NEWS, OPINION & EDITOR’S COMMENT: The torture cover-up

CIA efforts to prosecute “whistle-blower” spy stopped

The former CIA intelligence official who went public on ABC News about the agency’s use of waterboarding in interrogations, John Kiriakou, apparently will not be the subject of a Justice Department investigation, even though some CIA officials believe he revealed classified information about the use of waterboarding.

“They were furious at the CIA this morning, but cooler heads have apparently prevailed for the time being,” a senior Justice Department official told the Blotter on

Gen. Michael Hayden, the CIA director, did sent out a classified memo this morning warning all employees “of the importance of protecting classified information,” a CIA spokesperson told [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — John Kirakou… whistleblower? Give me a break.

Sometimes the best imagery is unavoidably crude and thus I present the dear reader with an image that captures both the sturdiness and frailty of the Bush administration:

It is a pyramid of assholes with the largest one at the top.

Whistleblowers there could have been many; instead, the larger assholes have been protected by the smaller ones since each was possessed by the same preoccupation — covering his own.

Who authorized the CIA to destroy interrogation videos?

The CIA repeatedly asked White House lawyer Harriet Miers over a two-year period for instructions regarding what to do with “very clinical” videotapes depicting the use of “enhanced” interrogation techniques on two top Al Qaeda captives, according to former and current intelligence officials familiar with the communications (who requested anonymity when discussing the controversial issue). The tapes are believed to have included evidence of waterboarding and other interrogation methods that Bush administration critics have described as torture.

Senior officials of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service finally decided on their own authority in late 2005 to destroy the tapes—which were kept at a secret location overseas—after failing to elicit clear instructions from the White House or other senior officials on what to do with them, according to one of the former intelligence officials with direct knowledge of the events in question. An extensive paper—or e-mail—trail exists documenting the contacts between Clandestine Service officials and top agency managers and between the CIA and the White House regarding what to do about the tapes, according to two former intelligence officials. [complete article]

Death squads, disappearances, and torture — from Latin America to Iraq

The world is made up, as Captain Segura in Graham Greene’s 1958 novel Our Man in Havana put it, of two classes: the torturable and the untorturable. “There are people,” Segura explained, “who expect to be tortured and others who would be outraged by the idea.”

Then — so Greene thought — Catholics, particularly Latin American Catholics, were more torturable than Protestants. Now, of course, Muslims hold that distinction, victims of a globalized network of offshore and outsourced imprisonment coordinated by Washington and knitted together by secret flights, concentration camps, and black-site detention centers. The CIA’s deployment of Orwellian “Special Removal Units” to kidnap terror suspects in Europe, Canada, the Middle East, and elsewhere and the whisking of these “ghost prisoners” off to Third World countries to be tortured goes, today, by the term “extraordinary rendition,” a hauntingly apt phrase. “To render” means not just to hand over, but to extract the essence of a thing, as well as to hand out a verdict and “give in return or retribution” — good descriptions of what happens during torture sessions. [complete article]

If the CIA hadn’t destroyed those tapes, what would be different?

In the uproar over the destruction by the CIA of taped interrogations of suspected al-Qaida operatives in the aftermath of Sept. 11, we are discovering creative new ways to speculate about past events. The pastime has begun with what should have been done differently—finger-pointing at congressional Democrats who’d been briefed about the tapes and remained silent, or distress over the failure to inform superiors at the CIA or the Bush administration. But here’s a different thought experiment: How would the national debate over torture have changed if we’d known about the CIA tapes all along? How would our big terror trials and Supreme Court cases have played out?

Yes, this is also a speculative enterprise, but it’s critical to understanding the extent of the CIA’s wrongdoing here. And we have a benchmark. When the photos from Abu Ghraib were leaked in 2004, a national uproar ensued. Video of hours of repetitive torture could have had a similarly significant impact—the truism about the power of images holds. If we are right about that—and we think we are—this evidence that has been destroyed would have fundamentally changed the legal and policy backdrop for the war on terror in ways we’ve only begun to figure out. [complete article]

CIA director speaks to Senate committee

Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, distanced himself on Tuesday from the decision to record and subsequently destroy hundreds of hours of video taken during the interrogations of senior Qaeda captives.

Speaking in public after delivering classified testimony before a Senate committee, General Hayden said that the decision to record the interrogations in 2002 was made under George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, and that the destruction of those tapes in 2005 came under the watch of Porter J. Goss, who succeeded Mr. Tenet.

“There are other people at the agency who know about this far better than I,” he said after he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He had become the agency director in May 2006, six months after intelligence officials have said the tapes were destroyed. [complete article]

Evidence from waterboarding could be used in military trials

The top legal adviser for the military trials of Guantanamo Bay detainees told Congress yesterday that he cannot rule out the use of evidence derived from the CIA’s aggressive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, a tactic that simulates drowning.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, who oversees the prosecutors who will try the detainees at military commissions, said that while “torture” is illegal, he cannot say whether waterboarding violates the law. Nor would he say that such evidence would be barred at trial. [complete article]

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