I watched the CIA Director’s speech today, in which he actually described the CIA as an agency “speaking truth to power.” He got that the wrong way round. There is no organization in the US government that exercises the kind of power the CIA does – over the presidency, and the Congress, and the media. It is unimaginable that any other agency in government could commit war crimes, torture innocents, murder people, wreck this country’s moral standing … and yet escape any consequences for their actions. There is no other government agency that launches elaborate public relations campaigns to discredit and undermine its Senate oversight committee. There is no other organization whose head can tell blatant lies about spying on its overseers and receive the president’s wholehearted support. There is no other agency where you can murder someone already in your captivity and get away with it. That is incredible power – and there is no greater power than the power to torture.
As for the truth part, Brennan has to concede what the CIA has already conceded: that they lied to the president and to the Congress many, many times on the efficacy of torture. But Brennan describes these lies, as the CIA did in its formal response to the report, as “imprecision”. It was therefore merely “imprecise” that, to take one of many examples, the “Second Wave” attack was discovered thanks to torture. But either something was procured through torture, or it wasn’t. That’s not imprecise; it’s an either/or. And it was presented by the CIA as a categorical product of torture – which played a part in devising the legal memos that gave these crimes a patina of temporary formal legality. That is not imprecision; it is misrepresentation.
Here’s the most we’ll ever get from our dark side overlord:
CIA officers’ actions that did comport with the law and policy should neither be criticized nor conflated with the actions of the few who did not follow the guidance issued. At the same time, none of these lapses should be excused, downplayed or denied. In some instances, we simply failed to live up to the standards that we set for ourselves, that the American people expect of us.
Translation: the bulk of the torture was perfectly acceptable; a small part of it wasn’t. Have there been any consequences for those who committed the war crimes outside those allowed for by the spurious legal memos? Nope. Has anyone been fired? Not that we know. Are most of the people involved in these war crimes still walking the halls at Langley? You bet they are. And Brennan admitted today that he knew full well what was going on as the torture program was constructed.
Now this weird circumlocution on a central question:
I have already stated that our reviews indicate that the detention and interrogation program produced useful intelligence that helped the United States thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives. But let me be clear: We have not concluded that it was the use of EITs within that program that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees subjected to them. The cause and effect relationship between the use of EITs and useful information subsequently provided by the detainee is, in my view, unknowable.
So we are now in Rumsfeld’s post-modern universe. What Brennan has repeatedly said was that we got intelligence from those in the program, but now he is saying that the intelligence was not provably a result of the torture. What he is trying to insinuate is that long after being tortured, some suspects may have given intelligence under legal and humane interrogation that helped. All I can say is that the report meticulously demonstrates that this is not the case. Or let me allow Dianne Feinstein to put it succinctly:
CIA says “unknowable” if we could have gotten the intel other ways. Study shows it IS knowable: CIA had info before torture. #ReadTheReport
— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) December 11, 2014
This is a simple matter: before or after? In the coming days, the Dish is going to go through critical cases in the report to show that Brennan is still lying about this, seeking refuge in bullshit notions of “unknowability” because what we do know from the CIA’s own documents absolutely refutes his case.
And notice the only reason Brennan objects to torture:
I believe effective, non-coercive methods are available to elicit such information; methods that do not have a counterproductive impact on our national security and on our international standing.
Brennan goes on to lie again that torture helped us find Osama bin Laden. This is disproved – not challenged or questioned, but disproved – in the report. And continuing to suggest – against the evidence – that torture may have helped get that monster is an invitation for such an evil to be imported back into the the US in the future. And, indeed, Brennan concedes that it is perfectly possible that torture will return:
I defer to the policymakers in future times when there is going to be the need to be able to ensure that this country stays safe if we face a similar type of crisis.
We have a CIA whose head believes in the efficacy of torture, and that the only reason to refrain from it is that it hurts our national security and international standing. We have a CIA head who will not rule out the use of torture in the future. We have a CIA head who believes that much of the torture conducted in the Bush-Cheney years was legal. And we have a CIA head prepared to argue in public that the facts and documented evidence in a summary of the CIA’s own documents are untrue. Because he says so.
And he wants us to end this debate and move. He has to be kidding.
(Photo: Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John Brennan talks with the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper before US President Barack Obama spoke about the National Security Agency and intelligence agencies surveillance techniques at the US Department of Justice on January 17, 2014. By Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.)