“Holy Hell Has Broken Loose”: Controversial Obama Intelligence Official Blocks Efforts to Release Torture Memos

torture -abu ghraibThere is an astonishing effort by intelligence officials to block Attorney General Eric Holder and White House counsel Gregory Craig from releasing torture memos from the Justice Department. A senior national-security aide named John Brennan is leading the effort to block the release with the backing of people at the CIA. It takes considerable hubris given the CIA’s knowing destruction of evidence of torture and obvious motivation to withhold the memoranda to further conceal the agency’s involvement in war crimes. One official is quoted as saying “Holy hell has broken loose over this.” That is certainly the proper venue for officials still struggling to cover-up evidence of war crimes.

What is most disturbing is the role of Brennan who Obama considered as agency director. Brennan was blocked by critics who rightly saw the former senior CIA official as too close to past officials involved in such programs as the torture program. Brennan has now proven his critics to be absolutely correct about their distrust. Nevertheless, the Obama Administration (which has retained a number of controversial intelligence officials from the Bush years) still put Brennan into a high position overseeing intelligence issues at the National Security Council. There is also a concern over CIA Director Leon Panetta who has adopted a highly defensive role in protecting the agency and is now viewed as less than a reformer at the agency.
At issue is the follow up to the controversial 2002 torture memo, written by former Justice lawyers Jay Bybee and John Yoo. That memo has been rounded criticized as containing extremist theories and shoddy work (Bybee was rewarded by being given a lifetime appointment as a federal appellate judge). The Bush Administration withdrew the memo after public outcry. Steven Bradbury, the former head of Office of Legal Counsel, then secretly authored additional memos in the spring of 2005 that essentially approved the same techniques, including the use of head-slapping and frigid temperatures, according to a 2007 New York Times account. Those memos concluded that the harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA would not violate Geneva Conventions restrictions on “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment of prisoners.

The suggestion that such a legal memo should be kept concealed shows the continued fears at the CIA of a war crimes charge. These continued squabbles would be put to rest if President Obama would simply fulfill his clear obligation to order an investigation into war crimes committed by the Bush Administration. Brennan is seeking to conceal evidence of criminal acts that should be in the hands of not just the public but a special prosecutor.

Given Brennan’s obstruction, Obama will now have to personally order the release of the information.

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17 thoughts on ““Holy Hell Has Broken Loose”: Controversial Obama Intelligence Official Blocks Efforts to Release Torture Memos”

  1. I am so angry with the President for giving the CIA agents immunity for following orders. Those Enlisted people at the prison in Iraq did not get immunity for following orders. They are in prison because they should have known better. The reason for this was they knew they were not required to follow those types of orders. Our CIA agents who are more educated – but they didn’t know better. They “just followed orders” so they must be excused.

  2. Brennan holds the upper hand here fellas. Remember it was his contractor employee who breached Obama’s passport file and cauterized Obama’s info. Blackmail in Washington gets you everywhere. Has anyone heard of Obama’s view on the U.S. attorney’s. Is he gonna fire anyone? Jeffery Taylor? All hell is about to break loose but only for reasons not discussed here. Quo Warranto.

  3. Again, unless I miss my guess, this has nothing to do with cowardice (OR evil) and everything to do with legal liability coverage issues.

    I suspect the Obama administration is ‘exercising caution’ in delaying release of the three memos AND in adding another, but not for the nefarious reasons you all are so willing to attribute as Obama being ‘in bed’ with Cheney. Cheney had been hanging around practically daring Obama to do blow his cool AND possibly the lid off this whole thing – prematurely.

    Our new president is smarter than that and knows what ‘priority’ means. Without some stability in the economy and the world, none of ‘this’ is going to matter very much.

    I’d rather have it right than in haste…


    …”A draft of the report completed in December by the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is described by officials who have been briefed on its contents as highly critical of three authors of legal memorandums on interrogation: Jay S. Bybee, John C. Yoo and Mr. Bradbury.

    Answering a query from the two senators last week, M. Faith Burton, the acting head of legislative affairs at the Justice Department, suggested that the report was far from ready for public release. She said copies had been given to the former department lawyers whose work it criticizes and the department was awaiting their comments before beginning additional reviews.

    “Due to the complexity and classification level of the draft report, the review process described above likely will require substantial time and effort,” Ms. Burton wrote.

    In their reply on Tuesday, Mr. Durbin and Mr. Whitehouse objected to the delays and expressed concern that the multiple reviews might water down the report”…

  4. “Eric Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, said Wednesday the United States was “a nation of cowards” on matters of race, with most Americans avoiding candid discussions of racial issues.”

    Mr. Holder and Mr. Obama appear to me to be national cowards on matters of war crimes…

  5. If there was the same effort for the rule of law as there is in driving the tobacco industry out of business and creating a cigarette black market due to zealot tax increases, Bush/Cheney would be in a lot of trouble.

  6. Jill and Rafflaw-
    I agree that Powell’s comments, on their face, don’t look like cooperation at all, but I was encouraged by Scott Horton’s take: on this.

    Horton says Leahy is bringing up Truth Commissions again because “Perhaps Leahy just realized that his proposal got support from the nation’s most popular Republican—Colin Powell.” (link at sig)

    I guess it depends on whether Powell is on the side unleashing “holy hell” or putting out those fires, behind the scenes.

  7. rafflaw:

    “Jill and Buddha and Mespo, you guys are up awfully early on a Saturday morning!”


    That’s the plight of the diligent.

  8. David,

    I missed that one and agree with rafflaw that it clearly indicates he won’t be telling the truth. Brennan’s claim that:

    “argued that release of the memos could embarrass foreign intelligence services who cooperated with the CIA,” is ridiculous on its face. This information is already public knowledge in the UK, detainees have written complete accounts of their torture and rendition which are published. Canada has apologized and compensated a victim with which they cooperated in an unlawful rendition leading to torture. About the only people who aren’t allowed to know are the US public. Brennan’s cries are not the reason this is being withheld from the public in the US.


    It’s nice to hear the birds in the morning!

  9. David,
    While I hope your are correct, Powell’s responses were eveidence that he would not be telling the truth about the decision behind torture that he was a part of. I do believe that all of these efforts by Brennan will backfire and Holder’s view will win out. It won’t be pretty, but the truth will come out.
    Jill and Buddha and Mespo, you guys are up awfully early on a Saturday morning!
    Take your venom and your troll friends somewhere else that does not care about the truth and facts.

  10. Jill-
    That’s a good point. To paraphrase Dick the Butcher, “the first thing you do, you [jail] all the lawyers.” I’ve noticed that what are to me heroic whistleblower lawyers, like Matt Diaz, Thomas Tamm and Charles Swift, end up not with accolades, but with ruined careers, at least in an economic sense. I’m hoping they each secure book deals that leaves them rewarded, and not economically devastated, for taking a stand against a government which believed it could tell lawyers to ignore their oaths.

    BTW, Did you catch Maddow’s interview with Powell in which he said “We had no meetings on torture… we talked about what is it we can do with respect to trying to get information from individuals.” See the difference? Me neither.

    I was encouraged though by Powell’s view that “we will just have to wait until the full written record is available” as it apparently means he sides with Holder. As much as I disagree with Powell’s characterization above, his support will hopefully lead to the “full written record” eventually coming out.

  11. Obama and many in Congress are up to their eyeballs in “torture allegations. Fortunately saner people will prevail and the nitwits that want to ruin American intelligence and put the country at risk are being marginalized even by their “HERO” Obama.

    Hey Turley, you mean NOTHING to this administration. You and your rat pack at MSNBC are clowns to be used as far as the Obama adminstration is concerned.

    Turley why don’t you and your little group of haters just buy and island somewhere and go form your own little “perfect” country. LOL>


  12. I would also like to note what I believe are two related events in addition to the Spainish trial that would be aided by the information in these memos. 1. the British investigation into war crimes is going forward. 2. quite distrubingly, is the this news:

    “Clive Stafford Smith is accused of ‘unprofessional conduct’ by Pentagon officials who monitor communication between Gitmo prisoners and their lawyers.

    Lawyers for Binyam Mohamed face the incredible prospect of a six-month jail sentence in America after writing a letter to President Obama detailing their client’s allegations of torture by U.S. agents.” (alternet)

    This relates to a redacted memo (redacted by our own DOD) sent to Obama outlining the torture of Binyam Mohamed, including that occuring and intensifyin under Obama’s leadership. The memo was believed to have been redacted in order to provide the president with “plausible” deniability regarding the information on torture.

    There is obviously a concerted effort by the Obama administration to protect war criminals by any means necessary. There are too many actions too ignore this conslusion. By this time Obama is, as JT pointed out earlier, making himself an accesory to war crimes. If the information about intensification of war crimes in Gitmo is coming out, as it will in the UK trial, that could mean Obama might be implicated in war crimes himself.

    There is no justification, other than the protection of war criminals to withhold these memos. The administration has claimed it would release them. They keep asking for extensions to do so. I hope the court rules against them and the information is released to the public, to whom it belongs.

  13. No, Brennan is wrong.

    Fear has broken loose.

    Holy Hell will break loose unless the Bush Crime Family is made to pay for ordering torture and violating the Constitution.

    I’d once again remind Brennan that no one wants the torturers proper unless they strayed from being sadists into being murderers of rapists. We want the people who ordered the torture and, hey, if it embarrasses allies that were stupid enough to help Bush Co. violate our Constitution and international law that’s just too damn bad.

    But the Neocons who gave CIA cover? They need to meet an unpleasant end. That is not negotiable. If they aren’t brought to justice, Brennan will think Holy Hell is a good alternative to what will happen absent punishing the guilty.

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