Alexander Hamilton on Guantanamo Bay

August 11, 2007 at 7:47 pm | Posted in American politics, conservatives, corruption, Jose Padilla, secret combinations, Torture | Leave a comment

In Federalist #84

The observations of the judicious Blackstone, in reference to the latter, are well worthy of recital: “To bereave a man of life, [says he] or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government.” And as a remedy for this fatal evil he is everywhere peculiarly emphatical in his encomiums on the habeas corpus act, which in one place he calls “the BULWARK of the British Constitution.”

Remember Jose Padilla

On the CIA’s Secret Black Sites

August 5, 2007 at 12:52 pm | Posted in American politics, CIA, secret combinations, Torture | Leave a comment

Jane Mayer writes for the New Yorker on the CIA’s black sites. I highly recommend her article.

Building Freedom’s Embassy in Baghdad With Slave Labor

July 26, 2007 at 4:14 pm | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, conservatives, corruption, freedom, Iraq, Republicans, secret combinations, Torture | Leave a comment

How apropos.

You can find more at the Gavel.

Conservatives Gaining a Conscience on Torture

July 26, 2007 at 6:28 am | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, conservatives, corruption, Foreign Policy, George W Bush, Gitmo, King George, Military, Republicans, secret combinations, Torture, violence, War, War on Terror | 10 Comments

This is a breath of fresh air, albeit quite late in the game, but two conservatives from the Reagan administration, one the commandant of the Marine Corps, the other a lawyer in the Reagan White House, have now officially and publicly come out against Bush’s latest executive order, which really didn’t change anything about how the CIA (mis)treats detainees.

One of us was appointed commandant of the Marine Corps by President Ronald Reagan; the other served as a lawyer in the Reagan White House and has vigorously defended the constitutionality of warrantless National Security Agency wiretaps, presidential signing statements and many other controversial aspects of the war on terrorism. But we cannot in good conscience defend a decision that we believe has compromised our national honor and that may well promote the commission of war crimes by Americans and place at risk the welfare of captured American military forces for generations to come.

Awww, they still feel Bush has the imperial power, just as long as he doesn’t torture.

In April of 1793, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson wrote to President George Washington that nations were to interpret treaty obligations for themselves but that “the tribunal of our consciences remains, and that also of the opinion of the world.” He added that “as we respect these, we must see that in judging ourselves we have honestly done the part of impartial and rigorous judges.”

To date in the war on terrorism, including the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and all U.S. military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan and Iraq, America’s losses total about 2 percent of the forces we lost in World War II and less than 7 percent of those killed in Vietnam. Yet we did not find it necessary to compromise our honor or abandon our commitment to the rule of law to defeat Nazi Germany or imperial Japan, or to resist communist aggression in Indochina. On the contrary, in Vietnam — where we both proudly served twice — America voluntarily extended the protections of the full Geneva Convention on prisoners of war to Viet Cong guerrillas who, like al-Qaeda, did not even arguably qualify for such protections.

The Geneva Conventions provide important protections to our own military forces when we send them into harm’s way. Our troops deserve those protections, and we betray their interests when we gratuitously “interpret” key provisions of the conventions in a manner likely to undermine their effectiveness. Policymakers should also keep in mind that violations of Common Article 3 are “war crimes” for which everyone involved — potentially up to and including the president of the United States — may be tried in any of the other 193 countries that are parties to the conventions.

In a letter to President James Madison in March 1809, Jefferson observed: “It has a great effect on the opinion of our people and the world to have the moral right on our side.” Our leaders must never lose sight of that wisdom.

It’s nice to see them hearkening back to our Founding Fathers, but…well, I wonder, where were you two in 2004? Abusive interrogations were known BEFORE the 2004 general election. I wonder why you two have waited until now to speak out. You quote Thomas Jefferson who said: “It has a great effect on the opinion of our people and the world to have the moral right on our side.” Did we not lose that moral right at Abu Ghraib? The evidence was clearly there that that incident was a direct result of President Bush’s orders vis a vis detainees and the Geneva Conventions. Why did you NOT speak out then, dear sirs?

Sure it is easier to speak out now, when the nation is clearly against this president. But true courage is to stand up to evil from the BEGINNING!

As per the conversation with ECS below, I have uploaded the Bismullah Brief here: (Bismullah Brief). It is a Word doc.

Bush Admits Ordering the CIA to Torture Prisoners

July 20, 2007 at 9:14 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, CIA, corruption, Jose Padilla, secret combinations, Torture | 1 Comment

else why would he just now, six years after the program began sign an executive order banning some vaguely defined “cruel and inhuman” treatment? I mean, the standard should have been all along that we treat people with respect no matter who they are. By signing this executive order, Bush is admitting that by his orders the CIA engaged in illegal actions.

My guess is that some court ruling is fast approaching that will go against the Bush administration yet again. The Bush administration has backtracked before just moments before a defeat at the Supreme Court, in such cases as Jose Padilla and Hamdan.

Then again, it is Friday and Fridays are Bush’s bad news dump time…

Raw Power vs The Rule of Law, or Why Democrats Can’t Do a Single Thing About Bush

July 19, 2007 at 9:49 am | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, Cheney, Congress, conservatives, corruption, Democracy, Democrats, Foreign Policy, George W Bush, Iran, Iraq, King George, liberals, Media, Military, nationalism, neo-conservatives, Republicans, Scooter Libby, secret combinations, Thoughts, Torture, violence, Voter Suppression, War, War on Terror, Washington DC, World Events | 8 Comments

I have closely observed the goings on of my government (as best as I can seeing how secretive they want to be) these past five years, ever since Bush decided to go to war with Iraq back in the summer of 2002. (Read Bill Schneider’s “Marketing Iraq: Why Now?” where you can read Andrew Card’s comment: “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” They decided over the summer to attack Iraq. The rest was all a matter of marketing, selling it to the American public). They got the war rammed down Americans’ throats, with an extremely complicit media rooting the Administration on, damned be anyone that stood in their way.

The corrupting influence of raw power began immediately after 9/11. I’m sure in the very first seconds of realizing the potential power the Executive could yield, the Administration probably had good intents, but those were just a few seconds. They realized just how much power they really had: raw power. And they realized they must keep it a secret, for if it really got out, they would be forced to follow the rule of law, and not the rule of raw power. They took advantage of all the support (90% approval ratings and support from many nations around the world) and ran with it as far as they thought they could go. Karl Rove told Republicans in January of 2002 to run with the war in the November elections and they would win seats. They did and they won seats. They got the war they wanted, on the cheap, small force, shock and awe military might that defeated a ragtag worn down Iraqi military in three weeks. No surprise there. No wonder so many neo-conservatives and their allies chortled after the war, and drank in their wine of success.

Reports and studies, however, were there from the beginning that all was not well, and that continuing down this path would lead to serious problems for America. The most serious is the raw power employed by the Bush administration. Unchecked, the Bush administration began, right from the start, right from 2001 and early 2002, to employ power beyond what is written in the Constitution. Why? Because they saw what raw power there was in the Executive Branch and they took it. Even so, they knew they were doing wrong, or they wouldn’t be so secretive about it. Only those with something to hide, hide something. So right from the start, the United States of America began torturing people, employing techniques learned from the Soviets and the Nazis. They kept this as much of a secret as they could. For they knew if this were to get out, they would be in trouble. The American public still had more raw power over the administration, at least until after the 2004 presidential election. Once that election passed and Bush won, their raw power achieved the ultimate. For the next four years, no one could stop them. So some of their secrets could get out. In fact, by slowly getting out, the secrets became acceptable. Like any watcher of pornography, you can justify the soft porn at first, but you cannot justify the hardcore. Once you get enough of the soft porn, the hardcore becomes acceptable and even desirable. It soon becomes a part of who you are.

In 2006 something wonderful happened. America broke out of the spell of this administration and its evils. A lot of Democrats and liberals (and many independents) were hopeful to see a change.

Unfortunately that is not going to happen. You see, the Bush administration has tasted of raw power and they will not let go. In fact, even if the Democrats get a veto proof majority in these next 18 months, there is nothing to hold back the Bush administration from simply defying the veto overrides of Congress. Note with what impunity the administration is telling private citizens not to show up for Congressional subpoenas! They even claim executive privilege over documents related to Pat Tillman’s debacle. Why? Because they can. There is no raw power above them, so why should they listen to anyone or do anything for anyone? They answer to none but themselves.

We must realize that there is only one thing that can actually end this raw power by this administration over these next 18 months and that is a full on revolution where the American people rise up and kicks this administration out of power. Congress has no raw power to impeach this president. He will simply defy their will. Why should he bother with Congress? He has no incentive. He has nothing to lose.

America has not been in as dangerous and precarious position as it is today. We must go back to the rule of law. For the rule of law to have any real effect, those who broke the rule of law must be punished and held accountable. Otherwise, what is the purpose of law? Without any punishment, there is no law. Unfortunately this will not happen, and we will have to deal with the administration as currently constituted for the next 18 months. We will have to deal with a possible military strike on Iran. We will have to deal with attempts by this administration to fix the next election so that they ensure a Republican president and a security and secrecy over what they have done these past six years. What Republican candidate today is going to actually hold anyone in the Bush administration accountable for their crimes? What Republican candidate today will punish anyone in this administration?

For that matter, what Democrat will truly do what needs to be done? I bet that even they will come up with some rationale about healing the wounds of Bush’s divisiveness and let them get away with it. Again, if there is no punishment, can there really be a law? If there is no law, what do we have?

Jack Balkin writes about why this is so important:

At this point in Bush’s Presidency three things matter above all others. They motivate this final round of constitutional hardball: The first is keeping secret what the President and his advisers have done. The second is running out the clock to prevent any significant dismantling of his policies until his term ends. The third is doing whatever he can proactively to ensure that later governments do not hold him or his associates accountable for any acts of constitutional hardball or other illegalities practiced during his term in office.

If the NSA program and the Torture Memos were examples of the second round of constitutional hardball, the Libby commutation and Harriet Meiers’ refusal to testify before Congress are examples of the third round. Although his Presidency now seems to be a failure, Bush’s third round of constitutional hardball may be every bit as important as the first two. That is because if Bush is never held accountable for what he did in office, future presidents will be greatly tempted to adopt features of his practices. If they temper his innovations and his excesses only slightly, they will still seem quite admirable and restrained in comparison to Bush. As a result, if Congress and the public do not decisively reject Bush’s policies and practices, some particularly unsavory features of his Presidency will survive in future Administrations. If that happens, Bush’s previous acts of constitutional hardball will have paid off after all. He may not have created a new and lasting constitutional regime, but he will have introduced long-lasting weaknesses and elements of decay into our constitutional system.

This administration is by far the worst that America has ever seen. But it is far more dangerous than that. Their policies and their use of raw power has done serious and potentially permanent damage and harm to the rule of law and the Constitution. Note for example the audacity of Sara Taylor claiming her oath to the president rather than to the Constitution. When corrected, now how smugly she replied:

Leahy: And then you said, I took an oath to the President, and I take that oath very seriously. Did you mean, perhaps, you took an oath to the Constitution?

Taylor: Uh, I, uh, yes, you’re correct, I took an oath to the Constitution. Uh, but, what–

Leahy: Did you take a second oath to the President?

Taylor: I did not. I–

Leahy: So the answer was incorrect.

Taylor: The answer was incorrect. What I should have said is that, I took an oath, I took that oath seriously. And I believe that taking that oath means that I need to respect, and do respect, my service to the President.

Leahy: No, the oath says that you take an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States. That is your paramount duty. I know that the President refers to the government being his government — it’s not. It’s the government of the people of America. Your oath is not to uphold the President, nor is mine to uphold the Senate. My oath, like your oath, is to uphold the Constitution.

This was an unscripted moment showing the reality of the raw power employed by the Bush administration. Loyalty is NOT to the Constitution, but to the president. Because the real raw power is not in the Constitution, but in Bush and Cheney. Note also Cheney’s ludicrous claim that is was not part of the executive branch, and thus cannot be held in check by any rules or regulations. These are but a few examples of the raw power employed by the Bush administration. (Heck, let’s not even bring up Scooter Libby!).

What can be done? At this point we must continue to reveal the secrets, show Americans just how much the Bush administration is not for the Constitution they took an oath to uphold. Continue forcing them to explain themselves. History will be the judge. If the administration attempts to start a fight with Iran, we must take to the streets and say NO! It won’t do much to actually stop them, but that’s all we can do, unless we’re riping for a real revolution.

The CIA Reveals Its Dirty Laundry

June 26, 2007 at 6:52 pm | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, CIA, corruption, secret combinations, Torture | Leave a comment

Looks like all those who knew the CIA behaved badly were right all along, as the CIA has revealed its dirty past.

The CIA today released hundreds of pages of formerly top-secret documents on activities ranging from a plot to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro to domestic espionage against Americans.

The documents, described in internal CIA memoranda as the “family jewels,” mostly cover activities in the 1960s and early 1970s that the agency considered likely to cause embarrassment if revealed. They include material compiled as part of a directive to review CIA activity that apparently violated federal law or could be construed as nefarious.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that if the CIA behaved badly in the past, they would behave badly today, especially since evidence has already been revealed, by the President himself, that the CIA participated in black sites in Poland and Romania, and that the CIA employed Soviet and Nazi interrogation techniques previously considered illegal by the world community, including the United States.

One wonders then, why does the CIA under Michael Hayden, a very secretive man, release this kind of information now? What are they bracing for?

High School Presidential Scholars Tell Bush to Stop Torture

June 26, 2007 at 5:49 am | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, Education, George W Bush, Gitmo, King George, secret combinations, Torture | 3 Comments

Ouch, this must have stung! High schoolers who visited the White House signed a letter to President Bush urging him to stop his administration’s torture policies. He apparently was unaware that they were going to present this letter.

President Bush was presented with a letter Monday signed by 50 high school seniors in the Presidential Scholars program urging a halt to “violations of the human rights” of terror suspects held by the United States.

The White House said Bush had not expected the letter but took a moment to read it and talk with a young woman who handed it to him.

I wonder what was going on through his mind. He was live to the world, probably couldn’t step out of the scripted scenario.

These students are Presidential Scholars, the top of the top high schoolers in the nation. They probably prepared this before the Washington Post’s amazing section on Dick Cheney’s torture regime. Future Americans will look back at our generation and be embarrassed.

The handwritten letter said the students “believe we have a responsibility to voice our convictions.”

“We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants,” the letter said.

The designation as a Presidential Scholar is one of the nation’s highest honors for graduating high school students. Each year the program selects one male and one female student from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Americans living abroad, 15 at-large students, and up to 20 students in the arts on the basis of outstanding scholarship, service, leadership and creativity.

Well done, young men and women. Well done. The future is looking brighter than before.

Saving All

June 19, 2007 at 11:16 am | Posted in America, American politics, Antonin Scalia, Bush Administration, Christianity, conservatives, corruption, Torture, War | 8 Comments

Conservatives these days use the security of our nation and our lives to justify a lowering of their standards and morals. It is their justification for some of the harsher practices we have employed against prisoners we have captured or arrested, regardless of whether they were legally here in America (like Jose Padilla) or found elsewhere (like everyone down in Gitmo). I just quoted Justice Antonin Scalia a Supreme Court Justice and hard-right wing man who said:

“I don’t care about holding people. I really don’t,” Judge Scalia said.

Even if a real terrorist who suffered mistreatment is released because of complaints of abuse, Judge Scalia said, the interruption to the terrorist’s plot would have ensured “in Los Angeles everyone is safe.” During a break from the panel, Judge Scalia specifically mentioned the segment in Season 2 when Jack Bauer finally figures out how to break the die-hard terrorist intent on nuking L.A. The real genius, the judge said, is that this is primarily done with mental leverage. “There’s a great scene where he told a guy that he was going to have his family killed,” Judge Scalia said. “They had it on closed circuit television – and it was all staged. … They really didn’t kill the family.”

Everyone is safe. Saving all. Any Mormon who reads that, who is familiar with his scriptures, should cringe. Who else believed in “saving all,” especially at the cost of certain freedoms?

Let’s read from Moses 4 in the Pearl of Great Price:

1 And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore fgive me thine honor.
2 But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
3 Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
4 And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.

So, what exactly is wrong with saving or redeeming all mankind, “that one soul shall not be lost?” The Lord said what is wrong with that two verses later: “because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man.” That’s why. The greatest irony of conservatives and their lowering standards and justifications for torture is that they do it for “safety” and “security” but don’t mind that the cost that arises with it are a drop in “freedoms” and “agency.”

In regards to priorities in this life, the safety of our lives does not actually take precedence over other more important priorities, the top being, agency. People are going to do stupid and evil things. That is their agency. We must do our best to ensure the safety of our nation and our people, but NOT at the cost of the very things we are fighting for. Let me share another scripture from the Book of Mormon. This is found in Alma 14. The situation is that Alma and Amulek, prophets and missionaries of the Lord go to a town called Ammonihah and preach. The ruling people reject them, take Alma and Amulek and bind them. They set them up to observe the following evil, which the ruling people do to those who believed in Alma and Amulek’s words:

8 And they brought their wives and children together, and whosoever believed or had been taught to believe in the word of God they caused that they should be cast into the fire; and they also brought forth their records which contained the holy scriptures, and cast them into the fire also, that they might be burned and destroyed by fire.
9 And it came to pass that they took Alma and Amulek, and carried them forth to the place of martyrdom, that they might witness the destruction of those who were consumed by fire.
10 And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.
11 But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.

If ever there were a situation where violence or torture would be justified (by today’s conservatives’ standards), surely the ruling people of the town of Ammonihah deserved violence and torture. No? Amulek even asks if they could employ the power of God to save the people from the flames. After all, according to today’s conservatives’ standards, saving lives is of the utmost priority. What does Alma say? He says that the Spirit constrained him, that the innocent must suffer these things “that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.”

How does that apply to our day? First of all, it shows that the protection of life is not the utmost priority of this life. Following God’s laws and principles is of greater priority, even if it comes at the loss of life. (Remember that the greatest sacrifice had to be done; God had to lose His Son in order for the plan of salvation to work).

Would today’s conservatives save Jesus from certain death at the hands of the Jewish ruling class?

The principles we supposedly hold dear to our hearts are actually on the ground, underneath our trampling feet as we scurry on to “save all.” We have most certainly lost our way.

Nuremberg Prosecutor: Gitmo Goes Against Nuremberg Principles

June 12, 2007 at 10:51 am | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, conservatives, corruption, George W Bush, Gitmo, Military, Torture, violence, War on Terror | 1 Comment

Henry King Jr, one of the prosecutors at Nuremberg calls the Gitmo trials and incarceration unfair and against the principles upon which the Nuremberg Trials were founded.

The U.S. war crimes tribunals at Guantanamo have betrayed the principles of fairness that made the Nazi war crimes trials at Nuremberg a judicial landmark, one of the U.S. Nuremberg prosecutors said on Monday.

“I think Robert Jackson, who’s the architect of Nuremberg, would turn over in his grave if he knew what was going on at Guantanamo,” Nuremberg prosecutor Henry King Jr. told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“It violates the Nuremberg principles, what they’re doing, as well as the spirit of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.”

King, 88, served under Jackson, the U.S. Supreme Court justice who was the chief prosecutor at the trials created by the Allied powers to try Nazi military and political leaders after World War Two in Nuremberg, Germany.

“The concept of a fair trial is part of our tradition, our heritage,” King said from Ohio, where he lives. “That’s what made Nuremberg so immortal — fairness, a presumption of innocence, adequate defense counsel, opportunities to see the documents that they’re being tried with.”

King, who interrogated Nuremberg defendant Albert Speer, was incredulous that the Guantanamo rules left open the possibility of using evidence obtained through coercion.

“To torture people and then you can bring evidence you obtained into court? Hearsay evidence is allowed? Some evidence is available to the prosecution and not to the defendants? This is a type of ‘justice’ that Jackson didn’t dream of,” King said.

With each passing day that Gitmo is opened, our principles erode and wither away. What are we fighting for if not for the principles upon which our fine nation was founded? Who really cares how bad the enemy is? How does that in any way change who WE are? And what WE stand for?

Romania, You Broke My Heart

June 9, 2007 at 11:01 pm | Posted in Romania, Torture | Leave a comment

Romania, land of my birth, you broke my heart. You made a deal with the devil and let the Bush administration torture people in black prisons on your soil. I can’t blame you, as you are at this point a weak nation, with hardly the bargaining power of a Germany or an Italy, to deny such demands from such a powerful monster as the United States of America. You need the economic rewards. They are vital to your growth. However, your deal is with the devil, and it seems the devil will come knocking now at your door for payment. And as any deal with the devil ends up being, the devil will not support you in the end. You broke my heart. America will not do you any favors now. And you may end up losing all you’ve gained in joining the European Union and NATO. Such a shame. I hope it was a worthwhile fix, that the drug was worth the cost, because the dealer is not the one who will be caught, but rather the dope. Such a shame.

A Terrorist’s Children, Leverage For Information

June 9, 2007 at 10:49 pm | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, Cheney, corruption, family values, George W Bush, Gitmo, Middle East, neo-conservatives, Pakistan, Religion, Republicans, secret combinations, Torture, violence, War, War on Terror | 23 Comments

This is the newest low of the Bush administration, and obviously one big reason why they’ve wanted to keep the black sites in Europe as secret as they could. Because one of the things that the Bush administration authorized was the capture and interrogation of children of terrorists (such as Khalik Sheikh Mohammed), to be used as a leverage against the terrorists, because hey, who likes to see their children suffer? This is the level to which our country has fallen, where we now torture children.

Andrew Sullivan quotes the CIA about KSM’s sons:

“His sons are important to him. The promise of their release and their return to Pakistan may be the psychological lever we need to break him.”

Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings has the details.

Today, six human rights groups released a report (pdf) on 39 people who they think the US government might be holding in undisclosed locations, and whose location is presently unknown. (Thus, they are not counting anyone known to be at Guantanamo or Bagram; just people who are missing.) That we have disappeared anyone is shocking, and a violation of treaties we have signed and ratified.

This report has gotten a fair amount of play, but in all the coverage I’ve read, only the Philadelphia Inquirer has mentioned what is, to me, the most awful allegation: that we disappeared young children. The report (pp. 24-26) lists five groups of family members; those who are discussed at greatest length are the sons of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

She then quotes the article from the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“In September 2002, Yusuf al-Khalid (then nine years old) and Abed al-Khalid (then seven years old) were reportedly apprehended by Pakistani security forces during an attempted capture of their father, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was successfully apprehended several months later, and the U.S. government has acknowledged that he was in the U.S. Secret Detention Program. He is presently held at Guantánamo Bay.

In an April 16, 2007 statement, Ali Khan (father of Majid Khan, a detainee who the U.S. government has acknowledged was in the U.S. Secret Detention Program and is presently held at Guantánamo Bay) indicated that Yusef and Abed al-Khalid had been held in the same location in which Majid Khan and Majid’s brother Mohammed were detained in March/April 2003. Mohammed was detained by Pakistani officials for approximately one month after his apprehension on March 5, 2003 (see below). Ali Khan’s statement indicates that:

Also according to Mohammed, he and Majid were detained in the same place where two of Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s young children, ages about 6 and 8, were held. The Pakistani guards told my son that the boys were kept in a separate area upstairs, and were denied food and water by other guards. They were also mentally tortured by having ants or other creatures put on their legs to scare them and get them to say where their father was hiding.

After Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s arrest in March 2003, Yusuf and Abed Al Khalid were reportedly transferred out of Pakistan in U.S. custody. The children were allegedly being sent for questioning about their father’s activities and to be used by the United States as leverage to force their father to co-operate with the United States. A press report on March 10, 2003 confirmed that CIA interrogators had detained the children and that one official explained that:

“We are handling them with kid gloves. After all, they are only little children…but we need to know as much about their father’s recent activities as possible. We have child psychologists on hand at all times and they are given the best of care.”

In the transcript of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s Combatant Status Review Tribunal, he indicates knowledge that his children were apprehended and abused:

“They arrested my kids intentionally. They are kids. They been arrested for four months they had been abused.””

Hilzoy states this correctly. This is something two-bit dictators would do. Is this something a supposed “Christian” democratic country does? Apparently. She asks at the end:

And note this: the only people who were included in the report are people whose whereabouts are presently unknown. These kids were captured over four years ago. They would be thirteen and eleven now. Does anyone know where they are? Does anyone care?

Not Americans. We’re too concerned about Paris Hilton’s latest sob story about prison. Andrew Sullivan adds:

One of the eeriest aspects of the Bush administration’s conduct of the war on terror has been the inversion of previously held assumptions about the meaning of the West. We fought a war to end torture; we then occupied Saddam’s own torture prison and tortured people there. We fought a war to bring democracy to the Middle East and to show Arabs and Muslims how superior it is as a system; we then spawned chaos, civil war and genocide to brand democracy as a nightmare for an entire generation of Muslims and Arabs. But I recall one moment when I felt most secure about our rationale for the war: we liberated a prison full of children who had been targeted by the monster, Saddam. If ending a regime that jailed children was not right, what was?

Except now we know that the U.S. has itself detained, imprisoned and interrogated children.

He then quotes John Yoo, the mastermind behind the torture regime:

“Cassel: If the president deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?

Yoo: No treaty

Cassel: Also no law by Congress — that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo…

Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that…”

Weren’t we supposed to be fighting AGAINST people like Mr. Yoo? Additionally Michael P.F. Van Der Galien is trying to find out what has happened to those children. To this point, he has not found any information.

What kind of nation makes children disappear?

Prosecuting Children For War Crimes

June 5, 2007 at 3:55 pm | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, conservatives, corruption, Evangelicals, Foreign Policy, Gitmo, Mit Romney, Mitt Romney, neo-conservatives, Republicans, secret combinations, Torture, War, War on Terror | 2 Comments

Just to show how utterly devoid of morality and ethics the whole situation at Guantanamo Bay is (and to show how stupid Mitt “Double Guantanamo” Romney really is), read the following analysis of the recent case against Omar Khadr, age 15 when taken by the Americans and placed in Cuba.

What cannot be disputed, however, is that under the UCMJ the military would have no jurisdiction to court-martial someone who was 15 at the time he committed an alleged criminal offense. In order for jurisdiction to attach under the UCMJ the solider must be at least 17 year old for any enlistment to be valid. The reason for this minimum age requirement is obvious: children under this age lack the legal capacity to completely understand the full and legal consequences of their actions.

Even if a child knowingly went down the recruiting office and knowingly presented fraudulent papers in order to enlist, the enlistment would have no legal efficacy. This jurisdictional requirement is more than a well meaning and worthy notion: We understand as a society that it would be unfair and unjust to subject such a child to court-martial jurisdiction because the child simply lacks the legal capacity to make this kind of decision. The United States Supreme Court confirmed this proposition as a matter of policy in the Roper case, wherein it held unconstitutional the death penalty for defendants who were under the age of 17 when they committed the crime charged.

Why, then, is Omar Khadr’s situation different? Are we to assume that because he may be a member of Al Qaeda, he has a greater degree of legal capacity? Are we to assume that children caught up on the battlefield in the war on terror have more choices and options and thus, their decision to join Al Qaeda is more knowing and more likely to be a product of free will then the 16 year-old American who walks into a recruiter’s office with fraudulent enlistment documents? Or, is the decision to try Omar Khadr by military commission for alleged conduct that he engaged in at 15 simply based on the notion that because of what he did and who he associated with, and because of his family ties, he does not deserve certain basic rights and legal protections?

This also raises another troubling question that we have been struggling with for quite sometime. Even assuming that Omar Khadr did in fact throw a grenade at U.S. forces during a firefight in Afghanistan, he clearly does not fit into the category of the “worst of the worst” that the administration claims are being detained and prosecuted at Guantanamo. At most, he was a 15 year-old foot solder doing the bidding of much more dangerous and culpable terrorists. Anyone familiar with prosecuting organized crime or other criminal networks knows that it is generally a waste of time and resources to prosecute the foot soldiers. Instead, efforts are made to “turn” the foot soldiers so that the higher-level leaders of the criminal organization can be discovered and prosecuted.

Why, then is the U.S. spending time, effort and resources, and squandering what little international goodwill it may still enjoy on prosecuting a 15 year-old alleged foot soldier of Al Qaeda? Why weren’t these foot soldiers “turned” and used to go after mid-level and senior members of Al Qaeda? Was it because the aggressive interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo failed to produce the actionable intelligence that the U.S. was hoping for? It seems to us that this prosecution of Omar Khadr is really emblematic of the complete failure of Guantanamo and the military commissions system. While many of the “worst of the worst” remain at large, the U.S. seeks to prosecute a child by military commission who, if he were an American citizen would not be subject to courts-martial jurisdiction because of his age.

This kind of prosecutorial decision highlights as well the consequence of an unfettered grant of authority to the executive in matters involving national security and terrorism. The lack of effective habeas review means that many policy decisions will go essentially unexamined, and that means that Americans will not be able to hold accountable the civilian leaders who have pursued policies that, at this point, seem to spring more from desperation than design. At a minimum, such decisions will do nothing to improve the credibility or legality of the military commissions system.

Mr. Hansen and Mr. Friedman ask a very important question about this particular case and Guantanamo itself. If after FIVE YEARS the Bush administration can’t even prosecute a child foot soldier, just why are we wasting resources on this prison? Why is a foot soldier who when 15 (a child) was picked up because he threw a grenade at Americans being charged when he is not the “worst of the worst?” Why does the Bush administration not charge KSM? Or are they holding his trial until just before the 2008 election?

What kind of country charges a child for war crimes? And what kind of Christian crows for the desire to double these kinds of actions?

Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, Borrowed from the Soviets

June 4, 2007 at 9:33 am | Posted in America, American politics, Bush Administration, George W Bush, McCain, Mit Romney, Mitt Romney, secret combinations, Torture, violence, War, War on Terror | 2 Comments

I’ve written before about Vershärfte Vernehmung, German for “enhanced techniques” used by the Gestapo on prisoners. Note in that evidence the language, how similar it is to the Bush White House on these enhanced interrogation techniques. Well, now more information comes out showing that the CIA has “borrowed” these same techniques from the Soviets. As we >read here, the Soviets also tried to justify their perverse actions through legalistic mumbo jumbo. Read:

The article describes basic Soviet N.K.V.D. (later K.G.B.) methods: isolation in a small cell; constant light; sleep deprivation; cold or heat; reduced food rations. Soviets denied such treatment was torture, just as American officials have in recent years:

The effects of isolation, anxiety, fatigue, lack of sleep, uncomfortable temperatures, and chronic hunger produce disturbances of mood, attitudes and behavior in nearly all prisoners. The living organism cannot entirely withstand such assaults. The Communists do not look upon these assaults as “torture.” But all of them produce great discomfort, and lead to serious disturbances of many bodily processes; there is no reason to differentiate them from any other form of torture.

Interrogators looked for ways to increase the pressure, including “stress positions”:

Another [technique] widely used is that of requiring the prisoner to stand throughout the interrogation session or to maintain some other physical position which becomes painful. This, like other features of the KGB procedure, is a form of physical torture, in spite of the fact that the prisoners and KGB officers alike do not ordinarily perceive it as such. Any fixed position which is maintained over a long period of time ultimately produces excruciating pain.

Overt brutality was discouraged, as it was at American facilities:

The KGB hardly ever uses manacles or chains, and rarely resorts to physical beatings. The actual physical beating is, of course, repugnant to overt Communist principles and is contrary to K.G.B. regulations.

Closed trials and military tribunals were standard, as at Guantánamo:

Prisoners are tried before “military tribunals,” which are not public courts. Those present are only the interrogator, the state prosecutor, the prisoner, the judges, a few stenographers, and perhaps a few officers of the court.

The Bush administration concluded that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to Qaeda detainees. Similarly, the Soviets argued that international rules did not apply to foreign detainees:

In typical Communist legalistic fashion, the N.K.V.D. rationalized its use of torture and pressure in the interrogation of prisoners of war. When it desired to use such methods against a prisoner or to obtain from him a propaganda statement or “confession,” it simply declared the prisoner a “war-crimes suspect” and informed him that, therefore, he was not subject to international rules governing the treatment of prisoners of war.

Communist-style interrogation routinely produced false confessions:

The cumulative effects of the entire experience may be almost intolerable. [The prisoner] becomes mentally dull and loses his capacity for discrimination. He becomes malleable and suggestible, and in some instances he may confabulate. By suggesting that the prisoner accept half-truths and plausible distortions of the truth, [the interrogator] makes it possible for the prisoner to rationalize and thus accept the interrogator’s viewpoint as the only way out of an intolerable situation.

Andrew Sullivan writes about it changing a few words here and there to put it in perspective:

“The effects of isolation, anxiety, fatigue, lack of sleep, uncomfortable temperatures, and chronic hunger produce disturbances of mood, attitudes and behavior in nearly all prisoners. The living organism cannot entirely withstand such assaults. The Republicans Communists do not look upon these assaults as ‘torture.’ But all of them produce great discomfort, and lead to serious disturbances of many bodily processes; there is no reason to differentiate them from any other form of torture…

The CIA KGB hardly ever uses manacles or chains, and rarely resorts to physical beatings. The actual physical beating is, of course, repugnant to overt Republican Communist principles and is contrary to C.I.A. K.G.B. regulations…

Prisoners are tried before “military tribunals,” which are not public courts. Those present are only the interrogator, the state prosecutor, the prisoner, the judges, a few stenographers, and perhaps a few officers of the court…

In typical Republican Communist legalistic fashion, the O.L.C. N.K.V.D. rationalized its use of torture and pressure in the interrogation of prisoners of war. When it desired to use such methods against a prisoner or to obtain from him a propaganda statement or ‘confession,’ it simply declared the prisoner an enemy combatant a “war-crimes suspect” and informed him that, therefore, he was not subject to international rules governing the treatment of prisoners of war,” – “Communist Interrogation,” The Annals of Neurology and Psychology, 1956.

This is what the Republicans stand for today, America. This is what Mitt Romney believes we should double. This is what Rudy Giuliani thinks is okay. The only Republican candidate intelligent enough to know better is John McCain. Unfortunately, he caved into political pressure last fall and allowed this kind of Soviet action to be legalized here in America. Welcome to the Republicans, America. Do you really want these kinds of people continuing to ruin run America? Is this what America stands for? Exactly what are we fighting for?

The Negative Effects of Torture on the Interrogators

June 3, 2007 at 10:56 pm | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, Mit Romney, Mitt Romney, Torture | Leave a comment

We know torture (the enhanced interrogation techniques that Mitt Romney approves of) does not work, is ineffective, has a very severe effect on the detainees, is highly detrimental to our moral standing in the world, etc. We also know that it negatively affects the interrogator. The Washington Post has a new article out highlighting this very point. Please read the article in full. Know, this is evil stuff that Mitt Romney approves of, that Rudy Giuliani approves of, that the people of South Carolina got up on their feet and applauded for during the Republican debate. This is what happens when you torture.

The Law Is Silent

May 31, 2007 at 9:05 am | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, Jose Padilla, Torture | Leave a comment

Lewis Koch blogs about the Jose Padilla trial, and again another well written post about the absurdity of the government’s case.

This is a trial every American should pay attention to. Continue Reading The Law Is Silent…

Department of Homeland Security Looks to Sci-Fi Writers for Salvation

May 30, 2007 at 3:54 pm | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, Iraq, Torture, War | 6 Comments

wow, the brightest sci-fi writer couldn’t think of something like this, but apparently the Department of Homeland Security is asking sci-fi writers to come up with the wildest craziest things of the future, in fighting terror.

Looking to prevent the next terrorist attack, the Homeland Security Department is tapping into the wild imaginations of a group of self-described “deviant” thinkers: science-fiction writers.

“We spend our entire careers living in the future,” says author Arlan Andrews, one of a handful of writers the government brought to Washington this month to attend a Homeland Security conference on science and technology.

Those responsible for keeping the nation safe from devastating attacks realize that in addition to border agents, police and airport screeners, they “need people to think of crazy ideas,” Andrews says.

The writers make up a group called Sigma, which Andrews put together 15 years ago to advise government officials. The last time the group gathered was in the late 1990s, when members met with government scientists to discuss what a post-nuclear age might look like, says group member Greg Bear. He has written 30 sci-fi books, including the best seller Darwin’s Radio.

Now, the Homeland Security Department is calling on the group to help with the government’s latest top mission of combating terrorism.

Huh, I thought our “enhanced interrogation techniques” were yielding actionable intelligence. Why do we need fiction writers to think up the next crazy plot? Also, wouldn’t asking Arab Islamic natives about their own kind be more fruitful in figuring out what might happen next? I mean really, that isn’t some grand new idea. It’s been around a while.

And if we’re going to go to extremes, why not ask God? I mean He does kinda know everything about everything, and all. You’d think asking Him might be helpful.

“Verschärfte Vernehmung”, Torture, or “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”

May 30, 2007 at 10:14 am | Posted in Afghanistan, American politics, Bush Administration, Christianity, corruption, Foreign Policy, George W Bush, Iraq, McCain, Middle East, Military, Mit Romney, Mitt Romney, Republicans, secret combinations, Torture, violence, War | 3 Comments

There are two new points to make about torture, enhanced interrogation techniques, or whatever the hell people want to call them.

I. Vershärfte Vernehmung

The first comes from Andrew Sullivan who came accross a document from the Gestapo (yes, the Nazi’s Gestapo) detailing what they called “Verschärfte Vernehmung,” or when translated effectively comes out to be “sharpened interrogation.” Take a look at the image:

Click on it to see it in full detail. The image is on Andrew Sullivan’s blog. Read how the Gestapo detailed who was to get these techniques, for what purpose and what the techniques were. Note what they are:

1. Simplest rations.
2. Hard bed.
3. Dark Cell.
4. Deprivation of sleep.
5. Exhaustion exercises.
6. Blows with a stick (heh, if more than 20 blows, then a doctor must be present)

The Hippocratic Oath went out the window long ago for many doctors. Take a look for example at the detailed logs kept at Guantanamo Bay Camp X-ray as detailed in the American Journal of Bioethics. Doctors, complicit in the torture of human beings. Note the techniques used, at least the ones logged—there are techniques that are not logged, because, hey if they were logged, someone might actually be charged with violating the law.

Two government documents detail medical and psychological participation with the interrogation of Prisoner 063, Mohammed al-Qahtani, at Guantanamo Bay between November 23, 2002 and January 11, 2003 (Zagorin and Duffy 2005). The first is an 83-page interrogation log (ORCON 2003). The second is an Army investigation of complaints of mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, including Prisoner 063 (United States Army 2005, 13–21). The third and fourth are notes taken in relation to that Army investigation (CTD Fly Team 2006; GITMO Investigation 2004). The second set of these notes extensively describes medical collaboration with one or more interrogations but the record is so heavily redacted that it is not possible to determine which, if any, of this material described the interrogation of Prisoner 063 (GITMO Investigation 2004).

According to the Army investigation, the log covers a period in the middle of al-Qahtani’s interrogation that began in the summer of 2002 and continued into 2003. For eleven days, beginning November 23, al-Qahtani was interrogated for twenty hours each day by interrogators working in shifts. He was kept awake with music, yelling, loud white noise or brief opportunities to stand. He then was subjected to eighty hours of nearly continuous interrogation until what was intended to be a 24-hour “recuperation.” This recuperation was entirely occupied by a hospitalization for hypothermia that had resulted from deliberately abusive use of an air conditioner. Army investigators reported that al-Qahtani’s body temperature had been cooled to 95 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit (35 to 36.1 degrees Celsius) and that his heart rate had slowed to thirty-five beats per minute. While hospitalized, his electrolytes were corrected and an ultrasound did not find venous thrombosis as a cause for the swelling of his leg. The prisoner slept through most of the 42-hour hospitalization after which he was hooded, shackled, put on a litter and taken by ambulance to an interrogation room for twelve more days of interrogation, punctuated by a few brief naps. He was then allowed to sleep for four hours before being interrogated for ten more days, except for naps of up to an hour. He was allowed 12 hours of sleep on January 1, but for the next eleven days, the exhausted and increasingly non-communicative prisoner was only allowed naps of one to four hours as he was interrogated. The log ends with a discharge for another “sleep period.”

If that is not torture, then we’ve gone past the point of no return on dehumanizing, we are past feeling. This is evil stuff.

The report continues:

The next day, interrogators told the prisoner that he would not be allowed to pray if he would not drink water. Neither a medic nor a physician could insert a standard intravenous catheter, so a physician inserted a “temporary shunt” to allow an intravenous infusion. The restrained prisoner asked to go the bathroom and was given a urinal instead. Thirty minutes later, he was given “three and one-half bags of IV [sic]” and he urinated twice in his pants. The next day, the physician came to the interrogation room and checked the restrained prisoner’s swollen extremities and the shunt. The shunt was removed and a soldier told al-Qahtani that he could pray on the floor where he had urinated.

Is this really a professional interrogation? What’s the point of this kind of crap? The next section highlights the psychological treatment this prisoner received:

In October 2002, before the time covered by the log, Army investigators found that dogs were brought to the interrogation room to growl, bark and bare their teeth at al-Qahtani. The investigators noted that a BSCT psychologist witnessed the use of the dog, Zeus, during at least one such instance, an incident deemed properly authorized to “exploit individual phobias.” FBI agents, however, objected to the use of dogs and withdrew from at least one session in which dogs were used.

Major L., a psychologist who chaired the BSCT at Guantanamo, was noted to be present at the start of the interrogation log. On November 27, he suggested putting the prisoner in a swivel chair to prevent him from fixing his eyes on one spot and thereby avoiding the guards. On December 11, al-Qahtani asked to be allowed to sleep in a room other than the one in which he was being fed and interrogated. The log notes that “BSCT” advised the interrogators that the prisoner was simply trying to gain control and sympathy. (my note: because of course, your intent in this interrogation is to dehumanize the man)

Many psychological “approaches” or “themes” were repetitively used. These included: “Failure/Worthless,” “Al Qaeda Falling Apart,” “Pride Down,” “Ego Down,” “Futility,” “Guilt/Sin Theme (with Evidence/Circumstantial Evidence,” etc. Al-Qahtani was shown videotapes entitled “Taliban Bodies” and “Die Terrorist Die.” Some scripts aimed at his Islamic identity bore names such as “Good Muslim,” “Bad Muslim,” “Judgment Day,” “God’s Mission” and “Muslim in America.” Al-Qahtani was called “unclean” and “Mo” [for Mohammed]. He was lectured on the true meaning of the Koran, instruction that especially enraged him when done by female soldiers. He was not told, despite asking, that some of the interrogation took place during Ramadan, a time when Moslems have special obligations. He was not allowed to honor prayer times. The Koran was intentionally and disrespectfully placed on a television (an authorized control measure) and a guard “unintentionally” squatted over it while harshly addressing the prisoner.

Transgressions against Islamic and Arab mores for sexual modesty were employed. The prisoner was forced to wear photographs of “sexy females” and to study sets of such photographs to identify whether various pictures of bikini-clad women were of the same or a different person. He was told that his mother and sister were whores. He was forced to wear a bra, and a woman’s thong was put on his head. He was dressed as a woman and compelled to dance with a male interrogator. He was told that he had homosexual tendencies and that other prisoners knew this. Although continuously monitored, interrogators repeatedly strip-searched him as a “control measure.”(my note: again, the dehumanization aspect) On at least one occasion, he was forced to stand naked with women soldiers present. Female interrogators seductively touched the prisoner under the authorized use of approaches called “Invasion of Personal Space” and “Futility.” On one occasion, a female interrogator straddled the prisoner as he was held down on the floor.

Other degrading techniques were logged. His head and beard were shaved to show the dominance of the interrogators. He was made to stand for the United States national anthem. His situation was compared unfavorably to that of banana rats in the camp. He was leashed (a detail omitted in the log but recorded by investigators) (my note: I wonder why this detail was omitted from the log…hmmmm) and made to “stay, come, and bark to elevate his social status up to a dog.” He was told to bark like a happy dog at photographs of 9/11 victims and growl at pictures of terrorists. Some psychological routines referred to the 9/11 attacks. He was shown pictures of the attacks, and photographs of victims were affixed to his body. The interrogators held one exorcism (and threatened another) to purge evil Jinns that the disoriented, sleep deprived prisoner claimed were controlling his emotions. The interrogators quizzed him on passages from a book entitled, “What makes a Terrorist and Why?,” that asserted that people joined terrorist groups for a sense of belonging and that terrorists must dehumanize their victims as a way to avoid feelings of guilt at their crimes.

I’ve quoted extensively from that article before, and basically did just the same once again. It is highly important that this gets as much play as possible. This is evil. This is wrong. This is un-American. This is unethical. This is immoral. This is un-Christian. This is ungodly. As Andrew Sullivan noted, Nazis who employed these techniques received the punishment of death for them. Americans who use these techniques are revered by the Christian right. Mitt Romney states that we should double Guantanamo. The only Republican smart enough to see past the bullshit is the only one who himself was tortured, Mr. John McCain, but yet even he fell to the wiles of the Republicans in power, as he caved in to the Military Commissions Act last fall that effectively legalized these techniques once punishable by death. How far the mighty have fallen.

II. Advisers Fault Harsh Methods in Interrogation

The second comes from a New York Times article wherein advisers and experts weigh in on the absurdity and foolishness of employing these techniques.

As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable.

Amateurish and unreliable. Indeed. Not to mention unethical, and, as Philip Zelikow stated, “immoral.” The article continues with the following:

The psychologists and other specialists, commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board, make the case that more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has yet to create an elite corps of interrogators trained to glean secrets from terrorism suspects.

While billions are spent each year to upgrade satellites and other high-tech spy machinery, the experts say, interrogation methods — possibly the most important source of information on groups like Al Qaeda — are a hodgepodge that date from the 1950s, or are modeled on old Soviet practices.

Indeed. These techniques come from the masters who honed them, the Soviets and the Nazis.

In a blistering lecture delivered last month, a former adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called “immoral” some interrogation tactics used by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon.

But in meetings with intelligence officials and in a 325-page initial report completed in December, the researchers have pressed a more practical critique: there is little evidence, they say, that harsh methods produce the best intelligence.

“There’s an assumption that often passes for common sense that the more pain imposed on someone, the more likely they are to comply,” said Randy Borum, a psychologist at the University of South Florida who, like several of the study’s contributors, is a consultant for the Defense Department.

There is indeed little evidence that it works. Anybody who has been pressed for evidence cites the “secrecy” concern, that somehow by revealing how they got that information, it would give terrorists the game. How silly.

The article then discusses the techniques used by the Americans during World War II. Note the important points:

But some of the experts involved in the interrogation review, called “Educing Information,” say that during World War II, German and Japanese prisoners were effectively questioned without coercion.

“It far outclassed what we’ve done,” said Steven M. Kleinman, a former Air Force interrogator and trainer, who has studied the World War II program of interrogating Germans. The questioners at Fort Hunt, Va., “had graduate degrees in law and philosophy, spoke the language flawlessly,” and prepared for four to six hours for each hour of questioning, said Mr. Kleinman, who wrote two chapters for the December report.

Mr. Kleinman, who worked as an interrogator in Iraq in 2003, called the post-Sept. 11 efforts “amateurish” by comparison to the World War II program, with inexperienced interrogators who worked through interpreters and had little familiarity with the prisoners’ culture.

The inexperience has led to many deaths of prisoners at the hands of Americans, who would have lived under pre-9/11 rules. Major Milavic writes shares the following sad story from Afghanistan:

The following is a partial extract from the 11 July 2004, New York Times Magazine article entitled, “Memoir: Interrogation Unbound,” By Hyder Akbar, as told to Susan Burton. This narrative demonstrates what can happen when someone untrained in interrogation—especially this interrogation precept–attempts to interrogate a detainee:

It was a Wednesday afternoon in June 2003, and Abdul Wali was being interrogated by three Americans at their base near Asadabad, Afghanistan. I was interpreting. At the time, Wali’s family guessed his age to be 28; he was 10 years older than I was. I’m 19 now. I grew up mostly in the Bay Area suburbs, but since the fall of the Taliban, I’ve been spending summers in Afghanistan, working alongside my father, Said Fazel Akbar, the governor of Kunar, a rural province in the eastern part of the country. It’s a strange double life. I sometimes stumble into situations in which I’m called upon to act as a kind of cultural translator. It’s a role that can leave me tense and frustrated, or far worse: I came away from Wali’s interrogation feeling something close to despair.

On June 18, 2003, Abdul Wali visited my father’s office. He knew that the Americans wanted to question him about some recent rocket attacks. He told us he was innocent, and he said he was terrified of going to the U.S. base, because there were pervasive rumors that prisoners were tortured there. My father told him that he needed to go, and he sent me along to reassure him.

A half-hour later, Wali and I were sitting across from three men I then knew only by their first names: Steve, Brian and Dave, who proved to be David A. Passaro. It was more than 100 degrees in the small room, and above us, a fan whirred wildly.

The interrogation started casually enough. In his friendly Southern accent, Brian dispensed with the nuts and bolts: have you been in contact with Taliban? Were you Taliban? Then the subject turned to Wali’s recent visit to Pakistan.

“How long ago were you in Pakistan?” Brian asked.

Wali looked confused, and I doubted he’d be able to answer. People in Kunar don’t have calendars; most of them don’t even know how old they are.

“You don’t have to give a specific date,” Brian said. “Was it two, three days ago? Two, three weeks ago? Two, three months ago?”

“I don’t know,” Wali responded. “It’s really hard for me to say.”

The Americans exchanged glances. I prodded him: “Can you at least say a week or two weeks or a month or two months, or something?” But he couldn’t. For him, as for many of his countrymen, time unfolded forward—there was no way to go back later and try to fix it in a structure.

“I just, I go to sleep, I wake up and there’s a next day,” he explained.

“I feed myself, I go to sleep and there’s a next day.”

The Americans weren’t buying it. Dave took over the questioning.

He asked Wali where he had been 14 days earlier, on a night when three rockets were fired at the American base. “How could you not know where you were on the night three rockets were fired?” he said. Wali explained that his nights were often punctuated by explosions.

Even seated, Dave seemed enlarged by anger. His demeanor felt put on, as if he were acting the role of a fearsome interrogator (especially in comparison to Brian, whose Southern hospitality softened even his grilling of this suspected terrorist). Dave fixed Wali with an unrelenting stare. Wali returned a nervous smile.

“Translate this to him!” Dave exploded: “This is not a joking matter! Don’t smile!”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend him,” Wali replied anxiously. “It’s very hard for me. I can’t understand anything he’s saying. He was staring at me, and I didn’t know what to do. What should I do?” he asked me.

I wasn’t sure how to react. Dave’s behavior was unpredictable. Only days earlier, he and I had a friendly conversation about his little son, who could say his ABC’s and count from 1 to 20 and back down again. But now he was acting as if he was full of rage. “If you’re lying, your whole family, your kids, they’ll all get hurt from this,” he threatened.

As I translated, I started to feel as if Dave’s words to Wali were my own, and all I wanted to do was stop saying these things to him.

“Your situation’s getting worse,” Dave warned. How was I supposed to tell that to Wali, when my father had assured him that coming to the base would make everything better?

Nobody was behaving the way they would with a regular translator; both sides added comments meant only for me. In one ear, I had Wali pleading: “I’m innocent, I’m innocent.” In the other, I had Brian dismissing his account: “That is impossible.” What was I supposed to do, argue or agree?

At some point, I announced that Wali was making personal, emotional appeals to me, and that the other translator in the room—a local Afghan employed at the base—should take over. Then I quietly tried to share my largest concern with Brian. “I’m not going to translate for this guy,” I whispered. “Look how he’s acting.”

“What do you mean?” Brian replied, perhaps misunderstanding. “I’m totally calm.”

“You’re calm, but look at Dave,” I said.

Brian shrugged his shoulders.

As the interrogation continued, I was relieved to be on the sidelines, but still, it wasn’t easy to watch Dave browbeat Wali. Finally the questions stopped, and Wali stood facing the wall as the Americans patted him down in preparation for detention. “Is there anything you want to give to your family?” Dave asked him.

The question terrified Wali. “No, no,” he stuttered.

I approached Wali and, to calm him, put my hand on his shoulder.

“Just say the truth,” I told him, trying to sound normal. “Nothing is going to happen if you just say the truth.” Then I walked out of the room, promising myself that I’d come back and check up on him.

He died before I got the chance.

On June 17 of [2004], a federal grand jury indicted C.I.A. contractor, David A. Passaro, in connection with his assault. Passaro, the first civilian to be charged in the investigation of prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, is accused of beating Wali using his hands, his feet and a large flashlight. [Also, according to the 29 July 2004 Fayetteville (NC) Observer, Passaro is a former Special Forces medic and “was working at the U.S. Army Special Operations Command as a ‘medical intelligence research analyst’ when he was arrested.”]

How many more examples, how much more evidence do you need, America, that what Bush has ordered and employed is wrong, un-American, unethical, immoral, and against the very principles we usually fight for? How much more before we do something about this? This is evil stuff. We’re supposed to FIGHT evil stuff, not embrace it!

But as we see from the Republican debate a couple of weeks ago, the Republican candidates all jumped to see who can say “yes” the loudest when asked if they would approve of these techniques:

Given the discussion of torture policy, the question seemed relevant, though a little fantastical. So, would the candidates permit torture? As Slate’s John Dickerson put it, “There seemed to be a competition to see who could say yes the fastest. Some candidates appeared ready to do the torturing themselves.”

It was a dejecting display.

During tonight’s presidential debates, candidates were asked whether they would support the use of waterboarding — a technique, defined as torture by the Justice Department, that simulates drowning and makes the subject “believe his death is imminent while ideally not causing permanent physical damage.”

Both former mayor Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) suggested they would support using the technique. Specifically asked about waterboarding, Giuliani said he would allow “every method [interrogators] could think of and I would support them in doing it.” Tancredo later added, “I’m looking for Jack Bauer,” referencing the television character who has used torture techniques such as suffocation and electrocution on prisoners.

The audience applauded loudly after both statements.

That last point shouldn’t go by unnoticed. These candidates not only endorsed torture in a high-profile, nationally-televised forum, but the crowd loved it. Romney not only endorsed the human-rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay, he said “[W]e ought to double Guantanamo,” in part so that detainees “don’t get access to lawyers they get when they’re on our soil.” This, too, garnered considerable applause.

As Digby explained, it was a reminder that as far as the Republican Party is concerned, this is still “all about the codpiece.”

These guys have just spent the last fifteen minutes of the debate trying to top each other on just how much torture they are willing to inflict. They sound like a bunch of psychotic 12 year olds, although considering the puerile nature of the “24″ question it’s not entirely their fault.

This debate is a window into what really drives the GOP id. The biggest applause lines were for faux tough guy Giuliani demanding Ron Paul take back his assertion that the terrorists don’t hate us for our freedom, macho man Huckabee talking about Edwards in a beauty parlor and the manly hunk Romney saying that he wants to double the number of prisoners in Guantanamo “where they can’t get lawyers.” There’s very little energy for that girly talk about Jesus or “the culture of life” or any of that BS that the pansy Bush ran on.

As for the one question on everyone’s mind — there were eight references to Reagan last night, down from 20 in the first debate. There was just one reference to George W. Bush (from Ron Paul, who mocked him for running on a “humble” foreign policy platform in 2000).

The most disturbing aspect is that the audience cheered when they said yes. Weep for the future.

The Case Against Jose Padilla, Getting Worse by the Day

May 24, 2007 at 10:52 am | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, Jose Padilla, Torture | 2 Comments

The United States government’s case against Jose Padilla is getting worse and worse by the day. What started out as hyper-hysterical fearmongering dirty-bomber plot to kill thousands of Americans, has now turned into a fiasco. Lewis Koch writes for Firedoglake about the trial. Note the ridiculousness of the government’s case and witnesses:

Days into the Padilla trial the prosecution presented what was to be their key witness. This was a repentant Yahya Goba, sentenced in his 20s to 10 years in prison for being a terrorist and testifying, he said, in hopes of leniency. Goba, was the prosecutors’ “second” serious witness and had been a member of Yemeni-American Al Qaeda “sleeper cell” in Lackawanna, N.Y. (The first had been a “disguised” CIA agent who, though only able to speak and read English, miraculously made his way through a truck load of documents given to him by an anonymous Afghani whereupon, our intrepid CIA agent just happens upon an Al Qaeda recruitment document (in Afghani) signed by Padilla.)

Warren Richey of The Christian Science Monitor captured the chaos of the government’s case brilliantly in his May 21, 2007 story.

… [T]he picture of Goba that is emerging from the witness stand at Padilla’s trial is less menacing than federal prosecutors had hoped. Rather than boosting the government’s case, his testimony appears to be helping Padilla make his..

The government had hoped to use the fact of Goba’s “terrorist training” in Afghanistan as a replica of the training Padilla had undergone.

In this cross examination, captured by Richey, we see why the Justice Department never wanted Padilla to have his own attorneys.

“Are you now, or have you ever been a terrorist?” Padilla defense lawyer Michael Caruso asked.

“No,” [Yahya] Goba answered.

“You felt that it was necessary to do this training so that if called upon, you could help your [Muslim] brothers and sisters facing atrocities all over the world?” Mr. Caruso asked.

“Yes,” Goba said.

Defense lawyers asked Goba to explain his beliefs about jihad, or Islamic holy war. He agreed that jihad can represent an inner struggle within a Muslim and that when it takes the form of physical fighting, it is only acceptable in defense of Islam and Muslims. (Emphasis added)

“So murder is not jihad?” asked William Swor, a lawyer for a Padilla codefendant. “Unfairly injuring someone is not jihad?”

“Yes,” Goba answered to both questions.

Richey summed up how well the prosecutors had done.

By the end of the cross examination, prosecutors knew they were in trouble…”

So – what do we have, so far?. A CIA agent who can’t read any Afghani finds a recruiting application in Afghani signed by Padilla. Goba? He says jihad is not murder, so saying Padilla was bent on jihad didn’t mean all that much.

What does the Justice Department have in the way of evidence?.

They have 300,000 taped phone conversations, of which 230 phone calls are the heart of its case. Of those 230 calls, 21 make reference to Jose Padilla. Of those 21 phone conversations, Padilla’s voice is heard on seven. Of those 7, there are discussions about having some “picnics,” so they could “smell fresh air and eat cheese” and oh, yes, a very “significant” blather when Padilla talks about spending $3500 on “zucchini.” No talks of terrorists acts, no bombs. Nothing.

The government claims the food references were code.

Even if this conjecture is true, can the government prove zucchini translates to terrorist bombs? What vegetables are code for murder, kidnapping, and maiming?

Terrorist zucchini? A hidden CIA operative who admitted he didn’t know Arabic was able to find a piece of paper among thousands written in Arabic that had Padilla’s name on it? WTF?!?!?!?! Could this be more imbecile?

Let’s also not forget that for about four years, the government held this AMERICAN CITIZEN as they have held prisoners down in Gitmo, and have done some pretty horrible things to him. All for, what exactly?

On the Absurdity of the Case Against Jose Padilla

May 18, 2007 at 9:53 pm | Posted in American politics, Bush Administration, corruption, Gitmo, Jose Padilla, secret combinations, Torture | 3 Comments

Firedoglake reports from the trial against Jose Padilla, and in this particularly good article Lewis Koch notes the total absurdity surrounding the case of Jose Padilla, and that of Hamdi, who is also an American citizen but is sitting free and comfortable back in Saudi Arabia. Why is Jose Padilla not free?

Absurd man, absurd.

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