Thursday, April 23, 2009

Don’t Play With US; Torture Is Not A Political Toy And “Truth Without Consequences” Is Not Acceptable!

Don’t Play With US; Torture Is Not A Political Toy And “Truth Without Consequences” Is Not Acceptable!


We’re Looking At An Attempt To Manage The Truth In The Washington Game Of PMA!


James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:41 P.M. EDT

Excerpted From White House Press Briefing…. 4/23/09:


Q   Two  unrelated things.  First, what's the latest thinking here on whether the White House would support some sort of independent commission to look at the interrogations during the Bush era?  And then I want to follow up with a credit card question, if I could.

MR. GIBBS:  Sure.  Well, I don't -- I don't know that I have a lot to add on the first question other than what the President discussed earlier in the week and what I talked about on the plane yesterday. 

And obviously there's been news reports of a discussion about such a commission here that the President decided I think the last few days might well be evidence of why something like this would likely just become a political back and forth.

Q    So is that an indication that you don't want to see an independent commission?  I'm trying to understand.

MR. GIBBS:  By dint, an independent commission would probably not be something that I would weigh in on if Congress were to create one of those.  I think that -- from the larger perspective, the President believes, as both of us have said, that the release of the memos are not a time for a retribution but to reflect on what happens and that we're all best suited looking forward.

Q    Robert, today the Defense Secretary commented for the first time on releasing the interrogation memos, and he said that he's concerned it "might have a negative impact on our troops," the release of the memos, sort of -- because it may help al Qaeda and other adversaries.  You sort of seem to be voicing similar criticism -- we've heard it from Vice President Cheney, General Hayden, other Bush officials.  Are you concerned to have --

MR. GIBBS:  Well, let's -- let me make sure -- I think Secretary Gates also, in a story I saw, mentioned that he supported their release, right?

Q    Right.  But he suggested he supported it because it was inevitable they were going to come out, not because he wanted them to come out.  The charge essentially is about -- that it might help the enemy, that's my question.

MR. GIBBS:  Well, a couple of different things.  One, I think -- in many ways, I think your network and many news organizations in this room have done stories on these techniques.  You guys have a fancy graphic that accompanies that that I doubt was constructed based on the release of memos a week ago, right?

Q    Sure, it's been out there, as you said.

MR. GIBBS:  Well, so, again, I've denoted this many times, or I've noted this many times, and I think it continues to need noting.

The existence of these practices in the form of a memo, or in the paragraph of a page that's ultimately released, is not what ultimately hurts or has the potential to hurt our troops.  It's the very existence of the use of the techniques on those that hurts our image and makes the very people that we're trying to defeat in this want to go do that to innocent people, innocent civilians, and our soldiers.  That's -- the problem, Ed, isn't the existence of a paragraph or a term in a memo that was released since we've been discussing this.  In some ways, some of these techniques and tactics were even declassified by the administration most previous that used them.  It is the very existence of their use that in some ways has done that. 

And I will tell you that I have heard General Jones in meetings that we've had in the White House say that their use also makes it -- their use, not the existence of some word, but their use makes it likely that somebody is going to use it on one of our soldiers.

Again, it's not that it was on page whatever of what -- of the four memos.  It's the use of.

Q    But why would Secretary Gates say that, then?  I understand you've said this before, but Secretary Gates seems to disagree with what you just said.

MR. GIBBS:  Well, I think that -- there are a lot of opinions on this.  As I mentioned -- I just mentioned General Jones.  I have not seen Secretary Gates's full remarks.  I don't know what context they were in.  But the full national security team of this administration determined that the totality of this and the use of these techniques has made this country less safe.  That was the recommendation of -- that's what this national security team believes and I think that's what many on the outside believe, as well.

Q    Robert, does the President believe someone ought to be punished for allowing waterboarding?  He changed the policy, but does he believe somebody ought to be punished?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, I think that determination is going to be left up to, as I've said for any number of days looking backward on this now, that that's going to be made by a legal official.

Q    And that legal official is the Attorney General?

MR. GIBBS:  In our Constitution it is.

Q    And what about this idea of the Attorney General appointing a special prosecutor?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, I addressed this --

Q    Is that his -- is that the Attorney General's decision or is that ultimately the President's decision?

MR. GIBBS:  I'd have to look up, honestly, the legal statute to determine that.  I don't -- I don't think the -- I don't believe that there's -- I think the Justice Department is fully capable of weighing the law.

Q    You don't think a special prosecutor is necessary?

MR. GIBBS:  I don't -- I don't think anybody has presented a compelling case why the Justice Department couldn't do this.

Q    And then one final thing on this.  Did Vice President Cheney make a specific request -- is it an official request that he wants these other memos declassified as far as you guys know?

MR. GIBBS:  I would have to double-check with CIA.  I think that the -- that request -- as I understand, what the Vice President has said, a request came to -- several weeks ago to the CIA.  I don't -- but I have not talked to him.

Q    Given that General Jones apparently was involved with helping to expedite with Jay Rockefeller, does that mean you guys will have a role in deciding whether this gets declassified or not?

MR. GIBBS:  I believe so.  I mean, I believe that --

Q    It will come to your desk, it just hasn't happened yet?

MR. GIBBS:  I think that's the case.  I mean, I think declassification happens here.

Q    Okay.

MR. GIBBS:  Yes, sir. 

Q    Do you know if President Obama has read these memos to which Vice President Cheney is referring that showed that the enhanced interrogation techniques saved lives and didn't make America less safe, as you just said?

MR. GIBBS:  I don't know if he -- I don't know if he has read the specific memos that Vice President Cheney may be referring to.  But, Mark, let me broaden your question a bit.  And I think you would get this from virtually every intelligence official who objectively looked at this, and that is that the efficacy of this is in many ways ambiguous, that whatever information -- I think people will tell you that there was information that was procured that was helpful, and information that was procured that was made up.  Nobody could ever likely tell you that any information derived couldn't also have been derived from another mean.  

But as I've said, and the President have said, what the -- if you look at the totality of the impact of this on our national security, building off of what I told Ed, our team, and many others outside of our team, have weighed in on the notion that the cost and the benefit of this -- that the benefit is greatly outweighed by the cost to our national security.

There are things that this country doesn't do.  That's part of the criteria that the President used to -- on the -- in the very beginning of this administration outlaw these techniques from being used.  The existence of and the use of these techniques became a recruitment tool and a rallying cry for terrorists all over the globe.  And, as I mentioned, it makes it harder to -- the use of these techniques makes it harder to protect our own troops, and that that is the -- those are the reasons in total why this makes our country less safe.

Q    Isn't it a judgment call that can be made in good faith by different individuals, different administrations?

MR. GIBBS:  I think different administrations have made different judgment calls.  It's the opinion of this administration and this national security team, and I would mention people with hefty national security credentials that are not involved -- involved in this White House, that it does make this country less safe.

Q    Can I get a clarification on Mark's question?  You said you don't know if the President has read the memos Cheney was referring to.  Has he been briefed on the contents of those memos?

MR. GIBBS:  I don't know.

Q    Thank you, Robert.  A couple on interrogations and one on Afghanistan and Pakistan, if I could.  Interrogations, I just want to get, if I can -- on this idea of a commission.  If we look at the Iraq Study Group or the 9/11 Commission as the most recent examples, both were products of Congress signed onto by the chief executive of the United States, the President.  It's my understanding that as a general principle independent commissions do not involve strictly members of Congress but outside officials, as the President suggested Tuesday -- have to be a collaborative effort between the White House and Congress.  With that history, would the White House be a collaborative partner in the creation of an independent commission if the Congress were to send him legislation in that regard?

MR. GIBBS:  Well, without engaging in a series of hypotheticals like, what if Congress did X --

Q    But there are prominent members who've said that they're looking at that as a potential model, and the President's comments on Tuesday were at least interpreted as a signal that he might be in favor of it.

MR. GIBBS:  Well, let me -- I think there's one phrase that's important to interpret that the President said on Tuesday, which was, "I'm not proposing this."  Right?

Q    But he did in a hypothetical.

MR. GIBBS:  Well, he's -- you know, he's the President, Chuck, he can -- if he wants to engage in hypotheticals, that's his business.

Q    Right, he sometimes tells us he won't engage in hypotheticals.  Having done so, I'm just trying -- (laughter.)

MR. GIBBS:  He's assuaging your predilection for hypotheticals, apparently.  (Laughter.) 

Q    Duly noted.

MR. GIBBS:  Yes.  We'll have -- trust me, we'll have no more of that for the remainder of this administration.  (Laughter.)  Again, I think that -- again, without getting into all of this, I think the President, based on -- and I think you can see in the news reports that some of this was discussed here inside this building, and the President determined that the concept didn't seem altogether that workable in this case.

Q    Okay.  Picking up also on your comment about it's not a time for retribution, but reflection.  There are some calls in the House of Representatives to impeach a sitting federal district judge, Jay Bybee, who sits on the 9th District Court of Appeals, confirmed by the Senate in 2003.  As a general proposition, does the President believe that type of action would fall under the category of retributions?  Not a legal matter, it's not dealing with the Justice Department, it's a political action taken by a political body.  So I'm trying to figure out if there's anything you can say on that.

MR. GIBBS:  There's nothing that I can say about that.  I'd leave some members of Congress up to those opinions.

Q    Robert, as you said, it's up to the Justice Department, not the White House, to decide whether there were crimes committed and whether to prosecute.  Will the White House --

MR. GIBBS:  Let me say -- let me -- I want to rephrase it.  I haven’t said that.  Well, I have said that, but that's what -- that's the legal system that's set up in this country.  I mean, I -- what I said -- I didn't say that in terms of setting this doctrine up, right?  Like if you drive 85 miles an hour on your way home, I may think it's against the law, but it's not likely I'm going to be the one providing you a speeding ticket, Steve.

Q    Will the White House play any role in that conversation, particularly if the decision is made to charge high-ranking officials like the Vice President or the President with a crime?

MR. GIBBS:  I think the President campaigned on, and will continue to keep the promise that he made in that campaign, as he has on many others, to leave legal determinations up to those that make legal determinations, not the President.

Q    Well, the White House worked with the Justice Department on the determination not to hold accountable the field operatives that are responsible for this behavior.

MR. GIBBS:  But that wasn't a political decision, Major.  That was a decision based on --

Q    I'm just saying it was a cooperative arrangement between this White House and the Justice Department on that decision.

MR. GIBBS:  I wouldn't discuss this as an arrangement.  I think two people can understand that -- again, this isn't -- this is a fairly time-honored legal tradition, if you follow legal advice rendered in good faith to govern your actions that you're not going to be held accountable or prosecuted for those actions.

All this is to say the best way to determine --

Q    That's not what I'm talking about.  What I was talking about is the collaborative effort between the White House and Justice Department some places and not elsewhere.

MR. GIBBS:  The best way to determine -- the best way to determine who's going to -- the rule of law is to have it determined by lawyers who can determine whether or not somebody knowingly broke the law. 

Q    We've started talking in the last 24 hours more and more about very high-ranking people -

MR. GIBBS:  I haven't talked about --

Q    -- Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney --

MR. GIBBS:  -- you guys have. 

Q    If in fact it reaches that level, would the President weigh in?

MR. GIBBS:  Okay, you guys and Jay Rockefeller.  (Laughter.) 

I'm sorry, what was --

Q    Would the President weigh in --

MR. GIBBS:  Now, that we've --

Q    -- turn to very high-ranking levels of the government? What does he think, for example, of the fact that Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon?  Was that a breach of the presidential duty, or should that have been left to the Attorney General?

MR. GIBBS:  I think the President has seen Frost/Nixon, but I do not know whether he's determined the efficacy of such a pardon.

Thanks, guys.



On My Note Pad: Here We Go Again!


White House Opposes Interrogation Commission

By DAVID ESPO – 35 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration struggled to quell persistent Democratic demands for a potentially explosive probe of harsh Bush administration detainee interrogations Thursday, abruptly declaring opposition to an independent commission. Republicans stepped up their own criticism of Barack Obama's handling of the sensitive issue.

At the White House, spokesman Robert Gibbs sought to underscore Obama's resistance to an independent commission two days after the president himself said such an approach would be preferable to a partisan congressional investigation into the questioning techniques that critics say amount to torture.

Gibbs said that after internal White House debate, Obama determined the independent commission "concept didn't seem altogether that workable in this case."

House Republican leader John Boehner, meanwhile, appeared to raise the stakes in a meeting at the White House, urging the president to release internal CIA and other memos evaluating whether waterboarding and other harsh "enhanced" techniques had succeeded in gaining valuable information. Obama made no commitment, according to officials briefed on the session.

At the Capitol, Boehner said Obama's release last week of Bush-era memos outlining the legal case for waterboarding and other techniques marked "the latest example of the administration's disarray when it comes to national security."

He said their disclosure "provides a chilling effect on our intelligence officers all around the world." He also said additional details, already made public, show that members of both houses of Congress and both parties were briefed by the CIA when waterboarding was used on prisoners captured in the anti-terror war. "And not a word was raised at that time, not one word," Boehner said.

While Obama has been critical of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques, he has not said whether he believes they were successful in obtaining useful information.

But Dennis Blair, the administration's director of national intelligence, said in a memo circulated to employees last week that "high value" information had been obtained through the use.

The controversy has flared at an inopportune time for Obama, approaching the 100-day milestone of an administration focused day and night so far on efforts to grapple with the weak economy — efforts that polls show the country generally approves.

Any public investigation would present Republicans and Democrats alike with the possibility that events could take years to sort out, pose complicated legal and constitutional issues and potentially spiral out of their control.

Gibbs' remarks left the fate of calls for a so-called Truth Commission in doubt. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has called for creation of such as group. If it were to have the power to issue subpoenas, legislation would be required. That, in turn, would require Republican support in the Senate as well as presidential approval.

Despite Leahy's persistent calls for an outside investigation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters that the Senate Intelligence Committee should be allowed to complete an investigation it has already embarked upon before other decisions are made.

"We're talking about more than waterboarding. ... It would be very unwise from my perspective to start having commissions, boards, tribunals before we know what the facts are," he said.

Across the Capitol, officials said the House Intelligence Committee has scheduled a closed-door hearing for next week on human intelligence, a meeting that could easily veer into the controversy now unfolding.

Separately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reaffirmed her support for a truth commission such as Leahy favors "because I think this is very important." The question, she said, is whether there should be immunity from prosecution for testimony before such a commission.

Among those who could face the most scrutiny is Jay Bybee, who worked in the Justice Department's Office Legal Counsel during the Bush administration, signed off on four memos released this week, and is now a federal appeals court judge. The Senate confirmed him in 2003 on a vote of 74-19.

Common Cause called earlier this week for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against Bybee. Leahy, in remarks on the Senate floor earlier this week, said he hoped the judge "will do the honest thing, the moral thing, the right thing, and resign from the bench."

Pelosi herself became the focus of controversy during the day, following comments by Boehner and others that Democrats had been briefed on the CIA's use of waterboarding.

A timeline released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday said the CIA had told key members of the Senate intelligence panel in the fall of 2002 that waterboarding had been used on three detainees, Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashir, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

But Pelosi said she had not been briefed at the time. "We were not — I repeat — were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used." She added that she had been told there was a legal memo that said they could be used, but not that they had.

Pelosi was replaced as senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee in the fall of 2002 by Rep. Jane Harman, another California Democrat.

Pelosi's office referred reporters to a statement she had issued in 2007 saying that Harman "was briefed more extensively and advised the techniques had in fact been employed."

At the time, Harman wrote a letter — now public — to the CIA saying that the techniques described raised "profound policy questions."

Associated Press Writers Jim Abrams, Pamela Hess, Laurie Kellman and Jennifer Loven contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Attorney General Vows to Enforce US Law in Interrogations Case
Voice of America - 36 minutes ago

Attorney General Vows to Enforce US Law in Interrogations Case

By Deborah Tate 
23 April 2009

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says the Justice Department will pursue any wrongdoing found in its investigation of Bush administration detainee interrogation practices. But in an appearance before a congressional panel Thursday, he said he would not allow what he called criminalization of policy differences over such practices.

Attorney General Holder came before a House appropriations subcommittee to discuss the Justice Department's budget request for next year.

But the session was dominated by questions over whether he would seek prosecutions of Bush administration officials responsible for extreme interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency on top terrorism suspects.

Holder responded that as attorney general, he was responsible for enforcing the law and would pursue wrongdoing if he found it.

But he said there would be limits.

"I will not permit the criminalization of policy differences.

With regard to those members of the intelligence community who acted in good faith and in reliance with Justice Department opinions that were shared with them, it is not our intention to prosecute those individuals," he said

Members of Congress are divided over whether there should be an investigation of Bush administration officials who were responsible for the harsh interrogation practices, some of which - including waterboarding, or simulated drowning - critics describe as torture.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, supports a nonpartisan commission to probe the matter, but says he would have his own panel investigate if lawmakers are reluctant to support the idea of a commission.

Republicans oppose investigating the issue. Several of them have called on President Barack Obama not to allow prosecutions of Bush administration officials who offered legal advice on interrogations, saying it would have a negative effect on the candor with which officials in any administration provide their best advice.

Congressman David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat who chaired Thursday's hearing, says he supports Attorney General Holder's approach. "I don't want things swept under the rug. I also don't want to see people, in their zeal to go after wrongdoing, catching people in the net who don't belong there," he said.

Holder responded to Republican critics who say the Obama administration's decision to end harsh interrogation practices will deprive U.S. authorities of tools to effectively deal with terrorism suspects.

"The systems that I think we will use or have to put in place will be ones that will be fair, that will be consistent with our notions of due process and that ultimately will protect the American people. I do not want anyone to leave with the misimpression that somehow, some way, we are going to be soft on people who were responsible for the horrors of 9/11 (the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001). They are going to be held accountable, but in a way consistent with who we are as Americans," he said.

Former Vice President Cheney has urged the Obama administration to release classified documents detailing what intelligence was gained from the extreme interrogations - a call repeated by the top Republican on the House panel, Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia.

Holder said he is willing to release as much information as possible. "Let me say this: it is certainly the intention of this administration not to play hide and seek or not to release certain things in a way that is not consistent with other things. It is not our intention to advance a political agenda or to hide things from the American people," he said.

Holder said he was not sure exactly which documents Cheney was referring to because he has not seen them. But he suggested such memos may exist at other agencies. 

A Quarter Million Americans Demand Torture Prosecutions | PEEK ...
By Staff 
The petitions were gathered by the American Civil Liberties Union, Political Action, the Center for Constitutional Rights,, and other advocacy groups. The petitions will be delivered during ... -

Psyche, Science, and Society » Quarter million call for ...
By Stephen Soldz 
WASHINGTON - Today the American Civil Liberties Union,,,, the Center for Constitutional Rights and a broad coalition of advocacy other groups will present Attorney General Eric Holder with ...
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