Here's the gist: a criminal lawyer who used to defend CIA torturers, and who was confirmed to a government post in 2009 only upon his solemn oath that he'd recuse himself from any investigations having to do with the CIA, has been given the go-ahead by the Obama administration to censor the Senate report on CIA torture and other patriotic crimes against "folks."
Senate CIA Moll Dianne Feinstein (D-Surveillance State) has absolutely no problem with this, while Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) is reprising his role as vocal but impotent CIA critic. His sidekick, Ron Wyden (D-OR/NYC) is MIA for this particular article.
Elsewhere among the cognoscenti, the usual concerns have been sparked about the prima facie impropriety. And the usual suspects in the White House along with their Security State overseers are striving mightily to douse the sparks with the usual drivel. In other words, just trust them -- they can all police themselves. Just like Wall Street polices itself and there is no economic meltdown, mortgage fraud, income inequality or stagnating wages.
The gory details:
Robert Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is a former defense lawyer who represented several CIA officials in matters relating to the agency’s detention and interrogation program. Now he’s in a key position to determine what parts of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,300-page report will be made public.
Litt’s involvement doesn’t appear to be an ethics issue, at least by the legal definition. But experts say that while it may be acceptable on paper, his involvement in the review should have been a red flag.No, it was actually a white flag that this investigation has been a sham from the get-go. The usual suspects are performing the usual parsing, differentiating between legality (yawn) and ethics (whatever they define it as.)
Litt, who’s now 64, was confirmed to his post by the U.S. Senate in 2009, contingent upon his agreement to recuse himself from situations that involved his former clients. He referred to the potential conflict in his responses to the Intelligence panel’s questions for the record, submitted during the course of his confirmation process.
“I represent several present and former employees of the Central Intelligence Agency in matters relating to the detention and interrogation of suspected terrorists,” Litt wrote to the committee in 2009. “By statute, under the rules of ethics and by virtue of my ethics agreement that has been provided to the committee, I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter involving these clients . . . including decisions about similarly situated individuals.”So what might have happened is that he gave a friend a list of all his clients, and then that friend redacted those names from the Senate report so that Litt could later claim clean hands on his pesky ethics promise. He couldn't possibly have censored stuff about his own clients, because that stuff had been pre-censored for his convenience. Or, so my cynical supposition goes.
Litt’s prior representations, however, didn’t seem to bother Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee and who approved the arrangement.
“I spoke with Bob Litt about this matter and believe he will be fair, and negotiations thus far have shown that to be the case,” Feinstein said in a statement. “The DNI’s designated ethics official has reviewed the situation and determined there is no conflict that would necessitate a recusal.”Key words: I spoke with Bob Litt . It is a truth universally acknowledged that as long as DiFi is kept within the secrecy loop, she is okay with flouting democracy. If the secrecy folks say they're not doing anything wrong in secret, then who are we to challenge them? You'd think we weren't living in a democracy or something. So in retrospect, I guess it is unfair of me to say that DiFi can be flouting something that doesn't even exist in the first place.
The conversations between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the administration about Litt’s past representations and their approval of his involvement effectively waive charges of a conflict of interest, at least by rules of the legal profession.
“If he advised them on their legal exposure by virtue of their conduct and this report blasts them for that same conduct, he should not participate with regard to that part of the report,” said Stephen Gillers, a professor at New York University School of Law who specializes in legal ethics. “However, if everyone involved waives their objections, it wipes the slate clean.”Now we're really getting into the Orwellian verbiage. Only if Litt was planning to condemn his former clients in his capacity as their former defense lawyer should he recuse himself from the censorship project. But, since he either already decided to absolve them or since their names have already been erased from the report anyway, then everything is hunky-dory in Ethics World. "Everyone involved" does not, of course, include the American public. Stephen Gillers just kind of admitted that "legal ethics" is an oxymoron.
All of Litt’s former CIA clients also would have to waive a potential conflict, Gillers said. Administration officials wouldn’t say whether that occurred.Because they're the Most Transparent Administration Ever (TM). Since Litt's former clients do not officially exist, how can they waive their rights?
Citing attorney-client privilege, Litt declined in 2009 to name several of his clients who were involved in “nonpublic investigative matters.” Later in his responses to the committee, he said that some of the matters for which he’d provided counsel to CIA officials were classified.
Neither the White House nor Feinstein’s office would characterize Litt’s prior representation during his time in private practice. When asked whether Litt had represented former senior CIA officials involved in the interrogation program, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment, also citing attorney-client privilege.It's the old "it's classified" defense again. Attorney-client privilege exists even if the clients are wraiths. On the other hand, if they're wraiths, they cannot exist. Wraiths ain't got no rights.
According to reports in The Washington Post, Litt previously represented a CIA analyst, Alfreda Frances Bikowsky, who played a central role in the bungled rendition of Khaled el-Masri. El-Masri, who was revealed to be innocent, claimed to have been tortured by the agency.Bring me the head of Alfreda Frances Bikowsky! Oh wait.... she is a rightless wraith. This name assuredly does not exist in the 6,000+ page Senate Torture Report. But wait! Bikowsky was not only allegedly the inspiration for the glorified CIA torturer character in the infamous CIA-scripted "Zero Dark Thirty" film, she remains one of Obama's favorite analysts. She even got promoted, despite failing miserably at her job. That whole sordid story is here.
“I have been concerned all along about conflicts of interest related to the declassification of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s study,“ said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., a member of the panel. “I urged the president in April to have the White House lead the declassification process instead of the CIA. . . . The redaction process has not been conducted in accordance with my request, and I remain concerned about who continues to lead and drive the process.”He doesn't remain concerned enough, however, to just go ahead and leak the whole unredacted report, or accuse the Obama administration of fraud, corruption and deceit.
It’s been a long, difficult history for the panel’s study on the CIA’s interrogation and detention program, which has been a source of major deterioration in the relationship between the agency and the Senate oversight committee. The report’s executive summary is nearing public release. But the White House and its chief spy agency have effectively stalled even that process.
The Intelligence panel began compiling the report on the CIA’s post-9/11 detention, rendition and interrogation program in 2009. The report, although completed in 2012, has been held hostage because of fierce debates between the agency and the panel.Release it already! You cannot hold mere bundles of paper hostage unless you want to. Unless, of course, our elected officials are all kidnappers and terrorists. Or in a best case scenario, unpatriotic cowards who are not willing to go to jail for the sake of a principle, like Chelsea Manning. On second thought....
Those disputes culminated last month when the agency revealed that it had spied on the computers of committee staffers who were compiling the report. The agency also revealed that, during the course of the spying, CIA officials had falsified evidence against the committee staffers in order to charge them with mishandling classified information.
Anything to keep the folk-torturing details secret for as long as possible. Incomprehensible crimes committed by folks whom Obama has deemed to be "patriots" are already incomprehensible enough, DiFi. Release the damn report!Feinstein’s panel voted to declassify the nearly 500-page executive summary of its report in April, but that’s been indefinitely halted because of disagreements over the report’s blackouts. The document that was returned to the committee after the executive branch’s declassification review was rendered incomprehensible due to redactions, according to Feinstein and several of her Democratic committee colleagues.
The crux of the redactions, officials said, are the pseudonyms used to identify CIA officials involved with the program. Feinstein and several of her fellow Democrats appealed to the White House that it _ not the agency _ lead the declassification process for the executive summary.No can do, DiFi. Obama has enough on his plate already without the added stress of having to make up initials to hide the identity of Alfreda Bikowsky.... or even worse, his BFF and Kill List partner, CIA Director John Brennan.
Their appeals fell on deaf ears, as the White House has deferred to the agency’s leadership throughout the declassification effort. White House national security Council? (sic) representative Caitlin Hayden defended Litt’s involvement, as well.
“Bob Litt is one of the administration’s strongest proponents of transparency in intelligence, consistent with our national security, and he and we are fully committed to ensuring there is no conflict of interest as the administration continues to work to see the results of the committee’s review made public,” Hayden said in a statement.The White House remains in a committed relationship, with all its torrid transparency conducted behind closed doors as they work together to ensure that the tattered tortuous remains of torture are rendered into literary black sites.
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
Now, release the damn report.
Note to readers: I will be away, so little to no blogging for the rest of the month.
Please feel free to leave comments in the interim.