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     Rewarding Impunity

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    Posts : 7976
    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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