Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Surprise! (NOT) Over Redacted CIA Report ...

Anyone who says La CIA (pronounced la seeya) should be as amused as I am over the uproar surrounding the release of the CIA's heavily redacted interrogation memo. Even pro-Democratic ex-CIA officers have rallied to defend the "company" from charges it engaged in systemic torture. The message du jour, stemming as well from the Justice Dept., is this is the work of a "few bad apples." And despite the threat from unlikely Spymaster Leon Panetta (acting!) to resign should any CIA personnel be prosecuted, the AG is actually doing the agency a huge favor by limiting the scope of the investigation.

The preliminary winners, of course, are George W. Bush, CYA-Dick Cheney -- who reacted by saying the President "can't keep the country safe" (excuse me!) -- and the lawyers who drafted the torture memos. That is, unless the probe takes on a life of its own and expands beyond its narrow focus, driven by cascading revelations. There is at least one recent historical precedent: Watergate.

We all love Leon, we do, but what's so amusing, and also infuriating, about this country is its fast food approach to questions of institutional malfeasance, how so in the moment it is. We would really do well to have some minimal sense of historical perspective, context, and institutional memory. What's fascinating about this link to the respected National Security Archive at George Washington University is the revelation that Dick Cheney's penchant for the use of torture (euphemistically, "enhanced interrogation techniques") goes back at least to 1992, when he was Secretary of Defense. A memo to the SECDEF warned of "objectionable" Spanish language interrogation guides "inconsistent with U.S. government policy." Five of seven guides, the memo said, "contained language and statements in violation of legal, regulatory or policy prohibitions" and recommended they be recalled. The memo stamped "SECDEF HAS SEEN" came back approved but "UNCHANGED."

How very Dark Lord-ish. Wouldn't be at all surprised if beneath all that black ink redaction is a reference or two to the "interrogation" training program at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, GA. Hello, Mr. President: Time to close the damned place down already!

When it comes to La CIA, there are no surprises south of the Rio Grande. (It must be an LA thing.)

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