Monday, April 6, 2009

Institutional Power

The antics being laid at the feet of John Brennan are quite interesting. Stephen Soldz sums up both major articles on the release/not to release question swirling around the OLC memos here.

Basically, the John Brennan example is instructive because it mirrors in many ways the complaints being put up now about Obama's economic team. They are serving the interests of their friends - or, if you must be charitable, somehow it always happens that by coincidence their friends make out from decisions that simply have to be made. If you want to know the policy, look to the circle of friends. And that's simple - in Brennan's case, it was Tenet and even Cofer Black.

But the problem goes beyond Brennan - it has been noted that Brennan was able to flip Panetta on the issue. When I say flip, I say so because I assume that Panetta would have favored the release of these memos, due to his past statements on torture and the like. It's possible Panetta decided to completely sell out out of some entitlement of his new role, but I think it's more likely that institutional factors influenced him to do so - least of all the RETENTION OF STEPHEN KAPPES as the Deputy Director of the CIA. If anyone would like to hide the evidence, it is Stephen Kappes, whose link to the rendition of Abu Omar was reported in the Chicago Tribune. And furthermore, as in all these things, that link (to Abu Omar) is obvious simply by virtue of his preeminent position in the CIA. It was his job to know, and what he knew was reprehensible.

And what of that? What of a defiant CIA whose colorful alumni willfully threaten the country's security in the media? Even the Senate Intelligence Committee, screwed over (supposedly) by the CIA's reluctance to let the Senate conduct its mandated oversight, does not know if it will make its investigatory findings public. Senator Feinstein, do not hurt yourself while slapping your own wrist. Although I'm sure you won't.

This is especially crappy because the CIA has the information. This is the agency where it all began. The problem is not John Brennan (though he deserves the ire) - the problem is much larger. It's our reluctance to take the CIA in hand - because the organization is full of people who apologize for and defend torture. That attitude needs some exposure to the sunlight. We must expose the horror of what actually happened - war crimes - and expose the assumption that this actually works. The CIA analyzed the torture results...and reports are suggesting now that there weren't really any results at all. Why defend this stuff? And why not at least ask why the CIA feels its ineffective and inhumane methods should be spared any investigatory violence whatsoever? How many privileges does the CIA have and are they completely morally irresponsible in their role as servants of the President for what they actually do?

It's simple, especially in a country that at times leans as right as ours - if we're not careful, our laziness in terms of accountability will lead us into torture again, soon.

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