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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 3/8/10

Jason Leopold on Cheney, Torture, and Obama's Shortsightedness

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Today, my guest is Jason Leopold, intrepid investigative journalist, truthout's Deputy Managing Editor andfounder of The Public Record.Welcome back to OpEdNews, Jason. You wrote a piece on February 17, aptly titled "Cheney gloats, the media yawns, Obama sleeps." Can you tell our readers what you were referring to?

Hi Joan, great to speak to you and OpEdNews readers again.

I was referring to the admissions Dick Cheney made on ABC News last Sunday when he said he was "a big supporter of waterboarding" and a "big supporter of enhanced interrogation techniques."

That's tantamount to an admission of war crimes. President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and CIA director Leon Panetta have all said publicly that waterboarding is torture and torture is a violation of the Geneva Convention and Convention Against Torture. The US has prosecuted Japanese soldiers for waterboarding US personnel during WWII. So, Cheney's love of waterboarding amounts to an admission of a war crime and there's simply no other way to look at it.

The media allowed this admission to go unchallenged or simply reported it verbatim without critical analysis. And Obama continues to sweep evidence like this under the rug, refuses to uphold our obligations to prosecute war crimes and has thwarted every effort to hold people like Dick Cheney accountable.

Okay, Jason. We've got the What. So, let's delve into the Whys. And that's a multi-parter. Why is the media lying down for this? And what's up with Holder and Obama (which is really a Why in another form)?

Love your questions. In terms of why the media hasn't been more aggressive reporting Cheney's comments as an admission of war crimes and why the Obama administration has thwarted investigations, it's complicated.

First of all, the media refuses to acknowledge that waterboarding and every other "enhanced interrogation technique" is torture. Instead, the media says "what critics say or what critics refer to as torture." These acts have long been regarded as torture and this country has prosecuted waterboarding as torture. Secondly, look at that description: "critics say/critics regard."

That's very telling. The media is so frightened to flatly state that waterboarding is torture that they instead choose to pin the definition of "critics," which of course means civil liberties groups, Democrats, liberals, hippies, etc., because these are the groups that have been most vocal about the fact that the interrogation techniques approved is torture.

To me, and I'm sure to many others, once Obama and Holder and Panetta [are] defining waterboarding as torture, there is an obligation to take legal action against those who have engaged in torture. For Dick Cheney to admit on national television that he was a "big supporter" of waterboarding and other torture techniques and to not be held accountable and prosecuted I think has led the public to think of torture as a necessity and not what it is, which is a war crime.

Their reluctance is due to the fact that it is just politically impossible I would imagine or perhaps Obama truly does want to look forward. I have to admit that I cannot imagine what it would take to even attempt to prosecute a former vice president or president. Still, you would think that this administration would look to a foreign government to take action. However, this administration has tried to thwart efforts of other governments from taking action against the likes of John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Alberto Gonzales, and other former Bush administration officials.

It's an injustice that low-level grunts have been jailed and prosecuted for abusing prisoners based on policies set by the likes of Cheney and neither he nor Donald Rumsfeld, who personally approved interrogation techniques that were clear cut violations of the Geneva Convention, are held accountable. What this administration needs to understand is that there will continue to be explosive revelations about the Bush White House's torture policies in the months and years ahead and the pressure and calls for accountability will become louder.

Okay. So, Obama, Holder and Panetta are on the record stating that waterboarding is torture. Then,how do you explain their reluctance or refusal to follow up and the watering down of the official report? And, now that the report has been released, all 300 pages of it, what's in there that we should know about?

Well, Holder handed the report off to a career prosecutor, David Margolis, to review and state whether he would accept or reject the findings of "professional misconduct." He ultimately decided, as you know, to reject the recommendations and changed it to "poor judgment."

Obama has made it abundantly clear he will not allow any investigation into the past administration's crimes no matter how explosive the evidence. We have seen recent reports from the NYT and The New Yorker that say Rahm Emanuel appears to be politicizing the Justice Department by trying to block any effort to investigate, review, or raise questions about torture.

But that doesn't change the fact that Margolis engaged in what I believe is a whitewash in his final review of the OPR report. An investigation, mind you, that was launched in 2004. Here's what the Legal Times said about Margolis in a Sept. 18 2006 story. This is the headline and summary. And I think it says all you need to know:

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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