torture and cruelty are prohibited, that it difficult to see how good faith
could possibly provide a defense.

Hayden has basically been terrorizing the Media, Congress, and (in a few hours) President Obama over the past few days. See the NYT:

“If I’m going to go to an officer and say, ‘I’ve got a truth commission, or I
want to post all your e-mails, or, well, we’ve got this guy from the bureau who
wants to talk to you,’ ” Mr. Hayden said, it would discourage such a C.I.A.
officer from taking risks on behalf of the new president’s policies.
“We have no right to ask this guy to bet his kid’s college education on who’s going
to win the off-year election,” Mr. Hayden said, alluding to legal fees that such
a C.I.A. officer might face.

But it's not case officers we want - it's you, Hayden. Oh, and wasn't the CIA going to cover appropriate legal fees?

This is an appallingly pathetic display. If only to avoid a future where managers of the intelligence community spend their time hiding behind operatives who actually do the grunt work, we must investigate the CIA. Again, Bob Lady has gone all this time without the help of the CIA. The legal fees have all fallen on HIM as far as I know. Tell me again, who are they - the senior management of the CIA -looking out for? Themselves. That's all this is. It's the same as the private sector. Investigate now.

[Crossposted at TalkLeft]

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