Lawsuit Seeks Data On BOP, CIA Detention Site

By Steve Rensberry
   (RPC) - 4/28/2016 - Although it has received scant attention in the news, The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit this past month against the Federal Bureau of Prisons, citing the bureau's failure to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request involving documents pertaining to a 2002 visit to a CIA detention site in Afghanistan, code-named COBALT. The operation and site, also known as “the Salt Pit,” was used to confine and torture terrorism suspects, according to the declassified torture report provided to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee in 2014. Although the practices described in the report were referred to as “not inhumane,” it nevertheless was a shock to the senses for many of those who read it.
   The ACLU's initial Freedom of Information Act request, filed in 2015, was brushed aside by prisons officials, who claimed that “no records exist" -- a response which the civil rights organization has questions.
   “What business did the Bureau of Prisons have with a torture site in Afghanistan?” ACLU National Prison Project Staff Attorney Carl Takei stated in a recent news release. “The bureau controls conditions for the 200,000 federal prisoners in the United States while teaching its methods to jails and state prisons around the country. We have to wonder why a team from that institution would give its approval to a place where prisoners are kept in solitary confinement in near-total darkness 24-7, shackled to the wall standing up, and with a bucket for human waste.”
   The ACLU's suit was filed on April 14, 2016. A link to an executive summary of the report on the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program, given to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on December 9, 2014, is available here:
   The executive summary is 525 pages long, and the full committee study is 6,700 pages in length.
   As stated in the forward to the summary, written by Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein: “The full report has been provided to the White House, the CIA, the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in the hopes that it will prevent further coercive interrogation practices and inform the management of covert action programs.”
   Recalling the days after 9-11, when political leaders and the public felt the impulse to do whatever it could to stop another attack, Feinstein said that such pressure and fear did no “justify, temper, or excuse improper actions taken by individuals or organizations in the name of national security.”
   Feinstein referred to the lessons of history and the need to subject decisions to internal and external review, then lambasted those who oversaw the COBALT operation.
   “Instead, CIA personnel, aided by two outside contractors, decided to initiate a program of indefinite secret detention and the of brutal interrogation techniques in violation of U.S. law, treaty obligations, and our values,” Feinstein wrote.
    Her statement begs the question: If such techniques were in violation of U.S. law and treaty obligations, why has no one connected with such abuse been prosecuted?
   The short answer is because those doing the prosecuting, that is, the Justice Department, would indirectly be prosecuting themselves. The Justice Department cited in its investigation the advice given by the Office of Legal Council, which itself is part of the U.S. Justice Department. Both are part of the executive branch of the U.S. government. Together with the attorney general, both groups provide advice and guidance to the president and all other executive branch agencies, including the C.I.A.
   Following the release of the 2014 report, justice department spokespersons and the administration have remained unified and steadfast in their redirection of the subject, not surprisingly, with President Obama citing a desire to "look forward, not backward," and the justice department citing the fact that such interrogation techniques had been fully reviewed and considered legal under the previous administration. In other words, it goes all the way to the top.
   One of the most damning assessments of the administration's failure to prosecute those responsible has come from the organization Human Rights Watch, and from UN Special Rapporteur on Counterterrorism Ben Emmerson.
   The Human Rights Watch report can be found here:
   To quote: “As set out in this report, Human Rights Watch concludes there is substantial evidence to support the opening of new investigations into allegations of criminal offenses by numerous US officials and agents in connection with the CIA program. These include torture, assault, sexual abuse, war crimes, and conspiracy to commit such crimes. In reaching this conclusion, we have drawn on our own investigations, media and other public reports, and the declassified information in the Senate Summary. But more evidence exists that has yet to be made public. . . . US officials who played a role in the process of creating, authorizing, and implementing the CIA program should be among those investigated for conspiracy to torture as well as other crimes. They include: Acting CIA General Counsel John Rizzo, Assistant Attorney General for Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) Jay Bybee, OLC Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, an individual identified as “CTC Legal” in the Senate Summary, CIA Director George Tenet, National Security Legal Advisor John Bellinger, Attorney General John Ashcroft, White House Counsel Legal Advisor Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the Vice President David Addington, Deputy White House Counsel Timothy Flanigan, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes II, Vice President Dick Cheney, and President George W. Bush. In addition, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, CIA psychologist contractors who devised the program, proposed it to the CIA, and helped carry it out, should also be investigated for their role in the initial conspiracy.”
   In a surprise ruling, Federal Judge Justin L. Quackenbush denied on April 22, 2016, a motion to dismiss a suit brought against psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who aided in the CIA's torture practices and COBALT operation, and for which they were paid $81 million. More about the case and ruling can be found here: