The Government Continues To Classify WikiLeaks Cables to Cover Up Their Torture Cover Up

The government has responded to ACLU’s FOIA for a bunch of WikiLeaks cables by releasing redacted versions of just 11 of the 23 cables they FOIAed (I’ve copied, ACLU’s inventory of what they got below the fold).

Some of their redactions are unsurprising–details that show officials from other governments sucking up to the US. But some of the redactions clearly serve only to “hide” details of the government’s own cover up of its torture program. For example, consider  this passage, which is part of a substantial redaction in the FOIA release.

Meanwhile, the Embassy has been involved in DOJ-led talks to have Zaragoza – who attended the April 16 press conference – lead a four-person team of GOS officials to Washington for a possible meeting with U.S. Deputy AG David Ogden or AG Eric Holder during the week of May 18. Zaragoza’s wife, who is Conde Pumpido’s chief of staff, would reportedly be one of the four.

The passage only describes internal discussions between Embassy personnel in Spain and DOJ; there’s no mention of any Spanish actions or statements.

Yet it’s tremendously damaging to the Obama Administration because it explains how discussions between the US and Spain got from this April 1, 2009 suggestion Chief Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza made (this is also redacted but could easily be claimed as one of those embarrassing exchanges with a foreign government official).

Zaragoza noted that Spain would not be able to claim jurisdiction in the case if the USG opened its own investigation, which he much preferred as the best way forward and described as “the only way out” for the USG.

To Obama’s April 16 assurances there would be no prosecutions for torture, to Eric Holder’s August 24 announcement (in the wake of the OPR Report, which was itself an investigation) of the John Durham investigation. In other words, the redacted paragraph provides key details showing that Spanish legal representatives met with DOJ as DOJ decided to launch an investigation that couldn’t seem to find a crime in years of torture evidence.

Similarly, this entire cable was withheld, including this passage which records only what the US Deputy Chief of Mission said to Germany’s Deputy National Security Adviser (so again, it doesn’t show anything embarrassing the Germans did).

In a February 6 discussion with German Deputy National Security Adviser Rolf Nikel, the DCM reiterated our strong concerns about the possible issuance of international arrest warrants in the al-Masri case. The DCM noted that the reports in the German media of the discussion on the issue between the Secretary and FM Steinmeier in Washington were not accurate, in that the media reports suggest the USG was not troubled by developments in the al-Masri case.

But, as I noted in this post, the passage appears to show Condi using her German counterpart to create the appearance that she had no concerns about German subpoenas.

Now, of course, this evidence of our government’s efforts to cover up their own torture isn’t really hidden. But so long as the government maintains that it remains classified, no one can use it–say, in a legal proceeding–to show high level obstruction of our own duty to investigate and prosecute this torture.


Cable ID
Full Text Released by WikiLeaks
Cables Released to the ACLU by State Department
07MADRID1805
Withheld in full
09MADRID347
09MADRID392
09MADRID440
09TUNIS415
Withheld in full
07TRIPOLI943
Withheld in full
08OTTAWA918
Withheld in full
10LUXEMBOURG5
05PARIS3118
05PARIS1699
08LONDON1412
Withheld in full
06DUBLIN1020
Withheld in full
06LISBON2365
10SANAA4
Withheld in full
08LONDON2651
09RIYADH670
Withheld in full
06BERN141
06BERN1804
Withheld in full
10ROME174
Withheld in full
05THEHAGUE1876
06THEHAGUE2282
07BERLIN242
Withheld in full

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

6 replies
  1. emptywheel says:

    @NMvoiceofreason: Yeah, I’ve been meaning to post on it. About the only relief form the drudgery of the endless Fast and Furious questions yesterday at the Holder hearing was Zoe Lofgren demanding that someone be held accountable for this.

    Holder said his daughters, who are apparently hip hop fans, would insist on it.

  2. NMvoiceofreason says:

    @emptywheel:

    Too bad we can’t get someone to torture his daughters or defraud them with some mortgage backed securities. (Note for federal agents monitoring this site: I’m not advocating in any way, shape, or form that any harm occur to Holder’s daughters). I’m simply noting that the Secret Service will criminalize threats when Holder believes the actions are permissible, and indeed, worthy of immunity, even when it is counter to the Constitution, treaties, and laws of the United States.

    Has anyone pointed out yet that hip hop IS torture?

  3. NMvoiceofreason says:

    @P J Evans:

    Sealed dockets should only be allowed in the FISC, and only for the actions of the NSA.

    Anything else is abuse of power by the judge.

  4. William Ockham says:

    Every time I think about this, I want to ask someone in the government, “You know we can see you, right?”

Comments are closed.