This Time I Do Believe The 11-Dimensional Chess
On the heels of the OLC memos, the SASC report, and the Sentate Intelligence Committee timeline, add yet another disclosure from Washington, this one more visceral than a legal opinion, to increase the pressure to act.
The Obama administration agreed late Thursday to release dozens of photographs depicting alleged abuses at U.S. prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan during the Bush White House.
The decision will make public for the first time photos obtained in military investigations at facilities other than the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Forty-four photos that the American Civil Liberties Union was seeking in a court case, plus a "substantial number" of other images, will be released by May 28.
The photos, examined by Air Force and Army criminal investigators, are apparently not as shocking as those taken at Abu Ghraib, which became a symbol of U.S. mistakes in Iraq. But Defense Department officials nevertheless are concerned that the release could incite another backlash in the Middle East.
Some of the photos show U.S. service members intimidating or threatening detainees by pointing weapons at them, according to officials who have seen them. Military officers have been court-martialed for threatening detainees at gunpoint.
"This will constitute visual proof that, unlike the Bush administration's claim, the abuse was not confined to Abu Ghraib and was not aberrational," said Amrit Singh, a lawyer for the ACLU, which reached the agreement as part of a long-running legal battle for documents related to anti-terrorism policies under President George W. Bush.
If Abu Ghraib merely existed in documents, the impact would have been far less. Pictures, videos, just any images bring these abstract debates home in a more immediate way. And there will be even more disclosures to come from this ACLU lawsuit.
Other disclosures to be considered in the weeks ahead include transcripts of detainee interrogations, a CIA inspector general's report that has largely been kept secret, and background materials in a Justice Department investigation into prisoner abuse.
In each instance, Obama and his administration are being forced to decide whether to release the material entirely, disclose it with redactions, or follow the lead of the Bush administration and fight in court to keep it classified.
The OPR investigation, which is fully completed, will really put pressure on the DoJ lawyers who provided the legal justifications for torture.
Given all this, I just don't buy the official narrative about the White House blocking investigations and stalling accountability. Sure, they may be halting a rush to investigations for now, but they're methodically laying out a fact pattern, both by themselves and with the support of the Congress, that will make investigations impossible to ignore. I have no doubt that the President worries about his forward-looking agenda. But he made the tough decision to release the memos that kicked off this frenzy, and he's committing to releasing more. There's a difference between not wanting a commission and not wanting to be responsible for one. Of course, the best way to ensure that would be through a special prosecutor. After all, we now have senior Bush Administration officials definitively signing off on torture. A trickle of releases makes no sense without follow-up, investigation and some accountability. And surely Obama knows this.
No wonder Liz Cheney's so nervous.