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Lawyers Told Gina Haspel Torture Was Legal. But It Never Was

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Can You Show Me Your Dream
Can You Show Me Your Dream?

Even the thought of torture-enabler Gina Haspel being promoted makes me angry.

Claire Finkelstein and Stephen N. Xenakis write:

As the Senate considers Gina Haspel’s nomination as director of the C.I.A., it is time to dispel the false narrative about her record. That narrative says that Ms. Haspel’s involvement in torture, as well as the order she drafted authorizing the destruction of videotapes documenting this abusive practice, was legal and justifiable.

Torture — “enhanced interrogation,” as it was called — was supposedly legal because Justice Department lawyers had given it their blessing at the time, and destroying evidence of it was legal not only because government lawyers said it was, but also because Ms. Haspel was just following orders.

But Ms. Haspel’s supporters, many of whom are lawyers, should know better: the faulty advice of government lawyers and bosses cannot make illegal conduct legal. And C.I.A. investigations that rely on these specious justifications to excuse her decisions should be given no weight.

In 2002, Ms. Haspel ran a secret detention site in Thailand, code-named Cat’s Eye, that was known for its use of harsh interrogation techniques that amounted to torture. She was also chief of staff to Jose Rodriguez, director of the National Clandestine Service for the agency.

The Nuremberg trials after World War II established that following orders is not a defense for conduct that is patently illegal. Under the Geneva Conventions, torture, like genocide, belongs in that category. A similar principle says that incorrect legal advice cannot shield one from liability when such advice is promoting transparently unlawful conduct. Torture, like genocide, is of such patent illegality that we are entitled to hold all who engage in it responsible, whether they knew it was illegal or not. Under both domestic and international law, a manifestly evil act puts perpetrators on notice they are committing a crime, and they can be held responsible for such knowledge.

(click here to continue reading Opinion | Lawyers Told Gina Haspel Torture Was Legal. But It Never Was. – The New York Times.)

History Is Myth
History Is Myth

Torture is just wrong. It should never be used. Not only that, but it doesn’t even work!

The NYT reports that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed wants to release a six paragraph statement about Gina Haspel:

Ms. Haspel ran a black-site prison in Thailand where another high-level detainee was tortured in late 2002. But it is not known whether she was involved, directly or indirectly, in Mr. Mohammed’s torture. Mr. Mohammed was held in secret C.I.A. prisons in Afghanistan and Poland.

In the weeks after his capture, an Intelligence Committee report said, Mr. Mohammed was subjected to the suffocation technique called waterboarding 183 times over 15 sessions, stripped naked, doused with water, slapped, slammed into a wall, given rectal rehydrations without medical need, shackled into painful stress positions and sleep-deprived for about a week by being forced to stand with his hands chained above his head.

While being subjected to that treatment, he made alarming confessions about purported terrorist plots — like recruiting black Muslims in Montana to carry out attacks — that he later retracted. They were apparently made up, the Senate report said.

 

(click here to continue reading 9/11 Planner, Tortured by C.I.A., Asks to Tell Senators About Gina Haspel – The New York Times.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 9th, 2018 at 8:49 am

Gina Haspel Should Be Sent To Trial At The Hague Not Promoted To Head The CIA

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It s About Judge Ment
It’s About Judge Ment

One of my biggest disappointments with Obama’s presidency is that he never vigorously prosecuted those in the US Government who conducted torture, or in Gina Haspel’s case, enabled torturers to evade public scrutiny by covering up evidence of crimes.

Gina Haspel should not be promoted, she should be sent to The Hague to stand trial for war crimes, along with others like Dick Cheney. Torture is not an American value, at least not in the America I want to live in.

The Guardian reports:

 

Gina Haspel is set to become the first female director in the 70-year history of the CIA. But smashing that glass ceiling will depend on offering the US Senate a convincing explanation about her dark past.

 

More than a decade ago Haspel reportedly oversaw an infamous secret CIA prison in Thailand where a terrorism suspect, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was waterboarded, a process that simulates drowning. She is also said to have drafted orders to destroy video evidence of such torture, which prompted a lengthy justice department investigation that ended without charges.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Torture allegations dog Gina Haspel as she is poised to be first female CIA head | US news | The Guardian.)

I am personally not reassured by her assertion that the CIA won’t restart torture:

 

Gina Haspel is expected to tell the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday that she “will not restart” the CIA’s brutal interrogation program if confirmed to lead the agency, according to excerpts of her remarks released by the agency in advance of what is expected to be a contentious confirmation hearing.

But that is unlikely to satisfy those senators who have called for more public disclosure about her career. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the Intelligence Committee’s vice chairman, told Haspel in a letter earlier this week that her recalcitrance was “unacceptable.”

 

 

(click here to continue reading Gina Haspel hearing for CIA director: Senate questions Trump’s nominee on interrogation program – The Washington Post.)

Not reassured at all that Haspel, Bolton and Trump won’t quickly start up black sites and begin torturing people again. Who would even know, at first? She seems quite happy with herself, able to sleep at night, unlike some of her victims.

In October 2002, she took over a secret CIA detention facility in Thailand where an al-Qaeda suspect was waterboarded. Another suspect was subjected to the same so-called enhanced interrogation technique before Haspel arrived. At the time, she was serving in a senior leadership position in the agency’s counterterrorism center.

In 2005, Haspel drafted a cable, ultimately issued by her boss, ordering the destruction of nearly 100 videotapes of the interrogation sessions. Officials familiar with the episode have said that Haspel believed her boss, Jose Rodriquez, then the director of the National Clandestine Service, would obtain approval from the CIA director and general counsel before issuing the order. But Haspel was a strong advocate within the agency for destroying the tapes, believing that were they to become public and reveal the identity of CIA interrogators, they could face reprisals from terrorists.

End Torture in Illinois
End Torture in Illinois, and everywhere

James Cavallaro of The Guardian writes:

In the coming days, Gina Haspel will testify before the Senate in connection with her nomination by Donald Trump to direct the Central Intelligence Agency. Much has been written about whether someone who oversaw a secret CIA detention site where detainees were tortured should be eligible to head the nation’s leading intelligence agency.

At first blush, this may appear to be the central debate. What ethical transgressions are inconsistent with an agency-level directorship in the United States government? Certainly, participation in torture should render a candidate unqualified. Yet, on further inspection, the focus on whether Haspel’s abusive conduct disqualifies her from CIA leadership cloaks a far more important and revealing debate.

Judging candidates to direct the CIA presupposes knowledge of the history of the CIA and a vision for its role – if any – in a society that purports to be democratic. Interrogating, so to speak, that knowledge and understanding that vision have been painfully absent from the national debate.

More recently, the CIA created black sites around the world to host programs of institutionalized torture, documented by the Senate itself. The torture memos, written to justify this torture, so twisted and distorted legal norms that they were kept secret for years. The agency also facilitated creation of a black hole legal regime in Guantánamo, where the US has indefinitely detained hundreds of people in violation of international law.

My guess is that none of this bleak history will be raised when Gina Haspel appears before the Senate. Since 9/11, we have witnessed a national, collective effort to rehabilitate the CIA and champion its role as a noble protector of the US. Our post-9/11 reverence for all those tasked with defending us against real and perceived terrorist threats has crippled our ability to assess the actions and role of agencies like the CIA critically. This collective amnesia regarding the agency’s abuses, including its pattern of interference in democratic processes, is particularly stark today, as our nation grapples with the consequences of Russian efforts to undermine our elections and those of other nations.

Given its sordid history, the question to ask might not be whether Haspel rises to the caliber of the CIA. The question might be whether Haspel descends to the level of instigator of torture, murder and interference in foreign governments that has marked the history of the CIA. Unless and until we examine the difficult questions about the past and future of the CIA, Haspel may just be perfect for the job.

(click here to continue reading The CIA has a long history of torture. Gina Haspel will be perfect for the job | James Cavallaro | Opinion | The Guardian.)

The Arc of History Is Rusted
The Arc of History Is Rusted

The AP reports:

 

Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, offered to withdraw her nomination amid concerns that a debate over a harsh interrogation program would tarnish her reputation and that of the CIA. That’s according to two senior administration officials.

 

White House aides on Friday sought out additional details about Haspel’s involvement in the CIA’s now-defunct program of detaining and brutally interrogating terror suspects after 9/11 as they prepared her for Wednesday’s confirmation hearing. This is when she offered to withdraw.

 

They said Haspel, who is the acting director of the CIA, was reassured that her nomination was still on track and she will not withdraw.

 

 

(click here to continue reading The Latest: Sanders: Haspel offered withdrawal to shield CIA – The Washington Post.)

If Ms. Haspel had any honor, and there is no evidence she does, she would immediately withdraw her nomination and start a non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of human rights abuses around the world as a kind of penance. Even still, she should become a pariah, unwelcome to visit civilized societies.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 9th, 2018 at 8:29 am

Gina Haspel Should Be In Prison Not Head of CIA

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War Is Still a Racket
War Is Still a Racket

Torture is stain on our country. Not only does it rarely produce actionable intelligence, it is just morally and ethically wrong. The Senate should not confirm Gina Haspel to be Director of the CIA because she should be in prison instead.

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

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.

The meaning of Haspel’s nomination won’t be lost on our enemies, either. The torture program and similar abuses at military-run prisons in Iraq were among the greatest recruitment tools that al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and other bad actors ever had, according to legal experts, U.S. lawmakers and even the militantsthemselves. It energized them and gave them something to rally against. It sowed an even deeper hatred of the United States among militant groups. It swelled their ranks. It was no coincidence that the Islamic State paraded its prisoners in front of cameras wearing orange jumpsuits (like those worn by Guantanamo Bay detainees) before beheading them. Haspel and the others at the CIA who engineered and oversaw the torture program are at least partially responsible for that, because they showed the world how the United States sometimes treats captives. 

Do we Americans want to remain a nation that tortures people, like North Korea, China and Iran? Are we proud of the era when we snatched people from one country and sent them to another to be interrogated in secret prisons? Do we want to be the country that cynically preaches human rights and then violates those same rights when we think nobody is looking?

(click here to continue reading I went to prison for disclosing the CIA’s torture. Gina Haspel helped cover it up. – The Washington Post.)

Round Hole
Round Hole

I will be paying attention to who votes to confirm Bloody Gina, I’m looking at you specifically Senator Feinstein…

 

 

Asked by a reporter about her opposition to an earlier promotion that Haspel was up for in 2013, Feinstein replied, “Well, I have spent some time with her, we’ve had dinner together, we have talked … everything I know is, is that she has been a good deputy director of the CIA….I think hopefully the entire organization learned something from the so-called enhanced interrogation program. I think it’s something that can’t be forgotten. And I certainly can never forget it. And I won’t let any director forget it,” the senator added, revealing she shared a “long personal talk” with Haspel about the program.

 

Pressed to say whether she’s “a no” on Haspel’s nomination, Feinstein appeared to be undecided. “No, right now I’m late for my hearings,” she said.

 

Feinstein is facing a surprisingly robust primary challenge from Democratic state Sen. Kevin de Leόn, which already seems to have nudged her leftward as she competes for the nomination. It’s very unlikely Feinstein will actually lose, but frustration with her perceivably establishment politics is clearly mounting among California’s progressive voter base. Last month, not only did the longtime senator fail to secure the state party’s endorsement at its annual convention, but de Leόn beat her by a margin of 17 percent of delegates.

 

If Feinstein believes Haspel is the right woman for the job, a “yes” vote could really upset Golden State progressives already dissatisfied with her job performance. On Tuesday afternoon, de Leόn seized on Feinstein’s early reaction to Haspel. “It is very concerning Senator Feinstein is ‘open to supporting’ CIA nominee Haspel, who ran a ‘black site’ prison that waterboarded and beat prisoners,” he tweeted. “Believes she has been a ‘good’ deputy CIA Director.”

 

Regardless of her own interests, Feinstein may plausibly determine Haspel is unfit for the position. But the senator’s ambiguity on Tuesday signals some measure of respect for the nominee, indicating the decision won’t come easily no matter what.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Gina Haspel’s CIA nomination could torture Dianne Feinstein.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 18th, 2018 at 9:53 am

American Psychological Association Collaborated on Torture Justification

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 Electricity is a Bitter Herb

Electricity is a Bitter Herb…

In a just world, these evil doers would be publicly humiliated, named by name, and forced to stand trial for war crimes at The Hague. The Bush administration too. It’s a travesty that President Obama’s response to war crimes perpetrated by his predecessor was to sweep all the evidence under the rug and shrug, “Bygones…”

The American Psychological Association secretly collaborated with the administration of President George W. Bush to bolster a legal and ethical justification for the torture of prisoners swept up in the post-Sept. 11 war on terror, according to a new report by a group of dissident health professionals and human rights activists.

The report is the first to examine the association’s role in the interrogation program. It contends, using newly disclosed emails, that the group’s actions to keep psychologists involved in the interrogation program coincided closely with efforts by senior Bush administration officials to salvage the program after the public disclosure in 2004 of graphic photos of prisoner abuse by American military personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

“The A.P.A. secretly coordinated with officials from the C.I.A., White House and the Department of Defense to create an A.P.A. ethics policy on national security interrogations which comported with then-classified legal guidance authorizing the C.I.A. torture program,” the report’s authors conclude.

(click here to continue reading Report Says American Psychological Association Collaborated on Torture Justification – NYTimes.com.)

Six Thousand Thirteen Too Many
Six Thousand Thirteen Too Many

and why did the Bush thugs do it?

The involvement of health professionals in the Bush-era interrogation program was significant because it enabled the Justice Department to argue in secret opinions that the program was legal and did not constitute torture, since the interrogations were being monitored by health professionals to make sure they were safe.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 30th, 2015 at 8:00 am

Dick Cheney Makes a Great Case for Prosecuting Torturers Like Himself

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A Couple of Jokers
A Couple of Jokers…

Can someone please start a Kickstarter campaign to snatch up Dick Cheney and fly him to The Hague for a War Crimes trial? I know a lot of people that would donate money for that…

In a disturbing interview on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, former vice president Dick Cheney basically taunted ambitious lawyers at the Hague to come after him.

The host of the show, Chuck Todd, read horrific details from the Senate report on “enhanced interrogation” and asked Mr. Cheney if he thought they amounted to torture. Rectal feeding? Keeping a man in a coffin-sized box? Handcuffing another man’s wrists to an overhead bar for 22 hours per day, for two consecutive days?

No.

Mr. Cheney was bullishly nonsensical — refusing to acknowledge a difference between mass murder and torture. Worse, he was unrepentant.

Did any of the details from the report “plant any seed of doubt?” asked Mr. Todd. “Absolutely not,” Mr. Cheney answered.

What about the fact that “25 percent of the detainees” turned out to be innocent?

“I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective” answered Mr. Cheney

(click here to continue reading Dick Cheney Makes a Great Case for Prosecuting Torturers – NYTimes.com.)

I find it really hard to make jokes about how evil Dick Cheney is, but without jokes, he’s a sociopathic monster, and sadly a monster that the rest of the world assumes speaks for America.1 No remorse for torturing innocent people, sometimes to death, no remorse at all. Torture doesn’t provide actionable intelligence in the first place, but torturing people just the heck of it? 

As Digby writes:

This went all the way back to the 70s when Cheney was working in the Nixon and Ford White Houses and thought that the USA was becoming soft and the presidency was losing its juice. He was ready to fix that when he got the chance and he has no regrets. He does not care one bit that he’s considered by millions of people to be a war criminal and a sadist. He got what he wanted.

There are Godwinesque restrictions on certain things we can say about Dick Cheney in public. But I don’t think it’s too much to point out that having him on television saying what he said yesterday is the very definition of the banality of evil. Yesterday morning Dick Cheney, torturer, unrepentant war criminal was presented as just another government bureaucrat doing his job. He will be welcomed into the homes of the political elite like any other former VP, as will the man he went to great lengths to say approved it all: George W. Bush.  In fact, Jeb Bush is widely hailed as the best man to carry on the “Bush tradition” and cognoscenti of all political stripes are cheering on his candidacy.

Think about that: the political establishment believes that the brother of the president who ordered torture and invaded a country on false pretenses — and who has never shown the slightest daylight between his brother’s policies and decision and his own beliefs — is an excellent candidate for the presidency. It’s not even a question as far as I can tell.

(click here to continue reading Hullabaloo – How Cheney planned his move for decades.)

and an excerpt from a powerful post by Hunter of Daily Kos:

Let us suppose that every one of the assertions is true. Let us suppose that torture, by which we mean the simulated drownings, the broken bones, the medical injuries, the psychological torture, the death in a bitterly cold room—”worked.” It generated irreplaceable results. Valuable results. It was manifestly successful.

Then why are we not continuing it?

Why are we reserving it for suspected Muslim terrorists or collaborators or hangers-on or those named by another tortured suspect, and not, say, against arms smugglers? Against suspected drug importers? Against Swiss bankers who are suspected of laundering money gained in organized crime?

No, forget that—let us presume it to be not a weapon for fighting crime, but a weapon meant only for war. Does that mean that America shall henceforth be torturing wartime prisoners, if we feel they have information we require?

Set aside the relevant laws and treaties—does only America get to torture prisoners? Are we declaring that wartime torture of prisoners work, and therefore should be used, as international policy statement or as statement that America alone ought to benefit from the manifestly successful tool of torture? We are comfortable, then, with the notion that our own soldiers will be similarly interrogated by opposing forces or groups, and due to our understanding of the military significance of the irreplaceable results to be gleaned, we will acquiesce to the treatment, and will not seek to prosecute those that torture our own citizens?

Or are we, indeed, the declared exception to this rule? We may torture to the point of broken bones, blood clots, mental incapacitation or—oops—the occasional death, but only us, due to our manifest and unique need to do so?

That is where I am stumped, and where, over a decade of debate, we continue to make no progress whatsoever in the conversation. Sen. John McCain can ask the question or I can ask the question; it makes no difference. Whether it be the past vice president or any of the various pundits of the punditry litter, the declaration that our torture of prisoners has been manifestly successful is always where the debate abruptly trails off, like the author has suddenly remembered they have somewhere else to be. There is never an answer on why we have used international law to put torturers to death for past interrogations considered similarly manifestly successful by their nations’ advocates, and no opinion given on whether we shall be withdrawing from those treaties in the future or merely ignoring them if we feel it would be manifestly successful to do so. There is no citation as to what ought to be done against those that treat our soldiers similarly in the future. We are simply told that we will torture, perhaps under euphemism if the wordsmiths object to the older word, because it generates “results.” Full stop. The rest is just left hanging in the wind like a noose from a tree.

(click here to continue reading Of all the torture defenses, ‘because it works’ is the most troubling.)

Footnotes:
  1. He doesn’t, for the record []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 15th, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , , ,

CIA personnel emulated Josef Mengele

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Can the CIA and its bosses get away with these travesties conducted in our name? Or will Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney finally be given the show trial in The Hague they deserve?

Lady Liberty Looks Pissed

Bush-era CIA medical personnel conducted experiments on detainees in CIA custody to provide legal cover for torture as well as to justify and shape future torture techniques, a just-released report from the Physicians for Human Rights alleges.

“The CIA appears to have broken all accepted legal and ethical standards put in place since the Second World War to protect prisoners from being the subjects of experimentation,” said Frank Donaghue, the CEO of PHR, a nonprofit organization of health professionals.

According to PHR’s investigation, the CIA conducted experiments monitoring sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours and experimented with waterboarding by adding saline to water to avoid killing detainees or rendering them comatose.

“‘Waterboarding 2.0’ was the product of the CIA’s developing and field-testing an intentionally harmful practice, using systematic medical monitoring,” the report claims.

Its author, Nathanial A. Raymond, said that although such experimentation appears to have been essential for the CIA’s legal cover for torture, Justice Department lawyers seem never to have assessed the human subject research.

 

(click to continue reading PHR report: CIA personnel engaged in human experimentation – War Room – Salon.com.)

Horrible.1

Footnotes:
  1. If you forgot who Josef Mengele was, here’s the opening paragraph of his Wikipedia entry:

    Josef Mengele (16 March 1911 – 7 February 1979), also known as the Angel of Death, was a German SS officer and a physician in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. He earned doctorates in anthropology from Munich University and in medicine from Frankfurt University. He initially gained notoriety for being one of the SS physicians who supervised the selection of arriving transports of prisoners, determining who was to be killed and who was to become a forced laborer, but is far more infamous for performing grisly human experiments on camp inmates, for which Mengele was called the “Angel of Death”.

    In 1940, he was placed in the reserve medical corps, following which he served with the 5th SS Panzergrenadier Division Wiking in the Eastern Front. In 1942, he was wounded at the Russian front and was pronounced medically unfit for combat, and was then promoted to the rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) for saving the lives of two German soldiers. He survived the war, and after a period living incognito in Germany he fled to South America, where he evaded capture for the rest of his life despite being hunted as a Nazi war criminal.

    So not someone for an American to emulate []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 6th, 2010 at 2:24 pm

A curious whitewashing history of the CIA

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“Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack” (Marc A. Thiessen)

Marc Thiessen, a liar? Really? Would have never guessed that someone as obnoxiously a Bush sycophant and bully as Marc Thiessen would also have trouble with truth1

Jane Mayer reads Thiessen’s “book” so we don’t have to bother

Thiessen’s book, whose subtitle is “How the C.I.A. Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack,” offers a relentless defense of the Bush Administration’s interrogation policies, which, according to many critics, sanctioned torture and yielded no appreciable intelligence benefit. In addition, Thiessen attacks the Obama Administration for having banned techniques such as waterboarding. “Americans could die as a result,” he writes.

Yet Thiessen is better at conveying fear than at relaying the facts. His account of the foiled Heathrow plot, for example, is “completely and utterly wrong,” according to Peter Clarke, who was the head of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorism branch in 2006. “The deduction that what was being planned was an attack against airliners was entirely based upon intelligence gathered in the U.K.,” Clarke said, adding that Thiessen’s “version of events is simply not recognized by those who were intimately involved in the airlines investigation in 2006.” Nor did Scotland Yard need to be told about the perils of terrorists using liquid explosives. The bombers who attacked London’s public-transportation system in 2005, Clarke pointed out, “used exactly the same materials.”

Thiessen’s claim about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed looks equally shaky. The Bush interrogation program hardly discovered the Philippine airlines plot: in 1995, police in Manila stopped it from proceeding and, later, confiscated a computer filled with incriminating details. By 2003, when Mohammed was detained, hundreds of news reports about the plot had been published. If Mohammed provided the C.I.A. with critical new clues—details unknown to the Philippine police, or anyone else—Thiessen doesn’t supply the evidence.

Peter Bergen, a terrorism expert who is writing a history of the Bush Administration’s “war on terror,” told me that the Heathrow plot “was disrupted by a combination of British intelligence, Pakistani intelligence, and Scotland Yard.” He noted that authorities in London had “literally wired the suspects’ bomb factory for sound and video.” It was “a classic law-enforcement and intelligence success,” Bergen said, and “had nothing to do with waterboarding or with Guantánamo detainees.”

[Click to continue reading A curious history of the C.I.A. : The New Yorker]

Torture doesn’t work, in other words, despite what such Republican propaganda as the Fox television drama 24 would have you believe. Smart people in the intelligence community already know this, only sadists like Dick Cheney and Marc Thiessen cling to their guns and iron maidens.

Entrance optional

Well worth reading the entire book report, you’ll probably learn a thing or two that Mr. Thiessen would rather you not know.

Footnotes:
  1. sarcasm, if you can’t hear my tone of voice over the internet tubes []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 22nd, 2010 at 8:10 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , , ,

Torture supporters at The Washington Post

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Marc Thiessen, remember him, has leveraged his pro-torture policy positions into quite the secondary career

By publishing a book that clearly and unapologetically defends the Bush torture regime, Marc Thiessen catapulted himself from obscure, low-level Bush speechwriter into regular Washington Post columnist, joining fellow torture defenders Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol. Today, Thiessen’s column defends the Liz-Cheney/Kristol smear campaign against DOJ lawyers and says this:

Yet Attorney General Eric Holder hired former al-Qaeda lawyers to serve in the Justice Department and resisted providing Congress this basic information. . . . Some defenders say al-Qaeda lawyers are simply following a great American tradition, in which everyone gets a lawyer and their day in court. Not so, says Andy McCarthy . . . . The habeas lawyers were not doing their constitutional duty to defend unpopular criminal defendants. They were using the federal courts as a tool to undermine our military’s ability to keep dangerous enemy combatants off the battlefield in a time of war.

So any lawyer who represents accused Terrorists and argues that the Government is violating constitutional limitations in its Terrorism policies is — all together now — an “al Qaeda lawyer” (even if those detainees were innocent, as most were). Worse, these “al Qaeda lawyers” — which includes large numbers of long-time members of the U.S. military — are “undermining our military’s” efforts to keep us safe.  That sounds like treason to me. It’s great to see the leading newspaper in the nation’s capital serving as the primary amplifying force for this McCarthyite smear campaign.  Does it get any more reckless and repugnant — or primitive and stunted — than that? Does The Post have any standards at all?

[Click to continue reading High standards at The Washington Post – Glenn Greenwald – Salon.com]

Umm, rhetorical question, of course.

Written by Seth Anderson

March 15th, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

Rumsfield and Torture Lawsuit to Proceed

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Wonder how the torture apologists will spin this case? Two American citizens were tortured after bringing forth allegations of bribery. Whistleblowers should be feted, not treated as enemy combatants. Hope Rummy has to defend his actions in open court, and soon.

Two Americans claim they were tortured by US officials after making bribery allegations

A federal judge in Chicago ruled on Friday that a lawsuit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, brought by two Americans who had worked for an Iraqi contractor, can be allowed to proceed.

In his ruling (PDF), US District Judge Wayne R. Andersen said the plaintiffs had provided enough concrete evidence of torture to allow the suit to go forward. The judge dismissed Rumsfeld’s arguments that his position near the top of the executive branch immunized him from lawsuits involving the authorization of torture

According to court documents, Nathan Ertel and Donald Vance went to Iraq in 2005 to work for an Iraqi contractor, Shield Group Security. Once there, they say they witnessed SGS employees handing money over to “Iraqi sheikhs.” After they notified two FBI agents in Baghdad and one in Chicago of what they say, they say their employer cut off their access pass to Baghdad’s Green Zone and were struck in the city’s dangerous “Red Zone.”

But the lawsuit claims things got really bad once they were “rescued” from the Red Zone by US authorities. Instead of being treated as witnesses to potential crimes, the two plaintiffs say they were told they could be classified as “enemy combatants”

[Click to continue reading Judge allows lawsuit against Rumsfeld over torture of US citizens | Raw Story]

Judge Wayne Anderson describes the details (click here for PDF version of MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER):

Plaintiffs allege that they then were taken by United States forces to the United States Embassy. Plaintiffs allege that military personnel seized all of their personal property, including their laptop computers, cellular phones, and cameras. At the Embassy, plaintiffs claim they were separated and then questioned by an FBI agent and two other persons from United States Air Force Intelligence. Plaintiffs contend that they disclosed all their knowledge of the SGS transactions and directed the officials to their laptops in which most of the information had been documented. Plaintiffs also assert that they informed the officials of their contacts with Agent Carlisle in Chicago and Agents Nagel and Treadwell in Iraq. Following these interviews, plaintiffs claim they were escorted to a trailer to sleep for two to three hours.

Next, plaintiffs claim they were awakened by several armed guards who placed them under arrest and then handcuffed and blindfolded them and pushed them into a humvee. Plaintiffs contend that they were labeled as “security internees” affiliated with SGS, some of whose members were suspected of supplying weapons to insurgents. According to plaintiffs, that information alone was sufficient, under the policies enacted by Rumsfeld and others, for the indefinite, incommunicado detention of plaintiffs without due process or access to an attorney. Plaintiffs claim to have been taken to Camp Prosperity, a United States military compound in Baghdad. There they allege they were placed in a cage, strip searched, and fingerprinted. Plaintiffs assert that they were taken to separate cells and held in solitary confinement 24 hours per day.

After approximately two days, plaintiffs claim they were shackled, blindfolded, and placed in separate humvees which took them to Camp Cropper. Again, plaintiffs allege they were strip searched and placed in solitary confinement. During this detention, plaintiffs contend that they were interrogated repeatedly by military personnel who refused to identify themselves and used physically and mentally coercive tactics during questioning. All requests for an attorney allegedly were denied.

Despicable behavior, rule of law, my ass. Just because some official asserts a suspect is an enemy combatant, does not make it so, and even enemy combatants still deserve consideration under the Geneva Convention and so forth.

Judge Anderson concludes:

In ruling that the lawsuit can go forward, Judge Andersen said the decision “represents a recognition that federal officials may not strip citizens of well settled constitutional protections against mistreatment simply because they are located in a tumultuous foreign setting.”

[via GapersBlock]

Written by Seth Anderson

March 8th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Marc Thiessen Torture Apologist

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Marc Thiessen, the former Bush speechwriter, is a torture apologist, attempting to whitewash his advocacy of crimes against humanity. I’m obviously not a religious person, but even I can see through his self-serving misreading of Catholic doctrine to justify waterboarding.

To justify killing in self-defense, Catholics point to Thomas Aquinas’s principle of double-effect: the intended effect is to save your own life; killing is the unintended effect. By the same logic, Mr. Thiessen argues, “the intent of the interrogator is not to cause harm to the detainee; rather, it is to render the aggressor unable to cause harm to society.”

While Mr. Thiessen points out that the church does not forbid specific acts, his antagonists say the church’s guidelines are hardly nebulous. The blogger Andrew Sullivan has noted that the catechism condemns “torture which uses physical or moral violence.”

The philosopher Christopher O. Tollefsen, whose essay attacking Mr. Thiessen’s views appeared Friday in the online magazine Public Discourse, pointed in a phone interview to the 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor. There, Pope John Paul II wrote that there are acts that “are always seriously wrong by reason of their object,” including “whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity.”

The belief that waterboarding is morally or physically violent seems to unite all the writers who have criticized Mr. Thiessen, a group that includes the conservative blogger Conor Friedersdorf; Mark Shea, who edits the Web portal Catholic Exchange; and Joe Carter, who blogs for First Things, a magazine popular with conservative Catholics.

“Thiessen has been vigorously criticized by both so-called liberal and so-called conservative Catholics,” said Paul Baumann, who edits the liberal lay-Catholic magazine Commonweal. “That is one good indication of how erroneous his view is. “

[Click to continue reading Beliefs – Marc Thiessen Gets an Earful for Waterboarding Views – NYTimes.com]

I’ve yet to see Marc Thiessen get waterboarded, I’d pay for a viewing of that. And not waterboarding as a lark, but real waterboarding where the victim doesn’t know when the torture is going to stop. Even Christopher Hitchens waterboarding experience was partially for show; he was able to stop the torture by a signal.

Written by Seth Anderson

February 27th, 2010 at 10:38 am

British Security Chief Denies Collusion With U.S. In Instances of Torture

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Jonathan Evans is a liar, in other words

Carried Away Again

The director general of Britain’s MI5 security service denied Friday that his agency colluded in torture, after a court ruling showed that it knew that a detained British resident had been abused by American intelligence officers. The court disclosed information provided to MI5 by the C.I.A. that Binyam Mohamed, a British resident from Ethiopia, had been shackled, threatened and deprived of sleep in American custody.

The MI5 director general, Jonathan Evans, left, wrote in The Daily Telegraph that British intelligence had been slow to detect “the emerging pattern of U.S. mistreatment of detainees” after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. “But there wasn’t any similar change of practice by the British intelligence agencies,” he said. “We did not practice mistreatment or torture then and do not do so now, nor do we collude in torture or encourage others to torture on our behalf.” One paragraph of the judge’s ruling that strongly criticized MI5 was deleted at the request of a government lawyer. Mr. Mohamed has been fighting to prove that he was tortured and that British authorities knew about it. [Click to continue reading World Briefing | Europe: Britain: Security Chief Denies Collusion With U.S. In Instances of Torture]

Since the NYT doesn’t bother to include the link so you can read Mr. Evans statement, here it is in all its self-serving glory

Written by Seth Anderson

February 13th, 2010 at 10:19 am

Posted in politics

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CIA Black Sites

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Black Sites? What Black Sites? Must have been confused with the Culinary Institute of America’s black bean sightings.

Slant

Whatever happened to the so-called “black sites,” where suspected terrorists were held overseas by the CIA and submitted to harsh interrogations that included torture? On April 9, CIA chief Leon Panetta issued a statement notifying CIA employees that the agency “no longer operates detention facilities or black sites”—which were effectively shut down in the fall of 2006—”and has proposed a plan to decommission the remaining sites.” In the months since then, lawyers for several terrorism suspects have been trying to determine the status of these sites, as they seek evidence for their cases. But the US government has refused to disclose anything about what it has done with these facilities.

In his statement, Panetta noted, “I have directed our Agency personnel to take charge of the decommissioning process and have further directed that the contracts for site security be promptly terminated.” (He added that the suspension of these private security contracts would save the agency up to $4 million.) Though Panetta’s order might have seemed like good news to civil libertarians and critics of the Bush-Cheney administration’s detention policies, lawyers for several detainees who had been held in such sites immediately worried about one thing: “We thought they would be destroying further evidence,” says George Brent Mickum IV, a lawyer for Abu Zubaydah, a captured terrorism suspect whom President George W. Bush described (probably errantly) as “one of the top three leaders” of al Qaeda. (In 2007, the CIA disclosed that it had destroyed videotapes of interrogations of Zubaydah, who was waterboarded 83 times.)

Was anything left at these black sites to preserve? No doubt, some of these facilities were makeshift and could have been packed up rather quickly and their equipment destroyed or shipped off. If records existed at these facilities, they could have been easily shredded. In any case, even though Panetta has publicly discussed the sites, the CIA is refusing to discuss them. “Because this involves a matter before the court, it’s not something on which I can comment publicly,” remarks CIA spokesperson Paul Gimigliano. That is, he won’t confirm or deny if Panetta’s public decommission order has been carried out. The final status of these facilities remains in the dark.

[Click to continue reading Whatever Happened to the CIA’s Black Sites? | Mother Jones]

Suddenly, it is as if the scenes of crimes against humanity1 never existed. Down the memory hole, never to be discussed again in polite Washington society or by the Washington sycophants in the corporate media. Since the sites have vanished, lawyers don’t need to visit to collect evidence. Amazing.

Footnotes:
  1. torture, and related abominations []

Written by Seth Anderson

November 25th, 2009 at 9:25 am

Posted in politics

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Reading Around on November 3rd through November 4th

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A few interesting links collected November 3rd through November 4th:

  • Fluidr / photos and videos sorted randomly – A random assortment of my photos (via Chicago Sage)
  • The Paranoid Style in American Politics – Harper’s Magazine, November 1964, pp. 77-86.It had been around a long time before the Radical Right discovered it—and its targets have ranged from “the international bankers” to Masons, Jesuits, and munitions makers.
  • Authoritarians, pt 2: the Problem Broadly Outlined | Cogitations – How is it that Bush and Cheney could take us to war in Iraq with constantly shifting rationales, unleash the NSA to spy on the country at large, and with the aid of foot soldiers like John Yoo cobble together shoddy legal findings as flimsy justification for torture and other abuses of executive power?

Written by swanksalot

November 4th, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Reading Around on September 1st through September 2nd

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A few interesting links collected September 1st through September 2nd:

  • Will Chicago See a Hotel Strike? – Chicagoist – Chicago's hotel workers are clocking in today without a union contract, as negotiators from UNITE-HERE Local 1 and the Hotel Employers Labor Relations Association has yet to reach an agreement on a new pact. The previous contract expired at last night at midnight. “It’s been a fight to even just get to the table,” a spokeswoman for the hotel workers’ union told Crain's. “We’re not close, and I think we’re looking at the possibility of a major fight.”
  • Dithering: Jonny Greenwood: Sasha Frere-Jones : The New Yorker – "Q: Is the MP3 a satisfactory medium for your music?

    JONNY GREENWOOD: They sound fine to me"
    I would add, they sound fine if they are recorded at a high enough sample rate.

  • Washington Post Crashed-and-Burned-and-Smoking Watch – And if it is indeed the case that the Washington Post is recycling the public views of ideologues, hacks, and torture-tourists like Marc Thiessen as inside scoops, then Finn, Warrick, and Tate granted anonymity to their sources because naming them would by itself discredit the story. There is a place for anonymous quotes in journalism, but this is not it.

Written by swanksalot

September 2nd, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Washington Post Loves Em Some Cheney

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The Washington Post Loves Em Some Cheney, and will go to no small lengths to demonstrate their non-homosexual love with the Vice President of Torture Is US.

Tag

Glenn Greenwald rolls his eyes in exasperation:

Who are the Post’s sources for this full-scale vindication of Dick Cheney’s defense of torture?  “Two sources who described the sessions, speaking on the condition of anonymity because much information about detainee confinement remains classified”; “one former senior intelligence official said this week after being asked about the effect of waterboarding”; “one former U.S. official with detailed knowledge of how the interrogations were carried out said”; “One former agency official.” It’s unclear how much overlap there is in that orgy of pro-Cheney anonymity, but there is not a single on-the-record source to corroborate the Torture-Saved-Us-From-Mass-Death narrative, nor is there even a shred of information about the motives or views of these “officials.”

What makes the Post’s breathless vindication of torture all the more journalistically corrupt is that the document on which it principally bases these claims — the just-released 2004 CIA Inspector General Report — provides no support whatsoever for the view that torture produced valuable intelligence, despite the fact that it was based on the claims of CIA officials themselves.  Ironically, nobody has done a better job this week of demonstrating how true that is than the Post’s own Greg Sargent — who, in post after post this week1– dissected the IG Report to demonstrate that it provides no evidence for Cheney’s claims that torture helped obtain valuable intelligence.

That the released documents provide no support for Cheney’s claims was so patently clear that many news articles contained unusually definitive statements reporting that to be so. The New York Times reported that the documents Cheney claimed proved his case “do not refer to any specific interrogation methods and do not assess their effectiveness.” ABC News noted that “the visible portions of the heavily redacted reports do not indicate whether such information was obtained as a result of controversial interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding.” TPM’s Zachary Roth documented that “nowhere do they suggest that that information was gleaned through torture,” while The Washington Independent’s Spencer Ackerman detailed that, if anything, the documents prove “that non-abusive techniques actually helped elicit some of the most important information the documents cite in defending the value of the CIA’s interrogations.” As Sargent reported, even Bush’s loyal Terrorism adviser, Frances Fargos Townsend, admitted that the IG Report provides no basis for what the Post today is ludicrously implying

[Click to continue reading The Washington Post’s Cheney-ite defense of torture – Glenn Greenwald – Salon.com]

Mind you, this is not editorial Op-Ed, this is an (alleged) news story. Can Kaplan sell The Washington Post to Rupert Murdoch already, so we can all ignore it more easily?

Footnotes:
  1. such as: here here here here etc. []

Written by Seth Anderson

August 29th, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Posted in politics

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