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John Brennan: Extremely Powerful. Torture Cover-Ups: Extremely Deluded

Adam Serwer at TAPPED, reading reports of how White House aide John Brennan is pushing to stop declassifications of torturous CIA interrogations, observes:

Brennan may have withdrawn his name from consideration as head of the CIA, but he’s clearly winning the battle over who has more influence with the president. Civil libertarians didn’t beat Brennan. He beat them.

Just saying: who called this? Back in January? Huh? All right then.

Substantively, those who are arguing against disclosure — in response to an American Civil Liberties Union court challenge, remember — mount a weak case. As The Wall Street Journal puts it:

But top CIA officials and some in the White House argue that disclosing such secrets will undermine the agency’s credibility with foreign intelligence services. They also say revealing operational details will embroil officers in probes of activities that were cleared by Justice Department lawyers at the time.

Of course, what the ACLU wants are those Justice Department memos as well, so it’s clear that these are techniques that the Bush Justice Department ordered. As for embroiling them in probes, there’s already a congressional probe brought by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The broiler’s already on. And what credibility problem exists if the CIA, acting per President Obama’s orders, no longer tortures people? Going further on that point, the CIA is the most prestigious intelligence agency in the world. Other intelligence services, with puny budgets by comparison, want to bandwagon with it, not against it. That intractable power dynamic is the surest hedge against any “credibility” concern.

And let’s also not lose the forest for the trees. Thanks to Mark Danner at The New York Review of Books, we already have a taxonomy from the International Committee of the Red Cross of what sorts of torture detainees endured at the CIA’s hands. Al-Qaeda already has its propaganda tool. The only way it could add to that propaganda line would be if the Obama administration sowed doubt through excessive secrecy that it really was repudiating the torture policies of the Bush administration.

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