Archive for the ‘Bush Administration’ Category
Having a systematic program of torture always seems not to pan out in the long term. The Nazis, of course; Soviet Russia; Argentina; Brazil; and so on. And the U.S., as we now know: we know more or less what was done (despite the CIA’s diligence in destroying evidence: every single recording, video or audio, was destroyed—and the reason given, quite explicitly, was to protect the torturers. Certainly it was a help in facing legal punishment, but the blowback goes on: this is a long-term deal.
Murtaza Hussain reports in The Intercept:
Nearly a year after the release of the summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, a major human rights group is calling for the immediate prosecution of U.S. government officials responsible for authorizing and carrying out the abuses.
In a detailed report titled “No More Excuses: A Roadmap to Justice for CIA Torture,” Human Rights Watch identifies a legal basis for prosecution of government officials and calls on the U.S. Attorney General’s office to appoint a special prosecutor to conduct criminal investigations into those responsible for post-9/11 torture. The report also calls for the release of the full text of the Senate report, which remains classified.
Among those the report calls on to be criminally investigated for their roles in authorizing torture are some of the leading figures of the George W. Bush administration, including former CIA Director George Tenet, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice — and Bush himself.
“Nobody should be above the law, and there needs to be credible criminal investigations against both those who authorized and carried out abuses against detainees that amounted to a conspiracy to commit torture,” Laura Pitter, senior national security counsel at Human Rights watch and co-author of the report, told The Intercept on Tuesday. Although the names of many of those who actually tortured detainees remain unknown to the public, they are not unknown to the CIA and Department of Justice, Pitter added. “There’s no reason for the public to be kept in the dark about the worst of these abuses and who committed them. We need to see prosecutions at all levels of the torture program, including those who actually carried out torture.”
The 153-page report recounts in oft-excruciating detail the types of abuses that detainees suffered while in CIA custody, including detainees with broken feet being “forced to stand and walk on their injured legs for days while being subjected to standing sleep deprivation,” sexual abuse including “rectal feeding,” and the frequent use of “water-dousing,” a form of torture described as “virtually indistinguishable” from waterboarding.
Such abuses, which the Senate report investigated, represented those that went beyond the forms of torture that had been “authorized” by Bush administration officials. But Pitter said the torture tactics that were expressly validated by Bush administration lawyers need to be criminally investigated as well.
“The Bush administration concocted spurious legal rationales for its torture policies, such as the claim that high-ranking officials could be excused from legal liability because of the ‘necessity’ of torture,” Pitter said. “These were later removed because they had no basis in the law, but not before they were used to justify acts that were clearly criminal despite being nominally ‘authorized.’”
Like the Senate report, No More Excuses limits itself to abuses related to the CIA detention program. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wide-ranging human rights abuses are alsodocumented to have been carried out by members of the military alongside civilian contractors, including unauthorized practices such as rape and murder. Despite this bracketing of focus, a decision Pitter said was taken for the sake of practicality, the report nonetheless shows how abuses first authorized for the CIA program ended up influencing detention practices in military facilities abroad, particularly through the efforts of former Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who served as a commander at Guantánamo and later went on to propose interrogation guidelines for use by forces in Iraq.
Citing political obstacles and a maxim of “looking forward, not backwards,” the Obama administration has not criminally prosecuted those responsible for torture and other human rights abuses during the Bush era. Despite this refusal, . . .
Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo report in the NY Times:
A Senate security officer stepped out of the December chill last year and delivered envelopes marked “Top Secret” to the Pentagon, the C.I.A., the State Department and the Justice Department. Inside each packet was a disc containing a 6,700-page classified report on the C.I.A.’s secret prison program and a letter from Senator Dianne Feinstein, urging officials to read the report to ensure that the lessons were not lost to time.
Today, those discs sit untouched in vaults across Washington, still in their original envelopes. The F.B.I. has not retrieved a copy held for it in the Justice Department’s safe. State Department officials, who locked up their copy and marked it “Congressional Record — Do Not Open, Do Not Access” as soon as it arrived, have not read it either.
Nearly a year after the Senate released a declassified 500-page summary of the report, the fate of the entire document remains in limbo, the subject of battles in the courts and in Congress. Until those disputes are resolved, the Justice Department has prohibited officials from the government agencies that possess it from even opening the report, effectively keeping the people in charge of America’s counterterrorism future from reading about its past. There is also the possibility that the documents could remain locked in a Senate vault for good.
In a letter to Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch last week, Ms. Feinstein, a California Democrat, said the Justice Department was preventing the government from “learning from the mistakes of the past to ensure that they are not repeated.”
Although Ms. Feinstein is eager to see the document circulated, the Senate is now under Republican control. Her successor as head of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, has demanded that the Obama administration return every copy of the report. Mr. Burr has declared the report to be nothing more than “a footnote in history.”
It was always clear that the full report would remain shielded from public view for years, if not decades. But Mr. Burr’s demand, which means that even officials with top security clearances might never read it, has reminded some officials of the final scene of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” when the Ark of the Covenant is put into a wooden crate alongside thousands of others in a government warehouse of secrets.
The report tells the story of how, in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the C.I.A. began capturing people and interrogating them in secret prisons beyond the reach of the American judicial and military legal systems. The report’s central conclusion is that the spy agency’s interrogation methods — including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other kinds of torture — were far more brutal and far less effective than the C.I.A. acknowledged to policy makers, Congress and the public.
For now, it is the most comprehensive chronicle of one of the most controversial counterterrorism programs after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the C.I.A. for access to the document, and at this point the case hinges on who owns it. Senate documents are exempt from public records laws, but executive branch records are not. In May, a federal judge ruled that even though Ms. Feinstein distributed the report to the executive branch, the document still belongs to Congress. That decision is under appeal, with court papers due this month.
Justice Department officials defend their stance, saying that handling the document at all could influence the outcome of the lawsuit. They said that a State Department official who opened the report, read it and summarized it could lead a judge to determine that the document was an executive branch record, altering the lawsuit’s outcome. The Justice Department has also promised not to return the records to Mr. Burr until a judge settles the matter.
“It’s quite bizarre, and I cannot think of a precedent,” said Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. He said there are any number of classified Senate documents that are shared with intelligence agencies and remain as congressional records, even if they are read by members of the executive branch.
The findings of the report on the secret prisons remain the subject of fierce debate. A group of former senior C.I.A. officers published a book in September challenging its conclusions and methodology, and Senate Republicans have derided the investigation as shoddy and partisan. . .
It’s pretty clear that what happened is something the American public deserves to know, and the intensity of resistance to revealing what happened shows that it must have pretty bad.
“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” The CIA’s famous Presidential Daily Brief, presented to George W. Bush on August 6, 2001, has always been Exhibit A in the case that his administration shrugged off warnings of an Al Qaeda attack. But months earlier, starting in the spring of 2001, the CIA repeatedly and urgently began to warn the White House that an attack was coming.
By May of 2001, says Cofer Black, then chief of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, “it was very evident that we were going to be struck, we were gonna be struck hard and lots of Americans were going to die.” “There were real plots being manifested,” Cofer’s former boss, George Tenet, told me in his first interview in eight years. “The world felt like it was on the edge of eruption. In this time period of June and July, the threat continues to rise. Terrorists were disappearing [as if in hiding, in preparation for an attack]. Camps were closing. Threat reportings on the rise.” The crisis came to a head on July 10. The critical meeting that took place that day was first reported by Bob Woodward in 2006. Tenet also wrote about it in general terms in his 2007 memoir At the Center of the Storm.
But neither he nor Black has spoken about it publicly in such detail until now—or been so emphatic about how specific and pressing their warnings really were. Over the past eight months, in more than a hundred hours of interviews, my partners Jules and Gedeon Naudet and I talked with Tenet and the 11 other living former CIA directors for The Spymasters, a documentary set to air this month on Showtime.
The drama of failed warnings began when Tenet and Black pitched a plan, in the spring of 2001, called “the Blue Sky paper” to Bush’s new national security team. It called for a covert CIA and military campaign to end the Al Qaeda threat—“getting into the Afghan sanctuary, launching a paramilitary operation, creating a bridge with Uzbekistan.” “And the word back,” says Tenet, “‘was ‘we’re not quite ready to consider this. We don’t want the clock to start ticking.’” (Translation: they did not want a paper trail to show that they’d been warned.) Black, a charismatic ex-operative who had helped the French arrest the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal, says the Bush team just didn’t get the new threat: “I think they were mentally stuck back eight years [before]. They were used to terrorists being Euro-lefties—they drink champagne by night, blow things up during the day, how bad can this be? And it was a very difficult sell to communicate the urgency to this.”
That morning of July 10, the head of the agency’s Al Qaeda unit, Richard Blee, burst into Black’s office. “And he says, ‘Chief, this is it. Roof’s fallen in,’” recounts Black. “The information that we had compiled was absolutely compelling. It was multiple-sourced. And it was sort of the last straw.” Black and his deputy rushed to the director’s office to brief Tenet. All agreed an urgent meeting at the White House was needed. Tenet picked up the white phone to Bush’s National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. “I said, ‘Condi, I have to come see you,’” Tenet remembers. “It was one of the rare times in my seven years as director where I said, ‘I have to come see you. We’re comin’ right now. We have to get there.’”
Tenet vividly recalls the White House meeting with Rice and her team. (George W. Bush was on a trip to Boston.) “Rich [Blee] started by saying, ‘There will be significant terrorist attacks against the United States in the coming weeks or months. The attacks will be spectacular. They may be multiple. Al Qaeda’s intention is the destruction of the United States.’” [Condi said:] ‘What do you think we need to do?’ Black responded by slamming his fist on the table, and saying, ‘We need to go on a wartime footing now!’”
“What happened?” I ask Cofer Black. “Yeah. What did happen?” he replies. “To me it remains incomprehensible still. I mean, how is it that you could warn senior people so many times and nothing actually happened? It’s kind of like The Twilight Zone.” Remarkably, in her memoir, Condi Rice writes of the July 10 warnings: “My recollection of the meeting is not very crisp because we were discussing the threat every day.” Having raised threat levels for U.S. personnel overseas, she adds: “I thought we were doing what needed to be done.” (When I asked whether she had any further response to the comments that Tenet, Black and others made to me, her chief of staff said she stands by the account in her memoir.) Inexplicably, although Tenet brought up this meeting in his closed-door testimony before the 9/11 Commission, it was never mentioned in the committee’s final report.
And there was one more chilling warning to come. At the end of July, Tenet and his deputies gathered in the director’s conference room at CIA headquarters. “We were just thinking about all of this and trying to figure out how this attack might occur,” he recalls. “And I’ll never forget this until the day I die. Rich Blee looked at everybody and said, ‘They’re coming here.’ And the silence that followed was deafening. You could feel the oxygen come out of the room. ‘They’re coming here.’”
Tenet, who is perhaps the agency’s most embattled director ever, can barely contain himself when talking about the unheeded warnings he says he gave the White House. Twirling an unlit cigar and fidgeting in his chair at our studio in downtown Washington, D.C., he says with resignation: “I can only tell you what we did and what we said.” And when asked about his own responsibility for the attacks on 9/11, he is visibly distraught. “There was never a moment in all this time when you blamed yourself?” I ask him. He shifts uncomfortably in his chair. “Well, look, there … I still look at the ceiling at night about a lot of things. And I’ll keep them to myself forever. But we’re all human beings.”
Only 12 men are alive today who have made the life-and-death decisions that come with running the CIA.
Once a year, the present and former CIA directors—ranging from George H.W. Bush, 91, to the current boss, John Brennan, 60—meet in a conference room at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. The ostensible reason: to receive a confidential briefing on the state of the world. (Robert Gates, who hates setting foot inside the Beltway, is a perennial no-show.) “They mostly tell us stuff we already know, and we pretend we’re learning something,” says Tenet, the longest-serving director (lasting seven years, under Presidents Clinton and Bush II). But the real point of their annual pilgrimage is to renew bonds forged in the trenches of the war on terror—and to debate the agency’s purpose in the world.
On the burning questions of the day, the directors are profoundly torn: over the CIA’s mission, its brutal interrogation methods after 9/11, and the shifting “rules of engagement” in the battle against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. What is fair game in the fight against terrorism: Torture? Indefinite detention? Setting up “black sites” in foreign countries for interrogation? Should the CIA be in the business of killing people with remotely piloted drones? Was the agency really to blame for 9/11? Or did the White House ignore its repeated warnings?
On these and other questions, the directors were surprisingly candid in the interviews they did with me—even straying into classified territory. (They often disagree about what is actually classified; it’s complicated, as Hillary Clinton is learning.) A controversial case in point: drone strikes. “He can’t talk publicly about that,” protests Gen. David Petraeus when I tell him that one of his counterparts has opened up to me about “signature strikes.” (These are lethal attacks on unidentified targets—a kind of profiling by drone—that several directors find deeply troubling.) Gen. Petraeus might have had good reason to be reticent; only a week before he had accepted a plea bargain to avoid prison time—for sharing classified information with his mistress, Paula Broadwell.
Here are some of the other secrets we learned from the surprisingly outspoken men who have run the world’s most powerful intelligence agency. . .
And exactly why have there been no rigorous investigations and holding people accountable? Because in the US powerful people tend not to be held accountable.
As you read this story—and I highly recommend you read the whole thing—one thing to ponder is how the GOP frequently repeats, “George W. Bush kept us safe.” Apparently the 9/11 attacks were part of that safety he bestowed on us.
Paul Rosenberg writes in Salon:
Documentarian Chris Whipple has some new bombshell revelations about how the Bush administration ignored the advance warnings of 9/11 in story for Politico, “‘The Attacks Will Be Spectacular,’” a spin-off of his documentary, “The Spymasters,” set to air this month on Showtime, in which he interviews all 12 living former CIA directors.
Whipple’s most stunning revelations revolve around a July 10 meeting that’s been mentioned by others in books before—Bob Woodward, George Tenet, Condi Rice—but always in a manner that drastically underplays the urgency of CIA’s warnings, and how much they had to go on, according to Whipple’s new information:
By May of 2001, says Cofer Black, then chief of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, “it was very evident that we were going to be struck, we were gonna be struck hard and lots of Americans were going to die.” “There were real plots being manifested,” Cofer’s former boss, George Tenet, told me in his first interview in eight years. “The world felt like it was on the edge of eruption. In this time period of June and July, the threat continues to rise. Terrorists were disappearing [as if in hiding, in preparation for an attack]. Camps were closing. Threat reportings on the rise.”
Finally, things boiled over:
That morning of July 10, the head of the agency’s Al Qaeda unit, Richard Blee, burst into Black’s office. “And he says, ‘Chief, this is it. Roof’s fallen in,’” recounts Black. “The information that we had compiled was absolutely compelling. It was multiple-sourced. And it was sort of the last straw.”
Tenet called Rice for an immediate meeting with her and her team—Bush was out of town:
“Rich [Blee] started by saying, ‘There will be significant terrorist attacks against the United States in the coming weeks or months. The attacks will be spectacular. They may be multiple. Al Qaeda’s intention is the destruction of the United States.’” [Condi said:] ‘What do you think we need to do?’ Black responded by slamming his fist on the table, and saying, ‘We need to go on a wartime footing now!’”
But nothing happened. “To me it remains incomprehensible still,” Black told Whipple. “I mean, how is it that you could warn senior people so many times and nothing actually happened? It’s kind of like The Twilight Zone.”
Tellingly, Condi Rice has no clear recollection of the meeting. For her, it was all a blur. As Whipple quotes from her memoir, “My recollection of the meeting is not very crisp because we were discussing the threat every day.” But no one could have foreseen it?
It was not just a failure to respond to warnings, however. There was a broader refusal to even consider thinking proactively. Along these lines, Whipple writes more broadly about Tenet and Black’s plan to “end the al Qaeda threat” with a combined military/CIA campaign “getting into the Afghan sanctuary, launching a paramilitary operation, creating a bridge with Uzbekistan.” They pitched the plan in spring of 2001, according to Whipple, “‘And the word back,’ says Tenet, ‘was “we’re not quite ready to consider this. We don’t want the clock to start ticking.”’ (Translation: they did not want a paper trail to show that they’d been warned.)”
Black chalks this up to the Bush team being stuck in the past, thinking of terrorists as “Euro-lefties,” but there was a deeper story, with more to the state of denial than Whipple discusses, since the Bush team was also actively fending off dealing with the recommendations of bipartisan Hart-Rudman Commission (officially the “U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century”). It had warned that “Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers.”
Hart-Rudman released a series of three reports, first an overview of the challenges, “New World Coming: American Security in the 21st Century,” released in September 1999, then a strategy report, “Seeking a National Strategy: A Concert for Preserving Security and Promoting Freedom,” released in April 2000, and finally, a recommendation report, “Roadmap for National Security: Imperative for Change,” released at the end of January 2001, just after Bush took office. Not only did Hart-Rudman see terrorist attacks as a possibility, it highlighted five key areas for reform, the first of which was “ensuring the security of the American homeland.” It regarded a 9/11-style attack as so likely that defending against it should be a top priority in rethinking our entire approach to national security.
Congress members were interested in holding hearings on the commission findings, but the Bush administration discouraged them. As Molly Ivins later recalled:
Of the various institutions, Congress deserves some credit for trying to pick up on the report, which clearly would have moved us ahead by six months on terrorism planning.
Donald Rumsfeld, not one of my favorites, also deserves credit for vigorously backing the report. Congress scheduled hearing for May 7, 2001, but according to reports at the time, the White House stifled the move because it did not want Congress out in front on the issue.
“Remember, EIGHT Benghazi investigations yet Bush WH sat on its hands while bin Laden got ready to kill 3K Americans,” Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert tweeted. “If this story were abt Benghazi, GOP would introduce Obama impeachment proceedings today,” he followed up. Boehlert’s point is obviously valid, but even more troubling is how the lack of accountability has made things so much worse, actually crippling our ability to win the war on terror.
The failure to hold anyone accountable for 9/11 is inextricably intertwined with the broader failure to go back and rethink fundamental questions on all aspects of national security—something that was obviously needed at the time, and that remains imperative still. . .
Jen Hayden has an excellent post at Daily Kos. From it:
Who could’ve seen this coming? When you don’t teach kids about safe sex, they tend to have sex anyway, minus the safe part: . . .
And later she quotes:
Abstinence-only programs have been an enormous failure, despite heavy funding from the George W. Bush administration and conservative legislatures:
Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs don’t work.
To date, 11 states have evaluated the impact of their abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. None has been shown to reduce teen sexual activity.
Virginity pledgers have found “loopholes” to keep their pledges intact—engaging in risky oral or anal sex—and neglecting to use condoms when they do begin to have vaginal intercourse, according to research from Peter Bearman at Columbia University.
A 2007 federally-funded evaluation of these programs found that youth in the control group were no more likely to have abstained from sex and, among those who reported having sex, had a similar number of partners and had initiated sex at the same age.
A very interesting comment in The Intercept by Jon Schwarz. He concludes:
It’s all just further proof that Adam Smith was right was he wrote this in The Wealth of Nations 239 years ago:
In great empires the people who live in the capital, and in the provinces remote from the scene of action, feel, many of them, scarce any inconveniency from the war; but enjoy, at their ease, the amusement of reading in the newspapers the exploits of their own fleets and armies. … They are commonly dissatisfied with the return of peace, which puts an end to their amusement, and to a thousand visionary hopes of conquest and national glory from a longer continuance of the war.
Regular people hate war, because they pay the price. But powerful people love it. That’s why there’s so much.
Read the whole thing, which shows an application of the principle.