Extraordinary Rendition Report Finds More Than 50 Nations Involved In Global Torture Scheme February 5, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: Bush Administration Torture, Bush Extraordinary Rendition, Bush torture, cia, counterterrorism, extraordinary rendition, joshua hersh, Obama Extraordinary Rendition, obama torture, prisons, roger hollander, Secret CIA Prisons, torture, war on terror, World News
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Roger’s note: the following article on the Bush/Obama torture regime uses the words “mistake” and “blunder” to describe the infamous barbarism. Next time you are about to get a traffic ticket or are charged with robbing a bank, tell the judge it was just a mistake or a blunder, and you are certain to be excused. After all, if government officials can “mistakenly” violate constitutional and international law, you certainly should be able to do the same for “minor” offenses.
Posted: 02/04/2013 11:14 pm EST | Updated: 02/05/2013 9:26 am EST
WASHINGTON — The U.S. counterterrorism practice known as extraordinary rendition, in which suspects were quietly moved to secret prisons abroad and often tortured, involved the participation of more than 50 nations, according to a new report to be released Tuesday by the Open Society Foundations.
The OSF report, which offers the first wholesale public accounting of the top-secret program, puts the number of governments that either hosted CIA “black sites,” interrogated or tortured prisoners sent by the U.S., or otherwise collaborated in the program at 54. The report also identifies by name 136 prisoners who were at some point subjected to extraordinary rendition.
The number of nations and the names of those detained provide a stark tally of a program that was expanded widely — critics say recklessly — by the George W. Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and has been heavily condemned in the years since. In December, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, condemned the CIA’s detention and interrogation efforts as “terrible mistakes.”
Although Bush administration officials said they never intentionally sent terrorism suspects abroad in order to be tortured, the countries where the prisoners seemed to end up — Egypt, Libya and Syria, among others — were known to utilize coercive interrogation techniques.
Extraordinary rendition was also a factor in one of the greatest intelligence blunders of the Bush years. Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a Libyan national and top al Qaeda operative who was detained in Pakistan in late 2001, was later sent by the U.S. to Egypt. There, under the threat of torture, he alleged that Saddam Hussein had trained al Qaeda in biological and chemical warfare. He later withdrew the claim, but not before the U.S. invaded Iraq in part based on his faulty testimony.
When he came into office, President Barack Obama pledged to end the U.S. government’s use of torture and issued an executive order closing the CIA’s secret prisons around the world.
But Obama did not fully end the practice of rendition, which permits the U.S. to circumvent any due process obligations for terrorism suspects. Instead, the administration said it was relying on the less certain “diplomatic assurances” of host countries that they would not torture suspects sent to them for pretrial detention.
This decision, the OSF report concludes, was tantamount to continuing the program, since in the absence of any public accounting, it was impossible to measure the accuracy of those “assurances.”
Without any public government records to read, Amrit Singh, the OSF’s top legal analyst for national security and counterterrorism and the new report’s author, turned to news reports, the investigations of a global network of human rights organizations, and the proceedings of a handful of foreign courts that have investigated their own countries’ practices.
What Singh saw was a hasty global effort, spearheaded by the United States in the months after 9/11, to bypass longstanding legal structures in order to confront the emerging threat of international terrorism.
Singh condemned the consequences of that effort in the report’s introduction. “By enlisting the participation of dozens of foreign governments in these violations, the United States further undermined longstanding human rights protections enshrined in international law — including, in particular, the norm against torture,” she wrote.
“Responsibility for this damage does not lie solely with the United States,” Singh added, “but also with the numerous foreign governments without whose participation secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations could not have been carried out.”
The list of those nations includes a range of American allies (Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany) and familiar Middle Eastern partners in the messy fight against radical Islam (Jordan, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates). Their alleged levels of participation vary widely, from countries like Poland, which agreed to host CIA black-site prisons, to nations like Portugal and Finland, which merely allowed their airspace and airports to be used for rendition flights.
A few of the nations involved, such as Australia and Sweden, have begun a process of public accounting and compensation for their roles in the process. Others, including Italy and Macedonia, have recently become embroiled in trials of local officials and CIA agents in absentia over their actions.
Torture Crimes Officially, Permanently Shielded July 1, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, antonio taguba, black sites, bush cheney torture, bush lawyers, CIA torture, Criminal Justice, doj, eric holder, geneva conventions, glenn greenwald, International law, mccaffrey, obama torture, rendition, roger hollander, rule of law, torture, torture deaths, toture regime
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In August, 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder — under continuous, aggressive prodding by the Obama White House — announced that three categories of individuals responsible for Bush-era torture crimes would be fully immunized from any form of criminal investigation and prosecution: (1) Bush officials who ordered the torture (Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld); (2) Bush lawyers who legally approved it (Yoo, Bybee, Levin), and (3) those in the CIA and the military who tortured within the confines of the permission slips they were given by those officials and lawyers (i.e., “good-faith” torturers). The one exception to this sweeping immunity was that low-level CIA agents and servicemembers who went so far beyond the torture permission slips as to basically commit brutal, unauthorized murder would be subject to a “preliminary review” to determine if a full investigation was warranted — in other words, the Abu Ghraib model of justice was being applied, where only low-ranking scapegoats would be subject to possible punishment while high-level officials would be protected.
Yesterday, it was announced that this “preliminary review” by the prosecutor assigned to conduct it, U.S. Attorney John Durham, is now complete, and — exactly as one would expect — even this category of criminals has been almost entirely protected, meaning a total legal whitewash for the Bush torture regime:
The Justice Department has opened full criminal investigations of the deaths in CIA custody of two detainees, including one who perished at Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. officials said Thursday.
The decision, announced by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., means continued legal jeopardy for several CIA operatives but at the same time closes the book on inquiries that potentially threatened many others. A federal prosecutor reviewed 101 cases in which agency officers and contractors interrogated suspected terrorists during years of military action after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but found cause to pursue criminal cases in only two. . . .
The two token cases to be investigated involve the most grotesque brutality imaginable: they apparently are (1) a detainee who froze to death in an American secret prison in Afghanistan in 2002 after being ordered stripped and chained to a concrete floor, and (2) the 2003 death of a detainee at Abu Ghraib whose body was infamously photographed by Abu Ghraib giving a thumbs-up sign. All other crimes in the Bush torture era will be fully protected. Lest there be any doubt about what a profound victory this is for those responsible for the torture regime, consider the reaction of the CIA:
“On this, my last day as director, I welcome the news that the broader inquiries are behind us,” said a statement from CIA Director Leon Panetta, who will take over as defense secretary on Friday. “We are now finally about to close this chapter of our agency’s history” . . . . At CIA headquarters on Thursday, Holder’s announcement was greeted with relief. . . .
Consider what’s being permanently shielded from legal accountability. The Bush torture regime extended to numerous prisons around the world, in which tens of thousands of mostly Muslim men were indefinitely imprisoned without a whiff of due process, and included a network of secret prisons — “black sites” — purposely placed beyond the monitoring reach of even international human rights groups, such as the International Red Cross.
Over 100 detainees died during U.S. interrogations, dozens due directly to interrogation abuse. Gen. Barry McCaffrey said: “We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.” Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who oversaw the official investigation into detainee abuse, wrote: “there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”
Thanks to the Obama DOJ, that is no longer in question. The answer is resoundingly clear: American war criminals, responsible for some of the most shameful and inexcusable crimes in the nation’s history — the systematic, deliberate legalization of a worldwide torture regime — will be fully immunized for those crimes. And, of course, the Obama administration has spent years just as aggressively shielding those war criminals from all other forms of accountability beyond the criminal realm: invoking secrecy and immunity doctrines to prevent their victims from imposing civil liability, exploiting their party’s control of Congress to suppress formal inquiries, and pressuring and coercing other nations not to investigate their own citizens’ torture at American hands.
All of those efforts, culminating in yesterday’s entirely unsurprising announcement, means that the U.S. Government has effectively shielded itself from even minimal accountability for its vast torture crimes of the last decade. Without a doubt, that will be one of the most significant, enduring and consequential legacies of the Obama presidency.
Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy. His next book is titled “With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful.”
Tags: War Crimes, Afghanistan War, roger hollander, Iraq war, terrorism, torture techniques, interrogation, torture, al-Qaeda, Obama presidency, civil liberties, Taliban, john kerry, collateral damage, cheney, gates, nuremberg, rendition, geneva conventions, military commissions, glenn greenwald, olc, jack goldsmith, bagram, cia black sites, obama torture, bush policies, obama policies, counterterrorism policy
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I wonder how many people from across the political spectrum will have to point this out before Obama defenders will finally admit that it’s true. From Harvard Law Professor and former Bush OLC lawyer Jack Goldsmith, systematically assessing Obama’s “terrorism” policies in The New Republic:
Many people think Cheney is scare-mongering and owes President Obama his support or at least his silence. But there is a different problem with Cheney’s criticisms: his premise that the Obama administration has reversed Bush-era policies is largely wrong. The truth is closer to the opposite: The new administration has copied most of the Bush program, has expanded some of it, and has narrowed only a bit. Almost all of the Obama changes have been at the level of packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric. . . .
[A]t the end of the day, Obama practices will be much closer to late Bush practices than almost anyone expected in January 2009.
Most critically, Goldsmith expresses admiration for Obama’s rhetorical and symbolic changes — such as Obama’s emphasis on obtaining Congressional support for Bush’s policies while highlighting his deep concern for “civil liberties” — because Goldsmith believes that Obama’s rhetoric vests Bush’s policies with more credibility, ensures more bipartisan and Congressional support for these policies, makes them more palatable to Democrats, and thus ensures that those policies will endure in a stronger and longer-lasting form:
The new president was a critic of Bush administration terrorism policies, a champion of civil liberties, and an opponent of the invasion of Iraq. His decision (after absorbing the classified intelligence and considering the various options) to continue core Bush terrorism policies is like Nixon going to China. . . .
If this analysis is right, then the former vice president is wrong to say that the new president is dismantling the Bush approach to terrorism. President Obama has not changed much of substance from the late Bush practices, and the changes he has made, including changes in presentation, are designed to fortify the bulk of the Bush program for the long-run. Viewed this way, President Obama is in the process of strengthening the presidency to fight terrorism.
What’s most striking about the denial of so many Obama supporters about all of this is that Obama officials haven’t really tried to hide it. White House counsel Greg Craig told The New York Times‘ Charlie Savage back in February that Obama “is also mindful as president of the United States not to do anything that would undermine or weaken the institution of the presidency.” It was in that same article where Savage — a favorite of Bush critics when Bush was president — warned that after the first week of Executive Orders, “the Obama administration is quietly signaling continued support for other major elements of its predecessor’s approach to fighting Al Qaeda.”
Notably, Savage’s article was written almost three months ago, well before Obama’s announcement that he was adopting many of the most extreme Bush policies. At the time of Savage’s February article, I wrote: “while believing that Savage’s article is of great value in sounding the right alarm bells, I think that he paints a slightly more pessimistic picture on the civil liberties front than is warranted by the evidence thus far (though only slightly).” But as it turns out, it was Savage who was clearly right. As Politico‘s Josh Gerstein recently wrote about Obama’s Terrorism policies: ”A few, like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, have even hurled the left’s ultimate epithet — suggesting that Obama’s turning into George W. Bush.”
* * * * *
In his New Republic article today, Goldsmith reviews what he calls the “eleven essential elements” of “the Bush approach to counterterrorism policy” and documents how — with only a couple of minor exceptions — Obama has embraced all of them. In those cases where Obama has purported to “change” these elements, those changes are almost all symbolic and ceremonial, and the few changes that have any substance to them (banning the already-empty CIA black sites and prohibiting no-longer-authorized torture techniques) are far less substantial than Obama officials purport. None of Goldsmith’s analysis is grounded in the proposition that Obama hasn’t yet acted to change Bush policies, thus rendering a nonsequitur the response that “Obama needs more time; it’s only been 4 months.” Goldsmith is describing affirmative steps Obama has already announced to adopt the core Bush “terrorism” policies.
Just consider some of Goldsmith’s examples: Obama makes a melodramatic showing of ordering Guantanamo closed but then re-creates its systematic denial of detainee rights in Bagram, and “[l]ast month Secretary of Defense Gates hinted that up to 100 suspected terrorists would be detained without trial.” Obama announces that all interrogations must comply with the Army Field Manual but then has his CIA Director announce that he will seek greater interrogation authority whenever it is needed and convenes a task force to determine which enhanced interrogation methods beyond the Field Manual should be authorized. He railed against Bush’s Guantanamo military commissions but then preserved them with changes that are plainly cosmetic.
Obama has been at least as aggressive as Bush was in asserting radical secrecy doctrines in order to prevent courts from ruling on illegal torture and spying programs and to block victims from having a day in court. He has continued and even “ramped up” so-called ”targeted killings” in Pakistan and Afghanistan which, as Goldsmith puts it, “have predictably caused more collateral damage to innocent civilians.” He has maintained not only Bush’s rendition policy but also the standard used to determine to which countries a suspect can be rendered, and has kept Bush’s domestic surveillance policies in place and unchanged. Most of all, he has emphatically endorsed the Bush/Cheney paradigm that we are engaged in a “war” against Terrorists — with all of the accompanying presidential “war powers” — rather than the law enforcement challenge that John Kerry, among others, advocated.
* * * * *
What is, in my view, most noteworthy about all of this is how it gives the lie to the collective national claim that we learned our lesson and are now regretful about the Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism. Republicans are right about the fact that while it was Bush officials who led the way in implementing these radical and lawless policies, most of the country’s institutions — particularly the Democratic Party leadership and the media — acquiesced to it, endorsed it, and enabled it And they still do.
Nothing has produced as much media praise for Obama as his embrace of what Goldsmith calls the “essential elements” of “the Bush approach to counterterrorism policy.” That’s because — contrary to the ceremonial displays of regret and denouncements of Bush — the dominant media view is this: the Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism was right; those policies are ”centrist”; Obama is acting commendably by embracing them; most of the country wants those policies; and only the Far Left opposes the Bush/Cheney approach.
Anyone who doubts that should consider this most extraordinary paragraph from Associated Press’ Liz Sidoti:
Increasingly, President Barack Obama and Democrats who run Congress are being pulled between the competing interests of party liberals and the rest of the country on Bush-era wartime matters of torture, detention and interrogation of suspected terrorists.
When it comes to torture and Bush’s Terrorism policies, it’s the Far Left (which opposes those things) versus “the rest of the country” (which favors them). And she described Obama’s embrace of Bush’s policies as “governing from the center.” Apparently, Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies are Centrist. Who knew? Her AP colleague Tom Raum said virtually the same thing today:
Internationally, Obama reversed course and is seeking to block the court-ordered release of detainee-abuse photos, revived military trials for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay and is markedly increasing the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. . . .
Still, even though Obama may be irritating liberal purists on both national security and domestic policy, he has no real choice but to move toward the middle.
Adopting the Bush/Cheney approach to war and Terrorism is to “move toward the middle.” That’s because only “liberal purists” oppose those policies. The Washington Post‘s CIA spokesman David Ignatius (who I would choose if I had to identify one individual who most embodies the rot of the American political press) celebrated Obama’s recent embrace of Bush Terrorism policies as his “Sister Souljah moment” as he “polished his credentials as a centrist,” and then returned again to announce that “Obama put his responsibilities as commander in chief first — and his loyalty to fellow Democrats second.”
As Maureen Dowd pointed out in the non-plagiarized part of her column on Sunday, the reason Bush was able to do what he did is because “very few watchdogs – in the Democratic Party or the press – were pushing back against the Bush horde in 2002 and 2003, when magazines were gushing about W. and Cheney as conquering heroes.” But all of this recent media commentary makes clear that media stars and Democratic leaders now are only pretending to find Bush/Cheney policies repugnant because Bush is now so unpopular and his policies were proven to be failures. As a result, a new face is needed for those policies, but the belief in the rightness of those policies hasn’t changed. They still consider Bush/Cheney policies “centrist” and responsible — only Leftist Purists oppose them — and thus heap praise on Obama for embracing them. We’re still the same country we were in 2003. Our media stars and political leaders from both parties still think the same way. That’s why the more Obama embraces the Bush/Cheney approach, the more praise he gets for Centrism.
What is most damaging about all of this is exactly what Goldsmith celebrated: that Obama’s political skills, combined with his status as a Democrat, is strengthening Bush/Cheney terrorism policies and solidifying them further. For the last eight years, roughly half the country – Republicans, Bush followers — was trained to cheer for indefinite detention, presidential secrecy, military commissions, warrantless eavesdropping, denial of due process, a blind acceptance of any presidential assertion that these policies are necessary to Keep Us Safe, and the claim that only fringe Far Leftist Purists — civil liberties extremists — could possibly object to any of that.
Now, much of the other half of the country, the one that once opposed those policies – Democrats, Obama supporters — are now reciting the same lines, adopting the same mentality, because doing so is necessary to justify what Obama is doing. It’s hard to dispute the Right’s claim that Bush’s Terrorism approach is being vindicated by Obama’s embrace of its “essential elements.” That’s what Goldsmith means when he says that Obama is making these policies stronger and more palatable, and it’s what media stars mean when they describe Bush/Cheney policies as Centrist: now that it’s not just an unpopular Republican President but also a highly charismatic and popular Democratic President advocating and defending these core Bush/Cheney policies, they do become the political consensus of the United States.
Is Torture Really Over? April 17, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Torture.
Tags: Abu Zubaydah, al-Qaeda, bagram, CIA torture, david addington, Dick Cheney, doj, enhanced intgerrogation, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, International law, jack bauer, justice department, mark benjamin, mitt romney, obama torture, roger hollander, senate intelligence, special prosecutor, torture, torture memos, War Crimes
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Published on Friday, April 17, 2009 by Salon.com
Without a hard look at the Bush administration’s torture program, the United States could be condemned to repeat it, no matter what President Obama says.
In his statement announcing the release of the Bush administration’s torture memos Thursday, President Barack Obama ruled out prosecuting whoever was in the room during the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” sessions. “In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution,” he said.
Obama made it clear he is generally ready to move on from the whole issue. So don’t expect David Addington, former counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and self-appointed interrogation expert, to be hauled into court anytime soon. “We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history,” Obama said. “But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”
In other words, the president turned the page. No prosecutions at any level, apparently. Based on Obama’s move-on tone, there may not even be an independent commission to dig into this issue (though the administration won’t formally rule that out for now — an internal Justice Department review of the lawyers who authorized the torture is still ongoing). “We have taken steps to ensure that the actions described within them never take place again,” Obama said. See — he stopped the torture program. It’s all fixed. End of story.
Another major issue is lingering, however. Did the torture “work”?
Former Bush administration officials, of course, continue to insist that they got a lot of good intelligence from forcing water into people’s noses. Politico quoted one unnamed ex-Bush aide Thursday who blasted the decision. “It’s damaging because these are techniques that work, and by Obama’s action today, we are telling the terrorists what they are,” the official said. “We have laid it all out for our enemies. This is totally unnecessary. … Publicizing the techniques does grave damage to our national security by ensuring they can never be used again — even in a ticking-time-bomb scenario where thousands or even millions of American lives are at stake.”
Cheney went on CNN last month to specifically defend the United States’ organized torture program — which Cheney says was not torture: “I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoy, of being able to collect the intelligence that let us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11,” he said. “I think it’s a great success story. It was done legally. It was done in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles.”
There were no professional interrogators involved in the creation of the CIA’s torture program. The pros would likely have balked, because they unanimously think torture is stupid and ineffective: People will tell you whatever they think will make you stop the treatment, never mind what the truth is. Those pros also chuckle at the thought of torture as an effective intelligence-gathering tool. News reports have seriously questioned the value of intelligence gathered through torture of suspected al-Qaida operatives like Abu Zubaydah.
So who is right? Is Dick Cheney Jack Bauer, or something more akin to an evil Col. Klink?
Without a rigorous investigation into the alleged efficacy of U.S. torture, we’ll never know. A torture commission would have looked into this very issue. With Obama’s blessing, Congress could try to appoint a nonpartisan group of experts to carefully evaluate whether the torture program was an effective way to gather valuable intelligence or, as interrogators suspect, simply made desperate prisoners say whatever they had to say to make the pain stop, yielding a few gems among a flow of muck. But Obama hasn’t advocated a commission or any other vehicle to look into that, and today seems disinclined to do anything other than move on.
There are some indications that other Democrats are falling into line on ditching the commission idea, too. Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, a leading proponent of a commission, released a statement Thursday applauding the Obama administration for releasing the memos. Whitehouse didn’t mention a commission that would look into whether torture worked. He referred only to an ongoing, and mostly secret, investigation of unknown scope by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
But while Obama has turned the page, many others haven’t — including the people, and their allies, who think waterboarding was a good idea. Without a commission, if Mitt Romney (the man who pledged to double the size of the prison at Guantánamo) is president in 2013 — or 2017 — we could start torturing all over again.