It is becoming clearer and clearer that one major power-broker in Washington is resisting the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s allegedly devastating report on the torture program run by the Bush-Cheney CIA. That major power-broker is the Obama administration.
You might be surprised by this, given the president’s opposition to torture and abolition of it. But the evidence is at this point irrefutable – and given extra punch by the invaluable Jane Mayer, who caught a fascinating document related to the Senate confirmation this week of Stephen W. Preston, the top lawyer at the CIA., for a new post as the top lawyer for the Pentagon. Senator Mark Udall wanted to get Preston on record about his views on the CIA’s past torture program and the reasons the CIA has given to prevent the public release of the Senate report. And he did in a series of questions you can read here.
Here’s what I got from the document and Jane’s reporting. The CIA’s own current chief counsel believes the CIA lied to and misled the Congress repeatedly about its torture program:
The C.I.A. has defended its record on keeping Congress informed. In contrast, Preston, in his answers to Udall, concedes that, during the Bush years, the C.I.A. “fell well short” of current standards for keeping the congressional oversight committees informed of covert actions, as is required under the 1947 National Security Act.
In fact, Preston admits outright that, contrary to the C.I.A.’s insistence that it did not actively impede congressional oversight of its detention and interrogation program, “briefings to the Committees included inaccurate information related to aspects of the program of express interest to Members.”
More to the point, Preston flatly disagreed with the CIA’s contention that it’s impossible to know whether intelligence procured through torture could have been achieved through civilized and legal methods. He says, in fact, that it’s perfectly possible to know this – and, indeed, the Senate Report documents the counter-factuals in excruciating, specific detail – the report is over 6,000 pages long. Since the entire legal defense of torture was premised on the idea that traditional, legal methods could not have been proven as equally effective, this point is important. It could show that the entire legal rationale for torturing prisoners was based on something even the CIA’s legal counsel believes is untrue.
Check out Katherine Hawkins’ read of the same just-released document. But for me, the obvious conclusion is that the CIA is stonewalling to prevent the full extent of its responsibility for war crimes from being known. At the head of the CIA is John Brennan, whose fervent opposition to releasing the full report is well known. But Brennan answers to the president, who has urged the release of the report.
So why the hold-up? That is the question.
Why is Obama allowing Brennan to undermine Obama’s own position? Why is the president allowing the CIA to prevent the very transparency he once pledged to uphold? I don’t know. But what I do know is that it is now Obama who is the main obstacle to releasing the Senate Report on Torture. He needs to tell his CIA director to give up his struggle to keep us all in the dark. He needs to stop dithering and tell Brennan to get out of the way of the report’s release – so we can all see, digest and understand what was done, in secret, in our name.
(Photo: Lynndie England demonstrating one of the CIA-approved torture techniques for breaking down the psyches of terror suspects, in US-run Abu Ghraib prison.)