Rupert Cornwell: The US needs a truth and reconciliation inquiry

Share
Related Topics

Dick Cheney may be out of office, harbouring no future ambitions other than writing his memoirs. But as this latest row involving the secrecy-obsessed former vice-president and the CIA demonstrates, he casts scarcely less of a shadow over the Obama administration than he did over that of George W Bush before him.

The charge that he directly ordered the agency to conceal from Congress a secret counterterrorism programme is potentially extremely serious. That it was made by none other than the CIA's present director Leon Panetta, who has before defended the agency's past behaviour, makes it more serious still.

Yet it is fitting that the charge has surfaced just as the Justice Department may be moving towards naming a special prosecutor to investigate the alleged use of torture, the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" of which Mr Cheney was a leading advocate, by CIA personnel against captured terrorist suspects after the September 2001 attacks here.

None less than the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has accused the agency of failing to tell Congress that in 2002 it was already using waterboarding against some detainees. But her charge has been dismissed by Mr Panetta. The new controversy could scarcely be worse timed, a divisive distraction as Mr Obama is trying to push through vital but contentious legislation to reform health care, energy policy and financial market regulation.

But it must be addressed. The question is how. For decades, ever since the 1970s Church Committee investigated earlier abuses by the CIA, the agency's accountability has been a problem. Legally, it is bound to keep the intelligence committees of Congress, "fully and currently" informed of its activities. But it has often been less than candid for fear of leaks (although these have been few and far between). The new row will only increase pressure on the agency to be more forthcoming, perhaps to the detriment of its performance.

There will surely also be new demands for a broad investigation into how the Bush administration waged its war on terror. The White House has so far rejected demands for a South African-style truth and reconciliation commission to examine what happened. But for how much longer?

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Support Engineer

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Support Engi...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Bruce Jenner was interviewed by Diane Sawyer  

Bruce Jenner interview: We think being transgender is a rare thing. And that’s part of the problem

Grace Dent
 

Lily-Rose Depp is not 'all grown up' - she is a 15 year old girl who should not be modelling for an adult fashion magazine

Harriet Williamson
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence