Who is Alissa Starzak and why are Republicans in Congress trying to punish her?
It turns that she knows almost as much as anyone alive about the whole sordid details of what went on during the George W. Bush Administration with regards to their involvement with the CIA torture program that was covertly undertaken in black sites across the world from 2001-2008. Over 119 people were subjected to what the CIA termed “enhanced interrogation techniques”- a code word for straight-up torture. Waterboarding, sleep deprivation, beatings, and other barbaric acts that have no place in a civilized world.
This brings us back to Alissa Starzak, a Democrat, who was a majority staffer on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI). She now works at the Defense Department while awaiting confirmation for the position of General Counsel to the United States Army. In other words, if nominated she would be the U.S. Army’s top lawyer. She was originally nominated by the Senate Armed Services Committee back on December 9 of last year, but as of yet the Senate is still to bring her nomination up for a vote. Why?
Starzak and former FBI analyst Daniel Jones began in 2007 to sift through classified CIA documents from a secret location in northern Virginia as part of a committee investigation into the CIA’s secret torture program. Now, six years after the end of one of America’s darkest eras, no perpetrators of the abhorrent crimes committed in secret bases have been brought to justice.
An implicating internal CIA document, known as the Panetta Review, was discovered by Ms. Starzak. Her nomination is now being held up in an attempt to prove that the investigative committee violated security protocols in their search of top-secret files, aiming to pin her for wrongdoing and somehow invalidate the fruits of her investigation. Senator Feinstein, the leader of the Senate committee which brought the torture program to light, said that “Alissa Starzak’s nomination should not be held up over the Panetta Review. Any senator with questions about how Senate Intelligence Committee staff found the Panetta Review or what they did with it should read my March 2014 floor speech or ask me.”
The entire issue is semantics. Crimes were committed, and now they are known. Senate Republicans are punishing the whistle-blowers who successfully shone a light on these horrible crimes against humanity by blocking her nomination. When the investigation into the torture program began, Republicans withdrew from what was supposed to be a bipartisan effort, citing concerns of “a witch hunt” for those responsible- which would not have been out of place, seeing as the CIA officers involved grossly mismanaged the program even while they were breaking multiple international treaties and the very basis of civilized morality. Instead, the Republicans have embarked on a witch hunt themselves against the whistle-blowers, punishing them for exposing their crimes and revealing what a travesty the Bush Administration really was.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.