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RickyLeaks

In a post at the Document Exploitation blog, Douglas Cox reminds us of how Crazy Pete Hoekstra and Rick Santorum pressured the government to make all of Saddam’s documents–including a plan for a nuke–available on the InterToobz.

The drive towards this unprecedented doc dump arose in earnest in late 2005 and early 2006 when the continuing public debate over the justifications for the 2003 Iraq invasion turned towards the possibility of untapped evidence in the captured documents from Iraq.  Could they contain, for instance, “smoking gun” evidence of links between Saddam and al-Qaeda?  Stephen F. Hayes at the Weekly Standard, for example, had an impressive series of pieces during this period on his attempts to obtain access to some of the captured Iraqi documents both via the Pentagon press office and via repeated FOIA requests. He also covered growing calls in Congress for the release of the material.  See in particular his “Where Are the Pentagon Papers?” in November 2005, “Down the Memory Hole: The Pentagon sits on the documents of the Saddam Hussein regime” in December, and both “Saddam’s Terror Training Camps: What the documents captured from the former Iraqi regime reveal — and why they should all be made public” and “Read All About It: Prewar Iraqi documents are of more than academic interest” from January 2006.

In March 2006, both then-Rep. Pete Hoekstra and then-Sen. Rick Santorum took action by introducing nearly identical bills in the House and Senate that required the “Director of National Intelligence to release documents captured in Afghanistan or Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, or Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

This led Gawker to make the obvious analogy to WikiLeaks.

Catholic scold Rick Santorum thinks Julian Assange is a “terrorist”—and ought to be prosecuted as such—for his role in releasing thousands of pages of classified documents on the internet. He ought to know: In 2006, Sen. Rick Santorum literally forced the U.S. government to dump thousands of pages of classified records concerning Iraq onto the web, including detailed plans for building a nuclear weapon, so that right-wing bloggers could search them for evidence of Saddam Hussein’s phantom WMD.

[snip]

No less an authority than former Bush chief of staff Andrew Card said at the time that the release was stupid, and that Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte had opposed Santorum’s push for release: “John Negroponte warned us that we don’t know what’s in these documents, so these are being put out at some risk, and that was a warning that he put out right when they first released the documents.”

ODNI of course took the documents down, but not before they were grabbed by anyone and everyone who may have been interested in designing a nuclear weapon.

A spokesman for Santorum did not respond to a request for comment.

Maybe now that he has effectively called himself a terrorist Santorum will start campaigning against Obama’s use of drones to target American citizens?

(Max Sawicky gets full credit for the post title.)

How Good Are DOJ’s Reasons for Burying Its Case against Anwar al-Awlaki?

Today’s the day Eric Holder explains how his Department decided it was okay to kill a US citizen with no independent legal review, even while he says we should use civilian courts to, uh, give terrorists due process.

Now, at least as of late January, the Administration still planned not to include any real information about its case against Anwar al-Awlaki in Holder’s speech.

As currently written, the speech makes no overt mention of the Awlaki operation, and reveals none of the intelligence the administration relied on in carrying out his killing.

Since much of the evidence that has been used to implicate Awlaki came from Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, I’m going to return to a question I first raised several weeks ago, why DOJ sat on the information it got from Abdulmutallab implicating Awlaki so long.

In this post, I considered why DOJ published a narrative explicitly describing Anwar al-Awlaki’s role in Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s terror plot last month, rather than when it learned the information from Abdulmutallab sometime in 2010. The reason is likely evidentiary. It appears the government never persuaded Abdulmutallab to testify against Awlaki even while he was implicating Awlaki during “plea negotiations,” meaning it’s unclear Abdulmutallab would have repeated the information implicating Awlaki in court. Note, since that post, Abdulmutallab prosecutor Jonathan Tukel confirmed in court that the UndieBomber was offered–but did not accept–a plea agreement.

In this post, I will consider other reasons why DOJ may have buried (and presumably will continue to bury) their case against Awlaki: a desire to hide its signals intelligence, its informants, as well as a desire to win legal cases.

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Pete Hoekstra Mocks His Asian-American Neighbors

When I first saw Crazy Pete Hoekstra’s racist ad, I thought the woman in it–who is supposed to depict a Chinese woman who speaks English well–looked more Thai or Laotian than Han Chinese. And while Hoekstra claims that her parents are “100% Chinese” there are unconfirmed reports that the actress is actually Laotian-American.

Which would be particularly galling, given that Hoekstra’s home town has a significant population of Laotian-Americans (note, Holland Township is basically the northern suburbs of Holland city).

Holland Township’s population is 10.1 percent Asian, which includes mainly Laotian and Cambodian families, but also Filipino and Vietnamese. That’s more than double the concentration of the U.S., and five times more than Holland city.

Some Laotians have converted to Christianity, but many still practice Buddhism. The Holland area has two Buddhist temples — one on 112th Avenue and another on Port Sheldon — each with several monks.

Both temples have around 120 members, according to Nace Phimthasak, President of the Lao Buddhist Temple of Holland. But as manufacturing companies downsized, many families moved out of state, putting an added burden on other members, who continue to support the temple financially.

Laotian refugees came to Michigan in the aftermath of the Vietnam war and were often sponsored by Dutch Reform Church communities–Hoekstra’s own faith.

The Laotian community (along with the growing Latino population) gives the Holland area an increasingly diverse feel. Not only can you get superb “Thai” food, but where I lived on the edge of the cornfields and just a mile or so from the MI office of the right wing Family Research Council, I lived closer to a Buddha statute than to one of Jesus (the statue was at the community center described as being planned in the article–in thoroughly American fashion, it watches over a sand volleyball court where members play for hours on warm Sundays).

Hoekstra’s ad was bigoted and wrong in any case. But it turns out he may have been making fun not of a distant Asian community in California or China, but his neighbors and former constituents in Holland.

If Hoekstra can’t even figure out that his neighbors are good Americans, then he’s not the guy to be fighting to defend the American Dream.

MI Politics Gets Interesting: Trevor and Crazy Pete

Just interrupting pre-game to bring two pieces of interesting political news from MI.

First, we might finally have exciting news in my congressional district, where the party has thus far failed to recruit anyone to run against the unpopular Justin Amash even after his own party put a target on his back by making the district more Democratic. One of the key players in the successful DADT fight, Trevor Thomas, is thinking of challenging Amash. Now, local Dems are worried about an out gay and pro-choice man carrying the Democratic banner. Even aside from the bigotry implied by that worry, they don’t seem to be thinking about the benefit of having such a proven campaign winner carrying the banner of working people. Don’t our working men and women deserve the same kind of successful advocate that our gay service members got? (Trevor was also involved in Jennifer Granholm’s thumping of Dick DeVos in 2006, so he knows how to win locally, too.)

Trevor is reportedly going to make his decision in the next few days. If and when he announces, you can expect to hear more from me about him, because I’d be genuinely excited about this race.

Meanwhile, speaking of bigots, here’s the stupid, racist ad I’m going to be treated to during the Super Bowl. Read more

John Rizzo: We Should Have Been Prouder of Our Cover-Up

John Rizzo’s second regret is that after the CIA destroyed torture tapes in 2005, they should have briefed Congress and the Courts on their attempt to cover-up their own torture.

Mind you, that’s not exactly what he says. Here’s his version:

We should have made damn sure that the intelligence committees’ leadership—if not the full committees—were told about the destruction as soon as it happened. To take whatever lumps we deserved (and we clearly deserved some) then and there. We should have done the same thing with judges presiding over then-pending court cases potentially implicating the tapes, even if we weren’t obligated to do so as a technical legal matter. In short, we should have told everyone in all three branches in the Government who had even an arguable need to know.

To some degree this looks like a statement designed for John Durham’s benefit: a performance of real regret for doing something bone-headed (though why bother now that Durham has already let the statute of limitations expire on the case?). Though Rizzo probably overstates the outcome of Durham’s investigation here, as there is a difference between “no evidence of a cover-up” and “insufficient evidence to charge when your President is demanding you look forward.”

Ultimately, the various investigations would find no evidence of a cover-up, but rather that the whole thing was one monumental screw-up.

I’m particularly amused, however, by this statement.

In 2002, CIA videotaped the interrogation of the first captured Al Qaeda terrorist to be water-boarded. It was lawfully conducted, but the tapes were graphic and hard to watch. Almost immediately, those in CIA who made the tapes wanted to destroy them, fearing the faces of the interrogators on the tapes would put them in danger if and when they were ever made public.

We know the “hard to watch” and “fearing the faces of the interrogators” lines at most describe one, the smallest one, problem with the tapes. There were at least two other problems with them. First, they proved the torturers had exceeded DOJ guidelines.

As CIA’s Inspector General made clear, the waterboarding that was depicted on the tapes in 2003 did not fall within the limits of the Bybee Two memo, both because the torturers used far more water, forced it down Abu Zubaydah’s throat, and used it with far more repetition than allowed by the memo. Furthermore, the torturers exceeded even the guidelines the Counterterrorism Center set on sleep deprivation–though Yoo may (or may not have) have set the limit in the Bybee Two memo high enough to cover what had already been done to Abu Zubaydah. Folks in the IG’s office had about seven more pages of concerns about what was depicted on the torture tapes (PDF 86-93)–but that all remains redacted. So the tapes did not, in fact, match the written guidelines DOJ gave them.

In addition, the tapes show that the torturers had already altered the tapes to hide something on them.

The other, potentially bigger problem for those depicted in the torture tapes has to do with what once appeared on the 15 tapes that the torturers altered before November 30, 2002, when CIA lawyer John McPherson reviewed them. Before that point, the torturers had altered 21 hours of the torture tapes, which covered at least two of the harshest torture sessions. Had someone done forensics on the tapes before they were destroyed, we might have learned what happened during those 21 hours. But by destroying the tapes completely, the CIA prevented that from happening.

One potential problem would be if the interrogators used a coffin–as they had planned to–after John Yoo judged that mock burials would be illegal. Or maybe they just broke the law in other ways.

But given that Rizzo’s explanation for why the tapes were destroyed is so obviously a fiction, I’m guessing he knows well that the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah was not “lawfully conducted.”

I’m most interested, though, in this BS from Rizzo:

While we had informed the intelligence committee leadership in early 2003 of the tapes’ existence, we did not tell them on a timely basis about their unauthorized destruction. It was not our intent to hide that fact; it was simply a communications breakdown inside CIA in which then-Director Porter Goss neglected to inform the leadership as we agreed he would do the day he and I learned about the destruction. To this day I am convinced it was an unintentional oversight on his part, and I blame myself for not following up to make sure he had informed the Hill. The whole thing had just fallen through the cracks, something I saw happen far too often in my long Agency career.

Oh, my. Poor Porter Goss forgot to tell Congress that Jose Rodriguez had covered up illegal torture.

Or did he?

How is it that Crazy Pete Hoekstra got his very own briefing on torture on the very day the torture tapes were destroyed?

What went on at Crazy Pete’s briefing–a briefing for Crazy Pete alone, without his counterpart Jane Harman, who had long expressed opposition to destroying the torture tapes, or his own staff–on the very day CIA destroyed the torture tapes?

That’s right. As I have noted in the past, Crazy Pete Hoekstra (and Duncan Hunter, in a separate briefing) got a “complete brief” on the torture program on November 8, 2005, the day the torture tapes were destroyed.

An MFR lacking real detail (see PDF 32) at least reveals that Office of Congressional Affairs head Joe Wippl and C/CTC/LGL (who I believe would still be Jonathan Fredman) gave the briefing. A number of chronologies on Member Briefings included in this FOIA set note that no staffers attended these two briefings (see, for example, page 100 of this PDF), and those appear to be the only briefings for which CIA noted that no staffers attended. And note, minimal as the MFR on this is, it is one of just five or six briefings in the years before the torture tapes were destroyed for which CIA actually did do an MFR (one of the others is the briefing at which Pat Roberts okayed the destruction of the torture tapes).

In other words, this was one of the few torture briefings CIA’s Office of Congressional Affairs saw fit to memorialize. They don’t say what was briefed, really, but they’ve got proof that two men from the CIA briefed Crazy Pete and just Crazy Pete on something related to the torture program the day CIA destroyed the torture tapes.

It’s not definitive they were talking about the torture tapes, mind you; after all, the torture apologists were in full court press trying to prevent McCain’s Detainee Treatment Act from taking away all the torture toys.

But one more thing suggests there may be a connection. On the evening of the same day Crazy Pete got this briefing, the same day CIA destroyed the torture tapes, someone sent an email with a list of all Congressional briefings related to the torture program (see page 90-92 of the second PDF). It says only, “Per your request please find attached List of Members who have been briefed and a couple of other categories.” The list is interesting for two reasons. First, because the email forwarded a list with some key errors, in that it listed Harman, not Pelosi, as having been briefed at the first torture briefing in September 2002 (with a handwritten note, “error, it is Pelosi per 145166″). It also includes an error that remained in the CIA’s own records until last year, showing Goss, not Crazy Pete, as the Chair in a meeting in March 2005 (it’s unclear the meeting with Harman happened; what appears to have happened instead is an extra briefing with Dick Cheney for Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller).

More interestingly, the Crazy Pete and Hunter briefings–which had taken place that very day–were already in the Excel spreadsheet showing all the briefings. It’s as if they briefed Crazy Pete and Hunter just so they could print this out as part of a CYA attempt to say that Congress had approved the torture tape destruction. And maybe Crazy Pete and Hunter did just that.

Goss’ so-called oversight seems a lot more suspicious given that one of Dick Cheney’s lackies, Joe Wippl, and one of the people involved in the tape cover-up from CTC was off briefing Hoekstra that same day.

Now, we’ll never know, because as with most key briefings, the CIA didn’t make a record of what went on the briefing (and why would you, if you had gone to the trouble of excluding even Hoekstra’s aides?).

But as with Rizzo’s first regret, this seems to be more about rehashing the fictions that got him out of legal trouble than any actual regret.

Our “Public Debate” about Drones Is a State Secret

While I often disagree with Benjamin Wittes, I rarely think the stuff he writes is sheer nonsense.

This post, which attempts to rebut Eugene Robinson’s column on Assassination by Robot, is an exception.

I disagree, respectfully, with most of his post. But this bit I find just mindboggling.

My former colleague Eugene Robinson has a column in the Washington post entitled “Assassination by Robot,” which seems to me to warrant a brief response. Robinson begins by saying that, “The skies over at least six countries are patrolled by robotic aircraft, operated by the U.S. military or the CIA, that fire missiles to carry out targeted assassinations. I am convinced that this method of waging war is cost-effective but not that it is moral.” And he complains that “There has been virtually no public debate about the expanding use of unmanned drone aircraft as killing machines — not domestically, at least.”

Robinson’s complaint about debate is false, at least in my view. There has been a significant public debate on the subject.

In half the countries in which we are known to be using drones–Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia–these drone strikes are still highly, highly classified. (The acknowledged countries are Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.)

When Anwar al-Awlaki’s family sued for due process, the government invoked state secrets, even as Crazy Pete Hoekstra and a stream of anonymous sources have leaked details of the drone targeting of him for over a year. One of the things Robert Gates specifically invoked state secrets over is whether or not we’re engaged in military operations in Yemen. Another is details of our counterterrorism work with Yemen.

B. Information concerning possibly military operations in Yemen, if any, and including criteria or procedures DoD may utilize in connection with such military operations; and

C. Information concerning relations between the United States and the Government of Yemen, including with respect to security, military, or intelligence cooperation, and that government’s counterterrorism efforts.

So in the most controversial case out there, our targeting of an American citizen with no due process, the government has said no one can know any details of it. No one.

The secrecy of the drone strikes is a point that Robinson makes, albeit somewhat obliquely.

Since the program is supposed to be secret, officials use euphemisms when speaking about it publicly. John Brennan, President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, said in a recent speech that “our best offense won’t always be deploying large armies abroad but delivering targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us.”

But the point needs to be made much more strongly.

If the government says we can’t know about the drone strikes–if the government says we can’t even know that many of the drone strikes are going on–then what kind of “public debate” are we having? For the drone strikes that are a state secret, Congress can’t even engage in a “public debate.”

Yeah, I understand that a very limited set of elites argue about drones anyway. But it takes a really twisted understanding of democracy and public debate to claim that drone strikes the government won’t even acknowledge are the subject of a real debate.

DHS Gutted Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit after Report Leaked

The Southern Poverty Law Center has an interview with the guy who headed DHS’ domestic terrorism analysis that produced the report on the rise in domestic right wing extremism, Daryl Johnson. (h/t Aravosis) He describes how, after the report was leaked, DHS first backed off its support of the report.

What happened after the leak?

I got to the office, and there were lots of phone calls. Citizens were angry. People wanted to speak to DHS authorities. I was very distraught. I felt I could talk to my peers, but beyond that, I couldn’t speak for myself. The public affairs office was doing all the PR and media response. We weren’t consulted on anything. If I could have responded, I would have said this is why we wrote this. But the response DHS provided just fueled the public’s speculation.

What about Napolitano?

Napolitano initially supported the report. She issued an official press release [on April 14, 2009] that said DHS has the authority to look at all types of threats. And we need to be vigilant. It was very supportive and direct.

Unfortunately, not too many people listened, and they kept applying political pressure. She held a couple of press conferences, trying to put out that same message. And people just kept continuing the pressure, especially after Congress got involved. [Editor’s note: For example, U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), then the ranking member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote to Napolitano to complain about what he called “a shoddy, unsubstantiated, and potentially politicized work.”]

I don’t know whether her staff advised her to, but she eventually backtracked. The DHS press spokesman came up with this story that it was all unauthorized and orchestrated by a rogue group of analysts. DHS caved in.

And then, DHS effectively gutted the unit focused on domestic terrorism.

What happened to your DHS unit?

When the right-wing report was leaked and people politicized it, my management got scared and thought DHS would be scaled back. It created an environment where my analysts and I couldn’t get our work done. DHS stopped all of our work and instituted restrictive policies. Eventually, they ended up gutting my unit. All of this happened within six to nine months after the furor over the report. Analysts then began leaving DHS. One analyst went to ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement], another to the FBI, a third went to the U.S. Marshals, and so on. There is just one person there today who is still a “domestic terrorism” analyst.

Since our report was leaked, DHS has not released a single report of its own on this topic. Not anything dealing with non-Islamic domestic extremism—whether it’s anti-abortion extremists, white supremacists, “sovereign citizens,” eco-terrorists, the whole gamut.

Johnson also reviews that the sole source of sensitivity within DHS came from the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties group, which argued that material support for domestic terrorists did not make one a right wing extremist.

Did your report generate controversy inside DHS?

This is how it happened. I got a tasking from the secretary, which demanded a quick turnaround. We went through all the necessary coordination; many people reviewed the draft and made comments. Several people signed off on the report: two supervisors, the Office of General Counsel, multiple editors, etc. The Office of Privacy signed off, and the Office of Policy had no suggestions.

The secretary doesn’t oversee agency reports. She couldn’t do it, given the number of agencies generating multiple reports a day. As a result, heads of DHS’ agencies have authority to review work, coordinate with other agencies, approve and disseminate reports.

One office raised issues — the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties [CRCL]. At the time, we weren’t required to give them the report, but my boss thought we should run it past them. They had edits, but the main issue related to the definition of right-wing extremism. That office wanted a narrow definition limited to violent groups and individuals. Our subject-matter experts and management felt the definition needed to be broader.

Under CRCL’s definition, if you were in the Klan, burned crosses, had a terrorist in your house and donated money to groups advocating violence, you still would not qualify as a right-wing extremist. Our attorneys basically told them, “We appreciate your input, but we are approving the more broad definition.” This ended up being a sore point with CRCL once the document was released.

Now, I’m actually sort of glad the CRCL spoke up, if only because it shows that someone is reviewing stuff like this.

But CRCL was essentially advocating a double standard for terrorism, such that peaceniks supporting peace in Colombia could be imprisoned for years for offering less support to terrorists than right wingers did. There’s a reasonable historic legal justification for that standard.

But it–along with the way our government chose to stop tracking right wing terrorists when a bunch of right wingers made noise–shows the fundamental lie at the heart of our concern for terrorism.

The AP’s “Most Complete Published Account” that Leaves Out Torture

The AP’s DOJ and intelligence writers have a story out on the Durham investigation that purports to be “the most complete published account” of the destruction of the torture tapes. Only, it ignores key details that have already been published which paint a much more damning picture of the tapes and their destruction.

First, the news. The AP story does reveal the following new details:

  • The name of the guy in Thailand–then station chief Mike Winograd–involved in the destruction of the tapes
  • The news that the guy who destroyed the torture tapes–former CTC and Clandestine Services head Jose Rodriguez–is still lurking around Langley as a contractor with Edge Consulting
  • The observation that Rodriguez did not include the two CIA lawyers who “approved” the torture tape destruction (Steven Hermes and Robert Eatinger, who have been identified before) on his order to destroy them, which is perceived within CIA as highly unusual
  • The hint that prosecutors may use Sarbanes-Oxley to establish the requirement to keep the tapes as well as the detail that John Durham has prosecuted two of the only half a dozen cases that have used this Sarb-Ox provision
  • A list of reasons why all the requests that should have covered the tapes purportedly don’t:

_In early May 2003, U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema told the CIA to reveal whether there were interrogation videos of any witnesses relevant to the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, who was charged as a Sept. 11 conspirator. But that order didn’t cover Zubaydah, who Brinkema ruled was immaterial to the Moussaoui case, so the CIA didn’t tell the court about his interrogation tape.

_A judge in Washington told the agency to safeguard all evidence related to mistreatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. But Zubaydah and al-Nashiri were held overseas at the time, so the agency regarded the order as not applicable to the tapes of their interrogations.

_A judge in New York told the CIA to search its investigative files for records such as the tapes as part of a Freedom of Information Act suit. But the CIA considered the tapes part of its operational files and therefore exempt from FOIA disclosure and did not reveal their existence to the court.

_The Sept. 11 commission asked for broad ranges of documents, but never issued a formal subpoena that would have required the agency to turn over the tapes.

As such, the story adds valuable insight into the strategies that John Durham may be using to prosecute Jose Rodriguez and others.

But the story buys into certain well-cultivated CIA myths that obscure some other important details of the story:

  • The story replicates CIA’s favored narrative about why the tapes were made–“to prove that interrogators followed broad new rules Washington had laid out”–and why they were destroyed–to protect the identities of officers involved in the interrogation.
  • The story presents Winograd’s justification for destroying the tapes–“the inspector general had completed its investigation and McPherson had verified that the cables accurately summarized the tapes”–without any discussion of the fact that McPherson acknowledged evidence of tampering with the tapes during the IG Report and couldn’t say whether the techniques reflected the guidance given to the torturers.
  • The story ignores all evidence of earlier destruction of evidence and cover-up of criminal acts.
  • This claim–“The White House didn’t learn about the tapes for a year, and even then, it was somewhat by chance”–is either further evidence of a cover-up or simply false.

Let’s start with the primary fiction–that the tapes were designed solely “to prove that interrogators followed broad new rules Washington had laid out.” Aside from indications they were used for research purposes about the efficacy of the methods they were using, this claim suffers from a fundamental anachronism. After all, when the taping started on April 13, 2002, Washington had not yet laid out the broad new rules ultimately used to authorize Abu Zubaydah’s torture on August 1, 2002. Bruce Jessen didn’t even complete his proposed interrogation plan until three days after taping started.

Although, if “Washington” had indeed given Abu Zubaydah’s torturers broad rules three and a half months before the Bybee Memo was signed–reports have said that Alberto Gonzales authorized that treatment on a day to day basis–then that by itself would provide an entirely different logic for why the tapes were made and then destroyed (which is sort of the argument Barry Eisler makes in his book Inside Out).

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Briefing Congress and Destroying Torture Tapes

As I mentioned in this post, I’ve been weeding through the documents released under FOIA to Judicial Watch last week. I think they suggest there’s a much closer relationship between the CIA misrepresentations on Congressional Briefings and the destruction of the torture tapes than we’ve known before.

Nancy Pelosi Was Proved Fucking Right

As you might recall, Judicial Watch pursued this FOIA because they thought they were going to catch Nancy Pelosi in a lie.

After the torture memos were released, the torture apologists tried to claim that Congress had been briefed on–and had approved–of torture. But Pelosi pointed out that when CIA briefed her in September 2002, they did not tell her and Goss that CIA had already gotten into the torture business. In spite of the fact that that was completely consistent with Porter Goss’ tales of Congressional briefing, the press took Pelosi’s story as an accusation that the CIA had lied. So the right wing transparency group Judicial Watch FOIAed the records of Congressional briefings, with a focus on proving that Pelosi had lied about having been briefed about the torture that had already happened.

Perhaps in response to this hullabaloo, the CIA’s Inspector General started a review of Congressional–particularly Pelosi–briefings on June 2, 2009. After about six weeks of reviewing their documentation, they came to the following conclusion (starting on PDF 27):

  • Pelosi was briefed on April 2002, before CIA started torturing Abu Zubaydah, and in September 2002, in the briefing under discussion.
  • CIA’s own records regarding the September 4, 2002 briefing are so erroneous they show Jane Harman, not Pelosi, received the briefing.
  • The only CIA record on the content of the September 4, 2002 briefing is the set of cables between Jose Rodriguez, (probably) Jonathan Fredman, and one other CTC person; this is the cable altered after the fact.
  • People from the Directorate of Operations, and James Pavitt personally, repeatedly made claims about the content of the Pelosi briefing over the years, yet none of that sourced any first-hand knowledge or documentation.

That is, as is the case with CIA’s other briefings on torture, they have no fucking clue what they briefed to Pelosi.

Which leaves Pelosi and Goss’ consistent claim that CIA didn’t even tell them they had already waterboarded Abu Zubaydah 83 times by the time they briefed them.

Creating the Illusion of Congressional Oversight

But the bigger news, as I pointed out earlier, is that the CIA appears to have been crafting a record of Congressional Briefing in conjunction with their efforts to destroy the torture tapes.

As my earlier post laid out, Jose Rodriguez briefed Pelosi and Goss on September 4, 2002. That was the the day before–according to an October 25, 2002 cable (see PDF 3)–folks at CIA HQ started talking in earnest about the danger of the torture tapes. The following day, the briefers altered their record of the meeting (see PDF 84 and PDF 11-12), though we don’t know what the change entailed. No official Memorandum for the Record was ever made of the briefing and there is no record of Stan Moskowitz weighing in on the accuracy of CTC’s version of the meeting (though he did receive a BCC of it). In other words, CTC made a record of the briefing at the same time as they were laying a plan to destroy the torture tapes, and CIA deviated from standard policy by not making any other record of the briefing (though not completing MFRs of torture briefings appears to have become a habit).

As a side note, I’m not certain, but I believe Jonathan Fredman is one of the other two people involved–along with Jose Rodriguez–in this. On PDF 7 of this set, the IG investigation into Pelosi’s briefings describe the last set of documents in its possession as one that someone turned over to DNI leadership on March 23, 2009. On that date, Jonathan Fredman worked at DNI, making him a likely person to have been asked for his documentation on briefing Congress. The description notes that “he, Director (D)/CTC [Jose Rodriguez]” and someone else did the briefing. PDF 11 of the same set quotes from that email: “On 4 September, D/CTC, C/CTC/LGL, and [redacted] provided notification…” which I believe means Fredman–C/CTC/LGL–was the second of three people in the briefing. PDF 84 of this set shows the actual email. This notes that the third person at the briefing was a CTC/Reports person. If I’m right and Fredman had to turn over his documentation, the notice of the “BCC” to Stan Moskowitz would mean that he wrote the email (because otherwise the BCC wouldn’t show up). A later description says someone–whom I believe to be Fredman, given the CTC/LGL return address–showed it to Rodriguez who determined it to be “short and sweet.” In other words, Fredman, one guy on the hook for translating (or mistranslating) DOJ’s limits to the torturers in the field, may have been the guy helping Rodriguez to tweak that record of the briefing.

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And Now They're Disclaiming Responsibility for their Briefings

Surprise, surprise. Just days after Crazy Pete Hoekstra did what Crazy Pete Hoekstra attacked Nancy Pelosi for last year–accused the CIA of lying–he’s now caught in another position he has criticized Pelosi for–not objecting in a briefing to an Administration policy he subsequently claimed to be vehemently opposed to. On Meet the Press this morning, John Brennan revealed that he briefed the Republican members of the Gang of Eight about the treatment of underwear bomber Umar Farouk Adbulmutallab (this is already an improvement on Bush policy, since they usually only briefed the Gang of Four). And they didn’t raise any objections to the planned treatment of him.

The Obama administration briefed four senior Republican congressional leaders on Christmas about the attempted terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound flight.

White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) did not raise any objections to bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab being held in FBI custody.

“They knew that in FBI custody there is a process that you follow. None of those individuals raised any concerns with me at this point,” Brennan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “They were very appreciative of the information.”

The Republicans are, predictably, claiming they didn’t know that normal FBI procedure includes mirandizing suspects, claiming that it wasn’t a real briefing–anything to sustain their efforts to politicize national security.

Meanwhile, I’m not holding my breath waiting for the press to call these Republicans on their excuses about the briefing or, more importantly, on their raging hypocrisy. After all, last year the press was able to sustain itself for several months over Crazy Pete’s attack on Nancy Pelosi for this (even while Crazy Pete’s attack was factually wrong). But somehow they seem to lose interest when someone like Crazy Pete gets exposed, for the second time in a week, as a raging hypocrite.