December 19, 2014 (Update)–Nearly two weeks since Secretary Kerry’s clumsy intervention, and ten days after the Senate report was finally released. There have been zero Americans killed in international protests, and, in fact, no protests of any consequence. You might want to scratch your head and wonder, “what was he thinking?”
December 7, 2014–The Secretary of State of the United States has now taken a hand in the wrongheaded effort to head off release of the investigative report in the Senate intelligence committee’s inquiry into CIA torture programs. Secretary John Kerry this week telephoned committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein to make his case. As reported in the press Kerry referred to alleged national security implications of a release of the torture report and to supposed dangers from jihadists who learn of CIA torture. This whole line of argument is so wrong in so many ways–and John Kerry should be ashamed to be lending himself to this phony exercise.
National security implications? Frankly, the most important national security implications of CIA torture have been for U.S. allies, who have largely adhered to international conventions prohibiting torture, and are embarrassed to see the leader of their pack engaged in such awful behavior. In the United Kingdom CIA torture has led to a court judgment against the Crown. In Poland CIA collaborators are under criminal indictment. In the European Union legal actions are ongoing and will undoubtedly create further embarrassment. Meanwhile, in the United States there has been a concerted effort to evade accountability–or even an open accounting. That perception of evasion is surely more damaging than owning up to what has been done in the name of American democracy.
As for the jihadists I guarantee you that they have believed all along that captured Islamists are tortured. An investigative report which confirms that will add nothing to the pot. It could perhaps even help by documenting that the torture was not practiced even more widely.
Some sources are saying the Kerry phone intervention had White House support. This is an awkward matter since President Obama is on record in favor of releasing the report, but it is consistent with analysis in this space that Obama chief of staff Dennis McDonough’s role has also been designed to forestall release and/or diminish the report if it appears.
John Kerry is the last person who should be involved here. Kerry started off in politics as a Vietnam veteran opposing the Vietnam war. at the exact same time Mr. Kerryvoiced his opposition. Today he defends torture? Shame on you, John Kerry!
CIA Torture Update: In another last-ditch defense, anticipating the Senate committee will go ahead and release its report, the CIA’s torture impresario, Jose A. Rodriguez is in the “Outlook” section of today’s Washington Post to say that torture was legal and that it “proved effective by any reasonable standard.” Along the way he alleges that Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker of the House back in 2002, had been briefed on the torture and denied that fact. In my book The Family Jewels I explored the evidence on this claim in detail. It was controversial in 2009, right after Mr. Obama released the Justice Department memoranda on the supposed legality of the torture. Pelosi is correct. The same CIA document on which Rodriguez relies in this article, to allege Congress was briefed on torture forty times, lists a different congresswoman, not Pelosi, as attending the briefing to which Rodriguez refers. Equally to the point, one purpose of the Senate inquiry was to establish whether the torture had been effective–by “any reasonable standard” or any other–and the investigation is widely reported as establishing that it was not. So far the airwaves have been dominated precisely by cheerleaders for torture like Rodriguez. It is high time to have some official pronouncements that are less self-interested. Suppressing this report means deep-sixing that evidence.
As for Mr. Rodriguez’s allegation the torture was legal– those Justice Department papers have been widely rejected as statements of applicable law, refuted in reviews of professional responsibility, and were even re-argued in other memoranda at the time to reduce the scope of the original errors. Mr. Rodriguez, it should be noted, is the CIA official responsible for the destruction of videotapes of the CIA torture. Those tapes documented criminal offenses and their destruction can presumptively be construed as an obstruction of justice. Suppressing the Senate report on CIA torture serves the same end. Let’s have no more of this cant!