Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Friday, August 28, 2009

  Cheney is afraid of the DoJ torture investigation

You might reasonably have surmised that Dick Cheney fears where an investigation into the torture and mistreatment of terrorist suspects could eventually lead. Until now Cheney has restricted himself to lying about the effectiveness of the CIA and DoD interrogation programs, claiming to know decisive information that remains classified, and denouncing those who seek to investigate the government officials who abused prisoners under the color of law. But now we have some direct evidence of how rattled Cheney has become by Attorney General Holder's decision to initiate what is after all an extremely limited investigation. Its scope currently is limited to the CIA interrogations that employed even more abuse than the torture memos had actually authorized.

In an interview that will be aired on Sunday, Cheney made a couple of really remarkable statements according to McClatchy's Warren Strobel. First, Cheney endorsed the behavior of CIA officers who blatantly ignored the restrictions placed upon interrogators by government lawyers. This only a few days after the release of a 2004 CIA Inspector General report that revealed lurid details of prisoner abuse! Cheney had to know that he would be derided and denounced for coming out in favor of such things as mock executions, promises to rape and murder the family members of suspects, and threats with a gun and electric drill.

And secondly, Cheney rather transparently tried to build distance for himself with regard to the use of waterboarding, for which he has been the most vocal public advocate since at least 2006 (his original endorsement of waterboarding was a story broken here at unbossed). Cheney wants us to believe that though he was aware of the existence of the practice in general, he wasn't informed about any particular applications of waterboarding to specific prisoners. This even though reams of evidence have accumulated that interrogators who employed waterboarding were in very regular contact with CIA headquarters, and that the White House was deeply interested in the progress of those particular interrogations to the point of asking for multiple updates for days on end!

Here is how Strobel describes the Cheney interview:

Cheney, who strongly opposes the Obama administration's new probe into alleged detainee abuse, was asked in the Fox News interview whether he was "OK" with interrogations that went beyond Justice's specific legal authorization.

"I am," the former vice president replied.

"My sort of overwhelming view is that the enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives and preventing further attacks," he said. "It was good policy. It was properly carried out. It worked very, very well."

[...]

Cheney said in the interview with Fox's Chris Wallace, according to a transcript, that he was aware of the waterboarding, "not specifically in any one particular case, but as a general policy that we had approved."


What Cheney fears is pretty obvious. First, he believes that the investigation into a few CIA officers who scandalously flouted the torture memos' rules for coercive interrogations could provide the sharp edge that might pry open the whole sordid program of systematized abuse and expose it to judicial and public scrutiny. It was a program that Cheney apparently sponsored and helped to design.

Secondly, Cheney fears that he could then become a target of investigation. He is especially vulnerable to prosecution because of the close interest he took in the most abusive interrogations. One might be able to persuade a slightly gullible grand jury that the "conditioning" or "exploitation" of prisoners (hypothermia, for example) does not constitute torture. But waterboarding universally has been considered torture since at least the times of the Great Inquisition. Cheney seems to think now that he needs to build a case that he was no more aware of actual instances of waterboarding than anybody else who was briefed on the CIA program.

Cheney may also be aware that his likeness has now been put on one of the "Torture Team" playing cards that the Center for Constitutional Rights has created ("Collect and prosecute them all"). He's in the big leagues now.

crossposted at unbossed.com

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