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The Real Goal of “Russiagate” is to Prepare for Endless Austerity and War February 24, 2018

Posted by rogerhollander in Russia, Trump, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: Confession, I didn’t vote for Clinton, and during the election I took the position that there was no difference between the two stooges of the oligarchy.  However, the minute that Trump won, something I didn’t think could ever happen, I started to re-think.  The major concern being the nuclear codes in the hands of a madman.  On sober third thought, however, I more or less agree with this article.  Of course, there is a difference to some degree between the two parties, especially in the area of immigration; but on the essential issues of war and peace, labor and capital, the parties are essentially the same.  

In Canada we have the saying the the (slightly) left New Democratic Party (NDP) advocates are “Liberals in a hurry.”  Well a Clinton White House might not be as quick to destroy the environment and roll back the safety net, but it would in its own way advance the military industrial complex agenda, and eventually we would end up in the same place as with the Republicans (and when it comes to war and peace, I still am not sure that Clinton would’t be more of a provocateur).  Maybe, then, Republicans can be referred to as “Democrats in a hurry.”

Of course, too, there is also the argument that Democrats in power co-opt much of the opposition because of the myth that the Democratic Party is somehow progressive.

Glen Ford, BAR executive editor
22 Feb 2018
The Real Goal of “Russiagate” is to Prepare for Endless Austerity and War

“The ruling circles of the imperial superpower set out to destabilize and call into disrepute the government of the home country.”

Robert Mueller, the former head of the national political police (FBI), has indicted 13 Russian nationals for the crime of sowing “discord in the U.S. political system” and encouraging “U.S. minority groups not to vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or to vote for a third-party U.S. presidential candidate.” The defendants’ nationality makes their acts of political speech a crime, in Mueller’s legal view, but “at least 20 Americans” are embedded in the document as unindicted co-conspirators “ because they interacted in various ways with the Russian team’s activities during the 2016 presidential campaign.

These U.S. citizens “were just engaging in politics,” said independent journalist Marcy Wheeler, on Democracy Now! “They were putting together campaign events. They were engaging in online speech. That’s like, you know, the most sacred part of being an American citizen. And yet, they were unknowingly interacting with Russians….”

The Russians will never face trial in the U.S., and it is highly unlikely that the unindicted Americans will be criminally charged — but that is not the purpose of Mueller’s indictment. The political crime has been defined, for the broad purpose of repressing dissent in the United States. The witch hunt has found a legalistic vocabulary.

The New York Times’ in-house witch-hunting Negro, Charles Blow , has worked his mojo to the bone, fulminating against the dark forces that refused to support Hillary Clinton’ return to the White House. Mueller’s indictment is the charm Blow has been seeking to remove the hex of resistance to the established duopoly. Blow quotes Mueller’s document: “On or about October 16, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the Instagram account ‘Woke Blacks’ to post the following message: ‘Particular hype and hatred for Trump is misleading the people and forcing Blacks to vote Killary. We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we’d surely be better off without voting AT ALL.’”

“The political crime has been defined, for the broad purpose of repressing dissent in the United States.”

These are the Russians’ words, but the sentiment is not at all alien to the contemporary and historical Black political conversation. Yet, for Blow, it is heresy and devilment to urge Black people to vote for third parties, or to refrain from voting. There ought’a be a law against it! — or some string of words that can be made to sound like a law. “What happened in this election wasn’t just a political crime, it was specifically a racialized crime, and the black vote was a central target,” wrote Blow.

Blacks that refuse to forgive the Clintons for mass incarcerating and dehumanizing our people are guilty of Black voter suppression and deemed dupes of both Trump and the Kremlin. To prove that anti-Clinton Blacks are in league with foreign and domestic devils, Blow quotes a Trump operative who bragged that the Republican campaign reminded Black voters about Hillary Clinton’s “suggestion that some African-American males are ‘super predators,’” in order to discourage them from voting. Mueller’s legal framework requires that we forgive such trivial history as mass Black incarceration.

Black Bernie Sanders activists are co-conspirators, in Blow’s view: “Even after Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination, rapper Killer Mike, a prominent Bernie Sanders supporter and surrogate, was still promoting the position that ‘If you’re voting for Trump or Hillary Clinton, you’re voting for the same thing.’”

Which is true, in that both are corporate capitalist politicians and warmongering racists that don’t deserve the vote of any decent person. But, saying so can now be construed as giving “aid and comfort” to a foreign “enemy” – either directly to Putin or to his “surrogate,” Trump. It must be a crime, because “the Russians” were indicted for it, right? Mueller’s “law” spells it out: “In or around the latter half of 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, through their personas, began to encourage U.S. minority groups not to vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or to vote for a third-party U.S. presidential candidate.”

“Blacks that refuse to forgive the Clintons for mass incarcerating and dehumanizing our people are guilty of Black voter suppression and deemed dupes of both Trump and the Kremlin.”

Funny thing, though: the Democrats refused to cite the Republicans’ systematic, mass suppression of Black voters through the Cross Check scheme which, as Margaret Kimberley points out in this week’s Freedom Rider, caused 400,000 heavily Black votes to disappear in Michigan. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein called for a recount in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and found that Black voter suppression was a major factor, particularly in Detroit. “We are seeing again this evidence in Michigan that communities of color are systematically disenfranchised through the machinery that constitutes really another form of electoral Jim Crow,” Stein told The Guardian . “It’s pretty staggering. Eighty-seven optical scanners [in Detroit] broke on election day.”

The Democratic Party reluctantly added its name to the recount petition, while at the same time claiming it had seen no “actionable evidence ” of grounds for challenging Trump’s victory. But that’s par for the course. The Democrats have never confronted the GOP’s blatant theft of elections through massive suppression of Black votes. They are bound, apparently, by a gentleman’s agreement among the two parties. John Lewis, the Black congressman from Atlanta who wears his voting rights credentials like a robe of glory, abides by that agreementThe first thing out of Lewis’ mouth after Trump was declared the winner, in November, was a denunciation of “the Russians” – but not Black voter suppression by Republicans.

“The Democrats have never confronted the GOP’s blatant theft of elections through massive suppression of Black votes.”

Roughly one year later, Jill Stein — who fought Black voter suppression harder than the Democrats — was targeted for investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee as a possible collaborator with the Russians .

The suppression of the franchise of their Black base is not considered “treason” or any kind of “high crime” by the Democratic Party, but the siphoning of Black votes away from the corporate duopoly, through voluntary non-voting or support of third parties, is cause to bring out the pitchforks.

Under the Mueller legal formula, there are many more potential co-conspirators. The highest political crimes are “sowing discord” and “spreading distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general” – for which one can theoretically go to prison, if you are a foreigner (Russian, not Israeli), or become an unindicted party to the charge, if American.

The Republicans, of course, have been sowing racial discord as a matter of policy ever since they adopted their “Southern Strategy” in 1968, and it’s been key to their success ever since. The United States is the nation that invented apartheid, and has served as a model for racists around the world. Racial discord is part of its DNA, and is the principal reason for the historical lack of a social contract and the weakness of the Left in this country. Corporate political hegemony would not exist in the U.S., were it not for the endemic nature of white supremacy in this society. The Russians have nothing to do with it — especially the Russian amateurs from St. Petersburg.

The suppression of the franchise of their Black base is not considered ‘treason’ or any kind of ‘high crime’ by the Democratic Party.”

The cabal has flipped the factual script. It was the Democrats and their allies in corporate media and the national security state that devised a calculated campaign to sow “discord” and “distrust towards the political system in general,” such as not seen in living memory. The initial goal was to depose or discipline the unpredictable, racist billionaire who in 2016 crushed the establishment leaders of the Republican Party — potentially destabilizing the duopoly system of corporate governance — rhetorically rejected the dogma of “free trade,” and spoke as if he would not maintain the momentum of his predecessor’s global military offensive. With the “intelligence community” on point, the political offensive could not help but take on the characteristics of a profoundly destabilizing regime change and psychological operations mission.

In other words, the ruling circles of the imperial superpower set out to destabilize and call into disrepute the sitting government of the home country. They have inflicted great trauma and anxiety among the public in the process, but thanks to the corporate media component of the cabal, most of the blame has accrued to the targets of the campaign: Trump, “the Russians” and those defamed as “dupes” and “co-conspirators” with the fictitious Putin-Trump axis.

It is quite evident that this campaign of self-inflicted chaos is a project of the global corporate class, manifesting elsewhere in the “West” in remarkably similar fashion, but with local characteristics. Russia is, thus, charged with attempting to subvert governments around the world through minions like the St. Petersburg outfit. Through their servants in the Democratic Party, the corporate media, and the intelligence agencies, multinational capital has used Trump’s election to inflict a kind of shock treatment on their domestic polities — a very dangerous gambit, especially in the United States, with its weak social contract and immense capacity for civil violence.

“With the ‘intelligence community’ on point, the political offensive could not help but take on the characteristics of a profoundly destabilizing regime change and psychological operations campaign.”

More dangerous, is the whipping up of war fever based on Russia’s non-existent aggressions (Ukraine, Syria) and fabricated ambitions (the demise of the “West”).

We can be confident in blaming this politically engineered horror on the dominate elements of the U.S. capitalist ruling class, since they could surely call the project to a halt if it were merely a “rogue” enterprise mounted by a small section of their class-mates. Capital is using Russiagate to inflict extreme shocks to the very political system they claim to be defending. The trauma is necessary, they believe, because capital has nothing to offer to the masses of people, and must therefore dramatically weaken or destroy the political mechanisms through which the people make demands on the rulers. They are preparing the landscape for a regime of permanent austerity and war, and plan to suppress all opposition on the Left. That’s why Black Agenda Report and a dozen other Left web sites were named and defamed as Russian fellow travelers and purveyors of “fake news” by the Washington Post, the plaything of the CIA-partnered oligarch, Jeff Bezos.

A lot has happened in the space of a little over a year. Based on Russiagate-era interpretations of “law” and civil propriety, free speech is in the political eye of the corporate owners of media. The shrinking of the digital world that is accessible to the Left is well underway, with no workable alternatives in sight.

The Russiagate express keeps on rolling, despite the fact there is still no evidence for the original contention, that “the Russians” and Vladimir Putin conspired to steal and reveal the emails of the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton and John Podesta. Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, emphasized that there is no evidence that any actual votes were altered or tampered with in the 2016 presidential election. No matter. The Democrats keep imagining other “Pearl Harbors” worthy of going to war over, because their project is to harden the political system for endless war and austerity.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com .

As Senate Blocks Guantanamo Closing Funding, Habeus Hating Judge Allows Indefinite Imprisonment There May 20, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture.
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Rob Kall

www.opednews.com, May 20, 2009

90 senators who are afraid of being accused of allowing Guantanamo prisoners into their states opposed funding the costs for closing Guantanamo. 

Judge Who’s Allowing Unlimited Imprisonment of Guantanamo Prisoners Also Scuttled Plame Lawsuits and Opposes Habeus Corpus

Late Tuesday, District Judge Bates ruled that the President of the United States may indefinitely detain, without charges, al-Qaida and Taliban members and terrorist suspects held at Guantánamo Judge Bates added a few caveats which may help some of the prisoners, as the Guardian reported he stated that,

“Detention based on substantial or direct support of the Taliban, al-Qaida or associated forces, without more, is simply not warranted by domestic law or the law of war,” Bates wrote. “The court can find no authority in domestic law or the law of war, nor can the government point to any, to justify the concept of ‘support’ as a valid ground for detention,” he wrote. It is unclear whether the distinction will allow some prisoners to go free, however. “If the evidence demonstrates that an individual did not identify himself as a member, but undertook certain tasks within the command structure or rendered frequent substantive assistance to al-Qaida … then a court might conclude that he was a ‘part of’ the organisation,” Bates wrote. The case was brought by six Guantánamo prisoners who challenged their detention. American Civil Liberties Union attorney Jonathan Hafetz said the opinion defies a ban in the US Constitution on indefinite detention. “The decision wrongly concludes that terrorism suspects at Guantánamo may continue to languish in military detention rather than being prosecuted in our civilian courts,” Hafetz said. “Like the president’s recent decision to revive military commissions, this ruling perpetuates rather than ends the failed experiment in lawlessness that is Guantánamo.”

District Judge John D. Bates, appointed by George W. Bush in 1991. He.was appointed to serve as a FISA judge on the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts. The judge was also involved in decisions rejecting efforts by Valerie Plame to bring Dick Cheney to trial. Wikipedia reports that the judge is an avid opponent to habeus corpus. This was a win for the Obama administration, which claims to be seeking to close the Guantanamo facility, especially since, today, the senate refused to provide the funds Obama requested, which were to cover the cost of closing the facility. The 90 to 6 vote against funding sent a resounding message that both Dems and Republicans insist upon a more well defined plan before they will fund the closing. FBI Director Robert Mueller, appointed by George W. Bush in June 2001, warned congress that there could be risked associated with moving Guantanamo prisoners to the US, apparently sabotaging Obama administration efforts to fulfill Obama’s promise to close the facility,or giving him cover to not follow through on the promise. The New York Times reports

Administration officials have indicated that if the Guantánamo camp closes as scheduled more than 100 prisoners may need to be moved to the United States, including 50 to 100 who have been described as too dangerous to release. Of the 240 detainees, 30 have been cleared for release. Some are likely to be transferred to foreign countries, though other governments have been reluctant to take them. Britain and France have each accepted one former detainee. And while as many as 80 of the detainees will be prosecuted, it remains unclear what will happen to those who are convicted and sentenced to prison. At the White House on Tuesday, the press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said the administration expected that Congress would eventually release the money to close the camp, and he suggested that the concerns of lawmakers would start to be addressed on Thursday, when Mr. Obama will present a “hefty part” of his plan. At the Pentagon, a spokesman, Geoff Morrell, said Tuesday that he believed that the administration remained on track to meet the deadline for closing the prison. “I see nothing to indicate that that date is at all in jeopardy,” Mr. Morrell said.

In both houses of congress, both parties are calling for a clearer plan. And so, we wait, as have the prisoners at Guantanamo, 80-90% of whom were arrested based on bounties of $5000 to $20,000 paid to Afghans earning, in many cases, less than $1000 a year.

Rob Kall is executive editor, publisher and site architect of OpEdNews.com, President of Futurehealth, Inc, more…)

Ignatieff has much to answer for April 30, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Canada, Criminal Justice, Torture.
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Toronto Star, www.thestar.com,  April 30, 2009

Obama’s repudiation of torture makes it vital for the Liberal leader to come clean on his advocacy of ‘coercive interrogation’

Yesterday marked Barack Obama’s 100th day as president. Fortunately, the hoopla did not obscure the one topic that has Americans duly disturbed: torture.

Tuesday was the fifth anniversary of the release of the infamous Abu Ghraib pictures.

A week earlier, Obama had released the 2002-05 “torture memos.” They outlined the approved procedures against terrorism suspects: sleep deprivation, nudity, slamming against walls, locking in a confined space with insects, and subjecting detainees to extreme cold and water-boarding.

Simulated drowning was common during the Spanish Inquisition. It was used by the French colonialists in Algeria, Pol Pot in Cambodia, and the Japanese during World War II.

Last week, a declassified congressional report officially ended the fiction that torture was the work of “a few American troops who dishonoured our country and disregarded our values,” as George W. Bush said. It was a systematic policy approved by him, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, et al. and about which they systematically lied.

Their refusal to call torture by its proper name (arguing that it was not torture until it led to bone breaking, flesh burning or organ failure) is now seen as the sophistry it was – a way to “legalize” the illegal.

There’s also consensus that their rationale (to get “actionable information” on impending terrorist attacks) was false; the tortured would say anything to end the barbaric cruelty. Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Robert Mueller, former FBI director, have conceded so.

It is also recognized that the torture policy offended allies, fanned hostility toward America, and galvanized jihadists.

Americans are rapidly moving to the next stage: what to do now?

Opt for full accountability, prosecuting those who designed, approved and implemented torture? Establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as was done in post-apartheid South Africa?

Or just “move on,” as Obama says? He has promised immunity to the CIA agents involved in torture. While Bush went after the little fish (remember Lynndie England of Abu Ghraib?) and let the big fish go, Obama seems ready to let both the little and big fish go. But he has also promised the rule of law.

There’s no easy escape from this ugly chapter. More prisoner pictures are to be released May 28. Gruesome details will emerge once the Guantanamo detainees are transferred to the federal justice system.

All this brings us, inevitably, to Michael Ignatieff.

The Bush administration maintained that it did not do torture. It talked about and wrote memos on “coercive interrogation,” “aggressive interrogation” and “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Ignatieff opposed torture. He wrote essays on “acceptable degrees of coercive interrogation,” or “vigorous interrogation,” without crossing the line into torture.

“Permissible duress might include forms of sleep deprivation that do not result in lasting harm to mental or physical health, together with disinformation and disorientation (like keeping prisoners in hoods) that would produce stress.

“What crosses the line into the impermissible would be any physical coercion or abuse, any involuntary use of drugs or serums, any withholding of medicines or basic food, water and essential rest.”

Ignatieff’s rationale was about the same as Bush’s: extracting information from detainees to prevent “the greater evil” of terrorist attacks.

For that – and for advocating indefinite detention of suspects, targeted assassinations and pre-emptive wars – Ignatieff was seen as one of the intellectual enablers of Bush’s war on terror.

That he was then the director of the Center for Human Rights at Harvard University gave added weight to his words.

Given the current rethinking in the U.S., has Ignatieff had reason to rethink his own position?

Canadians are entitled to know.

A good place for him to break his silence would be at the Liberal convention in Vancouver this weekend.

Haroon Siddiqui is the Star‘s editorial page editor emeritus. His column appears Thursday and Sunday. hsiddiq@thestar.ca

Tortured Reasoning December 20, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Torture, War.
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torture-2(artist: fernando botero)


16 December 2008

by: David Rose, Vanity Fair

George W. Bush defended harsh interrogations by pointing to intelligence breakthroughs, but a surprising number of counterterrorist officials say that, apart from being wrong, torture just doesn’t work. Delving into two high-profile cases, the author exposes the tactical costs of prisoner abuse.

    By the last days of March 2002, more than six months after 9/11, President George W. Bush’s promise “to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act” was starting to sound a little hollow. True, Afghanistan had been invaded and the Taliban toppled from power. But Osama bin Laden had vanished from the caves of Tora Bora, and none of his key al-Qaeda lieutenants were in U.S. captivity. Intelligence about what the terrorists might be planning next was almost nonexistent. “The panic in the executive branch was palpable,” recalls Mike Scheuer, the former C.I.A. official who set up and ran the agency’s Alec Station, the unit devoted to tracking bin Laden.

    Early in the morning of March 28, in the moonlit police-barracks yard in Faisalabad, Pakistan, hopes were high that this worrisome intelligence deficit was about to be corrected. Some 300 armed personnel waited in silence: 10 three-man teams of Americans, drawn equally from the C.I.A. and the F.B.I., together with much greater numbers from Pakistan’s police force and Inter-services Intelligence (ISI). In order to maximize their chances of surprise, they planned to hit 10 addresses simultaneously. One of them, they believed, was a safe house containing a man whose name had been familiar to U.S. analysts for years: Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Hussein, a 30-year-old Saudi Arabian better known as Abu Zubaydah. “I’d followed him for a decade,” Scheuer says. “If there was one guy you could call a ‘hub,’ he was it.”

    The plan called for the police to go in first, followed by the Americans and ISI men, whose job would be to gather laptops, documents, and other physical evidence. A few moments before three a.m., the crackle of gunfire erupted. Abu Zubaydah had been shot and wounded, but was alive and in custody. As those who had planned it had hoped, his capture was to prove an epochal event – but in ways they had not envisaged.

    Four months after Abu Zubaydah’s capture, two lawyers from the Department of Justice, John Yoo and Jay Bybee, delivered their notorious memo on torture, which stated that coercive treatment that fell short of causing suffering equivalent to the pain of organ failure or death was not legally torture, an analysis that – as far as the U.S. government was concerned – sanctioned the abusive treatment of detainees at the C.I.A.’s secret prisons and at Guantánamo Bay. But, as Jane Mayer writes in her recent book, The Dark Side (Doubleday), Abu Zubaydah had been subjected to coercive interrogation techniques well before that, becoming the first U.S. prisoner in the Global War on Terror to undergo waterboarding.

    The case of Abu Zubaydah is a suitable place to begin answering some pressing but little-considered questions. Putting aside all legal and ethical issues (not to mention the P.R. ramifications), does such treatment – categorized unhesitatingly by the International Committee of the Red Cross as torture – actually work, in the sense of providing reliable, actionable intelligence? Is it superior to other interrogation methods, and if they had the choice, free of moral qualms or the fear of prosecution, would interrogators use it freely?

    President Bush has said it works extremely well, insisting it has been a vital weapon in America’s counterterrorist arsenal. Vice President Dick Cheney and C.I.A. director Michael Hayden have made similar assertions. In fact, time and again, Bush has been given opportunities to distance his administration from the use of coercive methods but has stood steadfastly by their use. His most detailed exposition came in a White House announcement on September 6, 2006, when he said such tactics had led to the capture of top al-Qaeda operatives and had thwarted a number of planned attacks, including plots to strike U.S. Marines in Djibouti, fly planes into office towers in London, and detonate a radioactive “dirty” bomb in America. “Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al-Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland. By giving us information about terrorist plans we could not get anywhere else, this program has saved innocent lives.”

    Really? In researching this article, I spoke to numerous counterterrorist officials from agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. Their conclusion is unanimous: not only have coercive methods failed to generate significant and actionable intelligence, they have also caused the squandering of resources on a massive scale through false leads, chimerical plots, and unnecessary safety alerts – with Abu Zubaydah’s case one of the most glaring examples.

    Here, they say, far from exposing a deadly plot, all torture did was lead to more torture of his supposed accomplices while also providing some misleading “information” that boosted the administration’s argument for invading Iraq.

    Everything that was to go wrong with the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah flowed from a first, fatal misjudgment. Although his name had long been familiar to the C.I.A., that did not make him an operational terrorist planner or, as Bush put it in September 2006, “a senior terrorist leader and a trusted associate of Osama bin Laden.” Instead, Scheuer says, he was “the main cog in the way they organized,” a point of contact for Islamists from many parts of the globe seeking combat training in the Afghan camps. However, only a tiny percentage would ever be tapped for recruitment by al-Qaeda.

    According to Scheuer, Abu Zubaydah “never swore bayat [al-Qaeda’s oath of allegiance] to bin Laden,” and the enemy he focused on was Israel, not the U.S. After Abu Zubaydah’s capture, Dan Coleman, an F.B.I. counterterrorist veteran, had the job of combing through Abu Zubaydah’s journals and other documents seized from his Faisalabad safe house. He confirms Scheuer’s assessment. “Abu Zubaydah was like a receptionist, like the guy at the front desk here,” says Coleman, gesturing toward the desk clerk in the lobby of the Virginia hotel where we have met. “He takes their papers, he sends them out. It’s an important position, but he’s not recruiting or planning.” It was also significant that he was not well versed in al-Qaeda’s tight internal-security methods: “That was why his name had been cropping up for years.”

    Declassified reports of legal interviews with Abu Zubaydah at his current residence, Guantánamo Bay, suggest that he lacked the capacity to do much more. In the early 1990s, fighting in the Afghan civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal, he was injured so badly that he could not speak for almost two years. “I tried to become al-Qaeda,” Abu Zubaydah told his lawyer, Brent Mickum, “but they said, ‘No, you are illiterate and can’t even remember how to shoot.'” Coleman found Abu Zubaydah’s diary to be startlingly useless. “There’s nothing in there that refers to anything outside his head, not even when he saw something on the news, not about any al-Qaeda attack, not even 9/11,” he says. “All it does is reveal someone in torment. Based on what I saw of his personality, he could not be what they say he was.”

    In May 2008, a report by Glenn Fine, the Department of Justice inspector general, stated that, as he recovered in the hospital from the bullet wounds sustained when he was captured, Abu Zubaydah began to cooperate with two F.B.I. agents. It was a promising start, but “within a few days,” wrote Fine, he was handed over to the C.I.A., whose agents soon reported that he was providing only “throw-away information” and that, according to Fine, they “needed to diminish his capacity to resist.” His new interrogators continued to question him by very different means at so-called black-site prisons in Thailand and Eastern Europe. They were determined to prove he was much more important than the innkeeper of a safe house.

    Bush discussed Abu Zubaydah’s treatment in his 2006 announcement. “As his questioning proceeded, it became clear that he had received training on how to resist interrogation. And so the C.I.A. used an alternative set of procedures….. The procedures were tough, and they were safe, and lawful, and necessary.” Soon, Bush went on, Abu Zubaydah “began to provide information on key al-Qaeda operatives, including information that helped us find and capture more of those responsible for the attacks on September 11.” Among them, Bush said, were Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 mastermind, and his fellow conspirator Ramzi Binalshibh. In fact, Binalshibh was not arrested for another six months and K.S.M. not for another year. In K.S.M.’s case, the lead came from an informant motivated by a $25 million reward.

    As for K.S.M. himself, who (as Jane Mayer writes) was waterboarded, reportedly hung for hours on end from his wrists, beaten, and subjected to other agonies for weeks, Bush said he provided “many details of other plots to kill innocent Americans.” K.S.M. was certainly knowledgeable. It would be surprising if he gave up nothing of value. But according to a former senior C.I.A. official, who read all the interrogation reports on K.S.M., “90 percent of it was total fucking bullshit.” A former Pentagon analyst adds: “K.S.M. produced no actionable intelligence. He was trying to tell us how stupid we were.”

    It is, perhaps, a little late, more than six years after detainees began to be interrogated at Guantánamo Bay and at the C.I.A.’s black-site prisons, to be asking whether torture works. Yet according to numerous C.I.A. and F.B.I. officials interviewed for this article, at the time this question really mattered, in the months after 9/11, no one seriously addressed it. Those who advocated a policy that would lead America to deploy methods it had always previously abhorred simply assumed they would be worthwhile. Non-governmental advocates of torture, such as the Harvard legal scholar Alan Dershowitz, have emphasized the “ticking bomb” scenario: the hypothetical circumstance when only torture will make the captured terrorist reveal where he – or his colleagues – has planted the timed nuclear device. Inside the C.I.A., says a retired senior officer who was privy to the agency’s internal debate, there was hardly any argument about the value of coercive methods: “Nobody in intelligence believes in the ticking bomb. It’s just a way of framing the debate for public consumption. That is not an intelligence reality.”

    There is, alas, no shortage of evidence from earlier times that torture produces bad intelligence. “It is incredible what people say under the compulsion of torture,” wrote the German Jesuit Friedrich von Spee in 1631, “and how many lies they will tell about themselves and about others; in the end, whatever the torturers want to be true, is true.”

    The unreliability of intelligence acquired by torture was taken as a given in the early years of the C.I.A., whose 1963 kubark interrogation manual stated: “Intense pain is quite likely to produce false confessions, concocted as a means of escaping from distress. A time-consuming delay results, while investigation is conducted and the admissions are proven untrue. During this respite the interrogatee can pull himself together. He may even use the time to think up new, more complex ‘admissions’ that take still longer to disprove.”

    A 1957 study by Albert Biderman, an Air Force sociologist, described how brainwashing had been achieved by depriving prisoners of sleep, exposing them to cold, and forcing them into agonizing “stress positions” for long periods. In July 2008, The New York Times reported that Biderman’s work formed the basis of a 2002 interrogators’ training class at Guantánamo Bay. That the methods it described had once been used to generate Communist propaganda had apparently been forgotten.

    Experience derived from 1990s terrorism cases also casts doubt on torture’s value. For example, in March 1993, F.B.I. agents flew to Cairo to take charge of an Egyptian named Mahmud Abouhalima, who would be convicted for having bombed the World Trade Center a month earlier. Abouhalima had already been tortured by Egyptian intelligence agents for 10 days, and had the wounds to prove it. As U.S. investigators should have swiftly realized, his statements in Egypt were worthless, among them claims that the bombing was sponsored by Iranian businessmen, although, apparently, their sworn enemy, Iraq, had also played a part.

    In the fall of 2001, publications such as Newsweek, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal ran articles suggesting torture might be essential to prevent further attacks. All cited the case of Abdul Hakim Murad, a Pakistani terrorist in possession of explosives arrested in the Philippines in January 1995, who was later convicted in New York. According to Dershowitz, his coerced confessions about the “Bojinka” plot, to blow up 11 airliners over the Pacific, supported the claim that “torture sometimes does work and can sometimes prevent major disasters.”

    Murad was certainly tortured. At his trial in 1996, transcripts of his interrogation by the Philippines National Police contained pauses and gasps, which his lawyer claimed were the result of his enduring a procedure much like waterboarding. But did it really pay intelligence dividends? With Murad’s arrest, the plot was blown. As Professor Stephanie Athey of Lasell College noted in a 2007 article, Dershowitz’s claim that the torture prevented a major disaster is false. A computer seized in Murad’s apartment held details of the flights he planned to attack, detonator-timer settings, and photos of some of his co-conspirators, together with their aliases, so enabling their subsequent arrest. It was this, Mike Scheuer says, not Murad’s interrogation, that provided more useful intelligence.

    Equally significant was what Murad didn’t give up under torture. Bojinka was partly the brainchild of none other than Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, later alleged to be the chief planner of 9/11. He had been living in the Philippines, but apparently Murad said nothing that might have helped his interrogators find him: he was not captured until 2003.

    On April 10, 2002, 13 days after Abu Zubaydah’s capture, in Faisalabad, a 23-year-old Ethiopian named Binyam Mohamed was detained at the airport in Karachi, Pakistan, attempting to board a flight to London, where he had been living for seven years. Information about the case drawn up by the British security service M.I.5, and obtained by Vanity Fair, suggests that if Mohamed was a terrorist his tradecraft was unimpressive: he was stopped because he was using a passport that obviously belonged to someone else, his friend Fouad Zouaoui – the second time that Mohamed had tried to leave Pakistan on Zouaoui’s papers. He also had a heroin problem.

    In notes by his attorney, Clive Stafford Smith, made from days of interviews with him at Guantánamo, the picture that emerges is one more of naiveté than wickedness. He said he went to Pakistan, and then Afghanistan, in June 2001, partly because he wanted to kick his drug habit (arguably, the world’s biggest source of opium was not an ideal place) and partly to ascertain whether Taliban-controlled Afghanistan was a “good Islamic country.” In any event, there is no dispute that he fled across the border into Pakistan as soon as he could after 9/11.

    The first 10 days of Mohamed’s detention, at Landi prison, near Karachi, were not, on his account, comfortable, but he was not tortured or abused. But after he was moved to a Pakistani security jail, around April 20, he began to be abused. A few days later, when he was questioned for the first time by U.S. agents, his treatment worsened dramatically.

    “They seemed to think I was some kind of top al-Qaeda person,” Mohamed said. “How? It was less than six months since I converted to Islam, and before that I was using drugs!” After the Americans’ visit, Mohamed said, he was hung by his wrists for hours on end, so that his feet barely touched the ground. Suspended thus, he said, he was beaten regularly by Pakistani guards. He said he was also threatened with a gun.

    U.S. interest in Mohamed appears to have been triggered by an unlucky coincidence. It so happened that in the period in early April before Abu Zubaydah’s torture began, when he was starting to cooperate with the F.B.I., he gave up the name of one of those who had passed through his safe house en route to an Afghan camp – that of Jose Padilla, a former Chicago gang member. “He probably remembered Padilla because he was a U.S. citizen, and that was rare,” says the former F.B.I. al-Qaeda specialist Dan Coleman.

    Mohamed has maintained that if he had ever met Padilla it would have been a fleeting, chance encounter, perhaps when they both fled Afghanistan, and he has no memory of it. But the first time Mohamed tried to fly to London via Zurich, around April 4, Padilla was booked on the same flight. Their ultimate destinations were different: Padilla planned to spend time in Egypt before returning to Chicago. But the fact they were starting their journeys together, says an F.B.I. agent who attended official briefings about the case, convinced American agencies that they shared some joint purpose. “It was simply that – flight coincidence,” he says. “I never saw any evidence that Padilla and Mohamed met.”

    By late April, Abu Zubaydah was being tortured and giving up details of a plot that sounded truly terrifying: a plan for Padilla to build and detonate a radioactive dirty bomb in America. But even at the outset, some who worked in U.S. counterterrorism were skeptical. “If there is a dirty bomb, you’d better take it seriously, because as bad as 9/11 was, a dirty bomb would be a hundred times worse,” says the former F.B.I. agent who attended the case briefings. “It was clear that Padilla had some form of training, that he was a sympathizer. But to claim he really had a plan to do a dirty bomb? That’s tough. You show me he knew how to go and get it. That he knew how to make it. They never had that.”

    Convinced that the dirty-bomb plot was real, those interrogating Binyam Mohamed assumed that he must be part of it, and if he could not fill in missing details, he must have been covering up. Agents such as the F.B.I.’s Jack Cloonan, who spent years fighting al-Qaeda before his retirement in 2002, had learned that it had an impressive “quality-control system,” which meant “they looked for people with the right makeup, they did their own due diligence, and they would not pick weak guys” – not, typically, heroin addicts. But no one was listening to these agents.

    M.I.5 seems to have shared the C.I.A.’s groupthink. Sources in London say that its agents also assumed that anything Mohamed said to try to defend himself must be a lie. One admission he did make was that he had seen a Web site with instructions on how to make a hydrogen bomb, but he was apparently claiming it was a joke. The intelligence agencies believed this was a smoking gun, notwithstanding Mohamed’s bizarre statement that the instructions included mixing bleach with uranium-238 in a bucket and rotating it around one’s head for 45 minutes. Neither the British nor the Americans thought Mohamed’s claim that the Web site was a joke was credible: his “confession” to reading instructions about building nuclear weapons on the Internet was cited in Mohamed’s Guantánamo charge sheet. Yet it was a joke: such a Web site, with instructions about how to refine bomb-grade uranium with bleach and a bucket, has been doing the rounds on the World Wide Web since at least 1994. In 2005, the conservative columnist Michelle Malkin cited it in her blog as evidence of al-Qaeda’s deadly intentions. She was swiftly disabused by readers, who, unlike the C.I.A. and M.I.5, immediately recognized it as satire.

    But even M.I.5 couldn’t help but notice “glaring inconsistencies” among the different accounts of the plot being given by those getting interrogated. And instead of asking whether the plot was real, the investigators seem to have assumed that the different accounts of those being interrogated were merely an attempt to protect al-Qaeda operations.

    Clive Stafford Smith believes that the weakness of the dirty-bomb charge against Padilla may well explain what happened to Binyam Mohamed: “Maybe what they were trying to do was turn him into a prosecution witness.” After all, he had already confessed in Pakistan, under torture that had been, in comparison with what was to come, relatively mild. But on July 21, 2002, as the plane’s flight log later confirmed, he was flown aboard a Gulfstream V jet chartered by the C.I.A. to Rabat, in Morocco. There he was to spend the next 18 months.

    With the help of Stafford Smith, he later assembled a diary describing his treatment there. Amid numerous beatings in Rabat, Mohamed wrote, “They’d ask me a question. I’d say one thing. They’d say it was a lie. I’d say another. They’d say it was a lie. I could not work out what they wanted to hear.” He also said the Moroccans repeatedly cut his chest and genitals with a razor. Finally he was subjected to further harsh treatment in the “Dark Prison” near Kabul, Afghanistan, after being spirited away on another C.I.A. flight in January 2004.

    After another nine months, he was brought to Guantánamo, where he remains. He filed a habeas corpus lawsuit in federal court in the District of Columbia, a claim that there was no credible reason for his continued detention, and in its attempt to defend this, the administration in October 2008 dropped all mention of the dirty-bomb plot. In Guantánamo’s parallel quasi-legal world of military commissions, where the rules make it much harder to exclude evidence derived from torture, the Pentagon in May 2008 issued a charge sheet against Mohamed. It said that having trained in various al-Qaeda camps and taken instruction from bin Laden, Mohamed “reviewed technical information concerning the construction of an improvised radioactive bomb” with K.S.M. and decided with Padilla to detonate one in America.

    In October, the charges were withdrawn, after the prosecutor, Lieutenant Colonel Darrel Vandeveld, resigned. Later he told the BBC he had concerns at the repeated suppression of evidence that could prove prisoners’ innocence. Meanwhile, as of December 2008, Mohamed’s lawyers were fighting separate court cases to force the U.S. government in Washington and the British government in London to disclose all the information they have about Mohamed’s treatment. (Coincidentally, my sister, Dinah Rose, Q.C., is representing Mohamed in the London case.) Stafford Smith is bound by Draconian restrictions that prevent him from offering any but the blandest comments about the evidence in his client’s case. He says, “I know of no evidence against him other than his own confessions, all of which are the bitter fruit of his abuse.”

    “There was no dirty-bomb plot. I’m sure it was just Abu Zubaydah trying to get them excited,” says the F.B.I.’s Dan Coleman. “There’s never been any corroboration except the confessions of Binyam Mohamed under torture. No one was willing to take their time.” But, in the words of the former C.I.A. official Mike Scheuer, “That dirty-bomb business put the fear of God into these people in the administration.” As a result, he says, “they may well have sent Binyam Mohamed somewhere where the authorities would do things we wouldn’t – or couldn’t.”

    On June 10, 2002, then attorney general John Ashcroft interrupted a visit to Moscow to speak to reporters: “I am pleased to announce today a significant step forward in the war on terrorism. We have captured a known terrorist who was exploring a plan to build and explode a radiological dispersion device, or ‘dirty bomb,’ in the United States.” He meant Jose Padilla, who had been arrested as he flew into Chicago on May 8. The president, Ashcroft said, had designated Padilla an “enemy combatant,” and he had been removed from civilian custody to a navy brig. In due course, Ashcroft said, he would be tried by a military commission.

    “Let me be clear: we know from multiple independent and corroborating sources that Abdullah Al Mujahir [Padilla’s nom de guerre] was closely associated with al-Qaeda and that Ö he was involved in planning future terrorist attacks on innocent American civilians in the United States,” Ashcroft said. Had his dirty bomb gone off, it could have caused “mass death and injury.”

    The shakiness of Ashcroft’s “multiple independent and corroborating sources” claim was demonstrated by an affidavit from an F.B.I. agent, Joe Ennis, in support of Padilla’s detention. Referring to Binyam Mohamed as “Subject-1,” it said that his “wife” had told law-enforcement authorities that he “would often become emotional and cry when he discussed his willingness to die for his God.” Strangely enough, Mohamed was and remains unmarried.

    Mohamed, the affidavit said, “has not been completely candid about his association with Al Qaeda, and his own terrorist activities,” and was trying to “mislead or confuse U.S. law enforcement.” But it was clear that after weeks of abuse he had started to crack. According to Ennis, he had already told his interrogators that he and Padilla had “researched the construction of a uranium-enhanced explosive device”; that Padilla had been to meetings with al-Qaeda officials; and that he believed Padilla had been ordered to return to America.

    In the brig, Padilla’s attorneys claimed, he too was tortured. He was deprived of all contact with the outside world for two and a half years, and, according to one court filing, “He would be shackled and manacled, with a belly chain, for hours in his cell. Noxious fumes would be introduced to his room causing his eyes and nose to run. The temperature of his cell would be manipulated, making the cell extremely cold for long stretches of time.” Chained in agonizing “stress positions” repeatedly, he was also allegedly “threatened with imminent execution…. Often he had to endure multiple interrogators who would scream, shake, and otherwise assault [him].”

    The government did not deny these assertions, only the claim that they amounted to torture. Donna Newman, Padilla’s attorney before he was taken to the brig, says that afterward “he was not the same person. Beforehand, he was engaged in his case; he asked pertinent questions. When I saw him again, he hardly said a word. He had no interest in what was happening, even though his case was nearing the Supreme Court.”

    Under this pressure, Padilla produced ever more elaborate confessions. Former deputy attorney general James Comey said in June 2004 that Padilla spoke of discussing the dirty bomb with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, of an instruction from K.S.M. to blow up apartments by filling them with gas and igniting it, and of a dinner party with Binyam Mohamed, K.S.M., and al-Qaeda bigwigs the night before he left Pakistan.

    Very senior officials had a lot invested in Padilla. But in November 2005, three days before the Justice Department was to file a brief before the Supreme Court in response to his lawyers’ claim that his treatment was unconstitutional, the administration returned him to civilian custody. With all mention of the dirty-bomb plot deleted, he stood trial in Florida on far less serious charges of conspiracy to murder, maim, and kidnap, and providing material support to terrorist organizations, and in January 2008 he was sentenced to 17 years and four months in prison. “The dirty-bomb plot was simply not credible,” Jack Cloonan says. “The government would never have given up that case if there was any hint of credibility to it. Padilla didn’t stand trial for it, because there was no evidence to support it.”

    On March 27, 2007, Abu Zubaydah was able to make a rare public statement, at a “Combatant Status-Review Tribunal” at Guantánamo – a military hearing convened to determine whether he should continue to be detained. Everything he said about the details of his treatment was redacted from the unclassified record. But a few relevant remarks remain: “I was nearly before half die plus [because] what they do [to] torture me. There I was not afraid from die because I do believe I will be shahid [martyr], but as God make me as a human and I weak, so they say yes, I say okay, I do I do, but leave me. They say no, we don’t want to. You to admit you do this, we want you to give us more information Ö they want what’s after more information about more operations, so I can’t. They keep torturing me.”

    The tribunal president, a colonel whose name is redacted, asked him: “So I understand that during this treatment, you said things to make them stop and then those statements were actually untrue, is that correct?” Abu Zubaydah replied: “Yes.”

    Some of those statements, say two senior intelligence analysts who worked on them at the time, concerned the issue that in the spring of 2002 interested the Bush administration more than almost any other – the supposed operational relationship between al-Qaeda and Iraq. Given his true position in the jihadist hierarchy, Abu Zubaydah “would not have known that if it was true,” says Coleman. “But you can lead people down a course and make them say anything.”

    Some of what he did say was leaked by the administration: for example, the claim that bin Laden and his ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi were working directly with Saddam Hussein to destabilize the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. There was much more, says the analyst who worked at the Pentagon: “I first saw the reports soon after Abu Zubaydah’s capture. There was a lot of stuff about the nuts and bolts of al-Qaeda’s supposed relationship with the Iraqi Intelligence Service. The intelligence community was lapping this up, and so was the administration, obviously. Abu Zubaydah was saying Iraq and al-Qaeda had an operational relationship. It was everything the administration hoped it would be.”

    Within the administration, Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation was “an important chapter,” the second analyst says: overall, his interrogation “product” was deemed to be more significant than the claims made by Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, another al-Qaeda captive, who in early 2002 was tortured in Egypt at the C.I.A.’s behest. After all, Abu Zubaydah was being interviewed by Americans. Like the former Pentagon official, this official had no idea that Abu Zubaydah had been tortured.

    “As soon as I learned that the reports had come from torture, once my anger had subsided I understood the damage it had done,” the Pentagon analyst says. “I was so angry, knowing that the higher-ups in the administration knew he was tortured, and that the information he was giving up was tainted by the torture, and that it became one reason to attack Iraq.”

    One result of Abu Zubaydah’s torture was that the F.B.I.’s assistant director for counterterrorism, Pasquale D’Amuro, persuaded Director Robert Mueller that the bureau should play no part in future C.I.A. interrogations that used extreme techniques forbidden by the F.B.I. The Justice Department’s Glenn Fine indicated in a statement before the U.S. Senate that the main reason was that the agency’s techniques would “not be effective in obtaining accurate information.”

    If torture doesn’t work, what does? The evidence suggests that when the Bush administration decided to ignore many of America’s most experienced counterterrorist agents and go for torture in 2001 and 2002, it shut down rich sources of intelligence. In the biggest terrorist case of the 1990s, the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 that killed more than 220 people, the F.B.I.’s Cloonan and his colleagues were able to persuade three of the main conspirators not only to talk to them but also to give prosecution testimony in court. Here Morocco, the U.S. ally where Binyam Mohamed was sent to be tortured in 2002, provided assistance of a very different order. Eighteen months after the attacks, Cloonan traced L’Houssaine Kherchtou, also known as Joe the Moroccan, an al-Qaeda operative who had played a key role, to his hiding place, in Sudan. The Moroccans concocted a story to lure him home, and when he arrived in Rabat he was arrested.

    After reports of Abu Zubaydah’s torture, F.B.I. director Robert Mueller – pictured here before the Senate Intelligence Committee in February 2008 – agreed that the bureau should play no part in future C.I.A. interrogations that use extreme techniques. By Ken Cedeno/Bloomberg News/Landov.

    Cloonan says, “We all went to a beautiful safe house outside of town, with gazelles bouncing around in the grounds and three solid meals fit for a king each day. We all sat on sofas in a big room – me, Ali Soufan [an F.B.I. colleague], Pat Fitzgerald [the U.S. attorney then in charge of a special counterterrorist section in New York], a C.I.A. guy, and two Moroccan colonels. The Moroccans said he’d never talk. He never shut up for 10 days.” Cloonan had done his homework: “His wife needed money for medical treatment in Khartoum, and al-Qaeda had failed to provide it.” That gave Cloonan his “in.”

    The intelligence Kherchtou provided, at a time when U.S. knowledge about al-Qaeda was still perfunctory, was invaluable. “He told us about a lot of things,” says Cloonan. “We learned how they recruited people, their front organizations, how they used NGOs, false passports, what they thought about kidnapping, how they developed targets, did their surveillance, a day in the life of Osama bin Laden, what weapons they used, what vehicles they drove, who was the principal liaison with the Sudanese government, that there was a relationship between al-Qaeda and Hezbollah, how they did their training exercises, their finances, and their membership.”

    Finally Fitzgerald offered Kherchtou a deal: if he came to New York, pleaded guilty, and testified against the bombers, Fitzgerald would ask the judge to treat him leniently. At first, it looked as if he was going to turn it down. Then, Cloonan says, “I said, ‘Joe, you understand English, so I’d like you to go out and pray on this with your two Moroccan brothers.’ I thought Fitzy was going to give birth. Joe went out and prayed and came back and said yes.” Kherchtou is now in the federal witness-protection program. Thanks in part to his testimony, four of his onetime associates are serving life.

    To reach a final calculus of the Bush administration’s use of torture will take years. It will require access to a large body of material that for now remains classified, and the weighing not just of information gained against false or missed leads but of the wider consequences: of the damage done to America’s influence with its friends, and of the encouragement provided to its enemies. Even harder to quantify is the damage done to institutions and their morale, especially the C.I.A.

    “We were done a tremendous disservice by the administration,” one official says. “We had no background in this; it’s not something we do. They stuck us with a totally unwelcome job and left us hanging out to dry. I’m worried that the next administration is going to prosecute the guys who got involved, and there won’t be any presidential pardons at the end of it. It would be O.K. if it were John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzales. But it won’t be. It’ll be some poor G.S.-13 who was just trying to do his job.”

    At the F.B.I., says a seasoned counterterrorist agent, following false leads generated through torture has caused waste and exhaustion. “At least 30 percent of the F.B.I.’s time, maybe 50 percent, in counterterrorism has been spent chasing leads that were bullshit. There are ‘lead squads’ in every office trying to filter them. But that’s ineffective, because there’s always that ‘What if?’ syndrome. I remember a claim that there was a plot to poison candy bought in bulk from Costco. You follow it because someone wants to cover himself. It has a chilling effect. You get burned out, you get jaded. And you think, Why am I chasing all this stuff that isn’t true? That leads to a greater problem – that you’ll miss the one that is true. The job is 24-7 anyway. It’s not like a bank job. But torture has made it harder.”

    Several of those I interviewed point out the dearth of specific claims the administration has proffered. “The proponents of torture say, ‘Look at the body of information that has been obtained by these methods.’ But if K.S.M. and Abu Zubaydah did give up stuff, we would have heard the details,” says Cloonan. “What we got was pabulum.” A former C.I.A. officer adds: “Why can’t they say what the good stuff from Abu Zubaydah or K.S.M. is? It’s not as if this is sensitive material from a secret, vulnerable source. You’re not blowing your source but validating your program. They say they can’t do this, even though five or six years have passed, because it’s a ‘continuing operation.’ But has it really taken so long to check it all out?”

    Officials who analyzed Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation reports say that the reports were afforded the highest value within the Bush administration not because of the many American lives they were going to save but because they could be cited repeatedly against those who doubted the wisdom of ousting Saddam by force.

    “We didn’t know he’d been waterboarded and tortured when we did that analysis, and the reports were marked as credible as they could be,” the former Pentagon analyst tells me. “The White House knew he’d been tortured. I didn’t, though I was supposed to be evaluating that intelligence.” To draw conclusions about the importance of what Abu Zubaydah said without knowing this crucial piece of the background nullified the value of his work. “It seems to me they were using torture to achieve a political objective. I cannot believe that the president and vice president did not know who was being waterboarded, and what was being given up.”

    One of the most specific claims Bush made in 2006 was that secret black-site C.I.A. interrogations “helped foil a plot to hijack passenger planes and fly them into Heathrow [airport] and London’s Canary Wharf.” Could that be true?

    One man who knows is Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard’s Anti-terrorist Branch from the spring of 2002 until May 2008, and as such the U.K.’s chief counterterrorist official, who succeeded in stopping several jihadist attacks that were in advanced stages of planning. Clarke, who has not publicly discussed this issue before, says it is possible that al-Qaeda had considered some project along the lines suggested by Bush, but if so it was nowhere near fruition. “It wasn’t at an advanced stage in the sense that there were people here in the U.K. doing it. If they had been, I’d have arrested them.”

    Perhaps the most dangerous of the plots disrupted on Clarke’s watch was through Operation Crevice, the 2004 bust of a gang of seven who had 1.3 tons of homemade explosive material, with which they had intended to blow up targets including a nightclub and a shopping mall. But the lead that led to Crevice came not from torture, Clarke says, but an electronic intercept. He says he can think of only one arrest made by his team that could be said to have been partly the result of C.I.A. interrogations – that of Dhiren Barot, sentenced to life, in 2006, for conspiracy to murder stemming from his plan to attack a range of British targets. But even here, the original lead, reportedly given up by K.S.M., was vague. “All we had was a nom de guerre, Esa al-Hindi, and the claim that he was a serious player and a Brit,” Clarke says. “We had no idea who he was. It took weeks and months of painstaking work to identify and find him.”

    In an interview in London in April 2008, I remind F.B.I. director Robert Mueller of the attacks planned against targets on American soil since 9/11 that his agents have disrupted: for example, a plot to kill soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and another to wreak mayhem at army recruiting centers and synagogues in and around Torrance, California. These and other homegrown conspiracies were foiled by regular police work. The F.B.I. learned of the Fort Dix plot from an informant at a local mosque, while the Torrance cell was rounded up when cops probed the backgrounds of two of its members after they allegedly robbed a local gas station.

    I ask Mueller: So far as he is aware, have any attacks on America been disrupted thanks to intelligence obtained through what the administration still calls “enhanced techniques”?

    “I’m really reluctant to answer that,” Mueller says. He pauses, looks at an aide, and then says quietly, declining to elaborate: “I don’t believe that has been the case.” 

    David Rose is a Vanity Fair contributing editor.

Nat Hentoff: What Obama Doesn’t Know December 18, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, George W. Bush.
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Much has been hidden from the new president by the Bush team

Nat Hentoff, Village Voice

December 18, 2008

No presidential transition team in recent history has ranged as widely as Barack Obama’s in its attempt to find out what minefields he may be walking into. For example,The Washington Post notes, 10 teams of 135 explorers, wearing yellow badges, have descended on dozens of Bush administration offices and agencies to look into their programs, policies, and records.

However, I keep remembering a dark warning to the successors of the Bush-Cheney legacy in a January 3 letter to The New York Times by Arthur Gunther of Blauvelt, New York: “Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have so deeply embedded tacit approval for illegal acts in government agencies that wrongdoing by their philosophical sympathizers will continue in shadow operations for years to come.”

How many of those shadow sympathizers will remain deep in the CIA, the FBI, Homeland Security—and, as I shall later emphasize, in the omnivorous National Security Agency, with its creatively designed submarine that, on the bottom of the ocean floor, will be tapping into foreign cables carrying overseas communications, including those of Americans?

Will the Obama sleuths be able to peer into plans of the military Special Operations forces around the world, whose SWAT-style moves can quickly inflame even our allies? Covertly authorized four years ago by Donald Rumsfeld, these warriors are empowered to attack secretly any apparent terrorist venture, anywhere. No press allowed.

Will the new president, cognizant of the proliferation of retaliatory nuclear arms, presumably among our enemies, insist on signing off on each of those Special Operations forays?

Back at home, will President Obama order the countermanding of the FBI’s return to the unbounded surveillance practices of J. Edgar Hoover? In an order implemented as recently as this December—by FBI Director Robert Mueller (who says he’d like to stay on) and Attorney General Michael Mukasey—the FBI can start an investigation without requiring any evidence of wrongdoing. That is not change we can believe in.

Among many Obama voters, much optimism is created when he pledges that we will not torture. But even if he makes his intent official, emphasizes Mark Kukis (Time, December 8), “the Executive Order would have to be sweeping and reach deep into the government’s darker recesses. That’s because the Bush team has written so many legal memos okaying various techniques for interrogators working at a wide range of agencies [not just the CIA]. Some of these opinions have been disclosed publicly, but an unknown number remain classified.”

It will be up to the new Attorney General, Eric Holder—not a notably passionate constitutionalist in his previous role in the Justice Department—to, as Kukis adds, “issue new legal guidance that supersedes all those legal opinions, seen or unseen, if he hopes to prevent a return to such practices in the future” (emphasis added).

So, keep an eye on Mr. Holder. And if he does bury those John Yoo–style torture memos and other (and, here, I use the term loosely) “legal opinions,” Holder should be tasked by the president to reveal what they permitted.

For a long time, Senate Judiciary chairman Pat Leahy, a Democrat, and leading Republican member Arlen Specter have been trying to get those deeply hidden authorizations for war crimes that contradicted the broken-record insistence (”We do not torture!”) of George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice.

Of all our intelligence agencies, the most unabashedly un-American is the NSA, because it has the continually expanding technological resources to make George Orwell’s Big Brother look like a cantankerous infant. No American president has come close to reining in the NSA, let alone bringing its officials up on charges of murdering our Fourth Amendment privacy rights.

In case you’ve forgotten, those specific constitutional protections were a result of the general searches conducted by British soldiers that turned American colonists’ homes and offices upside down. NSA’s eavesdropping on our phones and Internet activities have largely destroyed some of our rights as mentioned in the Constitution: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall be issued but on probable cause. . . .” (Computers and the Internet are now included.)

Of all the investigators of the formidably guarded privacy of the NSA, the most feared by these omnipresent spies is James Bamford, who for years has been penetrating their secrets in his books—Body of SecretsThe Puzzle Palace, etc. This year, he’s gone much deeper into that bottomless cavern than ever before, in The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA From 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America (Doubleday). I hope President Obama reads this book himself and demands that his intelligence directors also plumb it and give him their reactions—or better yet, their confessions of complicity with NSA.

There will be more on the “Shadow Factory” next week, as well as on Senator Obama’s startling (to me) vote for the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Amendments of 2008—after he had insisted he would filibuster against its passage. In view of the sweeping spying powers that this law, championed by George W. Bush, provides the NSA, will President Obama be a dependable restorer of at least some of our privacy rights?

John McCain, of course, would not have been.

Bamford ends his new book by bringing back one of my Bill of Rights heroes, the late Senator Frank Church of Idaho, whose Senate investigating committee, during the 1970s, first uncovered the frightening range and depth of NSA’s spying on us. “That capability,” said Church, “at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such [is the NSA’s] capability to monitor everything. . . . There would be no place to hide. . . . If this government ever became a tyranny . . . the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because resistance . . . is within the reach of the government to know.”

After quoting that warning from Frank Church, Bamford ends: “There is now the capacity to make tyranny total in America. Only law ensures that we never fall into that abyss—the abyss from which there is no return.” Are you listening, President Obama?

Bush Spy Revelations Expected When Obama Is Sworn In November 10, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in George W. Bush.
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by: Ryan Singel, Wired.com

More details regarding the Bush administration’s domestic spying program are expected to come out once President-elect Barack Obama takes office. (Photo: AFP / Getty Images)



  When Barack Obama takes the oath of office on January 20, Americans won’t just get a new president; they might finally learn the full extent of George W. Bush’s warrantless domestic wiretapping.

    Since The New York Times first revealed in 2005 that the NSA was eavesdropping on citizens’ overseas phone calls and e-mail, few additional details about the massive “Terrorist Surveillance Program” have emerged. That’s because the Bush administration has stonewalled, misled and denied documents to Congress, and subpoenaed the phone records of the investigative reporters.

    Now privacy advocates are hopeful that President Obama will be more forthcoming with information. But for the quickest and most honest account of Bush’s illegal policies, they say don’t look to the incoming president. Watch instead for the hidden army of would-be whistle-blowers who’ve been waiting for Inauguration Day to open the spigot on the truth.

    “I’d bet there are a lot of career employees in the intelligence agencies who’ll be glad to see Obama take the oath so they can finally speak out against all this illegal spying and get back to their real mission,” says Caroline Fredrickson, the ACLU’s Washington D.C. legislative director.

    New Yorker investigative reporter Seymour Hersh already has a slew of sources waiting to spill the Bush administration’s darkest secrets, he said in an interview last month. “You cannot believe how many people have told me to call them on January 20. [They say,] ‘You wanna know about abuses and violations? Call me then.'”

    So far, virtually everything we know about the NSA’s warrantless surveillance has come from whistle-blowers. Telecom executives told USA Today that they had turned over billions of phone records to the government. Former AT&T employee Mark Klein provided wiring diagrams detailing an internet-spying room in a San Francisco switching facility. And one Justice Department attorney had his house raided and his children’s computers seized as part of the FBI’s probe into who leaked the warrantless spying to The New York Times. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales even suggested the reporters could be prosecuted under antiquated treason statutes.

    If new whistle-blowers do emerge, Fredrickson hopes the additional information will spur Congress to form a new Church Committee — the 1970s bipartisan committee that investigated and condemned the government’s secret spying on peace activists, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other political figures.

    But even if the anticipated flood of leaks doesn’t materialize, advocates hope that Obama and the Democratic Congress will get around to airing out the White House closet anyway. “Obama has pledged a lot more openness,” says Kurt Opsahl of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which was the first to file a federal lawsuit over the illegal eavesdropping.

    One encouraging sign for civil liberties groups is that John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, is a key figure in Obama’s transition team, which will staff and set priorities for the new administration. The center was a tough and influential critic of the Bush administration’s warrantless spying.

    Among the unanswered questions:

  • Were there quid pro quo promises made to the phone companies and internet carriers who cooperated with the secret spying? For example, were co-conspirators promised lucrative government contracts?
  • Did the program appropriate the CALEA wiretapping infrastructure? Under CALEA, Congress forced telecoms to build surveillance capabilities into the phone and internet network, but promised it would only be used with court orders.
  • What did the first version of the surveillance program sweep into its net? In March 2004, a squadron of top officials at the Justice Department, including then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI head Robert Mueller, threatened to resign over the illegality of the program. The program was subsequently scaled back, but nobody knows what the NSA was doing that was bad enough to horrify Ashcroft.
  • What was the legal rationale for the surveillance? FISA explicitly made warrantless domestic eavesdropping illegal, but the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued a series of memos justifying the spying anyway. The ACLU is fighting the Bush administration for access to the documents, as well as secret memos justifying torture.
        “It’s difficult to see how Sen. Obama could call his administration transparent if his administration continues to suppress non-sensitive information that should have been released a long time ago,” says the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer.

        The other looming question is whether, as president, Obama will continue the warrantless spying himself. Obama voted with the majority in Congress to legalize the Bush spying program in July, but the constitutionality of the measure is yet untested. An Obama administration is less likely than Bush to devise convoluted legal end-runs around the Constitution, according to Marc Rotenberg, the head of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

        “Keep in mind that Obama is a constitutional scholar and has a deep understanding of checks and balance,” says Rotenberg. “It’s hard to imagine that an Obama administration would support … warrantless wiretapping.”

        With the financial markets and the economy in deep trouble, it’s unlikely that Obama will quickly turn to the issue of warrantless wiretapping. But the EFF’s lawsuit against AT&T over the surveillance could force the new administration to pick a side quickly. In December, a federal judge in San Francisco will hold a hearing on whether the retroactive immunity granted to AT&T and other telecoms as part of the FISA Amendments Act is Constitutional. Obama voted for the act in order to legalize the spying program, but tried unsuccessfully to strip out the immunity provision.

        EFF’s Opsahl hopes that if EFF prevails in December, an Obama administration might let the decision stand, clearing the way for EFF’s lawsuit to proceed.

        “If we are victorious in our constitutional challenge, I would hope the Obama administration would accept that loss and move on without an appeal,” says Opsahl. “But we will have to see.”