Monday, August 24, 2009

A "Poignant" Torture, with a Lovely Bouquet and a Cleansing Palette

For fuck's sake:
There has been some confusion for years over what exactly “waterboarding” has meant in practice. Does it induce the sensation of drowning? Or does it actually replicate it? The differences between the two may seem academic, but the CIA inspector general report on torture says that the way the agency practiced waterboarding was different from the way U.S. troops were taught to endure it at Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) schools — and different from what the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel thought it was approving in mid-2002.

OIG’s [Office of the Inspector General's] review of the videotapes revealed that the waterboard technique employed at [REDACTED] was different from the technique as described in the DoJ opinion and used in the SERE training. The difference was in the manner in which the detainee’s breathing was obstructed. At the SERE School and in the DoJ opinion, the subject’s airflow is disrupted by the firm application of a damp cloth over the air passages; the interrogator applies a small amount of water to the cloth in a controlled manner. By contest, the Agency interrogator [REDACTED] continuously applied large volumes of water to a cloth that covered the detainee’s mouth and nose. One of the psychologists/ interrogators acknowledged that the Agency’s use of the technique differed from that used in SERE training and explained that the Agency’s technique is different because it is “for real” and is more poignant and convincing.
As far as the supposed upcoming torture probe, what Feingold says:
"I applaud Attorney General Holder's decision to appoint a prosecutor to review the shocking violations of law that took place under the Bush administration. We cannot simply sweep these abuses under the rug. This investigation should not be limited to those who carried out interrogations or to whether the abuses they engaged in were officially sanctioned. The abuses that were officially sanctioned amounted to torture and those at the very top who authorized, ordered or sought to provide legal cover for them should be held accountable."

More on the torture report and upcoming probe here, here, here and here. The torture and abuse and lack of a proper investigation is still sickening, outrageous and dismaying.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

New Torture Allegations

CIA interrogators used a handgun and an electric drill to try to frighten a captured al-Qaeda commander into giving up information, according to a long-concealed agency report due to be made public next week, former and current U.S. officials who have read the document said Friday.

The tactics -- which one official described Friday as a threatened execution -- were used on Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, according to the CIA's inspector general's report on the agency's interrogation program. Nashiri, who was captured in November 2002 and held for four years in one of the CIA's "black site" prisons, ultimately became one of three al-Qaeda chieftains subjected to a form of simulated drowning known as waterboarding.

The report also says that a mock execution was staged in a room next to one terrorism suspect, according to Newsweek magazine, citing two sources for its information. The magazine was the first to publish details from the report, which it did on its Web site late Friday.

A federal judge in New York has ordered a redacted version of the classified IG report to be publicly released Monday, in response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. Since June, lawyers for the Justice Department and the CIA have been scrutinizing the document to determine how much of it can be made public. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has been weighing the report's findings as part of a broader probe into the CIA's use of harsh interrogation methods.

The IG's report, written in 2004, offers new details about Nashiri's interrogation, including the incidents in which the detainee reportedly was threatened with death or grave injury if he refused to cooperate, one current and one former U.S. official told The Post. Both officials have seen classified versions of the report.

In one instance, an interrogator showed Nashiri a gun and sought to frighten the detainee into thinking he would be shot, the sources said. In a separate encounter, a power drill was held near Nashiri's body and repeatedly turned on and off, said the officials, who spoke about the report on the condition of anonymity because it remains classified.

The federal torture statute prohibits a U.S. national from threatening anyone in his or her custody with imminent death.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Justice for Gitmo Detainees?

A disgrace:
This week, two more Guantanamo detainees -- Khaled Al-Mutairi from Kuwait and Mohamed Jawad of Afghanistan -- were ordered released by federal judges on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to justify their detention. The Washington Independent's Daphne Eviatar notes this amazing fact: "In 28 of 33 Gitmo detainee cases heard so far, federal judges have found insufficient evidence to support keeping them in prison." Virtually all of those detainees were held for many years without charges and with no opportunity for judicial review. Once they finally got into a court, federal judges (including Bush-43 appointed judges) in the vast majority of cases concluded there was virtually no credible evidence ever to justify their detention. Just consider what that fact, standing alone, means about what our Government has been doing.

The case of Jawad is particularly striking because he was a young teenager -- possibly as young as 12 -- when he was shipped to Guantanamo in 2002; unquestionably tortured; never accused of being a member of either Al Qaeda or the Taliban; barely saved after a suicide attempt in 2003; and then kept in a cage for seven years and counting with no charges. I wrote at length about Jawad's case here, and Scott Horton summarizes some of the miserable lowlights of his case today here. As Andy Worthington reports, so unpersuasive was the case against Jawad -- particularly once the "confession" he gave after being threatened with his own death and his family's death were, over the objections of the Obama DOJ, excluded -- that the federal judge excoriated the Obama DOJ with an unusually strident and hostile tone for attempting to continue his detention. Adam Serwer considers the implications of Jawad's habeas victory, as well as the fact that the Obama DOJ may try now to indict him on actual criminal charges in order still to prevent his release even in light of the judge's ruling. (snip)

Eviatar notes: "If the 85% success rate for Gtmo detainees holds up, that would mean govt lacks evidence to support holding about 195 of 229 detainees left." Remember, that's The Worst of the Worst -- so evil and threatening that the Democratic-led U.S. Congress has barred the Obama administration from accepting any of them into the U.S., including the ones found guilty of nothing, even as we try to persuade other countries to accept them.
There's also this--Major David J. R. Frakt, in his closing argument in favor of dismissal of the case against Mohammad Jawad:
"Why was Mohammad Jawad tortured? Why did military officials choose a teenage boy who had attempted suicide in his cell less than 5 months earlier to be the subject of this sadistic sleep deprivation experiment? Not that anything would justify such treatment, of course, but at least in the case of the other detainees known to have been subjected to sleep deprivation, they were believed to possess critical intelligence that might save American lives.

Unfortunately, we may never know. I’ve asked to speak to the guards who actually carried out the program, and I’ve been denied. In the absence of information to the contrary, which the government would surely provide if it existed, we are left to conclude that it was simply gratuitous cruelty.

The government admits that Mohammad Jawad was treated “improperly,” but offers no remedy. We won’t use any evidence derived from this maltreatment, they say, but they know that there was no evidence derived from it because the government didn’t even bother to interrogate him after they tortured him. Exclusion of non-existent evidence is not a remedy. Dismissal is a severe sanction, but it is the only sanction that might conceivably deter such conduct in the future.

February 7, 2002. America lost a little of its greatness that day. We lost our position as the world’s leading defender of human rights, as the champion of justice and fairness and the rule of law. But it is a testament to the continuing greatness of this nation, that I, a lowly Air Force Reserve Major, can stand here before you today, with the world watching, without fear of retribution, retaliation or reprisal, and speak truth to power. I can call a spade a spade, and I can call torture, torture.

Today, Your Honor, you have an opportunity to restore a bit of America’s lost luster, to bring back some small measure of the greatness that was lost on Feb 7, 2002, to set us back on a path that leads to an America which once again stands at the forefront of the community of nations in the arena of human rights. Sadly, this military commission has no power to do anything to the enablers of torture such as John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Robert Delahunty, Alberto Gonzales, Douglas Feith, David Addington, William Haynes, Vice President Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, for the jurisdiction of military commissions is strictly and carefully limited to foreign war criminals, not the home-grown variety.

All you can do is to try to send a message, a clear and unmistakable message that the U.S. really doesn’t torture, and when we do, we own up to it, and we try to make it right. I have provided you with legal authority for the proposition that you have the power to dismiss these charges. I can’t stand before you and say that you are legally required to do so. But I can say that that it is a moral imperative to do so, and I ask that you do so."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Beat Goes On-- Children Tortured; Take Action for Justice


President Jimmy Carter wrote that the Red Cross, Amnesty International and the Pentagon "have gathered substantial testimony of torture of children, confirmed by soldiers who witnessed or participated in the abuse." In "Our Endangered Values" Carter said that the Red Cross found after visiting six U.S. prisons "107 detainees under eighteen, some as young as eight years old." And reporter Hersh, (who broke the Abu Ghraib torture scandal,) reported 800-900 Pakistani boys aged 13 to 15 in custody.

Journalist Seymour Hersh's (who broke the Abu Ghraib scandal) bombshell before the ACLU some years ago has been in a temporary slumber, as there is question as to whether the videotapes in possession of the Pentagon were among those claimed to be destroyed. Destroyed or not, there is still the conscience of soldiers and agents who bore witness to contend with, as the reign of political terror against whistleblowers which characterized the Bush administration subsides. Hersh said:

" Some of the worst things that happened you don't know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib ... The women were passing messages out saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened' and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It's going to come out."

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said at the time:

"The American public needs to understand, we're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience. We're talking about rape and murder and some very serious charges."

History is just beginning to sort out the Bush era, with stubborn facts showing a resilience that Fox News talking points cannot, and more emerging. Today, even among Republicans, it is difficult to find those who will embrace Richard Nixon, though for a while he was every bit the perceived victim of "left-wing hate" that Bush and Cheney are now. Incredibly, to compare Nixon to Bush-Cheney is to do a deeply flawed man a disservice. Nixon inherited Vietnam. He did not orchestrate from whole cloth a campaign to link Saddam with 9/11, and strenuously push to war despite the objections of his countrymen and the world. Nixon spied on political enemies. He did not use a tragedy to illegally spy on millions, the true numbers of which we still do not know because congress has never investigated.

It's almost possible to feel sorry for the shifty, friendless Nixon. It is less possible to feel so for the smirking Bush, who thought nothing of telling soldier's families that war critics were saying that their loved ones "had died in vain."

A compilation in November2008 of other evidence of alleged incidents involving children at the time recounts:

-- Iraqi lawyer Sahar Yasiri, representing the Federation of Prisoners and Political Prisoners, said in a published interview there are more than 400,000 detainees in Iraq being held in 36 prisons and camps and that 95 percent of the 10,000 women among them have been raped. Children, he said, "suffer from torture, rape, (and) starvation" and do not know why they have been arrested. He added the children have been victims of "random" arrests "not based on any legal text."

-- Former prisoner Thaar Salman Dawod in a witness statement said, "[I saw] two boys naked and they were cuffed together face to face and [a U.S. soldier] was beating them and a group of guards were watching and taking pictures and there was three female soldiers laughing at the prisoners."

-- Iraqi TV reporter, Suhaib Badr-Addin al-Baz, arrested while making a documentary and thrown into Abu Ghraib for 74 days, told Mackay he saw "hundreds" of children there. Al-Baz said he heard one 12-year-old girl crying, "They have undressed me. They have poured water over me." He said he heard her whimpering daily.

-- Al-Baz also told of a 15-year-old boy "who was soaked repeatedly with hoses until he collapsed." Amnesty International said ex-detainees reported boys as young as 10 are held at Abu Ghraib.

-- German TV reporter Thomas Reutter of "Report Mainz" quoted U.S. Army Sgt. Samuel Provance that interrogation specialists "poured water" over one 16-year-old Iraqi boy, drove him throughout a cold night, "smeared him with mud" and then showed him to his father, who was also in custody. Apparently, one tactic employed by the Bush regime is to elicit confessions from adults by dragging their abused children in front of them.

-- Jonathan Steele, wrote in the British "The Guardian" that "Hundreds of children, some as young as nine, are being held in appalling conditions in Baghdad’s prisons...Sixteen-year-old Omar Ali told the "Guardian" he spent more than three years at Karkh juvenile prison sleeping with 75 boys to a cell that is just five by 10 meters, some of them on the floor. Omar told the paper guards often take boys to a separate room in the prison and rape them.

-- Raad Jamal, age 17, was taken from his Doura home by U.S. troops and turned over to the Iraqi Army’s Second regiment where Jamal said he was hung from the ceiling by ropes and beaten with electric cables.

-- Human Rights Watch (HRW) last June put the number of juveniles detained at 513. In all, HRW estimates, since 2003, the U.S. has detained 2,400 children in Iraq, some as young as ten.

-- IRIN, the humanitarian news service, last year quoted Khalid Rabia of the Iraqi NGO Prisoners’ Association for Justice(PAJ), stating that five boys between 13 and 17 accused of supporting insurgents and detained by the Iraqi army "showed signs of torture all over their bodies," such as "cigarette burns over their legs," she said.

-- One boy of 13 arrested in Afghanistan in 2002 was held in solitary for more than a year at Bagram and Guantanamo and made to stand in stress position and deprived of sleep, according to the "Catholic Worker."

Attorney General Holder is a man of conscience who now serves both President Obama and the law. A Newsweek piece last week says he has no illusions that:

Such a decision [to appoint a Special Prosecutor] would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama's domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months. "I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative impact on the president's agenda," he says. "But that can't be a part of my decision."

There can be redemption for a nation which faces its past. One that does not can only become more monstrous.

Call the Office of the Attorney General, "Appoint a Special Prosecutor" at (202) 353-1555. Then email the Justice Department.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Torturing People to Death

The interrogation and detention regime implemented by the U.S. resulted in the deaths of over 100 detainees in U.S. custody -- at least. While some of those deaths were the result of "rogue" interrogators and agents, many were caused by the methods authorized at the highest levels of the Bush White House, including extreme stress positions, hypothermia, sleep deprivation and others. Aside from the fact that they cause immense pain, that's one reason we've always considered those tactics to be "torture" when used by others -- because they inflict serious harm, and can even kill people. Those arguing against investigations and prosecutions -- that we Look to the Future, not the Past -- are thus literally advocating that numerous people get away with murder.
I have spent time reviewing the Autopsy reports of the detainees known to have died in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of these 44 detainee deaths, 21 were determined by US military pathologists to be homicides. Most of the autopsies reveal the handiwork of pure cruelty. The autopsies are replete with descriptions of linear bruises caused by batons or other blunt objects, patterned abrasions ("brush burns") on the back from dragging, cuts and bruises at the wrists from shackling, boot prints in the flesh, head injuries that cause blood vessels in the brain to rupture.... This link to an ACLU press release provides several telling excerpts. Aside from the unadulterated cruelty evident in many of the autopsies, one autopsy reveals a death that was exacerbated by the medical experimentation of the early torture program.
See also-- Detainee 04-309: Death from Torture

Sunday, June 07, 2009

"U.S. Lawyers Agreed on the Legality of Brutal Tactic"

Absolutely disgraceful:
WASHINGTON — When Justice Department lawyers engaged in a sharp internal debate in 2005 over brutal interrogation techniques, even some who believed that using tough tactics was a serious mistake agreed on a basic point: the methods themselves were legal.

Previously undisclosed Justice Department e-mail messages, interviews and newly declassified documents show that some of the lawyers, including James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general who argued repeatedly that the United States would regret using harsh methods, went along with a 2005 legal opinion asserting that the techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency were lawful.

That opinion, giving the green light for the C.I.A. to use all 13 methods in interrogating terrorism suspects, including waterboarding and up to 180 hours of sleep deprivation, “was ready to go out and I concurred,” Mr. Comey wrote to a colleague in an April 27, 2005, e-mail message obtained by The New York Times.
Much more on this story from Glenn Greenwald and TPM-- the basic idea is that the Times greatly downplayed the obvious conclusion from the emails that the DOJ was getting heavy pressure from Busco to legalize the torture regime.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Cheney Personally Oversaw ’Secret’ Congressional Briefings on Torture

Former Vice President Dick Cheney “personally” oversaw at least four briefings with members of Congress about the Bush administration’s interrogation program in an effort to maintain support for the torture of detainees in U.S. custody.

The briefings, part of a “secret” defense of the program Cheney began in 2005, were held as congressional oversight committees were threatening to investigate, or end the use of the interrogation methods, lawmakers and officials told The Washington Post.

Cheney’s advocacy of the use of waterboarding and warrantless wiretapping are certainly no secret, but his role in defending the program to lawmakers was undisclosed to the public until this time.

Documents delivered to Capitol Hill last month by the CIA listed every lawmaker briefed on the interrogation program since 2002, but made no mention of Cheney’s involvement in the meetings. For the briefings led by Cheney, intelligence committee members were told that information pertaining to the person who oversaw the meetings was “not available.”

During the briefings, Cheney “was adamant that the enhanced interrogations were needed to preserve national security,” two participants in the briefings told the paper, and when lawmakers questioned the legality of the program, “CIA briefers said that half of the agency’s knowledge about al-Qaeda’s plans and structure had been obtained through the interrogations.”

The report offers nothing to confirm or deny that top Democrats were aware that waterboarding was being used on detainees as early on as 2002, but does state that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “was not present at any of the briefings that included Cheney.” Pelosi has been under fire since she accused the CIA of intentionally misleading her during a 2002 briefing on the use of waterboarding.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Former military interrogator says torture cost hundreds ‘if not thousands’ of American lives

A 14-year military interrogator has undercut one of the key arguments posited by Vice President Dick Cheney in favor of the Bush Administration’s torture techniques and alleged that the use of torture has cost “hundreds if not thousands” of American lives.

The interrogator, who uses the name “Matthew Alexander,” says he oversaw more than 1,000 interrogations, conducting more than 300 in Iraq personally. His statements are captured in a new video by Brave New Films (below).

“Torture does not save lives,” Alexander said in his interview. “And the reason why is that our enemies use it, number one, as a recruiting tool…These same foreign fighters who came to Iraq to fight because of torture and abuse….literally cost us hundreds if not thousands of American lives.”

Moreover, Alexander avers that many — as many as 90 percent — of those captured in Iraq said they joined the fight against the United States because of the torture conducted at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

“At the prison where I conducted interrogations,” Alexander said, “we heard day in and day out, foreign fighters who had been captured state that the number one reason that they had come to fight in Iraq was because of torture and abuse, what had happened at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.”

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gonzales approved ‘borderline torture’ months before ‘torture memos’ issued

Months before the first “torture memo” was issued by Bush administration lawyers in 2002, Alberto Gonzales – then White House counsel – personally approved “borderline torture” techniques used on Abu Zubaydah, according to a new report.

An anonymous source told NPR that in April and May of 2002 CIA contractor James Mitchell sought approval on a daily basis for so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” via top-secret cables to the CIA’s counterterrorism center. The CIA forwarded those cables to the White House, according to National Public Radio, and Gonzales would approve the technique, thus granting a legal basis for Mitchell’s actions – in theory at least.

Yesterday, the CIA sent the ACLU a document that corroborates the source’s account. The document shows that during the spring and summer of 2002 many top-secret cables went from Zubaydah’s black site prison to CIA headquarters every day.

Military attorney: Waterboarding is ‘tip of the iceberg’

A military attorney who represented a now-freed Guantanamo detainee told CNN on Wednesday that waterboarding is only “the tip of the iceberg”.

Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Yvonne Bradley was the lawyer for Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian national who was arrested by the Pakistani government in April 2002 on suspicion of being a member of al Qaeda. He was then shuffled through a series of CIA “ghost prisons” before being imprisoned at Guantanamo for five years. Last winter, President Obama ordered him released to the United Kingdom, where he had been a legal resident.

Bradley told CNN that when she was first assigned to represent Mohamed, she did not question he was a hardened terrorist, because “my government was saying these were the worst of the worst.” However, she now says, “There’s no reliable evidence that Mr. Mohamed was going to do anything to the United States.”

According to Bradley, when Mohamed was first held at a CIA prison in Morocco, “They started this monthly treatment where they would come in with a scalpel or a razor type of instrument and they would slash his genitals, just with small cuts.

Following that torture, Mohamed confessed that he had attended an al Qaeda training camp and discussed plans to make a dirty bomb. He also answered “No” to the question, “While in U.S. military custody have you been treated in any way that you would consider abusive?”

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Some Abu Ghraib Torture Photos Leaked in 2006

Today’s Telegraph incorrectly reports, “The images emerged from Australia yesterday where they were originally obtained by the channel SBS in 2006 in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal. They were not distributed around the world at the time but are now believed to be among those the president is trying to block.”

It’s unknown if any American television network has posted any of these photos in the last three years.
The pictures are disturbing, but should be seen in their entirety so I have decided not to just put one or two here. They can be seen at the Rawstory link.

Ongoing Spanish Investigation Painting Devastating Picture US Brutality

The investigation focuses in particular on a squad whose standard procedure is to crush even minimal resistance or uncooperativeness by Guantanamo prisoners with a maximum degree of violence. “The force is officially known as the the Immediate Reaction Force or Emergency Reaction Force,” Scahill writes, “but inside the walls of Guantánamo, it is known to the prisoners as the Extreme Repression Force.”

Released prisoners, their lawyers, and former guards have all previously told their parts of the story, but as Scahill draws the pieces together, the extent of the deliberate burtality and dehumanization becomes agonizingly apparent.

The IRF teams’ official guidelines indicate that they should use only the minimum amount of force necessary on unruly detainees and should never use force as a method of punishment. However, witnesses tell a very different story. Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, describes the IRF as “Black Shirts” and Clive Stafford Smith, who has represented 50 Guantanamo prisoners, calls them simply “goons.”

It appears that the teams were even directed to create pretexts for brutality where none existed in order to make sure that all the prisoners were fully intimidated.

According to legal expert Scott Horton, the extrajudicial actions of these teams — which include beating prisoners, using attack dogs, rubbing pepper spray directly in their eyes, and leaving them hog-tied and in excruciating pain for hours — were “fully approved” by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in consultation with the Justice Department.

All actions by the teams are supposed to be documented and videotaped, but it is not clear to what degree this was actually done or whether any tapes still exist. However, Stafford Smith does say that “there is photographic evidence.”

Full Scahill article here-- which should be read in its nauseating entirety.

Researcher seeks probe of Bush-era ‘homicides by torture’

A human rights researcher said Friday that any investigation into abuse of terror war prisoners should focus on what he called the Bush administration’s “homicides” — prisoners who died while being subjected to torture.

John Sifton, a private investigator with One World Research, appearing on Democracy Now with host Amy Goodman, said that up to 100 terror war prisoners have died in U.S. custody, many of whom were clearly murdered, some by way of torture.

Friday, May 15, 2009

More Evidence Torture Was Used to Connect al Qaeda to Iraq

The chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell says that the Bush Administration authorized torture of detainees before even rendering a legal opinion on the practice — and that they sought to torture detainees in an effort to produce intelligence tying Iraq to al Qaeda.

“What I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002–well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion–its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa’ida,” former Powell chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson wrote Wednesday evening.

Also this:
One of the big developments yesterday was Robert Windrem's report about Dick Cheney's attempt to get Charlie Duelfer, the guy then in charge of investigating Iraqi WMD in the aftermath of the invasion, to waterboard a senior Iraqi intelligence official to get him to admit that Iraq had WMD and any stuff about a link between Iraq and al Qaida. Remember, at this point it's about getting a retrospective rationale for the invasion. Rachel Maddow had Windrem and Duelfer on her show last night discussing what happened. Check it out here. Maddow has a really good run-down of the key events and then the key interview begins a bit after six minutes in.
(see link for link to the show)

Bush Admin/CIA Misled Congress on Torture

Bush Failure To Disclose Waterboarding to Congress Appears To Violate Law

Pelosi Says CIA Misled Her on Torture (more here)

Former Senator Bob Graham says CIA admitted making up dates of torture briefings

Philip Zelikow: How BushCo Gamed the Briefing Process

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

CIA Fought For Sleep Deprivation


The Los Angeles Times reports that sleep deprivation was "one of the most important elements in the CIA's interrogation program, used to help break dozens of suspected terrorists, far more than the most violent approaches." It was also "among the methods the agency fought hardest to keep."

In fact, former CIA director Michael Hayden reportedly (and unsuccessfully) lobbied the White House not to expose its use by releasing the memos that described it, asking: "Are you telling me that under all conditions of threat, you will never interfere with the sleep cycle of a detainee?"

(It's not clear why exposing the use of sleep deprivation would prevent it being used in the future -- it's hard to train for 11 days without sleep).

President Obama banned the use of sleep deprivation soon after taking office, though a task force is reviewing its use, as well as that of other methods.

A CIA inspector general's report from 2004 is said by the LAT to have been more critical of the use of sleep deprivation than any other method aside from waterboarding.

Here's how the recently released memos described the technique:

Detainees were clad only in diapers and not allowed to feed themselves. A prisoner who started to drift off to sleep would tilt over and be caught by his chains.


When detainees could no longer stand, they could be laid on the prison floor with their limbs "anchored to a far point on the floor in such a manner that the arms cannot be bent or used for balance or comfort," a May 10, 2005, memo said.

"The position is sufficiently uncomfortable to detainees to deprive them of unbroken sleep, while allowing their lower limbs to recover from the effects of standing," it said.

And James Horne, the sleep expert whose work was cited in one memo to justify keeping detainees awake for up to 11 days, reiterated to the paper his claim that the memo's authors badly distorted his work.

Reports the LAT:

"My response was shocked concern," Horne said in an e-mail interview. Just because the pain of sleep deprivation "can't be measured in terms of physical injury or appearance . . . does not mean that the mental anguish is not as bad."
Sleep deprivation is not an effective way to get information-- it's a way to mentally break down a person. Severe sleep information induces psychosis-- including hallucinations.


Saturday, May 09, 2009

CIA Admits That Info About Torture Briefings For Dems May Not Be Accurate

As I noted below, newly released documents appear to show that according to the CIA, officials briefed Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats back in 2002 about the use of torture techniques on terror suspects.

But a letter that accompanied these documents, written by the head of the CIA, appears to clearly concede that the information in the docs about who was briefed and when may not be accurate or reliable.

Republicans are pointing to the documents — which were produced by the CIA and the Director of National Intelligence, and sent to select members of Congress — to charge that Pelosi and other Dems have been lying about what they knew about waterboarding and when.

But the docs were accompanied by a letter from CIA chief Leon Panetta that appears to suggest the CIA can’t promise that the info is right. The letter was sent along with the documents to GOP Rep Pete Hoekstra, a leading critic of Dems on torture, and Dem Rep Silvestre Reyes, the chairman of the intelligence committee.

More here and here and here.

To the extent that Democrast are guilty in being complicit in torture, they need to be prosecuted. But there clearly is a political partisan battle being waged here, and it's obviously in the CIA's interest to spread the guilt around.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Torture Round-Up 4

US interrogators may have killed dozens, human rights researcher and rights group say.

United States interrogators killed nearly four dozen detainees during or after their interrogations, according a report published by a human rights researcher based on a Human Rights First report and followup investigations.

In all, 98 detainees have died while in US hands. Thirty-four homicides have been identified, with at least eight detainees — and as many as 12 — having been tortured to death, according to a 2006 Human Rights First report that underwrites the researcher’s posting. The causes of 48 more deaths remain uncertain.

Torture Memo Author Advocated Presidential Pardons, Jury Nullification

A Bush administration attorney who approved harsh interrogation techniques of terror suspects advocated in 2006 that President Bush set aside recommendations by his own Justice Department to bring prosecutions for such practices, that the President should consider pardoning anyone convicted of such offenses, and even that jurors hearing criminal cases about such matters engage in jury nullification.

That advice came from John Yoo, a former attorney with the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel and author of memos that served as a legal rationale for the Bush administration's interrogation techniques. Yoo's recommendations constitute one of the most compelling pieces of a body of evidence that Yoo and other government attorneys improperly skewed legal advice to allow such practices, according to sources familiar with a still-confidential Justice Department report.

A Justice Department internal watchdog agency, the Office of Professional Responsibility, has concluded that Yoo and a second former Justice Department attorney, Jay Bybee, breached their professional legal ethics by skewing their legal advisory opinion to provide a legal rationale for allowing the harsh interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, according to a senior Department attorney who has reviewed a draft of the report. President Obama has said that the use of some of the interrogation techniques constituted torture.

Senate to hear testimony on Bush detainee interrogations

A key Senate critic of Bush-era interrogations has announced that a subcommittee he chairs will hold hearings on the Bush administration’s detainee interrogation program.

The public hearings would be the first on the matter since President Barack Obama released legal memos greenlighting techniques that some have argued are tantamount to torture.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) says the Senate panel will hear testimony focusing on “the legal analysis used to authorize harsh interrogation techniques, the ineffectiveness of those techniques, and the standards governing lawyers’ professional conduct applicable to those who authorized the procedures,” writes The Boston Globe’s Foon Rhee at the Political Intelligence blog.

Whitehouse has previously called for a full probe of the interrogation techniques, which President Obama presently opposes.

In March, the Rhode Island Democrat said at a Senate hearing that it was “distinctly in the public interest” for information on Bush-era interrogations to emerge, and that some conduct of Bush appointees could merit criminal investigations.

Witnesses set to appear at the hearing are former FBI special agent Ali Soufan and ex-State Department attorney Philip Zelikow.

Dodd: Torture investigations may need to go as high as Cheney’s office.

In a new interview with Connecticut bloggers, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) unequivocally states that he believes waterboarding is torture and comes out in support of Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) Commission of Inquiry into a “comprehensive, nonpartisan, independent review of what happened.” He also compares today’s situation to the Nuremberg Trials — for which his father was a prosecutor — and criticizes the Obama administration for releasing the documents and then resisting calls for investigations... When someone then pointed out that “a lot of this stuff seems to point toward Cheney’s office,” Dodd replied, “You gotta go where you gotta go.”

Spanish judge asks US if it will probe torture

MADRID (AP) — A Spanish judge said Tuesday he will ask the United States if it plans a probe of six senior Bush administration officials accused of creating a legal framework for torture of terror suspects, before deciding whether to open his own investigation.

Judge Eloy Velasco said Spain can act only if the United States has not conducted a torture investigation of its own and does not plan one.

Velasco is handling a complaint filed by human rights lawyers under Spain's principle of universal justice, which holds that grave crimes like terrorism, genocide or torture can be prosecuted here even if alleged to have been committed abroad.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was briefed in 2002 on Bush admin. torture techniques, despite her denials. It's not clear how much actual detail she received on torture specifics.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Cover-Up Continues

Former Bush administration officials have launched a behind-the-scenes campaign to urge Justice Department leaders to soften an ethics report criticizing lawyers who blessed harsh detainee interrogation tactics, according to two sources familiar with the efforts.

Representatives for John C. Yoo and Jay S. Bybee, subjects of the ethics probe, have encouraged former Justice Department and White House officials to contact new officials at the department to point out the troubling precedent of imposing sanctions on legal advisers, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the process is not complete.

The effort began in recent weeks, the sources said, and it could not be determined how many former officials had reached out to their new counterparts.

A draft report of more than 200 pages, prepared in January before Bush's departure, recommends disciplinary action, rather than criminal prosecution, by state bar associations against Yoo and Bybee, former attorneys in the department's Office of Legal Counsel, for their work in preparing and signing the interrogation memos. State bar associations have the power to suspend a lawyer's license to practice or impose other penalties.

The memos offered support for waterboarding, slamming prisoners against a flexible wall and other techniques that critics have likened to torture. The documents were drafted between 2002 and 2005.

The investigation, now in its fifth year, could shed new light on the origins of the memos. Investigators rely in part on e-mail exchanges among Justice Department lawyers and attorneys at the CIA who sought advice about the legality of interrogation practices that have since been abandoned by the Obama administration.

Two of the authors, Bybee, now a federal appeals court judge, and Yoo, now a law professor in California, had a Monday deadline to respond to investigators.

Miguel Estrada, an attorney for Yoo, said, "As a condition of permitting me to represent Professor Yoo in this matter, the Department of Justice required me to sign a confidentiality agreement. As a result of that agreement, there's nothing I can say."

Maureen Mahoney, an attorney for Bybee, also cited the confidentiality requirement in declining to comment.

The legal analysis on interrogation prepared by a third former chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, Steven G. Bradbury, also was a subject of the ethics probe. But in an early draft, investigators did not make disciplinary recommendations about Bradbury.

Charges Seen as Unlikely for Lawyers Over Interrogations

WASHINGTON — An internal Justice Department inquiry into the conduct of Bush administration lawyers who wrote secret memorandums authorizing brutal interrogations has concluded that the authors committed serious lapses of judgment but should not be criminally prosecuted, according to government officials briefed on a draft of the findings.

The report by the Office of Professional Responsibility, an internal ethics unit within the Justice Department, is also likely to ask that state bar associations consider possible disciplinary action, including reprimands or even disbarment, for some of the lawyers involved in writing the legal opinions, the officials said.

The conclusions of the 220-page draft report are not final and have not yet been approved by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. The officials said it is possible the final report might be subject to revision, but they did not expect major alterations in its main findings or recommendations.

The draft report is described as very detailed, tracing e-mail messages between Justice Department lawyers and officials at the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency. Among the questions it is expected to consider is whether the memos reflected the lawyers’ independent judgments of the limits of the federal anti-torture statute or were skewed deliberately to justify what the C.I.A. proposed.
More from Digby.

Abu Ghraib Went to the Top, Continued

Abu Ghraib Guards Say Memos Show They Were Scapegoats
By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 1, 2009

When the photos of detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq surfaced in 2004, U.S. officials portrayed Army Pvt. Charles A. Graner Jr. as the ringleader of a few low-ranking "bad apples" who illegally put naked Iraqi detainees in painful positions, shackled them to cell doors with women's underwear on their heads and menaced them with military dogs.

Now, the recent release of Justice Department memos authorizing the use of harsh interrogation techniques has given Graner and other soldiers new reason to argue that they were made scapegoats for policies approved at high levels. They also contend that the government's refusal to acknowledge those polices when Graner and others were tried undermined their legal defenses.

Graner remains locked up at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., about halfway through a 10-year prison sentence for detainee abuse, assault and dereliction of duty. His lawyer said this week that he is drafting appeals arguments centered largely on the revelations in the memos and a newly released congressional investigation into the interrogation practices.

President George W. Bush "was so disappointed in what happened, yet the whole time he knew what was going on," said Graner, answering questions through his wife, Megan, who also worked at Abu Ghraib. He is the only one of about a dozen soldiers tried for abuses at the prison who remains incarcerated.

Graner and other defendants -- including Lynndie R. England, who was photographed holding a naked detainee by a leash -- were blocked by military judges from calling senior U.S. officials to the stand at their trials in 2004 and 2005. The government would not acknowledge any policy or procedure that could have led to what the world saw in the photographs.

Some of what the guards at Abu Ghraib did, such as throwing hooded detainees into walls, echoes tactics authorized in the Justice Department memos, such as "walling," in which interrogators were allowed to push detainees in CIA custody into a flexible wall designed to make a loud noise.

But the Abu Ghraib photographs also depicted some actions, such as punching or stomping, that bear no relation to the techniques described in the memos, as well as others that were improvised by guards, such as forcing detainees to masturbate or to form human pyramids while naked. (snip)

Those tactics, according to the documents, were put into use at the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in the CIA's secret prisons, and eventually were adopted in Afghanistan and Iraq after then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's approval was forwarded from officials at Guantanamo to Capt. Carolyn Wood, a military intelligence officer. She told investigators that she then sought approvals in Afghanistan for the tactics and brought them with her to Iraq and Abu Ghraib. Senior officers in Iraq also approved the methods there.

Mormons and Torture

Although the decisions which put us in the grim business of torture, body-snatching, extraordinary renditions, making people disappear, indefinite confinement without charges and warrantless wiretapping were made by the president and vice president, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints served as helpful enablers. Not only did they provide the legal architecture, they provided the "scientific" patina for the plunge into the barbaric business of torture.

Take Latter-day Saint Timothy E. Flanigan, deputy White House counsel, who, along with David Addington, John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, and Jim Haynes comprised the secretive "War Council" of lawyers -- a self-appointed group Mayer describes as having virtually no experience in law enforcement, military service, counterterrorism or the Muslim world....

BYU law school graduate Jay S. Bybee was the assistant attorney general directing the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel. At the instigation of Addington and Yoo, Bybee issued official legal opinions that redefined the crime of torture to make it all but impossible to commit. Barbarity was not torture unless it created pain equal to death or organ failure. A newly-declassified Bybee memorandum lists 10 previously top-secret interrogation techniques approved for use by the CIA, including waterboarding.

Incredibly, Bybee seems to have been unaware that the United States had prosecuted waterboarding as a war crime after World War II. In 2003, before his role in authorizing U.S. torture was known, Bybee was given a lifetime judicial appointment on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Had his role in torture been known, it is unlikely he would have been confirmed.

Two devout Mormons also engineered the more grisly wet work. Because the CIA lacked personnel in 2001 with interrogation expertise, the agency turned to two psychologists, James E. Mitchell and John B. Jessen, who had worked with the Air Force's Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape programs. Neither had an intelligence or interrogation background or had experience with Muslim terrorists, but, according to the FBI, they had experience in designing, testing, implementing and monitoring torture techniques that were illegal in the United States and elsewhere in the civilized world...

Mitchell advised that suspects must be treated like dogs in a cage. "It's like an experiment, when you apply electric shocks to a caged dog, after a while, he's so diminished, he can't resist."

Friday, May 01, 2009

Rice Admitted a Criminal Conspiracy

In little-noticed comments Thursday, the former White House counsel for President Richard Nixon John Dean said Thursday that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice may have unwittingly admitted to a criminal conspiracy when questioned about torture by a group of student videographers at Stanford.

Rice told students at Stanford that she didn’t authorize torture, she merely forwarded the authorization for it. Dean, who became a poster child for whistleblowing after aiding the prosecution of the Watergate affair, told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann that Rice may have admitted to a criminal conspiracy.

In a video that surfaced Thursday, Rice said, “The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligation, legal obligations under the convention against torture… I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency. And so by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture.”

Her comments raised eyebrows from online observers, who compared Rice’s answer to that of Richard Nixon’s infamous quip: “When the President does it, that means that it’s not illegal.”

Dean said he found Rice’s comments “surprising” and put her in a legal mire of possible conspiracy.

“She tried to say she didn’t authorize anything, then proceeded to say she did pass orders along to the CIA to engage in torture if it was legal by the standard of the Department of Justice,” Dean said. “This really puts her right in the middle of a common plan, as it’s known in international law, or a conspiracy, as it’s known in American law, and this indeed is a crime. If it indeed happened the way we think it did happen.”

ABC/CIA Shill Brian Ross Tries to Blame Torture on Two Private Psychologists

According to current and former government officials, the CIA's secret waterboarding program was designed and assured to be safe by two well-paid psychologists now working out of an unmarked office building in Spokane, Washington.

Bruce Jessen and Jim Mitchell, former military officers, together founded Mitchell Jessen and Associates.

Both men declined to speak to ABC News citing non-disclosure agreements with the CIA. But sources say Jessen and Mitchell together designed and implemented the CIA's interrogation program.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama: Bush Administration Authorized Torture

Greg Sargent:
At least, that’s what I think Obama said at his press conference last night, and I’m surprised it’s not getting a bit more attention today.

The key moment came at the end of an exchange with ABC News’ Jake Tapper. After Obama acknowledged that waterboarding is “torture” — a word he and his aides had shied away from using of late — came this:

TAPPER: I’m sorry, sir, but do you believe the previous administration sanctioned torture?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I believe that waterboarding was torture. And I think that the — whatever legal rationales were used, it was a mistake.

Obama implicitly acknowledged here that the previous administration used “legal rationales” to justify “torture.”

This underscores yet again how dicey this is for Obama politically: He’s acknowledging that the previous administration created “legal rationales” to allow itself to engage in behavior that’s outlawed by international treaties. At a minimum, this would seem to give some pretty powerful ammo to those who want some kind of noncriminal probe into what happened.

What am I missing?

Update: This may be more striking than I first thought; Obama seemed to agree that the previous administration violated “international law.”

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Conyers, Nadler request special prosecutor on torture

They get it:
Congressmen John Conyers and Jerrold Nadler have written a letter to the Attorney General requesting the appointment of a special prosecutor on torture.

“While I applaud the Obama administration for releasing these torture memos in the spirit of openness and transparency, the memos’ alarming content requires further action,” opined Nadler, who chairs the House Judiceary Committee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. “These memos, without a shadow of a doubt, authorized torture and gave explicit instruction on how to carry it out, all the while carefully attempting to maintain a legal fig leaf.

“These memos make it abundantly clear that the Bush administration engaged in torture. Because torture is illegal under American law – as the U.S. is a signatory to the Convention Against Torture – we are legally required to investigate and, when appropriate, to prosecute those responsible for these crimes.” (snip)

“Because the United States is bound by its own laws and by international treaty, we are obligated to investigate and, where necessary, to prosecute those who have violated the laws against committing torture – whether by ordering it or committing it directly. We have no choice if we are to remain a just and principled nation of laws.

“Special Counsel is the most appropriate way to handle this matter. It would remove from the process any question that the investigation was subject to political pressure, and it would preempt any perceptions of conflict of interest within the Justice Department, which produced the torture memos. President Obama has honorably shown his commitment to the rule of law and placed this process into the hands of his able Attorney General, where it belongs. I look forward to working with Attorney General Holder on this, and with Chairman Conyers as the Judiciary Committee continues its oversight investigations.”

Bybee Tries to Make Excuses


WASHINGTON — Judge Jay S. Bybee broke his silence on Tuesday and defended the conclusions of legal memorandums he had signed as a Bush administration lawyer that allowed use of several coercive interrogation practices on suspected terrorists.

Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Jay S. Bybee testified before Congress in February 2002.

Judge Bybee, who issued the memorandums as the head of the Office of Legal Counsel and was later nominated to the federal appeals court by President George W. Bush, said in a statement in response to questions from The New York Times that he continued to believe that the memorandums represented “a good-faith analysis of the law” that properly defined the thin line between harsh treatment and torture.
More on Bybee from Think Progress.

The War Crimes Double Standard

Bush Flashback: “War Crimes Will Be Prosecuted…It Will Be No Defense To Say, ‘I Was Just Following Orders’”
Just before launching his invasion of Iraq, President Bush went on national television to issue an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein, urging him to leave his country within 48 hours. Bush also had this message for “all Iraqi military and civilian personnel”:

War crimes will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished and it will be no defense to say, “I was just following orders.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

CIA: Professional Liars for Propaganda Purposes

In late 2007, there was the first crack of daylight into the government’s use of waterboarding during interrogations of Al Qaeda detainees. On Dec. 10, John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. officer who had participated in the capture of the suspected terrorist Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in 2002, appeared on ABC News to say that while he considered waterboarding a form of torture, the technique worked and yielded results very quickly.

Mr. Zubaydah started to cooperate after being waterboarded for “probably 30, 35 seconds,” Mr. Kiriakou told the ABC reporter Brian Ross. “From that day on he answered every question.”

His claims — unverified at the time, but repeated by dozens of broadcasts, blogs and newspapers — have been sharply contradicted by a newly declassified Justice Department memo that said waterboarding had been used on Mr. Zubaydah “at least 83 times.”
I'm sure this is only the tip of the iceberg, as the CIA is covertly embedded throughout the media.

And here we go-- Glenn Greenwald runs down the ways in which the Kiriakou's lie was disseminated throughout the media.

The Banality of Evil

Frank Rich:

Five years after the Abu Ghraib revelations, we must acknowledge that our government methodically authorized torture and lied about it. But we also must contemplate the possibility that it did so not just out of a sincere, if criminally misguided, desire to “protect” us but also to promote an unnecessary and catastrophic war. Instead of saving us from “another 9/11,” torture was a tool in the campaign to falsify and exploit 9/11 so that fearful Americans would be bamboozled into a mission that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. The lying about Iraq remains the original sin from which flows much of the Bush White House’s illegality.

Levin suggests — and I agree — that as additional fact-finding plays out, it’s time for the Justice Department to enlist a panel of two or three apolitical outsiders, perhaps retired federal judges, “to review the mass of material” we already have. The fundamental truth is there, as it long has been. The panel can recommend a legal path that will insure accountability for this wholesale betrayal of American values.

President Obama can talk all he wants about not looking back, but this grotesque past is bigger than even he is. It won’t vanish into a memory hole any more than Andersonville, World War II internment camps or My Lai. The White House, Congress and politicians of both parties should get out of the way. We don’t need another commission. We don’t need any Capitol Hill witch hunts. What we must have are fair trials that at long last uphold and reclaim our nation’s commitment to the rule of law.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Liz Cheney's Lies About Her Father's Torture Program

Full article here.

False Claim 1: The Program was Widely Approved and Legal.

False Claim 2: President Obama and AG Holder have ignored evidence of the program effectiveness.

False Claim 3: These tactics weren't torture because they are used in SERE in the training of our own troops.

False Claim 4: Two of the people who were Waterboarded gave us information that saved American Lives.

False Claime #5: Our Intelligence Gathering and Nation has been hurt by release of these memos.

False Claim #6: The Techniques were limited and carefully controlled

False Claim #7: The Program had Broad-based Support within the Higher-ups of the Administration, including all members of the National Security Council

False Claim #8: These techniques were done to our own people (via S.E.R.E.) and they were not "Tortured".

False Claim #9: Revealing these techniques will allow our enemies to train to withstand them.

False Claim #10: Al Qeada doesn't follow Geneva so why should we?

Also, see Emptywheel on this same story.

Media Enablers of Torture

Jonathan Alter an Early Advocate of Torture... then Alter has the brazenness to go on Keith Olbermann's show and lie about what happened.

Essentially "Pundits Whitewash Torture"--

On the Sunday morning news programs, several pundits went out of their way to either endorse waterboarding and other techniques endorsed in the torture memos - or to dismiss the idea of holding their authors responsible. (H/t FireDogLake)

On ABC News' "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," George Will echoed several Bush officials when he criticized the release of the memos, saying "The problem with transparency is that it's transparent for the terrorists as well." Will expressed concern about the cost of letting "the bad guys" know what techniques, such as waterboarding, will be used on them. He went on to add, as noted by HuffPost's Jason Linkins, that "intelligent people of good will" believe the President of the United States can do whatever he wants to "defend the country."

Peggy Noonan went even further, articulating a position that upends George Santayana's famous quote: "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

"Some things in life need to be mysterious," said Noonan, adding, "Sometimes you need to just keep walking."

She also added:

"It's hard for me to look at a great nation issuing these documents and sending them out to the world and thinking, oh, much good will come of that."

Torture was an Unauthorized Covert Operation

The Bush Administration Did Not Give Legally-Required Prior Notification to Congress

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Torture Round-Up 3

Rice gave early 'waterboarding green light':
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The CIA first sought in May 2002 to use harsh interrogation techniques including waterboarding on terror suspects, and was given key early approval by then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, a US Senate intelligence document said.

The agency got the green light to use the near-drowning technique on July 26, 2002, when attorney general John Ashcroft concluded "that the use of waterboarding was lawful," the Senate Intelligence Committee said in a detailed timeline of the "war on terrorism" interrogations released Wednesday.

Nine days earlier, the panel said, citing Central Intelligence Agency records, Rice had met with then-director George Tenet and "advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation of Abu Zubaydah," the agency's first high-value Al-Qaeda detainee, pending Justice Department approval.

Rice's nod is believed to be the earliest known approval by a senior official in the administration of George W. Bush of the intelligence technique which current Attorney General Eric Holder has decried as "torture."

Straight to the Top:
The torture trail starts and ends in the White House. That is perhaps the most inescapable conclusion to be drawn from the flurry of documents released in the last week—first the OLC memoranda, then a newly declassified report of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and finally an amazing document that Attorney General Eric Holder released yesterday, which has still gained little attention. The Holder note presents a summary of CIA interaction with the White House in connection with the approval of the torture techniques that John Yoo calls the “Bush Program.” Holder’s memo refers to the participants by their job titles only, but John Sifton runs it through a decoder and gives us the actual names. Here’s a key passage:

“[The] CIA’s Office of General Counsel [this would include current Acting CIA General Counsel John Rizzo] met with the Attorney General [John Ashcroft], the National Security Adviser [Condoleezza Rice], the Deputy National Security Adviser [Stephen Hadley], the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council [John Bellinger], and the Counsel to the President [Alberto Gonzales] in mid-May 2002 to discuss the possible use of alternative interrogation methods [on Abu Zubaydah] that differed from the traditional methods used by the U.S. military and intelligence community. At this meeting, the CIA proposed particular alternative interrogation methods, including waterboarding.”

Military agency warned against ‘torture’--Extreme duress could yield unreliable information, according to 2002 memo:
"The unintended consequence of a U.S. policy that provides for the torture of prisoners is that it could be used by our adversaries as justification for the torture of captured U.S. personnel," says the document, an unsigned two-page attachment to a memo by the military's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency.

Torturing detainee may have produced false terror alerts:
As the nation struggles to make sense of a wave of new revelations regarding the "harsh interrogation techniques" brought to bear on detainees by the CIA, two very different narratives are shaping up to describe the treatment of captured al Qaeda member Abu Zubaydah in April and May of 2002.

On one hand, there is what might be called the "official" version, as presented in a timeline released by the Senate Intelligence Committee and summarized by the Washington Post. According to this version, Abu Zubaydah was subjected only to traditional interrogation methods until an August 1 memo from Justice Department lawyer Jay Bybee gave a green light for the use of waterboarding and other aggressive techniques.

On the other, there is a far more incriminating narrative that has been pieced together by various observers over the last several years. In this version, harsher methods were being applied to Abu Zubaydah as early as mid-April, and by mid-May he had been subjected to virtually every aggressive technique short of waterboarding.

Finally, anonymous friends now say Jay Bybee is sorry.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Torture Round-Up 2

Condoleezza Rice, John D. Ashcroft and other top Bush administration officials approved as early as the summer of 2002 the CIA's use at secret prisons of harsh interrogation methods, including waterboarding... Rice gave a key early green light when, as President George W. Bush's national security adviser, she met on July 17, 2002, with the CIA's then-director, George J. Tenet, and "advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation of Abu Zubaida," subject to approval by the Justice Department, according to the timeline.

Torture planning began in 2001, Senate report reveals-- Bush officials said they only tortured terrorists after they wouldn't talk. New evidence shows they planned torture soon after 9/11 -- and used it to find links between al-Qaida and Saddam.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is on the defensive after her Republican counterpart John Boehner (R-OH) claimed that top Democrats knew well the details of the Bush administration's torture program but did nothing to stop it. In a Thursday press briefing, Pelosi flatly denied that she was ever told waterboarding would be used.

Cheney's lies:
ALI SOUFAN-- FOR seven years I have remained silent about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding. I have spoken only in closed government hearings, as these matters were classified. But the release last week of four Justice Department memos on interrogations allows me to shed light on the story, and on some of the lessons to be learned.

Yikes: Detainee's lawyer claims U.S. interrogators applied pepper spray to prisoner's hemorrhoids...

Ex-trainer: Government officials think interrogation is like TV's '24'

Glenn Greenwald: how the media enable and cover-up war-crimes.

Flashback: FBI agents kept away from torturing suspects

Sunday, April 19, 2009

More on Torture Memos-- Four Items

1. CIA waterboarded Al Qaeda suspect 183 times in 1 month, memo reveals-- Unless you're a fan of willful ignorance, you know all about the four Bush administration torture memos released Thursday by the Justice Department. Those memos revealed Bush lawyers authorized the use of insects in interrogations, among other shocking and disturbing strategies for getting detainees to talk.

But perhaps more shocking than these newly revealed torture methods is a memo's reference to the fact that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (still in U.S. custody) was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 and Abu Zubaydah (the man who allegedly fears insects) was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002.

This insane frequency would seem to make (even more) self-evident the fact that waterboarding is not an effective anti-terror tool. Putting aside the moral and legal outrages for a moment, these statistics do not show waterboarding to be the ace in the hole "enhanced" technique Bush et al. claimed it was. Quite the opposite.

2. Bush memos parallel claim 9/11 mastermind’s children were tortured with insects--

Bush Administration memos released by the White House on Thursday provide new insight into claims that American agents used insects to torture the young children of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

In the memos, released Thursday, the Bush Administration White House Office of Legal Counsel offered its endorsement of CIA torture methods that involved placing an insect in a cramped, confined box with detainees. Jay S. Bybee, then-director of the OLC, wrote that insects could be used to capitalize on detainees’ fears.

3. Accounts of Torture, Abstract and Experienced-- TAP compares the "enhanced interrogation" memos to Red Cross accounts of what happened...

4. NYT: Impeach Bybee-- These memos make it clear that Mr. Bybee is unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution. Congress should impeach him. And if the administration will not conduct a thorough investigation of these issues, then Congress has a constitutional duty to hold the executive branch accountable. If that means putting Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales on the stand, even Dick Cheney, we are sure Americans can handle it.

A general point is the sheer astounding evil displayed by the torture memos -- the people who did this and approved this are monsters, pure and simple.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spain’s Attorney General Opposes Prosecutions of 6 Bush Officials on Allowing Torture

Published: April 16, 2009

PARIS — Spain’s attorney general on Thursday strongly criticized steps to open a criminal investigation in Madrid into allegations that six former Bush administration officials authorized the torture of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Cándido Conde-Pumpido, the attorney general, said at a breakfast meeting with journalists in Madrid that he would oppose any legal action in Spain because the proper forum would be an American court and that any investigation should focus on those who actually mistreated detainees.

But in Spain, the attorney general does not have the last word; an investigating judge decides whether a case will proceed. Lawyers familiar with the case said that the stage had now apparently been set for a struggle between judges and politicians.

The judge handling the complaint against the Americans is Baltasar Garzón, the crusading magistrate who ordered the arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

In the past, Mr. Garzón has ignored opinions by politicians and law enforcement officials.

But with Spain’s government eager to improve its formerly tense relations with Washington, lawyers familiar with the case said there was evidently political pressure to dismiss it.

The attorney general’s public intervention was unexpected and unusual, particularly because he appeared to overrule prosecutors at the Madrid court that was dealing with the complaint.

Last week the prosecutors, who are asked for an opinion before the investigating judge proceeds, wrote that Spain could claim jurisdiction in the case because it was a party to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and five former Guantánamo inmates, three of them Spanish citizens and two Spanish residents, claimed that they were tortured. Lawyers who had seen the still-unreleased document said it gave the green light for a criminal investigation against the six Americans.

Torture Memos

It's good Obama released these (also here and here)-- there is really no denying the crimes that occurred and who perpetrated them. This is sickening, inhumane stuff ordered and carried out by psychopaths.

But obviously the very bad thing here is that Obama won't prosecute clear violations of law-- fucking US war-crimes, for god's sake. In writing off these crimes, Obama becomes one of the monsters.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spanish prosecutors will seek criminal charges against Alberto Gonzales and five high-ranking Bush administration officials for sanctioning torture

from The Daily Beast:
By Scott Horton

Spanish prosecutors have decided to press forward with a criminal investigation targeting former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and five top associates over their role in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Guantánamo, several reliable sources close to the investigation have told The Daily Beast. Their decision is expected to be announced on Tuesday before the Spanish central criminal court, the Audencia Nacional, in Madrid. But the decision is likely to raise concerns with the human-rights community on other points: They will seek to have the case referred to a different judge.

Both Washington and Madrid appear determined not to allow the pending criminal investigation to get in the way of improved relations.

The six defendants—in addition to Gonzales, Federal Appeals Court Judge and former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, University of California law professor and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, former Defense Department general counsel and current Chevron lawyer William J. Haynes II, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff David Addington, and former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith—are accused of having given the green light to the torture and mistreatment of prisoners held in U.S. detention in “the war on terror.” The case arises in the context of a pending proceeding before the court involving terrorism charges against five Spaniards formerly held at Guantánamo. A group of human-rights lawyers originally filed a criminal complaint asking the court to look at the possibility of charges against the six American lawyers. Baltasar Garzón Real, the investigating judge, accepted the complaint and referred it to Spanish prosecutors for a view as to whether they would accept the case and press it forward. “The evidence provided was more than sufficient to justify a more comprehensive investigation,” one of the lawyers associated with the prosecution stated. (snip)

Announcement of the prosecutor’s decision was delayed until after the Easter holiday in order not to interfere with a series of meetings between President Barack Obama and Spanish Prime Minister José Zapatero. However, contrary to a claim contained in an editorial on April 8 in the Wall Street Journal, the Obama State Department has been in steady contact with the Spanish government about the case. Shortly after the case was filed on March 17, chief prosecutor Javier Zaragoza was invited to the U.S. embassy in Madrid to brief members of the embassy staff about the matter. A person in attendance at the meeting described the process as “correct and formal.” The Spanish prosecutors briefed the American diplomats on the status of the case, how it arose, the nature of the allegations raised against the former U.S. government officials. The Americans “were basically there just to collect information,” the source stated.The Spanish prosecutors advised the Americans that they would suspend their investigation if at any point the United States were to undertake an investigation of its own into these matters. They pressed to know whether any such investigation was pending. These inquiries met with no answer from the U.S. side.

Spanish officials are highly conscious of the political context of the case and have measured the Obama administration’s low-key reaction attentively. Although Spain is a NATO ally that initially supported “the war on terror” under Bush with a commitment of troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, relations with the Bush administration deteriorated after Zapatero became prime minister and acted quickly to withdraw the Spanish contingent in Iraq. In the 2008 presidential campaign, Republican John McCain referred to Spain as a hostile state in comments that mystified Spaniards (it appears that McCain may have confused Spain with Venezuela and Zapatero with Hugo Chávez). Recently, the United States and Spain also wrangled over Spain’s decision to withdraw its troop commitment in Kosovo as well. Both Zapatero and Obama, however, have given a high priority to improving relations between the two long-standing allies. Spanish newspapers hailed the fact that Obama referred to Zapatero three times as “my good friend” during the recent European summit meetings, a sharp contrast with meetings at which former President Bush gave Zapatero a cold shoulder.

Both Washington and Madrid appear determined not to allow the pending criminal investigation to get in the way of improved relations, which both desire, particularly in regard to coordinated economic policy to confront the current financial crisis and a reshaped NATO mandate for action in Afghanistan. With the case now proceeding, that will be more of a challenge. The reaction on American editorial pages is divided—some questioning sharply why the Obama administration is not conducting an investigation, which is implicitly the question raised by the Spanish prosecutors. Publications loyal to the Bush team argue that the Spanish investigation is an “intrusion” into American affairs, even when those affairs involve the torture of five Spaniards on Cuba.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pinochet judge seeks criminal probe of Bush 'torture lawyers'

Spanish official says arrest warrants 'highly probable'

Six Bush-era officials responsible for crafting the legal justifications permitting the military prison at Guantanamo Bay are the subject of a potential Spanish criminal probe which could place the men under serious risk of arrest if they travel outside the United States.

"[Spanish newspaper] Público identifies the targets as University of California law professor John Yoo, former Department of Defense general counsel William J. Haynes II (now a lawyer working for Chevron), former vice presidential chief-of-staff David Addington, former attorney general and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, now a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and former Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith," noted Scott Horton at Harper's.

He called them Bush's "torture lawyers."

On March 17, Lawrence B. Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, published an editorial in the Washington Note which accused Bush officials of knowingly holding innocent men in Guantanamo Bay for years.

"The case was sent to the prosecutor’s office for review by Baltasar Garzón, the crusading investigative judge who indicted the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet," reported the New York Times. "The official said that it was 'highly probable' that the case would go forward and could lead to arrest warrants."

If the judge decides to open an investigation, it will be the first such legal action outside the United States, the private Cadena Sur radio said.

The Association for the Dignity of Prisoners, which filed the case, said the six should be taken to task for virtually authorizing torture at the center, where more than 800 men and teenagers have passed through since it opened in January 2002.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ex-Official: Bush Tortured After 9/11

A former State Department lawyer tells The Associated Press that the Bush administration panicked after 9/11 and tortured prisoners.

Former President George W. Bush denied anyone was tortured. But Vijay Padmanabhan is at least the second insider to publicly describe as torture the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" used by the U.S.

Padmanabhan was the department's chief counsel on Guantanamo litigation. He says it was "foolish" for the Bush administration to declare that detainees were beyond the reach of U.S. and international laws and the Geneva Conventions.

He told the AP Friday that "Guantanamo was one of the worst overreactions of the Bush administration."

Last week, another former official in the Bush State Department publicly criticized the administration for its Guantanamo policies.

Lawrence B. Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, said many detainees locked up in the prison camp were innocent swept up by U.S. forces unable to distinguish enemies from noncombatants

"There are still innocent people there," Wilkerson told The Associated Press. "Some have been there six or seven years."

The British and Torture


One of the problems for the U.S. Government in releasing Guantanamo detainees has been that, upon release, they are free to talk to the world about the treatment to which they were subjected. When the Bush administration agreed to release Australian David Hicks after almost 6 years in captivity, they did so only on the condition that he first sign a documenting stating that he was not abused and that he also agree -- as The Australian put it -- to an "extraordinary 12-month gag order that prevent[ed] Hicks from speaking publicly about the actions to which he has pleaded guilty or the circumstances surrounding his capture, interrogation and detention," a gag order which "also silence[d] family members and any third party."

Last month, in response to increasing pressure in Britain over reports of British resident Binyam Mohamed's deterioration in Guantanamo, the Obama administration released him back to Britain. Ever since, he has been detailing the often brutal torture to which he was subjected over several years, torture in which British intelligence officials appear to have been, at the very least, complicit. As a result, despite the efforts of both the British Government and the Obama administration to keep concealed what was done to Mohamed, the facts about his treatment have emerged and a major political controversy has been ignited.

That's because torture is illegal in Britain, as it is in the United States. But unlike the United States: Britain hasn't completely abandoned the idea that even political officials must be accountable when they commit crimes; their political discourse isn't dominated and infected by the subservient government-defending likes of David Ignatius, Ruth Marcus, David Broder and Stuart Taylor demanding that government officials be free to commit even serious war crimes with total impunity; and they don't have "opposition leaders" who are so afraid of their own shadows and/or so supportive of torture that they remain mute in the face of such allegations.