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Closing In on the Torturers

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Do you think the wardens will let George Tenet wear his Presidential Medal of Freedom over the orange coverall?

Perhaps he and Donald Rumsfeld will end up doing time together in one of the prisons also slated to host what Rumsfeld called "the worst of the worst" from Guantanamo.

That would be poetic justice of a most ironic kind. And if the two former leaders do end up in prison they can count themselves fortunate for having dodged execution for their roles in a slew of capital offenses.

You see, punishments for violations of the War Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. 2441), applicable in their case, include the death penalty--often the sentence of choice if detainees die in their custody. And countless have.

Before you question my sanity, please know that I just completed the arduous task of reading the aging but devastating CIA Inspector General's report on torture.


You can be forgiven for holding your nose while paging through the redacted version of the "CIA Inspector General's Special Review of Counterterrorism Detention and Interrogation Activities (September 2001 -- October 2003)." Although heavily sanitized, it is still nauseating.

You can not be easily forgiven, though, if you don't make the effort to read with care at least some of this lurid account of the abuse of detainees held by the CIA--a narrative which is said to have sickened Attorney General Eric Holder and one which cries out for reinforced efforts toward accountability.

This is not the CIA in which I served for 27 years. I spent most of my career in the analysis directorate, but had substantial tours of duty in the other three directorates as well. There were abuses before the Bush/Cheney administration, but Bush and Cheney thoroughly corrupted both substance and operations, and enlisted creeps and charlatans to do their bidding. There is now reason to believe that the careerists and contractors who cooperated in the criminality will be held to account.

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Positive news came on Monday with the announcement that Attorney General Eric Holder has broadened prosecutor John Durham's mandate to include cases in which CIA interrogators and contractors may have violated U.S. torture laws and other statutes. Durham has already spent over a year investigating the destruction of CIA videotapes of interrogations and thus is in position to jump-start the process of looking into related matters.

Durham is acutely aware that the tapes were destroyed not long after word got out that the CIA Inspector General had completed a Special Review on interrogation practices. Those CIA officers with custody of the tapes were acutely aware that, if the tapes wound up in the "wrong hands," there might well be hell to pay.

Unless someone squirreled away some duplicates, we will never see those tapes. But the IG report shines considerable light on what was done in the torture chambers the CIA was instructed to create and operate abroad. Holder's decision opens a hopeful new chapter in the complicated effort to hold to account those responsible for leading the country into the dark dungeons.

We can't say we weren't warned. Many will recall that former Vice President Dick Cheney set the tone just five days after 9/11, when he told Tim Russert:

"We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We've got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we're going to be successful. That's the world these folks operate in, and so it's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective."
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Cheney tipped us off early to what he had in mind, apparently in the belief that most of us would go along. So far so good, from his perspective.

But recent months have seen him increasingly nervous and now that Holder has taken a major step forward, we can expect a vociferous and sustained reaction from Cheney and his avid supporters in the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM). Indeed, Cheney did not waste a day in voicing strong criticism of Holder's decision. And small wonder: Cheney's DNA can be found from top to bottom of the "chain of command" on torture.

Cheney's ace in the hole is his clearly signaled readiness to implicate former president George W. Bush, if any investigation of torture or other abuses manages to reach the most senior White House levels. Cheney calculates that Obama and Holder would shy away from doing that, but the former vice president is taking no chances.

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)

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As long as we don't take any shortcuts along the w... by Nick van Nes on Wednesday, Aug 26, 2009 at 8:12:06 PM
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