I'd love to tell you that I'm so erudite and cosmopolitan that I eagerly gobble up The New Yorker cover to cover every month. But it would be a lie.
June 29, 2009


I'd love to tell you that I'm so erudite and cosmopolitan that I eagerly gobble up The New Yorker cover to cover every month. But it would be a lie. The honest truth is that I read The New Yorker occasionally when articles come up through keyword searches for research for the site and when other bloggers I respect recommend an article.

But this article on Leon Panetta at the CIA was sent to me by one of my Iranian friends (living abroad) who has been filling my inbox with reports of protests and the rumors flying around Tehran. This article has filled her with dread of American interference in Iran.

In fairness, it's a reasonably balanced article; it fairly states the delicate balance that Panetta must tread between the all-too-often opposing forces in the Agency and the Executive Branch. But this section, buried deep on page 6 of the 8 page article, hit me (like my friend) right in the gut:

No criminal charges have ever been brought against any C.I.A. officer involved in the torture program, despite the fact that at least three prisoners interrogated by agency personnel died as the result of mistreatment. In the first case, an unnamed detainee under C.I.A. supervision in Afghanistan froze to death after having been chained, naked, to a concrete floor overnight. The body was buried in an unmarked grave. In the second case, an Iraqi prisoner named Manadel al-Jamadi died on November 4, 2003, while being interrogated by the C.I.A. at Abu Ghraib prison, outside Baghdad. A forensic examiner found that he had essentially been crucified; he died from asphyxiation after having been hung by his arms, in a hood, and suffering broken ribs. Military pathologists classified the case a homicide. A third prisoner died after an interrogation in which a C.I.A. officer participated, though the officer evidently did not cause the death. (Several other detainees have disappeared and remain unaccounted for, according to Human Rights Watch.)

During his tenure at the C.I.A., John Helgerson, the former inspector general, forwarded the crucifixion case, along with an estimated half-dozen other incidents, to the Justice Department, for possible prosecution. But the case files have languished. An official familiar with the cases told me that the agency has deflected inquiries by the Senate Intelligence Committee seeking information about any internal disciplinary action. (Helgerson told me, “Some individuals have been disciplined. And others no longer work at the agency.”)

Panetta acknowledges that there are some people still at the C.I.A. who may be tainted by the torture program. Nevertheless, he says, “I really respect the people who say we shouldn’t have gotten involved in the interrogation business but we had to do our jobs. I don’t think I should penalize people who were doing their duty. If you have a President who exercises bad judgment, the C.I.A. pays the price.”

Excuse me? We're literally crucifying detainees (who have not had the right to even know what they're charged with, much less any other legal right) and there's been NO accountability, NO investigation and Panetta's worried about the CIA paying the price?

Methinks they have the wrong priorities.

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