The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA’s interrogation-torture program may or may not be released in truncated form this week, but it is not the only investigation bearing upon the U.S. torture program that promises new revelations.
A much-touted “independent review” initiated by the American Psychological Association (APA) into charges it secretly supported the Bush administration’s policy of torture after 9/11 turns out to be led by a man who worked with the CIA’s George Tenet and Kenneth J. Levit over twenty years ago. Tenet went on to become Director of the Central Intelligence Agency during the period the CIA initiated a torture and extraordinary rendition program. Levit was Tenet’s choice for special counsel at CIA from 1998-2000.
David Hoffman, a Chicago attorney for the international law firm Sidley Austin, was handpicked by APA as an “independent reviewer” to investigate charges in a new book by New York Times writer James Risen that some of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) top leadership colluded with the CIA and the U.S. military in the implementation of the Bush Administration’s torture program. Hoffman is to report to a “special committee” drawn from APA’s Board of Directors.
His Sidley Austin biography states that Hoffman “has conducted and directed many internal investigations involving serious allegations of fraud and corruption, frequently under intense media scrutiny…. His investigative experience in the public and private sectors has ranged from long-term, multi-national federal criminal investigations involving large teams of investigators and many wiretaps, to internal investigations involving senior corporate and political officials, lower-level employees, corporate entities, and others.”
In a November 12 press release, APA called Risen’s charges “highly charged and very serious.” The release stated, “The independent reviewer [Hoffman] will consider and report to the special committee as to whether APA colluded with the Bush administration, CIA or U.S. military to support torture during the war on terror.”
In an e-mail exchange, I asked Hoffman to comment on his links to Tenet and Levit when he worked as a Press Secretary and legislative assistant on foreign policy in Sen. David Boren’s office. At the time, Boren was director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), and George Tenet was SSCI’s staff director.
Hoffman replied, “Yes, I worked with George Tenet and Ken Levit when I served on Senator David Boren’s staff over 20 years ago, prior to attending law school, from 1990 to 1992. I was on Senator Boren’s personal staff, as was Mr. Levit, while Mr. Tenet was on the Senate Intelligence Committee staff. Since then, I have not worked with either of them. Over the last ten years, I have seen and spoken with each of them occasionally, probably on a handful of occasions.”
I asked Hoffman under what kinds of circumstances he spoke to Tenet and Levit in the past ten years, or whether he felt past associations could produce any kind of bias. Hoffman did not explain the nature of those contacts, except to say they amounted to “limited, occasional contact.”
Hoffman wrote, “I appreciate your questions but I can assure you that my knowing Mr. Tenet and Mr. Levit from a job I held 22 years ago – before I was in law school and well before they were at the CIA – and my limited, occasional contact with them since then will have no bearing on how we conduct our review or our willingness to reach particular conclusions about the APA, the CIA, or any entity or individual. I can assure you that our review will be independent and driven solely by the evidence we are able to gather.”
One example of Hoffman’s work in Boren’s office was recounted in a May 9, 1991 article in the Los Angeles Times, which identified Hoffman as a “spokesman for Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman David L. Boren.” The article quoted Hoffman as stating Boren’s support for the potential nomination of Robert M. Gates as CIA director. Gates, who indeed did serve as CIA Director in the early 1990s, later served as Secretary of Defense under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, running DoD during nearly half the time Guantanamo has been open as a “war on terror” strategic interrogation and detention center.
Hoffman’s resume after leaving Sen. Boren’s office has other links worth noting. He followed his Senate job with law school at the University of Chicago, and then clerkships for two conservative judges, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Dennis Jacobs, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Hoffman later went to work as an Assistant U.S. Attorney with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago under Patrick Fitzgerald, and a stint as Inspector General for the City of Chicago. According to an article in The Hill, in 2010 Hoffman engaged David Axelrod’s former media firm, AKPD, in a run for Democratic nominee for the Senate in Illinois. Hoffman lost, but his political career may not be over.
As regards any potential links to APA itself, Hoffman stated, “I have never done any work for or with the APA or any of its affiliated organizations or individuals. And a search shows that Sidley has not done any work for the APA, any affiliated entity, or any individual who is affiliated with the APA in Sidley’s records for at least the last ten years.”
None of the press reports thus far, including articles in Science, The Intercept, and Forbes, have mentioned Hoffman’s Tenet link. James Risen’s article in the New York Times never mentions it. The same is true for statements by either the APA or the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology (CEP), a group of psychologists who have been highly critical of APA’s policy of supporting use of psychologists in national security interrogations. (more…)