The Exposure Of CIA Torture Is Finally Costing Someone A Job: Former Senate Staffer Alissa Starzak

from the halls-of-power-still-clogged-with-assholes,-apparently dept

Oh, good. As if there was ever any doubt that the exposure of CIA torture was never going to result in anyone involved being held responsible, the current push to knock a former Senate staffer off her career path further confirms the government’s preference for shooting messengers.

Alissa Starzak, a former Democratic majority staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee, played a critical and controversial role during her time on the panel: She was a lead investigator for the torture report, and was one of two staffers involved in an ongoing feud over damning internal CIA documents obtained by the committee.

Currently serving as deputy general counsel for the Defense Department, Starzak was nominated last July to serve as general counsel to the Army.

But the critics of the torture investigation — namely, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-N.C.) — are orchestrating a quiet campaign to stall Starzak’s nomination.

Burr confirmed to The Huffington Post that he is working to keep the former investigator from getting approved by the Senate.

This would be the same Richard Burr who ridiculously demanded everyone in possession of the full, unredacted CIA Torture Report return their copies immediately, presumably so he could memory-hole the damning documents as quickly as possible.

So, while everyone else involved walks away with their careers pretty much intact — and covered by the president’s mawkishly-worded admission that “we tortured some folks” — Starzak will be about the only person to emerge from this horrific debacle with her options limited.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is divided against itself. Feinstein tackled the CIA’s torture programs, facing down fellow committee members while doing so. Since Burr can’t hang Feinstein — largely because she’s still a very hawkish on NSA surveillance — he’s just going to fit Starzak with a noose and hang Feinstein in effigy.

Starzak wasn’t involved with the torture review for long, leaving Feinstein’s staff for a job with the Department of Defense in 2011, but she managed to secure a key document that served as a touchstone for future Senate investigative work. While digging through the documents the CIA allowed the Senate to access on its computers in the agency’s basement, she came across the files later known as the “Panetta Review.” At the time (2010), they seemed unimportant. It wasn’t until the CIA began defending itself against claims made in review drafts that Senate staffers realized how instrumental this file was.

It was in June 2013 that the CIA, now under the leadership of John Brennan, sent the committee its official response to the completed torture study. The agency largely defended its use of torture — in stark contrast with what the Panetta Review said — which tipped Senate staffers off to the document’s importance.

After the CIA issued its response, Senate investigators sat through dozens of hours of meetings with agency staff in an effort to resolve the discrepancies between the official CIA line and the Senate’s findings. But those meetings yielded little. Newly aware of the relevance of the Panetta Review — as it backed their findings and undermined the agency’s official response — staffers slipped the document back to their secure committee spaces sometime in late 2013.

This move led to CIA claims that the Senate had improperly accessed documents… which led to the Senate accusing the CIA of spying on staffers. This finally resulted in CIA opening its own investigation into the Senate allegations and (of course) clearing itself of any wrongdoing, while raising new accusations about Senate staffers’ improper access.

So, while CIA, DOJ and administration officials are free to duck questions about their involvement in the approval (either explicit or tacit) of the CIA’s torture programs, Burr and others are holding Starzak’s future hostage until she answers for this supposed improper behavior.

Critics are now holding up Starzak’s nomination — and say they are willing to kill it entirely if need be — to get more answers about the Panetta Review. Specifically, they say, they want the committee’s Democratic staffers to provide more information about how the file was discovered in 2010 and how, in late 2013, staffers slipped the printed documents back to the committee’s secure office spaces, in apparent violation of an agreement with the agency.

“Clearly it looks like … [she] knew that this document existed, knew that people were reading it and as a counsel didn’t try to keep people from doing it,” the lawmaker familiar with the controversy said. “[I want] information that fills in the blanks of what happened. And she clearly knows something.”

It’s nothing but thug tactics, wrapped in the faux concern for an intelligence agency’s operational security. Burr is irritated that Senate staffers didn’t play by the CIA’s self-serving ruleset — not because rules mean much to him, but because it resulted in the exposure of truly vile behavior from officials and operatives Burr routinely defends. And he’s willing to let the record show that he prefers punishing those who expose torture to punishing the torturers themselves.

Filed Under: , , , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “The Exposure Of CIA Torture Is Finally Costing Someone A Job: Former Senate Staffer Alissa Starzak”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: I have a moral objection to depending on divine justice.

Humans are social creatures. It’s been demonstrated time and again that our capacity for logic sharpens in the context of social justice (at least for those of our fellow humans that we regard as persons — not so much for those outside that threshold).

And notions of Hellfire, or karma or ambiguous assurances that he’ll get what’s coming to them all are there for the explicit purpose of opiating that outrage of injustice.

Josef Mengele died in his seventies a free man somewhere in South America. Mengele, aka the Angel of Death who selected his subjects for medical experiments from the Auschwitz death camps and was about as evil as they come successfully evaded Nazi hunters until he passed from natural causes. Sometimes people get away.

And the most we can hope for is that in the future fewer innocent people are wrongfully convicted. And fewer guilty people escape.

And the assurance of some kind of non-anthropogenic justice only slows that process down. A better dialogue is to ask Why is our society one that allows for people like Richard Burr to thrive? and How do we change that from here?

Baron von Robber says:

Dear Sen Burr,

You stated that you “… want information that fills in the blanks of what happened.”

It started in [redacted] when [redacted] and [redacted]. I then [redacted][redacted][redacted] till [redacted]. So while [redacted], the [redacted] became [redacted].

I hope this clears things up for you.

sincerly, Alissa Starzak

Anonymous Coward says:

I find it really fascinating that the question is always “how did they get the report?” Rather than “why was it not provided?”

It’s a pretty damn important document directly detailing the exact thing they were investigating. Nobody thought “heh, we already did a full investigation and this is the result”…but that document didn’t make them look good

David says:

Starzac only has herself to blame.

If she had had half a brain she would have realized that she was not intended to do a good job on her assignment.

They probably hand-picked the dullest bulbs in the pear orchard and then she got lucky and was accidentally provided with the material needed to do a proper job. And then she shared it with the team so that they all could do a proper job instead of using it to bargain a payout.

Third World work ethics. Clearly not cut out for Washington D.C.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...