Sunday, December 14, 2008

Scott Horton on the Still Classified Portions of Senate Report

Scott Horton, whose access to Washington insiders is astronomically greater than my own, looked at the new Levin/McCain report on U.S. Detainee Treatment, and offers some insight into what is not in the report. For one thing, this report contains only declassified material. According to Horton, "the full report is filled with classified information and therefore has been submitted to the Department of Defense with a request that the materials be declassified for release."

Horton maintains that the classified version of the report contains yet further "bombshells" about the reverse-engineering of SERE torture techniques.
And deep in its classified hold, the report looks into the use of psychotropic drugs which were, with Donald Rumsfeld’s approval, routinely administered to prisoners in order to facilitate their interrogation—in violation of international agreements and American criminal law.
It will be very interesting to get this formerly classified information into public hands, but the use of psychotropic drugs on prisoners has been previously revealed, and in fact has a long history, especially as researched and operationalized by the CIA. These are matters of written history.

Horton's article also includes a few vital points necessary for putting the Senate's report into context:
The report, even in its still-classified form, does not tell the whole story of what happened. It does not address the program administered by the CIA. And even with respect to the Department of Defense, the Committee and its investigators were effectively stonewalled by the United States Special Operations Command and its overlords in the Pentagon who failed to provide information about special rules of engagement introduced with the authority of Undersecretary of Defense Stephen Cambone that authorized the torture and mistreatment of prisoners held for intelligence interrogation in operations dating back to the earliest weeks of the “war on terror.”
If you know more, Scott, please tell us. A Google search on "special rules of engagement in Afghanistan" brought up almost nothing.

It is supposedly a truism that in Washington access to knowledge is akin to access to power. How much is being kept from the American people? How can anyone not believe that whatever has been revealed thus far is nothing more than the proverbial peak of an iceberg, and that under the surface of the surrounding waters lies an immense bulk of secrets and crimes, far greater than what we know or think we know?

This is what happens when you turn your government over to the secret forces of intelligence agencies and covert military programs. The breeding ground of such activities was World War II and the Korean War. It led to the genocidal war in Vietnam and Southeast Asia, and its tracks can be discerned in the death squads and disappearances and coups in Latin America, and throughout the Middle East, from Egypt to the steps of the Himalayas.

The fight to stop torture has a moral imperative all its own. But another important component of the fight is to reveal to the average citizen the true meaning and constitution of what the nation has become. It is almost impossible to believe, given how far the cancer has gone, that evils so entrenched can be extirpated sort of tremendously radical change. The forms of that change are yet obscure to us, as they lie in the future.

For us, the tasks now are to press for an end to the worst excesses, and press for a political action program without illusions.

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