Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Blame-Game Phase in the Quest for Accountability

And this is why it's going to be some time before we see any truly serious pursuit of the torture policy-makers and enablers... Porter Goss in the WaPo:

Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as "waterboarding" were never mentioned. It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience.

Let me be clear. It is my recollection that:

-- The chairs and the ranking minority members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, known as the Gang of Four, were briefed that the CIA was holding and interrogating high-value terrorists.

-- We understood what the CIA was doing.

-- We gave the CIA our bipartisan support.

-- We gave the CIA funding to carry out its activities.

-- On a bipartisan basis, we asked if the CIA needed more support from Congress to carry out its mission against al-Qaeda.

I do not recall a single objection from my colleagues. They did not vote to stop authorizing CIA funding. And for those who now reveal filed "memorandums for the record" suggesting concern, real concern should have been expressed immediately -- to the committee chairs, the briefers, the House speaker or minority leader, the CIA director or the president's national security adviser -- and not quietly filed away in case the day came when the political winds shifted. And shifted they have.

The rest of the op-ed is worth reading. Goss doesn't get it and he's walking out on a limb. Apparently, he's got a lot at stake. But two things more to note today:

1) The CIA and Department of Defense - especially former Bush administration officials at both agencies - seem to be using each other in attempting to deflect blame for their roles in the torture regime. In fact, similar to post-9/11 days and the blame-game wrangling between the CIA and FBI, we now have several players in the blame-game:
  • Cheney and the White House - going all in.
  • The State Department - Zelikow's objecting memorandum, on one hand, but Rice's early role in approving torture, on the other. This seems to be a battle mainly between State and the White House.
  • The FBI - acquitting itself quite competently right now by placing the onus on the CIA.
  • The CIA - no way out but to reframe the issue as "torture works" and/or to deflect blame anywhere it sticks.
  • Ashcroft's Justice Department - mostly on the sidelines for now.
  • Rumsfeld's Defense Department - slowly coming to light, but trying to deflect blame onto the CIA. They scored a three-pointer today.
  • Congress (Democrats and Republicans) - playing dumb while they consider options. This op-ed by Goss calls them on it.
  • Private contractors - this is perplexing; the word is that contractors were heavily involved in torture, but this part of the story remains thus far in the background.
2) Accountability. The only way to restore the rule of law and US credibility in the world is through accountability. Given political realities, whatever accountability we're able to exact will likely be confined to the Bush administration. I can't stress this enough, however: the US will not survive as an influential world power other than through military and economic violence without accountability for the torture regime.

It is in the country's best interests to have a full investigation and prosecutions. But some very powerful people in the country, including the media, are lining up against full accountability. They're thus lining up against the country's best interests. These people, remember, do not own the country. It is not their interests that matter.

1 comment:

troutsky said...

You mean Chomskys been right all along? Nancy Pelosi has always been a nightmarish figure.