By Dan Froomkin
1:09 PM ET, 02/27/2009
Mark Mazzetti writes in the New York Times: "The Senate Intelligence Committee is completing plans to begin a review of the C.I.A.'s detention and interrogation program, another sign that lawmakers are determined to have a public accounting of controversial Bush administration programs despite White House concerns about the impact of unearthing the past....
"The Intelligence Committee is not expected to single out specific Bush administration officials or intelligence operatives, and public hearings are unlikely. But the committee would be likely to produce an unclassified report detailing aspects of the agency's interrogation program."
Joby Warrick writes in The Washington Post: "The review, which could be announced as early as today, will use official testimony and hundreds of classified documents to piece together an authoritative account of one of the most secretive -- and, to some former and current agency officials, darkest -- chapters of the Bush administration's anti-terrorism war, the officials said.
"Lawmakers will try to determine not only how detainees were interrogated, but also whether the CIA's controversial methods produced useful intelligence, according to three congressional officials briefed on the plans. Former CIA leaders have said the use of waterboarding and other harsh measures yielded information that helped prevent a second wave of terrorist attacks after Sept. 11, 2001."
I wrote in a January 28 post about the lack of evidence to support any such assertion.
Meanwhile, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, continues to push for a "truth commission" that would much more publicly investigate not just torture and secret prisons, but the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program and other Bush administration misdeeds.
On Wednesday, he announced a hearing entitled "Getting to the Truth Through a Nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry," to be held on March 4.
Some critics -- including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- are concerned that such a commission would grant immunity to people who might merit criminal prosecution.
Glenn Greenwald writes for Salon: "It's true that those who create the Commission might...intend it to be a substitute for prosecutions rather than a precursor to them. It's also possible that the Commission can be designed merely to placate those who are demanding that something be done, and -- if immunity is doled out to high-level Bush officials -- it could simply whitewash these crimes and even make prosecutions impossible. But it's just as possible that once an independent body is created with real subpoena power and an authentic mandate to dig and disclose, it could turn into a Frankenstein: capable of doing damage far beyond what its creators intended."
Meanwhile, David Johnston and Neil A. Lewis write in the New York Times: "The Justice Department, in an abrupt change in policy from the Bush administration, is preparing to bring terrorism-related charges against a man identified as an operative of Al Qaeda who has been held in a military brig for more than five years, government officials said Thursday.
"The charges would move the case of the only enemy combatant to be held on American soil, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, into a civilian criminal court. The Bush administration had argued that he could be held indefinitely without being charged."
Carrie Johnson and Julie Tate write in The Washington Post: "Marri is the last remaining 'enemy combatant' in the United States....Since 2003, he has been housed in a South Carolina brig where at points he was subjected to painful stress positions, extreme sensory deprivation and violent threats while he was denied access to lawyers, according to court filings by his legal team.....
"Marri's prosecution could clear the way for some of the approximately 245 detainees remaining at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be indicted in U.S. courts, though authorities have said significant legal and diplomatic hurdles remain. Among them is whether evidence secured through classified intelligence channels or harsh interrogation techniques is too sensitive or tainted to introduce into the American legal system.
"In one of his first steps since taking office last month, President Obama explicitly directed government lawyers to review the status of Marri's case. He also ordered the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay within one year....
"Human rights advocates cheered the move in the Marri case as 'another crucial step in the right direction,' in the words of Geneve Mantri, a government relations director specializing in counterterrorism and human rights issues at Amnesty International.
Jane Mayer wrote at length about al-Marri's case in the New Yorker last week.
And Craig Whitlock writes in The Washington Post: "A United Nations special investigator has concluded in a report scheduled for release Friday that foreign intelligence agents sent to question U.S.-held terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay had violated international human-rights laws.
"According to an advance copy of the report, obtained by The Washington Post, Martin Scheinin, a Finnish diplomat and the U.N. special investigator for human rights, said foreign agents visiting Guantanamo or secret U.S. jails overseas committed 'an internationally wrongful act' even if they merely observed interrogations....
"Scheinin praised President Obama's pledge to close Guantanamo by the end of the year. But he said the Obama administration and Congress should not ignore alleged abuses committed in the pursuit of terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, urging them to press charges against anyone suspected of breaking U.S. laws against torture or other crimes."