April 23, 2009 archive

You Should Demand Answers As This:

Brave Afghan Vet  Demands Answers from Congress

From the Testimony Today, 4.23.09, by the Soldiers of Today, on Afghanistan! Brave New Foundation weaves one soldiers opening remarks with the opening remarks, in Congress, of a brother ‘Nam Soldier from our Years Past and another Congressional Hearing!

Pelosi: We were not told…… endorses truth commission

“We were not, I repeat, we were not told that waterboarding or any of these other interrogation methods were used. What they did tell us was they had some legislative counsel opinions,” Pelosi said at an afternoon press conference. “And if and when they would be used, they would brief Congress at that time.”

From the SF Chronicle

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday d the establishment of a formal truth commission to investigate Bush administration anti-terrorism policies, including an examination of former top Justice Department lawyers who crafted the legal justifications for what critics say was torture.


Pelosi’s endorsement follows President Obama’s signal Tuesday that he was open to the idea. Obama’s shift, in tandem with last week’s release by the administration of past memos describing brutal interrogation techniques on terror suspects, has touched a match to the seething controversy over whether there should be a public or legal accounting for Bush administration policies on torture and detention.

Four at Four

  1. The LA Times reports Prosecuting ‘torture memo’ authors called ‘a real stretch’. Prosecuting torture memo authors, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury, will be challenging. “First, the lawyers would have to be shown to have deliberately misinterpreted the law against torture.”

    “It would be a real stretch. As long as they thought they were honestly interpreting the [anti-torture] law, they are not criminal conspirators,” said Stephen A. Saltzburg, a law professor at George Washington University and a former prosecutor. “They may be bad lawyers who gave extremely bad advice,” he said, but that is not a crime.

    But we know that’s not the real problem.

    The other problem looms even larger. How could the government prosecute the mid-level lawyers who wrote memos but not the top officials — including former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney — who ultimately authorized the waterboarding of suspected Al Qaeda operatives?

    This is a problem, how? They are likely war criminals and must be held accountable to the fullest extent of U.S. and international law.

    McClatchy reports Cheney and Rice signed off on torture. “The Justice Department lawyers who wrote memos authorizing harsh interrogation torture techniques were operating not on their own but with direction from top administration officials, including then-Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.”

    The de-classified narrative (pdf) of Department of Justice torture advice is on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s website.

    The LA Times underscores that Torture got the OK early on from senior Bush administration officials. The Senate report states the Bush administration approved using torture in July 2002 “after a series of secret meetings that apparently excluded the State and Defense departments… Bush administration sought to keep details of the CIA program away from high-level officials — particularly former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell — who were perceived as potential opponents of the use of harsh interrogation techniques torture.”

    It identified Rice as the official “who advised that the CIA could proceed with its interrogation of Abu Zubaydah” — the first suspected high-level Al Qaeda operative captured by the agency and the first to be subjected to waterboarding and other harsh methods tortures.

    That message was sent on July 17, 2002, according to the document, pinpointing for the first time the date that the Bush administration formally backed the CIA’s aggressive plan.

    “It wasn’t until September 2003 that the CIA briefed Powell and Rumsfeld on the interrogation program, the Senate report said.” And of course, neither man publicly condemned the use of torture and have remained silent on its use to this day.

    Earlier this week, McClatchy reported why the Bush administration used torture. Torture was used to seek Iraq-al Qaida link. Torture was used “as part of Bush’s quest for a rationale to invade Iraq”. “In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network and Saddam’s regime.”

    A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration.

    “There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used,” the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

    Release of CIA torture memos was backed by Defense War Secretary Robert Gates, according to the Washington Post. “He viewed their ultimate disclosure as inevitable.” As a former CIA directory, Gates’ chief concern was protecting CIA officers from prosecution.

    Gates was also concerned the memos would “cause a ‘backlash in the Middle East’ that could adversely affect U.S. forces operating there.”

    Of course, there was no concern on part of the Bush administration of such backlash in the first place. Did those criminals really believe they could conspire to keep the torture secret forever? Apparently so.

Four at Four continues with military reservists to fill civilian jobs in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s weak response to the Taliban, the economy and the rise of China, bombings in Iraq, and dust on Earth and the Moon.

The Brass Ring: Prosecuting Bush, Cheney, et al

The brass ring is never so close as when it seems so far away and out of reach?

Or never farther way than when it is closest?

Over the past few months we’ve seen what appears to be an enormous shift or widening of the Overton Window of political possibilities from nearly zero chance to a sudden flood of public and media attention on the war crimes of George W. Bush and cronies.

Attention. And some soft polling indicating that it may include public demand.

Either way, it has resulted in incredible pressure on the Obama Administration to take a firm stand and make a hard choice either way, to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute the crimes, or to sweep them under the rug in some nebulous fantasy of “moving forward” to escape having to prosecute.

It seems apparent that the wave of attention, not yet defined demand, but attention may soon start to eat away at Obama’s approval ratings, thus forcing him to make a choice.

What actions by Obama and others in the administration can we look at that might indicate which course of action he is leaning towards?

Obama has recently started to try to label calls for justice as calls for “retribution”. The only reasons I can conceive of for him doing this is that he is comfortable misrepresenting people who are calling for justice, and perhaps as well he simply does not does not believe that they are calls for justice.

These are personality traits and political manipulations that make me, for one, very suspicious of his motivations, and can easily lead to the conclusion that he simply does not want investigations and prosecutions to proceed or he places a lower value on justice than the average person.

Obama’s appointed Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair only last week tried to defend the use of torture and embraced the old Bush administration line on torture with the claim “in a private memo last week that the harsh interrogation techniques banned by the White House did produce significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists”.

An FBI interrogator involved in the interrogations has flatly contradicted Blair’s claim.

What are Obama’s choices?

It appears he can do one of a few things to take political advantage of this apparent wave of attention. I think it is helpful here to be mindful that he is a politician and by nature will seek approval.

He could continue as he has so far and hold off or ignore the calls and continue repeating his “look forward” meme.

So far doing that hasn’t hurt his approval ratings, and again he is a politician after all, so from his perspective he may be reading those ratings as the majority being happy and approving of him him continuing to do that.

Last I checked his approval ratings were higher than the percentage of voters who voted for him last November.

If he is seeing any indications of slippage in those approval ratings he could ask Attorney General Holder to appoint a Special Prosecutor conduct a proper investigative process leading eventually to, if the investigative process indicates enough hard evidence to do so, prosecution of Bush, Cheney, and some or all of the members of the entire War on Terror enterprise who are ultimately with Bush and Cheney responsible for the torture and other war crimes that have been enumerated repeatedly.

Now, there have been some suggestions made that appointing a Special Prosecutor would immediately bury the whole issue behind a wall of secrecy if the Special Prosecutor immediately convened a Grand Jury to issue subpoenas and take testimony in secret, but there are many more other opinions that that would not be the case and that a Special Prosecutor can conduct an open investigation.

There is also, I think, more than enough publicly available evidence already to warrant prosecution resulting in probable convictions, particularly after some of the recent public releases and revelations.

But I am not a lawyer or experienced in the legal aspects of Grand Jury testimony, and it may be that a Special Prosecutor could do it in such a way as to close off any further public knowledge and bury the whole issue forever.

So to summarize, it appears to me that Obama has three options.

One, He could continue as he has, deflecting and opposing all calls no matter how loud for a Special Prosecutor or for any kind of investigation.

Two, he could have Holder appoint a Special Prosecutor with instructions to make it as closed a process as possible dragged out as long as possible, as a way of effectively ending any hope of prosecutions.

To my mind, from seeing his actions so far, the first or the second will be the way he will probably go, and I think that perhaps the second is the more likely since it would allow him to claim that he is bowing to the will of the people and the demands for a Special Prosecutor while at the same time avoiding any possibility of prosecutions.

Three, he could ask Holder to appoint a special Prosecutor instructed to conduct an completely transparent open and public investigation. Every action I’ve seen from him so far to my mind makes it apparent that a transparent open investigation is the last thing he wants to allow to happen.

The Torture Was Political, The Politics Was Personal

Before George Bush was even elected, he wanted to invade Iraq. The evidence for that is in this video of Blitzer interviewing Candidate Bush. (at 1:40)

Multiple sources have said that Bush’s response to the tragedy of 9/11 was to try to find a way to blame his fathers undefeated nemesis, Saddam Hussein.  Richard Clarke, in his book Against All Enemies, provides this quote.

HT to Richard Cranium

   “…see if Saddam was involved.  Just look.  I want to know any shred…”

   “Absolutely [Mr. President], we will look…again.”  I was trying to be more respectful, more responsive.  “But, you know, we have looked several times for state sponsorship of al Qaeda, and not found any real linkages to Iraq.  Iran plays a little, as does Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, Yemen.”

   “Look into Iraq, Saddam,” the President said testily, and left us…

“A Few Bad Apples . . . .” General Karpinski Speaks Out Boldly!

General Karpinski was on Keith Olbermann’s show last night.  Her pain and passion is abundant in her voice, as she speaks of the realities about the torture and those who implemented it, and the few that have paid for it.  She speaks with strength and  conviction.


Via Big Tent Democrat, we get this, from CNN (emphasis mine):

Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that he would “follow the law” as he weighed potential prosecutions of Bush administration officials who authorized controversial harsh interrogation techniques.

Big Tent points out that President Obama has already contradicted this, by stating that CIA interrogators won’t be investigated. But I’d also like to remind CNN that even John McCain understands the difference between “harsh interrogation techniques” and torture. So, why doesn’t CNN?

Building The Wave Of Support For Torture Investigations

Change is a tricky thing. Getting it is a balancing act, but in terms of any movement or political goal there is always the need to gain and show enough support so it is clear there is, at the very least, a strong plurality who feel the same way and want the same goal. When this becomes clear, it not only spurs politicians to act, it gives them the confidence to do so. This is now the job of those who have taken on the issue of torture.

Cross Posted at Square State

Prediction: No Senior Official will Ever be Prosecuted for Torture

I like to think of myself as a realist. That doesn’t mean that I don’t subscribe to ideals, or that I don’t work hard in my own way to bring those ideals to fruition. In my youth, the way I worked was different, perhaps best described by lines from the song:

Once there was a silly old ram

Thought he could punch a hole in the dam

No one could make that ram scram

He kept buttin’ that dam

‘Cause he had high hopes…

Somewhere along the way, however, I kinda realized that the tag line to the song wasn’t quite correct; that old million kilowatt dam never did go kerplop, and all I had for my efforts — both figuratively and literally — was a bloody head.  

FBI: An Ally????

Other than the fact that torture was used to extract confessions about a link between Iraq and al Qaiada, I think one of the most important things to come from the Senate Armed Services Report (warning: huge pdf) is the fact that the FBI refused to participate in the so-called “interrogations.”

From the report starting on page 18:

An unclassified version of the May 2008 report by the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IP) confirmed that FBI agents “initially took the lead in interviewing Zubaydah at the CIA facility” but that “CIA personnel assumed control over the interviews” when they arrived at the facility.

The FBI agent told the DOJ Inspector General that he also “raised objections to these techniques to the CIA and told the CIA that it was ‘borderline torture.'”<…>

According to the DOJ Inspector General’s Report, FBI Counterterrorism Assistant Director Pat D’Amuro gave instruction to both FBI agents to “come home and not participate in CIA interrogation.” <…> The report said that around the time of Zubaydah’s interrogation, FBI Director Robert Mueller decided that FBI agents would not participate in interrogations involving techniques the FBI did not normally use in the United States, even though the OLC had determined that such techniques were legal.

Denial. It’s Not Just a River!

It’s a frikkin’ ocean!!!

Judith Miller tears strips off Cliff May on Fox News while Shep Smith yells louder:

“This government is of, by, and for the people — that means it’s mine,” Smith quipped. “That means — I’m not saying what is torture, and what is not torture, but I’m saying, whatever it is, you don’t do it for me! I want off the train when the government starts — I want off, next stop, now!”

Torture:Justice :: Open the Floodgates, Weekly Action Series #4

What a week, eh?! OLC Memo’s released last Thursday, a weekend of TV spots with Rahm, Axelrod, then finally, from the horse’s mouth, Barack Obama on Monday says, “we are not ruling out prosecutions”. (yay). Then we close the week on Tuesday/Wednesday, with the release of the Full Report from the SASC, the Levin Report. Open the floodgates.

I’ve created this place, this series, to be something of a landing zone for us, any of us in the progressive  community who feel the grief, who wish to contribute in some way to this growing call for justice, and/or who want to stay tuned in to any ACTION activities that emerge around this cause. I will publish every week, on Thursday mornings.

Loaded with linky goodness this week, follow me… and more coming!

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