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New Leaks Show CIA’s Contempt for Congress

An interrogator isn’t just focused on extracting information, but on controlling it. When a closer sits down with a prisoner, she wants her prey to be entirely dependent on her for information about possible sentences, news of the outside world, or even the time of day, so she can manipulate or bargain with the truth as serves her needs.

As revelations from the Washington Post show, this is precisely the relationship that the CIA has been cultivating with Congress throughout the War on Terror. The recent allegations that the CIA hacked into the computers of Congressional staff and tried to erase damaging documents is only the latest salvo in the agency’s war of obfuscation. The CIA has overstepped its authority and then lied to Congress, to prevent the people’s representatives from reining the operatives in.

Current and former U.S. officials spoke anonymously to the Washington Post [1] about the content of the classified report that the CIA has tried to sideline. Although the report on CIA detention and interrogation was completed in 2012, it has been tied up in bureaucratic red tape, and not one page of the 6,300 has been declassified. The Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to vote this Thursday to recommend that Obama declassify the executive summary of the report.

Until then, judging by the leaks, it looks more and more like the CIA was engaged in unlawful practices. Not just the morally unlawful practice of waterboarding, which was nevertheless approved from on high, but other forms of torture that had no official sanction. The Washington Post describes the CIA’s treatment of the nephew of Khalid Sheik Mohammed:

At the secret prison, [Ammar al-]Baluchi endured a regime that included being dunked in a tub filled with ice water. CIA interrogators forcibly kept his head under the water while he struggled to breathe and beat him repeatedly, hitting him with a truncheon-like object and smashing his head against a wall, officials said.

This practice of near drowning and beating has never been authorized as an interrogation procedure. But, according to the Human Rights Watch [2], other prisoners at the same secret prison received the same treatment. CIA doctors stood by during these abuses, carefully checking the health of the prisoner, but serving the interests of the agency, helping the torturers push the bodies of their prisoners as far as they could go without killing anyone, presumably to avoid paperwork and oversight.

These acts of abuse did not result in useful intelligence. The Congressional report makes it clear that some prisoners were waterboarded after giving up useful data, and, although the brutal treatment produced no new information, the original revelations were used as evidence for the necessity of the technique. According to one of the Washington Post‘s anonymous sources:

“The CIA described [its program] repeatedly both to the Department of Justice and eventually to Congress as getting unique, otherwise unobtainable intelligence that helped disrupt terrorist plots and save thousands of lives,” said one U.S. official briefed on the report. “Was that actually true? The answer is no.”

The CIA might be able to claim it concealed the full scope of its activities from the American people due to national security reasons, but it’s very hard to believe that briefing Congress honestly would give terrorists an edge.

The evidence suggest that the CIA has gone rogue—imprisoning and torturing suspects, misleading their superiors, and trying to hide the evidence. The declassification of Congress’s report can’t come soon enough, so we can assess the damage the agency has done, and decide how to keep it under proper supervision and surveillance.

Follow @leahlibresco [3]

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#1 Comment By Richard Parker On April 2, 2014 @ 10:19 am

A few days ago I heard a breathless radio report (planted by some arm of the USG IMHO) of Russian torture of some Ukrainians. Made me laugh.

In the movie ‘The Falcon and the Snowman’ there a waterboarding scene to show how awful the Mexican police are. Makes me laugh.

#2 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 2, 2014 @ 10:44 am

I have always liked the CIA. In fact, I like the CIA a heck of a lot more than Congress. COngress is not the vulnerable party here and that is what I find so peculiar in the articles covering the subject.

The CIA reports to the executive and congressional committies and the congressional body as a whole. If they are out of control it is more a reflection of the bodies supposedly holding the reins.

#3 Comment By hetzer On April 2, 2014 @ 3:52 pm

>If they are out of control it is more a reflection of the bodies supposedly holding the reins.

Yes, but the congressional committee you deride is currently trying to regain control – why cheer for the CIA in this fight?

#4 Comment By CharleyCarp On April 2, 2014 @ 6:48 pm

We can’t have a democracy if people in an agency like the CIA feel they can lie to Congress, the DOJ, and the public with impunity. I realize this is just fine with a faction of neo-authoritarians in our midst.

#5 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 2, 2014 @ 8:17 pm

Laughing. I am not sure what I am doing is cheering. I think I am observing a dog chasing its own tail.

I have several responses. One I will not provide, just now.

First my response is not what you think it is.

Second, this is deeply personal and professional for me. Members of congress, and officials here where I live were all to happy when they set that dog loose on others ripping apart careers and lives. They were quite comfortable as innocent people had their lives turned topsy turvey. T hey even found means to justify it.

They cared not a whit about justice or appropriateness or the lies that were used or the tactics so bizarre, one would sound like a crazy person at the retelling. They were all too happy to allow such dogs to run rampant on others.

What they are experincing is rather mild, I suspect. Some bruised egos. But they are still receiving a pay check. They are not walking into their homes wondering who has been there already. They are are no nervous about what lies in wait for them when they take a shower or go for a bike ride. They are not facing the loss of freedom, well, not yet. They have not walked in on people rummaging through their desks, only their computers – that’s rough. They level of filth that the patriot act and similar security protocols empowered anyone remotely employed in government is unknown to most and those who found themselves shrifted hardly had a clue I suspect.

It is only now as they seek to make names for themselves, some new names and some attempting to assuage their own complicity that they are now acting with shock and horror.

As democrats consider nominating a woman who knew all to well what was up and condoned it, in the name of being ‘presidential material’.

My response is not at all what you think it is. But whatever, is happening is not by my hand. And I think it unlikely that what you think the oversight committees are doing is what they are doing.

Congressional reps. know all too well how to reign in an organization , should they so desire —

I think it is nice that you think they actually want to do so..

#6 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 2, 2014 @ 8:35 pm

And my comments are not related to foreign citizens. I am talking within the shores of CONUS and US citizens.

#7 Comment By TomB On April 2, 2014 @ 10:47 pm

Ms. Libresco wrote:

“These acts of abuse did not result in useful intelligence. The Congressional report makes it clear that some prisoners were waterboarded after giving up useful data, and, although the brutal treatment produced no new information, the original revelations were used as evidence for the necessity of the technique.”

I assume that this is not just Ms. Libresco’s analysis but is what the Congressional Report says and thus as regards same I don’t know who to believe.

That is, after the waterboarding/abuse info first came out one of the things we *often* heard—from a lot of very credible people—was that this was the case as well. And then of course we also heard lots of talk from the same kind of people saying it only made sense because torture/abuse and/or etc. really doesn’t work.

But then I distinctly remember also hearing from what seemed some very credible people—who were specifically in positions to know it seemed—the very specific and categorical assertions that oh no, our strong-armed tactics *had* worked and definitely *had* produced actionable intell and indeed intell that probably if not certainly averted some specific attacks even.

If I’m not mistaken George Tenet was one of same, and while I don’t think of him as any paragon of integrity if I’m not mistaken further so did Mike Scheuer, the former CIA bin Laden task force head who I think deserves lots of respect. And some others too whose names escape me now.

Ergo, I just have no idea of what to believe here. Obviously those involved in those practices or who stood by and said nothing when they were happening had the powerful incentive to fib or exaggerate.

But just as obviously so as to publicly polish their own supposed moral finery now that the terrorism threat has died down some there is an incentive to say that those practices accomplished nothing.

Sure would be interesting to know the basic freaking truth here.

#8 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 3, 2014 @ 4:33 am

“I assume that this is not just Ms. Libresco’s analysis but is what the Congressional Report says and thus as regards same I don’t know who to believe.”

I am not sure how old you are. But the report is a further accounting of what most already know. That the United States unleashed some fairly intense individuals to engage in some fairly unsavory practices for the express purpose of defending the United States and or retaliating against our enemies. It is has been a very open secret prior to Abu Ghraib and another prison area, whose name escapes me. After those revelations more information was forthcoming. That along with the process of rendition prior to 9/11 in which we sent suspected terrorists to locations around the globe who engaged brutal tactics on our behalf. Since these such measures were a violation of US law. Begun under Pres. Bill Clinton.

On all these there have been several accountings in which it was revealed that congressional oversight committees were well aware that we, according to Vice Pres. Cheney had after 9/11 gone over to the ‘darkside’ to deal with an enemy who we believed was equally dark or worse. After 9/11 we took matters into our own hands. A country caught as we were, was out for revenge. It is easy to understand why.

Whom to believe is moot. It’s on the record. The CIA self accounting will just provide a more detailed information of more of the same. We have explained it away, ignored it, pretended it was not the case or that such cases were isolated. But eventually, anyone left alive and who has been set free is going to talk. Eventually conscience and time press those who have conscience to talk, to vent to seek some solace for themselves, some self accounting. There are also those with political motives. The problem is if we decide to have a full accounting, this will have no political escapees. Everyone knew and no one wanted to know.

All of the leadership will be tainted. Business community as well I suspect as organizations hired as privateers were enlisted in similar endeavours (privateers are legal as per the Constitution.) Whether they are protected will be another matter.

Naturally, members of the military, the CIA and the political establishment will attempt to blunt such discoveries and accountings. When word of this got out previously, leadership ran for cover. No doubt Sec. Clinton will blame Republican leadership or claim ignorance she may even be bold enough to make a claim that it was all warranted for national security. It’s refreshing to see the feminine mystique laid bare for what it is.

Just as eager for blood as males. Just as eager for vengeance. No feminine calls for cooler heads. Any ground made on the contend that women are better managers, better at bringing peace and more nurturing to any environment has long been distilled by the cool light of day in every aspect of government as well as business. In education they are adept at sending certain boys off to be incarcerated than males, even if they have manufacture and exaggerate to get it done — ah that calming effect of the feminine mystique.

When I consider whether this nation really wants to drag our political establishment through hearings and possible prosecution for war crimes, that is what we are talking about. No, it will not be Nuremburg, but war crimes is what we are talking about. The hazards of calling a crime an act of war and then proceeding from the same.

I am very fond of the CIA. But they have no intention of going down as the Army reservists in Iraq while the intelligence handlers Jewish or US citizens or some other foreign operative provided the instructive techniques walked away unscathed. I guess those involved have no intention of falling on their sword.

But then maybe I am all about exaggerating — as will no doubt be part of the defense.

There is no who to believe. There is only the what to believe.

Others may have a different view.