Relative Damage to the US Presidency: CIA proposed obstruction of justice

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By Benjamin G. Davis, Associate Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law, Advocates for US Torture Prosecutions

Here they go again. Do you remember Jose Rodriguez, head of the Counterrorism Center, destruction of the torture tapes in violation of the spirit at least of a federal court order to preserve evidence done by Judge Heller? Does anyone remember the hiding of those torture tapes from the 9/11 Commission which was rationalized at CIA by asserting the exact “magic words” had not been asked of the CIA when that commission asked for everything to do their report? Well we now have another variation on the game – kind of like the business records destruction programs that companies put in place to make it look like they were not destroying incriminating evidence but were merely following a regular corporate policy.

The CIA is going through steps to destroy a great deal of material including material from agents after they left the agency. Do I doubt that among all of that they want to destroy is evidence of the crimes of torture perpetrated? No I do not. In fact, what this looks like is more like a common plan probably cooked up by a lawyer who thinks of themselves as a company man or woman with absolutely little if any sense of the public trust.

The current outlines of the game are to get a whitewash report from the American Psychological Association about the complicity of CIA and other psychologists in the torture that will say nothing was done wrong or – at most in the inimitable Washington whitewash language  – mistakes were made in the  process but no criminal referral.

A second aspect is to slow walk the release of the SSCI report as long as possible – with Brennan’s enthusiastic White House support because his hands are on the torture. What a piece of work he is, letting the torturers out of office see this report six months ago in its u redacted form while we ordinary citizens are made to wait through the Kabuki theater. Obama picked him so that is more damage to the US Presidency.

The third is to accelerate the evidence destruction under the guise of a regular cleaning out effort. The current SSCI is completely fed up with the CIA mendacity aided and abetted by the White House. But, for the CIA bureaucracy they think they can wait this out until January when Republivans get the Senate majority and then get away with this obstruction of justice.

I am not really sure why the Republicans would want to be in bed with torturers. I mean, in my experience, it is the Reagan Republicans in the National Security establishment who were the strongest critics of going down this path of lawlessness.  Folks who had a sense of the principle of the US not torturing because it was illegal and also of the unintended consequences of that box of impunity being opened on our soldiers etc.

But, maybe there are so many friends getting rich at the intelligence trough that the pressure is not to upset that gravy train for them as described in James Risen’s Pay any Price.  Keep the flow going and then go out into the private sector and make a figurative killing. For these folks, government is not about service to the public trust but about getting paid.

Whatever the rationales, I am sure there are other parts moving with regard to the CIA torture types trying to keep evolving the structure put in place to avoid senior official accountability for what is most certainly a crime.

Now Caroline Krass is the new boss. Is she going to be the same as the old boss John Rizzo? Much like Obama as the first African-American President, I expect she as the first woman General Counsel in a long time will not want to upset the torturers below her and in the 200 odd lawyers in her area. I expect the plan is to just let Richard Eattinger retire quietly and try to avoid an accounting for all the things that were done by the senior officials.

So, now that you read an ordinary citizen who is in your head dear torturers, keep in mind that there is something called the public trust. Keep in mind that every game you play for your own narrow self-interest is a game that weakens the absolute prohibition on torture. And those games played for private and bureaucratic gains are all ill-gotten gains that detract from the Presidency and United States standing in the world and at home.

Down in Ferguson, Missouri we can get the Attorney General and the President calling on ordinary citizens to do peaceful protest and not break the law, while a police and FBI armada of the national security state is built on the other side ready to have a police riot like what happened in 1968 at the Democration Convention in Chicago at the instigation of then Mayor Daley.

Yet, when there is a worldwide torture program to be investigated and high level officials to be prosecuted, these same leaders show a timidity toward those with positions of influence and power. Even when that power was used to commit a crime.

Now those same powerful bureaucracies seek this new gambit to prevent accountability.

I am looking for the honest man or woman in those places to push back against these criminals. Is there one there?