jump to navigation

The Torturers Speak July 24, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Torture, War on Terror.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: I often post articles and write on the theme of the United States as an imperial power which through economic and military might creates death and misery around the globe.  This, of course, is counter to the narrative that we learned in school and still thrives in popular culture that sees the U.S. as the “leader of the free world,” the world’s greatest champion of freedom and democracy.

Torture as the official policy of the United States government of Cheney/Bush was done away with under the presidency of Barack Obama, but it is poised to come back again under Trump.  This would not have been possible if Cheney, Bush and the rest of the Inquisition regime had been held legally criminally accountable.  Obama’s rationalization that it is better to look ahead rather that backwards is one of the most vacuous and disingenuous statements I have ever heard coming out of the mouth of a politician (and that is saying a lot).  And later he added, as if he was shooting the shit over cocktails, “yeah, we tortured some folks.”  

America the Beautiful. 

 

157365_600

The Editorial Board, New York Times, June 23, 2917

It’s hard to watch the videotaped depositions of the two former military psychologists who, working as independent contractors, designed, oversaw and helped carry out the “enhanced interrogation” of detainees held at C.I.A. black sites in the months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The men, Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, strike a professional pose. Dressed in suits and ties, speaking matter-of-factly, they describe the barbaric acts they and others inflicted on the captives, who were swept up indiscriminately and then waterboarded, slammed into walls, locked in coffins and more — all in the hunt for intelligence that few, if any, of them possessed. One died of apparent hypothermia. Many others were ultimately released without charge.

When pushed to confront the horror and uselessness of what they had done, the psychologists fell back on one of the oldest justifications of wartime. “We were soldiers doing what we were instructed to do,” Dr. Jessen said. Perhaps, but they were also soldiers whose contracting business was paid more than $81 million.

24sat1web-master675

Still image taken from a video deposition of Dr. James Mitchell.

The Times on Tuesday published the depositions, taken earlier this year in the course of a federal lawsuit brought against Dr. Jessen and Dr. Mitchell by two former detainees and the family of a third who died in C.I.A. custody in Afghanistan. The psychologists may be the only two people to face any meaningful legal consequences for their role in one of the darkest periods of recent American history. A federal civil trial is set to start Sept. 5 in Spokane, Wash.

The details of the treatment of dozens of detainees at the hands of American intelligence contractors are by now widely known, yet it is still chilling to watch Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Jessen rationalize their use of techniques that the C.I.A.’s top lawyer at the time called “sadistic and terrifying.”

“I thought he would be uncomfortable,” Dr. Mitchell said of waterboarding, in which torturers simulate the sensation of drowning by pouring water over a cloth covering a person’s face. “It sucks. I don’t know that it’s painful, but it’s distressing.” Dr. Mitchell once said detainees would rather have their legs broken. A 2002 cable described the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah, who officials wrongly believed was a leader of Al Qaeda, and who was subjected to the procedure 83 times over a matter of days. “At the onset of involuntary stomach and leg spasms, subject was again elevated to clear his airway, which was followed by hysterical pleas. Subject was distressed to the level that he was unable to effectively communicate or adequately engage the team.”

Mr. Zubaydah did give interrogators key information about the Sept. 11 plot — not as a result of the waterboarding, but in response to traditional interrogation methods. Yet, thinking he might have more, torturers forged ahead with Mr. Zubaydah and with others, confident that physical abuse would lead to actionable intelligence. Some detainees were handcuffed to a bar on the wall so they could not rest or lie down for days at a time. During his own deposition, Jose Rodriguez, a top C.I.A. official who destroyed videotapes of the interrogations because of what he called their “ugly visuals,” compared the abuse to a gym workout. When Suleiman Salim, one of the plaintiffs suing the psychologists, was asked to describe his experience, he broke down in tears.

Even now, the psychologists claim that their techniques, which have been banned, caused no lasting damage. But Mr. Salim, like many other former detainees, still suffers psychological harm — including nightmares, flashbacks, headaches and sleeplessness.

Dr. Jessen admitted to some discomfort with the program he helped devise. “Jim and I didn’t want to continue doing what we were doing,” he said in his deposition. But the pressure from intelligence officials was intense. “They kept telling me every day a nuclear bomb was going to be exploded in the United States and that because I had told them to stop, I had lost my nerve and it was going to be my fault if I didn’t continue.”

The full story of what happened under the torture program may never be made public. Earlier this month, the Trump administration began returningcopies of a 2014 Senate classified report on torture to Congress, where it may be locked away for good. Meanwhile, President Trump, with no expertise on torture and its sad history, has at times promised to bring back waterboarding and other techniques banned by President Obama.

Many people bear responsibility for the depravity of the torture program, but most will never suffer any legal consequences. The suit against Dr. Jessen and Dr. Mitchell may be the last opportunity for some accountability.

Report: Senate Report on CIA Will Sidestep Look at Bush ‘Torture Team’ October 19, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture, War on Terror.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

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.

 

Published on
by

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

 rumsfeld_bush_cheneyFrom left: Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney. Thanks to an Obama adminstration that insisted on “looking forward, not backward” on torture, and a Senate investigation that has limited its scope to the mere “action or inactions” of the CIA, neither these men nor the others who helped authorize the torture program will likely ever face prosecution for what experts say were clear violations of domestic and international law. (Photo: Wikimedia/Public domain)

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.

After Guantánamo, Another Injustice August 12, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: I am an unrepentant Grisham addict.  In addition to being a page-turning novelist, he writes about and combats injustice.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A restraint chair used to force-feed detainees at the military hospital at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

ABOUT two months ago I learned that some of my books had been banned at Guantánamo Bay. Apparently detainees were requesting them, and their lawyers were delivering them to the prison, but they were not being allowed in because of “impermissible content.”

I became curious and tracked down a detainee who enjoys my books. His name is Nabil Hadjarab, and he is a 34-year-old Algerian who grew up in France. He learned to speak French before he learned to speak Arabic. He has close family and friends in France, but not in Algeria. As a kid growing up near Lyon, he was a gifted soccer player and dreamed of playing for Paris St.-Germain, or another top French club.

Tragically for Nabil, he has spent the past 11 years as a prisoner at Guantánamo, much of the time in solitary confinement. Starting in February, he participated in a hunger strike, which led to his being force-fed.

For reasons that had nothing to do with terror, war or criminal behavior, Nabil was living peacefully in an Algerian guesthouse in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sept. 11, 2001. Following the United States invasion, word spread among the Arab communities that the Afghan Northern Alliance was rounding up and killing foreign Arabs. Nabil and many others headed for Pakistan in a desperate effort to escape the danger. En route, he said, he was wounded in a bombing raid and woke up in a hospital in Jalalabad.

At that time, the United States was throwing money at anyone who could deliver an out-of-town Arab found in the region. Nabil was sold to the United States for a bounty of $5,000 and taken to an underground prison in Kabul. There he experienced torture for the first time. To house the prisoners of its war on terror, the United States military put up a makeshift prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Bagram would quickly become notorious, and make Guantánamo look like a church camp. When Nabil arrived there in January 2002, as one of the first prisoners, there were no walls, only razor-wire cages. In the bitter cold, Nabil was forced to sleep on concrete floors without cover. Food and water were scarce. To and from his frequent interrogations, Nabil was beaten by United States soldiers and dragged up and down concrete stairs. Other prisoners died. After a month in Bagram, Nabil was transferred to a prison at Kandahar, where the abuse continued.

Throughout his incarceration in Afghanistan, Nabil strenuously denied any connection to Al Qaeda, the Taliban or anyone or any organization remotely linked to the 9/11 attacks. And the Americans had no proof of his involvement, save for bogus claims implicating him from other prisoners extracted in a Kabul torture chamber. Several United States interrogators told him his was a case of mistaken identity. Nonetheless, the United States had adopted strict rules for Arabs in custody — all were to be sent to Guantánamo. On Feb. 15, 2002, Nabil was flown to Cuba; shackled, bound and hooded.

Since then, Nabil has been subjected to all the horrors of the Gitmo handbook: sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, temperature extremes, prolonged isolation, lack of access to sunlight, almost no recreation and limited medical care. In 11 years, he has never been permitted a visit from a family member. For reasons known only to the men who run the prison, Nabil has never been waterboarded. His lawyer believes this is because he knows nothing and has nothing to give.

The United States government says otherwise. In documents, military prosecutors say that Nabil was staying at a guesthouse run by people with ties to Al Qaeda and that he was named by others as someone affiliated with terrorists. But Nabil has never been charged with a crime. Indeed, on two occasions he has been cleared for a “transfer,” or release. In 2007, a review board established by President George W. Bush recommended his release. Nothing happened. In 2009, another review board established by President Obama recommended his transfer. Nothing happened.

According to his guards, Nabil is a model prisoner. He keeps his head down and avoids trouble. He has perfected his English and insists on speaking the language with his British lawyers. He writes in flawless English. As much as possible, under rather dire circumstances, he has fought to preserve his physical health and mental stability.

In the past seven years, I have met a number of innocent men who were sent to death row, as part of my work with the Innocence Project, which works to free wrongly convicted people. Without exception they have told me that the harshness of isolated confinement is brutal for a coldblooded murderer who freely admits to his crimes. For an innocent man, though, death row will shove him dangerously close to insanity. You reach a point where it feels impossible to survive another day.

DEPRESSED and driven to the point of desperation, Nabil joined a hunger strike in February. This was not Gitmo’s first hunger strike, but it has attracted the most attention. As it gained momentum, and as Nabil and his fellow prisoners got sicker, the Obama administration was backed into a corner. The president has taken justified heat as his bold and eloquent campaign promises to close Gitmo have been forgotten. Suddenly, he was faced with the gruesome prospect of prisoners dropping like flies as they starved themselves to death while the world watched. Instead of releasing Nabil and the other prisoners who have been classified as no threat to the United States, the administration decided to prevent suicides by force-feeding the strikers.

Nabil has not been the only “mistake” in our war on terror. Hundreds of other Arabs have been sent to Gitmo, chewed up by the system there, never charged and eventually transferred back to their home countries. (These transfers are carried out as secretly and as quietly as possible.) There have been no apologies, no official statements of regret, no compensation, nothing of the sort. The United States was dead wrong, but no one can admit it.

In Nabil’s case, the United States military and intelligence agents relied on corrupt informants who were raking in American cash, or even worse, jailhouse snitches who swapped false stories for candy bars, porn and sometimes just a break from their own beatings.

Last week, the Obama administration announced that it was transferring some more Arab prisoners back to Algeria. It is likely that Nabil will be one of them, and if that happens another tragic mistake will be made. His nightmare will only continue. He will be homeless. He will have no support to reintegrate him into a society where many will be hostile to a former Gitmo detainee, either on the assumption that he is an extremist or because he refuses to join the extremist opposition to the Algerian government. Instead of showing some guts and admitting they were wrong, the American authorities will whisk him away, dump him on the streets of Algiers and wash their hands.

What should they do? Or what should we do?

First, admit the mistake and make the apology. Second, provide compensation. United States taxpayers have spent $2 million a year for 11 years to keep Nabil at Gitmo; give the guy a few thousand bucks to get on his feet. Third, pressure the French to allow his re-entry.

This sounds simple, but it will never happen.

A lawyer and author of the forthcoming novel “Sycamore Row.”

  • Save
  • E-mail
  • Share

250 Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

Newest

Comments Closed

    • Earthling
    • A Small Blue Planet, Milky Way Galaxy

    Who would have thought we would ever hear a United States Attorney General justify and condone torture and the USA would become a torturing nation? And whatever happened to the concept of a speedy and public trial? What is wrong with the US Justice Department that it cannot get it together to try or release prisoners in over a decade?

    Police, guards, soldiers, interrogators promulgate injustice daily on black and brown and poor Americans and on those unfortunate enough to find themselves in the custody of the United States.

    I am ashamed of this nation, of its leadership and its people who allow this. But I do sense the truth of the laws of karma and the national karma that the USA is creating is horrific. When mad gunmen kill theaters full of people, when no place in the nation is safe from the gun nuts and their violence, this is just a small taste of the violence and evil that the USA has meted out to the world.

    It is truly time for a Second American Revolution, but the government has all the firepower and the bureaucrats and autocrats will murder its own people rather than allow freedom and justice to flourish.

    • BSC
    • Canada

    After he left office, Bush had brought horrors on couple of hundred suspects in order to make America safe. The constitution was shredded in the process and thousand or so terrorists have now multiplied into millions through his ill conceived policies and rule. Now we find a book could destroy America. Should we believe all that? For humane laws do not exist in here, the only law is a jungle law. Too tragic for one man rule in age of democracy.

    • Dotconnector
    • New York

    Gitmo is a national disgrace, a symbol of not only inhumanity, but rank hypocrisy.

    • Tom B
    • Lady Lake, Florida

    If we believe Victor Hugo, the author of Les Miserables, it is likely that cops are sometimes wrong, but unable to stop themselves from doing what they do. Kind of like Pit bulls trained to attack. So, I think John Grisham might be right about this poor guy, and right about the Pit bulls, too. On the other hand, the world needs cops, as we also know, and the presumption of guilt does indeed get put ahead of the presumption of innocence.

    • Caspin
    • United States

    Thank you so much, John Grisham! When we say that “this isn’t the country I grew up in,” I believe reading an article like this, written by such a high profile author such as yourself, that this IS the country I believe in. I believe in brave acts such as this, speaking truth despite the hordes who will rally against you for writing it.

    So many are in absolute denial that the nation under the flag they were made to pledge allegiance to since 5 years old is not operating honorably. It seems to be a psychological identification process, whereby the individual has been so identified with the idea of “America” that all negative aspects MUST be denied in order to maintain a certain level of self-esteem to remain intact.

    Anyways, Mr. Grisham, thank you. Thank you for caring and sharing. And may we all help to see the vision through, and create a fund to compensate these falsely accused and detained brothers of ours.

    • Hakuna Matata
    • San Jose

    I remember when Guantanamo just opened, the CIA placed a mole (the young son of a terrorist; the son had a different agenda for his life) in the prison to get some information. There was a Frontline episode on the story. He came out saying what the administration did not want known, namely, that many if not most did not belong there. The CIA ended up dumping him in Canada. The Bush administration and Cheney kept on insisting that everyone in Guantanamo was the worst of the worst and drafted torture memos. And, so it continues with no end in sight. It is truly sad to see how, in the most sophisticated country in the world, mistakes cannot be undone. Do you remember the uproar among the citizenry (and some politicians who should know better) when it was suggested that terrorists be kept in mainland prisons and be tried under the judicial system?

    • Eugene
    • in Oregon
    NYT Pick

    Like several other commenters, I have my doubts that Mr. Hadjarab is as pure and innocent as Mr. Grisham describes him. That said, however, no one seems to have proved — or even alleged — that he committed any sort of crime or engaged in any sort of activity that justifies a the punishment that he has been given. The horror of Guantanamo and the other detention facilities was not simply that Americans engaged in torture (although that was certainly bad enough), but that hundreds have been held without any real justification. Some of those held probably are nasty characters, but absent some sort of trial or other adjudication we are holding these men without any real legal or moral right. If they are terrorists, try them. If they are POWs, follow the relevant international rules. If they are ‘mistakes’, let them go.

    • MAW
    • New Windsor, NY

    Thank you, Mr. Grisham, for parting the clouds on this disgraceful horror perpetrated by my government on what I believe is an innocent man. We are no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave. I am sickened beyond comprehension at this kind of injustice. I hope you will write more, but most of all, I hope this man will be freed and compensated (happily by my tax dollars) for the terrible injustice he has been put through.

    • Richard
    • Camarillo, California

    Thank you, President Obama, for bringing “transparency” and “justice” to our handling of detainees in the “War on Terrorism”. Thanks, too, so much, for closing the illegal and immoral prison at Guantanamo Bay. Great work!

    • Jim O.
    • Charleston, SC

    I am a fan of Mr Grisham’s writing, but I am surprised that, as a lawyer, he apparently accepts Mr Hadjarab’s account of his recent life uncritically and with no substantiating evidence. Since Mr Grisham states that there is nothing to be done about Mr Hadjarab’s case, why in the world would he waste his time writing this article? He gives no motivation in the article.

    • johnaskins
    • San Jose, CA

    The unfulfilled promises of Barack Obama are almost as disheartening as the unrepentance of Dick Cheney. I’m from a generation old enough to remember when we had reason to think of ourselves as the good guys. Hard to believe America has reached this nadir.

    • pibis0
    • Sun City West, AZ

    God bless America, land of the free??????
    What goes around comes around.

    • Citizen
    • Texas

    It is against International law to force feed prisoners. It is considered a form of torture. The military medics and doctors doing this force feeding at Gitmo should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It should also be made perfectly clear that these criminals doing the force feeding are never allowed to practice medicine the rest of their lives. But, of course, none of this well ever happen; the good old boy system in the military will shield and protect these criminals. Their kangaroo courts need to be stopped also. But alas, the great and glorious military are going to do whatever they so choose. They have been given far too much power with no oversight. They’ll be patrolling the American streets any day now if they aren’t stopped. Of course, the excuse given will be that they are protecting us and saving our freedoms and democracy. Right.

    • Benny
    • san diego

    Because of these actions other countries in the world hate us and plans attacks against us. Then when something happens we complaint why there’s so much hate towards us. I’m embarrassed of our Government.

    • Marilynn
    • Las Cruces,NM

    We will be unwinding the judicial system put in place by the Bush Administration to justify the Iraq War for years to come, including closing of Gitmo. , which I believe can only be done with the approval of Congress, thanks to G.W.

    • GMGUERRERO
    • 94010

    Being a big fan of John Grisham does not make him innocent. I’m a big fan of John Grisham.

    • Mariano
    • Argentina

    These things always happen during war. They happen in every war, but the difference is, that years ago they werent so public because media wasn’t so massive like today, but horrible things happen in every conflict.

    USA is at war on terrorism. It’s naive to expect no innocent casualties. I’m very sorry for these innocents, and i hope they can recover. But that’s war. The worst side of humanity.

    • Joel Huizenga
    • San Diego California

    It is now possible to tell if someone is telling a lie or the truth with an fMRI and pattern recognition technology. All of the over 40 original scientific journal articles on this topic conclude this fMRI technology works. There are no original scientific articles that conclude it does not work since this technology has been invented and there has been a lot of desire and financing to do so. People should be allowed to verify their statements, presently they are not. We have started a non-profit to gain this right for individuals. See www.medforlaw.org for information on our organization. If this technology was available to this individual this would not have ever happened.

    • Larry
    • Brussels

    As a US citizen, I feel a patriotic duty to take responsibility for my government’s misdeeds. If it refuses to pay compensation to former GITMO detainees, then I would like to make a personal donation to a charitable fund to be established for that purpose, and I would invite others to do the same.

    • Gudrun
    • Independence, NY

    I read somewhere that the only book that every prisoner gets at Guantanamo is the Koran. Then we wonder why they turn out so extreme after reading nothing else for a decade– why just reading that book and nothing else would be a way to go nuts.

    Now they won’t let them read John Grisham ? People in prison should be able to read a whole lot of books that are deamed inspiring, creative, thoughtful etc etc. Start with Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Grisham, etc etc. the more the merrier.

    • gomez
    • bronx, ny

    There is no modern torture without torturers and psychiatrists to teach them about how the mind ‘ought’ to work under extreme conditions. Who benefits from the ‘knowledge’ acquired under torture? Take a guess.

    More interesting to me is: How do we train THE TORTURERS, what become of them once we released them back to ‘civilian’ life, and how do we live without remorse knowing that our ‘kids’ are now professionally practicing the torture they inflicted to that cat when they were kid. Because, I doubt that any soldier who was an animal lover as a child could have been trained to do this to humans.

    Those are the ones that end up committing suicide. For them, I have a place in my heart.

    https://thecitywidementalhealthproject.wordpress.com/

    • Athenian
    • Danville, CA

    As I read Grisham’s article, I kept wondering, how does he know this is true?

    A prisoner claimed to be innocent? Certainly possible, but where is the proof?

    • Ana
    • Kentucky

    It’s a sick feeling when you know your country has done and continues to do disgusting and immoral activities. It’s a sicker feeling when you realize you can’t do anything about it.

    I don’t understand how a man who made constitutional law his life’s work can allow this kind of thing to continue. With all our military budget, resources for anti-terrorism, and lawyers chomping at the bit to get these prisoners processed and out of our hair (and our headlines), you’d think Obama would have forced a solution by this point. What are we going to do? Continue to keep them there until they (and we) all die of old age?

    • Gudrun
    • Independence, NY

    We have more people in prison than any other country and we cannot afford it. I just read about Lynne F Stewart , lawyer for unpopular clients and she was sentenced to 10 years in prison for smuggling messages from an imprisoned sheik to his violent followers in Egypt. She wants out because she has metastasis of breast cancer– cannot the state take away her law license and let her out for two years served????

    I agree with John Grisham that we need to pay for prisoners who are trying to get back into society and who have not been proven to have done anything wrong in the first place– that payment might prevent these prisoners from becoming terrorists and they might be grateful for getting some kind of monthly stipend and US could follow them if they give a monthly check to them. – good insurance. .

    Let us please be creative in letting people out of jail. Bryant Manning served many years in isolation already and now they want to throw the book at him for hundreds of years– his main crime was that he recorded and passed around a video of US soldiers shooting civilians including Reuter reporters — now who was the criminals in that case?

    However, Mr Zimmerman got no jail at all and killed a person he did not need to kill.

    • Ted
    • Forest Hills

    This is what happens to a foreigner who had the grave misfortune of being labeled a suspected terrorist by the US government. Does anyone doubt what is going to start happening to Americans once someone in the government deems them an undesirable, labels them a terrorist, and has a few incriminating bits of digital evidence against them based on limitless surveillance authority?

    The full force and fury of American police and military powers is a really scary thing. Military and police organizational culture is one where there is very little interest in the protecting the rights of those suspected of crimes. We need to draw a line in the sand and stop these activities now, before they get turned on American citizens at the first chance the executive branch discovers a legal loophole to exploit and keep secret for years.

Read More Comments

Extraordinary Rendition Report Finds More Than 50 Nations Involved In Global Torture Scheme February 5, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

 

Roger’s note: the following article on the Bush/Obama torture regime uses the words “mistake” and “blunder” to describe the infamous barbarism.  Next time you are about to get a traffic ticket or are charged with robbing a bank, tell the judge it was just a mistake or a blunder, and you are certain to be excused.  After all, if government officials can “mistakenly” violate constitutional and international law, you certainly should be able to do the same for “minor” offenses.

 

Joshua Hersh

joshua.hersh@huffingtonpost.com

Posted: 02/04/2013 11:14 pm EST  |  Updated: 02/05/2013 9:26 am EST

 

Extraordinary Rendition

More than 50 nations played a role in the extraordinary rendition of terrorism suspects in the years after 9/11, a new report has found. The program, started under President George W. Bush, involved shipping suspects off to foreign prisons and CIA “black sites,” where they often faced torture. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images/File)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. counterterrorism practice known as extraordinary rendition, in which suspects were quietly moved to secret prisons abroad and often tortured, involved the participation of more than 50 nations, according to a new report to be released Tuesday by the Open Society Foundations.

The OSF report, which offers the first wholesale public accounting of the top-secret program, puts the number of governments that either hosted CIA “black sites,” interrogated or tortured prisoners sent by the U.S., or otherwise collaborated in the program at 54. The report also identifies by name 136 prisoners who were at some point subjected to extraordinary rendition.

The number of nations and the names of those detained provide a stark tally of a program that was expanded widely — critics say recklessly — by the George W. Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and has been heavily condemned in the years since. In December, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, condemned the CIA’s detention and interrogation efforts as “terrible mistakes.”

Although Bush administration officials said they never intentionally sent terrorism suspects abroad in order to be tortured, the countries where the prisoners seemed to end up — Egypt, Libya and Syria, among others — were known to utilize coercive interrogation techniques.

Extraordinary rendition was also a factor in one of the greatest intelligence blunders of the Bush years. Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a Libyan national and top al Qaeda operative who was detained in Pakistan in late 2001, was later sent by the U.S. to Egypt. There, under the threat of torture, he alleged that Saddam Hussein had trained al Qaeda in biological and chemical warfare. He later withdrew the claim, but not before the U.S. invaded Iraq in part based on his faulty testimony.

When he came into office, President Barack Obama pledged to end the U.S. government’s use of torture and issued an executive order closing the CIA’s secret prisons around the world.

But Obama did not fully end the practice of rendition, which permits the U.S. to circumvent any due process obligations for terrorism suspects. Instead, the administration said it was relying on the less certain “diplomatic assurances” of host countries that they would not torture suspects sent to them for pretrial detention.

This decision, the OSF report concludes, was tantamount to continuing the program, since in the absence of any public accounting, it was impossible to measure the accuracy of those “assurances.”

Without any public government records to read, Amrit Singh, the OSF’s top legal analyst for national security and counterterrorism and the new report’s author, turned to news reports, the investigations of a global network of human rights organizations, and the proceedings of a handful of foreign courts that have investigated their own countries’ practices.

What Singh saw was a hasty global effort, spearheaded by the United States in the months after 9/11, to bypass longstanding legal structures in order to confront the emerging threat of international terrorism.

Singh condemned the consequences of that effort in the report’s introduction. “By enlisting the participation of dozens of foreign governments in these violations, the United States further undermined longstanding human rights protections enshrined in international law — including, in particular, the norm against torture,” she wrote.

“Responsibility for this damage does not lie solely with the United States,” Singh added, “but also with the numerous foreign governments without whose participation secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations could not have been carried out.”

The list of those nations includes a range of American allies (Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany) and familiar Middle Eastern partners in the messy fight against radical Islam (Jordan, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates). Their alleged levels of participation vary widely, from countries like Poland, which agreed to host CIA black-site prisons, to nations like Portugal and Finland, which merely allowed their airspace and airports to be used for rendition flights.

A few of the nations involved, such as Australia and Sweden, have begun a process of public accounting and compensation for their roles in the process. Others, including Italy and Macedonia, have recently become embroiled in trials of local officials and CIA agents in absentia over their actions.

 

Torture Crimes Officially, Permanently Shielded July 1, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Published on Friday, July 1, 2011 by Salon.com

In August, 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder — under continuous, aggressive prodding by the Obama White House — announced that three categories of individuals responsible for Bush-era torture crimes would be fully immunized from any form of criminal investigation and prosecution:  (1) Bush officials who ordered the torture (Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld); (2) Bush lawyers who legally approved it (Yoo, Bybee, Levin), and (3) those in the CIA and the military who tortured within the confines of the permission slips they were given by those officials and lawyers (i.e., “good-faith” torturers).  The one exception to this sweeping immunity was that low-level CIA agents and servicemembers who went so far beyond the torture permission slips as to basically commit brutal, unauthorized murder would be subject to a “preliminary review” to determine if a full investigation was warranted — in other words, the Abu Ghraib model of justice was being applied, where only low-ranking scapegoats would be subject to possible punishment while high-level officials would be protected.

Yesterday, it was announced that this “preliminary review” by the prosecutor assigned to conduct it, U.S. Attorney John Durham, is now complete, and — exactly as one would expect — even this category of criminals has been almost entirely protected, meaning a total legal whitewash for the Bush torture regime:

The Justice Department has opened full criminal investigations of the deaths in CIA custody of two detainees, including one who perished at Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The decision, announced by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., means continued legal jeopardy for several CIA operatives but at the same time closes the book on inquiries that potentially threatened many others. A federal prosecutor reviewed 101 cases in which agency officers and contractors interrogated suspected terrorists during years of military action after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but found cause to pursue criminal cases in only two. . . .

The two token cases to be investigated involve the most grotesque brutality imaginable: they apparently are (1) a detainee who froze to death in an American secret prison in Afghanistan in 2002 after being ordered stripped and chained to a concrete floor, and (2) the 2003 death of a detainee at Abu Ghraib whose body was infamously photographed by Abu Ghraib giving a thumbs-up sign.  All other crimes in the Bush torture era will be fully protected.  Lest there be any doubt about what a profound victory this is for those responsible for the torture regime, consider the reaction of the CIA:

“On this, my last day as director, I welcome the news that the broader inquiries are behind us,” said a statement from CIA Director Leon Panetta, who will take over as defense secretary on Friday. “We are now finally about to close this chapter of our agency’s history” . . . . At CIA headquarters on Thursday, Holder’s announcement was greeted with relief. . . .

Consider what’s being permanently shielded from legal accountability.  The Bush torture regime extended to numerous prisons around the world, in which tens of thousands of mostly Muslim men were indefinitely imprisoned without a whiff of due process, and included a network of secret prisons — “black sites” — purposely placed beyond the monitoring reach of even international human rights groups, such as the International Red Cross.

Over 100 detainees died during U.S. interrogations, dozens due directly to interrogation abuseGen. Barry McCaffrey said: “We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.”  Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who oversaw the official investigation into detainee abuse, wrote:  “there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

Thanks to the Obama DOJ, that is no longer in question.  The answer is resoundingly clear: American war criminals, responsible for some of the most shameful and inexcusable crimes in the nation’s history — the systematic, deliberate legalization of a worldwide torture regime — will be fully immunized for those crimes.  And, of course, the Obama administration has spent years just as aggressively shielding those war criminals from all other forms of accountability beyond the criminal realm: invoking secrecy and immunity doctrines to prevent their victims from imposing civil liability, exploiting their party’s control of Congress to suppress formal inquiries, and pressuring and coercing other nations not to investigate their own citizens’ torture at American hands.

All of those efforts, culminating in yesterday’s entirely unsurprising announcement, means that the U.S. Government has effectively shielded itself from even minimal accountability for its vast torture crimes of the last decade.  Without a doubt, that will be one of the most significant, enduring and consequential legacies of the Obama presidency.

© 2011 Salon.com

<!–

–>

Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy. His next book is titled “With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful.”

Obama’s Embrace of Bush Terrorism Policies is Celebrated as “Centrism” May 19, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Torture, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

by Glenn Greenwald

I wonder how many people from across the political spectrum will have to point this out before Obama defenders will finally admit that it’s true.  From Harvard Law Professor and former Bush OLC lawyer Jack Goldsmith, systematically assessing Obama’s “terrorism” policies in The New Republic:

Many people think Cheney is scare-mongering and owes President Obama his support or at least his silence.  But there is a different problem with Cheney’s criticisms: his premise that the Obama administration has reversed Bush-era policies is largely wrong. The truth is closer to the opposite: The new administration has copied most of the Bush program, has expanded some of it, and has narrowed only a bit. Almost all of the Obama changes have been at the level of packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric. . . .

[A]t the end of the day, Obama practices will be much closer to late Bush practices than almost anyone expected in January 2009.

Most critically, Goldsmith expresses admiration for Obama’s rhetorical and symbolic changes — such as Obama’s emphasis on obtaining Congressional support for Bush’s  policies while highlighting his deep concern for “civil liberties” — because Goldsmith believes that Obama’s rhetoric vests Bush’s policies with more credibility, ensures more bipartisan and Congressional support for these policies, makes them more palatable to Democrats, and thus ensures that those policies will endure in a stronger and longer-lasting form:

The new president was a critic of Bush administration terrorism policies, a champion of civil liberties, and an opponent of the invasion of Iraq. His decision (after absorbing the classified intelligence and considering the various options) to continue core Bush terrorism policies is like Nixon going to China. . . .

If this analysis is right, then the former vice president is wrong to say that the new president is dismantling the Bush approach to terrorism. President Obama has not changed much of substance from the late Bush practices, and the changes he has made, including changes in presentation, are designed to fortify the bulk of the Bush program for the long-run. Viewed this way, President Obama is in the process of strengthening the presidency to fight terrorism.

What’s most striking about the denial of so many Obama supporters about all of this is that Obama officials haven’t really tried to hide it.  White House counsel Greg Craig told The New York Times‘ Charlie Savage back in February that Obama “is also mindful as president of the United States not to do anything that would undermine or weaken the institution of the presidency.”  It was in that same article where Savage — a favorite of Bush critics when Bush was president — warned that after the first week of Executive Orders, “the Obama administration is quietly signaling continued support for other major elements of its predecessor’s approach to fighting Al Qaeda.” 

Notably, Savage’s article was written almost three months ago, well before Obama’s announcement that he was adopting many of the most extreme Bush policies.  At the time of Savage’s February article, I wrote: “while believing that Savage’s article is of great value in sounding the right alarm bells, I think that he paints a slightly more pessimistic picture on the civil liberties front than is warranted by the evidence thus far (though only slightly).”  But as it turns out, it was Savage who was clearly right.  As Politico‘s Josh Gerstein recently wrote about Obama’s Terrorism policies:  “A few, like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, have even hurled the left’s ultimate epithet — suggesting that Obama’s turning into George W. Bush.”

* * * * *

In his New Republic article today, Goldsmith reviews what he calls the “eleven essential elements” of “the Bush approach to counterterrorism policy” and documents how — with only a couple of minor exceptions — Obama has embraced all of them.  In those cases where Obama has purported to “change” these elements, those changes are almost all symbolic and ceremonial, and the few changes that have any substance to them (banning the already-empty CIA black sites and prohibiting no-longer-authorized torture techniques) are far less substantial than Obama officials purport.  None of Goldsmith’s analysis is grounded in the proposition that Obama hasn’t yet acted to change Bush policies, thus rendering a nonsequitur the response that “Obama needs more time; it’s only been 4 months.”  Goldsmith is describing affirmative steps Obama has already announced to adopt the core Bush “terrorism” policies.

Just consider some of Goldsmith’s examples:  Obama makes a melodramatic showing of ordering Guantanamo closed but then re-creates its systematic denial of detainee rights in Bagram, and “[l]ast month Secretary of Defense Gates hinted that up to 100 suspected terrorists would be detained without trial.”  Obama announces that all interrogations must comply with the Army Field Manual but then has his CIA Director announce that he will seek greater interrogation authority whenever it is needed and convenes a task force to determine which enhanced interrogation methods beyond the Field Manual should be authorized.  He railed against Bush’s Guantanamo military commissions but then preserved them with changes that are plainly cosmetic.

Obama has been at least as aggressive as Bush was in asserting radical secrecy doctrines in order to prevent courts from ruling on illegal torture and spying programs and to block victims from having a day in court.  He has continued and even “ramped up” so-called “targeted killings” in Pakistan and Afghanistan which, as Goldsmith puts it, “have predictably caused more collateral damage to innocent civilians.”  He has maintained not only Bush’s rendition policy but also the standard used to determine to which countries a suspect can be rendered, and has kept Bush’s domestic surveillance policies in place and unchanged.  Most of all, he has emphatically endorsed the Bush/Cheney paradigm that we are engaged in a “war” against Terrorists — with all of the accompanying presidential “war powers” — rather than the law enforcement challenge that John Kerry, among others, advocated.

* * * * *

What is, in my view, most noteworthy about all of this is how it gives the lie to the collective national claim that we learned our lesson and are now regretful about the Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism.  Republicans are right about the fact that while it was Bush officials who led the way in implementing these radical and lawless policies, most of the country’s institutions — particularly the Democratic Party leadership and the media — acquiesced to it, endorsed it, and enabled it  And they still do.  

Nothing has produced as much media praise for Obama as his embrace of what Goldsmith calls the “essential elements” of “the Bush approach to counterterrorism policy.”   That’s because — contrary to the ceremonial displays of regret and denouncements of Bush — the dominant media view is this:  the Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism was right; those policies are “centrist”; Obama is acting commendably by embracing them; most of the country wants those policies; and only the Far Left opposes the Bush/Cheney approach. 

Anyone who doubts that should consider this most extraordinary paragraph from Associated Press’ Liz Sidoti:

Increasingly, President Barack Obama and Democrats who run Congress are being pulled between the competing interests of party liberals and the rest of the country on Bush-era wartime matters of torture, detention and interrogation of suspected terrorists.

When it comes to torture and Bush’s Terrorism policies, it’s the Far Left (which opposes those things) versus “the rest of the country” (which favors them).  And she described Obama’s embrace of Bush’s policies as “governing from the center.”  Apparently, Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies are Centrist.  Who knew?  Her AP colleague Tom Raum said virtually the same thing today:

Internationally, Obama reversed course and is seeking to block the court-ordered release of detainee-abuse photos, revived military trials for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay and is markedly increasing the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. . . .

Still, even though Obama may be irritating liberal purists on both national security and domestic policy, he has no real choice but to move toward the middle.

Adopting the Bush/Cheney approach to war and Terrorism is to “move toward the middle.”  That’s because only “liberal purists” oppose those policies.  The Washington Post‘s CIA spokesman David Ignatius (who I would choose if I had to identify one individual who most embodies the rot of the American political press) celebrated Obama’s recent embrace of Bush Terrorism policies as his “Sister Souljah moment” as he “polished his credentials as a centrist,” and then returned again to announce that “Obama put his responsibilities as commander in chief first — and his loyalty to fellow Democrats second.”

As Maureen Dowd pointed out in the non-plagiarized part of her column on Sunday, the reason Bush was able to do what he did is because “very few watchdogs – in the Democratic Party or the press – were pushing back against the Bush horde in 2002 and 2003, when magazines were gushing about W. and Cheney as conquering heroes.”  But all of this recent media commentary makes clear that media stars and Democratic leaders now are only pretending to find Bush/Cheney policies repugnant because Bush is now so unpopular and his policies were proven to be failures.  As a result, a new face is needed for those policies, but the belief in the rightness of those policies hasn’t changed.  They still consider Bush/Cheney policies “centrist” and responsible — only Leftist Purists oppose them — and thus heap praise on Obama for embracing them.  We’re still the same country we were in 2003.  Our media stars and political leaders from both parties still think the same way.  That’s why the more Obama embraces the Bush/Cheney approach, the more praise he gets for Centrism.

What is most damaging about all of this is exactly what Goldsmith celebrated:  that Obama’s political skills, combined with his status as a Democrat, is strengthening Bush/Cheney terrorism policies and solidifying them further.  For the last eight years, roughly half the country — Republicans, Bush followers — was trained to cheer for indefinite detention, presidential secrecy, military commissions, warrantless eavesdropping, denial of due process, a blind acceptance of any presidential assertion that these policies are necessary to Keep Us Safe, and the claim that only fringe Far Leftist Purists — civil liberties extremists — could possibly object to any of that. 

Now, much of the other half of the country, the one that once opposed those policies — Democrats, Obama supporters — are now reciting the same lines, adopting the same mentality, because doing so is necessary to justify what Obama is doing.   It’s hard to dispute the Right’s claim that Bush’s Terrorism approach is being vindicated by Obama’s embrace of its “essential elements.”  That’s what Goldsmith means when he says that Obama is making these policies stronger and more palatable, and it’s what media stars mean when they describe Bush/Cheney policies as Centrist:  now that it’s not just an unpopular Republican President but also a highly charismatic and popular Democratic President advocating and defending these core Bush/Cheney policies, they do become the political consensus of the United States.

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

How Obama Excused Torture April 17, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Torture.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

Former Reagan Justice Department official Bruce Fein writes that Obama’s decision to release CIA memos without prosecuting Bush administration officials flouts his constitutional duty.

by Bruce Fein

On Thursday, April 16th, in response to a lawsuit initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union, President Barack Obama released four redacted Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memoranda from the Bush administration to the CIA justifying torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment. (The CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques were modeled on the Chinese Communist coercive brainwashing program against Americans captured in the Korean War to induce false confessions). Each memorandum hedged its conclusions with substantial caveats, such as the absence of judicial precedents and concessions that reasonable persons could dispute their exculpatory conclusions. The memoranda were later renounced as bad law.

Obama, however, promised non-prosecution of all CIA personnel complicit in torture who relied on the flawed OLC advice. He further pledged to defend them from criminal investigations initiated by foreign jurisdictions and to indemnify them if they are held liable in damages for constitutional or statutory wrongdoing. Obama is similarly defending former OLC Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo against a torture suit initiated by Jose Padilla, convicted of terrorism in 2007 after the government dropped charges that as an “enemy combatant” he plotted to set off a “dirty bomb.” The Yoo memoranda on torture have also been renounced and discredited. Obama also promised to follow the Bush-Cheney duumvirate in claiming secrecy for alleged national security secrets because “the world is dangerous.” Indeed, he did not voluntarily initiate release of the four OLC memoranda, but responded to a Freedom of Information Act suit. And President Obama has echoed the Bush-Cheney state secrets arguments to block lawsuits challenging the legality of spying on Americans without warrants in contravention of the Fourth Amendment or federal law, or seeking damages for torture. Moreover, Obama has been unable to recite a single instance where transparency proved more dangerous to the liberties of the American people than has secrecy, the birthplace of COINTELPRO, Shamrock, Minaret, Abu Ghraib, and torture of 14 so-called “High Value Al Qaeda” detainees in secret prisons abroad (according to the International Committee of the Red Cross).

On the same day Obama was excusing torture and promising more secret government, The New York Times published a front page story disclosing the National Security Agency’s apparently illegal interceptions of emails and phone calls of American citizens in the United States without individual judicial warrants. The interceptions exceeded even the sweeping group warrant authority to spy on persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States that were authorized in amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) enacted last September. President Obama has declined to sanction a single official implicated in the latest apparent violation of a statute he supported as a senator. He has similarly chosen non-prosecution for former President Bush, former Vice President Cheney, and high level officials at the National Security Agency (NSA) and CIA who authorized more than five years of FISA felonies: namely, warrantless NSA spying on American citizens on American soil in flagrant contravention of FISA, about which more anon.

The evidence is now undeniable. President Barack Obama is flouting his unflagging constitutional obligation enshrined in Article II, Section 3 to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” He is also reneging on his signature campaign promise to restore the rule of law, transparency, and accountability to the White House. He is displaying the psychology of an arrogant Empire as opposed to a modest Republic in continuing and escalating the Bush-Cheney duumvirate’s global and perpetual war against international terrorism heedless of foreign sovereignties or the lives of civilians.

Even more disappointing, Obama has proven a political coward dangerous to the Republic. Before April 16, he had decided against any criminal investigation of the Bush-Cheney duumvirate or their inner circles for their boasted complicity in torture, i.e., waterboarding, which Attorney General Eric Holder has declared is torture. He has similarly declined investigations of extraordinary renditions that have occasioned, among other things, the indictments and in absentia trials of 26 CIA operatives in Milan, Italy, for the kidnapping and torture of Egyptian cleric Abu Omar.

Obama made no effort to square his refusal to investigate credible and substantial evidence of felonies with his constitutional obligation to faithfully execute, not sabotage the laws. He relied solely on politics, as though law was nothing more than a constellation of political calculations with ulterior motives. Obama insisted that investigations of Bush-Cheney would disturb the Toscanini-like symphony he had promised to the political class in the corridors of power. Comparable political calculations explain why Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai declines to prosecute the countless officials implicated in staggering corruption, inefficiency, and subjugation of women-all of which are deplored by President Obama.

In sweeping the Bush-Cheney lawlessness under the rug, Obama has set a precedent whitewashing White House lawlessness in the name of national security that will lie around like a loaded weapon ready for resurrection by any Commander-in-Chief eager to appear “tough on terrorism” and to exploit popular fear. Obama urges that the crimes were justified because the duumvirate acted to protect the nation from international terrorism. But Congress did not create a national security defense to torture or commit FISA felonies.

President Obama should have invoked his pardon power if he believed circumstances justified the crimes by Bush and Cheney and the CIA’s interrogators. A pardon or lesser clemency properly exposes the president to political accountability, as Bush discovered with Cheney’s chief of staff Scooter Libby and President Ford with former President Nixon. More significant, a pardon does not set a precedent making lawful what was unlawful. It acknowledges the criminality of the underlying activity, and acceptance of the pardon is an admission of guilt by the recipient. Pardons leave unsullied the doctrine of Ex parte Milligan (1866):”The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men at all times and in all circumstances. No doctrine involving more pernicious consequences was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government.”

Obama can be summoned against his own non-prosecution policy, secrecy, and non-accountability. In releasing the four OLC memoranda on April 16, Obama asserted: “Enlisting our values [like the rule of law or transparency] in the protection of our people makes us stronger and more secure. A democracy as resilient as ours must reject the false choice between our security and our ideals [like the rule of law or government in the sunshine]… I believe strongly in transparency and accountability… The United States is a nation of laws.”

These words should be taken cum granis salis. Bush and Cheney also insisted that everything they did was constitutional and indispensable to thwarting another 9/11. Obama’s promise of change has proven nothing more than verbal jugglery.

Bruce Fein was associate deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, and has authored Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for our Constitution and Democracy.

Is Torture Really Over? April 17, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Torture.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

Without a hard look at the Bush administration’s torture program, the United States could be condemned to repeat it, no matter what President Obama says.

by Mark Benjamin

In his statement announcing the release of the Bush administration’s torture memos Thursday, President Barack Obama ruled out prosecuting whoever was in the room during the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” sessions. “In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution,” he said.

Obama made it clear he is generally ready to move on from the whole issue. So don’t expect David Addington, former counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and self-appointed interrogation expert, to be hauled into court anytime soon. “We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history,” Obama said. “But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”

In other words, the president turned the page. No prosecutions at any level, apparently. Based on Obama’s move-on tone, there may not even be an independent commission to dig into this issue (though the administration won’t formally rule that out for now — an internal Justice Department review of the lawyers who authorized the torture is still ongoing). “We have taken steps to ensure that the actions described within them never take place again,” Obama said. See — he stopped the torture program. It’s all fixed. End of story.

Another major issue is lingering, however. Did the torture “work”?

Former Bush administration officials, of course, continue to insist that they got a lot of good intelligence from forcing water into people’s noses. Politico quoted one unnamed ex-Bush aide Thursday who blasted the decision. “It’s damaging because these are techniques that work, and by Obama’s action today, we are telling the terrorists what they are,” the official said. “We have laid it all out for our enemies. This is totally unnecessary. … Publicizing the techniques does grave damage to our national security by ensuring they can never be used again — even in a ticking-time-bomb scenario where thousands or even millions of American lives are at stake.”

Cheney went on CNN last month to specifically defend the United States’ organized torture program — which Cheney says was not torture: “I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoy, of being able to collect the intelligence that let us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11,” he said. “I think it’s a great success story. It was done legally. It was done in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles.”

There were no professional interrogators involved in the creation of the CIA’s torture program. The pros would likely have balked, because they unanimously think torture is stupid and ineffective: People will tell you whatever they think will make you stop the treatment, never mind what the truth is. Those pros also chuckle at the thought of torture as an effective intelligence-gathering tool. News reports have seriously questioned the value of intelligence gathered through torture of suspected al-Qaida operatives like Abu Zubaydah.

So who is right? Is Dick Cheney Jack Bauer, or something more akin to an evil Col. Klink?

Without a rigorous investigation into the alleged efficacy of U.S. torture, we’ll never know. A torture commission would have looked into this very issue. With Obama’s blessing, Congress could try to appoint a nonpartisan group of experts to carefully evaluate whether the torture program was an effective way to gather valuable intelligence or, as interrogators suspect, simply made desperate prisoners say whatever they had to say to make the pain stop, yielding a few gems among a flow of muck. But Obama hasn’t advocated a commission or any other vehicle to look into that, and today seems disinclined to do anything other than move on.

There are some indications that other Democrats are falling into line on ditching the commission idea, too. Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, a leading proponent of a commission, released a statement Thursday applauding the Obama administration for releasing the memos. Whitehouse didn’t mention a commission that would look into whether torture worked. He referred only to an ongoing, and mostly secret, investigation of unknown scope by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

But while Obama has turned the page, many others haven’t — including the people, and their allies, who think waterboarding was a good idea. Without a commission, if Mitt Romney (the man who pledged to double the size of the prison at Guantánamo) is president in 2013 — or 2017 — we could start torturing all over again.

–Mark Benjamin