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Torture Watch

Scott Shane writes in the New York Times: "The Obama administration is intensely debating whether and when to release documents from the Bush administration related to harsh interrogation methods used on prisoners belonging to Al Qaeda, according to administration and Congressional officials.

"Some officials, including Gregory B. Craig, the White House counsel, and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., have argued for disclosing the material as quickly as possible to distance the new administration from the most controversial policies of the Bush years. Mr. Holder and other top officials have condemned the most extreme of the past interrogation techniques, waterboarding, as illegal torture, and they see no reason to hide from public view what they consider the mistakes of their predecessors.

"But some former and current Central Intelligence Agency officials say a rush to release classified material could expose intelligence methods and needlessly offend dedicated counterterrorism officers. Some administration and Congressional officials said John O. Brennan, a C.I.A. veteran who now serves as President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, has urged caution in disclosing interrogation documents."

Carrie Johnson writes for The Washington Post: "Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) expressed alarm Tuesday that Bush administration lawyers allegedly were given an unusual opportunity to shape a report by Justice Department ethics watchdogs probing their conduct.

"The senators said they worried that new department leaders and lawmakers would get a watered-down version of a report that had 'undergone significant revisions at the behest of the subjects of the investigation.'

"Last year, the department's Office of Professional Responsibility finished its 4 1/2 -year inquiry of lawyers who blessed harsh interrogations of detainees. But the results of the probe remain under wraps while John C. Yoo and Jay Bybee respond to the findings, according to internal correspondence released yesterday."

Here, is the letter from Durbin and Whitehouse.

As blogger Marcy Wheeler points out, the timing raises the distinct possibility that knowledge of the OPR report's conclusions led former Office of Legal Counsel acting director Steven Bradbury to file a whiny, butt-covering memo five days before Barack Obama took office, officially retracting a whole slew of memos in which his former colleagues secretly rewrote the Constitution.

Among the questions Durbin and Whitehouse want answered:

"Is there any precedent for allowing the subject of an OPR investigation to review and provide comments on a draft report on OPR's findings and conclusions?

"Have the former Justice Department attorneys who are the subjects of the investigation been given a deadline for responding?

"Will OPR provide Attorney General Holder and Deputy Attorney General Ogden with the draft report that it provided to Attorney General Mukasey so that Attorney General Holder and Deputy Attorney General Ogden will know what revisions have been made to the report?"

By Dan Froomkin  |  April 1, 2009; 12:10 PM ET
Categories:  Torture  
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Next: Obama Accuses Media of Exaggerating Conflict

Comments

"Is there any precedent for allowing the subject of an OPR investigation to review and provide comments on a draft report on OPR's findings and conclusions?

Does it matter? Lest we forget:

"When we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." -Unnamed aide to GWBush, 2004

Posted by: BigTunaTim | April 1, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

"Needlessly offend dedicated counterterrorism officers?"

You have got to be kidding me. I have never heard a worse reason for not doing something. If these guys get pissed off that the American people cleave to the rule of law, then they can go find new jobs because we really don't need their kind of "service."

ps. I have no desire to prosecute the officers who actually conducted the interrogations. Those who gave the orders, however, need to be brought before a tribunal. If their only excuse for torturing people was, "it was convenient at the time," well...there will be a nice cold cell waiting for them to reflect upon their mistakes.

pps. I'm looking at you David Addington.

Posted by: silence309 | April 1, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

"Some officials, including Gregory B. Craig, the White House counsel, and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., have argued for disclosing the material as quickly as possible to distance the new administration from the most controversial policies of the Bush years. Mr. Holder and other top officials have condemned the most extreme of the past interrogation techniques, waterboarding, as illegal torture, and they see no reason to hide from public view what they consider the mistakes of their predecessors.

"But some former and current Central Intelligence Agency officials say a rush to release classified material could expose intelligence methods and needlessly offend dedicated counterterrorism officers. Some administration and Congressional officials said John O. Brennan, a C.I.A. veteran who now serves as President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, has urged caution in disclosing interrogation documents."

-----------

Look at these insipid little tools -- not one argues for the morality, and therefore the integrity of the legal infrastructure and health of the United States, and its government.

And people wonder WHY we lose wars and our economic might?

Look at these rocket scientists -- truth is either a simplistiic political calculation ala Karl Rove, or it's Spooge Mckook, ala the John Brennans of the room, arguing to protect their weak *sses, so as to not see the Hague.

As if that will help them.

I hope every European government goes after them, as Italy did the CIA, and France did Rumsfeld.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | April 1, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

@silence309, @thegreatpotatospamof2003,

Hear, hear!

I can see that my representative and senators will be getting another letter from me this week, as will the White House.

Posted by: apn3206 | April 1, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

>I have no desire to prosecute the officers who actually conducted the interrogations.

Following orders is not an accepted legal defense when violating the law. Ignorance of the law is also not an acceptable defense. We proved that conclusively at Nurmeberg.

Posted by: troyd2009 | April 1, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

troyd2009

I absolutely agree with you and, in other circumstances, I would push for their prosecution as well. But I recognize the difficult situation they were in and the gray area that acompanies these decisions. This is not a case where they were doing something so flagrantly outside the law that any reasonable person would have been aware that their actions were morally repugnant (like herding people into gas chambers). They relied on those above them to decide the limits of the law. I can understand the case to be made against them and would not necessarily stand in the way of prosecutions, but I don't think the majority of blame should fall there.

In addition, in situations like this, too often the blame ONLY falls on those following orders. Prosecutions would have a much greater deterrence effect if they were aimed at the "deciders."

Posted by: silence309 | April 1, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

So Holder is 'horrified' at the prosecution of Ted Stevens but only mildly interested in the torture and murder of hundreds perhaps thousands of innocent people? Wow. Obama really is just a taller version of Bush. I guess once you're a Unitary Executive all your humanity just dissappears.

Posted by: davidbn27 | April 1, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I agree with you, silence309. The argument for prosecuting some people at the CIA would be that the CIA has had a supporting role in torture pretty much all around the world over the last 50 years. The CIA supported the South American intelligence agencies that tortured and "disappeared" thousands of people. They supported right-wing terrorist groups in Central America. They supported terrorist groups in Africa. A better solution than prosecutions, I believe, would be to shut down the National Claundestine Service (formerly the Directorate of Operations). It is this group which has served as the President's private and secret army with privileges - the privileges being to ignore the law, and the Constitution, and to only inform the President when caught doing something that the President had not approved, and Congress not at all.

Posted by: dickdata | April 1, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Offend them? OFFEND THEM?

Maybe some find it OFFENSIVE that WE COMMITTED WAR CRIMES.

Maybe our finer sensibilities were offended when WE TORTURED PRISONERS IN DIRECT AND BLATANT VIOLATION OF THE GENEVA CONVENTION.

Maybe feelings were hurt a little bit WHEN THEY WERE WIPING THE BLOOD AND VOMIT OFF THE FLOOR.

Maybe we didn't have a warm fuzzy feeling about LEAVING THE CIVILIZED WORLD.

Or maybe it's not all about our feelings. Maybe it's about MANUFACTURING A LIVING HELL that if were done our soldiers, not single right wing torture apologist would find anything but torture, and utterly unacceptable.

Posted by: jpk1 | April 1, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

But I recognize the difficult situation they were in and the gray area that acompanies these decisions. This is not a case where they were doing something so flagrantly outside the law that any reasonable person would have been aware that their actions were morally repugnant (like herding people into gas chambers). They relied on those above them to decide the limits of the law.
_____--
And those above them depend on lawyers to decide what is the limits of the law. Your right this is a gray area. The govenment wanted to know if another attack was coming and so pushed interogations to the limit of what they were told was LEGAL.
Bottomline even today we argue is sleep deperation to make a suspect drowsy torture? Is loud music to disorient a suspect torture?? I doubt lawyers today will agree whether they reach the level of torture. So we come to waterboarding.. But is the waterboarding of THREE al Queda leaders (that's all we know of) what all this is about??? First off do we really want to throw this country into bitter infighting other whether Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should have had water poured on his face for a few seconds??? And remember presidents in the past have done difficult things far more questionable morally. Truman dropped two A-bombs, not to destroy a Japanese arms factory, but with the express purpose to kill as many Japanese as possible to shock the Japanese government into giving up.. Tens of thousands mostly civilians, mostly women and children died. Yet he wasn't tried for a crime. How can anyone say waterboarding three terrorists in an attempt to prevent another 9/11 is worse???

Posted by: sovine08 | April 1, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Two things: First, numerous reports leaked out from the beginning of the "war on terror" about military and intelligence officers who objected to treatment that went beyond military code or Geneva. The orders had to be coming from the civilian leadership. We know that. And the law is not grey or fuzzy here, it's relatively clear. Yet we keep having these same arguments for years and they still have not been addressed in the proper setting of Congressional hearings and formal investigations. The Congress is abrogating its obligations and should be sued, even though they will probably hide behind "national security" and "state secrets" protections. But the cases should be argued and decided on their merits, because that is the law.

Secondly, for anyone who still thinks the torture was forgivable or necessary, there are records of numerous homicides of so-called combatants under detention. I beleive the number was over thirty when I last read about it some years ago. That's over thirty un-tried people, accidentally or other wise, tortured and beaten to death. The only reasons not to formally and publicly investigate is because of the shame, horror to our consciences and the inevitable consequences to people serving in government. That was never a good defense whenever I tried it, at home or in court. The laws are clear. There is more than enough evidence of the most serious crimes to investigate and indict if appropriate. The Constitution is weakened when it is ignored. The republic is weakened. We, the people, are weakened.

Posted by: russgeer | April 2, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Until and unless the Obama administration repudiates "extraordinary redition" entirely and stops caring more about offending Constitution and Geneva Convention flouting brownshirts than punishing them, the damage to our country's soul and honor will remain. We must remove the moral cancer from our government or it will continue to metastasize.

Posted by: edwardvirtually | April 9, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

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