Tags: Abu Ghraib, aclu, Afghanistan, al-Qaeda, amrit singh, bagram, detainees, foia, freedom of information, geneva conventions, George Bush, Guantanamo, interrogations, Iraq, iraqi prisoners, jason leopold, nuremberg, Obama, prisoner abuse, roger hollander, rumsfeld, Taliban, torture, torture memos, torture photos, torture videos, War Crimes
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www.opednews.com, Friday, 15 May 2009 06:46
U.S. Army soldiers in Afghanistan took dozens of pictures of their colleagues pointing assault rifles and pistols at the heads and backs of hooded and bound detainees and another photograph showed two male soldiers and one female solider pointing a broom to one detainee “as if I was sticking the end of a broom stick into [his] rectum,” according to the female soldier’s account as told to an Army criminal investigator.
President Barack Obama said Wednesday he would not release these photographs, reversing a promise he made a month ago, fearing it would stoke anti-American sentiment and endanger U.S. troops.
I found the documents that describes the photographs on the website of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU obtained the files, but not the photographs, in 2005 as part of the organization’s wide-ranging Freedom of information Act lawsuit against the federal government related to the Bush administration’s treatment of “war on terror” prisoners in U.S. custody.
About 31 digital photographs contained on a compact disc discovered in June 2004 during an office clean-up at Bagram Airfield also depicted the corpse of “local national” who died from “apparent gunshot wounds” and uniformed U.S. soldiers from the Second Platoon of the 22nd Infantry Battalion stationed at Fire Base Tycze and Dae Rah Wod (DRW) kicking and punching prisoners whose heads were covered with “sand bags” and blindfolds and hands were “zipped-tied,” according to a U.S. Army criminal investigation. The documents related to that investigation can be found in these five separate files: [part 1] [part 2] [part 3] [part 4] [part 5].
The soldiers said they intended to keep the prisoner abuse photographs as “mementos” to recall their deployment in Afghanistan, according to an Army criminal investigation.
The Pentagon banned the use of hoods following the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, where shocking photos were leaked of sexual and physical abuse in 2004. According to a report on prisoner abuse prepared for the Department of Defense by James Schlesinger, orders signed by Bush and Rumsfeld in 2002 and 2003 authorizing brutal interrogations “became policy” at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.
Amrit Singh, an ACLU staff attorney, confirmed that the photographs described in the documents were those that Obama has decided to withhold and that the ACLU has fought to gain access to the images for nearly six years.
The documents describing the photographs were part of separate reports prepared in May, August, and July 2004 by the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division into the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Another photograph that was set for release at the end of month that is now being withheld was taken in December 2003 and was found on a government computer. The image shows three soldiers at the St. Mere Forward Operating Base posing with three Iraqi detainees “zip-tied to bars in a stress position, fully clothed, with hoods over their heads.”
One female soldier in the photo is pointing a broom “as if I was sticking the end of a broom stick into the rectum of a restrained detainee,” she testified to Army investigators in April 2004.
On March 27, 2004, this soldier sent an e-mail to an undisclosed number of her colleagues. She discovered that the photograph she appeared in had been widely disseminated and that she was under investigation.
“You guys have a picture of me holding a broom near a detainee,” says her e-mail, under the subject line “VERY IMPORTANT!!!!!” “I don’t have a copy of this picture anywhere…but some Marine got a hold of it and now I’m being investigated for detainee abuse. I guess one of you share the photos with the Marines…but either way, they have a copy of that picture.
“Anyway, this email serves two purposes. First, I know that at least one more of you guys is in the picture, but I cannot remember who. If I’m being investigated…I’m sure that the other individuals in this picture will be investigated as well, so heads up! Secondly, can I please have a copy of this picture ASAP!!! I can’t stress how badly I need this picture so I can show people that it was just a posed shot, and that I wasn’t physically beating anyone with a broom
One of the recipients of the soldier’s e-mail replied the same day with a copy of the photograph and a note that said “I can’t see how they think this is anything but fun.”
The female soldier interviewed by Army criminal investigators testified that she did not remember why the Iraqi prisoners in the photograph were “flexicuffed to the bars…and have sandbags covering their heads,” but “detainees were put in that stress position either because the interrogators felt that the detainee could provide further intelligence, or because the detainee was a disciplinary problem.” She said the detainees weren’t placed in that position for the photograph but were “already there when we decided to take the picture.”
That investigation was initiated by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which was headed by Donald Rumsfeld and found evidence that several soldiers “committed the offenses of conspiracy, failure to obey a general order, and cruelty and maltreatment when they posed for an inappropriate photograph with detainees.
The female solider who appeared in the photo testified, “The other interrogators and I did not have a lot of work to do for a couple of days. Myself and several other MPs… were fooling around in the prison, and SGT [redacted] took several photographs.”
The soldier said “everyone” was taking pictures and he was unaware of a “no picture” taking policy. “It was always an [military interrogator] call to zip-tie them and put them in certain positions.”
The Army investigative report into the photographs found on the compact disc is more than 500 pages and determined that eight soldiers, whose identities were redacted, “committed the offense of dereliction of duty, when as guards detailed to secure and protect detainees, they willfully failed to perform their duties with no reasonable or just excuse, by jokingly pointing weapons at the bound detainees, and exposed photographs of this unwarranted activity.”
Soldiers admitted that dozens of other photographs of prisoner abuse were destroyed after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke in May 2004. A separate Army criminal report prepared that month also found that a soldier “possessed a photograph of himself pointing what appears to be a pistol at an unidentified [prisoner], whose hands were tied and his head covered laying down.”
The soldiers interviewed said Special Forces out of Fort Bragg was in charge of operating the military facilities where the photographs were taken and had never provided soldiers with any written guidelines on how to handle detainees.
In addition, soldiers interviewed said Special Forces Psyops and military interrogation teams authorized them to “play loud music and keep detainees awake if the interrogators wanted them to.”
One soldier said they “kept the detainees awake by holding them up or by playing the loud music,” the report noted. The soldier said Special Forces instructed soldiers that prisoners who were “violent or had information” were “flex-cuffed on their hands, heads covered and not allowed to sleep.”
Sleep deprivation, which is what the soldier appears to be describing, would be a violation of the Geneva Conventions ban on cruel and inhumane treatment and underscores how the Bush administration’s interrogation policies trickled down to low-level soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.
One solider admitted during a July 2004 interview with an Army investigator that he took “bad photographs” before “the incident in Iraq,” which is likely a reference to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. The soldier characterized the “bad photographs” as those in which the “public would be outraged” if it was released. He went on to state “that he was standing behind a prisoner with a weapon holding it at their head” in one of the two photographs he appeared in.
The corpse of the dead Afghanistan national was photographed sometime in January 2004 after he was shot to death by U.S. soldiers who believed he was responsible for a rocket-propelled grenade attack on Fire Base Tycze that seriously wounded three U.S. Soldiers. However, an investigation into the incident was never conducted.
Most of the soldiers interviewed in all of the incidents stated that they were not aware of any set policy on the treatment of detainees, and did not realize at the time that their actions were wrong nor did they believe it was inappropriate. A sergeant stated that he had also seen pictures on Army computers of detainees being kicked, hit or inhumanely treated while in U.S. custody.
Another soldier said he had “seen a few pictures of this nature before but thought nothing of it since these people are the ones that are trying to kill us.”
On Wednesday, Obama told reporters that the photographs “are not particularly sensational.”
Obama said that his decision to withhold the photographs stemmed from his personal review of the photos and his concern that their release would endanger American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. But pressure from Bush administration holdovers, the media and two senators also played a role.
Obama’s reversal marks a renewal of U.S. hypocrisy regarding the abuse of detainees and the hiding of evidence about such crimes.
For instance, last September in upholding a lower court ruling ordering the release of the photos, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit noted that past U.S. administrations had championed the release of photos that showed prisoners of war being abused and tortured.
Notably, after World War II, the U.S. government publicized photos of prisoners in Japanese and German prisons and concentration camps, which the court noted, “showed emaciated prisoners, subjugated detainees, and even corpses. But the United States championed the use of the photos as a means of holding the perpetrators accountable.”
The Bush administration’s legal arguments were rife with other examples of hypocrisy, including an argument that release of the photos – even with the personal characteristics of detainees obscured – would violate their privacy rights under the Geneva Conventions.
The irony was that the Bush administration – with the help of legal opinions drafted by Justice Department lawyers – had maintained that detainees from the war in Afghanistan and the larger “war on terror” were not entitled to prisoner of war protections under the Geneva Conventions.
Indeed, an action memo signed by President Bush on Feb. 7, 2002, opened the door to abusive treatment by declaring that the Third Geneva Convention, which sets standards for treatment of prisoners from armed conflicts, did not apply to the conflict with al-Qaeda and that Taliban detainees were not entitled to the convention’s legal protections.
The ACLU argued that the Bush administration’s legal strategy was “surprising because there would be no photos of abuse to request had the government cared this much about the Geneva Conventions before the abuses occurred and the photos were taken.”
In disputing the administration’s selective application of these international standards, the ACLU noted “the Geneva Conventions were designed to prevent the abuse of prisoners, not to derail efforts to hold the government accountable for those abuses.”
Federal courts agreed with the ACLU’s arguments. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals deemed the Bush administration’s position legally flawed and added that releasing “the photographs is likely to further the purposes of the Geneva Conventions by deterring future abuse of prisoners.”
The appeals court also shot down the Bush administration’s attempt to radically expand Freedom of Information Act exemptions for withholding the photos, stating that the Bush administration had attempted to use the FOIA exemptions as “an all-purpose damper on global controversy.”
The Obama administration has until June 9 either to reargue the case before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York or to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review the matter.
Copyright © 2008 The Public Record. All rights reserved.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, aclu, amrit singh, anti-American sentiment, bagram, beltway, Bill Kristol, binyam mohamed, bush crimes, cia interrogation, doj, foia, freedom of information, geneva conventions, glenn greenwald, Guantanamo, International law, justice department, max boot, michael goldfarb, national security, nuremburg, obama administration, obama cover-up, obama coverup, olc torture memos, rendition, roger hollander, torture, torture memos, torture photos, torture techniques, torture videos, un convention, War Crimes, warrantless wiretapping, waterboarding
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It’s difficult to react much to Obama’s complete reversal today of his own prior decision to release photographs depicting extreme detainee abuse by the United States. He’s left no doubt that this is what he does: ever since he was inaugurated, Obama has taken one extreme step after the next to keep concealed both the details and the evidence of Bush’s crimes, including rendition, torture and warrantless eavesdropping. The ACLU’s Amrit Singh — who litigated the thus-far-successful FOIA lawsuit to compel disclosure of these photographs — is exactly right:
The reversal is another indication of a continuance of the Bush administration policies under the Obama administration. President Obama’s promise of accountability is meaningless, this is inconsistent with his promise of transparency, it violates the government’s commitment to the court. People need to examine these abusive photographs, but also the government officials need to be held accountable.
Andrew Sullivan, one of Obama’s earliest and most enthusiastic supporters, wrote of today’s photograph-concealment decision and yesterday’s story of Obama’s pressuring Britain to conceal evidence of Binyam Mohamed’s torture:
Slowly but surely, Obama is owning the cover-up of his predecessors’ war crimes. But covering up war crimes, refusing to prosecute them, promoting those associated with them, and suppressing evidence of them are themselves violations of Geneva and the UN Convention. So Cheney begins to successfully coopt his successor. . .
From extending and deepening the war in Afghanistan, to suppressing evidence of rampant and widespread abuse and torture of prisoners under Bush, to thuggishly threatening the British with intelligence cut-off if they reveal the brutal torture inflicted on Binyam Mohamed, Obama now has new cheer-leaders: Bill Kristol, Michael Goldfarb and Max Boot. . . .
Those of us who held out hope that the Obama administration would not be actively covering up the brutal torture of a Gitmo prisoner who was subject to abuse in several countries must now concede the obvious. They’re covering it up – in such a crude and obvious fashion that it is actually a crime in Britain.
John Aravosis said Obama’s logic was “a bit Bushian.” Steve Hynd observes that “Obama Trades Our Principles For Cheneyism.” TPM decalres: ”Obama falls back on Bushisms.” Dan Froomkin writes: ”Obama Joins the Cover-Up.” I’ll just note a few points for now about Obama’s efforts to keep these photographs concealed:
(1) Think about what Obama’s rationale would justify. Obama’s claim — that release of the photographs “would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger” — means we should conceal or even outright lie about all the bad things we do that might reflect poorly on us. For instance, if an Obama bombing raid slaughters civilians in Afghanistan (as has happened several times already), then, by this reasoning, we ought to lie about what happened and conceal the evidence depicting what was done — as the Bush administration did — because release of such evidence would “would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.” Indeed, evidence of our killing civilians in Afghanistan inflames anti-American sentiment far more than these photographs would. Isn’t it better to hide the evidence showing the bad things we do?
Apparently, the proper reaction to heinous acts by our political leaders is not to hold them accountable but, instead, to hide evidence of what they did. That’s the warped mentality Obama is endorsing today, and has been endorsing since January 20.
(2) How can anyone who supports what Obama is doing here complain about the CIA’s destruction of their torture videos? The torture videos, like the torture photos, would, if released, generate anti-American sentiment and make us look bad. By Obama’s reasoning, didn’t the CIA do exactly the right thing by destroying them?
(3) This is just another manifestation of the generalized Beltway religion that we should suppress and ignore the heinous acts our government committed and to which we acquiesced, because if we just agree to forget about all of it, then we can blissfully pretend that it never happened and avoid doing anything about it.
(4) Obama’s claim that he has to hide this evidence to protect our soldiers is the sort of crass, self-serving exploitation of “The Troops” which was the rancid hallmark of Bush/Cheney rhetoric. Everyone knows what the real effect of these photographs would be: they would highlight just how brutal and criminal was our treatment of detainees in our custody, and further underscore how amoral and lawless are Obama’s calls that we Look To the Future, Not the Past. Manifestly, that is why they’re being suppressed.
(5) For all of you defend-Obama-at-all-cost cheerleaders who are about to descend into my comment section and other online venues to explain how Obama did the right thing because of National Security, I have this question: if you actually want to argue that concealing these photographs is the right thing to do, then you must have been criticizing Obama when, two weeks ago, he announced that he would release them. Otherwise, it’s pretty clear that you don’t have any actual beliefs other than: ”I support what Obama does because it’s Obama who does it.” So for those arguing today that concealing these photographs is the right thing to do: were you criticizing Obama two weeks ago for announcing he would release these photographs?
Also, the OLC torture memos released several weeks ago surely increased anti-American sentiment. Indeed, those on the Right who objected to the release of those memos cited exactly that argument. How can anyone cheer on Obama’s decision today to conceal these photographs while also cheering on his decision to release the OLC memos? Those who have any intellectual coherence would have to oppose both or support both. Those two decisions only have one fact in common: Obama made them. Thus, the only way to cheer on both decisions is to be guided by the modified Nixonian mantra: what Obama does is right because Obama does it.
Also, during the Bush years, were you — along with Bill Kristol and National Review — attacking the ACLU and Congressional Democrats for demanding that the Bush administration stop concealing evidence of its torture, on the ground that disclosure of such evidence would harm America’s national security? Were you defending Bush then for doing what Obama is doing now?
(6) If these photographs don’t shed any new light on what our Government did — if all they do is replicate what we already know from the Abu Ghraib photographs — then how can it possibly be the case that they will do any damage? To argue that they will harm how we are perceived is, necessarily, to acknowledge that they reveal new information that is not already widely known.
(7) We are supposed to have what is called Open Government in the United States. The actions of our government — and the evidence documenting it — is presumptively available to the public. Only an authoritarian would argue that evidence of government actions should be kept secret in the absence of a compelling reason to release it.
The presumption is the opposite: documents in the government’s possession relating to what it does is presumptively public in the absence of compelling reasons to keep it concealed. That the documents reflect poorly on the government is not such a reason to keep them concealed. If it were, then it would always be preferable to have political leaders cover-up their crimes on the ground that disclosing them would reflect poorly on the U.S. and spur anti-American sentiment. Open government is necessary precisely because only transparency deters political leaders from doing heinous acts in the first place.
UPDATE: Here (.pdf) is the letter the DOJ sent to the court this afternoon, advising the judge that they changed their minds “at the highest levels of Government” and would not, as previously promised, release the photographs, but instead would attempt to appeal the Second Circuit’s decision compelling their release to the Roberts Supreme Court.
UPDATE II: In comments, Paul Daniel Ash addresses the Obama supporters who are defending Obama’s decision to keep these photographs concealed on the ground that “no good would come” from disclosure:
I’m pretty jaded, but even I’m outraged and saddened by the number of voices being raised in this comment thread supporting the decision to conceal these photos.
“No good will come?” Would we even have had an Abu Ghraib scandal without the pictures of bloody prisoners and men cowering in front of dogs? “No good?” Is there or is there not an active debate in this country about whether or not torture is acceptable? “No good?” Did a United States Senator not say just today, in the Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, that torture techniques have been used for the past five centuries because “apparently they work?”
“No good will come?”
Indeed, it’s pretty hard to believe that the people who are arguing that “no good will come” from release of these photos either (a) lived through the impact of the Abu Ghraib photos and/or (b) are living through the “torture debate” we are now having.
Photographs convey the reality of things in a way that mere words cannot. They prevent people who want to deny what was done the ability to do so. They force citizens to face what their country did and what they are now justifying and advocating. They impede the ability of political leaders to use euphemisms to obscure the truth. They show in graphic detail what the effects are of sanctioning torture policies. They prove that this was about more than ”dunking three terrorists into water.” They highlight the fact that no decent person believes that this should all just be forgotten and its victims told that they have no right to have accountability. That’s precisely why the photographs are being suppressed: because of how much good they would do.
CIA Refuses to Turn Over Torture Tape Documents May 13, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Abu Ghraib, Abu Zubaydah, aclu, american civil liberties union, amrit singh, bagram, bush administration, cia, cia videotapes, Criminal Justice, destroyed cia tapes, detainees, doj, enhanced interrogation techniques, foia, freedom of information, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, International law, interrogation, interrogation videotapes, jason leopold, john durham, justice department, kyle foggo, nuremburg, roger hollander, special prosecutor, torture, torture memos, torture methods, torture videotapes, waterboarding
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(Roger’s note: no, that is not a typo finding the words “integrity” and “CIA” in the same sentence. If it weren’t so tragic it would be funny. And, by the way, John Durham was appointed in January of 2008 to lead a criminal probe into the destruction of the CIA torture, aka interrogation tapes. One wonders what is taking so long.)
Wednesday 13 May 2009, www.truthout.org
by: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Report
The CIA claims the integrity of a special prosecutor’s criminal investigation into the destruction of 92 interrogation videotapes will be compromised if the agency is forced to turn over detailed documents to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) describing the contents of the tapes, according to newly released court documents.
In a May 5 letter to US District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein, Lev Dassin, the acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said the Justice Department recently had discussions with prosecutors working on the criminal investigation into the destruction of the interrogation tapes and was informed that “the production of documents … would conflict and substantially interfere with the [criminal] investigation” into the destruction of the interrogation tapes.
”As the court is aware, the scope of the tapes investigation includes the review of whether any person obstructed justice, knowingly made materially false statements, or acted in contempt of court or Congress in connection with the destruction of videotapes,” Dassin’s letter says. “The Government thus respectfully requests that [a previous court order demanding the CIA turn over detailed descriptions of the contents of the destroyed tapes] be withdrawn or otherwise stayed until the tapes investigation has been completed.”
Amrit Singh, an ACLU staff attorney, said the move is “a classic CIA delay tactic.”
In court papers, she said the government is using the criminal investigation “as a pretext for indefinitely postponing” its obligation to produce documents related to the destruction of the videotapes.
”The Government makes no mention of an expected timeline for completion of [Special Prosecutor John] Durham['s] investigation,” the ACLU said in court papers. “Nor has Mr. Durham provided a declaration in support of the Government’s position.”
Hellerstein seemed to agree. He pointed out in a two-page order that Durham had not stepped forward to state that his probe would be hindered if documents related to the destruction of the tapes were turned over to the ACLU.
In fact, in a March court filing, Dassin noted that a stay of the contempt motion filed by the ACLU seeking release of the tapes was allowed to expire on February 28 without a request for a continuation – signaling that Durham’s investigation was complete. In January, Durham had indicated in a court filing that he expected to wrap up his probe by the end of February.
Last month, however, Durham questioned the CIA’s former number three official, Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, about the destruction of the tapes. Foggo, who was sentenced to three years in prison for fraud for steering lucrative contracts to a friend, was due to report to federal prison, but Durham asked for a delay so he could question him about the tape destruction.
In December 2007, the ACLU filed a motion to hold the CIA in contempt for its destruction of the tapes in violation of a court order requiring the agency to produce or identify all records requested by the ACLU related to the CIA’s interrogation of “war on terror” detainees.
Hellerstein ordered the Justice Department, on behalf of the CIA, to file legal briefs by May 27 justifying the reasons for withholding the documents. He added that those papers should include affidavits, including a declaration from the special prosecutor investigating the tape destruction
Those documents “may include also any reasons why the identity of persons involved in the destruction should not be disclosed,” Hellerstein wrote in a two-page order.
Several weeks ago, Dassin revealed in another court filing that the CIA has about 3,000 documents related to the 92 destroyed videotapes, suggesting an extensive back-and-forth between CIA field operatives and officials of the Bush administration. The Justice Department said the documents include “cables, memoranda, notes and e-mails” related to the destroyed CIA videotapes.
In last week’s court filing, Dassin said, “those 3,000 records included ‘contemporaneous records,’ which were created at the time of the interrogation or at the time the videotapes were viewed, ‘intelligence record,’ which do not describe the interrogations but contain raw intelligence collected from the interrogations, ‘derivative records,’ which summarize information contained within the contemporaneous records, and documents related to the location of the interrogations, that upon further review by the CIA, were determined not to relate to the interrogations or to the destroyed videotapes.”
The ACLU and the government have jointly proposed that the government describe the contents of the “contemporaneous” and “derivative” records, but not the intelligence records or the “other records that ultimately proved to be unrelated to the interrogations or the videotapes.”
Dassin said the Justice Department intends to turn over additional indexes next month, and on May 18 will produce a list of “all contemporaneous records and all derivative records” related to the destruction of the interrogation tapes, but he added that quite a bit of information will be withheld.
In previous court filings, Dassin acknowledged that 12 videotapes, showed Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, being subjected to waterboarding and other harsh methods. The 80 other videotapes purportedly show Zubaydah and al-Nashiri in their prison cells. Some of the videotapes predated the Justice Department’s August 1, 2002, legal memo authorizing CIA interrogators to use ten torturous methods against “high-value” detainees.
But it’s unknown whether the interrogation tapes that predate the August 1, 2002, “torture” depict “enhanced interrogation” techniques not yet approved by the Justice Department.
Last week, the CIA turned over to the ACLU documents that showed CIA interrogators at a secret “black site” prison provided top agency officials in Langley with daily “torture” updates of Abu Zubaydah, the alleged “high-level” terrorist detainee, who was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002.
The documents included two sets of indexes (Part I) (Part II), totaling 52 pages that contained general descriptions of cables sent back to CIA headquarters describing the August 2002, videotaped interrogation sessions of Zubaydah. Those cable transmissions included a description of the techniques interrogators had used and the intelligence, if any, culled from those sessions.
The CIA and the Justice Department declined to turn over a more detailed description of the cables its field agents sent back to headquarters, citing several exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act.
In a two-page letter accompanying the indexes, CIA Associate General Counsel John McPherson wrote that a “senior government official” would submit a declaration on May 22 “that more fully explains the justifications for withholding a more detailed description of the cables.”
Jason Leopold is editor in chief of The Public Record, www.pubrecord.org.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, aclu, amrit singh, amy goodman, bagram, baltasar garzon, bethine church, bush administration, bush six, carl levin, church committee, cia assassination, cia videotapes, COINTELPRO, denis moynihan, detainees, Diane Feinstein, Dick Cheney, enhanced interrogation, frank church, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, independent prosecutor, John Conyers, martin luther king, Nancy Pelosi, nuremburg, patrick leahy, pentagon photos, president obama, roger hollander, rumsfeld, senate armed services, torture, torture memos, waterboarding, watergate, william hayes
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Published on Wednesday, April 29, 2009 by TruthDig.com
The Senate interest in investigation has backers in the U.S. House, from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers, D-Mich., who told The Huffington Post recently, “We’re coming after these guys.”
Amrit Singh, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the Pentagon’s photos “provide visual proof that prisoner abuse by U.S. personnel was not aberrational but widespread, reaching far beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib. Their disclosure is critical for helping the public understand the scope and scale of prisoner abuse as well as for holding senior officials accountable for authorizing or permitting such abuse.” The ACLU also won a ruling to obtain documents relating to the CIA’s destruction of 92 videotapes of harsh interrogations. The tapes are gone, supposedly, but notes about the content of the tapes remain, and a federal judge has ordered their release.
In December 2002, when the Bush torture program was well under way, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signed off on a series of harsh interrogation techniques described in a memo written by William Hayes II (one of the “Bush Six” being investigated by Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon). At the bottom of the memo, under his signature, Rumsfeld scrawled: “I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?” Rumsfeld zealously classified information in his years in government.
A similar crisis confronted the U.S. public in the mid-1970s. While the Watergate scandal was unfolding, widespread evidence was mounting of illegal government activity, including domestic spying and the infiltration and disruption of legal political groups, mostly anti-war groups, in a broad-based, secret government crackdown on dissent. In response, the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities was formed. It came to be known as the Church Committee, named after its chairman, Idaho Democratic Sen. Frank Church. The Church Committee documented and exposed extraordinary activities on the CIA and FBI, such as CIA efforts to assassinate foreign leaders, and the FBI’s COINTELPRO (counterintelligence) program, which extensively spied on prominent leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It is not only the practices that are similar, but the people. Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr., general counsel to the Church Committee, noted two people who were active in the Ford White House and attempted to block the committee’s work: “Rumsfeld and then [Dick] Cheney were people who felt that nothing should be known about these secret operations, and there should be as much disruption as possible.”
Church’s widow, Bethine Church, now 86, continues to be very politically active in Idaho. She was so active in Washington in the 1970s that she was known as “Idaho’s third senator.” She said there needs to be a similar investigation today: “When you think of all the things that the Church Committee tried to straighten out and when you think of the terrific secrecy that Cheney and all of these people dealt with, they were always secretive about everything, and they didn’t want anything known. I think people have to know what went on. And that’s why I think an independent committee [is needed], outside of the Congress, that just looked at the whole problem and everything that happened.”
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.