Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Friday, July 03, 2009
Mahmoud and Dick, together at last
Apparently, the government of Iran is waterboarding detainees. From the Huffpo's Jason Linkins comes the sad irony:

[h/t; The Daily Dish] From ABC News' Lara Setrakian, comes this tweet:

Tehrani source close to those detained says some have been beaten heavily and waterboarded with hot water #iranelection

In my younger years, I would simply expect this news to be greeted with universal outrage, knowing that the techniques being described had long been deemed to be well across the Bridge Too Far. Now that I've lived through the Bush administration, however, I am forced to contemplate the possibility that Iran is merely taking legitimate steps to obtain critical information in their nations' vital national security interests. One mustn't preclude the possibility that many of those being waterboarded are privy to information about "time bombs" that may, at this moment, be "ticking." ...

Thanks, Dick.

Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan tries for balance (I'll leave it to you to decide if he succeeds.)

More on Ayatollah Khameini's application of The Cheney Method here.

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posted by JReid @ 12:52 PM  
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Cheney's dark arts
The Wapo details Dick Cheney's vigorous defense of torture ... not in his recent raft of media availabilities and speeches, but rather back in 2005, when he seemed to be scrambling to prevent Congress from either stopping, or investigating, his torture and domestic wiretapping program. According to the Post, Cheney personally led briefings of members of Congress, including John McCain:
One of the most critical Cheney-led briefings came in late October 2005, when the vice president and Porter J. Goss, then director of the CIA, read Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) into the program on the interrogation methods, according to congressional and intelligence sources.

One knowledgeable official described the meeting as contentious. Cheney and Goss, with other CIA officials present, tried to persuade the former Vietnam POW to back off an anti-torture amendment that had already won the support of 90 senators.

The McCain amendment would have ended practices such as waterboarding by forbidding "cruel, degrading and inhumane" treatment of detainees. The CIA had not used waterboarding since 2003, but the White House sought to maintain the ability to employ it.
Meanwhile, the story also offers insight into why Cheney seems to believe there is exculpatory evidence inside certain CIA memos:
Lawmakers at times challenged Cheney and CIA officials about the legality of the program and pressed for specific results that would show whether the techniques worked. In response, the CIA briefers said that half of the agency's knowledge about al-Qaeda's plans and structure had been obtained through the interrogations.
And the other interesting point: the timing and effectiveness of Cheney's efforts?
Cheney's briefings on interrogations began in the winter of 2005 as the top Democrats on the Senate and House intelligence committees, Sen. John D. Rockefeller III (W.Va.) and Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), publicly advocated a full-scale investigation of the tactics used against top al-Qaeda suspects.

On March 8, 2005 -- two days after a detailed report in the New York Times about interrogations -- Cheney gathered Rockefeller, Harman and the chairmen of the intelligence panels, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), according to current and former intelligence officials. Weeks earlier, Roberts had given public statements suggesting possible support for the investigation sought by Rockefeller. But by early March 2005, Roberts announced that he opposed a separate probe, and the matter soon died.

And last but certainly not least, there was the arrogance of the Cheney team:
Cheney's efforts to sway Congress toward supporting waterboarding went beyond secret meetings in Washington. In July 2005, he sent David S. Addington, his chief counsel at the time, to travel with five senators -- four of them opponents of the CIA interrogation methods -- to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On the trip, Sen. Graham urged Addington to put the interrogations at secret prisons and the use of military tribunals into a stronger constitutional position by pushing legislation through Congress, rather than relying on executive orders and secret rulings from Justice Department lawyers.

Subsequent court rulings would challenge the legality of the system, and Justice Department lawyers were privately drafting new rules on interrogations. Addington dismissed the views of Graham, who had been a military lawyer.

"I've got all the authority I need right here," Addington said, pulling from his coat a pocket-size copy of the Constitution, according to the senator, suggesting there was no doubt about the system's legal footing.
And what's scary, is that the neocons actually believe that.

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posted by JReid @ 11:03 AM  
The Wednesday funnies: The Cheney Bunch
**Bump** Dick Cheney's newly public, chatty persona (and his daughter's) just begs for a parody. Here it is:

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posted by JReid @ 10:41 AM  
Friday, May 29, 2009
Dick Cheney: lonely, paranoid, frightened, 'reptilian'
Damn, that's gotta sting.

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posted by JReid @ 4:29 PM  
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
War Heroes 3 4, Draft Dodgers 0
It's been a tough competition, but so far, the Draft Dodgers are batting 0 for 3.

First, Boss Limbaugh, he of the butt boil that enabled him to get out of Vietnam service, tried to ice four-star Gen. Gollin Powell, accusing him of only supporting Barack Obama because both are black, and then snidely passing a phony baton of Republican leadership over to him. Powell's answer was to smack Limbaugh down, hard, while also taking a swipe at Republicans who insist on "laying prostrate on the floor" when Limbaugh snarls in their general direction. Point: War Heroes.

Next, Powell was attacked by Draft Dodgin' Dick Cheney, the benighted one, who got out of his Vietnam service by makin' babies! Cheney attempted to usher Powell out of the GOP, for the above-mentioned offense of supporting Barack Obama. And he sided with his teammate, Rush, over Powell (if he had to choose.) Well, Powell hit back at him, too, and now, it looks like Dick has decided to walk it back:
In an interview with CNBC's Larry Kudlow, Cheney said Powell is welcome back into the party and that Republicans would be "happy to have him."
KUDLOW: ... You kind of took a shot at General Colin Powell the other day, said you didn't know he was still a member of the Republican Party. He responded to you by saying that you were mistaken. He is a member of the Republican Party, and he regards himself a, quote, "Jack Kemp Republican," end quote. Could you react to what Mr. Powell is saying?

Mr. CHENEY: Well, we're happy to have General Powell in the Republican Party. I was asked a question about a dispute he was having, I think, with Rush Limbaugh, and I expressed the consent, the notion I had that he had already left since he endorsed Barack Obama for president. But I meant no offense to my former colleague. I wasn't seeking to rearrange his political identity.

KUDLOW: So you welcome him back into the party.

Mr. CHENEY: We're in the mode where we welcome everybody to the party. What I don't want to do, in the course of trying to expand the overall size of the Republican Party and expand our base, is to take away from basic fundamental principles. I think it's very important that we remind people out around the country what it is that we stand for, that we do believe in a strong national defense, in low taxes and limited government; and giving up on those principles, in order to try to appeal to people who are otherwise going to vote Democratic, seems to me is a--would be a fundamental defeat for those of us who are essentially conservative, who've been long-time supporters of the Republican Party.

If of course, by limited government you mean an extensive domestic surveillance network, sneak and peak searches, opening of all mail and email, tapping everyone's phone and secretly detaining American citizens ... (ahem) ... Point: War heroes.
Now, the third blow. Gen. David Petraeus, who enjoys near Jack Bauer levels of worship from the right, has sided with none other than President Barack Obama (plus Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mullen and SecDef Bob Gates and many, many other military men) on the subjects of ending the Cheney torture program and closing Gitmo:

Petraeus was asked if the recent moves by Obama help or hurt the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan. He replied, “I think, on balance, that those moves help it. In fact, I have long been on record as having testified and also in helping write doctrine for interrogation techniques that are completely in line with the Geneva Convention. And as a division commander in Iraq in the early days, we put out guidance very early on to make sure that our soldiers, in fact, knew that we needed to stay within those guidelines.”

On the issue of Gitmo, he said, “With respect to Guantanamo, I think that the closure in a responsible manner, obviously one that is certainly being worked out now by the Department of Justice -- I talked to the attorney general the other day [and] they have a very intensive effort ongoing to determine, indeed, what to do with the detainees who are left, how to deal with them in a legal way, and if continued incarceration is necessary -- again, how to take that forward. But doing that in a responsible manner, I think, sends an important message to the world, as does the commitment of the United States to observe the Geneva Convention when it comes to the treatment of detainees.”

Can a vicious Limbaugh attack on Petraeus as a "phony soldier" be far behind? I think Petraeus can take him. Point: War Heroes.

UPDATE: Score another one for the war heroes. Barack Obama's national security adviser, a retired Marine general, smacks Cheney too:

President Barack Obama's national security adviser laid out a sweeping rebuttal Wednesday to former Vice President Dick Cheney's charge that America is less safe under the new administration.

Pointing to increases in defense spending, efforts to get out of Iraq and revamp the strategy for Afghanistan, and a broad campaign to repair the U.S. reputation abroad, retired Marine Gen. James Jones said the nation is safer today than it has been. But, he added, no administration is perfect.

"I think that the former vice president knows full well that perfection is an impossible standard," said Jones, adding that the U.S. can only do everything it can "to keep threats at bay and as far away from our shores as possible."

The score is now 4-0.





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posted by JReid @ 11:26 PM  
Friday, May 22, 2009
John Landay's Cheney smackdown. Look for the media to ignore it.
McClatchy News' national security reporter Jonathan Landay breaks down the Dick Cheney torture jeremiad, and finds it wanting...
Former Vice President Dick Cheney's defense Thursday of the Bush administration's policies for interrogating suspected terrorists contained omissions, exaggerations and misstatements.

In his address to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative policy organization in Washington, Cheney said that the techniques the Bush administration approved, including waterboarding — simulated drowning that's considered a form of torture — forced nakedness and sleep deprivation, were "legal" and produced information that "prevented the violent death of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent people."

He quoted the Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, as saying that the information gave U.S. officials a "deeper understanding of the al Qaida organization that was attacking this country."

In a statement April 21, however, Blair said the information "was valuable in some instances" but that "there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means. The bottom line is that these techniques hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security."

A top-secret 2004 CIA inspector general's investigation found no conclusive proof that information gained from aggressive interrogations helped thwart any "specific imminent attacks," according to one of four top-secret Bush-era memos that the Justice Department released last month.

FBI Director Robert Mueller told Vanity Fair magazine in December that he didn't think that the techniques disrupted any attacks.

There's much more, but don't expect the rest of the media to rally to Landay's factual cause. As Glenn Greenwald pointed out earlier this week, the mainstream media has long since moved the center to the right, and adopted the Cheney version of reality when it comes to war and national security, and relegated all other versions to the fringe:

What is, in my view, most noteworthy about all of this is how it gives the lie to the collective national claim that we learned our lesson and are now regretful about the Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism. Republicans are right about the fact that while it was Bush officials who led the way in implementing these radical and lawless policies, most of the country's institutions -- particularly the Democratic Party leadership and the media -- acquiesced to it, endorsed it, and enabled it. And they still do.

Nothing has produced as much media praise for Obama as his embrace of what Goldsmith calls the "essential elements" of "the Bush approach to counterterrorism policy." That's because -- contrary to the ceremonial displays of regret and denouncements of Bush -- the dominant media view is this: the Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism was right; those policies are "centrist"; Obama is acting commendably by embracing them; most of the country wants those policies; and only the Far Left opposes the Bush/Cheney approach.

Anyone who doubts that should consider this most extraordinary paragraph from Associated Press' Liz Sidoti:

Increasingly, President Barack Obama and Democrats who run Congress are being pulled between the competing interests of party liberals and the rest of the country on Bush-era wartime matters of torture, detention and interrogation of suspected terrorists.

When it comes to torture and Bush's Terrorism policies, it's the Far Left (which opposes those things) versus "the rest of the country" (which favors them). And she described Obama's embrace of Bush's policies as "governing from the center." Apparently, Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies are Centrist. Who knew?
BTW, if you caught MSNBC's "Morning Joe" this morning, you see Greenwald's point. The show, which increasingly is obsessed with rehabilitating the George W. Bush presidency, with Joe and Mika pulling the wagons and only Donny Deutsch and Lawrence O'Donnell running interference for the reality based community, has now become the new, unofficial home of that nasty piece of right wing work: Liz Cheney. Today, they gave her a full hour to bond with Mika and kvetch about Barack Obama not appreciating her dad.

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posted by JReid @ 10:34 AM  
Thursday, May 21, 2009
What Dick Cheney didn't say
When Dick Cheney mounted his full-throated defense of the previous administration's national security state at the curiously named American Enterprise Institute this afternoon, he made his core argument (that the Bush-Cheney torture and surveillance programs should be praised by a grateful nation, not shunned and despised by phony moralists who don't seem to mind when Jack Bauer does it...) based on a set of facts that are no longer operative. [Illustration at left by Rex Lameray]

Cheney continued to make the case that he ... I mean President Bush ... did what had to be done after 9/11 in order to thwart another -- imminent -- attack on America. They had to waterboard the bad guys you see -- and make no mistake, these weren't balerinas they were near-drowning -- because no one at the time knew when or where the next attack was coming. And it was coming. It's always coming... a few hundred turns on the waterboard and a mock burial or two later, the attack never came. See how well that worked?

The problem is: we now have at least a strong circumstantial case suggesting that the administration escalated the waterboarding in 2002 and 2003, long after the imminence of 9/11 had passed them by, but conveniently, right around the time they were building the case for invading Iraq. They waterboarded Abu Zubaydah 83 times in 30 days in August of 2002, the same month Bush's chief of staff, Andrew Card, formed White House Iraq Group to try and "market" the war. They waterboarded Khalid Sheik Muhammad 183 times in March 2003, the same month we invaded Iraq. And we learned on May 13 from former NBC News investigative producer Bob Windrem (who gave the bombshell story to The Daily Beast since I'm presuming the New York Times and Washington Post couldn't be bothered...) that they even tried to get the Iraq Survey Group to waterboard an Iraqi general in April 2003 -- not to thwart an "imminent" attack, but in order to produce false confessions to justify the invasion of Iraq.

But Dick Cheney didn't mention that today, nor did he bother to defend it. He didn't have to. The media has so thoroughly set aside the stunning revelations in the previous paragraph, that Cheney doesn't even feel the need to bring it up. He is free to continue arguing his case on pre-May 13 thinking, and he knows he'll get away with it. After all, who's going to stop him ... the "media?" The vast majority of the Washington press corps has long since lost interest in the subject of how, and why, we got into Iraq. And as NBC's Mark Murray all-but admitted today, the mainstream press spends more time helping the GOP out with their media strategy than rethinking their credulous assent on the Iraq war. ... The Obama administration? They're all about "moving forward." ... Congress? Don't make me laugh. They're too scared of the vanishing right's mysterious power to cow them on national security issues even to vote for the money to close Guantanamo, and they can't even build up the spinal fluid to move forward on a truth commission. The American people??? I'm sure Dick, who was too scared to fight in Vietnam but is clearly not afraid of YOU, would simply say, "good luck with that."

Related: The media's collective yawn over torture for war

Cross-posted at Open Salon.

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posted by JReid @ 2:47 PM  
Shameless self-promotion: Joy on "Counterspin"
Just completed the interview with Fairness and Accuracy in Media's "Counterspin," regarding my CommonDreams article on the media's ho-hum attitude toward the Bush administration's "torture for war" program. You can catch the podcast of the show, hosted by Steve Rendall and Janine Jackson here.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the interview.

Previous:

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posted by JReid @ 1:30 PM  
Dick Cheney gave an entire speech, and forgot to apologize for outing a CIA agent
So...the Obama v. Cheney distant family feud / national security showdown is over, and Dick Cheney, who was engaged in a protracted struggle with the CIA every day of his shadow presidency, up to and including inducing his chief of staff to out a clandestine CIA officer, is the lone voice defending the brave operatives at Langley from the evil liberals who don't appreciate their service? Yes, well....

Cheney's speech to the American Enterprise Institute (any wonder the two outlets to get advanced copies of Cheney's durge were Fox News and the Weekly Standard...?) contained nothing unexpected, unless you count Cheney's sudden love for the CIA as unexpected.

As for President Obama's speech, you definitely get the feeling that it's starting to bug him that so many of us out here in Americanland want him to "re-litigate" the torture policies of the past. But Obama's main points were well taken: he is not a continuation of George W. Bush, and sorry Dick, but the previous administration did clearly subvert American values. But Obama's strongest point may have been this: that the previous administration's response to the 9/11 attacks was haphazard at best.

By the way, Cheney's obsession with the CIA-torture nexus isn't new. You probably won't recall this, because the media has had no interest in it, but according to investigative reporter Jane Mayer and others, as recounted by Jason Leopold:
Former Vice President Dick Cheney intervened in CIA Inspector General John Helgerson investigation into the agency’s use of torture against alleged “high-value” detainees, but the watchdog was still able to prepare a report that concluded the interrogation program violated some provisions of the International Convention Against Torture.

The report, which the Obama administration may soon declassify, was completed in May 2004 and implicated CIA interrogators in at least three detainee deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq and referred eight criminal cases of alleged homicide, abuse and misconduct to the Justice Department for further investigation, reporter Jane Mayer reported in her book, The Dark Side, and an investigative report published in The New Yorker in November 2005.

In The Dark Side, Mayer described the report as being “as thick as two Manhattan phone books” and contained information, according to an unnamed source, “that was simply sickening.”

“The behavior it described, another knowledgeable source said, raised concerns not just about the detainees but also about the Americans who had inflicted the abuse, one of whom seemed to have become frighteningly dehumanized,” Mayer wrote. “The source said, ‘You couldn't read the documents without wondering, 'Why didn't someone say, "Stop!'""

Mayer added that Cheney routinely “summoned” Inspector General Helgerson to meet with him privately about his investigation, launched in 2003, and soon thereafter the probe “was stopped in its tracks.” Mayer characterized Cheney’s interaction with Helgerson as highly unusual.

Cheney’s “reaction to this first, carefully documented in-house study concluding that the CIA’s secret program was most likely criminal was to summon the Inspector General to his office for a private chat,” Mayer wrote. “The Inspector General is supposed to function as an independent overseer, free from political pressure, but Cheney summoned the CIA Inspector General more than once to his office.

“Cheney loomed over everything,” the former CIA officer told Mayer. “The whole IG’s office was completely politicized. They were working hand in glove with the White House.”

But Mayer said Cheney's intervention in Helgerson's probe proved that as early as 2004 “the Vice President's office was fully aware that there were allegations of serious wrongdoing in the [torture] Program." Helgerson has denied that he was pressured by Cheney.
Go figure...

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posted by JReid @ 12:06 PM  
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Cheney, torture, and the very bored mainstream media
Just realized today that Commondreams ran my piece: "The media's collective yawn over torture for war" on Saturday. It starts off as follows:

Faced with what could be the biggest foreign policy bombshell since the Gulf of Tonkin lies cleared the way for Vietnam, the Washington-New York media establishment has chosen to do nothing. Much as D.C. reporters decided several years ago that they were no longer interested covering the Bush administration's duplicity in the run-up to the Iraq war (nor are the David Gregory's of the world interested in revisiting their profession's complicity with the former administration in that regard,) "the press," it seems, has decided to take a pass. And what they're passing on is truly stunning.

In short, evidence is quickly piling up suggesting that the torture of terrorism suspects, and even the alleged request from no less than the office of the vice president of the United States, to waterboard an Iraqi official, had less to do with protecting Americans from further attack after 9/11, than it had to do with bolstering a phony case for invading Iraq. Polls show a plurality of Americans will accept even torture - as sickening as that fact is to anyone who cares about civil liberties - if it's done to save innocent (read American) lives. But how would the American people square the idea of torturing people, not to save lives, but to produce false confessions in order to give a small group of ideologues - the neoconservatives - the war they desired. Most Americans have long since accepted that the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq was flawed, if not totally false. What we didn't know until recently, was that to sell that case, members of the Bush administration, possibly including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld - maybe even the president of the United States, were willing to do things we're accustomed to ascribing to the North Koreans or Maoist Chinese: using torture not to get good information, but to produce false confessions, to justify an unnecessary war.

Read the whole thing here.

I'll be on FAIR's radio show "CounterSpin" tomorrow to discuss it. ... of course, we don't get CounterSpin here in South Florida, where pretty much the only things on the radio are right wing talk, sports talk, party music, and black comedians on FM talking to angry baby mamas. So you'll have to listen online. The interview is at 1:15 p.m. Not sure what time it will air.

Meanwhile, Larry Wilkerson on CNN this morning defrocked Michael Gerson's pro-CIA column in today's WAPO, saying Gerson isn't qualified to talk about what the CIA does or doesn't do. Ouch! And the Bush defenders on the Internets try a two-front approach: keeping up the relentless attacks on Nancy Pelosi, which MoDo correctly describes as "chutzpah" today, and trying furiously to debunk Wilkerson.

UPDATE: Media Matters is keeping track of the media yawn here.

And with a hat tip to Mike Corbell, an interesting piece on just what torture may have had to do with the authorization ... or not ... to invade Iraq.

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posted by JReid @ 11:20 AM  
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Liz Cheney: one nasty piece of work...
Did you catch Liz Cheney's act on Stephanopoulos on Sunday? Sorry to be slow on the uptake, but my Tivo failed and I just caught it last night. Watch if for yourself here and here. Spoiler alert: the Cheney apple didn't fall from the gnarled, twisted tree... If you don't feel like clicking, here's a small portion of the roundtable, in which Liz continues the family tradition of shoving the CIA out front as a human shield:

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posted by JReid @ 12:33 PM  
Saturday, May 16, 2009
The real reason for Operation Get Nancy
The goal of the GOP attacks on Nancy Pelosi, which have succeeded in leading the credulous media down a pointless path, is clear: to kill any real investigation into Bush-Cheney-era torture, because such an investigation would inevitably lead to the conclusion that torture was not employed to save Americans from a "ticking time bomb," but rather, to produce false confessions tying Iraq to al-Qaida, to back fill a justification for the war. Watch Fox News work the plan:



Meanwhile, did torture salesman Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who transferred torture from Gitmo to Abu Ghraib, also try to foist it onto the Iraq Survey Group?

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posted by JReid @ 6:40 PM  
Friday, May 15, 2009
A media rarity: questioning torture for war
There are exactly FOUR TV/cable reporters covering the torture for war bombshell, and all four of them are on MSNBC: Here's one of them: David Shuster:



The others are Chris Matthews, who is interviewing former NBC investigative producer David Windrem tonight, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. The rest of the collective Washington-New York media are fixated -- obsessed even -- over the Republican distraction story about Nancy Pelosi. Human events and others are now even embracing the fact that what was done was torture, so long as they can tie it to Pelosi.

What a media we've got.

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posted by JReid @ 5:01 PM  
The next time Dick Cheney does an interview...
I hope someone will ask him about the emerging evidence that despite his increasingly desperate attempts to shape history, the Bush-Cheney torture program was not about protecting Americans from an imminent "ticking time bomb" attack -- but rather was a sadistic attempt to falsify, and then shore up the falsified, case for invading Iraq. The evidence is everywhere. Plain as day.

We tortured Khalid Sheikh Muhammad to try and get him to confess to a link...

Dick Cheney's office -- or maybe he himself -- suggested the torture of an Iraqi intelligence agent -- meaning of someone NOT implicated in the "war on terror" -- in order to get him to confess to a link...

We tortured Abu Zubaydah 83 times in one month to try to get him to falsely confess a link, and this after he had been cooperating with FBI interrogators...

We tortured the now very dead Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi to force him to confess to a link -- and he did. Per Andrew Sullivan:
...Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi was first captured by the US and tortured by CIA surrogates in an Egyptian cell. Apparently, they beat him and put him in a coffin for 17 hours as a mock-burial. To end the severe mental and physical suffering, he confessed that Saddam had trained al Qaeda terrorists in deploying WMDs. This evidence was then cited by Colin Powell as part of the rationale for going to war in Iraq.
Powell used that tortured testimony in his phonied up United Nations speech, no less. No wonder he now has such regret...

Two pieces of video that tell the story well, from last night's episodes of "Countdown" and "Rachel Maddow."



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posted by JReid @ 12:18 PM  
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Dick Cheney's torture for war program
The most damning paragraphs from former Colin Powell deputy Lawrence Wilkerson's exclusive post on TWN:

My investigations have revealed to me--vividly and clearly--that once the Abu Ghraib photographs were made public in the Spring of 2004, the CIA, its contractors, and everyone else involved in administering "the Cheney methods of interrogation", simply shut down. Nada. Nothing. No torture or harsh techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator. Period. People were too frightened by what might happen to them if they continued.

What I am saying is that no torture or harsh interrogation techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator for the entire second term of Cheney-Bush, 2005-2009. So, if we are to believe the protestations of Dick Cheney, that Obama's having shut down the "Cheney interrogation methods" will endanger the nation, what are we to say to Dick Cheney for having endangered the nation for the last four years of his vice presidency?

Likewise, what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002--well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion--its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.

So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney's office that their detainee "was compliant" (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP's office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa'ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, "revealed" such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.

There in fact were no such contacts. (Incidentally, al-Libi just "committed suicide" in Libya. Interestingly, several U.S. lawyers working with tortured detainees were attempting to get the Libyan government to allow them to interview al-Libi....)

The plot continues to thicken...

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posted by JReid @ 10:11 PM  
Time to throw out the 9/11 report?
Robert Windrem's TDB report not only throws a bright light on Dick Cheney's role in pushing for the waterboarding of detainees in order to make them confess to a fantasy link between Iraq and al-Qaida ... which is bad enough. But page two of the piece contains information that might be just as damning, this time, of the 9/11 Commission...

An extensive analysis I conducted as a reporter for NBC News of the 9/11 Commission’s Final Report and its monograph on terrorist travel showed that much of what was reported about the planning and execution of the terror attacks on New York and Washington was based on the CIA's interrogations of high-ranking al Qaeda operatives who had been subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques."

More than one-quarter of all footnotes in the 9/11 Report refer to CIA interrogations of al Qaeda operatives subjected to the now-controversial interrogation techniques. In fact, information derived from the interrogations was central to the 9/11 Report’s most critical chapters, those on the planning and execution of the attacks.

The NBC analysis also showed—and agency and commission staffers concur—there was a separate, second round of interrogations in early 2004, specifically conducted to answer new questions from the 9/11 Commission after its lawyers had been left unsatisfied by the agency’s internal interrogation reports.

Human-rights advocates, including Karen Greenberg of New York University Law School’s Center for Law and Security and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, have said that, at the least, the 9/11 Commission should have been more suspect of the information derived under such pressure.

Philip Zelikow, who led the 9/11 commission as its executive director, is the same guy who authored the "anti-torture memo" that was buried by the Bushies, and who is now calling for an independent investigation into Bush-era torture. He now says:
"We were not aware, but we guessed, that things like that were going on. We were wary…we tried to find different sources to enhance our credibility."
Credibility? What credibility? The fact is, that now even the timeline and explanation of events surrounding 9/11 is tainted by torture. If we cannot trust the commission's reconstruction of events, and the means of getting that reconstruction included the same techniques Dick Cheney wanted used to justify a phony case for war with Iraq, what other conclusion can you come to other than that the fruits of that poisoned tree are ALL bad, and we really don't know what happened on 9/11, or who indeed, was ultimately responsible...?

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posted by JReid @ 2:01 PM  
As Bush stays silent, the evidence against Dick Cheney mounts
I've often wondered, is George W. Bush really as dumb as he seems, or could he, behind the scenes, have figured out -- eventually -- that his vice president had hijacked his presidency. Assuming for the moment that he did figure out, maybe around mid-to-late 2003, by which time the case for the Iraq war had completely fallen apart, and during the summer of which, Robert Novak had completed the leak of a CIA officer's name, something that originated inside the vice president's office, too. There is some evidence to suggest that not only did Dubya figure out what was up, but he also took steps to correct it:
  • Bush fought fiercely for a second term, deploying Karl Rove (who by the way has now admitted that the Bush administration conducted torture...) to do anything to win.

  • After he won (or stole Ohio, whichever historic read you prefer) he ejected the entire neocon fraternity from his administration -- including, eventually, Don Rumsfeld.
The one person he couldn't get rid of, or didn't try to, was Dick Cheney, who had gone to war with the CIA over Iraq (an agency Bush's father once held,) and authorized the Plame leak, something that went against Bush Sr.'s strongest admonitions when it came to undercover personnel. So could Bush, in his second term, have been seeking to repair the presidency he had allowed his vice president to destroy? Maybe. And then there's this: Bush and Cheney are no longer on speaking terms, according to news reports, and Bush does indeed blame Cheney for what went wrong with his reign (he should blame himself more -- Katrina wasn't Cheney's fault, and the economi catastrophe was a shared responsibility...) Bush also refused to pardon Scooter "the CIA agent outer" Libby, despite Cheney's strenuous insistance. And now, Cheney is out there on his own, defending the Bush administration's torture program as if it was ... well, the Cheney administration torture program. Which brings me to a post in today's Daily Beast:

Robert Windrem, who covered terrorism for NBC, reports exclusively in The Daily Beast that:

*Two U.S. intelligence officers confirm that Vice President Cheney’s office suggested waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner, a former intelligence official for Saddam Hussein, who was suspected to have knowledge of a Saddam-al Qaeda connection.

*The former chief of the Iraq Survey Group, Charles Duelfer, in charge of interrogations, tells The Daily Beast that he considered the request reprehensible.

*Much of the information in the report of the 9/11 Commission was provided through more than 30 sessions of torture of detainees.

At the end of April 2003, not long after the fall of Baghdad, U.S. forces captured an Iraqi who Bush White House officials suspected might provide information of a relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s regime. Muhammed Khudayr al-Dulaymi was the head of the M-14 section of Mukhabarat, one of Saddam’s secret police organizations. His responsibilities included chemical weapons and contacts with terrorist groups.

Two senior U.S. intelligence officials at the time tell The Daily Beast that the suggestion to waterboard an Iraqi prisoner came from the Office of Vice President Cheney.

“To those who wanted or suspected a relationship, he would have been a guy who would know, so [White House officials] had particular interest,” Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraqi Survey Group and the man in charge of interrogations of Iraqi officials, told me. So much so that the officials, according to Duelfer, inquired how the interrogation was proceeding.

Could GWB be keeping so very quiet, because he knows that if prosecutions for torture do occur, Cheney will be on the hook more than he? Perhaps that's why this past weekend, Cheney tried to tie Bush to the torture program, claiming Bush "signed off on it..."

Meanwhile, the CIA today turned down Cheney's request to selectively declassify documents he insists will clear him ... or, he never asked. Either way he's not getting any memos. (BTW, which guy do you think would get more CIA cover if bad things went down in the A.G.'s office, former son of a CIA director Bush, or Dick "Deferrments" Cheney?" Just asking. BTW, the American Conservative's Philip Geraldi makes a very good point about those still classified memos, about which he was briefed by someone who has seen them; he writes this:

... The memos were drafted for the White House to demonstrate the success of the enhanced interrogation program and were not intended to look at the downside of the procedure, which means they provide only a very selective and uncritical overview. They were written by the CIA staff tasked with carrying out the interrogations which inevitably had a vested interest in making the program appear to be both effective and legal. Other Agency components, including its Inspector General’s office, opposed the program for various reasons, including its failure to produce any genuine intelligence, so there was hardly any consensus even inside the CIA on the procedure and effectiveness.

The memos cite several leads developed from the interrogations which may or may not have led to the thwarting of terrorist plots, but they make no attempt to critique the interrogation process itself to determine if the information might have been obtained more conventionally. None of the interrogations of “high value suspects” related to a “smoking gun scenario” where a detainee knew details of an imminent terrorist attack, meaning that the waterboarding was carried out even when there was no pressing need to use that technique. The memos also did not address the issue of the numerous false leads and bogus information derived from confessions under torture that made the entire process questionable. [emphasis added]

And the credulous Washington press corps continues to buy into the GOP's Operation Get Nancy distraction technique, to a degree that is shameful, even for this Republican-coddling crowd.

TIME Magazine also wondered why the once-reclusive Dick is so chatty these days, and concluded as follows:

Cheney is "trying to rewrite history," says a Republican consultant who has experience in intelligence matters. "He knows that as time goes by, he will look worse. And so he's trying to put his stroke on it."

And you know what? I'll bet George W. Bush knows that, too.

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posted by JReid @ 1:29 PM  
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Unwinding torture, II
In case you missed it, the New York Times describes the unraveling of the Bush administration's torture program:

WASHINGTON — The proclamation that President George W. Bush issued on June 26, 2003, to mark the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture seemed innocuous, one of dozens of high-minded statements published and duly ignored each year.

The United States is “committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example,” Mr. Bush declared, vowing to prosecute torture and to prevent “other cruel and unusual punishment.”

But inside the Central Intelligence Agency, the statement set off alarms. The agency’s top lawyer, Scott W. Muller, called the White House to complain. The statement by the president could unnerve the C.I.A. interrogators Mr. Bush had authorized to use brutal tactics on members of Al Qaeda, Mr. Muller said, raising fears that political winds could change and make them scapegoats.

White House officials reaffirmed their support for the C.I.A. methods. But the exchange was a harbinger of the conflict between the coercive interrogations and the United States’ historical stance against torture that would deeply divide the Bush administration and ultimately undo the program.

Meanwhile, the excuses for not prosecuting Bush administration officials for war crimes grow thinner and thinner. In fact, at this point, there are none.

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posted by JReid @ 12:23 AM  
Monday, May 04, 2009
Are you smarter than a fourth grader?
Condi Rice does battle with a grade schooler over torture, and declares that fear and terror inside the Bush administration led to the now infamous creation of an American torture program:



More on what the child REALLY wanted to ask Condi here.

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posted by JReid @ 10:37 PM  
Friday, May 01, 2009
Condi/Nixon: if the president authorizes it, it's not torture
Condi Rice was confronted by a Stanford student about U.S. policies on torture and indefinite detention, and got a little sassy with him while pulling a Nixon, saying that essentially, if the president authorizes it (torture) it's not illegal. (I rented "Frost, Nixon" for this weekend, and am now guessing it's going to seem very familiar...) Keith Olbermann breaks it down, and talks to John Dean, who says Rice may have just admitted to her part in a criminal conspiracy to commit war crimes. Watch the entire exchange, as recorded by the poster, who lives in the dorm where it took place. Condi's big admission comes at about 5:26.

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posted by JReid @ 11:40 AM  
Monday, April 27, 2009
Levin doesn't make the rounds
You'd think that given the serial bombshells that dropped from the Senate Arms Services Committee report, that the chair of that committee, whose name has become synonymous with the bombshells, would have been a prime booking for the Sunday chat shows. Instead, the debates over the "Levin Report" were confined mainly to the pundits, who were content to debate the vagueries of "politicizing policy," rather than the concrete lawbreaking and outrageous descent from civilization that torture represents.

Levin appeared on just one program: Fox News Sunday, and even there, what would seem to be the most relevant question of all was never asked. That question was framed by Frank Rich on Sunday:

The [Levin] report found that Maj. Paul Burney, a United States Army psychiatrist assigned to interrogations in Guantánamo Bay that summer of 2002, told Army investigators of another White House imperative: “A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful.” As higher-ups got more “frustrated” at the inability to prove this connection, the major said, “there was more and more pressure to resort to measures” that might produce that intelligence.

In other words, the ticking time bomb was not another potential Qaeda attack on America but the Bush administration’s ticking timetable for selling a war in Iraq; it wanted to pressure Congress to pass a war resolution before the 2002 midterm elections. Bybee’s memo was written the week after the then-secret (and subsequently leaked) “Downing Street memo,” in which the head of British intelligence informed Tony Blair that the Bush White House was so determined to go to war in Iraq that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” A month after Bybee’s memo, on Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney would make his infamous appearance on “Meet the Press,” hyping both Saddam’s W.M.D.s and the “number of contacts over the years” between Al Qaeda and Iraq. If only 9/11 could somehow be pinned on Iraq, the case for war would be a slamdunk.

But there were no links between 9/11 and Iraq, and the White House knew it. Torture may have been the last hope for coercing such bogus “intelligence” from detainees who would be tempted to say anything to stop the waterboarding.

In short, to a show, and to a reporter, the media have treated the Levin report as if its most important finding was that waterboarding took place. Well, we already knew that. What we didn't know, and what the media has to date, almost completely erased from the coverage, is that the waterboarding was confined to so-called "high value detainees" of a very specific sort: men who the Bush administration must have considered credible witnesses to a lie (if only they could torture them enough to get them to tell it) ... namely, that an invasion of Iraq would be justified because Saddam Hussein was somehow complicit in 9/11. As Rich, who was the only member of the media, to my knowledge, who even brought up this incredible set of facts (and by the way Levin, who told Rich plainly that the torture for false information scenario was accurate, didn't bring it up on his own, either...) sums up:

Five years after the Abu Ghraib revelations, we must acknowledge that our government methodically authorized torture and lied about it. But we also must contemplate the possibility that it did so not just out of a sincere, if criminally misguided, desire to “protect” us but also to promote an unnecessary and catastrophic war. Instead of saving us from “another 9/11,” torture was a tool in the campaign to falsify and exploit 9/11 so that fearful Americans would be bamboozled into a mission that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. The lying about Iraq remains the original sin from which flows much of the Bush White House’s illegality.

And yet, that is the very possibility the media is, en masse, refusing to contemplate. You've really got to wonder why.

Cross-posted at TPMCafe.

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posted by JReid @ 11:31 AM  
The media's Iraq-torture blackout
Well, the Sunday shows were a wash. David Gregory had a rather dull interview with Jordan's King Abdullah, whose new book sounds like a keeper. The only interesting moment: Abdullah's obvious affection for his late father as he watched a clip of the late King Hussein. Meanwhile, in the panel afterwords, we learned from two Pulitzer Prize-winning historians that well, great presidents violate American values in wartime. It's just the way it is.

On "This Week," Stephanopoulos interviewed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmenidejad, and managed to asked him the same question about a dozen different times: would he accept Israel if the Palestinians go for a two-state solution? Will he accept them in a box? With a fox? On a train? In the rain? Will he, will he? Make it plain...! The extent to which the American media (not to mention American politics) is obsessed with Israel's point of view is striking. And the extent to which the Muslim and Arab world are resistant to the pressure to bow to Israel is equally striking; witness Abdullah's repetition over and over again to a resistant David Gregory that a Palestinian state is crucial to peace, and Ahmadinejad's repetition over and over again to a resistant Stephanopoulos that the Palestinian people have rights that should be respected by the international communty. Natch.

CNN managed to get through an entire Sunday without really questioning the absurd notion that somehow, torture is a necessary evil (but only when WE do it,) and without once bringing up the now-exposed Iraq-torture connection. In fact, none of the networks brought it up. Instead, each of the Sunday shows focused on the entirely irrelevant question of whether torture got us any good intel. For the hosts of America's Most Important News Programs, torture is just another policy choice in the grand war on terror, and the debate is over politics, not legality. It's a non-debate debate that is, in a word, shameful, as is the complete rub-out of the most important news to emerge last week: that the Bush administration began torture Abu Zubaydah AFTER he gave up whatever relevant information he had, and did so at the same time the Bush administration was looking for some link -- any link -- between al-qaida and Saddam Hussein. It's a point that has been entirely erased from television since it broke last week, and as of Sunday, has been repeated by only three media personalities: Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and on Sunday, Frank Rich, who points out the following revelations from the Levin report:

The report found that Maj. Paul Burney, a United States Army psychiatrist assigned to interrogations in Guantánamo Bay that summer of 2002, told Army investigators of another White House imperative: “A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful.” As higher-ups got more “frustrated” at the inability to prove this connection, the major said, “there was more and more pressure to resort to measures” that might produce that intelligence.

In other words, the ticking time bomb was not another potential Qaeda attack on America but the Bush administration’s ticking timetable for selling a war in Iraq; it wanted to pressure Congress to pass a war resolution before the 2002 midterm elections. Bybee’s memo was written the week after the then-secret (and subsequently leaked) “Downing Street memo,” in which the head of British intelligence informed Tony Blair that the Bush White House was so determined to go to war in Iraq that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” A month after Bybee’s memo, on Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney would make his infamous appearance on “Meet the Press,” hyping both Saddam’s W.M.D.s and the “number of contacts over the years” between Al Qaeda and Iraq. If only 9/11 could somehow be pinned on Iraq, the case for war would be a slamdunk.

But there were no links between 9/11 and Iraq, and the White House knew it. Torture may have been the last hope for coercing such bogus “intelligence” from detainees who would be tempted to say anything to stop the waterboarding.
With this kind of bombshell laid at their feet, what explains the media's refusal to cover this story? Perhaps the newsies are simply ignorant of the relevant law (presented for them here in black and white...) on torture, and so they can't make the connection in their minds to Iraq ... or perhaps they, the Washington press corps in particular, were and continue to be wholly complicit in -- even cheerleaders for -- the whole "war on terror," Iraq war adventure thing, and thus can't bring themselves to question their own beliefs. Or worse, perhaps an editorial policy has been set at the top, at each of these networks, not to talk about the big, fat elephant in the room: the probability that the Bush administration tortured "high value detainees" Pol Pot style, in order to create false "evidence" that would allow them to sell the American people on going to war in Iraq.

In related news, Andrew Sullivan declares FBI interrogator Ali Soufan a national hero. Hear hear.

And the Washington Post publishes a lengthy he-a-culpa, essentially an excused absence letter to the school of public opinion from Judge Bybee's friends, saying he's a wonderful, thoughtful man after all, who rather regrets a certain memo legalizing torture. How sweet. Now, if the Post could just get up an article abouthow John Yoo loves to pet puppies... beautiful, fluffy puppies...

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posted by JReid @ 10:12 AM  
Friday, April 24, 2009
Unwinding torture
The Washington Post yesterday went inside the debate within the Obama administration over whether to release the torture memos. A salient clip starts with remarks from former Democratic Senator David Boren of Oklahoma:
Boren, who chaired the Senate intelligence committee from 1987 to 1993 and is now president of the University of Oklahoma, said that attending the briefings was "one of the most deeply disturbing experiences I have had" and that "I wanted to take a bath when I heard it. I was ashamed of it." He said he concluded that "fear was used to justify the use of techniques that violate our values and weaken our intelligence" and that the agency did not prove those methods "are particularly effective at getting the truth."

One of those present said that when asked, the CIA officers acknowledged that some foreign intelligence agencies had refused, for example, to share information about the location of terrorism suspects for fear of becoming implicated in any eventual torture of those suspects. Sources said that Jones shared these concerns and that, as a former military officer, he worried that any use of harsh interrogations by the United States could make it more likely that American soldiers in captivity would be subjected to similar tactics.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration will release more information, in the form of photos of widespread torture and abuse of detainees, not just at Abu Ghraib, but at U.S.-run detention facilities around the world. From Reuters:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon said on Friday it will release hundreds of photographs from investigations into prisoner abuse but insisted they did not reveal a policy of mistreatment.

The Obama administration's commitment to release the pictures by May 28 could fan the flames of a political firestorm over the treatment of terrorism suspects and other detainees during George W. Bush's presidency.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates voiced concern this week that publicizing details of U.S. interrogation practices and photographs of prisoner treatment could trigger a backlash against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The American Civil Liberties Union has spent years suing the government for the release of the pictures, which came from military investigations. The group said they showed prisoner abuse went far beyond well-known cases in Iraq and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, yet another pro-torture GOP straw man falls, as the former FBI agent who interrogated Abu Zubaydah before the CIA took over and began torturing him up to 83 times in one month, says the salient information he provided to the U.S. came during HIS interrogations, before the torture began. NPR catches Michael Hayden in a lie as he claims Zubaydah gave up Khalid Shaikh Muhammad after we started torturing him, when in fact, Zubaydah was tortured AFTER giving up the most important information he had:
one of Zubaydah's FBI interrogators, Ali Soufan, remembers it differently. Soufan wrote in The New York Times that Zubaydah talked without being coerced.

Two high-ranking former FBI sources remember it that way, too. They say that intelligence breakthroughs came before Zubaydah was subjected to harsh techniques, not after. Another person close to the interrogation, Rohan Gunaratna, has similar recollections. He is an al-Qaida expert who has worked with U.S. government agencies on terrorism issues.

"Gen. Hayden is dead wrong" about harsh techniques getting information from Zubaydah, he says. "I have tremendous respect for Gen. Hayden, but he is wrong in this case."

Tending To The Prisoner

Gunaratna and FBI agents familiar with the Zubaydah case say he was shot and near death when he was captured. FBI agents, including Soufan, tended to Zubaydah during his convalescence. The idea was partly to bond with him.

When he was well enough, the agents began showing Zubaydah pictures of suspected members of al-Qaida. When he saw a photograph of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Zubaydah apparently asked, "How do you know about Muktar?"

"We know all about Muktar," the agent said, without missing a beat. He flipped through several other photos and then went back to the picture of Mohammed.

Zubaydah looked up and added, "How did you know he was the mastermind of 9/11?"

Gunaratna says that was a critical revelation — and there were others. "In fact, most of the information that was exceptionally useful to the fight against al-Qaida came from Abu Zubaydah," he says, "and it came before the U.S. government decided to use enhanced techniques."
Read Soufan's op-ed on the same subject here.

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posted by JReid @ 7:09 PM  
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Torture, secret detentions and Europe strikes back
On the radar today:

It's not just Spain. Other NATO allies are considering perusing torture prosecutions against CIA and Bush administration officials if the Obama administration doesn't.

Meanwhile, British officials have released new information about the Bush administration attempts to cover up their crimes on the way out the door. In short, military prosecutors tried to pressure a former Gitmo detainee, Binyam Muhammad, into signing a plea deal that would have imprisoned him for 10 years in addition to the 7 he'd already been held, and that they tried to get him to sign a statement claiming he was NOT tortured, when he was, to promise not to sue, and to not talk to the news media.

Meanwhile, a United Nations special rapporteur on international law is launching a probe into illegal U.S. rendition/black site programs that drew in other countries, including many from the old Soviet Union, and where torture likely took place.

In the Mideast, Hamas' diplomatic isolation appears to be melting.

... while Iraq continues to be a very violent place, where bombings killed scores yesterday/today, even as the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq (a group the Bush administration was kind enough to put there) is arrested.

What's going on at Apple? And who in their right mind would come up with a baby shaking game, anyway?

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posted by JReid @ 9:29 AM  
Is it time to pardon Lynndie England?
Lynndie England did time for Abu Ghraib while the architects walked

Given that we now know that the abuses at Abu Ghraib did indeed flow from Gitmo, and ultimately, from the Pentagon and White House (which many of us long suspected, and Gen. Janis Karpinski tried to tell us years ago, as she was being scapegoated for the Abu Ghraib outrages) should not the president now pardon the low level military personnel who took the fall for Bush administration torture policies? England, a nasty sort of gal who blamed the media for her plight, nonetheless got 3 years in prison for her part in the scandal; Army Spc. Charles Graner, England's superior at Abu Ghraib, is serving 10 years. Senior officers got relative slaps on the wrist, and Karpinski, who ran the facility, but not the interrogations, got demoted, all while the Bush administration continued to insist that it was these "bad apples" who did the dirty deeds, not them.

Now that we know better, is it time for pardons to be issued by the new president, and prosecution of the real criminals to commence? Watch Karpinski's impassioned appearance on "Countdown" last night:

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posted by JReid @ 9:14 AM  
The push to torture us into war
The debate over the Bush administration's torture policies just got ratcheted up about 1,000 notches yesterday, when reporters, digging through the incredibly important Levin Report, discovered the following bombshell: the torture program may not have been about preventing another terror attack at all. It may, in the end, have been about trying to elicit false confessions from high value detainees that would produce "evidence" of a (non-existent) link between al-Qaida and Iraq. From McClatchy:

A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that [Dick] Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.

"There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used," the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.

"The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there."

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

"There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people to push harder," he continued.

"Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn't any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies."

Senior administration officials, however, "blew that off and kept insisting that we'd overlooked something, that the interrogators weren't pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information," he said.

The Red Chinese-style push (the Chinese used waterboarding to elicit false confessions from American G.I.'s during the Korean war, and then we adapted their techniques, using the military program that trained our soldiers to resist the communist interrogators) to get confessions out of Zubaida and Khalid Sheikh Muhammad was approved not just by Cheney and Rumsfeld, but also by Condoleezza Rice, then Bush's National Security Advisor. From NBC News:

Rice gave a key early green light when, as President George W. Bush's national security adviser, she met on July 17, 2002, with the CIA's then-director, George J. Tenet, and "advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation of Abu Zubaida," subject to approval by the Justice Department, according to the timeline.

Still don't believe that we were using torture the same way the Maoists did? Salon reports:

Top Rumsfeld aides were already laying the groundwork for torture barely two months after the 9/11 attacks, and just weeks into the war in Afghanistan. The Pentagon's general counsel's office contacted the military agency that runs the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape programs -- schools where U.S. personnel and contractors are taught how to resist abuses that prisoners of war have been through before -- in December 2001 to find out how the SERE training could help interrogators break al-Qaida suspects. Military officials at the time told top Pentagon aides that the SERE techniques produced "less reliable" information.

By the spring of 2002, Cabinet-level Bush aides -- including Rumsfeld, then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, then-CIA Director George Tenet and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft -- began evaluating the CIA's plans to set up an interrogation program at Guantánamo using tactics developed by the SERE schools. The Justice Department's memos giving legal cover for the techniques were written that summer. In October 2002, military commanders at Guantánamo asked the Pentagon to okay the techniques. Uniformed military lawyers had decided they needed approval from Rumsfeld, because otherwise what was being proposed would be illegal. "It would be advisable to have permission or immunity in advance" before carrying out the interrogations, wrote a staff lawyer at the Guantánamo base, Lt. Col. Diane Beaver. Her analysis found the tactics would constitute a "per se violation" of military law, the report says.

Meanwhile, the SERE trainers who taught the CIA how to torture people (when they themselves had no experience in interrogation -- only in training soldiers to resist interrogation) wound up as contractors in Iraq, making money on the Iraq war that they were essentially hired to foment:

On April 16, 2003, Rumsfeld authorized 24 techniques at Guantánamo including sleep deprivation, messing with detainees' diets and pretending the interrogators were from a different country -- one where torture was even more acceptable -- in order to scare them into cooperating. And he told commanders to ask him for permission to use additional techniques.

From there, it was only a matter of time before the tactics spread. "The techniques -- and the fact that the Secretary had authorized them -- became known to interlocutors in Afghanistan," the Senate report says. Rumsfeld's memos authorizing dogs in Guantánamo quickly arrived at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. SERE school trainers, who had developed the interrogation techniques at Gitmo, started showing up in Afghanistan and Iraq. The techniques became standard operating procedure.

Meanwhile, we now have definitive proof that the grunts from West Virginia weren't "bad apples" who cooked up the dog leash and naked stacking policies on their own:

The report, the executive summary of which was released in November, found that Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and other former senior Bush administration officials were responsible for the abusive interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo and in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rumsfeld approved extreme interrogation techniques for Guantanamo in December 2002. He withdrew his authorization the following month amid protests by senior military lawyers that some techniques could amount to torture, violating U.S. and international laws.

Military interrogators, however, continued employing some techniques in Afghanistan and later in Iraq.

You begin to see why President Obama reversed course, surely knowing that now, he cannot just "look forward."

BTW, there's also a question of whether the SERE training was given to foreign nationals. A Spokane, Washington blogger who ordinarily focuses on crime posted this, back in 2007:

Fairchild AFB is home to a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Program. SERE Programs train soldiers, seaman, airmen, CIA operatives, and others–including foreign nationals–in resistance techniques. However, they also provide military and other government torturers, trainers, foreign nationals, contractors (aka US government mercenaries employed by corporations such as Blackwater, CACI International, Titan Corp, and SAIC) and psychologists, among others, the opportunity to develop, refine, practice and polish their torture techniques.

In their must-read June 29, 2007 Spokesman-Review article, reporters Karen Dorn Steele and Bill Morlin reveal that “the SERE program is used by the Army at Fort Bragg, where Green Berets train, and at the U.S. Air Force Survival School near Spokane, where thousands of other trainees are instructed annually.” Using first-hand reporting and research as well as reporting from sources such as the New Yorker and Salon.com, Dorn Steele and Morlin reveal the role of Spokane area psychologists and businesses in the U.S. government’s reverse-engineering of torture resistance training.

These techniques of torture–witnessed at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other U.S. facilities around the world–have been employed by the U.S. government, military, intelligence agencies, contractors and foreign agents with the express purpose of breaking human beings as part of the global U.S. “war on terror”. That so-called “war on terror” has produced worldwide denunciations of U.S. preemptive attacks, massacres of civilians, torture, disappearances, use of “depleted” uranium, and other actions which are illegal under international standards and laws.

Fairchild’s SERE Program — The premiere Air Force SERE program

In fact, not only is Fairchild home to a SERE program, it is home to an even more exclusive and secret program, SERE/JPRA (Joint Personnel Recovery Agency). This unclassified Department of Defense (DOD) memo shows that the SERE/JPRA site at the PRA White Bluff Site at 11604 W. NEWKIRK ROAD, SPOKANE, WA 99224 was the host in May 2007 of the DOD SERE Conference and the DOD SERE Psychology Conference.

As the memo shows, foreign government representatives from the U.S. government’s Iraq “coalition” partners participated in the two conferences as did three representatives from each of the FBI, DEA, and CIA. In point of fact, the facility has all the markings of a CIA facility such as those at Warrenton, VA and other locations in the U.S. (compare the similarity between the facility maps by clicking the respective links above).

On September 16, 2002, a prior SERE Psychologist Conference was hosted by the Army Special Operations Command and the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency at Fort Bragg for JTF-170 (the military component responsible for interrogations at Guantanamo) interrogation personnel. The Army’s Behavioral Science Consultation Team from Guantanamo Bay also attended the conference. Joint Personnel Recovery Agency personnel briefed JTF-170 representatives on the exploitation and methods used in resistance (to interrogation) training at SERE schools. The purpose was the reverse engineering of interrogation resistance to design more “effective” torture techniques. (See “Shrinks and the SERE Techniques at Guantanamo“)

The torture program was not about terrorism. It was about invading Iraq. This relentless neocon and Cheney/Halliburton obsession with toppling (and bumping off) former CIA asset Saddam Hussein, and turning his country into a cash cow.

Read the Levin report for yourself:

Senate report, part 1

Senate report, part 2

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posted by JReid @ 7:51 AM  
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Torture: when Americans do it, it's not illegal
That would seem to be the last remaining justification for the use of torture by our CIA. A New York Times story this morning reveals that the torture tactics were adopted without even a cursory examination of the history of the methods, or their usefulness.
The program began with Central Intelligence Agency leaders in the grip of an alluring idea: They could get tough in terrorist interrogations without risking legal trouble by adopting a set of methods used on Americans during military training. How could that be torture?

In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.

This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved — not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees — investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.

According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.

Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.

The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.

They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective. Nor were most of the officials aware that the former military psychologist who played a central role in persuading C.I.A. officials to use the harsh methods had never conducted a real interrogation, or that the Justice Department lawyer most responsible for declaring the methods legal had idiosyncratic ideas that even the Bush Justice Department would later renounce.

The process was “a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm,” a former C.I.A. official said.
Read the Senate Arms Services committee report here.

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posted by JReid @ 10:07 AM  
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Would Dick Cheney just shut up already?
I realize that he's a private citizen with a perfect right to speak his mind, criticize the current president, or do whatever he feels will help beat back the demons of total public repudiation that dog his every, lurching step... but could somebody please muzzle the felonious former vice president, like, for a couple of days, so we can all recover from the migraines?

Meanwhile, a friendly reminder from George Lucas: Dick Cheney is not Darth Vader ... he's too evil to be Darth Vader. (Though I'm not sure the GWB as Vader comparison works either, since at no point in his history could you call Dubya a "promising young man..."

More Cheney blathering from ThinkP.

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posted by JReid @ 9:16 AM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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"I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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