The American Way of Doing Things

CIAThe release of the United States Senate Intelligence Committee on the activities of the CIA (or, at any rate, the executive summary of it) is a welcome sign that the United Sates is growing up a bit. It demonstrates that the CIA’s practices of kidnapping (Extraordinary Rendition, in CIA-speak) and subsequent torture (Enhanced Interrogation Techniques) of people they are suspicious of have been not only commonplace, but ineffective.

Well, we knew that, of course. What is significant is that the US Senate is prepared now to acknowledge it.

It is good news for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. It is utterly absurd that the Swedish prosecutor Maryanne Ny will not interview Assange (that is all she says she wants to do) in London. It is positively obscene that the UK authorities have spent many millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on a 24/7 police presence to ensure Assange remains cooped up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. But all that said, it seems improbable now that Assange, were he to go to Sweden to refute these ludicrous charges, would be handed over by the Swedes to the CIA. The public outcry against such a handover would be immense. Any anyway, one would hope and expect that the CIA will behave a bit better, at least for a while until the fuss dies down.

All this is less good news for Anna Ardin, the Swedish woman whose original report of “rape” by Julian Assange is almost certainly motivated by her well-documented taste for revenge, following her discovery that he was also having sex with Sofia Wilen; see for example the piece by Craig Murray, a former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Why I am Convinced that Anna Ardin is a Liar.

So who comes out well, and who comes out badly?

White hats

  • Julian Assange. It is now beyond sensible doubt that he was correct in his WikiLeaks allegations of kidnapping and torture by the CIA. It is very likely that, but for his efforts, the CIA would be carrying on their business as usual;
  • Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Committee which released the report;
  • Barrack Obama, who in 2009 issued Executive Order 13491 effectively prohibiting further kidnapping and torture by the CIA;
  • President Rafael Correa of Equador, who has very probably saved Assange’s life by giving him asylum.

Black Hats

  • George W Bush, who often gets unfairly treated by the soft left, but who failed to prevent serious abuses on his watch. It is fair to note that his Executive Order 13440 of 2007, declaring war on “al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces” does not condone torture (Section 3(b)(i)(A)), but it did authorise the detention of any person who was “likely to be in possession of information that could assist in … preventing terrorist attacks”. That authorised the detention of a huge range of people, including me: I was in possession of the commonplace information that a halt to arming the Israelis to the hilt and bombing Islamic countries not only “could assist” but almost certainly would assist in preventing terrorists attacks. Effectively, the Bush Order authorised the CIA to kidnap and detain pretty much anyone in the world;
  • Hillary Clinton, who as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013, approved the spying on foreign diplomats, United Nations officials, and U.S. allies, and who in 2010 vilified a WikiLeaks disclosure as “an attack on America’s foreign policy interests”. It is fair guess that, if she succeeds in becoming US President, she would have Assange’s guts for garters;
  • The CIA. Not nice or cuddly at all. Whilst in some quarters, they might appear like a friendly, Felix Leiter sort of a crew, to the world at large they must appear as the most abominable secret police, making the KGB look like pussy cats.

Particularly notable is the Report’s finding Number 20, which includes this:

The CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program created tensions with U.S. partners and allies, leading to formal demarches to the United States, and damaging and complicating bilateral intelligence relationships.

In one example, in June 2004, the secretary of state ordered the U.S. ambassador in Country XXXX to deliver a demarche to Country XXXX “in essence demanding [Country XXXX Government] provide full access to all [Country XXXX] detainees” to the International Committee of the Red Cross. At the time, however, the detainees Country XXXX was holding included detainees being held in secret at the CIA’s behest.

More broadly, the program caused immeasurable damage to the United States’ public standing, as well as to the United States’ longstanding global leadership on human rights in general and the prevention of torture in particular.

A sound finding, it seems. But it is worth noting that, if organisations like the CIA can prevent organisations like WikiLeaks from shining light on their activities, then questions of public standing would not arise.

It is only the persistent exposure of governmental abuse which will prevent its growth.



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