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US Senator: I Support Drone Program That Has Killed 4,700 “Innocent People” February 21, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, War, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: Let’s say, if you will excuse the expression, conservatively, that for each of the 4700 murdered, there will be 5 family and friends so outraged as to become serious life long enemies of the United States: that makes 23,500 converts to Al Qaeda.  Good work BushObama!
Published on Thursday, February 21, 2013 by Common Dreams

Republican from South Carolina becomes first elected official to impart government’s estimate of civilians killed by US drones abroad

– Jon Queally, staff writer

Becoming the first elected government official to publicly state an estimated number of “innocent people” killed in US drone attacks overseas, Sen. Lindsey Graham told a local crowd in his home state of South Carolina that “We’ve killed 4,700.”

“Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war,” said Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Speaking to a group of Rotarians at a forum in Easley, South Carolina, Graham responded to a question about drones by saying, “Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda.”

His remarks, reported by the local Easley Patch, included a defense of the use of drones despite their propensity to kill innocent bystanders, including women and children.

“I didn’t want him to have a trial,” Graham stated, refering to a US citizen, Anwar Al-Awlaki, who was assassinated in Yemen by a missile from a US drone in 2011.

“We’re not fighting a crime, we’re fighting a war,” Graham said. “I support the president’s ability to make a determination as to who an enemy combatant is. It’s never been done by judges before. I support the drone program.”

Graham’s remarks have since been picked up by national and international media due to the fact that he appears to be the first high-ranking US government official to put an exact number of the number civilians killed by the US practice.

As Al-Jazeera reports:

Several organizations have tried to calculate how many militants and civilians may have been killed in drone strikes since 2004 but have arrived at a wide range of numbers.

The figure cited by Graham matches the high end of a tally by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism. It says the number killed in drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia is between 3,072 and 4,756.

The Washington-based New America Foundation says there have been 350 US drone strikes since 2004, most of them during Barack Obama’s presidency. And the foundation estimates the death toll at between 1,963 and 3,293, with 261 to 305 civilians killed.

US intelligence agencies and the White House have refused to divulge details about the strikes, which are officially termed classified, but officials have suggested that few if any civilians have been killed inadvertently.

The comments by Graham set off speculation about whether or not the senator mistakenly cited official government estimates, and human rights advocates and civil liberty groups would be pleased to discover that such numbers actually exist given the Obama administration’s refusal to release any details about the program which was initiated under President Bush but escalated over the course of the current president.

Micah Zenko, credited by many for breaking the story of Graham’s comment at his CFR blog, said it’s notable that Graham’s publicly stated estimate “nearly matches” the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s.

“Either Graham is a big fan of TBIJ’s work,” wrote Zenko, “or perhaps he inadvertently revealed the U.S. government’s body count for nonbattlefield targeted killings.”

And Anti-War‘s John Glaser adds:

It should be noted also that TBIJ, despite their rigorous methodology, was for a long time shunned by a mainstream media that refused to cite their casualty estimates, simply because it recorded the highest ones available. Newspapers and TV typically used the middle-of-the-road estimate, which was New America Foundation. Graham – with his seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee – is almost certainly privy to some secret government numbers on drone war casualties. The fact that he might of let it slip here – and the fact that it’s way higher than virtually anybody in the mainstream reports – should be something of a lesson, I think.

Graham also noted in his comments that in addition to his support for the drone war overseas, he supported further use of the technology within the US.

“I don’t want to arm them, but we need drones along the border so we can really control illegal immigration,” Graham told his constituents.

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
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After Afghan Massacre, War Gets Victim Status March 12, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Media, War.
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Roger’s note: it is tragic, it is surreal; it is Kafkesque; it is an Alice

in Wonderland world; it is the mentality of mass media reporters

and politicians in an imperial nation completely divorced from

reality and from the death and terror it creates. 

All in the name of freedom and democracy.  Orwellian, yes. 

There is one thing, however, that the the media and political

pundits are getting right: their anticipation that the chickens

will come home to roost.

 

 

 

FAIR

Media Advisory

After Afghan Massacre, War Gets Victim Status Media treat killings as PR problem for occupation 3/12/12
The news that a U.S. Army sergeant killed 16 civilians, most of them children, in southern Afghanistan early Sunday morning was treated by many media outlets primarily as a PR challenge for continued war and occupation of that country.

“Afghanistan, once the must-fight war for America, is becoming a public relations headache for the nation’s leaders, especially for President Barack Obama,” explained an Associated Press analysis piece (3/12/12). Reuters (3/12/12) called it “the latest American public relations disaster in Afghanistan.”

On the NBC Today show (3/11/12) the question was posed this way: “Could this reignite a new anti-American backlash in the unstable region?” The answer: “This is not going to bode well for the U.S. and NATO here in Afghanistan,” explained reporter Atia Abawi. “Obviously people here very fearful as to what’s going to happen next, what protests will come about throughout different parts of Afghanistan, and how the Taliban are going to use this to their advantage.” “People,” as used here, would not seem to include Afghans, who are presumably less frightened by protests against a massacre of children than they are by the massacre itself.

The front-page headline at USA Today (3/12/12) read, “Killings Threaten Afghan Mission.” The story warned that the allegations “threaten to test U.S. strategy to end the conflict.” In the New York Times (3/12/12), the massacre was seen as “igniting fears of a new wave of anti-American hostility.” The paper went on to portray occupation forces as victims:

The possibility of a violent reaction to the killings added to a feeling of siege here among Western personnel. Officials described growing concern over a cascade of missteps and offenses that has cast doubt on the ability of NATO personnel to carry out their mission and has left troops and trainers increasingly vulnerable to violence by Afghans seeking revenge.

The fact that the massacres occurred two days after a NATO helicopter strike killed four civilians was “adding to the sense of concern.”

Another Times piece (3/12/12) began with this:

The outrage from the back-to-back episodes of the Koran burning and the killing on Sunday of at least 16 Afghan civilians imperils what the Obama administration once saw as an orderly plan for 2012.

That sounds as if “outrage” is the most serious problem–the reaction to the actions, not the actions themselves.
Treating the killing of civilians as chiefly a PR problem is not a new phenomenon. As FAIR noted (“The Bad PR of Dead Civilians,” 5/11/09), the news that dozens were killed in NATO airstrikes brought headlines like “Civilian Deaths Imperil Support for Afghan War” (New York Times, 5/7/09), “Claim of Afghan Civilian Deaths Clouds U.S. Talks” (Wall Street Journal, 5/7/09) and “Afghan Civilian Deaths Present U.S. With Strategic Problem” (Washington Post, 5/8/09).

Covering the latest atrocity, the Washington Post (3/12/12) reported that “the killings Sunday threatened to spark a new crisis in the strained relationship between the United States and Afghanistan.” A separate piece quoted an anonymous U.S. official complaining that massacres “plays to the absolute worst fears and stereotypes” of the U.S. military, and that “it’s the type of boogeyman [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai has always raised, but we’ve never had an incident like this.”

But there have been similar single incidents, most notably a 2007 attack by Marines that killed 19 civilians. And night raids by NATO forces have killed Afghans throughout the war.

On the Sunday talkshows, Republicans and Democrats spoke about the massacre–often with little to distinguish their points of view. On ABC‘s This Week (3/11/12), Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told viewers that “unfortunately, these things happen in war…. You just have to push through these things.” He added that “the surge of forces has really put the Taliban on the defensive…. We can win this thing. We can get it right.” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) remarked:

I think the president has a good plan. Obviously, it’s a very difficult situation because we have real terrorism that emanated from Afghanistan. The president doesn’t get enough credit. He’s done an amazing job with the drones and Al-Qaeda.

On NBC‘s Meet the Press (3/11/12), Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, a Republican, said the news was “tragic because we have so many brave men and women, David, for now 10-plus years in the global war on terror, have done marvelous work for the cause freedom in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places…. It’s too bad and we’ll have to see the details. But I’m really proud of what our kids are doing there.”

Is it too much to expect that the dominant reaction after a grisly atrocity should involve sympathy for its victims rather than pride in the forces whom the perpetrator belonged to?


 

Welcome to Boston, Mr. Rumsfeld. You Are Under Arrest. September 23, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture.
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http://www.opednews.com/articles/1/Welcome-to-Boston-Mr-Rum-by-Ralph-Lopez-110920-706.html

September 23, 2011

By Ralph Lopez

(about the author)
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been stripped of legal immunityfor acts of torture against US citizens authorized while he was in office.   The 7th Circuit made the ruling in the case of two American contractors who were tortured by the US military in Iraq after uncovering a smuggling ring within an Iraqi security company.  The company was under contract to the Department of Defense.   The company was assisting Iraqi insurgent groups in the “mass acquisition” of American weapons.  The ruling comes as Rumsfeld begins his book tour with a visit to Boston on Monday, September 26, and as new, uncensored photos of Abu Ghraib spark fresh outrage across Internet.  Awareness is growing that Bush-era crimes went far beyond mere waterboarding.

Torture Room, Abu Ghraib

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters in 2004of photos withheld by the Defense Department from Abu Ghraib, “The American public needs to understand, we’re talking about rape and murder here…We’re not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience. We’re talking about rape and murder and some very serious charges.”  And journalist Seymour Hersh says: “boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has.”

Rumsfeld resigned days before a criminal complaintwas filed in Germany in which the American general who commanded the military police battalion at Abu Ghraib had promised to testify.  General Janis Karpinski in an interview with Salon.comwas asked: “Do you feel like Rumsfeld is at the heart of all of this and should be held completely accountable for what happened [at Abu Ghraib]?”

Karpinski answered: “Yes, absolutely.”  In the criminal complaint filed in Germany against Rumsfeld, Karpinski submitted 17 pages of testimonyand offered to appear before the German prosecutor as a witness.  Congressman Kendrick Meek of Florida, who participated in the hearings on Abu Ghraib, said of Rumsfeld: “There was no way Rumsfeld didn’t know what was going on. He’s a guy who wants to know everything.”

And Major General Antonio Taguba, who led the official Army investigation into Abu Ghraib, said in his report:

“there is no longer any doubt as to whether the [Bush] administration has committed war crimes. The only question is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

Abu Ghraib Prisoner Smeared with Feces

In a puzzling and incriminating move, Camp Cropper base commander General John Gardner ordered Nathan Ertel released on May 17, 2006, while keeping Donald Vance in detention for another two months of torture.  By ordering the release of one man but not the other, Gardner revealed awareness of the situation but prolonged it at the same time.

It is unlikely that Gardner could act alone in a situation as sensitive as the illegal detention and torture of two Americans confirmed by the FBI to be working undercover in the national interest, to prevent American weapons and munitions from reaching the hands of insurgents, for the sole purpose of using them to kill American troops.  Vance and Ertel suggest he was acting on orders from the highest political level.

The forms of torture employed against the Americans included “techniques” which crop up frequently in descriptions of Iraqi and Afghan prisoner abuse at Bagram, Guantanamo, and Abu Ghraib.  They included “walling,” where the head is slammed repeatedly into a concrete wall, sleep deprivation to the point of psychosis by use of round-the-clock bright lights and harsh music at ear-splitting volume, in total isolation, for days, weeks or months at a time, and intolerable cold.

The 7th Circuit ruling is the latest in a growing number of legal actions involving hundreds of former prisoners and torture victims filed in courts around the world.  Criminal complaints have been filed against Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials in Germany, France, and Spain.  Former President Bush recently curbed travel to Switzerlanddue to fear of arrest following criminal complaints lodged in Geneva.  “He’s avoiding the handcuffs,” Reed Brody, counsel for Human Rights Watch, told Reuters.  And this month Canadian citizens forced Bush to cancel an invitation-only appearance in Toronto.

And the Mayor of London threatened Bush with arrest for war crimes earlier this year should he ever set foot in his city, saying that were heto land in London to “flog his memoirs,” that “the real trouble — from the Bush point of view — is that he might never see Texas again.”

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief-of-Staff Col. Lawrence Wilkerson surmised on MSNBCearlier this year that soon, Saudi Arabia and Israel will be “the only two countries Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest will travel too.”

Abu Ghraib: Dog Bites

What would seem to make Rumsfeld’s situation more precarious is the number of credible former officials and military officers who seem to be eager to testify against him, such as Col. Wilkerson and General Janis Karpinsky.

In a signed declaration in support of torture plaintiffs in a civil suit naming Rumsfeld in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, Col. Wilkerson, one of Rumsfeld’s most vociferous critics,  stated:“I am willing to testify in person regarding the  content of this declaration, should that be necessary.”  That declaration, among other things, affirmed that a documentary on the chilling murder of a 22-year-old Afghan farmer and taxi driver in Afghanistan was “accurate.”  Wilkerson said earlier this yearthat in that case, and in the case of another murder at Bagram at about the same time, “authorization for the abuse went to the very top of the United States government.”

Dilawar

The young farmer’s name was Dilawar.  The New York Times reported on May 20, 2005:

“Four days before [his death,] on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Id al-Fitr, Mr. Dilawar set out from his tiny village of Yakubi in a prized new possession, a used Toyota sedan that his family bought for him a few weeks earlier to drive as a taxi.
On the day that he disappeared, Mr. Dilawar’s mother had asked him to gather his three sisters from their nearby villages and bring them home for the holiday. However, he needed gas money and decided instead to drive to the provincial capital, Khost, about 45 minutes away, to look for fares.”

Dilawar’s misfortune was to drive past the gate of an American base which had been hit by a rocket attack that morning.  Dilawar and his fares were arrested at a checkpoint by a warlord, who was later suspected of mounting the rocket attack himself, and then turning over randam captures like Dilawar in order to win trust.

The UK Guardian reports:

“Guards at Bagram routinely kneed prisoners in their thighs — a blow called a “peroneal strike”…Whenever a guard did this to Dilawar, he would cry out, “Allah! Allah!” Some guards apparently found this amusing, and would strike him repeatedly to show off the behavior to buddies.
One military policeman told investigators, “Everybody heard him cry out and thought it was funny. … It went on over a 24-hour period, and I would think that it was over 100 strikes.””

The New York Times reported that on the last day of his life, four days after he was arrested:

“Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar’s face.
“Come on, drink!” the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. “Drink!”

At the interrogators’ behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

“Leave him up,” one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.”

The next time the prison medic saw Dilawar a few hours later, he was dead, his head lolled to one side and his body beginning to stiffen.  A coroner would testify that his legs “had basically been pulpified.”The Army coroner, Maj. Elizabeth Rouse, said: “I’ve seen similar injuries in an individual run over by a bus.” She testified that had he lived, Dilawar’s legs would have had to be amputated.

Despite the military’s false statement that Dilawar’s death was the result of “natural causes,” Maj. Rouse marked the death certificate as a “homicide” and arranged for the certificate to be delivered to the family.  The military was forced to retract the statement when a reporter for the New York Times, Carlotta Gall, tracked down Dilawar’s family in Afghanistan and was given a folded piece of paper by Dilawar’s brother.  It was the death certificate, which he couldn’t read, because it was in English.

The practice of forcing prisoners to stand for long periods of time, links Dilawar’s treatment to a memo which bears Rumsfeld’s own handwriting on that particular subject.  Obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request, the memo may show how fairly benign-sounding authorizations for clear circumventions of the Geneva Conventions may have translated into gruesome practice on the battlefield.

The memo, which addresses keeping prisoners “standing” for up to four hours, is annotated with a note initialed by Rumsfeld reading: “”I stand for 8–10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?”  Not mentioned in writing anywhere is anything about accomplishing this by chaining prisoners to the ceiling.  There is evidence that, unable to support his weight on tiptoe for the days on end he was chained to the ceiling, Dilawars arms dislocated, and they flapped around uselessly when he was taken down for interrogation.  The National Catholic Reporter writes “They flapped like a bird’s broken wings”

Contradicting, on the record, a February 2003 statement by Rumsfeld’s top commander in Afghanistan at the time, General Daniel McNeill, that “we are not chaining people to the ceilings,” is Spc. Willie Brand, the only soldier disciplined in the death of Dilawar, with a reduction in rank.  Told of McNeill’s statement, Brand told Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes: “Well, he’s lying.”  Brand said of his punishment: “I didn’t understand how they could do this after they had trained you to do this stuff and they turn around and say you’ve been bad”

Exhibit: Dilawar Death Certificate marked “homicide”

Exhibit: Rumsfeld Memo: “I stand 8-10 hours a day.  Why only 4 hours?”

Dilawar’s daughter and her grandfather

Binyam, Genital-Slicing

Binyam Mohamed was seized by the Pakistani Forces in April 2002 and turned over to the Americans for a $5,000 bounty.  He was held for more than five years without charge or trial in Bagram Air Force Base, Guantánamo Bay, and third country “black” sites.

“They cut off my clothes with some kind of doctor’s scalpel. I was naked. I tried to put on a brave face. But maybe I was going to be raped. Maybe they’d electrocute me. Maybe castrate me…
One of them took my penis in his hand and began to make cuts. He did it once, and they stood still for maybe a minute, watching my reaction. I was in agony. They must have done this 20 to 30 times, in maybe two hours. There was blood all over. “I told you I was going to teach you who’s the man,” [one] eventually said.

They cut all over my private parts. One of them said it would be better just to cut it off, as I would only breed terrorists. I asked for a doctor.”

I was in Morocco for 18 months. Once they began this, they would do it to me about once a month. One time I asked a guard: “What’s the point of this? I’ve got nothing I can say to them. I’ve told them everything I possibly could.”

“As far as I know, it’s just to degrade you. So when you leave here, you’ll have these scars and you’ll never forget. So you’ll always fear doing anything but what the US wants.”

Later, when a US airplane picked me up the following January, a female MP took pictures. She was one of the few Americans who ever showed me any sympathy. When she saw the injuries I had she gasped. They treated me and took more photos when I was in Kabul. Someone told me this was “to show Washington it’s healing”.

The obvious question for any prosecutor in Binyam’s case is: Who does “Washington” refer to?  Rumsfeld?  Cheney?  Is it not in the national interest to uncover these most depraved of sadists at the highest level?  US Judge Gladys Kessler, in her findings on Binyam made in relation to a Guantanamo prisoner’s petition, found Binyam exceedingly credible.  She wrote:

“His genitals were mutilated. He was deprived of sleep and food. He was summarily transported from one foreign prison to another. Captors held him in stress positions for days at a time. He was forced to listen to piercingly loud music and the screams of other prisoners while locked in a pitch-black cell. All the while, he was forced to inculpate himself and others in plots to imperil Americans. The government does not dispute this evidence.”

Obama: Torturers’ Last Defense

The prospect of Rumsfeld in a courtroom cannot possibly be relished by the Obama administration, which has now cast itself as the last and staunchest defender of the embattled former officials, including John Yoo, Alberto Gonzalez, Judge Jay Bybee, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and others.  The administration employed an unprecedented twisting of arms in order to keep evidence in a lawsuit which Binyam had filedin the UK suppressed, threatening an end of cooperation between the British MI5 and the CIA.  This even though the British judges whose hand was forced puzzled that the evidence “contained “no disclosure of sensitive intelligence matters.”  The judges suggested another reason for the secrecy requested by the Obama administration, that it might be “politically embarrassing.”

The Obama Justice Department’s active involvement in seeking the dismissal of the cases is by choice, as the statutory obligation of the US Attorney General to defend cases against public officials ends the day they leave office.  Indeed, the real significance of recent court decisions, the one by the 7th Circuit and yet another against Rumsfeld in a DC federal court, may be the clarification the common misconception that high officials are forever immune for crimes committed while in office, in the name of the state.  The misconception persists despite just a moment of thought telling one that if this were true, Hermann Goering, Augusto Pinochet, and Charles Taylor would never have been arrested, for they were all in office at the time they ordered atrocities, and they all invoked national security.

Andy Worthington writes that:

“As it happens, one of the confessions that was tortured out of Binyam is so ludicrous that it was soon dropped…The US authorities insisted that Padilla and Binyam had dinner with various high-up members of al-Qaeda the night before Padilla was to fly off to America. According to their theory the dinner party had to have been on the evening of 3 April in Karachi … Binyam was  meant to have dined with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Sheikh al-Libi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Jose Padilla.” What made the scenario “absurd,” as [Binyam’s lawyer] pointed out, was that “two of the conspirators were already in U.S. custody at the time — Abu Zubaydah was seized six days before, on 28 March 2002, and al-Libi had been held since November 2001.””

The charges against Binyam were dropped, after the prosecutor, Lieutenant Colonel Darrel Vandeveld, resigned. He told the BBC later that he had concerns at the repeated suppression of evidence that could prove prisoners’ innocence.

The litany of tortures alleged against Rumsfeld in the military prisons he ran could go on for some time.  The new photographic images from Abu Ghraib make it hard to conceive of how the methods of torture and dehumanization could have possibly served a national purpose.

The approved use of attack dogs, sexual humiliation, forced masturbation, and treatments which plumb the depths of human depravity are either documented in Rumsfeld’s own memos, or credibly reported on.

The UK Guardian writes:

The techniques devised in the system, called R2I – resistance to interrogation – match the crude exploitation and abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.

One former British special forces officer who returned last week from Iraq, said: “It was clear from discussions with US private contractors in Iraq that the prison guards were using R2I techniques, but they didn’t know what they were doing.””

Torture Now Aimed at Americans, Programs Designed to Obtain False Confessions, Not Intelligence

The worst of the worst is that Rumsfeld’s logic strikes directly at the foundations of our democracy and the legitimacy of the War on Terror.  The torture methods studied and adopted by the Bush administration were not new, but adopted from the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape program (SERE) which is taught to elite military units.  The program was developed during the Cold War, in response to North Korean, Chinese, and Soviet Bloc torture methods.  But the aim of those methods was never to obtain intelligence, but to elicit false confessions.  The Bush administration asked the military to “reverse engineer” the methods, i.e. figure out how to break down resistance to false confessions.

In the 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee reportwhich indicted high-level Bush administration officials, including Rumsfeld, as bearing major responsibility for the torture at Abu Gharib, Guantanamo, and Bagram, the Committee said:

“SERE instructors explained “Biderman’s Principles” — which were based on coercive methods used by the Chinese Communist dictatorship to elicit false confessions from U.S. POWs during the Korean War — and left with GTMO personnel a chart of those coercive techniques.”

The Biderman Principles were based on the work of Air Force Psychiatrist Albert Biderman, who wrote the landmark “Communist Attempts to Elecit False Confessions from Air Force Prisoners of War,” on which SERE resistance was based.  Biderman wrote:

“The experiences of American Air Force prisoners of war in Korea who were pressured for false confessions, enabled us to compile an outline of methods of eliciting compliance, not much different, it turned out, from those reported by persons held by Communists of other nations.  I have prepared a chart showing a condensed version of this outline.”

The chart is a how-to for communist torturers interested only in false confessions for propaganda purposes, not intelligence.  It was the manual for, in Biderman’s words, “brainwashing.”  In the reference for Principle Number 7, “Degradation,” the chart explains:

“Makes Costs of Resistance Appear More Damaging to Self-Esteem than Capitulation; Reduces Prisoner to “Animal Level…Personal Hygiene Prevented; Filthy, Infested Surroundings; Demeaning Punishments; Insults and Taunts; Denial of Privacy”

Appallingly, this could explain that even photos such as those of feces-smeared prisoners at Abu Ghraib might not, as we would hope, be only the individual work of particularly demented guards, but part of systematic degradation authorized at the highest levels.

Exhibit: Abu Ghraib, Female POW

This could go far toward explaining why the Bush administration seemed so tone-deaf to intelligence professionals, including legendary CIA Director William Colby, who essentially told them they were doing it all wrong.  A startling level of consensus existed within the intelligence community that the way to produce good intelligence was to gain the trust of prisoners and to prove everything they had been told by their recruiters, about the cruelty and degeneracy of America, to be wrong.

But why would the administration care about what worked to produce intelligence, if the goal was never intelligence in the first place?  What the Ponzi scheme of either innocent men or low-level operatives incriminating each other  DID accomplish, was produce a framework of rapid successes and trophies in the new War on Terror.

And now, American contractors Vance and Ertel show, unless there are prosecutions, the law has effectively changed and they can do it to Americans. Jane Mayer in the New Yorker describes a new regime for prisoners which has become coldly methodical, quoting a report issued by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, titled “Secret Detentions and Illegal Transfers of Detainees.”  In the report on the CIA paramilitary Special Activities Division detainees were “taken to their cells by strong people who wore black outfits, masks that covered their whole faces, and dark visors over their eyes.”

Mayer writes that a former member of a C.I.A. transport team has described the “takeout” of prisoners as:

“a carefully choreographed twenty-minute routine, during which a suspect was hog-tied, stripped naked, photographed, hooded, sedated with anal suppositories, placed in diapers, and transported by plane to a secret location.”

A person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry, referring to cavity searches and the frequent use of suppositories, likened the treatment to “sodomy.” He said, “It was used to absolutely strip the detainee of any dignity. It breaks down someone’s sense of impenetrability.”

Of course we have seen these images before, in the trial balloon treatment of Jose Padilla, the first American citizen arrested and declared “enemy combatant” in the first undeclared war without end.  The designation placed Padilla outside of his Bill of Rights as an American citizen even though he was arrested on American soil.  Padilla was kept in isolation and tortured for nearly 4 years before being released to a civilian trial, at which point according to his lawyer he was useless in his own defense, and exhibited fear and mistrust of everyone, complete docility, and a range of nervous facial tics.

Jose Padilla in Military Custody

Rumsfeld’s avuncular “golly-gee, gee-whiz”  performances in public are legendary.  Randall M. Schmidt, the Air Force Lieutenant General appointed by the Army to investigate abuses at Guantanamo, and who recommended holding Rumsfeld protege and close associate General Geoffrey Miller “accountable” as the commander of Guantanamo, watched Rumsfeld’s performance before a House Committee with some interest. “He was going, “My God! Did I authorize putting a bra and underwear on this guy’s head and telling him all his buddies knew he was a homosexual?’ ”

But General Taguba said of Rumsfeld: “Rummy did what we called “case law’ policy — verbal and not in writing. What he’s really saying is that if this decision comes back to haunt me I’ll deny it.”

Taguba went on: “Rumsfeld is very perceptive and has a mind like a steel trap. There’s no way he’s suffering from C.R.S.–Can’t Remember sh*t.”

Miller was the general deployed by Rumsfeld to “Gitmo-ize” Abu Ghraib in 2003 after Rumsfeld had determined they were being too “soft” on prisoners.  He said famously in one memo “you have to treat them like dogs.”  General Karpinski questioned the fall of Charles Graner and Lyndie England as the main focus of low-level “bad apple” abuse in the Abu Ghraib investigations.  “Did Lyndie England deploy with a dog leash?” she asks.

Exhibit: Dog deployed at Abu Ghraib, mentally-ill prisoner

Abu Ghraib prisoner in “restraint” chair, screaming “Allah!!”

Rumsfeld’s worry now is the doctrine of Universal Jurisdiction, as well as ordinary common law.  The veil of immunity stripped in civil cases would seem to free the hand of any prosecutor who determines there is sufficient evidence that a crime has been committed based on available evidence.  A grand jury’s bar for opening a prosecution is minimal.  It has been said “a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich.”  Rumsfeld, and the evidence against him, would certainly seem to pass this test.

The name Dilawar translates to English roughly as “Braveheart.”  Let us pray he had one to endure the manner of his death.  But the more spiritual may believe that somehow it had a purpose, to shock the world and begin the toppling of unimaginable evil among us.  Dilawar represented the poorest of the poor and most powerless, wanting only to pick up his three sisters, as his mother had told him to, for the holiday.  The question now is whether Americans will finally draw a line, as the case against Rumsfeld falls into place and becomes legally bulletproof.  Andy Worthington noted that the case for prosecutors became rock solid when Susan Crawford, senior Pentagon official overseeing the Military Commissions at Guantánamo — told Bob Woodward that the Bush administration had “met the legal definition of torture.”

As Rumsfeld continues his book tour and people like Dilawar are remembered, it is not beyond the pale that an ambitious prosecutor, whether local, state, or federal, might sense the advantage.  It is perhaps unlikely, but not inconceivable, that upon landing at Logan International Airport on Wed., Sept. 21st, or similarly anywhere he travels thereafter, Rumsfeld could be greeted with the words such as: “Welcome to Boston, Mr. Secretary.  You are under arrest.”

Take action — click here to contact your local newspaper or congress people:
Prosecute Rumsfeld NOW for torture!

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Massachusetts District Attorneys Who Can Indict Rumsfeld, Please Email them this post and call them.SAMPLE INDICTMENT
LEGAL BACKGROUND

RELEVANT US CODE:

a. Conspiracy to torture in violation of the U.S. Code, in both Title 18, Section 2340

b. Conspiracy to commit war crimes including torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, murder, mutilation or maiming and intentionally causing serious bodily injury in violation of Title 18, Section 2441

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley:
email:  Email address removed

One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108 -1518
Phone: (617) 727-2200 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            (617) 727-2200     end_of_the_skype_highlighting

//

And Gov. Duval Patrick has an obligation to order the state police to do the same: CONTACT FORM

Local District Attorneys
Berkshire County: District Attorney David F. Capeless
Elected November 2006
OFFICE ADDRESS:     P.O. Box 973
888 Purchase Street
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Bristol County     District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter
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Cape & Islands     District Attorney Michael O’Keefe
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Essex County: District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett
Elected November 2002
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Hampden     District Attorney Mark Mastroianni
Elected 2010
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Middlesex County: District Attorney Gerard T. Leone, Jr.
Elected November 2006
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Norfolk     District Attorney Michael Morrissey
Elected 2010
OFFICE ADDRESS:     45 Shawmut Ave.
Canton, MA 02021
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Northwestern     District Attorney David Sullivan
Elected 2010
HAMPSHIRE OFFICE ADDRESS:     One Gleason Plaza
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< a href=”http://media.fastclick.net/w/click.here?sid=48406&m=6&c=1&#8243; target=”_blank”><img src=”http://media.fastclick.net/w/get.media?sid=48406&m=6&tp=8&d=s&c=1&#8243; width=300 height=250 border=1></Plymouth     District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz
Appointed November 2001
Elected November 2002
OFFICE ADDRESS:     32 Belmont Street
Brockton, MA 02303
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FAX:     (508) 586-3578
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Suffolk County:     District Attorney Daniel F. Conley
Appointed January 2002
Elected November 2002
OFFICE ADDRESS:     One Bulfinch Place
Boston, MA 02114
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FAX:     (617) 619-4009
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Worcester     District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr.
Elected November 2006
OFFICE ADDRESS:     Courthouse – Room 220
2 Main Street
Worcester, MA 01608
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FAX:     (508) 831-9899
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Those Authoritarian, Torture-Loving French March 18, 2010

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(Roger’s note: what Greenwald reports here is truly frightening.  There is probably no more fundamental precept in criminal justice than habeas corpus.  The idea that any individual, be it the President of the United States, has the right to put you in jail and throw away the key – that goes against the most precious safeguard we have.  Toward the end of this article we see that McCain and Lieberman and Obama apparently are in the process of creating legislation that will do just that.  The founding documents of the country reflected a healthy fear of governmental authority; the Bill of Rights, in particular, was created to grant protection against the misuse and arbitrary application of authority.  The Bush and Obama administrations have taken giant steps toward obliterating these fundamental protections.  These are ominous signs.)

Published on Thursday, March 18, 2010 by Salon.comby Glenn Greenwald

French documentarians conducted an experiment where they created a faux game show — with all the typical studio trappings — and then instructed participants (who believed it was a real TV program) to administer electric shock to unseen contestants each time they answered questions incorrectly, with increasing potency for each wrong answer.  Even as the unseen contestants (who were actors) screamed in agony and pleaded for mercy — and even once they went silent and were presumably dead — 81% of the participants continued to obey the instructions of the authority-figure/host and kept administering higher and higher levels of electric shock.  The experiment was a replica of the one conducted in 1961 by Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram, where 65% of participants obeyed instructions from a designated authority figure to administer electric shock to unseen individuals, and never stopped obeying even as they heard excruciating screams and then silence.  This new French experiment was designed to measure the added power of television to place people into submission to authority and induce them to administer torture.

None of this should be at all surprising to anyone who has observed, first, the American political and media class, and then large swaths of the American citizenry, enthusiastically embrace what was once the absolute taboo against torture, all because Government officials decreed that it was necessary to Stop the Terrorists.  But I just watched an amazing discussion of this French experiment on Fox News.  The Fox anchors — Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum — were shocked and outraged that these French people could be induced by the power of television to embrace torture. 

Speaking as employees of the corporation that produced the highly influential, torture-glorifying 24, and on the channel that has churned out years worth of pro-torture “news” advocacy, the anchors were particularly astonished that television could play such a powerful role in influencing people’s views and getting them to acquiesce to such heinous acts.  Ultimately, they speculated that perhaps it was something unique about the character and psychology of the French that made them so susceptible to external influences and so willing to submit to amoral authority, just like many of them submitted to and even supported the Nazis, they explained.  I kept waiting for them to make the connection to America’s torture policies and Fox’s support for it — if only to explain to their own game show participants at home Fox News viewers why that was totally different — but it really seemed the connection just never occurred to them.  They just prattled away — shocked, horrified and blissfully un-self-aware — about the evils of torture and mindless submission to authority and the role television plays in all of that.

Meanwhile, the bill recently introduced by Joe Lieberman and John McCain — the so-called “Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act” — now has 9 co-sponsors, including the newly elected Scott Brown.  It’s probably the single most extremist, tyrannical and dangerous bill introduced in the Senate in the last several decades, far beyond the horrific, habeas-abolishing Military Commissions Act.  It literally empowers the President to imprison anyone he wants in his sole discretion by simply decreeing them a Terrorist suspect — including American citizens arrested on U.S. soil.  The bill requires that all such individuals be placed in military custody, and explicitly says that they “may be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners,” which everyone expects to last decades, at least.  It’s basically a bill designed to formally authorize what the Bush administration did to American citizen Jose Padilla — arrest him on U.S. soil and imprison him for years in military custody with no charges. 

This bill has produced barely a ripple of controversy, its two main sponsors will continue to be treated as Serious Centrists and feted on Sunday shows, and it’s hard to imagine any real resistance to its passage.  Isn’t it shocking how easily led and authoritarian the French are?  

UPDATE:  Led by people like Rush Limbaugh, the American Right celebrated even the most extreme torture brutalities, such as those at Abu Ghraib, by embracing them as “a good time,” an “emotional release,” “blowing off steam,” a “fraternity prank,” and S&M pornography.  At least the contestants in the French show acquiesced to torture reluctantly and even with resistance, rather than with the demented pleasure, vicarious sensations of power, 24-type entertainment, and primal arousal which many disturbed individuals on the American Right derive from it.  And, as always, no discussion of the American torture and detention regime is complete without noting that the vast majority subjected to its horrors was completely innocent.

As for the McCain/Lieberman atrocity, it’s been reported that the Obama White House (a) is actively negotiating with Lindsey Graham on a bill to provide for indefinite detention power and (b) has already designated numerous detainees to be held indefinitely with no charges of any kind.  It remains to be seen what their (and, then, their supporters’) position on this bill will be.

© 2010 Salon.com

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.

Wash Post: Obama Drafting Orders to Defy Habeas Corpus June 27, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice.
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ProPublica and Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 27, 2009

 Submitted by Josh Mitteldorf, www.opednews.com

Obama administration officials, fearing a battle with Congress that could stall plans to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, are crafting language for an executive order that would reassert presidential authority to incarcerate terrorism suspects indefinitely, according to three senior government officials with knowledge of White House deliberations.

Such an order would embrace claims by former president George W. Bush that certain people can be detained without trial for long periods under the laws of war. Obama advisers are concerned that an order, which would bypass Congress, could place the president on weaker footing before the courts and anger key supporters, the officials said.

After months of internal debate over how to close the military facility in Cuba, White House officials are increasingly worried that reaching quick agreement with Congress on a new detention system may be impossible. Several officials said there is concern in the White House that the administration may not be able to close the prison by the president’s January deadline.

White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said that there is no executive order and that the administration has not decided whether to issue one. But one administration official suggested that the White House is already trying to build support for an order.

“Civil liberties groups have encouraged the administration, that if a prolonged detention system were to be sought, to do it through executive order,” the official said. Such an order could be rescinded and would not block later efforts to write legislation, but civil liberties groups generally oppose long-term detention, arguing that detainees should be prosecuted or released.

The Justice Department has declined to comment on the prospects for a long-term detention system while internal reviews of Guantanamo detainees’ cases are underway. One task force, which is assessing detainee policy, is expected to complete its work by July 21.

In a May speech, President Obama broached the need for a system of long-term detention and suggested that it would include congressional and judicial oversight. “We must recognize that these detention policies cannot be unbounded. They can’t be based simply on what I or the executive branch decide alone,” he said.

Some of Obama’s top legal advisers, along with a handful of influential Republican and Democratic lawmakers, have pushed for the creation of a “national security court” to supervise the incarceration of detainees deemed too dangerous to release but who cannot be charged or tried.

But the three senior government officials said the White House has turned away from that option, at least for now, because legislation establishing a special court would be difficult to pass and likely to fracture Obama’s party. These officials, as well as others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about internal deliberations.

On the day Obama took office, 242 men were imprisoned at Guantanamo. In his May speech, the president outlined five strategies the administration would use to deal with them: criminal trials, revamped military tribunals, transfers to other countries, releases and continued detention.

Since the inauguration, 11 detainees have been released or transferred, one prisoner committed suicide, and one was moved to New York to face terrorism charges in federal court.

Administration officials said the cases of about half of the remaining 229 detainees have been reviewed for prosecution or release. Two officials involved in a Justice Department review of possible prosecutions said the administration is strongly considering criminal charges in federal court for Khalid Sheik Mohammed and three other detainees accused of involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The other half of the cases, the officials said, present the greatest difficulty because these detainees cannot be prosecuted in federal court or military commissions. In many cases the evidence against them is classified, has been provided by foreign intelligence services or has been tainted by the Bush administration’s use of harsh interrogation techniques.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. agreed with an assessment offered during congressional testimony this month that fewer than 25 percent of the detainees would be charged in criminal courts and that 50 others have been approved for transfer or release. One official said the administration is hoping that as many as 70 Yemeni citizens will be moved, in stages, into a rehabilitation program in Saudi Arabia.

Three months into the Justice Department’s reviews, several officials involved said they have found themselves agreeing with conclusions reached years earlier by the Bush administration: As many as 90 detainees cannot be charged or released.

The White House has spent months meeting with key congressional leaders in the hope of reaching agreement on long-term detention, although public support for such a plan has wavered as lawmakers have sought to prevent detainees from being transferred to their constituencies.

Lawyers for the administration are now in negotiations with Sens. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) and  Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) over separate legislation that would revamp military commissions. A senior Republican staff member said that senators have yet to see “a comprehensive, detailed policy” on long-term detention from the administration.

“They can do it without congressional backing, but I think there would be very strong concerns,” the staff member said, adding that “Congress could cut off funding” for any detention system established in the United States.

Concerns are growing among Obama’s advisers that Congress may try to assert too much control over the process. This week Obama signed an appropriations bill that forces the administration to report to Congress before moving any detainee out of Guantanamo and prevents the White House from using available funds to move detainees onto U.S. soil.

“Legislation could kill Obama’s plans,” said one government official involved. The official said an executive order could be the best option for the president at this juncture.

Under one White House draft that was being discussed this month, according to administration officials, detainees would be imprisoned at a military facility on U.S. soil, but their ongoing detention would be subject to annual presidential review. U.S. citizens would not be held in the system.

Such detainees — those at Guantanamo and those who may be captured in the future — would also have the right to legal representation during confinement and access to some of the information that is being used to keep them behind bars. Anyone detained under this order would have a right to challenge his detention before a judge.

Officials say the plan would give detainees more rights and allow them a better chance than they have now at Guantanamo to one day end their indefinite incarceration.

But some senior Democrats see long-term detention as tantamount to reestablishing the Guantanamo system on U.S. soil. “I think this could be a very big mistake, because of how such a system could be perceived throughout the world,”  Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) told Holder.

One administration official said future transfers to the United States for long-term detention would be rare. Al-Qaeda operatives captured on the battlefield, which the official defined as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and possibly the Horn of Africa, would be held in battlefield facilities. Suspects captured elsewhere in the world could be transferred to the United States for federal prosecution, turned over to local authorities or returned to their home countries.

“Going forward, unless it’s an extraordinary case, you will not see new transfers to the U.S. for indefinite detention,” the official said.

Instituting long-term detention through an executive order would leave Obama vulnerable to charges that he is willing to forsake the legislative branch of government, as his predecessor often did. Bush’s detention policies suffered defeats in the courts in part because they lacked congressional approval and tried to exclude judicial oversight.

“There is no statute prohibiting the president from doing this through executive order, and so far courts have not ruled in ways that would bar him from doing so,” said Matthew Waxman, who worked on detainee issues at the Defense Department during Bush’s first term. But Waxman, who waged a battle inside the Bush administration for more congressional cooperation, said that the “courts are more likely to defer to the president and legislative branch when they speak with one voice on these issues.”

Tawfiq bin Attash, who is accused of involvement in the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 and who was held at a secret CIA prison, could be among those subject to long-term detention, according to one senior official.

Little information on bin Attash’s case has been made public, but officials who have reviewed his file said the Justice Department has concluded that none of the three witnesses against him can be brought to testify in court. One witness, who was jailed in Yemen, escaped several years ago. A second witness remains incarcerated, but the government of Yemen will not allow him to testify.

Administration officials believe that testimony from the only witness in U.S. custody, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, may be inadmissible because he was subjected to harsh interrogation while in CIA custody.

“These issues haven’t morphed simply because the administration changed,” said Juan Zarate, who served as Bush’s deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism and is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“The challenge for the new administration is how to solve these legal questions of preventive detention in a way that is consistent with the Constitution, legitimate in the eyes of the world and doesn’t create security loopholes that cause Congress to worry,” Zarate said.

ProPublica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Washington Post staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

 

 

Obama’s Support for the New Graham-Lieberman Secrecy Law June 1, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Torture.
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(Roger’s note: I don’t know if I was the first person to coin the phrase “Plus ca change … we can believe in,” but if I was, then Obama is making a prophet out of me.  I hasten to add that, not out of any sense of false humility, I wish that it were not true.  What is most disturbing is that the man in whom so many millions of Americans have pinned their hopes is not only giving us “change” that is the “meme chose,” but that — inconceivably — he is going beyond what Bush himself had dared to accomplish.  What this tells me is that there is something really rotten not only in Denmark.  What this tells me that the word “change” will have little meaning as long as it is not preceded by the adjective “revolutionary.”)
 
Published on Monday, June 1, 2009 by Salon.com

by Glenn Greenwald

It was one thing when President Obama reversed himself last month by announcing that he would appeal the Second Circuit’s ruling that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) compelled disclosure of various photographs of detainee abuse sought by the ACLU.  Agree or disagree with Obama’s decision, at least the basic legal framework of transparency was being respected, since Obama’s actions amounted to nothing more than a request that the Supreme Court review whether the mandates of FOIA actually required disclosure in this case.  But now — obviously anticipating that the Government is likely to lose in court again (.pdf) — Obama wants Congress to change FOIA by retroactively narrowing its disclosure requirements, prevent a legal ruling by the courts, and vest himself with brand new secrecy powers under the law which, just as a factual matter, not even George Bush sought for himself. 

The White House is actively supporting a new bill jointly sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman — called The Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act of 2009 — that literally has no purpose other than to allow the government to suppress any “photograph taken between September 11, 2001 and January 22, 2009 relating to the treatment of individuals engaged, captured, or detained after September 11, 2001, by the Armed Forces of the United States in operations outside of the United States.”  As long as the Defense Secretary certifies — with no review possible — that disclosure would “endanger” American citizens or our troops, then the photographs can be suppressed even if FOIA requires disclosure.  The certification lasts 3 years and can be renewed indefinitely.  The Senate passed the bill as an amendment last week.

Just imagine if any other country did this.  Imagine if a foreign government were accused of systematically torturing and otherwise brutally abusing detainees in its custody for years, and there was ample photographic evidence proving the extent and brutality of the abuse.  Further imagine that the country’s judiciary — applying decades-old transparency laws — ruled that the government was legally required to make that evidence public.  But in response, that country’s President demanded that those transparency laws be retroactively changed for no reason other than to explicitly empower him to keep the photographic evidence suppressed, and a compliant Congress then immediately passed a new law empowering the President to suppress that evidence.  What kind of a country passes a law that has no purpose other than to empower its leader to suppress evidence of the torture it inflicted on people?  Read the language of the bill; it doesn’t even hide the fact that its only objective is to empower the President to conceal evidence of war crimes.

That this exact scenario is now happening in the U.S. is all the more remarkable given that the President who is demanding these new suppression powers is the same one who repeatedly vowed “to make his administration the most open and transparent in history.”  After noting the tentative steps Obama has taken to increase transparency, the generally pro-Obama Washington Post Editorial Page today observed: “what makes the administration’s support for the photographic records act so regrettable” is that “Mr. Obama runs the risk of taking two steps back in his quest for more open government.”

What makes all of this even worse is that it is part of a broader trend whereby the Government simply retroactively changes the law whenever it decides it does not want to abide by it.  For decades, we had laws in place authorizing citizens to sue their telecommunication carriers if the telecoms allowed government spying on their communications in violation of the law, but when it was revealed that the telecoms did exactly this, the Congress simply changed the law retroactively so that it no longer applied.  For decades, we had laws imposing civil and criminal liability on government officials who engaged in or authorized torture, but when it was revealed that our government did that, the Congress just retroactively changed the law to protect the torturers.  And now that courts have ruled that our decades-old transparency law compels disclosure of this torture evidence, the Congress is just going to retroactively change the law — again — this time to empower the President to suppress that evidence anyway.

Other than creating an illusion of transparency and accountability, what’s the point of having laws that purport to restrict what the Government can do if political officials just retroactively waive those laws whenever they want?  What’s the point of having a FOIA law if the Government will simply pass a new law exempting itself from FOIA’s mandates any time it loses in court and wants to conceal evidence anyway?   And what conceivable rationale is there for limiting the President’s new secrecy powers to post-9/11 photographs?  Given that anything which reflects poorly on our Government can be said to endanger our troops and American citizens, why stop here?  Why not just have a general power of suppression whereby the President can keep any evidence secret as long as his Defense Secretary decrees that its disclosure will “endanger” the troops?

The debate over whether there is value in disclosing these specific photographs is entirely misplaced.  That isn’t how open government works.  The burden isn’t on citizens to prove that there is value in disclosure.  Everything that government does is supposed to be transparent to the public unless there is a compelling reason for secrecy — and the whole point of FOIA always has been that mere embarrassment, the mere fact that information reflects poorly on our government, isn’t a legitimate ground for concealment.  That’s a critical principle for open government.  This new law explicitly guts that principle.  It institutionalizes the pernicious notion that secrecy is justified where disclosure would reflect badly on the Government and thus “endanger” American citizens and/or our troops.

Combine all of this with the increasingly disturbing spectacle taking place in a California federal court in the Al-Haramain case — where the Obama DOJ is on the verge of being sanctioned by a federal judge for defying the court’s order to make available documents relating to Bush’s illegal eavesdropping activities — and the infatuation with excessive presidential secrecy, the linchpin of government abuse, appears alive and well in the new administration.  Is there really anyone who wants to argue that defiance of a federal court’s order and enacting a new law authorizing suppression of torture evidence — the disclosure of which is compelled both by courts and FOIA — are remotely consistent with anything Obama said he would do, or remotely consistent with what a healthy democratic government would do?

© 2009 Salon.com

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.

When Gibbs Attacks May 29, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Media, Torture.
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Published on Friday, May 29, 2009 by Rebel Reports

After Gen. Taguba Alleges Existence of Prisoner Rape Photos, Robert Gibbs Attacks. . . British Media

by Jeremy Scahill

Wow. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs is really embodying the idea that when the message is devastating, you attack the messenger. Except in this case, Gibbs is not even attacking the messenger, but rather the newspaper that quoted the messenger.

In a major story today, London’s Daily Telegraph quoted Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba describing photos (that the Obama administration is fighting to keep secret), which allegedly depict US personnel raping prisoners, other sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube. “These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency,” Taguba said. Put that statement against this one from the president: In defending his decision to fight the ACLU in its efforts to have the photos publicly released, Obama said on May 13, “I want to emphasize that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational.”

At the White House press briefing [on Thursday], Gibbs lashed out-not at Gen. Taguba, who made the allegation on the record, and not even specifically at the paper that quoted Taguba. Instead, Gibbs went after the entire British media, saying “I think if you do an even moderate Google search (heh) you’re not gonna find many of these newspapers and ‘truth’ within say 25 words of each other:”

“I want to speak generally about some of reports I’ve witnessed over the past few years in the British media and in some ways I’m surprised it filtered down,” Gibbs said. “Let’s just say that if I wanted to look up, if I wanted to read a writeup today of how Manchester United fared last night in the Champions League Cup, I might open up a British newspaper… If I was looking for something that bordered on truthful news, I’m not sure that would be the first stack of clips I picked up.”

No, instead perhaps Gibbs would pick up one of those stellar US papers with spotless track records on “the truth.” He could start with The New York Times, which was basically a conveyor belt for the lies of the Bush administration during the lead up to the Iraq war. Or he could turn to any number of US lie factories masquerading as media outlets.

This is pathetic. Really. Hey, Gibbs, here’s a suggestion: go after Gen. Taguba, a 34 year, decorated military veteran whose career was brought to an end for battling Rumsfeld and the torture machine at the Pentagon. Go after the General who last year (when Bush was still in power) called for prosecutions of the torturers. “There is no longer any doubt that the current administration committed war crimes. The only question is whether those who ordered torture will be held to account,” Taguba wrote in June 2008. Go after him, Gibbs. Call him a liar. Say he is a dirty propagandist that wants to hurt US troops. Oh, right, you can’t. Taguba actually agrees with Obama on this issue, as he told the lying, evil British media:

“I am not sure what purpose their release would serve other than a legal one and the consequence would be to imperil our troops, the only protectors of our foreign policy, when we most need them.”

I’ll wait to see if the Telegraph produces a tape of the interview (they should) or for Gen. Taguba to say he was misquoted before I would even mildly question the veracity of this story. Everything about it rings true to everything Sy Hersh has written, every torture document and photo we have seen thus far and every testimonial we have heard from those former military/intelligence and other government officials with the guts to speak out. As Raw Story pointed out today, this allegation of rape of prisoners is not new:

“The American public needs to understand, we’re talking about rape and murder here,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), telling reporters in 2004 why the Abu Ghraib photos should not be released as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld faced calls for his resignation. “We’re not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience. We’re talking about rape and murder and some very serious charges.”

As for the Pentagon’s statement [Thursday] (reiterated by Gibbs as the official US line on this story) that the Telegraph “demonstrated an inability to get the facts right,” here is what I say: the Pentagon, whose personnel allegedly commited the torture described by Gen. Taguba, is not an independent observer here to say the least. In fact, the Pentagon has “demonstrated an inability to get the facts right.”

© 2009 Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill is the author of the New York Times bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is currently a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.

How Torture Trapped Colin Powell May 19, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Dick Cheney, Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture, War.
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Ray McGovern

www.consortiumnews.com, May 18, 2009

Four days before trying to sell the invasion of Iraq to the United Nations, Secretary of State Colin Powell was ready to scrap dubious allegations about Saddam Hussein’s ties to al-Qaeda but was dissuaded by top CIA officials who cited a new “bombshell” that now appears to have been derived from torture, a top Powell aide says.

 

Retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was then Powell’s chief of staff, said the key moment occurred on Feb. 1, 2003, as the two men labored at the CIA over Powell’s presentation to the U.N. Security Council set for Feb. 5.

“Powell and I had a one-on-one — no one else even in the room — about his angst over what was a rather dull recounting of several old stories about Al Qa’ida-Baghdad ties [in the draft speech],” Wilkerson said. “I agreed with him that what we had was bull___t, and Powell decided to eliminate all mention of terrorist contacts between AQ and Baghdad.

“Within an hour, [CIA Director George] Tenet and [CIA Deputy Director John] McLaughlin dropped a bombshell on the table in the [CIA] director’s Conference Room: a high-level AQ detainee had just revealed under interrogation substantive contacts between AQ and Baghdad, including Iraqis training AQ operatives in the use of chemical and biological weapons.”

Though Tenet and McLaughlin wouldn’t give Powell the identity of the al-Qaeda source, Wilkerson said he now understands that it was Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, an al-Qaeda operative who later claimed he gave the CIA false information in the face of actual and threatened torture.

Not realizing that the new intelligence was tainted, “Powell changed his mind and this information was included in his UNSC presentation, along with some more general information from the previous text about Baghdad’s terrorist tendencies,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson’s account underscores how the Bush administration’s reliance on harsh interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects influenced the rush to war with Iraq, while also pointing out how the need to justify the war gave impetus to the use of torture for extracting information.

Sealing the Deal

Powell, whose credibility essentially sealed the deal for war as far as millions of Americans were concerned, also appears to have let himself be manipulated by senior CIA officials who kept him in the dark about crucial details, including the fact that the Defense Intelligence Agency doubted al-Libi’s credibility.

“As you can see, nowhere were we told that the high-level AQ operative had a name, or that he had been interrogated [in Egypt] with no US personnel present or much earlier rather than just recently (the clear implication of Tenet’s breathtaking delivery),” Wilkerson said.

“And not a single dissent was mentioned (later we learned of the DIA dissent) … All of this was hidden from us – the specific identity, we were informed, due to the desire to protect sources and methods as well as a cooperative foreign intelligence service. …

“As for me in particular, I learned the identity of al-Libi only in 2004 and of the DIA dissent about the same time, of al-Libi’s recanting slightly later, and of the entire affair’s probably being a Tenet-McLaughlin fabrication – to at least a certain extent – only after I began to put some things together and to receive reinforcement of the ‘fabrication’ theme from other examples.”

Among those other examples, Wilkerson said, was the case of an Iraqi “defector” codenamed Curveball, who supplied false intelligence about mobile labs for making biological and chemical weapons, and various Iraqi walk-ins who spun bogus stories about an Iraqi nuclear weapons program.

Though some of those sources appear to have concocted their tales after being recruited by the pro-invasion exiles of the Iraqi National Congress, al-Libi told his stories – he later claimed – to avoid or stop torture, a central point in the current debate about whether torture saved American lives.

For those of you distracted by the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) spotlight on “what-did-Pelosi-know-about-torture-and-when-did-she- know-it,” please turn off the TV long enough to ponder the case of the recently departed al-Libi, who reportedly died in a Libyan prison, a purported suicide.

The al-Libi case might help you understand why, even though information from torture is notoriously unreliable, President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the sycophants running U.S. intelligence ordered it anyway.

In short, if it is untruthful information you are after, torture can work just fine! As the distinguished Senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham put it during a Senate hearing on May 13 — with a hat-tip to the Inquisition — “One of the reasons these techniques have been used for about 500 years is that they work.”

All you really need to know is what you want the victims to “confess” to and then torture them, or render them abroad to “friendly” intelligence services toward the same end.

Poster Child for Torture

Al-Libi, born in 1963 in Libya, ran an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan from 1995 to 2000. He was detained in Pakistan on Nov. 11, 2001, and then sent to a U.S. detention facility in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was deemed a prize catch, since he would know of any Iraqi training of al-Qaeda.

The CIA successfully fought off the FBI for first rights to interrogate al-Libi. FBI’s Dan Coleman, who “lost” al-Libi to the CIA (at whose orders, I wonder?), said, “Administration officials were always pushing us to come up with links” between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

Meanwhile, at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, Maj. Paul Burney, a psychiatrist sent there in summer 2002, told the Senate, “A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq and we were not successful.

“The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link … there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results.”

CIA interrogators elicited some “cooperation” from al-Libi through a combination of rough treatment and threats that he would be turned over to Egyptian intelligence with even greater experience in the torture business.

By June 2002, al-Libi had told the CIA that Iraq had “provided” unspecified chemical and biological weapons training for two al-Qaeda operatives, an allegation that soon found its way into other U.S. intelligence reports. Al-Libi’s claim was well received even though the DIA was suspicious.

“He lacks specific details” about the supposed training, the DIA observed. “It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers. Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest.”

Despite his cooperation, al-Libi was still shipped to Egypt where he underwent more abuse, according to a declassified CIA cable from 2004 when al-Libi recanted his earlier statements. The cable reported that al-Libi said Egyptian interrogators wanted information about al-Qaeda’s connections with Iraq, a subject “about which [al-Libi] said he knew nothing and had difficulty even coming up with a story.”

According to the CIA cable, al-Libi said his interrogators did not like his responses and “placed him in a small box” for about 17 hours. After he was let out of the box, al-Libi was given a last chance to “tell the truth.”

When his answers still did not satisfy, al-Libi says he “was knocked over with an arm thrust across his chest and fell on his back” and then was “punched for 15 minutes.”

And, as Sen. Graham noted, that stuff really works! For it was then that al-Libi expanded on his tales about collaboration between al-Qaeda and Iraq, adding that three al-Qaeda operatives had gone to Iraq “to learn about nuclear weapons.” Afterwards, he said his treatment improved.

Al-Libi’s stories misinformed Colin Powell’s U.N. speech, which sought to establish a “sinister nexus” between Iraq and al-Qaeda to justify invading Iraq.

Al-Libi recanted his claims in January 2004. That prompted the CIA, a month later, to recall all intelligence reports based on his statements, a fact recorded in a footnote to the report issued by the 9/11 Commission.

Bear in mind that before the attack on Iraq on March 19, 2003, polls showed that some 70 percent Americans believed that Saddam Hussein had operational ties with al-Qaeda and thus was partly responsible for the attacks of 9/11.

Just What the Doctor Ordered

George Bush relied on al-Libi’s false confession for his crucial speech in Cincinnati on Oct.  7, 2002, just a few days before Congress voted on the Iraq War resolution. Bush declared, “We’ve learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and deadly gases.”

Colin Powell relied on it for his crucial speech to the U.N. on Feb. 5, 2003. He said: “I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these [chemical and biological] weapons to al-Qaeda. Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story.”

For a while, al-Libi was practically the poster boy for the success of the Cheney/Bush torture regime; that is, until he publicly recanted and explained that he only told his interrogators what he thought would stop the torture.

In his disingenuous memoir, At the Center of the Storm, Tenet sought to defend the CIA’s use of the claims made by al-Libi in the run-up to the Iraq war, suggesting that al-Libi’s later recantation may not have been genuine.

“He clearly lied,” Tenet writes in his book. “We just don’t know when. Did he lie when he first said that Al Qaeda members received training in Iraq or did he lie when he said they did not? In my mind, either case might still be true.”

Really; that’s what Tenet writes.

Tenet’s stubborn faith in the CIA’s “product” reflects the reality that he is not a disinterested observer. If there was a CIA plan to extract a false confession, it’s likely he was a key participant.

After all, he devoted 2002-03 to the mission of manufacturing a “slam-dunk” case for invading Iraq in order to please his bosses. He had both the motive and the opportunity to commit this crime.

Well, if al-Libi is now dead — strangely our embassy in Tripoli was unable to find out for sure — this means the world will never hear his own account of the torture he experienced and the story he made up and then recanted. 

And we will all be asked to believe he “committed suicide” even though it is apparently true that al-Libi was a devout Muslim and Islam prohibits suicide.

Hafed al-Ghwell, a Libyan-American and a prominent critic of the Gaddafi regime, explained to Newsweek, “This idea of committing suicide in your prison cell is an old story in Libya.”

He added that, throughout Gaddafi’s 40-year rule, there had been several instances in which political prisoners were reported to have committed suicide, but that “then the families get the bodies back and discover the prisoners had been shot in the back or tortured to death.”

Am I suggesting…?

Anatomy of a Crime

Commenting on what he called the “Cheney interrogation techniques,” Col. Wilkerson, writing for The Washington Note on May 13, made the following observations:

“…as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 — well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion — its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but on discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq to al-Qaeda.

“So furious was this effort on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney’s office that their detainee ‘was compliant’ (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP’s office ordered them to continue the advanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa’ida-Baghdad contacts yet.

“This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, ‘revealed’ such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.”

Stung by Wilkerson’s criticism of her father, Liz Cheney, who worked in the State Department during the last administration, lashed out at Wilkerson, charging he has made “a cottage industry out of fantasies” about the former Vice President.

All that Ms. Cheney could manage in rebuttal, though, was to point out that al-Libi was not among the three al-Qaeda figures that the U.S. has admitted to waterboarding.

After his article in The Washington Note, I asked Col. Wilkerson for a retrospective look at how it could have been that the torture-derived information from al-Libi was not recognized for what it was and thus kept out of Secretary Powell’s speech at the UN.

Since al-Libi had been captured over a year before the speech and had been put at the tender mercies of the Egyptian intelligence service, should he and Powell not have suspected that al-Libi had been tortured?

Wilkerson responded by e-mail with the comments cited above regarding Tenet and McLaughlin interrupting Powell’s evaluation of the Iraqi WMD intelligence with their new – vaguely sourced –“bombshell.”

I asked Col. Wilkerson:  “Were there no others from the State Department with you at CIA headquarters on Feb. 1, 2003. Was INR [State’s very professional, incorruptible intelligence unit] not represented? He answered:

“When I gathered ‘my team’ – some were selected for me, such as Will Toby from Bob Joseph’s NSC staff and John Hannah from the VP’s office – in my office at State to give them an initial briefing and marching orders, I asked Carl [Ford, head of INR] to attend.  I wanted Carl – or even more so, one of his deputies whom I knew well and trusted completely, Tom Fingar – to be on ‘my team’.

“Carl stayed after the meeting and I asked him straightforwardly to come with me or to send someone from INR. Carl said that he did not need to come nor to send anyone because he had the Secretary’s ear (he was right on that) and could weigh in at any time he wanted to.

“Moreover, he told me, the Secretary knew very well where INR stood, as did I myself (he was right on that too).

“As I look back, I believe one of my gravest errors was in not insisting that INR send someone with me.

“Fascinating and completely puzzling at first was the total absence of a Department of Defense representative on my team; however, after 3-4 days and nights I figured out … DoD was covering its own butt, to an extent, by having no direct fingerprints on the affair — and being directly wired into Cheney’s office, Rumsfeld’s folks knew they were protected by Toby and Hannah.

“When we all arrived at CIA, we were given the NIC [National Intelligence Council] spaces and staff. [But] I could not even get on a computer!! Protests to Tenet and McLaughlin got me perfunctory CIA-blah blah about security clearances, etc. — and me with 7 days and nights to prepare a monumentally important presentation! …

“[It took] 24 hours before George or John acknowledged I could be on a computer…. From there on, it was a madhouse.

“But at the end of the day, had I had an INR rep, had I had better support, had I been more concerned with WHAT I was assembling rather than HOW on earth I would assemble it and present it on time, I’m not sure at all it would have made any difference in the march to war.”

Not the Only Crime

So there you have it folks, the anatomy of a crime — one of several such, I might add.

Mention of Carl Ford and Tenet and McLaughlin remind me of another episode that has gone down in the annals of intelligence as almost equally contemptible. This one had to do with CIA’s furious attempt to prove there were mobile biological weapons labs of the kind Curveball had described.

Remember, Tenet and McLaughlin had been warned about Curveball long before they let then-Secretary of State Powell shame himself, and the rest of us, by peddling Curveball’s wares at the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003.

But the amateur attempts at deception did not stop there. After the war began, CIA intrepid analysts, still “leaning forward,” misrepresented a tractor-trailer found in Iraq outfitted with industrial equipment as one of the mobile bio-labs.

On May 28, 2003, CIA analysts cooked up a fraudulent six-page report claiming that the trailer discovered earlier in May was proof they had been right about Iraq’s “bio-weapons labs.”

They then performed what could be called a “night-time requisition,” getting the only Defense Intelligence Agency analyst sympathetic to their position to provide DIA “coordination,” (which was subsequently withdrawn by DIA).

On May 29, President George W. Bush, visiting Poland, proudly announced on Polish TV, “We have found the weapons of mass destruction.” [For a contemporaneous debunking of the CIA-DIA report, see Consortiumnews.com’s “America’s Matrix.”]

When the State Department’s Intelligence and Research (INR) analysts realized that this was not some kind of Polish joke, they “went ballistic,” according to Carl Ford, who immediately warned Powell there was a problem.

Tenet must have learned of this quickly, for he called Ford on the carpet, literally, the following day. No shrinking violet, Ford held his ground. He told Tenet and McLaughlin, “That report is one of the worst intelligence assessments I’ve ever read.”

This vignette — and several like it — are found in Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, who say Ford is still angry over the fraudulent paper.

Ford told the authors: “It was clear that they [Tenet and McLaughlin] had been personally involved in the preparation of the report… It wasn’t just that it was wrong. They lied.”

Too bad Carl Ford made the incorrect assumption that he could rely on his credibility and entrée with Secretary Powell to thwart the likes of Tenet and McLaughlin, as they peddled their meretricious wares at CIA headquarters — with Col. Wilkerson left to twist in the wind, so to speak.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour. He served in all four directorates of the CIA, mostly as an analyst, and is now a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).