Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Froomkin on Senate Torture Report

Dan Froomkin says what to look for in the Senate Intelligence Committee's torture report in First Look.

1) You’re not actually reading the torture report. You’re just reading an executive summary.
2) The CIA got to cut out parts. The summary has been redacted – ostensibly by the White House, but in practice by officials of the CIA, which, lest we forget, is the agency that is being investigated, that spied on and tried to intimidate the people conducting the investigation, and whose director has engaged in serial deception about the investigation.
3) Senate Democrats had their backs to the wall. Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein faced enormous pressure to get the summary out in some form, before the incoming Republican Senate majority could do the White House a solid and squelch it completely.
4) The investigation was extremely narrow in its focus. Committee staffers only looked at what the CIA did in its black sites.
5) The investigation didn’t examine who gave the CIA its orders, or why. The summary doesn’t assess who told the CIA to torture – despite the abundant evidence that former vice president Dick Cheney and his cabal architected, choreographed and defended its use, with former president George W. Bush’s knowing or unknowing support.
6) Torture was hardly limited to the CIA. In fact, the worst of it was done by the military. Want to read a quality investigation of the U.S. torture of detainees? Go read this 2008 report from the Senate Armed Services Committee.
7) Senate investigators conducted no interviews of torture victims.
8) Senate investigators conducted no interviews of CIA officials.
9) In fact, Senate investigators conducted no interviews at all.
10) Bush and Cheney have acknowledged their roles in the program.  Bush and Cheney have both publicly acknowledged approving the use of waterboarding and other abusive forms of interrogation that are nearly universally considered torture. 
11) The report’s conclusion that torture didn’t do any good is a big deal. You may argue, as I do, that even if torture sometimes “worked”, it’s still immoral, criminal and ultimately counterproductive. As I wrote during the “Zero Dark Thirty” furor, torture is not about extracting information, it’s about power, revenge, rage and cruelty. It’s about stripping people of their humanity.
12) No one has been held accountable. Aside from a handful of low-level soldiers at Abu Ghraib, no one has been held accountable for the U.S.’s embrace and widespread use of torture after the terror attacks of 9/11.

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