Three Things the CIA Is Doing to Undermine American Values

No one is getting off the island during the Guantanamo hunger strike, where there aren't review boards. And did we mention the latest on drones and financing Afghan warlords? Here are a few core democratic principles the CIA is glossing over these days.

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One hundred detainees at Guanantamo Bay are on a hunger strike, and the Navy sent 40 sailors to the base over the weekend to keep the prisoners from dying. "We will not allow a detainee to starve themselves to death and we will continue to treat each person humanely," Lt. Col. Samuel House said. Why are they on a hunger strike? The New York Times and the Miami Herald have pointed to a single explanation: despair. No one is getting off the island. Not only has President Obama been unable to close the detention facility, but a compromise measure, parole-style hearings to determine if some detainees should be transferred, has been delayed more than a year. Why? Because the federal bureaucracy can't decide what to do with evidence obtained by torture. The most important factor, the Times reports, is that the CIA won't admit that it used torture. Here are a few core democratic principles the CIA is glossing over these days:

No review boards at Gitmo.

Guantanamo detainees can't get their "Periodic Review Board" hearings because of "interagency fights" over how to deal with evidence obtained by torture. "In particular, they said, the C.I.A. has resisted any formal pronouncement that its interrogators violated that standard," the Times' Charlie Savage reports. A 600-page independent review by the nonprofit Constitution Center concluded in April that "it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture." At his confirmation to be CIA chief in February, John Brennan refused to say whether waterboarding is torture. "As far as I'm concerned, waterboarding is something that never should have been employed, and as far as I'm concerned, never will be if I have anything to do with it," Brennan said. But did it violate the Geneva Conventions? "I believe the attorney general also has said it's contrary and in contravention of the Geneva Convention. Again, I'm not a lawyer or a legal scholar to make the determination as to what's in violation of an international convention."

No due process when you're droned.

It's not just that the CIA has droned four Americans, one of them intentionally, in a borderless perpetual war. It's that the CIA doesn't have to justify that decision in public. "As things stand, Obama will bequeath to his successors a worrisome precedent: without trial, the President has the right to kill any U.S. citizen who is judged, on the basis of unpublished criteria, to have become an enemy combatant," The New Yorker's Steve Coll explains. The Obama administration has not disclosed the criteria it uses to determine who can be droned. We don't even know if an American can be droned based on information from a single intelligence source.

Paying off the Karzai government and financing Afghan warlords.

The CIA drops off backpacks (or suitcases, or shopping bags) full of cash at the office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai once a month. Karzai has boasted about this for more than four years. Karzai's aides call it "ghost money." Iran tried to buy Karzai, too, but gave up after getting a poor rate of return. The U.S. has not given up. "Instead, some American officials said, the cash has fueled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington’s exit strategy from Afghanistan," The New York Times' Matthew Rosenberg reports. The money flows to warlords with ties to the Tablian or the drug trade, he explains:

"The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan," one American official said, "was the United States."

Above, the CIA's campaign to spread democracy comes full circle. A demonstrator in Yemen, where the CIA is droning mid-level al Qaeda recruits, protests the indefinite detention of Guantanamo prisoners, while holding a sign saying he was held in the Bagram military prison in Afghanistan, where the CIA has been accused of torturing people.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.