White House withholding documents from CIA torture probe

Published on World Socialist Web Site WSWS, by Patrick Martin, March 15, 2014.

White House officials admitted Thursday that the Obama administration is blocking the release of thousands of documents relating to the torture of prisoners at secret CIA prisons during the Bush administration. These documents apparently include the initial presidential authorization for torture and other illegal acts by US military/intelligence agencies.  

McClatchy News Service first reported the withholding of more than 9,000 documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has drafted a massive report on the CIA torture program. According to the McClatchy report, “The dispute indicates that the White House is more involved than it has acknowledged in the unprecedented power struggle between the [Senate Intelligence] committee and the CIA, which has triggered charges that the agency searched the panel’s computers without authorization and has led to requests to the Justice Department for criminal investigations of CIA personnel and Senate aides.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed the McClatchy report at a news briefing Thursday afternoon. Carney sought to dismiss the significance of the withholding of documents, claiming that they were only a small portion of the six million pages of material turned over by the CIA to the Intelligence Committee. But it is clear that the documents concern a critical issue: direct presidential responsibility for the torture of prisoners, in violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions.

“This is about precedent and the need institutionally to protect some of the prerogatives of the executive branch and the office of the presidency,” Carney said. “All of these documents pertain to and come from a previous administration. They have nothing to do with this administration, but these are matters that need to be reviewed in light of long recognized executive prerogatives and confidentiality interests” … //

… The chairman of the Senate committee charged with responsibility for oversight of the CIA—a longtime defender and apologist for the agency—charges that the CIA has engaged in torture, cover-up and intimidation of those who have sought to expose its actions, and in spying on the legislative branch of government. This is not a trifling bureaucratic conflict, but a major constitutional crisis, in which Obama and his closest aides, like Brennan, are implicated in impeachable offenses.

A leading House Republican has sent a letter to the Justice Department demanding a response by March 28 to questions about intelligence agency spying on congressmen, senators and their staffs. Congressman James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, the author of the Patriot Act in 2001, reiterated a previous request sparked by the revelations of Edward Snowden about widespread NSA spying and by the confirmation of one of Snowden’s charges by James Cole, the deputy attorney general. Last month, Cole told the House Judiciary Committee that the NSA “probably” collected information about members of Congress.

Sensenbrenner’s letter cited the charges by Feinstein in her Senate speech. “Tapping into computers used by members of Congress and attempts to use the Justice Department to intimidate Congressional staff is a gross violation of the Constitutional principles of separation of powers,” he wrote. “It paints an almost-Nixonian picture of an administration that believes it can act with impunity behind a veil of secrecy.”

In a related action, the Senate voted 95-4 Thursday to confirm a new general counsel for the CIA, Caroline Krass. The action came after Senator Mark Udall, Democrat from Colorado, dropped the “hold” he had placed on the nomination because Krass opposed the release to Congress of legal opinions drafted by the Office of Legal Counsel, an arm of the Justice Department. The most notorious of such opinions are those that justified the torture program and Obama’s drone-missile assassination campaign.

Udall dropped the hold so that Krass would replace Robert Eatinger, the acting CIA general counsel who filed the criminal referral against the Senate Intelligence Committee staffers. As both Feinstein and Udall noted in separate statements, Eatinger has a flagrant conflict of interest in investigating the committee’s actions in preparing the torture report, since he is named in that report more than 1,600 times in his capacity as a legal apologist for the actions of CIA agents overseas.
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Book Review: Imagine living in a Socialist USA, on Z Blogs, by Marc Beallor, March 13, 2014;

The Seeds Of Suicide: How Monsanto Destroys Farming, on Global Research.ca, by Dr. Vandana Shiva, March 13, 2014;

Why Do I Persist? on Richard Falk Blog, by blog owner, March 12, 2014 (Richard Falk is an international law and international relations scholar who taught at Princeton University for forty years. Since 2002 he has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He initiated this blog partly in celebration of his 80th birthday).

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