As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The CIA Roadblock

About a week ago, Leon Panetta was quoted in The New Yorker saying that Dick Cheney seems like he wishes for the country to get attacked again. Panetta walked it back within 24 hours, or at least his spokesman did.

This quick shift is indicative of how the career officers are running the show inside the CIA, not Panetta, although I imagine he wasn't very hard to convince. The CIA has now gone back to its traditional role of covering up its ugliest activities, in contravention of judicial rulings and the will of the people. Take the 2004 Inspector general's report, for example, which has been described in major media and released in redacted form. The report was scheduled for release Friday, but amid insistent attempts at suppression, that release has been postponed. McJoan writes:

Greg Sargent speculates that this effort to suppress information is to try to "keep chunks that would undermine Cheney under wraps." This 2004 report from the CIA, according to various reports from officials who have seen it, will show that the CIA knew then that there was no proof that torture uncovered terror plots. One chapter of the report, which was released in heavily redacted form in response to an ACLU suit, is on "effectiveness." That chapter had been entirely redacted from the previous release.

That could be part of the resistance, but it appears that the larger part of it is that the CIA knew then, as it knows now, what it was doing was illegal. From the WaPo story:

The report further questioned the legality of using different combinations of techniques -- for example, sleep deprivation combined with forced nudity and painful stress positions, according to sources familiar with the document. While Justice Department lawyers had determined in August 2002 that the individual techniques did not constitute torture, the report warned that using several techniques at once could have a far greater psychological impact, according to officials familiar with the document.

"The argument was that combining the techniques amounted to torture," said a former agency official who read the report. "In essence, [Helgerson] was arguing in 2004 that there were clear violations of international laws and domestic laws."

This is ongoing CYA from the CIA. They know that torture was illegal, they're fighting tooth and nail to avoid disclosure and potential prosecutions.

Now, the CIA is currently reviewing the report from the Office of Professional Responsibility looking at the legal rationales given for torture by the likes of John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Stephen Bradbury. Eric Holder denied that the CIA will hold up the report, and that the report will be released within weeks, but of course, that's what was said about the 2004 CIA IG report. Marcy Wheeler writes:

In other words, no, Holder doesn't find it problematic that someone like John Rizzo--who remains the Acting General Counsel at CIA and who made apparently false declarations to OLC in 2002 when it first approved torture--gets a chance to review the OPR report.

Hell. Maybe if we're lucky, he'll tell DOJ that David Addington or Dick Cheney ordered him to submit that apparently false information so OLC would sign off on torture (though I doubt Rizzo--whose big career break was, like Cheney and Addington, cleaning up after Iran-Contra--will break the omerta).

As troubling as this news that CIA is reviewing the OPR report is, it does say something about the OPR report's conclusions. They implicate CIA enough that Eric Holder (not Mukasey) feels that CIA ought to get a chance to explain itself.

I've been saying for months that the CIA may have knowingly submitted false information to OLC. It may be that John Yoo and Jay Bybee used that as their excuse for their crappy opinions. Maybe, if this report ever comes out, we'll get to see whether that's the case.

The biggest roadblock to accountability and justice for torture is not the President or Nancy Pelosi or even Dick Cheney. It's so clearly the CIA. They knew what they were doing was illegal - hell, they apparently told Abu Zubaydah that they misjudged his rank despite torturing him for months. By the way, the CIA heavily redacted this transcript as well, to save their own asses. They knew as early as April 2003 that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was lying to them when he "admitted" to certain terrorist actions or plots, a fact KSM has admitted himself.

I present this not as proof that KSM was lying about who al Qaeda had stationed in the US. Rather, it is a document written contemporaneously with the torture. And it shows what role torture-induced knowledge played for the CIA. Where KSM didn't confirm CIA's preconceptions, they assumed he was lying. Where he gave them stories of scary attacks, they wasted resources tracking them down. But, partly because they were torturing him, they had no easy way to sort through the crap to find any real intelligence.

The work of the CIA in this period really confirms the inability for torture to extract useful information. And they knew that at the time. But they continued to torture, probably because they sought information without needing it to be true - see the al Qaeda/Iraq link. And now they are desperately trying to cover up the evidence, with the full support of the weak-kneed director. And I'm sure the President understands the danger of crossing the CIA.

It's a real problem.

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