CIA Tortured by Questions About Torturing

Walter Pincus

Walter Pincus

The independent website Raw Story (5/6/09) recently summarized the human toll of the U.S. government’s torture program. Approximately 100 prisoners have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to human rights investigators, with 34 of those deaths officially classified as homicides; at least eight individuals were tortured to death.

Yet somehow, when corporate media report on the torture program’s victims, they focus on the CIA, the agency that designed and helped implement the array of torture techniques known as “enhanced interrogation.” A May 19 article by Walter Pincus, intelligence correspondent for the Washington Post, is a particularly gross example.

Pincus described the CIA as “battered by recriminations over waterboarding and other harsh techniques,” and “girding itself for more public scrutiny.” The article presented the agency’s view that “it is being forced to take the blame for actions approved by elected officials that have since fallen into disfavor.”

“Fallen into disfavor”–that’s one way to describe it. Another way would be to say that these actions were violations of U.S. and international law, not to mention the Constitution, all of which clearly prohibit torture.

Usually when people are “forced to take the blame” for criminal actions, they are put on trial. But Pincus notes that President Obama has promised that CIA torturers will not face punishment if they followed the Bush administration’s torture guidelines.

But, writes Pincus, “agency personnel still face subpoenas and testimony under oath before criminal, civil and congressional bodies.” His example: A grand jury investigation into the CIA’s destruction of interrogation videotapes. So even though CIA officers been effectively pardoned for the crime of torture, they still may have to answer for destroying the evidence. Life can be so unfair sometimes.

Pincus cites a CIA officer’s anguished plea, “Will I be in trouble five years from now for what I agree to do today?” In Pincus’ world, the idea that a spy could commit a crime and not get away with it is a sign that something is very wrong.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.