John Brennan’s Kangaroo Court

Congratulations to Barack Obama, whose invisible hand censor has made Gitmo even more of a kangaroo court than it was under Bush.

As Jim laid out, over the last two days of Gitmo hearings, we saw (thanks to livetweeters like Carol Rosenberg, Jason Leopold, and Daphne Eviatar) someone improperly cut the feed from the court room to the journalists for 3 minutes, just as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s lawyer, David Nevin, started to read from his unclassified motion to preserve the black sites. After it happened, Judge James Pohl was rather angry about what he saw as an improper use of the censorship system. Today, it became clear that the OCA–the original classification authority–pressed the censor button, via some AV means that Judge Pohl either didn’t fully understand or want to discuss.

In other words, CIA has ultimate control over his court room.

For the last day, I’ve been predicting that Moral Rectitude Transparency and Assassination Czar John Brennan was responsible for the improper censorship. It was almost certainly some CIA minion Brennan will manage not long after his February 7 confirmation hearing rather than Brennan himself. Though remember–the legal record indicates that the National Security Council, and not CIA, asked to have torture made into a Special Access Program in the first place, though before most of the 9/11 detainees being tried were tortured (the exception, I think, is Ramzi bin al-Shibh). So either John Brennan in his guise as Obama’s NSC counterterrorism advisor or his rising CIA Director–ultimately, it was his portfolio censorsing unclassified information in the trial.

But it’s worth noting that this is the second time in a week that CIA has managed to dictate our legal process. Last Friday, John Kiriakou was sentenced for indirectly revealing to these same defense lawyers the identity of two of their client’s interrogators (one who actually engaged in the torture itself). DOJ originally decided that knowledge, by itself, did not merit charges. But CIA appealed to … John Brennan, and Patrick Fitzgerald was brought in and ultimately Kiriakou was delivered up as an example to cow others who might expose details of the torture program.

And then yesterday, you had a lawfully cleared defense motion being discussed in court, and CIA overruled the determination the trial judge had made, and ensured that journalists could not hear even that unclassified motion. Judge Pohl has deferred the discussion about preserving the black sites as evidence until next month, and it’s not clear whether the defendants or the journalists will be permitted to attend that hearing.

We shall see, next month, whether the CIA has taken over this judicial determination, as they did the judgement on the John Adams Project.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

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 the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, 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 and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

10 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    Pitchforks and Torches needed around Langley? Because they seem to have forgotten where they stand in relation to the courts and Congress.
    (Hint: below them. Way below them. I think cockroaches may be higher.)

  2. Peterr says:

    I am reminded by the earlier discussions of these military tribunals, where the Bush WH declared that even if the court ruled against the government, they could still hold the detainees.

    Now the CIA is declaring that they are disregarding not only the verdict as given by the court but also the rulings of the judge along the way.

    I can’t imagine this makes the military judges terribly happy to be subject to having their rulings instantly overturned without discussion, notice, or appeal. What will it take, I wonder, for any of them to throw down their gavels and walk out?

  3. What Constitution? says:

    Yeah, but at least we can rest easier knowing Rasputin, er, “John Brennan” is behind the curtain. And he, after all, works for Barack Obama, who is a Good Man so it’s OK delegate as many absolute powers as we might need to delegate to keep us Safe from Terra.

    Could we please, PLEASE get a real confirmation hearing over this guy, with meaningful questions and his approval dependent upon receiving forthright answers? PLEASE?

  4. Jeff Kaye says:

    Excellent analysis, EW. Thanks, too, to those Gitmo tweeters. Torture (and the CIA/NSC defense of it, or to prevent accountability) works its sure way through as the acid that eats through the entire democratic state. It will leave only the shell of democracy, if that.

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