Later On

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Archive for the ‘Obama administration’ Category

“I went to prison for disclosing the CIA’s torture. Gina Haspel helped cover it up.”

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John Kiriakou, a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, writes in the Washington Post:

I was inside the CIA’s Langley, Va., headquarters on Sept. 11, 2001. Like all Americans, I was traumatized, and I volunteered to go overseas to help bring al-Qaeda’s leaders to justice. I headed counterterrorism operations in Pakistan from January to May 2002. My team captured dozens of al-Qaeda fighters, including senior training-camp commanders. One of the fighters whom I played an integral role in capturing was Abu Zubaida, mistakenly thought at the time to be the third-ranking person in the militant group.

By that May, the CIA had decided to torture him. When I returned to CIA headquarters that month, a senior officer in the Counterterrorism Center asked me if I wanted to be “trained in the use of enhanced interrogation techniques.” I had never heard the term, so I asked what it meant. After a brief explanation, I declined. I said that I had a moral and ethical problem with torture and that — the judgment of the Justice Department notwithstanding — I thought it was illegal.

Unfortunately, there were plenty of people in the U.S. government who were all too willing to allow the practice to go on. One of them was Gina Haspel, whom President Trump nominated Tuesday as the CIA’s next director.

Putting Haspel in charge of the CIA would undo attempts by the agency — and the nation — to repudiate torture. The message this sends to the CIA workforce is simple: Engage in war crimes, in crimes against humanity, and you’ll get promoted. Don’t worry about the law. Don’t worry about ethics. Don’t worry about morality or the fact that torture doesn’t even work. Go ahead and do it anyway. We’ll cover for you. And you can destroy the evidence, too.

Described in the media as a “seasoned intelligence veteran,” Haspel has been at the CIA for 33 years, both at headquarters and in senior positions overseas. Now the deputy director, she has tried hard to stay out of the public eye. Mike Pompeo, the outgoing CIA director and secretary of state designee, has lauded her “uncanny ability to get things done and inspire those around her.”

I’m sure that’s true for some. But many of the rest of us who knew and worked with Haspel at the CIA called her “Bloody Gina.”

The CIA will not let me repeat her résumé or the widely reported specifics of how her work fit into the agency’s torture program, calling such details “currently and properly classified.” But I can say that Haspel was a protege of and chief of staff for Jose Rodriguez, the CIA’s notorious former deputy director for operations and former director of the Counterterrorism Center. And that Rodriguez eventually assigned Haspel to order the destruction of videotaped evidence of the torture of Abu Zubaida. The Justice Department investigated, but no one was ever charged in connection with the incident.

CIA officers and psychologists under contract to the agency began torturing Abu Zubaida on Aug. 1, 2002. The techniques were supposed to be incremental, starting with an open-palmed slap to the belly or the face. But the operatives where he was held decided to start with the toughest method. They waterboarded Abu Zubaida 83 times. They later subjected him to sleep deprivation; they kept him locked in a large dog cage for weeks at a time; they locked him in a coffin-size box and, knowing that he had an irrational fear of insects, put bugs in it with him.

Rodriguez would later tell reporters that the torture worked and that Abu Zubaida provided actionable intelligence that disrupted attacks and saved American lives. We know, thanks to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture and the personal testimony of FBI interrogator Ali Soufan , that this was false.

I knew what was happening to Abu Zubaida because of my position in CIA operations at the time. I kept my mouth shut about it, even after I left the CIA in 2004. But by 2007, I had had enough.

President George W. Bush had steadfastly denied to the American people that there was a torture program. I knew that was a lie. I knew torture didn’t work. And I knew it was illegal. So in December 2007, I granted an interview to ABC News in which I said that the CIA was torturing its prisoners, that torture was official U.S. government policy and that the policy had been personally approved by the president. The FBI began investigating me immediately. . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more and it’s significant.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 March 2018 at 9:48 pm

You MUST watch this video

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It is absolutely perfect of kind. Here it is.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2018 at 7:39 pm

Prosecutors Reviewing Request to Issue Arrest Warrant for Trump’s New CIA Director

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Colin Kalmbacher reports at

Federal prosecutors in Munich are currently reviewing a request to issue an arrest warrant for Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump‘s recently named director of the Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”).

Haspel currently serves as the deputy director for the CIA and her nomination to head the agency must be approved by the U.S. Senate. Prior to her appointment as CIA deputy director, Haspel controversially ran a secret CIA prison in Thailand used to house, question, and allegedly torture detainees during the second Bush administration’s War on Terror.

Haspel’s tenure as “Chief of Base” at the prison–and what she did while serving in that role–is the subject of the arrest warrant request.

On June 6, 2017, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (“ECCHR”) initiated a request for legal action against Haspel by filing an intervention with the German Federal Public Prosecutor, the foremost law enforcement authority in the Federal Republic of Germany. This office is led by Attorney General Peter Frank.

ECCHR’s legal intervention was made by way of a 6-page document titled, “CIA Torture: Submission on Gina Haspel to German Federal Prosecutor.” Immediately after ECCHR submitted their request, Frank’s office confirmed that this request was received and was being formally reviewed.

According to Deutsche Welle, the German equivalent of PBS, the investigation into Haspel is presently ongoing and Frank’s office has yet to rule on ECCHR’s request. ECCHR reiterated their request in February 2017–when Haspel was named deputy director of the CIA. ECCHR’s request was once again reiterated on Tuesday–after news broke regarding Haspel’s potential promotion.

ECCHR’s request is based on an alleged violation of the European Convention on Human Rights’ Article 3. This article prohibits torture and “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” There are no recognized exceptions or limitations on the right not to be subject to torture under this section.

In a statement, ECCHR’s General Secretary Wolfgang Kaleck said:

Those who commit, order or allow torture should be brought before a court – this is especially true for senior officials from powerful nations. The prosecutor must, under the principle of universal jurisdiction, open investigations, secure evidence and seek an arrest warrant. If the deputy director travels to Germany or Europe, she must be arrested.

The CIA’s torture program has been admitted to by former President Barack Obama, in official U.S. government reportsvarious high-level officialswhistleblowers and participants. Initially denied, the torture program’s existence and Haspel’s role in said program are now a matter of public record.

From 2002 to 2005, Haspel was an active participant in the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program. The term “extraordinary rendition” is a soft euphemism for the CIA’s illegal kidnapping and torture program administered at so-called CIA “black sites”—a series of off-the-books prisons where CIA agents and assets regularly allegedly tortured detainees over the course of several years.

Haspel’s identity and role in the CIA’s torture program was previously concealed by its classification regime. However, when Haspel was designated deputy director of the agency in February 2017, her role in the program became more clear.

Specifically, Haspel was in charge of . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the report:

Torture is illegal under various international pacts and treaties to which the U.S. is bound as a state party. Torture is also illegal under U.S. domestic law. On April 16, 2009, then-president Barack Obama announced blanket immunity for any and all U.S. officials engaged in the Bush administration’s torture program.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 March 2018 at 11:43 am

Interesting contrast: Law enforcement’s selective indignation

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And this, too, is pretty good:

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27 February 2018 at 10:33 am

An hour-by-hour comparison of Trump and Obama responding to school shootings

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25 February 2018 at 6:24 pm

How the ICE is working to strip citizenship from naturalized citizens

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Eoin Higggins reports in The Intercept:

FOR 10 YEARS, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s investigative office has worked to keep its internal handbook out of American courts. The handbook could have been used in court to show how ICE’s push to lead on denaturalization cases stands in contrast to the language of federal law governing the process, an immigration lawyer said. “We could have used it as an exhibit in a motion to dismiss” in previous denaturalization cases, said Philip Smith, an immigration attorney from Portland, Oregon, noting the contrast.

The handbook, which was issued on January 15, 2008, and published Wednesday by the independent media outlet Unicorn Riot, makes clear that the priority for ICE’s investigative division, Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, in denaturalization proceedings is to use the most efficient means possible to fulfill a single-minded goal: leveraging the bureaucratic process to strip citizenship from naturalized Americans.

“It’s a manual for the worst outcome” with respect to investigation targets, said Alaska immigration lawyer Margaret Stock in an interview on Tuesday. That’s not unique to ICE, Stock added — it’s how the entire U.S. justice system operates. “Their objective is to inflict the most pain as possible, as efficiently as possible,” Stock said. “They feel they’re doing their job correctly if the government wins — not if justice is done.”

The 20-page manual instructs agents on the particulars of denaturalization investigations. Documents obtained by the Freedom of Information Act-driven clearinghouse Government Attic indicate that the denaturalization investigations handbook was used through at least 2016; the handbook appears in the table of contents for HSI’s 2016 Special Agent’s Manual, sandwiched between chapters on cybercrime and fraud. “There’s no reason to believe the document is not authentic,” said Matthew Bourke, a public affairs officer with ICE. “ICE-HSI does manage a special agent handbook on denaturalization investigations.”

Last year, The Intercept obtained and reported on HSI’s guidelines for asset forfeiture.

The denaturalization handbook shows how the federal government pursues denaturalization against naturalized citizens and has instructions on how to prosecute cases efficiently to strip citizenship as quickly as possible.

Smith, the immigration lawyer, said the language of the manual — where ICE plays a chief role in pushing denaturalization — stands in contrast to the civil statute that allows for stripping Americans’ citizenship. “It shall be the duty of the United States attorneys for the respective districts, upon affidavit showing good cause therefor, to institute proceedings in any district court of the United States in the judicial district in which the naturalized citizen may reside at the time of bringing suit,” the statute reads.

The handbook, said Smith, shows how ICE is taking the power of instituting procedures away from federal prosecutors assigned to those geographic areas. “We believe Congress meant to have the case evaluated by prosecutors in the jurisdiction, the community,” Smith said. ICE declined to respond on the purported disconnect between its manual’s emphasis on ICE-led denaturalization, and the statute’s emphasis on letting federal prosecutors take the lead.

DESPITE THE NATIONAL debates that have arisen with President Donald Trump’s approach to immigration, denaturalization receives scant attention. It’s one of the many tools available to the immigration enforcement bureaucracy, but because it strips citizenship through a slow and deliberative process — and not the surprise raids by armored law enforcement officers — denaturalization isn’t synonymous with much of the reporting around ICE’s behavior.

Foreign nationals can become naturalized citizens through processes defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act. The prerequisites include filling out a number of forms, proving good moral character, passing a citizenship test, and other requirements. “In general,” the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Policy Manual Citizenship and Naturalization Guidance reads, “an applicant files a naturalization application and then USCIS grants citizenship after adjudicating the application.”

Denaturalization uses case law and the bureaucratic process to methodically take that citizenship away and then, when possible, deport those whose status has been reverted to that of a visa holder. As a tactic, denaturalization is often politically motivated, said Stock, and targeted toward particular nationalities. “You don’t see a lot of, say, Canadians or Brits being denaturalized,” said Stock.

“You don’t see a lot of, say, Canadians or Brits being denaturalized.”

Immigration attorney Lance Curtright, who practices in San Antonio, Texas, told The Intercept that denaturalization can take two forms: civil and criminal. Criminal denaturalization is usually reserved for those who committed fraud to obtain citizenship for criminal activity — crimes involving terror, drugs, and the like — and carry jail terms of up to 25 years. Civil denaturalization is based on a lower standard of proof and doesn’t result in incarceration. “They’re different methods,” said Curtright, who added that he had noticed that the government pursuing more civil cases in recent months.

The handbook runs through the duties of each agent and the different types of infractions that can result in denaturalization proceedings. And it’s nowhere clearer than in the section of the manual that deals with “Case Strategy.” In this section, ICE instructs its investigative officers to push for charges that will lead to automatic denaturalization, rather than those charges which would require a separate process.

“Case agents,” the manual reads, “should encourage the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuting a case involving naturalization fraud or illegality to include a charge of ‘Procurement of Citizenship or Naturalization Unlawfully’ under 18 U.S.C. § 1425 because, upon conviction, the court is required to revoke the defendant’s citizenship.”

“On the other hand,” the manual goes on, “a conviction for ‘False Statements’ under 18 U.S.C. § 1001 does not require the automatic revocation of a defendant’s citizenship and will result in the U.S. Government having to engage in a separate denaturalization prosecution.”

This centralization of the denaturalization process puts the onus for instituting proceedings on HSI agents. That’s indicative of a push to take away the authority provided for under the law to U.S. attorneys working in those jurisdictions, said Smith. He said that the way things are now, cases are put together by special agents in the HSI and then given to U.S. attorneys. “We don’t think it is in keeping with the statute,” said Smith.

The strategy section continues, warning agents that settling for civil infractions carries the risk that the targets of investigations may be able to retain citizenship. If the U.S. Attorney’s Office can’t be convinced to prosecute under criminal infractions, the handbook says, a settlement should be reached, if possible, with the defendant, including civil denaturalization — though that’s not ideal: “Civil denaturalization under 8 U.S.C. § 1451(a) may not result in a deportable charge against the defendant.”

Stock explained that by combining charges, the government was setting the case up to take care of everything all at once with the end goal of deportation. It’s brutal efficiency, she told The Intercept: “They want to go for the jugular.” . . .

Continue reading.

The US continues to move in what I consider to be a bad direction.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2018 at 8:13 am

Life as a New York Times Reporter in the Shadow of the War on Terror

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James Risen writes in The Intercept:

I was sitting in the nearly empty restaurant of the Westin Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia, getting ready for a showdown with the federal government that I had been trying to avoid for more than seven years. The Obama administration was demanding that I reveal the confidential sources I had relied on for a chapter about a botched CIA operation in my 2006 book, “State of War.” I had also written about the CIA operation for the New York Times, but the paper’s editors had suppressed the story at the government’s request. It wasn’t the only time they had done so.

BUNDLED AGAINST THE freezing wind, my lawyers and I were about to reach the courthouse door when two news photographers launched into a perp-walk shoot. As a reporter, I had witnessed this classic scene dozens of times, watching in bemusement from the sidelines while frenetic photographers and TV crews did their business. I never thought I would be the perp, facing those whirring cameras.

As I walked past the photographers into the courthouse that morning in January 2015, I saw a group of reporters, some of whom I knew personally. They were here to cover my case, and now they were waiting and watching me. I felt isolated and alone.

My lawyers and I took over a cramped conference room just outside the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, where we waited for her to begin the pretrial hearing that would determine my fate. My lawyers had been working with me on this case for so many years that they now felt more like friends. We often engaged in gallows humor about what it was going to be like for me once I went to jail. But they had used all their skills to make sure that didn’t happen and had even managed to keep me out of a courtroom and away from any questioning by federal prosecutors.

Until now.

My case was part of a broader crackdown on reporters and whistleblowers that had begun during the presidency of George W. Bush and continued far more aggressively under the Obama administration, which had already prosecuted more leak cases than all previous administrations combined. Obama officials seemed determined to use criminal leak investigations to limit reporting on national security. But the crackdown on leaks only applied to low-level dissenters; top officials caught up in leak investigations, like former CIA Director David Petraeus, were still treated with kid gloves.

Initially, I had succeeded in the courts, surprising many legal experts. In the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Brinkema had sided with me when the government repeatedly subpoenaed me to testify before a grand jury. She had ruled in my favor again by quashing a trial subpoena in the case of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer who the government accused of being a source for the story about the ill-fated CIA operation. In her rulings, Brinkema determined that there was a “reporter’s privilege” — at least a limited one — under the First Amendment that gave journalists the right to protect their sources, much as clients and patients can shield their private communications with lawyers and doctors.

But the Obama administration appealed her 2011 ruling quashing the trial subpoena, and in 2013, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a split decision, sided with the administration, ruling that there was no such thing as a reporter’s privilege. In 2014, the Supreme Court refused to hear my appeal, allowing the 4th Circuit ruling to stand. Now there was nothing legally stopping the Justice Department from forcing me to either reveal my sources or be jailed for contempt of court.

But even as I was losing in the courts, I was gaining ground in the court of public opinion. My decision to go to the Supreme Court had captured the attention of the nation’s political and media classes. Instead of ignoring the case, as they had for years, the national media now framed it as a major constitutional battle over press freedom.

That morning in Alexandria, my lawyers and I learned that the prosecutors were frustrated by my writing style. In “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,” I didn’t include attribution for many passages. I didn’t explicitly say where I was getting my information, and I didn’t identify what information was classified and what wasn’t. That had been a conscious decision; I didn’t want to interrupt the narrative flow of the book with phrases explaining how I knew each fact, and I didn’t want to explicitly say how I had obtained so much sensitive information. If prosecutors couldn’t point to specific passages to prove I had relied on confidential sources who gave me classified information, their criminal case against Sterling might fall apart.

When I walked into the courtroom that morning, I thought the prosecutors might demand that I publicly identify specific passages in my book where I had relied on classified information and confidential sources. If I didn’t comply, they could ask the judge to hold me in contempt and send me to jail.

I was worried, but I felt certain that the hearing would somehow complete the long, strange arc I had been living as a national security investigative reporter for the past 20 years. As I took the stand, I thought about how I had ended up here, how much press freedom had been lost, and how drastically the job of national security reporting had changed in the post-9/11 era. . .

Continue reading.

There’s a lot more and it is intriguing.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 January 2018 at 11:30 am

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