Saturday, August 22, 2009
The worst keeps getting worse
Most likely, the latest revelations about coercive interrogation techniques used by the CIA in Afghanistan are not nearly the end of the story of U.S. excesses in the so-called War on Terror. But they certainly help explain the maniacal secrecy of U.S. authorities under the Bush administration in keeping information about the interrogation program from the public. Top government officials, notably but probably not limited to Vice President Dick Cheney and President Bush, knew the program violated the country's international treaty obligations but authorized it anyway, and kept it secret not out of concern for the United States, as they said, but to keep their own selves out of trouble. They probably expected to be honored as heroes for saving the country from danger and gave only passing thought to the fact that they were sacrificing the United States' very reason for existence. They probably still don't get it, and blame the new president, Barack Obama, for whatever is about to unfold. The fact that their policies were rejected by an overwhelming majority of voters in the last election does not even register as a repudiation -- they think the public just doesn't understand. But the people of the United States know when the government is taking away their constitutional rights, spying on them, and doing nearly unspeakable harm to others while hiding behind the flag. The new information, contained in a top-secret CIA report being made public next week, include threatening detainees with a mock execution, a handgun and an electric drill, was revealed by officials who had access to the report, according to the Washington Post newspaper. The threatened execution was used in an effort to pursuade suspected al-Qaida commander Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, suspected of being the mastermind of the attack on the U.S.S. Cole that killed 17 sailors in 1999, to provide information to his interrogators. Federal law prohibits threatening a prisoner with immediate death, the Post said. Al-Nashiri later was one of three detainees subjected to waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning. A CIA spokesman said the agency did not endorse such excesses and promptly investigated any reports of them. "The CIA in no way endorsed behavior -- no matter how infrequent -- that went beyond formal guidance," said Paul Gimigliano, the agency spokesman, according to the Post. "This has all been looked at; professionals in the Department of Justice decided if and when to pursue prosecution. That's how the system was supposed to work, and that's how it did work." The actual report, which was compiled in 2004, is expected to be made public next week, the newspaper said.