Senator Feinstein’s Funny Double Standard on Opposition to Torture

David PetraeusAs Cora Currier first reported, a number of national security luminaries wrote fawning letters in support of David Petraeus’ hand-slap for leaking code word intelligence to his mistress. The letters as  a whole are remarkable for their treatment of Petraeus’ service as a General as a success and for their assumption that private equity firms serve the public good.

But I’m especially interested in “two particular acts” Senator Dianne Feinstein’s points to to explain why she believes Petraeus should get leniency (page 17). In addition to his willingness to take a demotion to lead ISAF after Stanley McChrystal had to resign for insubordination (Feinstein says no one else could have been successful in the position, suggesting Petraeus was), she points to his opposition to torture.

[F]irst, General Petraeus was an outspoken opponent of torture and coercive interrogation and detention measures in Iraq. His letter to U.S. forces in Iraq on the topic was strong, clear, and compelling.

Like Feinstein, I’m happy a top General spoke out against torture.

But that sets the bar remarkably low. In his letter, Petraeus was, in part, instructing troops to follow the law — a point he himself said when he noted that “such actions are illegal.”

He was also expressing concerns about survey results that showed,

… an apparent unwillingness on the part of some US personnel to report illegal actions taken by fellow members of their units.


In the event that we witness or hear of such actions, we must not let our bonds prevent us from speaking up.

That is, Petraeus was encouraging those who witness torture to speak up.

Which is — while done outside of official channels — what John Kiriakou did. He shared details about which CIA colleagues had been involved in the torture program in such a way that there might be some accountability for torture.

If Feinstein finds the substance of Petraeus’ letter, which encouraged those witnessing torture to speak up, then it seems Feinstein should do more — should have done more — to make sure John Kiriakou faced the same light sentence Petraeus did for committing the same acts.

Of course she didn’t.


About Marcy Wheeler

Investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler wrote the "Right to Know" column for ExposeFacts. She is best known for providing in-depth analysis of legal documents related to "war on terrorism" programs and civil liberties. Wheeler blogs at and publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon and the Progressive. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy. Wheeler won the 2009 Hillman Award for blog journalism.