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Why are former Bush CIA heads welcome working closely with Obama's CIA to rebut torture report?

We have a new administration which has already asserted itself in the torture debate by moving ahead of Congress in 2009 by establishing the Executive Order 13491 - Ensuring Lawful Interrogations which outlaws many of the torture policies and practices of the anti-constitutional Bush-era 'war on terror.'

Although the directive from President Obama effectively outlaws those practices, it can be easily undone by successive administrations; that eventuality demonstrated with reasonable surety by Mitt Romney in his declaration during his presidential campaign that he supported some of the most objectionable practices outlawed by the WH order.

In 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder closed without charges the only two cases the Obama administration chose to investigate that involved Bush's torture program.

from the Holder's statement on his Justice Dept. decision:

On Aug. 24, 2009, based on information the Department received pertaining to alleged CIA mistreatment of detainees, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he had expanded Mr. Durham’s mandate to conduct a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations. Attorney General Holder made clear at that time, that the Department would not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees. Accordingly, Mr. Durham’s review examined primarily whether any unauthorized interrogation techniques were used by CIA interrogators, and if so, whether such techniques could constitute violations of the torture statute or any other applicable statute.

In June of last year, the Attorney General announced that Mr. Durham recommended opening full criminal investigations regarding the death of two individuals while in United States custody at overseas locations, and closing the remaining matters. The Attorney General accepted that recommendation. Today, the Attorney General announced that those two investigations conducted over the past year have now been closed.


Notwithstanding an act by Congress in revising existing legislation or passing new legislation specifically outlawing the objectionable practices outlawed by President Obama's executive order, those torture policies and practices remain up to the discretion of the person in the White House. What Holder's decision represented was the last word by the Obama administration on actually bring accountability and consequence to the actions of the Bush-era torturers.

In his statement Friday, preemptively responding to revelations due to emerge from the Senate Intelligence agency report detailing abuses involving members Bush's CIA, Pres. Obama correctly condemned the practices, but also gave a curious defense of the motives behind such abuses.

President Obama:

“I understand why it happened,” Obama stated. “I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent.”

“And there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this, and it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had and a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.”

“But having said all that,” he added, “We did some things that were wrong. And that’s what that report reflects. And that’s the reason why after I took office one of the first things I did was to ban some of the extraordinary interrogation techniques that were the subject of this report. And my hope is that this report reminds us once again that the character of our country has to be measured in part not by what we do when things are easy but what we do when things are hard. And why we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and any fair-minded person would believe were torture—We crossed a line.”

“That needs to be understood and accepted. And we have to as a country take responsibility for that so hopefully we don’t do it again in the future.”


Much was made by observers of the fact that the President made a historic reference in that statement Friday to the practices as 'torture.' In 2009, early in his presidency, Obama took Cheney to task for his defense of waterboarding: "I believe that waterboarding was torture and, whatever legal rationals were used, it was a mistake," he said.

Again in his 2011 campaign, President Obama rebuked the republicans advocating the practice, stating, "Anybody who has actually read about and understands the practice of waterboarding would say that that is torture. And that's not something we do -- period."

Making reference to his objections to torture in reference to the Senate report is significant, in that he has relied on his stated position in favor of public release of the intelligence committee report to deflect criticisms from advocates and foes alike. His intention that Congress sort all of it out for him is reflected in his statement yesterday that "we have to as a country take responsibility for that."

"I would urge them to go ahead and complete the report and send it to us, and we will declassify those findings so that the American people can understand what happened in the past. And that can help guide us as we move forward," he told reporters in March.


What's significant about his use of the word 'torture' is that the Senate Intelligence Committee report is said to have neglected to use that word to describe any of the abuses they detail. Still, the document is said to contain chilling descriptions of practices during the Bush administration, including many not previously publicized.

Even if the release of the Senate report goes as planned, the public will not see the entire version, but will be offered a summary of the findings.

Last night, on the eve of what most folks expected would finally be the release of the Senate report, news came that the White House, obstensibly meaning President Obama, had objected to sections of the document and had 'blacked-out' portions. That lead senators involved in the investigation to delay the release, citing 'significant redactions' in the White House 'executive summary.'

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the following statement:

“The committee this afternoon received the redacted executive summary of our study on the CIA detention and interrogation program.

“A preliminary review of the report indicates there have been significant redactions. We need additional time to understand the basis for these redactions and determine their justification.

“Therefore the report will be held until further notice and released when that process is completed.”


Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., a member of the committee, also remarked on the White House redactions.

from McClatchy:

“I am concerned about the excessive redactions Chairman Feinstein referenced in her statement, especially given the president’s unequivocal commitment to declassifying the Senate Intelligence Committee’s study,” Udall said. “I promised earlier this year to hold the president to his word and I intend to do so.”

Udall vowed to work with Feinstein to declassify the findings “to the fullest extent possible, correct the record on the CIA’s brutal and ineffective detention and interrogation program, and ensure the CIA learns from its past mistakes.”


Sen. Feinstein had already indicated in April that she was committed to the publicizing of information after the Intelligence Committee voted 11-3 to release the torture documents.

Sen. Udall had taken a further step in March in a letter to the President requesting that he declassify the document:

"It is my belief that the declassification of the Committee Study is of paramount importance and that decisions about what should or should not be declassified regarding this issue should not be delegated to the CIA, but directly handled by the White House," Udall wrote in the letter. "I strongly believe there should be a public and unequivocal commitment from the White House to the fullest and most expedited possible declassification of the Committee's Study. Such a commitment is especially vital in light of the fact that the significant amounts of information on the CIA's detention and interrogation program that has been declassified and released to the American public is misleading and inaccurate."

"I believe it is vital that we understand how and why the content of the CIA's internal review contradicts the CIA's official June 27, 2013, response to the Committee," Udall also wrote in the letter. "I would like to know more about the origins of the review, its authorship, the context of its creation, and why its findings were ignored in the development of the CIA's June 2013 response. I have included a classified attachment to this letter detailing some of the troubling discrepancies, as I understand them, between the CIA's internal review and the CIA's June 2012 response to the Committee."


In admissions by the CIA Director Brennan this week, there was confirmation of charges made in March by Sen. Feinstein and Sen. Udall that the agency had made an incredible and apparently illegal effort to interfere with the Intelligence Committee's investigation which produced the torture report.

Brennan had extensively denied the agency had hacked into the Senate Intelligence Committee staffer's computers which held the product of their investigation that contributed to the report. ”Let me assure you,” Brennan had assured Senators in March, “the CIA was in no way spying on the Senate committee.”

The Bush CIA had already withheld and destroyed information about its Detention and Interrogation Program in 2005 when it deliberately destroyed tapes and information about its rendition and torture program. A civil lawsuit ACLU revealed in 2009 that 92 videotapes had been deliberately destroyed.

The then-Director, Michael Hayden, assured the Senate committee under Jay Rockefeller that despite the destruction, there were adequate documents which would describe the practices in detail. When Sen Feinstein took over the committee in 2009 the committee had completed their review.

Sen Feinstein:

By the time the two staffers completed their review into the CIA’s early interrogations in early 2009, I had become chairman of the committee and President Obama had been sworn into office.

The resulting staff report was chilling. The interrogations and the conditions of confinement at the CIA detention sites were far different and far more harsh than the way the CIA had described them to us. As result of the staff’s initial report, I proposed, and then-Vice Chairman Bond agreed, and the committee overwhelmingly approved, that the committee conduct an expansive and full review of CIA’s detention and interrogation program.

On March 5, 2009, the committee voted 14-1 to initiate a comprehensive review of the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program. Immediately, we sent a request for documents to all relevant executive branch agencies, chiefly among them the CIA.

The committee’s preference was for the CIA to turn over all responsive documents to the committee’s office, as had been done in previous committee investigations.

Director Panetta proposed an alternative arrangement: to provide literally millions of pages of operational cables, internal emails, memos, and other documents pursuant to the committee’s document requests at a secure location in Northern Virginia. We agreed, but insisted on several conditions and protections to ensure the integrity of this congressional investigation.

Per an exchange of letters in 2009, then-Vice Chairman Bond, then-Director Panetta, and I agreed in an exchange of letters that the CIA was to provide a “stand-alone computer system” with a “network drive” “segregated from CIA networks” for the committee that would only be accessed by information technology personnel at the CIA—who would “not be permitted to” “share information from the system with other personnel, except as otherwise authorized by the committee.”

It was this computer network that, notwithstanding our agreement with Director Panetta, was searched by the CIA


After searching the committee computers and removing documents in an amazingly blatant attempt to chill the investigating staff, the CIA actually referred the staffers to the Justice Dept. for investigation into whether they had removed the documents illegally.

Committee staff confronted CIA officials about the removal of documents and were told that it was the result of 'contractors' who had been hired by the agency to declassify the material before releasing it to the committee. One of the excuses offered was that it was the White House which had demanded the removal.

Sen Feinstein:

In May of 2010, the committee staff noticed that certain documents that had been provided for the committee’s review were no longer accessible. Staff approached the CIA personnel at the offsite location, who initially denied that documents had been removed. CIA personnel then blamed information technology personnel, who were almost all contractors, for removing the documents themselves without direction or authority. And then the CIA stated that the removal of the documents was ordered by the White House. When the committee approached the White House, the White House denied giving the CIA any such order.

After a series of meetings, I learned that on two occasions, CIA personnel electronically removed committee access to CIA documents after providing them to the committee. This included roughly 870 documents or pages of documents that were removed in February 2010, and secondly roughly another 50 were removed in mid-May 2010.

I went up to the White House to raise this issue with the then-White House Counsel, in May 2010. He recognized the severity of the situation, and the grave implications of Executive Branch personnel interfering with an official congressional investigation. The matter was resolved with a renewed commitment from the White House Counsel, and the CIA, that there would be no further unauthorized access to the committee’s network or removal of access to CIA documents already provided to the committee.

On May 17, 2010, the CIA’s then-director of congressional affairs apologized on behalf of the CIA for removing the documents. And that, as far as I was concerned, put the incident aside.


At some point after that, the committee uncovered draft copies of an internal review by former director Panetta. In effect, the internal Panetta review actually corroborated the committee's own findings, rather than representing the only info available. In 2012, the Intelligence Committee approved a 6,300-page study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program and sent the report to the executive branch.

The Brennan CIA responded that they agreed with some of the report but disagreed with other parts of it. Most importantly, the parts they disagreed with were those which were actually confirmed by the Panetta review.

Sen Feinstein:

As CIA Director Brennan has stated, the CIA officially agrees with some of our study. But, as has been reported, the CIA disagrees and disputes important parts of it. And this is important: Some of these important parts that the CIA now disputes in our committee study are clearly acknowledged in the CIA’s own Internal Panetta Review.

To say the least, this is puzzling. How can the CIA’s official response to our study stand factually in conflict with its own Internal Review?


Unlike the official response, these Panetta Review documents were in agreement with the committee’s findings. That’s what makes them so significant and important to protect.

When the Internal Panetta Review documents disappeared from the committee’s computer system, this suggested once again that the CIA had removed documents already provided to the committee, in violation of CIA agreements and White House assurances that the CIA would cease such activities.

As I have detailed, the CIA has previously withheld and destroyed information about its Detention and Interrogation Program, including its decision in 2005 to destroy interrogation videotapes over the objections of the Bush White House and the Director of National Intelligence. Based on the information described above, there was a need to preserve and protect the Internal Panetta Review in the committee’s own secure spaces.


DiFi wrote to the agency requesting complete copies of the Panetta review. Sen. Udall also requested the documents in a committee hearing. The CIA denied the request, claiming that it was incomplete and 'deliberative.'

That's when the CIA went into full protection mode and insisted they be allowed to conduct a search of the committee's computers.

Sen Feinstein:

In late 2013, I requested in writing that the CIA provide a final and complete version of the Internal Panetta Review to the committee, as opposed to the partial document the committee currently possesses.

In December, during an open committee hearing, Senator Mark Udall echoed this request. In early January 2014, the CIA informed the committee it would not provide the Internal Panetta Review to the committee, citing the deliberative nature of the document.

Shortly thereafter, on January 15, 2014, CIA Director Brennan requested an emergency meeting to inform me and Vice Chairman Chambliss that without prior notification or approval, CIA personnel had conducted a “search”—that was John Brennan’s word—of the committee computers at the offsite facility. This search involved not only a search of documents provided to the committee by the CIA, but also a search of the ”stand alone” and “walled-off” committee network drive containing the committee’s own internal work product and communications.

According to Brennan, the computer search was conducted in response to indications that some members of the committee staff might already have had access to the Internal Panetta Review. The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the Internal Review, or how we obtained it.

Instead, the CIA just went and searched the committee’s computers. The CIA has still not asked the committee any questions about how the committee acquired the Panetta Review. In place of asking any questions, the CIA’s unauthorized search of the committee computers was followed by an allegation—which we have now seen repeated anonymously in the press—that the committee staff had somehow obtained the document through unauthorized or criminal means, perhaps to include hacking into the CIA’s computer network.


I outlined all of this in an earlier post which included more detail, but the point of highlighting this is that the White House and their CIA director appear to be on the same page in seeking to limit, obscure, or obfuscate from information contained in the Senate Intelligence Committee report.

The latest action from the White House in redacting portions of the report from their executive summary, and the subsequent objections of Sens. Feinstein and Udall to releasing what they obviously feel would be an inadequate and incomplete account of findings from their investigation, are cause to question the assertions from president Obama that he intends the release to "help guide us" in the effort to "take responsibility" for the abuses. At least, the Senators who crafted the report don't believe so.

Where is the pressure coming from to modify the executive summary? We know from news reports, that former Bush Officials, including the head of Bush's CIA, George Tenet, who had approved the tortures which he had called 'enhanced interrogation,' were allowed to work hand in hand with the Obama CIA to craft a defense of their actions and to basically refute portions of the Senate report they disagreed with.

CIA bio:

John Brennan served from 1999 to 2001 as Chief of Staff to George Tenet, who was then Director of Central Intelligence. Mr. Brennan next worked as Deputy Executive Director of the CIA until 2003, when he began leading a multi-agency effort to establish what would become the National Counterterrorism Center. In 2004, he became the Center’s Interim Director.

Brennan was sworn in as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency on March 8, 2013. As Director, he manages intelligence collection, analysis, covert action, counterintelligence, and liaison relationships with foreign intelligence services. Before becoming Director, Mr. Brennan served at the White House for four years as Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.


from NBC News:

After Brennan’s return to Washington from Saudi Arabia 2002, Tenet made him deputy executive director of the CIA. The job took him out of intelligence gathering and into administration. As the No. 2 in the CIA's administrative office, Brennan was essentially "deputy mayor" of the agency, "making the trains run on time" for the worldwide operation, as one former Tenet aide put it.

In that role, he helped set up the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, the predecessor to the National Counter Terrorism Center. Brennan built the unit from the ground up, finding the building, setting up security procedures and staffing it with analysts from across the intelligence community. His aggressiveness in staffing didn't sit well with those who lost analysts. In his memoir, "Hard Measures" Jose Rodriguez, then the director of the CIA's Counter Terrorism Center, accused Brennan of "ripping most, if not all, of the top CT (counter terror) analysts out of CTC."


from the NYT:

Over the past several months, Mr. Tenet has quietly engineered a counterattack against the Senate committee’s voluminous report, which could become public next month. The effort to discredit the report has set up a three-way showdown among former C.I.A. officials who believe history has been distorted, a White House carefully managing the process and politics of declassifying the document, and Senate Democrats convinced that the Obama administration is trying to protect the C.I.A. at all costs.

The report is expected to accuse a number of former C.I.A. officials of misleading Congress and the White House about the program and its effectiveness, but it is Mr. Tenet who might have the most at stake.

The detention and interrogation program was conceived on his watch and run by men and women he had put in senior positions. After virtually disappearing from public view since leaving the C.I.A. in 2004 except for a brief period promoting his memoir, Mr. Tenet is working behind the scenes with many of the same people to develop a strategy to challenge the report’s findings. And he is relying on his close relationship with Mr. Brennan to keep him apprised as the report moves through a glacial declassification process. Mr. Brennan rose to the C.I.A.’s senior ranks during Mr. Tenet’s tenure, and served as one of the former C.I.A. chief’s most trusted advisers during the post-9/11 period.


In the past, Obama's CIA director Brennan has expressed his approval of the Bush CIA's policy of 'extraordinary renditions' and voiced at least some support for the Bush-era torture policy operated by his former boss, Tenet, of 'enhanced interrogations.'

from PBS Newshour in 2007:

Brennan has defended renditions, the practice of sending terror suspects to other countries, where they might be subject to torture, as he did on the NewsHour in 2005.

JOHN BRENNAN: I think it’s an absolutely vital tool. I have been intimately familiar now in the past decade with the cases of rendition that the U.S. government has been involved in.

And I can say without a doubt that it has been very successful as far as producing intelligence that has saved lives.


from CBS News in 2007 (Early Show, 11/2/07):

The CIA has acknowledged that it has detained about 100 terrorists since 9/11, and about a third of them have been subjected to what the CIA refers to as enhanced interrogation tactics, and only a small proportion of those have in fact been subjected to the most serious types of enhanced procedures…. There have been a lot of information that has come out from these interrogation procedures that the agency has in fact used against the real hard-core terrorists. It has saved lives. And let's not forget, these are hardened terrorists who have been responsible for 9/11, who have shown no remorse at all for the deaths of 3,000 innocents.


Brennan insisted at the time of his nomination by the President that his opposition to torture comprised what he said were objections he claimed to have raised during the Bush years and, remarkably, in his defense, the White House has pointed to his tenure as Obama's 'chief counterterrorism adviser' to insist that Brennan was instrumental in crafting the executive decision the President made to outlaw the practices.

from Jake Tapper in 2008:

In a letter released to the media, apparently by Brennan or someone operating on Brennan’s behalf, the former CIA official wrote, “It has been immaterial to the critics that I have been a strong opponent of many of the policies of the Bush Administration such as the preemptive war in Iraq and coercive interrogation tactics, too include waterboarding. The fact that I was not involved in the decision making process for any of these controversial policies and actions has been ignored. Indeed, my criticism of these policies within government circles why I was twice considered for more senior-level positions in the current Administration only to be rebuffed by the White House.”


Whether Obama's CIA chief is presently opposed to the torture policies of his former boss, Tenet, or not, there is a clear conflict of interest in allowing him to direct the crafting of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee torture report - the only public view of the committee findings that is likely to be allowed.

That conflict is made even more egregious in the way that former CIA officials, including two other former C.I.A. directors - Porter J. Goss and Michael V. Hayden - have reportedly been allowed to actively participate in that process of declassification and editing the documents.

One of the questions which need answering concerning Brennan's grudging admission that his agency had, in fact, interfered in the Senate committee's investigation into CIA activities is what extent these former operators contributed to the process of omitting portions of that report from the public as well as the private version of the Senate's findings?

It's disturbing to hear President Obama actually offering his own justifications for torture practices and policies he's already identified as far outside or constitution or our national conscience. It's chilling to see that even a summary of that report - in effect, itself auguring an inadequate and incomplete accounting to the American people - is being redacted in such a 'significant' way by one of the partners to those abuses; now an integral partner to this President's representation of the only significant and extensive official accounting of all of that.

With all of the admitted interference by the Obama CIA in the committee investigation, and all of the collusion of the principal subjects in the Bush-era practices in revising and rebutting the investigator's findings, it may well be that we'll need yet another investigation to provide an un-redacted accounting of events and actions and to provide that 'responsibility' for the abuses that President Obama says we deserve.

Pres. Obama is hoping that we're goddamn idiots out here, still cowed by talk of 9-11


. . .who knows? He may be right.

In his remarks today, he takes his first stab at explaining away the Bush-era tortures - as if there was some national imperative that we excuse away renditions and torture.

from the National Journal:

Obama addressed post-9/11 America in remarks about the Central Intelligence Agency. "We tortured some folks," he said. "We did some things that were contrary to our values. I understand why it happened. I think it's important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell, and the Pentagon had been hit, and a plane in Pennsylvania had fallen and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this."

He continued: "A lot of those folks were working hard and under enormous pressure, and are real patriots. But having said all that, we did some things that were wrong." The president also said that he has "full confidence" in CIA Director John Brennan, despite the agency admitting this week that it had hacked Senate computers.


Is that the best he can do . . . mouth the same mind-numbing drivel about 9-11 and terror that Bush and his cronies used to deflect blame and accountability from their anti-constitutional abuses?

The findings that he's deflecting blame from on behalf of the Bush administration aren't the product of anything he's done. They're the work of a diligent and thorough Senate investigatory committee which his CIA did everything in their power to slow and conceal.

What about CIA Chief Brennan's attempts to intimidate and discredit the investigators of that report he's explaining away? All of this 'confidence he's falling all over himself to heap on Brennan ignores the amazing and absolutely damning admission by his CIA director that he had, in fact, engaged in surveillance of the very Senate committee which produced the report he's referring to and, incredibly, lifted documents related to their investigation of his agency right out of their computers.

Not only did Brennan spy on the committee staffers, his agency lawyers tried to have the staffers arrested for possessing critical documents obtained through the procedure the CIA had insisted on.

We don't need lectures from Pres. Obama about the dangers of 9-11. Aside from the killings perpetrated by bin-Laden and his accomplices, real and serious damage was done to America in the way that Bush, Cheney, Tenant, and others took advantage of the nation's fears and embarked on a mission to tear down decades of civil liberties and privacy protections of American citizens; and embarked on an opportunistic war of aggression in Iraq which created even more individuals bent on harming the U.S. and our interests.

Refusing to seek prosecution for the Bush-era torture and rendition abuses amounts to retroactive approval, no matter what lip service he offers us about his objections; no matter how many times he says the word torture with concern and consternation; no matter how the word 'patriots' falls from his lips like some papal absolution.

We should have expected more from the Bush White House. Understanding of the stakes for our nation didn't begin years after Bush stood on that pile of rubble and humanity and declared that he intended to commit our nation to his reckless intention to flail out with our military forces like a frightened animal. Most of us recognized right away that care and caution was required to set the nation right again.

We can judge for ourselves where President Obama has reversed the vestiges of Bush and Cheney's opportunistic militarism (we can certainly give him credit for the killing of bin Laden), or determine for ourselves whether or not he has adopted or co-opted planks of Bush's 'terror war.'

Bush traveled to New York's 'Ground Zero' looking for a pile of rubble and a bullhorn to elevate himself and talk down to us from some lofty perch. In his statement at the signing of the "anti-terrorism," Patriot Act, in October 2001, six weeks after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, President Bush claimed that the measure would counter the threat of enemies that "recognize no barrier of morality and have no conscience." He sought to assure that the measure "upheld and respected the civil liberties guaranteed by our Constitution." He pledged to enforce the law with "all of the urgency of a nation at war."

However, Bush neglected to tell us which war he was referring to. The anti-terrorism measure was cobbled together in a few short months to take political advantage of the urge in Congress for a legislative response to the terrorist attacks, despite the president's claim that the bill was "carefully drafted and considered." It was a direct assault on the liberty, privacy, and free expression of all Americans.

From that document came a flood of legislative 'remedies' that would take advantage of the administration's blanket excuse of 'national security' that they and their minions in Congress draped over every stalled piece of legislation that could be remotely tied to their 'war on terror'.

Later in his presidency Bush was desperate to revive and re-animate the demoted specter he had called his "prime suspect" in 2001. He justified his protection scheme in his reelection effort with a series of speeches in which he was methodical and zealous in his elevation of bin-Laden; carefully reciting the most offensive and threatening of the terrorist's statements and dispatches.

Dredging up all of the offensive rhetoric from Bush's 'terror war' is designed to re-inflate those emotions that were so raw right after the horror unfolded; that uncertainty and anxiety which made Americans fold in the face of Bush's consolidation of power.

John Brennan, an intelligence official under George Tenet, lead Barack Obama’s review of intelligence agencies and helped make recommendations to the new administration. Brennan had supported warrantless wiretapping and extraordinary rendition under Bush. It's understandable that he would seek to stifle and obfuscate from anything he and his former employers might have had a hand in.

What's not understandable is why President Obama sees a need to cover for the previous administration - not unless you consider that his own might well have engaged in some of the same abuses. Despite all of the talk from President Obama there have been reports that rendition abuses actually continued under his watch. There are even reports that torture has continued to be a practice on our nation's behalf in other countries where the law or morality permits.

Those are the concerns that Americans should expect this president to address behind this Senate report. We certainly deserve more than cheap propaganda designed to deflect blame from war criminals.



related:

Let's talk a little more about why the CIA was 'spying' on the Senate Intelligence Committee

Let's talk a little more about why the CIA was 'spying' on the Senate Intelligence Committee

________________________________

I think this is one of the most potentially explosive revelations since the Nixon WH was discovered spying on Democrats. In that scandal Nixon used the nation's intelligence agencies to spy on Kennedy and Muskie to try and find something to use against them to advantage his political contest. As important as those abuses of power were, and the fact that the president was directly involved, they pale in comparison to CIA Director Brennan's admissions today.

This scandal involves an attempt by the Obama/Brennan CIA to intimidate and chill an active investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee into past practices and criminal abuses by the agency which were committed by Bush administration officials.

The Bush CIA had already withheld and destroyed information about its Detention and Interrogation Program in 2005 when it deliberately destroyed tapes and information about its rendition and torture program. A civil lawsuit ACLU revealed in 2009 that 92 videotapes had been deliberately destroyed.

"The large number of videotapes destroyed confirms that the agency engaged in a systematic attempt to hide evidence of its illegal interrogations and to evade the court's order," ACLU attorney Amrit Singh said in a statement.

The defense for accused Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui had demanded the tapes which they believed would depict the waterboarding and other interrogation methods they were alleging occurred. Interrogations of al-Qaida lieutenant Abu Zubaydah and another top al-Qaida leader were also said to be depicted in the videotapes.

At first the prosecution outright denied the tapes existed at all. Only after the trial did they finally admit their existence. Their excuse for destroying the evidence was that they were protecting the identities of the government interrogators.

from Wiki:

On December 6, 2007, the New York Times advised the Bush administration that they had acquired, and planned to publish, information about the destruction of tapes made of Zubaydah's interrogation, believed to show instances of waterboarding and other forms of possible torture.

Michael Hayden, the Director of Central Intelligence, sent a letter to CIA staff the next day, briefing them on the destruction of the tapes. Hayden asserted that key members of Congress had been briefed on the existence of the tapes, and the plans for their destruction. Senator Jay Rockefeller, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, disputed Hayden's assertion, saying that he only learned of the tapes in November 2006, a year after their destruction.

Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and one of just four senior members of Congress who was briefed on the existence of the tapes, acknowledged being briefed. Harman responded to Hayden's assertions by saying she had objected, in writing, to the tapes' destruction. "I told the CIA that destroying videotapes of interrogations was a bad idea and urged them in writing not to do it," Harman stated.

Hayden claimed that the continued existence of the tapes represented a threat to the CIA personnel involved, saying that if the tapes were leaked they might result in CIA personnel being identified and targeted for retaliation. Hayden stated that the tapes were destroyed "only after it was determined they were no longer of intelligence value and not relevant to any internal, legislative, or judicial inquiries."


fast forward to DiFi's floor speech in March:

After we read about the tapes’ destruction in the newspapers, Director Hayden briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee. He assured us that this was not destruction of evidence, as detailed records of the interrogations existed on paper in the form of CIA operational cables describing the detention conditions and the day-to-day CIA interrogations.

The CIA director stated that these cables were “a more than adequate representation” of what would have been on the destroyed tapes. Director Hayden offered at that time, during Senator Jay Rockefeller’s chairmanship of the committee, to allow Members or staff to review these sensitive CIA operational cables given that the videotapes had been destroyed.

Chairman Rockefeller sent two of his committee staffers out to the CIA on nights and weekends to review thousands of these cables, which took many months. By the time the two staffers completed their review into the CIA’s early interrogations in early 2009, I had become chairman of the committee and President Obama had been sworn into office.

The resulting staff report was chilling. The interrogations and the conditions of confinement at the CIA detention sites were far different and far more harsh than the way the CIA had described them to us. As result of the staff’s initial report, I proposed, and then-Vice Chairman Bond agreed, and the committee overwhelmingly approved, that the committee conduct an expansive and full review of CIA’s detention and interrogation program.

On March 5, 2009, the committee voted 14-1 to initiate a comprehensive review of the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program. Immediately, we sent a request for documents to all relevant executive branch agencies, chiefly among them the CIA.

The committee’s preference was for the CIA to turn over all responsive documents to the committee’s office, as had been done in previous committee investigations.

Director Panetta proposed an alternative arrangement: to provide literally millions of pages of operational cables, internal emails, memos, and other documents pursuant to the committee’s document requests at a secure location in Northern Virginia. We agreed, but insisted on several conditions and protections to ensure the integrity of this congressional investigation.

Per an exchange of letters in 2009, then-Vice Chairman Bond, then-Director Panetta, and I agreed in an exchange of letters that the CIA was to provide a “stand-alone computer system” with a “network drive” “segregated from CIA networks” for the committee that would only be accessed by information technology personnel at the CIA—who would “not be permitted to” “share information from the system with other personnel, except as otherwise authorized by the committee.”

It was this computer network that, notwithstanding our agreement with Director Panetta, was searched by the CIA


DiFi's committee worked out an arrangement with the Panetta CIA to obtain those documents which resulted in a unhelpful 'document dump' of hundreds of thousands of un-indexed pages. Nonetheless, these were the documents that the staffers obtained and used in their investigation, following the procedures the CIA had insisted on.

DiFi:

In addition to demanding that the documents produced for the committee be reviewed at a CIA facility, the CIA also insisted on conducting a multi-layered review of every responsive document before providing the document to the committee. This was to ensure the CIA did not mistakenly provide documents unrelated to the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program or provide documents that the president could potentially claim to be covered by executive privilege.

While we viewed this as unnecessary and raised concerns that it would delay our investigation, the CIA hired a team of outside contractors—who otherwise would not have had access to these sensitive documents—to read, multiple times, each of the 6.2 million pages of documents produced, before providing them to fully-cleared committee staff conducting the committee’s oversight work. This proved to be a slow and very expensive process.

The CIA started making documents available electronically to the committee staff at the CIA leased facility in mid-2009. The number of pages ran quickly to the thousands, tens of thousands, the hundreds of thousands, and then into the millions. The documents that were provided came without any index, without organizational structure. It was a true “document dump” that our committee staff had to go through and make sense of.


The committee staffers took whatever documents they thought were relevant and copied them into their own computers. At some point, they noticed that their documents were disappearing . . .

DiFi:

In May of 2010, the committee staff noticed that certain documents that had been provided for the committee’s review were no longer accessible. Staff approached the CIA personnel at the offsite location, who initially denied that documents had been removed. CIA personnel then blamed information technology personnel, who were almost all contractors, for removing the documents themselves without direction or authority. And then the CIA stated that the removal of the documents was ordered by the White House. When the committee approached the White House, the White House denied giving the CIA any such order.

After a series of meetings, I learned that on two occasions, CIA personnel electronically removed committee access to CIA documents after providing them to the committee. This included roughly 870 documents or pages of documents that were removed in February 2010, and secondly roughly another 50 were removed in mid-May 2010.

This was done without the knowledge or approval of committee members or staff, and in violation of our written agreements. Further, this type of behavior would not have been possible had the CIA allowed the committee to conduct the review of documents here in the Senate. In short, this was the exact sort of CIA interference in our investigation that we sought to avoid at the outset.

I went up to the White House to raise this issue with the then-White House Counsel, in May 2010. He recognized the severity of the situation, and the grave implications of Executive Branch personnel interfering with an official congressional investigation. The matter was resolved with a renewed commitment from the White House Counsel, and the CIA, that there would be no further unauthorized access to the committee’s network or removal of access to CIA documents already provided to the committee.

On May 17, 2010, the CIA’s then-director of congressional affairs apologized on behalf of the CIA for removing the documents. And that, as far as I was concerned, put the incident aside.


After that incident, staffers were able to uncover documents related to Panetta's internal review which appeared to provide proof of significant wrongdoing by the agency.

DiFi:

At some point in 2010, committee staff searching the documents that had been made available found draft versions of what is now called the “Internal Panetta Review.”

We believe these documents were written by CIA personnel to summarize and analyze the materials that had been provided to the committee for its review. The Panetta review documents were no more highly classified than other information we had received for our investigation—in fact, the documents appeared to be based on the same information already provided to the committee.

What was unique and interesting about the internal documents was not their classification level, but rather their analysis and acknowledgement of significant CIA wrongdoing.

To be clear, the committee staff did not “hack” into CIA computers to obtain these documents as has been suggested in the press. The documents were identified using the search tool provided by the CIA to search the documents provided to the committee.

We have no way to determine who made the Internal Panetta Review documents available to the committee. Further, we don’t know whether the documents were provided intentionally by the CIA, unintentionally by the CIA, or intentionally by a whistle-blower.

In fact, we know that over the years—on multiple occasions—the staff have asked the CIA about documents made available for our investigation. At times, the CIA has simply been unaware that these specific documents were provided to the committee. And while this is alarming, it is also important to note that more than 6.2 million pages of documents have been provided. This is simply a massive amount of records

The staff did not rely on these Internal Panetta Review documents when drafting the final 6,300-page committee study. But it was significant that the Internal Panetta Review had documented at least some of the very same troubling matters already uncovered by the committee staff – which is not surprising, in that they were looking at the same information.
.

So, in effect, the internal Panetta review actually corroborated the committee's own findings, rather than representing the only info available. In 2012, the Intelligence Committee approved a 6,300-page study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program and sent the report to the executive branch.

The Brennan CIA responded that they agreed with some of the report but disagreed with other parts of it. Most importantly, the parts they disagreed with were actually confirmed by the Panetta review.

DiFi:

As CIA Director Brennan has stated, the CIA officially agrees with some of our study. But, as has been reported, the CIA disagrees and disputes important parts of it. And this is important: Some of these important parts that the CIA now disputes in our committee study are clearly acknowledged in the CIA’s own Internal Panetta Review.

To say the least, this is puzzling. How can the CIA’s official response to our study stand factually in conflict with its own Internal Review?


The intelligence committee took draft copies of the documents and locked them away in their own senate facilities - in their own computer system. This was understandable, given the revelations in 2009 that key evidence had been deliberately destroyed by the agency.

The documents disappeared from their computers.

DiFi:

Unlike the official response, these Panetta Review documents were in agreement with the committee’s findings. That’s what makes them so significant and important to protect.

When the Internal Panetta Review documents disappeared from the committee’s computer system, this suggested once again that the CIA had removed documents already provided to the committee, in violation of CIA agreements and White House assurances that the CIA would cease such activities.

As I have detailed, the CIA has previously withheld and destroyed information about its Detention and Interrogation Program, including its decision in 2005 to destroy interrogation videotapes over the objections of the Bush White House and the Director of National Intelligence. Based on the information described above, there was a need to preserve and protect the Internal Panetta Review in the committee’s own secure spaces.


DiFi wrote to the agency requesting complete copies of the Panetta review. Sen. Udall also requested the documents in a committee hearing. The CIA denied the request, claiming that it was incomplete and 'deliberative.'

That's when the CIA went into full protection mode and insisted they be allowed to conduct a search of the committee's computers.

DiFi:

In late 2013, I requested in writing that the CIA provide a final and complete version of the Internal Panetta Review to the committee, as opposed to the partial document the committee currently possesses.

In December, during an open committee hearing, Senator Mark Udall echoed this request. In early January 2014, the CIA informed the committee it would not provide the Internal Panetta Review to the committee, citing the deliberative nature of the document.

Shortly thereafter, on January 15, 2014, CIA Director Brennan requested an emergency meeting to inform me and Vice Chairman Chambliss that without prior notification or approval, CIA personnel had conducted a “search”—that was John Brennan’s word—of the committee computers at the offsite facility. This search involved not only a search of documents provided to the committee by the CIA, but also a search of the ”stand alone” and “walled-off” committee network drive containing the committee’s own internal work product and communications.

According to Brennan, the computer search was conducted in response to indications that some members of the committee staff might already have had access to the Internal Panetta Review. The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the Internal Review, or how we obtained it.

Instead, the CIA just went and searched the committee’s computers. The CIA has still not asked the committee any questions about how the committee acquired the Panetta Review. In place of asking any questions, the CIA’s unauthorized search of the committee computers was followed by an allegation—which we have now seen repeated anonymously in the press—that the committee staff had somehow obtained the document through unauthorized or criminal means, perhaps to include hacking into the CIA’s computer network.


After searching their computers Brennan began to claim that the Panetta documents were obtained improperly and declared that he was going to conduct an investigation into committee staffer procedures and activities.

DiFi:

Director Brennan stated that the CIA’s search had determined that the committee staff had copies of the Internal Panetta Review on the committee’s “staff shared drive” and had accessed them numerous times. He indicated at the meeting that he was going to order further “forensic” investigation of the committee network to learn more about activities of the committee’s oversight staff.

Two days after the meeting, on January 17, I wrote a letter to Director Brennan objecting to any further CIA investigation due to the separation of powers constitutional issues that the search raised. I followed this with a second letter on January 23 to the director, asking 12 specific questions about the CIA’s actions—questions that the CIA has refused to answer.

Some of the questions in my letter related to the full scope of the CIA’s search of our computer network. Other questions related to who had authorized and conducted the search, and what legal basis the CIA claimed gave it authority to conduct the search. Again, the CIA has not provided answers to any of my questions.

My letter also laid out my concern about the legal and constitutional implications of the CIA’s actions. Based on what Director Brennan has informed us, I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution, including the Speech and Debate clause. It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function.

I have asked for an apology and a recognition that this CIA search of computers used by its oversight committee was inappropriate. I received neither.

Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA’s search may also have violated 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.


Not only did the search and removal of documents from the committee computers indicate an attempt to cover-up the corroborating information contained in the Panetta internal review, the attempt to smear committee staffers with criminal charges for obtaining the documents (through the procedures and search tools that the CIA had actually provided them) was an interference and an attempt to intimidate the committee from conducting a thorough investigation of the agency's activities.

Moreover, there was a conflict of interest, in that the acting general counsel attempting to criminalize the efforts of the committee staffers was a lawyer in the very division which carried out the interrogation procedures in question.

DiFi:

As I mentioned before, our staff involved in this matter have the appropriate clearances, handled this sensitive material according to established procedures and practice to protect classified information, and were provided access to the Panetta Review by the CIA itself. As a result, there is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime. I view the acting general counsel’s referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff—and I am not taking it lightly.

I should note that for most, if not all, of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, the now acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center—the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program. From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit’s chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.

And now this individual is sending a crimes report to the Department of Justice on the actions of congressional staff—the same congressional staff who researched and drafted a report that details how CIA officers—including the acting general counsel himself—provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice about the program.

Mr. President, let me say this. All Senators rely on their staff to be their eyes and ears and to carry out our duties. The staff members of the Intelligence Committee are dedicated professionals who are motivated to do what is best for our nation.

The staff members who have been working on this study and this report have devoted years of their lives to it—wading through the horrible details of a CIA program that never, never, never should have existed. They have worked long hours and produced a report unprecedented in its comprehensive attention to detail in the history of the Senate.

They are now being threatened with legal jeopardy, just as the final revisions to the report are being made so that parts of it can be declassified and released to the American people . . .


Brennan's admissions today have already answered the question of whether the chilling activities occurred. The question remains of why the agency head would go to such extreme and unconstitutional lengths to stifle the Panetta internal review and the Senate committee investigator's efforts to present the documents as part of their report.

Evidently, the CIA felt those documents were damning enough to attempt to withhold and conceal them. It still begs the question of why this administration would go so far to conceal and obfuscate the misdeeds of the previous one. What was their stake in working to muddle the record and discredit the investigators? What are they hiding?



watch DiFi, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Senate floor, outlining charges that the Central Intelligence Agency spied on Senate staffers:



related:

CIA admits it broke into Senate computers; senators call for spy chief’s ouster

Sen. Udall(D)- CIA IG Report Raises Grave Concerns About Constitutional Separation of Powers

DiFi's NSA transparency "reform" effort codifying worst of govt hacking makes her look a fool today

McClatchy reports— CIA employees improperly accessed computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a report on the agency’s now defunct detention and interrogation program, an internal CIA investigation has determined.

Findings of the investigation by the CIA Inspector General’s Office “include a judgment that some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached between SSCI (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) and the CIA in 2009,” CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said in a statement.

The statement represented an admission to charges by the panel’s chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that the CIA intruded into the computers her staff used to compile the soon-to-be released report on the agency’s use of harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists in secret overseas prisons during the Bush administration.

Committee staffers used computers inside a CIA facility to review documents related to the investigation, and Feinstein came to believe the CIA was monitoring their work, a belief confirmed by today's news . . .



FLASHBACK: Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin ripped into Sen. Feinstein in March:

“It is very hypocritical of Senator Feinstein to defend the NSA’s practices of mass spying and condemn Edward Snowden as a traitor, but then express outrage when it’s possible that her committee has been spied on by the CIA,” Benjamin said. “We completely agree with Edward Snowden in that this is an example of the ‘Merkel Effect’ in which ‘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 followed with a statement to NBC News:

"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."


Feinstein defended the program of routinely collecting and storing the phone records millions of Americans, in an op-ed for USA Today:

"The call-records program is not surveillance. It does not collect the content of any communication, nor do the records include names or locations. The NSA only collects the type of information found on a telephone bill: phone numbers of calls placed and received, the time of the calls and duration. The Supreme Court has held this "metadata" is not protected under the Fourth Amendment."


and in a statement in 2013 on the NSA Call Records Ruling which found the program unconstitutional:

“Those of us who support the call records program do so with a sincere belief that it, along with other programs, is constitutional and helps keep the country safe from attack.

“In upholding these convictions, Judge Miller cited Smith v. Maryland (1979) the controlling legal precedent and held the defendants had ‘no legitimate expectation of privacy’ over the type of telephone metadata acquired by the government—which is the ‘to’ and ‘from’ phone numbers of a call, its time, its date and its duration. There is no content, no names and no locational information acquired.

“Clearly we have competing decisions from those of at least three different courts (the FISA Court, the D.C. District Court and the Southern District of California). I have found the analysis by the FISA Court, the Southern District of California and the position of the Department of Justice, based on the Supreme Court decision in Smith, to be compelling."


In January, President Obama actually repudiated Feinstein's position by announcing his wish to end NSA's systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. However, as the administration strained to protect its ability to conduct surveillance, it contradicted the President's fine words about our constitution and the rights of Americans:

I’ve also made it clear that the United States does not collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent, nor do we collect intelligence to disadvantage people on the basis of their ethnicity or race or gender or sexual orientation or religious beliefs. We do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to U.S. companies or U.S. commercial sectors.

And in terms of our bulk collection of signals intelligence, U.S. intelligence agencies will only use such data to meet specific security requirements: counterintelligence; counterterrorism; counterproliferation; cybersecurity; force protection for our troops and our allies; and combating transnational crime, including sanctions evasion.

In this directive, I have taken the unprecedented step of extending certain protections that we have for the American people to people overseas. I’ve directed the DNI, in consultation with the attorney general, to develop these safeguards, which will limit the duration that we can hold personal information while also restricting the use of this information. The bottom line is that people around the world, regardless of their nationality, should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security and that we take their privacy concerns into account in our policies and procedures.

This applies to foreign leaders as well. Given the understandable attention that this issue has received, I’ve made clear to the intelligence community that unless there is a compelling national security purpose, we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies.


Clearly, today's apology by the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, admitting after months of denials that they had spied on Senate intelligence committee staff, is an invitation to doubt anything this administration has been asserting about its intelligence operations.

All of that said, Sen. Feinstein's complaints about the CIA spy gang working to undermine her committee's efforts to determine the extent of the CIA's rendition and torture activities during the Bush administration were certainly valid and prescient.

“The CIA’s search may also have violated 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,” Feinstein said during her speech on the Senate floor regarding the committee’s study on the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program which found that the agency had destroyed videotapes of some of their first interrogations using “enhanced techniques."

Per an exchange of letters in 2009, then-Vice Chairman Bond, then-Director Panetta, and I agreed in an exchange of letters that the CIA was to provide a “stand-alone computer system” with a “network drive” “segregated from CIA networks” for the committee that would only be accessed by information technology personnel at the CIA—who would “not be permitted to” “share information from the system with other personnel, except as otherwise authorized by the committee.”

It was this computer network that, notwithstanding our agreement with Director Panetta, was searched by the CIA . . .

. . . the CIA has previously withheld and destroyed information about its Detention and Interrogation Program, including its decision in 2005 to destroy interrogation videotapes over the objections of the Bush White House and the Director of National Intelligence. Based on the information described above, there was a need to preserve and protect the Internal Panetta Review in the committee’s own secure spaces.


The CIA had responded to the intelligence committee's complaints by accusing the staffers of obtaining their information through illegal means. Feinstein responds:

Shortly thereafter, on January 15, 2014, CIA Director Brennan requested an emergency meeting to inform me and Vice Chairman Chambliss that without prior notification or approval, CIA personnel had conducted a “search”—that was John Brennan’s word—of the committee computers at the offsite facility. This search involved not only a search of documents provided to the committee by the CIA, but also a search of the ”stand alone” and “walled-off” committee network drive containing the committee’s own internal work product and communications.

According to Brennan, the computer search was conducted in response to indications that some members of the committee staff might already have had access to the Internal Panetta Review. The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the Internal Review, or how we obtained it.

Instead, the CIA just went and searched the committee’s computers. The CIA has still not asked the committee any questions about how the committee acquired the Panetta Review. In place of asking any questions, the CIA’s unauthorized search of the committee computers was followed by an allegation—which we have now seen repeated anonymously in the press—that the committee staff had somehow obtained the document through unauthorized or criminal means, perhaps to include hacking into the CIA’s computer network.

As I have described, this is not true. The document was made available to the staff at the offsite facility, and it was located using a CIA-provided search tool running a query of the information provided to the committee pursuant to its investigation . . .


Feinstein correctly pointed out that, not only was there an attempt to criminalize the actions of her staff in apparent retaliation for complaining about the CIA activities, there was also a clear conflict of interest involving the very people who were working to prosecute the staff:

As I mentioned before, our staff involved in this matter have the appropriate clearances, handled this sensitive material according to established procedures and practice to protect classified information, and were provided access to the Panetta Review by the CIA itself. As a result, there is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime. I view the acting general counsel’s referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff—and I am not taking it lightly.

I should note that for most, if not all, of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, the now acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center—the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program. From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit’s chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.

And now this individual is sending a crimes report to the Department of Justice on the actions of congressional staff—the same congressional staff who researched and drafted a report that details how CIA officers—including the acting general counsel himself—provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice about the program.


If nothing else happens as a result of this admission by the CIA, it should reinvigorate the effort to hold accountable those in the Bush administration who approved and executed illegal and immoral torture policies and rendition activities.

from the Guardian today:

The Obama administration has walked a delicate line over the torture report. Obama has insisted its prompt and thorough declassification – which has taken nearly four months – is a priority. Yet he appointed the CIA itself as the lead agency to determine what aspects of a report directly implicating CIA activities the public can see.

Even before he was sworn in, Obama disappointed civil-liberties supporters by indicating his disinclination to prosecuting agency and ex-Bush administration officials who ordered and implemented the torture program. In 2012, a special prosecutor ended an inquiry without bringing charges. Only one man, a former CIA contractor named David Passaro, has gone to jail in connection to the CIA’s post-9/11 torture.

Brennan’s apology also complicates a developing CIA pushback against a report that agency officials, current and former, consider shoddy. George Tenet, the former director whom Brennan served and who oversaw the brutal practices – where suspected terrorists were subjected to simulated drowning, had guns fired by their heads, were kept in undisclosed prisons for years and were sent to countries like Gadhafi’s Libya and Assad’s Syria for even more abusive treatment – is said to be developing a public strategy to attack the committee once the report is released.

The agency, consistent with a pattern that has held since 9/11, appears out of danger from criminal liability. Earlier this month, a Justice Department probe, also first reported by McClatchy, declined to pursue an investigation into Feinstein’s now-vindicated charges.


Meanwhile, the White House is responding to the CIA admission by stating that Pres. Obama has “great confidence” in Brennan, and praising the CIA director for "proactive leadership" in calling for the probe that his agency resisted with every fiber of their database.

Understandable, after all, in their defense of their winning team in covering up and protecting the former administration's most criminal operators from prosecution. It makes one wonder how much of the White House defense and approval of the CIA's obstruction efforts in the investigation of the Bush-era crimes involves shielding their own activities from accountability.



Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and CIA director John Brennan. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

NO ONE is responsible for this many attacks on innocent civilians, except the ones attacking them


It's bullshit, plain and simple to blame Hamas for Israel's direct attacks on the civilian population in Gaza. It's even more ludicrous to blame the non-combatant civilians for the attacks, as some have done. No one is responsible for those attacks, except the Israeli attackers. That's not only common sense, it's also the dictate of international laws that govern military conflict.

How can our government justify standing by, almost silent to the crimes - except to remind us that they hold Hamas responsible for Israel's actions; claiming beyond any proof offered at all, that it's Hamas putting these Palestinian victims in the way of the missile attacks? Never for a moment allowing that anyone on the Israeli side is responsible for placing civilians underneath Hamas sympathizer's rockets.

Where are the demands that Israel show any proof that the risk from their targets outweigh the risk to Palestinian civilians? There is none. Israeli citizens are protected by an 'Iron Dome' of defense; Palestinians have no such protection.

The U.S. defenders of Israel may well claim that Hamas is responsible for the violence and the killing by Israelis of men, women, and children, who are doing little more than dodging Israel's bombs and bullets. However, it's not clear at all what they expect Palestinian civilians to do to prevent combatants, on either side, from engaging in violence.

In any instance, how can anyone claim that these civilians are in any way responsible for that? Where is the risk from the children they're maiming and blowing to bits? What is the goal of Israel, outside of outright punishment for things over which they have absolutely no control?

Is it the annihilation of Palestinians that they're trying to effect, or is it some sort of punishment or coercion? Neither is within any moral boundaries that Americans assume our nation represents or stands for.

History will remember how our government stood by and allowed this violence against unarmed civilians - actively funded the Israeli military effort and even considered funding them more at the same time their 'allies' bombs were falling on homes, schools, hospitals, refuge centers where civilians huddled to escape the unending carnage. History will correctly judge our nation as criminally callous and complicit in these crimes against humanity.

History will wonder at our arrogance, and at our inability to restrain our military and its agents from pursuing ambitions far outside of the mandate of our constitution or conscience. We can scarcely hope to repair the injustice and the pain which our great and powerful nation has caused, around the world and here at home; through our greed, with our zeal, and by our neglect.


related:

Protection of civilians during armed conflict is a cornerstone of international humanitarian law

Civilians in war

UNRWA Condemns Israeli Shelling Of Its School In Gaza As Serious Violation Of International Law

Consequences. When most of us fail to do our job or deliver there are consequences; often immediate

When the President or Congress fails, they make certain they don't suffer any consequences.

I'm thinking about the unemployment extension that legislators have been promising for months. Time and time again, Congress has taken away the money that legislators have found to fund the extension and time and time again, Congress has found a way to spend that found funding on something else.

Republicans have now taken to claiming that withholding benefits is magically FORCING people to take jobs they might not otherwise. They cynically point to the lower unemployment numbers and claim that withholding benefits is some sort of magic elixir - tough love - and they're doing us a favor by withholding an extension of benefits and forcing workers into one of the part-time sub-poverty-level jobs available, if any actually exist.

A mostly bipartisan group of legislators have committed themselves to finding funding for the extension and have gotten commitments over the past months that the extension will be attached to key funding bills, but each and every one has seen the extension stripped out.

Senator Reid told Sen. Reed and republican Sen. Heller from Nevada (unemployment in his state at 7.7%) that "there's a chance" to add the unemployment benefits extension to the emergency spending bill for the border that Pres. Obama requested. That bill appears doomed, at least before the August recess.

Reed and Heller crafted a new bill that would cost a total of $10 billion and was planned to be paid for by "pension smoothing" and "extending Customs user fees through 2024".

The new highway bill that the republican Congress passed overwhelmingly with Democratic votes, 367 to 55, stripped the bipartisan unemployment extension agreement out and just folded the money that was organized for the UE bill and swallowed it up to pay for the highway legislation.

As Sen. Reed commented afterward, "This is now the second time they've taken offsets intended to help the unemployed and used them to pay for other priorities."

President Obama was so eager to get a highway bill that he almost immediately gave his blessing to the House bill without mentioning the unemployment extension at all. Not one word about it; not one proposal from the WH about where to include the UE legislation he's used in his speeches as an example of republican heartlessness and neglect. In giving his tacit approval to the republican highway bill Pres. Obama effectively condoned their shelving of the jobless worker funding extension.

The President gave the extension lip service in a June speech: "They've said no to extending unemployment insurance for more than three million Americans who are out there looking every single day for a new job, despite the fact that we know it would be good not just for those families who are working hard to try to get back on their feet, but for the economy as a whole," he said.

Thing is, Pres. Obama has refused to threaten to veto ANY bills over the benefits extension or bothered to hold ANY republican priorities hostage to an unemployment extension.

That's what I mean by consequences. There are virtually no consequences for republicans in arrogantly refusing to extend benefits; no consequences for their arrogant expectation that inadequate employment and workers disappearing from the rolls by just giving up represents some sort of solution - out of sight, out of their minds.

As I said, the passage of the highway bill, and the President's acceptance of the republican tactic of robbing the UE funding to make that bill happen begs the question of whether the President will EVER insist on ANY consequences for ignoring and using their twisted logic in refusing this traditionally automatic extension.

When is this WH, when is this President going to hold republicans accountable and make them pay a price for their obstinacy and disregard of hurting workers around the nation who haven't benefited from the recovery other states may be experiencing?

When is he going to hold up what republicans want to force THEM to do THEIR jobs? When is he going to exact a price from the republicans? When is he going to make them pay the consequences of their refusal to do their job?

And, yes, this is personal to me. I'm not going to wear my problems on my sleeve and I'm not discussing my personal needs here at all. Period. But, this is personal to me.

Martin O'Malley: 'We Can't Send Children Back to Death' - Says 'Get Them Out Of These Kennels'

Jack Bohrer @JRBoh · 2h
Martin O'Malley: We Can't 'Send Children Back to Death' http://ti.me/W4Uyi0


Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley broke publicly with President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday, calling for a more humane policy toward the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who have illegally crossed into the United States.

“It is contrary to everything we stand for to try to summarily send children back to death,” the Democratic lawmaker told reporters. O’Malley also criticized the “kennels” in which those who have been detained are being kept and calling for the children to be placed in “the least restrictive” locations, including foster homes or with family members in the U.S.

“Through all of the great world religions we are told that hospitality to strangers is an essential human dignity,” O’Malley said. “It is a belief that unites all of us. And I have watched the pictures of young kids who have traveled for thousands of miles. I can only imagine, as a father of four, the heartbreak that those parents must have felt in sending their children across a desert where they can be muled and trafficked or used or killed or tortured. But with the hope, the hope, that they would reach the United States and that their children would be protected from what they were facing at home, which was the likelihood of being recruited into gangs and dying a violent death.”


O’Malley went so far as to call the children “refugees,” a term with legal weight that would allow most of them to remain in the U.S. He called on Congress and the President to avoid modifying the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. That measure requires that children who are not from Canada or Mexico who have crossed the border to be given an opportunity to see an immigration judge to make their case for amnesty. Lawmakers on both sides, as well as the White House, are reviewing ways to amend that law to ease deportations of the tens of thousands of migrant children, who are largely from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

O’Malley said “the whole world is watching” how the U.S. responds to the humanitarian crisis.

“We have to do right not just by these kids but by our kids and protect the children who are here, put them in the least restrictive settings, get them out of these detention centers and these kennels where they are being cooped up, and operate as the good and generous people that we have always been,” he added. “That’s what’s at stake here, as well as the lives of these kids.”



read more: http://time.com/2978026/martin-omalley-minors-immigration/


Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks during a general session at the California Democrats State Convention, March 8, 2014, in Los Angeles. Jae C. Hong—AP


Martin O'Malley ‏@GovernorOMalley 1h
The greatest power we have is power of our principles. We're not a country that should send children away & send them back to certain death

*listen*: https://soundcloud.com/americarising/martin-omalley-we-are-not-a-country-that-should-turn-children-away

'Afghan Democracy.exe' failed to install due to operations timing out - Do you want to try again?



Angry Staff Officer ‏@pptsapper 1h
This was stenciled on a jersey barrier in Kandahar. Someone's got a wicked sense of humor. And too much time.

Big flaw in Hobby Lobby decision is in assuming 'corporate personhoods' can hold religious belief

If you assume, as the Court does, that Hobby Lobby is a corporation - not a sole proprietorship or even a partnership - there isn't any recognized role that religion plays in such a corporate structure as defined by the Court.

The Supreme Court, in 'Citizens United' recognized rights for corporations which are associated with the individuals who form those entities for the purposes of protections of their freedom of press; or to secure their property from unreasonable searches or seizures. The Court recognized the individuals who formed the entities interest in pooling their resources to conduct financial transactions and grow their businesses.

Corporations aren't formed for religious purposes, like churches, they're formed for profit, and only recognized as such under stringent state laws. The only way to get to the religious belief of the owners of Hobby lobby would be to recognize the views of the owners as individuals; not the definition of the corporation, itself, which the Court has already described as a business entity; not a religious institution which is guaranteed those protections of belief and practice.

The corporation can't, itself, hold religious belief - not under the Logic of corporate personhood. The Court is really saying that Hobby Lobby isn't a person, after all - defying all of the logic and reasoning they've used to allow corporations 'free speech' rights to spend as much unaccountable money as they want in campaigns - and has reduced them to what they arguably are; a business made up of people.

But the Court hasn't gone all the way and recognized corporations, themselves as religious entities. As far as anyone can discern from what the Court has said corporations like Hobby Lobby represent, there isn't any religious element that supports that recognition, just rights afforded the individual owners to conduct business. Nowhere in that recognition of corporate personhood by the Court is there any understanding that there is something integral, necessary, or even predominant about religious belief to the operation of these businesses or their ability to conduct business.

That's what the recognition of the Courts of corporations as persons was all about; not a refuge for religious belief. That refuge is already afforded to churches and synagogues. For instance, you can't apply most discrimination laws in the hiring of clergy. That refuge for religiosity isn't incorporated into any understanding the Court has determined as a necessity for conducting business.

Besides, the entire rationale for recognizing corporations was to separate the businesses from the owners. Hobby Lobby and the Courts can't have it both ways. Either they are just an accountable owner and investors, or they are a corporation of interests.

A corporation can't hold or express a religious belief; they're not afforded religious liberty, so there is none to be restrained by complying with the mandate. And, remember, all rights afforded to individuals can't be reasonably applied to corporations . . . Second Amendment, Fifth . . .

Correct me where I'm wrong here, because I'm obviously no expert.

Production for Use


Production for use . . .that's what a gun's for Earl, to shoot, of course! Maybe that's why you used it -- Yes, I think you're right. That's what a gun's for isn't it? Production for use! There's nothing crazy about that is it? - Star reporter Hildy Johnson interviews convict in ' His Girl Friday', 1940


I'm reminded of this surreal scene from Howard Hawk's movie production whenever our government makes reflexive moves toward war - the scene where the newspaper's lead reporter is rationalizing responsibility away from the hapless killer and putting the finger on the gun manufacturer for responsibility for his violence.

I'm looking at the report today that President Obama plans to ask Congress to provide $500 million in direct U.S. military training and equipment to Syrian rebels. Aside from reservations about involving the U.S. materially in any of the fighting there, there's the issue of what responsibility the U.S. would assume, or should at that point, for the blowback and consequence of our government's entreaty to them to violence.

I'll attest to the apparent and relatively new attitude of restraint from the White House following the period where more troops were sacrificed in Afghanistan defending the Karsai regime by Pres. Obama than Bush lost defending 9-11; acknowledge an apparently new attitude of restraint since the height of his use of the often indiscriminate and extra-judicial targeting of weaponized drones (which he still assumes authority to launch).

In Yemen, the Sudan, Libya, and even Syria, the president has demonstrated a new doctrine of sorts which emphasizes diplomatic and international efforts - buttressed by the big stick threat of a declaration, made several times by President Obama, that he holds the power to unilaterally commit military force or forces abroad without initial congressional approval.

Throughout the facedown and resolution of the question of chemical weapons in Syria, the president has maintained that, through his own interpretation of a threat to the U.S. or our interests, he has the authority - notwithstanding his recent reluctance - to unilaterally initiate attacks and deploy troops.

It's a similar argument that he uses in 'leaving his options open' on initiating attacks in Iraq - not withstanding any stated intention of his to refrain from such action - President Obama has insisted that he has all the authority he needs to initiate airstrikes; even introduce troops, if he sees fit.

The retention of that assumed authority is a loaded gun just waiting for an excuse or reason to use it. Production for use.

What happens if our military advisers trigger a deepening or intensifying of the Iraq sectarian conflict? The introduction of that element of violence is a pretext to use it, as well as a trigger to the need for even deeper involvement. It's also a pretext for future presidents to use this commander-in-chief's justifications for war as their own.

However efficient and practical it may seem to provide only a smidge of violence in helping direct attacks in Iraq against Iraqis - however efficient and logical it may seem to give rebels weapons to carry out the political missions Americans certainly aren't willing to sacrifice lives for - there are real and tragic consequences on the ground.

Shoveling more weapons into Syria only gives the U.S. political mercenaries the illusion of clean hands, but we are the merchants of those misdeeds of Congress and the White House. Who are we arming? Who will they be killing? Where does the violence end?

One of the tragedies of 9-11 has been the degree our government's defensiveness has increased with a myriad of justifications to war - maybe not the unbridled military imperialism of the Bush-era, but threatening measures designed to frighten our adversaries away from their own military conquests; their sectarian violence fueled and inflamed by the seemingly deliberate vacuum created out of our own disruptive, self-serving military meddling.

Indeed, Barack Obama, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, actually used that occasion to lay down justifications for war; 'just wars' he called them. The new president wrapped his militarism in a blanket of history in his acceptance speech in Oslo. He spoke with the detachment of a professor lecturing students about a "living testimony" to the "moral force" of the teachings of King and Gandhi who just happened to be commander-in-chief over dual, bloody occupations.

War and peace, in Mr. Obama's presentation, were inseparably intertwined throughout history with America rising above it all - virtuous and correct in the flexing of our military muscle abroad in this age, because of our righteousness in the defining wars we waged with our allies against the Third Reich and Japan. That American virtue, in Mr. Obama's estimation, made evident by our leadership in setting the terms of international patronage, diplomacy, and 'just' war.

Mr. Obama began his speech by attempting to rationalize the obvious contradiction of a wartime president accepting a 'peace' prize. He downplayed the occupation in Iraq he had prolonged, distanced himself from the one he intended to redefine and escalate in Afghanistan, and declared himself responsible for, and "filled with questions" surrounding his sending of 'young Americans' to fight and die abroad.

President Obama:

. . . perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 43 other countries — including Norway — in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

Still, we are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict — filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other

The president acknowledged the civil, ethnic, and sectarian conflicts around the world, which he observed are on the rise, without mention of our own nation's part in fueling, funding, and deliberately or clumsily exacerbating many of those into perpetuity.

In Iraq, the war that the president insisted at the time was 'winding down', our nation's invasion and overthrow of the sovereign government was the catalyst to the chaos and civil and sectarian unrest and violence. Our military forces' inability to stifle or eliminate the killings there, despite our "surged-up", lingering occupation was a less than ringing endorsement of some inherent wisdom behind the opportunistic exercise of our dominating, devastating military forces abroad.

The president admitted his own lack of a 'definitive solution' to it all. Absent that solution, the president said we must be prepared to act when we feel that war is 'justified'.

"A decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats. The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.

Moreover, wars between nations have increasingly given way to wars within nations. The resurgence of ethnic or sectarian conflicts, the growth of secessionist movements, insurgencies and failed states have increasingly trapped civilians in unending chaos. In today's wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflict are sown, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed and children scarred.

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified."


It's obvious what the president was alluding to. There aren't many who would question America's pursuit of justice in the wake of the 9-11 plane crashes. Chasing bin-Laden and his cohorts into Afghanistan, and the rout of his Taliban accomplices to Pakistan was a reasonable response to most looking on.

Yet, there's a question of how much of the president's militarism today in Afghanistan, or now, Iraq, can be justified as part and parcel of that original pursuit; or even integral to some defense of our national security as defined in the original authorizations to use military force.

The emerging practice from politicians in Washington is to construct mechanisms of preemptive aggression in the vain hope of keeping war at bay. Is there anything more delusional than fomenting war to prevent war? Production for use.

That 'ambivalence' to military action the president represented as universal to any conflict, is fiction; at least in America. Our nation's citizens didn't start out ambivalent to chasing bin-Laden into Afghanistan. They became ambivalent when that effort was distorted into opportunistic nation-building - all the while with the fugitive terror suspects that were at the heart and soul of the military mission left free to instigate and motivate violent resistance against our nation's strident military presence and activity across sovereign borders, mostly by the virtue of their seemingly deliberate freedom from justice.

The nation became ambivalent when those occupations, in turn, were escalated to advantage the politics behind propped-up regimes. The suspicion of America's military force abroad was born in the 'extraordinary renditions' by our military and intelligence agencies; and in the indefinite imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans without charges or counsel - many held and tortured as in Gitmo - many tortured and disappeared in 'black sites' in compliant nations. Many are just as suspicious of this president's escalation of force in Afghanistan against the Taliban.

We've been told by the administration and the military that there are relatively few individuals thought to be in Afghanistan or Iraq who are al-Qaeda. Yet the U.S. military aggression in defense of regimes we helped ascend to power in corrupt elections is directed against an entirely different 'enemy' who is operating against the U.S. 'interest' in our maintaining ethically-challenged regimes in dominance over the very people we pretend to be defending.

At the end of his address, the president quoted Martin Luther King Jr.'s remarks in his own Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. . .

As Dr. King said at this occasion so many years ago: "I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the 'isness' of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal 'oughtness' that forever confronts him . . . We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace . . .

It's understandable that President Obama would want to justify his own duplicity between his stated ideals against 'dumb wars' with a declaration of a pursuit of peace behind his own exercise of military force. Yet, King's answer to the dilemma the president faces was non-violence. His own acceptance speech was a promotion of peace and love, not a litany of excuses for militarism.

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy," King said in 1967. "Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars."


And, so it goes.
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