Panetta providing cover for advisers complicit in CIA torture: investigator
Rachel Oswald
Published: Thursday April 9, 2009

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In light of the revelations in the Red Cross torture report, one private investigator is speculating that the CIA director's continuing argument that the Justice Department shouldn't release three Bush-era torture memos is seeming more and more like an attempt to provide cover to CIA advisers who were likely complicit in the formulation of agency torture policies.

Writing in the Daily Beast Wednesday, John Sifton, a private investigator and attorney, says Leon Panetta is giving cover to two of his subordinates by pleading with the Obama administration to not release three torture memos by a former Office of Legal Counsel attorney that the American Civil Liberties Union has sued to gain access to.

"Take Stephen Kappes," writes Sifton. "At the time of the worst torture sessions outlined in the ICRC report, Kappes served as a senior official in the Directorate of Operations—the operational part of the CIA that oversees paramilitary operations as well as the high-value detention program. (The directorate of operations is now known as the National Clandestine Service.) Panetta has kept Kappes as deputy director of the CIA—the number two official in the agency."

Michael Sulick, a deputy of Kappes from 2002-2004, is now the director of the agency's National Clandestine Service, another very senior position at the CIA.

"Since the basic facts about their involvement in the CIA interrogation program are now known, Panetta’s actions are increasingly looking like a cover-up," asserts Sifton.

Earlier this week, The New York Review of Books published the full contents of a confidential International Committee of the Red Cross’s 40-page report on torture practices at Guantanamo Bay and at black site prisons abroad. The report’s leaking has made waves with its gruesome descriptions of interrogation practices such as suffocation by water, beatings by collar, assaults by dog and forced isolation.

While the ICRC did not give the names of any of the CIA officials involved in the harsh interrogation practices, as Sifton notes, the ICRC was told by former CIA Director Michael Hayden, that interrogation plans for detainees were submitted to CIA headquarters were approved by the “Director or Deputy Director of the CIA.” It can be inferred then, that knowledge (and acceptance) of the interrogation practices was held at the highest levels of the CIA and would likely include Panetta’s deputies.

Panetta himself is new to the intelligence field and was not involved in the creation of the criticized interrogation practices. Prior to President Obama's appointment of him as CIA director, Panetta held positions as President Clinton's Chief of Staff and as a member of the House of Representatives.

The Department of Justice has until April 16 to decide to disclose the three OLC torture memos, authored by Steven Bradbury in 2005. The ACLU agreed to the extension in its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the government after the DOJ promised to also consider releasing an additional torture memo. This memo, written by OLC attorney Jay Bybee in August 2002, is believed to provide the first framework for the CIA's interrogation program.

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