Today's Washington Post has a front-page article on the impending promotion of an official involved in running the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) torture program to head the CIA clandestine service. According to WaPo, the officer
helped run the CIA’s detention and interrogation program after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and signed off on the 2005 decision to destroy videotapes of prisoners being subjected to treatment critics have called torture.
WaPo reports that newly-confirmed CIA director John Brennan (who was also involved in the CIA's torture program and has since moved on to writing an assassination-without-due-process "playbook"
) has tapped three former senior officials to oversee the appointment of the former chief of staff to brazen torture apologist Jose Rodriguez to head the CIA's clandestine service. The group consists of John McLaughlin (CIA deputy director during the CIA's torture heyday), Stephen Kappes (another rendition, torture, and interrogation (RDI) supervisor - read about his covering up a prisoner's death here
) and Mary Margaret Graham (whose problematic professional history you can read about in Steve Coll's recent New Yorker piece
on CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou
). Does anyone not see the problem with RDI daddy Brennan assigning RDI supervisors to promote the RDI queenpin?
Not only has the Obama administration refused to hold professionally or criminally liable any of the government officials who sanctioned torture, tortured prisoners, and covered it up, but those officials are being consistently promoted to government positions of greater power. Meanwhile, the only person to serve any prison time in relation to the CIA's torture program is the whistleblower, my client John Kiriakou.
I wrote about Coll's New Yorker article yesterday, but the piece has many threads to pull. Coll's piece revealed the disturbing track of the investigation that eventually led to Kiriakou being the only person to go to jail in relation to the CIA's torture program. The investigation began because defense attorneys for Guantanamo detainees "sought evidence that their clients had been tortured by the C.I.A. . ." Coll reports that when defense lawyers submitted a classified filing on behalf of their clients with interrogators' names, it led to an investigation in which then-U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and
. . . a team of prosecutors and F.B.I. agents . . . [f]or more than two years . . .secretly investigated the A.C.L.U. and other defense lawyers working at Guantanamo on behalf of Al Qaeda detainees . . . [a defense lawyer] told [Coll] that Fitzgerald had handled the matter sensitively, but he also blamed the investigation on a behind-the-scenes campaign by C.I.A. leaders who, in [the defense lawyer's] view sought to intimidate those defense lawyers who had raised the issue of agency torture.
There is something frighteningly disturbing about the Justice Department spending years investigating the ACLU but not the architects of the torture program.
The monumental injustice that Coll's article lays bare is that the Obama administration next targeted Kiriakou for criminal prosecution rather than the government officials who approved torture, tortured prisoners, and covered up the torture program, who are enjoying Hollywood glorification and book tours bragging about how awesome it was to torture prisoners. Now, despite that the Obama administration supposedly condemned the torture program, WaPo's article reveals another torturer whose career trajectory is rocketing upward, while Kiriakou - who never tortured anyone and helped expose the torture program - is serving 30 months in prison.
(A quick aside to note that WaPo refused to publish the name of the soon-to-be head of the clandestine service because she is "undercover," but it is clear that WaPo knows the name, and so do a number of human rights activists. Somehow it seems unlikely that whoever gave WaPo the name will be criminally charged, but that is exactly what CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou is sitting in jail for pleading guilty to - confirming the name of a torturer to a self-described reporter, who did NOT publicly publish the name).
In an extraordinary piece by Tim Shorrock in The Nation, the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer had this to say about four of my NSA clients:
Because of their experience in some of the NSA’s most secret programs, the NSA Four are “indispensable” to understanding the agency’s unconstitutional operations, said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for the ACLU. “NSA is an extraordinarily powerful agency with sophisticated technology that is poorly understood by many experts. It operates behind a veil of secrecy that is penetrated only occasionally by whistleblowers like these.”
Jaffer's statement could just as easily apply to CIA whistleblowers like Kiriakou, and the CIA's torture program, about which - in Coll's words - "little is known about how that [torture] policy was carried out over years by intelligence officers, government lawyers, and medical doctors."
If the reward for exposing torture is a prison sentence, then the CIA agents who witness the CIA's next attempt to present a morally-repugnant practice like torture (such as assassination without due process) as acceptable government policy will be even more pressured to stay silent. With the same officials who orchestrated the torture program still in charge at CIA, there is nothing to deter them from straying from basic human rights principles again, and there will be no whistleblowers to tell us when they do.