Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for May 14th, 2009

Wonderful movie: a WWII spy thriller caper mystery

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Where Eagles Dare. Terrific.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 8:07 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Smelt report

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The smelt were delicious. I’m resisting cooking up the second pound—I want it for lunch tomorrow.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 7:45 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

The CIA plot thickens

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James Fallows:

The CIA vs. Sen. Bob Graham: how to keep score at home

It’s easy! If the CIA says one thing and former Sen. Graham says another, then the CIA is lying. Or, "in error," if you prefer.

(Background here and here, in which Graham says that some of the briefings in which he was allegedly filled in about waterboarding and related techniques never occurred. This matters, because the CIA’s claims are part of the same argument that Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats in Congress had known about and acquiesced to waterboarding all the way along.)

Part of the payoff of reaching age 72 and having spent 38 years in public office, as Graham has, is that people have had a chance to judge your reputation. Graham has a general reputation for honesty. In my eyes he has a specific reputation for very good judgment: he was one of a handful of Senators actually to read the full classified intelligence report about the "threats" posed by Saddam Hussein. On the basis of reading it, despite a career as a conservative/centrist Democrat, he voted against the war and fervently urged his colleagues to do the same. "Blood is going to be on your hands," he warned those who voted yes.

More relevant in this case, Graham also has a specific reputation for keeping detailed daily records of people he met and things they said. He’s sometimes been mocked for this compulsive practice, but he’s never been doubted about the completeness or accuracy of what he compiles. (In the fine print of those records would be an indication that I had interviewed him about Iraq war policy while he was in the Senate and recently spent time with him when he was on this side of the world.)

So if he says he never got the briefing, he didn’t. And if the CIA or anyone acting on its behalf challenges him, they are stupid and incompetent as well as being untrustworthy. This doesn’t prove that the accounts of briefing Pelosi are also inaccurate. But it shifts the burden of proof.

Spencer Ackerman:

As first noticed by Marcy Wheeler this morning, former Senate intelligence committee chairman Bob Graham (D-Fla.) went on the Brian Lehrer radio show and said the CIA has conceded to him that it made some errors in its account of which members of Congress were briefed and when about “enhanced interrogation techniques.” (You can hear what Graham said around the 4:30-4:55 minute mark.) That’s the briefings timeline that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said was “misleading” today. Graham:

When I asked the CIA when was I briefed, they gave me four dates, two in April and two in September of ‘02. On three of the four occasions, when I consulted my schedule and my notes, it was clear that no briefing had taken place, and the CIA eventually concurred in that. So their record keeping is a little bit suspect.

If Graham is telling the truth, then the CIA is aware of at least some errors in its timeline of congressional briefings, which gives an additional layer of meaning to CIA Director Leon Panetta’s statement that “in the end, you and the Committee will have to determine whether this information is an accurate summary of what actually happened.” And if Graham is right about identifying three errors, it raises the question about whether there are other errors, and if CIA will update its account of the congressional briefings.

The question might be raised, but it’s not answered. I asked CIA spokesman George Little whether Graham is telling the truth and he declined comment.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 5:48 pm

Browse emptywheel

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Marcy Wheeler, aka emptywheel, has a plethora of good and detailed posts on the torture hearings. I suggest that you just browse her blog (after you bookmark it).

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 2:20 pm

Swiftboating healthcare solutions

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Typical:

Source: Washington Post, May 11, 2009

Richard Scott, "a multimillionaire investor and controversial former hospital chief executive, has become an unlikely and prominent leader of the opposition to health-care reform," reports the Washington Post. But the public relations firm promoting Scott and his front group is a usual suspect. CRC Public Relations — the conservative PR firm previously known as Creative Response Concepts — is the firm "that masterminded the ‘Swift boat’ attacks against 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry." The firm is working with Scott and his group, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights. "While disorganized Republicans and major health-care companies wait for President Obama and Democratic leaders to reveal the details of their plan before criticizing it, Scott is using $5 million of his own money and up to $15 million more from supporters to try to build resistance to any government-run program." The campaign includes television ads featuring "horror stories" of Canadian and British residents who "allegedly suffered long waits for surgeries, couldn’t get the drugs they needed, or had to come to the United States for treatment" — the same scare tactics industry groups used to respond to the 2007 Michael Moore movie "Sicko."

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 2:18 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Healthcare

Inflaming anti-American sentiment

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From Glenn Greenwald’s column today:

… We’re currently occupying two Muslim countries.  We’re killing civilians regularly (as usual) — with airplanes and unmanned sky robots.  We’re imprisoning tens of thousands of Muslims with no trial, for years.  Our government continues to insist that it has the power to abduct people — virtually all Muslim — ship them to Bagram, put them in cages, and keep them there indefinitely with no charges of any kind.  We’re denying our torture victims any ability to obtain justice for what was done to them by insisting that the way we tortured them is a “state secret” and that we need to “look to the future.”  We provide Israel with the arms and money used to do things like devastate Gaza.  Independent of whether any or all of these policies are justifiable, the extent to which those actions “inflame anti-American sentiment” is impossible to overstate.

And now, the very same people who are doing all of that are claiming that they must suppress evidence of our government’s abuse of detainees because to allow the evidence to be seen would “inflame anti-American sentiment.”  It’s not hard to believe that releasing the photos would do so to some extent — people generally consider it a bad thing to torture and brutally abuse helpless detainees — but compared to everything else we’re doing, the notion that releasing or concealing these photos would make an appreciable difference in terms of how we’re perceived in the Muslim world is laughable on its face.

Moreover, …

Read the whole thing. It’s a powerful column.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 2:10 pm

Good news from the new Drug Czar

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Matthew DeLong in the Washington Independent:

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Gil Kerlikowske, the newly minted head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, is calling for a radical refocus of the nation’s efforts to fight drugs — beginning with the elimination of the Nixon-era term, “War on Drugs.”

The Obama administration’s new drug czar says he wants to banish the idea that the U.S. is fighting “a war on drugs,” a move that would underscore a shift favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce illicit drug use.

In his first interview since being confirmed to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske said Wednesday the bellicose analogy was a barrier to dealing with the nation’s drug issues.

“Regardless of how you try to explain to people it’s a ‘war on drugs’ or a ‘war on a product,’ people see a war as a war on them,” he said. “We’re not at war with people in this country.” […]

The Obama administration is likely to deal with drugs as a matter of public health rather than criminal justice alone, with treatment’s role growing relative to incarceration, Mr. Kerlikowske said.

Indeed, as The Journal notes, the administration has already begun moving away from the policies of recent decades. The Justice Department, under Attorney General Eric Holder, has announced it will no longer raid medical marijuana dispensaries operating legally under state law, and it has called for Congress to eliminate the sentencing disparity for crimes related to crack and powder cocaine.

However, those who favor a “tough-on-crime” approach to deal with the drug problem probably need not worry the United States will turn into the Netherlands, known for extremely liberal drug policies, anytime soon. When Obama was asked directly about the prospect of legalizing marijuana during an online town hall in March, he cracked a joke and dismissed the seriousness of the question.

But the government’s apparent recognition that America’s tough drug control policies have failed to stem drug use or availability — while ballooning the nation’s incarceration rate — is certainly welcome news for those who support a more realistic and compassionate approach to tackling the drug problem.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 1:57 pm

Hearing lays groundwork for torture prosecution

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Interesting analysis by Daphne Eviatar of the Washington Independent:

A Senate panel appeared to lay the groundwork on Wednesday for a possible prosecution of former Bush administration officials for the torture and abuse of detainees in the “war on terror,” despite strong opposition from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).  Specifically, findings by several testifying witnesses that Bush administration lawyers deliberately distorted the law in drafting legal memoranda that offered legal cover for “enhanced interrogation” policies could support future criminal prosecution.

The Office of Legal Counsel memos defining and justifying torture and other abusive interrogation techniques — the so-called “torture memos” — are “a legal train wreck,” testified David Luban, a professor of legal ethics at Georgetown University, to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts. “The torture memos fall far short of candid advice and independent professional judgment,” he said. They “cherry pick the law” and “read as if they were reverse engineered to reach a predetermined outcome.” If that outcome was unlawful, then the lawyer has crossed an ethical line.”The rules of professional ethics forbid lawyers from counseling or assisting clients in illegal conduct,” he said.

Although Luban’s testimony was directed at the ethical implications of the legal conclusions drawn by recently released Bush-era memos and whether the lawyers drafting them acted in “good faith,” a finding that the lawyers knowingly helped White House officials engage in illegal conduct could also support criminal liability of both the lawyers and the policymakers who instructed them.

That the OLC lawyers never once cited the case of United States v. Lee, for example, in which the Reagan administration’s Justice Department prosecuted a Texas sheriff who had waterboarded suspects to extract confessions, is revealing, said Luban. The case, decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in 1983, refers to waterboarding as “torture” at least a dozen times.  It is “the single most relevant case on water torture” in United States jurisprudence, said Luban. (Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who has cited the case frequently in previous statements, in separate questioning agreed.) The authors of the Office of Legal Counsel memos, while relying on an obscure Medicare reimbursement law to define torture extremely narrowly, as Whitehouse pointed out, ignored the most obvious and readily accessible recent U.S. federal case law on torture. “It’s hard to avoid concluding that they did not mention it because it cast doubt on their legal conclusions,” said Luban.

The memos authorize conduct that “comes very close to President Nixon’s statement that when the president does it, it’s legal,” said Luban. Only President Nixon was saying it as a throwaway line when put on the spot in an interview with a journalist; the claim wasn’t written as an authoritative memo interpreting the law, Luban said…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 1:42 pm

Fascinating visual illusion

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Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 1:38 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Tagged with

What makes us happy?

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Always a good question to ask, and the attempt to answer that question for herself and her own happiness eventually resulted in Joanna Field writing the fascinating book A Life of One’s Own, which I frequently recommend. Now there’s a very interesting article in the Atlantic Monthly about that very question. The article’s blurb:

Is there a formula—some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation—for a good life? For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been examining this question, following 268 men who entered college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age. Here, for the first time, a journalist gains access to the archive of one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history. Its contents, as much literature as science, offer profound insight into the human condition—and into the brilliant, complex mind of the study’s longtime director, George Vaillant.

Worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Tagged with

The secret of self-control

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Very interesting New Yorker article by Jonah Lehrer:

In the late nineteen-sixties, Carolyn Weisz, a four-year-old with long brown hair, was invited into a “game room” at the Bing Nursery School, on the campus of Stanford University. The room was little more than a large closet, containing a desk and a chair. Carolyn was asked to sit down in the chair and pick a treat from a tray of marshmallows, cookies, and pretzel sticks. Carolyn chose the marshmallow. Although she’s now forty-four, Carolyn still has a weakness for those air-puffed balls of corn syrup and gelatin. “I know I shouldn’t like them,” she says. “But they’re just so delicious!” A researcher then made Carolyn an offer: she could either eat one marshmallow right away or, if she was willing to wait while he stepped out for a few minutes, she could have two marshmallows when he returned. He said that if she rang a bell on the desk while he was away he would come running back, and she could eat one marshmallow but would forfeit the second. Then he left the room.

Although Carolyn has no direct memory of the experiment, and the scientists would not release any information about the subjects, she strongly suspects that she was able to delay gratification. “I’ve always been really good at waiting,” Carolyn told me. “If you give me a challenge or a task, then I’m going to find a way to do it, even if it means not eating my favorite food.” Her mother, Karen Sortino, is still more certain: “Even as a young kid, Carolyn was very patient. I’m sure she would have waited.” But her brother Craig, who also took part in the experiment, displayed less fortitude. Craig, a year older than Carolyn, still remembers the torment of trying to wait. “At a certain point, it must have occurred to me that I was all by myself,” he recalls. “And so I just started taking all the candy.” According to Craig, he was also tested with little plastic toys—he could have a second one if he held out—and he broke into the desk, where he figured there would be additional toys. “I took everything I could,” he says. “I cleaned them out. After that, I noticed the teachers encouraged me to not go into the experiment room anymore.”

Footage of these experiments, which were conducted over several years, is poignant, as the kids struggle to delay gratification for just a little bit longer. Some cover their eyes with their hands or turn around so that they can’t see the tray. Others start kicking the desk, or tug on their pigtails, or stroke the marshmallow as if it were a tiny stuffed animal. One child, a boy with neatly parted hair, looks carefully around the room to make sure that nobody can see him. Then he picks up an Oreo, delicately twists it apart, and licks off the white cream filling before returning the cookie to the tray, a satisfied look on his face.

Most of the children were like Craig. They struggled to resist the treat and held out for an average of less than three minutes. “A few kids ate the marshmallow right away,” Walter Mischel, the Stanford professor of psychology in charge of the experiment, remembers. “They didn’t even bother ringing the bell. Other kids would stare directly at the marshmallow and then ring the bell thirty seconds later.” About thirty per cent of the children, however, were like Carolyn. They successfully delayed gratification until the researcher returned, some fifteen minutes later. These kids wrestled with temptation but found a way to resist.

The initial goal of the experiment was …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 1:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Biggest global health threat of 21st century: climate change

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Interesting:

A newly released report identifies climate change as the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.

If nothing is done, global warming could affect the health of billions of people throughout the world, with the poor suffering most, according to the report from the University College London and The Lancet.

Deaths from heat waves, malaria, and other vector-borne diseases (diseases transmitted by sources such as mosquitoes or ticks) are projected to rise as global temperatures increase. But the report identifies food and water shortages and increasingly violent weather events as the biggest climate-change-related threats to human health.

Pediatrician Anthony Costello, MD, who chaired the commission that issued the report, says there is new evidence that climate change is occurring faster than many experts had anticipated.

He tells WebMD that recent findings on greenhouse gas emissions, global temperature changes, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events suggest that climate forecasts made in 2007 by an international panel evaluating climate change may be optimistic.

"The forecasts made by the world climate scientists a few years ago are starting to look too conservative," he says.

Costello points out that since records began to be kept a century and a half ago, 12 of the warmest years on record have occurred within the last 13 years.

He adds that the health effects of climate change are already being seen and will increasingly be felt as temperatures rise.

According to the report: …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 1:21 pm

Fat heart patients: Take long walks

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Something worth knowing:

Long-distance walking on a daily basis may take off twice the weight and result in greater loss of fat mass than standard cardiac rehabilitation in overweight heart patients, researchers say.

What’s more, in addition to losing fat mass and twice the weight, overweight coronary patients on a steady walking regimen apparently can improve their insulin sensitivity to a greater degree than people undergoing standard cardiac rehabilitation, says a new study in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

In the study, researchers at the University of Vermont randomized 74 overweight cardiac rehab patients whose average age was 64 to either a high-caloric expenditure exercise regimen, aimed at burning 3,000 to 3,500 calories a week by walking almost daily, or to standard therapy, burning 700 to 800 calories a week, exercising three times per week.

Shedding weight on a daily basis called for walking 45-60 minutes at a moderate pace — a lower speed than standard therapy — for five to six days per week.

The standard rehab called for walking, biking, or rowing for 25-40 minutes at a brisker pace, but only three times per week.

Five months into the study, the researchers compared the two groups and found that patients doing the daily walking had: …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 1:18 pm

Kitty v. Turntable

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Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Cats, Video

A careful look at Cheney

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Very interesting post by Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, former chief of staff of the Department of State during the term of Secretary of State Colin Powell and currently Pamela Harriman Visiting Professor at the College of William & Mary:

First, more Americans were killed by terrorists on Cheney’s watch than on any other leader’s watch in US history. So his constant claim that no Americans were killed in the "seven and a half years" after 9/11 of his vice presidency takes on a new texture when one considers that fact. And it is a fact.

There was absolutely no policy priority attributed to al-Qa’ida by the Cheney-Bush administration in the months before 9/11. Counterterrorism czar Dick Clarke’s position was downgraded, al-Qa’ida was put in the background so as to emphasize Iraq, and the policy priorities were lowering taxes, abrogating the ABM Treaty and building ballistic missile defenses.

Second, the fact no attack has occurred on U.S. soil since 9/11–much touted by Cheney–is due almost entirely to the nation’s having deployed over 200,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and not to "the Cheney method of interrogation."

Those troops have kept al-Qa’ida at bay, killed many of them, and certainly "fixed" them, as we say in military jargon. Plus, sadly enough, those 200,000 troops present a far more lucrative and close proximity target for al-Qa’ida than the United States homeland. Testimony to that fact is clear: almost 5,000 American troops have died, more Americans than died on 9/11. Of course, they are the type of Americans for whom Cheney hasn’t much use as he declared rather dramatically when he achieved no less than five draft deferments during the Vietnam War.

Third–and here comes the blistering fact–when Cheney claims that if President Obama stops "the Cheney method of interrogation and torture", the nation will be in danger, he is perverting the facts once again. But in a very ironic way.

My investigations have revealed to me–vividly and clearly–that once the Abu Ghraib photographs were made public in the Spring of 2004, the CIA, its contractors, and everyone else involved in administering "the Cheney methods of interrogation", simply shut down. Nada. Nothing. No torture or harsh techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator. Period. People were too frightened by what might happen to them if they continued.

What I am saying is that no torture or harsh interrogation techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator for the entire second term of Cheney-Bush, 2005-2009. So, if we are to believe the protestations of Dick Cheney, that Obama’s having shut down the "Cheney interrogation methods" will endanger the nation, what are we to say to Dick Cheney for having endangered the nation for the last four years of his vice presidency?

Likewise, what I have learned is …

Continue reading. There’s a good video from the Rachel Maddow show at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 1:06 pm

Fitday v 2.0 available

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When I tested the link, I discovered that Fitday 2.0 is now available for download. I really like this program. Windows only, I believe, though you can use the same sort of facility for free using their Web site.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 12:56 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Software

Vitamins vs. Exercise

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The Younger Daughter send a link to this article in the NY Times:

If you exercise to improve your metabolism and prevent diabetes, you may want to avoid antioxidants like vitamins C and E.

That is the message of a surprising new look at the body’s reaction to exercise, reported on Monday by researchers in Germany and Boston.

Exercise is known to have many beneficial effects on health, including on the body’s sensitivity to insulin. “Get more exercise” is often among the first recommendations given by doctors to people at risk of diabetes.

But exercise makes the muscle cells metabolize glucose, by combining its carbon atoms with oxygen and extracting the energy that is released. In the process, some highly reactive oxygen molecules escape and make chemical attacks on anything in sight.

These reactive oxygen compounds are known to damage the body’s tissues. The amount of oxidative damage increases with age, and according to one theory of aging it is a major cause of the body’s decline.

The body has its own defense system for combating oxidative damage, but it does not always do enough. So antioxidants, which mop up the reactive oxygen compounds, may seem like a logical solution.

The researchers, led by Dr. Michael Ristow, a nutritionist at the University of Jena in Germany, tested this proposition by having young men exercise, giving half of them moderate doses of vitamins C and E and measuring sensitivity to insulin as well as indicators of the body’s natural defenses to oxidative damage.

The Jena team found that in the group taking the vitamins there was no improvement in insulin sensitivity and almost no activation of the body’s natural defense mechanism against oxidative damage.

The reason, they suggest, is that the reactive oxygen compounds, inevitable byproducts of exercise, are a natural trigger for both of these responses. The vitamins, by efficiently destroying the reactive oxygen, short-circuit the body’s natural response to exercise.

Continue reading. I quite taking vitamins C and E some time ago since I discovered (via Fitday) that I was getting ample amounts in my diet. My daily multivitamin has some, though—maybe I’ll drop that pill from the daily ration.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Science

CIA torture program counterproductive

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Interesting article in Salon by Mark Benjamin:

The testimony of a key witness at a Senate hearing Wednesday raised serious questions about the truthfulness of former President George W. Bush’s own personal defense of the CIA’s brutal interrogation program. Former FBI agent Ali Soufan also indicated that the harsh interrogation techniques may actually have hindered the collection of intelligence, causing a high-value prisoner to stop cooperating.

In the first congressional hearing on torture since the release of Bush administration memos that provided the legal justification for torture, Soufan told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the CIA’s abusive techniques were "ineffective, slow and unreliable, and as a result harmful to our efforts to defeat al-Qaida." According to Soufan, his own nonviolent interrogation of an al-Qaida suspect was quickly yielding valuable, actionable intelligence — until the CIA intervened.

Soufan was with the FBI on March 28, 2002, when the United States captured its first suspected al-Qaida operative after 9/11, a man named Abu Zubaydah, held at a secret location overseas. Soufan had investigated terrorism cases dating back to the East Africa embassy bombings in 1998, and he was one of the first experts called after Zubaydah’s capture.

Soufan, who testified at the hearing from behind a partition to hide his identity, worked on a small team of interrogators utilizing tried-and-true techniques that emphasize knowing the detainee’s language, understanding his culture, leveraging known information about a detainee, and sometimes using a bit of trickery. The method is based on rapport and is believed by experienced interrogators to result in the most reliable actionable intelligence. "It is about outwitting the detainee by using a combination of interpersonal, cognitive and emotional strategies to get the information needed," Soufan said in written testimony, which he paraphrased on Wednesday.

"For example," Soufan told the committee, "in my first interrogation of the terrorist Abu Zubaydah … I asked him his name. He replied with his alias. I then asked him, ‘How ’bout if I call you Hani?’"

"[Hani] was the name his mother nicknamed him as a child," recalled Soufan. "He looked at me in shock, said, OK,’ and we started talking."

"Within the first hour of interrogation," Soufan said, "we gained actionable intelligence." Soufan could not say what that information was because it remains classified. Zubaydah had been injured during his capture, and Soufan’s team arranged for medical care and continued talking to the prisoner. Within the next few days, Soufan made one of the most significant intelligence breakthroughs of the so-called war on terror. He learned from Zubaydah that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind behind the attacks on 9/11.

Then, however, a CIA interrogation team from Washington led by a contractor arrived at the secret location. Zubaydah was stripped naked and the contractor began a series of coercive, abusive interrogations, based on Cold War-era communist techniques designed to elicit false confessions. During the Korean War, for example, Chinese interrogators employed the measures to get captured American pilots to make false confessions. "The new techniques did not produce results, as Abu Zubaydah shut down and stopped talking," Soufan explained. "After a few days of getting no information, and after repeated inquiries from D.C. asking why all of a sudden no information was being transmitted … we again were given control of the interrogation."

As Soufan and his team resumed their interrogation, Zubaydah revealed information about Jose Padilla, the alleged "dirty bomber."

But after that, the CIA and the contractor again took over, using what Soufan called an "untested theory" that the Cold War techniques might work for getting good information. "Again, however, the technique wasn’t working," Soufan recalled.

Soufan’s team was brought back yet again. "We found it harder to reengage him this time, because of how the techniques had affected him," Soufan noted. "But eventually, we succeeded."

A third time the CIA and the contractor team took over, using increasingly brutal methods. Soufan reported what he called "borderline torture" to his superiors in Washington. In protest of the abuse, former FBI Director Robert Mueller pulled Soufan out of the location…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 12:42 pm

Typical of the Party of No: obstruction without ideas

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From Politico’s Lisa Lerer:

Republicans know they can’t stop Henry Waxman’s ambitious climate change bill from clearing the Energy and Commerce Committee, but they’re promising to make the ride as bumpy as possible.

They plan to nitpick the Waxman bill into legislative oblivion by introducing more than 100 amendments during the committee debate. Some of those, they hope, will lure Democrats worried about the impact of energy proposals on hometown industries. 

“This is not going to be one of gentlemanly, pro forma markups,” said Texas Rep. Joe Barton, the top Republican on the committee. “We’re prepared for it to take weeks or months.”

Waxman has spent weeks convincing Southern and Midwestern Democrats to support his legislation, trying to cut deals that enable them to vote for the legislation while still satisfying constituents back home. On Tuesday, he predicted that legislation would pass the 59-member committee by the Memorial Day recess even without any Republican votes.

But Barton says his game plan is ready to go. He walked into a Tuesday night meeting of Democrats with fighting words, announcing that “we are ready when you are.”

“I don’t have to pass a bill,” said Barton. “But I believe I’ve got a better chance of preventing a bad bill from getting passed than he has the chance of passing the bill he wants to pass.”

On Thursday, Republicans will announce their own alternative legislation — a bill that they expect will be swiftly voted down by the committee in next week’s markup. After that, they say, will come the dozens of amendments.

“We’ll give the swing Democrats lots of opportunity to make positive changes to the bill, and we’ll see whether they’ll comply or not,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the ranking member of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee. “We’ve got a lot of constructive amendments to fix the obvious flaws.”

Republicans say they’ll give Democrats a chance to vote for increasing energy production and domestic drilling and will introduce proposals on nuclear power — tempting to some Southerners who wanted to see it included in the bill.

“We’re trying to appeal to everybody that’s from the energy states,” said Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas). “We’re trying to get them to vote pro-energy rather than what the leadership tells them to vote.”

Offering amendment after amendment in hopes of gumming up the markup process is a typical turn for the minority to take in the legislative dance.

But even the Republicans know that there’s only one band leader, and that’s Waxman. The committee chairman decides when to hold, conduct and suspend the markup hearing — powers that permit him to cut off Republican amendments…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 12:37 pm

Good point

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Glenn Greenwald notes:

I have one question for the great fighter-leader, Harry Reid:  during Reid’s tenure as Majority Leader, Michael Mukasey was confirmed as Bush’s Attorney General with a grand total of 53 Senate votes.  How come Dawn Johnsen "needs 60 votes" or else she’ll be rejected?

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2009 at 12:32 pm

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