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  
Monday, June 08, 2009
Current events: North Korea, torture, and more
Two American journalists are sentenced to 12 years hard labor in North Korea.

A former Gitmo detainee denies being a terrorist, and says yes, he was tortured.

The SUPCO has rejected a challenge to Don't Ask, Don't Tell. (Expect activists to lose their natural minds today at the Obama administration for fighting in court on behalf of the policy...) As is not uncommon, the Moderate Voice has a good post on the topic.

Laura Bush speaks up for the few remaining reasonable people in the Republican Party (did I mention she grew up a Democrat?) ... and for Judge Sotomayor.

More later.

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posted by JReid @ 12:23 PM  
Friday, June 05, 2009
The out CIA agents, don't they?
In yet another flailing attempt to defend the use of torture, Hill Republicans reveal classified briefing info ... on the record.

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posted by JReid @ 2:05 AM  
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  
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The limits of Powell's rethinking
Colin Powell is probably the most articulate current voice of the small, sane wing of the Republican Party. And he has successfully put distance between himself and the Bush administration in terms of the public's esteem, even managing to maintain the respect of those of us who deeply disagreed with him on Iraq. But there are some things he just can't seem to do. Involving himself in the question of torture for war is apparently one of them. From journalist Sam Husseini:

Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, recently wrote:

“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.

But Powell isn't ready to go there:

Sam Husseini: General, can you talk about the al-Libi case and the link between torture and the production of tortured evidence for war?

Colin Powell: I don’t have any details on the al-Libi case.

SH: Can you tell us when you learned that some of the evidence that you used in front of the UN was based on torture? When did you learn that?

CP: I don’t know that. I don’t know what information you’re referring to. So I can’t answer.

SH: Your chief of staff, Wilkerson, has written about this.

CP: So what? [inaudible]

SH: So you’d think you’d know about it.

CP: The information I presented to the UN was vetted by the CIA. Every word came from the CIA and they stood behind all that information. I don’t know that any of them believe that torture was involved. I don’t know that in fact. A lot of speculation, particularly by people who never attended any of these meetings, but I’m not aware of it.

Powell seems to be somehow at odds with himself over his involvement in the former administration's policies: sorry he made the case for war at the U.N. without better facts, but somewhat defensive on the idea that he tried to make sure the facts were good before he made it. Perhaps the old soldier in him just can't go where Wilkerson is able to. Maybe he really does believe that the Iraq war was the right thing to do. Or maybe he's learning, along with the rest of us, the lengths his former colleague Dick Cheney and his band of neocons were willing to go to (including expending Powell's reputation for their cause) in order to have their war. Either that, or he's in deep denial.

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posted by JReid @ 11:03 AM  
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Mancow takes his waterboarding like a man, and concludes it IS torture
Are you listening, Miss Hannity?



Of course, if he were really being waterboarded, Mancow wouldn't have been given so many calm instructions or opportunities to stop the torture. It would have been considerably more unpleasant, and accompanied by serial sleep deprivation, beatings, constant terror of being taken from your cell over and over again, and more torture. Still, Mancow gets major props for stepping up to the plate, unlike Lady Sean, he went through with it. And Keith will give the $10,000 to charity on his behalf. He'll now have to endure the hatred of his fellow wingers (scroll down), and will probably be kicked out of the Republican Party by El Rushbo (who like the other soon-to-be winger Mancow haters, wouldn't have even lasted 6 seconds,) but at least there's one honest winger in talk radio today.

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posted by JReid @ 3:01 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  
ReidBlog: The "Counterspin" interview
Here's the interview I did this week with FAIR's radio show, "Counterspin."

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posted by JReid @ 10:31 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.

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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  
Newt Gingrich: sublimely ridiculous
Not only is Newt Gingrich a rank hypocrite -- imagine, the disgraced former speaker of the House, who was fined $300,000 and sanctioned by his own party for ethics violations back in the days before he himself had to resign as speaker (for having a sexual affair with an aide at the same time he was pushing for the impeachment of President Clinton ... for having a sexual affair with an intern ...) he is also a man of shallow principle. Newt, who claims that Nancy Pelosi has "disqualified herself" as speaker, and thus, should make like a Newt and resign, got caught with his proverbial pants down by Diane Sawyer this week, abba-abba-abba'ing over the various Republicans, including some of Pelosi's accusers, who've also called the CIA a bunch of liars.

The fact is that Newt, in the end, is not all that significant (except to the credulous press corps, which insists on giving him air time.) What is significant is the fact that he, and his attacks on Nancy Pelosi, and those of his party, are not actually serous. They don't represent some genuine outrage over something Pelosi has done (after all, they're accusing her of not opposing torture -- a sentiment they share.) What this is about, is the GOP persuing a strategy dating back to January, of using any opportunity to brand and attack members of the Democratic leadership, as a proxy for attacking the way too popular President Obama.

Let's travel back in time, to January, in the weeks after the inauguration, when Republicans were trying to figure out how to respond to the popular president's economic stimulus plan. ABC News noted on January 29:

Two weeks ago, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., hired GOP pollster John McLaughlin to conduct a poll on the stimulus plan to define the most effective ways to frame Republican concerns.

ABC obtained a copy of a PowerPoint presentation prepared based on that poll, available HERE.

The GOP poll showed that Obama is popular (71 percent approval) and that an overwhelming majority (64 percent) approve of “Barack Obama's economic recovery plan.”

But it showed that Pelosi, D-Calif., (34 percent favorable) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., (20 percent) are far less popular. And when asked about the specifics of the stimulus plan without Obama's name attached, the plan loses its appeal.

The result: Congressional Republicans held together and voted unaminously "no." And the GOP has carried that strategy forward ever since. It's "Operation: Get Nancy," mostly because Harry Reid is so dull (and besides, El Rushbo usually takes care of him.) What is incredible, is not that the GOP is deploying a months-old strategy to satiate their base and in their minds, take down the Democratic Party by attacking the leadership -- while, they hope, unnerving Democrats out of really investigating torture or the other abuses of the Bush administration in the process. What is stunning is how willing the Washington press corps has been to go along with the program.

As John Nichols of The Nation pointed out recently:

I.F. Stone used to joke that what passed for investigative journalism in Washington was actually just the restating of what was already in the public record at the appropriate time.

Indeed, and it turns out that Nichols was among the reporters who "exposed" the fact that Pelosi was briefed on torture. Only he did it in 2007. In other words: the fact that senior Democrats were compliant with the Bush administration when it came, not just to torture, but also to Iraq and overall national security policy is no new revelation. And the media has, almost to a man (or woman) failed to ask a single, quite relevant question: let's just say that Nancy Pelosi IS lying, and she WAS fully briefed about the fact that we were torturing people. What does that mean? The answer is, it would mean that Pelosi was aware of the commission of war crimes (though she claims that because her knowledge was classified, she couldn't have done anything about it) and it would mean that, ipso facto, war crimes were committed at the behest of the previous administration, with the quizzling assent of Democrats. Again, nothing new. Besides, if Pelosi's involvement is a 5 on the war crimes scale, then Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush and the CIA are at about a 12, right?

So ... does that mean Republicans, and the media, at long last, are ready to see those crimes investigated? Here's the funniest part of all: Democrats outside the Beltway are ready. And so is Nancy Pelosi.

Related: TDB - GOP's Pelosi tricks backfire.


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posted by JReid @ 8:05 AM  
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  
Friday, May 08, 2009
Operation: Get Pelosi
Is it just me who is disturbed by "intelligence officials" who may or may not be partisan Republicans, or persons otherwise interested in forestalling a full investigation of torture during the Bush administration, leaking memos that are intended to implicate Nancy Pelosi (who has some say in the matter of investigations, but who was disallowed by law from even discussing the classified briefings, let alone objecting to their content...) in foreknowledge of torture?

Pelosi has continued to deny she knew that torture had occurred, and sorry, but this strikes me as blackmail, especially considering Dick Cheney's sinister observation that he left a "stay behind" (or two or more?) inside the federal government...

Most importantly, we have not seen the contents of the leaked memo, so we really don't know what it says:
In a letter accompanying the new documents, CIA Director Leon Panetta explains that it is possible that the CIA’s description of the briefing is inaccurate. Panetta explains that its report is based on the “best recollections” of those in attendance and states that the Senate Intelligence Committee, to whom they sent the report, “will have to determine whether this information is an accurate summary of what actually happened
Something around here stinks...

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posted by JReid @ 12:35 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  
Sunday, May 03, 2009
Pew survey finds Christians back lions in torture debate
The Pew survey so many people are talking and blogging about, which found that the more a person goes to church in America, the more likely they are to support the use of torture. Jack Cafferty dealt with it in his CNN segment last week:



The survey has produced mass consternation, mostly from people outside the world of evangelical Christianity. Actual Christians, have mostly reacted with sort of sad disbelief, or by deflecting the issue, when they've reacted at all. I suppose many Christians worry that the survey will provide yet another excuse to bash their faith as witless and primitive. Of course, it will, and many on the left, including atheists, will take their shots. But as a Christian myself, if a fairly tortured one (no pun intended,) I do wonder why frequent church-goers would favor the tactics of Caesar over the teachings of Jesus... I can think of three reasons right off the bat:

1) Partisanship. White, evangelical Christians are both the majority of torture proponents, and the most likely to be cultural conservatives who vote Republican, and to have supported George W. Bush. Had a Democratic president used torture, I suspect the poll would have shown fewer evangelicals supporting it.

2) Fundamentalism. All religions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam -- all have their fundamentalist elements, and the further you go along that trajectory, the more violent the tendencies become. Think Jewish settlers on the West Bank, Islamist jihadis and Christian extremists like the Ku Klux Klan, violent anti-abortion activists like Randall Terry, and the like. What they all have in common is a belief that everyone other than them is going to hell. When you believe that, sympathy for the devil-bound is probably hard to come by.

3) Religious xenophobia. The Pew survey specifically asks about the use of torture against "suspected terrorists," who probably everyone taking the survey presumed to be Muslims, given the times we live in. And many Christians of the right wing variety have a strong, shall we say, intolerance, for alternative faiths, and probably consider practitioners of Islam (who they likely presume are the people being subjected to torture) to be inherently evil -- "the enemy" -- and whatever might be done to them to "protect America and our way of life" is justified.

There is a fourth: and it is the possibility that while they love to "call on his name," many Christians, like the Calvinists before them, think Jesus is fine to revere, but they don't really buy into his "new age" philosophy. They prefer the hardness and certainty of the Old Testament to the lovestruck view of the New. There is an element of fundamentalism that won't even accept change when it happened 2000 years ago, and that in a sick way, is drawn to violence as a way to achieve religious "victory" over the evils of modernity, something that's true of extremist Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. There is a certain violence inherent in all fundamentalism, and I suspect that's why so many evangelicals were drawn to "The Passion of the Christ," with al its violent imagery. [Still from the movie shown at left]

Ironically, Jesus wouldn't have fit in with the crowd that claims him most passionately in America. Compared to them, he would have seemed an absolute hippie, with all that "blessed are the meek" stuff. (Indeed, in Jesus' time, he was rejected by his own people because he wasn't violent enough against the Romans...)

That said, I think evangelicals need to take a good hard look at themselves, and ask whether one can be both "pro life," and, as many other commenters have said, pro gun, pro torture and pro death penalty, or whether perhaps some Christians have a little too much in common with the Pharisees. In the end, the bargain of "torture for (alleged) safety" is no bargain at all. As this very smart guy says:
A nation that turns its bravest and best into torturers instead of warriors has dishonored itself. There are worse things than losing a war and that is one of them.
Amen.

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posted by JReid @ 11:07 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  
Sunday, April 26, 2009
The CNN torture echo chamber
Has CNN adopted an editorial policy of ignoring altogether, the finding reported last week by McClatchy, that the serial torture of "high value detainees" Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and Abu Zubaydah was done not to prevent another terrorist attack, but rather to try and extract false confessions that would tie Saddam Hussain to 9/11?

John King this morning (Sunday) had on Diane Feinstein, Lindsey Graham and the treacherous Mr. Lieberman to discuss, among other things, the release of the torture memos. Lieberman and Graham were allowed, unimpeded by King, to repeat the meme that "enhanced interrogation techniques" (torture) was used, in Graham's words, "not to commit a crime against individual people, but to save us all from another attack."

At that point, King might have interjected that a senior U.S. inteligence official and a former Army psychiatrist have stated that the Bush administration's desire to invade Iraq was central to the torture program (a desire that was shared by Mr. Lieberman for many years, by the way...) and asked his guests for comment.

He interjected no such thing. In fact, I don't recall hearing the McClatchy story repeated on CNN in any daypart since the news broke last week. Has anyone else noticed what seems like an editorial decision to stick to the official (Bush-Cheney) narrative about torture being necessary to prevent another attack? Perhaps CNN simply doesn't believe McClatchy's sources, or maybe they don't want to open up this line of inquiry against the prior administration for reasons unknown.

(Not that NBC has been exactly aggressive, other than Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow's shows about making this point, either, but CNN seems to be particularly determined to hew to the Cheney line.)

Meanwhile, what will Howie Kurtz do...?

Cross-posted at TPM Cafe.

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posted by JReid @ 10:03 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
A presidential shift on torture?
CNN is reporting that President Obama today signaled a shift toward investigating former Bush administration officials on torture, saying now that he's open to an investigation, so long as it's done "in a bipartisan way." So my question is, what happened in the last 24 hours to change the president's mind? Could it be Dick Cheney's braying? And could the media stop saying that the only people seeking accountability are "supporters on the left?" Last time I checked, those seeking to hold the torturers to account include Libertarians like professor Jonathan Turley and Republicans like John Dean (also on the record re Bybee...)

UPDATE: Full story from the NYTimes.

Previous:

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posted by JReid @ 12:46 PM  
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  
The torture judge: Bybee lawyers up
Jay Bybee, the sitting federal judge whose previous occupation was crafting crude legal arguments that would allow CIA personnel to torture, including waterboarding two terrorism suspects up to 6 times a day ... has hired a lawyer. And while we in the blog world would like to think it's our (or Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann's) doing, the real reason is that the Justice Department is not in any way obligated to go along with President Obama in eschewing prosecution of those who committed or attempted to sanction war crimes. (Despite the twisting of the job by Al "Torquemada" Gonzales, the A.G. is NOT the president's lawyer. He's OUR lawyer.) From Michael Isikoff at Newsweek (nowadays looking into things much more important than stained dresses...)
... the Obama administration is not off the hook. Though administration officials declared that CIA interrogators who followed Justice's legal guidance on torture would not be prosecuted, that does not mean the inquiries are over. Senior Justice Department lawyers and other advisers, who declined to be identified discussing a sensitive subject, say Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has discussed naming a senior prosecutor or outside counsel to review whether CIA interrogators exceeded legal boundaries--and whether Bush administration officials broke the law by giving the CIA permission to torture in the first place. Some Justice officials are deeply troubled by reports of detainee treatment and believe they may suggest criminal misconduct, these sources say. Even if prosecutions prove too difficult to bring, an outside counsel's report could be made public. For his part, Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is still pushing for a "truth commission." In a democracy, the wheels of justice grind on--and the president, for good reason under the rule of law, does not have the power to stop them.
Bybee does have legal counsel, for free, even. But the notion that he might be off the hook in Spain is a non-starter. A judge there has overruled that country's attorney general on the prosecution of the so-called Bush Six, Bybee included. Meanwhile, Isikoff also uncovered this interesting piece of data:
After several intense cabinet meetings, Obama appeared to back down and go along with a Panetta proposal to heavily "redact"—black out—all references to specific interrogation techniques, say the administration sources. But this would make the release meaningless, argued others, and Obama began to swing back again. Panetta had one ally, John Brennan, a former agency official who is now Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser. But Adm. Dennis Blair, the national intelligence director, backed a more complete release, and so did Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a Bush holdover (and former CIA director).
Gates + Blair = wow. Apparently, members of the CIA's clandestine service are pissed about the document release, but really, what did they expect? To be able to break the law with impunity, and with presidential cover? Oh, that's right ... that's what they ARE getting, at least, as long as they followed the ridiculously detailed torture guidelines:
"As a practical matter, it's over—nobody is going to get prosecuted," says Robert Bennett, the Washington lawyer whose clients include Jose Rodriguez, the former chief of the CIA's clandestine service, who has been under investigation for his November 2005 decision to destroy 92 videotapes showing the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. But what if evidence emerges that CIA officials (or contractors, who actually conducted most of the interrogations) went beyond the boundaries that the Justice Department erected? The CIA has consistently denied wrongdoing, but an intriguing footnote to one of the memos says that an internal CIA investigation found that there might have been "unnecessary use of enhanced techniques" against one Qaeda suspect.
There are other inquiries to come, in Congress, and inside the Justice Department's ethics division:
Three Bush administration lawyers who signed memos, John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury, are the subjects of a coming report by the Justice Department’s ethics office that officials say is sharply critical of their work. The ethics office has the power to recommend disbarment or other professional penalties or, less likely, to refer cases for criminal prosecution.
On a side note, Jason and I were discussing last night whether President Obama might be more clever in this regard than he's being given credit for -- pushing the notion of prosecutions away from himself as a political matter, knowing that he can't stop Congress, Justice or the international community from acting. Not the most principled use of power, I'd argue, but perhaps a clever way to keep the politics at arms length, while ultimately having those who broke the law held to account. We'll see what happens.

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posted by JReid @ 8:43 AM  
Sunday, April 19, 2009
President Obama is still wrong on torture
The reiterations of the Obama policy on the Sunday shows this morning do not convince. On this one, the administration is dead wrong. Well, let me back up a bit. I suppose I can understand the practical reasons for granting immunity to those in the CIA who carried out torture policies "under the color of law" due to the advice issued by the then- Justice Department. The Obama administration doesn't want to incite a wholesale rebellion at Langley, or make the CIA the scapegoat for what were clearly Bush administration -- not intelligence community -- policies. However, three points from the Sundays that slap down the argument that immunity should be anything more than immunity to testify against those higher officials who ARE being prosecuted:

1. As Katty Kay pointed out on the "CMS," the Nuremberg trials, conducted by American prosecutors, didn't distinguish between those who committed war crimes out of pure depravity, and those who did it under color of law. They said they were following the laws of Germany (or Japan); we prosecuted them anyway.

2. The U.S. doesn't have the right to supercede international law, or the treaties we have signed regarding human rights and torture. Just ask the international rapporteur on torture:

... in an interview with the Austrian newspaper Der Standard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Manfred Nowak, explained that Obama’s grant of immunity is likely a violation of international law. As a party to the UN Convention Against Torture, the U.S. is obligated to investigate and prosecute U.S. citizens that are believed to have engaged in torture:
STANDARD: CIA torturers are according to U.S. President Obama not to be prosecuted. Is that decision supportable?

NOWAK: Absolutely not. The United States has, like all other Contracting Parties to the UN Convention Against Torture, committed itself to investigate instances of torture and to prosecute all cases in which credible evidence of torture is found.
Indeed, Article 2 of the convention on torture explains that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever” can be used to legally justify torture. Further, the convention states that an “order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.” [ThinkProgress]
3. Indeed, there is no legal argument that the administration can point to that would get them out of their obligation to pursue these torture allegations. Dick Cheney has admitted to authorizing torture, and many of the details of what was done during the Bush administration are already publicly known, as Rahm Emanuel pointed out on "This Week." The memos have people's names and signatures on them, including the name of Jay Bybee, who now occupies the dual role of probable war criminal and sitting federal judge (though hopefully, he's soon to be an impeached one, as the NYT called for in an editorial yesterday.) At a minimum, the lawyers who concocted the torture memos should be disbarred, and in the case of Bybee, "disbenched." And the people who put the policies in place, at the Pentagon, Justice Department and yes, the Bush White House, should, as Andrew Sullivan eloquently pointed out, be held to account.

As the Times points out in its editorial, the intent behind thememos makes what should be done clear enough:
These memos are not an honest attempt to set the legal limits on interrogations, which was the authors’ statutory obligation. They were written to provide legal immunity for acts that are clearly illegal, immoral and a violation of this country’s most basic values.
And as the Times further points out:
It sounds like the plot of a mob film, except the lawyers asking how much their clients can get away with are from the C.I.A. and the lawyers coaching them on how to commit the abuses are from the Justice Department. And it all played out with the blessing of the defense secretary, the attorney general, the intelligence director and, most likely, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Except that mobsters don't generally brag on television about the horse's heads they've laid to rest on victims' pillows.

The Bush administration went to great lengths to impose Soviet-style eavesdropping, gulags and torture on the American experiment. Shouldn't America repay them by imposing a little constitutional law on them?

What you can do:

To get more info and to get involved in the push to impeach Jay Bybee, click here.

For more on the push to have John Yoo removed from his professorship over his role in the torture memos, click here.

To sign the ACLU petition to call on the Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate torture during the Bush administration, click here.

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posted by JReid @ 2:45 PM  
Friday, April 17, 2009
Waterboarding is torture (again) and really always was
From the New York Times summaries of one of the newly released torture memos:
Waterboarding

Aug. 2002, May 2005

“This effort plus the cloth produces the perception of ‘suffocation and incipient panic,’ i.e., the perception of drowning. The individual does not breathe any water into his lungs. During those 20 to 40 seconds, water is continuously applied from a height of 12 to 24 inches. ... The sensation of drowning is immediately relieved by the removal of the cloth. The procedure may then be repeated.”
And from a WaPo article dated October 5, 2006:

On Jan. 21, 1968, The Washington Post published a front-page photograph of a U.S. soldier supervising the questioning of a captured North Vietnamese soldier who is being held down as water was poured on his face while his nose and mouth were covered by a cloth. The picture, taken four days earlier near Da Nang, had a caption that said the technique induced "a flooding sense of suffocation and drowning, meant to make him talk."

The article said the practice was "fairly common" in part because "those who practice it say it combines the advantages of being unpleasant enough to make people talk while still not causing permanent injury."

The picture reportedly led to an Army investigation.

Twenty-one years earlier, in 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face, leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk.

"Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) told his colleagues last Thursday during the debate on military commissions legislation. "We punished people with 15 years of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans in World War II," he said.

We also hanged them, according to John McCain. And next, the unbelievable justification for waterboarding U.S. detainees:

“Although the subject may experience the fear or panic associated with the feeling of drowning, the waterboard does not inflict physical pain. ... Although the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death, prolonged mental harm must nonetheless result to violate the statutory prohibition infliction of severe mental pain or suffering. ... Indeed, you have advised us that the relief is almost immediate when the cloth is removed from the nose and mouth. In the absence of prolonged mental harm, no severe mental pain or suffering would have been inflicted, and the use of these procedures would not constitute torture within the meaning of the statute.”
And then there's the admission, by the DOJ officials who wrote the torture memos, of what they were authorizing, as caught by the HuffPo's Sam Stein and Stuart Whatley:

The May 10, 2005, memorandum from the attorney general's office to the CIA defines torture as -- among other things -- activity where a subject suffers prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from "the threat of imminent death." From there, waterboarding was justified as a technique that, while possibly qualifying as a "threat of imminent death," had "safeguards" in place "that make actual harm quite unlikely." The qualifier seemed to clear the Bush White House of illegality.

But in a footnote at the bottom of page 43 of that same memo, the authors dropped the formalities. "For purposes of our analysis," the footnote reads, "we will assume that the physiological sensation of drowning associated with the use of the waterboard may constitute a 'threat of imminent death' within the meaning of sections 2340-2340A."

For purposes of analysys??? Those on the right justify all of this because in their mind, it doesn't rise to the level of what, say, Saddam Hussein was up to. But what's truly scary, if you read the various winger commentaries floating around the blog world, they are entirely comfortable with the barbarism described in the memos, and some even seem to feel that our techniques should be more like Saddam's, not less. And their biggest beef is that Americans are too pansified to embrace the violent treatment of prisoners under Bush's "leadership."


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posted by JReid @ 11:09 AM  
The torture turf war
Stipulating that the various, clackety strains of "conservatives," including the folks over at the Wall Street Journal op-ed desk (who published a piece by Bush's CIA director and second round A.G., decrying the Obama administration's release of the torture memos, and of course, the chickenhawk neocons) are very much in for torture. Non-conservatives, including the Washington Post editorial board, are against it, calling it what it is: a disgrace. But on the question of whether torture is even worth the shame, I came across this post, from the NYT's The Lede blog, back in January:

In the days after Saddam Hussein’s capture, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was tossing wisecracks on subjects serious and trivial. The cab that the former Iraqi leader hid inside? “He didn’t have the meter running.” Who’s going to be responsible for interrogation? “It was a three-minute decision, and the first two were for coffee.”

The job went to the Central Intelligence Agency, and Mr. Hussein was added to the network of secret detention facilities that stretched from Afghanistan to Guantánamo Bay.

But Mr. Hussein’s fate would be much different than Abu Zubaydeh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, two members of Al Qaeda who endured harsh interrogation techniques while in C.I.A. custody.

Mr. Rumsfeld and other senior officials quickly pledged that he would be treated as a prisoner of war, although it took a month to make it official. And the three-minute decision was reassessed within weeks as the Federal Bureau of Investigation took the interrogation reins for the reason described in a January 2004 article:

The F.B.I. involvement reflects C.I.A. reluctance to allow covert officers to take part in interrogations that could force them to appear as court witnesses. In contrast, F.B.I. agents are trained to interview suspects in preparation for prosecutions.

In 2008, the two themes expressed in those sentences — C.I.A. aversion to public spectacle and F.B.I. experience on interrogation matters — are still being reinforced as a long-running rivalry continues to play out.
What was the rivalry about? FBI agents were apparently shocked, and not happy, to discover that CIA agents were using torure, approved we now know, by the Justice Department and presumably the president and vice president/president's boss, on terrorism suspect Abu Zubayda, the low level jihadist we got all that false information from by illegal waterboarding. The then-FBI director, Robert Meuller, wound up pulling his agents, who were more skilled at interrogation, having been the ones to query Saddam Hussein himself, for example, out of the theater entirely, rather than allow them to continue to witness war crimes.
From The Washington Post:

A rift nonetheless swiftly developed between FBI agents, who were largely pleased with the progress of the questioning, and CIA officers, who felt Abu Zubaida was holding out on them and providing disinformation. Tensions came to a head after FBI agents witnessed the use of some harsh tactics on Abu Zubaida, including keeping him naked in his cell, subjecting him to extreme cold and bombarding him with loud rock music.

“They said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ ” said [Retired FBI agent Daniel Coleman], recalling accounts from FBI employees who were there. ” ‘This guy’s a Muslim. That’s not going to win his confidence. Are you trying to get information out of him or just belittle him?’ “

F.B.I. Director Robert S. Mueller III pulled his personnel over the disagreement, and former officials in the agency continue to make the case that Mr. Zubaydeh gave up his most important information before, not after, the harsh techniques commenced.

As David Johnston of The New York Times reported earlier this month, both agencies say the rivalry is over. Still, some officials said privately that the F.B.I. was looking for a payback moment in its investigation into the C.I.A. tape destruction.
Clearly, we've been operating with some sadists in our midst, at the CIA, in the Justice Department, in the neocon think tanks, and in the Bush White House. So why not prosecute them? Probably because the current president has decided that, as a political matter, it can't be done without a circus-like spectacle (and it might not be done in Spain, either...)

But it seems to me that there are people who should be prosecuted, starting with the men who wrote, authorized and approved the memos.

Related: Experts debate whether prosecutions should commence. Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights sums it up succintly:
Torture is torture and all the legal window dressing in the world cannot hide its essence: the infliction of pain and suffering on human beings. If legal advice can protect torturers, no official anywhere can ever be prosecuted. Legal advice then becomes a get out-of-jail free card and will be employed by every petty dictatorship to protect its abusers.
Amen.

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posted by JReid @ 8:30 AM  
Do as we say...
As President Obama heads to the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, his administration finally releases the last (we hope) of the torture memos. (Curious that the wingers have no problem with things like torture, secret detentions, sneak and peak searches, forcing librarians to divulge customer reading habits, infiltration of Quaker peace groups etc., but they're all a-teabaggin' over a 4 percent increase in rich people's taxes... but I digress...)

Meanwhile, here in Florida, Cuban-Americans are needled by the fact that several Latin American presidents, including Lula of Brazil, Hugo of Venezuela and Evo of Bolivia, among others, will likely push for an end to Cuba's exclusion from the Organization of American States, which forms the attendance base of the summit. Writes the Miami Herald's Myriam Marquez:

Cuba's not invited to the big party in Trinidad and Tobago, but it will crash it anyway.

It'll be the pesky ghost at the table, pushing, shoving and booing -- all in an effort to derail President Barack Obama's first foray Friday into Latin America's often messy love-hate relationship with the United States.

With the help of Hugo, Lula, Evo, Daniel, Michelle, Cristina and many other Latin American presidents who learned how to play leftie politics -- and win -- virtually at Fidel Castro's knee, the ghost is demanding a clean slate and collective amnesia.

Forget 50 years of an atrocious human-rights record. Never mind that there are no property rights, labor unions or free speech.

Forget multiparty elections, the ghost thunders, it's tiny Cuba vs. the bad Imperialist Goliath.

Obama would rather forget, too, but he's not ready to deliver more freebies like the end of the U.S. embargo or the tourist ban -- yet. But as first steps, he has opened the door wide for Cuban-American travel and unlimited remittances to Cuba.

He figures that's enough to get the ghost off his back at the summit, where Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has vowed to press for the island's membership in the Organization of American States.

OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza told Herald reporter Frances Robles at the summit Thursday that he agrees. Obama counters that Cuba needs to first show it belongs back in the organization that kicked it out in 1962.

Fidel Castro rails against any such inclusion in the OAS, calling it a tool of U.S. will. One reason he won't give: Cuba doesn't begin to meet the principle of the OAS charter -- democracy.

Ironically enough, the "Inter-American Democracy Charter"was adopted by the OAS on September 11, 2001 during a special session in Peru, hours after the 9/11 attacks in New York. The charter lays out the essentials of regional cooperation, democracy, the need to fight poverty and improve education and the environment, and of course human rights -- which brings us back to Cuba, which has got some issues on that front. And yet, as Marquez points out, over the last eight years the U.S. hasn't exactly been a champion of human rights, either (see "torture memos" above...) So Obama goes into the summit borne on the winds of change, but still refusing, as of yesterday, to hold the previous administration accountable for the human rights abuses that, if we were, say, applying for membership to the OAS today, would likely make us as ineligible as Fidel's Cuba.

Related: Raul says he's willing to talk to the U.S., including about human rights.

Cuban President Raul Castro has said he is willing to talk to Washington about everything, including human rights, political prisoners and press freedom.

His comments came hours after US President Barack Obama said Cuba needed to make the next move if there was to be further improvement in relations.

Mr Castro was speaking in Venezuela ahead of a Summit of the Americas.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he will veto any final declaration as Cuba is excluded from the meeting.

The summit, due to start in Trinidad, includes 34 Latin American and Caribbean countries.

The US has said the gathering is reserved for democratic nations.

Which brings us back to our checkered recent past:

Speaking to Latin American leaders in Venezuela, President Castro said he had sent word to the US government "in private and in public" that he is open to negotiations as long as it is "on equal terms".

Alas, amigos, we're pretty much already on equal terms. More on the potential thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations here.

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posted by JReid @ 7:46 AM  
Friday, April 10, 2009
The Friday Funnies: The Dick Cheney Song
The song is actually from a podcast I did about a year ago. The video is new, though; inspired by the recent rantings of Richard "The Torturer" Cheney (analyzed by the fabulous Joan Walsh here.) Enjoy, and happy Good Friday!



Related: Duke U flunks Cheney on security analysis. The bottom line:
Cheney's ideas are directly contrary to our constitutional values. Whether in the Bill of Rights or the separation of powers, the Constitution consistently sacrifices expediency for principles that better serve our nation's long-term interests. Cheney's lack of faith in this core American belief may be his most troubling legacy.

Natch.

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posted by JReid @ 11:19 AM  
Thursday, April 02, 2009
In case you missed it: Rachel Maddow and Colin Powell chat about budgets, torture
On the GOP budget: Powell thinks "the freeze" is a bad idea:



On the, it turns out, pointless, torture of prisoners like non-al Qaida member Abu Zubaida? Spoiler alert: Colin equivocates...



For all Powell's continuing respectability, and I am one who still respects him -- if less so than I did before he held up those vials of sand at the United Nations -- the quite well done Maddow interview highlights, once again, the fact that as a man of the military, and a man of principal, General Powell had many, many reasons to resign from the Bush cabinet, and would have raised the level of respect many of us have for him had he done so.

And speaking of torture, Doug Feith calls Spain's investigation of him and 5 other Bush administration torture proponents "outrageous!!!" I've met Doug Feith, and I can tell you that he's one arrogant S.O.B. I wish him happy travels ... just maybe keep those travels domestic, brother.

More on the Spanish torture inquiry from Military.com here. About the judge, they write:
Judge Garzon, however, has built an international reputation by bringing high-profile cases against human-rights violators as well as international terrorist networks like Al Qaeda. The arrest warrant for General Pinochet led to his detention in Britain, although he never faced a trial. The judge has also been outspoken about the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Spain can claim jurisdiction in the case because five citizens or residents of Spain who were prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have said they were tortured there. The five had been indicted in Spain, but their cases were dismissed after the Spanish Supreme Court ruled that evidence obtained under torture was not admissible.
BTW, Pat Leahy has now said his idea for a "truth commission" in lieu of legal proceedings here in the U.S., is D.O.A.

And over at the National Review, the neocon vestiges are attacking the Spanish lawyer who brought the action against the Gulag Six, while also decrying the very idea of internationally recognized human rights (except those of Israel, of course...)

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posted by JReid @ 8:43 AM  
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
For the prosecution: the torture interviews
From the New York Review of books comes a chilling account of U.S. torture of terror suspects, gleaned from interviews with the arbiter of whether or not war crimes have taken place in a given conflict: the International Committee of the Red Cross. A clip from their interviews with "high value detainee" Abu Zubaydah:
Two black wooden boxes were brought into the room outside my cell. One was tall, slightly higher than me and narrow. Measuring perhaps in area [3 1/2 by 2 1/2 feet by 6 1/2 feet high]. The other was shorter, perhaps only [3 1/2 feet] in height. I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck, they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room. I was also repeatedly slapped in the face....
I was then put into the tall black box for what I think was about one and a half to two hours. The box was totally black on the inside as well as the outside.... They put a cloth or cover over the outside of the box to cut out the light and restrict my air supply. It was difficult to breathe. When I was let out of the box I saw that one of the walls of the room had been covered with plywood sheeting. From now on it was against this wall that I was then smashed with the towel around my neck. I think that the plywood was put there to provide some absorption of the impact of my body. The interrogators realized that smashing me against the hard wall would probably quickly result in physical injury.
Read the whole thing here. The major scoop of this leaked report was done not by a journalist, but by a journalism professor at Berkley:
Mark Danner has scooped the NY Times, the Washington Post and other papers by publishing in the current New York Review of Books an essay quoting long excerpts of a leaked International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report on "high-value" prisoners held in CIA black site prisons. The interviews took prior to their release in late 2006, and the report itself is dated February 2007, and likely was sent originally to then CIA Acting General Counsel, John Rizzo.

The prisoners interviewed by ICRC personnel included Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Walid Bin Attash, and eleven others, all of whom, the ICRC concluded, were submitted to torture.

As the poster at Axis of Logic points out, this is no bedtime reading.

Related: a British author says Zubaydah might not be the terror mastermind the Bush administration made him out to be. Meanwhile, it turns out that Zubaydah's rendition (initially to Thailand) was timed tantalizingly close to the Justice Department torture memos written by Jay Bybee and John Yoo.

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posted by JReid @ 8:54 AM  
Monday, February 23, 2009
Binyam goes home
The return of a Binyam Mohamed, a four-year Gitmo detainee, to Great Britain raises new questions about the Bush-era "war on terror," and the complicity of the U.K. in what are by all accounts illegal detentions in an American gulag. From the Guardian:

Senior MPs said they intended to pursue ministers and officials over what they knew of his ill-treatment and why Britain helped the CIA interrogate him.

In a statement released shortly after he arrived in a US Gulfstream jet at RAF Northolt in west London, Mohamed said: "For myself, the very worst moment came when I realised in Morocco that the people who were torturing me were receiving questions and materials from British intelligence."

Once inside the terminal building he met his sister for the fist time in more than seven years and in the most emotionally charged moment of the day they both cried and hugged.

Mohamed, a British resident, was released after several hours of questioning by police and immigration officials and was last night being looked after by his legal team.

Clive Stafford Smith, his lawyer, spoke of a "fantastic day" after the long campaign to free his client, who spent weeks on hunger strike being force-fed at Guantánamo and looked "incredibly skinny and very emaciated". Binyam was "extraordinarily grateful to be back in Britain", said Stafford Smith, who said he had "zero doubt" Britain was complicit in his client's ill-treatment.

"Britain knew he was being abused and left him," he said, referring to his secret abduction to Morocco where Mohamed says he was tortured. The lawyer also said his client was subjected to "very serious abuse" in Guantánamo.

Stafford Smith said that while his family was not vindictive they wanted the truth to be known. Mohamed hoped to be allowed to remain in the UK. "What we in Britain need to do is to make up for some of the things in the past and if the British government was, as I contend, deeply involved in the torture that Binyam had to go through, the least we can do is offer him his homeland," Stafford Smith said.

Meanwhile:

The Guardian Editorial team tackles the potential damage to U.S.-U.K. relations.

The Beeb reports on U.S. Defense Department plans to "ease conditions" at Gitmo.

And the Independent delves deeper into Binyam's claims that he was the victim of "Medieval torture" at Guantanamo.

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posted by JReid @ 11:26 PM  
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
The Brandan Neely reader
The former Gitmo guard tells all about his time at the gulag, and clears his conscience on the Rachel Maddow show. Read his testimony here.

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posted by JReid @ 11:09 PM  
Bybee and Yoo in the crosshairs
... of a Senate ethics investigation. Could prosecution be next? We did, after all, prosecute those who issued legal opinions leading to the abuses committed by the Axis powers during World War II. And whither Alberto Gonzales and Don Rumsfeld? Something tells me that no matter what the Obama administration wants, legal cases will find their way to Washington involving these men, if not their ultimate bosses (Dick and Dubya.)

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posted by JReid @ 8:38 AM  
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Poll: Most Americans say, 'investigate the bastard'
Dubya flipped off the Constitution, too...

A new poll shows that Americans want at least for there to be an investigation of torture under the Bush regime.
Even as Americans struggle with two wars and an economy in tatters, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds majorities in favor of investigating some of the thorniest unfinished business from the Bush administration: Whether its tactics in the "war on terror" broke the law.

Close to two-thirds of those surveyed said there should be investigations into allegations that the Bush team used torture to interrogate terrorism suspects and its program of wiretapping U.S. citizens without getting warrants. Almost four in 10 favor criminal investigations and about a quarter want investigations without criminal charges. One-third said they want nothing to be done.

The breakdown is as follows:

Regarding possible use of torture in terror interrogations:

Criminal investigation: 38%

Independent panel: 24%

Neither: 34%

Not sure: 2%

Meanwhile, when it comes to politicizing the Justice Department, even more of those polled want a probe:

Re possible attempts to use the Justice Department for political purposes:

Criminal investigation: 41%

Independent panel: 30%

Neither: 25%

And finally, regarding the "possible use of wiretaps without a warrant":

Criminal investigation: 438%

Independent panel: 25%

Neither: 34%

Read more of the Gallup poll here. Meanwhile, when it comes to torture prosecutions, civil libertarians like Jonathan Turley are not backing down:



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posted by JReid @ 1:38 PM  
Thursday, February 05, 2009
The madness of Dick Cheney
He has been described as a comic book villain, a character out of a Kafka novel, and even Darth Vader, but who would have thought he was also Punxtatawney Dick, rearing his ugly head on a chilly day in February and seeing the shadow of fear ... yes, lovely, beautiful, marvelous fear...!!! Cheney, who many former colleagues say they don't even recognize as the guy they knew from the Ford administration, jumps straight off the deep end in an interview with Politico, accusing the Obama administration of caring more about the comfort of terrorists than the safety of the country, and warning of dire consequences (yes, he means terror attacks) if Team Obama stops renditioning, torturing and spying on people. Watch, listen, and DESPAIR!



And enjoy some prime Cheney quotes:
“When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry,” Cheney said.

Protecting the country’s security is “a tough, mean, dirty, nasty business,” he said. “These are evil people. And we’re not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek.”

And who can forget this gem:
“The United States needs to be not so much loved as it needs to be respected. Sometimes, that requires us to take actions that generate controversy. I’m not at all sure that that’s what the Obama administration believes.”

Oh, and Politico's team, which apparently emerged from the interview surprisingly unscarred by primordial ooze, reports:
He expressed confidence that files will some day be publicly accessible offering specific evidence that waterboarding and other policies he promoted — over sharp internal dissent from colleagues and harsh public criticism — were directly responsible for averting new Sept. 11-style attacks.

Not content to wait for a historical verdict, Cheney said he is set to plunge into his own memoirs, feeling liberated to describe behind-the-scenes roles over several decades in government now that the “statute of limitations has expired” on many of the most sensitive episodes.

I think I have a title for the book: "Burn Before Reading..."

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posted by JReid @ 12:34 AM  
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Don't tell the wingers! ... '24' isn't real...


Keifer Sutherland responds to charges that the violent interrogations on the hit show '24' -- which most right wingers believe is a documentary -- are influencing real military people to do real torture. He tells the Guardian:

"What Jack Bauer does is all in the context of a television show," Sutherland begins, very slowly and deliberately, in the grainy register of a heavy smoker. He looks unexpectedly slight, and a little tired, but his engagement is direct and considered. "I always have to remind people of this. We're making a television programme. We're utilising certain devices for drama. And it's good drama. And I love this drama! As an actor I have had an absolute blast doing it. You sit in a room and put a gun to a guy's knee and say, 'Tell me!' Oh, you feel so amazing after that!

"But I know it's not real. The other actor certainly knows it's not real. And up until a year ago, everybody else knew it wasn't real."

Or did they...?

In 2007 it was reported that a delegation from West Point had visited the set of 24 to tell producers that their portrayal of torture was seriously affecting military training. Cadets love 24, a general explained, "and they say, 'If torture is wrong, what about 24?'" A former US army interrogator told them he'd seen soldiers in Iraq "watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they've just seen". Their claims were corroborated by a book last year by Philippe Sands about interrogation techniques at Guantánamo Bay, in which military officials cited 24 as an inspiration for early "brainstorming meetings". Bauer, one officer admitted, "gave people a lot of ideas".

Sutherland is a Democrat and says he longs for the day when Bauer's interrogation techniques "go back to being a figment of someone's imagination, as opposed to mirroring things that are in fact happening across the world". Authenticity, however, has always been central to 24's appeal. Just a week before President Obama announced that he was going to close Guantánamo Bay, the latest series opened with the counter-terrorism unit disbanded, and Bauer facing indictment for torture. "The world is changing," Sutherland smiles, "and season seven deals with that. It deals with Jack Bauer in a world that's changing where he is obsolete."

But the charge is that life has been imitating art, mirroring what it saw on 24. When I put it to Sutherland, the smile quickly thins, and he begins to look annoyed.

"First off, I'm just going to tell you outright, the problem is not 24. To try and correlate from what's happening on a television show to what the military is doing in the real world, I think that's ridiculous." Does he mean he doesn't believe the reports of 24's influence? "Well I haven't read all those reports. But if that's actually happening, then the problem that you have in the US military is massive. If your ethics in the military, in your training, is going to be counterminded by a one-hour weekly television show we've got a really big problem." His growl grows heavy with contempt. "If you can't tell the difference between reality and what's happening on a made-up TV show, and you're correlating that back to how to do your job in the real world, that's a big, big problem."

Yes, a problem ... indeed... so let's get to the good stuff: is Jack Bauer a Republican? Oh wait, hold on ... let me make sure Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck aren't listening in on the George W. Bush listening devices embedded in my Mac screen ... okay ... we're good. Go on:

24's creator, Joel Surnow, who has described himself as a "rightwing nut job", has certainly given the impression of being not unhappy if 24 impacts on public opinion, saying: "America wants the war on terror fought by Jack Bauer. He's a patriot." The Fox executive who bought the show has said candidly, "There's definitely a political attitude on the show, which is that extreme measures are sometimes necessary for the greater good. Joel's politics suffuse the whole show." The essential message of 24 is not just that torture can be morally justifiable, but, more importantly, that it works. And in the absence of other more accurate sources of information in American popular culture, it's hardly surprising if the viewing public believes it.

Sutherland repeatedly invokes the phrase "in the context of a television programme", and stresses, "this is a drama", but there are moments when exactly who is confusing TV and reality is unclear. "Jack Bauer," he asserts, "is to me an apolitical character." Really? "Well, can you tell me if Jack Bauer is a Democrat or a Republican?" I would say he's clearly a Republican. "Absolutely not!" Sutherland flashes back triumphantly. "Not a chance." Why not? "Because I'm not a Republican, and I created the character." If Bauer is supposed to be pure make-believe, then surely Sutherland's personal politics are beside the point? I get the impression that the only really consistent thread in the logic of his defence of 24 might be an intellectual motto of "Whatever it takes".

Indeed... What is that saying about denial and a river in Egypt? The truth of the matter is that right wingers DO believe that '24' is a realistic depiction of the so-called "war on terror," or at least, a depiction of the way it should be. The love of torture, the really un-American embrace of it, has become a key component of the "conservative" ideology. Keifer can say whatever he wants, but the evidence is there, including the fact that the right's chattering classes fuel such beliefs among the dim Palinites who listen to them. Whatever it takes.

Read the whole Guardian article here.



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posted by JReid @ 6:06 PM  
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
CIA station chief in Algeria accused of rape
And there are tapes. ABC has the exclusive:
The CIA's station chief at its sensitive post in Algeria is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly raping at least two Muslim women who claim he laced their drinks with a knock-out drug, U.S. law enforcement sources tell ABC News.

Officials say the 41-year old CIA officer, a convert to Islam, was ordered home by the U.S. Ambassador, David Pearce, in October after the women came forward with their rape allegations in September.

The discovery of more than a dozen videotapes showing the CIA officer engaged in sex acts with other women has led the Justice Department to broaden its investigation to include at least one other Arab country, Egypt, where the CIA officer had been posted earlier in his career, according to law enforcement officials.
Great. Another Bush-era mess for Obama to clean up while trying to restore normal relations with the Muslim world.

Not that everything that happens everywhere is George W. Bush's fault, but the permissive atmosphere created by the Bush administration for both military and intelligence personnel, whether in interrogations that morphed into torture sessions, or the indiscriminate shelling and shooting of Iraqi civilians by CACI and other contractors, clearly the previous commander in chief failed to set the necessary conditions for conduct becoming of the United States. During the high points of the war, American troops were routinely accused of raping Iraqi women on various Arab and Muslim websites (often using faked photos,) and the very real, sexualized abuse and torture of Iraqi men, possibly by both military intelligence and CIA operatives, at Abu Ghraib (not to mention the alleged rape of child prisoners at the facility,) is now infamous in the annals of American history. This sorry situation can only add to the damage.

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posted by JReid @ 5:05 PM  
Why not start with Rumsfeld?


Though Dick Cheney would seem to have been at the epicenter of America's totalitarian torture, detention and domestic spying regimes, one man stands front and center as probably the most easily prosecutable "first case" in what should be a series of U.S. war crimes trials: Donald Rumsfeld. RawStory reports:
Monday, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak told CNN's Rick Sanchez that the US has an "obligation" to investigate whether Bush administration officials ordered torture, adding that he believes that there is already enough evidence to prosecute former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

"We have clear evidence," he said. "In our report that we sent to the United Nations, we made it clear that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld clearly authorized torture methods and he was told at that time by Alberto Mora, the legal council of the Navy, 'Mr. Secretary, what you are actual ordering here amounts to torture.' So, there we have the clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing but, nevertheless, he ordered torture."

Asked during an interview with Germany's ZDF television on Jan. 20, Nowak said: "I think the evidence is on the table."

At issue, however, is whether "American law will recognize these forms of torture."
Mr. Obama: the ball is in your court. As Jonathan Turley points out, the rest of the world holds no ambiguity about whether or not our former president, just like Agusto Pinochet, is a torturer. The ambiguity is all on this side of the pond, and the Obama administration would do well to be rid of it.

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posted by JReid @ 3:58 PM  
The other 'Gitmo'
With all the excitement on my side of the aisle over President Obama's order to close the Byzantine Guantanamo Bay prison camp, the American public, thanks to the media, has completely overlooked another American gulag operating at the behest of the former henchman of the Bush administration, which could be just as problematic.
ASHINGTON — For months, a national debate has raged over the fate of the 245 detainees at the United States military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

But what may be an equally difficult problem now confronts the Obama administration in the 600 prisoners packed into a cavernous, makeshift prison on the American air base at Bagram in Afghanistan.

Military personnel who know Bagram and Guantánamo describe the Afghan site as tougher and more spartan. The prisoners have fewer privileges and virtually no access to lawyers. The Bush administration never allowed journalists or human rights advocates inside.

Problems have also developed with efforts to rehabilitate former jihadists, some of whom had been imprisoned at Guantánamo. Nine graduates of a Saudi program have been arrested for rejoining terrorist groups, Saudi officials said Monday.

President Obama must now decide whether and how to continue holding the men at Bagram, most of them suspected of being Taliban fighters. Under the laws of war, they are being held indefinitely and without charge. He must also determine whether to go forward with the construction of a $60 million prison complex at Bagram that, while offering better conditions for the detainees, would also signal a longer-term commitment to the American detention mission.

Mr. Obama tried last week to buy some time in addressing the challenges Bagram poses even as he ordered Guantánamo closed. By a separate executive order, Mr. Obama directed a task force led by the attorney general and the defense secretary to study the government’s overall policy on detainees and to report to him in six months.

But human rights advocates and former government officials say that several factors — including expanding combat operations against the Taliban, the scheduled opening of the new prison at Bagram in the fall and a recent federal court order — will probably force the administration to deal with the vexing choices much sooner. ...
The truth of the matter is the Obama team are acting with as much "deliberate speed" as they probably can, but even the temptation to continue the most horrific policies of the Bush administration, given the difficult task of fighting an on-going 'war' with al-Qaida, which is based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, must be something else.

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posted by JReid @ 3:52 PM  
Friday, January 16, 2009
Yes Virginia, waterboarding IS torture
Eric Holder offers a breath of fresh, non-war crime-filled air during his confirmation hearing:



Meanwhile, the Palinites have given up on reality altogether, clinging to a fictional American hero, Jack Bauer, for comfort in a scary, scary world, especially as their Hollywood crafted mentor takes on a pretend Congress on torture... Perhaps in 2009, someone can tell these poor rubes that "24" is just a television show. On second thought, maybe we shouldn't. The let down might make them crazy...er.

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posted by JReid @ 1:50 AM  
Monday, January 05, 2009
Trying to make sense of the Panetta pick
The nation's next top spy? Leon Panetta


If indeed Barack Obama plans to nominate former Bill Clinton chief of staff Leon Panetta to be CIA director, over the apparent objections of people like Diane Feinstein, it will be an ... um ... interesting go. I'm not one who cares much what Ms. Feinstein thinks, she being one of the Senate's leading hawks, and thus an apologist for a rheem of Bush policies, including the Iraq war, domestic spying, and "enhanced interrogation." The fact that people like her, and fellow "gang of eight" member Jay Rockefellar have a problem with the pick is actually good news for me. Panetta is clearly not tainted by their Bush-like views.

On the other hand, looking through his resume, Panetta doesn't seem uniquely qualified for the post, and risks being undermined in the post if he is seen by career spooks and analysts as a political hack who doesn't understand the "culture."And he is yet another in the increasingly tiresome parade of Clinton vets packing the Obama administration. Then again, his long history as a manager (the CIA has like a multi- billion dollar budget) and organization leader might make him just the guy for the job, and his political experience would be most helpful in what is, in the end, a political job.

I kind of expected Obama to pick someone from someplace like the Center for American Progress, which has become the think tank of record for political progressives (without the icky neoconish views of places like Brookings.) He would have had a lot of good choices there, including former Reagan undersecretary of defense for manpower Larry Korb, who I know and very much respect. Korb is a Republican, which would have made the pick all the more useful. And CAP has other scholars on the ready, like P.J. Crowley and Brian Katulis. Who knows, maybe Obama feared they would be perceived as too ideological. I disagree with the idea that he could have picked Jane Harman, who may well be Feinstein's favorite, because Harman, too, is associated with the big, giant rubber stamp that's been slapped all over Bush security policy over the last six-plus years.

To be fair to Panetta, politicians have held the post before, including Florida Rep. Porter Goss (though he was a former CIA employee) and of course, George Bush Sr., who received the post as kind of a political gift. And Panetta did sit on the Iraq Study Group. (Not that that's necessarily a good thing; so was James "the fixer" Baker...)

There have been 20 CIA Directors (there is no more "Director of Central Intelligence" and now the position reports to the National Intelligence Director) since Harry Truman created the position in 1946. Most have been military men, with a heavy tilt toward the Navy, including the first four: Rear Admirals Sidney William Souers and Roscoe H. Hillenkoette, Hoyt Sandberg Vandenberg who served between the two, and Walter Bedel Smith (1950-53), plus Navy men William Raborn (1965-66, whom the office building in D.C. is named for,) Carter's CIA Director Stansfield Turner and Reagan's, William Casey, plus the current Michael Hayden (George H.W. Bush was himself a Navy pilot.) A handful, like Clinton top spook (and he is spooky) James Woolsey, had backgrounds in the Army. Others were former OSS spooks like Allen Dulles (who served Eisenhower and Kennedy, up to the Bay of Pigs debacle,) Richard Helms (1966-72, the guy at CIA who refused to put a stop to the Watergate probe,) and William Colby (1973-76). And there have been occasional political or managerial types like John McCone (1961-65), who like Panetta had no intelligence background, but succeeded Dulles and is considered one of the best directors the agency has had. So it's a gamble. (McCone is the guy who warned LBJ not to expand the war in Vietnam. You might call LBJ's response a gamble, too.) When Bush I was named in 1976 by Gerald Ford, he had been chairman of the Republican National Committee and pretty much everyone knew he wanted to be president. In fact, in order to be confirmed, Bush promised not to run in the up-coming election. So it's not exactly a post reserved for actual spies.



So let's take a moment to get comfortable with Leon Panetta. As the folks at McClatchy report, it is if nothing else, a single that change is coming.

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posted by JReid @ 9:25 PM  
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Cheney to world: 'love me' ... or 'go f&%@ yourself. Either way's good
Cheney tells ABC News he's "changed," and that Obama should keep the torture and spying going:
Cheney said the new administration must carefully assess the tools put in place to fight terror. "How they deal with these issues are going to be very important, because it's going to have a direct impact on whether or not they retain the tools that
have been so essential and defending the nation for the last seven-and-a-half years, or whether they give them up," he said.

Obama's team needs to look at the specific threats, understand how the programs were put together, and how they operate, the vice president said.

"They shouldn't just fall back on campaign rhetoric to make these very fundamental decisions about the safety of the nation," he warned.

Thankfully, Cheney did not add: "or somebody's gonna get hurt, and I mean by ME." BTW in the interview, Cheney also admits he knew that torture was going on at Gitmo. Surprise!

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posted by JReid @ 11:18 AM  
Friday, December 12, 2008
The torture report
A little light holiday reading for in-coming Attorney General Eric Holder:
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the Bush administration "conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees," claims a Senate Armed Services Committee report issued Thursday.

According to the committee, prisoners were tortured in the Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib, the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other US military installations. Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) were responsible for the content of the Senate's findings.

The report determined that placing the blame on "a few bad apples," as Bush administration officials attempted to do in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib scandal, is inappropriate.

The policies were adopted after government assessments determined waterboarding and other torture techniques were "100 percent effective" at breaking the wills of US officers who underwent the military's Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape program.

What's more:
General Richard Myers, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is also singled out for approving inhumane interrogation techniques, which the former general counsel of the navy, Alberto Mora, said had led to attacks on US troops in Iraq.

"There are serving US flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of US combat deaths in Iraq — as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat — are, respectively, the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo," Mr Mora said.

The report, which took 18 months to compile, was issued jointly by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the Democratic chairman of the panel, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican.

It said the techniques used were "based, in part, on Chinese communist techniques used during the Korean War to elicit false confessions" from captured US prisoners.

Instructors from the Pentagon agency that trains soldiers in resisting such treatment were sent to Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq to assist in adapting the methods, it said. The report said senior Defence Department officials approached that agency about techniques as early as December 2001. The head of the agency responded that his officials "stand ready to assist" Pentagon efforts at prisoner "exploitation".

See, we do get too much stuff from China. So when do the trials start?

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posted by JReid @ 9:27 PM  
Monday, July 14, 2008
When the crime is worse than the cover-up
Once again, Frank Rich lets the Bushies have it:

WE know what a criminal White House looks like from “The Final Days,” Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s classic account of Richard Nixon’s unraveling. The cauldron of lies, paranoia and illegal surveillance boiled over, until it was finally every man for himself as desperate courtiers scrambled to save their reputations and, in a few patriotic instances, their country.

“The Final Days” was published in 1976, two years after Nixon abdicated in disgrace. With the Bush presidency, no journalist (or turncoat White House memoirist) is waiting for the corpse to be carted away. The latest and perhaps most chilling example arrives this week from Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, long a relentless journalist on the war-on-terror torture beat. Her book “The Dark Side” connects the dots of her own past reporting and that of her top-tier colleagues (including James Risen and Scott Shane of The New York Times) to portray a White House that, like its prototype, savaged its enemies within almost as ferociously as it did the Constitution.

Some of “The Dark Side” seems right out of “The Final Days,” minus Nixon’s operatic boozing and weeping. We learn, for instance, that in 2004 two conservative Republican Justice Department officials had become “so paranoid” that “they actually thought they might be in physical danger.” The fear of being wiretapped by their own peers drove them to speak in code.

The men were John Ashcroft’s deputy attorney general, James Comey, and an assistant attorney general, Jack Goldsmith. Their sin was to challenge the White House’s don, Dick Cheney, and his consigliere, his chief of staff David Addington, when they circumvented the Geneva Conventions to make torture the covert law of the land. Mr. Comey and Mr. Goldsmith failed to stop the “torture memos” and are long gone from the White House. But Vice President Cheney and Mr. Addington remain enabled by a president, attorney general (Michael Mukasey) and C.I.A. director (Michael Hayden) who won’t shut the door firmly on torture even now.

Nixon parallels take us only so far, however. “The Dark Side” is scarier than “The Final Days” because these final days aren’t over yet and because the stakes are much higher. Watergate was all about a paranoid president’s narcissistic determination to cling to power at any cost. In Ms. Mayer’s portrayal of the Bush White House, the president is a secondary, even passive, figure, and the motives invoked by Mr. Cheney to restore Nixon-style executive powers are theoretically selfless. Possessed by the ticking-bomb scenarios of television’s “24,” all they want to do is protect America from further terrorist strikes.

Meanwhile, members of the administration appear not to be completely oblivious to the perils they find themselves in. Former U.N. ambassadorial temp John Bolton got a nice scare in Europe this spring, when a citizen attempted to arrest him for war crimes. Baron von Rumsfeld has had to be fleet footed in France after narrowly escaping a war crimes indictment (Bush has even sought to immunize his defense team from indictment in the International Criminal Court. No consciousness of guilt there... and failing to get blanket immunity, has forced bilateral agreements on about 100 countries to ensure that U.S. officials won't be handed over.) And no less an insider than retired Gen. Antonio Taguba, who probed the infamous abuses at abu-Ghraib, has definitively stated that key members of the Bush administration committed war crimes by ordering and devising the torture of detainees

The remarks by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who's now retired, came in a new report that found that U.S. personnel tortured and abused detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, using beatings, electrical shocks, sexual humiliation and other cruel practices.

"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes," Taguba wrote. "The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

(The Red Cross, the lead organization in such matters, concurs.) And ccording to Rich:

Top Bush hands are starting to get sweaty about where they left their fingerprints. Scapegoating the rotten apples at the bottom of the military’s barrel may not be a slam-dunk escape route from accountability anymore.

No wonder the former Rumsfeld capo, Douglas Feith, is trying to discredit a damaging interview he gave to the British lawyer Philippe Sands for another recent and essential book on what happened, “Torture Team.” After Mr. Sands previewed his findings in the May issue of Vanity Fair, Mr. Feith protested he had been misquoted — apparently forgetting that Mr. Sands had taped the interview. Mr. Feith and Mr. Sands are scheduled to square off in a House hearing this Tuesday.

So hot is the speculation that war-crimes trials will eventually follow in foreign or international courts that Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, has publicly advised Mr. Feith, Mr. Addington and Alberto Gonzales, among others, to “never travel outside the U.S., except perhaps to Saudi Arabia and Israel.” But while we wait for the wheels of justice to grind slowly, there are immediate fears to tend. Ms. Mayer’s book helps cement the case that America’s use of torture has betrayed not just American values but our national security, right to the present day.

Worse, the Mayer book makes it clear that for all the descent into Communist Chinese military tactics, the Cheney-led torture mania hasn't helped U.S. national security. Instead, the lies that torture has elicited have been principle causes leading us into the Iraq quagmire:

In her telling, a major incentive for Mr. Cheney’s descent into the dark side was to cover up for the Bush White House’s failure to heed the Qaeda threat in 2001. Jack Cloonan, a special agent for the F.B.I.’s Osama bin Laden unit until 2002, told Ms. Mayer that Sept. 11 was “all preventable.” By March 2000, according to the C.I.A.’s inspector general, “50 or 60 individuals” in the agency knew that two Al Qaeda suspects — soon to be hijackers — were in America. But there was no urgency at the top. Thomas Pickard, the acting F.B.I. director that summer, told Ms. Mayer that when he expressed his fears about the Qaeda threat to Mr. Ashcroft, the attorney general snapped, “I don’t want to hear about that anymore!”

After 9/11, our government emphasized “interrogation over due process,” Ms. Mayer writes, “to pre-empt future attacks before they materialized.” But in reality torture may well be enabling future attacks. This is not just because Abu Ghraib snapshots have been used as recruitment tools by jihadists. No less destructive are the false confessions inevitably elicited from tortured detainees. The avalanche of misinformation since 9/11 has compromised prosecutions, allowed other culprits to escape and sent the American military on wild-goose chases. The coerced “confession” to the murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to take one horrific example, may have been invented to protect the real murderer.

The biggest torture-fueled wild-goose chase, of course, is the war in Iraq. Exhibit A, revisited in “The Dark Side,” is Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an accused Qaeda commander whose torture was outsourced by the C.I.A. to Egypt. His fabricated tales of Saddam’s biological and chemical W.M.D. — and of nonexistent links between Iraq and Al Qaeda — were cited by President Bush in his fateful Oct. 7, 2002, Cincinnati speech ginning up the war and by Mr. Powell in his subsequent United Nations presentation on Iraqi weaponry. Two F.B.I. officials told Ms. Mayer that Mr. al-Libi later explained his lies by saying: “They were killing me. I had to tell them something.”

That “something” was crucial in sending us into the quagmire that, five years later, has empowered Iran and compromised our ability to counter the very terrorists that torture was supposed to thwart. As The Times reported two weeks ago, Iraq has monopolized our military and intelligence resources to the point where we don’t have enough predator drones or expert C.I.A. field agents to survey the tribal areas where terrorists are amassing in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the threat to America from Al Qaeda is “comparable to what it faced on Sept. 11, 2001,” said Seth Jones, a RAND Corporation terrorism expert and Pentagon consultant. The difference between now and then is simply that the base of operations has moved, “roughly the difference from New York to Philadelphia.”

Meanwhile, in Rich's telling, we're back where we were in the summer before 9/11. Hell, even Chandra Levy is making a comeback, courtesy of a 12-part "investigative" series by the Washington Post... (BTW that summer, Chandra consumed about 90 percent of my time as editor of an NBC News website. Here we go again...)

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posted by JReid @ 12:15 PM  
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
The morning read

To the New York Times, where we learn one of the places the Pentagon got their ideas for how to torture prisoners:
The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” for possible use on prisoners, including “sleep deprivation,” “prolonged constraint,” and “exposure.”

What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Some methods were used against a small number of prisoners at Guantánamo before 2005, when Congress banned the use of coercion by the military. The C.I.A. is still authorized by President Bush to use a number of secret “alternative” interrogation methods.

Look for the right wing crazysphere to begin calling for the heads of the reporter and New York Times editor shortly...

The Times also reports on a factual error in the recent Supreme Court ruling on executions for child rape. And who uncovered the mistake? Why, your friendly neighborhood milblogger:
When the Supreme Court ruled last week that the death penalty for raping a child was unconstitutional, the majority noted that a child rapist could face the ultimate penalty in only six states — not in any of the 30 other states that have the death penalty, and not under the jurisdiction of the federal government either.

This inventory of jurisdictions was a central part of the court’s analysis, the foundation for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s conclusion in his majority opinion that capital punishment for child rape was contrary to the “evolving standards of decency” by which the court judges how the death penalty is applied.

It turns out that Justice Kennedy’s confident assertion about the absence of federal law was wrong.

A military law blog pointed out over the weekend that Congress, in fact, revised the sex crimes section of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in 2006 to add child rape to the military death penalty. The revisions were in the National Defense Authorization Act that year. President Bush signed that bill into law and then, last September, carried the changes forward by issuing Executive Order 13447, which put the provisions into the 2008 edition of the Manual for Courts-Martial.

Anyone in the federal government — or anywhere else, for that matter — who knew about these developments did not tell the court. Not one of the 10 briefs filed in the case, Kennedy v. Louisiana, mentioned it. The Office of the Solicitor General, which represents the federal government in the Supreme Court, did not even file a brief, evidently having concluded that the federal government had no stake in whether Louisiana’s death penalty for child rape was constitutional.

The provision was the subject of a post over the weekend on the blog run by Dwight Sullivan, a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve who now works for the Air Force as a civilian defense lawyer handling death penalty appeals.

Mr. Sullivan was reading the Supreme Court’s decision on a plane and was surprised to see no mention of the military statute. “We’re not talking about ancient history,” he said in an interview. “This happened in 2006.”

His titled his blog post “The Supremes Dis the Military Justice System.”

This morning, CAAFlog takes his bows, as well he should. Good catch!

Over to the Washington Post, where the top story is the deadly upsurge in U.S. combat deaths, with June being the deadliest month for American troops since the war began in late 2001. 

Meanwhile, the Post attempts to do a "gotcha" on Barack Obama, reporting that ... shock of all shocks ...!!! a well-to-do elected official got a great mortgage loan deal! No... NOOOOOOO!!!!!! Memo to the reporterati, most Americans get that borrowers with more money in the bank, better credit, larger down payments, and who are seeking higher loans, get better mortgage deals. The Post reports the Obama discount saved him and his wife a whopping $300 a month. What's that, 1/1000th of the cost of just one out of eight Cindy McCain homes? 


One more: the Post also reports on the double-dilemma faced by some SUV owners:
With $4-a-gallon gas coming between drivers and their very large vehicles, consumers are dropping their once-beloved rides, fast. But not fast enough, it seems. As the price of gas has gone up, the value of sport-utility vehicles has gone down.

In the past six months, the price of a used Chevrolet Suburban has dropped as much as $8,000, said Mike Parker, manager of used-car sales at Lustine Toyota/Dodge in Woodbridge.

For those determined to swap their fuel-thirsty behemoths for gas-sipping subcompacts, the glut increasingly means taking a financial hit. In the worst cases, declining SUV values leave owners owing more money to the bank than their vehicle is worth.

The question they face is: Which is worse for the wallet -- the cost of gas or the money lost selling the vehicle?


The Moonie paper has a swanky new, pimped out website, and their big stories today: a bulldozer vs. bus attack in Jerusalem, and a report that the Clinton campaign has scrubbed all the anti-Obama stuff from Hillary's web-site. No! Really?

Over to the left coast, where the L.A. Times' Greg Miller reports that the U.S. is so confident in the Iraqi Army we're training, we spy on them.
WASHINGTON -- Caught off guard by recent Iraqi military operations, the United States is using spy satellites that ordinarily are trained on adversaries to monitor the movements of the American-backed Iraqi army, current and former U.S. officials say.

The stepped-up surveillance reflects breakdowns in trust and coordination between the two forces. Officials said it was part of an expanded intelligence effort launched after American commanders were surprised by the timing of the Iraqi army's violent push into Basra three months ago.

The use of the satellites puts the United States in the unusual position of employing some of its most sophisticated espionage technology to track an allied army that American forces helped create, continue to advise, and often fight alongside.

The satellites are "imaging military installations that the Iraqi army occupies," said a former U.S. military official, who said slides from the images had been used in recent closed briefings at U.S. facilities in the Middle East. "They're imaging training areas that the Iraqi army utilizes. They're imaging roads that Iraqi armored vehicles and large convoys transit."

Military officials and experts said the move showed concern by U.S. commanders about whether their Iraqi counterparts would follow U.S. guidance or keep their coalition partners fully informed.

"It suggests that we don't have complete confidence in their chain of command, or in their willingness to tell us what they're going to do because they may fear that we may try to get them not to do it," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a website about intelligence and military issues.

And in a story that's sure to get a lot of play on cable news today, the LAT has scored video of staffers at ironically named Martin Luther King Hospital literally ignoring a patient to death.:
Edith Isabel Rodriguez writhed for 45 minutes on the floor of the emergency room lobby at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital as staffers walked past and a janitor mopped around her. Her boyfriend called 911 from a pay phone outside the hospital, pleading futilely for help.
The infamous incident in May 2007 was captured by a security camera, but the tape was actually seen by very few people. Los Angeles County has insisted for more than a year that the tape is "confidential, official information," refusing to release it to Rodriguez's family or to The Times.

This week, however, excerpts of the grainy video were sent anonymously to the newspaper and are available on The Times' website.

The public airing of the tape comes the same week as an eerily similar -- but much clearer -- surveillance tape was released showing a woman collapsing and writhing on the floor of a Brooklyn, N.Y., hospital's waiting room last month. She lay there more than an hour, as patients and security guards looked on.

According to published reports, Esmin Green had been waiting in the psychiatric emergency room of Kings County Hospital for nearly 24 hours when she fell from her seat June 19. An hour and three minutes later, a staffer who had been alerted by someone in the waiting room went up to Green, tapped her with her foot and tried to awaken her.

Finally, the Guardian reports that the opposition in Zimbabwe is in no mood for talks with Mugabe.

And the Guardian reports on a BBC radio execs take on the media's pornographic coverae of Amy Winehouse, which the exec said has contributed to her troubles. Hear hear.

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posted by JReid @ 9:17 AM  
Monday, June 30, 2008
More revelations: Iraq, torture, and hello, Dick Myers!
From the Associated Press:
A nearly 700-page study released Sunday by the Army found that "in the euphoria of early 2003," U.S.-based commanders prematurely believed their goals in Iraq had been reached and did not send enough troops to handle the occupation.

President George W. Bush's statement on May 1, 2003, that major combat operations were over reinforced that view, the study said.

It was written by Donald P. Wright and Col. Timothy R. Reese of the Combat Operations Study Team at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., who said that planners who requested more troops were ignored and that commanders in Baghdad were replaced without enough of a transition and lacked enough staff.

... The report said that the civilian and military planning for a post-Saddam Iraq was inadequate, and that the Army should have pushed the Joint Chiefs of Staff for better planning and preparation. Retired military leaders, members of Congress, think tanks and others have already concluded that the occupation was understaffed.
The U.S. combat death toll so far: 4,113. This story, combined with the New York Times piece on the Bush administration's failures in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, should combine for a powerful critique of the Bush foreign policy doctrine -- one which John McCain is pushing to extend. McCain has surrounded himself with the same neocon advisors who pushed for the Iraq invasion, and who underestimated its difficulty (as did the candidate himself.) Not a good look.

Back to the U.S. military, and its superb penchant for introspection, as pointed out by the Times article. That introspection also extended to the issue of torture, where we pick things up with Salon.com:
The former Air Force general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers, helped quash dissent from across the U.S. military as the Bush administration first set up a brutal interrogation regime for terrorism suspects, according to newly public documents and testimony from an ongoing Senate probe.

In late 2002, documents show, officials from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps all complained that harsh interrogation tactics under consideration for use at the prison in Guantánamo Bay might be against the law. Those military officials called for further legal scrutiny of the tactics. The chief of the Army's international law division, for example, said in a memo that some of the tactics, such as stress positions and sensory deprivation, "cross the line of 'humane treatment'" and "may violate the torture statute."

Myers, however, agreed to scuttle a plan for further legal review of the tactics, in response to pressure from a top Pentagon attorney helping to set up the interrogation program for then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Ah yes, torture. Another thing John McCain used to be against... A bit more on Myers' role:

"He is rarely referenced as one of the usual suspects," noted Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington Law School who is following the continuing Senate investigation. "He did play a much more central role" than previously known, Turley said. "The minute the military lawyers expressed concern, they were shut down."

The chain of events involving Myers began in late 2002. Rumsfeld was considering the approval of three categories of interrogation techniques for use at Guantaánamo. The list included some brutal tactics, including stress positions, exploitation of phobias, forced nudity, hooding, isolation, sensory deprivation, exposure to cold and waterboarding, or simulated drowning.

According to written correspondence that came to light during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing June 17, various military leaders balked at the plans in a series of memos produced during the first week of November 2002. In addition to the criticisms raised by the Army, the Air Force leadership cited "serious concerns regarding the legality" of the list of proposed techniques. The Navy also called for further legal review, and the Marine Corps stated that the techniques "arguably violate federal law."

Dick Myers was already on the line, as far as I'm concerned for his part in transporting torture techniques from Gitmo to Iraq, and retired Gen. Rick Sanchez has previously pointed out the administration's incompetence in a war his book dubs "the strategic blunder of all time." These new accounts just add more texture to the case.


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posted by JReid @ 8:19 AM  
Monday, June 02, 2008
Ghost ships of the 'war on terror'
Even as the U.S. military struggles to make improvements in the way we treat detainees in Iraq, the Bush administration continues to stain America's honor with its brutal, ugly so-called "war on terror." First, the military effort:
BAGHDAD — Once a byword for torture and disgrace, the American-run detention system in Iraq has improved, even its critics say, as the military has incorporated it into a larger counterinsurgency strategy that seeks to avoid mistreatment that could create new enemies.

But these gains may soon be at risk. Thousands of detainees are to be turned over to the Iraqi government, some perhaps as early as the end of the year, a further step toward Iraqi sovereignty. Yet however tarnished America’s reputation may be for its treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, the reputation of many Iraqi prisons is worse.

“The Americans are better than Ministry of Interior prisons,” said Mahmoud Abu Dumour, a former detainee from Falluja, the Sunni stronghold west of Baghdad. “They will torture you. Maybe you will die. With the Americans, if you enter Abu Ghraib, they will only wage psychological war on you.”

Already, Human Rights Watch has criticized the military for transferring some convicted juveniles to Iraqi custody, where they are kept in what the group said are abusive conditions.

Criticism also remains high that the American military detains too many people, deprives them of due process and holds them too long, even if innocent. Many are taken in only because they were near an insurgent attack.

While nearly all of the more than 21,000 detainees in Iraq are in American custody, Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, who runs detainee operations countrywide, is proceeding with a broad experiment to restructure it. His goal is to use the system of detention centers as another front in the counterinsurgency war, trying to reduce the likelihood that they become a recruiting ground for militants.

“The extremists owned the battlefield of the mind,” said General Stone, a Marine Reserve counterinsurgency expert who took responsibility for the detention system last spring. Before he arrived, moderate and extremist detainees were usually mixed, turning the American-run detention facilities into what he called a “jihadi university.”

General Stone’s goal now is to isolate those he believes are extremists, who are a minority of detainees, and persuade the other detainees that they will have better lives if they keep away from those who preach jihad. It is part of the effort to bring detention policy here in line with American military strategy that seeks to separate insurgents from civilians, mentally and physically.

General Stone’s goal is to move detainees, particularly more moderate ones, through the system faster by instituting review boards to hear each detainee’s case. So far, these boards have released at least 8,400 people. He has also pushed to expand paid work programs, like carpentry shops, brick factories and laundries, as well as educational programs, especially for juvenile detainees and the many illiterate adults.

It is difficult to assess this drive toward improvement. Outsiders are forbidden to interview detainees. The International Committee of the Red Cross has regular access to the facilities, but the United Nations and human rights groups say they have not been permitted to enter. ...
And then there's this, not-so-minor issue, that has to do with the wind-down of the Bush administration's stewardship, if you can call it that, of Iraq:
Looming on the horizon is the end of the United Nations authorization of the American involvement in Iraq, including the detention system. The authorization expires Dec. 31 and the United Nations is not expected to take up the issue again, leaving it to negotiations between the United States and Iraq. But the outlook for such a deal, which involves sweeping issues of troop withdrawal, as well as detention and other aspects of an American presence in Iraq, is in doubt.

On Sunday, for instance, the Iraqi government said it would not accept an American draft proposal on the issues.

The detention issues at play cover difficult legal and ethical ground, so much so that no American official interviewed for this article was willing to speak on the record about the discussions.

At the heart of the problem are all the so-called security detainees, who make up an overwhelming majority of the 21,000 people in American custody. They are the people who have been arrested because, in the judgment of the United States military, they could present some threat, even if they are not accused of extremist activity.

It is expected that Iraqi officials, who are now completing new prisons, will seek to take more control of detention operations, including taking custody of at least some of the current Iraqi detainees. That prompts the question characterized by one American military lawyer as “What do we do with the red population?” or those detainees the Americans consider to be extremists — the 8,000 detainees that General Stone referred to as a continuing threat.

Even as the Americans try to overcome their reputation for past mistreatment, serious allegations of torture and substandard conditions in some Iraqi prisons persist. Iraq’s Interior Ministry detention centers, which hold the largest numbers of pretrial detainees, have been run primarily by Shiites and have a record of overcrowding and abuse against the predominantly Sunni detainee population.

There have also been many allegations of torture. In cases in 2005 and 2006, it was American and British soldiers who rescued beaten and starved prisoners.

“If the coalition is going to turn over detainees, there are real Convention Against Torture issues,” said Kevin Lanigan, a former Army Reserve judge advocate in Iraq who is director of the law and security program at Human Rights First, a rights organization.

He was referring to the international Convention Against Torture, which among other things prohibits nations that have signed it from turning detainees over to countries where there are “substantial grounds” to believe that they would be tortured. Iraq has also signed the convention.

And speaking of "Convention Against Torture issues," the Guardian reports on "ghost ships" rendering detainees to ports unknown, where they may indeed, pose those issues.
The United States is operating "floating prisons" to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees.

Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained.

Information about the operation of prison ships has emerged through a number of sources, including statements from the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners.

The analysis, due to be published this year by the human rights organisation Reprieve, also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, when President George Bush declared that the practice had stopped.

It is the use of ships to detain prisoners, however, that is raising fresh concern and demands for inquiries in Britain and the US.

According to research carried out by Reprieve, the US may have used as many as 17 ships as "floating prisons" since 2001. Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.

Ships that are understood to have held prisoners include the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu. A further 15 ships are suspected of having operated around the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which has been used as a military base by the UK and the Americans.

Reprieve will raise particular concerns over the activities of the USS Ashland and the time it spent off Somalia in early 2007 conducting maritime security operations in an effort to capture al-Qaida terrorists.

At this time many people were abducted by Somali, Kenyan and Ethiopian forces in a systematic operation involving regular interrogations by individuals believed to be members of the FBI and CIA. Ultimately more than 100 individuals were "disappeared" to prisons in locations including Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Guantánamo Bay.

Reprieve believes prisoners may have also been held for interrogation on the USS Ashland and other ships in the Gulf of Aden during this time. ...

So let's get this straight. The Bush administration is concerned about turning over Iraqi prisoners to the Iraqi government because of concerns they might be tortured, but we continue to ferry prisoners secretly on American military vessels, where we might be torturing them ... I mean "interrogating" them ... and where we very well might be rendering them to rogue governments so that THEY can torture them?

And right wingers want to keep this outrage going with four years of John McCain?

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posted by JReid @ 11:01 AM  
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Yoo 2
The first torture memo was bad enough. The new one is a doozy. John Yoo, the Justice Department lawyer who essentially gave the president and anyone he designates, a pass on the Geneva conventions, allowing the Bush administration to order the torture of detainees with what they thought was legal impunity, apparently wrote a second memo, this on in 2003. The New York Times picks it up from there:
A newly disclosed Justice Department legal memorandum, written in March 2003 and authorizing the military’s use of extremely harsh interrogation techniques, offers what could be a revealing clue in an unsolved mystery: What responsibility did top Pentagon and Bush administration officials have for abuses committed by American troops at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and in Afghanistan; Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; and elsewhere?

Some legal experts and advocates said Wednesday that the document, written the month that the United States invaded Iraq, adds to evidence that the abuse of prisoners in military custody may have involved signals from higher officials and not just irresponsible actions by low-level personnel.

Ya think?
The opinion was written by John C. Yoo of the Office of Legal Counsel, the executive branch’s highest authority on the interpretation of the law. It told the Pentagon’s senior leadership that inflicting pain would not be considered torture unless it caused “death, organ failure or permanent damage,” and it is the most fully developed legal justification that has yet come to light for inflicting physical and mental pressure on suspects.

While resembling an August 2002 memorandum drafted largely by Mr. Yoo, the March 2003 opinion went further, arguing more explicitly that the president’s war powers could trump the law against torture, which it said could not constitutionally be enforced if it interfered with the commander in chief’s orders.

Scott L. Silliman, head of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University and a former Air Force lawyer, said he did not believe that the 2003 memorandum directly caused mistreatment. But Mr. Silliman added, “The memo helped to build a culture that, in the absence of leadership from the highest ranks of the Pentagon, allowed the abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.”

Because opinions issued by the Office of Legal Counsel are “binding on the Defense Department,” Mr. Silliman said, Mr. Yoo’s opinion effectively sidelined military lawyers who strongly opposed harsh interrogation methods.

And it essentially assigned dictatorial powers to the president, stating that he may, in wartime, set aside the laws passed by Congress, as well as treaties to which the United States is a signatory. A bit more:
The document was made public on Tuesday after it was declassified in response to a request by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act.

Both the August 2002 and March 2003 memorandums were formally withdrawn by the Justice Department in 2004, after Mr. Yoo’s successors at the Office of Legal Counsel concluded that they went too far.

Jonathan Hafetz, a lawyer representing Ali al-Marri, a Qatar citizen arrested in the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks, said he believed that the March 2003 opinion explained why his client was removed from the criminal justice system and placed in a military jail in Charleston, S.C., in June 2003.

“I think they moved him to the military system to be able to use the harsh techniques blessed in the Yoo memo,” said Mr. Hafetz, of the Brennan Center for Justice.

Mr. Marri said he was subjected to cold, shackled in uncomfortable positions, deprived of sleep and otherwise mistreated.

An even earlier Yoo's "legal" opinion, written on September 25, 2001, when he held the title of Deputy Counsel, had already set the administration on a course of dictatorial power. Note its preamble:
The President has broad constitutional power to take military action in response to the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. Congress has acknowledged this inherent executive power in both the War Powers Resolution and the Joint Resolution passed by Congress on September 14, 2001.

The President has constitutional power not only to retaliate against any person, organization, or State suspected of involvement in terrorist attacks on the United States, but also against foreign States suspected of harboring or supporting such organizations.

The President may deploy military force preemptively against terrorist organizations or the States that harbor or support them, whether or not they can be linked to the specific terrorist incidents of September 11.

But does he get an actual crown? That was followed by the infamous August 2002 memo dubbed "the torture memo," but which was considerably less vague than the newly discovered writ about what Yoo perceives to be the almost unlimited power of a wartime president.

And lets not forget the October 23, 2001 Yoo memo that essentially junks the Fourth Amendment, stating, incredibly, that it has "no application to domestic military operations," such operations themselves being unlawful under the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.

Taken together, the Yoo memoranda constitute a straight-up push, likely driven by the Chenyites inside the administration, for total presidential power, irrespective of law, irrespective of Congress, so long as the administration could act under the color of war.

Kind of makes you wonder why they're so eager to keep us at war, essentially forever.

And it should make you want to ask some very serious questions of Bush's new steward, John McCain.

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posted by JReid @ 8:50 PM  
Thursday, February 14, 2008
John McCain's tortured Valentine
Senator John McCain is absolutely opposed to the use of torture by American G.I.'s, CIA agents and operatives of every sort. He'll even say it on videotape in front of people! He'll even say it in a Republican debate! ... He'll even take on President Bush (insert signing statement here...) because these are John McCain's princip... pardon? ... oh, the Republican leadership is gonna endorse him after a hasty secret meeting??? And Mitt Romney too...???

Oh HELL yeah! Torture the sonofabitches like Jack Bauer on acid, baby! Torture's a.o.k. with John McCain!

(sigh) What does it profit a man to gain the whole world (or at least to gain the miserable acquiescence of a party who really doesn't want you) and lose your soul? ... and your integrity? Somebody oughta ask "my friend" from AZ...

Meanwhile, don't look for the winger faithful to throw John-boy any bouquets for his newfound respect for the Law of "24"... these are the same guys who on background, really think he gave in to the Viet Cong...

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posted by JReid @ 11:24 PM  
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Probably???
The head of our CIA is kinda, sorta, pretty sure waterboarding -- which has been illegal in the U.S. since ... oh, about WORLD WAR II ... is still basically illegal now ... probably ...

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posted by JReid @ 4:54 PM  
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Mike McConnell explains it all
National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell states the obvious:
Mr McConnell said it would also be torture if water-boarding, which involves simulated drowning, resulted in water entering a detainee's lungs.

He told the New Yorker there would be a "huge penalty" for anyone using it if it was ever determined to be torture.

The US attorney-general has declined to rule on whether the method is torture.

However, Michael Mukasey said during his Senate confirmation hearing that water-boarding was "repugnant to me" and that he would institute a review.
Good for him, but a shame that it's still even a question...

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posted by JReid @ 1:50 AM  
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Mr. Kiriakou's opus
There will be no prosecution, at least for now, of the former CIA agent, Mr. Kiriakou, for his revelations about the torture (his words) of terror suspect Abu Zubayda whilst Mr. Zubayda was in the custody of the agency. Kiriakou has told ABC and NBC News that not only did he participate in the torture of Mr. Zubayda via waterboarding, but that the torture was cleared, specifically, up the chain of command from CIA headquarters to the Justice Department to the White House. The former agent said that each time agents wanted to use "harsh interrogation techniques" on a suspect, they didn't just do it willy nilly -- they had to get specific permission to do so, technique by technique.

So why is he talking?

On Dan Abrams' show last night it was clear that John Kiriakou wants to protect the reputation of the CIA, and to clear the agency of having acted somehow in a rogue fashion, waterboarding people willy nilly simply because agents wanted to do so. It seems pretty clear what his motivations are: to inoculate the CIA while redirecting the responsibility for what was done to the White House. Along with that, Kiriakou is telling the media in no uncertain terms that he felt that what was done was torture, but that he personally deemed it necessary, even "forced" -- at the time, "to save American lives."

Maybe on "24" (I've never heard one convincing piece of evidence that Abu Zubayda knew anything of importance regarding supposed future terror attacks on the United States. If torture worked, why didn't one of the torturees tip off the CIA to the Bali bombings, or the tube bombings in London...?) In fact, many on my end of the blogosphere are quite skeptical of the right's "torture works! ...but only for us..." claims.

Lesson number one from Kiriakou's tale is that you can't beat the CIA. Even the Bush administration, which operates with almost Darth Vader's Empire-like radicalism when it comes to lawbreaking, can beat the spooks. They always hit back. And no president that I can think of has ever out-foxed them. Bush has blamed the CIA for the "bad" intelligence on Iraq, when actually, his vice president and Pentagon cooked the vague intel coming out of Langley for the purpose of pushing the Congress, and the country, into a war with Iraq. Bushies imply that it was the CIA, and the FBI, who dropped the ball before 9/11, though somebody must have briefed Bush's then National Security Advisor Condi Rice, because she knew full well that "Bin Laden was determined to attack the United States" on at least August 6th, a full month before the attacks.

Back to Mr. Kiriakou... ABC reports on his "get out of prosecution" card (which is mirrored, apparently, by the White House's even as it becomes crystal clear that there's obstruction of justice afoot. From ABC:
The former CIA intelligence official who went public on ABC News about the agency's use of waterboarding in interrogations, John Kiriakou, apparently will not be the subject of a Justice Department investigation, even though some CIA officials believe he revealed classified information about the use of waterboarding.

"They were furious at the CIA this morning, but cooler heads have apparently prevailed for the time being," a senior Justice Department official told the Blotter on ABCNews.com.

Gen. Michael Hayden, the CIA director, did sent out a classified memo this morning warning all employees "of the importance of protecting classified information," a CIA spokesperson told ABCNews.com.

... and then, that new classified memo got out. Hm.

I don't know about you, but I think the spooks doth protest too much. They like having this guy out there. He's not hurting them -- he's hurting the people the CIA lifers apparently distrust -- George W. Bush and his band of nut-o-cons.

Here's Kiriakou on Abrams last night:



And here's part two, where poor GOP hack Jack Burkman tries to roll out the talking points, to hilarious effect:



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posted by JReid @ 11:59 PM  
Monday, November 05, 2007
JAGs make it plain
Four retired military generals write to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy to put some clarity to an issue that should have long been clear. From Leahy's website:
The letter was written by Brigadier General David M. Brahms, United States Marine Corps (Ret.); Major General John L. Fugh, United States Army (Ret.); Rear Admiral Donald J. Guter, United States Navy (Ret.); and Rear Admiral John. D. Hutson, United States Navy (Ret.). Admiral Hutson testified before the Judiciary Committee Oct. 18 as part of the Mukasey confirmation hearings.

“In the course of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s consideration of President Bush’s nominee for the post of Attorney General, there has been much discussion, but little clarity, about the legality of ‘waterboarding’ under United States and international law,” the generals wrote. “We write because this issue above all demands clarity: Waterboarding is inhumane, it is torture, and it is illegal.”
The full letter is available here.

The most important part of the letter reads as follows (it's the part you won't likely see teletyped on your favorite cable news show):
This is a critically important issue -- but it is not, and never has been, a complex issue, and even to suggest otherwise does a terrible disservice to this nation. All U.S. Government agencies and personnel, and not just America's military forces, must abide by both the spirit and letter of the controlling provisions of international law. Cruelty and torture -- no less than wanton killing -- is neither justified nor legal in any circumstance. It is essential to be clear, specific and unambiguous about this fact -- as in fact we have been throughout America's history, at least until the last few years. Abu Ghraib and other notorious examples of detainee abuse have been the product, at least in part, of a self-serving and destructive disregard for the well-established legal priciples applicable to this issue. This must end.

The Rule of Law is fundamental to our existence as a civilized nation. The Rule of Law is not a goal which we merely aspire to achieve; it is the floor below which we must not sink. For the Rule of Law to function effectively, however, it must provide actual rules that can be followed.
Never better said.

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posted by JReid @ 5:09 PM  
Friday, November 02, 2007
Mukasey says
By now I'm sure you've figured out the simple reason Michael Mukasey cannot state the obvious fact that waterboarding -- something expressly outlawed under both U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions (we prosecuted foreign troops for doing just that during World War II and the U.S. was crucial to the process that declared waterboarding a crime against humanity) -- is torture.

Mukasey cannot state the obvious because should he do so and then become attorney general, he might have to prosecute members of the Bush administration for ordering the waterboarding torture of terrorism detainees, up to and possibly including the President of the United States. After all, Mukasey has stated during Senate hearings that the torture memo authored by former A.G. Alberto Gonzales authorizng the president to break U.S. law in that regard, was in error, meaning that Bush has no authority to go around the law and order "special detainees" to be treated with that particular kind of specialness.

So let Bushie whinge. Let him moan that the quite simple question put to Mr. Mukasey by his would-be confirmers in the Senate are unfair. Let him threaten to leave the spot vacant. He cannot thread this needle.

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posted by JReid @ 8:00 AM  
Thursday, October 04, 2007
From the political grave
The ghost of Alberto Gonzales comes back to haunt the Bush administration once again:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 — When the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations.

But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.

Mr. Gonzales approved the legal memorandum on “combined effects” over the objections of James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general, who was leaving his job after bruising clashes with the White House. Disagreeing with what he viewed as the opinion’s overreaching legal reasoning, Mr. Comey told colleagues at the department that they would all be “ashamed” when the world eventually learned of it.

Later that year, as Congress moved toward outlawing “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment, the Justice Department issued another secret opinion, one most lawmakers did not know existed, current and former officials said. The Justice Department document declared that none of the C.I.A. interrogation methods violated that standard.

The classified opinions, never previously disclosed, are a hidden legacy of President Bush’s second term and Mr. Gonzales’s tenure at the Justice Department, where he moved quickly to align it with the White House after a 2004 rebellion by staff lawyers that had thrown policies on surveillance and detention into turmoil.

And the Times delves even deeper into the corruption of the office of the attorney general:
When he stepped down as attorney general in September after widespread criticism of the firing of federal prosecutors and withering attacks on his credibility, Mr. Gonzales talked proudly in a farewell speech of how his department was “a place of inspiration” that had balanced the necessary flexibility to conduct the war on terrorism with the need to uphold the law.

Associates at the Justice Department said Mr. Gonzales seldom resisted pressure from Vice President Dick Cheney and David S. Addington, Mr. Cheney’s counsel, to endorse policies that they saw as effective in safeguarding Americans, even though the practices brought the condemnation of other governments, human rights groups and Democrats in Congress. Critics say Mr. Gonzales turned his agency into an arm of the Bush White House, undermining the department’s independence.

The interrogation opinions were signed by Steven G. Bradbury, who since 2005 has headed the elite Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department. He has become a frequent public defender of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program and detention policies at Congressional hearings and press briefings, a role that some legal scholars say is at odds with the office’s tradition of avoiding political advocacy.

Mr. Bradbury defended the work of his office as the government’s most authoritative interpreter of the law. “In my experience, the White House has not told me how an opinion should come out,” he said in an interview. “The White House has accepted and respected our opinions, even when they didn’t like the advice being given.”

The debate over how terrorist suspects should be held and questioned began shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when the Bush administration adopted secret detention and coercive interrogation, both practices the United States had previously denounced when used by other countries. It adopted the new measures without public debate or Congressional vote, choosing to rely instead on the confidential legal advice of a handful of appointees.

The policies set off bruising internal battles, pitting administration moderates against hard-liners, military lawyers against Pentagon chiefs and, most surprising, a handful of conservative lawyers at the Justice Department against the White House in the stunning mutiny of 2004. But under Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Bradbury, the Justice Department was wrenched back into line with the White House.

After the Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the Geneva Conventions applied to prisoners who belonged to Al Qaeda, President Bush for the first time acknowledged the C.I.A.’s secret jails and ordered their inmates moved to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The C.I.A. halted its use of waterboarding, or pouring water over a bound prisoner’s cloth-covered face to induce fear of suffocation.

But in July, after a monthlong debate inside the administration, President Bush signed a new executive order authorizing the use of what the administration calls “enhanced” interrogation techniques — the details remain secret — and officials say the C.I.A. again is holding prisoners in “black sites” overseas. The executive order was reviewed and approved by Mr. Bradbury and the Office of Legal Counsel.

Douglas W. Kmiec, who headed that office under President Ronald Reagan and the first President George Bush and wrote a book about it, said he believed the intense pressures of the campaign against terrorism have warped the office’s proper role.

“The office was designed to insulate against any need to be an advocate,” said Mr. Kmiec, now a conservative scholar at Pepperdine University law school. But at times in recent years, Mr. Kmiec said, the office, headed by William H. Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia before they served on the Supreme Court, “lost its ability to say no.”

“The approach changed dramatically with opinions on the war on terror,” Mr. Kmiec said. “The office became an advocate for the president’s policies.”
Senator Leahy is now seeking custody of the documents.

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posted by JReid @ 8:10 PM  
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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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