Since 9/11, US government officials have frequently fought national security excesses. They will likely do so againby Rupert Stone / November 21, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read former MI6 Chief Richard Dearlove: Trump could make Britain safer
Donald Trump’s election victory has caused widespread alarm. The Republican candidate who called for torture, the murder of terrorists’ family members, military tribunals for American citizens, surveillance of Muslims, bombing “the shit” out of ISIS, mass deportations and other harsh measures will soon be president.
Concerns about the future of American democracy are, of course, understandable. But, if the past is anything to go by, Trump may well struggle to implement his proposals. Since 9/11, US government officials have repeatedly challenged overweening national security policies by protesting internally or leaking to media outlets.
Let’s take a look at the Bush administration. Soon after 9/11 the CIA embarked on a secret programme to capture terror suspects and torture them using so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. Problems started soon after the agency detained its first prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, in 2002, when former FBI agent Ali Soufan objected to the harsh methods being used and withdrew his participation. Government attorneys had approved the CIA techniques in a notorious series of legal opinions, but Jack Goldsmith, a senior lawyer in the Justice Department, disagreed and eventually revoked those opinions before resigning his position in 2004. Around the same time CIA Inspector General John Helgerson issued an explosive report raising doubts about the legality and effectiveness of the interrogation regimen.
Then, in 2005, leaks about secret CIA prisons appeared in The Washington Post. Detention facilities were closed and interrogations soon ground to a halt. In 2007 there was another major leak, this time concerning the agency’s destruction of 92 videotapes, some of which showed two detainees undergoing harsh interrogation techniques. This, in turn, triggered a massive inquiry by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which, thanks to the dogged persistence of its then chair, Senator Dianne Feinstein, finally released the scathing executive summary of its 6,700-page report in 2014. That report led to new legislation placing firmer constraints on the abuse of prisoners, making it harder for Trump to reauthorise torture as he has promised. It has also enabled a lawsuit brought by former CIA captives against architects of the interrogation program.
At Guantanamo, where a similar set of abusive tactics was approved after 9/11, government insiders also spoke out. Alberto Mora, former General Counsel of the…