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Memo to Barack Obama: When your Justice Department says “we’re not saying we condone torture” it comes across about as forcefully and convincingly as “I am not a crook.” Obama’s embrace of Bush era torture policies just gets more and more troubling. This is evil stuff he is standing up for.
Raw Story pointed to a Washington Post story that cites the ever-elusive “sources” claiming federal prosecutor John Durham “appears unlikely to secure criminal indictments against [former CIA directorate of operations Jose] Rodriguez and other agency operations personnel involved” in the destruction of interrogation tapes. It’s anonymous speculation at this point so take it with a grain of salt. It gives me an opportunity to point something out, though: There is a push to not bother with the lower level players and just focus on those at the top (see next item). Taking that does an enormous disservice to lower level colleagues who obeyed the law - presumably at substantial risk to their careers - in order to obey the law. It creates moral hazard going forward since operatives will have reason to believe their superiors and not they will bear the brunt of any wrongdoing. And it defies logic to boot: The way cases are made high up in criminal organizations is to bring cases against those at the bottom who are set up to take the fall and cut deals in order to roll the case up the chain of command. Again, it’s all speculation at the moment; but if no charges are brought please keep all of that in mind.
Last week Dianne Feinestein announced the creation of a panel to investigate torture by the CIA, but the intent is not to punish. A news source I do not recognize also claimed that CIA director Leon Panetta claimed in a memo that no one at the agency would be punished. Once again there is very little on the record but the signs are ominous.
The current administration argues that the problems which must be faced often cut across traditional cabinet lines. For example, a sane energy policy can’t be squirreled away in just the Energy Department’s portfolio. Health insurance programs might affect policies in the Labor Department as well as that of Health and Human Services. The “czar” position was created to make certain that everyone in the administration was on the same page.
The answer to the argument is, of course, that cabinet meetings are supposed to address those kinds of problems. What Sen. Byrd and other members of Congress fear is that those cabinet members who have been through the confirmation process and who must testify before Congress as necessary are nothing more than public faces. The real power is being centered in a White House which has inherited an enhanced executive privilege assertion, with no transparency, no accountability, and no checks and balances.
A woman after my own heart.
UNPACKING JANE: Former General Counsel of the Navy Alberto Mora was assigned to be part of a working group to develop guidelines for interrogation techniques. But Donald Rumsfeld and Pentagon General Counsel Jim Haynes were not interested in the result, and instead went with John Yoo’s torture memo. Page 235 Mayer:
The Senior Defense Department official, speaking for Rumsfeld and Haynes, defended as an act of necessary caution the decision not to inform Mora and other legal advisors of the new official policy. The interrogation techniques authorized in the signed report, he explained, were approved only for Guantánamo and the Pentagon needed to prevent the practices from spreading to other battlefronts. “If someone wants to criticize us for being too careful, I accept that criticism willingly, because we were doing what we could to limit the focus of that report…to Guantánamo,” the official said.
But Mora said that the Pentagon’s contention that it couldn’t risk sharing the report with its authors “doesn’t make any sense.” He explained, we’d seen everything already.” The real reason for their exclusion, he speculated, was to avoid dissent. “It would have put them in a bind,” he said. “And it would have created a paper trail.”
Paper trails - or any kind of evidence, as the destruction of the torture tapes show, are particularly odious to those involved in torture. Will Senator Feinstein figure that out?