GOP Senators: US Faces Terrorist Attack If Holder Probes Bush’s Torture Program

Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona is one of eight senators who signed a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder Wednesday urging him not to appoint a special counsel to investigate torture.

Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona is one of eight senators who signed a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder Wednesday urging him not to appoint a special counsel to investigate torture.

Nine Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Eric Holder Wednesday saying the U.S. could face a terrorist attack if the attorney general appoints a special prosecutor to investigate the CIA’s use of torture against “war on terror” suspects.

Holder is under pressure to resist launching a criminal probe, even one limited to rogue CIA interrogators. At the same time, he is facing mounting pressure from some prominent Democrats and civil liberties and human rights groups to not only sign off on a criminal investigation but to expand it to include top Bush administration officials.

The latest correspondence came on Wednesday, in a letter to the attorney general that said an investigation into the CIA’s interrogation practices, no matter how limited in scope, would jeopardize the “security for all Americans, “chill future intelligence activities,” and could “leave us more vulnerable to attack.”

The senators resorted to fear-mongering, invoking the terrorist attacks on 9/11 to try and dissuade Holder

“We are deeply concerned by recent news reports that you are ‘poised to appoint a special prosecutor’ to investigate CIA officials who interrogated al Qaeda terrorists. Such an investigation could have a number of serious consequences, not just for the honorable members of the intelligence community, but also for the security of all Americans,” the letter says.

The letter was sent to Holder by Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and was also signed by Senators Richard Burr, R-N.C., Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

“The 9/11 Commission emphasized that keeping our country safe from foreign attack requires that the Justice Department work cooperatively with the intelligence community, but the appointment of a special prosecutor would irresponsibly and unnecessarily drive a wedge between the two…

“We will not know the lost opportunities to prevent attacks, the policies to protect the nation left on the table, due to fear of future policy disagreement being expressed through an indictment. It is hard to imagine how the Justice Department could take that risk after September 11, given that the foremost duty of the Department is to protect Americans”

The timing of the letter coincides with the expected public release next Monday of a 2004 CIA inspector general’s report that called into question the legality of the Bush administration’s interrogation program.

Heavily redacted portions of Helgerson’s 200-page report were released to the ACLU in May 2008 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, but the ACLU appealed the Bush administration’s extensive deletions and the Obama administration responded to that appeal with a promise to review the materials at issue and declassify, at the very least, portions of it to the civil liberties group.

The Justice Department has delayed turning over the report three times since then. Last month, a federal court judge gave the CIA until Aug. 24 to declassify the report.

Amrit Singh, an ACLU staff attorney, said Wednesday she believes the CIA will turn over the report next week, but she did not know whether it would be redacted yet again when released.

The secret findings of CIA Inspector General John Helgerson led to eight criminal referrals to the Justice Department for homicide and other misconduct, but those cases languished as Vice President Dick Cheney is said to have intervened to constrain Helgerson’s inquiries.

His report reportedly says the techniques used on the prisoners “appeared to constitute cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, as defined by the International Convention Against Torture.”

Holder started to consider the need to appoint a special counsel to conduct a criminal investigation after he read Helgerson’s findings, according to published reports.

The Republican senators, in their letter to Holder Wednesday, said the CIA IG report “has been available to the Justice Department for more than five years” and should not be used as a basis to “justify” the appointment of a special prosecutor.

The IG report has “been available to the Justice Department for more than five years,” the senators wrote. “Three former Attorneys General and numerous career prosecutors have examined the findings of that report and other evidence and determined that that facts do not support criminal prosecutions.

“It is difficult to understand what rationale could drive the Justice Department to now reverse course, reopen a five-year-old matter, and tarnish the careers, reputations, and lives of intelligence community professionals…

“The intelligence community will be left to wonder whether actions taken today in the interest of national security will be subject to legal recriminations when the political winds shift. Indeed, there is a substantial risk that the mere prospect of criminal liability for terrorist interrogations is already impending our intelligence efforts, as demonstrated from the fact that CIA officials increasingly feel compelled to obtain legal defense insurance.”

The senators are wrong. Jane Mayer, in her book The Dark Side, said there was a mountain of evidence to support prosecutions and a belief by some “insiders that [Helgerson’s investigation] would end with criminal charges for abusive interrogations.”

But top Justice Department officials, including former criminal division Michael Chertoff, his deputy Alice Fisher and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, allowed the cases to languish and may have even scuttled the probes to protect the Bush White House.

McNulty resigned in disgrace two years ago and is under scrutiny by a special prosecutor investigating the firings of nine U.S. Attorneys. McNulty faces obstruction of justice and perjury charges related to his February 2007 testimony to Congress about the ordeal.

In an interview with Harper’s magazine last year, Mayer said Helgerson “investigated several alleged homicides involving CIA detainees, and that Helgerson’s office forwarded several to the Justice Department for further consideration and potential prosecution.”

“The only case so far that has been prosecuted in the criminal courts is that involving David Passaro—a low-level CIA contractor, not a full official in the Agency. Why have there been no charges filed? It’s a question to which one would expect that Congress and the public would like some answers.

“Sources suggested to me that, as you imply, it is highly uncomfortable for top Bush Justice officials to prosecute these cases because, inevitably, it means shining a light on what those same officials sanctioned. Chertoff’s role in particular seems ripe for investigation. Alice Fisher’s role also seems of interest. Much remains to be uncovered.”

Mayer also reported that another possible reason that the Justice Department investigations went nowhere was that Vice President Cheney intervened and demanded that Helgerson meet with him privately about his investigation. Mayer characterized Cheney’s interaction with Helgerson as highly unusual.

Cheney’s “reaction to this first, carefully documented in-house study concluding that the CIA’s secret program was most likely criminal was to summon the Inspector General to his office for a private chat,” Mayer wrote in her book The Dark Side.

“The Inspector General is supposed to function as an independent overseer, free from political pressure, but Cheney summoned the CIA Inspector General more than once to his office.”

“Cheney loomed over everything,” one former CIA officer told Mayer. “The whole IG’s office was completely politicized. They were working hand in glove with the White House.”

In their letter, the senators also said “media reports also suggest that the interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, would be a primary focus of the investigation that you envision.”

Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in the span of a single month, far above the legal limit imposed by the August 2002 torture memos.  Helgerson, Mayer wrote in her book, “had serious questions about the agency’s mistreatment of dozens more, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.”

The Republican lawmakers said “the interrogation of KSM, and others like him, produced information that was absolutely vital to apprehending other al Qaeda terrorists and preventing additional attacks on the United States.”

They then go on to blame the Obama administration for failing to provide justice for the victims of 9/11.

“It is ironic that the Obama Administration, which has delayed justice for the victims of September 11 by suspending the trial of KSM, may soon be charging ahead to prosecute the very CIA officials who obtained critical information from him,” the Republican lawmakers wrote. “That KSM’s treatment is receiving more prompt attention from the Justice Department than his depraved acts cannot be justified.”

On the other end of the political spectrum, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, said in a letter to Holder Aug. 4 that if he does appoint a special counsel to probe the Bush administration’s program of torture, it must include the top officials who created and implemented the policy.

“There simply is no legal, moral or principled reason to insulate those who authorized the torture of detainees, either through legal reasoning or other policy directive, from investigation,” Nadler wrote

“First, such an investigation would fail to consider the possible violation of laws by high-ranking officials and lawyers who, through legal advice or otherwise, may have authorized torture,” Nadler wrote.

“This country has been instrumental in establishing the principle that high-ranking officials and lawyers who use legal reasoning to justify or otherwise authorize war crimes can, and should, be held legally accountable. The ban on torture is absolute and we have a legal obligation to investigate torture and all of those who may have been party to its use.”

Nadler, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and about a dozen other Democrats on the committee, sent a similar letter to Holder earlier this year.

President Obama has already stated numerous times that he does not support a truth commission or any effort that would result in looking “backwards” into the Bush administration’s policies.

Considering the backlash the Obama administration and Democrats faced from their Republican colleagues this month over a proposal to reform the healthcare industry, and the extreme partisanship over Obama’s domestic policies in general, it’s entirely possible that the fear-mongering in the letter sent to Holder Wednesday could have an impact on his decision.

At the Netroots Nation conference last week in Pittsburgh, Nadler said, “As difficult and traumatic” a criminal investigation “may be for the nation we must proceed.”

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9 Responses for “GOP Senators: US Faces Terrorist Attack If Holder Probes Bush’s Torture Program”

  1. David says:

    Why don’t the nine GOP senators just sign their letter “the terrorists”.

    It’s an old style protection racket they’re running.

    Goes something like this,

    Senators: Gee Mr. and Mrs. America, sure is a nice country ya got here. Sure would be bad if it got messed up by some terrorism.

    America: Really senators, you think we might get hit by some terrorism???

    Senators: No no no Mr. and Mrs. America, we’ve got our intelligence guys watching the terrorists real close like. Don’t you worry. You’ll be safe, except our intelligence guys work real hard. long hours with crappy equipment. Sometimes accidents happen and they let one get through.

    America: They let one through from time to time???? What does that mean? What can we do?

    Senators: Can’t do nothing Mr. and Mrs. America. It’s just the way it is…Unless maybe you give us more money and authority. Support our hard line anti-terrorism bills.

    America: How much do you need?….

  2. These are the usual suspects. If we had an administration that fulfilled a tenth of it’s potential, the investigations would be going full tilt, with grand juries empaneled all over the country.

    But we got window dressing. Forget health care. We have a Republican party leadership which engaged in activity bordering on treason. The DOJ has been turned into a right wing cudgel, and Democratic politicians across the country are falsely imprisoned.

    Meanwhile, these thugs continue to lie, protecting the establishment that feeds them.

    Conyers and the most of the rest of Congressional Democrats are cowards, and the country becomes increasingly fascist as Republican criminals run loose, biding their time for a comeback. They are just like a burglar who lives across the street. If you don’t bust and imprison them, they will continue to rob you again and again.

  3. Ynda says:

    By making investigating torture is like a no-go area, its like giving permission for it to continue.

    This message is like saying “if you are going to torture anybody, just make sure nobody finds out, ok?”

    Not exactly a moral high ground.

    I say find the torturers, put them on trial; find out who authorized torture, put them on trial. Send out a message that only bad guys torture and I don’t want my kids to grow up where the bad guys are us!

  4. Douglas W. Reynolds, Jr. says:

    This is a good example of why Presidents–and interested parties–should not interfere except in manifest cases of malfeasance with the operations of the Department of Justice. Holder should have launched the investigation the day he was sworn in as Attorney General; by now we might have had at least the initial criminal indictments which are now so long overdue. This is the United States of America: under the rule of law we can do things differently from any other nation on Earth–and justify ourselves to the civilized world by our Constitution-published values, not by our elected criminals’ criminal activities.

  5. thedeanpeople says:

    Obama’s refusal — even thus far — to simply abide by and enforce the laws and treaty obligations our greater generations fought and died to forge has secured his historic infamy as the Driver of the Torture Getaway Car.

    These unprecedented circumstances demands unprecedented treatment. And sadly, our current “Justus” dept. is simply no longer equipped for the task.

    What it required here — to even begin to redeem Our National Soul — is not another fig-leaf commission but a proper Tribunal. Such an authority could also oversee panels to fact-find and admonish the lesser players among congress, the military, the judiciary, and the foreign service.

    This is no pipe dream. In fact, the detachment and gravitas required already exists in the person of Justice David Souter.

    The only thing lacking is the mettle of Our Lamest Generation, who prefer to rely on bailouts, steroids, and war crimes to “solve problems” (rather, allay their fears of inadequacy).


  6. Petr Buben says:

    9/11 is a controlled demolition. per irrefutable scientific evidence, and per common sense.
    a lot of things need to be reevaluated.

  7. Nik Green says:

    Logic dictates that if just one aspect in the official story can be proven a lie, then the “inside job” hypothesis is strengthened. Two would further reinforce this position, and multiple instances of lies in the official version would render the “inside job” hypothesis invincible. This converse is not the case: for the official story to hold up as a historical truth, everything about it must be proven correct.

    If just one of the following questions cannot be answered *satisfactorily* (using all the evidence available as opposed to carefully cherry-picking the convenient stuff, then we have a big problem.

    * Was it a coincidence that the Bush administration changed the protocol for NORAD intercepts in June of 2001 after it had been working flawlessly for years ?
    * Was it a coincidence that the White House went on Cipro at the advice of Jerome Hauer on the day of 9-11?
    * Was it a coincidence that the NRO was doing a drill on 9-11 of a plane running into a building?
    * Was it a coincidence that numerous other military drills and exercises, even involving hijacked planes, were taking place at exactly the same time* as the actual event?
    * Why did the Bush White House refuse to agree to any form of investigation of 9/11 for 441 days after the attacks, when it is standard practice to quickly set up a “no holds barred” inquiry into a national tragedy of such proportions?
    * Why did the Bush Administration and Pentagon, according to Kean and Hamilton, “refuse to cooperate, and more” with the 9/11 Commission?
    * 9/11 Commissioner Timothy Roemer said “We were extremely frustrated with the false statements we were getting”. This sounds like the Commission was being led astray from the get go.
    * 9/11 Commissioner Max Cleland resigned from the Commission, stating: “It is a national scandal”; “This investigation is now compromised”; and “One of these days we will have to get the full story because the 9-11 issue is so important to America. But this White House wants to cover it up”,” and also “at some level of the government, at some point in time…there was an agreement not to tell the truth about what happened”. Doesn’t sound too good, does it?
    * The intimidation of witnesses in a criminal trial is a very serious offense. Throughout the 9/11 Commission hearings, Government “minders” aggressively intimidated Commission witnesses on a wholesale basis, with impunity. What would be the point in witness tampering (outside of the fact that it’s illegal?)
    * CIA chief Tenet demonstrably lied to the Commissioners in closed session meetings. Who was he trying to protect? Osama bin Laden?
    * Despite the common awareness in the intelligence and law enforcement community that torture is a counterproductive method of obtaining worthwhile information, the huge majority of the Commission’s “evidence” was extracted by torturing supposed suspects. (Is the government’s story so weak that they have to resort to Saddam Hussein-like methods to extract the material they want?).
    * John Farmer, the lead counsel to the Commission, claims in his forthcoming book that the greater part of the Commission’s findings “are untrue”. He also states: “The Commission’s co-chairs said that the CIA (and likely the White House) “obstructed our investigation”. Indeed, they said that the 9/11 Commissioners knew that military officials misrepresented the facts to the Commission, and the Commission considered recommending criminal charges for such false statements.
    * Why was Philip Zelikow, a leading neoConservative, selected to to be the executive director of what was billed as “an independent inquiry in which no stones would be left unturned”?
    * Was it a coincidence that the Bush administration pushed Tom Daschle “not to investigate 9/11 thoroughly”?
    * Was it a coincidence that lead opposition leaders and journalists got attacked with weaponized military grade anthrax pointing to the US weapons lab at Ft. Detrick, MD?
    * Why was 90% of the evidence presented to the 9/11 Commission, much of it from NYFD and NYPD records and tape transcripts, disallowed by Philip Zelikow?
    * Both Commission co-chairs, Kean and Hamilton, summarily trashed their own Commission, admitting that as a result of the way it was formulated, the Commission was “set up to fail”. Why was it deliberately “set up to fail”?
    * Why did both Bush and Cheney refuse to take an oath, as well refuse any transcript or public record of what was discussed?
    * Why did VP Cheney demonstratively lie in to the 9/11 Commission regarding his whereabouts and movements on the morning of 9/11?
    * What were the orders to which former Transportation Sec. Norman Mineta referred to when testifying under oath before the 9/11 Commission, regarding the plane that was clearly headed towards the Pentagon? (Richard Clark confirms that Cheney goes to bunker at 9:10, David Bohrer, White House photographer, confirms timeline, military personnel are aware of plane & are tracking it on radar, Cheney was made aware of plane being 50,30,10 miles out at 9:26, ABC News confirms this fact,Pentagon is hit at 9:38. In those 12 minutes, Cheney never alerted Pentagon employees to evacuate which caused 125 people to die).
    * Why was not a single, solitary person employed by all of the agencies that failed so badly that day, and in the weeks beforehand, fired, demoted, reprimanded, suspended etc etc?
    * Why was tampering with the crime scenes at the WTC, Pentagon and Shanksville not prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law? Tampering with a federal crime scene is a felony, yet nobody has been prosecuted.
    * Why was NIST denied access to requested materials from the WTC for analysis in their quest to determine how and why the Twin Towers collapsed?
    * Why were FAA tapes deliberately destroyed that morning?
    The nature of the attack on the Pentagon, one of the most surveilled buildings on the planet, is surrounded by controversy. This could be settled once and for all, should the military release video of the impact, caught by numerous cameras in the grounds and surrounding area. But they wont… Is it not surprising that people are asking pertinent questions?
    The phone calls that allegedly were sent by Barbara Olson, wife of former Solicitor General, from Flight 77 did *not* happen, according to the FBI, in the trial transcript of Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged 20th hijacker. (These nonexistent phone calls were the origin of the “hijackers with boxcutters” tales, and “passengers herded to the rear of the plane”. So much for that!).
    * 3 FBI agents who warned specifically of the date, time, location and method of attack were threatened with being prosecuted under the 1947 National Security Act had they pursued this evidence. Why?
    * Osama bin Laden, on the FBI’s “most wanted” list for the Embassy and Cole attacks, despite his appearance in a videotape where he describes foreknowledge of the attack and its effects on the WTC towers, has not been indicted by the DOJ, (let alone charged) in connection with 9/11. Why not? (Criminals, such as drug dealers get indicted by video “sting” evidence on a daily basis).
    * The method of attack is utterly out of pattern for al Qaeda or any militant Islamic group. Nothing like it has been attempted before or since.
    *The behavior of the Bush White House, before, during and in the wake of the attacks, is 100% inconsistent with what any rational person would expect from a government which, in their own words, “was taken completely by surprise” by the attacks. Anyone should be able to see that; it also doesn’t require any “alternative explanation” of the attacks to “get it”.

  8. AGreatDayinAmerica says:

    Ahhhh, yet another occasion about which to celebrate! Could have seen this coming but how delightful that it did!

    Nothing is more enlightening to people on the verge of being enlightened than repeatedly seeing/hearing/watching the transparency of desperate nonsense like this.

    At some point, it all becomes clear: “Hey, this is nonsense!.” Yes, dangerous nonsense. It’s a waste of valuable time trying to make sense out of nonsense. Instead, it’s time for action on this.

  9. anonymously says:

    “Holder’s former Law Firm Brags about its GOP ties”

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