Archive for the ‘Torture’ Category
Andrew O’Hehir points out the depth of Obama’s responsibility for Guantánamo:
Once upon a time, in the long-ago days of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, we may have had the worst and most abusive presidential administration in the history of the United States, but at least there was some moral clarity. You were on their side or you weren’t; you either bought into the idea that the “war on terror” was a special set of circumstances that required an immense expansion of executive power and the indefinite suspension of constitutional norms, or you didn’t. Nothing quite symbolized that division like the military detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. It was a locked-down and secretive facility in a country that didn’t want us there, where hooded and manacled men – in theory, the most violent and dangerous anti-American militants on the planet – were kept under mysterious conditions, denied the rights we routinely accord to suspected murderers and rapists, and subjected to interrogations we didn’t want to know about.
But as details about the conditions of detainment at Guantánamo began to leak, the place began to look not just abusive and nightmarish but also bureaucratic and buffoonish. Many of those who were being held captive in those egregious circumstances were low-level foot-soldiers, or even bystanders, who’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes there was a quality of grim farce about the whole thing, as in Michael Winterbottom’s 2006 film “The Road to Guantánamo,” which tells the true story of a group of British men captured while on their way to a wedding in Pakistan. The men languished in Gitmo for many months, even after it was clear they had no significant connections to al-Qaida or the Taliban. Indeed, of the 779 individuals who have been imprisoned there at one time or another since 2002, more than 600 have been released without ever being charged with anything, still less convicted.
Well, thank goodness for Barack Obama, right? Even if he hasn’t quite managed to get the place closed down, as he loudly and repeatedly promised he would, at least he got all those innocent or insignificant people released! Except that’s not how it happened. The vast majority of the detainee releases – 530 or so – occurred under Bush. Under Bush’s successor, Guantánamo Bay has become something that’s arguably even more disgraceful than a symbol of hyper-patriotic right-wing zealotry. It’s become forgotten, abandoned and swept under the rug. No one goes in and no one comes out. If the remaining 166 detainees at Guantánamo were originally swept up in a paranoid imperial overreach, that reaction was at least somewhat understandable. Today they are prisoners of political paralysis and political cowardice, which are inexcusable.
So it is that Obama, more than four years after signing an executive order to shut down the Guantánamo prison, found himself a few days ago mumbling defensively to the White House press corps that it might be time to “re-engage with Congress” on the issue. “It is not a surprise to me that we’ve got problems in Guantánamo,” he added. Well, it freakin’ well shouldn’t be, Mr. President. From the moment Obama became a presidential candidate in 2007, he campaigned vigorously against Guantánamo as a pillar of the flawed and failed Bush-Cheney war policy. He won the election and signed that executive order in his third day on the job, and then – once it became clear that House Republicans would be delighted to use the issue to depict him as a crypto-Muslim, terrorist-coddling pantywaist – let the whole thing drop. The rest of us, I’m afraid, mostly assumed that the right guy was in office and the right thing would be done eventually, and moved on.
But decisions made in the name of political expediency have a tendency to come back and bite you in the ass. (If Machiavelli never said that, he should have.) As theEconomist put it this week, , , ,
Marcy Wheeler asks excellent question: “Why is Obama withholding secret torture report from Americans?”
Good question. Of course, Obama is obsessively secretive (“open and transparent” be damned), as is shown by his record-setting vendetta against whistleblowers—in some cases, gratuitously vindictive and vicious.
Marcy Wheeler asked the question in Salon, by writing:
Much of what you’ve been told (or seen in movies) about George W. Bush’s supposedly effective torture program is false and overhyped. At least, that’s one of the conclusions of the 6,000-page review of the program the Senate Intelligence Committee completed last year.
Yet, right now, President Obama is preventing you from learning any of this, by keeping the report classified.
Before the end of the Bush Administration, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)—then the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee—started investigating the torture program. When Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) took over as Chair of the Committee in 2009, she intensified the investigation and negotiated with the CIA to get access to its files. After almost four more years of work and reviewing 6 million pages of documents, the Committee voted out the report in December on a mostly party line vote.
As you may recall from the debate around the film “Zero Dark Thirty debate,” Senators Feinstein, Carl Levin (D-MI), and John McCain (R-AZ) have said the report shows thattorture didn’t produce the intelligence that led us to finding Osama bin Laden. According to reports, it shows that torture didn’t produce much useful information. While discussing the report, Jay Rockefeller described the torture program this way:
[T]he people who ran it were ignorant of the topic, [it was] executed by personnel without relevant experience, managed incompetently by senior officials who did not pay attention to crucial details, and corrupted by personnel and pecuniary conflicts of interest. It was sold to the policymakers and lawyers of the White House, the Department of Justice, and Congress, with grossly-inflated claims of professionalism and effectiveness, so-called lives saved.
In short, the report rebuts claims that torture worked—and specifically the claim made by torture boosters from Dick Cheney to former Counterterrorism Center head Jose Rodriguez that it helped to find Osama bin Laden.
Accounts of the reports’ findings are not limited to whether torture worked. According to Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), the it shows “the CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information about its interrogation program to the White House, the Justice Department, and Congress.”
The finding that the CIA lied about its covert activities to everyone tasked with overseeing them ought to raise concerns going forward, whether or not the CIA ever conducts an interrogation again, because it suggests our intelligence oversight system is broken. Yet the report remains classified and torture boosters keep making expansive claims that, Senate Democrats insist, the report rebuts. While Senator Feinstein has always made clear that CIA is not the only agency that will decide whether to release the report, that’s where the focus has been.
Originally, the CIA was due to respond to the report on February 15. John Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA in February—and his failure to review the report before the confirmation process—provided an excuse to delay that date.
The delay to allow Brennan to read the report has been extended indefinitely. When Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) asked Brennan when the report would be released on April 11, Brennan did not answer; instead, he assured Schakowsky he would thoroughly report to Senators Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) “things that I might think that the — the committee may have — the committee’s report might not accurately represent.” Recently, Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) claimed, “Director Brennan and his staff have shown little to no interest in engaging collaboratively and constructively with the Committee on a path forward on the Committee’s Study.”
Rather than when the report would be reviewed, then, Brennan’s stalling has shifted the discussion to what CIA—the same Agency accused of misrepresenting torture to Congress and others—will demand gets changed, and now a lack of engagement on the report generally. And the focus on whether or not Brennan would agree to the torture report’s release really just distracts from the person who really gets to decide whether to release the report or not: the President.
As Vice President Joe Biden hinted last weekend —when agreeing with John McCain the report should be released—this is an issue being debated in the White House, not just Langley. “The internal debate that goes on in the Congress and in the White House is, do we go back and do we expose it? Do we lay out who was responsible and how we got to where we are?”
It may well be, for all the evidence the report apparently presents about CIA providing inaccurate information about the program even to the White House, that the White House is shielding the institutions of the White House and the Presidency.
Consider, for example, how the Bush White House unusually intervened to keep the torture program secret. According to a court document submitted by then CIA Director Leon Panetta in 2009, his predecessor at CIA, George Tenet, wasn’t the person who made the torture program a “Special Access Program” with sharply limited access, which is how it would normally work. Unnamed officials in the National Security Council did:
Officials at the National Security Council, (NSC) determined that in light of the extraordinary circumstances affecting the vital interests of the United States and the sensitivity of the activities contemplated in the CIA terrorist detention and interrogation program, it was essential to limit access to the information in the program. NSC officials established a special access program governing access to information relating to the CIA terrorist detention and interrogation program.
The Bush-era Executive Order governing classification and the current one both require Presidential authorization for someone besides one of several Agency heads—in the case of the torture program, Tenet—to make a special access program. Thus, as the Federation of American Scientist’s Steven Aftergood notes, “if the NSC established a special access program, as Panetta said, then it must have been authorized by the President himself. In effect, the President established the special access program.” The former Director of the office that oversees classified information, Bill Leonard, agrees. “If it wasn’t one of those [Agency heads] who established the SAP in question, there would have to be an authorization from the President authorizing that official to establish a SAP.”
While the CIA appears to be the entity stalling on the torture report, according to Panetta, the White House ultimately created and owns the program.
It’s not just Bush’s NSC that has taken extraordinary measures to keep the torture program secret. While Barack Obama’s Administration has already permitted the declassification of a great deal of information on the torture program, in fall 2009 Obama went to the almost unprecedented step of having his National Security Advisor—at the time, retired General Jim Jones—submit a declaration in the American Civil Liberties Union’s Freedom of Information lawsuit seeking release of documents pertaining to the torture program. It did so to hide the role of the White House in torture.
The judge in the suit, Alvin Hellerstein, believed that a short phrase describing “the source of CIA’s authority” to conduct torture had been incorrectly redacted by the Administration. Jones’ declaration, which remains sealed and unrecorded on the docket, apparently argued that phrase couldn’t be released. . .
Continue reading. Obama is a serious problem with nice edges.
Christie Thompson reports in ProPublica:
Among the news that ended up being buried in the events last week: A nonpartisan think tank, the Constitution Project, released a scathing, 577-page report on the U.S.’s treatment, and torture, of detainees in the aftermath of 9/11. The investigation began in 2009, after Obama opposed creating a “truth commission.”
With a Senate investigation of detainee treatment still classified, the report from the bipartisan task force is the most comprehensive public review to date. The 11-member panel interviewed more than 100 former military officials, detainees and policymakers.
Among their findings: There is no compelling security reason to keep classified details about the CIA’s now-shuttered black prisons. The task force hopes their report will spur more government transparency on the treatment of detainees, starting with the release of the Senate investigation.
Here’s a rundown of previous claims skewered by the report:
Claim No. 1: The U.S. didn’t use torture.
“Perhaps the most important or notable finding of this panel is that it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture,” the report concludes. The task force says that despite overwhelming evidence of torture, both government officials and many in the media have continued to present the issue as a two-sided debate.
The task force measured confirmed reports on detainee treatment against several international and domestic legal definitions of torture. The U.S.’s tactics unequivocally amount to torture, they found, under definitions the U.S. itself has used to accuse other countries of the same crime.
Former UN ambassador John Bolton rejected the task force’s findings, telling the Associated Press the report is “completely divorced from reality.” Bolton said a team of lawyers scrutinized the policies to ensure interrogation never crossed the line.
Claim No. 2: When torture happened, it was because of a few low-level “bad apples.”
The report details how the decisions to use “enhanced interrogation” techniques were not rogue entry-level soldiers, but rather came from decisions made at the top of the administration. As a former Marine general told the task force, “Any degree of ‘flexibility’ about torture at the top drops down the chain of command like a stone —the rare exception fast becoming the rule.”
Claim No. 3: Only three terror suspects were waterboarded by the CIA.
The task force’s findings support and elaborate on a Human Rights Watch report, which detailed how the CIA tortured at least two Libyans with water and abused several others to “win favor with el-Gaddafi’s regime,” the task force found.
The testimonies of the two Libyans undermine the Bush administration’s repeated claims that the CIA only waterboarded against three people.
Claim No. 4: Torture definitely worked. . .
Continue reading. It is important information.
Charlie Savage reports in the NY Times:
In the early afternoon quiet, guards in camouflage fatigues walked the two-tiered cellblocks of Camp Six, where the most cooperative of the 166 terrorism suspects held in the military prison here are housed. From a darkened control room, other guards watched banks of surveillance monitors showing prisoners in white clothing — pacing, sleeping or reading — in their cells.
But the relative calm on display to visiting reporters last week was deceiving. Days earlier, guards had raided Camp Six and locked down protesting prisoners who had blocked security cameras, forbidding them to congregate in a communal area. A hunger strike is now in its third month, with 93 prisoners considered to be participating — more than half the inmates and twice the number before the raid.
“They are not done yet, and they will not be done until there is more than one death,” said a Muslim adviser to the military, identified as “Zak” for security reasons, who fears there may be suicides. Only one thing, he predicted, will satisfy the detainees: if someone is allowed to leave.
The spark for the protest is disputed. Detainees, through their lawyers, say that when guards conducted a search of their cells on Feb. 6, they handled their Korans in a disrespectful way. Prison officials dispute that.
But both military officials and lawyers for the detainees agree about the underlying cause of the turmoil: a growing sense among many prisoners, some of whom have been held without trial for more than 11 years, that they will never go home.
While President Obama made closing the prison a top priority when he entered the White House, he put that effort on the back burner in the face of Congressional opposition to his plan to move the detainees to a Supermax facility inside the United States.
The prisoners “had great optimism that Guantánamo would be closed,” Gen. John F. Kelly, who oversees the prison as head of the United States Southern Command, recently told Congress. “They were devastated when the president backed off — at least their perception — of closing the facility.”
That disappointment was heightened by Mr. Obama’s decision in January 2011 to sign legislation to restrict the transfers of prisoners. More than half the inmates were designated three years ago for transfer to another country if security conditions could be met, but the transfers dried up. And early this year, the Obama administration reassigned, without replacing, the diplomat who had negotiated the transfers.
“President Obama has publicly and privately abandoned his promise to close Guantánamo,” said Carlos Warner, a lawyer who represents one of 17 hunger strikers being kept alive by force-feeding through nasal tubes. “His tragic political decision has caused the men to lose all hope. Thus, many innocent men have chosen death over a life of unjust indefinite detention.”
In interviews with nearly three dozen current and former administration, military and Congressional officials, lawyers for the detainees, and outside policy specialists, a clear consensus emerged on the result of the impasse over Guantánamo’s future: It has become a place where no new prisoners arrive and no one can leave, and it makes little sense.
“The situation is not sustainable,” said Kenneth Wainstein, the top national security official at the Justice Department in the Bush administration. “There are strong, principled arguments on both sides, but all of us across the spectrum have to acknowledge that this is far from an ideal situation and we need an exit strategy.”
Administration defenders blame Congress — especially Republicans who used Mr. Obama’s effort to close the prison as political ammunition — for the quagmire. Still, even if Mr. Obama had sent the inmates to a domestic prison, the problems raised by the perpetual imprisonment of detainees deemed risky but untriable would persist. . .
The law, as you know, requires President Obama to take action regarding the US use of torture, but the law doesn’t mean all that much to Obama. He’d rather persecute the hell out of those who expose government waste. Torturers can go free and even be honored. Juan Cole:
The political reality of the United States in the world is that of blowback. Blowback is a term of art in the intelligence community for what happens when a covert operation goes bad and comes back to bite you on the ass. The US spent the 1980s encouraging Muslim radicals to engage in ‘freedom fighting’ against the leftist government of Afghanistan, and that policy certainly is implicated in the creation of al-Qaeda. We have been suffering with lack of security ever since. And what would have happened if Washington had just left the Communist government in place? Wouldn’t it have gone the same way as the former Communist regime of Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan? Which of you feels threatened by those former Soviet Socialist Republics?
The policy of deliberate deployment of torture by US officials, in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib (Iraq) and Bagram (Afghanistan), as well as black sites in Poland and elsewhere, during the past decade, has spawned a whole new wave of blowback.
The US is not responsible for terrorism against it, and the terrorists are horrible human beings. But let’s just say that a more responsible US foreign policy would make less trouble for the rest of us.
A bipartisan panel found, while the attention of the US public was elsewhere, that there is indisputable proof that the highest US officials of the Bush administration are implicated in torture, that torture was deployed systematically, and that there is no evidence that it ever yielded any useful intelligence about terrorist plots against the US. The Panel argues that the Guantanamo prison must be closed (many of the inmates now there have never been charged or tried and many have been cleared for release, but are not being released. Many are on debilitating hunger strikes that the US media barely cover.)
The fact that the US systematically made official use of torture following 9/11 is not exactly a secret: indeed, some of the Bush Administration seem quite proud of the torture they instigated. Still, some still will deny how deeply the US embraced the darkest practices that our country has always opposed. The worst offender is Barack Obama, who had the legal duty to investigate and prosecute as necessary those who had authorized or performed torture, but he lacked the courage and conviction. He wouldn’t even act against the CIA officer who systematically destroyed all the video interrogation tapes—i.e., who deliberately destroyed evidence of the crime.
So this report is important, though it’s conclusions are obvious. Eventually, perhaps, something may be done. But not by Obama, that’s for sure.
Scott Shane writes in the NY Times:
A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.
The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning.
Debate over the coercive interrogation methods used by the administration of President George W. Bush has often broken down on largely partisan lines. The Constitution Project’s task force on detainee treatment, led by two former members of Congress with experience in the executive branch — a Republican, Asa Hutchinson, and a Democrat, James R. Jones — seeks to produce a stronger national consensus on the torture question.
While the task force did not have access to classified records, it is the most ambitious independent attempt to date to assess the detention and interrogation programs. A separate 6,000-page report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s record by the Senate Intelligence Committee, based exclusively on agency records, rather than interviews, remains classified.
“As long as the debate continues, so too does the possibility that the United States could again engage in torture,” the report says.
The use of torture, the report concludes, has “no justification” and “damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.” The task force found “no firm or persuasive evidence” that these interrogation methods produced valuable information that could not have been obtained by other means. While “a person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information,” much of the information obtained by force was not reliable, the report says.
Interrogation and abuse at the C.I.A.’s so-called black sites, the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba and war-zone detention centers, have been described in considerable detail by the news media and in declassified documents, though the Constitution Project report adds many new details.
It confirms a report by Human Rights Watch that one or more Libyan militants were waterboarded by the C.I.A., challenging the agency’s longtime assertion that only three Al Qaeda prisoners were subjected to the near-drowning technique. It includes a detailed account by Albert J. Shimkus Jr., then a Navy captain who ran a hospital for detainees at the Guantánamo Bay prison, of his own disillusionment when he discovered what he considered to be the unethical mistreatment of prisoners.
But the report’s main significance may be its attempt to assess what the United States government did in the years after 2001 and how it should be judged. The C.I.A. not only waterboarded prisoners, but slammed them into walls, chained them in uncomfortable positions for hours, stripped them of clothing and kept them awake for days on end.
The question of whether those methods amounted to torture is a historically and legally momentous issue that has been debated for more than a decade inside and outside the government. The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel wrote a series of legal opinions from 2002 to 2005 concluding that the methods were not torture if used under strict rules; all the memos were later withdrawn. News organizations have wrestled with whether to label the brutal methods unequivocally as torture in the face of some government officials’ claims that they were not.
In addition, the United States is a signatory to the international Convention Against Torture, which requires the prompt investigation of allegations of torture and the compensation of its victims.
Like the still-secret Senate interrogation report, the Constitution Project study was initiated after President Obama decided in 2009 not to support a national commission to investigate the post-9/11 counterterrorism programs, as proposed by Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and others. Mr. Obama said then that he wanted to “look forward, not backward.” Aides have said he feared that his own policy agenda might get sidetracked in a battle over his predecessor’s programs.
The panel studied the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the C.I.A’s secret prisons. Staff members, including the executive director, Neil A. Lewis, a former reporter for The New York Times, traveled to multiple detention sites and interviewed dozens of former American and foreign officials, as well as former detainees. . .
Continue reading. Thanks to George W. Bush (and Barack Obama) the US now has a legacy of shame and a stain of dishonor.
Ian Urbina describes some US cruelty in an article in the NY Times:
On any given day, about 300 immigrants are held in solitary confinement at the 50 largest detention facilities that make up the sprawling patchwork of holding centers nationwide overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, according to new federal data.
Nearly half are isolated for 15 days or more, the point at which psychiatric experts say they are at risk for severe mental harm, with about 35 detainees kept for more than 75 days.
While the records do not indicate why immigrants were put in solitary, an adviser who helped the immigration agency review the numbers estimated that two-thirds of the cases involved disciplinary infractions like breaking rules, talking back to guards or getting into fights. Immigrants were also regularly isolated because they were viewed as a threat to other detainees or personnel or for protective purposes when the immigrant was gay or mentally ill.
The United States has come under sharp criticism at home and abroad for relying on solitary confinement in its prisons more than any other democratic nation in the world. While Immigration and Customs Enforcement places only about 1 percent of its jailed immigrants in solitary, this practice is nonetheless startling because those detainees are being held on civil, not criminal, charges. As such, they are not supposed to be punished; they are simply confined to ensure that they appear for administrative hearings.
After federal immigration authorities caught up with him, Rashed BinRashed, an illegal arrival from Yemen, was sent to a detention center in Juneau, Wis. He was put in solitary confinement, he says, after declining to go to the jail’s eating area and refusing meals because he wanted to fast during Ramadan.
Federal officials confined Delfino Quiroz, a gay immigrant from Mexico, in solitary for four months in 2010, saying it was for his own protection, he recalls. He sank into a deep depression as he overheard three inmates attempt suicide. “Please, God,” he remembers praying, “don’t let me be the same.”
As lawmakers in Washington consider an overhaul of the immigration system, Congress faces thorny questions not just about what status to grant immigrants already in the country, but also about how best to increase enforcement efforts and what rights to ensure illegal immigrants during their detention.
The new federal data highlights how punitive and costly immigration policy has become, since solitary is one of the most expensive forms of detention.
“I.C.E. is clearly using excessive force, since these are civil detentions,” said Dr. Terry Kupers, a psychiatrist who studies solitary confinement at the Wright Institute, a graduate school in psychology based in Berkeley, Calif. “And that makes this a human rights abuse.” . . .
Continue reading. Again: illegal immigration is a violation of civil, not criminal, statutes. Illegal immigrants are not criminals: they did not commit a crime.
Another interesting post at TomDispatch, with the intro:
There was a scarcely noted but classic moment in the Senate hearings on the nomination of John Brennan, the president’s counterterrorism “tsar,” to become the next CIA director. When Senator Carl Levin pressed him repeatedly on whether waterboarding was torture, he ended his reply this way: “I have a personal opinion that waterboarding is reprehensible and should not be done. And again, I am not a lawyer, senator, and I can’t address that question.”
How modern, how twenty-first-century American! How we’ve evolved since the dark days of Medieval Europe when waterboarding fell into a category known to all as “the water torture”! Brennan even cited Attorney General Eric Holder as one lawyer who had described waterboarding as “torture,” but he himself begged off. According to the man who was deputy executive director of the CIA and director of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center in the years of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and knew much about them, the only people equipped to recognize torture definitively as “torture” are lawyers. This might be more worrisome, if we weren’t a “nation of lawyers” (though it also means that plummeting law school application rates could, in the future, create a torture-definition crisis).
To look on the positive side, Brennan’s position should be seen as a distinct step forward from that of the Justice Department officials under the Bush administration who wrote the infamous “torture memos” and essentially left the definition of “torture” to the future testimony of the torturer. (“[I]f a defendant [interrogator] has a good faith belief that his actions will not result in prolonged mental harm, he lacks the mental state necessary for his actions to constitute torture.”)
And keep in mind that Brennan has good company for his position. Recently, the Open Society Institute published the most comprehensive investigation yet of the offshore system of injustice that George W. Bush and his top officials set up to kidnap “terror suspects,” imprison them without charges or end, and torture and abuse them, or “render” them to other countries willing to do the same. It turns out that 54 nations (other than the U.S.) took part in setting up, aiding, and maintaining this American global gulag. It’s a roster of dishonor worth noting: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
Remarkably, according to the Open Society report, just one of those states evidently had a lawyer on hand who could actually recognize torture, even if well after the fact. “Canada,” its authors write, “is the only country to issue an apology to an extraordinary rendition victim, Maher Arar, who was extraordinarily rendered to, and tortured in, Syria.”
Given this, Greg Grandin, TomDispatch regular and author of Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Lost Jungle City, explores a geographical miracle: of those 54 countries, only two, the U.S. and Canada, came from the Western Hemisphere! Tom
The Latin American Exception
How a Washington Global Torture Gulag Was Turned Into the Only Gulag-Free Zone on Earth
By Greg Grandin
The map tells the story. To illustrate a damning new report, “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detentions and Extraordinary Rendition,” recently published by the Open Society Institute, the Washington Post put together an equally damning graphic: it’s soaked in red, as if with blood, showing that in the years after 9/11, the CIA turned just about the whole world into a gulag archipelago.
Back in the early twentieth century, a similar red-hued map was used to indicate the global reach of the British Empire, on which, it was said, the sun never set. It seems that, between 9/11 and the day George W. Bush left the White House, CIA-brokered torture never saw a sunset either.
All told, of the 190-odd countries on this planet, a staggering 54 participated in various ways in this American torture system, hosting CIA “black site” prisons, allowing their airspace and airports to be used for secret flights, providing intelligence, kidnapping foreign nationals or their own citizens and handing them over to U.S. agents to be “rendered” to third-party countries like Egypt and Syria. The hallmark of this network, Open Society writes, has been torture. Its report documents the names of 136 individuals swept up in what it says is an ongoing operation, though its authors make clear that the total number, implicitly far higher, “will remain unknown” because of the “extraordinary level of government secrecy associated with secret detention and extraordinary rendition.”
No region escapes the stain. Not North America, home to the global gulag’s command center. Not Europe, the Middle East, Africa, or Asia. Not even social-democratic Scandinavia. Sweden turned over at least two people to the CIA, who were then rendered to Egypt, where they were subject to electric shocks, among other abuses. No region, that is, except Latin America.
What’s most striking about the Post’s map is that no part of its wine-dark horror touches Latin America; that is, not one country in what used to be called Washington’s “backyard” participated in rendition or Washington-directed or supported torture and abuse of “terror suspects.” Not even Colombia, which throughout the last two decades was as close to a U.S.-client state as existed in the area. It’s true that a fleck of red should show up on Cuba, but that would only underscore the point: Teddy Roosevelt took Guantánamo Bay Naval Base for the U.S. in 1903 “in perpetuity.”
Two, Three, Many CIAs
How did Latin America come to be territorio libre in this new dystopian world of black sites and midnight flights, the Zion of this militarist matrix (as fans of the Wachowskis’ movies might put it)? After all, it was in Latin America that an earlier generation of U.S. and U.S.-backed counterinsurgents put into place a prototype of Washington’s twenty-first century Global War on Terror.
Even before the 1959 Cuban Revolution, before Che Guevara urged revolutionaries to create “two, three, many Vietnams,” Washington had already set about establishing two, three, many centralized intelligence agencies in Latin America. As Michael McClintock shows in his indispensable book Instruments of Statecraft, in late 1954, a few months after the CIA’s infamous coup in Guatemala that overthrew a democratically elected government, the National Security Council first recommended strengthening “the internal security forces of friendly foreign countries.”
In the region, this meant three things. First, . . .
Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, Tony Blair took a train from Brighton to London, where he issued a statement that pledged unswerving support for the US. He described terrorism as “the new evil in our world,” perpetrated by people with no regard for the sanctity of human life. There was now to be a battle between the free world and terrorism, he said. “We therefore here in Britain stand shoulder to shoulder with our American friends in this hour of tragedy and we, like them, will not rest until this evil is driven from our world.”
Quietly, Britain pledged logistics support for the rendition program, which resulted in the CIA’s Gulfstream V and other jets becoming frequent visitors to British airports en route to the agency’s secret prisons. Over the next four years, a 26-strong flight of rendition aircraft operated by the CIA used UK airports at least 210 times. Dozens of other private executive jets that the agency chartered were also regular visitors to the UK. Nineteen British airports and RAF bases were used, including Heathrow, Birmingham, Luton, Bournemouth and Belfast. The agency’s favorite destination was Prestwick in Scotland, which it used more than 75 times. One CIA pilot described Prestwick as an ideal refueling stop. “It’s an ‘ask no questions’ type of place, and you don’t need to give them any advance notice you’re coming.”
The US authorities also asked the UK government for permission to build a large prison on Diego Garcia, the British territory in the Indian Ocean that operates as a US military base. A Royal Marines officer made some preliminary plans, before the project was dropped, for logistical rather than legal reasons. Diego Garcia continued to be used as a stopover for rendition flights, however, and senior United Nations officials believe that a number of prisoners were held and interrogated there between 2002 and 2003.
The UK would do more than offer mere logistics support to the rendition program, however. It would “perform,” in Bush’s words, by becoming an enthusiastic participant in the rendition and torture program. As in the summer of 1940, its first victims would be British. But as then and since, Britain would enshroud its use of torture in the greatest possible secrecy.
In October 2001, when the United States and its allies went to war in Afghanistan to topple the Taliban regime that had harbored al-Qaida, it was inevitable that a small number of those captured on the battlefield would be British.
For more than a decade, MI5 had been aware that British Muslims had been traveling to Pakistan and Afghanistan to receive training at camps run by al-Qaida or associated groups. Pakistan’s main intelligence agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, operated some of the camps, and graduates were encouraged to take up arms against Indian forces in Kashmir. Before al-Qaida began targeting the West in the late 1990s, MI5 saw these trips as evidence of little more than exuberant adventurism among a small section of young British Muslim males: a form of jihadi tourism that posed no threat to the UK. All that changed after 9/11, when both MI5 and MI6 became anxious to extract as much information as possible from any British prisoners in order to assess the al-Qaida threat.
It was not long before prisoners were being taken during battles in the north and southeast of Afghanistan. Many more foreign fighters were captured while attempting to slip across the border into Pakistan. Hundreds were handed over to US forces by Afghan and Pakistani bounty hunters, who received large bundles of dollars for every non-Afghan they captured.
Among the handful of British nationals seized in Afghanistan were Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed. These men from the West Midlands, who became known as the Tipton Three, spent around a month in captivity in the north of the country before being flown to an interrogation center at Kandahar airport. By this time, the Red Cross was already complaining to US authorities about the systematic mistreatment prisoners suffered at Kandahar. On arrival all three were severely beaten. According to Iqbal: . . .
Obama, of course, is absolutely determined that torturers will go unpunished.
An excerpt from Ian Cobain’s A Secret History of Torture:
Two days after the 9/11 attacks, during a meeting of Bush’s closest advisers, Cofer Black declared the country’s enemies must be left with ‘flies walking across their eyeballs’. It was an image of death so striking that Black became known among the President’s inner circle as ‘the flies on the eyeballs guy’. Unlike its allies – the UK, France, Spain and Israel – the US had little experience of serious terrorist attacks on its own territory, nor any understanding of the need for a patient response. Bush was impressed by Black. Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, could see that the President wanted to kill somebody. The problem, as successive attorneys general had warned one president after another, was that they did not enjoy unfettered powers of life and death over the nation’s enemies. The CIA had been banned from carrying out assassinations since 1976.
The President turned to his Department of Defense and found that it had no cogent, off-the-shelf plan for responding to an attack of this nature on the United States. The CIA, on the other hand, did have something in its arsenal: it had the rendition program.
Since 1987, the CIA had been quietly apprehending terrorists and ‘rendering’ them to the US for prosecution, without any regard for lawful extradition processes. In 1995, President Bill Clinton – apparently with the full encouragement of his vice-president, Al Gore – agreed that a number of terrorists could be taken to a third country, including countries known to use torture, a process that would come to be known as extraordinary rendition.
Mike Scheuer, the CIA officer who started that programme, faced few objections from Clinton’s national security advisers when he began taking prisoners to Egypt, where they could be interrogated under torture. ‘They just didn’t want to know what we were doing,’ he says.
Before 9/11, however, there were limits. In 1998, for example, the CIA had drawn up a plan to kidnap Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and take him to Egypt. A shipping container was installed inside a Hercules aircraft and inside that was bolted a dentist’s chair fitted with restraints. The CIA were all ready to go when, at the last moment, the FBI persuaded Clinton’s attorney general, Janet Reno, that bin Laden’s inevitable death at the hands of the Egyptians would be an act of murder and that US officials would be responsible. Reno vetoed the plan.
By 13 September, with a still-unknown number of Americans dead and the President wanting action, all such legal squeamishness had vanished. President Bush and Dick Cheney both believed al-Qaida had succeeded because government lawyers had been expecting the CIA to do its job with one hand tied behind its back. Bush said as much to his attorney general, John Ashcroft, when he warned him: ‘Don’t ever let this happen again.’ So when the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, went to brief the President a few days after 9/11 and began to talk of the need to gather evidence for future prosecutions, he was promptly silenced by Ashcroft. Prosecutions were beside the point, Ashcroft said. All that mattered was stopping another attack.
That night, Cofer Black locked himself away at his office at Langley and within five days had drawn up plans for the CIA’s response. It would entail a vast expansion of the rendition programme. Hundreds of al-Qaida suspects would be tracked down and abducted from their homes and hiding places in eighty different countries. The agency would decide who was to be killed and who was to be kept alive in a network of secret prisons, outside the US, where they would be systematically tormented until every one of their secrets had been delivered up. The United States had been blindsided by al-Qaida on 9/11 and that situation would not be permitted to occur a second time.
Black’s plan was presented to the President and his war cabinet in a series of meetings during the days after the attacks. On Monday 17 September, Bush signed off the paperwork: with a stroke of his pen the CIA was granted the power of life and death over al-Qaida suspects and could arrange for men to be detained and tortured indefinitely. All this, Bush later said, was to remain invisible.
For a while, particularly under the Bush Administration, the US routinely transported prisoners (sometimes people that the US had kidnapped) to foreign prisons so that they could be tortured without the US actually doing the torture itself—subcontracting the torture, as it were. At other times, of course, the US would happily do its own torture, as of the innocent German kidnapped in Macedonia.
Now, apparently, the US is trying to regain its torture virginity by being very public in its decision to protest torture of prisoners it transfers to prisons under foreign control; the military seems to think it deserves high praise for this (and never mind what we did earlier).
Rod Nordland and Thom Shanker report in the NY Times:
The American military has suspended the transfer of detainees to some Afghan prisons out of concern over continuing human rights abuses and torture, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said Wednesday in response to questions about the subject.
In addition, the American-led coalition said that it had asked the Afghan government to investigate allegations of torture by Afghan Local Police units that have been trained and advised by American Special Operations forces.
The moves were a setback on detention issues that have created tension between the countries, and on years of international efforts to promote humane treatment of prisoners. And under American law, the torture allegations could also set off significant financial aid cutoffs to parts of the Afghan security forces, which play a crucial role in plans for an American withdrawal that are based on handing over responsibility for security to the Afghans as early as this spring.
Afghan control over all detention in the country has been a primary demand of President Hamid Karzai and was a central issue of the summit talks between Mr. Karzai and President Obama in Washington just a week ago. . .
I am dismayed by Obama’s nomination of John Brennan, one of the architects (unindicted, of course) of the US torture program, in which prisoners of the US were systematically subjected to torture, with some tortured to death (three at Guantánamo (more info here), at least one in Afghanistan and also at Abu Ghraib). Obama has clearly thrown in his lot with the torturers and those instigating the torture by refusing to investigate or even to hold accountable the CIA official who openly bragged of destroying evidence.
But the CIA’s general institutional breakdown goes beyond that, as Ted Gup writes in his Op-Ed in the NY Times:
IN the last week, the American public has been reminded of the Central Intelligence Agency’s contradictory attitude toward secrecy. In a critique of “Zero Dark Thirty,” published last Thursday in The Washington Post, a former deputy director of the C.I.A., Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., defended the use of waterboarding and said that operatives used small plastic bottles, not buckets as depicted in the film, to carry out this interrogation method on three notable terrorists. On Sunday, The New York Times reported on the Justice Department’s case against a former C.I.A. officer, John C. Kiriakou, a critic of waterboarding who faces 30 months in prison for sharing the name of a covert operative with a reporter, who never used the name in print.
The contrast points to the real threat to secrecy, which comes not from the likes of Mr. Kiriakou but from the agency itself. The C.I.A. invokes secrecy to serve its interests but abandons it to burnish its image and discredit critics.
Over the years, I have interviewed many active and retired C.I.A. personnel who were not authorized to speak with me; they included heads of the agency’s clandestine service, analysts and well over 100 case officers, including station chiefs. Five former directors of central intelligence have spoken to me, mostly “on background.” Not one of these interviewees, to my knowledge, was taken to the woodshed, though our discussions invariably touched on classified territory.
Somewhere along the way, the agency that clung to “neither confirm nor deny” had morphed into one that selectively enforces its edicts on secrecy, using different standards depending on rank, message, internal politics and whim.
I am no fan of excessive secrecy, or of prosecuting whistle-blowers or leakers whose actions cannot be shown to have damaged American security. The C.I.A. needs secrecy, as do those who place their lives in the agency’s hands, but the agency cannot have it both ways.
What message did it send when George J. Tenet, its former director, refused to explain the intelligence debacle involving nonexistent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq but later got a seven-figure book contract and became a highly paid speaker? How is it that Milton Bearden, a former covert operative, got agency permission to write a book (“The Main Enemy”) with a New York Times reporter? What of the many memoirs written by ex-spooks like Robert Baer (“See No Evil,” and, with his wife, another former C.I.A. operative, “The Company We Keep”), Tony Mendez (“The Master of Disguise”), Lindsay Moran (“Blowing My Cover”), Melissa Boyle Mahle (“Denial and Deception”) and Floyd L. Paseman (“A Spy’s Journey”)?
These works help us understand the shadowy business of intelligence gathering, but collectively they may be undermining the credo of espionage: it is not a spectator sport. And how do we explain the profusion of former C.I.A. operatives who are now on-air pundits?
There was a time at the C.I.A., not so long ago, when the notion of cashing in on one’s access to secrets was considered contemptible. How, then, does one explain how Chase Brandon, a former C.I.A. covert operative, became the agency’s liaison with Hollywood (“Mission Impossible III”)? And what of the International Spy Museum, a for-profit entity in Washington headed by a former covert C.I.A. officer, Peter Earnest? (The museum gift shop’s most popular T-shirt says “Deny Everything.”)
The agency can be quite creative in evading its own strictures on secrecy. When I was researching a book on covert operatives killed in the line of duty — a book the C.I.A. tried to persuade me not to write — a senior agency employee called me. He gave me the ISBN number and part of the title of an obscure book, and advised me to find a copy. When I did, I saw what he had left out of the title: the name of a deceased covert operative. Why? So he could pass a polygraph test if asked if he had ever given a reporter the name of an operative. All that training in tradecraft, and it was used to evade the very secrecy it was designed to protect.
Now consider Mr. Rodriguez. As recently as 2005, national security reporters were told that they could not use his full name — unusual for someone at such a senior position — though he was no longer in the field and was overseeing covert operations from Washington. Under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, even reporters can be prosecuted for unmasking operatives. So journalists complied and referred to Mr. Rodriguez simply as “Jose.” Mr. Rodriguez oversaw — and then ordered the destruction of videotapes that documented — the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding. He is now a published author and public speaker. The agency has no apparent problem with that; after all, he is defending not only his own handiwork but also the agency’s. . .
A bad court decision, subject of a NY Times editorial:
In a decision that ignored a 41-year-old precedent and American obligations under international law, a United States appeals court has ruled that American civilians who are tortured by the American military cannot recover damages from the people responsible.
The 8-to-3 ruling by the full United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit overturned an important ruling last year by a three-judge panel of the same court, which held that two Americans who say they were tortured by American military forces in Iraq could sue former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for violating their constitutional rights. That ruling relied on a landmark 1971 ruling by the Supreme Court known as Bivens, under which government officials could be held accountable for the intentional mistreatment of American citizens, even if that conduct happened in a war zone.
Reversing that decision, the full court’s majority incorrectly joined the Fourth Circuit and the District of Columbia Circuit in rejecting damage suits against American officials based on torture claims. But its ruling was much broader and a lot worse. The court held that all military personnel are exempt from civil liability for breaching civilians’ rights. “Unless there is a right of action against soldiers and their immediate commanders,” it said, “there cannot be a right of action for damages against remote superiors such as former Secretary Rumsfeld.”
The majority talked derisively about lawsuits causing “other problems, including diverting cabinet officers’ time from management of public affairs to the defense of their bank accounts.” It is a bizarre argument for a cabinet officer who developed policies that permitted torture.
Mr. Rumsfeld and other defendants made an argument limited by place: . . .
Think of what this ruling permits and protects.
His crime? Revealing the identity of a covert CIA officer—not Valerie Plame; her name was leaked to punish a whistleblower (her husband), so revealing her identity, though it threatened the lives of all those abroad who had secretly worked with her, was okay and no one was punished for it. Karl Rove was not punished (“Valerie Plame is fair game”), nor was Richard Armitage, who did reveal that she was a CIA agent. All that was okay.
But to reveal who ran the (highly illegal) torture program—that is, to expose government wrong-doing—is intolerable and must be swiftly punished.
Our government has gone bad.
The US government really does not want the public to know what the government is doing. Cora Currier reports for ProPublica:
In a motion unsealed last week, the government proposed new ground rules for classified information in the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others charged with planning the 9/11 attacks.
The new order says the accused can’t talk about their “observations and experiences” of being held by the CIA, including “the enhanced interrogation techniques that were applied to the Accused” — that is, waterboarding and other abuse.
As we reported earlier this year, the government maintains that many details of the CIA’s detention program are still classified, despite widespread disclosures and an official acknowledgement by President George W. Bush in 2006. “Due to these individuals’ exposure to classified sources, methods, or activities of the United States,” an order filed in April read, anything the men say is “presumed to contain information classified as TOP SECRET / SCI.”
That sentence would have required defense attorneys to get the approval of a security officer to disclose even mundane information such as a date of birth, if it came from the defendant.
The new protective order — which is pending a judge’s approval — eliminates the line that all statements by the accused are presumed classified. In proposing the change, the government wrote it intended to “alleviate defense concerns” about the burden that presumptive classification added to their interactions with their clients. The government’s new motion says that attorneys would only need a review of information “they know or have a reason to know is classified.”
But when it comes to the CIA’s detention program, the new order states explicitly that “the term ‘information’ shall include without limitation observations and experiences of the Accused.”
A Pentagon spokesman did not return requests for comment about the new order. . .
Continue reading. Many good links alongside the article at the link.
Andrew Rosenthal has a good column in the NY Times:
Last September, Mitt Romney’s advisers were so determined to attack President Obama from every direction and to revive long-discredited neo-con theories about interrogation that they actually encouraged the candidate to come out strongly pro-torture in his presidential campaign.
In what The Times’ Charlie Savage describes as a “near-final draft” of a memo, Romney advisers denounced Mr. Obama’s executive order on interrogation (which instructed interrogators to hew to the Army Field Manual, i.e. to legal techniques). They also urged Mr. Romney to pledge that, upon taking office, he would rescind that order.
So far, Mr. Romney has had the good sense not to follow this recommendation–at least not to a T. But in December he said he supported “enhanced interrogation techniques which go beyond those that are in the military handbook right now.” And he has said more than once that he favors waterboarding, a so-called “enhanced interrogation technique” which the United States government considered torture until the Bush administration decided it was not.
In the memo, Mr. Romney’s advisers adopted the language of the Bush administration lawyers who first sanctioned torture. Perhaps that’s because Steven Bradbury, who ran the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in Mr. Bush’s second term, was on the committee that circulated the memo. Mr. Bradbury has claimed that C.I.A. techniques like waterboarding do not violate the anti-torture law, or the Geneva Conventions’ prohibition of “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.”
The campaign memo suggested that Mr. Romney should “commit his administration to authorizing (classified) enhanced interrogation techniques against high-value detainees that are safe, legal and effective in generation intelligence to save American lives.”
Actually these techniques are unsafe, illegal and ineffective. . .
Of special note, from the Charlie Savage article mentioned above:
“Waterboarding is torture,” Mr. Obama said in November. “It’s contrary to America’s traditions. It’s contrary to our ideals. That’s not who we are. That’s not how we operate. We don’t need it in order to prosecute the war on terrorism. And we did the right thing by ending that practice. If we want to lead around the world, part of our leadership is setting a good example.”
This is quite strange to me: Obama states that waterboarding is torture, and the highest law of the land, the Convention Against Torture treaty, which the US signed by President Reagan on 18 April 1988 and ratified by the US Senate on 21 October 1994, The treaty includes:
Parties must promptly investigate any allegation of torture (Articles 12 and 13), and victims of torture must have an enforceable right to compensation (Article 14).
But Obama, in clear violation of the law, refuses to investigate and prosecute known instances of torture by the US. This is, to repeat, a violation of law. Yet nothing is done because the US is no longer a nation of law, in the strict sense. (Cf. Bradley Manning’s continued imprisonment without trial.)
Torture can readily be reinstituted because Obama has established that there are no penalties for torturing suspects, regardless of what the law states.
Although Barack Obama has failed to investigate and prosecute credible allegations of torture—or even speak out against the CIA person who bragged about destroying evidence—at least Obama discontinued the regular use of torture. Romney, OTOH, seems to be an enthusiastic advocate of a practice that for a long time was thought to be inimical to American values and the mark of a despotic government. Professional interrogators know that torture does not work, and in fact is counter-productive, but amateurs with delusions of power and psychological problems around authority seem to love the idea, so long as it’s done to others.
The CIA seems never to be called to account for illegal activity, but now it’s happened. The Associated Press reports:
Italy’s highest criminal court on Wednesday upheld the convictions of 23 Americans in the abduction of an Egyptian terror suspect from a Milan street as part of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, paving the way to possible extradition requests by Italian authorities.
The ruling by the Court of Cassation marks the final appeal in the first trial anywhere in the world involving the CIA’s practice of abducting terror suspects and transferring them to third countries where torture is permitted.
The Americans were convicted in absentia following a three-and-a-half-year trial, and have never been in Italian custody. They risk arrest if they travel to Europe and one of their court-appointed lawyers suggested that the final verdict would open the way for the Italian government to seek their extradition.
“It went badly. It went very badly,” lawyer Alessia Sorgato said after the court announced its decision after a day of deliberations. “Now they will ask for extradition.”
Milan Prosecutor Armando Spataro, one of Italy’s top anti-terrorism magistrates who shaped the prosecution, hailed the top court’s decision, saying it was tantamount to a finding that extraordinary rendition “is incompatible with democracy.”
The CIA declined to comment.
The court will make public its reasoning behind the decision in a written document in about 90 days. . .
Continue reading. The CIA does seem to love to have people tortured.
Maybe. Cora Currier reports in ProPublica:
For many years, Bush administration officials have said that the CIA waterboarded only three terror suspects. Despite nearly endless revelations and investigations about the U.S.’s treatment of detainees, there has never been evidence contradicting those claims. But that changed earlier this month.
Human Rights Watch recently released a report detailing the accounts of 14 Libyan men who claim they were detained and, in some cases, subject to harsh interrogations by the U.S. before being transferred back to Libyan prisons, where they also faced abuse
One man, Mohammed Al-Shoreoiya, provided a detailed account of being waterboarded “many times” while in U.S. custody in an Afghan prison between 2003 and 2004. Another man described a similar form of water torture, conducted without a board.
None of the men’s accounts could be confirmed, but as the New York Times noted, the detainees did not seek out Human Rights Watch, and their descriptions of their treatment, including waterboarding, are consistent with CIA procedural documents that have been made public.
The CIA first confirmed waterboarding in February 2008, when then-CIA director Michael Hayden told a Senate committee that “only three detainees” had been waterboarded — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zabaydah, and Abd Al Rahim al-Nashiri. No one, he said, had been subjected to the process since 2003. That claim has been repeated by former President George W. Bush and top officials from his administration. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has also noted that the military did not waterboard.
A spokesman for the CIA told ProPublica that . . .
Continue reading. Even if the claim of torturing only three men were true, President Obama is still required by the law (the Convention Against Torture) to investigate the incidents and prosecute those responsible. He won’t do it, which puts him in violation of the law. We are no longer a nation that follows the rule of law. We follow the rule of influence, wealth, and power.
Eric Holder and Barack Obama have a very odd sense of morality. They resolutely refuse to investigate and prosecute those who broke the law by torturing prisoners (or destroyed evidence of torture) though they persecute with extraordinary zeal any whistleblower who exposes government wrong-doing. And now, as Peter Van Buren writes at TomDispatch, they are prosecuting one person in the whole torture mess: a guy who didn’t torture:
Here is what military briefers like to call BLUF, the Bottom Line Up Front: no one except John Kiriakou is being held accountable for America’s torture policy. And John Kiriakou didn’t torture anyone, he just blew the whistle on it.
In a Galaxy Far, Far Away
A long time ago, with mediocre grades and no athletic ability, I applied for a Rhodes Scholarship. I guess the Rhodes committee at my school needed practice, and I found myself undergoing a rigorous oral examination. Here was the final question they fired at me, probing my ability to think morally and justly: You are a soldier. Your prisoner has information that might save your life. The only way to obtain it is through torture. What do you do?
At that time, a million years ago in an America that no longer exists, my obvious answer was never to torture, never to lower oneself, never to sacrifice one’s humanity and soul, even if it meant death. My visceral reaction: to become a torturer was its own form of living death. (An undergrad today, after the “enhanced interrogation” Bush years and in the wake of 24, would probably detail specific techniques that should be employed.) My advisor later told me my answer was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise spectacularly unsuccessful interview.
It is now common knowledge that between 2001 and about 2007 the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) sanctioned acts of torture committed by members of the Central Intelligence Agency and others. The acts took place in secret prisons (“black sites”) against persons detained indefinitely without trial. They were described in detail and explicitly authorized in a series of secrettorture memos drafted by John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury, senior lawyers in the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel. (Office of Legal Counsel attorneys technically answer directly to the DOJ, which is supposed to be independent from the White House, but obviously was not in this case.) Not one of those men, or their Justice Department bosses, has been held accountable for their actions.
Some tortured prisoners were even killed by the CIA. Attorney General Eric Holder announced recently that no one would be held accountable for those murders either. “Based on the fully developed factual record concerning the two deaths,” he said, “the Department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Jose Rodriguez, a senior CIA official, admitted destroying videotapes of potentially admissible evidence, showing the torture of captives by operatives of the U.S. government at a secret prison thought to be located at a Vietnam-War-era airbase in Thailand. He was not held accountable for deep-sixing this evidence, nor for his role in the torture of human beings.
John Kiriakou Alone
The one man in the whole archipelago of America’s secret horrors facing prosecution is former CIA agent John Kiriakou. Of the untold numbers of men and women involved in the whole nightmare show of those years, only one may go to jail.
And of course, he didn’t torture anyone.
The charges against Kiriakou allege that in answering questions from reporters about suspicions that the CIA tortured detainees in its custody, he violated the Espionage Act, once an obscure World War I-era law that aimed at punishing Americans who gave aid to the enemy. It was passed in 1917 and has been the subject of much judicial and Congressional doubt ever since. Kiriakou is one of six government whistleblowers who have been charged under the Act by the Obama administration. From 1917 until Obama came into office, only three people had ever charged in this way. . .
Continue reading. One of many ironies: Obama and Holder are actively breaking the law (the Convention Against Torture, a treaty signed and ratified by the US) by refusing to investigate credible allegations of torture. So their moral standing in this matter is contemptible. And Congress is no better.