Only Whistleblowers Held Accountable for Torture

Only Whistleblowers Held Accountable for Torture September 6, 2012

As a follow up to Glenn Greenwald’s article about the Obama administration officially closing the door on any prosecutions of Bush-era torture, Adam Serwer notes that the only ones being held responsible for anything that took place are those who blew the whistle on such crimes:

Durham had originally been assigned to investigate the destruction of CIA tapes that showed the torture of two detainees in American custody. The tapes had been destroyed by former CIA official Jose Rodriguez, who has described torture as America putting on its “big boy pants” but worried that the public reaction to the material contained on the tapes would be “devastating.” Rodriguez hasn’t faced any charges for his deliberate destruction of evidence, though he has written a book about his experiences and gone on a publicity tour making dubious arguments about the effectiveness of torture…

Since taking office, the president has hewed closely to his philosophy of “looking forward,” at least when it comes to officially sanctioned wrongdoing by agents of the state. From here on, American national security officials have little reason to worry about criminal penalties for breaking the law, even if doing so results in the death of another human being.

Still, not everyone connected to Bush-era torture has escaped accountability. John Kiriakou, the former CIA official who went public about interrogation techniques like waterboarding, isbeing prosecuted for disclosing classified information for allegedly assisting defense attorneyswho were seeking to identify interrogators who may have tortured their clients.

You can torture a detainee in your custody to death and get away with it. You just can’t talk about it.

And this pattern repeats itself when it comes to the NSA’s data mining and warrantless wiretap programs — no one who violated the constitution is ever held responsible, but anyone who revealed the existence of those violations are. And of course, any attempt by the victims of these crimes to gain justice in the courts will be quickly snuffed out by the State Secrets Privilege — you know, the one that Obama says he’s opposed to but has used in every single case. Andrew Sullivan’s response is pretty much spot on:

It’s a disgusting sign of the collapse of the rule of law among Washington’s elites – pioneered by the Obama Justice Department. War crimes are forgiven; leaks revealing war crimes are punished. That the CIA won’t face any accountability for actually torturing people to death has now been cemented in a bipartisan way by a craven president who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize while proceding to make a mockery of the Geneva Conventions for four years. Not prosecuting torture – not torture-homicides – is a grotesque violation of Geneva and makes the current president a violator of Geneva. He better not complain when an American soldier is captured and tortured to death.

But he will, and so will the media, and so will the vast majority of Americans. This is what “American exceptionalism” really means — we are exempted from all moral and legal rules. When other governments commit war crimes and violate their treaty obligations to protect human rights, they are evil; when our own government does it, they’re only protecting the American way of life. Because as long as we continually and grandiosely declare our allegiance to ideas like human rights and the rule of law, it doesn’t matter whether we actually practice them or not.

Browse Our Archives