For one day, Dianne Feinstein's speech on the Senate Floor, denouncing the CIA for breach of the separation of powers and spying on the Committee that is supposed to oversee their work was the main story and the source of a fiery editorial in the New York Times (a good editorial, though one avoiding the Constitutional issue, appeared in the Denver Post this morning here).
The CIA's actions are, of course, a profound threat to the rule of law in the United States. The CIA (and the torture/spying/"intelligence" establishment and the war complex) dominate the United States or something very close, the Senate, too, as these actions show, as well as perhaps the Presidency (Obama has probably some sense of danger about crossing this complex too sharply).
Here is Feinstein's conclusion (she has also, to her credit, called for hearings into the crime of torture):
"Mr. President, I felt that I needed to come to the floor today, to correct the public record and to give the American people the facts about what the dedicated committee staff have been working so hard for the last several years as part of the committee’s investigation.
I also want to reiterate to my colleagues my desire to have all updates to the committee report completed this month and approved for declassification. We’re not going to stop. I intend to move to have the findings, conclusions and the executive summary of the report sent to the president for declassification and release to the American people. The White House has indicated publicly and to me personally that it supports declassification and release.
If the Senate can declassify this report, we will be able to ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.
But Mr. President, the recent actions that I have just laid out make this a defining moment for the oversight of our Intelligence Community. How Congress responds and how this is resolved will show whether the Intelligence Committee can be effective in monitoring and investigating our nation’s intelligence activities, or whether our work can be thwarted by those we oversee.
I believe it is critical that the committee and the Senate reaffirm our oversight role and our independence under the Constitution of the United States."
The speech was not reprinted in the corporate press. It can be read here.
But the NSA, supported by Feinstein previously (perhaps guiltily, from the force of her speech yesterday), spies, illegally and immorally, on all citizens.
After a promising beginning about torture, releasing because of a law suit the Torture Memos which revealed that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was water boarded 183 times in a month, Obama has made himself an accomplice to torture by a) refusing to have independent hearings with legal consequences about the criminals, and b) refusing to release relevant documents. Andrew Sullivan has a post below on Obama's hypocrisy about this and given its fundamental importance to whether or not we have a decent regime, betrayal...
It is no wonder, given the cultivation of this criminal apparatus,that a veil of silence, except for letters, suddenly closed down on the Times today.
Randi Rhodes the last two nights and Ed Schultz vaporized on talk radio about the disappeared plane, but on an American constitutional crisis, displaying the probably illegal (complicity in torture) behavior of a Democratic President - silence or brief deflection (Rhodes discussed for half an hour that this was old hat, Feinstein just angling to get rid of the CIA counsel Eatinger - see post below).
Amy Goodman had a good show on this here, with sharp comments from Ray McGovern about Feinstein giving hypocrisy a bad name. See here. But what is much more important here is that what Feinstein did positively represents a chance to fire Brennan (also the author of the drone program and "geolocation" through targeting cell phones, h/t Edward Snowden], release the Senate and the CIA report (to bar torture in the future) and make a fresh start. See here for how calls to discharge Brennan, even Senatorial ones, are not yet in the corporate press. In a letter to Senator Feinstein, Brennan actually confirmed the spying which he yesterday "officially" denied as "beyond the scope of reason" (Jon Stewart is funny and apt on this here):
"And as Michael Masnick reported for Techdirt, a January 27 letter to Feinstein that Brennan sent out to CIA staff on Tuesday actually confirmed the search, though Brennan described it - and the need for it - in the context of concern about a security breach:
Because we were concerned that there may be a breach or vulnerability in the system for housing highly classified documents, CIA conducted a limited review to determine whether these files were located on the SSCI [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence] side of the CIA network and reviewed audit data to determine whether anyone had accessed the files, which would have been unauthorized.
And he said he wasn’t done. “Only completion of the security review will answer how SSCI staff came into possession of the documents,” he wrote, saying that he had only 'temporarily' suspended further action until getting Feinstein’s consent.
The 'breach' in question concerned the committee staff’s possession of an internal CIA review of the materials the agency had previously turned over to Feinstein’s committee during the course of the four-year congressional investigation into the Bush-era torture practices."
Hiding the torture merely makes what is already known disgust decent people all over the world. If the United States government and people want to reject this stain, they have to acknowledge the abuse, begin to punish the abusers.
Goerge W. Bush came to speak at the Korbel dinner at my school this fall. I was one of a majority of faculty members and a supporter of over 2000 students and alumni who sought to rescind the award since President is a torturer, aggressor and war criminal. See here for my column debating a Trustee of the School in the Denver Post.
Condi Rice has been appointed to be the commencement speaker at Rutgers and a huge outcry has emerged among students and the Faculty Senate Board (see below; h/t Doug Vaughan). So far this is mainly being covered by Fox News - who could imagine, they exclaim throwing up their hands, clucking their tongues,opposing someone of such great "experience"?
Condi is my former student (as a master's student, she took 8 courses with me...) and former friend. See here and for a tape of my debate with Republican State Senator Shawn Mitchell over whether Condi is a war criminal here.
For a list of the international and American laws that President Bush and his administration broke, see here.
But if one listens to Senator Feinstein, one can hear what Condi's "great and noble experience" in the NSA and State Department was. She is the one who said in order to spur the aggression against Iraq, a country whose ruler had been armed by the United States and which had nothing to do with 9/11, "what if the smoking gun is a mushroom cloud?"
She is the one who presided over secret prisons in which, by Pentagon statistics, over a hundred prisoners were murdered - officially classified as homicides, as in the case of Mr. Dilawar, a 22 year old taxi driver - under CIA torture (see the film "Taxi to the Dark Side" and Moazzem Begg, Enemy Combattant).
If you want to understand, morally speaking, what it means to celebrate Condi Rice, consider the continuing threat to the rule of law and decency which Senator Feinstein spoke against yesterday.
The whole US government apparatus, aided by Boards of Trustees and University officials, tries to make American torture disappear. But America is covered by only the Emperor's New Clothes; any child can see and point...
The C.I.A. Torture Cover-Up
By THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD MARCH 11, 2014
It was outrageous enough when two successive presidents papered over the Central Intelligence Agency’s history of illegal detention, rendition, torture and fruitless harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects. Now the leader of the Senate intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein, has provided stark and convincing evidence that the C.I.A. may have committed crimes to prevent the exposure of interrogations that she said were “far different and far more harsh” than anything the agency had described to Congress.
Ms. Feinstein delivered an extraordinary speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday in which she said the C.I.A. improperly searched the computers used by committee staff members who were investigating the interrogation program as recently as January.
Beyond the power of her office and long experience, Ms. Feinstein’s accusations carry an additional weight and credibility because she has been a reliable supporter of the intelligence agencies and their expanded powers since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 (sometimes too reliable).
On Tuesday, the C.I.A. director, John Brennan, denied hacking into the committee’s computers. But Ms. Feinstein said that in January, Mr. Brennan acknowledged that the agency had conducted a “search” of the computers. She said the C.I.A.’s inspector general had referred the matter to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. “Besides the constitutional implications,” of separation of powers, she said, “the C.I.A.’s search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the C.I.A. from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.”
Ms. Feinstein’s speech detailed the lengths to which the C.I.A. had gone to hinder the committee’s investigation, which it began in 2009 after senators learned the agency had destroyed videotapes of the interrogations under President George W. Bush. Under President Obama, prosecutors exonerated the officials who ordered those tapes destroyed.
Ms. Feinstein said that when Senate staff members reviewed thousands of documents describing those interrogations in 2009, they found that the C.I.A.’s leadership seriously misled the committee when it described the interrogations program to the panel in 2006, “only hours before President Bush disclosed the program to the public.”
The interrogations included a variety of brutal methods, some of which — waterboarding in particular — were unequivocally torture.
When the Senate staff compiled a still undisclosed 6,300-page report, it described these acts and also concluded that the C.I.A. had falsely claimed that torture and other brutality produced useful intelligence. The report has been going through the snail’s pace review and declassification process since December 2012. The C.I.A. disputed some of its findings. But Ms. Feinstein publicly confirmed on Tuesday that an internal review by the C.I.A. had reached conclusions similar to those in the Senate staff report.
It was the committee staff’s possession of that internal review — which the C.I.A. has refused to give to the Senate — that spurred what Ms. Feinstein said was an illegal search of computers (provided to the Senate staff by the C.I.A.) that contained drafts of the internal review.
Ms. Feinstein said that staff members found the drafts among the documents that the C.I.A. had made available to the committee. She said she did not know whether the drafts were put there inadvertently, or by a whistle-blower. The Senate’s possession of the documents was entirely legal, she said.
She dismissed the acting C.I.A. general counsel’s claim that the Senate staffers had hacked agency computers as intimidation. The counsel, she noted, was a lawyer and then chief lawyer for the interrogations division and is “mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.”
The Justice Department now has a criminal investigation to conduct, but the C.I.A. internal review and the Senate report must be released. Ms. Feinstein called on President Obama to make public the Senate report, which he has supported doing in the past. She said that this would “ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.”
The lingering fog about the C.I.A. detentions is a result of Mr. Obama’s decision when he took office to conduct no investigation of them. We can only hope he knows that when he has lost Dianne Feinstein, he has no choice but to act in favor of disclosure and accountability.
Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish
The CIA Forces A Constitutional Crisis, Ctd
MAR 12 2014 @ 1:52PM
After watching DiFi’s speech, the course of action Milibank recommends:
If the White House wishes to repair the damage, it would declassify without further delay the report done by Feinstein’s committee — along with the Panetta Review. If the White House won’t, Feinstein’s panel and others would be justified in holding up CIA funding and nominations and conducting public hearings.
Agreed. But here is Rubio, equating the Senate investigation staffers with CIA lawyers, as if there was some kind of equivalence:
Well, again, because I’m a member of that committee, I’m — others may choose to be more forthcoming about — but I try to protect the nature of the work we do in that committee. Let me just say that I think that story has two sides; I think it’s a bit more complicated than what’s being put out there by Senator Feinstein or others. I think at the end of the day there should be an impartial investigation as to what happened. And you may end up finding out that both sides are to blame, that both sides committed mistakes … But there should be an impartial investigation of it, and I think until that point people should reserve judgment. But I would just caution that I don’t think anyone has a clean hand and I think it’s important for the full truth to come out. I think people may be surprised to learn that, in this case, there were no good guys and maybe two or three bad ones.
Notice the attempt to claim that “both sides” have “unclean hands” – as if perpetrating torture is somehow equivalent to a vital oversight function of the Congress. Then there’s a veiled threat – gleefully touted by Eli Lake – that the CIA could retaliate against a sitting president by leaking information to try and damage him:
“Any agency can undermine just about anyone,” said Pete Hoekstra, who served as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during the first two years of Bush’s second term. “We saw that under the Bush administration, there were leaks coming out all over the place. You never knew where they were coming from and some of them were coming from the intelligence community and the objective was to embarrass President Bush.”
If the CIA and the broader intelligence community come to feel the same way about Obama, the White House could find itself as under siege as Bush was in his second term. Then Obama would not only have to face opposition to his foreign policy from Republicans in Congress, but also the bureaucracy of spies that know many of his darkest secrets.
Just take a moment to ponder that empirical prediction. It assumes that the CIA is an entity independent of the president who is the head of the executive branch. It assumes that the CIA will act against the president if it feels exposed or slighted. Nothing could more baldy illustrate the desperate need to cut this anti-democratic and anti-constitutional power-center down to size. When an agency lies to the White House over torture, when it spies on the Senate investigating its torture program, it has become a rogue threat to our political system. I fear that Obama’s pusillanimity on accountability for war crimes has merely emboldened them to further illegality.
John Dickerson weighs in:
We are no longer in a predictable fight between two branches of government anticipated by the framers.
These are public accusations of criminal activity and a cover-up. It’s a class of warfare that people have been craving since Snowden started leaking secrets about the U.S. surveillance state. Whether you think the intelligence agencies have gone too far or not, it’s important to have the people’s representatives battling for their right to do the job the Constitution puts before them. Otherwise the system gets out of whack. That was one of the lessons of Snowden’s revelations and it’s also the point of the story Feinstein took to the Senate floor to tell.
[I]f there’s one thing an intelligence agency shouldn’t do, it’s get caught monitoring the Senate committee that oversees it. The intelligence community can spy on millions of Americans and Dianne Feinstein yawns. But spy on Dianne Feinstein and you’re in trouble.
And that tells you one more important thing. If the CIA has finally forced one of its most tenacious defenders over the years to the kind of speech she gave yesterday, it is clearly out of bounds and our of control. Only the president can rein it in. The question is: will he? And does the CIA have the potential to humiliate or undermine him if he does?
Rutgers Prof. Bell: Condi Rice Supported Torture in Iraq
Friday, 07 Mar 2014 09:56 PM
By Bill Hoffmann
A Rutgers University history professor says he helped circulate a petition to ban former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from giving this year's commencement address because she allegedly promoted torture and lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
"We believe she was deeply co-involved in the authorization of what she [called] extended, expanded or enhanced interrogation but which we call torture and in violation of international human rights," Dr. Rudolph "Rudy" Bell told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
"We also think that she played a critical role in perpetrating the misinformation and outright lies concerning weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which led to a war for no purpose.
"[It] resulted in the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis. So, we don't think she's an appropriate commencement speaker."
On Friday, Rutgers University President Robert Barchi reaffirmed the selection of Rice as commencement speaker.
"On May 18, we will welcome former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to deliver the 2014 Rutgers University–New Brunswick commencement address," Barchi wrote in a note to the university.
It was his first comment on Rice's upcoming appearance since a faculty group called on Rutgers to pull the invitation.
Bell said his information is based on "a variety of sources" including New York Times reports and official documentation.
"Certainly, nobody doubts that there was water boarding," he said.
Bell added that he is not against Rice visiting Rutgers on other days.
"She's welcome to come to campus tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, any day she wants. Anything but commencement, I welcome her," he said.
"We welcome academic freedom. She is welcome to give a talk and we should then in response ask her questions. That's what academic freedom is about. Not being a commencement speaker."
Is Obama A Phony On Torture?
MAR 13 2014 @ 12:21PM
I’m dismayed – and somewhat sickened – by the continuing passivity of the president on one of the most important issues the country faces: accountability for the gravest crimes under international law in the first decade of the 21st Century. This is a president who was propelled to two victories in part by those of us who saw the Cheney torture program as an indelible stain on this country that had to be exposed and expunged. And many of us were sympathetic to the difficulty a newly-elected president would be in – if he truly attempted to do right by history. To launch a gut-wrenching investigation into a government agency that remains responsible for our collective security is not something a president should do lightly when assuming the office. As so many presidents have noted over the years, the CIA is powerful enough to wreck a presidency if it tries hard enough – and the rancor may have consumed an administration as it was confronting the worst economic crisis in almost a century. And Obama desperately needed good intelligence to prevent another terror attack, which would have given the pro-torture right yet one more rhetorical point in favor of their disgusting and useless form of prisoner abuse.
But it’s now 2014. The one sliver of hope we have that the war crimes of the past can be accounted for and recovered from is the Senate Intelligence Committee’s thorough investigation of the matter. And yet the very possibility of the report being made public is now in jeopardy, as a result of the CIA’s stonewalling, harassment and obstruction of the Senate’s vital work. And yet the president still sits there, like a potted plant, refusing to put any serious pressure on the CIA to stop its stonewalling and get the report out. Yesterday, he gave the same spiel about his revulsion at torture and his desire to get the report declassified:
He said he was “absolutely committed” to the Senate investigation of the Bush-era practices, and planed to declassify the report as soon as it was finished. “In fact, I would urge them to go ahead and complete the report and send it to us and we will declassify those findings so that the American people can understand what happened in the past and that can help guide us as we move forward,” Obama said.
Wha-wha-wha-what? The Senate Committee completed the report fifteen fricking months ago! The only reason it has not been declassified and published is because the CIA has been engaged in aggressive stonewalling and obstruction – to the point at which Diane Feinstein was forced to denounce her beloved spies on the Senate floor this week. The president should not be telling the Senate Committee to finish their report (which they did over a year ago), but the CIA to quit the harassment of a committee’s vital work.
Then we discover that the White House has not actually fully cooperated with the Senate Committee:
The White House has been withholding for five years more than 9,000 top-secret documents sought by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for its investigation into the now-defunct CIA detention and interrogation program, even though President Barack Obama hasn’t exercised a claim of executive privilege. In contrast to public assertions that it supports the committee’s work, the White House has ignored or rejected offers in multiple meetings and in letters to find ways for the committee to review the records, a McClatchy investigation has found.
We’re told this has to do with sorting out executive branch privileges. Please. No executive branch privileges should be used to conceal the truth of what happened in such a grave matter. Obama has already refused to hold anyone accountable for the torture of the past – violating what’s left of the Geneva Conventions which he is constitutionally required to enforce. Now he’s so milque-toast about even accountability he’s withheld over 9,000 documents from the committee whose work he allegedly supports.
For a long time, I’ve given Obama the benefit of the doubt on this issue. It seems to me that that now has to end.
Because of his passivity and unseriousness with respect to the committee’s vital work, because of his elevation of John Brennan to the head of CIA (a man far more concerned with the agency’s reputation than with accounting for the torture he never protested or opposed at the time), and because of his continuing bullshit about what is truly delaying the report – he must now be considered an objective accomplice to the cover-up.
If his pusillanimity continues until the GOP captures the Senate and bottles up this report for ever, he will have failed one of the most important tests of his presidency. He will have lost the one key moment the United States has in confronting and dealing with some of the most serious crimes its highest officials have ever committed. He will be telling the world that, when push comes to shove, the United States cares more about keeping up appearances than with doing the hard work of truth, accountability and reconciliation. He will be ensuring that the one clear chance we had of finally accounting for these horrors was bungled or deliberately crippled by the government itself, in order to protect its own posterior. He will make it almost certain that torture will return.
That’s not just objectionable. It’s unforgivable.
(Photo: US President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with women members of the US Congress in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, March 12, 2014. By Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.)
Condoleezza Rice Unwelcome at Rutgers’ Commencement
Faculty and students at the university are protesting the school’s decision to invite the former secretary of state to speak at the ceremony.
BY: BREANNA EDWARDS
Posted: March 7 2014 1:08 PM
Condoleezza Rice at the Time Summit on Higher Education Day 1 in New York City Sept. 19, 2013
BRYAN BEDDER/GETTY IMAGES FOR TIME
There’s little love for former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at New Jersey's Rutgers University, where faculty and staff are lashing out at the decision to invite Rice to be this year's commencement speaker, Fox News reports.
According to the news site, the New Brunswick Faculty Council officially called on the university’s board of governors to withdraw the commencement invitation. Rice is set to receive $35,000 along with an honorary doctorate for her guest appearance.
The resolution from the council says that Rice should not be honored because of her affiliation with the administration of former President George W. Bush, specifically her role in the Iraq War and the administration policy of "enhanced interrogation techniques."
"Condoleezza Rice ... played a prominent role in the administration's effort to mislead the American people about the presence of weapons of mass destruction," the faculty resolution said, according to Fox.
Students have joined in on the criticism, with the editorial staff of the school's newspaper, the Daily Targum, writing a scathing op-ed, saying that the pick was "questionable." "Do the positive aspects of her personal accomplishments really outweigh the destruction of war she contributed to during her political career? She was a major proponent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which has been arguably the worst and most destructive decision in the history of U.S. foreign policy," the piece read.
At least some New Jersey Republicans are appalled at the outcry. One assemblywoman, Mary Pat Angelini, called it an "embarrassment" to the state. "This is nothing more than a political firestorm fueled by their hatred of an opposing ideology, and President George W. Bush in particular. Dr. Rice and the people of New Jersey deserve better," she said in a statement.
School officials have yet to back down. A spokesman for the school said that the administration was "excited" that she had accepted the invitation, calling her a "highly accomplished and respected diplomat."
Rutgers professors: We don't want Condoleezza Rice at commencement
New Brunswick : NJ : USA | Mar 02, 2014 at 9:14 AM PST BY Herbert Dyer, Jr.
The Rutgers University Faculty Council has approved a resolution calling upon the university’s Board of Governors to rescind its invitation to Condoleezza Rice to speak at commencement.
It was just last month when the board unanimously picked Rice to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree and serve as its principal commencement speaker for the upcoming graduation ceremonies. Rice, who was George W. Bush's second Secretary of State, will also be paid $35,000 for her efforts.
But the faculty council's resolution has thrown a sizable wrench into the university's graduation gears, plans and festivities. It has reminded us all of Rice's distasteful war record, including her misleading of the public about the ill-advised and costly Iraq war. Recall her dire warnings against Saddam Hussein's soon-to-come "mushroom cloud" which would destroy us all?
"Condoleezza Rice ... played a prominent role in (the Bush) administration’s effort to mislead the American people about the presence of weapons of mass destruction," according to the resolution. And she "at the very least condoned the Bush administration’s policy of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ such as water boarding," the resolution read.
The professors were just warming up, though:
"A Commencement speaker... should embody moral authority and exemplary citizenship," it continued, and "an honorary Doctor of Laws degree should not honor someone who participated in a political effort to circumvent the law."
As might be expected, the professors are not alone in their opposition to Rice's presence on campus. Several petitions are circulating among students as well.
"I’m a member of the faculty council and this seemed the right forum to raise the concern," said Robert Boikess, a Chemistry professor who actually introduced the resolution. "Many students are very concerned as well."
Rudolph Bell is a professor of history, and was willing to cut Rice at least a little slack: Rice would be welcome to speak on campus at any event other than graduation, because "...the person invited for the graduation, which is supposed to inspire graduating seniors, that is a different kind of setting," he said. "Academic freedom doesn’t guarantee the right to be a speaker or receive an honorary degree."
A spokeswoman for Rice declined to comment.
French professor Francois pointed to the “political” nature of this pick. "It seemed to me that this was a heavily political decision that had little to do with interest of our graduating students," he said. "She was intimately involved in a campaign that was a manipulation. Whether she was aware of it or not. Our students are being manipulated to deliver a political point."
At this writing, the university is not backing down. Rutgers spokesman Greg Trevor said that Board of Governors selection of Rice was "unanimously approved" on Feb. 4, and that:
"Dr. Rice is a highly accomplished and respected diplomat, scholar and author, and we are excited that she has agreed to address our graduates and guests at Commencement," Trevor said.
Rutgers' student newspaper published a letter from Lawrence Michael Ladutke, an alumnus, who was critical of the school's choice as well: "Honoring such a dishonorable person is disgusting because doing so honors the inhumane and unconstitutional actions Rice carried out," Ladutke wrote. "My face is red, and not with scarlet pride. Rather it is red from embarrassment and anger."
Rice is no stranger to this kind of controversy, however. Back in 2006, while still in office, she gave the commencement address at Boston College. A large number of students and faculty stood and turned their backs to her throughout her address.
And as recently as 2012, she gave the commencement address at Southern Methodist University, home to the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. No back-turning occurred at that event, however.
One of then-Sen. Barack Obama's first votes in the Senate was in favor of the confirmation of Rice as secretary of state. I knew then that Obama was not all he was cracked up to be.
Recall that he campaigned vigorously for the Senate (and later for the presidency) as a staunch opponent of “Bush's war.”
Folk in Chicago were left scratching our heads wondering how could he possibly vote to confirm Bush's national security adviser as secretary of state?
Turns out that that was one of his less controversial betrayals of everything he ran and stood for.
My unsolicited advice, then, to the students and faculty of Rutgers is this: Yes, Rice is "free" to speak in the name of both "free speech" and "academic freedom." But do not simply follow Boston College's example by turning your backs on Rice. Actually get up and march out of the ceremony en masse if she dares to show her face.
There are rumored to be arrest warrants waiting for her, Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney – the whole damn crew – should they ever venture beyond the borders of the US.[there are legal proceedings in Germany; no member of the Bush administration can now safely travel to Europe).
Herbert Dyer, Jr. is based in Chicago, Illinois, United States of America, and is an Anchor for Allvoices.
Who Is Robert Eatinger?
MAR 12 2014 @ 1:22PM
I may sound like a bit of a Straussian here, but the absence of a name in this particularly pointed part of Senator Feinstein’s epic speech yesterday drew enormous attention to it. Money quote from DiFi:
There is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime. I view the acting general counsel’s referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff—and I am not taking it lightly.
I should note that for most, if not all, of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, the now acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center—the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program.
From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit’s chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.
The general counsel’s name is Robert Eatinger, a key figure in the authorization of torture in the US. As I noted yesterday, it’s a testament to how devoted the CIA is to its torture program that, long after it was disbanded, it promoted the lawyer who defended it and was an integral part of it to be the acting chief counsel for the entire agency (while Obama’s nominee for the job remains bottled up in the Senate). So who is this guy? Here’s one key fact:
Eatinger was one of two CIA lawyers who reportedly told the director of the CIA’s clandestine service in 2005 there were no legal requirements for the agency to hold onto 92 videotapes that showed the abusive tactics used by its interrogators against Al-Qaeda prisoners. Although Eatinger and the other lawyer did not specifically sanction it, the CIA official, Jose Rodriguez, later ordered the tapes destroyed.
Rodriguez’s destruction of the tapes in late 2005 in an industrial-strength shredder came despite objections by the Bush administration’s White House counsel and the director of national intelligence. The CIA director at the time, Michael Hayden, assured senators that Rodriguez hadn’t destroyed evidence because there were still written cables describing what the videotapes showed, but Feinstein said Tuesday the cables downplayed the brutality of the program.
There was absolutely no rationale for the destruction of visual evidence apart from protecting the image of the CIA and the US in the world. What Rodriguez was terrified of was the images of obviously authorized and brutal torture being seen around the world like the torture and abuse sanctioned at Abu Ghraib prison. After all, it would have proven that what happened at Abu Ghraib was a picnic compared with what the higher-ups were doing in their black sites across the globe. So Eatinger gave Rodriguez the go-ahead. A man who helped the CIA conceal evidence of torture is not a man who should play any role in pushing back against a Senate investigation into it – let alone attempt to counter-sue the Senate as a way to intimidate them. Then this:
Eatinger has been a lawyer with the CIA since at least 1994, when he played a tangential role in the aftermath of the Iran-Contra affair, the political scandal involving the Reagan administration’s secret sale of arms to Iran to fund rebels fighting the leftist Nicaraguan government. …
Eatinger was among several CIA lawyers and officers chastised by a senior federal judge in 2009 for withholding critical information in court proceedings about the status of an agency operative who was accused of bugging a former federal narcotics agent’s home. Judge Royce C. Lamberth said that Eatinger, former CIA Director George Tenet and four other agency officials had provided him with erroneous information that led him to dismiss charges against the CIA operative. Lamberth said the officials had committed fraud in not providing him with proper information about the operative’s clandestine status.
In 2007, Eatinger’s name surfaced as part of the House Intelligence Committee’s probe of the destroyed videotapes. An independent prosecutor appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder also reviewed the case but decided in November 2010 not to file charges against any CIA officials.
A lawyer dogged by scandal, already deemed by a federal judge to have withheld evidence in order to protect a CIA agent from scrutiny, and deeply embedded in the torture program itself, should never in a million years have risen to the top legal post at the CIA. 128 pages of the Senate report are reportedly concerned with false CIA representations to the Office of Legal Counsel. I wonder how many times Eatinger appears in them. Yesterday, DiFi said it was 1600 times in the full report.
The conflict of interest is so massive and obvious here that one has to wonder if anyone at the White House knew what Eatinger’s past was, when he ascended to the job. But it sure seems obvious Brennan did. Which is why, yesterday, he seemed so unsettled. The gig may soon be up – unless the CIA manages to suppress the Senate report past the coming elections. Haste, Mr President. Haste.
(Photos from Abu Ghraib prison, documenting torture techniques authorized by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, as a mild and distant adjunct to the torture program legally defended by Robert Eatinger.)