Obama still argues that we can't have transparency or the terrorists will win | World Defense

Obama still argues that we can't have transparency or the terrorists will win

Jan 31, 2015
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The Obama administration, self-described Most Transparent Administration in History™, is currently engaged in a multi-pronged legal battle to prevent an iota more transparency related to illegal torture. If there was any lingering hopes that the President might use the last two years of his final term in office to bring some accountability to the despicable actions of the CIA or the US military, it appears that he will instead continue to use the power of the office to fight to keep them hidden.

Later today, the government will showcase its latest suppression effort, as the Justice Department will urge a federal judge in New York to keep secret hundreds of photos of torture from Abu Ghraib prison from almost a decade ago. President Obama once promised to release the photos, only to reverse himself months after coming into office – and he’s since been fighting for years to keep them secret.

Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, wrote recently about how US officials issued a “defiant message” after the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the hacking of Sony Pictures that “terrorists shouldn’t get to decide the boundaries of our political debate.”

Yet time and again, the government claims the exact opposite under oath when arguing against more transparency: in court, the government has continually argued that terrorists would seize upon the photographs of Abu Ghraib, use them as a recruiting tool and provoke a violent reaction overseas. So, the goverment’s logic dictates, despite the fact that the actions of the US military depicted in the photos were illegal, the American public shouldn’t get to see what actually occurred.

As Jaffer wrote:

To accept the argument, at least in the absence of a specific, credible threat directed against specific people, is to give the government far-reaching power to suppress evidence of its own misconduct. And the worse the misconduct, the stronger would be the government’s argument for suppression.

The government is making a similar argument in their efforts to keep secret Guantánamo force-feeding videos after multiple newspapers, including the Guardian, sued under the Freedom of Information Act to release the videos. A district court judge, in a landmark ruling late last year, ordered the government to make the videos public. Soon after, the UN human rights committee found that “Force feeding of prisoners on hunger strike constitutes ill-treatment in violation of the Convention [Against Torture].” Yet, the Justice Department continues to appeal the ruling.

At the same time, New York Times reporter Charlie Savage is suing the Justice Department to release their own torture investigation – 1,719 pages of reports, memorandums, and interviews with former and current CIA officials. The department argues that every single page should remain secret, despite the fact that the Senate was prevented from interviewing many of the CIA’s worst offenders for its torture report because the Justice Department was conducting their own investigation.

The Justice Department can’t seem to even keep their story straight. Government lawyers argued in court two weeks ago that not only has no one in the department read the full torture report, they haven’t even opened it – likely in an attempt to keep the report exempt from the Freedom of Information Act’s reach. The new chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee attempted to claw back the full 7,000 page torture report from various executive branch agencies so that it can’t be obtained by reporters via FOIA lawsuits, since Congress is exempt from the act. (In an emergency motion, the ACLU has asked a judge to block any agency from handing it back.)

Yet bizarrely, just a month before the department argued that they’ve never read the full torture report, they told the New York Times in a statement that they had, in fact, read the full torture report and didn’t see anything they hadn’t found in their own investigation.

Meanwhile, over at the CIA, the agency has successfully avoided any accountability whatsoever not only for the torture its officers committed and their superiors ordered, but also for spying on Senate committee staffers in the course of their investigation into said torture. The CIA Inspector General who called for CIA officers to be disciplined for sparking the constitutional crisis has resigned, and the CIA-hand-picked “accountability” board that was convened after the Inspector General’s report conveniently let everyone involved in the scandal off the hook scot-free.

The administration has ably ignored Sen. Mark Udall’s parting speech from the Senate in which the now ex-Senator called on the president to “purge” the many officials who sanctioned torture from his administration that still hold high level positions. And the CIA continues to steadfastly refuse to release any of those violators’ names, despite the fact – as Udall stated – the spy agency could not come up with a single specific reason why they should be kept secret.

So will we ever get accountability for torture? With the White House and CIA working hand-in-hand with the new GOP Senate intelligence chairman, it now in the hands of the courts.

Obama still argues that we can't have transparency or the terrorists will win | Comment is free | The Guardian