Out of Scope: The DOJ IG Report

I’ve just now finished reading the conclusion of the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on torture. I gotta say, I’m not surprised Alice Fisher chose this week to quit, nor am I surprised that Gitmo’s Convening Authority decided not to charge al-Qahtani, as both Fisher and Qahtani figure prominently in the report.

The other general comment I have about the report is about its scope: it was designed to protect the Administration and its method of legalizing torture. For example, the report notes:

We did not examine issues related to DOJ Office of Legal Counsel opinions concerning the legality of several interrogation techniques the CIA sought to use on certain high value detainees. While senior FBI and DOJ officials were aware of these opinions, an assessment of the validity of the OLC legal opinions was beyond the scope of this review.

Similarly, the IG report apparently did not review what happened to complaints about torture once they got to Bush’s top aides (though the report doesn’t actually say whether this was because of a scope issue or because Bush’s aides refused to cooperate).

On a broader level, we were unable to determine definitively whether the concerns of the FBI and DOJ about DOD interrogation techniques were ever addressed by any of the structures created for resolving inter-agency disputes about antiterrorism issues. These structures included the Policy Coordinating Committee, the "Principals" Committee, and the "Deputies" Committee, all chaired by the National Security Council (NSC). Several senior DOJ Criminal Division officials also told us that they raised concerns about particular DOD detainee practices in 2003 with the National Security Council, but they did not recall learning that any changes were made at GTMO as a result. Several witnesses told us that they believed that Attorney General Ashcroft spoke with the NSC or the DOD about these concerns, but former Attorney General Ashcroft declined our request for an interview in connection with this report.

Of course, there is no Inspector General function for the NSC–it’s one big executive privilege black hole in which complaints about torture can be buried. Make no mistake, though, the implication is that Condi Rice, Stephen Hadley, Dick Cheney, and Rummy did nothing apparent to resolve the inter-Agency tensions about torture.

But John Ashcroft? Refusing to meet with DOJ’s own Inspector General to talk about torture? Keep in mind, the Inspectors General Offices are supposed to have some independence from the heads of their agencies–in the case of DOJ’s IG, the Attorney General–specifically so they can include a review of the Attorney General’s behaviors in matters of concern.

But I guess John Ashcroft would rather help the Administration bury the concerns about torture by refusing to cooperate.

Well, I’ve got about 350 pages of the report left to read. Better, I guess, to walk into it knowing that the report skirts three big black holes that hide the most important discussions about torture. If nothing else, the way in which this report does not and cannot discuss the issues that OLC, Condi Rice, and John Ashcroft apparently faced tells you what we need to know about torture.

Update: In somewhat related news, the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents Qahtani, reveals that Qahtani tried to commit suicide last month after he was charged. Neither CCR nor Qahtani’s family were informed of the suicide attempt.

Newly declassified notes from Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez’s meetings with her client, Mohammed al Qahtani, earlier this month reveal that he attempted suicide in early April after he learned death penalty charges were referred against him by the government to the Military Commissions at Guantanamo. Mr. al Qahtani cut himself a series of times with escalating severity. His third cut resulted in a deep wound, profuse bleeding and hospitalization.

Mr. al Qahtani told his attorney, "I cannot accept this injustice. If I have to stay in this jail I want to put an end to this suffering."

Neither his lawyers nor his family were notified of his attempted suicide or his hospitalization following the attempt at taking his life.

When Ms. Gutierrez met with her client the week of April 28, 2008, she noticed the scars immediately: "I was shocked because, except for a period during his torture in 2002, Mohammed has not been suicidal or self-injurious at Guantanamo."

43 replies
  1. whitewidow says:

    As always, what they don’t say provides clues to what they don’t want us to know.

    I just finished reading Naomi Klein’s article in Rolling Stone about China and L1 communications. I think I’m a little too spooked by that to start on torture. Looking forward to what you can glean from your reading, ew.

  2. TobyWollin says:

    Shorter Ashcroft et al.: We don’t have to talk to you. Period. Ever. Just try to make us.

  3. dosido says:

    Torture is never legal.

    By anyone. Anywhere.

    Any upstanding government would move heaven and earth to address allegations of torture and to rectify any issues, any, immediately.

    No one in this administration can claim they “didn’t know” and dance around any sort of procedural bullshit about no reports etc. it’s in the news. show some concern for humanity for God’s sake. But no. These criminals would rather giggle with glee at how they are getting away with all of it. and how uncool the ICC is.

    It’s not about being “unpopular” like this is fricking high school. It’s about evil, inhumane attitudes towards your fellow man.

  4. dosido says:

    PS Thanks for indulging my rant here.

    Thanks for all the hard work and sharp insight and continued vigilance, Marcy. It’s sure going to make a difference imho.

  5. Mary says:

    it was designed to protect the Administration and its method of legalizing torture

    I think this was always foregone on the conclusion front and it’s why I haven’t been able to get very excited. This is how you most effectively bury. First all obfuscations, then “investigations” that are all rosey and exculpatory, press confs where you reassure and reassure, propagandize over and over to make torture acceptable, get courts in Padilla and Salah to look the other way or even embrace torture evidence, get Congress to go far beyond what even the OLC opinions did in providing protection to torturers and war criminals, then have a “final” and “serious” investigation before you leave office, with some “very serious” matters that you “take to heart” and a crowd of people doing the “we could have done better” wave.

    Case closed and now everyone, from the torturers through Congress and the IGs office, all complicit to greater or lesser degrees and all committed through complicity to their own specialized sales pitches.

    Ashcroft is a named defendant in several suits, so no surprise that he’s not talking. What a laugh to expect otherwise. Of course, if someone wants to give him another PR pump like Comey did before, I’m sure he’ll find time to talk about that.

    Not that he should worry – people like Comey bent over backwards to make sure cases were dismissed and our courts have made it very clear with the el-Masri dismissal and with the Padilla case and others that they are on board with torture/disappearing people, children, whole families – doesn’t matter. And they will protect Bush and Ashcroft and the “inner circle” of political, egomaniacal evil, no matter what.

    • dosido says:

      Good summary of our moral quagmire. We are on a slippery slope and sliding fast into the abyss.

      We definitely need a stronger disinfectant than hearings and reports.

    • Loo Hoo. says:

      This from Errol Morris’ article about Sabrina Harmon in the NYT:

      Fuzzing it up is a common practice in government. You hide intention and responsibility. You have one person say one thing, and another person the exact opposite. You create a blizzard of paper, so much paper that actual evidence is lost in the glut. And of course, you deny anything and everything you can deny — particularly the obvious. (Denying the obvious is always popular.) You produce noise, distraction and confusion. People rarely think of this as a well-established bureaucratic technique, but it is a tried and true methodology.

  6. JohnJ says:

    What about that (?)Texas case where they convicted a Sheriff’s department of waterboarding?

    How about suggesting they get a reversal based on the administration’s action or the opposite.

    I AM NOT actually advocating actually doing that, but it would bring up some very interesting conflicts and may actually get some outrage stirred up.

    Sorry, no time to research the case, I actually have to work at this new job.

  7. Citizen92 says:

    The document is marked “unclassified.” Does that mean that there is a sister “classified” version that the public cannot see?

  8. GeorgeSimian says:

    Unfortunately, this administration has managed to avoid all investigations into everything it’s done. This is basically how they avoided all the 9/11 commission’s investigations. If they were as good at running the country as they were at avoiding responsibility for screwing it up, they’d be great.

    We can only hope that the next President does not let these people off the hook.

  9. skdadl says:

    EW, I’m sure you saw the tack that Lichtblau took this weekend, before he had seen the report, which is the message we have heard before: the FBI may have been slow in its reactions to reports back from agents who saw what was going on in Guantanamo, but they resisted collaboration in abusive interrogation.

    I just cheated and read the last paragraphs of the report (p 413), which repeat that story. However true it is, it isn’t what the president says (”We do not torture”). It’s much closer to an accusation against other agents of the U.S. government, and we can’t rule out a few other governments, I’m sorry to say. So the report seems to me to have that value, at least. It certainly may have value to us.

  10. JohnLopresti says:

    The report looks like it obtained a lot of glimpses into the early controversies involving FBI. There are redacted sections and pseydonyms. Clearly issuance of IG reports that impinge on Bush’s concept of executive prerogative continues to be an annoyance which the president opposes. After the House voted 400 to 11 for a bluedog sponsored IG-strengthening bill in April 2008, the Senate designed a similar version but Bush messaged the Senate a veto of the bluedog version would be in store unless the Senate provided a shield for DoJ, among other demands. Kyl assured the administration’s dilutions were in the Senate version, the Kyl revised bill approved by unanimous consent in the Senate. But I see little in the news or on the House version’s sponsor’s website regarding the process by which that veto-proof majority in the House will address what the Senate has done. AP reported 2 weeks ago, the House is likely to accept the entire Senate version as inscribed in concrete instead of insisting on the usual conference committee process.

  11. freepatriot says:

    I once had a discussion with an FBI Agent, where the difference between a witnes and a suspect was explained to me in great detail (don’t ask why)

    based on that conversation, anybody got a suspects list for these crimes ???

    ain’t no statute of limitation for crimes against humanity

    and if bush starts pardoning people, we got TWO different effacts from that;

    first, if you have to issue pardons, the question of criminality is answered

    second, any action that inhibits America’s ability to prosecute war criminals would trigger the part of the ICC treaty that empowered EVERY icc MEMBER TO ENFORCE THE LAWS AGAINST CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY

    • Synoia says:

      Is the US a signatory to the ICC treaty? I though not.

      Although, Germany was no signatory to treaties and its ex-leaders still got prosecuted.

      • freepatriot says:

        you don’t have to be a citizen of a signatory nation to be prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity

        and a provision of the ICC treaty states that if the responsible nation is unwilling or unable to prosecute their own war criminals, the responsibility to prosecute falls to EVERY MEMBER STATE

        so a pardon that inhibits the US ability to prosecute war crimes inAmerica would trigger that particular provision

    • Petrocelli says:

      *Ouch* … I wonder if the WSJ bothered to get an attorney’s opinion on their piece before publishing and if so, is said attorney still employed after Scott Horton’s robust response.

      And while I’m wondering aloud … is Neal Katyal pursuing any more cases V. BushCo ?

      • freepatriot says:

        why do the repuglitards hate our soldiers

        that’s gonna be a MAIN THEME of the 2008 election

        and john mcsame gets to tell us that he LOVES the troops, he just can’t support any increases in medical expenditures for the poor bastards

        the straight hypocrisy express

        • neurophius says:

          America needs new leadership to investigate the crimes of the Bush administration and to reverse its flawed polities.

          John McCain would not provide that kind of leadership.

    • SouthernDragon says:

      From Horton’s piece:

      Why does the Wall Street Journal so disrespect the men and women in uniform who run our military justice system?

      Because they won’t play along with a process that resembles Hitler’s (in)justice system. Murdoch and the WSJ worship neo-Nazi’s. How soon will we see WSJ at the check-out line, right next to the other tabloid rags?

  12. WilliamOckham says:

    Chertoff, Fisher, and Wainstein caught a bad case of “I don’t recall” (more commonly known as Albertosis) when asked about the discussion of Abu Zubaydah.

  13. neurophius says:

    John McCain would continue the Bush administration’s policy of torturing human beings in the event McCain were elected to serve a third Bush term.

    John McCain:
    Worse than Bush

  14. MadDog says:


    Here I sit, ready to read mucho hundreds of pages of the weaseliest of weasel wording, and the entire friggin’ DOJ site is down.

    I must repeat myself. Arrrrggggh!

  15. Bluetoe2 says:

    Let the War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague sort it out. Just hope a new Democratic president will be willing to extradite the traitors.

  16. Bluetoe2 says:

    McCain is seeming more and more the bafoon with his many gaffs but then again the citizens were willing to re-elect an appointed bafoon. No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

  17. MadDog says:

    More “out of scope” stuff in the DOJ OIG Report:

    From page 13:

    …With limited exceptions, we were unable to and did not investigate the conduct or observations of FBI agents regarding detainees held a CIA facilities for several reasons. First, we were unable to obtain highly classified information about CIA-controlled facilities, what occurred there, and what legal authorities governed their operations…

    Couple of points:

    1. Apparently, Junya and Deadeye won’t give the necessary security clearances to the the DOJ OIG folks wrt to the CIA’s detainee torture programs…again!

    2. Apparently, the DOJ’s OLC won’t allow even the DOJ’s OIG access to the OLC opinions that purport to allow the CIA to conduct torture.

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