from the ALL-KNOWLEDGE-OBTAINED dept
The FBI and CIA have strained history over the Bush administration’s War on Terror torture program. According to a 2007 LA Times report, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, upon learning of the CIA’s illegal tactics, pulled his agents back from even playing a supporting role to the agency. One senior official at the bureau was quoted as saying, “the CIA determined they were going to torture people, and we made the decision not to be involved.”
Mueller himself, reportedly, wanted to save his agents from “legal jeopardy,” by prohibiting them from participating in the tactics.The CIA was nonplussed by its rebuffed advances. Its director of public affairs responded with an eloquent "bullshit" to the FBI's decision to stay uninvolved in the agency's enhanced interrogation games. That backdrop sets the stage for FBI Director James Comey's response to Dianne Feinstein, when she interrupted a federal law enforcement budget hearing to ask why the Torture Report she put six years into hadn't been touched by the agency.
“The fact that it hasn’t been opened, at least that’s what’s been reported to me, is really a great disservice,” she added. “The report contains numerous examples of a learning experience: of cases, of interrogation of where the department could learn, perhaps, some new things from past mistakes.”Hardly surprising, considering the FBI's parent agency -- the DOJ -- can't seem to recall whether any officials there have read it or not. When speaking to the New York Times about the decision to not bring charges against CIA officials and personnel, the DOJ said it had read the whole thing. When withholding information from a FOIA requester, it told the court the full report hadn't even been unsealed from its package, much less read.
Comey didn’t deny that the report is gathering dust in a locker somewhere at the J. Edgar Hoover building.
“I don’t know enough about where the document sits at this point in time,” he told Senators.
Comey at least admitted up front that no one at the FBI has looked at the full report. And at least Comey managed to make it through the executive summary -- something other CIA defenders hadn't even done before taking to the airwaves to contend the agency did nothing wrong.
Comey's excuse, however, is wanting.
“What we have not done is thought about whether there are lessons learned for us,” Comey admitted, noting that there’s a tendency for him to think there’s little the FBI can learn from the report since they don’t engage in those types of interrogation.Whether or not there are direct lessons is something only Comey can attest to. But there are certainly plenty of cautionary, indirect lessons to be learned. Even if it fails to translate across agencies, there's no reason for Comey or other FBI officials to be only as informed as the American public. If they have the access, they should use it, if only to confirm the agency made the right decision to steer clear of the CIA's torture programs.
The agency may also use it as a learning moment and ask why -- if it had seen enough disturbing CIA behavior to scare it away -- it did nothing about the abuses it witnessed. And then it can ask itself why -- when it uncovered civil liberty abuses by the NYPD's now-defunct Demographics Unit (led by a former CIA official) extensive enough to prompt its refusal to partake in collected evidence -- it did not report this to the DOJ, which had the power to step in and stop it.
The FBI takes a dim view of public accountability, judging from its constant thwarting of its internal oversight. Apparently, it feels it's in no position to demand accountability from others.