The C.I.A. Torture Cover-Up

The New York Times Editorial Board

It was outrageous enough when two successive presidents papered over the Central Intelligence Agency’s history of illegal detention, rendition, torture and fruitless harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects. Now, the head of the Senate intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein, has provided stark and convincing evidence that the C.I.A. may have committed crimes to prevent the exposure of interrogations that she said were “far different and far more harsh” than anything the agency had described to Congress.

Ms. Feinstein delivered an extraordinary speech on the Senate floor today in which she said the C.I.A. improperly searched the computers used by committee staff members who were investigating the interrogation program as recently as January.

Beyond the power of her office and long experience, Ms. Feinstein’s accusations carry an additional weight and credibility because she has been a reliable supporter of the intelligence agencies and their expanded powers since the 9/11 attacks (sometimes too reliable).

Today, the C.I.A. director, John Brennan, denied hacking into the committee’s computers. But Ms. Feinstein said that in January, Mr. Brennan acknowledged that the agency had conducted a “search” of the computers. She said the C.I.A.’s inspector general had referred the matter to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. “Besides the constitutional implications,” of separation of powers, she said, “the C.I.A.’s search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the C.I.A. from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.”

Ms. Feinstein’s speech detailed the lengths to which the C.I.A. had gone to hinder the committee’s investigation, which it began in 2009 after senators learned the agency had destroyed videotapes of the interrogations under President George W. Bush. Under President Obama, prosecutors exonerated the officials who ordered those tapes destroyed.

Ms. Feinstein said that when Senate staff members reviewed thousands of documents describing those interrogations in 2009, they found that the C.I.A.’s leadership seriously misled the committee when it described the interrogations program to the panel in 2006, “only hours before President Bush disclosed the program to the public.”

The interrogations included a variety of brutal methods, some of which — waterboarding in particular — were unequivocally torture.

When the Senate staff compiled its still undisclosed 6,300-page report, it described these acts and also concluded that the C.I.A. had falsely claimed that torture and other brutality produced useful intelligence. The agency has been sitting on that report since December 2012, disputing its findings. But Ms. Feinstein publicly confirmed today that an internal review by the C.I.A. inspector general had reached conclusions similar to those in the Senate staff report, which the C.I.A. now publicly disputes.
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Louis
16 minutes ago

Maybe the committee should hire Edward Snowden for their IT "Hacker Prevention" job.
Nikita
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No doubt President Obama does not want to see his predecessor in irons at the Hague for war crimes. Bad for the country, but just as bad to...
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The CIA's interrogation/torture program was a raging controversy when President Obama took office and we expected him to deal with the issue...

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It was the committee staff’s possession of that internal review — which the C.I.A. has refused to give to the Senate — that spurred what Ms. Feinstein said was an illegal search of computers (provided to the Senate staff by the C.I.A.) that contained drafts of the internal review.
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Ms. Feinstein said that staff members found the drafts among the documents that the C.I.A. had made available to the committee. She said she did not know whether the drafts were put there inadvertently, or by a whistle-blower. In any case, the Senate’s possession of the documents was entirely legal, she said.

She angrily dismissed the acting C.I.A. general counsel’s claim that the Senate staffers had hacked agency computers as blatant intimidation of Congress. The counsel, she noted, was a lawyer and then chief lawyer for the interrogations division and is “mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.”

The Justice Department now has a criminal investigation to conduct, but the C.I.A. internal review and the Senate report must be released. Ms. Feinstein called on President Obama today to make the Senate report public “to ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.”

The lingering fog about the C.I.A. detentions is a result of Mr. Obama’s decision when he took office to conduct no investigation of the interrogations. We can only hope he knows that when he has lost Dianne Feinstein, he has no choice but to reverse that decision.

See:
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/12/us/cia-accused-of-illegally-searching-...

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Surveillance-Defending Senator Slams Surveillance of Senate

Sen. Dianne Feinstein accuses CIA of interfering with committee's investigation into the agency's Bush-era torture program

- Andrea Germanos, CommonDreams staff writer

Sen. Dianne Feinstein speaking on the Senate floor on Tuesday. (Photo: CSPAN)

Head of the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday accused the CIA of interfering with the committee's investigation into the agency's Bush-era torture program, including conducting an unauthorized "search" of the committee's computers and removing documents, in an effort to thwart a potentially "searing indictment" of the interrogation program.

In a statement given on the Senate floor, the democratic senator said she had "grave concerns" that the CIA's search "may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution" as well as "the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance."

She also said the CIA was attempting "to intimidate this staff—and I am not taking it lightly."

As Politico reported, Feinstein's

speech was the latest salvo in an escalating battle between the CIA and the Senate over oversight of an interrogation program conducted by the CIA in the early 2000s and Feinstein’s first remarks on the subject. Last week, the CIA was accused of monitoring Senate staffers and it was reported that Senate staffers had improperly taken classified CIA documents out of a secure facility.

The ACLU praised Feinstein's efforts to call out the CIA's surveillance and its efforts to cover up its own wrongdoing.

"After so many years of Congress being unable or unwilling to assert its authority over the CIA, Senator Feinstein today began to reclaim the authority of Congress as a check on the Executive Branch. Public release of the Senate torture report will be the next step to reining in a CIA that has tortured, destroyed evidence, spied on Congress, and lied to the American people," stated Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel with the group.

Reprieve, a charity that represents some of those tortured under the program, welcomed the senator's comments as well. 

"Senator Feinstein is right: the CIA torture program should never have existed," stated Alka Pradhan, Counter-terrorism Counsel at Reprieve US.  "The only way to move forward from this terrible chapter in American history is to allow the Senate to fully exercise its oversight function, and to declassify the Senate Select Intelligence Committee Report on the CIA torture program.  We cannot learn from history unless we know what it is."

CIA head John Brennan denied the allegations, telling NBC News' Andrea Mitchell, "We wouldn't do that."

"When the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous, sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong, " Brennan said.

Yet what continues to stand out to some observers is not Feinstein's defense of separation of powers but the irony that a senator who has been a longtime defender of surveillance is now outraged that her Senate committee was spied upon.

In December, for example, Feinstein said that the NSA's bulk collection of phone data "is constitutional and helps keep the country safe from attack." The comment came a month after she had proposed a bill that would "codify" the NSA's worst abuses. But this defense surveillance goes back years, such as her backing Bush's FISA amendments as well as legal immunity for telecommunications firms for their role in surveillance.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden called out the hypocrisy of Feinstein's outrage over senators being spied upon while supporting of NSA spying on ordinary citizens.

In a statement sent to NBC News, Snowden said, "It's clear the CIA was trying to play 'keep away' with documents relevant to an investigation by their overseers in Congress, and that's a serious constitutional concern."

"But it's equally if not more concerning that we're seeing another 'Merkel Effect,' where an elected official does not care at all that the rights of millions of ordinary citizens are violated by our spies, but suddenly it's a scandal when a politician finds out the same thing happens to them," Snowden stated.

__________________

The Feinstein Syndrome: “The 4th Amendment for Me, But Not Thee"

by Norman Solomon

Who knows, soon we might see headlines and cable TV shows asking: "Is Dianne Feinstein a whistleblower or a traitor?"

A truthful answer to that question could not possibly be “whistleblower.” It may already be a historic fact that Senator Feinstein’s speech on March 11, 2014 blew a whistle on CIA surveillance of the Senate intelligence committee, which she chairs. But if that makes her a whistleblower, then Colonel Sanders is a vegetarian evangelist.

In her blockbuster Tuesday speech on the Senate floor, Feinstein charged that the CIA’s intrusions on her committee’s computers quite possibly “violated the Fourth Amendment.” You know, that’s the precious amendment that Feinstein—more than any other senator—has powerfully treated like dirt, worthy only of sweeping under the congressional rug.

A tidy defender of the NSA’s Orwellian programs, Feinstein went on the attack against Edward Snowden from the outset of his revelations last June. Within days, she denounced his brave whistleblowing as “an act of treason”—a position she has maintained.

Snowden and other genuine whistleblowers actually take risks to defend the civil liberties and human rights of others, including the most vulnerable among us. Real whistleblowers choose to expose serious wrongdoing. And, if applicable, they renounce their own past complicity in doing those wrongs.

Dianne Feinstein remains in a very different place. She’s 180 degrees from a whistleblower orientation; her moral compass is magnetized with solipsism as a leading guardian of the surveillance state.

This week, Feinstein stepped forward to tweak her tap dance—insisting that intrusive surveillance, so vile when directed at her and colleagues with august stature, must only be directed at others.

A huge problem is that for the USA’s top movers and shakers in media and politics, nothing rises to the level of constitutional crisis unless their noble oxen start to get gored. It doesn’t seem to dawn on the likes of Senator Feinstein that Fourth Amendment protections for the few are not Fourth Amendment protections at all.

More than 40 years ago, under the Nixon administration—when the U.S. government was breaking into the offices of the Socialist Workers Party, busting into the homes of members of the Black Panther Party in the middle of night with guns firing, and widely shredding the civil liberties of anti-war activists—few among ruling elites seemed to give a damn. But when news emerged that one of the two big political parties had severely transgressed against the other with a break-in at the Watergate office of the Democratic National Committee on June 17, 1972, the Republican White House had gone too far.

As spring 2014 gets underway, we might be nearing a pivotal moment when major sectors of the establishment feel compelled to recognize the arrival of a constitutional crisis. Consider how the New York Times editorialized in its Wednesday edition, declaring that Feinstein “has provided stark and convincing evidence that the CIA may have committed crimes to prevent the exposure of interrogations that she said were ‘far different and far more harsh’ than anything the agency had described to Congress.”

In the euphemism lexicon of official Washington, “far different and far more harsh” refers to outright torture by the U.S. government.

At the surveillance-state garrison known as The Washington Post, where cognitive dissonance must be something fierce right now, quickly out of the box was conventional-wisdom columnist Dana Milbank, who portrayed Feinstein as a savvy and angelic force to be reckoned with. The adulatory logic was classic for journalists who like to conflate complicity with credibility.

Noting Feinstein’s record as “an ally of Obama and a staunch defender of the administration during the controversy over the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs,” Milbank wrote: “So her credibility could not be questioned when she went public, reluctantly, to accuse Obama’s CIA of illegal and unconstitutional actions: violating the separation of powers by searching the committee’s computers and intimidating congressional staffers with bogus legal threats.”

News media accounts are filled with such statements right now. On the surface, they make sense—but there’s a pernicious undertow. With the underlying logic, the only time we could become sure that Wall Street malfeasance was a real problem would be if someone with the stature of Bernie Madoff stepped up to condemn it in no uncertain terms.

History tells us that we’d be deluded to depend on entrenched elites to opt for principle rather than continuity of the status quo. With few exceptions, what bonds those at peaks of power routinely trumps what divides them. It takes a massive and sustained uproar to really fracture the perversity of elite cohesion.

Consider the fact that the CIA, under the current Democratic administration, has gone to extraordinary lengths to transgress against a CIA-friendly Democratic-controlled Senate intelligence committee, in an effort to prevent anyone from being held accountable for crimes of torture committed under and by the Republican Bush administration.

While Dianne Feinstein has a long and putrid record as an enemy of civil liberties, transparency and accountability, it’s also true that thieves sometimes fall out—and so do violators of the most basic democratic safeguards in the Bill of Rights. Some powerful “intelligence” scoundrels are now at each other’s throats, even while continuing to brandish daggers at the heart of democracy with their contempt for such ideals as a free press, privacy and due process. The responsibility for all this goes to the very top: President Obama.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
http://rootsaction.org/

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” and "Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America's Warfare State".

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