Editor’s Note: While seven former CIA directors are pressuring President Barack Obama to stop the Justice Department from investigating crimes from the Bush-era interrogation program, the department itself seems to be narrowing its sights.

In this guest essay, sociology professor Dennis Loo argues that the inquiry’s parameters should be widened to the higher-ups and apply some common sense, not get lost in picking out a couple of scapegoats and then demanding absurd levels of evidence:

In the Sept. 19 Washington Post, we learn that the Justice Department’s investigation of torture by U.S. personnel will be even narrower than originally proposed by Attorney General Eric Holder.

“The Justice Department's review of detainee abuse by the CIA will focus on a very small number of cases, including at least one in which an Afghan prisoner died at a secret facility [in Kabul at a CIA black site called the Salt Pit in November 2002], according to two sources briefed on the matter.”

That very small number of cases may be as small as two:
“Although earlier reports indicated that [U.S. Attorney John] Durham would look into 10 cases, a source said recently the number is much smaller. In all, 24 alleged abuse cases were earlier referred to federal prosecutors by the CIA inspector general, of which 22 were declined, according to a letter in February 2008 from a Justice Department legislative liaison.”

Only 24 cases referred to prosecutors and all but two rejected by what the article describes as "an aggressive team of federal prosecutors." 
The article ends with this commentary on the young Afghan who froze to death at the CIA's secret torture site the Salt Pit in Kabul:

"'A lot of times cases look open-and-shut because a guy froze to death on a cold cement floor, but these cases are more complicated and involved than that,' said a government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“'You have to prove the cause of death. How do we know he froze to death? He may have died a natural death from clogged arteries. You have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he died as a result of the actions of the people who tied him to the floor naked.

“ ‘It may be a logical inference, but proving it beyond a reasonable doubt might be a different story.'"


Kabul's average November low temperature is 29 degrees Fahrenheit. Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

The young man was naked, bound by metal chains to a concrete floor.

A young, unnamed Afghan beaten an unknown number of days before being left overnight alone on this concrete floor in subfreezing temperatures.

So, let’s not be hasty here. We do not know how he died. He might have died of too much cholesterol in his veins before he froze to death.

The government official quoted in The Washington Post doesn't ask the following questions, nor does Eric Holder, nor does the Post writer, but I will ask them:

Why are the people who ordered that these black sites be created where this young, unnamed Afghan was left to freeze to death in chains,

Why are the people who directed that detainees be kidnapped and rendered to black sites and places like Uzbekistan where the guards were known to boil body parts as part of their interrogations,

Why are the people who, on official stationery, bearing U.S. government seals, instructed CIA interrogators in the minutest details how they should proceed to torture their captives,

Why are the people who issued secret orders to “take the gloves off” to U.S. personnel and their contractors so as to extract the information that they were absolutely sure that these individuals must have,

Why are the people who have publicly admitted that they authorized these techniques, including specifically waterboarding, 

Why are the people whose memoranda evidencing all of this that are part of the public record already, with many more actions and orders still hidden, containing undoubtedly even worse details still under wraps,

Why are these depraved sadists mot being held to account?

Why are Bush and Cheney and their henchman, including lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee, still walking free?

Dear Mr. President: Why, oh why?

"Dear Dennis: We’re not looking backwards. We’re looking forwards."

But we must not look backward else we turn and see too clearly this CIA black site they named the Salt Pit.

Dennis Loo is Professor of Sociology at Cal Poly Pomona and co-editor with Peter Phillips of Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney. He blogs at Open Salon.

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