Leon Panetta Absolves CIA Torturers…Why?

Date: Saturday, March 7, 2009 10:35 PM
Category: Allgov Blogs

On Thursday, CIA Director Leon Panetta sent an e-mail to CIA employees reassuring them that no one who engaged in torture would be held accountable as long as they were following orders. In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed, and President Clinton signed into law, the U.S. War Crimes Act. The Act, created and promoted by Republicans, made it a federal crime to commit a “grave breach” of the Geneva Conventions, meaning the deliberate “killing, torture or inhuman treatment” of detainees. It includes “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.” Violations of the War Crimes Act that result in the death of a detainee carry the death penalty and they do not have a statute of limitations. Although it was initiated to prosecute foreigners who mistreat American prisoners, Congress, in an admirable display of bipartisan support for human rights, applied the law as well to American treatment of foreign prisoners of war, reasoning that we should hold ourselves to the same standards we hold others.

 
In a memo to President Bush dated January 25, 2002, then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales suggested that Bush find a way to avoid the rules of the Geneva Conventions as they relate to prisoners of war because that “substantially reduces the likelihood of prosecution under the War Crimes Act.” A week later, Attorney General John Ashcroft sent a memo to the president also stressing that opting out of the Geneva treaty “would provide the highest assurance that no court would subsequently entertain charges that American military officers, intelligence officials, or law enforcement officials violated Geneva Convention rules relating to field conduct, detention conduct or interrogation of detainees.” Ashcroft reminded Bush, “The War Crimes Act of 1996 makes violation of parts of the Geneva Convention a crime in the United States.”
 
This led to all sorts of twisted arguments that anyone picked up anywhere during the “War on Terror” wasn’t a prisoner of war and that anyone held at Guantánamo or Bagram was not subject to U.S. law. These arguments were rejected by the Supreme Court in its 2006 Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision. Considering that the Pentagon has admitted that at least 35 detainees have been murdered by their guards, the question of bringing torture charges against CIA agents and others is not a theoretical issue.
 
Not to worry, though, because President Obama and CIA Director Panetta have made it clear that even murderers will not be called to justice as long as they can prove that they were just following orders.
 
This decision is so damaging to U.S. credibility abroad, that it is worth considering why Obama and Panetta would do such a thing. In a best case scenario, they are granting immunity to the torture perpetrators in order to build a case against those who gave the orders, specifically President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Major General Geoffrey Miller and Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez  In a middle-ground scenario, Obama and Panetta are too wishy-washy to stand up to the CIA and to former Bush administration members. In a worst case scenario, they want to reserve for themselves the right to ignore U.S. law, just like the Bush team did. If this last scenario turns out to be the true one, it would be a tragedy, because it would send a message to future generations that all laws relating to human rights in the United States are irrelevant if the president says it is alright to ignore them.

Latest News

National Security Adviser: Who Is John Bolton?

As a reward for his efforts to help get George W. Bush elected in the contested 2000 presidential race, Bolton was named under secretary of state for arms control. In that post he effected the withdrawal of the U.S. from the International Criminal Court, and claimed without evidence that Cuba was running a biological weapons program. In 2001, he helped derail the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention that banned production and use of such weapons, claiming it endangered U.S. national security.   read more

U.S. Ambassador to Kenya: Who Is Kyle McCarter?

As an Illinois state senator, McCarter filed a bill in 2011 to allow Catholic charities to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples and unmarried couples in adoption and foster care placements. The following year, he worked successfully to defeat an anti-bullying bill because, he said, it would promote homosexuality. In 2015, he opposed a bill to fund treatment for heroin addicts, even though his daughter had died of an overdose of heroin and fentanyl.   read more

United States Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago: Who Is Joseph Mondello?

Donald Trump chose a longtime Republican politico to be the next United States ambassador to the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Joseph N. Mondello has served as chairman of the Nassau County, New York, Republican Committee since May 1983. He also served as the Republican National Committeeman for New York from 1992 to 2004, as chairman of the New York Republican State Committee from 2006 to 2009, and as a Trump delegate to the 2016 Republican Convention, as did his wife, Linda.   read more

Director of the Defense Information Systems Agency: Who Is Nancy A. Norton?

After serving as chief of Naval operations strategic studies group fellow in Newport, Rhode Island, Norton was promoted in 2013 to rear admiral and named director for command, control, communications and cyber for the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii. She was transferred to the Pentagon in 2015 as director of the Warfare Integration Directorate in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Norton was named vice director of DISA in 2017 in preparation for taking over as the agency’s director.   read more

Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs: Who Is Kimberly Breier?

In 2007, Breier became the senior political analyst for a “key Middle Eastern country” until 2009, when she was promoted to manager and worked on creating and running what she describes as “the first-ever analytic tradecraft team covering a high-profile country in the Middle East.” Breier left government service in 2012 to work for the consulting firm Peschard-Sverdrup International, where she performed country risk assessments on Latin American countries for three mining companies.   read more
see more...