by the CIA's Inspector General. The report summarizes an investigation the Inspector
General conducted in 2003. It was completed in 2004; but is only being released now
because the ACLU (God bless 'em) sued under the Freedom of Information Act. The
Inspector General investigated charges that CIA operatives exceeded legal limits when
interrogating and torturing prisoners held in secret prisons located in Eastern Europe
and other locales. (Interestingly, no one seems very exercised about the existence of
secret prisons set up to be outside the reach of American law.)
Bits and pieces of this report have been reported over the years, but now more
information is coming out including threatening a prisoner with a gun and a power drill,
staging mock executions, and many other techniques that go beyond the legal torture
Bush signed off on. These guys weren't content to try and drown prisoners, psychologically
and physically devastating them through sleep deprivation and sound bombardment;
they were encouraged to do whatever it took to get information. This report is so
disturbing that when Attorney General Eric Holder read it, he said it made him sick;
and he has now appointed an independent prosecutor to investigate these allegations.
The weeping and gnashing of teeth over the appointment of such a prosecutor
is being heard all over Washington, but most prominently from Regressives who argue
that such an investigation will hurt the morale of loyal American agents who simply did
what their country asked them to do. We are going to punish them for being loyal
Americans. One Senator says we are sending CIA agents the message to be timid; and
the resulting lack of aggressiveness will hurt our ability to gather vital intelligence in
a timely manner.
I just want to be clear. We should not investigate what the CIA did in our name
because they won't torture with enthusiasm the next time they are asked. If we investigate
and prosecute CIA agents for breaking the law and engaging in immoral conduct, they
might not follow such an illegal order in the future. We don't want to hurt anyone's
feelings for the inhuman and inhumane ways they treated prisoners because they were
following orders and that is their duty. Do I understand this correctly?
While I realize I run the risk of beating a long-time dead horse, I just have to
remind you we settled this question at Nuremberg. In both Germany and Japan, the
United States executed German and Japanese officials convicted of crimes against
humanity. We repudiated their claims they were just following orders. In fact, we went
a step further and stated it is a soldier's or anyone's duty to disobey an illegal or immoral
order; and if they do not, they will be held accountable.
Just recently, former Army Lt. William Calley spoke to a small group and
apologized for his role in the massacre of over 200 men, women, and children in the
Vietnamese village of My Lai. Calley stated he never should have obeyed the order to
kill them. He is right of course; however, it is worth noting no one giving him that order
was ever prosecuted. It is further worth noting no one ordering the atrocities conducted
at Abu Ghraib prison has ever been prosecuted, even though those orders came directly
from the Bush Administration and the Pentagon. One point does seem clear. Individual
agents have to be held responsible, but those who issued the orders must be held to that
same standard. If an agent is indicted, the person or persons who gave the order, approved
the policy or oversaw the implementation must be indicted as well.
Former Vice President Cheney defends the torture of prisoners, creating a secret
gulag of prisons, illegally spying on Americans, and eviscerating the Fourth Amendment
by claiming all of the illegal, immoral, and unconstitutional actions saved thousands of
American lives and kept America safe. The end justifies the means. He makes this claim
despite no evidence to corroborate it. FBI Director Robert Mueller has testified he knows
of no instance where information acquired through torture prevented an attack and saved
any lives. Experts in the field of torture and interrogation say torture rarely produces
actionable intelligence. However, the real response to Cheney is that settled upon at
Nuremberg. The end does not justify the means and no one is above the rule of law.
In the recent past, the World Criminal Court has put Serbian strongman
Slobodan Milosevic on trial for crimes against humanity including the torture of
prisoners. A world-wide manhunt eventually led to the arrest of Rhadavan Karadich
on similar charges. Just recently an arrest warrant was issued for Sudanese President
Omar al-Bashir for his role in the massacre of millions. Yet American officials continue
to argue that following orders gives one immunity from prosecution.
Maybe prosecution isn't either possible or desirable. However, finding the
truth is. Who did the torturing? Who ordered them to torture? Who approved a policy
of torture? Who authorized the secret prisons? Who knew about all of this? Did
Congressional leaders sign off on all of this? Did the President and Vice President
participate in these discussions and decisions? The only way to avoid this in the future
is to understand how and why it happened.
I am far less concerned about the morale of a CIA agent than the possibility of
immoral actions taken in the name of the United States of America. How about you?
What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to