One of the mysteries of the Obama Administration so far is why it is so protective of the crimes and secrets of the Bush era. Coming to office on pledges to end torture and to adopt policies of transparency, the Obama team has quickly come to resemble the crew that preceded it on an array of issues—particularly with respect to secret government. In “The CIA Torture Cover-Up,” John Sifton gives us a roadmap to the torture team that Bush and Cheney left behind at the CIA. Who is advising Leon Panetta and the White House to break their election campaign promises and keep the Bush-era programs under wraps? Unsurprisingly, it’s the very people who would stand a strong chance of being prosecuted if their deeds were to become better known.
Take Stephen Kappes. At the time of the worst torture sessions outlined in the ICRC report, Kappes served as a senior official in the Directorate of Operations—the operational part of the CIA that oversees paramilitary operations as well as the high-value detention program. (The directorate of operations is now known as the National Clandestine Service.) Panetta has kept Kappes as deputy director of the CIA—the number two official in the agency. One of Kappes’ deputies from 2002-2004, Michael Sulick, is now director of the National Clandestine Service—the de facto number three in the agency. Panetta’s refusal to investigate may be intended to protect his deputies. Since the basic facts about their involvement in the CIA interrogation program are now known, Panetta’s actions are increasingly looking like a cover-up.
Moreover, the Red Cross report published yesterday allows us to identify the culprits who authorized torture.
…footnote 9 reveals that the ICRC was informed by the then-director of the CIA, Michael Hayden, that interrogation plans for detainees were submitted to the “CIA headquarters” for approval and as of 2007 were approved by “the Director or Deputy Director of the CIA.” It is likely that this approval process existed at earlier points in 2002-2006. This is more than an interesting detail. In fact, it could implicate several high-level CIA officials in torture, including previous CIA directors George Tenet (resigned 2004) and Porter Goss (resigned 2006), as well as deputy directors John McLaughlin (resigned 2004) and Albert Calland (resigned 2006). These CIA officials are no longer serving. Kappes, Sulick and others are still there.
What does the CIA torture team fear most? At this point it’s a blue-ribbon commission that would interview witnesses, pore over documents, and tear some gaping holes in the fabric of lies they’re using to defend themselves.