Tag: Congressional Oversight

Aug 29

Torture: The Whole Truth and Nothng But the Truth

News that journalist James Foley was waterboarded before he was brutally beheaded by his ISIS captors should come as no surprise. It is past time that the United States come clean on its war crimes and release the entire 6300 page congressional report, unredacted and let the chips fall where they may.

What Charlie Pierce said:

Please, somebody, goddammit, just leak the damn report. All of it, CIA concerns be damned. Because now not only do we have a moral right and a moral duty to know everything that was done in our name, but we also have a national interest in determining to what extent the behavior of our government differed from the behavior of ISIS, besides the fact that (as far as we know) none of our captives were beheaded. That’s a pretty low bar for an evolved democracy, but there it is. I no longer care about phantom “national security” concerns. Fk the torturers and fk their enablers in Congress, and fk all redactors, and fk the pet lawyers and bureaucrats that made torture legal and acceptable. Let what’s going to happen to them happen. Let justice be done though the heavens fall and John Yoo loses his job. They opened the door to this, with their memos and their barely stifled giggles. They grafted sadism onto the Constitution. They taught ISIS its techniques. James Foley, a fellow Warrior, god rest his brave soul, was tortured before he was murdered using techniques that barbarians learned from the oh-so-civilized heroes of our National Security state. This is what we teach the world now. Are you guys proud? Does your heart swell in the faculty lounges and in the cozy think-tanks? Does it swell with pride at the impact you’ve had on the world?

How do you like your blue-eyed boy now, Mr. Death?

They had to be carefully taught.  

Apr 09

Part of Torture Report To Be Released, Someday

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The Senate Intelligence Committee voted on Thursday. by 11 – 3, to declassify portions of a study into the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of torture on detainees suspected of being involved in terrorism.

CIA officers subjected some terrorism suspects the agency held after the Sept. 11 attacks to interrogation methods that were not approved by either the Justice Department or their own headquarters and illegally detained 26 of the 119 in CIA custody, the Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded in its still-secret report, McClatchy has learned.

The spy agency program’s reliance on brutal techniques _ much more abusive than previously known _ and its failure to gather valuable information from the detainees harmed the U.S.’s credibility, according to the committee’s findings in its scathing 6,300-page report on the CIA’s interrogation and detention program.

The agency also repeatedly misled the Justice Department while stymieing Congress’ and the White House’s efforts to oversee the secret and now-defunct program, McClatchy has learned.

In all, the committee came to 20 conclusions about the CIA’s harsh interrogation tactics after spending six years and $40 million evaluating the controversial program, which began during the Bush administration. [..]

The finding that 26 detainees were held without legal authorization and the confirmation that the CIA in some cases went beyond the techniques approved by the Justice Department might fuel legal challenges.

The committee may have approved the partial release but have deferred to the president to decide just what will be made public and when.

It’s unclear, however, precisely how the declassification process will unfold. The White House could directly oversee what should be released, given the tensions between the committee and the CIA over the report. Or the White House could cede even more control to the CIA, which could mean more details will be kept under wraps. [..]

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said the administration’s position “remains that the executive summary and the findings and conclusions of the final RDI (Rendition Detention and Interrogation) report should be declassified, with any appropriate redactions necessary to protect national security.”

She said she wouldn’t speculate on a timeframe for declassifying something the White House hasn’t yet received. Some expect the process to take months. [..]

Last week, Brennan indicated the agency’s direct involvement, saying that the “CIA will carry out the review expeditiously” once the committee sends it to the executive branch. [..]

The White House has been more involved than publicly acknowledged, however. For five years, the White House has been withholding more than 9,000 top-secret documents sought by the committee for its investigation, even though Obama hasn’t exercised a claim of executive privilege, McClatchy has reported.

Let’s be very clear what this is report reveals and some of the facts.

These are not state secrets. The report is an extensive investigation into the illegal activities of the CIA post 9/11. These are crimes against the state and humanity that the current Justice Department has refused to prosecute. Torture is a war crime.

The Senate does not need the President of the United States to make them public.

These are the facts about the CIA’s torture program and the executive branch cover up that has done more to disgrace this country and undermine the credibility, integrity, the laws and Constitution. Do no forget that as the Senate and the President continue this macabre dance to cover up these crimes.  

While I agree with Marcy Wheeler and others that those who voted to release that portion of the report deserves credit and is a step in the right direction,I will be greatly surprised if any part of the 6300 pages sees the light of day. Nor will any of those who authorized, justified, ordered or committed the crimes of torturing countless prisoners ever be brought to justice. The days of courageous acts like Senator Mike Gravel are long gone. The cover up will continue. That will be one of the blackest marks on the country, ever.

Mar 14

Torture Cover-up: The CIA and Separation of Powers

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The Central Intelligence Agency is an agency of the executive branch and is subject to congressional oversight as per the Constitution’s

The Senate-CIA Blowup Threatens a Constitutional Crisis

by David Corn, Mother Jones

The allegations of CIA snooping on congressional investigators isn’t just a scandal-the whole premise of secret government is in question.

The CIA’s infiltration of the Senate’s torture probe was a possible constitutional violation and perhaps a criminal one, too. The agency’s inspector general and the Justice Department have begun inquiries. And as the story recently broke, CIA sources-no names, please-told reporters that the real issue was whether the Senate investigators had hacked the CIA to obtain the internal review. Readers of the few newspaper stories on all this did not have to peer too far between the lines to discern a classic Washington battle was under way between Langley and Capitol Hill. [..]

The United States is a republic, and elected officials in all three branches are supposed to be held accountable by those famous checks and balances that school kids learn about in civics classes. When it comes to the clandestine activities of the US government-the operations of the CIA, the other intelligence outfits, and the covert arms of the military-the theory is straightforward: These activities are permitted only because there is congressional oversight. The citizenry is not told about such actions because doing so would endanger national security and render these activities moot. But such secret doings of the executive branch are permissible because elected representatives of the people in the legislative branch monitor these activities and are in a position to impose accountability.

That’s how it’s supposed to work. But since the founding of the national security state in the years after World War II, there have been numerous occasions when the spies, snoops, and secret warriors of the US government have not informed the busybodies on Capitol Hill about all of their actions. In the 1970s, after revelations of CIA assassination programs and other outrageous intelligence agency misdeeds, Congress created what was supposed to be a tighter system of congressional oversight. But following that, the CIA and other undercover government agencies still mounted operations without telling Congress. (See the Iran-Contra scandal.) Often the spies went to imaginative lengths to keep Congress in the dark. More recently, members of the intelligence community have said they were not fully in the know about the NSA’s extensive surveillance programs. Of course, there was a countervailing complaint from the spies. Often when a secret program becomes public knowledge, members of Congress proclaim their shock, even though they had been told about it.

Overall, the system of congressional oversight has hardly (as far as the public can tell) been stellar. And it has raised doubts about the ability of a democratic government to mount secret ops and wage secret wars in a manner consistent with the values of accountability and transparency. What was essential to decent governance on this front was the delicate relationship between congressional overseers and the intelligence agencies.

CIA, Senate and a Constitutional Crisis (if you’ll keep it)

By Peter Van Buren, Firedoglake

Beyond Torture

But we are past the question of torture. What is happening here is a Constitutional crisis. If Feinstein does not have CIA Director Brennan up before her Senate committee immediately, and if she does not call for his resignation and if the president remains silent (“We need to allow Justice to complete its investigation”) then we have witnessed the essential elements of a coup; at the very least, the collapse of the third of the government charged with oversight of the executive.

That oversight- those Constitutional checks and balances- are the difference between a democracy and a monarchy. They are what contains executive power and makes it responsible to the People. But like Jenga, pull out the important one and the whole thing falls.

A Last Question

The only question remaining then is whether the president is part of the coup, or another victim of it. Is he in charge, or are the intelligence agencies? We may have an answer soon. CIA Director Brennan said:

   If I did something wrong, I will go to the president and I will explain to him what I did and what the findings were. And he is the one who can ask me to stay or to go.

So far, the White House response has been to ignore the challenge:

   President Obama has “great confidence” in Brennan, Carney said during his daily briefing. He added that if there has been any “inappropriate activity,” the president “would want to get to the bottom of it.”

Brennan has challenged the president to act. What the president does will tell us much about the future of our democracy. As radio host Guillermo Jimenez has said, “On this Grand Chessboard, it is We the People who are now in check. It’s our move.”

In the words of Benjamin Franklin. “A Republic, if you can keep it.”