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A "Narrow" Investigation of CIA Interrogations:

The Washington Post has an interesting article on the Justice Department investigation of CIA interrogations, suggesting the inquiry may be narrower than some hoped or feared. It begins:

The Justice Department's review of detainee abuse by the CIA will focus on a very small number of cases, including at least one in which an Afghan prisoner died at a secret facility, according to two sources briefed on the matter.

On Friday, seven former CIA directors urged President Obama to end the inquiry, arguing that it would inhibit intelligence operations in the future and demoralize agency employees who believed they had been cleared by previous investigators.

"Attorney General [Eric] Holder's decision to re-open the criminal investigation creates an atmosphere of continuous jeopardy for those whose cases the Department of Justice had previously declined to prosecute," the directors, who served under Republican and Democratic presidents over the past 35 years, wrote in a letter.

Opposition to the probe has grown in the weeks since Holder ordered it, even as the outlines of the inquiry become more clear. Among the cases under review will be the death seven years ago of a young Afghan man, who was beaten and chained to a concrete floor without blankets, according to the sources. The man died in the cold night at a secret CIA facility north of Kabul, known as the Salt Pit.

It also contains this interesting bit:

Holder said last month that his decision to open the inquiry was in part because of a still-secret ethics report, which is examining the conduct of Justice Department lawyers who drafted memos blessing harsh interrogation tactics, including simulated drowning and sleep deprivation.

The ethics report, which is undergoing declassification review, does not point to problems with attorneys in the Eastern District of Virginia, two sources said, but it does explore differences of opinion within the working group that examined the detainee allegations over how to proceed on the few cases that were "close calls." In a small number of instances, career lawyers disagreed about whether the evidence was sufficient to seek indictment and ultimately win in court. Some of those issues were assessed -- as is normally the case -- by political appointees, including Paul J. McNulty, the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia who was nominated to serve as deputy attorney general in October 2005. There are no allegations that cases were rejected for improper political reasons.

Before his decision to reopen the cases, Holder did not read detailed memos that prosecutors drafted and placed in files to explain their decision to decline prosecutions. That issue has rankled GOP lawmakers and some career lawyers in the Justice Department, who question whether Holder's order was made based on the facts or on his political instincts.

But a government source asserted that Holder was briefed on some of the details by advisers and that the attorney general was troubled by the material he read. Authorities have not pointed publicly to new evidence or witnesses that would strengthen the cases under review.

RPT (mail):
The directors must have gotten accustomed to having the President (and/Rove and/or Cheney) make investigative and prosecutorial decisions on political grounds. How is the letter itself not a self-serving attempt to obstruct justice, whichever side of the torture issue you're on?
9.19.2009 3:36pm
John Moore (www):
RPT: I guess you missed this information:

The letter was signed by former directors who served both Democratic and Republican presidents, including three who worked in the most recent Bush administration.


and, regarding the prior no-prosecute decision by DOJ (both under Obama and a previous group under Bush):

There are no allegations that cases were rejected for improper political reasons.


This is purely political. It is the use of prosecutorial power to pay off the left by figuratively torturing our intelligence operatives.

The last time we had an orgy of this, with the Church committee, the CIA's humint was damaged so badly that they became utterly incompetent. The humint derived CIA managed to predict a Soviet GDP matching our own by 1990, to miss Saddams huge WMD program in 1990, to imagine a large WMD program in 2001, the 9-11 attacks, and other issues of minor interest to our national interest.

Now we're going to have another witch-hunt (this one with far less justification). The result will be predictable - inadequate intelligence and resulting calamities.

Obama, through Holder, is damaging the national interest in the interest of politics. Wonderful.
9.19.2009 4:04pm
John Moore (www):
"himint derived" should have been "humint deprived"
9.19.2009 4:05pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

Saddams huge WMD program


inadequate intelligence and resulting calamities.

Hmm.
9.19.2009 4:07pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):
Here is the actual letter. You'll notice at least one name is missing. Hint: he tried to kill Homer Simpson.
9.19.2009 4:12pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):
Another name is also missing though his current position might preclude his opining.
9.19.2009 4:13pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
You could totally change the political slant of the title of this post simply by shifting the word in quotation marks. From:

A "Narrow" Investigation of CIA Interrogations

to

A Narrow "Investigation" of CIA Interrogations
9.19.2009 4:30pm
Pro Natura (mail):
Joseph Slater nails it.
9.19.2009 4:33pm
PeteP:
A ) The 'investigation' is a sham, a sop thrown to the left. It will lead to exactly NOTHING.

B ) It will demoralize our war-fighters in the intel community, while their leader Podesta stands by with this thumb up his ***.

C ) We will be at greater risk in the future because of it.

Very sad. A very sad political game.
9.19.2009 5:21pm
Blar (mail) (www):
How about:
A Narrow Investigation of CIA "Interrogations"
9.19.2009 5:24pm
Davebo (mail):
Good to see so many rule of law "l"ibertarians commenting today!
9.19.2009 5:28pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):
Or

A Narrow Investigation of "CIA" Interrogations

From article

Only one person, former CIA contractor David A. Passaro, has been convicted in connection with detainee mistreatment. Passaro hit an Afghan captive with a flashlight. The captive, Abdul Wali, later died, but Passaro was not charged with murder. Instead the contractor faced a less serious charge of assault because of the difficulty of attributing Wali's death to the beating.
9.19.2009 5:31pm
Angus:
The right-wing wailing over this is overblown and ridiculous. Investigating cases where detainees died after CIA inflict beatings will damage national security how? By preventing the CIA from beating people to death? Hell, I see that prevention as a plus.

Conservative = pro-murder?
9.19.2009 5:42pm
shertaugh:
"Justice Department investigates [fill in the blank]."

Whatever the blank is, it's Obama's payoff to the left designed to demoralize our troops, make us less secure, and turn America into a fascist/communist/radical/socialist . . .

The American people have been lied to by Obama and his minions. Because Obama wants America to fail.

Perhaps if he would just cut taxes and eliminate all leftist social programs, we'd win in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran.
9.19.2009 5:56pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

Perhaps if he would just cut taxes and eliminate all leftist social programs, we'd win in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran.

HAHAHAH.

FAIL.

Bush is the one who didn't bother to adequently fund or staff for the wars. The first two. Perhaps you're thinking of McCain bomb bomb bombing Iran?
9.19.2009 5:59pm
SG:
While I expect no more or less than a partisan witch-hunt from Holder, I see no fundamental problem with conducting investigations into interrogators who are alleged to have exceeded their authorized protocols. Soldiers who violate their ROEs are investigated and tried if circumstances warrant.

In fact, given what interrogators were authorized to do (I don't believe that torture was authorized, but I will concede that reasonable people of good faith can and do), I think every interrogation ought to be investigated for adherence to protocol. While I don't think torture was authorized, it was certainly treading on a slippery slope. I would just have preferred that it had been done quietly behind closed doors instead of being done through the Washington Post. That whole "sources and methods" thing would seem to apply here in spades.
9.19.2009 6:11pm
Displaced Midwesterner:
Did sacrastro change his handle to shertaugh?
9.19.2009 6:18pm
Davebo (mail):
Satire is obviously lost on ruuffles.

And it's a shame because it often makes live more bearable.
9.19.2009 6:35pm
TNeloms:
I have a question that I haven't seen answered on this blog or elsewhere. Under what statute could the torture memo prosecutors be charged? You can assume that, for example, the DOJ thinks it can prove that they knew their justifications were wrong, but wrote them anyway. Then what crime might they be guilty of?

The only theory I have seen is that they could be tried for conspiracy to commit torture under the torture statute. But I haven't seen much serious analysis of this theory. Is there any precedent for lawyers being charged with conspiracy to commit a crime if they knowingly gave their clients faulty legal advice, which gave them cover to commit the crime?

It's frustrating to me that there's been so much discussion of these prosecutions (the memo writers, specifically) without at least providing and analyzing what they might actually be charged with and how. Maybe I just haven't read the right things.
9.19.2009 7:03pm
Angus:
Under what statute could the torture memo prosecutors be charged?
The investigation is not into the authors of the torture memos. The investigation is into field agents who conducted interrogations, some of whom are accused of exceeding even what was allowed under the torture memos. For example, the torture memos did not authorize severe physical beatings for detainees, let alone beatings that resulted in death.
9.19.2009 7:55pm
yankee (mail):
So I guess that makes it a "Narrow" "Investigation" of "CIA" "Interrogations."
9.19.2009 8:54pm
Dave N (mail):
Yankee,

You forgot the quotation marks around "of".

Certainly if "is" can have multiple meanings, than surely "of" can, as well.
9.19.2009 10:02pm
bushbasher:
on the other hand "torture" is torture. but of course to point that out is simply to be "partisan".
9.19.2009 10:28pm
one of many:

Investigating cases where detainees died after CIA inflict beatings will damage national security how? By preventing the CIA from beating people to death? Hell, I see that prevention as a plus.

Certainly there is no problem with this, however reinvestigating for no apparent reason other than politics case including the one case where someone died which has been thoroughly and repeatedly investigated and resulted in charges and a conviction means that the people who are gathering intelligence will not only have to consider the actions they take in light of the law, human decency and duty to country but also into how the most partisan prosecutor can twist their actions into charges against them. I don't think that national security is served by intelligence workers limiting their actions to those that a partisan opponent of the president cannot find a way to twist into a crime so as to make the previous administration look bad.
9.19.2009 10:30pm
ArthurKirkland:
If conservatives would agree to refrain from arranging for our forces to torture innocents, sponsor death squads, beat shackled prisoners to death, invade the wrong country, and fire indiscriminately into civilian populations, I am confident, liberals would agree to refrain from investigating that conduct.

Everyone would be better off for that bargain.
9.19.2009 11:25pm
ChrisTS (mail):
reinvestigating for no apparent reason other than politics

Some call it politics; some call it the rule of law; some call it [restoring] national pride.
9.19.2009 11:28pm
Borris (mail):
Well, of course, it is now a "narrow" investigation. In the future, as needed ,the investigation will expand.

This is Obama's go-to detraction issue. He gets "in trouble" somewhere (whatever policy he is championing at the moment) and he pulls this out of his hip pocket and tries to distract everyone with it.
First, no investigations. Now limited or narrow investigations. Next, broader investigations.

How far this gets and how many people if any are tried because of this depends entirely on how often he has to "run this play" in the next ~3-7 years.
9.19.2009 11:36pm
EH (mail):
Just because the previous administration was of one party and the current one is another doesn't mean the investigation is political. Real stuff happened.
9.20.2009 2:05am
RPT (mail):
John Moore;

1. No damage was caused by the Church Commission. That is one of the Cheney-Rumsfeld falsehoods.

2. The prior "investigation" into this issue was conducted by one of the most partisan USA's in a partisan DOJ, in which Rove and others had improper had influence.

3. I don't think a license to kill exercised in the course of counter-productive interrogations is necessary to properly defend the country but then I don't believe that as a matter of fact---not campaign rhetoric---that Bush-Cheney-Addington properly and effectively defended the country, either pre 9/11 (pretty obviously) or after. They were incompetent.

4. The point is that the president does not and should not tell the DOJ not to investigate based on the request of the subjects of the investigation (the Bush directors). That is obstruction.
9.20.2009 2:08am
John Moore (www):

1. No damage was caused by the Church Commission. That is one of the Cheney-Rumsfeld falsehoods.

Gee, that's amazing, since I saw read the effects of that damage long before I had even heard of Cheney or Rumsfeld. Some of us actually have memories from before the Bush administration.
The prior "investigation" into this issue was conducted by one of the most partisan USA's in a partisan DOJ, in which Rove and others had improper had influence.

Proof? Everything I have read, including on this blog, says the opposite. Furthermore, career attorneys in THIS president's DOJ decided not to prosecute. Holder then pulled this out of his hat at a politically convenient time.

#3 is a total red herring. Nobody is asking for a license to kill, and the individual who *may* have been responsible for a death has already been prosecuted and convicted.

#4. There are seven previous directors, from both Republican and Democratic administrations, asserting that the investigations will cause significant damage.
9.20.2009 2:24am
John Moore (www):
At the current rate of activity, the Obama Administration will exceed the alleged politicization of DOJ by the Bush administration in record time. Let's see - prosecute the lawyers, no wait, well, err... Oh, prosecute the CIA employees who were already extensively investigated by career DOJ staff. Drop the prosecution of the goon who threatened people at an votin station. Drop the investigation that was embarrassing to Richardson in New Mexico. Etc, Etc, Etc.

Maybe Obama will hire ACORN to run DOJ. It might be an improvement.
9.20.2009 2:27am
ArthurKirkland:
The investigation(s) could cause some harm.

As does chemotherapy.

Or heart surgery.

But chemotherapy and heart surgery are nonetheless indicated in appropriate circumstances.
9.20.2009 3:16am
Guy:
No one said "A" Narrow invetigation of CIA interrogations.
Of course the bias of the marks has drawn criticism, so perhaps we should reduce that bias by quoting the quotation marks themselves:

A " " "Narrow" " " investigation of CIA interrogations.
9.20.2009 4:44am
Ricardo (mail):
Re: "Prior investigation": From a quick Google search, it seems the prior investigation into CIA interrogations was headed by U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Paul McNulty, a man who is better known for having resigned his post after giving possibly false testimony during the Congressional inquiry into the dismissal of several U.S. Attorneys.

By contrast, the investigation into the destruction of the CIA interrogation tapes was handled by John Durham who was appointed by Attorney General Michael Mukasey during the Bush Administration. Durham seems to have a good reputation for fairness and has handled several high-profile government corruption prosecutions in the past. Durham is also the one who was appointed by Eric Holder who look into the CIA interrogations that are the subject of this thread.

In other words, the chief talking point for some on this thread is that a man who previously chaired another investigation into the CIA during the Bush administration -- and who was personally chosen by Bush's own AG to lead the investigation -- is on a partisan witch-hunt.
9.20.2009 5:36am
Blar (mail) (www):
Ooh, I've got another one:

A Narrow Investigation of CIA "Inter"rogations

Get it? Because they buried the guy that they killed. "In an unmarked, unacknowledged cemetery used by Afghan forces, officials said." If only it happened in late April instead of November, the pun would've been perfect. Then again, in April it probably wouldn't have been cold enough for him to die of hypothermia, even chained unclothed to the concrete floor.
9.20.2009 11:07am
subpatre (mail):
Dave N wrote: "Certainly if "is" can have multiple meanings, than surely "of" can, as well."

You probably meant to say that '. . .if "is" can have multiple meanings, than surely the meaning of "of" can, can it not? '
9.20.2009 3:20pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I take the same view of protecting the CIA so it can continue to do what it does as I do of protecting bankers' compensation so they they continue to do what they do:

Why would anyone want that?
9.20.2009 4:02pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
The investigation will be much broader than this bit of bureaucratic downplaying lets on. The evidence will dictate it. As will people who have a stake in the United States vision of itself who will come forward to John Durham.
Best,
Ben
9.20.2009 6:13pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
John Moore:

I guess the fundamental question is whether we believe the CIA should be above the law.

Personally I think there ought to be three levels to the investigation:

1) Which CIA officers clearly exceeded limits specified by the OLc....

2) OLC members who gave bad advice...

3) Political officials who provided pressure on the OLC to give bad advice....

I agree we should provide CIA officers reasonable benefit of the doubt, but that doesn't mean saying we will never hold them to account. And certainly it doesn't absolve the folks who gave them bad advice either.
9.21.2009 5:25pm
John Moore (www):
Yeah, and let's investigate if they say dirty words when on break too. Hey, that's what the CIA is for, right - to be investigated and made a whipping boy every time someone is unhappy.

No, the CIA isn't above the law.

The question is why a political hack running DOJ is re-opening an already closed investigation. The answer is simple: to pay of the left-wing base, and to hell with national security.
9.22.2009 11:14pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
John, which is worse: prosecuting a CIA agent who breaks the law, or outing one who doesn't?
9.23.2009 4:49am

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