Robert Weiner and Jordan Osserman: Is the CIA's Excessive Secrecy Near an End?

Roundup: Media's Take




[ Robert Weiner, an Oberlin College graduate, is a former spokesman for the Clinton White House and US House Government Operations Committee. Jordan Osserman is a policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates.]

On May 28, President Obama mandated a 90-day review of classification policy, with the goal of creating an "unprecedented level of openness" in government. He'll soon let us know how many fewer government secrets we'll have. He has a lot to do.

Attorney General Eric Holder has just appointed a special prosecutor to investigate CIA interrogation abuses in the War on Terror, including secret waterboarding, which had until recently been prosecuted in U.S. courts as a war crime. He also will track the truth of the possibly 100 prisoners tortured to death in Abu Ghraib. Often, to hide accountability, it was not the CIA but its contractors who did the interrogations - they were able to go over the top with a wink and a nod from their agency overseers.

On Aug. 20, Bush's former CIA Director Michael Hayden told the National Press Club that contractors were necessary to "fill a need" as the "best talent" and "not to deflect responsibility." As Shakespeare wrote, "The lady doth protest too much methinks."

The House Intelligence Committee has launched an investigation into whether the CIA's secret program to assassinate al-Qaida leaders broke the law because it was hidden from Congress at Vice President Dick Cheney's request. The Abu Ghraib deaths by torture were related.

The administration's decision to address the excess of government secrecy couldn't come at a better time. However, human rights and civil liberties groups including the ACLU and Amnesty International are concerned. Rather than focusing on a comprehensive review of the Bush administration's torture program, the investigation may only look into individual abuses conducted by low-ranking officials. Obama's team must ensure that a full investigation occurs into the actions of the "deciders." It's not a matter of politics - it's the law.

On Aug. 30, while claiming his pending book will be "terrific" and people will "have to read it," Cheney stated that the probe is "political." When was the last time that lawmakers-turned-lawbreakers did not assert that any investigations into their actions were "political"? What a surprise that Cheney does not like that the investigation may lead to his guidance and instruction for incorrectly defining the law in meetings with White House, Justice and CIA staffers. If that proves true, the other laws that say you cannot ignore them must also be upheld...




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