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CIA Says Military Officers Threatened Detainees, Too

I’m already hearing speculative groans that the CIA planted this story with Walter Pincus at The Washington Post today about how a military commander in 2003 did things just as bad as the things the CIA interrogators discussed in the recently-released CIA inspector general report did, so Attorney General Eric Holder’s investigation into CIA actions is unfair.

According to the Post story, and a document released to the American Civil Liberties Union that backs it up, Lt. Col. Allen B. West in 2003 admitted to letting three soldiers beat up an Iraqi police officer, and then threatened him with a knife and a gun, hoping to make the Iraqi think West would kill him if he didn’t provide information on a planned attack on the officer and his unit. He eventually provided the information.

Because the CIA inspector general in his 2004 report listed similar threats against detainees by a CIA interrogator among the most disturbing actions, writes Pincus, “CIA officials wonder whether a double standard is at play — one that penalizes intelligence officers more harshly than the military for the use of coercion in interrogating detainees.”

While this story could be read the way the CIA would like it to be — which would still require setting aside all the other brutal torture tactics they used on detainees — it could also be read to provide strong support for the view that a far broader investigation ought to take place to reveal what the United States government — both the CIA and the military — were doing to detainees in their custody, whether laws were broken, and if so, who should be held accountable.

Complaining that the Defense Department was as bad as the CIA is a lousy argument for burying our heads in the sand.

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