CIA officials involved in detainee abuse rarely reprimanded, sometimes promoted

By Pro Publica
Wednesday, February 9, 2011 21:03 EDT
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CIA officers who were involved in cases of wrongful imprisonment, mistreatment and even detainee deaths have often avoided serious punishment and in many cases been promoted within the agency, an investigation by the Associated Press has found.

Take the case of German citizen Khaled El-Masri, who was kidnapped and transferred to a secret prison in Afghanistan for interrogation in 2003. US officials have since admitted that the CIA wrongfully imprisoned El-Masri.

Though the lawyer who signed off on the decision received a reprimand, the CIA never punished the analyst who pressed for El-Masri’s wrongful rendition, despite recommendations from the CIA’s inspector general, AP reported.

A former CIA official told the Washington Post in 2005 that the analyst “didn’t really know. She just had a hunch” when she made the decision regarding El-Masri. The analyst now runs the CIA’s Global Jihad unit, which leads the US government’s counterterrorism efforts against al-Qaeda.

She’s hardly the only example of the CIA’s failure to hold officers accountable for their decisions. Other cases in the AP story in which officers made serious mistakes with little to no punishment include:

* A case in which a terrorism suspect froze to death in a makeshift prison in Afghanistan after CIA officers stripped him and left him overnight in an unheated cell. An investigation of the incident raised concerns about the top officer at the prison, the CIA’s station chief in Afghanistan, and management at headquarters. Nobody was punished.

* A case in which a CIA interrogator performed a “mock execution” by holding an unloaded gun and bitless drill to the head of an al-Qaeda operative at a secret CIA prison in Poland. Mock executions are not authorized by the Justice Department, but the interrogator received only a reprimand.

* A case of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib in which a prisoner was interrogated, covered by a hood, shackled to a window, and found dead a half hour later. His death was ruled a homicide and the medical examiner said the hood over his head and the position he was constrained to contributed to his death, but the CIA officer who ran the detainee unit only received a letter of reprimand.

Many of the internal investigations which found past mistakes by CIA officers were conducted by the CIA’s inspector general—a position that sat vacant for more than a year before a new inspector general was sworn in last fall.

A CIA spokesman told the AP, “Any suggestion that the agency does not take seriously its obligation to review employee misconduct — including those of senior officers — is flat wrong,”and said that CIA Director Leon Pannetta has fired employees for misconduct.

Shorter versions of the AP story have been published elsewhere, but for all the details, read the full report.

By Marian Wang, ProPublica

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  • Knot

    So Boss Hogg runs the CIA?

  • Taleisin

    We have all known this since the footage from Abu Ghraib was released.
    These American torturers are doing exactly what their bosses want, and loving it.

    ‘Wrongful rendition’? When is it ‘rightful’? What a joke!

  • Anonymous

    Horrific. Absolutely bloody Horrific.

    It’s like the film frame disappearing from the worst Saw movie – of which I have only ever seen a trailer – combined with the worst Nazi torture scene combined with the worst of the very real Vietnam scenes coming to life in my head.

    I try really hard to differentiate between ordinary Americans and their government’s worst excesses, but it really is very, very, hard to know the difference these days.

    You have the Egyptians standing up for their rights in Tahrir Square right now – while Americans either just sit there taking it – or an extremely large minority is seemingly screaming on the forums for more of the same.

    There are ‘conscience-less’ drones destroying lives in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.


    I don’t personally know of any GODhead that would put up with this.

  • H.P. Loathecraft

    Mubarack Obushma. The despots of the world are all beginning to blur into one giant multi-tentacled monster.

  • Anonymous

    These people do not prosecute themselves. Is that what you wanted to hear at the end of the story? Since killing the Kennedys, they’ve been running the country and no one has stop them to this day.

  • Anonymous

    “CIA officials involved in detainee abuse rarely reprimanded, sometimes promoted”…

    Of course, they are the CIA…..

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Valentine/1277133078 Michael Valentine

    War crimes ignored are war crimes encouraged.

  • Anonymous

    As appalling as these accounts of CIA misconduct are, they are among the least offensive of this agency’s lengthy history of outrageous crimes (routinely involving murder and international drug trafficking), always carried out under the guise of U.S. national security interests. This rogue criminal syndicate, in fact, acts completely independent, and most often counter to the interests, of the U.S. government.

  • Anonymous

    That was the first thing Obushma did to piss me off… obstructing justice to protect war criminals.

    Manadel Al Jamadi was killed by SEALs and CIA at Abu Ghraib in 2004, he was the dead guy the female soldier posed next to who got 10 months in prison for that photo, she served 10 months for her thumbs up pose while the ones who tortured this man to death, one of MANY war crimes, haven’t lost an hour of their freedom.

    We as a nation were once better than this.

  • http://twitter.com/btmfdrsheaven rebecca meritt

    As long as they satisfy their lust for torture and murder “over there” we’ll be ok but, Bygod,if they come home and do it,we got the 2nd amendment and my right to carry is gonna save me,cuz they’s afraid of me. Jeezus H. Kristus,nuke me now, get it over with.

  • Anonymous

    I believe Italy issued arrest warrants for CIA agents. Wasn’t Bin Laden also a CIA asset? How about the christmas underwear bomber on flight 253 in Detroit (google Kurt Haskel). It’s all legal for them but we pay the price of losing our freedom. Don’t you love this country?

  • mjcc1987

    I think the term we are looking for is fuck up, move up. See, in Gov, the guy/gal that truly hosed something if they are compliant, will not tell on the others and thus the reward is a promotion or a better job. Kind of works that way in private industry. Nothing new here. The “system” has no morality and apparently the people don’t either.