Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Torture has to be kept secret

At long last, the shameful decision of the United States government with, sadly, the endorsement of most of its citizens to unleash torture on helpless detainees is coming home to roost. Because torturing people is repugnant to human decency and must remain deniable, its practice can only flourish in secret. But the facts ultimately tumble out.

As all accounts confirm, the sustained bureaucratic ground war deployed by the CIA against congressional oversight has the principal and essential goal of suppressing all evidence of what the U.S. secret police actually did, to whom, where and how. The Agency cannot afford Abu Ghraib-type photos or revelations to trickle out, which was confirmed by their decision to destroy the video evidence (no doubt after having used the torture tapes for training purposes—can’t wait for that detail to emerge.) Torture was used, and the act of torturing must be kept in the shadows; cover-up is essential.

The Feinstein episode illustrates once again how little party affiliations mean when it comes to the national security state and its spy/snooper apparatus. Note that Obama has shown no inclination to rein in the CIA or its NSA counterparts (nor the FBI/DEA/ICE/Homeland brethren) in defense of the Constitution he supposedly knows something about. His promise to stop torture is meaningless if those who engaged in it are not sanctioned.

Once again, I cannot help but notice the parallel with the Chilean experience post-Pinochet. The ostensibly democratic forces talked a good game about restoring the nation’s moral core and quickly dismantled the repressive apparatus. But they had no stomach for going after the perpetrators. Nonetheless, the facts simply refused to go away, and the judiciary eventually took charge as the tens of thousands of torture victims pursued justice. Now with the facts in the open, the lingering balance of credibility of the military dictatorship in which a sizeable fraction of the polity still clung to a defense of its record finally toppled into a deep repudiation. The revivified student movement is both a cause and an effect of this shift in the zeitgeist.

We’re a long way from that, but the attacks on the liberals and centrists who have looked the other way was inevitable, will escalate and is bracingly clarifying for both them and us. Feinstein never fluffed a feather when mere citizens were at risk of sneakery and dirty tricks—that only happened when her own staffers were targeted. Suddenly she can see the danger that was obvious to anyone not sunk in a rotting morass of power, wealth, and kowtowing underlings.

Admittedly, undermining a co-equal branch of government with spy techniques and illicit access to virtually all electronic information is a grave escalation, but what genius could possibly be surprised by it? The fact that Obama hasn’t moved to defend the legislature speaks volumes about his enabling role to the dictatorial executive. Can’t wait to see the hard-line reactionaries back in charge using all the tools Obama has built up for them and hear the howls of outrage among all those who remain silent today.

Meanwhile, even the ineffable Lindsey Graham piped up with a surprising call to ‘declare war’ on the CIA for its subversive behavior. Graham must somehow think he’s also immune, or should be, which I very much doubt. It will be fascinating to see if he’s declared unreliable and dragged before a party purity tribunal for his harsh language.

And like clockwork, Greenwald set off another grenade from the relative safety of Rio de Janeiro today, displaying more NSA documents about how the spymasters are vacuuming up anything that moves in cyberspace. It’s just great to see that the complex Internet and computer tools with which we are just barely familiar generate both enormous danger and a faint but irrepressible resistance.

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