May 21, 2015
Court sides with CIA, ‘torture’ reports to stay secret
May 21, 2015
WASHINGTON — The CIA can keep
secret a nearly 7,000-page Senate report on harsh interrogation methods,
as well as an internal agency review, a federal judge has ruled.
complete 6,963-page report compiled by the Senate Select Committee on
Intelligence, and the related “Panetta review,” are exempt from the
dictates of the Freedom of Information Act, U.S. District Judge James E.
Though noting that “this case is no slam dunk for the government,” Boasberg in his 26-page decision Wednesday
rejected the ACLU’s arguments for disclosure. The Senate committee
report, he reasoned, remained a document under congressional control,
and Congress made sure to exempt itself from FOIA.
undoubted authority to keep its records secret, authority rooted in the
Constitution, longstanding practice, and current congressional rules,”
The fact that the Senate intelligence panel had
forwarded a copy of the full report to the CIA, Boasberg added, “should
not be readily interpreted to suggest more wholesale abdication of
Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project, voiced disappointment in the ruling.
direct, contemporaneous evidence shows that the full torture report is
subject to the FOIA because Congress sent it to the executive branch
with instructions that it be broadly used to ensure torture never
happens again,” Shamsi said in a statement. “The Senate’s landmark
investigation into a dark period in our nation’s history should not stay
behind closed government doors, but needs to see the light of day.”
But the current Senate committee chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said he was pleased.
release of this highly classified document will compromise the national
security of the United States and needlessly put Americans lives at
risk,” Burr said.
its a June 2009 letter to the CIA, the Senate committee specified that
the documents it generated during its investigation “remain
congressional records in their entirety and disposition” and that
“control over these records, even after the completion of the
Committee’s review,” would “lie exclusively with the Committee.”
the end of the day,” Boasberg wrote, “the ACLU asks the court to
interject itself into a high-profile conversation that has been carried
out in a thoughtful and careful way by the other two branches of
government. As this is no trivial invitation, it should not be blithely
(The ACLU) and the public may well ultimately gain
access to the document it seeks,” Boasberg added. “But it is not for the
Court to expedite that process.”
Boasberg more quickly dismissed
the related FOIA request for the agency’s internal “Panetta review,”
noting a previous FOIA request for the documents by journalist Jason
Leopold had likewise been rejected.
Most official accounts of Slahi’s torture have concealed or glossed over Zuley’s name.
Chicago has long had an institutional problem with police torture. An infamous former police commander, Jon Burge, used to administer electric shocks to Chicagoans taken into his station, and hit them over the head with telephone books. On Friday, Burge was released from home monitoring, the conclusion of a four and a half year federal sentence – not for torture, but for perjury.
When Zuley took over the Slahi interrogation in 2003 – his name has gone widely unreported – he designed a plan so brutal it received personal sign-off from then-US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Since the release of Senate findings earlier this month, the assumption that the CIA’s torture program’s sole motive was post-9/11 self-defense has gone virtually unchallenged. There has been almost no recognition that the George W. Bush administration also tortured prisoners for a very different goal: to extract information that could tie al-Qaeda to Saddam Hussein and justify the invasion of Iraq. While the Senate report and other critics say torture produced false information, that could have been one of the program’s goals. We are joined by retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005. Wilkerson helped prepare Powell’s infamous February 2003 speech to the United Nations wrongly accusing Iraq of possessing weapons of mass destruction. The claim was partially based on statements extracted from a prisoner tortured by Egypt on the CIA’s behalf, who later recanted his claim. Wilkerson says that beginning in the spring of 2002 — one year before the Iraq War and just months after the 9/11 attacks, the torture program’s interrogations “were as much aimed at contacts between al-Qaeda and Baghdad and corroboration thereof as they were trying to ferret out whether there was another attack coming like 9/11. That was stunning to me to find that was probably 50 percent of the impetus.”
This could be a big step forward. Remains to be seen how much will be revealed and whether there will be any accounting for it.
Wonder how it will square with American Exceptionalism.