Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The MSM and Netroots Miss the Story

A few weeks ago I was thrilled to see that Salon highlighted the story about the DOJ's Civil Rights Division focus on police brutality. But it didn't surprise me that almost no other media (traditional or alternative) picked up on the story.

The same thing happened last week when Time broke this story.

It has been nearly a decade since Manadel al-Jamadi, an Iraqi prisoner known as "the Iceman" — for the bungled attempt to cool his body and make him look less dead — perished in CIA custody at Abu Ghraib. But now there are rumbles in Washington that the notorious case, as well as other alleged CIA abuses, could be returning to haunt the agency. TIME has learned that a prosecutor tasked with probing the CIA — John Durham, a respected, Republican-appointed U.S. Attorney from Connecticut — has begun calling witnesses before a secret federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., looking into, among other things, the lurid Nov. 4, 2003, homicide, which was documented by TIME in 2005.

TIME has obtained a copy of a subpoena signed by Durham that points to his grand jury's broader mandate, which could involve charging additional CIA officers and contract employees in other cases. The subpoena says "the grand jury is conducting an investigation of possible violations of federal criminal laws involving War Crimes (18 USC/2441), Torture (18 USC 243OA) and related federal offenses."

In 2009 — after President Barack Obama replaced President George W. Bush — new U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder tapped Durham to review roughly a dozen cases of alleged abuse against “war on terror” suspects that had gone dormant. Holder's decision to expand the probe occurred shortly before the CIA released a five-year-old IG report detailing a litany of detainee abuse by the agency.

Anyone who has travelled in places populated by the poutragers knows that - other than criticizing the Obama administration about the Wall Street bailout - the biggest complaint they have is that Attorney General Holder is not going after torturers and war crimes.

What they fail to realize are two things:

1. The passage of the Military Commissions Act combined with the OLC memos made much of what the previous administration did very difficult (if not impossible) to prosecute in a court of law.

2. Building a case that has a chance in court takes time - often years. We're now seeing the fruits of some of the Special Prosecutor's work.

But perhaps more importantly, the narrative that Obama and Holder are complicit with the Bush administration in all of this because of their apparent failure to prosecute, got developed and will not be budged. I learned about this Grand Jury from the diary at Daily Kos linked to above. But it sunk into oblivion there without much notice. And of course, champions of torture prosecutions like Glenn Greenwald seem to have failed to notice it at all.

I tend to think about the story of the tree falling in the forest. If no one is around to hear, does it make a sound? The Obama administration is very often at work on the very things that progressives say they want. But what happens if no one notices?

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