SASC Full Declassified Report Due Out, Levin to Call for DOJ Referral

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Jason Leopold reported today that the Senate Armed Services Committee is very close to releasing — “possibly as early as next week” — its 200 page, 2000 footnote

… voluminous report on the treatment of detainees held in U.S. custody and the interrogations methods they were subjected to, according to Defense Department and intelligence sources, who described the report as the most detailed account to date of how the Bush administration and Defense Department implemented interrogation methods widely regarded as torture.

Levin and the SASC’s investigation is a gold mine of information about how the Bush administration implemented its torture program. Both the documents produced by the investigation, and the declassified 19-page summary released by Sen. Levin last year contained important new information, such the details surrounding John Yoo’s drafting of the torture memos.

Last year, in response to questions by Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Condoleezza Rice, who was National Security Adviser when interrogation methods were discussed, said that beginning as early as the summer of 2002 Yoo provided legal advice at “several” meetings that she attended and that the Department of Justice’s advice on the interrogation program “was being coordinated by Counsel to the President Alberto Gonzales.”

According to a declassified summary of the Armed Services Committee report, Yoo met with Gonzales and David Addington, counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney, to discuss the subjects he intended to address in the August 2002 torture memos.

According to Mr. Leopold:

Levin’s investigation relied upon the testimony of 70 people, generated 38,000 pages of documents, and took 18 months to complete. The declassified version of his report will include a full account of the roles military psychologists played in helping the Bush administration implement a policy where harsh interrogations was used against detainees.

The release of the full declassified version of the Armed Service’s Committee report will also put additional pressure on the Obama administration to immediately launch a full-scale investigation into the Bush administration’s interrogation program….

The declassified report will include a full accounting of how the military’s Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) training program, which was meant to prepare U.S. soldiers for abuse they might suffer if captured by an outlaw regime, was reverse engineered and used against detainees during interrogations. SERE training techniques include stress positions, forced nudity, use of fear, sleep deprivation and, until recently, the Navy SERE school used the waterboard.

Already, the committee has revealed that discussion surrounding the use of SERE techniques on detainees began in the spring of 2002, before the issuance of a legal opinion authorizing the use of harsh interrogation methods.

Of course, as I wrote last June, we’ll see that the timeline around the initiation of SERE’s involvement will go back at least as far as December 2001.

But the one document produced from the December 2001 contact — a fax cover sheet from the Pentagon’s Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), sent from “Lt. Col. Dan Baumgartner” to “Mr. Richard Shiffrin,” who worked for Haynes’s in Rumsfeld’s DoD General Council office — introduces a theme of aggressive courting by JPRA/SERE personnel to take on the interrogations/exploitation task:

   

Mr. Shiffrin —

   Here’s our spin on exploitation. If you need experts to facilitate this process, we stand ready to assist. There are not many in DoD outside of JPRA that have the level of expertise we do in exploitation and how to resist it.

One limitation imposed upon the SASC report was that it did not investigate the CIA, who refused to cooperate with the committee. But some tidbits from the investigation appear to be emerging. As Jason Leopold reports it:

Rice told Levin in written responses to his committee’s queries last September that the CIA’s interrogation program was reviewed by National Security Council principals and that Rumsfeld participated in that review.

Rice said that when the CIA sought approval of the interrogation program she asked Tenet to brief the principals and asked Attorney General John Ashcroft to “personally advise NSC Principals whether the program was lawful.”

John Bellinger, Rice’s Legal Advisor, told Levin that he asked CIA lawyers to seek legal advice not only from the OLC, but also from the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, headed at the time by Michael Chertoff.

Chertoff reportedly advised the CIA General Counsel Scott Muller and his deputy, John Rizzo, that the August 1, 2002, legal opinion protected CIA interrogators from prosecution if they used waterboarding or other harsh tactics.

Hopefully, we may know about the OLC “advice” when the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) at the Department of Justice produces the results of its four year investigation of the OLC memos written largely by John Yoo and David Addington.

What will these bombshells produce? What if the missing and supposedly seriously shocking Abu Ghraib photos are released, as now appears possible, per ACLU press release last week (ignored by the press, and blogosphere in general — though not this intrepid blogger, who has been pushing almost daily for prosecution of the Bush torture criminals).

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected the government’s request to have the full appeals court rehear a decision from last September ordering the release of the photos as part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit seeking information on the abuse of prisoners held in U.S. custody overseas.

Will these and other revelations be enough to unfreeze the large scale societal intertia on ending torture and prosecuting U.S. government and military-intelligence officials who plotted and conducted such crimes against humanity? Leopold reports that Levin has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special individual, such as “a retired federal judge”, to review the report and make a recommendation to Holder about what to do next. No one too high up wants to say the “P”-word out loud.

I have been quite pessimistic of late about the ability of this scandal to move beyond the purview of a handful of civil liberties groups, progressive bloggers and activist websites. While there is the promise of some movement towards social and political change or reform — the release of some of the OLC memos, which revealed a near totalitarian plan to make the Executive Branch of the U.S. government free of other governmental checks, and the strengthening of FOIA access to the public of government documents — the primary actions of both the Executive and Legislative branches has been to circle the wagons to protect the government elite now out of office, and preach the gospel of “moving on”, with a nod towards token recognition of the problems (through a “Truth Commission” sans prosecutorial weight) and sage wagging of the head about the lessons of the past.

Even the most liberal witness at Sen. Leahy’s hearings earlier this month regarding the feasibility of such a “Truth Commission” was clear that the results wouldn’t provide anything as politically explosive as the Pike Committee did during the heyday of the investigatory 1970s.

Governmental rhetoric about openness and truth about torture rings more than a little hollow, given the administration’s position on backing the old Bush/Cheney line on making judicial revelations about torture anathema by invoking bogus “state secrets” and national security suppression of evidence, even of the right to go to trial itself. All this comes as the new Obama administration has yet to answer for the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, proposing a South Korea-sized U.S. contingent for Iraq to serve an indefinite period, and making the torture-riddled Army Field Manual of today the law of the land when it comes to interrogations.

I don’t see how the drive for prosecutions can withstand the inaction of much of civil society on this issue, and that includes the silence or inactivity of the churches, the unions, the bulk of academia and the declassed (or scruffy) intelligentsia and student population. But politics often takes strange turns, and there is no complete accounting for large-scale social-psychological phenomena.

If the torture revelations come at the right way, at the right time, and with the correct visceral punch, the population may yet rise up and demand justice be done, even if it means an unprecedented indictment of a series of the former highest officials in the land. If this happened, it would be as if a lighting bolt had descended upon the body politic, and social struggle would heat up to an indefinite but large degree.

We must state our appreciation for the work of Sen. Carl Levin and the Senate Armed Services Committee for the fine job they have done, even knowing, as they must, that a full airing of the issues would be like throwing a keg of dynamite on the tinder of a society reeling from eight years of near-dictatorial rule. But the work is not done yet, and I will reserve full congratulations until the report itself is out and I’ve had a chance to review it. I look forward to writing my review, and reading the analyses of the many other fine commentators on the net who are sure to pounce on this juicy nugget and squeeze it for all it is worth… at least I hope that’s what happens.

Also posted at Invictus

9 comments

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    • Edger on March 28, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    governmental rhetoric about openness and truth about torture rings more than a little hollow, but that it is the complicit mainstream media that is responsible for creating the inaction of much of civil society on this issue through their constant bombardment of people with the “moving forward” meme to make sure that the Overton Window does not move far enough to make prosecutions politically possible, and that we as bloggers must continue to do as much as we can do to be an anti-media and help create a viral word of mouth informing process that can counteract the media, and in that we can only do it by using the same constant repetition tactics that the media uses, but as calls for openness instead of coverup.

    The complicity with the “moving forward” meme and coverup through silencing happens even in the large so-called progressive blogs.

    I don’t know how else to do it, even though it’s a constant uphill battle.

    “Moving forward” mean moving forward to what? To a world in which laws apply only to people without the money and power to evade them? Why would that require any “moving forward”? That is what we’ve had for years. Decades. Most of human history, I think.

    Good essay, Valtin.

  1. I agree, so far it’s quite depressing.  It’s also appalling to see, in essence, how this whole business of the torture issue is being treated with a kind of laissez faire stance by so many — almost as though we’re talking about something commonplace, not out of the norm.  Sickening!

    Here’s a short piece from OpEd:

    March 27, 2009

    Govt- Politics

    Promoted to Primary Headline on 3/28/09:

    What happened to Obama’s Campaign Promise of Peace?

    By Josh Mitteldorf

    http://www.opednews.com

    Poll

    What happened to Obama’s Campaign Promise of Peace?

    President Obama was elected with an overwhelming mandate for peace. He promised to withdraw troops from Iraq, to close Guantanamo, and to end the practices of torture, domestic spying and detention without trial. He decried the dictatorial arrogation of power that Bush had claimed as President.

    Once in office, Obama retained Robert Gates as Defense Secretary, despite the fact that Gates is an outspoken Middle East hawk,  (Gates was also involved in the Iran/Contra scandal of the 1980s, and is linked to election theft in 2002 and 2004.)

    Obama now talks about keeping 50,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely. He says it will take at least a year to close Guantanamo. His Justice Dept is defending the Bush Constitutional abuses in the US Court of Appeals. And he has said he wouldn’t want to do anything to ‘weaken the Presidency’.

    What is Obama thinking?

    Obama knows that the War on Terror is a hoax and a sham, but he sees the political necessity of establishing himself as a popular leader with a broad base of support, and he is planning to move in all the right directions in due course.

    Obama reads the same newspapers as everyone else, and he has bought into the fiction of the War on Terror. He is being cautious in the Middle East in a misguided attempt to ‘defend America.’

    The Terrorist threat to the US is quite real, and Obama is wise enough to be very careful to continue the fight in the Middle East so we won’t have to fight terrorists in American cities.

    Obama knows that there is a contingent in the CIA that really controls our foreign policy no matter who is President. He’s very aware that John Kennedy was shot for leaning toward peace in Vietnam. He doesn’t want to go the way of brave American peace advocates before him JFK, RFK, MLK, and Paul Wellstone.

    It’s much more direct and out in the open than that. Obama has been visited by the people from the CIA, and from the Project for a New American Century. He has been told exactly what lines he must not cross, or risk assassination.

    It’s simple: Obama works for the military contractors and Wall Street firms that paid for his campaign. I never expected anything different?

    1. The War on Terror is a sham, but Obama knows he must move gradually.

    2. The War on Terror is a sham, and Obama is taken in by the sham.

    3. The War on Terror is real. Obama is defending us wisely.

    4. Obama is under implicit threats because he knows the history of peace advocates

    5. Obama is under direct threats to his life

    6. Obama works for the people who paid for his campaign.

            98 votes    View Results and Comments

  2. the Bilderbergs have had in much that we do — they have a lot to do with it, apparently.  The Bildeburgs will be meeting in Vouliagmeni, Greece, on May 14-17, in secret, of course.

    PLUTOCRATS TO MEET IN GREECE

    AFP on the trail of Bilderberg group: Site near Athens, Greece, is verified to be scene of 2009 globalist coven

    By James P. Tucker, Jr.

    . .  . .High on the Bilderberg agenda will be how to manipulate the global economic crisis for their selfish interests. They will pressure both European and North American nations to pull back from “protectionism” in the later meetings of heads of state. Since the international financiers and high officials of government see themselves as “citizens of the world” and scorn “nationalism,” their only loyalty is bankrolls, not their country. They love free trade, essential for world government. . . .

    Bilderberg has a dutiful son in President Barack Obama who will be told to press ahead with the North American Union, which is to be expanded throughout the Western Hemisphere into an “American Union” similar to the European Union. Ultimately, with creation of an “Asian-Pacific Union,” the world is to be divided into three great regions for the administrative convenience of a global government of the UN. Following orders, Obama has a platoon of Bilderberg luminaries in his administration. . . .

    If you recall when Obama first got in, he came forth strongly on so many issues, but with the time, he continues to appear to be receding from his initial strong stances in so many of those areas.  

    Between the huge conglomerates, many of whom back Obama, the CIA and the Bilderbergs and the military industrial complex, I wonder if it’s at all possible to ever have the kind of leadership we truly need.

  3. in a comment this morning in his own diary at the orange valtin said:

    Got up this AM and was surprised to see the diary made the RL. I’m gratified of course, but especially as I want everyone to make a big buzz around this report. Call your papers and demand coverage when it comes out. Call radio talk shows. Pepper comments about it in a multitude of diaries.

    I’d be great that when this report comes out, it will be one of the most highly anticipated reports in a long time.

    “Pepper comments” as I bolded there, I can do that much! heh.

    I have some thoughts, notes even, on some ACTION postings I think we could do. Maybe a Monday Morning Follow Up Diary, to piggyback the new Sunday Night Round Up ones that Valtin, MB and PDND have just started. The Dog has already started his Monday LTE’s ones.

    Ill come back to this later, Im trying to clean my office today. Family time. 😛

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