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Feds Tried To Destroy All Evidence Of Memo Saying They Were Committing War Crimes With Torture

from the transparency dept

Spencer Ackerman, over at Wired, recently had a fascinating article about how the a former Bush official had written a memo detailing how the CIA had committed war crimes in torturing Al Qaeda suspects, in violation of the Geneva conventions. Wired has the full memo, but here's the first page:
No matter what you think of the US's actions in how it treated prisoners and suspects, what struck me about the story is just how hard the feds worked not to release this document. The guy who wrote the memo, Philip Zelikow, revealed the existence of the memo three years ago in a blog post, leading Ackerman to file a Freedom of Information Act request to uncover it. Later, in a Senate hearing, Zelikow explained how higher ups in the administration had decided "the memo was not considered appropriate for further discussion and that copies of my memo should be collected and destroyed." Of course, what wasn't destroyed was some legally questionable arguments in favor of these "enhanced interrogation techniques."

It turns out, however, at least one copy of Zelikow's letter survived -- but even then it took almost three years from the first FOIA request until it was actually released. This was also years after the memos insisting that the activities were legal were released. For a government that keeps wanting to insist that it's being as transparent as possible, and one where political calculus is not supposed to weigh on decisions like this, it seems pretty clear that the feds were quite careful to try to hide internal reports that argue (persuasively, and with great detail) against its legal theory, but happy to reveal the much more questionable documents that support its position. This is not surprising, but it is disappointing. An intellectually honest federal government is willing to openly discuss dissenting viewpoints.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Watchit (profile), Apr 11th, 2012 @ 9:22am

    I wonder how this letter survived?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2012 @ 9:28am

    Then they have the nerve to claim that the U.S. is only avoiding transparency in the TPP negotiations because other countries want it that way. What a lie.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2012 @ 9:28am

    Re:

    Wikileaks :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2012 @ 9:32am

    so when will this guy be arrested like other 'whistle blowers?

    as for the government being more transparent, what that meant was using a clearer, but still bullet-proof material around Obama when giving his 'speeches'

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    [citation needed or GTFO], Apr 11th, 2012 @ 9:34am

    Is there such at thing?

    An intellectually honest federal government is willing to openly discuss dissenting viewpoints.

    There's been so many stories and articles about government corruption that I'm wondering if an "intellectually honest federal government" even exists in this day and age.

    If I'm wrong, feel free to correct me. :)

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    fb39ca4, Apr 11th, 2012 @ 9:36am

    [VGS] Shazbot!

     

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  7.  
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    Yakko Warner (profile), Apr 11th, 2012 @ 9:44am

    Oxymoron

    I've heard some whoppers in my time — "jumbo shrimp", "military intelligence", "found missing" — but "intellectually honest federal government" takes the cake!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2012 @ 9:44am

    Welcome to the time of President Dick Chaney and his finger puppet Dubya.

    Vote Republican for the win!

     

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  9.  
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    Chosen Reject (profile), Apr 11th, 2012 @ 9:46am

    Re: Is there such at thing?

    Get nice and cozy in your chair, because you aren't going to be standing corrected for a looooooong time.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Lord Binky, Apr 11th, 2012 @ 10:03am

    Times haven't changed as much as some think.....

    It's not like this was released with ease and officials said, We're sorry for what happened, but it's different now. *displays evidence* It hasn't changed, they just got better at hiding it. The transparency we have at present is like letting someone search my room freely, while knowing they won't look INSIDE the mattress where I hid all my stuff I didn't want to be found.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    [citation needed or GTFO], Apr 11th, 2012 @ 10:07am

    Re: Re: Is there such at thing?

    Even if I time-travel?

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2012 @ 10:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Is there such at thing?

    Maybe if you went back in time.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2012 @ 10:15am

    Re:

    its been 3 years and Obama's been in office 3.5 at this point, so would say the foot dragging ends up in his court... Bush get the ball for the torture, Obama get the ball for legal delay tactics and trying to destroy the docs.... so take your blinders off and stop sucking the 2 party's pipe...

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2012 @ 10:16am

    Re:

    oh and way to be a one sided meat puppet clown...

     

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  15.  
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    A Guy (profile), Apr 11th, 2012 @ 10:19am

    How much do you want to bet there is a big stack of secret presidential pardons sitting in some secret cabinet just in case this stuff came to light?

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2012 @ 10:30am

    The default state of every government document...

    ...should be "published to the world". (Note that I'm talking about documents here, not data. My tax return, your social security account, and J. Random User's Medicaid statement are data, not documents.)

    By "every" I mean everything: everything in the White House. Everything in Congress. Everything in the CIA, the DoE, the EPA, EVERYTHING. (Cue Gary Oldman)

    Exceptions to this should only be granted after review by an independent board of citizens -- NONE of whom can hold any political office, ALL of whom will be selected at random from registered voters once a year. Officials must appear before the board and make the case for secrecy; all such petitions, if granted, will stipulate an expiration date, and if an extension isn't granted, those documents will become public on that date. Exceptions will be rate-limited, e.g., so many documents/year/department.

    No doubt officials would howl in protest if this became law. Too bad: anyone who can't conduct the people's business in full view of the people is unworthy to be a public servant.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    [citation needed or GTFO], Apr 11th, 2012 @ 11:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there such a thing?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    DMNTD, Apr 11th, 2012 @ 11:03am

    time

    Just enough time(as usual)so most forget or don't care enough. Well played feds, well played. (throws uo)

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2012 @ 11:32am

    Re:

    Blaming one party or saying that one party is the answer to these problems is moronic. They're all the same. They both either caused or extended this problem and have no interest in fixing it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    PRMan, Apr 11th, 2012 @ 11:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Is there such at thing?

    You can time travel. It's called reading books.

    I've read The Life of Abraham Lincoln and the government was FAR more corrupt leading up to the Civil War than it is now.

    Reading about Andrew Jackson showed me that there was a lot of corruption back then as well, but similar to the amount now.

    Reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin shows the beginnings of government, collecting taxes for libraries, street lamps and street sweeping.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    [citation needed or GTFO], Apr 11th, 2012 @ 11:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there such at thing?

    In other words, an "intellectually honest federal government" has never existed and will never exist.

    I'd say that's not exactly a comforting thought, but it'd be foolhardy to believe that conflict will eventually phase out of human nature.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    Watchit (profile), Apr 11th, 2012 @ 1:57pm

    Re: Re:

    haha,whistle blowers triumph once again!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    Watchit (profile), Apr 11th, 2012 @ 2:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there such a thing?

    dude, that was pretty much the best show of my childhood... I think I love you o_0

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    Rapnel (profile), Apr 11th, 2012 @ 2:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there such at thing?

    Enter Internet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Leslie, Apr 11th, 2012 @ 2:12pm

    Re: The default state of every government document...

    Damn straight! You are so right!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2012 @ 3:34pm

    Re: Is there such at thing?

    The ICE 'correction squad' will be around shortly to correct your views... don't worry, we know who you are, where you are, and how to get to you.

    Thank you,
    ICECS (pronounced Ice-ees, since everyone loves icees (slurpee/slushies), AMIRITE?)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    Zem (profile), Apr 11th, 2012 @ 3:51pm

    Monkey See Monkey DO

    Are we now suprised how our corporations act based upon the example set by the government.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2012 @ 4:02pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I was joking.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    Watchit (profile), Apr 11th, 2012 @ 5:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Well, I guess I'm back to square one...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    Watchit (profile), Apr 11th, 2012 @ 5:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Is there such at thing?

    But it's pessimistic to think it's impossible.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Phil H, Apr 11th, 2012 @ 8:13pm

    intellectually honest

    You mentioned an intellectually honest federal government. Isn't that a contradiction in terms? We all know what happened with the "WMD" as well as your mention above with regard to CIA interrogation techniques. The US gov't and really all gov'ts do what they see is in their best interest (their, being the individuals running it) which means job protection (for themselves) and making money (for themselves). There is no honesty involved when it comes to greed and power. It is an addictive drug for politicians, just as any other drug.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2012 @ 3:56am

    Torture

    Awww, some terrorists that wanted to kill us got roughed up a little. Excuse me if I don't lose any sleep over it. You think they wouldn't slit your throat given half a chance? Wake up sheeple, the world is not the friendly hippie commune you wish it to be. Half the world wants the US dead, because we are the, strongest, richest, and most influential in the World. For them to replace us and insert their 14 century laws, they have to kill us. Don't agree with me? Then you are an idiot; history and facts are on my side.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 7:58am

    Re: Torture

    "Awww, some terrorists that wanted to kill us got roughed up a little." - You know nothing. Wholesale roundup of brown ppl and torture them. No different than closing down a mall and take the ppl there and torture them. Might there be a terrorist there? Bullshit.

    "Half the world wants the US dead, because we are the, strongest, richest, and most influential in the World." - Again you know shit. They hate us because we fuck with their countries and put in place puppet dictators then give them the means to commit genocide on their own ppl.
    http://media.bonnint.net/seattle/5/520/52093.jpg

    We sponsor terrorists when it suits us and then demonize them when they get tired of us meddling with their countries and turn on us. alCIAda ring a bell?

    "history and facts are on my side." - Yes history and "facts" as told by Fox "news."

    YOU are the idiot, history and facts are not on your side at all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 8:03am

    Re: Torture

    "America's policy choices have consequences. Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 8:09am

    Re: Torture

    Osama bin Laden, a wealthy man, left Saudi Arabia in 1979 to join American-sponsored so-called freedom fighters in Afghanistan. He received financial assistance, weapons and training from our CIA, just as his allies in Kosovo continue to receive the same from us today.

    It is during this time that bin Laden learned to practice terror – tragically, with money from the US taxpayers. But it wasn’t until 1991, during what we refer to as the Persian Gulf War, that he turned fully against the United States. It was this war, said to protect our oil, that brought out the worst in him

     

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  36.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 1:50pm

    The "Deny" Checkbox

    Did anyone notice the rubber stamp from the State Department on the page bottom with the options to "Release, Excise, Deny, Declassify"?

    What exactly is the "Deny" check box for??

    And "Excise"...isn't that a.k.a. destroying evidence?

    Freedom of information. Ha!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    Chargone (profile), Apr 12th, 2012 @ 7:37pm

    Re: Torture

    problem being, of course, it's not just terrorists.

    it's also any randoms who get grabed in the process of 'security theater' so they appear to be doing Something, it's also randoms the government decides are embarrassing...

    thing is, if you allow it for some specific group or sub group, it doesn't take long for those at the top to find a way of defining ANYONE as belonging to one of those groups when convenient.

    better to avoid it all together.

    (mind you, i do happen to agree there are circumstances where even torture may be appropriate, but they're incredibly rare and the people likely to find themselves in such situations are NOT the people I'd trust to make that judgment call.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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