Later On

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

Archive for the ‘Bush Administration’ Category

Evening links: Intriguing stories

leave a comment »

Here are some very interesting posts that I won’t blog in detail. But I will say that they are well worth teh click:

Three Studies Confirm: Obamacare Isn’t a Job Killer (important because the GOP repeatedly claimed that Obamacare will kill jobs. It didn’t.)

The Iran Deal Benefits U.S. National Security: An Open Letter from Retired Generals and Admirals (no better deal is possible, and this deal is in fact good—most of those criticizing have never read it, and none of them have a better alternative to propose.)

Whatever happened to that sequester thingy? (another example of the dysfunctional, nonproductive, self-indulgent, and corrupt US Congress)

Rare Octopus’s Mating and Preying Habits Have Cephalopod Fans Psyched (I feel close to the spirit of Stephen Maturin in this article.)

Radley Balko has his own excellent collection of links, to wit:


  • Two journalists, one from the Huffington Post and one from the Washington Post, who were arrested during last year’s Ferguson, Mo., protests have been charged with what essentially amounts to “contempt of cop.” That isn’t and shouldn’t be a crime, but it isn’t even clear they did that. Certainly doesn’t do much to dispel the accusation that St. Louis County prosecutors are petty, vindictive, and use their power as a weapon.

One Congressman Has The Courage To Admit The True Consequences Of His Vote For The Iraq War (quite striking: a GOP Congressman from NC, who states,

“I did not do what I should have done to read and find out whether Bush was telling us the truth about Saddam being responsible for 9/11 and having weapons of mass destruction,” Jones said during an interview on The Tyler Cralle Show. “Because I did not do my job then,” Jones continued, “I helped kill 4,000 Americans, and I will go to my grave regretting that.”

This Deep-Sea Creature is Creepy As Hell (creepy, but also very interesting)

Scott Walker Finally Finds a Big-Government Subsidy He Loves (directing $250 million of taxpayer money to a professional sports team: certainly that’s more important than education or the pensions of state workers)

Obama Is Playing Hardball, and Guess Who Doesn’t Like It? (cute column by Kevin Drum—not to spoil his surprise, but do you notice that the initials W.P. can stand either for Washington Post or “whining putz”?)

Democrats Continue to Delude Themselves About Obama’s Failed Guantánamo Vow (Obama made a serious vow and then ignored it—and that seems to happen a lot with him)


Written by LeisureGuy

12 August 2015 at 9:21 pm

2016 and the Fable of the Surge

leave a comment »

Very interesting post by Kevin Drum, and I think he’s right on how fables—false accounts—take hold and shape our perceptions.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2015 at 6:19 pm

All the “job-killing” things Obama did resulted in a recovery better than Bush’s

leave a comment »


The chart above is from this column by Paul Krugman. We have been repeatedly told by the GOP has Obamacare kills jobs, etc., but apparently it has not harmed the recovery. More info at the link. And do read the comments.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 August 2015 at 11:20 am

New Effort to Rebut Torture Report Undermined as Former CIA Official Admits the Obvious

with one comment

Dan Froomkin at The Intercept:


Former top CIA officials planning a major public-relations campaign to rebut the Senate torture report’s damning revelations have found themselves undermined by one of their own.

Eight former top officials wrangled by Bill Harlow — the former CIA flak who brought us the website after the Senate report was issued last December — are publishing a book in the coming weeks entitled “Rebuttal: The CIA Responds to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Study of Its Detention and Interrogation Program.”

Meanwhile, however, Alvin Bernard “Buzzy” Krongard, who was the CIA’s executive director from 2001 to 2004 — the number-three position at the agency — was asked on a BBC news program if he thought waterboarding and putting a detainee in painful stress positions amounted to torture.

“Well, let’s put it this way, it is meant to make him as uncomfortable as possible,” he said. “So I assume for, without getting into semantics, that’s torture. I’m comfortable with saying that.”

He added: “We were told by legal authorities that we could torture people.”

The book’s contributors include former CIA directors George Tenet, Porter Goss, and Michael V. Hayden, former deputy directors John McLaughlin and Michael Morrell, former counterterrorist center deputy director J. Philip Mudd, former chief legal counsel John Rizzo, and former head of the clandestine service Jose A. Rodriguez, Jr.

All of them were complicit in the Bush administration torture regime and/or its cover up.

The book is intended to present the “rest of the story,” according to is promotional material. If past protestations from its authors are any guide, the book will also include many spurious examples intended to prove that the program “saved lives.” . . .

Continue reading.

Video at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2015 at 9:38 am

Retired General: Drones Create More Terrorists Than They Kill, Iraq War Helped Create ISIS

leave a comment »

Both states seem pretty obvious, but obviously some disagree (but without evidence—the evidence supports the retired general’s observations). Murtaza Hussain reports in The Intercept:

Retired Army Gen. Mike Flynn, a top intelligence official in the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, says in aforthcoming interview on Al Jazeera English that the drone war is creating more terrorists than it is killing. He also asserts that the U.S. invasion of Iraq helped create the Islamic State and that U.S. soldiers involved in torturing detainees need to be held legally accountable for their actions.

Flynn, who in 2014 was forced out as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, has in recent months become an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s Middle East strategy, calling for a more hawkish approach to the Islamic State and Iran.

But his enthusiasm for the application of force doesn’t extend to the use of drones. In the interview with Al Jazeera presenter Mehdi Hasan, set to air July 31, the former three star general says: “When you drop a bomb from a drone … you are going to cause more damage than you are going to cause good.” Pressed by Hasan as to whether drone strikes are creating more terrorists than they kill, Flynn says, “I don’t disagree with that.” He describes the present approach of drone warfare as “a failed strategy.”

“What we have is this continued investment in conflict,” the retired general says. “The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just … fuels the conflict.”

Prior to serving as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Flynn was director of Intelligence for the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During his time in Iraq, Flynn is credited with helping to transform JSOC into an intelligence-driven special forces operation, tailored to fight the insurgency in that country. Flynn was in Iraq during the peak of the conflict there, as intelligence chief to Stanley McChrystal, former general and head of JSOC. When questioned about how many Iraqis JSOC operatives had killed inside the country during his tenure, Flynn would later say, “Thousands, I don’t even know how many.”

In the upcoming interview, Flynn says that the invasion of Iraq was a strategic mistake that directly contributed to the rise of the extremist group the Islamic State. “We definitely put fuel on a fire,” he told Hasan. “Absolutely … there’s no doubt, I mean … history will not be kind to the decisions that were made certainly in 2003.”

Over his 33 years in the Army, Flynn developed a reputation as an iconoclast. In 2010, he published a controversialreport on intelligence operations in Afghanistan, stating in part that the military could not answer “fundamental questions” about the country and its people despite nearly a decade of engagement there. Earlier this year, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2015 at 1:43 pm

Psychologists Shielded U.S. Torture Program, Report Finds

leave a comment »

Not just psychologists, of course: the Bush Administration was much involved, and Obama has resisted any effort to investigate and prosecute US torturers. James Risen reports in the NY Times:

The Central Intelligence Agency’s health professionals repeatedly criticized the agency’s post-Sept. 11 interrogation program, but their protests were rebuffed by prominent outside psychologists who lent credibility to the program, according to a new report.

The 542-page report, which examines the involvement of the nation’s psychologists and their largest professional organization, the American Psychological Association, with the harsh interrogation programs of the Bush era, raises repeated questions about the collaboration between psychologists and officials at both the C.I.A. and the Pentagon.

The report, completed this month, concludes that some of the association’s top officials, including its ethics director, sought to curry favor with Pentagon officials by seeking to keep the association’s ethics policies in line with the Defense Department’s interrogation policies, while several prominent outside psychologists took actions that aided the C.I.A.’s interrogation program and helped protect it from growing dissent inside the agency.

The association’s ethics office “prioritized the protection of psychologists — even those who might have engaged in unethical behavior — above the protection of the public,” the report said.

Two former presidents of the psychological association were on a C.I.A. advisory committee, the report found. One of them gave the agency an opinion that sleep deprivation did not constitute torture, and later held a small ownership stake in a consulting company founded by two men who oversaw the agency’s interrogation program, it said.

The association’s ethics director, Stephen Behnke, coordinated the group’s public policy statements on interrogations with a top military psychologist, the report said, and then received a Pentagon contract to help train interrogators while he was working at the association, without the knowledge of the association’s board. Mr. Behnke did not respond to a request for comment.

The report, which was obtained by The New York Times and has not previously been made public, is the result of a seven-month investigation by a team led by David Hoffman, a Chicago lawyer with the firm Sidley Austin at the request of the psychology association’s board.

After the Hoffman report was made public on Friday, the American Psychological Association issued an apology.

“The actions, policies and lack of independence from government influence described in the Hoffman report represented a failure to live up to our core values,” Nadine Kaslow, a former president of the organization, said in a statement. “We profoundly regret and apologize for the behavior and the consequences that ensued.”

The association said it was considering proposals to prohibit psychologists from participating in interrogations and to modify its ethics policies, among other changes.

Continue reading.

At the link is a copy of the 542-page report.

See also the editorial “Psychologists Who Greenlighted Torture.” The editorial concludes:

The Obama administration has so far refused to prosecute the torturers. As more evidence about this program comes to light, that position becomes increasingly indefensible.

The comments to the article are quite interesting.

See also “U.S. Justice Department Must Investigate American Psychological Association’s Role in U.S. Torture Program,” a press release from Physicians for Human Rights:

Physicians for Human Rights today called for a federal criminal probe into the American Psychological Association’s (APA) role in the U.S. torture program following the release of a damning new report that confirms the APA colluded with the Bush administration to enable psychologists to design, implement, and defend a program of torture. In light of the 542-page independent report first reported by The New York Times, PHR again called for a full investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“The corruption of a health professional organization at this level is an extraordinary betrayal of both ethics and the law, and demands an investigation and appropriate prosecutions,” said Donna McKay, PHR’s executive director. “Rather than uphold the principle of ‘do no harm,’ APA leadership subverted its own ethics policies and sabotaged all efforts at enforcement.”

The APA commissioned an independent review by David Hoffman, a former federal prosecutor, in November 2014 after detailed allegations of complicity emerged in New York Times reporter James Risen’s book, “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War.” The book documented secret coordination between APA and U.S. officials to support the spurious legal and ethical justification for the Bush administration’s torture program, which relied on health professional monitoring of abusive interrogations to claim that they were “safe, effective, and legal.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 July 2015 at 5:04 pm

An interesting report on the contradictions of Sen. Dianne Feinstein

leave a comment »

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. . .

Continue reading.

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.”

Written by LeisureGuy

19 June 2015 at 2:42 pm


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,119 other followers

%d bloggers like this: