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

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

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The rules were simple: before the results are announced, don’t mention the S-word

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Howard Jacobson has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for the second time  

In praise of Howard Jacobson

Simon Kelner
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week