CIA Torture Report Reveals That State Department Officials Knew About Torture; Were Told Not To Tell Their Bosses

from the loose-lips-stop-war-crimes dept

We continue to wait and wait for the White House to finish pouring black ink all over the Senate’s torture report, before releasing the (heavily redacted) 480-page executive summary that the Senate agreed to declassify months ago. However, every few weeks it seems that more details from the report leak out to the press anyway. The latest is that officials at the State Department were well aware of the ongoing CIA torture efforts, but were instructed not to tell their superiors, such that it’s likely that the top officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, may have been kept in the dark, while others at the State Department knew of the (highly questionable) CIA actions.

A Senate report on the CIA’s interrogation and detention practices after the 9/11 attacks concludes that the agency initially kept the secretary of state and some U.S. ambassadors in the dark about harsh techniques and secret prisons, according to a document circulating among White House staff.

The still-classified report also says some ambassadors who were informed about interrogations of al-Qaida detainees at so-called black sites in their countries were instructed not to tell their superiors at the State Department, the document says.

Powell was eventually told about the program, but not until it was well underway apparently. And, of course, the CIA says that this was all perfectly normal:

The former CIA official said it would be standard practice for ambassadors informed about a covert operation to be instructed not to share it with others who did not have a “need to know,” as determined by the National Security Agency. Ambassadors in countries in which the CIA set up black sites to interrogate prisoners were usually told about it, said the official….

The other interesting tidbit is that this report came from leaked “talking points” at the State Department, as they prepare for the release of the report. As we noted recently, the State Department had been making some noises about how angry this report would make lots of people — but it appears that the latest strategy is for the State Department to “embrace” the findings and pull a “that was then, this is now” card:

The State Department wants to embrace the conclusions of the Senate report and blast the CIA’s past practices, according to the document.

“This report tells a story of which no American is proud,” the document says in a section entitled “Topline Messages (as proposed by State).”

“But it is also part of another story of which we can be proud,” the document adds. “America’s democratic system worked just as it was designed to work in bringing an end to actions inconsistent with our democratic values.”

Frankly, this is probably the most sensible strategy — and one many people have been advocating for. Everyone knows the report is damning. The best way to deal with it is to come clean, admit how wrong things were, and be much more transparent. There are, of course, a few problems with this plan, though. First, the US has never done anything to actually punish those who were responsible for the program. In fact, the only person in jail for his association with the program is the guy who blew the whistle on it. Second, the intelligence community would have to become a hell of a lot more transparent. While it has actually become marginally more transparent thanks to Ed Snowden, the intelligence community has a long way to go to build back up trust. Releasing this report is the right thing to do. But actually getting people to trust the US intelligence community again is going to take a lot more work.

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Comments on “CIA Torture Report Reveals That State Department Officials Knew About Torture; Were Told Not To Tell Their Bosses”

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13 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Wow, not to be all Godwiny, but this reminds me so much the Nuremberg trials!

Anybody heard of Albert Speer, the guy who ran Germany’s war economy and munitions production during WWII, using slave labor? He’s the one who said that, “If Hitler had had any friends, I would have been one of the close ones.” Well, Speer was able to “prove” (not really) at Nuremberg that he never knew about the Holocaust, and thus he only got 20 years in prison rather than death. Afterwards, people pointed to him as an example, “See, if even a guy as highly placed as Speer didn’t know about the death camps, then how can I, a mere bureaucrat in a minor department, have known? I can’t be charged for war crimes if I didn’t know anything about it.”

And now we have all these people who want to minimize and conceal their participation the CIA’s torture program. I wonder how these people would have fared as defendants at Nuremberg?

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