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Sunday, January 24, 2010

I was taken in myself

From Deep Blade Journal, June 10th, 2006:
This is sad beyond belief. After four years of vicious US assault at the Guant?namo Bay camp on living, caged human beings?-subjected to the cruelest, most maniacal, most hideously efficacious methods of psychological torture ever invented?-three of the prisoners have finally succeeded in killing themselves.

This ruination of life and soul gives me a gut-wrenching sickness. My country has committed unconscionable acts against these helpless detainees that no notion of revenge can justify. Every rule designed to protect prisoners of war or criminal defendants has been denied them, or only weakly restored after monumental legal struggles. Most of them were rounded up after their names were sold by bounty hunters, not necessarily on anything resembling a "battlefield." But only a few have had any opportunity to challenge their detention in something other than a military monkey court.

So, it is incredible that a high-ranking US military officer would describe these same helpless detainees who killed themselves as some sort of dangerous enemy attacking him. But that is exactly what the commander of Joint Task Force-Guant?namo did.

Rear Adm. Harry Harris: "They are smart. They are creative. They are committed. They have no regard for human life, neither ours nor their own? I believe this was not an act of desperation, but rather an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."
Turns out there is reason to believe that these were not suicides. Evidence has been uncovered by Scott Horton and published in Harpers Magazine that the "asymmetrical warfare" of which Rear Admiral Harris spoke really was a case of murder by torture. Horton appeared on Democracy Now!:

Democracy Now! 1-20-2010

Casting Doubt on US Claims of Suicide, Attorney Scott Horton Reveals 3 Gitmo Prisoners Died After Torture at Secret Site
SCOTT HORTON:[W]e were able to see how [NCIS, the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service] had concluded the suicides occurred. And they state that these three prisoners bound their feet, bound their hands with cloth, stuffed cloth down their throats, in some cases, at least, put masks over their faces to hold the cloth in place, fashioned mannequins of themselves to put in their beds to deceive the guards, put up cloth to obstruct the view of cameras, fashioned a noose which they attached at the top of an eight-foot wire wall, stepped up as their hands and feet are bound and they?re gagging on cloth, stepped up on top of a wash basin, put their head through the noose, tightened it, and jumped off?and moreover, that these prisoners, in non-adjacent cells, did all of these things absolutely simultaneously, in a clockwork-like fashion. So the story is just simply incredible and simply not believable, I should stress.

And then we began looking at autopsy evidence, all sorts of other evidence, which strongly suggested that there was something seriously inappropriate here. We talked with pathologists and so on, who told us they had rarely seen something quite as irregular as what was going on here. And then, ultimately, I was approached by Sergeant Hickman, who gave me his account. And it?s not just Sergeant Hickman, actually; it?s almost his entire unit who was on duty that night and the perimeter guards. Four other soldiers provided aspects of corroboration. There?s not a single element of Sergeant Hickman?s story that is not in fact corroborated by others, based on the their own eyewitness testimony.

And I should say, the things they observed are the things they were required to observe. It was their duty. These were the perimeter guards. They were supposed to keep close count of everything that happened, and particularly who went in and out of the base that evening. And what they tell us is that three prisoners were removed from that cellblock that evening between 7:00 and 8:00 and taken to the secret facility, Camp No.

ANJALI KAMAT: Explain what Camp No is. Why is it called Camp No?

Well, they call it Camp No because ?No, it does not exist? was an answer that they were supposed to give if there were inquiries about it. In their first weeks on the job there in March 2006, they had come across it when they were doing perimeter patrols. In fact, two of the soldiers here were PIs, and they decided sort of to sharpen their skills. They were going to monitor and keep an eye on Camp No, which they did. And they largely believed that this was a facility that was being used by the CIA, or certainly by Intelligence Service agents. They noted un-uniformed government personnel from other government agencies who seemed to be involved with or connected with this facility.
In February 2009 one of these soldiers, Staff Sergeant Joe Hickman, who was on duty June 9th, 2006, had come forward with some very troubling observations he made during that night. But the Justice Department under President Obama was not interested in pursuing the case.

The implication is obvious. Despite the propaganda bath constantly promoting American righteousness, the United States even under Obama may in fact be a deceitful criminal tyranny with no regard for the life and limb of those under its thumb. And it looks like our military officers will tell the the most egregious lies in order to cover that up. So, why is it that they hate us again?

Update: Mytwords at NPR Check (who was not taken in by the reported "suicides" in the first place) has up an outstanding piece on the detainee deaths--and NPR's failure of skepticism and lack of interest in actual reporting on this incident along with torture and detainee murder in general.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Enhanced language techniques are in use at National Pentagon Radio.

To wit:
Nope, explosive reports on torture at Bagram, high seas piracy on the shores of Gaza, and massive war crimes at same do not see the light of day where they "start with the day's news."

There's a reason I've refused to send them money since 1993.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Abuse of power

But with respect to the refusal of President Obama to hold anyone accountable, I think Keith Olbermann was correct in tonight's Special Comment: "Half the distance is worse than standing still."

Of course it's easy to see why Obama is uninterested in prosecution or even investigation, which is clear from a part of the president's official statement today that Olbermann did not quote:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: 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. The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world. Their accomplishments are unsung and their names unknown, but because of their sacrifices, every single American is safer. We must protect their identities as vigilantly as they protect our security, and we must provide them with the confidence that they can do their jobs.

Going forward, it is my strong belief that the United States has a solemn duty to vigorously maintain the classified nature of certain activities and information related to national security. This is an extraordinarily important responsibility of the presidency, and it is one that I will carry out assertively irrespective of any political concern.
And he prefaced this by saying the techniques used (carefully not said to be torture techniques) have "already been widely reported." So he's not telling us anything we shouldn't already know.

Of course, the actions of other countries now go up a notch in importance. Last week in the New Yorker, Jane Mayer described recent steps taken in Spain,
A Spanish court took the first steps toward starting a criminal investigation of the same six former Bush Administration officials he had named, weighing charges that they had enabled and abetted torture by justifying the abuse of terrorism suspects. Among those whom the court singled out was Feith, the former Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy, along with former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; John Yoo, a former Justice Department lawyer; and David Addington, the chief of staff and the principal legal adviser to Vice-President Dick Cheney.
This isn't over. The president and the administration seem almost to be daring Spain and perhaps others to issue indictments.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Of course we've known that for a long time:

The Daily Show, November 2005, throwing his words back at him

What a sorry embarrassment for America is the persistence of the lies of former Vice President Richard B. Cheney. For example, in a March 15 interview with John King on CNN, Cheney was asked to comment on Bush-era Terror War measures President Obama has begun to roll back:
King: I'd like to just simply ask you, yes or no, by taking those steps, do you believe the president of the United States has made Americans less safe?

Cheney: I do. I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that let us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11. I think that's a great success story. It was done legally. It was done in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles.

President Obama campaigned against it all across the country. And now he is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack.
But a number of recent articles and reports cast strong doubts about these Cheney assertions of "success" in actions "done legally." Harry Shearer writes today at Huffington Post an excellent summary of these items, with reference to the case of Abu Zubaydah, supposedly the "feared number 3 of Al-Qaeda."
Shearer: Sunday's Washington Post article, ... Along with the outing of the International Red Cross report, which clearly and unequivocally called "enhanced interrogation" what it is--torture, the Post piece and Dan Froomkin's accompanying blog post make the case a slam dunk that our previous administration committed war crimes.
What was done to Zubaydah was useless on its own merits, not "essential" as Cheney asserts. His treatment and the false imprisonment of many others have stained our country. But Cheney can't admit that. Cheney is a shameful presence. He should be investigated vigorously for these potential war crimes so that his lies may be unraveled and that it can be demonstrated that America takes seriously its ideals.

Here is my word for President Obama: Investigating Cheney and others for their crimes while in office would not be "looking backward." It would have the purpose of deterring high officials from committing like crimes in the future.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

This item from the old blog 100% confirmed by Gitmo guard. It wasn't even close to the worst of it:

Gitmo haircut: Humiliation using belittling and denial of cultural and religious practice routine in US detention

Scott Horton (h/t Atrios):
Neely describes the arrival of detainees in full sensory-deprivation garb, he details their sexual abuse by medical personnel, torture by other medical personnel, brutal beatings out of frustration, fear, and retribution, the first hunger strike and its causes, torturous shackling, positional torture, interference with religious practices and beliefs, verbal abuse, restriction of recreation, the behavior of mentally ill detainees, an isolation regime that was put in place for child-detainees ...

... a key part of the Bush program included invasion of the bodies of prisoners in a way that might be deemed rape by instrumentality under existing federal and state criminal statutes. While these techniques have long been known, the role of health care professionals in implementing them is shocking.
Here are links to the extensive catalog of posts on U.S.-inflicted torture associated with its Terror War:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Greenwald: Obama Administration FAILS first test on civil liberties

Rachel Maddow had a good segment on the Obama continuation of Bush "state secrets" claims with regard to rendition and torture last night with ACLU attorney Ben Wizner:

Wizner: And I think that this administration would prefer to sweep the last seven years under the rug and move on and get along. The problem is not a single torture victim, and there are hundreds, has yet had his day in court.

And you did a segment on prosecution - I understand that?s a controversial issue. The other side of the coin is civil liability. And if torture victims aren't going to be able to go into court at all - and bear in mind these victims can?t go into court. I don?t know which victims will be able to go into court.

Then, really, you?ll have an immunity regime for the perpetrators, for the violators and it will be impossible really to enforce the prohibitions that are in those executive orders and in our laws.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A new season of the Fox torture romp, 24, premieres this evening

Via Atrios and Matthew Yglasias comes this observation:
under the leadership of a terrible president, our elites have become vociferous advocates of the goodness and rightness of war crimes and human rights violations
One of the references cited discussed Brit Hume's "41 & 43" interview on Fox News Sunday today.
Colonel W. Patrick Lang: torture a la Jack Bauer had been a good thing for the US government to employ because it had enabled the winkling out of information from "known killers," and at another point in his discourse "known criminals."
The problem is the president neatly has corrupted the foundations of human rights--namely the right to a fair trial and to be protected from the whims of a vindictive executive.

For his part, Vice President Richard B. Cheney graced The Beard's final Late Edition with this wisdom:
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: The fact of the matter is that we were able to persuade them to cooperate, to give us the intelligence we needed, and to give us the base of understanding about al Qaeda, about personnel and operations and financing and geography and so forth that was essential in terms of defending our country against further attacks. Now you don't go in and pull out somebody's toenails in order to get them to talk. This is not torture. We don't do torture.

WOLF BLITZER: John McCain says it's torture.

CHENEY: Well, John is wrong. He and I have a fundamental disagreement on this point. But what the agency did was they sought formal guidance from the senior leadership of the administration, as well as the Justice Department in terms of what was appropriate and what wasn't. And they got that guidance. And they followed that guidance, as far as I know. I have no reason to believe anybody out at the agency violated any tenet of the obligations and responsibilities we have in terms of statutes or our treaty obligations. I think it was done very professionally. I think it was done very few times, when it was necessary. I think it produced good results. I think there are Americans alive today because we used that technique on those three individuals.

BLITZER: And if necessary, would you authorize it again?

CHENEY: Well, I'm not in the chain of command, but if necessary, I would certainly recommend it again.

BLITZER: Waterboarding?

I suppose Cheney has to state that the waterboarding he openly admits to supporting (note the careful ass-covering statement about his not being in the "chain of command," probably technically true) is not torture. If it is, those with their hands on it are wide open to war crimes charges. My opinion is the vice president richly deserves a space in the dock for a war crimes trial where this defense of his actions should receive at least as much consideration as Hussein and Milo?ević received in theirs.

Furthermore, we can attack Cheny, Bush, and other torture advocates on their own terms. The story of Ibn al Sheikh al Libi is instructive. Torture leads to bad information, bad decisions, unnecessary war, and catastrophic loss of life. In the case of al Libi, he was sent to Egypt where "they buried him alive and beat him mercilessly until he confessed that Iraq and Al Qaeda were linked." The bad information was then used countless times by Cheney and others to dupe the public into war.

One note on The Beard-- I give him credit for pressing Cheney on bad intelligence, in particular that provided by "Curveball."

Violations of the sort practiced by this administration and now shamelessly rationalized in its waning days are ingrained in our entertainment, namely shows like 24 and NCIS. I can't stand NCIS any more, even though it is a very well-made show. But I will tune into 24. It's like gaping at a highway wreck.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Greenwald has the goods on intelligence "continuity" being urge Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX). I'll update this with Greenwald's Rachel Maddow interview when it becomes available.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Secretary of State furiously rewriting history of Bush war crime program while drums bang in Berkeley against a war crime lawyer

There she goes again, on NPR Morning Edition today.
Secretary of State Rice: I absolutely believed and was told that we were doing so under our treaty obligations and under domestic laws.
Well, I suppose she has to say that.

It was actually good of Michele Kelemen to bring up that U.S. authority on human rights is in doubt, especially when the Secretary attempts to hold President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe to account.

But in the Rice interview, NPR missed mentioning this action against the guy on whom Rice must be depending for the opinion that American actions against its prisoners have been "legal":

Berkeley Council urges war crimes prosecution
Carolyn Jones, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
(12-09) 11:19 PST Berkeley -- After an emotional, rancorous debate over torture and academic freedom, Berkeley's City Council passed a measure late Monday night imploring the United States to prosecute Berkeley resident and former White House official John Yoo for war crimes. ...
Yoo, of course, was author of many of the opinions that Rice now says she was "told" and "believed" that "we were doing so under our treaty obligations and under domestic laws."

Update: Think Progress has more, including transcript of some of her remarks.

For example, she replied, "I'm going to have to object," when Kellemen asked about the "tarnished" U.S. image.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bush on torture
President Bush (Sept. 6, 2006): I want to be absolutely clear with our people and the world, the United States does not torture. It?s against our laws, and it?s against our values. I have not authorized it, and I will not authorize it.
U.K. Parliamentary report on Human Rights:
We conclude that, given the clear differences in definition, the UK can no longer rely on US assurances that it does not use torture, and we recommend that the Government does not rely on such assurances in the future. We also recommend that the Government should immediately carry out an exhaustive analysis of current US interrogation techniques on the basis of such information as is publicly available or which can be supplied by the US.
A question I have is the same as one a commenter suggests at the Balkinization blog where I linked to for the item on this report: Why the hell is the U.S. Congress not uncovering the fact that Bush statements on U.S. torture practice are false and unreliable? Why does the job fall to the U.K. Parliament? It's a damn shameful situation.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Wouldn't the Republicans have found a way to get tough against this kind of tactic when they were in charge?

Phillipe Sands, whose testimony on U.S. leadership and torture was cut off by the Republican objection, is a world treasure in the pursuit of truth. Maine Owl has three relevant posts:
At least with the Democrats in charge, there is an attempt to have some sort of hearing when strong evidence of international war crimes by U.S. leaders emerges. However, so far I'm not impressed with their overall handling of the situation. I just get the feeling that the Republicans would not allow something they cared about to be bowled over so easily.

Addendum: I'll propose the hypothesis that it is the Democrats themselves who do not want to hear strong, direct evidence of impeachable offenses. Good luck, Dennis.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The U.S. certainly, definitely, absolutely never ever tortures. I know this because the president said so. And Defense Department documents revealing non-torture treatment like beating to death, strangulation, threats, and sensory deprivation prove it.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Seems like the torture promoters who roam the halls of wingnuttia are all bathed in the fantasy of "24." (According to Philippe Sands, the torture staff at Guantanamo Bay are great fans of this teevee fiction.)

In places like Fox Noise and the U.S. Supreme Court, apologists justify torture with this image of extracting information from "ticking bombs" ahead of "imminent attack."

Well, what about this? Here's a guy who was ripped out of his life and dealt the most cruel and inhuman practices that the Pentagon mind could muster for six years:

After More than Six Years, Al Jazeera Cameraman Sami al-Haj Released from Guantanamo Bay
Arrested in Pakistan in December 2001, Sami al-Haj spent nearly six-and-a-half years at Guantanamo without charge or trial. He had been on a more than a year-long hunger strike to protest his imprisonment. We hear al-Haj?s first public remarks from his hospital bed in Sudan and speak to his brother, Asim al-Haj.
AMY GOODMAN: Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj has just been released from Guantanamo Bay. The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders issued a statement Thursday saying Sami al-Haj had been tortured while at Guantanamo and subjected to 200 interrogation sessions. He?s lost forty pounds, is suffering from intestinal problems and bouts of paranoia, according to his lawyer Clive Stafford Smith....

After a tearful reunion with his family, he spoke out against the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo in an interview broadcast on Al Jazeera.

SAMI AL-HAJ: [translated] I?m very happy to be in Sudan, but I?m very sad because of the situation of our brothers who remain in Guantanamo. Conditions in Guantanamo are very, very bad, and they get worse by the day. Our human condition, our human dignity was violated, and the American administration went beyond all human values, all moral values, all religious values. In Guantanamo, you have animals that are called iguanas, rats that are treated with more humanity. But we have people from more than fifty countries that are completely deprived of all rights and privileges, and they will not give them the rights that they give to animals....
I wonder what "ticking bomb" information they might have gotten out of al-Haj after about the second day they held him.

Hullabaloo has an extensive rundown of more recent developments on the torture front.

Friday, April 11, 2008

This today from Democracy Now! headlines:

ACLU Calls for Probe of Admin Torture Talks
Two former senior intelligence officials have come forward to confirm reports top Bush administration officials personally discussed and approved how top al-Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the CIA. This week, ABC News revealed a Principals Committee on the National Security Council agreed on controversial interrogation techniques including physical assault, sleep deprivation and waterboarding. The officials included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft. In an interview with the Associated Press, a former senior US intelligence official said the group met in the White House Situation Room and deliberately insulated President Bush from their discussions. The meetings were said to include live demonstrations from CIA officials of the interrogation methods in practice, including waterboarding. The American Civil Liberties Union is calling for a congressional investigation. ACLU legislative director Caroline Fredrickson said, "With each new revelation, it is beginning to look like the torture operation was managed and directed out of the White House. This is what we suspected all along."
In the old blog, there are many posts on torture. Generally I assume that my opposition is to "torture and killing being done in my name by the leadership of my own country." However, there is precious little confirmation that infamous documents, like the Bybee memo of August 1, 2002, that clearly indicate top-level involvement in covering up torture, were actually discussed by senior officials. Now we have that.

See also, this extraordinary April 3 interview on Democracy Now! with British journalist, Philippe Sands. Excellent reporting by Seymour Hersh (see the book "Chain of Command") plowed this ground. Sands recent article in Vanity Fair on the Green Light also describes the real workings of the Torture Administration:
PHILIPPE SANDS: Well, I think that the administration?s narrative has always been they really didn?t authorize these things; what happened was it started on the ground at Guantanamo, they faced a situation with individuals who they thought presented a threat to US security, and from the ground, from the people at Guantanamo, new security, new interrogation measures were requested. And so, it?s a bottom-up theory that the administration has always pushed.

What of course emerged, as many I think suspected, is that that?s not an accurate narrative. It in fact came from the top down, and there was a small group of lawyers coalescing around the President, around the Vice President, around the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Rumsfeld, who basically drove the whole thing through.
What really struck me in the Sands interview is his statement about how foolish it has been following the Supreme Court Hamden vs. Rumsfeld decision for the political branches of the U.S. government to immunize themselves on torture through the onerous Military Commissions Act of 2006:
Justice Anthony Kennedy put in a separate opinion. He was with the majority. And he opened the door to war crimes possibilities. He said this means that war crimes violations may well be investigated in relation to situations in which the Geneva Convention was not followed. The administration recognized the threat that it faced, and within three months it had adopted legislation in the Military Commissions Act which created an immunity for any person who was involved in the interrogation of al-Qahtani, as well as many other people. That immunity applies within the United States.

But, as I write in the article in Vanity Fair, it doesn?t go beyond the United States. And I describe in the Vanity Fair piece, in much more detail than in the book, the meetings I?ve had with a European judge and a European prosecutor, who basically said the fact that the US has created a domestic immunity significantly increases the prospects of international investigational prosecution, if any of these people set foot out of the country. And as the prosecutor said to me, that was a very stupid thing to do, to create an immunity.
No one will cheer louder than I if Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, Gonzales, and others one day are forced to face justice for their crimes against humanity.