CIA Warns Obama Not to Investigate War Crimes of Previous Administration

Abu Ghraib photo

Abu Ghraib photo

By Rady Ananda

Seven former Central Intelligence Agency directors released a letter today warning President Obama to rein in Attorney General Eric Holder. The CIA does not want torture investigated, saying the case was already opened and shut by the previous attorney general. You know, the one who thinks the U.S. Constitution and Geneva Conventions are “quaint.”  

Does any normal human being with an intact ability to empathize think that rape, waterboarding, beatings and the murder of suspects are Constitutional and in compliance with international treaties, let alone human decency?

The former directors all wave the al Qaeda bogeyman, despite numerous reports that these are CIA assets. Puh-leeze. We have a whistleblower report saying Osama bin Laden worked for the CIA as late as September 10th, 2001.  The CIA scares and terrorizes far more people and far more often than the bogeyman it (and corporate media) created to scare us into backing more resource wars.  The CIA’s very existence as part of the National Security State is a blot on human history – that apparatus shares company with witchburners, genius-killers, and the Spanish Inquisition.  And they do it for the same reason: greed.

“[R]isk-taking is vital to success in the long and difficult fight against the terrorists who continue to threaten us.” 

The CIA asserts that if we prosecute crimes against humanity, its agents will become unwilling to take risks to protect the USA.  What risks?  The risk of committing egregious crimes and getting caught and punished for it? This implies that kidnap and torture protects Americans.  It does not.  Torture produces faulty intelligence. Any human who is tortured will say anything you want to hear to get you to stop. Any normal human knows this.

The CIA also whined their legal defense would be too expensive. That’s what public defenders are for. Get in line. Get to know what it’s like to be a real American. Can you imagine telling the local district attorney not to prosecute you for that weed in your wagon because you can’t afford to defend yourself?  

Finally, they absurdly assert that foreign governments won’t trust them if CIA operations are exposed. Hm. If part of the national security apparatus is disabled because of crimes against humanity it committed, then the security of all people is heightened. In fact, foreign governments and foreign people will be better able to trust the US government if it dismantles and removes rotten pieces of infrastructure.

The entire issue keeps coming back to September 11, 2001, as the CIA raises in its first paragraph. Who knew what when?   The informed public knows 3,500 Americans died on September 11th, and that over a million people have been killed in retaliation.

That any part of the US government continues to assert the false flag of “terrorism” justifying government domestic spying, kidnapping, rendition to secret prisons, torture, loss of access to legal counsel, breach of habeas corpus… proves the need for full investigation. Attorneys who draft legal justification – which is acted on – for unspeakable acts should be disbarred and convicted of crimes against humanity.  Everyone who justifies hiding the truth needs to be fully investigated, as well.  Yoo, too.

These acts are heinous and no government run by mentally normal humans would create such horrors. Eight year old terrorists?  So, they are sodomized and beat?  What terrorist attacks did you prevent by these acts? What terrorism did you wreak?  What insanity.

Society needs to be protected from such derangement. The only way to do that is to investigate and report to the public who did what when, in gruesome detail. Remove the perps from power; protect humanity.

We demand and require a full and impartial investigation and report to the American public, and to the world. We say this partly because Obama is merely extending the heinous reign of George W. Bush – by expanding illegal resource wars, domestic surveillance, billionaire debts foisted on the public, and with a Latin American coup under his belt while building up military bases in another Latin American nation.

This is the brief NPR report (h/t to CLG), followed by the full CIA letter:

Obama Warned By Ex-CIA Directors On Justice Probe Of Detainee Interrogators

By Frank James 

Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to order a review of the controversial interrogation techniques used by Central Intelligence Agency employees on high-value terrorist detainees during the prior administration has drawn a cautionary letter to President Barack Obama from seven former CIA directors.

NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly had the following report for the network’s newscast:

Holder’s decision to review possible CIA abuses after 9/11 was greeted with dismay at (the intelligence agency’s) headquarters.

In the letter to President Obama, the seven former directors argue that it creates, “an atmosphere of continuous jeopardy.”

The former directors write, “those men and women who undertake difficult intelligence assignments in the aftermath of an attack such as September 11 must believe there is permanence in the legal rules that govern their action.”

They also argue the inquiry will make CIA spies less likely to take risks and that foreign spy agencies will be less likely to cooperate with the U.S.

The letter is signed by General Mike Hayden, Porter Goss, George Tenet, John Deutch, Jim Woolsey, William Webster and James Schlesinger.

Sept. 18, 2009 CIA Letter to President Obama:

September 18, 2009
The President
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. President:

We have served as Directors of Central Intelligence or Directors of the CIA for Presidents reaching back over 35 years. We respectfully urge you to exercise your authority to reverse Attorney General Holder’s August 24 decision to re-open the criminal investigation of CIA interrogations that took place following the attacks of September 11.

Our reasons for making this recommendation are as follows.

The post-September 11 interrogations for which the Attorney General is opening an inquiry were investigated four years ago by career prosecutors. The CIA, at its own initiative, forwarded fewer than 20 instances where Agency officers appeared to have acted beyond their existing legal authorities. Career prosecutors under the supervision of the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia determined that one prosecution (of a CIA contractor) was warranted. A conviction was later obtained. They determined that prosecutions were not warranted in the other cases. In a number of these cases the CIA subsequently took administrative disciplinary steps against the individuals involved. Attorney General Holder’s decision to re-open the criminal investigation creates an atmosphere of continuous jeopardy for those whose cases the Department of Justice had previously declined to prosecute. Moreover, there is no reason to expect that the re-opened criminal investigation will remain narrowly focused.

If criminal investigations closed by career prosecutors during one administration can so easily be reopened at the direction of political appointees in the next, declinations of prosecution will be rendered meaningless. Those men and women who undertake difficult intelligence assignments in the aftermath of an attack such as September 11 must believe there is permanence in the legal rules that govern their actions. They must be free, as the Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Senator Lieberman, has put it: “to do their dangerous and critical jobs without worrying that years from now a future Attorney General will authorize a criminal investigation of them for behavior that a previous Attorney General concluded was authorized and legal.” Similar deference needs to be shown to fact-based decisions made by career prosecutors years ago.

Not only will some members of the intelligence community be subjected to costly financial and other burdens from what amounts to endless criminal investigations, but this approach will seriously damage the willingness of many other intelligence officers to take risks to protect the country. In our judgment such risk-taking is vital to success in the long and difficult fight against the terrorists who continue to threaten us.

Success in intelligence often depends on surprise and deception and on creating uncertainty in the mind of an enemy. As President you have the authority to make decisions restricting substantive interrogation or any other intelligence collection method, based on legal analyses and policy recommendations. But, the administration must be mindful that public disclosure about past intelligence operations can only help Al Qaeda elude US intelligence and plan future operations. Disclosures about CIA collection operations have and will continue to make it harder for intelligence officers to maintain the momentum of operations that have saved lives and helped protect America from further attacks.

Finally, another certain result of these reopened investigations is the serious damage done to our intelligence community’s ability to obtain the cooperation of foreign intelligence agencies. Foreign services are already greatly concerned about the United States’ inability to maintain any secrets. They rightly fear that, through these additional investigations and the court proceedings that could follow, terrorists may learn how other countries came to our assistance in a time of peril. The United States promised these foreign countries that their cooperation would never be disclosed. As a result of the zeal on the part of some to uncover every action taken in the post-9/11 period, many countries may decide that they can no longer safely share intelligence or cooperate with us on future counter-terrorist operations. They simply cannot rely on our promises of secrecy.

We support your stated commitment, Mr. President, to look to the future regarding these important issues. In our judgment the only way that is possible is if the criminal investigation of these interrogations that Attorney General Holder has re-opened is now re-closed.


Michael Hayden
Porter Goss
George Tenet
John Deutch
R. James Woolsey
William Webster
James R. Schlesinger

23 responses to “CIA Warns Obama Not to Investigate War Crimes of Previous Administration

  1. Guess who I talked to today?

    Michael Chertoff, C-SPAN, WJ, 2:43 in to the program.

    There were 3 other callers that hit him on 9/11 – that might be a first. The program is worth watching.

    These fools can’t hold it together much longer.

  2. you totally rock, M

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    • hey ,Mike ~ I LOVE your characterizations of various blogs you linked on your site…

      tell da truth, man, tell da truth

      thx for linking COTO work on your site – that’s how we amplify our voice. love it.

      you’re a true “civil informationer”

  4. Hi Rady,

    What is the story behind the picture of the poor little boy? Was that one of the pictures released of government torture? These guys are psychopathic.


    • yeah, this is a boy from Abu Ghraib according to my notes – I don’t have (or they didn’t have) the photo credit.

      I’m furious. And now the Big Brass are trying to let their peeps know they’ll protect them from criminal prosecution. Gee, doesn’t that sound like the mafia?

  5. Would you care to see a list of what I wouldn’t do to someone who I knew had information that might save the life of one of my sons? Here it is;

    1. Nothing

    There is nothing I wouldn’t do to save their lives. Absolutely nothing. While I would want to know with absolute certainty that they in fact HAD that information, once I knew they did, and if they didn’t give it up voluntarily, you can take this to the bank: I don’t give one shit how much they suffer in the process of extracting that information.

    It’s obvious that the list of things YOU wouldn’t do to save them is rather extensive. That is why decent people fight against you and those like who are unable to emerge from the bottomless depths of your gullibility to understand that this is a very, very nasty business we’re involved in, and the sanitized war you dream of is a figment of your coloring book world.

    • Steve, David answered you pretty well (below) – and that’s giving your scenario the benefit of the doubt.

      So, I’ll confront your scenario. Saving your son has nothing to do with Corpo-Gov’s intent to steal the natural resources of the Middle East.

      And explain to me how sodomizing and torturing an 8-year old boy advanced either agenda – the real one and your proffered one.

      The problem with monsters who justify torture based on the acts of other monsters is that all of you, together, create a monstrous world for the rest of us. All of you need to be removed from society for the protection of all of us.

    • Well, when you put it that way… As long as you’ve got some slam-dunk evidence, I suppose we could ignore the treaties and conventions to which we are signatories–You’d be absolutely certain before torturing, right?

      What steps would you take in your alternative Serious world to be absolutely certain they had the information? And how would these steps differ from current intelligence gathering procedures?

      Please respond in light of the fact that the enhanced interrogation techniques assimilated from SERE tactics were previously used to elicit false confessions, and with an understanding of the false leads provided by Abu Zubaidah as they pertain to the search and capture of Jose Padilla.

      “Abu Zubaida’s revelations triggered a series of alerts and sent hundreds of CIA and FBI investigators scurrying in pursuit of phantoms. The interrogations led directly to the arrest of Jose Padilla, the man Abu Zubaida identified as heading an effort to explode a radiological “dirty bomb” in an American city. Padilla was held in a naval brig for 3 1/2 years on the allegation but was never charged in any such plot. Every other lead ultimately dissolved into smoke and shadow, according to high-ranking former U.S. officials with access to classified reports.”

      In the words of one intelligence official, “We spent millions of dollars chasing false alarms.”

      What I really want to know is how could you be absolutely certain that your son wasn’t suffocating in some box on 1st street and not 98th?

  6. If the justification for using “enhanced interrogation” techniques to fight monsters is to become monsters ourselves, then the monsters have already won. We executed people 60 years ago on charges of war crimes for what the CIA and others now routinely do in our names.
    What the Mossad and others have found is that torture doesn’t work.

  7. but this approach will seriously damage the willingness of many other intelligence officers to take risks to protect the country. In our judgment such risk-taking is vital to success in the long and difficult fight against the terrorists who continue to threaten us.
    if that pic is an 8 year old, at Abu Graib.
    then I fail to see how he is a “risk” to the CIA. so bad a risk they did that?
    and worse.
    Steve how many people would you allow to be hurt in revenge or interrogation, 1million + and rising
    for 3,000 .
    IF Someone tortured your son, cos they? thought he knew something(or “the nothing” you wouldnt stop at..).to theoretically save their! son…
    How many people now hate the USA with another lifetimes worth of rage hurt and anger..and so it continues, instead of local conflicts USA stuck its oar in- funded so many sides it is beyond a bad plot.
    and then wonders WTF??
    It still had to use its own people to set up 9/11.
    How will anyone justify the whole damn mess, when the
    “UN Edited” truth is finally outed and visible on 9/11
    how uncomfortable that scenario is going to be.

  8. Oh man, you’re worse off than I thought. At least I gave you the respect of actually reading what you wrote before I responded. People like you get ideas in your heads, and all people like me have to do is insert the words “I disagree” in our responses and you are off to the races, regurgitating what you already said without even a passing thought to what the other had written.

    I DIDN’T say that the abuse of children is justifiable (and you should really take that picture down unless you can prove that his injuries are a result of that….he could have fallen off a swingset for all you know)

    I DIDN’T say that.becoming monsters is the justification for performing advanced interrogation techniques on monsters. That doesn’t even make sense.

    I DID say that there is nothing I wouldn’t do to someone (an adult. I know I didn’t say that, but I would have hoped you would have drawn at least one correct inference from what I wrote) whom I knew had information that would save one of my son’s lives. Or your son’s lives, even though you wouldn’t do it for mine. If you think that makes me a monster, that’s quite alright with me. Somebody’s son would be alive because of what I was willing to do. I think your unwillingness to do the same makes you a coward, and a lesser man.

    • Suppose you did not, “know” for sure the woman had the information about your son; does a real man torture the woman just in case she knows or do you too walk away. Suppose someone in a small town had the information to save your son do you torture everyone? And if you did only torture say five or six people and then got lucky and tortured the woman and she talked and your son was saved; what do you think your son would say to you? Would you then live in that town and face those people every day? Are you willing to BTK innocents to find the guilty and how many? Only a lesser man or a coward would fail to answer my post.

  9. war on terror is like war on cancer and war on drugs.
    F/n lot of money and lives spent.
    no useful result.
    Government and industry profit massively however.

  10. What is fascinating, and very telling, about this letter is not who signed it…but those who did NOT sign it.

    George H.W. Bush, namely.

    Why is he hiding? Why is he playing Mr. Ambiguous, again?

    Thanks to Russ Baker, we all know Poppy was in on the plot to kill JFK. The last 8 years have seen plenty of Poppy’s friends in CIA murdered on duty.

    Who signed this document who also signed the Iraq Report?

    Panetta’s objection to Holder’s prosecution is beginning to look like a smokescreen.

    Go forward, quickly, AG Holder. Do not give these particular jerks time to think. Wiretap every last one of them.

  11. Great article Rady. You’re leading the usual suspects on this story and analysis.

    When someone says DO NOT LOOK THERE, the make everyone want to LOOK THERE. These people know that which shows how utterly desperate they are. Just as the Obama administration is desperate as well. Recall Hillary’s threat to the English government — the special relationship will end if you release torture evidence. Damn!

    Here’s a great resource on the entire torture issue. The originators of U.S. torture policies were two former government psychologists who taught a course on resisting Soviet/Chinese/N. Korean style torture.

    That type of torture was specifically designed to elicit false confessions of war crimes, not to elucidate truth about operations, personnel, etc. The techniques that these two psychologists implemented were the Soviet etc. techniques.

    What does that tell you about the motivation for U.S. torture?

    • thx, Michael – great link – I’ll read thru the site more thoroughly later, but I added it to our War Crimes section (bottom right column of links) as The Mitchell-Jessen Torture Program.

      I’m glad to see former CIA analyst Ray McGovern chime in on the topic. And The New York Review of Books has an excellent, detailed (and informed) analysis that goes after the lawyers who drafted the torture memos.

      That latter piece leads me to believe any investigation by Eric Holder will fail:

      “When these memos, letters, and faxes are considered together with an earlier set disclosed in April 2009, it becomes clear that there is an inherent conflict of interest in the investigation Holder has initiated.

      “Justice Department lawyers were inextricably involved in justifying every aspect of the CIA program. They wrote memo after memo over a five-year period, from 2002 to 2007, all maintaining that any interrogation methods the CIA was planning to use were legal. And now the Justice Department is investigating not itself, but only the CIA, for atrocities in which both were deeply implicated.”

      maybe this investigation is a red herring

  12. Hi Rady,
    I’m so encouraged to see that you diddn’t just make this an issue about torture. This issue is about war crimes aand treason from the highest levels of the government and their ‘constituents’.
    Everything after 9-11 is thrown out there as a distraction from that one matter which would overshadow all else.
    We need to start at the beginning, prove complicity in these mattters and prosecute appropriateely from there. This will take any legitimacy from action thereafter, such as the Patriot Act, which is as dangerous to us a wmd’s in the hands of our enemies.
    To me, any forum who is not pushing an agenda to prosecute the bush administration isn’t or hasn’t been paying attention and isn’t capable of offering solutions.
    I have some pos and some negative feelings about Obama but one issue I must address is that we gave bush nmore of a chanc to fuck up the world without any of the grief from the right wing that obama is getting,, except ‘right wing’ FOX is now acting like a bunch of left wing ‘nuts’,,,incredulously blaming him for the problems bush created.
    Why does it not occur to anyone the possibility that he is being threatened by the NWO to act on their behalf?
    Anyone who truly tries to make changes for the better for the working man and women will end up like JFK< RFK, MLK and thousands more we never hear of.
    There needs to be much more gialogue in this respect and more force exerted to get to the bottom of an act of terror, perpetrated in such a fashion that it begs questions as to the incredible success of such a mission without any inside assistance in its' execution and even moreso, in the succesful coverup of the most blatant discrepinies and signs of government complicity.
    To let this go sends a clear message to the murderous NWO that they have no resistence to the inevitable 'downsizing' of the middle class in America.
    This is the MOST dangerous message we've been sending out for the last 8 years and if we don't act soo there will be no remedy but out and out revolution.
    Anyone who can't recognize the30% or more cut in pay which they've suffered in the past few years is woefully inattentive. Either they've fallen for Palin and FOX ,,, their rascist or just don't care.
    We need to see the people resposible for 9-11 attacks and coverups treated as any other traitors, murderers and war criminals.Prison or hung.

  13. Please excuse my spelling. I’m not feeling myself.
    Perhaps I should do that now.

  14. Mad, Bad and Dangerous to know

    I feel the POV presented, while well intended, is naive, based on hearsay and sensational news coverage… In his 1945 “Notes on Nationalism”, Orwell claimed the statement, “Those who ‘abjure’ violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf” was a “grossly obvious” fact.

    This is often misquoted as: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

    That being said the message remains true. YOU sleep comfortably without fear of being raped, robbed, shot, blown up or poisoned because there are folks out in the world putting themselves in harm’s by way doing things most folks find personally objectionable to keep you and others safe. I feel you would not live in regions where this is not the case. Believe it or not American Intelligence agencies still have the higher moral ground in circles where such virtues are rationally assessed.

    We should not ignore the fact Civilization is a negotiated choice between peoples and maintaining civilization requires the option to act uncivilized if the threat requires it or if partners in the bargain break “the rules”.

    Torture is a tool of last resort and in our society is used only with reservation and justification. The choice to use it is weighted against other choices including the choice of doing nothing and are made in a military context where the needs of one may need to be sacrificed for the good of the many. Torture in the context of preventing a car theft is a transgression of all that is good but in the context of a pending car bombing not so much. If you torture to learn the truth and prevent the death of innocent men, women and children you have the blood of one on your hands. If you do nothing then the blood of every victim and the consequences of their death or injury will bath you.

    Who are these Sadists and where do governments find people of such low character rent with despotism? The answer is in any neighborhood. This was demonstrated by Dr. Philip George Zimbardo in the now famous 1971 Stanford prison study.

    A prison was created in a basement at Stanford Univ and student volunteers were randomly selected to be guards or prisoners. “Prisoners and guards rapidly adapted to their roles, stepping beyond the boundaries of what had been predicted and leading to dangerous and psychologically damaging situations. One-third of the guards were judged to have exhibited “genuine” sadistic tendencies, while many prisoners were emotionally traumatized and five had to be removed from the study early. At the end of the experiment, after all the prisoners had been released and the guards let go, everyone was brought back into the same room for evaluation and to be able to get their feelings out in the open towards one another. Ethical concerns surrounding the famous study often draw comparisons to the Milgram experiment, which was conducted in 1961 at Yale University by Stanley Milgram, Zimbardo’s former high school friend.” — Quoted from Wikipedia.

    Every person has inalienable rights including the right to live Free and without fear. It is important to appreciate and celebrate these rights through sometimes violent action because freedom is the only thing worth losing everything for. I personally cannot live in a state of fear and I feel for my neighbors who live in repressive counties where saying much less writing down as you, I and the other participants to this discussion have.

    I live by choice in the Middle-east next door to counties where expressing views such as yours and mine would get prison if in fact we just didn’t disappear. We live comfortably and free because the price for our freedoms is paid for every day. I hope I’ve broaden your understanding just a bit.

    Rady, stay skeptical, vocal and hold on to your focus it makes the world a better and kinder place it is in fact the sole reason many people have dirty hands.

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