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 Rewarding Impunity

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Join date : 2012-05-29
Location : Manchester UK

PostSubject: Rewarding Impunity   Sun 21 Oct 2012, 08:44

Rewarding Impunity

On Oct. 17, Eric Holder handed out the Justice Department's
annual awards for distinguished service to a slew of department employees. Featured
at the top of the awards announcement were the men and women who successfully
prosecuted 10 New Orleans police officers for killing innocent civilians in the
wake of Hurricane Katrina, and a U.S. marshal who risked his life to protect a
victim from a violent fugitive during the fugitive's capture. But buried at the
bottom of the list -- the 13th of 14 "distinguished service awards" -- was a
more unusual awardee: Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham. Durham and his team received
the award not for bringing anyone to justice, but for declining to hold accountable anyone in the CIA for its brutal
interrogations of detainees at secret prisons, or "black sites," in connection
with President George W. Bush's "war on terror."

"In order to conduct the investigations," the citation
reads, "the team had to review significant amounts of information, much of
which was classified, and conduct many interviews in the United States and at
overseas locations."

There's no question that Durham worked hard for a long time,
and that the investigation was complex and substantial. After all, more than 100
men were "disappeared" into the CIA's black sites for extended incommunicado detention
and interrogation. Because the CIA prisons were a secret, everything that
happened there is classified, complicating investigation still further. And
because the investigation itself is secret, we can't know precisely what
evidence Durham considered, what roadblocks he faced, what judgment calls he

But here's what we do know. Many of those "disappeared" into
the CIA's black sites were tortured and/or illegally subjected to cruel,
inhuman, and degrading treatment. Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for
example, were waterboarded 83 and 183 times, respectively. They and other
detainees were stripped naked, doused with water, beaten about the face and
stomach, slammed into walls, deprived of sleep for days on end, forced into
painful stress positions, and confined in small dark boxes for hours at a time.
And these were just the "authorized" torture tactics, given a green light by a
secret memo written in August 2002 by John Yoo and Jay Bybee from the Justice
Department's Office of Legal Counsel, and specifically okayed by President
Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice,
Attorney General John Ashcroft, and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, among

We also know, thanks to the CIA's own Inspector General, that
CIA interrogators in the black sites went beyond even the illegal brutality
authorized by high-level officials. One detainee was threatened with a handgun
and a power drill. A mock execution was staged next to a detainee's cell. Interrogators
threatened to kill the children of another detainee if he didn't tell them what
they wanted to know.

We also know that in 2005, CIA higher-up Jose Rodriguez
ordered the destruction of videotapes of two of those interrogations, shortly
after the Washington Post revealed
the existence of the CIA secret prisons where the interrogations took place, and
while the tapes were under request from several courts and a Senate committee
looking into charges of abuse.

Durham cleared everyone in the CIA of accusations of
wrongdoing. Does he deserves a medal for that? Maybe so, but then there are a few
other recipients the attorney general left out. Surely John Yoo and Jay Bybee
deserve medals for making the interrogations possible in the first place, by
issuing a memo that Jack Goldsmith, director of the Office of Legal Counsel after
Bybee, has called a "get out of jail free card." Goldsmith himself, along with
his successors as OLC heads under Bush -- Daniel Levin and Steven Bradbury -- also
deserve medals for secretly allowing the torture tactics to continue even after
the administration rescinded the initial memo when the Post published it. Tellingly, the Bush administration could not publicly
defend, even for a moment, what everyone had signed off on in secret; but
Goldsmith, Levin, and Bradbury ensured, in subsequent secret memos and
authorizations, that the CIA's illegal program could go on.

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