Archive for the ‘Bush Administration’ Category
I often disagree strongly with Feinstein’s positions, but then she will surprise me by (for example) pushing through the publication of a slightly censored executive summary of an important report on the US program of systematic torture of prisoners and suspects. Connie Bruck profiles her in the New Yorker:
Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic senator from California, is making a late career of not quite pleasing anyone. After five decades in politics, Feinstein, at eighty-one, is the oldest sitting member of the Senate, where a late term is often less a valedictory than a chance for activism: think of Edward Kennedy or Mitch McConnell. With its elaborate rankings and deferential codes, the Senate rewards longevity; senior members have better committee seats, more loyal patrons, first choice of desk space in the chamber. As they near retirement age—whatever that means, in an institution where nearly a quarter of the members are over seventy—senators can hope to change a thing or two.
When Barack Obama took office, on January 20, 2009, the Democrats held the Senate, and Feinstein had just become chairman of the powerful Intelligence Committee. At Obama’s inaugural ceremony, she delivered the welcoming remarks, standing before an eager crowd and declaring, “Future generations will mark this morning as the turning point for real and necessary change in our nation.” Skeptics on the National Mall might have noted that this was not a novel sentiment in such speeches, but for Feinstein it was an earnest indicator of political engagement. As the Bush Administration came to an end, the country was reconsidering the decisions of the previous eight years, particularly the ethics of the War on Terror.
Feinstein is sometimes described as a centrist, but it is because her views are varied, not because they are mild; she thinks of herself, more accurately, as a pragmatist. Especially in recent years, on issues she cares deeply about, she will take positions that other senators do not. Feinstein has pursued a deal to prevent Iran from building nuclear arms more intently than any of her colleagues. In March, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress, in the hope of averting a possible deal, Feinstein appeared on “Meet the Press” and said, “What Prime Minister Netanyahu did here was something no ally of the United States would have done.” When I saw her the next day, she told me, “For Netanyahu to come here with a clear view of preventing an agreement was really inappropriate. Particularly because this President’s Administration has provided more than twenty-five billion dollars to Israel, far more than to any other country.”
Although Feinstein mostly votes with the Democrats, she is less predictable than many of her colleagues. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, she voted to confirm several of President George W. Bush’s nominees. In 2007, she endorsed Michael Mukasey for attorney general—even as he dodged the question of whether waterboarding is torture, saying only, “If it amounts to torture, then it is not constitutional.” A Democrat from hyper-liberal San Francisco, she has persistently defended government surveillance programs and targeted killings by drones, and she has been one of the C.I.A.’s most faithful supporters. Last year, after President Obama called to move authority for drone strikes from the C.I.A. to the Defense Department, Feinstein placed a classified amendment in a spending bill that helped keep the program where it was. When the activist Edward Snowden revealed that the N.S.A. had amassed the phone records of vast numbers of American citizens, he was hailed on the left as a whistle-blower. Feinstein said, “I don’t look at this as being a whistle-blower. I think it’s an act of treason.” Advocates for human rights and civil liberties responded with angry editorials. The journalist Glenn Greenwald has said that her “disgusting rhetoric recalls the worst of Dick Cheney.”
The former Secretary of State George Shultz, who has raised money for Feinstein’s campaigns from Republican friends in California, told me, “Dianne is not really bipartisan so much as nonpartisan.” Slightly formal in style, she adheres faithfully to procedure and protocol; she believes in settling disputes privately, and by argument rather than by force. Even in less than momentous situations, she is a dogged negotiator. William Luers, a former ambassador and the head of the Iran Project, recalled, “I don’t think anyone has a meeting with her where she says, ‘I’m with you all the way.’ Rather, she says, ‘I’m with you, but you have to understand under what terms.’ ”
In her office recently, she described how she broke with the C.I.A. over the detention and interrogation program that began in the days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. From the first time Feinstein was briefed about the program, she opposed it. On September 6, 2006, Michael Hayden, the C.I.A. director, appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee and described a network of “black sites”: secret facilities where C.I.A. interrogators subjected detainees to “enhanced interrogation techniques,” seeking information about possible terrorist attacks. Hayden, self-assured and pugnacious, insisted that the interrogations were carefully run and unassailably effective. Afterward, Feinstein wrote to him that his testimony was “extraordinarily problematic,” and that she was “unable to understand why the C.I.A. needs to maintain this program.” In November, when Hayden appeared before the committee again, Feinstein peppered him with questions. She wanted to know how the agency guarded against abuse, whether detainees were stripped of their clothes, whether they were fed during periods of sleep deprivation. Although she and several colleagues raised objections, Hayden, not long afterward, told a meeting of foreign diplomats, “This is not C.I.A.’s program. This is not the President’s program. This is America’s program.”
In December, 2007, the Times revealed that C.I.A. officers had secretly destroyed videotapes of interrogations, against the advice of White House officials. A few days later, Hayden, insisting to the Intelligence Committee that there had been no “destruction of evidence,” turned over cables related to those taped interrogations. For months, two committee staff members reviewed the cables, which described the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, whom the C.I.A. suspected was a high-ranking Al Qaeda member, and of a detainee named Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
In February, 2009, the staff members appeared before the committee and described what they had found. Nearly twenty-four hours a day for twenty days, Abu Zubaydah was stripped naked and subjected to multiple “enhanced” techniques: slammed into a wall, slapped, deprived of sleep, confined in a coffin-size box, forced into painful postures. He was also waterboarded at least eighty-three times. Two psychologists, contracted by the C.I.A. to develop and run the interrogation program, reported that Abu Zubaydah was “ready to talk” during the first exposure, but “we chose to expose him over and over until we had a high degree of confidence he wouldn’t hold back.” After the first waterboarding sessions, a C.I.A. official wrote, “Several on the team profoundly affected . . . some to the point of tears.” By the seventh day, the C.I.A. team had informed headquarters that it was unlikely Abu Zubaydah had the threat information the agency was seeking, but the team was instructed to continue. During one waterboarding session, investigators found later, Abu Zubaydah “became completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.”
Nashiri was subjected to similar measures. Investigators determined that he was put in a “standing stress position,” with “his hands affixed over his head,” for at least two days. It was implied that his mother would be brought before him and sexually abused. He was waterboarded. After each session, his interrogators reported that he was coöperative, but officials told them to persist, because he had not provided information on imminent attacks. When the interrogators objected, they were replaced.
Feinstein described the interrogations as “ugly, visceral.” As the new chairman of the committee, she had the authority to try to effect change. “You set the table, so to speak,” she said recently. “You make the determinations, what will come up, what the committee will do.” She called for a full investigation of the C.I.A. program, and the committee voted in favor of it, 14–1. That was the genesis of what became known as the torture report, a sixty-seven-hundred-page tome, laden with footnotes. When the report was completed, in December, 2012, it included an appendix devoted to Hayden, detailing more than thirty misstatements in one session of his testimony. (Hayden argues that the Democrats misinterpreted the intent of his testimony, saying, “I described the norms—how things were supposed to work—and they found the exceptions.”)
Michael Schiffer, who was a member of Feinstein’s staff for a decade, told me that Feinstein retains a stubborn, perhaps naïve faith that the system is run by people who are trying to do the right thing for the country. “When that faith is shaken, she is really determined to do something about it,” he said. “It was that faith that caused her to be so enraged about torture.” A former intelligence officer, who knew Feinstein from her years on the Intelligence Committee, saw her determination a little differently: “The worst thing, from Dianne Feinstein’s perspective, is trying to keep her from doing her job of oversight. And if you lie to her that’s bad.”
When Obama took office, Feinstein assumed that he would be a strong ally. During the campaign, he had excoriated the Bush Administration for the C.I.A.’s interrogation program, forthrightly calling the interrogation tactics “torture.” On his second day in the White House, he issued an executive order that banned C.I.A. detention and effectively prohibited the use of waterboarding and other coercive techniques. In the end, though, what Feinstein’s group released was not the full report but a five-hundred-page executive summary, with a fraction of the meticulous, excruciating details. The summary’s release, last December, came after an eleven-month battle, in which Feinstein and several other Democrats on the committee fought strenuously against the C.I.A.—and, unexpectedly, the Obama White House. . .
Later in the profile:
In December, 2012, the committee approved the final report (eight Democrats and one Republican voted yes) and sent it to President Obama. The report concluded that the enhanced techniques were far more brutal than the agency had disclosed, and were an ineffective means of obtaining accurate information. The C.I.A. had justified them by enumerating terrorist plots that had been “thwarted.” The report examined twenty of these examples and found them “wrong in fundamental respects.”
Cora Currier writes in The Intercept:
Sudden Justice: America’s Secret Drone Wars, a new book by London-based investigative journalist Chris Woods, traces the intertwined technological, legal and political history of drones as they evolved on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the covert U.S. targeted killing campaign.
Woods is especially thorough on the issue of civilian casualties, arguing that in pursuit of the short-term goal of eliminating suspected terrorists or militants on the battlefield, both the military and CIA were slow to grasp the strategic damage done by civilian deaths. Woods also argues that the controversy over the number of civilians killed by drones stemmed from the United States’ elastic definition of who could be targeted, an issue not just in the CIA’s secret strikes, but also across the military.
U.S. drones have now fired on Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya and Syria, and are a feature of war that is here to stay. Their global use by the United States has set precedents “pushing hard at the boundaries of international law,” and the challenge, Woods writes, will be in “convincing others not to follow Washington’s own recent rulebook.”
The book is densely informative and includes interviews with drone operators and intelligence officials, a notable number of them on the record. Here are six new details that Woods unearthed in his reporting:
- No one is exactly sure who ordered the very first drone strike in Afghanistan, in October 2001. The failed attempt to kill Taliban leader Mullah Omar was a collision of orders between the CIA, Air Force, Central Command and the White House. Retired Air Force Lieutenant General Dave Deptula says that when he saw the drone’s missile hit, he exclaimed, “Who the fuck did that?” (The book’s description of the first drone strike was recently excerpted in The Atlantic.)
- There was a secret presidential order in 2002 signed by President George W. Bush that explicitly related to targeted killings by drone, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told Woods. “It was loosening the [Executive Order] 12333 against assassinations,” Armitage said. It has long been understood that a September 2001 memo signed by George Bush had paved the way for the CIA’s terrorist assassination campaign, with authorities bolstered by the Authorization for Use of Military Force passed by Congress that same month. But Armitage recalls a subsequent “draft executive order or a finding.”
- “Could have been us,” a senior U.S. intelligence official said of a reported drone strike that killed up to 80 civilians in 2006. The Pakistani military originally claimed responsibility for the bombing, but then later insisted it was Washington. The United States never confirmed or denied a role in the attack, in keeping with how it would handle almost all future drone strikes.
- The CIA . . .
The CIA is not very forthcoming about this. Dexter Filkins reports in the New Yorker:
’s been six months since the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its report on the torture of Al Qaeda suspects, and I can’t stop thinking about Abu Zubaydah’s eye.
His left eye, to be precise, which he lost while being held in one of the C.I.A.’s secret prisons.
Abu Zubaydah, an alleged Al Qaeda operative captured in Pakistan in 2002, was suspected of being a senior member of the group and a plotter in the 9/11 attacks. A Saudi Arabian citizen, Abu Zubaydah was the first suspect who was officially subjected to the “enhanced interrogation techniques” approved by President Bush.
It’s hard to imagine that anyone could make you feel sorry for Abu Zubaydah, but his C.I.A. interrogators demonstrated a combination of brutality and incompetence that actually manages to achieve this. Even though Abu Zubaydah surrendered plenty of information to F.B.I. interrogators without coercion, and even though it wasn’t clear how much more he knew—it turns out that he wasn’t even a member of Al Qaeda—the C.I.A., convinced that he was harboring knowledge of future attacks, subjected him to twenty days of torture. (The F.B.I. refused to take part.) They stripped him, deprived him of sleep, slammed him into the prison wall, and played music at deafening volumes. They waterboarded him eighty-three times, driving him into fits of hysteria and involuntary spasms; at one point, they feared they might have killed him.
After several waterboarding sessions, Abu Zubaydah was so broken that, when a C.I.A. agent snapped his fingers twice, he would lie down on the waterboard, naked and dirty, to await his torture. As the Senate report makes clear, the C.I.A. interrogators knew that what they were doing was possibly illegal. In fact, they were so worried about being found out that they told their superiors that if Abu Zubaydah were to die during his interrogation, he would have to be cremated. In the event that he lived, they asked, in a cable, for “reasonable assurances that [Abu Zubaydah] will remain in isolation and incommunicado for the remainder of his life.” They did, indeed, receive such assurance. (For a succinct, if gruelling, description of Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation, read pages 32 through 57 in the Senate report. It’s drawn from the C.I.A.’s own records. ) While the torture of Abu Zubaydah produced a number of intelligence reports, there’s no evidence that these brutal means were necessary to obtain them. After all that, Abu Zubaydah provided no actionable intelligence on future plots.
Still, I want to talk less about Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation than about his missing eye. When a team of American and Pakistani agents moved in to capture Abu Zubaydah, in Faisalabad, Pakistan, in 2002, he fled across a rooftop, where he was shot and wounded in the groin. A photo of Abu Zubaydah, apparently taken moments after his capture, and which his lawyers say is accurate, does not show any obvious problem in either of his eyes. His lawyers say that he had no eye condition. Ali Soufan, a former F.B.I. agent who helped capture Abu Zubaydah, told me that when Abu Zubaydah was apprehended he appeared to have some sort of eye condition, perhaps an infection. “His eye was pretty bad,’’ Soufan said. John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. officer who participated in the capture, has also said that there appeared to be something wrong with one of his eyes.
In any case, the C.I.A. was so concerned that Abu Zubaydah was going to die from his gunshot wound that they flew in a doctor from Johns Hopkins University to treat him. He appears to have received excellent medical care, if only so that he could live in order to surrender information. “He got the best medical treatment anyone could have,’’ Soufan said.
In 2006, four years after he was captured, Abu Zubaydah was transferred out of C.I.A. custody to the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. A photo from that time, made available by WikiLeaks, shows Abu Zubaydah with a pirate-style patch over his left eye. His lawyers say that, by then, his eye was gone. That is, sometime between when he entered exclusive C.I.A. custody, in 2002, and when he left it, in 2006, he lost his left eye. In that four-year period, Abu Zubaydah was held in several C.I.A. secret prisons, also known as “black sites,” including those in Thailand, Lithuania, and Poland. . .
A fitting post for Memorial Day: a reminder of how George W. Bush and his administration quite deliberately lied us into a war that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and whose repercussions, including ISIS, plague the world still. Paul Waldman writes at The Week:
None of the conservatives running for president want to be associated with the last Republican president — not even his brother (for whom stepping away is rather complicated). After all, George W. Bush left office with an approval rating hovering in the low 30s, and his grandest project was the gigantic catastrophe of the Iraq War, which we’re still dealing with and still debating. If you’re a Republican right now you’re no doubt wishing we could talk about something else, but failing that, you’d like the issue framed in a particular way: The war was an honest mistake, nobody lied to the public, and anything bad that’s happening now is Barack Obama’s fault.
For the moment I want to focus on the part about the lies. I’ve found over the years that conservatives who supported the war get particularly angry at the assertion that Bush lied us into war. No, they’ll insist, it wasn’t his fault: There was mistaken intelligence, he took that intelligence in good faith, and presented what he believed to be true at the time. It’s the George Costanza defense: It’s not a lie if you believe it.
Here’s the problem, though. It might be possible, with some incredibly narrow definition of the word “lie,” to say that Bush told only a few outright lies on Iraq. Most of what he said in order to sell the public on the war could be said to have some basis in something somebody thought or something somebody alleged (Bush was slightly more careful than Dick Cheney, who lied without hesitation or remorse). But if we reduce the question of Bush’s guilt and responsibility to how many lies we can count, we miss the bigger picture.
What the Bush administration launched in 2002 and 2003 may have been the most comprehensive, sophisticated, and misleading campaign of government propaganda in American history. Spend too much time in the weeds, and you risk missing the hysterical tenor of the whole campaign.
That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of weeds. In 2008, the Center for Public Integrity completed a project in which they went over the public statements by eight top Bush administration officials on the topic of Iraq, and found that no fewer than 935 were false, including 260 statements by President Bush himself. But the theory on which the White House operated was that whether or not you could fool all of the people some of the time, you could certainly scare them out of their wits. That’s what was truly diabolical about their campaign.
And it was a campaign. In the summer of 2002, the administration established something called the White House Iraq Group, through which Karl Rove and other communication strategists like Karen Hughes and Mary Matalin coordinated with policy officials to sell the public on the threat from Iraq in order to justify war. “The script had been finalized with great care over the summer,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan later wrote, for a “campaign to convince Americans that war with Iraq was inevitable and necessary.”
In that campaign, intelligence wasn’t something to be understood and assessed by the administration in making their decisions, it was a propaganda tool to lead the public to the conclusion that the administration wanted. Again and again we saw a similar pattern: An allegation would bubble up from somewhere, some in the intelligence community would say that it could be true but others would say it was either speculation or outright baloney, but before you knew it the president or someone else was presenting it to the public as settled fact.
And each and every time the message was the same: If we didn’t wage war, Iraq was going to attack the United States homeland with its enormous arsenal of ghastly weapons, and who knows how many Americans would perish. When you actually spell it out like that it sounds almost comical, but that was the Bush administration’s assertion, repeated hundreds upon hundreds of time to a public still skittish in the wake of September 11. (Remember, the campaign for the war began less than a year after the September 11 attacks.)
Sometimes this message was imparted with specific false claims, sometimes with dark insinuation, and sometimes with speculation about the horrors to come (“We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” said Bush and others when asked about the thinness of much of their evidence). Yet the conclusion was always the same: The only alternative to invading Iraq was waiting around to be killed. I could pick out any of a thousand quotes, but here’s just one, from a radio address Bush gave on September 28, 2002: . . .
And they all got away with it: none of those who quite deliberately lied the US into a war has faced any accountability whatsoever. Shoot and kill one unarmed person, and you’re a murderer and appropriately tried and punished ((unless you’re in law enforcement). But start a war in which hundreds of thousands die and more than a trillion dollars is wasted, and you get off with not so much as a slap on the wrist.
Margaret Sullivan, the Public Editor of the NY Times (and the best Public Editor they’ve had to date), has an interesting column today:
Since 9/11, the United States’ “war on terror” has become the overarching news story of our time.
As the nation’s dominant news organization, The Times deserves, and gets, intensive scrutiny for how it has handled that story. The grades, clearly, are mixed. Its role in the run-up to the Iraq War has been rightly and harshly criticized. Its early reporting on surveillance, though delayed, was groundbreaking. Its national-security reporting has been excellent in many ways and, at times, is justifiably slammed for allowing too much cover for government officials who want to get their message out.
Nearly 14 years after 9/11, a reckoning finally is taking place. The Times’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, has said repeatedly in recent months that he thinks it’s time to toughen up and raise the bar.
Here’s what he told me recently, in the context of a column I wrote about covering drone strikes and the death of civilians:
“We’ve learned the perils of not monitoring and policing warfare” as rigorously as possible, and of too readily agreeing to government requests to withhold information.
“We were too soft years ago — at least, I’ll say that I was.”
As part of this change of heart, Mr. Baquet recently gave approval to publish the names of three undercover Central Intelligence Agency officials, including that of the architect of its controversial drone-warfare program. He said it was important to do so for the sake of providing public accountability. Timing was key: The decision came just after President Obama took responsibility for the deaths of two Western captives in an American drone strike in Pakistan.
Current and former government officials pushed back hard. Robert Litt, the general counsel to the director of national intelligence, saidpublicly that The Times had “disgraced itself” by publishing the names, and had put those officers’ and their families’ lives at risk.
And 20 former C.I.A. officials signed a letter to The Times criticizing the decision. They rejected Mr. Baquet’s accountability argument:
Officials who work on covert operations do not escape accountability. Their actions are carefully reviewed by the C.I.A.’s general counsel, the inspector general, White House officials, congressional overseers and Justice Department attorneys. Indeed, some of the operations referred to by The Times have been discussed publicly by the president and are some of the most carefully overseen in our government.
Here’s a long interview with Mr. Baquet done by Jack Goldsmith, who now has written several times on this subject. Mr. Goldsmith served in various roles in the George W. Bush administration, and essentially approaches the topic from the right. The interview is well worth the time of anyone interested in the details of how Mr. Baquet reached his decision and how he justifies it.
Mr. Goldsmith, in a later post to his Lawfare blog, said he found the C.I.A. officials’ arguments against The Times unpersuasive. He concluded: . . .
Martin Longman writes in the Washington Monthly:
Hopefully, if the phone rings at 3am in the White House, Jeb Bush won’t have to give four different answers to whatever questions he gets before he can arrive at one that people won’t reject as ridiculous.
Now, there is a very simple IF>THEN logic to why Jeb was reluctant to say that he wouldn’t have authorized the invasion of Iraq if he had known that Saddam was armed with soggy spit shooters. That works like this:
IF we invaded Iraq based on the faulty assumption that Saddam Hussein was armed with dangerous weapons
THEN everyone who died as a result, died for a mistake.
Jeb understandably did not want to go there, but that’s really putting a whitewash on what actually happened.
When George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq, he hadn’t even received the intelligence on Saddam’s weapons yet.
May 05, 2002
Two months ago, a group of Republican and Democratic Senators went to the White House to meet with Condoleezza Rice, the President’s National Security Adviser. Bush was not scheduled to attend but poked his head in anyway — and soon turned the discussion to Iraq. The President has strong feelings about Saddam Hussein (you might too if the man had tried to assassinate your father, which Saddam attempted to do when former President George Bush visited Kuwait in 1993) and did not try to hide them. He showed little interest in debating what to do about Saddam. Instead, he became notably animated, according to one person in the room, used a vulgar epithet to refer to Saddam and concluded with four words that left no one in doubt about Bush’s intentions: “We’re taking him out.”
This is the sanitized version. What Bush said was, “F*ck Saddam, we’re taking him out.” To date this, two months before May 5th, 2002 was approximately March 5th, 2002. Let’s march forward a little in time.
I’m going to rely on a bit of Bob Woodward’s reporting here, which I do with obvious reservations. But the basics have been corroborated by many other reporters: . . .
Glenn Greenwald reports in The Intercept:
Colonel Ian Henderson was a British official dubbed “the Butcher of Bahrain” because of atrocities he repeatedly committed during the 30 years he served as chief security official of that Middle Eastern country. His reign of terror began in 1966 when Bahrain was a British “protectorate” and continued when the post-“independence” Bahraini King retained him in the same position. In 1996, The Independent described him as “the most feared of all secret policemen” in Bahrain, and cited “consistent and compelling evidence that severe beatings and even sexual assaults have been carried out against prisoners under Henderson’s responsibility for well over a decade.”
A 2002 Guardian article reported that “during this time his men allegedly detained and tortured thousands of anti-government activists”; his official acts “included the ransacking of villages, sadistic sexual abuse and using power drills to maim prisoners”; and “on many occasions they are said to have detained children without informing their parents, only to return them months later in body bags.” Needless to say, Col. Henderson was never punished in any way: “although Scotland Yard launched an inquiry into the allegations in 2000, the investigation was dropped the following year.” He was showered with high honors from the U.K.-supported tyrants who ran Bahrain.
Prior to the massacres and rapes over which he presided in Bahrain, Henderson played a leading role in brutally suppressing the Mau Mau insurgency in another British colony, Kenya. In the wake of his Kenya atrocities, he twice won the George Medal, “the 2nd highest, to the George Cross, gallantry medal that a civilian can win.” His brutality against Kenyan insurgents fighting for independence is what led the U.K. government to put him in charge of internal security in Bahrain.
For years, human rights groups have fought to obtain old documents, particularly a 37-year-old diplomatic cable, relating to British responsibility for Henderson’s brutality in Bahrain. Ordinarily, documents more than 30 years old are disclosable, but the British government has fought every step of the way to conceal this cable.
But now, a governmental tribunal ruled largely in favor of the government and held that most of the diplomatic cable shall remain suppressed. The tribunal’s ruling was at least partially based on “secret evidence for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) from a senior diplomat, Edward Oakden, who argued that Britain’s defence interests in Bahrain were of paramount importance”; specifically, “Mr Oakden implied that the release of such information could jeopardise Britain’s new military base in the country.”
The U.K. government loves to demonize others for supporting tyrants even as it snuggles up to virtually every despot in that region. Her Majesty’s Government has a particularly close relationship with Bahrain, where it is constructing a new naval base. The Kingdom is already home to the United States’ Fifth Fleet.
The tribunal’s rationale is that “full disclosure of the document would have ‘an adverse effect on relations’ with Bahrain, where the U.K. is keen to build further economic and defence ties.” In other words, disclosing these facts would make the British and/or the Bahrainis look bad, cause them embarrassment, and could make their close friendship more difficult to sustain. Therefore, the British and Bahraini populations must be denied access to the evidence of what their governments did.
This is the core mindset now prevalent in both the U.S. and U.K. for hiding their crimes from their own populations and then rest of the world:disclosure of what we did will embarrass and shame us, cause anger toward us, and thus harm our “national security.” As these governments endlessly highlight the bad acts of those who are adverse to them, they vigorously hide their own, thus propagandizing their publics into believing that only They — the Other Tribe Over There — commit such acts.
This is exactly the same mentality driving the Obama administration’s years-long effort to suppress photographs showing torture of detainees by the U.S. In 2009, Obama said he would comply with a court ruling that ordered those torture photos disclosed, but weeks after his announcement, reversed himself. Adopting the argument made by a group run by Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney against disclosure of the photos, Obama insisted that to release the photos “would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in danger.” Obama went further and announced his support for a bill sponsored by Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman to amend the Freedom of Information Act — a legislative accomplishment which Rep. Louise Slaughter told me at the time had long been “sacred” to Democrats — for no reason other than to exempt those torture photos from disclosure.
In March of this year, a U.S. judge who had long sided with the Obama DOJ in this matter reversed course. In a lawsuit brought in 2004 by the ACLU, the judge ordered the release of thousands of photos showing detainee abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq, including at Abu Ghraib. He ruled that the Obama DOJ could no longer show any national security harm that would justify ongoing suppression.
Rather than accepting the ruling and releasing the photos after hiding them for more than a decade, the U.S. Justice Department last week filed an emergency request for a stay of that ruling with the appeals court. The argument from The Most Transparent Administration Ever™: . . .