is found here, complete with numerous references and citations. The evidence is there, and has been since 2001. Highly recommended reading.
As the evidence continues to come out in dribs and drabs, we learn more and more that indeed the Bush administration ordered the torture of detainees by the CIA.
So now the process can be fully diagrammed, and the cast of characters is stunning. The torture system involves the operations division of the CIA on the implementation side. They rely heavily on contractors, it seems, in torturing people. And a special role is apparently played by a couple of psychologists. (Time used to be that healthcare professionals had an oath. It started “first, do no harm.” But, just like the Bible and the Constitution, that’s so pre-9/11. And with the American Psychological Association providing full cover, what’s the worry.)
We know that the Justice Department is right in the thick of it. Who precisely? The answer is most likely the Office of Legal Counsel—which has now emerged as what George Orwell called the “Ministry of Love” (remember: in Nineteen Eighty-Four that’s the ministry that picked and approved torture practices). But it doesn’t end with the opinion lawyers. The National Security Division is also in the thick of things, apparently. Alberto Gonzales, before he became attorney general, played station master for the initial series of torture memos. Once he landed at Justice, he kept a close watch on all torture issues and lied to Congress about it. With the attorney general’s office staking out a close interest in torture, it’s unlikely that others in the Department would have substituted their judgment for his. Thus the ball would seem to be squarely in Michael Mukasey’s court.
And finally the White House. David Addington, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley—these are all name we can now link directly to the torture system. Not just as a matter of theory. As a matter of practical application. They decided who would be tortured and how. And John B. Bellinger III, the man who keeps making a laughing-stock of himself with speeches on international law (as, for instance, when he tells us he can’t raise a legal objection to the idea of the Iranians waterboarding some captured American airman), who was legal counsel at NSC and continues now to hold that role with Condi Rice at State. He constantly issued assurances “off the record” to human rights groups and bar groups that we certainly don’t torture. And now it’s reasonably clear that he was right in the thick of the torture approval process all along.
This resurrects the process of official cruelty under the Stuart monarchs in seventeenth century England. Persons accused of state crimes very frequently were interrogated with the use of specific techniques, including the rack, the thumbscrew, and waterboarding. King James I personally described the process in The Kings Booke (1606). He would, on the advice of his officers, “approve no new torture,” but he would certainly avail himself of the existing practices. In ascending order of severity they were: thumbscrews, the rack and waterboarding. That’s right. Waterboarding was considered the most severe of the official forms of torture. Worse than the rack and thumbscrews.
So what’s the rationale? What makes war supporters and torture supporters sleep at night? What justification do they use to rest their hearts? Kevin Drum shares a letter from a reader on the reason why, the rationale behind accepting torture:
I want our side to win. Or maybe more accurately, I don’t want our side to lose….As with any other form of violence, motivation is everything. A cop shooting a murderer is not the same as a murderer shooting an innocent victim, although both use guns, and at the end, someone is bleeding and dying.
You’d be amazed at how many people find these things nearly equivalent. A leftist I know sees no difference between a Palestinian child dying from a stray Israeli bullet during a firefight, and an Israeli child dying when a Palestinian terrorist puts the barrel of a gun to the kid’s forehead and blows his brains across the back wall of the child’s bedroom. In his two-dimensional perception, the only important factor is that both resulted in a dead child. Avoiding true moral analysis and motivations allows him to skirt the concept of “evil,” a term which makes many liberals intensely uncomfortable.
John Kiriakou said that waterboarding a terrorist stopped dozens of attacks. Dozens. Not attacks on military targets, but attacks on innocent non-combatants.
That was the motivation.
The terrorists who torture and kill our prisoners (never something as benign as waterboarding) don’t do it because they need information to save innocent people. They do it because they like it, because they want to hurt or kill someone.
At some point you have to decide if a known terrorist having a very bad day (after which he goes back to a hot meal and a cot) is more of a moral problem than allowing a terrorist to blow up a building full of people.
Yes, it’s good if we do it, when it’s for the right reasons. So far, it’s been for the right reasons. And no, it isn’t good when it’s done to us, for the reasons it has been done to us. Get back to me when some enemy tortures one of our soldiers in order to save innocent lives.
But as some commentators said:
Behind the argument for torture is pretty straight up utilitarianism.
If somehow magically, you could know for ABSOLUTELY certain that torture of one person would save millions of lives, then you would do it. I know I would do it. I assume anyone that doesn’t follow an infantile version of Kant would do it.
The problem is that we will never know for certain that torture saves lives, and we can never trust the information we get from torture, and torture has so many morally corrupting side effects that go along with it, that in the end, the utilitarian calculus for routinized torture just isn’t worth it.
I understand his argument, and it scares me. Simply: we are good, therefore we can kill and torture. They are evil, therefore their torturing and killing are evil. Two problems: 1)”they” make exactly the same argument. 2) If we kill and torture, are we not therefore evil?
We are good because we DON’T torture. If we begin torturing our detainees, we lose the status of being GOOD. We turn EVIL, and become the enemy of the GOOD.
It is so nice to see someone else say this.
Ever since the attacks, the United States has felt threatened and under siege and determined to carve out maximum room to maneuver. But where Americans have seen defensive behavior, the rest of the world has looked on and seen the most powerful nation in human history acting like a caged animal, lashing out at any and every constraint on its actions.
At the heart of this behavior is fear. Americans have become scared of the new world that is emerging around them. As long as this atmosphere of fear envelops U.S. politics, it will surely produce very similar results abroad.
When we are fearful, that’s when we turn to immoral acts, such as torture, for example. We feel so threatened by the world around us that we justify breaking our OWN laws just so we can feel more secure. Unfortunately, this all-encompassing search for security will be our greatest downfall.
The cable reads:
THE PRESIDENT DESIRES TO KNOW IN THE FULLEST AND MOST CIRCUMSTANTIAL MANNER ALL THE FACTS . . . FOR THE VERY REASON THAT THE PRESIDENT INTENDS TO BACK UP THE ARMY IN THE HEARTIEST FASHION IN EVERY LAWFUL AND LEGITIMATE METHOD OF DOING ITS WORK. HE ALSO INTENDS TO SEE THAT THE MOST VIGOROUS CARE IS EXERCISED TO DETECT AND PREVENT ANY CRUELTY OR BRUTALITY AND THAT MEN WHO ARE GUILTY THEREOF ARE PUNISHED. GREAT AS THE PROVOCATION HAS BEEN . . . NOTHING CAN JUSTIFY . . . THE USE OF TORTURE OR INHUMAN CONDUCT OF ANY KIND ON THE PART OF THE AMERICAN ARMY.
This message from the president of the United States was sent not to members of the American military dealing with insurgents in Iraq but to an earlier Army dealing with insurgents in the Philippines approximately a century ago. Even without the characteristic capitalization of cablegrams sent during President Theodore Roosevelt’s time, the strong statement of outrage over torture and high regard for American values comes through. Today there is no similar message, either from the president or from the new attorney general. This is sad.
Teddy Roosevelt had to deal with the mistreatment of civilians by U.S. troops who were fighting an insurgency. American soldiers, who occupied the Philippines following the Spanish-American War, learned a technique of punishment and interrogation from the Spanish that they called ”the water cure.” Along with other violence toward civilians, the U.S. soldiers used the technique liberally. Edmund Morris’ biography Theodore Rex quotes the official report’s description of that “cure”:
“A man is thrown down on his back and three or four men sit on his arms and legs and hold him down, and either a gun barrel or a rife barrel or a carbine barrel or a stick as big as a belaying pin . . . is simply thrust into his jaws . . . and then water is poured onto his face, down his throat and nose . . . until the man gives some sign of giving in or becomes unconscious. . . . His suffering must be that of a man who is drowning, but who cannot drown.”
Our government is now unable to say whether it would be a violation of the Geneva Conventions for the Iranian government to waterboard a downed U.S. airman. How do officials such as Brigadier General Hartmann sleep at night, I wonder? How many decades will it take to undo this damage? Kudos to Lindsey Graham, whose disgust is really the only appropriate response. Now, if he can only muster some of his colleagues to support a two-thirds vote to override the forthcoming presidential veto of the law that would end the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
Republicans today have shamed the party of Teddy Roosevelt. Those who support waterboarding have shamed America.
Take a good look America.
This is an American torturer. This is a war criminal. He admitted it on tape. He tortured a man, and he knew it was torture, and he knew it was wrong. But he did it anyway, because, as he says, he could not forgive himself if another attack were to have occurred and he could have stopped it, the old ticking-time-bomb justification. It is what he uses so he can sleep at night. The trouble for this torturer is that he tortured an insane man. Kevin Drum quotes from Ron Suskin’s book:
The guy is insane, certifiable, split personality,” [Dan] Coleman told a top official at FBI after a few days reviewing the Zubaydah haul….There was almost nothing “operational” in his portfolio. That was handled by the management team. He wasn’t one of them….”He was like a travel agent, the guy who booked your flights….He was expendable, you know, the greeter….Joe Louis in the lobby of Caesar’s Palace, shaking hands.”
….According to CIA sources, he was water-boarded….He was beaten….He was repeatedly threatened….His medication was withheld. He was bombarded with deafening, continuous noise and harsh lights.
….Under this duress, Zubaydah told them that shopping malls were targeted by al Qaeda….Zubaydah said banks — yes, banks — were a priority….And also supermarkets — al Qaeda was planning to blow up crowded supermarkets, several at one time. People would stop shopping. The nation’s economy would be crippled. And the water system — a target, too. Nuclear plants, naturally. And apartment buildings.
Thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each flavor of target. Of course, if you multiplied by ten, there still wouldn’t be enough public servants in America to surround and secure the supermarkets. Or the banks. But they tried.
Kevin Drum then adds:
Sometime later, Zubaydah finally provided some actionable intelligence: the name of Jose Padilla and the news that “Mukhtar,” a code name that had popped up multiple times on NSA sigint, was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But that information didn’t come because Zubaydah had been tortured. It came only after a CIA interrogator slipped under Zubaydah’s skin by convincing him, with the help of some ideas from the Koran, that Zubaydah was predestined to cooperate with them
Imagine that. Being nice to them works. Huh…
Washington Post has a great article about Mitt Romney’s mission in France, detailing the terrible crash that killed his mission president’s wife. This makes me feel sad about today’s Mitt Romney. I feel he sold his soul for the conservative vote he won’t even get. If you run as a religious man to get the votes of people who don’t view your religion very positively, you’re most likely going to fail. I don’t get why he didn’t just run as the moderate he has always been. It’s a shame, because he is a good man, and he would set a good example. But dangnabit he had to go and support torture!
White House and Justice Department officials, along with senior members of Congress, advised the Central Intelligence Agency in 2003 against a plan to destroy hundreds of hours of videotapes showing the interrogations of two operatives of Al Qaeda, government officials said Friday.
The chief of the agency’s clandestine service nevertheless ordered their destruction in November 2005, taking the step without notifying even the C.I.A.’s own top lawyer, John A. Rizzo, who was angry at the decision, the officials said.
The disclosures provide new details about what Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director, has said was a decision “made within C.I.A. itself” to destroy the videotapes. In interviews, members of Congress and former intelligence officials also questioned some aspects of the account General Hayden provided Thursday about when Congress was notified that the tapes had been destroyed.
Can you see it? Everybody is in a CYA (cover your ass) mode. One man is made the fall guy. Meanwhile, the Agency will survive this crime, the White House (who ordered the torture) will emerge unscathed, because the damning videos are destroyed, and Congressional leaders like Hoekstra and Rockefeller, who KNEW of this, wash their hands and say, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”
Marty Lederman writes that in this particular case, the CIA made a rational choice. In this case, the crime was truly worse than the cover-up.
After all, haven’t they learned from the experience of the past 35 years that it’s not the crime but the cover-up that’ll get you?
Yes, they have. Let’s not lose sight of the big picture. This was not something they did on the spur of the moment. They vetted it with Rockefeller and Harman, for goodness’ sake, and then destroyed the tapes after Harman urged them not to do so. And right after Judge Brinkema’s orders started hitting close to home and Dana Priest broke the black sites story. [Check out this great timeline from emptywheel -- pay close attention to all that's going on in October/November 2005.] I retract what I said earlier: This was the CIA. They must have gotten DOJ approval (Gonzales, anyway) for the destruction. And the POTUS and/or VP, too. And all of these folks they knew full well what the fallout might be. And they knew about criminal laws involving obstruction. Most importantly, they were actually destroying what might be incredibly valuable evidence for future uses — valuable for criminal trials, for intelligence investigations, for training purposes, and, most importantly, as a key tile in their vaunted, hallowed “mosaic” of evidence developed to construct an accurate story about al Qaeda.
And yet they chose to destroy anyway, after what must have been a lot of internal debate. Which goes to show that . . . the cover-up is not worse than the crime, and they knew it. Those tapes must have depicted pretty gruesome evidence of serious criminal conduct. Conduct that would be proof positive of serious breaches of at least two treaties. Conduct approved and implemented at the highest levels of government.
Remember, this was late 2005. By this point, they all knew damn well that “the Commander in Chief has the constitutional authority to violate the Torture Act and the Geneva Conventions” would not be viewed as a very compelling defense. Worse yet, their other defense would have been: “A 35-year-old deputy assistant attorney general by the name of John Yoo orally advised me that this was legal.”
Obstruction of justice, and the scandal we’re about to witness, was a price they concluded was well worth paying.
The biggest question I have is why is this being released NOW to the public? My own answer is that the CIA again made a rational decision. They concluded that a Democrat was going to win next year, no matter what. That Democratic administration was going to poke around the CIA’s activities, and the CIA felt they would survive easier if they released this on their own terms. They will weather this storm. They’re not going down because of this. After all, the cover-up succeeded in destroying apparently a pretty awful crime.
We never should have lowered our standards as a nation to allow torture. What a complete shame for our generation!
Well, there you go, ladies and gentlemen. When facing scrutiny over its torture program, the CIA protected itself by destroying evidence.
The Central Intelligence Agency in 2005 destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the interrogation of two Al Qaeda operatives in the agency’s custody, a step it took in the midst of Congressional and legal scrutiny about the C.I.A’s secret detention program, according to current and former government officials.
The videotapes showed agency operatives in 2002 subjecting terror suspects — including Abu Zubaydah, the first detainee in C.I.A. custody — to severe interrogation techniques. They were destroyed in part because officers were concerned that tapes documenting controversial interrogation methods could expose agency officials to greater risk of legal jeopardy, several officials said.
They broke the law. They knew it. They destroyed the evidence that would prosecute them.
The C.I.A. said today that the decision to destroy the tapes had been made “within the C.I.A. itself,” and they were destroyed to protect the safety of undercover officers and because they no longer had intelligence value. The agency was headed at the time by Porter J. Goss. Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Goss declined this afternoon to comment on the destruction of the tapes.
And we can trust the CIA to tell us the truth. Porter Goss, that’s Bush’s man.
It was not clear who within the C.I.A. authorized the destruction of the tapes, but current and former government officials said it had been approved at the highest levels of the agency.
That would be Porter Goss, Bush’s man.
The recordings were not provided to a federal court hearing the case of the terror suspect Zacarias Moussaoui or to the Sept. 11 commission, which had made formal requests to the C.I.A. for transcripts and any other documentary evidence taken from interrogations of agency prisoners.
C.I.A. lawyers told federal prosecutors in 2003 and 2005, who relayed the information to a federal court in the Moussaoui case, that the C.I.A. did not possess recordings of interrogations sought by the judge in the case. It was unclear whether the judge had explicitly sought the videotape depicting the interrogation of Mr. Zubaydah.
Mr. Moussaoui’s lawyers had hoped that records of the interrogations might provide exculpatory evidence for Mr. Moussaoui — showing that the Al Qaeda detainees did not know Mr. Moussaoui and clearing him of involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, plot.
They obstructed justice. Is anyone surprised?
General Hayden’s statement said that the tapes posed a “serious security risk,” and that if they were to become public they would have exposed C.I.A. officials “and their families to retaliation from Al Qaeda and its sympathizers.”
“What matters here is that it was done in line with the law,” he said. He said in his statement that he was informing agency employees because “the press has learned” about the destruction of the tapes.
General Hayden, protecting his own. Not a follower of the law. And Mr. General, they would not have been exposed to retaliation from Al-Qaeda and its sympathizers, unless you are calling the long arm of the law Al-Qaeda.
Staff members of the Sept. 11 commission, which completed its work in 2004, expressed surprise when they were told that interrogation videotapes existed until 2005.
“The commission did formally request material of this kind from all relevant agencies, and the commission was assured that we had received all the material responsive to our request,” said Philip D. Zelikow, who served as executive director of the Sept. 11 commission and later as a senior counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Makes one wonder what else is hiding in that cavernous CIA headquarters that they might not want the public to know…
Daniel Marcus, a law professor at American University who served as general counsel for the Sept. 11 commission and was involved in the discussions about interviews with Al Qaeda leaders, said he had heard nothing about any tapes being destroyed.
If tapes were destroyed, he said, “it’s a big deal, it’s a very big deal,” because it could amount to obstruction of justice to withhold evidence being sought in criminal or fact-finding investigations.
Indeed, and a worthy nominee for understatement of the year.
General Hayden said the tapes were originally made to ensure that agency employees acted in accordance with “established legal and policy guidelines.” General Hayden said the agency stopped videotaping interrogations in 2002.
Guess they realized that the more they videotaped themselves torturing suspects, the more evidence there would be later on for prosecution. Can’t have that now, can we.
A former intelligence official who was briefed on the issue said the videotaping was ordered as a way of assuring “quality control” at remote sites following reports of unauthorized interrogation techniques. He said the tapes, along with still photographs of interrogations, were destroyed after photographs of abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib became public in May 2004 and C.I.A. officers became concerned about a possible leak of the videos and photos.
Huh, like Abu Ghraib…that was bad and all. Imagine how nasty it would be to see the videos of the torture the CIA did. I’m sure the backlash around the world would be…intense.
It has been widely reported that Mr. Zubaydah was subjected to several tough physical tactics, including waterboarding, which involves near-suffocation. But C.I.A. officers judged that the release of photos or videos would nonetheless provoke a strong reaction.
“People know what happened, but to see it in living color would have far greater power,” the official said.
Um, that’s generally WHY you don’t torture. But some people, see, lost their sense of morals and reason when terrorists hit us on 9/11.
Mr. Holt said he had been told many times that the C.I.A. does not record the interrogation of detainees. “When I would ask them whether they had reviewed the tapes to better understand the intelligence, they said ‘What tapes?’,” he said.
Lawbreakers. Torturers. This is what America has become.
So one trial of a Guantanamo Bay Camp X-ray detainee is about to go forward. But look at what a sham it is, and in the end, a shame to our nation and to the rule of law. Tyranny now rules here.
Defense lawyers preparing for the war crimes trial of a 21-year-old Guantánamo detainee have been ordered by a military judge not to tell their client — or anyone else — the identity of witnesses against him, newly released documents show.
The case of the detainee, Omar Ahmed Khadr, is being closely watched because it may be the first Guantánamo prosecution to go to trial, perhaps as soon as May.
Defense lawyers say military prosecutors have sought similar orders to keep the names of witnesses secret in other military commission cases, which have been a centerpiece of the Bush administration’s policies for detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Some legal experts and defense lawyers said the judge’s order, issued on Oct. 15 without public disclosure, underscored the gap between military commission procedures and traditional American rules that the accused has a right to a public trial and to confront the witnesses against him.
Defense lawyers say the order would hamper their ability to build an adequate defense because they cannot ask their client or anyone else about prosecution witnesses, making it difficult to test the veracity of testimony.
One of the centerpieces of the rule of law is the right to confront the witness against you, to challenge the witness. After all, if the witness is lying, then the whole case against you is false. How can we possibly believe that this, and other like cases, can be trusted to protect the innocent? Or do some Americans really believe that NO ONE in Guantanamo is innocent? If that is the case, why do we even have them there? Why not just execute them and stop pretending?
Looks like Howard will lose in Australia. This is a good sign, a step in the right direction for Australia and the world. Too long have Bush supporters held many nations hostage.
Why is Australia important? Because of David Hicks. Who is he? He was an Australian caught in Afghanistan, sent to Guantanamo Bay, tortured, and then, magically, released to Australia this April with a gag order that he not speak until AFTER THE ELECTION, which just took place. As Andrew Sullivan wrote in April:
So Cheney goes to Australia and meets with John Howard who tells him that the Hicks case is killing him in Australia, and he may lose the next election because of it. Hicks’s case is then railroaded to the front of the Gitmo kangaro court line, and put through a “legal” process almost ludicrously inept, with two of Hicks’ three lawyers thrown out on one day, then an abrupt plea-bargain, with a transparently insincere confession. Hicks is then given a mere nine months in jail in Australia, before being set free. Who negotiated the plea-bargain? Hicks’ lawyer. Who did he negotiate with? Not the prosecutors, as would be normal, but Susan J. Crawford, the top military commission official. Who is Susan J. Crawford? She served as Dick Cheney’s Inspector General while he was Defense Secretary….
It was a political deal, revealing the circus that the alleged Gitmo court system really is. For good measure, Hicks has a gag-order imposed so that he will not be able to speak of his alleged torture and abuse until after Howard faces re-election. Yes, we live in a banana republic. It certainly isn’t a country ruled by law. It is ruled by one man and his accomplice.
Thankfully though, the Australian newspapers brought up this deal over the past month, just before Howard’s attempt to get reelected without an actual accounting of what happened to this poor pawn.
US Vice-President Dick Cheney agreed to a deal with Prime Minister John Howard to release former Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks, a US media report says.
The report, published in Harper’s Magazine, cites an unnamed US military officer saying that a military staffer was present when Mr Cheney interfered directly to seal Hicks’s plea bargain deal.
“He [Mr Cheney] did it, apparently, as part of a deal cut with [Australian Prime Minister] Howard,” the unnamed source is quoted as saying.
“I kept thinking: this is the sort of thing that used to go on behind the Iron Curtain, not in America.
“And then it struck me how much this entire process had disintegrated into a political charade. It’s demoralising for all of us.”
After five years of detention in Guantanamo Bay, a deal was sealed for 32-year-old Hicks to serve a nine-month prison sentence in Australia, subject to him pleading guilty to a charge of providing material support for terrorism.
Hicks agreed to the deal in March and is now due for release from Adelaide’s Yatala Prison at the end of the year.
After the deal was announced, Mr Howard denied any involvement in the plea bargain.
“We didn’t impose the sentence, the sentence was imposed by the military commission and the plea bargain was worked out between the military prosecution and Mr Hicks’ lawyers,” Mr Howard said in March.
Mr Howard also rejected claims by Australian Greens leader Senator Bob Brown in March that the Prime Minister wanted Hicks not be released until after the election.
We haven’t heard much about ex-Guantanamo Bay inmate David Hicks since he returned to Australia — thanks largely to the gag order imposed on him until the election is safely out of the way.
Until now, the strategy has worked a treat. Hicks has been out of sight and out of voters’ minds.
Whether the issue still has any traction could be tested with the allegation in Harper’s magazine that US Vice President Dick Cheney orchestrated Hicks’ early release — for John Howard. The piece quotes a US military officer, according to news.com.au:
“One of our staffers was present when Vice-President Cheney interfered directly to get Hicks’ plea bargain deal,” the unnamed officer told Harper’s magazine…
“He did it, apparently, as part of a deal cut with Howard.
“I kept thinking: this is the sort of thing that used to go on behind the Iron Curtain, not in America. And then it struck me how much this entire process had disintegrated into a political charade. It’s demoralising for all of us.”
In a sense, news of a possible interference is hardly a shock. When Cheney visited Australia in February, Howard was very keen to see Hicks’ trial brought forward, and applied pressure to the VP accordingly, noting “I have asked that within the constraints of the separation of powers in the United States system between the executive and the judicial process, the trial be brought on as soon as humanely possible with no further delay.”
Those constraints melted away with surprising ease due to the unusual plea deal orchestrated by Cheney protege and US military convening authority at Guantanamo, Susan Crawford. With the stroke of a pen (literally), and apparently without consulting the prosecution, she wiped out Hicks’ charges (as reported by Crikey at the time).
But Cheney distanced himself from the Hicks process during his Australian visit. “We can’t interfere with that process,” he said. “It’s a judicial process. We can’t influence it. That would be a violation of the procedure.”
He then added. “But I do expect that in the not too distant future that … will get resolved. I can assure you we will be doing everything we can to deal with these matters in as expeditious manner as possible.”
The Harper’s allegations are not a good look for Cheney, who has a reputation for getting employees (or former staffers) to do his political dirty work.
For Howard however, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, speaking as it does of his pulling power with the US. Either that or he offered something in exchange for Hicks’ expedient return. But what?
This is a good step for Australia. We now wait for the gag order to be released, and Mr. David Hicks to speak. We cannot rely on him however, as he is not a willing player. He was probably tortured. But how much more does he really want to be in the spotlight? Probably not at all.
Steve Benen writes about ABC’s recent report on the rendition of al Libi. It seems there is documentary evidence the United States government not only knew he would be tortured but they USED his false confessions as evidence to invade Iraq!
Under torture after his rendition to Egypt, al Libi had provided a confession of how Saddam Hussein had been training al Qaeda in chemical weapons. This evidence was used by Colin Powell at the United Nations a year earlier (February 2003) to justify the war in Iraq. (”I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these [chemical and biological] weapons to al Qaeda,” Powell said. “Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story.”)
Except, of course, his story was bogus, and the result of torture and rendition.
Here was a cable then that informed Washington that one of the key pieces of evidence for the Iraq war — the al Qaeda/Iraq link — was not only false but extracted by effectively burying a prisoner alive.
Although there have been claims about torture inflicted on those rendered by the CIA to countries like Egypt, Syria, Morocco and Uzbekistan, this is the first clear example of such torture detailed in an official government document.
It is refreshing, and ultimately sad, to see the documented evidence of real wrongdoing. In a just world, numerous members of the Bush administration (including Bush and Cheney) would be tried for war crimes and high treason for violating the Constitution.
See, it wasn’t that hard. Better pay attention to these kinds of JAGs, Mr. Mukasey. They know what they are talking about.
We’ve ‘disappeared’ many people since Bush took power. This is the kind of thing we used to use as an excuse to attack other nations. Now we do it ourselves.
Because he declined to name waterboarding torture. Because he thinks the President of the United States can effectively be above the law if the President so believes it is necessary. This is evil stuff.
Matt calls him “completely unacceptable.” Having read the testimony, I’m afraid I have to abandon my early hopes and agree. An attorney general who believes a president has a permanent right to ignore the rule of law because peacetime is now wartime for ever, is an attorney-general defending the rule of one man over the rule of law. If I were a Senator, (heh, indeed) I’d vote no. This is the faultline of our time. If we are redefining war as a permanent state of being, and redefining presidential authority to give him/her extra-legal and extra-constitutional power to what s/he wants anywhere in the world, including the United States and to its citizenry, then American liberty is in extreme peril. To approve an attorney general who does not dissent from this position is a terrible precedent.
Don’t people see that this is what Cheney is doing? He is setting precedent after precedent for totalist, secret executive power. And with each precedent for unchecked, uncontrollable executive power – including the power to detain and torture within the United States – the America we have known is being surrendered. This is the other war – a constitutional war at home against American liberty and the Constitution – as dangerous in a different way as Islamism. One attacks our freedom from the outside; the other hollows out our freedom from within. The fight against both is the calling of the time.
I think we’re in denial about this. Following Mukasey’s statements with confirmation would set a precedent we may well deeply regret. Think of another terrorist attack. Think of the Cheney precedents. Think of Giuliani in the White House. Now think of what would be left of democracy and the Constitution the day after.
Mukasey had a good start the other day, telling the Senate that we didn’t liberate Nazi concentration camps “so we could then duplicate it ourselves.” Unfortunately, when the questioning got a little more specific, it turned out he wasn’t entirely sure what counted as torture and what didn’t.
This just shouldn’t be hard stuff. It’s a sign of the moral decay of the Bush era that we even find ourselves arguing about it.
I understand Mukasey is supposed to be a reasonably good guy, by comparison with the run of Bush appointees. But if Mukasey won’t say that waterboarding is torture and claims that the President has some undefined power to violate statute law — even criminal laws, such as the ban on torture and other war crimes — under his “Article II powers,” then why should the Senate Judiciary Committee even bring his nomination to a vote? If he says he hasn’t read the latest torture memos or decided whether waterboarding is torture, Sen. Leahy ought to tell him to read the memos and observe a waterboarding session and come back when he’s done his homework.
I see no disadvantage in the Senate Democrats taking a firm stand on the rule of law and human decency.
(courtesy of Stefan Zaklin/European Pressphoto Agency)
This man should NOT be even considered as an Attorney General. Take a stand for what is right, Senators!
Marty Lederman responds to Judge Mukasey who hedged when asked point blank if waterboarding was torture. Marty writes:
Just now, in response to repeated questions, he insisted that he did not know enough to say whether waterboarding, or any other technique, is torture, cruel treatment under Common Article 3, or otherwise unlawful. It’s really remarkable how far we have fallen when a jurist of Judge Mukasey’s caliber cannot answer such questions without hesitation.
Mukasey said this in response to questions from Senator Whitehouse:
MUKASEY: If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional. […]
WHITEHOUSE: If it’s torture. That’s a massive hedge. I mean, it either is or it isn’t. Do you have an opinion on whether waterboarding…is constitutional?
MUKASEY: If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional.
WHITEHOUSE: I’m very disappointed in that answer. I think it is purely semantic.
MUKASEY: I’m sorry.
Indeed it is very disappointing. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves as a country.
Well, Mitt Romney has hired retired General James “Spider” Marks as his new national security adviser. This is the same General Marks who said:
TOM FOREMAN (voice-over): If you could save the life of a soldier, rescue the hostage children; stop the next terrorist bomb by torturing a prisoner for information, would you do it?
JAMES “SPIDER” MARKS, MAJOR GENERAL, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I’d stick a knife in somebody’s thigh in a heartbeat.
FOREMAN (on camera): Retired General “Spider” Marks, a CNN consultant, worked for U.S. Army Intelligence, teaching interrogation.
MARKS: The kinds of enemies we’re fighting have no sense of right or wrong. They will go to any depths to achieve their ends.
FOREMAN: Do we have to go with them?
MARKS: We don’t need to go with them. We need to preclude them from going there. And that might include some use of torture in order to prevent it.
FOREMAN (voice-over): Polls have shown that more than 60 percent of Americans think torture can sometimes be justified. But here is the catch. Experts, including General Marks, are convinced with the vast majority of prisoners, it just doesn’t work.
FOREMAN: …So in your experience and in your view, torture as a policy should be against the law?
FOREMAN: And yet, we might still have to use it.
As Greg Seargant writes: “That would appear to be an explicit endorsement of illegal torture.”
Indeed. If he would stick a knife in someone’s thigh in a heartbeat, one has to wonder how much time it will take him to think about sticking that same knife in someone’s heart. And why does Mitt Romney want to side himself with such sick people?
I was one of those who was highly disappointed with the 2000 election. There were so many factors that took away the presidency from the rightful person and put it in the hands of a childish, boy emperor, a petulant, self-serving, babbling idiot, who has left the blackest mark on our country…since, well, I can’t honestly think of a worst president.
I can’t say how angry I have been these past seven years at Ralph Nader, siphoning votes away from Al Gore (Ralph Nader got like 70,000 votes in Florida in 2000, plenty to defeat Bush). Republicans have seen the power of a third party candidate taking votes away from the likely winner (they faced a similar situation in 1992 with Ross Perot giving the victory to Bill Clinton), and some Republican candidates have tried to mimic that for a Senate seat.
George Bush was given the presidency and the world (with the exception of a few) mourned his administration. 9/11 occurred on his watch. He began expanding warrantless wiretapping right from the beginning of his administration in February 2001 (according to QWest CEO). He ordered the CIA and the military to torture suspects a practice previously we abhorred and usually denounced when we heard other countries practice. He used politics of division rather than union and immediately angered half of his own country. He rightfully went after Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan after we were attacked, but instead of focusing on our real enemy, he chose to go after Saddam, with no really good reason to do so. He contracted out security to lawless men who murder innocent Iraqis. He continues to bamboozle America into further war, increasingly raising the specter of war with Iran.
Al Gore went away from the spotlight during this time, but in 2002, as the country was seeing red and Iraq was its target, he spoke out prophetically against the war, and made us who felt he was our real president, long for his leadership instead of the idiot we got.
For Al Gore, winning the Nobel Peace Prize today is the latest twist in a remarkable decade of soaring highs and painful lows. In the span of the last decade he went from being the vice president to being the presumptive Democratic nominee for president to winning the popular vote for president only to lose in the Electoral College — after an intervention by the Supreme Court made his 537-vote loss in Florida official.
Mr. Gore’s decision to give up the fight after the Supreme Court decision left some of his more die-hard supporters bitter, and he by and large retreated from public view for several years. He rarely inserted himself in the public debate, though he did venture out to speak against the invasion of Iraq before it happened. But, associates have said, it was during that quasi-exile that Mr. Gore broke free of the political consultancy that had come to surround him to find his true voice, returning to the environmental issues to which he had devoted his early political career.
Even before Mr. Gore’s so-called “user generated” cable television network, Current, won an Emmy, or the film on climate change in which he starred, “An Inconvenient Truth,” won an Oscar, he was growing in stature for another reason: his early opposition to the Iraq war.
He had initially voiced it in 2002 in an address that his newly galvanized supporters now describe as uncannily prescient and unfairly dismissed, though it was seen as a politically off-kilter at a time of great popularity for President George W. Bush.
The Prize certainly comes as vindication to Mr. Gore, whose early dedication to environmental issues had earned him the derisive nickname “Ozone Man” — “Ozone,” for short — from President George H.W. Bush during the 1992 presidential campaign.
Al Gore went private and became a true leader of the world. He created a TV network, he created a documentary that won him the Oscar for Best Documentary, and he went around the world and raised awareness, enough so that blogs like this write a post with well over 300 comments on global warming. This is raising awareness. And because of this Al Gore won the Nobel Prize for Peace.
Conservatives hate this, because they think they see a hypocrite (they of course never look in the mirror—if they did they might have a Dorian Gray moment). They try to downplay the importance of the Nobel Prize, claiming it is political, blah blah blah.
But in the world of power and influence, Al Gore has shown that striving for peace is more powerful and more influential than creating war.
As Noam Scheiber writes:
Watching Al Gore take a well-deserved victory lap this afternoon, I couldn’t help wondering what George W. Bush must be thinking. I mean, I know the guy still believes history will vindicate him and all, but, really, this has got to be pretty painful. Bush, according to various accounts of the 2000 campaign, absolutely despised Gore. He regarded him as a preening, self-righteous phony.
So Bush somehow manages to avenge his father’s defeat and vanquish the vice president of the United States. And yet, seven years later, it’s Gore who’s being hailed around the world as a prophet and a savior and Bush who, if he’s still being discussed at all, is mentioned only as the punchline to some joke, or when his poll numbers reach some new historic low. It must eat him up.
I don’t know if it eats up Mr. Bush, who never cared much of what others thought of him (at least publicly), but it sure brings satisfaction to those of us who wonder why Bush ever became our president.
Here we start getting to the reasons why Democrats not winning the White House in 2004 will hurt us as Americans for a good long while to come, and why hardcore conservatives weep with joy. Because decisions like these from the Supreme Court today.
A German citizen who said he was kidnapped by the Central Intelligence Agency and tortured in a prison in Afghanistan lost his last chance to seek redress in court today when the Supreme Court declined to consider his case.
The justices’ refusal to take the case of Khaled el-Masri let stand a March 2 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va. That court upheld a 2006 decision by a federal district judge, who dismissed Mr. Masri’s lawsuit on the grounds that trying the case could expose state secrets.
The Supreme Court’s refusal, without comment, to take the case was not surprising, given that a three-judge panel for the Fourth Circuit was unanimous. Nevertheless, today’s announcement prompted immediate expressions of dismay, and it could exacerbate tensions between the United States and Germany.
The Fourth Circuit acknowledged the seriousness of the issues when it dismissed Mr. Masri’s suit. “We recognize the gravity of our conclusions that el-Masri must be denied a judicial forum for his complaint,” Judge Robert B. King wrote in March. “The inquiry is a difficult one, for it pits the judiciary’s search for truth against the executive’s duty to maintain the nation’s security.”
The ordeal of Mr. Masri, who is of Lebanese descent and was apparently the victim of mistaken identity, was the most extensively documented case of the C.I.A.’s controversial practice of “extraordinary rendition,” in which terrorism suspects are abducted and sent for interrogation to other countries, including some in which torture is practiced.
The episode has already caused hard feelings between the United States and Germany, whose diplomatic ties were already frayed because of differences over the war in Iraq. Mr. Masri’s lawyer in Germany, Manfred Gnjidic, said the high court’s refusal to consider the case sends a message that the United States expects other nations to act responsibly but refuses to take responsibility for its own actions.
“We are very disappointed,” Mr. Gnjidic said in an interview today with The Associated Press. “It will shatter all trust in the American justice system.”
Indeed it will. So sad.
A new article in the New York Times about how torture came to be used by the Bush administration. I’ve written extensively about torture, so I won’t add anything more here, except that I highly recommend this article.
O’Brien would have been proud of our US military today. Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, on the justification for the permanent detention of one Jose Padilla (and the rest of those detainees outside the bounds of the Constitution).
Developing the kind of relationship of trust and dependency necessary for effective interrogations is a process that can take a significant amount of time. There are numerous examples of situations where interrogators have been unable to obtain valuable intelligence from a subject until months, or even years, after the interrogation process began.
Anything that threatens the perceived dependency and trust between the subject and interrogator directly threatens the value of interrogation as an intelligence-gathering tool. Even seemingly minor interruptions can have profound psychological impacts on the delicate subject-interrogator relationship. Any insertion of counsel into the subject-interrogator relationship, for example — even if only for a limited duration or for a specific purpose — can undo months of work and may permanently shut down the interrogation process. Therefore, it is critical to minimize external influences on the interrogation process.
Permitting Padilla any access to counsel may substantially harm our national security interests. As with most detainees, Padilla is unlikely to cooperate if he believes that an attorney will intercede in his detention. DIA’s assessment is that Padilla is even more inclined to resist interrogation than most detainees. DIA is aware that Padilla has had extensive experience in the United States criminal justice system and had access to counsel when he was being held as a material witness. These experiences have likely heightened his expectations that counsel will assist him in the interrogation process. Only after such as Padilla has perceived that help is not on the way can the United States reasonably expect to obtain all possible intelligence information from Padilla.
Because Padilla is likely more attuned to the possibility of counsel intervention than most detainees, I believe that any potential sign of counsel involvement would disrupt our ability to gather intelligence from Padilla. Padilla has been detained without access to counsel for seven months — since the [Department of Defense] took control of him on 9 June 2002. Providing him access to counsel now would create expectations by Padilla that his ultimate release may be obtained through an adversarial civil litigation process. This would break — probably irreparably – the sense of dependency and trust that the interrogators are attempting to create.
At a minimum, Padilla might delay providing information until he believes that his judicial avenues have been exhausted. Given the nature of his case, his prior experience in the criminal justice system, and the length of that has already elapsed since his detention, Padilla might reasonably expect that his judicial avenues of relief may not be exhausted for many months or years. Moreover, Padilla might harbor the belief that his counsel would be available to assist him at any point and that seven months is not an unprecedented for him to be without access to counsel.
Any such delay in Padilla’s case risks that plans for future attacks will go undetected during that period, and that whatever information Padilla may eventually provide will be outdated and more difficult to corroborate.
Here are the summaries of the later chapters of 1984 for comparison:
Winston’s torture starts in real earnest and is presided over by O’Brien himself. At first it is sheer brutal physical torture, incessant blows all over, reducing him to a cowering animal confessing to anything and everything, implicating everybody if only the pain would stop. Then the guards are replaced by the intellectuals of the Party who inflict subtler kinds of pain and reduce him to an abject cringing wreck crying from sheer humiliation and exhaustion. In between, he is administered frequent drug injections which sometimes increase his pain and sometimes knock him out completely. In the last stage, O’Brien takes over personally, with Winston connected to an electric dial by means of which O’Brien can impose any degree of pain he wishes.
O’Brien tells Winston that he is there to be cured of his mental fallacies. He combines the relentless logic of doublethink and the administration of pain till Winston is reduced o saying that four fingers are actually five. O’Brien points out that unlike the persecutors of the old Regimes, Nazism or the inquisition, they did not stop with extorting forced confessions, they break men till they actually become what they are tortured into being. Even the three leaders Winston had once admired – Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford had been broken by the same method till they had been completely broken. He tells Winston that there is no escape, even if they allow him to live, there would be no capacity left in him to be a full human being again, and posterity will not vindicate him as posterity will not even hear of him.
Finally, O’Brien invites Winston to ask any questions he wants to. Winston asks about Julia and is told that she betrayed him totally and completely. He asks if Big Brother exists and is told that as the party says Big Brother exists then he exists. He asks about the Brotherhood and is told that that was something he would never know, even if he lives to be ninety it would be an unsolved mystery for him. Then Winston nerves himself to ask the last question “What is in Room 101?” O’Brien’s mocking answer is that everyone KNOWS what is in Room 101.
In the next stage of his “education” Winston is told plainly by O’Brien that the Party wants power for its own sake. There are no lies now, the Party is not promising Utopia. The aim is to dehumanize the human race, to obliterate every emotion and instinct except loyalty to the Party. And Winston, as much as anyone else would come to accept this not just as inevitable, but desirable.
Winston puts up a feeble resistance even now. He says that finally, in the last instance the human spirit would overthrow the regime O’Brien was describing. O’Brien mockingly asks him if he considers himself a man. When he says that he does, he is told to look at himself in a mirror and he sees a rotting, emaciated stinking body. That, O’Brien tells him is the last remnant of humanity. It cannot survive. The symbol of the future, O’Brien says is a boot permanently stamping on the human face. He then tells Winston that they have broken his mind as badly as they have shattered his body and asks him if there is any degradation or humiliation that he has not been reduced to. As his last stand Winston claims that he has despite everything not betrayed Julia. O’Brien immediately understands what he means by this – he has revealed all of their secrets, but in the sense of not ceasing to love her, Winston had not betrayed Julia. That, then was the final stage he had to be reduced to.
Winston was still in solitary confinement, but he was not tortured now. He was fed at regular intervals, he was even given cigarettes. At first he was content to lie free from pain, that in itself was bliss. Slowly as his physical health improved, he retreated into a dream world with the faces changing – his mother, O’Brien, Julia, it was all the same now. He was provided with a slate and pencil, slowly he set about educating himself in the way the Party wanted. He wrote the Party slogans on the slate and made himself believe them. He convinced himself that two and two was five, he acquired, laboriously the stupidity required to do that. Ha managed to convince himself that he had never seen the photograph confirming the innocence of the three executed leaders. He remembered seeing it, but that was an aberration.
On the whole, he was making excellent “progress” when one day he suddenly woke up from a dream crying out “Julia, my love.” His feelings, he realized were unchanged. He had surrendered his mind, but he still hoped to retain his heart. He clung to one last shred of hope, that in his heart he could continue to hate the Party, disguise that hatred even from himself and release it into consciousness only at the moment of his execution. Thus the Party would be unable to destroy his hatred and he would score a small victory by dying with his hatred inviolate.
However, O’Brien anticipated this as he did ever other thought of Winston’s. Entering the cell he tells Winston that intellectually he has made good progress but emotionally the final step remained to be taken. He then asks Winston about his true feelings towards Big Brother. Recognizing the futility of lying, Winston confesses “I hate him.” O’Brien now passes judgment, it is not enough to obey Big Brother, one must also love him. He then utters the dreaded words “Room 101.”
Winston is confined in Room101, strapped to a chair in a way which rendered him completely immobile. In front of him were two tables on which stood two covered wire cages. O’Brien was holding a lever which would operate the cages. Impassively, O’Brien explains that what Room 101 contains is quite simply, “the worst thing in the world.” This varies from individual to individual. For some it may be torture, fire for some one else, drowning for yet others. For each individual, Room 101 held his greatest fear. When confronted with that, courage and cowardice lose their meaning, one will do whatever one has to do to avoid the horror in Room 101 as naturally and automatically as one will grab at a rope to keep from falling.
In Winston’s case, his greatest fear, his worst nightmare was rats and it was rats there were there in the cages in front of him. O’Brien informs him that he is going to open the cages and set the rats onto him. The rats are starving, they will sense Winston’s helplessness and devour him inch by inch. Winston cries out in terror asking O’Brien to only tell him what he has to do to avoid this. O’Brien vouchsafes no answer and lays his hand on the lever which would open the cages. In a total frenzy Winston sees the rats behind the bar and with a sudden flash of intuition realizes what he has to do to save himself. He has to take the final step of degradation, he has to betray Julia. It is no longer a matter of choice, before this threat, he is helpless. He cries out “Do it to Julia! Not me!” Repeating that cry he is aware that the lever has clicked back into place, the cage is closed. His degradation is finally completed in Room 101.
What is the relationship of the benefits of employing these techniques to the costs incurred upon using them? How does using these techniques reflect on America’s image, and more importantly on America’s credibility as an honest broker of justice? Is “security for all” really the overriding priority in life? Does that not, in fact, coincide with Satan’s plan, to save all, whatever the cost? Who still thinks any of this is right?