Posted by rogerhollander in Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture, War on Terror.
Tags: addington, alberto gonzalex, bybee, CIA torture, condoleeza rice, constitutiion, Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George Bush, human rights, International law, john yoo, jon queally, nuremberg, obama torture, roger hollander, rumsfeld, senate intelligence, torture, waterboarding
Roger’s note: The United States government and military violate international law on a daily basis; the Bush/Cheney torture regime, which Obama has outsourced to Bagram and god knows where else, is one of its most blatant manifestations. Obama’s “we need to look forward not backward” excuse for violating his oath to defend the constitution does credit to Lewis Carroll and Franz Kafka. The next time you are before a judge accused of a crime, please remind her that it is time to look forward and not backward. Your charges are sure to be dropped.
According to sources who spoke with McClatchy, five-year inquiry into agency’s torture regime ignores key role played by Bush administration officials who authorized the abuse
According to new reporting by McClatchy, the five-year investigation led by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee into the torture program conducted by the CIA in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 will largely ignore the role played by high-level Bush administration officials, including those on the White House legal team who penned memos that ultimately paved the way for the torture’s authorization.
Though President Obama has repeatedly been criticized for not conducting or allowing a full review of the torture that occured during his predecessor’s tenure, the Senate report—which has been completed, but not released—has repeatedly been cited by lawmakers and the White House as the definitive examination of those policies and practices. According to those with knowledge of the report who spoke with McClatchy, however, the review has quite definite limitations.
The report, one person who was not authorized to discuss it told McClatchy, “does not look at the Bush administration’s lawyers to see if they were trying to literally do an end run around justice and the law.” Instead, the focus is on the actions and inations of the CIA and whether or not they fully informed Congress about those activities. “It’s not about the president,” the person said. “It’s not about criminal liability.”
Responding to comment on the reporting, legal experts and critics of the Bush torture program expressed disappointment that high-level officials in the administration were not part of the review. In addition to the president himself, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, others considered part of what it sometimes referred to as the “Torture Team,” include: Alberto Gonzales, a former White House counsel and attorney general; David Addington, former vice-president Dick Cheney’s chief of staff; Douglas Feith, who was under-secretary of defence; William Haynes, formerly the Pentagon’s general counsel; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who wrote many of the specific legal memos authorizing specific forms of abuse.
“If it’s the case that the report doesn’t really delve into the White House role, then that’s a pretty serious indictment of the report,” Elizabeth Goitein, the co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program at the New York University Law School, said to McClatchy. “Ideally it should come to some sort of conclusions on whether there were legal violations and if so, who was responsible.”
And Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, indicated that limiting the report to just the actions of the CIA doesn’t make much sense from a legal or investigative standpoint. “It doesn’t take much creativity to include senior Bush officials in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s jurisdiction. It’s not hard to link an investigation into the CIA’s torture to the senior officials who authorized it. That’s not a stretch at all.”
As Mclatchy‘s Jonathan S. Landay, Ali Watkins and Marisa Taylor report:
The narrow parameters of the inquiry apparently were structured to secure the support of the committee’s minority Republicans. But the Republicans withdrew only months into the inquiry, and several experts said that the parameters were sufficiently flexible to have allowed an examination of the roles Bush, Cheney and other top administration officials played in a top-secret program that could only have been ordered by the president.
“It doesn’t take much creativity to include senior Bush officials in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s jurisdiction,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “It’s not hard to link an investigation into the CIA’s torture to the senior officials who authorized it. That’s not a stretch at all.”
It’s not as if there wasn’t evidence that Bush and his top national security lieutenants were directly involved in the program’s creation and operation.
The Senate Armed Services Committee concluded in a 2008 report on detainee mistreatment by the Defense Department that Bush opened the way in February 2002 by denying al Qaida and Taliban detainees the protection of an international ban against torture.
White House officials also participated in discussions and reviewed specific CIA interrogation techniques in 2002 and 2003, the public version of the Senate Armed Services Committee report concluded.
Several unofficial accounts published as far back as 2008 offered greater detail.
Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld relentlessly pressured interrogators to subject detainees to harsh interrogation methods in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, McClatchy reported in April 2009. Such evidence, which was non-existent, would have substantiated one of Bush’s main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003.
Other accounts described how Cheney, Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Secretary of State Colin Powell approved specific harsh interrogation techniques. George Tenet, then the CIA director, also reportedly updated them on the results.
“Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly,” Ashcroft said after one of dozens of meetings on the program, ABC News reported in April 2008 in a story about the White House’s direct oversight of interrogations.
News reports also chronicled the involvement of top White House and Justice Department officials in fashioning a legal rationale giving Bush the authority to override U.S. and international laws prohibiting torture. They also helped craft opinions that effectively legalized the CIA’s use of waterboarding, wall-slamming and sleep deprivation.
Though President Obama casually admitted earlier this, “We tortured some folks.” — what most critics and human rights experts have requested is an open and unbiased review of the full spectrum of the U.S. torture program under President Bush. And though increasingly unlikely, calls remain for those responsible for authorizing and conducting the abuse to be held accountable with indictments, trials, and if guilty, jail sentences. In addition, as a letter earlier this year signed by ten victims of the extrajudicial rendition under the Bush administration stated, the concept of full disclosure and accountability is key to restoring the credibility of the nation when it comes to human rights abuses:
Publishing the truth is not just important for the US’s standing in the world. It is a necessary part of correcting America’s own history. Today in America, the architects of the torture program declare on television they did the right thing. High-profile politicians tell assembled Americans that ‘waterboarding’ is a ‘baptism’ that American forces should still engage in.
These statements only breed hatred and intolerance. This is a moment when America can move away from all that, but only if her people are not sheltered from the truth.
As McClatchy notes, a redacted version of the report’s summary—the only part of it expected to be released to the public—continues to be under review. Its release date remains unclear.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: alan dershowitz, CIA torture, enhance interrogation, eric holder, geneva conventions, Guantanamo, human rights, International law, jay bybee, john yoo, maher arar, philip giraldi, rendition, roger hollander, torture, torture memos
Roger’s note: Here it is Christmas Eve, 2012, and I am posting yet another article on torture. Our shameless president may have chosen to “look forward, not backwards” when it comes to prosecuting those responsible for these high crimes. I for one cannot forget them, nor can I forget the fact that the United States government continues to sow death and destruction around the globe.
By Philip Giraldi (about the author)
OpEdNews Op Eds 12/23/2012 at 19:46:40
A classified Senate Intelligence Committee report shows the futility of “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
If there is one word missing from the United States government’s post-9/11 lexicon it is “accountability.” While perfectly legal though illicit sexual encounters apparently continue to rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, leading to resignations, no one has been punished for malfeasance, torture, secret prisons, or extraordinary renditions.
Indeed, the Obama administration stated in 2009 that it would not punish CIA torturers because it prefers to “look forward and not back,” a decision not to prosecute that was recently confirmed by Attorney General Eric Holder in two cases involving the deaths of detainees after particularly brutal Agency interrogations. What the White House decision almost certainly means is that the president would prefer to avoid a tussle with the Republicans in congress over national security that would inevitably reveal a great deal of dirty laundry belonging to both parties.
The bipartisan willingness to avoid confrontation over possible war crimes makes the recently completed 6,000 page long Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture an extraordinary document. Though it is still classified and might well never see the light of day even in any sanitized or bowdlerized form, its principal conclusions have been leaking out in the media over the past two weeks. It directly addresses the principal argument that has been made by Bush administration devotees and continues to be advanced regarding the CIA torture agenda: that vital information obtained by “enhanced interrogation techniques” led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. According to the report, no information obtained by torture was critical to the eventual assassination of the al-Qaeda leader, nor has it been found to be an indispensable element in any of the other terrorism cases that were examined by the Senate committee.
What exactly does that mean? It means that torture, far from being an essential tool in the counter-terrorism effort, has not provided information that could not be obtained elsewhere and using less coercive methods. Senator Diane Feinstein, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee and has had access to the entire classified document, elaborated, explaining that the investigation carried out by the Senate included every detainee held by CIA, examining “the conditions under which they were detained, how they were interrogated, the intelligence they actually provided and the accuracy or inaccuracy of CIA descriptions about the program to the White House, Department of Justice, Congress and others.” It “uncovers startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation program…” The report has 35,000 footnotes and investigators perused 6 million pages of official records, which is why it has taken more than two years to produce.
The Senate inquiry’s conclusions inevitably lead to the assumption that there has been a whole lot of lying and obfuscation going on in connection with the so-called war on terror. To recap major developments, 9/11 unleashed a counter-offensive by the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center (CTC), which was at the time headed by Cofer “the gloves come off” Black. Secret prisons were established in Europe and Asia, torture was used extensively in the interrogation of suspects, and some detainees were shipped off to friendly intelligence services in places like Egypt for even more aggressive questioning. This was referred to as rendition. Some suspects were snatched off the streets in European and Asian cities before being rendered.
The Justice Department gave its approval for the harsh interrogation techniques in a notorious secret memo drafted by John Yoo and Jay Bybee in 2005 only months after a 2004 public statement in which the selfsame Justice Department declared that torture would not be acceptable. On October 5, 2007, President George W. Bush restated the official position, “This government does not torture people. We stick to U.S. law and our international obligations.” But he also contradicted himself, elaborating that his administration’s interrogation methods included questioning carried out by “highly-trained professionals.” He explained, “When we find somebody who may have information regarding an attack on America, and you bet we’re going to detain them, you bet we’re going to question them. The American people expect us to find out information, this actionable intelligence, so we can help protect them. That’s our job.”
Since that time the issue of torture itself has become an ideological abstraction, with the neoconservatives, many Republicans, and even some conservative Democrats reflexively supporting it. It has also frequently been debated in the intelligence community. There are undeniably some who believe that all terrorist suspects should be tortured even unto death to tell what they know, but an increasing number of former intelligence officers have expressed doubts over the efficacy of the procedure, a conclusion that is now supported by the Senate findings.
To cite one example of what torture can produce, prominent al-Qaeda figure Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, commonly referred to as KSM, was arrested in 2003 in Pakistan was reportedly water-boarded 183 times and “broken” by his CIA interrogators. He subsequently confessed to being involved in virtually every terrorist act carried out in the previous 20 years, including 9/11, the beheading of journalist Daniel Pearl, and the bombing of the destroyer USS Cole. He clearly was not actually involved in many of the incidents, but he was willing to admit to anything.
There are also other good reasons to oppose torture and torture by proxy through CIA rendition. Most people and governments worldwide believe that torture is immoral, a view that is generally shared by most Americans. Legally there is also a long tradition condemning torture. German and Japanese officers were executed after the Second World War for torturing prisoners and the principle was firmly established that torture, specifically including waterboarding, is a war crime. The US is signatory to the UN’s anti-torture convention, and both the United States Code and specific acts of congress require prosecution of any government employee engaging in such activity. In practical terms, torture also opens up a door that should never be opened by anyone who genuinely cares about US soldiers, diplomats, and intelligence officers stationed at their peril around the world. To put it succinctly, if we do it to them, they will do it to us.
Mistakes are inevitable when one accepts that it is okay to break the rules in favor of more coercive interrogation. To cite one example of how intelligence operations can go wrong, on December 13, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the United States kidnapped German citizen Khaled el-Masri and he was taken to an airport where he was “Severely beaten, sodomized, shackled and hooded” before being sent on to Afghanistan for more of the same. It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity while subsequent attempts to obtain recompense through the US courts were blocked by the Obama administration, which claimed state secrets privilege.
Another well-documented rendition case, of Canadian citizen Maher Arar, consigned an innocent man to torture in Syria. Yet another rendition, of Milan-based Muslim cleric Abu Omar turned into a prime example of an intelligence operation designed by Monty Python, employing a cast of hundreds at a cost of many millions of dollars. It continues to play out in the Italian courts. Abu Omar was tortured in Egypt and eventually released when it turned out that he had no information of value.
Torture advocates have assiduously cultivated a number of myths, most prominent of which is the “ticking time bomb.” This is a particular favorite of the redoubtable Alan Dershowitz and a number of prominent neocons. It goes like this — a terrorist is captured who has knowledge of an impending attack on a major civilian target, but he won’t cooperate. How to get the information? Simple. Get an accommodating judge to issue a legal finding that enables you to torture him until he talks, thereby saving lives of innocent civilians.
The only problem with the Dershowitz narrative is that there has never been an actual ticking time bomb. No terrorist has ever been captured, subjected to torture, and provided information that foiled an attack, not even in Israel where routine torture of suspected terrorists captured in flagrante used to be the case (but is now illegal). Advocating a policy of torture, with all that entails, based on a “what if” is fighting evil with more evil, not a solution.
Torture brutalizes and degrades the individual carrying it out, the organization he or she represents, and the government that approves of the practice. The Senate committee report should finally put paid to the arguments being made that it is a reliable interrogation tool, but there still remains the question of accountability. A recent book by Jose A. Rodriguez, who approved and oversaw the CIA torture regime while he served as head of the Counter Terrorism Center and later as Deputy Director of the Clandestine Services, demonstrates that there are still zealots who believe in “extreme measures” in spite of any evidence presented to the contrary. The book is entitled “Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions after 9/11 Saved American Lives.” Well, apparently that is just not true and perhaps Jose owes the surviving victims of “hard measures” an apology.
Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues. He is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served eighteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. Mr. Giraldi was awarded an MA and PhD from the University of London in European History and holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honors from the University of Chicago. He speaks Spanish, Italian, German, and Turkish. His columns on terrorism, intelligence, and security issues regularly appear in The American Conservative magazine, Huffington Post, and antiwar.com. He has written op-ed pieces for the Hearst Newspaper chain, has appeared on “Good Morning America,” MSNBC, National Public Radio, and local affiliates of ABC television. He has been a keynote speaker at the Petroleum Industry Security Council annual meeting, has spoken twice at the American Conservative Union’s annual CPAC convention in Washington, and has addressed several World Affairs Council affiliates. He has been interviewed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the British Broadcasting Corporation, Britain’s Independent Television Network, FOX News, Polish National Television, Croatian National Television, al-Jazeera, al-Arabiya, 60 Minutes, and other international and domestic broadcasters.
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: Alberto Gonzales, andy worthington, Bush, cheney, CIA torture, david addington, Guantanamo, human rights, jay bybee, john yoo, rendition, roger hollander, rumsfeld, state secrets, torture, torture memos
Roger’s note: the United States government has a long history of disgraceful behavior, and the Bush/Cheney torture regime is one of the most heinous. We need to be constantly reminded, and we need to acknowledge that the Obama government’s disregard of its constitutional obligation to prosecute constitutes legal and moral complicity.
By Andy Worthington (about the author)
OpEdNews Op Eds 11/29/2012 at 20:45:34
In June 2004, in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal, a notorious memo from August 2002 was leaked . It was written by John Yoo, a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and it claimed to redefine torture and to authorize its use on prisoners seized in the “war on terror.” I had no idea at the time that its influence would prove to be so long-lasting.
Ten years and four months since it was first issued, that memo — one of two issued on the same day that will forever be known as the “torture memos” — is still protecting the senior Bush administration officials who commissioned it (as well as Yoo and his boss, Jay S. Bybee, who signed it).
Those officials include George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and their senior lawyers, Alberto Gonzales and David Addington. None of them should be immune from prosecution, because torture is illegal under U.S. domestic law and is prohibited under the terms of the UN Convention Against Torture, which the United States, under Ronald Reagan, signed in 1988 and ratified in 1994. As Article 2.2 states, unequivocally, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
However, the architects of the torture program didn’t care, and still don’t care, because for them the disgraceful memos written by Yoo were designed to be a “golden shield,” a guarantee that, whatever they did, they were covered, because they had legal advice telling them that torture was not torture.
Barack Obama came into office promising to ban the use of torture. His administration released the second Yoo and Bybee “torture memo” and three later “torture memos” from 2005 as part of a court case in April 2009. That, however, was the end of the Obama administration’s flirtation with accountability. In court, every avenue that lawyers have tried to open up has been aggressively shut down by the government, citing the “state secrets doctrine,” another “golden shield” for torturers, which prohibits the discussion of anything the government doesn’t want discussed, for spurious reasons of national security.
The only other opportunity to stop the rot came three years ago, when an internal DoJ ethics investigation concluded, after several years of diligent work, that Yoo and Bybee were guilty of “professional misconduct” when they wrote and signed the memos. That could have led to their being disbarred, which would have been inconvenient for a law professor at UC Berkeley (Yoo) and a judge in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Bybee). It also might well have set off ripples that would have led to Bush and Cheney and their lawyers.
However, at the last minute a long-time DoJ fixer, David Margolis, was allowed to override the report’s conclusions, claiming that both men were guilty only of “poor judgment,” which, he alleged, was understandable in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and which carried no sanctions whatsoever.
Thwarted in the United States, those seeking accountability have had to seek it elsewhere: in Spain; in Poland, where one of the CIA’s “black sites” was located; and in Italy, where 23 Americans — 22 CIA agents and an Air Force colonel — were convicted in November 2009,
in a ruling that was upheld on appeal
in September this year, of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric, Abu Omar, and rendering him to Egypt, where he was tortured.
The United States has refused to extradite any of the men and women convicted in Italy, but the ruling is a reminder that not everyone around the world believes in Yoo’s and Bybee’s “golden shield.”
Moreover, although senior Bush administration officials — Bush and Cheney themselves and Donald Rumsfeld — have so far evaded accountability, their ability to travel the world freely has been hampered by their actions. In February 2011, for example, Bush called off a visit to Switzerland when he was notified that lawyers — at the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights — had prepared a massive torture indictment that was to be presented to the Swiss government the moment he landed in the country.
The former president was told that foreign countries might take their responsibilities under the UN Convention Against Torture more seriously than America has and arrest him on the basis that his home country had failed to act on the clear evidence that he had authorized torture, which he had actually boasted about in his memoir, Decision Points, published in November 2010.
Most recently, lawyers seeking accountability have tried pursuing Bush in Canada. Last September, prior to a visit by the former president, CCR and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) submitted a 69-page draft indictment to Attorney General Robert Nicholson, along with more than 4,000 pages of supporting material setting forth the case against Bush for torture.
When that was turned down, the lawyers launched a private prosecution in Provincial Court in Surrey, British Columbia, on behalf of four Guantanamo prisoners — Hassan bin Attash, Sami el-Hajj, Muhammed Khan Tumani, and Murat Kurnaz (all released, with the exception of bin Attash) — on the day of Bush’s arrival in Canada.
That avenue also led nowhere because the attorney general of British Columbia swiftly intervened to shut down the prosecution. Undeterred, however, CCR and CCIJ last week tried a new approach on behalf of those four men who, as Katherine Gallagher of CCR explained in the Guardian, “are all survivors of the systematic torture program the Bush administration authorized and carried out in locations including Afghanistan, Iraq, GuantÃ¡namo, and numerous prisons and CIA “black sites’ around the world.”
“Between them,” she added, “they have been beaten; hung from walls or ceilings; deprived of sleep, food, and water; and subjected to freezing temperatures and other forms of torture and abuse while held in U.S. custody.”
The new approach taken by the lawyers was to file a complaint with the UN Committee Against Torture, in which the four men “are asking one question: how can the man responsible for ordering these heinous crimes openly enter a country that has pledged to prosecute all torturers regardless of their position and not face legal action?”
As Gallagher explained, “Canada should have investigated these crimes. The responsibility to do so is embedded in its domestic criminal code that explicitly authorizes the government to prosecute torture occurring outside Canadian borders. There is no reason it cannot apply to former heads of state, and indeed, the convention has been found to apply to such figures including HissÃ¨ne HabrÃ© [the former president of Chad] and Augusto Pinochet.”
That is true, and it will be interesting to see how the UN Committee Against Torture responds. Probably the “golden shield” will not need to be invoked once more by the United States, as the Canadian government evidently has no wish to annoy its neighbor. Moreover, it has its own appalling track record when it comes to preserving human rights in the “war on terror,” as the cases of Omar Khadr in Guantanamo, and Mahar Arar and others who were tortured in Syria demonstrate. However, the submission is to be commended for reminding people that great crimes — committed by the most senior U.S. officials and their lawyers — still remain unpunished, and that that is a situation that ought to be considered a major disgrace rather than something to be brushed aside.
Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture, War on Terror.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, Alberto Gonzales, crimes against humanity, david addington, Dick Cheney, geneva conventions, George Bush, Guantanamo, jay bybee, john yoo, kuala lumpur, nuremberg, roger hollander, rumsfeld, Tan Sri Lamin Mohd Yunus, torture, torture victims, War Crimes, william haynes
Published on Sunday, May 13, 2012 by Common Dreams
Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal orders reparations be given to torture victims
- Common Dreams staff
Former US President George W Bush, his Vice-President Dick Cheney and six other members of his administration have been found guilty of war crimes by a tribunal in Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal president judge Tan Sri Lamin Mohd Yunus (center) delivering the verdict yesterday. He is flanked by says reparations should be given to the complainant war crime victims. With him are Prof Salleh Buang (left) and Datuk Mohd Sa’ari Yusof. (Photo/Hasriyasyah Sabudin) Bush, Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and five of their legal advisers were tried in their absence and convicted on Saturday.
Victims of torture told a panel of five judges in Kuala Lumpur of their suffering at the hands of US soldiers and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Among the evidence, Briton Moazzam Begg, an ex-Guantanamo detainee, said he was beaten, put in a hood and left in solitary confinement. Iraqi woman Jameelah Abbas Hameedi said she was stripped and humiliated in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.
Transcripts of the five-day trial will be sent to the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, the United Nations and the Security Council.
A member of the prosecution team, Professor Francis Boyle of Illinois University’s College of Law, said he was hopeful that Bush and his colleagues could soon find themselves facing similar trials elsewhere in the world.
The eight accused are Bush; former US Vice President Richard Cheney; former US Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld; former Counsel to Bush, Alberto Gonzales; former General Counsel to the Vice President, David Addington; former General Counsel to the Defense Secretary, William Haynes II; former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo.
Tribunal president judge Tan Sri Lamin Mohd Yunus said the eight accused were also individually and jointly liable for crimes of torture in accordance with Article 6 of the Nuremberg Charter. “The US is subject to customary international law and to the principles of the Nuremberg Charter and exceptional circumstances such as war, instability and public emergency cannot excuse torture.”
* * *
The Star (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) reports:
Bush Found Guilty of War Crimes
KUALA LUMPUR: The War Crimes Tribunal has convicted former US President George W. Bush and seven of his associates as war criminals for torture and inhumane treatment of war crime victims at US military facilities.
However, being a tribunal of conscience, the five-member panel chaired by tribunal president judge Lamin Mohd Yunus had no power to enforce or impose custodial sentence on the convicted eight.
“We find the witnesses, who were victims placed in detention illegally by the convicted persons and their government, are entitled to payment of reparations,” said Lamin at a public hearing held in an open court at the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalize War yesterday.
He added that the tribunal’s award of reparations would be submitted to the War Crimes Commission and recommended the victims to find a judiciary entity that could enforce the verdict.
The tribunal would also submit the finding and records of the proceedings to the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the United Nations’ Security Council.
On Thursday, head of the prosecution Prof Gurdial Singh Nijar said Bush had issued an executive order to commit war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Five former Iraqi detainees, who were tortured while being detained in various prisons, including Guantanamo Bay, were called to give their testimonies before the Tribunal during the trial which started on May 7.
* * *
The Malaysia Sun reports:
[…] In a unanimous vote on Saturday the symbolic Malaysian war crimes tribunal, part of an initiative by former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad, found the former US President guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Former Malaysian Premier Mahatir Mohamad said of Bush and others: “These are basically murderers and they kill on large scale.”Seven of his former political associates, including former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, were also found guilty of war crimes and torture.
Press TV has reported the court heard evidence from former detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay of torture methods used by US soldiers in prisons run by the American forces.
One former inmate described how he had been subjected to electric shocks, beatings and sexual abuse over a number of months.
A high ranking former UN official, former UN Assistant Secretary General, Denis Halliday, who also attended the trial, later told Press TV that the UN had been too weak during the Bush administration to enforce the Geneva Conventions.
He said: “The UN is a weak body, corrupted by member states, who use the Security Council for their own interests. They don’t respect the charter. They don’t respect the international law. They don’t respect the Geneva Conventions… A redundant, possibly a dangerous, and certainly corrupted organization.”
Following the hearing, former Malaysian premier Mahatir said of Bush and others: “These are basically murderers and they kill on large scale.”
It was the second so-called war crimes tribunal in Malaysia.
The token court was first held in November 2011 during which Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair were found guilty of committing “crimes against peace” during the Iraq war.
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice.
Tags: academic freedom, andrew krieg, boalt law school, bush/cheney, christopher edley, constitution, john yoo, justice integrity project, obama transition team, president-elect obama, roger hollander, rule of law, susan harman, torture, torture memos, War Crimes, waterboarding
Roger’s note: This article should be on the front page of every newspaper in every city in the country. It explains not only the Obama Administration’s failure to uphold the Constitution by prosecuting the known war criminals of the Bush/Cheney Administration, but it in effect explains the entire Obama presidency. If only a nutcase conspiracy theorist would suggest that there was seriours consideration at the highest levels about the “clear and present danger” of a coup d’etat against the democratically elected president of the United States, then I suppose the Dean of the University of California School of Law is a nutcase. Note the cruel irony of the notion that Obama chickened out on prosecution because he feared the Republican would obstruct.
By Andrew Krieg
www.opednews.com, September 7, 2011
Christopher Edley, Jr.
President-elect Obama’s advisors feared in 2008 that authorities would oust him in a coup and that Republicans would block his policy agenda if he prosecuted Bush-era war crimes, according to a law school dean who served as one of Obama’s top transition advisers.
University of California at Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley, Jr., above, the sixth highest-ranking member of the 2008 post-election transition team preparing Obama’s administration, revealed the team’s thinking on Sept. 2 in moderating a forum on 9/11 held by his law school (also known as Boalt Hall). Edley was seeking to explain Obama’s “look forward” policy on suspected Bush-era law-breaking that the president-elect announced on a TV talk show in January 2009.
But Edley’s rationale implies that Obama, or at least his team, feared the military/national security forces that the president is supposed be commanding — and that Republicans have intimidated him right from the start of his presidency even after voters in 2008 rejected Republicans by the largest combined presidential-congressional mandate in recent U.S. history.
Edley responded to my request for additional information by providing a description of the transition team’s fears. Edley said that transition officials, not Obama, agreed that he faced the possibility of a coup.
I’m grateful, of course, that this eminent scholar took time on short notice to describe such important decision-making. But I have two blunt reactions that frame the details below:
First, this doesn’t look like presidential leadership, no matter what the rationales. Voters “hired” the Obama team to lead the country, not fret about possible retaliation. No one wants to see an assassination or coup. But the kids fighting Mideast wars, like those in wars before them, have no guarantees — or even Secret Service protection.
Our country has a long history that the President is the boss, not the military or the covert agencies. President Eisenhower stood up for this principle time and again, including in his Farewell Address in 1961 warning of the dangers of the “military-industrial complex.” So did President Truman when he fired the popular General MacArthur over different strategies for the Korean War. As for Republicans, the Democratic President Johnson knew enough not to treat them any better than his friends — whom he treated terribly many times.
Second, shouldn’t such an important matter have been revealed long ago? The mainstream news organizations, courts and Congress are supposed to be ferreting out this kind of information.
Here, it took an anti-war activist asking the right question during Q&A at a law school forum to bring the tale to light. I suppose that’s inspirational in a sense: Perhaps it’s like a destitute blind person stumbling on a bag of money and finally, with the help of kind strangers, being able to afford an eye operation. But is this really the best procedure?
You be the judge.
First, we summarize below what happened. Those interested in more historical background and related controversies can find them on the longer version of this column cross-posted today on the website of the Justice Integrity Project, the non-partisan legal reform group I lead.
Longtime peace advocate Susan Harman, a Californian, elicited Edley’s opinions during Q&A at the Boalt Hall forum, which was organized by the school’s Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law. Boalt Hall’s faculty includes Professor John C. Yoo, above, a former Justice Department attorney with stellar career credentials but a notorious reputation for his legal justifications for waterboarding terror suspects and similar Executive Branch abuses.
Harman shared her observations Friday by email and Google Groups with our Justice Integrity Project and others. David Swanson, the prominent antiwar activist, wrote a blog noting that accountability under the law was a top concern of Obama supporters, as illustrated by the incoming administration’s own 2008 poll of supporter suggestions.
Around that time, I published my first blogs in a series of Huffington Post and OpEd News columns. The first chronicled my fond hopes for Obama, with a scoop about “Why the President “Stepped Out’ During His Inaugural Parade.” Next was a call for the new administration to “Probe the Past to Protect the Future.” Finally, and more ominously, came my reports on the huge scandals involving the Bush Justice Department’s frame-up of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, his state’s most important Democrat. His persecution, like those of many other Bush-Rove political victims, continues under the Obama Justice Department.
With this context, last Friday’s Boalt Hall forum provides vital new insight on why the White House and Justice Department have been so disappointing in responding to public demands for accountability for injustices, particularly for clear-cut cases during the Bush administration that carry fingerprints of malefactors such as Rove and Yoo.
Let’s start with Harman’s account below of her comments during the audience Q&A segment at Boalt Hall’s forum Sept. 2:
I said I was overwhelmed by the surreality of Yoo being on the law faculty . . . when he was singlehandedly responsible for the three worst policies of the Bush Administration. They all burbled about academic freedom and the McCarthy era, and said it isn’t their job to prosecute him. Duh.
Dean Chris Edley volunteered that he’d been party to very high level discussions during Obama’s transition about prosecuting the criminals. He said they decided against it. I asked why. Two reasons: 1) it was thought that the CIA, NSA, and military would revolt, and 2) it was thought the Repugnants would retaliate by blocking every piece of legislation they tried to move (which, of course, they’ve done anyhow).
Harman says that she approached Edley privately after the forum closed and said she appreciated that Obama might have been in danger but felt that he “bent over backwards” to protect lawbreakers within the Bush administration. According to her account: “He shrugged and said they will never be prosecuted, and that sometimes politics trumps rule of law.”
I wrote Edley to confirm Harman’s quotations, which he did. Edley, dean of the law school since 2004, also sent me links to his statements on the Yoo appointment here and earlier here. And, he amplified with six bulletin-points, primarily about the Obama transition process and academic freedom for professors.
Regarding the transition, he wrote:
I never discussed these matters with the President Elect; the summary offered by one of the senior national security folks was, “We don’t want to engage in a witch hunt,” to which I replied, “Neither do I, but I also care about the Rule of Law and, whether or not there ultimately are prosecutions, the question of whether laws were broken and where the lines should be drawn deserve to be aired”; that discussion as a whole was brief.
My point about politics is simple and non-controversial to people trained in law. I was not referring to politics trumping Law in the sense of President Nixon thinking he could do anything he wanted with respect to the Watergate scandal. I was referring to what every first year law student learns about prosecutorial discretion and the political accountability of prosecutors, which the “system” assumes will be a check on prosecutorial abuses more often than a source of them.
Regarding Yoo’s invitation to return to Boalt Hall as a faculty member after his work in the Bush Justice Department, Edley wrote:
A frustrating thing to me about these discussions is that non-academics don’t seem particularly to appreciate the fragility and importance of academic freedom. A university isn’t equipped or competent to do a factual investigation of what took place at DOJ or in secret White House meetings. Nor should it make judgments about what faculty do outside of their professorial duties when there is no evident impermissible impact on their teaching. (For Professor Yoo, there is none.) The right forum investigating and punishing alleged crimes is in the criminal justice system, not a research university. Our job is already tough enough.
Finally, another frustrating thing is that advocates are often fierce in their belief that they know what the law is, and they know when someone else’s view is extreme. Your typical law professor is, I think, far more humble. We tend to see multiple sides to important issues, and lots of gray. Even if we are convinced of something, we work hard to understand the counterarguments, just to be sure. If there aren’t any, then MAYBE one could characterize the other position as extreme. My guess is that Professor Yoo’s constitutional theories and statutory interpretation would win at least three votes among current justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. I don’t like it, but that’s my reading of the case law. Does 3 out of 9 make it extreme? If so, then a lot of my heroes are or were “extreme.”
Much as I appreciate his efforts to provide these expert, behind-the-scenes insights, I’m afraid I’m more comfortable with a few basic rules:
First, the U.S. president should be a fearless leader who enforces our laws with a passion for justice, to the best of his ability. Many in the justice system — both intrepid government agents and taxpayer-protecting whistleblowers alike — are risking their health, money and even lives on a frequent basis. Why shouldn’t those at the top?
Second, as one who works a block from the site on Pennsylvania Avenue where Lincoln’s assassins planned their crime (where the Newseum is now located), I’d suggest that any conspirators against today’s elected leadership should be prepared to pay a similar and rapid price to the hangman; Third, academic freedom is a fine goal, but so is freedom from torture and freedom from being falsely imprisoned for political reasons.
Knowing the law constitutes the basic tool of every lawyer. But working for what the law should be is an even higher calling for our lawyers and top office-holders. And in a democracy, I’m not the first to stress that our highest office does not go by the title Senator, Justice or even President. Instead, it’s “Citizen.”
Andrew Kreig is executive director of the Justice Integrity Project, a Washington, DC-based non-profit organization focused on reforming abusive federal investigative procedures.
He is an attorney, non-profit executive and investigative journalist.
As President and CEO of the Wireless Communications Association International from 1996 until 2008, Kreig led its evolution into the premier worldwide advocate for high-capacity wireless services. Previously, he authored some two thousand bylined news and magazine articles, plus the pioneering 1987 book “Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America’s Oldest Newspaper.” The book documented unethical practices within the news media, including misleading applications by prominent news industry executives to win coveted Pulitzer Prizes.
Listed in numerous Who’s Who volumes for more than a dozen years, he has lectured on five continents about communications issues and has been active in civic affairs in Washington. He holds degrees from Yale Law School and University of Chicago School of Law. His previous employers include the Hartford Courant, Connecticut General Assembly Speaker Irving Stolberg, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf in Boston and the global law firm Latham & Watkins.
Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: Alberto Gonzales, cia prisons, CIA torture, Criminal Justice, detainees, eric holder, International law, jay bybee, john yoo, lynndie england, nuremberg, olc, peter weiss, roger hollander, torture, torture memos, waterborading
Published on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 by OtherWords
What will we say when other governments follow our example by providing immunity from prosecution to torturers?
The Romans had an expression for it: “Nulla poena sine lege,” no punishment without a law. But people sometimes forget that the opposite is also true: Without punishment for offenders, a law itself can die.
The Justice Department recently announced that, of the 101 cases involving alleged illegal treatment of post-9/11 detainees by the CIA and its contractors, 99 were being closed. The remaining two, which involved deaths in custody, would continue to be investigated.
The decision to drop virtually all these cases is based on a policy promulgated by Attorney General Eric Holder shortly after he took office. Reiterating this policy on June 30, Holder wrote that the Justice Department “would not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees.”
This refers to the infamous “torture memos” provided in 2002 to Alberto Gonzales while he was White House counsel by John Yoo, then Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Jay Bybee, who was Assistant Attorney General and now serves as a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. These memos, which sanctioned virtually all forms of “enhanced interrogation” (or torture, in common parlance), were withdrawn as legally deficient by Jack Goldsmith, President George W. Bush’s head of the Office of Legal Counsel, and specifically disavowed later by President Barack Obama himself.holder
Holder’s recent move is completely consistent with Obama’s insistence on looking “forward, not back” when it comes to accountability for torture. Prosecuting most of these cases would require seriously examining the perpetrators’ faith that the Yoo memos acted as a “golden shield,” as one Bush administration official called them. But the law says that this defense, “the defense of superior orders,” doesn’t work when the act in question is palpably or manifestly illegal.
It didn’t work for Lt. William Calley when he and his platoon killed over 300 women, children, and elderly men in the village of My Lai during the Vietnam War. It didn’t work for Lynndie England, the hapless army reservist convicted of torturing and abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib.
And it didn’t work for most of the defendants at Nuremberg.
Why should it now work for CIA agents and others who relied “in good faith” on the torture memos? The journalist Christopher Hitchens was himself waterboarded by Special Forces soldiers to help him decide whether it was torture. His conclusion: “If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.” Indeed, since the Spanish inquisition, waterboarding has never been considered anything other than torture, and in this century torture is absolutely forbidden under both domestic and international law.
And waterboarding is only one of several torture techniques used by U.S. personnel in the years following 9/11, including prolonged sleep deprivation, shackling in stress positions, and exposure to extreme cold and heat. All of these have been largely or completely abandoned under the Obama administration. But what lesson are we to draw from the fact that no prosecutions have been started, nor are likely to start, against those who authorized and practiced them? What will we say when other governments follow our example by providing immunity from prosecution to torturers on the basis of phony, made-to-order legal memos?
June 30, 2011 will go down as a dark day in the annals of the struggle against torture.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
Posted by rogerhollander in Argentina, Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Latin America, Torture.
Tags: Alberto Gonzales, Argentina, barry mccaffrey, bush adminsitration, cheney, chris hedges, cia prisons, Condoleezza Rice, david addington, detainees, dirty war, disappeared, drone missiles, george tenet, habeas corpus, human rights, Human Rights Watch, jay bybee, John Ashcroft, john rizzo, john yoo, pakistan, predator missiles, rendition, roger hollander, rumsfeld, torture, william j. haynes
Dr. Silvia Quintela was “disappeared” by the death squads in Argentina in 1977 when she was four months pregnant with her first child. She reportedly was kept alive at a military base until she gave birth to her son and then, like other victims of the military junta, most probably was drugged, stripped naked, chained to other unconscious victims and piled onto a cargo plane that was part of the “death flights” that disposed of the estimated 20,000 disappeared. The military planes with their inert human cargo would fly over the Atlantic at night and the chained bodies would be pushed out the door into the ocean. Quintela, who had worked as a doctor in the city’s slums, was 28 when she was murdered.(Illustration by Mr. Fish)
A military doctor, Maj. Norberto Atilio Bianco, who was extradited Friday from Paraguay to Argentina for baby trafficking, is alleged to have seized Quintela’s infant son along with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other babies. The children were handed to military families for adoption. Bianco, who was the head of the clandestine maternity unit that functioned during the Dirty War in the military hospital of Campo de Mayo, was reported by eyewitnesses to have personally carried the babies out of the military hospital. He also kept one of the infants. Argentina on Thursday convicted retired Gen. Hector Gamen and former Col. Hugo Pascarelli of committing crimes against humanity at the “El Vesubio” prison, where 2,500 people were tortured in 1976-1978. They were sentenced to life in prison. Since revoking an amnesty law in 2005 designed to protect the military, Argentina has prosecuted 807 for crimes against humanity, although only 212 people have been sentenced. It has been, for those of us who lived in Argentina during the military dictatorship, a painfully slow march toward justice.
Most of the disappeared in Argentina were not armed radicals but labor leaders, community organizers, leftist intellectuals, student activists and those who happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Few had any connection with armed campaigns of resistance. Indeed, by the time of the 1976 Argentine coup, the armed guerrilla groups, such as the Montoneros, had largely been wiped out. These radical groups, like al-Qaida in its campaign against the United States, never posed an existential threat to the regime, but the national drive against terror in both Argentina and the United States became an excuse to subvert the legal system, instill fear and passivity in the populace, and form a vast underground prison system populated with torturers and interrogators, as well as government officials and lawyers who operated beyond the rule of law. Torture, prolonged detention without trial, sexual humiliation, rape, disappearance, extortion, looting, random murder and abuse have become, as in Argentina during the Dirty War, part of our own subterranean world of detention sites and torture centers.
We Americans have rewritten our laws, as the Argentines did, to make criminal behavior legal. John Rizzo, the former acting general counsel for the CIA, approved drone attacks that have killed hundreds of people, many of them civilians in Pakistan, although we are not at war with Pakistan. Rizzo has admitted that he signed off on so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. He told Newsweek that the CIA operated “a hit list.” He asked in the interview: “How many law professors have signed off on a death warrant?” Rizzo, in moral terms, is no different from the deported Argentine doctor Bianco, and this is why lawyers in Britain and Pakistan are calling for his extradition to Pakistan to face charges of murder. Let us hope they succeed.
We know of at least 100 detainees who died during interrogations at our “black sites,” many of them succumbing to the blows and mistreatment of our interrogators. There are probably many, many more whose fate has never been made public. Tens of thousands of Muslim men have passed through our clandestine detention centers without due process. “We tortured people unmercifully,” admitted retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey. “We probably murdered dozens of them …, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.”
Tens of thousands of Americans are being held in super-maximum-security prisons where they are deprived of contact and psychologically destroyed. Undocumented workers are rounded up and vanish from their families for weeks or months. Militarized police units break down the doors of some 40,000 Americans a year and haul them away in the dead of night as if they were enemy combatants. Habeas corpus no longer exists. American citizens can “legally” be assassinated. Illegal abductions, known euphemistically as “extraordinary rendition,” are a staple of the war on terror. Secret evidence makes it impossible for the accused and their lawyers to see the charges against them. All this was experienced by the Argentines. Domestic violence, whether in the form of social unrest, riots or another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil, would, I fear, see the brutal tools of empire cemented into place in the homeland. At that point we would embark on our own version of the Dirty War.
Marguerite Feitlowitz writes in “The Lexicon of Terror” of the experiences of one Argentine prisoner, a physicist named Mario Villani. The collapse of the moral universe of the torturers is displayed when, between torture sessions, the guards take Villani and a few pregnant women prisoners to an amusement park. They make them ride the kiddie train and then take them to a cafe for a beer. A guard, whose nom de guerre is Blood, brings his 6- or 7-year-old daughter into the detention facility to meet Villani and other prisoners. A few years later, Villani runs into one of his principal torturers, a sadist known in the camps as Julian the Turk. Julian recommends that Villani go see another of his former prisoners to ask for a job. The way torture became routine, part of daily work, numbed the torturers to their own crimes. They saw it as a job. Years later they expected their victims to view it with the same twisted logic.
Human Rights Watch, in a new report, “Getting Away With Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees,” declared there is “overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration.” President Barack Obama, the report went on, is obliged “to order a criminal investigation into allegations of detainee abuse authorized by former President George W. Bush and other senior officials.”
But Obama has no intention of restoring the rule of law. He not only refuses to prosecute flagrant war crimes, but has immunized those who orchestrated, led and carried out the torture. At the same time he has dramatically increased war crimes, including drone strikes in Pakistan. He continues to preside over hundreds of the offshore penal colonies, where abuse and torture remain common. He is complicit with the killers and the torturers.
The only way the rule of law will be restored, if it is restored, is piece by piece, extradition by extradition, trial by trial. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice and John Ashcroft will, if we return to the rule of law, face trial. The lawyers who made legal what under international and domestic law is illegal, including not only Rizzo but Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, David Addington, William J. Haynes and John Yoo, will, if we are to dig our way out of this morass, be disbarred and prosecuted. Our senior military leaders, including Gen. David Petraeus, who oversaw death squads in Iraq and widespread torture in clandestine prisons, will be lined up in a courtroom, as were the generals in Argentina, and made to answer for these crimes. This is the only route back. If it happens it will happen because a few courageous souls such as the attorney and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner, are trying to make it happen. It will take time—a lot of time; the crimes committed by Bianco and the two former officers sent to prison this month are nearly four decades old. If it does not happen, then we will continue to descend into a terrifying, dystopian police state where our guards will, on a whim, haul us out of our cells to an amusement park and make us ride, numb and bewildered, on the kiddie train, before the next round of torture.
© 2011 TruthDig.com
Posted by rogerhollander in Torture.
Tags: actionable intelligence, enhanced enterrogation, Guantanamo, istanbul protocol, jay bybee, john yoo, national security, roger hollander, rule of law, terrorism, torture, torture memos, un convention, vincent iacopino, War Crimes
Published on Thursday, June 2, 2011 by The Guardian/UK
The former Bush administration official continues to defend the indefensible: his authorization of a disastrous policy of abuse
Whether torture helped lead to the killing of Osama bin Laden or not, the beating of John Yoo’s tell-tale heart has compelled him to speak. His preemptive rush, in a recent op-ed article for the Wall Street Journal, to vindicate the Bush administration’s torture policies that he and Jay Bybee created betrays his guilt for approving one of the most reprehensible policies in US history – a policy of systematic torture that not only failed to provide actionable intelligence, but undermined the security of the United States.
In the infamous torture memos of 2002, Yoo and Bybee, authorized “enhanced interrogation” techniques (EITs), acts previously recognized by the US as torture – and the same torture methods used on US soldiers to obtain false confessions during the Korean war. In 131 pages of memos, the two justice department legal counsels redefined torture in a manner that required medical monitoring of all EITs, but failed to provide any meaningful provisions to detect medical evidence of torture as defined by them. Moreover, their “good faith” defence against criminal liability for torture rested on two presumptions, that interrogators would not exceed the severe physical and severe and prolonged mental pain thresholds for torture as defined by Yoo and Bybee, and, even if they did, that it would not constitute torture unless these physical and psychological harms were the precise objectives of the interrogators.
For more than 20 years, I have been documenting medical evidence of torture and testifying as a medical expert in courts of law. As the principle author of the UN Manual on the Effective Investigation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Istanbul Protocol), I am well aware of the international standards of assessing medical evidence of torture. I have served as a public member of US human rights delegations and criticized other governments for the very practices that John Yoo authorized and continues to defend. Over the past several years, I have been called upon to serve as a medical expert in a number of Guantánamo cases and have evaluated, at first hand, the physical and psychological evidence of torture alleged by detainees.
In each of the cases that I have evaluated, the physical and psychological evidence of torture is consistent with the UN Convention Against Torture’s definition of torture – as well as Yoo and Bybee’s definition of torture. In some cases, Yoo’s condition of “specific intent” to commit acts of torture is clear from declassified interrogation logs, which reveal systematic and prolonged efforts to induce psychological states of debility, dependence and dread, euphemistically referred to as ”ego down”, ”futility” and ”fear up harsh.”. The fact that Yoo and Bybee raised the thresholds for physical and mental pain of torture without any provisions to assess possible evidence of torture suggests criminal negligence and possibly the intent to commit and conceal a systematic policy of torture.
Former assistant attorney general Yoo not only wants to conceal the evidence of the torture that he authorized; he wants us to believe that his torture policy was useful in fighting terrorism. Unfortunately, he fails to mention any of the negative consequences of the policies. For starters, the US invasion of Iraq was justified, in part, on the basis of the false confession of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi who, under pain of torture, confessed to knowledge of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Torture not only aided in the justification of the Iraq war, which resulted in more than 4,000 US casualties, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties, and costs in excess of $1tn; the subsequent occupation served as the primary recruiting tool for al-Qaida in Iraq.
US torture practices have also jeopardized the effective legal prosecutions of suspected terrorists, which has led, in part, to the Obama administration being forced to revert to holding the trials of the alleged 9/11 conspirators in military tribunals rather than civilian courts; torture has also placed US soldiers at greater risk of harm, and undermined the capacity for the US to hold other countries accountable for human rights abuses.
The reason why torture is universally prohibited in international and domestic law the world over, however, is not because it is ineffective or counterproductive (though it is). Torture has been universally prohibited because in the aftermath of the second world war, the nations of the world agreed, under the leadership of the United States, that respect for basic human dignity required the absolute prohibition of torture under any circumstance.
The acts of torture that John Yoo and other Bush administration officials so proudly defend are nothing less than war crimes that, in the absence of accountability, continue to undermine the United States’ claim to respect the rule of law.
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2011
Vincent Iacopino is senior medical adviser to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and adjunct professor of medicine with the University of Minnesota medical school. Vincent has participated in health and human rights research, investigations and advocacy for 18 years, and is a senior research fellow at the Human Rights Centre of the University of California, Berkeley
Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture, War on Terror.
Tags: al-Qaeda, bin Laden, cia, Colin Powell, dan froomkin, detainees, Dick Cheney, donald rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Glenn Carle, Guantanamo, interrogation, john yoo, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, ksm, larry wilkerson, Liz Cheney, matthew alexander, Politics News, roger hollander, Steven Kleinman, torture, Torture Debate, torture memos, war on terror, waterboarding
Dan Froomkin, www.huffingtonpost.com, May 6, 2011
Torture apologists are reaching precisely the wrong conclusion from the back-story of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, say experienced interrogators and intelligence professionals.
Defenders of the Bush administration’s interrogation policies have claimed vindication from reports that bin Laden was tracked down in small part due to information received from brutalized detainees some six to eight years ago.
But that sequence of events — even if true — doesn’t demonstrate the effectiveness of torture, these experts say. Rather, it indicates bin Laden could have been caught much earlier had those detainees been interrogated properly.
“I think that without a doubt, torture and enhanced interrogation techniques slowed down the hunt for bin Laden,” said an Air Force interrogator who goes by the pseudonym Matthew Alexander and located Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, in 2006.
It now appears likely that several detainees had information about a key al Qaeda courier — information that might have led authorities directly to bin Laden years ago. But subjected to physical and psychological brutality, “they gave us the bare minimum amount of information they could get away with to get the pain to stop, or to mislead us,” Alexander told The Huffington Post.
“We know that they didn’t give us everything, because they didn’t provide the real name, or the location, or somebody else who would know that information,” he said.
In a 2006 study by the National Defense Intelligence College, trained interrogators found that traditional, rapport-based interviewing approaches are extremely effective with even the most hardened detainees, whereas coercion consistently builds resistance and resentment.
“Had we handled some of these sources from the beginning, I would like to think that there’s a good chance that we would have gotten this information or other information,” said Steven Kleinman, a longtime military intelligence officerwho has extensively researched, practiced and taught interrogation techniques.
“By making a detainee less likely to provide information, and making the information he does provide harder to evaluate, they hindered what we needed to accomplish,” said Glenn L. Carle, a retired CIA officer who oversaw the interrogation of a high-level detainee in 2002.
But the discovery and killing of bin Laden was enough for defenders of the Bush administration to declare that their policies had been vindicated.
Liz Cheney, daughter of the former vice president, quickly issued a statement declaring that she was “grateful to the men and women of America’s intelligence services who, through their interrogation of high-value detainees, developed the information that apparently led us to bin Laden.”
John Yoo, the lead author of the “Torture Memos,” wrote in the Wall Street Journal that bin Laden’s death “vindicates the Bush administration, whose intelligence architecture marked the path to bin Laden’s door.”
Former Bush secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld declared that “the information that came from those individuals was critically important.”
The Obama White House pushed back against that conclusion this week.
“The bottom line is this: If we had some kind of smoking-gun intelligence from waterboarding in 2003, we would have taken out Osama bin Laden in 2003,” Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, told The New York Times.
Chronological detailsof the hunt for bin Laden remain murky, but piecing together various statements from administration and intelligence officials, it appears the first step may have been the CIA learning the nickname of an al Qaeda courier — Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — from several detainees picked up after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Then, in 2003, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the 9/11 mastermind, was captured, beaten, slammed into walls, shackled in stress positions and made to feel like he was drowning 183 times in a month. When asked about al-Kuwaiti, however, KSM denied that the he had anything to do with al Qaeda.
In 2004, officials detained a man named Hassan Ghul and brought him to one of the CIA’s black sites, where he identified al-Kuwaiti as a key courier.
A third detainee, Abu Faraj al-Libi, was arrested in 2005 and under CIA interrogation apparently denied knowing al-Kuwaiti at all.
Once the courier’s real name was established — about four years ago, and by other means — intelligence analysts stayed on the lookout for him. After he was picked up on a monitored phone call last year, he ultimately led authorities to bin Laden.
The link between the Bush-era interrogation regime and bin Laden’s killing, then, appears tenuous — especially since two of the three detainees in question apparently provided deceptive information about the courier even after being interrogated under durress.
“It simply strains credulity to suggest that a piece of information that may or may not have been gathered eight years ago somehow directly led to a successful mission on Sunday. That’s just not the case,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
But for Alexander, Kleinman and others, the key takeaway is not just that the torture didn’t work, but that it was actually counterproductive.
“The question is: What else did KSM have?” Alexander asked. And he’s pretty sure he knows the answer: KSM knew the courier’s real name, “or he knew who else knew his real name, or he knew how to find him — and he didn’t give any of that information,” Alexander said.
Alexander’s book, “Kill or Capture,” chronicles how the non-coercive interrogation of a dedicated al Qaeda member led to Zarqawi’s capture.
“I’m 100 percent confident that a good interrogator would have gotten additional leads” from KSM, Alexander said.
“Interrogation is all about getting access to someone’s uncorrupted memory,” explained Kleinman, who as an Air Force reserve colonel in Iraq in 2003 famously tried, but failed, to stop the rampant, systemic abuse of detainees there. “And you can’t get access to someone’s uncorrupted memory by applying psychological, physical or emotional force.”
Quite to the contrary, coercion is known to harden resistance. “It makes an individual hate you and find any way in their mind to fight back,” and it inhibits their recall, Kleinman said. Far preferable, he said, is a “more thoughtful, culturally-enlightened, science-based approach.”
“I never saw enhanced interrogation techniques work in Iraq; I never saw even harsh techniques work in Iraq,” Alexander said. “In every case I saw them slow us down, and they were always counterproductive to trying to get people to cooperate.”
Carle, who was not a trained interrogator, said he came to recognize that interrogation was a lot like something he did know how to do: manage intelligence assets in the field.
“Perverse and imbalanced as the relationship is between interrogator and detainee, it’s nonetheless a human relationship, and building upon that, manipulating the person, dealing straight with the person, simply coming to understand the person and vice versa, one can move forward,” he told reporters on a conference call Thursday.
Carle’s upcoming book, “The Interrogator,” chronicles his growing doubts about his orders from his superiors.
“The methods that I was urged to embrace, I found first-hand — putting aside the moral and legal issues, which we really cannot put aside — from a practical and a tactical and a strategic sense and a moral and legal one, the methods are counterproductive,” he said.
“They do not work,” he added. “They cause retrograde motion from what you’re seeking to accomplish. They increase resentment, not cooperation. They increase the difficulty in assessing what information you do hear is valid. They increase the likelihood that you will be given disinformation and have opposition from the person that you’re interrogating, across the board.”
Carle said the detainee he worked with regressed when coerced. “All it did was increase resentment and misery,” he said.
Larry Wilkerson, chief of staff under former secretary of state Colin Powell, said, “I’d be naive if I said it never worked,” referring to enhanced interrogation techniques.
“Of course, occasionally it works, Wilkerson said. “But most of the time, what torture is useful for is confessions. It’s not good for getting actionable intelligence.”
Experts agree that torture is particularly good at one thing: eliciting false confessions.
Bush-era interrogation techniques, were modeled after methods used by Chinese Communists to extract confessions from captured U.S. servicemen that they could then use for propaganda during the Korean War.
“Somehow our government decided that … these were effective means of obtaining information,” Carle said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
At a hearing in Guantanamo, several years after being waterboarded, KSM described how he would lie — specifically about bin Laden’s whereabouts — just to make the torture stop. “I make up stories,” Mohammed said. “Where is he? I don’t know. Then, he torture me,” KSM said of an interrogator. “Then I said, ‘Yes, he is in this area.'”
There are many other reasons to be skeptical of the argument that torture can lead to actionable intelligence, and specifically that enhanced interrogation led investigators to bin Laden.
And though its defenders are now trying to talk up the significance of the earlier intelligence, around the time of al-Libi’s interrogation, the CIA was not stepping up the hunt for bin Laden. Instead, it was closing down the unit that had been dedicated to hunting bin Laden and his top lieutenants.
This new scenario hardly supports a defense of torture on the grounds that it’s appropriate in “ticking time bomb” scenarios, Alexander said. “Show me an interrogator who says that eight years is a good result.”
The interrogation experts also noted the significant role Yoo, Rumsfeld and former Vice President Cheney each played in opening the door to controversial interrogation practices.
Wilkerson has long argued that there is ample evidence showing that “the Office of the Vice President bears responsibility for creating an environment conducive to the acts of torture and murder committed by U.S. forces in the war on terror.”
Yoo wrote several memos that explicitly sanctioned measures that many have deemed constitute torture, and the memo from Rumsfeld authorizing the use of stress positions, hooding and dogs was widely seen as a sign to the troops that the “gloves could come off.”
“These guys are trying to save their reputations, for one thing,” Alexander said. “They have, from the beginning, been trying to prevent an investigation into war crimes.”
“They don’t want to talk about the long term consequences that cost the lives of Americans,” Alexander added. The way the U.S. treated its prisoners “was al-Qaeda’s number-one recruiting tool and brought in thousands of foreign fighters who killed American soldiers,” Alexander said. “And who want to live with that on their conscience?”
From Bush himself on down, the defenders of his interrogation regime have long insisted that it never amounted to torture. But waterboarding, the single most controversial aspect of Bush’s interrogation regime, has been an archetypal form of torture dating back to the Spanish Inquisition. It involves strapping someone to a board and simulating drowning them. The U.S. government has historically considered it a war crime.
One can quibble over the proper term for some of the other tactics employed with official sanction, including forced nudity, isolation, bombardment with noise and light, deprivation of food, forced standing, repeated beatings, applications of cold water, the use of dogs, slamming prisoners into walls, shackling them in stress positions and keeping them awake for as long as 180 hours. But they comprise violations of human dignity, as codified by the United Nations — and championed by the U.S. government — ever since World War II.
Many have argued that whether torture works or not is irrelevant — that it is flatly illegal, immoral, and contrary to core American principles — and that even if it were effective, it would still be anathema.
But that torture is unparalleled in its ability to obtain intelligence is the central argument of its defenders. To concede that torture doesn’t work — as Alexander, Kleinman and Carle, among others, say — would be to forfeit the whole game. It would be admitting that cruelty was both the means and the end.
And so the debate goes on.
This article has been updated to include more information on waterboarding and historical background on other interrogation techniques.
* * * * * *Dan Froomkin is senior Washington correspondent for The Huffington Post. You can send him an email, bookmark his page, subscribe to his RSS feed, follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook, and/or become a fan and get email alerts when he writes.
Posted by rogerhollander in Nuclear weapons/power, Peace, War.
Tags: david krieger, john bolton, john yoo, new york times, non-proliferation, nuclear, nuclear arsenals, nuclear weapons, peace, roger hollander, russia, start, treaty, war
Two staunch ideologues who served in the George W. Bush administration, John Bolton and John Yoo, ask rhetorically in a New York Times opinion piece, “Why Rush to Cut Nukes?” Bolton, a recess appointment as United Nations Ambassador under Bush II, never met an arms limitation agreement that he supported. Yoo, the lawyer who wrote memos supporting the legality of water boarding under international law (not a very favorable prospect for captured U.S. soldiers), worked in Bush II’s Justice Department. Bolton and Yoo can find no good reason to support the New START agreement with the Russians, arguing that without amendments it will weaken “our national defense.”
Let me answer the question posed in the title of their article. The Senate should support and ratify this treaty because it will strengthen U.S. national security by:
- reducing the size of the bloated nuclear arsenals in both countries, creating a new lower level from which to make further reductions;
- reinstating verification procedures that ended with the expiration of the first START agreement in December 2009;
- building confidence in the Russians that we stand behind our agreements; and
- sending a signal to the rest of the world that we are taking steps to fulfill our legal commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to achieve nuclear disarmament.
The downsides of failing to ratify the treaty would be to remove restraints on the size of the Russian arsenal, forego inspection and verification of the Russian arsenal, undermine Russian confidence in U.S. commitments, and encourage further nuclear proliferation by other countries thereby increasing the possibilities of nuclear terrorism. Further, if the treaty is not ratified before the new Congress is seated in January 2011, its future ratification will be far more difficult.
What do Bolton and Yoo say they want? First, to remove language in the treaty’s preamble, which is not legally binding, that says there is an “interrelationship” between nuclear weapons and defensive systems. That language only recognizes a reality. Of course, there is a relationship between missiles and missile defenses. Second, they don’t want the U.S. to be limited in putting conventional weapons on formerly nuclear launch systems. But that is a price, and a fair one, that each side will pay for lowering the other side’s nuclear capabilities. Third, they want a Congressional act for the financing, testing and development of new U.S. warhead designs before the treaty is ratified. In other words, they want guarantees that the U.S. nuclear arsenal will be modernized. They seek long-term reliance on the U.S. nuclear threat, but this means that U.S. citizens will also remain under nuclear threat for the long-term.
Bolton and Yoo are an interesting pair. The first would lop ten floors off the United Nations, the second do away with the laws of war when they aren’t convenient. Do they deserve their own opinions? Of course. Do their opinions make any sense? Only in the context of the American exceptionalism and militarism that were the trademarks of the Bush II administration and have done so much to weaken the spirit, values and resources of the country while continuing to haunt us in our aggressive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One must wonder what possessed the New York Times to publish their rantings. Additionally, using the word “Nukes” in the title suggests somehow that nuclear weapons are cute enough to have nicknames and not a serious threat to the very existence of civilization. That Bolton and Yoo could rise to high positions in our country is a sad commentary on the country, but perhaps understandable in the context of the Bush II administration’s persistent flaunting of international law. That the New York Times would find sufficient merit in their discredited opinions to publish their article is an even sadder commentary on the editorial integrity of one of the country’s most respected newspapers.
David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org) and a Councilor on the World Future Council.