Brennan Cedes to Feinstein on Torture Tape Destroyer But “Defiant” on Torture Report

The WaPo reports that the woman who helped Jose Rodriguez destroy the torture tapes will not — as had been floated — officially lead the Clandestine Services.

A female CIA officer who was the first woman to lead the agency’s clandestine service, but was also closely tied to the agency’s interrogation program, will not get to keep that job as part of a management shake-up announced Tuesday by CIA Director John O. Brennan, U.S. officials said.

The report (sourced to “US officials,” which can be code for members of Congress or staffers) emphasizes that the intervention of members of Congress — and Dianne Feinstein specifically — played in key role in persuading John Brennan such an appointment would be a problem.

But the woman, who remains under cover, faced opposition from senior lawmakers over her ties to an interrogation program that critics have said employed torture to get information from al-Qaeda captives after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.


Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had called Brennan to express concern over the possibility that someone so closely linked to the program would be put in position to lead the agency’s spying service.

Kudos to DiFi for what appears to be successful oversight.

The only problem is the same article notes that Brennan is preparing to blow off DiFi’s torture report.

The transition comes at a time when the agency is assembling what is said to be a defiant response to a recently completed report by the Senate Intelligence Committee that is sharply critical of the interrogation program and its results.

As I have noted in the past and elaborated on at Salon yesterday, Brennan’s “defiance” should not matter. Ultimately, the White House has the authority to release the report.

But it’s trying to dodge the issue.

And now, in spite of Panetta’s claims that the White House originally made torture a SAP, the White House has done nothing to accelerate the release of a report that — according to Democrats on the committee and John McCain — will correct many misconceptions about the torture program.

Of course, as president, Obama would have the authority to order John Brennan to declassify the report in any case. But the White House seems unwilling to acknowledge whether it possesses the sole authority over this decision. In response to a question whether — as Panetta’s statement indicates — the White House has classification authority over the program, NSC spokesperson Caitlin Hayden didn’t answer.

Instead, she used the same kind of stalling technique as the CIA:

The Administration is currently reviewing the full 6,000 page report at the invitation of the SSCI and we look forward to working with the Committee once that review is complete.

I suspect the White House will use Brennan’s “defiance” as cover for keeping the report hidden.

What Brennan does in personnel decisions that remain hidden won’t get the CIA out of the torture business. Only real transparency on it will.

Update: The Cable published the entire letter announcing the personnel changes at CIA. It ends with this claim about the woman passed over at Clandestine Services.

The assertion she was not chosen because of her affiliation with the CT mission is absolutely not true.

I guess for the CIA, destroying evidence of torture is considered “the [counterterrorism] mission.”

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.

5 replies
  1. Jeff Kaye says:

    “…what is said to be a defiant response…” — uh, by whom?

    Did Miller just pull that out of his ass? Is he quoting that ever-elusive source, Mr. Conventional Wisdom? Previous reporting by others? Or is it someone else too sensitive to even allude to?

    He may very well be right. But I like my news to be documented with fact, not supposition.

  2. der says:

    My suspicions lean towards Washington’s concern about incriminating evidence of torture being revealed by something.

    Abandoning the Uighurs in Palau, releasing Australian David Hicks subject to a gag order, holding 56 Yemenis until “appropriate measures [are taken] to reduce the risks associated with their return.” All witnesses to crimes.

    These people (WH, Pentagon, CIA, etc.) know very well what they did and do. And they know it’s a war crime.

  3. ess emm says:

    It’s telling that in a letter to announce three positions are filled it has to mention Brennan’s name 5 times.

    According to the NYT the Head of clandestine services is a former station chief (the NYT says “top spy”) in Pakistan. I wonder if its the same cat who was outed in the Pakistani press.


    The next head of the NCS, who remains under cover, is a talented and effective intelligence officer who has had rich substantive and operational experiences worldwide over the course of his almost 30 year Agency career. This officer is known for his collaborative and inclusive leadership style, and has demonstrated strong interest in leading junior officers to positions of greater responsibility. He will be a great leader for the NCS and for the Agency’s senior leadership team.

    I guess we have to take their word for it that whats-his-name is aces.

  4. TarheelDem says:

    ” But the White House seems unwilling to acknowledge whether it possesses the sole authority over this decision.”

    The President lacks the authority to order an executive agency to respond to a Congressional request. Is this when we finally learn that the CIA has been running the show for the past 50 years?

  5. beowulf says:

    Bahh humbug, as I was just saying to Kevin Gosztola, I’m dubious the appointment is even legal seeing as the Director of the CIA now reports to the Director of National Intelligence. This creates a minor (but aren’t they all?) constitutional issue.

    The Appointments Clause requires that inferior officers (say, the Director of the National Clandestine Service) must be appointed by either the President himself or by a Department Head reporting directly to the President. When the CIA was an independent agency, the DCI counted as a Department Head. However, since the CIA director now reports to the Director of National Intelligence, Brennan shouldn’t be appointing the D/NCS, either the President or the DNI should be. Presumably Congress has waived the requirement for Senate confirmation (“The Senate will now take up the nomination of Anonymous”) but this is rather similar to the sticky wicket USPTO got tripped up by a few years ago.

    “From 1999 to 2008, a change in the statute governing the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) permitted a number of judges of the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences and the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to be appointed by the USPTO Director. This arrangement was challenged as unconstitutional under the Appointments Clause because the appointing party was not the Heads of the Department.[8] In order to avoid the crisis that would result from new challenges to many BPAI and TTAB decisions made in that period, Congress passed a 2008 amendment to the statute which specifies that the Secretary of Commerce is responsible for such appointments, and permitting the Secretary to retroactively appoint those persons named by the USPTO Director.”

    This legal wrinkle is only there because Congress unwisely created a new Office of the Director of National Intelligence instead of simply clarifying the duties of Director of Central Intelligence. Carter’s DCI Stansfield Turner was the voice of reason here.

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