Why the CIA Never Disciplines Those Who Torture

Why the CIA Never Disciplines Those Who Torture December 15, 2014

Even as CIA Director John Brennan has been working overtime to undermine the legitimacy of the Senate torture report, primarily by lying through his teeth as he has done for more than a decade now, he has been forced to admit that some CIA agents used unapproved torture techniques. Note this statement from his press conference after the report was released:

“Over the years, internal agency reviews, including numerous investigations by our Office of the Inspector General, found fault in CIA’s running of the program,” he said. “We have acknowledged many of these mistakes in our response to the study last year and I will touch on some of them today… in a limited number of instances, agency officers used interrogation techniques that had not been authorized, were abhorrent, and rightly should be repudiated by all. And we fell short when it came to holding some officers accountable for their mistakes. It is vitally important to recognize, however, that the overwhelming majority of officers involved in the program at CIA carried out their responsibilities faithfully and in accordance with the legal and policy guidance they were provided. They did what they were asked to do…”

Gosh, we didn’t accept that excuse at Nuremberg, did we? Conor Friedersdorf has the perfect response and explanation:

So why not punish them now?

If CIA officers did abhorrent things that even their waterboarding colleagues managed to avoid, exceeding the orders and legal strictures they were given, why haven’t they been prosecuted for torture as a duly ratified treaty compels the U.S. to do? Why hasn’t Brennan ever remedied the failure to hold those men accountable? Why has he allowed people even he regards as criminals to remain at the CIA?

The reason is that he does not believe the rule of law should apply to the CIA.

Dick Cheney, Michael Hayden, and Brennan make a big show of invoking the legal cover given by John Yoo and others, as if they respect the rule of law. But beneath the posturing, they oppose jailing CIA officers no matter what, perhaps because those officers know things that could put them in prison.

It’s important to note here that there is only one CIA agent who has been punished for torture — and he’s in prison for blowing the whistle on it, not for carrying it out. The CIA is above the law, as it has always been. It’s why the time is long past due to simply abolish the agency.


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