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Meet Alfreda Bikowsky, the Senior Officer at the Center of the CIA’s Torture Scandals

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Glenn Greenwald and Porter Maas write at The Intercept:

NBC News yesterday called her a “key apologist” for the CIA’s torture program. A follow-up New Yorker article dubbed her “The Unidentified Queen of Torture” and in part “the model for the lead character in ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’” Yet in both articles she was anonymous.

The person described by both NBC and The New Yorker is senior CIA officer Alfreda Frances Bikowsky. Multiple news outlets have reported that as the result of a long string of significant errors and malfeasance, her competence and integrity are doubted — even by some within the agency.

The Intercept is naming Bikowsky over CIA objections because of her key role in misleading Congress about the agency’s use of torture, and her active participation in the torture program (including playing a direct part in the torture of at least one innocent detainee). Moreover, Bikowsky has already been publicly identified by news organizations as the CIA officer responsible for many of these acts.

The executive summary of the torture report released by the Senate last week provides abundant documentation that the CIA repeatedly and deliberately misled Congress about multiple aspects of its interrogation program. Yesterday, NBC News reported that one senior CIA officer in particular was responsible for many of those false claims, describing her as “a top al Qaeda expert who remains in a senior position at the CIA.”

NBC, while withholding her identity, noted that the same unnamed officer “also participated in ‘enhanced interrogations’ of self-professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, witnessed the waterboarding of terror suspect Abu Zubaydah and ordered the detention of a suspected terrorist who turned out to be unconnected to al Qaeda, according to the report.”

The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer, writing yesterday about the NBC article, added that the officer “is still in a position of high authority over counterterrorism at the C.I.A.” This officer, Mayer noted, is the same one who “dropped the ball when the C.I.A. was given information that might very well have prevented the 9/11 attacks; she gleefully participated in torture sessions afterward; she misinterpreted intelligence in such a way that it sent the C.I.A. on an absurd chase for Al Qaeda sleeper cells in Montana. And then she falsely told congressional overseers that the torture worked.” Mayer also wrote that the officer is “the same woman” identified in the Senate report who oversaw “the months-long rendition and gruesome interrogation of another detainee whose detention was a case of mistaken identity.”

Both news outlets withheld the name of this CIA officer even though her identity is widely known among journalists, and her name has been used by various media outlets in connection with her work at the CIA. Both articles cited requests by the CIA not to identify her, even though they provided details making her identity clear.

In fact, earlier this year, The Washington Post identified Bikowsky by name, describing her as a CIA analyst “who was tied to a critical intelligence-sharing failure before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the botched 2003 ‘rendition’ of an innocent German citizen thought to be an al-Qaeda operative.” That Post report led to both McClatchy and independent journalist Marcy Wheeler raising questions about the propriety of Bikowsky’s former personal lawyer, Robert Litt, playing a key role in his current capacity as a top government lawyer in deciding which parts of the torture report should be released.

The McClatchy article identified Bikowsky by name as the officer who “played a central role in the bungled rendition of Khaled el-Masri. El-Masri, who was revealed to be innocent, claimed to have been tortured by the agency.” El-Masri, a German citizen who was kidnapped from Macedonia and tortured by the CIA in Afghanistan, was released in 2003 after it was revealed he was not involved in al Qaeda.

Continue reading. Later in the story:

The Associated Press reported that a “hard-charging CIA analyst [who] had pushed the agency into one of the biggest diplomatic embarrassments of the U.S. war on terrorism” (the rendering for torture of the innocent El-Masri) was repeatedly promoted. Despite internal recommendations that she be punished, the AP reported that she instead “has risen to one of the premier jobs in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center.”

With regard to the last paragraph quoted, read this heart-rending story in McClatchy about how El-Masri’s life is basically ruined. But the US will not apologize or even acknowledge the damage done, and it certainly will not pay any compensation for kidnapping and torturing him. That’s not the kind of country we are. Canada, in contrast, paid

From Wikipedia:

Maher Arar (Arabic: ماهر عرار) (born 1970) is a telecommunications engineer with dual Syrian and Canadian citizenship who has resided in Canada since 1987. Arar’s story is frequently referred to as “extraordinary rendition” but the US government insisted it was a case of deportation.[1][2][3][4][5][6] [Although, oddly, he was not deported to his home country—Canada—but instead shipped off to Syria to be tortured.  – LG]

Arar was detained during a layover at John F. Kennedy International Airport in September 2002 on his way home to Canada from a family vacation in Tunis.[6] He was held without charges in solitary confinement in the United States for nearly two weeks, questioned, and denied meaningful access to a lawyer.[6] The US government suspected him of being a member of Al Qaeda and deported him, not to Canada, his current home and the passport on which he was travelling, but to Syria, even though its government is known to use torture.[7] He was detained in Syria for almost a year, during which time he was tortured, according to the findings of a commission of inquiry ordered by the Canadian government, until his release to Canada. The Syrian government later stated that Arar was “completely innocent.”[8][9] A Canadian commission publicly cleared Arar of any links to terrorism, and the government of Canada later settled out of court with Arar. He received C$10.5 million and Prime Minister Stephen Harper formally apologized to Arar for Canada’s role in his “terrible ordeal”.[10][11]

As of December 2011, Arar and his family remained on the US No Fly List.[12] His US lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit, Arar v. Ashcroft, which sought compensatory damages on Arar’s behalf and also a declaration that the actions of the US government were illegal and violated his constitutional, civil, and international human rights. After the lawsuit was dismissed by the Federal District Court, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal on November 2, 2009. The Supreme Court of the United States declined to review the case on June 14, 2010.

You might be interested to read how the “land of the free, home of the brave” decided to deny Arar any justice.

The US might make big mistakes, but we damn sure refuse to own up to them unless we can’t prevent the information from coming out, and we certainly do not compensate the victims of our mistakes. That’s not the US way.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2014 at 1:04 pm

The men who crashed the world: A fascinating documentary

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It’s a four-part series and just fascinating. Here’s the first part:

 

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2014 at 4:59 pm

We tortured many more than the Senate report discusses

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Peter Maass writes at The Intercept:

Have you heard the screams of a prisoner who is being tortured in America’s war on terror? I can’t forget them.

They pierced the walls of a detention center I visited in Samarra during an offensive by American and Iraqi forces in 2005. In a small room, I was interviewing a frightened detainee whose head was bandaged from an injury he unconvincingly attributed to a car accident during his capture. Bloodstains dripped down the side of a desk, and there was an American military adviser with us, as well as a portly officer of Iraq’s special police commandos.

Suddenly there was a chilling scream.

“Allah,” someone wailed. “Allah! Allah!”

As I wrote at the time, this wasn’t a cry of religious ecstasy. It was the sound of deep pain, coming from elsewhere in the town library, which had been turned into a detention center by Iraqi security forces who were advised by American soldiers and contractors. I was embedded with the Americans for a week, and I had already heard two of them, from the Wisconsin National Guard, talk about seeing their Iraqi partners trussing up prisoners like animals at a slaughter. During raids, I had seen these Iraqis beat their detainees — muggings as a form of questioning — while their American advisers watched.

The CIA’s violations of its detainees is the tip of the torture iceberg. We run the risk, in the necessary debate sparked by the Senate’s release of 500 pages on CIA interrogation abuses, of focusing too narrowly on what happened to 119 detainees held at the agency’s black sites from 2002-2006. The problem of American torture — how much occurred, what impact it had, who bears responsibility — is much larger. Across Iraq and Afghanistan, American soldiers and the indigenous forces they fought alongside committed a large number of abuses against a considerable number of people. It didn’t begin at Abu Ghraib and it didn’t end there. The evidence, which has emerged in a drip-drip way over the years, is abundant though less dramatic than the aforementioned 500-page executive summary of the Senate’s still-classified report on the CIA.

Matt Aikins, whose reporting on human-rights abuses in Afghanistan has been path-breaking, made this point the other day in a series of concise tweets: . . .

Continue reading. Keep reading—it makes a good point with an interesting anecdote.

The piece ends with a reading list:

Here’s a partial reading list of essential reporting on torture in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Senate Report on Abuses of Military Detainees (2008):http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/pdf/12112008_detaineeabuse.pdf

Haditha Killings by Tim McGirk:http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1174649,00.html

Taguba Report on Abuses at Abu Ghraib:https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/torturefoia/released/TR3.pdf

Abu Ghraib Abuses by Seymour Hersh:http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2004/05/10/torture-at-abu-ghraib

Special Forces in Afghanistan by Matt Aikens:http://www.rollingstone.com/feature/a-team-killings-afghanistan-special-forces

Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treament (See especially chapter 3): http://detaineetaskforce.org/report/

“The Dark Side” by Jane Mayer: http://www.amazon.com/The-Dark-Side-Inside-American/dp/0307456293

“None of Us Were Like This Before” by Joshua Phillips:http://www.amazon.com/None-Were-Like-This-Before/dp/1844678849

The Killing of Dilawar by Carlotta Gall:http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/04/international/asia/04AFGH.html

“Pay Any Price” by James Risen (See especially Chapter 7):http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pay-any-price-james-risen/1117916812?ean=9780544341418

“Dirty Wars” by Jeremy Scahill (a founder of The Intercept):http://www.amazon.com/Dirty-Wars-The-World-Battlefield/dp/156858671X

“How to Break a Terrorist” by Matthew Alexander:http://www.amazon.com/How-Break-Terrorist-Interrogators-Brutality/dp/B0085S1S5K

“The Black Banners” by Ali Soufan: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Banners-Inside-Against-al-Qaeda/dp/0393079422

“Kandahar’s Mystery Executions” by Anand Gopal:http://harpers.org/archive/2014/09/kandahars-mystery-executions/

“No Good Men Among the Living” by Anand Gopal:http://www.amazon.com/No-Good-Men-Among-Living/dp/0805091793

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2014 at 4:47 pm

Interesting point: We seeing many interviews of the authors of the US torture program, but no interviews of their victims

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I wonder why that is. Some of them—including some of those who were absolutely innocent of any wrong-doing—have been destroyed by the experience, and so TV would shy away from that. But I think a panel discussion with (say) Dick Cheney and Khalid al Masri, the German citizen whom the CIA kidnapped and tortured for months, then discarded in a field in Macedonia. His life has been pretty much ruined. He has tried repeatedly to get some acknowledgement and apology from the US, but the US is the sort of nation that won’t do that—well, obviously, a nation that kidnaps innocent people and tortures them has a certain character revealed in what it does and what it refuses to do. The character of the US is plainly revealed in its actions.

Glenn Greenwald writes at The Intercept:

Ever since the torture report was released last week, U.S. television outlets have endlessly featured American torturers and torture proponents. But there was one group that was almost never heard from: the victims of their torture, not even the ones recognized by the U.S. Government itself as innocent, not even the family members of the ones they tortured to death. Whether by design (most likely) or effect, this inexcusable omission radically distorts coverage.

Whenever America is forced to confront its heinous acts, the central strategy is to disappear the victims, render them invisible. That’s what robs them of their humanity: it’s the process of dehumanization. That, in turns, is what enables American elites first to support atrocities, and then, when forced to reckon with them, tell themselves that – despite some isolated and well-intentioned bad acts – they are still really good, elevated, noble, admirable people. It’s hardly surprising, then, that a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this morning found that a large majority of Americans believe torture is justified even when you call it “torture.” Not having to think about actual human victims makes it easy to justify any sort of crime.

That’s the process by which the reliably repellent Tom Friedman seized on the torture report to celebrate America’s unique greatness. “We are a beacon of opportunity and freedom, and also [] these foreigners know in their bones that we do things differently from other big powers in history,” the beloved-by-DC columnist wrote after reading about forced rectal feeding and freezing detainees to death. For the opinion-making class, even America’s savage torture is proof of its superiority and inherent Goodness: “this act of self-examination is not only what keeps our society as a whole healthy, it’s what keeps us a model that others want to emulate, partner with and immigrate to.” Friedman, who himself unleashed one of the most (literally) psychotic defenses of the Iraq War, ended his torture discussion by approvingly quoting John McCain on America’s enduring moral superiority: “Even in the worst of times, ‘we are always Americans, and different, stronger, and better than those who would destroy us.’”

This self-glorifying ritual can be sustained only by completely suppressing America’s victims. If you don’t hear from the human beings who are tortured, it’s easy to pretend nothing truly terrible happened. That’s how the War on Terror generally has been “reported” for 13 years and counting: by completely silencing those whose lives are destroyed or ended by U.S. crimes. That’s how the illusion gets sustained.

Thus, we sometimes hear about drones (usually to celebrate the Great Kills) but almost never hear from their victims: the surviving family members of innocents whom the U.S. kills or those forced to live under the traumatizing regime of permanently circling death robots. We periodically hear about the vile regimes the U.S. props up for decades, but almost never from the dissidents and activists imprisoned, tortured and killed by those allied tyrants. Most Americans have heard the words “rendition” and “Guantanamo” but could not name a single person victimized by them, let alone recount what happened to them, because they almost never appear on American television.

It would be incredibly easy, and incredibly effective, for U.S. television outlets to interview America’s torture victims. There is certainly no shortage of them. Groups such as the ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve, and CAGE UK represent many of them. Many are incredibly smart and eloquent, and have spent years contemplating what happened to them and navigating the aftermath on their lives.

I’ve written previously about the transformative experience of

meeting and hearing directly from the victims of the abuses by your own government. That human interaction converts an injustice from an abstraction into a deeply felt rage and disgust. That’s precisely why the U.S. media doesn’t air those stories directly from the victims themselves: because it would make it impossible to maintain the pleasing fairy tales about “who we really are.”

When I was in Canada in October, I met Maher Arar (pictured above) for the second time, went to his home, had breakfast with his wife (also pictured above) and two children. In 2002, Maher, a Canadian citizen of Syrian descent who worked as an engineer, was traveling back home to Ottawa when he was abducted by the U.S. Government at JFK Airport, heldincommunicado and interrogated for weeks, then “rendered” to Syria where the U.S. arranged to have him brutally tortured by Assad’s regime. He was kept in a coffin-like cell for 10 months and savagely tortured until even his Syrian captors were convinced that he was completely innocent. He was then uncermoniously released back to his life in Canada as though nothing had happened.

When he sued the U.S. government, subservient U.S. courts refused even to hear his case, accepting the Obama DOJ’s claim that it was too secret to safely adjudicate. The Canadian government released the findings of its investigation, publicly apologized for its role, and paid him $9 million. He used some of the money to start a political newspaper, which has since closed. He became an eloquent opponent of both the U.S. War on Terror and the Assad regime which tortured him as part of it.

But all you have to do is spend five minutes talking to him to see that he has never really recovered from being snatched from his own life and savagely tortured at the behest of the U.S. Government that still holds itself out as the Leader of the Free World. Part of him is still back in the torture chamber in Syria, and likely always will be.

Nobody could listen to Maher Arar speak and feel anything but disgust and outrage toward the U.S. Government – not just the Bush administration which kidnapped him and sent him to be tortured, but the Obama administration which protected them and blocked him from receiving justice, and the American media that turned a blind eye toward it, and the majority of the American public that supports this. But that’s exactly why we don’t hear from him: he isn’t on CNN or Meet the Press or Morning Joe to make clear what Michael Hayden and John Yoo really did and what the U.S. government under a Democratic president continues to shield. . .

Continue reading.

I think interviewing the victims of our torture program would be dynamite television—it certainly would bring a new dimension to Meet the Press. Indeed, given the competition for ratings, I’m surprised that TV interviews of victims has not happened already. Why not? <- good question. Why not?

Cheney himself cannot shed much light on the experience of being tortured, since he himself has never been tortured. Indeed, he took great pains even to avoid military service.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2014 at 12:01 pm

Sen. Mark Udall excoriates the CIA, and rightly so

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Carl Hulse reports in the NY Times:

To Senator Mark Udall, the Central Intelligence Agency’s effort to mislead the public about its brutal interrogation program is not a thing of the past.

Mr. Udall, a Colorado Democrat who pressed his case against the agency even as he packed up his office after his re-election defeat last month, sees the agency’s strong effort to rebut the findings of the Senate’s report on the torture of terrorism suspects as proof the intelligence community has not learned from its mistakes.

“We did all these things and had the opportunity over the last six years to come clean, and the C.I.A. just fought tooth and nail to prevent that from happening,” Mr. Udall said in an interview after the stinging attack he delivered on the Senate floor against the intelligence community and the White House. “Now we are doing the same thing today that we did six or eight or 10 years ago by denying this happened.”

Mr. Udall, 64, an avid outdoorsman more often associated with environmental, energy and fiscal issues during his congressional career, has become a fierce critic of the nation’s spy and antiterror apparatus, from the mass collection of telecommunications data to the expansion of drone strikes under the Obama administration. He said he was exploring ways to continue in that role after leaving Congress — to keep public attention fixed on intelligence operations he sees as in conflict with the nation’s character.

“There has to be accountability,” Mr. Udall said. “The longer you wait to address the question of accountability, the more it festers and there is more potential that people lose interest and we repeat these very acts at some point in the future.”

After one term in the Senate and five in the House, Mr. Udall had one of his biggest moments in the final days of his tenure. He took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to not only condemn the torture documented in the Senate Intelligence Committee report, but to denounce the response from John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director.

Mr. Brennan, like other intelligence community leaders from 2001 to 2009, conceded that some abuses occurred but argued that useful intelligence was obtained. He and others also dispute the findings that C.I.A. officials misled both the Bush administration and the public about the interrogation program, a key element of the Senate report.

Skirting close to disclosing classified information on the floor, Mr. Udall pointed to a still-secret internal review done by the C.I.A. under the former director Leon E. Panetta that was obtained by the Senate. He said the Panetta review showed the agency had determined for itself that much of the Senate report was true.

“Director Brennan and the C.I.A. today are continuing to willfully provide inaccurate information and misrepresent the efficacy of torture,” he said on the floor. “In other words, the C.I.A. is lying.”

Mr. Udall didn’t stop at the agency. He strongly criticized President Obama for failing to “rein in” the agency and its leadership and for not embracing the report’s findings. Instead, the White House has focused on the president’s decision to end the interrogation program instead of the issues of whether it provided valuable intelligence or whether those who conducted it should be prosecuted.

Mr. Udall also faulted the administration for keeping some of those responsible for the program in leadership positions.

“The president needs to purge his administration of high-level officials who were instrumental to the development and running of this program,” he said. “He needs to force a cultural change at the C.I.A.” . . .

Continue reading.

And note this article: Does Torture Work? The C.I.A.’s Claims and What the Committee Found

Is the CIA capable of telling the truth? Or do they consider all true statements as classified, so that they can only tell lies?

Written by LeisureGuy

15 December 2014 at 12:13 pm

Jane Mayer: Torture and the Truth

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Jane Mayer has a very good article in the New Yorker:

It’s hard to describe it as a positive development when a branch of the federal government releases a four-hundred-and-ninety-nine-page report that explains, in meticulous detail, how unthinkable cruelty became official U.S. policy. But last Tuesday, in releasing the long-awaited Senate Select Intelligence Committee report on the C.I.A.’s interrogation-and-detention program, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee chairman, proved that Congress can still perform its most basic Madisonian function of providing a check on executive-branch abuse, and that is reason for gratitude.

It is clear now that from the start many of those involved in the program, which began in 2002, recognized its potential criminality. Before subjecting a detainee to interrogation, a 2002 cable notes, C.I.A. officers sought assurances that he would “remain in isolation and incommunicado for the remainder of his life.” Permanent, extrajudicial disappearance was apparently preferable to letting the prisoner ever tell what had been done to him. That logic may explain why no “high value detainee” subjected to the most extreme tactics and still in U.S. custody in Guantánamo has yet been given an open trial.

The report also demonstrates that the agency misrepresented nearly every aspect of its program to the Bush Administration, which authorized it, to the members of Congress charged with overseeing it, and to the public, which was led to believe that whatever the C.I.A. was doing was vital for national security and did not involve torture. Instead, the report shows, in all twenty cases most widely cited by the C.I.A. as evidence that abusive interrogation methods were necessary, the same information could have been obtained, and frequently was obtained, through non-coercive methods. Further, the interrogations often produced false information, ensnaring innocent people, sometimes with tragic results.

Other documents illustrate how the agency misled. In June of 2003, the Vice-President’s counsel asked the C.I.A’.s general counsel if the agency was videotaping its waterboarding sessions. His answer was no. That was technically true, since it was not videotaping them at the time. But it had done so previously, and it had the tapes. The C.I.A. used the same evasion on Senate overseers. A day after a senator proposed a commission to look into detainee matters, the tapes were destroyed. Similar deceptions on many levels are so rife in the report that a reader can’t help but wonder if agency officials didn’t simply regard their cloak of state secrecy as a license to circumvent accountability.

After Feinstein introduced the report on the Senate floor, John McCain rose to speak. He praised the document as “a thorough and thoughtful study of practices that I believe not only failed their purpose—to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the U.S. and our allies—but actually damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world.” His endorsement was important not only because, as a former prisoner of war who survived torture, he has particular authority on the issue but also because he is a Republican. He lent the report credibility against torture apologists hoping to discredit it as a political stunt. The tableau of the two elder senators putting aside their differences to stand together was a relic of bipartisan statesmanship.

It remains to be seen, though, whether the report will spur lasting reform. Darius Rejali, a professor of political science at Reed College and an expert on torture regimes, doubts that it will. For one thing, despite McCain’s testimony, torture is becoming just another partisan issue. This wasn’t always the case—it was Ronald Reagan who signed the U.N. Convention Against Torture, in 1988. But polls show both a growing acceptance of the practice and a widening divide along party lines. “It’s becoming a lot like the death penalty,” Rejali said. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 December 2014 at 11:21 am

Dick Cheney’s legacy

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Heather Digby Parton has a good column in Salon on what Dick Cheney has done:

As many of us wade through the horror of the Senate torture report, it’s hard not to think back to a time when the man who ran the country explained to us in plain language what he was doing. I’m talking about Vice President Dick Cheney, of course, the official who smoothly seized the reins of power after 9/11 and guided national security policy throughout his eight years in office. He was one of the most adept bureaucratic players American politics has ever produced and it’s his doctrine, not the Bush Doctrine, that spurred government actions from the very beginning. It was called the One Percent Doctrine and according to author Ron Suskind it went like this:

If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It’s not about our analysis … It’s about our response.

Or put another way: “It’s time to take the gloves off.”

This was the philosophy that propelled the U.S. government to abandon any pretense of following the post-WWII international consensus about preventive war and inhumane tactics. Despite the fact that the U.S. had lived under a real existential nuclear threat for decades, they persuaded the people that this terrorist threat was so much greater that any rules and norms in place before 9/11 were no longer operative. If even a 1 percent chance existed that we might suffer an attack, we had to do whatever was in our capability, including torture, to stop it. That this also facilitated the long-term goals of Dick Cheney and other neocons was purely coincidence.

He used the One Percent Doctrine most effectively to con the nation into backing an inexplicable invasion of a nation that had nothing to do with the attacks on America. And he was able to rationalize it with many people who knew better by evoking his doctrine: if there was only a 1 percent chance that Saddam had nuclear weapons or a 1 percent chance that he was in league with al-Qaida, we had to react. And so we did. And that kind of thinking permeated the U.S. government, particularly the intelligence services. The analytical side was bullied into providing intelligence conclusions that weren’t based in fact. The covert agents simply went over to the dark side. The military wasn’t immune. The torture regimes of Guantánamo and the treatment of prisoners in Iraq are on them.

And let’s not forget the cowardice and abdication of duty among most elected officials of both parties and the media who were eager to believe whatever propaganda served the One Percent Doctrine. Yes, they were lied to. And the fact is that for the most part they were grateful for it. Even if there was only a 1 percent chance that something terrible could happen, the political risk was too great for them to speak out in anything but the most tepid terms. If they didn’t know the truth it was because they wanted it that way.

It must be acknowledged that members of the media were among the first to call for torture. And long before John Yoo developed his sociopathic view that anything short of causing pain “equal to that of organ failure” was not torture, highly respected legal scholars were openly calling for torture to be legalized, even offering up tips like using “sterilized needles under fingernails.” In fact, the idea to jettison the taboo on torture became part of the conversation after 9/11 almost instantaneously. So much so that it’s clear it was more a reflexive desire to punish than any need for intelligence. And that desire to punish was perhaps best articulated by the experienced cheerleader President Bush when he famously stood atop the rubble of the World Trade Center and said, “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people — and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!”

But even though the excuses these days are all about how the chaos of the early days and the pain of the attacks led the government to “make mistakes,” that’s really no excuse. A thirst for revenge is human. Anger and anguish are natural responses to the horrors of 9/11. But we assume that our leaders are going to rise above those human emotions to deal with a crisis. That’s what you have leaders for. And, frankly, that’s what Dick Cheney did. While everyone else was running around in circles, Cheney was back in Washington taking advantage of the hysteria to do what he had set out to do back in the 1970s when he had served first in Nixon’s White House and then under Donald Rumsfeld in Gerald Ford’s administration after the ignominious departure of President Richard Nixon.

He had been appalled that Nixon’s overreach had resulted in an erosion of presidential power and repulsed by what he saw as a retreat from the world during the post-Vietnam years. He happened to have been the White House liaison on intelligence matters when the first round of CIA abuses was revealed and he learned that the agencies could ride them out. When his friend George Bush was tapped to run the CIA he knew there would be no further reprisals. Another lesson well learned. He and Rumsfeld engineered a number of internal bureaucratic coups resulting in one of the first neoconservative triumphs, the creation of Team B and an alternative intelligence analysis of the Soviet threat that showed that U.S. national security was in grave danger. He learned how useful such intelligence could be. It was widely discredited in later years but it succeeded in helping get Ronald Reagan elected and proved to be extremely helpful in restoring presidential national security prerogatives. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 December 2014 at 11:05 am

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