Helgerson’s Reports Will Remain Unchanged

Since I’ve been talking so much about Helgerson, and since we now have proof that Helgerson’s investigation was always central to discussions of the torture tape destruction, I would be remiss in ignoring this bit from the LAT (h/t Laura).

The CIA has completed a controversial in-house probe of its inspector general and plans to make a series of changes in the way the agency conducts internal investigations, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson has consented to more than a dozen procedural changes designed to address complaints that investigations carried out by his office were unfair to agency employees, the officials said.

But the agency will not force Helgerson to revise previously issued reports or acknowledge flaws in the reports, including one report that was sharply critical of top CIA officials for intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"The broader objective is to make the process fair, or fairer," said a senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the matter.

In particular, the official said, the changes are designed to give employees a greater ability to defend their actions and present their views in reports issued by the inspector general, whose job is to be an in-house watchdog.

The officials said the changes would probably be announced next month by CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, who ordered the internal probe this year.

Note the timing on the story: December 23. After the whole torture tape thing blew up, and after CIA had agreed to share documents with Congress. That is, after it was clear that the centrality of the Helgerson’s report on interrogation methods to, at least, the Congressional inquiry into the torture tape destruction. 

So sometime around the same time as the torture tapes were blowing up in CIA’s face, Michael Hayden reached an agreement with Helgerson that would change the process of IG reports going forward, but would not change the report at the center of the scandal.

And how convenient that both men, Hayden and Helgerson, have only now recused themselves from the ongoing investigation. 

37 replies
    • TheraP says:

      Ditto, Ann. This is going to swamp me for sure! Bravo to EW who’s hanging in here… steps ahead of us!

    • emptywheel says:

      Well, on the off possibility that Helgerson went nuclear when the investigation was launched (that is, leaked the destroyed torture tapes) it might well be a decisive win.

      In any case, though, I suspect Hayden realizes he’s getting rather close to obstruction of his own, so he better lay off.

      • Peterr says:

        That’s my read of your bolded line in the excerpt above. The absolutely last thing Hayden wanted was to piss off Helgerson so much that he went to the DOJ, the Intelligence Committees, and/or the press. Still, Hayden had to push to make it clear that he didn’t like the way Helgerson was working — thus, the “from this day forward” compromise was struck.

    • Ann in AZ says:

      I’d score that one as a win for Helgerson. A BIG WIN

      It is undoubtedly a huge win for Helgerson in a big way, and it turned out a lot better than I suspected it would on word of the investigation of the IG office. Still, I wonder if there will be blowback over the fact that it appears Helgerson had access to and, in fact, reviewed the destroyed tapes himself. It seems something should surely come from that!

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        No; how else could he have done his job?
        More possible that actually viewing the tapes put him into a rebellious, righteous mode.
        Let’s hope!

  1. looseheadprop says:

    Oh, and EW left my theory on the redaction in Harmon’s letter in the EPU zone on last thread.

  2. MadDog says:

    Only Now does the White House comment on the Destruction of the Torture Tapes. Dana Perino is gonna be so, so happy that she can finally talk about…about…The Bay of Feckin’ Pigs!

    President George W. Bush said on Thursday he strongly supports a Justice Department investigation into the destruction of CIA videotapes of interrogation of terrorism suspects.

    And Junya ought to be happy ’cause Mukasey has narrowly focused the investigation to just the CIA, and not to the White House and the DOJ where the crimes began.

  3. perris says:

    my bold in the quote that follows has always been sore spot for me;

    But the agency will not force Helgerson to revise previously issued reports or acknowledge flaws in the reports, including one report that was sharply critical of top CIA officials for intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

    how friggin absurd

    the intelligence was an unqualified success, this administration had PRECISE intel from the CIA

    he was hand delivered this intel and so alarmed were the CIA they flew to all principles to brief them on the event they knew as a fact was coming

    so alarmed, “everyone’s hair was on fire”

    so pres ice, they knew when (within months), who (the alqaeda network), how (highjacking commercial airliners), what the weapons would be (jets as missiles), they knew where, (new york and Washington), they knew what targets (financial and government institutions), they knew the mastermind (bin laden)

    information that presice is almost impossible to come by, it is REDICULOUS somebody wants to blame ANYONE or anthing but this administration

    what KIND of IDIOT says there was “an intelligence failure”?

    there was NO “intelligence failure” unless you are talking abut the intelligence of this president

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      RE: Intel, and war. (Sorry, not quite OT on the post, but request indulgence.)

      Perris — Unless, it really was all about oil.
      All about oil.

      Which would have required Bu$hCheney to ignore, discount, or marginalize any ‘intel’ that would put a damper on getting a Mid East war off the ground. Syriana may have scratched the surface, but it looks like it didn’t even come close.

      A few days back, klynn left this link on a thread:
      If you read it, don’t weep. Put $$ in EW’s till and then pick up the phone and help out in US elections. Don’t weep; take non-violent, meaningful action.

      Consider the following facts:
      In Jan 2001, oil was trading at around $24/barrel.
      By early 2006, the price of oil was around $60/barrel, sending a profit to OPEC nations of around $1BILLION every other day or so.
      Today, it hit $100/barrel.
      So what was hard about seeing some national security problems in data that anyone could have pulled off the Internet in under 15 minutes…? Much of the intel should have been economic data; why wasn’t BushCheney looking at economic data?
      Or were they…?

      Where did all that money go, day after day; week after week…? Who made money? Probably the Big Four (Condi’s Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, ?), but mainly OPEC (Saudi, Kuwait, Iran, Venezuela…) In other words, how much entered US Treasury coffers? Probably not much.

      Also, via that link of klynn’s (which I still need to finish reading!), I stumbled on a topic that Rayne had raised the other day –’How does Yukos fit in (to the Bigger Picture)?’
      Although not relevant for this torture thread, it might be worth noting for the larger, bigger picture that Yukos was a Russian oil/energy company — its energy assets had been ‘legally controlled’ by oiligarchs since the period when the Soviet government disintigrated in the 1990s, leaving rampant market economic forces to loot Russia. By 1998, the Russian ruble was a shambles, and Russian oiligarchs had control of ??most of?? Russia’s energy reserves.

      Enter Yukos exec Khodorkovsky: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Khodorkovsky
      By 2003, he and other oiligarchs wanted to control Russian pipelines, which the state stll claimed control of — which put him up against Putin.
      This young Russian oiligarch met with Dick Cheney on July 14, 2003. Purpose of meeting seems to have been to sell 25 – 40% of Yukos to one of the Big Four oil majors.
      That same day, in the US, Robert Novak published an OpEd that ‘outed’ Valerie Plame.
      At some point in July 2003, a Yukos exec (Lebedev?) was jailed by Putin on charges of fraud. Khodorkovsky met with GWHBush around 24 Oct 2003 in Moscow to discuss selling Yukos shares; didn’t happen, b/c the following day or so he was arrested at Novosibirsk Airport.

      Shorter: Cheney was almost certainly cutting deals to control Russian oil (on behalf of who/m, I leave to the other intrepid investigators and commenters here to ferret out). Putin called in the bullshit sometime in late 2003 in order to keep oil and energy resources under control of the Russian government. Looks like Putin punk’d Cheney, starting in late 2003.

      Lots more dots to connect, but am not yet done with my research, and won’t get back to it until late tonight.

      EW, this post is on Helgerson and terror, so I apologize for this comment; perhaps it might fit under the larger rubric ‘background questions’ about the war that created the torture policies.

  4. MadDog says:

    I wonder if the “compromises” forced on agreed on with Helgerson included a B Team report requirement.

    Kind of anti-Inspector General out for those under the microscope.

    Another instance of “fair and balanced” subsuming reality.

  5. BayStateLibrul says:

    Let’s help Bushie clean out his office…
    If you act now, here is an amazing offer:

    “An autographed, suitable for framing, first edition, unredacted copy of John Helgerson’s finest IG Report.”

    Make checks out to the George Bush Legal Defense Fund.

  6. BayStateLibrul says:

    They eliminated the Special Prosecutors Law.
    They WILL eliminate the IG Office.
    Per orders of Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Shaka Zulu and Queen Boudica.

  7. Mary says:

    “The broader objective is to make the process fair, or fairer,” said a senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the matter.

    So he won’t be allowed to bury agency employees alive to create a sense of dependence until they tell him the truth, but with proper controls he can continue to waterboard.

    That’s fair and humane, right?

  8. Mary says:

    2/6 Rather than a leak per se, he might have handed over information to DOJ in connection with a request to open a criminal investigation – then once there’s a paper trail that DOJ has the data referenced in his referral, it makes it pretty hard not to go to court and fess up.

  9. Mary says:

    8 – IIRC, there was a lot of problem with the CIA blocking a memo from going to FBI. FBI had a member assigned to the CIA CounterTerrorism Center and that member wrote a memo bc of an overseas meeting of al-Qaeda “higher ups” and that memo was directed to FBI to have them on the lookout for two of the guys who ended up being hijackers. But the CIA guys kept the memo from ever going to FBI and the guys that were warned about in the memo entered the country easily on paperwork in their own names.

    • perris says:

      that’s smoke

      the president knew as a fact there would be an attack and stood down

      president clinton was given an almost identicle pdb, you can read about it on page 128 of the report

      clinton averted the attack, he put all agencies on high alert, made certain the impending doom would not happen

      bush abandoned the template, ignored the pdb

      anything else is nothing but smoke

  10. TheraP says:

    OT… Mary, I left you a response this morning re a Colorado case where 4 social workers were imprisoned for 16 years each when their “therapy” of rolling a 10 year old into a blanket and putting pillows on top resulted in his death. (re your comment about the Iraqi general)

  11. BlueStateRedHead says:

    BREAKING USA related.

    The Justice Department is replacing youth with experience, naming veteran prosecutor Frank Magill to take over for embattled Rachel Paulose as U.S. attorney for Minnesota.

    Just in time to assure free speech during the Repub convention.

    Anyone know the guy?
    I know that CIA tapes trump last year’s scandal, but this coming on top of Hans von S. throwing in the towel is a sign of your that y [you EW]+ and our role in keeping the light shining on the USA scandal. Yea

  12. Leen says:


    Hayden: Tapes destroyed out of fear
    CIA Director Michael Hayden said the videos, which were made in 2002, were destroyed in 2005 out of fear the tapes would leak and reveal the identities of interrogators. Hayden said the sessions were videotaped to provide an added layer of legal protection for officers using tough interrogation methods authorized by President Bush to help break down recalcitrant prisoners.

  13. Mary says:

    21 – I’m not defending Bush, just pointing out why the IG, who was investigating what the CIA did, not what Bush did, might have found some things to criticize.

    Von Spakovsky – ThinkP is saying his nomination is still open:
    UPDATE: The White House says von Spakovsky’s nomination is still active. “He is not withdrawn,” said Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman.
    Hope that’s just cover until they come up with the “spend more time with family” release.

    22- TheraP, I remember hearing a little about that case (blurb coverage) at the time. I’m not a big John Grisham fan, but now and then you have to come back to the central element of the film’s (A Time To Kill) build to point: “Now imagine she’s white.”

    A shame that someone would have to send out what should have been the top legal talent in the country to watch fiction in order for some one among them to scratch their head and say, “Wow, imagine if we were doing this crap to people, not ‘packages.’”

    • JohnLopresti says:

      Hope there is a remnant of FEC to oversee elections, though libertarians decry its miniscule budget. KS caging registered letters to profile the demographics would be all. Thor Hearne has filed an amicus brief in SCourt’s soon to argue Crawford case (voter ID)…But OT for the very narrow tortcha tapes investigation thread, I take the confines of the SC’s charter in this matter to be in large measure retribution upon TheCo, as a commenter observed in a different thread, and Helgerson’s original reports preservation an effort to keep his involvement moderate; I hope a substantial measure of it is public documents.

    • perris says:

      21 – I’m not defending Bush, just pointing out why the IG, who was investigating what the CIA did, not what Bush did, might have found some things to criticize.

      you’re missing my point even though you think all I’m saying is bush failed

      here’s the point that I believe I did not make clear;

      had bush followed the template, which was to put all agencies on high alert and what to look for

      do you have any doubt those items you mentioned would not have been triaingulated?

      of course they would have been, and to be certain, some of that information was in fact being examined however since there was no alert it couldn’t have been shared expeditiously

      that is the point, the inteligence gathering agencies were an unqualified success, the only failure of inteligence was the inteligence of the president

  14. Mary says:

    PS – I’d still love to have the investigation and answers to WHO comes up with building a coffin to bury someone alive and WHO gives the OK for that, before the uproar got them to back down.

    Bc, I’m thinking there need to be some involuntary commitment proceedings, if nothing else, for some psycho nutcases out there.

  15. Neil says:

    OT – yet another reason to dump News Corp stock.

    (2) To protest Fox News’ outrageous (though revealing) exclusion of Ron Paul from the GOP New Hampshire debate this week, Paul supporters announced that they were going to dump News Corp. stock. I have no idea whether it has had an effect, but Paul supporters are claiming that it has, and the price trend line for News Corp.’s stock price since that campaign was announced does seem pronounced:

    News Corp. stock has been declining steadily for the last three months, but the plummeting of the last several days is more severe.


  16. radiofreewill says:

    Helgerson’s Report may turn out to be The One Fact that Bush and Cheney couldn’t Fix, to Fit the Policy of Secret Systematic Torture, despite being able to suppress it for a long time.

    I suspect Helgerson’s Report says that Bush and Cheney, through Addington and Gonzo, in the aftermath of 911, drove an effort to Authorize and Order a Compartmented Covert Operation to Manage the “Harsh Techniques” Interrogation Program – that got its orders from the White House.

    The facts are likely, imho, to show that Bush ordered the Secret Program strictly on the strength of his “inherent Article II Powers” as the UE. From that point on, the actual Legal Opinions produced to ‘justify’ the Secret Program since have been miserable works of Lawyering, putting gallons of lipstick on the Torture Pig, to no avail.

    The Secret Torture Program, no doubt, is as much The President’s Program as the NSA’s Warrantless Wiretapping was The President’s Program, too.

    These Legal Fights we see now are but Echoes of Bush’s Initial Power Grab, when he climbed Above the Law and refused to let anyone Check or Balance him.

    It’s taken Years, fucking Years, to peel away layer after layer of Lies and Misdirections to finally get to Ground Zero – Bush’s Hateful Mistrust and Paranoid Suspicions exposed as the “basis” of his (Secret Personal) Terror Presidency.

    He declared himself Above the Law on a Pretext – Created Secret Programs to Torture his “Enemies” and Surveil his “Friends” – and then simply Refused to Give the Power Back.

    The Biggest Issue with the Torture Tapes, imvho, isn’t that Jose Destroyed Them, so much as Bush Created An Illegal Secret Program of Cruel and Inhuman Treatment – in contravention to the Geneva Conventions – when He Ordered the Waterboarding to Begin With.

    Now, if it turns out that Bush/Cheney/Addington/Gonzo ordered Rodriguez to Destroy the Tapes, too, then that would be the closing of a Conspiratorial Loop, perfect confirmation that BushCo has been Running From Helgerson’s Investigation almost since the very beginning of their Administration.

    BushCo only Thought they ‘Fixed’ the Facts when they Destroyed the Torture Tapes and Sat On Helgerson’s Report.

    • Hmmm says:

      You may well be right. It could well come out, and W may well be ousted from power. But how do we avoid getting President Dick?

      • radiofreewill says:

        Hmmm – I’m still of the opinion that the Agonizingly Slow Law Enforcement Response to Bushco has been due to it being the largest RICO Prosecution of all time.

        When the Big Bag of Criminals has the draw-string pulled tight over them – and we’re in the End Game now – it’s certain to be an Impressive Collection of Ideological Co-Conspirators – Bush, Cheney, Addington, Gonzo, Libby, Rove, Miers, Wolfowitz, and many, many Blind and “Devoid of Morals” Loyalists.

        Hopefully, we’ll start seeing Responsive Document Production, Subpoena Compliance, Traditional Executive Privilege Assertions – and a steady flow of Revealed Lesser Criminals, like Duberstein and Hholt, getting booked into Federal Prison.

        No More Immunity – We are down to the Co-Conspirators who schemed to Break the Law while Claiming to be Above the Law. This has been a Near-Miss with a Carefully Planned Ideological-Totalitarian Covert Coup d’Etat.

        I think Cheney would Fall quickly in the on-slaught of Unobstructed Oversight and Resign. Cornyn (Tx – this all about protecting Bush), imho, would come-in as the new Veep.

        Then, Bush will Resign over Torture or face having the Copies of the Torture Tapes entered as Evidence against him in an Impeachment Inquiry. Cornyn becomes the new President, and Kyl is brought in as the new Veep.

        This should be The End of the Republican Party – they won’t recover the Trust of the People in any of Our Lifetimes.

        Only Monsters Order Torture.

        • Hmmm says:

          RFW – I hope you’re right, but it seems highly premature to conclude that the threat from the coup attempt, as you describe it, has passed. This seems to me to be a highly dangerous time.

  17. Mary says:

    29- not missing your point at all. Just as during the high alert Clinton established prior to the Millenium celebrations, if Bush had done what he SHOULD HAVE done with the information he ALREADY HAD, then yes, there would have been more cooperation.

    But the IG’s report wasn’t looking at that “what if” but instead at the “what did” And EVEN WITHOUT a high alert, CIA should NOT have blocked the FBI memo. There is no IG for the WH and I don’t agree that the IG for the CIA should pretend that there is nothing they could have done better, just because it is also true that they had done well enough that with a minimally competent President, 9/11 would have been averted. You operate your agency/business around the weakest link and more times than you might otherwise expect, that weakest link has CEO powers. That doesn’t mean everyone else is completely off the hook.

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