The Two Torture Tape Suspects, the Pelosi Briefing, and the Panetta Statement

A number of people are panicking about Leon Panetta’s statement to CIA employees, believing it rebuts Nancy Pelosi’s statement.

There is a long tradition in Washington of making political hay out of our business. It predates my service with this great institution, and it will be around long after I’m gone. But the political debates about interrogation reached a new decibel level yesterday when the CIA was accused of misleading Congress.

Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values. As the Agency indicated previously in response to Congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing “the enhanced techniques that had been employed.” Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened.

My advice — indeed, my direction — to you is straightforward: ignore the noise and stay focused on your mission. We have too much work to do to be distracted from our job of protecting this country.

We are an Agency of high integrity, professionalism, and dedication. Our task is to tell it like it is—even if that’s not what people always want to hear. Keep it up. Our national security depends on it.

But there’s a better way to understand this. 

First, look at Panetta’s statement about the briefings themselves.

As the Agency indicated previously in response to Congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing “the enhanced techniques that had been employed.” Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened.

Panetta is stating two things:

  1. The contemporaneous records (that is, the CIA briefer’s own notes on the briefing) show that the briefers "briefed truthfully … describing ‘the enhanced techniques that had been employed’" on Zubaydah.
  2. It is up to Congress to evaluate this evidence and "reach its own conclusions about what happened."

Now, first of all, Panetta is not saying (nor has anyone said, not even Porter Goss) that the briefers briefed Congress that these techniques had been used. I know this sounds weasely, but until someone says, in plain language, that the CIA told Congress those techniques had already been used on Abu Zubaydah, we should assume that’s not what the notes reflect, because if they did, you can be sure both the briefing list and the public statements would say so. But no one is saying that. And against that background, Panetta is reiterating the statement that Congress should determine what happened–a reiteration of the admission that CIA’s own briefing records are not the totality of the story.

The CIA briefing list records that the following people participated in the briefing: Nancy Pelosi, her staffer Michael Sheehy, Porter Goss, his staffer Tim Sample, briefers from the CounterTerrorism Center (CTC), and the Office of Congressional Affairs (OCA; elsewhere, we’ve been told four people, total, from CIA attended). 

While CIA doesn’t say it, the chances are very good that the head of CTC was among the four CIA officials who attended that briefing–he probably led the briefing. On September 4, 2002, the head of CTC was Jose Rodriguez.

Jose Rodriguez, you’ll recall, is one of the key suspects in the torture tape destruction.

Rodriguez admits to overseeing the destruction of the torture tapes, though he excuses doing so with this story (delivered by his lawyer, leaker extraordinaire Bob Bennett):

Rodriguez, whom the CIA honored with a medal in August for "Extraordinary Fidelity and Essential Service," declined requests for an interview. But his attorney said he acted in the belief that he was carrying out the agency’s stated intention for nearly three years. "Since 2002, the CIA wanted to destroy the tapes to protect the identity and lives of its officers and for other counterintelligence reasons," Bennett said in a written response to questions from The Washington Post.

"In 2003 the leadership of intelligence committees were told about the CIA’s intent to destroy the tapes. In 2005, CIA lawyers again advised the National Clandestine Service that they had the authority to destroy the tapes and it was legal to do so. It is unfortunate," Bennett continued, "that under the pressure of a Congressional and criminal investigation, history is now being revised, and some people are running for cover."

That is, Rodriguez doesn’t deny having the torture tapes destroyed–tapes showing Abu Zubaydah’s torture, which Rodriguez probably briefed Nancy Pelosi incompletely on on September 4, 2002. Rather, he says that 1) they had intended to destroy the tapes going back to 2002, 2) Congress had been briefed on the plan to destroy them in 2003, and 3) Rodriguez got the legal okay to destroy them in 2005.

With that in mind, consider that the other key suspect in the torture tape destruction is Porter Goss, in the role he played in 2005 as Director of Central Intelligence. We know that Goss was explicitly warned, in writing, not to destroy the torture tapes. We know that Goss didn’t tell Rodriguez not to destroy the tapes. And there are reasons to believe that the rest of Goss’ story about the torture tape is less than forthcoming. 

So Jose Rodriguez, may have, at a time when (he now says) he was already thinking about destroying the torture tapes of Abu Zubaydah’s torture, briefed Nancy Pelosi and Porter Goss on the techniques used to torture Zubaydah. He, or someone else at the briefing, went back afterwards and wrote down what he remembered from the briefing, which is that he described the techniques used on Zubaydah (though not neecssarily that he had told Pelosi and Goss those techniques had been used). Porter Goss has said Nancy Pelosi is nuts not to have assumed–at that time–that they were going to use waterboarding going forward. But even he, thus far, has not claimed that CIA told them torture had already been used.

We’ve got Nancy Pelosi in a briefing with (probably) the two prime suspects from the torture tape destruction. She has said CIA misled them, then, about whether or not CIA had already used torture. And neither Goss nor the CIA generally (representing CTC and therefore probably Rodriguez) is really disputing that they didn’t tell her that torture had already been used.

Now do you understand why people are coming after Pelosi so aggressively, even though there appears to be no disagreement about whether CIA told Congress torture had already been used?

Okay, with that in mind, return to the bulk of Panetta’s comment, where he tells everyone not to get distracted, where he says that CIA does not have a policy of lying to Congress.

There is a long tradition in Washington of making political hay out of our business. It predates my service with this great institution, and it will be around long after I’m gone. But the political debates about interrogation reached a new decibel level yesterday when the CIA was accused of misleading Congress.

Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values. As the Agency indicated previously in response to Congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing “the enhanced techniques that had been employed.” Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened.

My advice — indeed, my direction — to you is straightforward: ignore the noise and stay focused on your mission.

This is a statement reflecting not just the worries at CIA that they’ve been sold out again, asked to break the law, but then hung out to dry after the fact. This is a statement given at a time when the very people being investigated (probably)–Rodriguez and Goss–are two of the three key players in the briefing at the time.And this is a statement that narrowly affirms the accuracy of the briefing (given the briefing notes), while admitting that Congress should determine the full story. Yes, Panetta gives that narrow defense of CIA’s statement. But the bulk of Panetta’s statement implores the rest of CIA not to get hung up on the circus happening around them. 

Panetta is doing two things. First, affirming that CIA has not misrepresented what got recorded in the briefing notes and that the language of the briefing notes is accurate–as far as that goes. And, at the same time, casting doubt on the full meaning of the statement while imploring the rest of CIA not to get distracted by yet another challenge to CIA’s credibility.

67 replies
  1. Muzzy says:

    Include me as one of those stewing over yesterday’s Panetta statement to the CIA. I posted this a couple threads down:

    Panetta used very peculiar wording:

    …indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing “the enhanced techniques that had been employed.” Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened.

    His insertion of the quoted phrase is the mechanism required to generate the illusion. He won’t at this time say “CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, which already had included the use of waterboarding…”. The quoted part of his statement is taken from a retrospective account about what we know today was used on Zubaydah whereas at the time of Pelosi/Goss briefing the topic of waterboarding was presented prospectively [only relating to what was covered by OLC].

    Apart from the oddity that Panetta inserted a quote about Zubaydah in his statement instead of making a more direct declaration, I’m struck by the fact he specifically mentions Zubaydah when he’s addressing a topic that has broader application and meaning to different individuals and techniques. Specifically referencing Zubaydah seems unecessary unless it serves a purpose of marking inclusivity or exclusivity apart from information on the general torture topic to which Panetta is speaking.

    • emptywheel says:

      He’s mentioning Zubadayah for two very good reasons. 1) That’s how the CIA described their briefing in their 2002 notes, and 2) his is the briefing that’s being contested, to the very limited degree it is.

      He’s basically repeating the language that appears in the briefing list and presumably the notes from the brieing. So it’s no surprise to see it again.

  2. Leen says:

    Thanks Ew. Seeing what Panetta said in print rather than watching and hearing makes what he was saying far more clear.

    Cheney sure learned a great deal from Nixon. Destroy the tapes.

    Everyone including our congress folks can take Panetta’s words and apply them

    “ignore the noise and stay focuse on your mission” Special prosecutor, investigations, Get on with it


    Ew While I have gotten your point that the “noise” having to do with Pelosi’s role is a distraction from Who ordered the torture laws to be re-written, Who ordered them to be used, and Who did the torturing. Do you think Pelosi in any wasy shucked her responsibility to more aggressively push back? Or was she completely in a bind due to the classification of what ever intelligence she was savvy to/

    • Muzzy says:

      To my untrained eye, the Pincus article only mentions Zubaydah and KSM while excluding any reference to al-Libi and interrogation of him about Iraq/al qaeda links using waterboarding.

      Also, the article excludes mentioning that other forms of torture could have been used for confessions about Iraq/al qaeda apart from waterboarding. The McClatchy article involving the military psychiatrist’s reaction to Cheney/Rumsfeld’s refusing to accept ‘no Iraq/AQ link’ as an answer is a prime example.

  3. Mauimom says:

    show that the briefers “briefed truthfully …

    Do they note in their write-ups other briefings in which their briefers DIDN’T brief truthfully?

    I mean, under “normal person-speak,” one would assume that one always “briefed truthfully,” and that “lying” would be an unusual, noteworthy event.

    Here, telling the truth seems so unusual that it deserves special mention.

  4. perris says:

    Panetta is reiterating the statement that Congress should determine what happened

    I have been fantasizing that the professionals in the cia are begging congress to investigate these issues

    I am fantasizing they really want team b out of there

  5. MadDog says:

    EW, I’d make this further point explicitly about this statement in Panetta’s latest missive:

    …our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing “the enhanced techniques that had been employed.”

    One can also read this as follows:

    1. What the CIA officers briefed on the interrogation of AZ was truthful (i.e. those specific things that the CIA officers actually said were true).

    2. What the CIA officers briefed on the interrogation of AZ was not complete. (i.e. we didn’t mention the entire universe of everything we did to AZ).

    And further:

    3. What the CIA officers described regarding “the enhanced techniques that had been employed” were again true (i.e. we truthfully described some of the EITs used).

    4. 3. What the CIA officers described regarding “the enhanced techniques that had been employed” were again not complete. (i.e. we did not describe completely all of the EITs used).

    • emptywheel says:

      2 and 4 don’t follow–nor do they have to.

      Even if they briefed on every single technique described in the Bybee Two memo, it would be completely consistent with what every single person has said so far. It woudl mean they had described the techniques used–all of them.

      But it would not say–and no one has yet said–that they briefed that they had used every one of those descriptions.

  6. WilliamOckham says:

    Panetta knows that CIA briefers lied to Congress in 2004 about torture. The CIA IG reported that lie to Congress in Feb. 2005. He
    knows he can’t trust the CIA notes.

  7. Minnesotachuck says:

    Does anyone here know how these briefings are presented? Specifically whether the briefers read verbatim from a word-for-word script or do they wing it from talking point bullets? Also, to what extent are the Congress Critters free to ask questions and what flexibility do the briefers have to respond on the spot as opposed to getting back to them later? This would be helpful background information to have when trying to sort this all out. It seems to me that unless a word-for-word script was common practice there would be a wide open opportunity here for a misunderstanding. The briefer’s notes might not have been specific about the tense to be used or s/he may have hedged on the tense while winging it, causing Pelosi to hear it as being in the subjunctive.

  8. HanTran says:

    Wow, I had to think through Panetta’s statement quite a few times before I realized that the “had” in “techniques that had been employed” simply specified the techniques and does NOT claim that anyone was told that those techniques had been employed.

    Panetta’s a fox!

    • emptywheel says:

      It’s actually not PAnetta’s framing–it almost certainly comes from the original briefing notes, and therefore Rodriguez, who is almost certainly an even bigger fox.

        • emptywheel says:

          I’m agnostic about Rizzo, frankly. He was definitely there for all the torture legal stuff. But he was willing to say straight out when asked taht he approved this stuff before it happened, and he was willing to testify to Congress about the torture tapes (which put Rodriguez in a panic) and was reported to be miffed about the destruction of the tapes.

          So one thing about him, so far. He seems more honest than Rodriguez. (And OGC was not at that briefing.)

          • MadDog says:

            I can buy that (I’m buying a lot of stuff today *g*).

            But I’ve got to believe that anything that Panetta makes public has to have been vetted first by the CIA’s legal folks which would seem to place the OGC right smack dab in the loop.

            • emptywheel says:

              Right. But all he’s asserting is that the records show techniques were discussed. Rizzo’d buy off on that–it’s a representation of the records matched to what they know happened to AZ.

              • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

                In fact, doesn’t actually underscore the extent to which they either have — or think that they have — ‘captured’ Pelosi?

                She can’t reveal what she was briefed.
                They make it sound as if they told her everything, bringing — as you (brilliantly) point out — a ton of resources onto trying to silence Pelosi.

                Right now, they’re not skewering Rockefeller.
                They’re not skewering Biden.
                They’re not skewering anyone on the Senate side.

                They’re skewering – as you point out – Pelosi.

                As Richard Wolfe pointed out at MSNBC last night, the way that Bu$hCheney went about ‘briefing’ members of Congress had the effect of ‘capturing’ them: once briefed, they were legally silenced. This is true for Harmon, Shelby, Roberts, Rockefeller, Pelosi.

                One interesting way to look at this is the fact that Rockefeller appears to have been briefed so long after Pelosi.

                In other words, to ‘capture’ Pelosi, they appear to have done it right at the very time (Sept 2002) that they were setting up the WHIG group to work up the p.r. campaign for war.

                Then, they briefed Harmon the day that they’d compromised Powell (at that UN speech), which was Feb. 5, 2003.

                So by Feb 5, 2003 — a month before the ‘Shock and Awe’ but while they were drawing out the pretense of wanting the UN to join in going to war against Iraq — they’d compromised (or ‘captured’) Pelosi, Goss**, Powell, and then they didn’t even brief Rockefeller (about ‘torture’) for another… 18 months?!!

                Shorter: the entire system of ‘government oversight’ is worse than a joke. It’s a dangerous lie, an illusion, a delusional pretext that enables the Cheneys of the world to capture invaluable resources and use them as they desire.

                Silence your perceived institutional ‘enemies’ by briefing them. Checkmate. Over, and over, and over….

                What a complete, absolute, utter joke Cheney and his NeoBots made of Congress. Complete morass.

                ** Goss maybe wasn’t captured; he was probably in on it all…?

                • bigbadwolff says:

                  Goss may not have been the only one in on “it”. Shelby may have been instrumental in the limited nature of the briefings as a result of his “leak” on june 20, 2002 (see murray waas in nat’l journal –…..215nj1.htm). It appeared at the time to be too convenient that the bush admin was handed a reason d’etre to limit briefings (both content and personnel briefed).

  9. cinnamonape says:

    Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress.

    So if anyone were to do it. it would violate the principles of the CIA.

    That is against our laws and our values.

    It would be a criminal act.

    As the Agency indicated previously in response to Congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing “the enhanced techniques that had been employed.”

    These records were, of course, self-generated by the briefers. In addition, they apparently are so vague to be useless in detailing even if waterboarding was one of the EITs discussed…prospectively or retrospectively.

    If the briefers were aware of the water boarding being one of the EITs previously applied, they should have said so. If they knew it was an approved EIT. It should have been discussed.

    Since the briefers were largely the same for Graham and Pelosi, and neither recalls the retrospective discussion of water boarding being raised…it seems that either the briefer was unaware of it being used or listed in the “authorities” (is the “authority” paper given to the briefer still extant)?

    Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened.

    Yes indeedy…something is wrong here. Either the briefer(s) through omission or commission appears to have misled Congress, but also kept notes that offered a flawed record of that briefing.

  10. tanbark says:

    [email protected], it seems like the notes may have been written from the memory of the briefers. As I read it, at Pelosi’s briefing, there were 8 people present. 4 from the CIA, and Pelosi and her top aide, and…Graham?…and his top aide (Not sure about Graham, but SOME conger high-up on the intel committee…) making the 8.

    With all of those people present should it not be possible to reach some kind of consensus on what was said?

    Again, Pelosi’s admitted that she got the “word” 5 months later, in 2003, and said nothing about it. Which pretty much degrades her big concern about any misleading or outright lying that the CIA did.

    It’s like she’s saying. “Hey they held back, and so how could I raise any hell about it?” Which clearly implies that she MIGHT have raised some hell about it if she’d known… and then five months later, she finds out, and doesn’t raise any hell about it. These are not the actions of a congresswoman hot on the trail of anything.

    But as we get mired into the who-said-what-and-when-did-they-say-it, there’s one little factoid that is very evident:

    For whatever reason, just now Barack Obama does not want to invest any political capital in this Chrysler, Inc., of an issue. I have a hard time blaming him for that. Waving a few warbot scalps around is not going to help us, with what’s coming down the pike in Iraq, and in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    And so far, none of the people whose hair is on fire to do this, seem to want to talk about what the legal chances of GETTING those scalps are.

    • cinnamonape says:

      Grahams’ notebooks show that he was briefed separately from Pelosi, on another date. The CIA summary shows that it was merely the House side present: Goss + Pelosi and their aides, plus the CIA briefers. Graham said that he was briefed only once, although the CIA records say he was briefed three times. Since his reporting the error, the CIA has stated that the ghost briefings were incorrect.

  11. tanbark says:

    [email protected]: not to worry, if we are unlucky enough to have this get to the point of indictments and trials, there will be plenty of democrats for the repubs to subpoena/skewer to talk about what role THEY played in all this, and that’s one more reason why I think it will go nowhere. There are just too many dems who signed onto the fucking of the cluster who would like to say “Gosharootie, they fooled us with bad intel poop.” but who will be clearly shown to have been, not just in “fooled” mode, but in “bend over and spread your cheeks” mode. It won’t be pretty, and I suspect it will reach into the highest levels of the democratic party. If that happens, and those people are dragged into it, the Obama administration will be paralyzed, and it could be paralyzed at a time, sometime around the mid-terms, when it desperately needs to be as nimble and unfettered as a greased pig. We may be forcing the GOP into a little common sense; that being that, as victims of a perceived Obama/congress vendetta which in reality has little chance of getting indictments, much less convictions, they could find the issue/role they’ve frantically been looking for to try to damage Obama and the democratic congress.

    It’s the old story about fishing expeditions; be careful what you fish for; you might catch something unsavory, even dangerous.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      [email protected]: not to worry, when the idiots in Congress come to their senses and we are luckyif we are unlucky enough to have this get to the point of indictments and trials, there will be plenty of democrats for the repubs to subpoena/skewer to talk about what role THEY played in all this, and that’s one more reason why I think it will go nowhere.

      Fixed it for you.

      FWIW, I realize that on one level this is about ‘politics’ in ‘the Beltway’. And on that level, it’s a giddy little junior-high level he said-she said spectacle of constant sneering, jeering, ruffled feathers, waving hankies, boo-hoo-hoos, and snickering. That has a certain insipid level of National Enguirer garishness and some people are quite content with that level.

      But from what I sense when I hear people talk — or not talk, and simply clench their jaws in contempt and silent fury — there are actually those of us who see it on some other, deeper levels. For instance:
      – people with family or friends who’ve done tours in Iraq or Afghanistan
      – people who have left the military because they felt they were sent on a fool’s errand by a pack of knaves
      – people who think that it’s a dangerous situation when someone like Bush and Cheney can be appointed — NOT elected — and then use the powers they’ve claimed by ‘legal means’ to then manipulate, misuse, and violate the vast resources that generations of Americans have worked to develop.

      If you want to grovel in the acidic cesspool of the ‘well, some Dems are going to get skewered, too…!’ level of junior high nastiness, so be it.

      I’d suggest you go back a few threads and watch Sen Dick Durbin’s questions at this week’s hearing, because he’s basically lifting the veil that hides the rotting, decrepit corpse of ‘national security secrets’ to reveal that: (1) current Congressional claims of oversight are a sham, and
      (2) that sham is very dangerous for a democracy (indeed, that sham makes democracy fundamentally untenable and we have an oligarchy with the veneer of democracy designed to make it palatable).

      Threats of retribution against Dems are no reason to stop a thorough investigation. Indeed, they make it all the more urgent. The question will be whether the investigators and their staff will be worth a damn.

      • marksb says:

        -people who have served in the military and remember very clearly the statement we swore:

        that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

        That’s an OATH, not a political guideline, and lives are put on the line to honor it.
        It stays with you, for a lifetime. Maybe we served during Vietnam, Korea, Gulf I, or Iraq and Afghanistan, maybe between actions. But the oath lasts forever, and we expect, no, demand, that our leaders be honest and lawful about what they do and how they make decisions that put military lives at risk in service to our country. There are a LOT of military and ex-military that are seething about the decisions made, the process of those decisions, the lies and crimes committed. This is powerful stuff.

        • Jo Fish says:

          and, as I recall as an Officer, I did not even swear to obey the “orders of an officer appointed over me” because of Nuremberg. Those words do not exist in the Naval Officers oath. I was given the latitude to use my good judgement, intelligence and experience to know when disobedience was the prudent, legal and moral course of action for me and those serving under me.

          • MarkH says:

            That’s probably (one of) the reasons they provided another bit of evidence/argument (the OLC memos) to push CIA and anyone else involved to go ahead with the torturing. How could someone in that position make an independent judgment and ignore their commanders if there was an OLC legal opinion backing it up? That would put front-line people in a very difficult situation — no fuzzy areas when the lawyers have spoken.

            Of course, as I suspect through most of Shrub’s life, the lawyers (probably judges too) appear to have been bought & paid for.

        • greenbird4751 says:

          and that, marksb, was what i meant by saying a few days ago, that for the first time in my adult life i regretted not having served in the military, and that i felt a great need to protect my contry’s constitution.
          since then, and for someone who feels only that military=blood, i have found an example of the military i envisioned:
          best wishes to you marcy, as you ramp up your value to us.

  12. cinnamonape says:

    It’s like she’s saying. “Hey they held back, and so how could I raise any hell about it?” Which clearly implies that she MIGHT have raised some hell about it if she’d known… and then five months later, she finds out, and doesn’t raise any hell about it. These are not the actions of a congresswoman hot on the trail of anything.

    Which raises the point as to why…if the Members of Congress are actually silenced on what they learn in the briefings…that the CIA would hold anything back from them. Clearly the CIA and WH must have feared that someone would talk…or act.

    So that must mean that Pelosi, Graham and the aide are lying, right? Why would the aide have to tell Pelosi something that they both learned in September.

    Which makes me think that the CIA/WH feared that a member of Congress just might take the floor to disclose the use of torture (an illegal act) on detainees. But in February (or later) when she was told that information came from an aide. The aide would not have the right of protection when speaking in the well of the House. The aide was subject to criminal prosecution, not just political retribution. And the WH was using such investigations of “leaks of National Security information” to vilify Democrats and get Democratic aides fired.

  13. greenbird4751 says:

    i’m going to post first, then go back and read all this, including, as usual, comments, but:
    cheney, per TPM, will speak at AEI on thursday, and whither will he lead?

  14. Sachem says:

    The missing name in these discussions is David Addington. He was the pivotal player between the White House, State, CIA and the Rummy Pentagon.

    He’s the one that should be indicted first, and yet there is no discussion of him. Cheney is in heart failure and is going to fall on the sword anyway.

    The Addington perpwalk is the trailhead for accountability in this wound on our national psyche.

  15. Sachem says:

    Oh BTW, someday there will be an award for investigative journalism called the “emptywheel”!

  16. Jo Fish says:

    Sadly, it seems that with Obama our greatest hope for “change” and some of that “disinfectant sunshine” all we have gotten is what Matt Taibbi describes as Obama selling his “RFK resurrected heart-throb act” to install the same old cast of insider-characters with access to the levers of power in DC.

    Panetta? At the CIA? Really? I’m sure that Leon had nothing to do with Obama (who seems to be more of a finger-in-the-air guy than I originally took him for) changing his mind over releasing those photos. Destruction of evidence is crime, but no one will be prosecuted, because, well, we don’t want to shit on our “terror fighters” especially those who break the law with impunity, now do we?

    The promised “sunshine” is now a myth… something that those of us naive enough to remember the clock-cleaning the republicans got post-Watergate thought might happen again. There will be no Church Committee, no one will give a shit in the circles of power because it’s just DFH Bloggers and the politically disenfrancised voters who care if their country is ruled by laws or men. Apparently Obama has now gone with the latter.

    We lose. Sorry.

  17. eCAHNomics says:

    I think a close read of Panetta is crap. I think he put out that memo specifically to get Pelosi in trouble.

    • BooRadley says:

      How much are you contributing annually to Marcy’s fund. After I know that I’ll know better how to respond to your naked and unsupported assertion that her post is “crap.”

    • Loo Hoo. says:

      Thanks for the link downstairs. Couldn’t see page 46 though, went from 27 to index.

      I’m guessing Marcy is working on this…

      • eCAHNomics says:

        I did a search for Team B, and then there’s a tab on the right that sez something like “next one” which gets you to page 46 after about 3 or 4 clicks. Then you can click on next page a couple of times, at least to get the idea. I own the physical book, so I didn’t review how much was actually available online.

  18. peterboy says:

    I say they destroyed the tapes, in part, because it shows they were trying to get the prisoners to lie about the WMD and Iraq–Al Q connection.
    it was a classic use of torture–just as in the witch burnings, and the inquisition and the soviet trials and the chinese torture of flyers and 30 seconds over tokyo-remember that one?–to get false confessions.

  19. Jkat says:

    what gives .. this post was published yesterday [saturday .. may 16 8:00 am over a EW .. ] it’s not a new post …

  20. NorskeFlamethrower says:


    Citizen emptywheel and the firepup Freedom Fighters:

    Time for Obama to task Holder to coordinate with the Senate and House intelligence and judiciary committees and have ‘em hold hearings on torture and refer all evidence, findings and recommendations to a special prosecutor of Holder’s choosing. The same should be done with the US Attorney scandal…House and Senate judiciary jhearings with referrals to Holder’s appointed special prosecutor.

    The CIA has been compromised and packed since the outting of Valerie Plame and the only way to stand behind the grunts in the trenches who are serving now is to reassure those still workin’ that Obama stands behind those who participated “in good faith” and will pursue those who initiated the torture to the gates of hell…it seems to me that that is what Obama has done to this point.

    Let’s hold hearings in the House and Senate this Summer and get it outta the way so healthcare and EFCA can hold center stage in the Fall…get this thing out of the political calculus for 2010 and don’t take up Congress’s time with something they are completely incompetent to handle.

    I have said this before and I will continue to say it until the FDL censors put me away: I am sick and tired of so-called “progressives” puttin the heat on Obama for tryin’ to kick start the courts to force the government to enforce the law. Only a combined effort of the executive, legislative AND judiciary branches of government will be able to kill the fascist beast once and for all. In the meantime the work of each individual branch must move forward on those issues like the economy, banking and labor law that are now sidetracked by these issues of political corruption and war crimes.

    So let’s get behind Obama in his efforts to force the other two branches of govenment to do their fuckin’ jobs…torture and political corruption of the judiciary must be fast tracked into the legal system ASAP!


  21. tjbs says:

    We don’t need a cover-up commission like the ones I’ve lived through in my lifetime.
    The Warren commission was an obvious cover-up with magical bullets ,the so called assassin killed on national TV in government custody and the records buried for ninety years.
    Water gate hearings with the Ford blanket pardon insuring today’s Cheneyland nightmare.
    Iran contra/ Tower commission with no punishments served on principles involved trading arms for counter constitutional actions. They came back to torture.

    The phony 911 commission that was afraid of finding the truth , is rumored to had government minders sit in on the questionings. It had a White House official vet the report that left more questions than it answered. When Bush and Cheney would only to testify together ,not under oath for less than an hour, only stupid Americans thought they knew every thing about Islamofacists attacking the homeland.It is nothing less then another cover-up.

    Not this time. Bush/ Cheney have admitted to war crimes and should be off the streets tomorrow. An International War Crimes Tribunal is the only hope of restoring our honor as THE country that has always stood for truth and Justice.
    The torture isn’t just applied to Iraq citizens but rather numerous citizens of many countries including Spain, Britain, China to name a few.
    And the torture wasn’t done in sound proof rooms once a day but rather in an american traitor competition ala Am. Idol to see who could go total animal on people that couldn’t understand our language. But they did understand our language of total full spectrum terror with non-stop screaming and seeing dead bodies caste aside and a cowboy administration talking about a generational crusade that intended to murder people not even born yet for they next 30 or 40 years.

    We birthed Nuremburg and now it’s time to partake of the same chalice or fully cooperate with the ongoing Spanish War Crimes Investigation and believe me the Spanish know what torture looks like. Life in prison with no chance of parole if found guilty.

    We know Bush/Cheney violated the constitution but also the Declaration of Independence which states all men are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights including the right of life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness.
    Dick Cheney decided these people weren’t equally created and inserted himself on GODS judgement seat even though up to 80% were innocent. Let’s skip the 108 homicides of human beings, that couldn’t come up with the right answer, that Cheney /Bybee are accessories to murder to.

    ANYONE who knew ,did, hid, ordered or carried out these heinous acts must be given a full and fair trial and if found guilty locked away for life in Iraq. An International War Crimes Tribunal takes the President’s pardon power away ,not that any person in their right mind would ever release the goons on our streets in our lifetime. No exceptions. The guilty must be stripped of their war profits, worldly possessions and their citizenship. It includes many in the press, sub contractors,the Supreme Court and many in congress both Republicans and Democrats.

    How long should we expect the torturees to await Justice while the clowns in congress argue who knew what when. They have the supreme human right in their lifetime, as the least whom we tortured , to confront the Masters of the Universe who ordered them tortured . It shouldn’t take more than six months to try the principle traitors who hatched this war crime.
    — Terry Beitl, Bucks Co.,Pa

  22. RAMA says:

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. Now, after all these years, we’re still being flimflamed on what the meaning of “is” is. Or maybe what the meaning of “was” was.

    Second, the most important part of this whole episode is that Panetta continues to refuse to claim the CIA did not lie. He merely says it’s not their policy to lie. Which is also probably untrue, but still, a simple “We didn’t lie or mislead Nancy Pelosi” would certainly clear the air. That it’s not forthcoming is pretty clear evidence that Panetta cannot truthfully make that statement.

  23. earlofhuntingdon says:

    EW is absolutely correct. Mr. Panetta’s is the classic lawyer’s hit piece. He might as well be parsing a Clintonesque “is”, or be claiming that his agency never tortured, but only by relying on the DoJ’s knowingly false definition of that term.

    As Marcy skillfully did when the Bush regime used this technique, she breaks Panetta’s Bush League statement down by individual claim and sentence – two separate things often strung together to imply meanings the statements themselves purposely fail to convey. As an expression of bureaucratic newspeak, Panetta’s statement is superb. As a frank disclosure of bureaucratic action, it has no meaning. How does he do that?

    Mr. Panetta says that his agency’s September 2002 records about the CIA briefing are accurate. As Marcy points out, look at how he qualifies that. For starters, he does not say:

    “The September 2002 briefings made by authorized representatives of the CIA to the full membership of the House and Senate intelligence committees were full, complete and accurate statements with regard to the interrogation techniques we were then authorized to use and, in fact, had already employed [on K, L, and M prisoners].”

    He goes out of his way to avoid saying that. He refers to internal agency records “contemporaneously” made in “September 2002″. He substitutes his “records” for the “briefings”. Moreover, his records are divorced in time and space from the summary of events described in them – whether those relate to “Congressional” briefings, to prisoner interrogations, both, or to other things.

    They are divorced from what was actually given to Congress and to whom in Congress. That is, he makes no claim that each person in Congress was identically briefed, that all persons the CIA was required to brief were in fact briefed, or that each briefing was identical in all material respects, in time and substance, with all other briefings. He claims only that his “records” were accurate.

    Notably, he doesn’t say the briefings correspond with the full history of what was briefed — only that what they do record was accurate. Nor does he say whether they accurately or fully record what was actually done and when to prisoners.

    Lastly, Marcy elegantly excoriates Panetta’s exquisitely weasley statement that only Congress can determine the accuracy of statements made to it. As the offeror of those statements, he makes no representation or warranty as to their accuracy. I’d like to see him try that with a Grand Jury or when selling a used car. He must hope that his disclaimer avoids criminal liability for lying to Congress, and that his statement is enough to cheer the troops and return the ball to Congress’ court, theirs to flub or rally back to Panetta with a demand that he try again.

    Mr. Panetta’s statement may be accurate. It is worthless, except to create the appearance of openness and transparency that his actual words deny.

  24. cinnamonape says:

    Marcy- I don’t know if you caught the parsing used in Richard Shelby’s statement which also doesn’t seem to contradict Pelosi or Graham if read carefully. In fact it contains something which suggests to me that the CIA did NOT give a full accounting of techniques they had already used.

    “As Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2002, Senator Shelby was briefed by the CIA on the Agency’s interrogation program and the existence of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs). To his recollection, not only did the CIA briefers provide what was purported to be a full account of the techniques, they also described the need for these techniques and the value of the information being obtained from terrorists during questioning. The Senate briefing also included an explanation of how these techniques were consistent with the law and with the national security interests of the U.S. To his recollection, while there was a great deal of discussion, there were no objections raised during the Senate briefing he attended.”

    I think that he slipped by using the term “purported”? That suggests to me that the Committee Members in attendance WERE NOT given a full account of the techniques….but that the CIA CLAIMED these were complete techniques. IF there were techniques not mentioned…then the legal justifications would not have applied to unmentioned techniques.

    Now, we can also see that Shelby notes that the value of information ALREADY obtained was discussed. Now, if the full range of techniques were actually discussed (including waterboarding), then he admits that the CIA had already applied them without Congressional notification. But if they were not reported to both Chambers then Pelosis characterization is not at all at odds.

    And that possibility, that not all the techniques developed and used at the time were not fully reported, even to the Senate is suggested by the term “purported”.

    And note that he clearly states that this was not a JOINT briefing…it was only a Senate briefing, presumably the one that Bob Graham attended. But the CIA originally stated that Graham had attended three briefings. So perhaps there were additional briefings that were “Republican only”?

  25. constantweader says:

    Excellent parsing, Marcy. I’m a pretty good parser, but I missed the clever was Panetta phrased his initial statement. Oh, and all the network anchors missed his second point, too. The MSM has been just shameful in the way they’ve made a big deal of Pelosi (partly her fault for taking the bait), & paid no attention to the growing evidence that Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld were literally waging a holy war against “infidels.” It wasn’t just evil guys who took us to war, it was evil crazy guys.

    The Constant Weader at

  26. earlofhuntingdon says:

    As Marcy has said and as Digby pointed out, for Panetta to say it’s not his agency’s policy or practice to mislead Congress IS NOT a statement that his agency DID NOT mislead Congress or the public in this or any other specific instance.

    Panetta is mixing apples and oranges, he’s doing a Rove, implying one set of facts while explicitly refusing to state them. That and five visits to the Grand Jury to “amplify” his previous statements may have kept Rove from being indicted along with Libby. It may, too, keep Panetta from formally lying to Congress. It hasn’t prevented him from deceiving it.

    Congress ought to tell Mr. Straight Shooter to try again, and not let up until, in Digby’s words, he and his Team Obama peers stop speaking and writing as if English were their second language.

  27. MyrtleJune says:

    I agree that Panetta was speaking words….. meaningless words unless of course you are CIA trying to keep your job and singing like birdies about what bush wanted them to do and that they probably did do. So, Obama and Panetta don’t want that “openness” to end just quite yet. Still finding where the bodies were buried as it were. I don’t see the problem with what he said.

    I don’t see the problem with what Pelosi said. Graham backs her up on that basicially though they may have been at different meetings. Of course the CIA didn’t come out and tell Congress a damn thing in any straing forward way at all. And of course Congress, including Pelosi, didn’t call anyone on anything at the time. Didn’t ask for clarification if there was any doubt what their less than plain talk was inferring. Of course they didn’t. And why would they? And what does it matter now anyway? It doesn’t.

    For cryin’ out loud we’re talking about Nancy “impeachment is off the table” Pelosi here!!!!! Even IF she KNEW, regardless of when or how she knew, she would have done nothing. I mean what could she or would she have done? It was all “perfectly LEGAL” at the time after all. So what.

    If you all don’t see ALL of this as Dick Cheney crawling out from under the bus and trying to grab ahold of the steering wheel, then I think you might want to get a wide angle lens on this thing. Divide and conquer is what they’re up to here. Already the pubs, the old guard because the new ones are truely too stupid, have found a way to pit the dems against each other and against Obama. Way to go!! Gah.

    Yes, I think there should be an investigation, and there probably IS one going on right now and all the hub bub is surely hampering that effort. I ALSO think the public should let that investigation go on and stop being driven by Dick Cheney!! We elected a man who KNOWS what he is doing and he is trying to DO HEALTH CARE right now and fix our economy as well. There is a time for this BUT this is not it. Dammit you all want Obama to act all kneejerky the way the pubs used to do. Why should he? There’s NO time limit on this.

    Now, Pannetta came out to protect his people and they work they are doing TODAY. He could gave a hoot what Pelosi knew and when…… however, the republicans now have toe hold to climb back in this thing. Cheney is driving the news cycle. I don’t think this is PROGRESS at all.

    Seems we asked for CHANGE and yet, we’re not willing to change our own ways to make sure we’re changing the things we CAN. We can’t CHANGE what bushco did, We CAN change how health care will go though. Focus.

    Yes, I want some frog marching. You BET I do. BUT I don’t want to be so distracted by Cheney’s attempt to steer us off course at THIS moment that we miss what is going on NOW. I think the summer of 2012 might be a better time for hearings and indictments and such. But that’s just me.

    • bmaz says:

      You might want to look up a little concept called “statute of limitations”. And while you are at it, perhaps investigate the concept of laches. Oh, and what investigation is it you believe is magically going on?? What do you allege was “perfectly legal”, and on what basis would you allege that? Why is health care more important that the Constitution and the root rule of law? So, are you saying Obama cannot do both? So many questions; I look forward to the answers.

      • MyrtleJune says:

        Ummm… well, YOU might want to look up both “statute of limitations” and “laches” in relation to War Crimes. Just ask the German guy they just hauled off….. no brainer.

        AND have you never taken over a job and tried to figure out just what went on before? It’s not like Obama put Pannetta there for NO reason… gah. Let’s also not forget dick cheney’s continued insistance that he has some “inside” information and/or contacts in his continued book sale tour. I think we’d want to be finding out just who those people are. Do you think they’re going to step out and say “Yes, I pass all the classified info on to Dick, after all he’s the VP”? We’ll they’re not.

        The thing is you seem to want Obama to act just exactly like the republicans acted and go off all half cocked over every little thing. He’s NOT them if you haven’t noticed. I, for one, want to keep on with HIS agenda no matter who is calling for hims to alter it.

        I’m saying America cannot do both. You want to forget the house is on fire to determine just who tattled on whom for playing with matches. And you want the Fire Chief to listen to your squabble instead of putting out the freaking fire! No, I’m sorry but you’re out of time here. Putting Dick Cheney’s agenda ahead of what NEEDS to be done right now is not on my radar.

        Rule of Law… sure. Constitution…. sure. Right NOW…. NO. Right now we need to be making damn sure the republicans cannot manage to drive the news cycle and cannot create a divide and conquer tactic.

        I always knew there were people who just can’t think things through, in the larger sense, I just didn’t think they were “on my side”. IF you’ve never been in a tactical war with politics, yes even office politics, then you really should just take my word for it. Now is not the time.

        Oh, and dick cheney wants his high horse back when you’re done riding it.

  28. MyrtleJune says:

    Oh and …. the “perfectly LEGAL” is reference to the torture memos that cheney had the justice department write up so they could claim the justice department said it was “legal”. Plausable deniability. That was just after he planted the next “news” story in the news paper so he could go on the Sunday talkies and claim he read it in the paper so it must be so. Busy busy little man he was….. and is…. STILL.

  29. bmaz says:

    You bet I think that upholding the rule of law and the Constitution is more important than anything else. It is what this country is founded upon and what all the people defending it since that day have died for. I have damn little patience for those that think it can be, or should be, subjugated to political concerns. That type of expedience is what has led the country to where it is today. If you think that way, there will always be some reason; the country can do far better.

    Oh, and by the way, there are statutes for war crimes that do not involve death (8 years and five years for the conspiracies to commit them), and they are expiring every day. Your offhand assertion of the case of Demjanjuk is completely inapposite.

    • bmaz says:

      Well, right back at ya. So, lets be honest here, you just came to spread the same crappy concern trolling that your partner Tanbark so annoyingly does. Keep your concern to your own site and leave the denizens of this one alone.

  30. hooya67 says:

    i am interested in seeing more of what is in bob graham’s notebook. ??
    also more on the thug squad ie. blackwater ie. xe (z) and what can be done to prosecute these individuals for doing the the cia’s dirty also seems that they enjoy doing this from the extent of their harsh treatment of the detainees?
    it seems to me that some one once said that the reason for these contractors being implemented is because the government officials are responsible. if i am correct this came from kermit bush’s office during that era of time.the federal reserves official at that time.
    now with this being said, no one seems to be responsible. do they?
    our law is for the poor individuals and other individuals that can produce more money governmentally or privately it appears.
    i am appalled and not surprised that these officals are lieing to congress. which seems to be lieing: and it seems everyone envolved is jay bybee and dick cheney behaviors when giving intervoews and testimony. they appear to resemble true criminal behaviors.this happens to be why most attorney’s will not have their clients utter a word.

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