Imagine a McCain Committee as the inheritor of the tradition of Frank Church and Otis Pike.
(Yes, I did that to make bmaz’ head explode.)
Only, McCain proposes to investigate not just whether NSA has engaged in things it was not authorized to do. But also to investigate Snowden’s leaks themselves and the potential role of contractors in making leaks more likely.
All that said, I might be excited about McCain’s proposal to review the dragnet, as described:
(3) The nature and scope of National Security Agency intelligence-collection programs, operations, and activities, including intelligence-collection programs affecting Americans, that were the subject matter of the unauthorized disclosure, including–
(A) the extent of domestic surveillance authorized by law;
(B) the legal authority that served as the basis for the National Security Agency intelligence-collection programs, operations, and activities that are the subject matter of those disclosures;
(C) the extent to which such programs, operations, and activities that were the subject matter of such unauthorized disclosures may have gone beyond what was authorized by law or permitted under the Constitution of the United States;
(D) the extent and sufficiency of oversight of such programs, operations, and activities by Congress and the Executive Branch; and
(E) the need for greater transparency and more effective congressional oversight of intelligence community activities.
There’s just one problem with McCain’s proposal.
Here’s the list of the people who would be on the Committee (he provides titles, I’m providing names):
There are a number of very big NSA defenders on this list — in addition to DiFi and Saxby, both Jello Jay and Coburn are Intel Committee members who have never questioned the dragnet (indeed, Coburn has called for getting rid of the controls on the phone dragnet!). Chuck Grassley, too, has generally been supportive of the dragnet in SJC hearings on the subject. Most of the rest are simply not the caliber of people who might critically assess the dragnet much less show real interest in Americans’ privacy. Only Carl Levin and Pat Leahy, alone among the 12 named members, have been explicitly skeptical of the dragnet at all.
McCain proposes a Select Committee to investigate the dragnet. And he proposes to fill it with people who are really happy with the dragnet as it currently exists.
Update: Just to give a sense of how terrible this make-up for a Select Committee is, compare it with the bipartisan list of 26 Senators who asked James Clapper for more information on other uses of Section 215 last June. Just one Senator from that list — Pat Leahy — would be on McCain’s committee.
Man, have the Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee — particularly Dianne Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller — been pawned. One of their key issues during John Brennan’s confirmation was the declassification of the 6,000 page torture report.
Based on both Saxby Chambliss’ representation of comments Brennan made in their private meeting and on the delayed CIA response about the report, I predicted Brennan would be stating publicly what he stated privately (not having read most of the report yet) to Saxby.
During John Brennan’s confirmation process, he answered questions about the Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture with two faces. To Saxby Chambliss in private, he said he thought the report was a prosecutorial document, set up to come to pre-ordained conclusions. Publicly, to Democrats, he said he was shocked–shocked!–by what he had read in the Executive Summary of the report.
It was quite clear that Brennan was playing the lawmakers who would get to vote on his confirmation, but they didn’t delay his confirmation to resolve the report declassification.
When Brennan’s confirmation got delayed by demands to exercise oversight, the CIA delayed its response — originally due February 15 — on the contents of the report. Indefinitely.
All of this, of course, sets up Brennan to refuse to declassify the report because he believes (and, importantly, believed from the start, according to Saxby Chambliss) that the people who have now rushed his confirmation through were acting in an unfairly prosecutorial mode when they spent 5 years documenting what CIA did in its torture program.
Here’s what Brennan said to Jan Schakowsky yesterday when she asked about the report.
SCHAKOWSKY: Let me ask you also, Mr. Brennan, as you know, the Senate Intelligence Committee report on former CIA detention and interrogation practices is under review with the — within the administration and the agency. Comments were originally due back to the committee on February 15, though the reply has now been delayed indefinitely.
On March 7 in the New York Times, former CIA Senior Analyst, Emile Nakhleh said that if any person can take this on, it would be you, Director Brennan. It’s you and that, quote, “the institution would benefit from the eventual — eventual declassification and release of the study.”
What is the current status of the review of the report and can you please just, if you could, discuss the importance as a leader of the — the leader of the CIA of its release?
BRENNAN: Well, clearly, it’s — it’s an important report that was issued by the — the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. I have as — as recently as earlier this [week] spoken with both the chairman and the vice chairman of the — the committee telling them that I am in the process of the reviewing of the — the document and will be getting back to them shortly. This is a 6,000 page document that has, you know, millions of pages behind it in terms of what was reviewed.
And so it’s my obligation as the Director of CIA to make sure that my response back to them is going to be thorough and as accurate as possible and will convey my views about what that report portrays about CIA’s past practices, what we have learned from that experience running the program as well as from that report and also to identify things that I might think that the — the committee may have — the committee’s report might not accurately represent. [my emphasis]
Schakowsky asked about the import of releasing the report, and Brennan instead responded by talking about using the report as a lessons learned document and also objecting to some of the things found in it.
But it sure looks like, unless someone starts pulling teeth, CIA will be “learning from this experience as well as from the report” in private, because Brennan pointedly didn’t respond to Schakowsky’s question about releasing the document publicly.
I’ve been in an car dealer service waiting room all morning, so I’m late to the story about Barack Obama telling Jello Jay Rockefeller he’s not as bad as Dick Cheney.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) confronted the president over the administration’s refusal for two years to show congressional intelligence committees Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memos justifying the use of lethal force against American terror suspects abroad.
In response to Rockefeller’s critique, Obama said he’s not involved in drafting such memos, the senators told POLITICO. He also tried to assure his former colleagues that his administration is more open to oversight than that of President George W. Bush, whom many Democratic senators attacked for secrecy and for expanding executive power in the national security realm.
“This is not Dick Cheney we’re talking about here,” he said, according to Democratic senators who asked not to be named discussing the private meeting.
Aside from the fact that — as I’ve pointed out — Obama is actually worse than the last year of the Bush Administration, when Acting OLC head Steven Bradbury was sharing OLC memos with Congress, I’m struck that Obama seems to forget he is the President, not the Vice President.
The comparison still is inapt. George Bush didn’t write any Executive Orders pretending to be transparent and his classification Executive Order effective empowered Dick Cheney to classify and instadeclassify at will (an authority that John Brennan seemed to use while he was in the White House).
But like Bush, Obama has people working for him who are as allergic to oversight as Dick Cheney. I pointed out yesterday, for example, that Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, thinks he shouldn’t even answer questions in open session and tried to stop publishing the number of people with security clearances.
Under Bush, DOD hid pictures of coffins; under Obama DOD just started hiding numbers of drone strikes.
Cheney went to the mat to hide who he had met with on his Energy Task Force. Obama’s National Security Council went to the mat to hide any mention that the President had authorized the torture program — and they hid it, they explained, because they were still using that very same authorization (though to do thinks like engage in targeted killings).
Obama seems to be hiding behind his own stated good intention (even while he admitted to Democratic Senators he would feel the way they do now if he were still in the Senate) just like Bush hid by his stated good intention that no one would leak the name of a CIA officer. Both, meanwhile, were either ignoring or pretending to ignore the sheer paranoia about secrecy of the men that work for them.
A little over an hour ago, there was some rather notable news tweeted out by CNN:
Intel cte’s @SenFeinstein will give up the chair and move to Judiciary, source tells @CapitolHillCNN. @SenatorReid to announce today
I have talked to both sources at both the Senate Judiciary Committee and Personnel offices and have yet to hear a denial. This is, then, significant news as to a complete reshuffling of key Majority Senate Leadership assuming it continues to bear out.
First off, a tenured Senator like Feinstein does not leave a high value Committee Chairmanship without another, or something higher, on the offer. CNN said she it is to “move to Judiciary”. But DiFi has long been a member of the SJC, that can only portend she will then become Chairman of Judiciary.
Ryan Grim at Huffington Post has also picked up this shuffle, and beat me to the punch by a few minutes:
If Feinstein does take over leadership of the Judiciary Committee, that could ease the passage in the Senate of a renewed assault weapons ban, which was passed under President Bill Clinton in 1994 but expired in 2004. The shooting rampage on Friday in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six adults were murdered by a gunman with a military-style assault weapon and high-capacity magazines, has renewed calls for stricter gun control legislation.
On Tuesday, speaking in the Capitol before the party’s weekly caucus lunch, Feinstein told reporters who had asked her whether she will jump to Judiciary, “Keep tuned. I think it is [going to become open], and I think it’ll happen.”
On Monday, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) who was the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, passed away at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Now that Inouye’s post is empty, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is rumored to be looking at taking over Appropriations — in turn opening up the leadership slot at Judiciary. Feinstein could then move from her current spot as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee to chair Judiciary.
That is good, fast reporting and coincides with what I can discern. And Appropriations Chair is a long time traditional home for the Senate Pro-Tem, which Pat Leahy became with yesterday’s passing of Inouye.
So, what about SSCI? Next in line would, by seniority, be Jay Rockefeller. But, as Mother Jones’ Nick Baumann pointed out, Rockefeller gave up leadership at Intel nearly three years ago to take over the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee helm, and there is no reason to think he would double back. That gave a brief glimmer of hope that Ron Wyden might get the nod at SSCI, but HuffPo’s Grim, in a tweet, thinks he is more likely to take over the helm of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for the outgoing Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, who did not seek reelection. That would mean the next senior Democrat on SSCI as Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.
Now, if I were Wyden, I would want the SSCI job over Energy. It is likely most progressives would like him there as well, which is why the smart money likely says Reid talks him into the Energy Chair.
So, we are into the Congressional equivalent of Formula One silly season; i.e. the end of the year shuffling of drivers before the season is really over. The one real wildcard here is Wyden.
On May 4, Senate Intelligence Committee members Ron Wyden and Mark Udall asked the Intelligence Community Inspector General to determine whether it was feasible to determine how many US persons have been spied on under the FISA Amendments Act.
The Temporally Perfect Fuck You
On May 22, the Committee marked up the renewal of the Act. During consideration of the bill, the Committee rejected Wyden and Udall’s efforts to require the IGs quantify such numbers based on their pending request to the IGs.
During the Committee’s consideration of this legislation, several Senators expressed a desire to quantify the extent of incidental collection under Section 702. I share this desire. However, the Committee has been repeatedly advised by the ODNI that due to the nature of the collection and the limits of the technology involved, it is not reasonably possible to identify the number of people located in the United States whose communications may have been reviewed under Section 702 authority. Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have requested a review by the Inspector General of the NSA and the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community to determine whether it is feasible to estimate this number. The Inspectors General are conducting that review now, thus making an amendment on this subject unnecessary. SSCI report on the bill reminds that the IC IGs are authorized–but not required too–conduct reviews of Section 702.
Note, elsewhere the bill report includes these authorized but not mandatory reviews as part of the “robust oversight” of this spying program.
In addition, the Inspectors General of the Department of Justice and certain elements of the Intelligence Community are authorized to review the implementation of Section 702 and must provide copies of any such reviews to the Attorney General, DNI, and congressional committees of jurisdiction.
Yet in rejecting the motion to actually mandate a review, Dianne Feinstein’s report emphasizes that this authority is optional.
Also while marking up the bill, Wyden and Udall attempted to direct the Committee’s Technical Advisory Group to review what was really going on with the FAA. That motion was ruled out of order (Kent Conrad joined Wyden and Udall on this one vote–otherwise the committee voted against all their efforts for greater oversight).
We also proposed directing the committee’s Technical Advisory Group to study FISA Amendments Act collection and provide recommendations for improvements. We were disappointed that our motion to request that the Technical Advisory Group study this issue was ruled by our colleagues to be out of order.
As a result, the bill was voted out of committee on May 22 without any requirement that the intelligence community report on how many US persons it is spying on with FAA.
On 21 May 2012, I informed you that the NSA Inspector General, George Ellard, would be taking the lead on the requested feasibility assessment, as his office could provide an expedited response to this important inquiry.
The NSA IG provided a classified response on 6 June 2012. I defer to his conclusion that obtaining such an estimate was beyond the capacity of his office and dedicating sufficient additional resources would likely impede the NSA’s mission. He further stated that his office and NSA leadership agreed that an IG review of the sort suggested would itself violate the privacy of U.S. persons.
As I stated in my confirmation hearing and as we have specifically discussed, I firmly believe that oversight of intelligence collection is a proper function of an Inspector General. I will continue to work with you and the Committee to identify ways that we can enhance our ability to conduct effective oversight. [my emphasis]
So IC IG Charles McCullough waited 17 days to even tell Wyden what he was going to do with the request, at which point–the eve of the bill markup–he told Wyden that Ellard would prospectively conduct the inquiry. So when the Committee decided not to mandate an IG review based on the “pending” review, it had not started yet. Continue reading
Back in April 2009, former State Department Counselor and all-around Condi Rice fixer Philip Zelikow revealed that “in 2005,” he had written a dissent to Steven Bradbury’s 2005 Memo finding the torture program complied with the Convention against Torture, but that most copies of it had been destroyed by the Administration.
At the time, in 2005, I circulated an opposing view of the legal reasoning. My bureaucratic position, as counselor to the secretary of state, didn’t entitle me to offer a legal opinion. But I felt obliged to put an alternative view in front of my colleagues at other agencies, warning them that other lawyers (and judges) might find the OLC views unsustainable. My colleagues were entitled to ignore my views. They did more than that: The White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of my memo. I expect that one or two are still at least in the State Department’s archives.
It turns out that David Addington didn’t succeed in destroying all the copies. The National Security Archive just liberated a copy.
Now, the memo (which was actually dated February 15, 2006) reveals Zelikow’s very sane legal argument that our torture program had to comply with the 8th Amendment. But it also reveals some subtleties about the bureaucratic maneuvering around torture. Notably, that Zelikow was trying to save Condi Rice’s arse again.
To understand why, go back to this post (see also this post), explaining what Bradbury was trying to do with his 2005 CAT Memo: respond to explicit concerns raised by Congress (probably Jay Rockefeller) about whether our torture program complied with the CAT. It shows how (as documented in the narrative on the process that Rockefeller released), the Senate Intelligence Committee had forced the Bush Administration to agree to consider whether our torture program violated CAT. The Administration agreed to do so only after the National Security Council–then chaired by Condi Rice–agreed.
According to CIA records, subsequent to the meeting with the Committee Chairman and Vice Chairman in July 2004, the CIA met with the NSC Principals to discuss the CIA’s program. At the conclusion of that meeting, it was agreed that the CIA would formally request that OLC prepare a written opinion addressing whether the CIA’s proposed interrogation techniques would violate substantive constitutional standards, including those of the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments regardless of whether or not those standards were deemed applicable to aliens detained abroad.
DOJ stalled for 10 months. Daniel Levin, as acting head of OLC, approved more individual torture techniques. Levin wrote an unclassified memo ignoring CAT. Congress continued to pressure. The Administration laterally transferred Levin because he wasn’t writing the memos they wanted, authorizing combined techniques and waterboarding and, somehow, finding that torture program complied with CAT. Bradbury got the job to write those memos. And then, finally, 10 months after SSCI demanded that DOJ consider CAT, Bradbury wrote his memo finding that the torture program did not violate CAT’s prohibition against cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
I lay out in the post the specious tricks Bradbury pulled to make that claim, and scribe laid out the legal reasons the arguments were so specious. But in specific regard to SSCI’s demand that OLC review whether the program complied with the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment, Bradbury punted by saying it didn’t have to, and certainly didn’t have to comply with the Eighth.
Based on CIA assurances, we understand that the interrogations do not take place in any … areas over which the United States exercises at least de facto authority as the government. … We therefore conclude that Article 16 is inapplicable to the CIA’s interrogation practices and that those practices thus cannot violate Article 16.
Because the high value detainees on whom the CIA might use enhanced interrogation techniques have not been convicted of any crime, the substantive requirements of the Eighth Amendment would not be relevant here, even if we assume that Article 16 has application to the CIA’s interrogation program.
After reading drafts of such bullshit, Jim Comey tried to convince Bradbury to fix it–to no avail.
Of note, however, here’s what then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Condi–who had become Secretary of State in the interim–had to say about the importance of complying with our treaty obligations.
The AG began by saying that Dr. Rice was not interested in discussing details and that her attitude was that if DOJ said it was legal and CIA said it was effective, then that ended it, without a need for detailed policy discussion.
And so, with the Secretary of State dismissing treaty obligations by saying “that ended it,” torture got approved for use by the Executive Branch again.
Zelikow’s memo admits that State didn’t object to Bradbury’s memo.
The State Department agreed with the Justice Department May 2005 conclusion that [Article 16] did not apply to CIA interrogations in foreign countries.
Now, Zelikow claims that passage of the McCain amendment–which was signed on December 30, 2005–is what changed the State Department’s interpretation. Continue reading
I only noticed two things that might generously be considered typos (as opposed to outright falsehoods or lies of omission) in Dick Cheney’s entire infernal tome. There’s this reference to an October 10, 2002 speech from Jello Jay Rockefeller in support of the Iraq war:
One of the most eloquent statements of the necessity of removing Saddam came from Senator Jay Rockefeller, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. (393)
On October 10, 2002, of course, Jello Jay was not yet Ranking Member of SSCI. Rather, Bob Graham was Chair. On October 10, 2002, Graham was saying the following about the war:
With sadness, I predict we will live to regret this day, Oct. 10, 2002, the day we stood by and we allowed these terrorist organizations to continue growing in the shadows.
This timid resolution, I fear, will only increase the chance of Americans being killed, and that is not a burden of probability that I am prepared to take. Therefore I will vote no.
Yeah, Cheney’s misattribution probably wasn’t a typo, but instead a cynical attempt to pretend that the Democrat who had reviewed the intelligence behind the war most closely had backed the war, rather than correctly predicted it would heighten the threat of terrorism.
But I don’t think the grammatical error in the following passage, describing the relationship between Cheney’s illegal wiretap program and the PATRIOT Act (which turns 10 today), is really a typo either.
One of the first efforts we undertook after 9/11 to strengthen the country’s defenses was securing passage of the Patriot Act, which the president signed into law on October 2001.
Thus begins the passage in which Cheney describes the genesis of his illegal wiretap program. Of course, the passage should either say, “which the president signed into law on October 26, 2001,” or “which the president signed into law in October 2001.”
A minor point, but one that might suggest Cheney once had the date in there and then took it out.
You see, including the actual date would have really disrupted Cheney’s narrative, which suggests Congress passed the PATRIOT Act and only then did he begin thinking about how to use NSA to fight terrorism, which (implicitly) is why he didn’t include the illegal program in PATRIOT. After a description of how PATRIOT broke down the wall between intelligence and law enforcement in the first paragraph, Cheney continues,
I also thought it important to be sure the National Security Agency, or NSA, which is responsible for collecting intelligence about the communications of America’s adversaries, was doing everything possible to track the conversations of terrorists, so I asked George Tenet whether the NSA had all the authorities it needed. Tenet said he would check with General Mike Hayden, who was then director, and a short time later both of them came to see me in my office in the White House. Hayden explained that he had already made adjustments in the way NSA was collecting intelligence. Those adjustments were possible within NSA’s existing authorities, but additional authorities were needed in order to improve the coverage and effectiveness of the program.
A few paragraphs later, he continued.
With [Bush's] approval, I asked Dave Addington to work with General Hayden and the president’s counsel, Alberto Gonzales, to develop a legal process by which we could ensure the NSA got the authorizations Hayden needed.
It’s only five paragraphs after Cheney’s description of PATRIOT that he provides the date that–had he actually included the date of the PATRIOT Act–would have made clear that the illegal program started before the signing of the PATRIOT Act.
On October 4, 2001, the president, on the recommendation of the director of central intelligence and the secretary of defense, which the determination of the attorney general that it was lawful to do so, authorized the program for the first time.
Of course, Cheney leaves out some key details along the way, such as that Hayden briefed the House Intelligence Committee about what he was already doing on October 1, which elicited some questions from Nancy Pelosi, then the Ranking Member on HPSCI. Cheney doesn’t mention that Bush clamped down on briefing Congress on October 5. And he doesn’t mention that Pelosi raised questions about minimization, in writing, on October 11, but never got answers to those questions.
Cheney also doesn’t mention that David Kris, who was busy drafting the PATRIOT Act, got an OLC opinion on September 25 approving the one change to FISA he deemed necessary to make with the PATRIOT.
To reveal those details–the briefings to Congress, Pelosi’s questions, Kris’ ability to get FISA changed under PATRIOT–would have made it clear that the rest of the “legal approval” process Cheney describes could have–should have–instead been done with Congress as part of the PATRIOT Act. I may be nitpicking here, writing an absurdly long post about Cheney’s use of the wrong preposition. But Cheney’s choice to bypass Congress even as it was making changes to FISA remains the biggest piece of evidence that he knew he was engaging in an illegal program that Congress would not entirely approve.
There will be a number of retrospectives in “honor” of PATRIOT Act’s birthday today. ACLU’s got a nifty infographic (the image above is just one part of it).
But ACLU’s other “tribute” to the PATRIOT–a lawsuit to force the government to reveal its secret interpretation of PATRIOT Act–and Cheney’s typographical tell that he recognizes he deliberately chose not to get Congressional approval for the illegal wiretap program are even more important.
As horrible as the PATRIOT Act is, after all, both the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration have exceeded the plain meaning of the act. For ten years, then, it has not been enough that Congress has eagerly dealt away our civil liberties. But the Executive Branch will take even what Congress won’t give.
Back during the FISA Amendment Act, Jay Rockefeller tried hard to prevent DOJ’s Inspector General, Glenn Fine, to have any role in overseeing the revamped domestic surveillance program. I always assumed that was because Fine, unlike the other Inspectors General (except perhaps John Helgerson, whom Michael Hayden had thoroughly neutralized by that point anyway) was actually effective. Fine was a particular problem because he treated the work FBI did in its counterterrorist guise–like surveilling peace activists–as he did his other work.
Well, it looks like the expansive executive branch doesn’t have Glenn Fine to worry about anymore.
Glenn A. Fine is stepping down as Inspector General at the Department of Justice after a decade in the post, Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Monday.
“I believe it is time for me to pursue new professional challenges,” Fine, 54, said in a letter to President Barack Obama and to Holder in which he said he was proud of his service at DOJ.
Holder, in turn, praised Fine, who will depart in January. “In the Justice Department’s most critical operations and practices, especially our efforts to combat corruption, fraud, waste and abuse, the work done by the Office of the Inspector General is essential,” Holder said on the DOJ’s internal “watchdog.”
“Thanks to Glenn’s outstanding leadership, this Office has never been stronger,” Holder said in a statement.
Note, Fine’s office has recently been under attack for its recent report showing that Chris Christie and other Rove favorite US Attorneys like Mary Beth Buchanan were big spenders on the taxpayer dime. Let’s hope that noise machine whir has nothing to do with his departure.
I don’t mean to be churlish. After all, Jay Rockefeller tried to conduct some kind of oversight over Bush’s illegal wiretap program. He even went so far as to write out by hand a letter to Dick Cheney telling him the wiretap program sounded like the data mining the Senate was in the process of specifically defunding. And Rockefeller was honest about his own capabilities to conduct oversight without the help of his more technical staffers.
As you know, I am neither a technician nor an attorney. Given the security restrictions associated with this activity, and my inability to consult staff or counsel on my own, I feel unable to fully evaluate much less endorse these activities.
But is there any better demonstration that members of the Gang of Four cannot exercise oversight over such programs without staffer assistance than the way former Gang of Four member Rockefeller talks about the machines that collect and store data on you?
Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who appeared not to be a frequent customer of Amazon or eBay, was worried that an online retailer “records every book you purchase” and “these machines, as I call them, are storing all of this information about you.”
Apparently, the members of Congress protecting citizens from the powers of these surveillance machines are completely unfamiliar with the way they work and the data they’re already collecting. Yet both the Bush and Obama Administrations want to make sure they’re the only ones who learn about the surveillance those surveillance machines are doing.
I’ve been writing a lot about the way CIA gamed briefings with Congress so they could destroy evidence of torture: how they created potentially misleading records about the September 2002 briefings with destroying the torture tapes in mind, how they created a record of Pat Roberts’ approval for destroying the torture tapes in February 2003 but not Harman’s disapproval of them, and how Crazy Pete Hoekstra got a really suspicious briefing the morning the torture tapes were destroyed.
But I’ve been neglecting the role Jay Rockefeller may play in all this.
Yesterday’s AP-hosted CIA spin made a big deal of Harriet Miers’ early 2005 order that CIA not destroy the torture tapes.
In early 2005, Rizzo received a similar order from the new White House counsel, Harriet Miers. The CIA was not to destroy the tapes without checking with the White House first.
It’s in that context where they list all the requests that might cover the videotapes and explain why they weren’t legally binding on the CIA: three judges orders and the 9/11 Commission request.
But that narrative left out a few more data points. Oddly, the AP seems to make nothing of John Negroponte’s warning to Porter Goss–issued on or before July 28, 2005–not to destroy the torture tapes. Maybe that’s because it reveals that months after Rizzo got the order from Harriet Miers, the Director of CIA was still actively discussing destroying the tapes. Maybe that’s because, given Goss’ apparent happiness with Rodriguez’ destruction of the tapes in November 2005, the evidence that Goss was considering destroying them three months earlier suggests complicity.
Now consider the two requests from Jay Rockefeller for John McPherson’s report on the torture tapes.
In May 2005, I wrote the CIA Inspector General requesting over a hundred documents referenced in or pertaining to his May 2004 report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation activities. Included in my letter was a request for the CIA to provide to the Senate Intelligence Committee the CIA’s Office of General Counsel report on the examination of the videotapes and whether they were in compliance with the August 2002 Department of Justice legal opinion concerning interrogation. The CIA refused to provide this and the other detention and interrogation documents to the committee as requested, despite a second written request to CIA Director Goss in September 2005.
It was during this 2005 period that I proposed without success, both in committee and on the Senate floor, that the committee undertake an investigation of the CIA’s detention and interrogation activities. In fact, all members of the congressional intelligence committees were not fully briefed into the CIA interrogation program until the day the President publicly disclosed the program last September. [my emphasis]
So in May 2005, Rockefeller asked John Helgerson for McPherson’s report. Then in September 2005, Rockefeller asked Porter Goss for the report directly. And Porter Goss–the guy who was actively considering destroying the torture tapes in July 2005 and who ultimately applauded Rodriguez’ success in destroying them–completely blew off Rockefeller’s request.
Mind you, Rockefeller asked for the report on the tapes, not the tapes themselves. But we now know that the report lacked any mention of the things noted in the IG Report: descriptions of the broken and blank tapes. We also know that the report didn’t do what is was purportedly intended to do: review whether the torturers had followed guidelines on torture.
Had Rockefeller gotten that report in 2005–in response to either his request of Helgerson or his request directly of Goss–he would have had good reason to at least suspect that the CIA had been engaging in a cover-up in November 2002 to January 2003, when it claimed to have reviewed whether Abu Zubaydah’s torturers followed DOJ guidelines but really did no such thing. He would have had reason to wonder why a lawyer, having reviewed tapes with abundant evidence of tampering, hadn’t even bothered to mention that tampering.
Which probably would have led him to ask for the tapes.
Mind you, like the 9/11 Commission, Rockefeller didn’t subpoena the report (as he noted, his push for a torture investigation was thwarted, presumably by then SSCI Chair Pat Roberts, the guy who had signed off on destroying the tapes).
But for some reason the CIA doesn’t want to admit it had this request pertaining to the torture tapes, in addition to all the requests from judges.