Later On

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

Archive for March 13th, 2014

The White House Has Been Covering Up the Presidency’s Role in Torture for Years

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Marcy Wheeler writes at The Intercept:

The fight between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over the Committee’s Torture Report – which Dan Froomkin covered here – has now zeroed in on the White House.

Did the White House order the CIA to withdraw 920 documents from a server made available to Committee staffers, as Senator Dianne Feinstein says the agency claimed in 2010? Were those documents – perhaps thousands of them – pulled in deference to a White House claim of executive privilege, as Senator Mark Udall and then CIA General Counsel Stephen Prestonsuggested last fall? And is the White House continuing to withhold 9,000 pages of documents without invoking privilege, as McClatchy reported yesterday?

We can be sure about one thing: The Obama White House has covered up the Bush presidency’s role in the torture program for years. Specifically, from 2009 to 2012, the administration went to extraordinary lengths to keep a single short phrase, describing President Bush’s authorization of the torture program, secret.

Some time before October 29, 2009, then National Security Advisor Jim Jones filed an ex parte classified declaration with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, in response to a FOIA request by the ACLU seeking documents related to the torture program. In it, Jones argued that the CIA should not be forced to disclose the “source of the CIA’s authority,” as referenced in the title of a document providing “Guidelines for Interrogations” and signed by then CIA Director George Tenet. That document was cited in two Justice Department memos at issue in the FOIA. Jones claimed that “source of authority” constituted an intelligence method that needed to be protected.

As other documents and reporting have made clear, the source of authority was a September 17, 2001 Presidential declaration authorizing not just detention and interrogation, but a range of other counterterrorism activities, including targeted killings.Both former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former CIA Acting General Counsel John Rizzohave made clear that the torture program began as a covert operation. “A few days after the [9/11] attacks, President Bush signed a top-secret directive to CIA authorizing an unprecedented array of covert actions against Al Qaeda and its leadership.” Rizzo explained in 2011. One of those actions, Rizzo went on, was “the capture, incommunicado detention and aggressive interrogation of senior Al Qaeda operatives.”

As Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, noted  in 2009 – shortly after Hayden revealed that torture started as a covert operation – this means there should be a paper trail implicating President Bush in the torture program. “[T]here should be a Presidential ‘finding’ authorizing the program,” he said, “and [] such a finding should have been provided to Congressional overseers.”

The National Security Act dictates that every covert operation must be supported by a written declaration finding that the action is necessary and important to the national security. The Congressional Intelligence committees – or at least the Chair and Ranking Member – should receive notice of the finding.

But there is evidence that those Congressional overseers were never told that the finding the president signed on September 17, 2001 authorized torture. For example, a letter from then ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, to the CIA’s General Counsel following her first briefing on torture asked: “Have enhanced techniques been authorized and approved by the President?” The CIA’s response at the time was simply that “policy as well as legal matters have been addressed within the Executive Branch.”

Nevertheless, the finding does exist. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 March 2014 at 6:43 pm

Why Aren’t Doctors Drug Tested?

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Good question, well asked. Lives ride on doctor’s decisions and behaviors.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 March 2014 at 4:15 pm

Posted in Medical

White House withholds thousands of documents from Senate CIA probe, despite vows of help

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Very much what I feared.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 March 2014 at 4:14 pm

Foreign Officials In the Dark About Their Own Spy Agencies’ Cooperation with NSA

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It’s almost as if the intelligence services had peeled off to form their own international sphere of interest/influence: a kind of quasi-nation. Glenn Greenwald describes what we’ve now learned. A paragraph at random:

In an October Guardian op-ed, Huhne, the British former cabinet minister, noted that “when it comes to the secret world of GCHQ and the [NSA], the depth of my ‘privileged information’ has been dwarfed by the information provided by Edward Snowden to the Guardian.” Detailing what appears to be the systematic attempt to keep political officials in the dark, he wrote: ”The Snowden revelations put a giant question mark into the middle of our surveillance state. It is time our elected representatives insisted on some answers before destroying the values we should protect.”

Written by LeisureGuy

13 March 2014 at 3:01 pm

Repairing political infrastructure: The Senate

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Good brief article, the hook being that the Senate is losing its appeal to politicians.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 March 2014 at 2:59 pm

Posted in Congress

The step too far on mortgage fraud

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Alan Pyke reports at ThinkProgress:

One of the country’s largest banks designed a specific, formal process for falsifying paperwork when its foreclosure efforts were impeded by missing documents, according to documents filed in a New York court earlier this week.

Wells Fargo created a manual for its foreclosure attorneys that included instructions on “a procedure for processing [mortgage] notes without endorsements and obtaining endorsements and allonges,” the filing alleges. Those bits of jargon refer to legal documents. When the bank was attempting to foreclose on a homeowner but lacked the documents it needed to prove to a judge that the action was proper, this manual allegedly showed its employees how to fudge paperwork to fill the hole in the bank’s case.

If that allegation is true, that would mean that the largest mortgage servicing company in the country was instructing attorneys to gin up signed legal documents. Foreclosure law sets strict rules around such documents, most of which must be completed within three months from when a deal to transfer a mortgage between financial firms is completed. Tuesday’s filing says Wells Fargo violated those rules not just on an informal case-by-case basis but through a specific, documented, broadly applicable one. Such a procedure would help to explain what homeowners’ attorneys call “ta-da” foreclosures, where a homeowner challenges a foreclosure on the grounds that documents are missing only to have those exact pieces of paper show up suddenly as if by magic.

The bank denies . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 March 2014 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Business, Law

More on the CIA fight

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Conor Friedersdorf writes in the Atlantic:

As I reflect on the fight between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA (one I’ll return to soon), I can’t help but marvel at a detail that Senator Dianne Feinstein revealed.

“I should note that for most, if not all, of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, the now-acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center—the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program,” she said. “From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit’s chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.”

For the appropriate reaction, here’s Andrew Sullivan, a longtime torture critic: “Think about that for a moment. A man who was once the lawyer for the torture unit is now the lawyer for the CIA as a whole! he writes. “If that alone doesn’t tell you how utterly unrepentant the CIA is over its past, and how determined it is to keep its actions concealed, as well as immune to prosecution, what would? And how do we know that the lawyer is not just protecting his own posterior, because the report could lead to consequences for those who enabled such war crimes? We don’t.”

In fact, as Marcy Wheeler points out, Robert Eatinger, the CIA lawyer to whom Feinstein alludes but does not name, was also involved in the destruction of tapes documenting CIA torture, so “protecting his own posterior” is a plausible explanation.

Once again we’re seeing . . .

Continue reading.

UPDATE: Also read this Politico article. He rightly emphasizes the urgency.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 March 2014 at 2:47 pm

As more are armed, we’ll naturally have more of these.

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Take a look. And the basic idea—that the number of such accidents will increase as the opportunities for accidents increase—is certainly uncontroversial: it’s practically a tautology. There will always be a certain idiotic percentage to whom we owe printed warnings that include things like not to use hair dryers while showering, and that small percentage will, on a large installed base (as it were), cause more accidents of the sort at the link. The problem is, those accidents are often fatal.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 March 2014 at 2:43 pm

Posted in Daily life, Guns

Chilling idea: Random drug tests for your family

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Extremely dystopian, of a science-fiction level, but so clearly driven merely by the desire to expand the market, drive up sales, … profit! It’s the universal drive nowadays, to the extent that people have difficulty grasping that other times had other basic, primary drives—not always profit. I hope I’ve not offended any economists. But take a look at Mont St. Michelle and Chartres. That was not done to draw tourists for profit, like (say) Disneyland. I would say the driving impulse was more religious, less secular.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 March 2014 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Notably good teen romantic comedy: Easy A

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I just watched Easy A and enjoyed it thoroughly. It seemed to be written for geeks, to a degree, and thoroughly enjoyable for it.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 March 2014 at 2:33 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

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