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For the CIA supervisors and operatives who were responsible for torture, the chickens are coming home to roost. That is, if President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder mean it when they say no one is above the law -- and if they have the courage to stand up to brazen intimidation.
Unable to prevent Attorney General Eric Holder from starting an investigation of torture and other war crimes that implicate CIA officials past and present, some of those same CIA officials, together with what in intelligence circles are called "agents of influence" in the media, are pulling out all the stops to quash the Department of Justice's preliminary investigation.
In what should be seen as a bizarre twist, seven CIA directors--including three who are themselves implicated in planning and conducting torture and assassination-- have asked the President to call off Holder.
Can someone please tell me how could the whole thing be more transparent?
The most vulnerable of the Gang of Seven, George Tenet, is not the brightest star in the heavens, but even he was able to figure out years ago that he and his accomplices might end up having to pay a heavy price for violating international and U.S. criminal law.
In his memoir, At the Center of the Storm, Tenet notes that what the CIA needed were "the right authorities" and policy determination to do the bidding of President George W. Bush:
"Sure, it was a risky proposition when you looked at it from a policy maker's point of view. We were asking for and we would be given as many authorities as CIA had ever had. Things could blow up. People, me among them, could end up spending some of the worst days of our lives justifying before congressional overseers our new freedom to act." (p. 178)
Tenet and his masters assumed, correctly, that given the mood of the times and the lack of spine among lawmakers, congressional "overseers" would relax into their accustomed role as congressional overlookers. Unfortunately for him, Tenet seems to have confined his concern at the time to the invertebrates in Congress, not anticipating a rejuvenated Department of Justice that might take its role in enforcing the law seriously.
Taking the Gloves Off
Tenet proudly quotes his former counterterrorism chief, Cofer Black (now a senior official at Blackwater): "As Cofer Black later told Congress, 'The gloves came off that day.'" That day was September 17, 2001, when "the president approved our recommendations and provided us broad authorities to engage al-Qa'ida." (p. 208)
Presumably, it was not lost on Tenet that no lawmaker dared ask exactly what Cofer Black meant when he said "the gloves came off." Had they thought to ask Richard Clarke, former director of the counterterrorist operation at the White House, he could have told them what he wrote in his book, Against All Enemies.
Clarke describes a meeting in which he took part with President George W. Bush in the White House bunker just minutes after his TV address to the nation on the evening of 9/11. When the subject of international law was raised, Clarke writes that the president responded vehemently: "I don't care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass." (p. 24)
It took Bush and Cheney only six days to grant the CIA the "broad authorities" the agency had recommended. It then took White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, Vice President Dick Cheney's lawyer David Addington, and William J. Haynes II, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's lawyer, four more months to advise the president formally that, by fiat, he could ignore the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war.
This gang of lawyers so advised at the turn of 2001-2002, beating down objections by William Howard Taft IV, Secretary of State Colin Powell's lawyer. Bush chose to follow the dubious advice of those imaginative lawyers in his and Dick Cheney's employ; namely, that 9/11 ushered in a "new paradigm" rendering the Geneva protections "quaint" and "obsolete."
We Need to Tell You Also"
Addington and Gonzales did take care to warn the president, by memorandum of Jan. 25, 2002, of the risk of criminal prosecution under 18 U.S.C. 2441, the War Crimes Act of 1996. The memo said: