Sunday, April 19, 2009

It Is The Final Finding Of The Court Of Impeachment And War Crimes That All Members Of The Bush Administration Charged Are Not Above The Law

It Is The Final Finding Of The Court Of Impeachment And War Crimes That All Members Of The Bush Administration Charged Are Not Above The Law, Should Be Provided No Protection Of Amnesty, Immunity Or Pardon, Should Be Investigated, Indicted, Brought To Trial In All Appropriate  Jurisdictions, And Pending Verdicts, Should be Imprisoned Or Executed As Provided For In International Law Where Applicable.


The Decision Is Not Pleasant, Convenient Or Pragmatic; It Is Justice!




Clarity and candor dictate; integrity requires the observation that: the Constitutional crisis we face as a nation is of long standing and has a long evolutionary trail.  The Constitution has been under assault from the very moment that it was ratified and “crisis’s in our national experience” have always served by “the necessity of the moment” in providing opportunity for legal excess, viewed as temporary and acceptable, seldom if ever, has that which has been legislated or litigated in such instances been corrected or expunged from the growing archive of collective governmental powers.   Like the clutter and trash files that can accumulate on a computer the process has moved forward without a simple mechanism to delete them and their impact is of severe import and impact.

The 9/11 experience, however, created yet again another “opportunity” for Constitutional assault in the name of expedient necessity. I say “opportunity” because both events and documentation reveal a pattern of Constitutional attack that has been not only, and perhaps only, necessary, but an opportunity that within the Bush Administration and its Neocon/Corporate sponsors was deliberately manipulated to accelerate the assault on the integrity of, and validity of that “Old Piece Of Paper”.

The rule of law, as we have come to expect it to apply, ended in a regime-minded administration that has chosen to rule by fiat, arbitrarily act, decree, order, direct, dismiss with signing statements any legitimate impediment to their will and wishes, the execution of their whims without regard for the laws of this nation, the international community and any moral principles, which, with the greatest of hypocrisy they have repeatedly professed to cherish; they have created “America…The Lawless State” a nation dictated to by a fear-invoking choking Fascist model producing a true Imperial Presidency ,a  Vice Presidential parallel shadow government and a virulent contagious infection of popular complacency, resignation, apathy, and enabling citizen impotence. We are seen as a nation devoid of any Moral Compass.

Cowering in fear, massaged into acceptance, as fact, that principles cannot be advanced for fear of reprisal and the socially isolating labels of “unpatriotic” and “treasonable”, ostracized from any meaningful change agent role by media accomplice silence and demonizing tags of dismissive derision, the Peace and Impeachment Movements have been relegated to the descriptor of “That bunch of ragged old weekend street theater players”, unable to muster the massive street upheaval called for to bring the Bush Bunch to justice; the movements languish near demise their pleas been heard only as whimpering.  

Even recent memo revelations and higher level testimony is under cut by the now inherent belief and climate of acquiescence, that nothing substantive will be accomplished as regards true accountability; that thought much of the truth may be now revealed, the guilty will be shielded in non-prosecution by variances of amnesty, immunity and defacto pardon…that we shall be given “Truth Without Consequences” and the world view of a United States that holds itself and its leaders to be above the law, exemplary by ego  exclusion and exemption shall be only fortified.  Though the words of President Obama may seem to hold out the balm of relief; deeds will ultimately determine the attitude and judgment of the world, and yes the judgments of both the citizens of this nation and the pages of history.

A judgment that determines that the American people had neither the courage of convictions nor the will for the necessary confrontation for change and justice exemplified by the America of the 60s and the class of Sam Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Washington and Caesar Rodney will write a page of disgrace and contempt.  Worse than the record will surely be the result! We speak frequently of that which we bequeath to future generations. We are on the brink of bequeathing a failed nation with a perverted history and surrender, surrender to those who dared us to do something about them, and we did nothing but talk, walk and whine.

When one discards all of the wailing, buzz word attacks and feverish rhetorical  savaging of the Bush Administration; all well and accurately deserved; one is left with the incontrovertible fact that the Bush Administration, among its most malignant, corrosive, corrupt, unprincipled, sadistically perverted well-defined policies has been the application of  LEGITIMIZED-TORTURE as a tool of “Their-War-On-Terror”, a tool consciously constructed, and for which they have gone to unbelievable horrific extra-legal lengths to validate and vindicate by institutional legalization, that which is anathema to all civilized men and women. 

Cloaking and concealing its dictates with the CIA and Blackwater operatives, black ops operations and third party other-state detention/torture facilities. It is not sufficient to root out the truth and hold it up as warning of that which never again must permitted in our names.  That constitutes a tepid scolding for killing, murder, lying, spying, genocide and torture.  Bad boy; don’t do that again or else! If you were an educator you would be taught to never tell a class that if you do this; then the consequence will be thus; because if you don’t mean it and cannot carry through; you will be a laughing stock, a failed teacher with an out-of-control class that has no respect for you and that will go on until things become so deteriorated that you are fired.  Well class….you have been calling for justice and the restoration of order and the rule of law. What are YOU going to do about it?

This final answer on my part has been prompted by an email I received from someone I respect and one who is serious of purpose and has tried valiantly to communicate the need for justice and accountability. The email reminds me of moment I had in a college class when the venerable Dr. Theodore Paulin said to the class; let Mr. Dickau speak; he’s trying to work through a pragmatic solution to this problem  Maybe there is one and maybe there is not, but let’s follow him for the moment.  The problem was one of Latin American Foreign Policy…I arrived at no pragmatic solution as there was none.  The answer was to be found in an action of right and not wrong. But let me share this…

“I take it that you are also pissed that R…. and I are taking a position of supporting the immunity of those who took orders on torture.  

Of course, I would rather just round up the whole bunch of them - top to bottom - humiliate and disgrace them thoroughly with a fair trial, then lock 'em up for life, but in reality I know how this always goes down: the lower level takes the hit one-by-one, media circus blow-by-blow, until all financial trial resources and public interest is exhausted.  And by then those who orchestrated the whole mess go scott-free.  Realistically, it seems that is our choice. But it does feel bad, compromising on principles. 

Being a veteran, maybe you can enlighten us a bit more about that.  We're just air force brats.  It seems to me, though, that given the surreal nightmarish environment of war - an environment fraught with the ever-present feeling of extreme threat - that those who necessarily are well-trained to take orders (soldiers, mid-level officers and lower ranking CIA), would be understandably well-primed to commit acts they ordinarily would never dream of doing under normal circumstances. Perspective gets lost under stress. And I believe the vast majority of those who carried out the "sanctioned" acts of torture would not have done so if they didn't believe it was legal.  They were led to believe it was legal and in most facilities the Geneva Convention was not posted (another violation).   Most rank and file today don't know any detail of the regulations of the Geneva Convention.   We need the rank and file to speak up. Open for discussion.”

I am not “pissed” as I have been there before.

I have given the matter much thought and my position is unaltered.  Yesterday afternoon only fortified my convictions.  Perhaps I would have, perhaps, more sympathy for our men and women under direct fire whose lives and limbs can be taken at any moment with all manner of bombs and bobby traps in Iraq, but a serious question was answered by primary authorities yesterday afternoon.  In conversation with recently retired military personnel, one a major another an admiral, it was made Gin clear that their Military Academy education included serious education of : “When An Officer Is Obligated To Disobey/Refuse To Follow An Order”!  That argument is therefore dismissed and officers, who participate in, condone or order wrongful actions under the Geneva Conventions must and should be held to full account…no Americanized rationalized interpretation of military field manuals with standing.

When the matter of torture at the hands of the CIA or Blackwater operatives is evaluated there is no mediating circumstance. They are in a controlled environment safe from war zone threats to person. They make conscious decisions to engage in the unlawful perversions of torture, and it seems, all too willing to engage in those practices given any feeble word of justification from Washington. That is inexcusable and beyond any circumstance that justifies the protection and forgiveness of amnesty, immunity and/or pardon.  Their acts are those conscious decision making, their choices of torture, personal selections.  They are guilty and should be held up to the fullest prosecution and punishment available under both American and International Law!

Those who have authored the documents of justification in The White House and The Justice Department are guilty of legal wrong doing to such an extent that they should be imprisoned and never permitted to act in the legal system of this country again!

This nation had full warning of the evil that Dick Cheney had brought to and perpetrated within the Bush Administration and there is no acceptable conscionable pragmatic excuse for non-prosecution of this man.  After American Civil prosecution he should be turned over and deported to The Hague to stand trial for his part in the war crimes, torture and genocide to which he has been a party.  The same holds true for George W. Bush.  It’s that old Harry Truman desktop logo: “the Buck Stops Here!”… and indeed it does.

I do not excuse as extenuating circumstances the 9/11 event, his perhaps dry-drunk impairment, limited native intelligence, native vindictiveness, perpetually lying and consistent, persistent violation of basic American law to such an extent that one must question his basic mental well-being. None of those matters.  He is guilty by every standard that governs this decision on my part!

It is found further, that Profound Egregious errors comprising willful, persistent, insistent and deliberate premeditated acts of Misfeasance, Malfeasance, Nonfeasance, dereliction of duty, and violations of freely taken oaths of office, constituting malice afore-thought, have been engaged by numerous members of the Congress Of The United States Of America warranting the request of resignations of such guilty parties, including, but not limited to: Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, John Conyers, Patrick Leahy, and that extensive Congressional investigations should be initiated immediately in the matters of all accused members related to issues of sanctioned/supported torture, illegal electronic spying, and impeding/preventing a Constitutional Impeachment proceeding against George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney, and further, that all found complicit in any and all acts proscribed here shall be asked to resign, failing cooperation in that minimalist act of dignity and integrity that civil prosecutions be initiated to remove and imprison said members who have in open defiance of the Constitution of These United States, aided and abetted in massive acts of criminality against the people of this nation.     

References to the principles set forth in The Nuremberg Trials are not hysterical rhetoric; they are on-point and relevant to disclosures pronouncements and decisions being made on now an almost daily basis. 

Firedoglake » Will We Pass Our Nuremberg Trial, or Will We Protect ...

Holding Responsible Those Who are Responsible
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... since the Constitution makes that official the "head" of that branch of government and the election of that person, or removal by impeachment by other ..



Though I do not support the Death Penalty; I cannot escape the fact that those who live by the rules and tools of War; Shall perish by those rules and tools!”


VIENNA (AP) — An Austrian newspaper quotes the U.N.'s top torture investigator as saying President Barack Obama's decision not to prosecute CIA operatives who used questionable interrogation practices violates international law.

Manfred Nowak is quoted in Der Standard as saying the United States has committed itself under the U.N. Convention against Torture to make torture a crime and to prosecute those suspected of engaging in it.

Obama assured CIA operatives on Thursday they would not be prosecuted for their rough interrogation tactics of terror suspects under the former Bush administration.

Nowak also says in the newspaper interview published Saturday that a comprehensive independent investigation is needed, and that it is important to compensate victims.


Numerous commentators are objecting to the idea that Barack Obama deserves credit for his release of the OLC torture memos yesterday in light of his accompanying pledge that CIA officials relying in good faith on those memos won't be prosecuted.  Chris Floyd is one who articulates that objection quite well and, as is always true for Chris, his criticisms are well worth reading.  Many others -- including Keith OlbermannJonathan TurleyJohn Dean and Bruce Fein -- yesterday lambasted Obama for his anti-prosecution stance.  Since I gave substantial credit to Obama yesterday for the release of the memos and believe even more so today that he deserves it (despite finding the anti-prosecution case as corrupted and morally bankrupt as ever), I want to return to the issue of Obama's actions.

Purely as an analytical matter, releasing the OLC memos and advocating against prosecutions are two separate acts.  It's perfectly coherent to praise one and condemn the other.  There is an unhealthy tendency to want to make categorical, absolute judgments about the persona of politicians generally and Obama especially ("I like him"/"I don't like him"; "I trust him/I don't trust him") rather than case-by-case judgments about his specific acts.  "Like" and "trust" are sentiments appropriate for one's friends and loved ones, not political leaders.  A politician who does something horrible yesterday can do something praiseworthy tomorrow.  Generally bad people can do good things (even if for ignoble reasons) and generally good people can do bad things.  That's why I care little about motives, which I think, in any event, are impossible to know.  Regardless of motives, good acts (releasing the torture memos) should be praised, and bad acts (arguing against prosecutions) should be condemned.

Beyond those generalities, I think the significance of Obama's decision to release those memos -- and the political courage it took -- shouldn't be minimized.  There is no question that many key factions in the "intelligence community" were vehemently opposed to release of those memos.  I have no doubt that reports that they waged a "war" to prevent  release of these memos were absolutely true.  The disgusting comments of former CIA Director Mike Hayden on MSNBC yesterday -- where he made clear that he simply does not believe in the right of citizens to know what their government does and that government crimes should be kept hidden-- is clearly what Obama was hearing from many powerful circles.  That twisted anti-democratic mentality is the one that predominates in our political class. 

In the United States, what Obama did yesterday is simply not done.  American Presidents do not disseminate to the world documents which narrate in vivid, elaborate detail the dirty, illegal deeds done by the CIA, especially not when the actions are very recent, were approved and ordered by the President of the United States, and the CIA is aggressively demanding that the documents remain concealed and claiming that their release will harm national security.  When is the last time a President did that?  

Other than mildly placating growing anger over his betrayals of his civil liberties commitments (which, by the way, is proof of the need to criticize Obama when he does the wrong thing), there wasn't much political gain for Obama in releasing these documents.  And he certainly knew that, by doing so, he would be subjected to an onslaught of accusations that he was helping Al Qaeda and endangering American National Security.  And that's exactly what happened, as in this clich√©-filled tripe from Hayden and Michael Mukasey in today's Wall St. Journal, and this from an anonymous, cowardly "top Bush official" smearing Obama while being allowed to hide behind the Jay Bybee of journalismPolitico's Mike Allen.

But Obama knowingly infuriated the CIA, including many of his own top intelligence advisers; purposely subjected himself to widespread attacks from the Right that he was giving Al Qaeda our "playbook";  and he released to the world documents that conclusively prove how that the U.S. Government, at the highest levels, purported to legalize torture and committed blatant war crimes.  There's just no denying that those actions are praiseworthy.  I understand the argument that Obama only did what the law requires.  That is absolutely true.  We're so trained to meekly accept that our Government has the right to do whatever it wants in secret -- we accept that it's best that most things be kept from us -- that we forget that a core premise of our government is transparency; that the law permits secrecy only in the narrowest of cases; and that it's certainly not legal to suppress evidence of government criminality on the grounds that it is classified.  

Still, as a matter of political reality, Obama had to incur significant wrath from powerful factions by releasing these memos, and he did that.  That's an extremely unusual act for a politician, especially a President, and it deserves praise.  None of this mitigates any of the bad acts Obama has engaged in recently -- particularly his ongoing efforts to shield Bush crimes from judicial review by relying on extreme assertions of presidential secrecy powers -- but, standing alone, his actions yesterday are quite significant.

As is obvious from everything I've written over the past three years, I think the need to criminally prosecute those who authorized and ordered torture (as well as illegal surveillance) is absolute and non-negotiable (and, as I wrote earlier today, in the case of torture, criminal investigations are legally compelled).  A collective refusal to prosecute the grotesque war crimes that we know our Government committed is to indict all of us in those crimes, to make us complict in their commission. 

Criticisms directed at Obama and Holder for advocating immunity for CIA officials who relied in "good faith" on DOJ memos (a mere subset of the government criminals) is absolutely warranted.  But, it is not Obama's sole responsibility -- or even his decision -- to prosecute.  As a strictly legal matter, that is a decision for the Attorney General, independently, to make; it is Eric Holder who has the obligation to enforce the law, independent of anything Obama wants or says and regardless of what public opinion demands. 

But more crucially, it is also the responsibility of the citizenry to demand that this happen.  What Obama did yesterday -- whether by design or not -- provided the most potent tools yet to create the political pressure for prosecutions.  As Kevin Drum makes clear, no decent human being reading those memos would be anything other than repelled by what was in them.  Polls already found that large percentages of Americansmajorities even, favor investigations and/or prosecutions for Bush crimes.  The onus is on those who believe in the rule of law to find ways to force the government to criminally investigate whether they want to or not (this petition demanding that Holder appoint a Special Prosecutor is a very good place to begin, though it will require much more than just petitions).

The most criticism-worthy act that Obama engaged in yesterday was to affirm and perpetuate what is the single most-destructive premise in our political culture:  namely, that when high government officials get caught committing serious crimes, the responsible and constructive thing to do is demand immunity for them, while only those who are vindictive and divisive want political leaders to be held accountable for their crimes.  This is what Obama said in affirming that rotted premise:

This is a time for reflection, not retribution. . . . But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is embedded in America's ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future.

That passage, more than anything else, is the mindset that has destroyed the rule of law in the U.S. and spawned massive criminality in our elite class.  Accountability for crimes committed by political leaders (as opposed to ordinary Americans) is scorned as "retribution" and "laying blame for the past."  Those who believe that the rule of law should be applied to the powerful as well as to ordinary citizens are demonized as the "forces that divide us."  The bottomless corruption of immunizing political elites for serious crimes is glorified in the most Orwellian terms as "a time for reflection," "moving forward," and "coming together on behalf of our common future."

Regardless of the reasons, it is clear that Obama will not single-handedly eliminate the immunity from the rule of law which the political class and other elites have arrogated unto themselves.  If anything, as his comments yesterday reflect, he is likely to affirm and defend that immunity (and, obviously, he personally benefits from its ongoing vitality).  Demanding that political leaders be subjected to the rule of law -- and finding ways to force the appointment of a Special Prosecutor -- is what citizens ought to be doing.  Either we care about the rule of law or we don't -- and if we do, we'll find the ways to demand its application to the politically powerful criminals who broke multiple laws over the last eight years.  Obama's release of those torture memos yesterday makes that choice unambiguously clear and enables the right to choice to be made.


UPDATE:  Time's Joe Klein purports to list all the dangers for Obama in alienating the CIA as he has:  morale will drop; they'll all retire at the time he needs them most for Afghanistan and Pakistan; Obama is sparking a "potential rebellion in the clandestine service."  Klein then unleashes this deeply Orwellian observation (h/t CRust1):  "This is an extremely serious claim in the intelligence culture, where some operators are asked to behave extra-legally for the greater good of the nation."

That's what government crimes are called in the eyes of our press corps:  they're just acting "extra-legally" -- and not just "extra-legally," but "for the greater good of the nation." You should try that at home.  Go rob a bank and when the police try to arrest you, just tell them:  "I was just making an extra-legal withdrawal; what's the problem"?  That's also how the media (and Democrats) constantly talked about Bush's illegal spying on Americans.  What he did was never a "crime" or even "illegal" (even though the law criminalizes the very conduct he got caught engaging in with prison terms and fines); at worst, it was:  "he was engaged in eavesdropping in circumvention of the FISA framework."  That works, too, if you want to rob a bank:  "I was just making a withdrawal in circumvention of the banking regulatory framework."

Similarly, Politico's Mike Allen -- in the same article where he granted anonymity to a cowardly "top Bush official" to do nothing other than smear Obama as a friend of Al Qaeda (and marvel at Allen's pathetic "justification" for doing that) -- proceeded to describe conduct authorized by the OLC memos this way:  "aggressive interrogation practices critics decried as torture."  I think I know how to speak Politicoese:  the attack on Iraq was "aggressive diplomatic outreach critics decried as an invasion"; Lewis Libby's lying was "spirited and inventive story-telling critics decried as obstruction of justice"; and a super-important, extremely influential and profoundly brilliant person with intimate knowledge of many, many important things told me last night:  "Politico is a trashy gossip rag with only one governing principle:  What will Drudge like?"  Another top, key insider added:  "they should hand out Mike Allen columns to journalism school students as a guide to what they should avoid at all costs."

George Orwell mistakenly assumed that obfuscating language designed to glorify criminal acts would be invented and normalized by government.  At least in the U.S., that function is outsourced to government's most loyal and eager servants:  establishment journalists.  A principal reason why the government has been able to engage with impunity in the extremism and lawlessness of the last decade is because most journalists refuse even to describe it as what it is.


UPDATE II:  In comments, JKP1000 has good advice:  the next time you're pulled over by a police officer for speeding, quote Barack Obama:  "This is a time for reflection, not retribution."  See if that works.  If not, move to:  "It's time to focus on the future, not look to the past."  Criminal defense attorneys should try that on juries and judges, too.

And here, Mike Allen purports to respond to criticisms regarding his grant of anonymity to a "top Bush official."  Everyone can decide for themselves if he's remotely persuasive.


Morning Skim: The Bush Torture Memos
New York Times Blogs - New York,NY,USA
Every reasonable person agrees what Bush and Cheney authorizes was torture - directly in violation of international laws and our own laws. ...
See all stories on this topic


Schakowsky On Torture: "Just Following Orders" A Historically Bogus Argument

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a top Democrat on the intelligence committee, dismissed President Obama's defense of CIA officials who tortured detainees under orders from the White House.

Obama, who released details of the torture practices Thursday, said that CIA personnel acting on the legal advice of the Bush administration would not come in for "retribution."

Schakowsky, in an interview with the Huffington Post, says she's heard that argument before. "This notion that 'I was just obeying orders' -- I don't want to compare this to Nazi Germany, but we've come to almost ridicule the notion that when horrific acts have been committed that people can use the excuse that, 'Well, I was just following orders,'" she says.

Schakowsky is chairwoman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Schakowsky said that she has yet to speak to the committee chairman, but has instructed her staff to begin an investigation into the allegations if the full committee does not.

"There should be an open mind of what to do with information that we get from thorough investigations," she says.

Schakowsky also notes that the administration's emphasis on looking to the future rather than the past defies logic. If criminal prosecutions only looked to the future, there could be no criminal prosecutions….

Brandon Neely, Former Guantanamo Guard, Recalls Systematic Torture, Sexual Abuse Of Detainees


WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Thursday made public detailed memos describing brutal interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency, as President Obama sought to reassure the agency that the C.I.A. operatives involved would not be prosecuted.

 The administration ssought to reassure the agency that the C.I.A. operatives involved would not be prosecuted.


More From The New York Times:

The Torturers' Manifesto
New York Times - United States
Congress should impeach him. And if the administration will not conduct a thorough investigation of these issues, then Congress has a constitutional duty to ...See all stories on this topic

Explaining and Authorizing Specific Interrogation Techniques


Disputing Interrogation Memos at the Justice Department


Text: Statement by the Director of National Intelligence (April 16, 2009)

Text: President Obama’s Statement on the Memos (April 16, 2009)

Times Topics: 

C.I.A. Interrogations

Torture Redefined 

In dozens of pages of dispassionate legal prose, the methods approved by the Bush administration for extracting information from senior operatives of Al Qaeda are spelled out in careful detail — like keeping detainees awake for up to 11 straight days, placing them in a dark, cramped box or putting insects into the box to exploit their fears.

The interrogation methods were authorized beginning in 2002, and some were used as late as 2005 in the C.I.A.’s secret overseas prisons. The techniques were among the Bush administration’s most closely guarded secrets, and the documents released Thursday afternoon were the most comprehensive public accounting to date of the program.

Some senior Obama administration officials, including Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., have labeled one of the 14 approved techniques, waterboarding, illegal torture. The United States prosecuted some Japanese interrogators at war crimes trials after World War II for waterboarding and other methods detailed in the memos.

The release of the documents came after a bitter debate that divided the Obama administration, with the C.I.A. opposing the Justice Department’s proposal to air the details of the agency’s long-secret program. Fueling the urgency of the discussion was Thursday’s court deadline in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which had sued the government for the release of the Justice Department memos.

Together, the four memos give an extraordinarily detailed account of the C.I.A.’s methods and the Justice Department’s long struggle, in the face of graphic descriptions of brutal tactics, to square them with international and domestic law. Passages describing forced nudity, the slamming of detainees into walls, prolonged sleep deprivation and the dousing of detainees with water as cold as 41 degrees alternate with elaborate legal arguments concerning the international Convention Against Torture.

The documents were released with minimal redactions, indicating that President Obama sided against current and former C.I.A. officials who for weeks had pressed the White House to withhold details about specific interrogation techniques. Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, had argued that revealing such information set a dangerous precedent for future disclosures of intelligence sources and methods.

A more pressing concern for the C.I.A. is that the revelations may give new momentum to proposals for a full-blown investigation into Bush administration counterterrorism programs and possible torture prosecutions.

Within minutes of the release of the memos, SenatorPatrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that the memos illustrated the need for his proposed independent commission of inquiry, which would offer immunity in return for candid testimony.

Mr. Obama condemned what he called a “dark and painful chapter in our history” and said that the interrogation techniques would never be used again. But he also repeated his opposition to a lengthy inquiry into the program, saying that “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”

Mr. Obama said that C.I.A. officers who were acting on the Justice Department’s legal advice would not be prosecuted, but he left open the possibility that anyone who acted without legal authorization could still face criminal penalties. He did not address whether lawyers who authorized the use of the interrogation techniques should face some kind of penalty.

The four legal opinions, released in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the A.C.L.U., were written in 2002 and 2005 by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, the highest authority in interpreting the law in the executive branch.

The first of the memos, from August 2002, was signed by Jay S. Bybee, who oversaw the Office of Legal Counsel, and gave the C.I.A. its first detailed legal approval for waterboarding and other harsh treatment. Three others, signed by Steven G. Bradbury, sought to reassure the agency in May 2005 that its methods were still legal, even when multiple methods were used in combination, and despite the prohibition in international law against “cruel, inhuman or degrading” treatment.

All legal opinions on interrogation were revoked by Mr. Obama on his second day in office, when he also outlawed harsh interrogations and ordered the C.I.A.’s secret prisons closed.

In the memos, the Justice Department authors emphasized precautions the C.I.A. proposed to take, including monitoring by medical personnel, and the urgency of getting information to stop terrorist attacks. They recounted the C.I.A.’s assertions of the effectiveness of the techniques but noted that interrogators could not always tell a prisoner who was withholding information from one who had no more information to offer.

The memos include what in effect are lengthy excerpts from the agency’s interrogation manual, laying out with precision how each method was to be used. Waterboarding, for example, involved strapping a prisoner to a gurney inclined at an angle of “10 to 15 degrees” and pouring water over a cloth covering his nose and mouth “from a height of approximately 6 to 18 inches” for no more than 40 seconds at a time.

But a footnote to a 2005 memo made it clear that the rules were not always followed. Waterboarding was used “with far greater frequency than initially indicated” and with “large volumes of water” rather than the small quantities in the rules, one memo says, citing a 2004 report by the C.I.A.’s inspector general.

Most of the methods have been previously described in news accounts and in a 2006 report of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which interviewed 14 detainees. But one previously unknown tactic the C.I.A. proposed — but never used — against Abu Zubaydah, a terrorist operative, involved exploiting what was thought to be his fear of insects.

“As we understand it, you plan to inform Zubaydah that you are going to place a stinging insect into the box, but you will actually place a harmless insect in the box, such as a caterpillar,” one memo says.

Mr. Bybee, Mr. Bradbury and John Yoo, who was the leading author of the 2002 interrogation memos, are the subjects of an investigation by the Justice Department’s ethics office about their legal analysis on interrogation. Officials have described the draft ethics report, by the Office of Professional Responsibility, as highly critical, but its completion has been delayed to allow the subjects a chance to respond.

The A.C.L.U. said the memos clearly describe criminal conduct and underscore the need to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate who authorized and carried out torture.

But Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, cautioned that the memos were written at a time when C.I.A. officers were frantically working to prevent a repeat of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing,” said Mr. Blair in a written statement. “But we will absolutely defend those who relied on these memos.”


The significance of Obama's decision to release the torture memos The president deserves praise for a politically praiseworthy act, but it's up to citizens to demand that the law be upheld. Glenn Greenwald [2009-04-17]

Joe Klein: break the law = "behave extra-legally for the greater good"

I don't want to be too hard on Joe Klein generally, but this euphemism for law-breaking made my jaw drop:

[I]n the intelligence culture, ... some operators are asked to behave extra-legally for the greater good of the nation.

This is in the context of CIA torture, so he is clearly talking about violations of US law not, say, spies violating the law of a foreign hostile nation to collect information there.


Torture Memos Released |


Posted by Joe Klein | Comments (81) | Permalink | Trackbacks (4) | Email This

First the FISA violations, now news that the Obama Administration will release the so-called "torture memos" written by the Bush Administration's Department of Justice from 2002 to 2005. This is the right thing to do, but with a few caveats. Obama's decision to renounce torture, upon taking office, was clearly necessary and correct. It will take years, perhaps decades, to eradicate the damage done to America's reputation by Abu Ghraib, waterboarding and the other Cheney-Rumsfeld choking points, and Obama's statement was a crucial first step in restoring America's moral standing in the world. He couldn't take that step and not release these memos. 

But there are real concerns in the intelligence community--and a potential rebellion in the clandestine service, according to one veteran spook I spoke with. The White House was aware of these concerns and I think Obama has taken some steps, in his statement on the release, to ameliorate the problems, but he and Leon Panetta may be facing a serious morale problem and a slew of retirements at a moment when the need for undercover work is extremely urgent, especially in the Iraqi and Af/Pak theaters. Here are some of the worries that CIA and other clandestine operators have about the release of the memos:

1. That it represents a "breach of faith." This is an extremely serious claim in the intelligence culture, where some operators are asked to behave extra-legally for the greater good of the nation. The Bush Administration memos gave these operators leave to do certain things--practices that I believe constitute torture--and any effort to rescind that permission ex post facto could expose the interrogators to legal action. Obama and Eric Holder have addressed this clearly: none of the CIA interrogators are going to be prosecuted. Their names will be expunged from all records of the interrogations. According to Obama's statement:

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.

2. That the government should have appealed the ruling on the grounds that the information was "classified" and that a stripping away of classified secrets and methods will cripple the clandestine service. Again, Obama sought to allay this fear in his statement:

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. Consequently, the exceptional circumstances surrounding these memos should not be viewed as an erosion of the strong legal basis for maintaining the classified nature of secret activities. I will always do whatever is necessary to protect the national security of the United States.

3. The release of the memos represents a grant of "too much information" to our enemies. That is, terrorist targets now have a more precise knowledge of what we will not do to them during interrogations, thereby reducing our ability to get them under control. "You have to quickly make them understand that they're entirely dependent on you," a former intelligence officer told me. "The Stockholm syndrome will set in pretty quickly after that." Well, that's one theory. FBI interrogators have argued persuasively that more benign methods are more effective than stress positions or sleep deprivation in getting information from suspects. And, in any case, the President has made clear that coercive interrogation techniques are not going to be the American way in the future.

Not many Presidents have had good relationships with the CIA. George W. Bush's was particularly dreadful, with Dick Cheney constantly pushing for intel that reflected his ideological predilections rather than reality. (You may remember that a series of damaging anti-Bush leaks seemed to seep out of the Langley environs during the 2004 campaign.) The release of these memos may cripple Obama's relations with the clandestine service--or not, especially if the President and Leon Panetta continue to make clear that they appreciate and stand behind the clandestine service, so long as the operators act within the new ground rules. 


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85 Comments to “Torture Memos Released”

  1. junkmailqueen Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 4:18 pm

A slew of retirements? It seems to me that people who have engaged in this kind of behavior will have experienced some serious psychological damage in doing so and should be encouraged to leave to make room for a new generation of operatives untainted by this disaster. (And if they didn't experience such damage, they should be gone even sooner.)

  1. Ohg Rea Tone Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 4:20 pm

President Bush should be indicted for War Crimes. He can present his case in a fair and impartial hearing - if he is innocent we can all rejoice. If not, then he should be held accountable. ................

  1. Friar Tuck Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Your logic escapes me, Joe. You seem to think that the CIA is in danger of being wounded when it is, in fact, a corpse, and not even a walking one.

  1. gysgt213 Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 4:31 pm

"But there are real concerns in the intelligence community."
I'm sorry. There are real concerns in the public too. Which are more important.

  1. Art Pepper Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 4:31 pm

FT: Many presidents before Obama have tried and failed to reform the CIA - notably Eisenhower and Nixon. In the past the CIA has closed ranks and basically ignored the civilian leadership, at least according to Tim Weiner's book Legacy of Ashes.
One of the few presidents to have a good working relationship with the CIA was GHWB, not surprisingly. It's a cause of concern if you think we need a good clandestine service. Possibly the CIA should be dismantled and a new agency created from scratch.

  1. Dee in Columbia MD Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 4:32 pm

I know there is a palpable desire to see the Bush administration pay for their various crimes and I can't say that I wouldn't derive some pleasure from it, but I would be lying to myself if I said my desire for prosecution is solely because as a patriot I believe every law should be followed. Clearly when it cones to marijuana that's a law that ought to broken and strewn by the wayside.
Knowing that much of my desire for punishment is about revenge rather than what the country would gain I can defer to the president on this. I do agree, however, that he ought not reveal the rank and file CIA and throw them to the wolves. It is not their fault that we had the bad judgment to elect a president and vice president devoid of character.
Bush went out of his way to prove that these extraordinary measures were legal and we ought not say to the careerists now: "Well we know you put it all on the line but you should have run your own independent inquiry and found your president in error and knowing he was asking for an illegal act you should have refused his request. Now that you didn't we have no choice but to do prosecute you. Sorry signed new administration." No, I think not.

  1. Paul-no not that one Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 4:37 pm

This is about a lot more than vengeance.This position basically guarantees that our children will be having the same discussion. No consequences means more of the same down the road.

  1. Paul Dirks Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Even granting each and every concern that agents might have, the "state secrets" defense that Obama is deploying in courtrooms go far beyond the requirments that 'classification' requires. Since when are judges unqualified for security clearances?
And my admittedly rushed readings of the memo's indicate that FBI interrogators have argued persuasively that more benign methods are more effective than stress positions or sleep deprivation in getting information from suspects is rather an understatement.
Presumably punishing people via torture for lying might improve the quality of information extracted slightly, but the victims main motivation will be to provide as much information as possible without regard to the truth of any of it.
I'm of course ignoring the moral implications. If the only recourse for dealing with enemies is to be every bit as evil as they are, then what's the point of calling them enemies?

  1. soylent green Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 4:45 pm

"A potential rebellion"? So you're saying that the "intelligence community" will rebel against the President and the Congress? What will they do, start waterboarding US citizens? Wiretapping without a warrant? Oh, wait...
Seriously, someone needs to remind these Federal Government employees that they work for the United States, not for their insulated "community". They are subject to the same laws as the rest of us and should face the same consequences for breaking those laws.
It really chaps my hide that the assumption seems to be that the President needs to bend over backward to accommodate these federal employees, lest they get butthurt. Too f***ing bad. The director of the CIA answers to the DNI, right? In turn, the DNI answers to the President. Why does the President have to step lightly around his own employees, or face "rebellion"?
Of what use are laws if they can be broken with such impunity? If I can find a lawyer somewhere who gives me advice that I can, for example, not pay federal taxes, I'll face the consequences if I do it. It makes not a sliver of difference that they had "legal opinions" that validated (or un-illegalized?) their actions. If these agents think that they were somehow immunized against the fallout of their actions because of Jay Bybee, then let them make that case in open court.
I sure don't remember this level of outrage from the "intelligence community" when asset Valerie Plame was outed. Interesting.

  1. Paul Dirks Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 4:48 pm

I sure don't remember this level of outrage from the "intelligence community" when asset Valerie Plame was outed.
That's because it was classified.......

  1. jayackroyd Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 4:50 pm

I notice the first memo expressly cites SERE. SERE was intended to train captured Americans to resist NK/Soviet methods used to coerce false confessions. The torture techniques used in these instances were never intended to acquire intelligence.
As for not prosecuting the people who only followed orders, first, I thought that it was a settled matter that this is not a valid defense, and second, that this doctrine wasn't applied to the "bad apples" at Abu Ghraib.
Thing is, it is hard to know how this will play out. Once information starts to flow, it can take on a power of its own.

  1. Dee in Columbia MD Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 4:50 pm

I think its easy for people who have little knowledge about our intelligence operations outside of their spectacular failures because their wins don't get publicized but they do indeed happen.
We like to say we support the troops and they can do no wrong. Well, where do you think a lot of the operatives come from and as for the analysts and case officers they are a part of our defense as well. Why are we so eager to dismiss their contributions? It's as if we blame them for Cheney running amuck, when they are the ones who gave us the alternative info that showed he was a liar.

  1. marvyt Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 4:51 pm

I can understand the concerns of the CIA employees and the Obama administration. The President doesn't want to prosecute people who were just doing their duty as their managers saw fit. However, I thought that the "I was just following orders" defense was debunked at Nuremberg. If we are going to absolve the CIA officers of any moral or legal responsibility for their behavior, then we need to apologize to the Nazis we hanged. If it was OK for Americans to torture people because of "legal cover", then we have no moral authority to accuse anyone else of torture or crimes against humanity. Every person in the USA knew that the Bush administration was twisting and "torturing" the law to justify what Cheney wanted. If we won't hold Americans accountable, then we have no right to hold anyone else accountable. We can't have it both ways.

  1. Matt Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Just when we were all beginning to forget about Bush and his abuses...

  1. jayackroyd Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:02 pm

their wins don't get publicized but they do indeed happen.
I've heard this over and over again. I do not believe it for an instant. And even the "wins" we do hear about always seem to be ultimately reversed by blowback.

  1. Dee in Columbia MD Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Give me a break the only reason we ever even heard of the Valerie Plame story was because the CIA was furious.
I'm not saying anyone was all the way right or wrong, I'm just saying that sometimes we can oversimplify something and some very real things get hurt in the process.
I have family in harms way and I would hate for them to get hurt because of inadequate intelligence.
Why are we not treating intelligence sources the same as our military don't they also put themselves in harms way? I think the president is just giving them the same level of respect we give our military.

  1. orlconvict Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:04 pm

"I was just following orders" is not the defense. The defense is that the Dept of Justice explicitly stated it was legal. The agents acted under those legal guidelines.

  1. Ivy_B Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Were these the memos that John Cornyn threatened to filibuster all the judicial appointments if they were released?

  1. jayackroyd Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Yes. Obama called the bluff.

  1. Dee in Columbia MD Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:15 pm

let's not get it twisted Nuremberg was not about water boarding or enhanced interrogation or even torture for that matter. Nuremberg was about gross human experiments like turning human skin into lampshades, and putting folks in ovens and gas chambers, and sorry I am not going to equate the two. I think Nuremberg said that any reasonable person knows that these acts are wrong and inhuman. I don't think the interrogation techniques fall into that category.

  1. afguy Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Just posing a question - does anyone think this is Obama trying, like FDR, to be "made to do the right thing"?
Anyone think he wants to appear the be dragged "kicking and screaming" into prosecutions at some future date?

  1. afguy Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:20 pm

I'm not saying anyone was all the way right or wrong, I'm just saying that sometimes we can oversimplify something and some very real things get hurt in the process.
I know what you're saying but, at least from my point of view, even as a military member, there are certain things I KNOW are morally wrong and don't need the cover of a memo to know that it's wrong to do them.

  1. LifeBunny Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Last I heard, there aren't supposed to be any prosecutions of spooks for what they did involving torture, so they should count themselves very lucky.

The dismissal of the concept of basic human rights by the Bush administration is unforgiveable, and any actions taken should be taken against those who set the policies regarding torture. As another poster said, the underspooks were "only following orders" dictated by those who claimed what was going on was legal.

  1. jayackroyd Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:23 pm

I think Obama's willingness to accurately state opposing views, and explain why he disagrees will play a role in how this plays out.Presumably he does this internally as well. The arguments Joe lays out, expressed as well as he can express them (which is pretty well) are not terribly persuasive. They amount to insisting on a coverup because 1) they know they were wrong and 2) they thought they had cover.

  1. afguy Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Hope there's something noble in all of this because it's all looking pretty shabby from where I sit.

  1. Dee in Columbia MD Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:29 pm

I think that some members of the intelligence community objected to cheney and that is probably the reason they had to get all of these legal opinions because these operatives resisted the administration. DOJ memo were used to convince them that the law was on the president's side. Now I do think Bush, Cheney and the lawyers ought to be held responsible, especially because they allowed those rank and file soldiers take the weight for their crap. But I defer to the white house on the appropriate timing for this.

  1. afguy Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:33 pm

I HOPE that there's a noble lining in all of this, but I still say that the soldiers/operatives can't completely hide behind the memo. They had legal cover but, MORALLY, their "drawers" are down around their ankles.

  1. afguy Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:34 pm

And our MORAL cover is supposedly what we use to show the world that we are "different".

  1. Paul Dirks Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:34 pm

The reason people keep bringing up Nuremberg is because we executed people for the crime of waterboarding. The fact that it was a war crime in 1946 but not in 2005 is certainly relevant. I'm not advocating prosecuting anyone, but I think we could do a little better housekeeping than we've done so far.

  1. jayackroyd Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Yes, Dee, if what I've read of how the agency operates (and my experience with some people who have been involved in classified stuff), I'm pretty sure that is what happened. And I am equally sure that is what ticked Cheney off--that the bureaucratic wusses insisted on having their butts covered.
Because he too knew what he wanted was illegal, and violated treaties that the US was instrumental in bringing into existence.
If these evil men really believed what they were doing was necessary to keep America safe, they would have done it in the open. This wasn't about security. It was about power.

  1. Paul Dirks Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Or as Joe puts it, "a slew of retirements."

  1. afguy Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Hiding behind legalisms and memos just makes us look ridiculous.

  1. afguy Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:37 pm

If these evil men really believed what they were doing was necessary to keep America safe, they would have done it in the open. This wasn't about security. It was about power.
Perfectly put, jay.

  1. mcboo Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:45 pm

There's something in all of this that I find disturbing and feel should be pointed out more often and that's how the Intelligence Community seems to have no qualms about playing politics with it's critical function.
I completely understand people who worry about potential intelligence failures putting our soldiers, our agents, and our citizens at unnecessary risk but I think the important point in all of this is that it will have been done intentionally in a game of political "gotcha". This is of course not a game as far as I'm concerned and should not be passed over lightly. It's something that's happened in the past and should be avoided in the future. But in order to avoid it we need to make it clear that it will not be tolerated. Just how can we trust people, who are tasked to help safeguard our nation from risk, when they themselves threaten to willingly put us at risk?

Of course it's obvious that all things in Washington are political and therefore they will all play political games. But let's be clear that when the Intelligence Community throws a fit when it feels it's toes are stepped on then THEY quite clearly, literally and intentionally put our nation at risk. That's not hyperbole but simple and demonstrable fact. Tantrums are something one expects from children who don't get what they want. Our Intelligence agencies should behave with more maturity given the gravity of their responsibility should they not? I'm not sure I feel very "safe" if this is how they collectively behave - like spoiled teens who symbolically say "I hate you, I'm not going to!" and then stomp off to their rooms.

  1. sgwhiteinfla Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:46 pm

I am going to say this once and for all, if you do the crime then expect to do the time. Nobody is calling for the rank and file to be prosecuted, that is a strawman argument that President Obama invokes and Joe Klein carries forward. Who most of us want prosecuted is the people who ordered it. The same people that Joe Klein said shouldn't be prosecuted and who Obama seems to have no appetite for prosecuting. When it comes down to it justice is just another term for retribution. Why does someone go to jail if found guilty of committing a crime? So they can be better people? Or to punish them for their actions? And when you can explain to me how punishing someone for their actions is not retribution then maybe I will fall in line with the just let it go crowd. Until that day it is a direct contradiction to say that we are a nation of laws on one hand and then turn around and say this is not a time for retribution on the other.

  1. jmckinne Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Wow, I can remember when Joe Klein used to be a reporter. There was a time, back in the 80's, when you could read his stuff and trust it. Those days are long gone tho. His posts during the 2008 election were something to snicker at but not serious reading. I was continually amazed that what I was reading was written by a man my own age.

Nothing has changed since November it seems and the same kind of Kool Aid drinkers are still posting in his blog. Still posting the same overwrought anti-Bush nonsense. Even while your messiah distances himself from actually acting on the hysterical charges.

Pssst - In case you missed it Guantanamo is still up and running. Maybe a war crimes trial for The One is in order? Yeah, I didn't think so.

  1. bitterpill8 Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Let us hope that this is a start on cleaning out the stables.

  1. jayackroyd Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 5:56 pm


  1. Dee in Columbia MD Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 6:06 pm

SG -- you know I believe that Bush and crew ought to be held responsible for their actions. However, I just think I have more patience than you have when it comes to prosecutions. I give Obama more slack than you on prosecutions because I believe that he has let info come to light that international lawmakers can use to make a case but his administration does not have to spend time dealing with.
I want Obama focused on the immediate crisis and I think there is no statute of limitations on war crimes so we have plenty of time to go after Bush and crew later.

  1. sgwhiteinfla Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 6:09 pm

I give the man leeway, but he took all that leeway away with his statement. There was no reason for him to come out and say that now is a time for reflection not retribution. Thats a bullsh*t argument. He chose to make it and because of that my faith in him has been damaged greatly. I am not going to sit up here and delude myself that the man doesn't really mean what he says. Its staring right there in my face that he wants to move on without "retribution" and I am going to take him at his word. Anything other than that is all fantasy talk.

  1. wvng Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 6:13 pm

As jay said, what Glen said. Also what the other klein said very succinctly: At some point in the past eight years, we became the sort of country that put detainees in small boxes and threatens to cover them in stinging insects.
And what Sully said: Stay tuned as I try to unpack and make sense of these documents. There is some feeling of relief that we now have the incontrovertible evidence in front of us. But there is also a feeling of great nausea as well. Look what they did to these suspects. And look what they did to America.
Joe tried to make this complicated. It. Is. Not.
Not if you have a functioning moral compass. Not if you have values that are recognizable as American.
If that's a problem for the CIA, then the CIA needs to be razed to the ground and started over.

  1. rustyreturns Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 6:38 pm

While I believe strongly in transparency and accountability, I also believe that in a dangerous world, the United States must sometimes carry out intelligence operations and protect information that is classified for purposes of national security.
Then please tell me why any of this was released?
Obama is treading on very thin ice I think. He is playing both sides of the political game. Appeasing the left extremists, while at the same time attempting to protect the American citizens.
This has great implications and future consequeses to be paid for in my opinion. If we haven't seen a jihad yet, you shall soon see one. And we are now going to "talk" with the Iranians without pre-conditions. I truly do not understand the rationale.

  1. bushidowarrior Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 6:44 pm

Dee in Columbia MD Says: Look it is very simple...we don't torture. The creed for the CIA and the military is no different. You do not have to follow orders which you think are against regulations or the law. The President of the United States, in this case, George Bush, doesn't not represent the law or ininterpret it. That is the responsibility of the Supreme Court and the reason we have a separation of powers. Any military person or CIA official who knowingly breaks the law faces the same scrutiny that you and I do. What is very unfortunate here is the the court in the Hague has choosen not to try George Bush and his administration the same as they have others for war crimes. And as for those CIA folks that say that will walk...I'm with the rest of the folks here...good riddens and keep walkin'..we don't need you!

  1. wvng Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 6:55 pm

rusty: While I believe strongly in transparency and accountability, I also believe that in a dangerous world, the United States must sometimes carry out intelligence operations and protect information that is classified for purposes of national security.
This information was classified to protect the guilty. And the whole world already knew "we" did most of these things. The best protection in this case is sunlight.

  1. northleft12 Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 6:56 pm

These operatives are not stupid. They knew what they were being asked or encouraged or authorized to do was illegal in the US and pretty much the rest of the world too. And I think that is the crux of the defence by Cheney, Addington, et al. They did not directly ORDER any torture. They tasked [I hate that use of that word] the operatives with maximizing the amount of intelligence that they could get out of the captives, then AUTHORIZED the use of extra legal methods.

Unless the US government is prepared to put Cheney, Bush, Addington, et al on trial, it would be grossly unfair [though quite American] to try the subordinates who committed the act of torture.

Last point; that threat of mass resignations is so laughable as to be some sort of twisted joke. Are these guys planning to take up jobs at AIG when those guys all walk out the door? Please.

  1. bushidowarrior Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 6:57 pm

One last comment...about Abu Ghraib and the conduct of the military there. If there are any other retired military or others blogging this you can chime in too. I have never believed for one second that the military folks that carried out these acts did so without permission. If you have ever been to a military prison you would know just how difficult it is to gain access, and especially with a dog, carry out these deeds and no one in the chain of command knew nothing??!! Absolute lies. What I would suspect happened was these folks were acting on orders and were told to carry out this type of torture, then once caught were told that even if they say they were order to do it they would still be tried because they had the absolute right to disobey those orders knowing they were illegal. Does anyone remember the case of 2nd LT Calley in the My Lai Massacre? How the military tried him and later vendicated him? This is no different.

  1. wvng Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 7:09 pm

bushido - you are aware of A.J. Rossmiller, right?

  1. stuartzechman Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 7:13 pm

The banality of evil:

He operated unthinkingly, following orders, efficiently carrying them out, with no consideration of their effects upon those he targeted. The human dimension of these activities were not entertained, so the extermination of the Jews became indistinguishable from any other bureaucratically assigned and discharged responsibility for Eichmann and his cohorts.
Arendt concluded that Eichmann was constitutively incapable of exercising the kind of judgment that would have made his victims' suffering real or apparent for him. It was not the presence of hatred that enabled Eichmann to perpetrate the genocide, but the absence of the imaginative capacities that would have made the human and moral dimensions of his activities tangible for him. Eichmann failed to exercise his capacity of thinking, of having an internal dialogue with himself, which would have permitted self-awareness of the evil nature of his deeds. This amounted to a failure to use self-reflection as a basis for judgment, the faculty that would have required Eichmann to exercise his imagination so as to contemplate the nature of his deeds from the experiential standpoint of his victims. This connection between the complicity with political evil and the failure of thinking and judgment inspired the last phase of Arendt's work, which sought to explicate the nature of these faculties and their constitutive role for politically and morally responsible choices.

Former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee wrote:

You [the CIA] would like to place Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box with an insect. You have informed us [the Department of Justice] that he appears to have a fear of insects.

This is the bureaucracy of torture.
America has done this. It is time now to understand what we have done.

  1. wvng Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 7:25 pm

sz, digby has more on that. She sees it as worse:
The psychology may have been the same --- they were just doing their jobs. But the act of doing their jobs required a consciousness that goes beyond the average bureaucrat, even the average Nazi bureaucrat ca. 1942. They thought it through. The man who wrote that memo now sits on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and his conscious judgment is at issue every single day. This country should not have anyone who authorized twisted and depraved behaviors sitting in judgment of anyone. If Obama refuses to take action against this man, the legal profession should do it for him and disbar him. And if the congress can impeach someone over illicit oral sex, they can surely impeach a federal judge for authorizing torture. It's bad enough that we have war criminals running free. Having one of them sitting on one of the highest courts in the land is mind-boggling.

  1. jayackroyd Says: 
    Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 7:47 pm

I also believe that in a dangerous world
What danger? What possibly threatens the United States? This is such fearmongering nonsense, and it's been going on for more than 60 years.

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 I thought it was a part of all military training that an officer understood the obligation NOT to follow orders that he or she understood to be illegal. Whether or not that extends into civilian organizations like CIA (although I understand that much of the torture was carried out by Blackwater contractors) Obama has effectively reversed a precedent set at Nuremburg, that "I was just following orders" is no defense.

Just so long as he doesn't extend the no prosecutions policy upward to those who were 'just giving orders.' But who really think that he will ever pursue Yoo, Bybee et. al., let alone Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Ashcroft, Mukasey, Rice...

While we have to wait and see how much is redacted or not in these latest memos. It's clear that there will be no prosecutions of any kind, neither CIA or former Bush officials. If the CIA torturers are to be let off the hook, I have no doubt those that ordered torture will go free as well. Obama has giving any former Bushie an arguable defense. If those that actually did the torture broke no laws, then I broke no laws by ordering it. Thanks Obama, thanks for nothing. So much for restoring the rule of law and holding violators accountable. You make me sick and I voted for you. Won't make that mistake again.

Does it seem like these memos may be evidence of some sort of "CONSPIRACY" to carry out torture and to provide a cover to prevent prosecutions?

I mean it looks like these people got together and discussed, planned and thought this out torture business very thoroughly. Like professionals. One would assume that professionals know what is acceptable and what is not acceptable and they are not "non compos mentis" - are these not supposed to be our best and brightest? I bet most even have degrees attesting to their education and knowledge.

How can this be happenstance?

I dare call this a conspiracy.

A conspiracy to break the law is a crime.

Crimes against the Law are more actionable than crimes against people or property.



When You Begin To See A Build Up Of This Sort You Begin To Smell A Sacrificial Lamb In The Grill.  It doesn’t stop there. I’m Hungry; I want the Whole Flock (en) Bunch Of Them!

Obstruction of Justice. |

Brief notes on the legal grounds for Bybee’s impeachment

McCaskill on impeaching Jay Bybee: ‘I think we have to look at it.'

oneheartforpeace: Jay Bybee: NY Times Wants this Man Impeached

No Amnesty for Torturers

Begin By Impeaching The Torture Judge
By John Nichols 
All torture advocates must be held to account -- not merely by the courts but by Congress.
The Nation: All Weblogs -

Feingold Wants Policymakers Prosecuted

From an interview with the editorial board of the Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter in Manitowoc, WI, Sen. Russ Feingold: 

"I understand that the president believes that the people who actually administered these tactics should be immune.  I'm not sure about that. I understand that they have a greater argument than those who created the policies.  But those who created these legal theories, knowing full well that there was not a reasonable argument, I'm not so sure they shouldn't be accountable.  I don't see how we as a country say oh fine we knew this was against international law, we knew it was against our own laws, and these people can come up with any phony legal opinion they want.  I've read these opinions because I'm on the intelligence committee and had access to them much earlier than the public.  These arguments are bogus.."

 Jonathan Turley: Getting Away With Torture? | Crooks and Liars
By Susie Madrak 
about the torture/crimes of the
 bush/cheney administration, that we should go forward and not look backawards, then following that reasoning, NO ONE IN AMERICA SHOULD EVER BE PUNISH/TRIED for any crime committed, because that would be looking ... While Republicans don't see Republican crime any action (no matter how legal) Obama takes will always be grounds for impeachment and violent overthrow. You can't make peace with traitors. Login or register to reply ...
Crooks and Liars -

David Bromwich: Expedience and the Torture Amnesty

By David Bromwich 
The crimes I've enumerated in this post were legitimate grounds for impeachment when W. was in charge, and stand today as sufficient cause for indictments on war crimes charges. Now matter how much you like Obama, .... This country can not live with the Bush/Cheney torture regime as precedent -- un-investigated and un-prosecuted -- for the next administration that finds it convenient to exact "showcase confessions" in this manner. We ARE better than the Stalinist and Nazi ...
The Huffington Post Full Blog Feed -


How to make a angry american «
 Bush look like a SAINT! IWASINTHEMARINES says: April 18, 2009 at 10:50 am. Bush andCheney  Bush and Cheney should be put in jail. Along with Rumsfield. Why there is not a public outcry is beyond me. pin5033 says: .... forget impeachment, they deserve IMPRISONMENT! smashsamus says: April 18, 2009 at 10:50 am. that’s a good … that’s a good question!….. I guess it just goes to show you how fucked we all really are. lol, no but really, all this bull will come to an ... -

Holding Responsible Those Who are Responsible | barth's Blog
By barth 
I don't know what to do with said
 Bush or Cheney. I really don't. We do not throw people in prison for taking the wrong legal position or making a bad argument. They were responsible for fanning the flames of fear that were started by ... do what they did and bring such disrespect on our country, but they were not impeached, nor were they evicted from office (while their friends and allies impeached the prior president for lying about having sex outside of his marriage). ...

Cafe Talk Aggregator -

The Osterley Times: The Torturers’ Manifesto.
By Kel 
Either written by myself or articles that I find interesting or provocative enough to post. Covering The Iraq War, The War on Terrorism, George W. Bush, Gordon Brown, the Neo-Cons and politics in general. ...the lifetime seat on the federal appeals court that Mr. Bush rewarded him with. These memos make it clear that Mr. Bybee is unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution. Congress should impeach him. ... Must Watch. Cheney's Law ...
The Osterley Times -

Begin By Impeaching The Torture Judge
The Nation. - New York,NY,USA
There are so many abuses that demand a response -- up to and including those of former President
Bush and former Vice President Cheney -- that some ask: ...See all stories on this topic

Booman Tribune ~ A Progressive Community
By Booman Tribune 
And I think we would find, if we ever put all these people under oath, that the real pressure was not coming from CIA, but from Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld, and their assistants, who wanted to 'take the gloves off.' The CIA, I believe, was under tremendous pressure to torture these .... At the very least, these scumbags should be impeached, disbarred and publically censured by their professional organizations. (ABA, etc). by jdw on Sat Apr 18th, 2009 at 05:37:39 PM EST ...
Booman Tribune -

Ex-Bush Official: Many Gitmo Detainees Innocent

Many detainees locked up at Guantanamo were innocent men swept up by U.S. forces unable to distinguish enemies from noncombatants, a former Bush administration official said Thursday.

"There are still innocent people there," Lawrence Wilkerson, a Republican who was chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, told the Associated Press. "Some have been there six or seven years."

Wilkerson, who first made the assertions in an Internet posting Tuesday, told the AP he learned from briefings and by communicating with military commanders that the United States soon realized many Guantanamo detainees were innocent but nevertheless held them in hopes they could provide information for a "mosaic" of intelligence.

"It did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance," Wilkerson wrote in the blog. He said intelligence analysts hoped to gather "sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified."

Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel, said vetting on the battlefield during the early stages of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan was incompetent with no meaningful attempt to discriminate "who we were transporting to Cuba for detention and interrogation."

Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to comment on Wilkerson's specific allegations but noted that the military has consistently said that dealing with foreign fighters from a wide variety of countries in a wartime setting was a complex process. The military has insisted that those held at Guantanamo were enemy combatants and posed a threat to the United States.

In his posting for the Washington Note blog, Wilkerson wrote that "U.S. leadership became aware of this lack of proper vetting very early on and, thus, of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released."

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney fought efforts to address the situation, Wilkerson said, because "to have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership."

Wilkerson told the AP in a telephone interview that many detainees "clearly had no connection to al Qaeda and the Taliban and were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pakistanis turned many over for $5,000 a head."

Some 800 men have been held at Guantanamo since the prison opened in January 2002, and 240 remain. Wilkerson said two dozen are terrorists, including confessed Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was transferred to Guantanamo from CIA custody in September 2006. articles/2006/08/25/tortured_ and_innocent.php detainees/story/38773.html international/asia/20abuse. html?ei=5094&en= 6cca0512a38427c3&hp=&ex= 1116648000&partner=homepage& pagewanted=print

http://www.nationaljournal. com/about/njweekly/stories/ 2006/0203nj4.htm

Gen. Taguba: Accountability for torture does not stop at White House door

Major General Antonio Taguba called for an independent commission to investigate war crimes committed by senior members of the Bush Administration in remarks in Ames Courtroom on Tuesday, April 14. The event was sponsored by Physicians for Human Rights and the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School.

Taguba, who was pressured to resign by the Bush Administration in 2007 following the 2004 leak of his report detailing abuses by U.S. armed forces in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, declared in the preface of the 2008 Physicians for Human Rights publication "Broken Laws, Broken Lives," that, "there is no longer any doubt as to whether the [Bush] administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

While the Obama Administration has "reaffirmed its commitment to valuing human rights and international law" by officially closing CIA black sites and the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Taguba insisted that "there are a lot of stories that have yet to be told."


US Probes Press Interview With Guantanamo Inmate

US investigates Guantanamo prisoner interview, but official says it's hard to prevent repeat

A Guantanamo Bay prisoner gave an unprecedented interview with a Middle East television network during his weekly call to his family, telling Al-Jazeera he was beaten by guards for refusing to leave his cell.

It was the first time a Guantanamo prisoner has given a news media interview, though many have spoken to the media after their release.

Mohammed el Gharani, a native of Chad, alleged he was severely beaten by guards for refusing to leave his cell, in the interview with an Al-Jazeera network journalist for an interview the network reported on its Web site. He spoke with journalist Sami al-Haj, who previously was imprisoned for six years at Guantanamo.

The military does not allow interviews with Guantanamo prisoners, saying to do so would violate the Geneva Conventions.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brook DeWalt, a prison spokesman, said he had no evidence to support el Gharani's claims of abuse, but the U.S. is investigating the phone call.

El Gharani, who has been ordered released by a U.S. judge, is one of relative few prisoners with special privileges such as weekly phone calls.

The calls are taped and authorities ensure that the numbers called are those of a family member, but the U.S. has little control over what happens at the other end, DeWalt said.

"We can't sit there and have a monitor on the other end of the line where the phone is to see who the phone is passed to," DeWalt said.

The prison spokesman said officials have not revoked the man's permission to make the weekly phone calls. He said el Gharani has not been moved or subjected to other punishment.

El Gharani, who is in his early 20s, told Al-Jazeera that guards beat him with batons and sprayed him with tear gas. He did not give the date of the alleged abuse but said it occurred after the November election of President Barack Obama, who took office in January and has ordered Guantanamo closed by the end of the year.

The prisoner said he refused to leave his cell because he was not being permitted to interact with other detainees and was denied "normal food." He said a group of six soldiers in protective gear removed him from the cell and beat him, breaking one of his front teeth.

DeWalt said he has no evidence to support the allegations.

El Gharani is represented by lawyers from the British human rights group Reprieve, which declined comment on the interview. Reprieve attorneys also represented al-Haj, a native of Sudan, who was released from Guantanamo in May.

El Gharani is one of about 20 prisoners held in Camp Iguana, where prisoners have been approved for release and are awaiting transfer to another country. They live communally, instead of in the solid-walled cells used elsewhere in the prison, and have access to additional food and entertainment not permitted to the rest of the prison population.

The prisoner's description of being forcibly removed from a cell and prevented from interacting with other prisoners suggests that the alleged incident occurred before he was put in Iguana. Dewalt said el Gharani has been in the camp for "a couple of months," but he did not provide the exact date.

A U.S. judge ordered el Gharani released in January, dismissing as unreliable the military's allegations that he was part of al-Qaida and had worked for the Taliban in Afghanistan.

El Gharani was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 at a mosque by local police and turned over to U.S. forces in 2002. He was one of the first Guantanamo Bay detainees and one of the youngest.

The U.S. holds about 240 men at the U.S. base in Cuba, most on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

New abuse claims at Guantanamo

More claims of mistreatment of detainees at the US prison facility in Guantanamo Bay have emerged after Al Jazeera obtained a letter from an inmate saying he had been abused since the Obama administration came to power. 

Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a Yemeni national held since 2001, said in a letter to his lawyer dated April that "oppression has increased, torture has increased and insults have increased".

"I have seen death so many times," he wrote. "Everything is over, life is going to hell in my situation. America, what has happened to you?"

The letter emerged on Thursday, two days after another inmate, Mohammad al-Qurani, told Al Jazeera in a phone call that he had been mistreated since Barack Obama, the US president, was elected last November.

David Remes, one of Abdul Latif's lawyers, said he had seen evidence of abuse on his client during meetings at the Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba.

"We have met with our clients, we know the men and the experiences are uniform and universal," he said.

Bush torture methods included use of insects --The torture techniques sanctioned by George Bush's regime were disclosed by Barack Obama last night. 17 Apr 2009 Certain aspects of the documents are redacted – including the names of CIA officials – but the four memos written by Bush lawyers as a guideline for interrogators offer an unprecedented look inside the methods used as the perpetrators patsies of 9/11 and their cohorts were hunted down. Water-boarding, which is banned by international human rights law, was one of the torture methods used. Other methods included placing an insect in a "confinement box", was used as a tactic against Abu Zubaydah, the first top 'al-Qaeda' member to be seized. Interrogators planned to tell Zubaydah they were putting a stinging insect in the box but it would actually be harmless [?] "such as a caterpillar".

The United States prosecuted some Japanese interrogators at war crimes trials after World War II for waterboarding and other methods detailed in the memos. Interrogation Memos Detail Torture Tactics by the C.I.A. 17 Apr 2009 The Justice Department on Thursday made public detailed memos describing brutal interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency, as President Obama sought to reassure the agency that the C.I.A. operatives involved would not be prosecuted. In dozens of pages of dispassionate legal prose, the methods approved by the Bush regime for extracting information from senior operatives of 'Al Qaeda' are spelled out in careful detail -- like keeping prisoners awake for up to 11 straight days, placing them in a dark, cramped box or putting insects into the box to exploit their fears. The interrogation methods were authorized beginning in 2002, and some were used as late as 2005 in the C.I.A.'s secret overseas prisons.

Torture memos acted as a 'golden shield' to help American interrogators try to stay within the law 18 Apr 2009 The most striking feature of four highly classified documents, drawn up to address "whether certain enhanced interrogation techniques" being used by the CIA on terror suspects constitute torture, is the sheer detail. The memos relied on a fairly simple legal principle: so long as the interrogators did not cause intense, severe or lasting physical pain and psychological damage, they were not torturing suspects and would therefore be exempt from any prosecution.

Waterboarding you can believe in. Obama pledges to protect CIA torture operatives --Memos released show waterboarding of terror suspects was 'legal' in Bush era 17 Apr 2009 Barack Obama yesterday confirmed he will shield from prosecution CIA operatives who inflicted waterboarding and other extreme interrogation techniques against terror suspects during the Bush years, even as the White House released memos containing shocking new details of what was permitted in their secret prisons.

Obama exonerates CIA torturers By Patrick Martin 17 April 2009 President Barack Obama announced Thursday that CIA agents who engaged in torture of prisoners over the past seven years will not be prosecuted or punished. As the Justice Department released memos documenting in grisly detail the interrogation guidelines set down by the Bush administration, the White House made it clear that neither those who ordered the torture nor those who carried it out would face justice.

Abu Ghraib Victims Can Sue Interrogators --Former prisoners allege multiple violations of U.S. law, including torture, war crimes and civil conspiracy. 16 Apr 2009 In a ruling that could have widespread implications for government contractors overseas, a federal court has concluded that four former Abu Ghraib prisoners, who were tortured and later released without charge, can sue the U.S. military contractor who was involved in conducting prisoner interrogations for the Pentagon in Iraq. U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1998, denied a motion to dismiss the detainees’ claims by the contractor, CACI International. The Arlington, Virginia-based company is a major contractor to the Defence Department.

Miller government knew about CIA prisons in Poland? 15 Apr 2009 The government under the premiership of Leszek Miller (2001-4) knew about the alleged CIA detention facility in Poland, the existence of which has been denied by successive governments. The Rzeczpospolita daily front pages what is presented as an ‘exclusive’: that secret CIA prisons located in Szymany, northeastern Poland, were not only known about by Miller’s government but that they actively covered them up.

Congress investigating spy violation by NSA --Justice Department review finds that agency's eavesdropping program had exceeded limits set last year 17 Apr 2009 Congress is investigating a "serious" failure by the National Security Agency to comply with legal limits on its domestic eavesdropping activities, key lawmakers said Thursday. An internal review by the Justice Department and the NSA found that the spy agency's monitoring program had exceeded limits set by Congress last year designed to protect the privacy of U.S. citizens.


With every water-soaked rag and bounce against the wall, George’s schoolyard bullies committed what the rest of the world calls war crimes. They should be brought to a fair trial where our nation of laws actually follows them. If the trial decides they did no wrong, then no harm, no foul. But if they’re convicted, they should get the same punishment as any other law breaker - that is the very definition of justice.

To be a nation of laws, we have to follow them. Our Ex-Constitutional Law Professor-in-Chief should know all about that. If not, he better hit the books.

This is one monumentally important exam.



According to the Huffington Post, former Vice President Dick Cheney will not be attending a get-together of former Bush administration officials scheduled for next week:

The Times' article focuses mainly on a planned Bush administration reunion for next week with the likes of Condoleezza Rice, Karen Hughes and Dan Bartlett. And if you read all the way to the sixth paragraph you'll learn that there is one prominent administration official who will be conspicuously absent from the rendezvous:

Not coming to next week's session is former Vice President Dick Cheney, who in the final days of the administration argued with Mr. Bush about his failure to pardon Mr. Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr., who was convicted of perjury and other counts for his role in the leak of Valerie Wilson's employment with the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. Cheney later went on television to air his grievances with Mr. Bush, while also accusing Mr. Obama of endangering the country.

The rest of us might have a hard time understanding why anybody would show up to that party, but you would think Cheney would be all over it. There's got to be a good reason he's missing the shindig:

- Lucrative speaking engagement at National Conference of Sith Lords Semi-Annual Retreat.

- Found out Bush is serving Coors Light, fears Silver Bullets.

- Invitation was lost in the mail. Bush addressed it "Undisclosed Location."
- Doesn't want the others to see how much he's let himself go.



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