Wednesday, April 29, 2009

State Secrets Overreach; Conyers, Nadler Request Special Prosecutor In Holder Letter; Escalating Torture Firestorm.

State Secrets Overreach; Conyers, Nadler Request Special Prosecutor In Holder Letter; Escalating Torture Firestorm.

 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Rejects State Secrets Overreach

by mcjoan  

Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 07:44:02 PM PDT


In February, the Obama Justice Department dismayed the entire civil and human rights community by reiterating the Bush administration's arguments that victims of “extraordinary rendition” and torture should not be allowed to bring their claims in federal court because doing so would reveal “state secrets” and harm national security. The case is Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, on behalf of five five individuals who allege that they were illegally rendered to secret prisons and detention sites where they were tortured. Jeppesen Dataplan is the aviation company which provided aircraft, pilots, and logistical support for the CIA rendition flights responsible for transporting detainees to torture.

The Bush administration succeeded in getting the case dismissed by arguing that the rendition program was a state secret, regardless of how many times President Bush and various CIA directors had talked publicly about it. The Obama administration reiterated that claim before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in February, and today the Court ruled against the government, and reinstated the case.

The three judge panel reversed the lower court’s decision, which had accepted the government’s argument (then made by the Bush administration) that allowing it to move forward would endanger national security.

The logic of the state secrets privilege, the appeals court panel writes (pdf), “simply cannot stretch to encompass cases brought by third-party plaintiffs against alleged government contractors for the contractors’ alleged involvement in tortious intelligence activities. Nothing the plaintiffs have done supports a conclusion that their ‘lips [are] to be forever sealed respecting’ the claim on which they sue, such that filing this lawsuit would in itself defeat recovery.”

In other words, as the the American Civil Liberties Union had argued on behalf of the five victims, there is no reason to prevent the victims from having their day in court against a government contractor that they claim knowingly assisted in their torture. Pursuing those claims don’t have to reveal any secret evidence about the CIA program that could be dangerous to disclose.

The broad state secrets argument has also been used by both the Bush and Obama administrations in the Al Haramain warrantless wiretapping case, where it has also been rejected by the Ninth Circuit Court. In addition to the appeals court efforts to restore a bit of check and balance on state secrets, Congress is likely set to act. Senators Leahy, Kennedy, Feingold, and newly-minted Dem Specter have introduced state secrets legislation.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) are also cosponsors of the legislation.  The Leahy-Specter-Feingold-Kennedy legislation would:

  • Provide a uniform set of procedures for federal courts considering claims of the state secrets privilege
  • Codify many of best practices that are already available to courts but that often go unused, such as in camera hearings, non-privilege substitutes, and special masters
  • Require judges to look at the evidence that the government claims is privileged, rather than relying solely on government affidavits
  • Forbid judges from dismissing cases at the pleadings stage, before there has been any document discovery, while protecting innocent defendants by allowing cases to be dismissed when they would need privileged evidence to establish a valid defense
  • Require judges to order the government to produced unclassified or redacted versions of sensitive evidence when possible to allow cases to move forward safely
  • Establish security procedures to ensure that secrets are not leaked during litigation, including closed hearings, security clearance requirements, sealed orders, and expedited appeals
  • Establish congressional reporting requirements
  • Address the crisis of legitimacy surrounding the privilege by setting clear rules that take into account both national security and the Constitution

The state secrets privilege has a place in preventing the disclosure of evidence that could potentially be harmful to national security if revealed. But the Bush administration wielded it to an extreme degree, often arguing that cases had to be dismissed even before any evidence had been identified or a judge had been allowed to review it to see if it might be privileged, because the very subject matter in the case (i.e., rendition or warrantless wiretapping) was a state secret, even though the existence of and basic details of the program was public. A return to balance on this privilege is essential to a transparent, accountable government.

What this decision means for this case is that now it will go back to the District Court for a document-by-document review in which the court determines which information is privileged, and the five former detainees (including Binyam Mohamed) get their day in court, as should happen in America. If the administration doesn't appeal again.


Congressmen John Conyers and Jerrold Nadler have written a letter to the Attorney General requesting the appointment of a special prosecutor on torture.

“While I applaud the Obama administration for releasing these torture memos in the spirit of openness and transparency, the memos’ alarming content requires further action,” opined Nadler, who chairs the House Judiceary Committee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. “These memos, without a shadow of a doubt, authorized torture and gave explicit instruction on how to carry it out, all the while carefully attempting to maintain a legal fig leaf.

“These memos make it abundantly clear that the Bush administration engaged in torture. Because torture is illegal under American law – as the U.S. is a signatory to the Convention Against Torture – we are legally required to investigate and, when appropriate, to prosecute those responsible for these crimes.”

“Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said Tuesday it would be a conflict of interest for the Justice Department to even investigate former department lawyers,”reported the Associated Press.

“The lawmakers said conflicts may arise even though Bush administration lawyers, who wrote legal memos justifying harsh interrogations, have left the government.”

“This letter makes official our views on the necessary procedure in investigating those U.S. officials who allowed or actively instructed others to commit torture,” continued Nadler in a media advisory. “Because the United States is bound by its own laws and by international treaty, we are obligated to investigate and, where necessary, to prosecute those who have violated the laws against committing torture – whether by ordering it or committing it directly. We have no choice if we are to remain a just and principled nation of laws.

“Special Counsel is the most appropriate way to handle this matter. It would remove from the process any question that the investigation was subject to political pressure, and it would preempt any perceptions of conflict of interest within the Justice Department, which produced the torture memos. President Obama has honorably shown his commitment to the rule of law and placed this process into the hands of his able Attorney General, where it belongs. I look forward to working with Attorney General Holder on this, and with Chairman Conyers as the Judiciary Committee continues its oversight investigations.”

Read the letter:

Holder Letter 042809

World Can't Wait

"The United States is committed to the world-wide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment. I call on all nations to speak out against torture in all its forms and to make ending torture an essential part of their diplomacy,"

- George W. Bush, urging the investigation and prosecution of prisoner abuse and torture under his command, June 26, 2003.


What Do The "Torture Memos" Mean?

World Can't Wait wants to know what you think about the Torture Memos released April 16, 2009, and the controversy over prosecution of those in the Bush administration responsible for torture.


First Name

Last Name






Zip/Postal Code



 Do you favor prosecution of those who tortured during the Bush administration? Why or why not?

 Do you feel the release of the torture memos/Senate report, and the heightened media coverage of the torture issue during the past week, has changed the political climate in this country? If so, how so? If not, why not?

 Have the above mentioned developments around the torture issue changed the way you personally view the political situation in this country? Why or why not?

 Do you draw a distinction between the "deciders (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Ashcroft, Tenet)," the legal team (Yoo, Bybee, Addington, Feith, Haynes, Gonzales), and the CIA agents who did the torture?

 Why do you think broader numbers of people have NOT, thus far, stepped forward to demand an end to torture carried out openly by our government?

 What do you think we should do to bring about justice and prevent current and future US governments from using torture?




Torture Was Used to Try to Link Saddam With 9/11

Posted on Apr 24, 2009

By Marjorie Cohn

When I testified last year before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties about Bush interrogation policies, Congressman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) stated that former CIA Director Michael Hayden had confirmed that the Bush administration waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zabaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashirit for only one minute each. I told Franks that I didn’t believe that. Sure enough, one of the newly released torture memos reveals that Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times and Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times. One of the 2005 memos written by Bush-era Justice Department official Stephen Bradbury asserted that “enhanced techniques” used on Zubaydah yielded the identification of Mohammed and an alleged radioactive bomb plot by Jose Padilla. But FBI Supervisory Special Agent Ali Soufan, who interrogated Zubaydah from March to June 2002, wrote in The New York Times that Zubaydah produced that information under traditional interrogation methods, before the harsh techniques were ever used.

Why, then, the relentless waterboarding of these two men? It turns out that high Bush officials put heavy pressure on Pentagon interrogators to get Mohammed and Zubaydah to say there was a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 hijackers, in order to justify President Bush’s illegal and unnecessary invasion of Iraq in 2003. That link was never established.

President Obama released the four memos in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU. They describe unimaginably brutal techniques and provide “legal” justification for clearly illegal acts of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In the face of monumental pressure from the CIA to keep them secret, Obama demonstrated great courage in deciding to make the grotesque memos public. At the same time, however, in an attempt to pacify the intelligence establishment, Obama said that “it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution.”

In startlingly clinical and dispassionate terms, the authors of the newly released torture memos describe and then rationalize why the devastating techniques the CIA sought to employ on human beings do not violate the Torture Statute (18 U.S.C. sec. 2340).

The memos justify 10 techniques, including banging heads into walls 30 times in a row, prolonged nudity, repeated slapping, dietary manipulation, and dousing with cold water as low as 41 degrees. They allow shackling detainees in a standing position for 180 hours, sleep deprivation for 11 days, confinement in small dark boxes with insects for hours, and waterboarding. Moreover, the memos permit many of these techniques to be used in combination for a 30-day period. They find that none of these techniques constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Waterboarding, admittedly the most serious of the methods, is designed to induce the perception of “suffocation and incipient panic, i.e. the perception of drowning,” according to Jay Bybee, the signer of one of the memos. But although Bybee finds that “the use of the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death,” he accepts the CIA’s claim that it does “not anticipate that any prolonged mental harm would result from the use of the waterboard.” One of Bradbury’s memos requires that a physician be on duty during waterboarding to perform a tracheotomy in case the victim doesn’t recover after being returned to an upright position.

As psychologist Jeffrey Kaye points out, the CIA and the Justice Department “ignored a wealth of other published information” indicating that victims of waterboarding may suffer dissociative symptoms, changes greater than those in patients undergoing heart surgery, and drops in testosterone to castration levels.

The Torture Statute punishes conduct, or conspiracy to engage in conduct, specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering. “Severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from either the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering, or from the threat of imminent death.

Bybee asserts that “if a defendant acts with the good faith belief that his actions will not cause such suffering, he has not acted with specific intent.” He makes the novel claim that the presence of personnel with medical training who can stop the interrogation if medically necessary “indicates that it is not your intent to cause severe physical pain.”

Bybee, now a federal judge with a lifetime appointment, concludes that waterboarding does not constitute torture under the Torture Statute. However, he writes, “we cannot predict with confidence whether a court would agree with this conclusion.”

Bybee’s memo explains why the 10 techniques could be used on Abu Zubaydah, who was considered to be a top al-Qaida operative. “Zubaydah does not have any pre-existing mental conditions or problems that would make him likely to suffer prolonged mental harm from [the CIA’s] proposed interrogation methods,” the CIA told Bybee. Zubaydah was only a low-ranking al-Qaida operative, according to leading FBI counterterrorism expert Dan Coleman, who had advised a top FBI official, “This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality.” This was reported by Ron Suskind in his book “The One Percent Doctrine.”

The CIA’s request to confine Zubaydah in a cramped box with an insect was granted by Bybee, who told the CIA it could place a harmless insect in the box and tell Zubaydah that it would sting him but not kill him. Even though the CIA knew that Zubaydah had an irrational fear of insects, Bybee found there would be no threat of severe physical pain or suffering if it followed this procedure.

Obama’s intent to immunize those who violated our laws banning torture and cruel treatment violates the president’s constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

U.S. law prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and requires that those who subject people to such treatment be prosecuted. The Convention Against Torture compels us to refer all torture cases for prosecution or extradite the suspect to a country that will undertake a criminal investigation.

Obama has made a political calculation to seek amnesty for the CIA torturers. However, good-faith reliance on superior orders was rejected as a defense at Nuremberg and in Lt. Willliam L. Calley’s Vietnam-era trial for the My Lai massacre. The Torture Convention provides unequivocally that “an order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification for torture.”

There is evidence that the CIA was using the illegal techniques as early as April 2002, three to four months before one of the memos was written in August 2002. That would eliminate “good-faith” reliance on Justice Department advice as a defense to prosecution.

The Senate Intelligence Committee revealed that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice approved waterboarding in July 17, 2002, “subject to a determination of legality by the OLC [Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel].” She got it two weeks later from Bybee and Justice Department lawyer John Yoo. Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, Attorney General John Ashcroft, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and CIA Director George Tenet reassured the CIA in spring 2003 that the abusive methods were legal.

Obama told AP’s Jennifer Loven in the Oval Office: “With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that is going to be more of a decision for the Attorney General within the parameters of various laws, and I don’t want to prejudge that.” If Attorney General Eric Holder continues to carry out Obama’s political agenda by resisting investigations and prosecution, Congress can, and should, authorize the appointment of a special independent prosecutor to do what the law requires.

The president must fulfill his constitutional duty to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed. Obama said that “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.” He is wrong. There is much to gain from upholding the rule of law. It would make future leaders think twice before they authorize the cruel, illegal treatment of other human beings.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president of the National Lawyers Guild. She is author of “Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law” and co-author of the new book “Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent.” Some of her work can be found at


CIA And The Washington Post: Joined At The Hip---


Written by Melvin A. Goodman

Monday, 27 April 2009

Under the stewardship of Fred Hiatt, the editorial and op-ed pages of the Washington Post have gradually moved to the right. Post editorials and op-eds have defended the decision to go to war in Iraq; opposed any improvement in bilateral relations with Russia; refused to acknowledge Israel’s misuse of military power in the Middle East; and lobbied against the need for investigation of the detention and interrogation programs of the Bush administration.

As part of the campaign to prevent a rigorous examination of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (read: “torture and abuse”), the Washington Post's editorial pages have been particularly protective of the Central Intelligence Agency and its senior leaders--the ideological drivers for torture and extraordinary renditions policies. These CIA leaders, particularly deputy director Steven Kappes and acting general counsel John Rizzo, are not trying to protect the reputation and mission of the CIA; they are trying to protect themselves.

Surely senior journalists from the mainstream media must understand that reliance on anonymous CIA clandestine sources is neither good reporting nor professional journalism. Many of these “anonymous sources” almost certainly are former and current CIA officials seeking to protect themselves. George TenetJohn McLaughlin, and John Brennan are individuals who fit that description.

In the past several days, the Post has carried editorials and op-eds by its own editorial writer David Ignatius; its longtime national security writer Walter Pincus; former CIA director Porter Goss; former CIA operative Michael Scheuer; and Marc Thiessen, a former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush. These articles have been similar in content and similar to the statements of other CIA directors past and present (Leon Panetta,Michael Hayden, Goss, Tenet, and John Deutch) who opposed the release of the memoranda of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that justified the use of torture and abuse.  

The Scheuer article is particularly scurrilous, accusing President Obama of self-righteousness and intellectual arrogance” in deciding to release the torture memos. Scheuer believes that an end to torture will lead to future terrorist attacks that could involve the “loss of major cities and tens of thousands of countrymen,” and that the president will bear some responsibility. Scheuer, an aggressive proponent of torture and abuse, was the leader of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit in the 1990s. His behavior at CIA was so bizarre that he was eventually quarantined by the Agency, spending the last few years of his employment in the Agency’s library without access to classified documents.

These Post articles also reflect the opinion of key members of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service and Office of the General Counsel, who want to cover up CIA war crimes and prevent any authoritative investigation of the CIA’s creation, operation, and maintenance of its detention and interrogation programs. The CIA took a similar stance in trying to block investigations of such intelligence failures as the inability to track the decline of the Soviet Union in the 1980s; the 9/11 intelligence failure in 2001; and the provision of specious intelligence to the White House and the Congress of the United States in the run-up to the war with Iraq in 2003.

The leader of the Washington Post editorial squad has been Ignatius, who has developed close relations with CIA clandestine operatives over a period that spans three decades. Ignatius’ key source in the 1970s was the late Robert Ames, one of the most successful clandestine officers in the history of the CIA. Ames was the source for most of Ignatius’ writings on the Middle East as well as for his novel about CIA clandestine tradecraft, “Agents of Innocence.”  

Over the years, retired and active members of the directorate of operations have taken their stories to Ignatius; they have been rewarded by Ignatius’ one-sided accounts of CIA derring-do and willingness to ignore operational and analytical failures. Ignatius is welcome to his opinion on these matters, of course, but he should not be permitted to create facts that don’t square with the history of the recent past.

A comparison of last week’s op-eds by Ignatius and Goss, a former CIA clandestine operative and a former chairman of the House intelligence committee as well as the CIA director during the period of torture and abuse, is particularly revealing. Both Ignatius and Goss argue that foreign intelligence services will not share sensitive intelligence with the United States and the CIA because of the declassification and release of the torture memoranda. That is nonsense! 

The truth is that European liaison services as well as other intelligence services have tempered their cooperation with the CIA because of the use of torture and abuse as well as the extraordinary rendition of innocent individuals from their countries to intelligence services in the Middle East. The CIA’s extra-legal activities  have complicated and undermined the task of maintaining credible relations with our allies in the battle against terrorism.

Both Ignatius and Goss argue that, because of the release of the memos, CIA clandestine operatives will keep their heads down and avoid assignments that carry political risk, and that the decline in CIA “morale and effectiveness” will harm American national security. More nonsense! CIA operatives and analysts are professionals who pride themselves on service to the country and their oath to the Constitution. 

Very few of them took part in the corruption of intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and very few participated in the policies of torture and abuse. They know that the law should not be broken and they want to get these issues behind them so that they can continue to serve the national interests of the United States. They know that painful truths must be acknowledged and that some price must be paid by all for the chicanery of a few.  

If Agency personnel were permitted to share their opinions about torture and abuse with the press, a large majority would oppose the practices. Unfortunately, only those officers seeking to cover-up their own activities have the temerity to talk to reporters. The notion that the declassification of these memoranda have given the “enemy invaluable information about the rules by which we operate” is particularly ludicrous.  

The enemy has had this information for more than five years, ever since every major newspaper in the world published the unconscionable images from Abu Ghraib. General officers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have testified that these images are the most important recruitment tool in the hands of terrorists and fundamentalists and have contributed to the deaths of many American men and women.

Two of the most senior Post writers, David Broder and Walter Pincus, who have been reporting on national political and national security issues for decades, joined the apologists for CIA actions. Pincus argues that previous investigations of CIA transgressions damaged the Agency. He ignores the fact that the Church Commission in the 1970s led to the creation of the Senate and House intelligence oversight committees as well as the introductions of “findings” that made sure a president had to vet plans for covert action with the oversight committees. And he fails to note that the CIA’s illegal role in Iran-contra led to the creation of an independent, statutory Inspector General to make sure that CIA transgressions could be inspected internally and reported to the Justice Department whenever necessary.  

Broder wrongly tells us that the Justice Department memos on torture demonstrate that the Bush administration conducted a “deliberate, and internally well-debated policy decision, made in the proper places…by the proper officials.” If he had read the memos more carefully, he would have concluded that there were no policy debates regarding torture and abuse, extraordinary renditions, and secret prisions. Professional interrogators, for example, were excluded from the discussions.

Thiessen, the chief speechwriter for President Bush and perhaps the author of Bush’s claim that “we don’t torture,” resorts to misinformation to make his case. He states that the waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammed (waterboarded 183 times) led to the discovery of a plot to destroy a building in Los Angeles, but that operation had been compromised more than a year before KSM was captured. 

Thiessen claims no critical information would have been gained from Abu Zubaydah (waterboarded 83 times) without the use of waterboarding. FBI and CIA officials have testified, however, that all relevant information from Zubaydah was obtained with traditional interrogation measures and that Zubaydah didn’t have a great deal of intelligence to offer. Thiessen’s assertion that the 2004 report of the CIA’s Inspector General concluded that waterboarding “yielded critical information” is almost certainly made up out of whole cloth; it is unlikely that Thiessen has seen that report, which has not been released.   

Actually, we know from the authoritative 2004 report from the CIA’s Inspector General that there was no proof that torture enabled the Bush administration to thwart “specific imminent attacks” and that the CIA’s Office of Medical Services (OMS) concluded that the risks to the health of prisoners outweighed any potential intelligence benefit. 

It is noteworthy that once the OMS got involved in the use of waterboarding, the tactic was halted. FBI Director Robert Mueller also has stated that no intelligence from “enhanced interrogation techniques” disrupted any attacks on the United States. The CIA IG added that the CIA had no way of distinguishing detainees with relevant information from those who did not, which meant that many prisoners were tortured unnecessarily.

Even the editorial gurus of the Washington Post must know that White House speech writers are unlikely to have access to such documents and are unlikely to have sufficient information to discuss such issues authoritatively. But that doesn’t stop them from publishing propaganda from Thiessen or regular commentary from Michael Gerson, another chief speechwriter and apologist for President Bush. Thiessen’s charge that President Obama’s decision to release the torture memoranda is “one of the most dangerous and irresponsible acts every by an American president during a time of war—and Americans may die as a result” is obscene and irresponsible.  

Ironically, Goss acknowledges at the end of his op-ed that the “bottom line is that we cannot succeed unless we have good intelligence.” Professional interrogators from military and civilian agencies have testified that torture and abuse do not lead to good intelligence. And Broder concludes that we needed an investigation after 9/11 to understand “the flawed performances and gaps in the system and make the necessary repairs to reduce the chances of a deadly repetition.” 

Like 9/11, only a serious investigation will allow us to understand the flawed processes and the gaps in the system. Unlike 9/11, the Bush administration’s approval of torture and abuse served to undermine the reputation of the United States, the legitimacy of our aims, and the moral fiber of the people who engage in such depravity.

Melvin A. Goodman, a regular contributor to The Public Record, is senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and adjunct professor of government at Johns Hopkins University. He spent more than 42 years in the U.S. Army, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Department of Defense. His most recent book is “Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA.”


CIA Agents Absolved of Wrongdoing:  Prior installments in this series:


April 16, 2009: CIA Agents Absolved of Wrongdoing - Dorsett Bennett

April 21, 2009: CIA Agents Absolved of Wrongdoing - Dorsett Bennett


CIA Agents Absolved of Wrongdoing--Part Three

Dorsett Bennett


When Gonzales denied that water boarding was torture, high-ranking officers of the Army, Navy and Marines, wrote a letter to to the Senate Judiciary Committee Chair saying they condemned water boarding

(SALEM, Ore.) - Republican House of representatives minority whip John Boehner inadvertently admitted to the Bush torture when he said, "Last week they released these memos outlining torture techniques. And that was clearly a political decision".

WHAT! It has to be included that Boehner spokesman sought to clarify the statement, "It is clear from the context that Boehner was simply using liberals verbiage to describe these interrogation techniques. The United States does not torture."

Nice try Boehner. What you think, that the rest of us are, all four years old? In the same news conference in which Boehner used the term torture (which the US does not do (?), to describe what the US did in fact do), Boehner did try to implicate the Democrats on to the torture hot seat by claiming that Democrats were told that water boarding was taking place, and that House Speaker Pelosi supposedly knew about it.

"She (Speaker Pelosi) was fully briefed on the enhanced interrogation techniques. There is nothing here that should surprise her."

As Mr. Boehner knows, no objections could be raised, leaders of Congress are not ask for approval at these meetings. They are told what is going on, and then not let the door hit them on the back side on the way out.

They cannot even consult staff to find out if it is illegal. And this is assuming that Mr. Boehner is not lying, which Speaker Pelosi seems to imply that we should not assume.

"We were not, I repeat, we were not told that water boarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used, what they did tell us that they had some legislative Council, the Office of Legislative Council opinion that they could be used, but not that they would, and they further, the point was that if and when they would be used, they would briefed Congress at that time."

One could respond to Boehner’s inadvertent admission to torture, and then subsequent denial by drawing the following parallel. It is like saying ‘John Boehner does not say smart things so whatever he says by definition cannot be smart.’

It also says something about the Conservative Mindset, the United States is definitionally pure, therefore there is a complete unwillingness to look at what actually went on. And why does Boehner want to drag Pelosi and the Democrats into this? I think it is because they are scared. Very scared of the political consequences to them.

The law was broken, a deeply evil thing was done; and if the Republicans are going to go down; they want to take the Democrats down with them. I do not care if any Democrats signed off on it or not. If they did then, let them be exposed and suffer any consequences from their acts.

Abu Subaya’s interrogator has admitted that Subaya gave up Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and José Padilla before we started torturing him. The Republicans are still insisting that the torture (so called enhanced interrogation techniques) brought out details of the plot to attack Los Angeles’s Library Tower, but the plot ringleader was actually arrested in February 2002, while enhanced interrogation techniques was not even used until August 2002, according to the Bush administration.

In the 1898 Spanish-American war, certain American soldiers used what was then described as the ‘water cure’ against guerrillas in the Philippines. Those soldiers were court-martialed. At the end of World War II we imprisoned Japanese soldiers who water bordered Americans, in 1968 the Washington Post published a picture of an American soldier supervising South Vietnamese soldiers water boarding a North Vietnamese prisoner. An Army investigation resulted in that soldier being court-martialed.

When Bush's last Attorney General denied that his confirmation hearing that water boarding was torture, for high-ranking officers of the Army Navy and Marine Corps, wrote a letter to to the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy. They condemned water boarding "The rule of law is fundamental to our existence as a civilized nation. The rule of law is not a goal which we merely aspire to achieve; it is the floor below which we must not sink water boarding detainees amounts to illegal torture in all circumstances". So said in a letter by Judge Advocate Generals Rear Adm. Donald Guter, Rear Adm. John Hutson, Maj. Gen. John Fugh, Brig. Gen. David Brahms.

In 1983 in Texas, County Sheriff James Parker was charged along with three deputies for waterboarding prisoners in an attempt to extract confessions the three deputies were sentenced to four years in prison and the sheriff sentenced to 10 years. That Sheriff got no pardon from then Gov. George W. Bush.

It is against the law, it is ineffective, it is repugnant, and it is a stain on our national honor. It is also a great recruiting tool for Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Like the Air Force interrogator was told by a foreign fighter captured in Iraq, the United States does not live up to what it says it is. Our detainee scandals were the reason he came to fight us. It is not enough that we have ended it. We need to clear the record.

Dorsett Bennett is a disabled and recently retired lawyer who moved to Salem in October 2008. Politically and historically aware since age 12, he was a moderate to liberal Republican from 1971 until 2004, and now considers himself an Independent/Libertarian. By Independent he means that he is not part of the approximately 40% of the voters who almost always vote Democratic, nor part of the approximately 35% of voters who almost always vote Republican, but is rather part of the 25% of voters, who based upon the facts of the particular election, will either split their vote between the two major parties, or vote for a third-party. He says by Libertarian he means he would actually prefer that the Federal Government be limited to the powers specifically enumerated in the U.S. Constitution. As all powers NOT specifically set forth to the federal government, are specifically reserved to the states. [Seth believes all American citizens who would like to become more politically knowledgeable about how our political system should operate should take an hour or two and actually try reading the Constitution. Here is a site you can look over the document someone in the Bush administration referred to as an historical document]. Seth says much of his writing conveys his belief that in reality, the federal government does not follow the Constitution. He says it should leave other governmental powers up to the citizens of the individual states, rather than to concentrate power in Washington DC; where the Military-Industrial (and now Political) Complex has bankrupted the nation and unconstitutionally regulates all of us; even those few who do actually know better. To quote the iconic cartoon character Charlie Brown, "Good Grief." Bennett says he is self-aware enough to admit that he has beliefs or positions that can be considered to be either liberal or conservative.


The Plum Line Greg Sargent's blog

House GOPer Signals Support For Release Of Torture Intel That Contradicts Cheney

This is potentially significant: A key House Republican is signaling support for the release of a classified CIA report that is expected to reveal that there’s no proof torture foiled any terror attacks — in direct contradiction of Dick Cheney’s claims.

As I’ve been documenting, multiple Republicans have been calling for the selective release of classified info to bolster Cheney’s claim that torture made us safer. But there’s also a key 2004 CIA report being sought by the ACLU and some Dems that reportedly found there’s no proof that torture stopped any attacks.

If that document is released, it could change the debate and dramatically undermine Cheney’s claims.

Now GOP Congressman Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the intelligence committee, is signaling support for the release of the document.

Hoekstra has been demanding the release of intel that will supposedly show that Dems knew all about the torture program. So I asked Hoekstra spokesperson Jamal Ware if Hoekstra would also call for the CIA doc’s release.

“Congressman Hoekstra supports public release of as much information as possible to give a full, fair, and complete account consistent with national security,” Ware replied.

While that’s not quite a direct demand for the CIA doc, his call for “as much information as possible” goes much farther than any other Republican has. Bottom line: If Republicans keep demanding the release of classified info to help Cheney’s cause, it will get tougher for them to not support the release of this document, too — which means we may finally settle the question of whether torture “worked.”


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Despite D.C. Media Reticence, Huge Majority Says Waterboarding Is “Torture”

New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt had a fascinating Sunday article about his paper’s controversial reluctance to describe waterboarding as “torture.” Hoyt concluded that “precision and caution” urged against the word, a position apparently shared by many in the Beltway press who have grappled with this dilemma.

But now the Times has just released a poll finding that a surprisingly large majority has reached the opposite conclusion.

The relevant numbers are buried in the poll’s internalsSeventy one percent think waterboarding is torture, while only 26% say it isn’t.

Intriguingly, the paper’s article about the poll doesn’t mention this finding, perhaps because that might have necessitated using the word “torture.”

Seriously, why won’t the paper use the T-word? Times Washington editor Douglas Jehl told Hoyt that the current administration describes waterboarding as torture, but the Bush administration doesn’t. “On what basis should a newspaper render its own verdict, short of charges being filed or a legal judgment rendered?” Jehl asked.

But the bottom line is that by not using the term, the paper is rendering a verdict, too — in favor of the Bush administration. There’s a reason the Bushies don’t call waterboarding torture: It happened on their watch, and calling it torture would be an admission of guilt. Naturally, their official position is that they didn’t torture. By not describing the acts committed under Bush as “torture,” the paper is propping up the Bush argument. Period.

That’s the paper’s own choice, but it might as well admit it, instead of imagining that there’s some kind of middle ground to stake out here.


Gallup: Majority Thinks Torture Justified, But Wants Probe Anyway!

That Gallup poll we’ve been waiting for has just been released, and it finds a slim majority favor a probe into Bush-era torture . So 51% favor a government investigation of the use of “harsh interrogation techniques,” and only 42% oppose one.

What’s particularly interesting here, though, is that a solid majority of 55% also finds that the use of such techniques was justified, versus only 36% who say it wasn’t — and yet a slim majority still favors a probe. That suggests, I think, that voters are capable of wanting a thorough airing of precisely what happened and when, even if they don’t necessarily oppose the use of torture.

In other words, these numbers suggest that the electorate doesn’t generally think a government probe would necessarily amount to retribution or revenge, as so many pundits keep saying, and merely view it as a necessary accounting of what actually happened. Imagine that!

Steve Chapman: Chicago Tribune

Steve Chapman: The real reason for torture

America's dark chapter

America's dark chapter I am thankful for Steve Chapman's column "Waking up to torture truths" (Commentary, April 23). He further adds to the horrible truth about how Iraq detainees were systemically abused by CIA officers and military personnel. This was...

Waking up to torture truths

When the Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote his epic, "The Gulag Archipelago," some Americans read it to measure the gulf between the brute savagery of communism and the principled standards of free, civilized nations. But apparently some...

Steve Chapman: Does torture work?

Failing in Afghanistan

Some countries exist for no apparent reason, but not Afghanistan. Its function in the world has long been clear: to show great powers the limits of their power. First it was the British, who in 1842, at the height of the empire, were defeated and...

Viewpoint: The way forward in Afghanistan

Some countries exist for no apparent reason, but not Afghanistan. Its function in the world has long been clear: to show great powers the limits of their power. First it was the British, who in 1842, at the height of empire, were defeated and expelled....

Should Bush-Era 'Torture Memo' Lawyers Be Prosecuted?

So Far, There's Been No Accountability for the Architects of Bush's Torture Programs,' Declares MoveOn.Org

President Obama's decision to release Bush-era documents greenlighting the use of harsh interrogation methods (so-called "torture memos") on top Al Qaeda prisoners has unleashed a partisan uproar.

Various human rights groups consider the interrogation methods - which included sleep deprivation, face slapping and waterboarding - to be unlawful forms of torture, and thus want to hold accountable those who provided the legal justification for their use.
"So far, there's been no accountability for the architects of Bush's torture programs," wrote the liberal group in a petition urging Attorney General Eric H. Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Bush-era interrogation policies.

Two of the "architects" of the Bush torture policies to which refers are former Justice Department lawyers Jay S. Bybee and John C. Yoo. Bybee, who was an assistant attorney general under Bush, has thus far kept silent on the issue. But John C. Yoo, Bybee's former deputy, has vigorously defended the Bush interrogation tactics.

"Three thousand of our fellow citizens had been killed in a deliberate attack by a foreign enemy," said Yoo to a packed auditorium Tuesday at Chapman University in Orange, California, where he is currently a visiting law professor. "That forced us in the government to have to consider measures to gain information using presidential constitutional provisions to protect the country from further attacks."

Initially, President Obama was against prosecuting CIA agents who administered the torture techniques or senior Bush officials who provided the legal justification for their use. "This is a time for reflection, not retribution," saidObama in a speech before CIA employees.

But then the president buckled under pressure from human rights groups and liberal members of congress and changed his tune - at least with respect to those who provided the legal rationale for the use of the harsh interrogation tactics.

"For those who carried out some of these operations within the four corners of legal opinions or guidance that had been provided from the White House, I do not think it's appropriate for them to be prosecuted, said President Obama to reporters on Tuesday.

 "With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws, and I don't want to prejudge that."

This humble citizen journalist thinks that President Obamashould have stuck to his guns and let this be a "time for reflection, not retribution."

What should happen, though, is a "reflective" investigation into whether the so-called "enhanced interrogation methods" worked or not. I could care less that Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times. But I do want to know if the interrogators were able to extract useful information from him by using these methods.

Could crucial information be extracted using less harsh methods? The Bush administration evaluated the legality and permissibility of a harsh interrogation technique based upon whether it "shocks the conscience." Do the "enhanced interrogation methods" used by the Bush administration truly fall into this category? Are they on a par with some of the torture techniques used, by, say, Sadamm Hussein (chopping off fingers, cutting off tongues with razor blades, etc.), Are there gradations of torture?

Were a comprehensive investigation into the issue be conducted, it is my belief that it would determine that harsh interrogation methods are unreliable at best, because a prisoner will say anything - including a false confession - to stop the pain. Going forward, more effective - and less controversial - methods need to be developed and utilized.

"Making Sense of the Interrogation Memos Chaos"

The article examines the release, backlash, and debate regarding the C.I.A.'s top secret interrogation memos.

Shepard Smith Lets Loose the "F" Word Against Torture -- Live!

Shepard Smith minced no words Wednesday night about how he feels about torture. He got so excited he dropped the "f" bomb -- the "f" word -- and said he didn't "give a rat's ass." To say that Shepard Smith has an opinion on torture, well...

Al-Qaeda Torture Vs. CIA Interrogation Methods

Several organizations decry the enhanced interrogation methods by the CIA, calling them torture. Here is a quick juxtaposition of the CIA interrogation methods to al-Qaeda in Iraq's torture methods.

Obama May Prosecute Bush Lawyers for Interrogation Advice

After deciding with solemn magnanimity to not prosecute CIA officers who did horrible things to Al Qaeda terrorists to extract information from them, President Barack Obama has now hinted that he might prosecute the lawyers who said they could do it.

Obama vs. Cheney on National Security

While President Barack Obama remains relatively popular, former Vice President Dick Cheney is considered unpopular by virtually every poll. So it would follow that most people would agree with Barack Obama on national security issues? Right?

Senator Kit Bond Speaks Out on Intelligence Issues - Blog -
Bond said he believes that and other George Soros-inspired agendas have a “heavy influence” over those making decisions for the Democrats in this country. “It seems to me that there are a lot of people still suffering from ... Blog -  (You’ve got the wrong George Kit…Bush; you idiot!)

 Jay Bybee Stands By Bush Torture Memos: No Regrets
By The Huffington Post News Editors 
To do otherwise would seal his fate: disbarment, criminal charges, impeachment. It is precisely because he and the others responsible for devising, implementing and defending the torture policy continue to defend the indefensible that ...
The Huffington Post | Full News Feed -

Lincoln or Ford? The Torture Trail starts and ends in the White House
Center for Research on Globalization - Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Cheney's counterattack is to argue it works, despite the Pentagon's own Joint Personnel Recovery Agency arguing in July 2002 that it would produce ...
See all stories on this topic

The Daily Left: Jay Bybee Impeached | Air America Media
By Ring of Fire 

Federal Judge Jay Bybee, the former assistant attorney general, has been impeached in the state of California, according to a post on the Daily Kos. Since the release of the torture memos, a growing grassroots movement has surfaced to ...
Air America Media -

Podesta letter: Impeach Bybee
Politico - Washington,DC,USA
John Podesta, the head of a left-leaning think tank who ran the Obama transition team, is calling for theimpeachment of Jay Bybee, a federal judge and ...See all stories on this topic

Podesta Calls For Bybee Impeachment On CNN, Delivers Your ...
Think Progress - Washington,DC,USA
Podesta added that he suspects the White House doesn't agree with the call for impeaching Bybee. The other panelists -- David Gergen and former Reagan chief ...See all stories on this topic

D-Day: VICTORY: Impeachment Inquiry Into Bybee On Consent Calendar
By dday 
VICTORY: Impeachment Inquiry Into Bybee On Consent Calendar. Several weeks of hard work have paid off, and the California Democratic Party is poised to provide a major tool in the fight for justice and accountability for the Bush ...
D-Day - 

Waterboarding Approved Specifically To Justify Iraq War | War On ...
By WarOnYou 
I have just learnt something which has convinced me that
 Bush, Cheney and Rice are indeed evil in the sense that Hitler was evil. I did not actually believe. ... Not only does this make the arrest and prosecution of the entire Team Bush the litmus test for Obama's honesty but it also demands that the House of Commons immediately launch impeachment proceedings against the entire Team Bliar. Unlike America, UK Impeachment can punish ex-officials and can vary the punishment ...
War On You: Breaking Alternative News -

What Torture and Its Prosecution Have in Common « Newsprism
By prestoncoleman 

We've already imprisoned soldiers for abuses at Abu Ghraib despite the fact that the techniques they used were conceived and authorized at the very top—by Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. What good will it do to put White House ... What good did Clinton's impeachment do for the nation? And wasn't it best to let Richard Nixon dissolve in infamy rather than dragging him in front of a special prosecutor or Congressional committee? The Chinese have a saying: when you ...
Newsprism -

McCain: Don't Investigate Torture Memos
CBS News - New York,NY,USA
Schieffer asked if Jay Bybee, one of the authors of the memos, should be
 impeached or asked to resign. Bybee is now a federal judge. ...See all stories on this topic

The Left's angry mob recalls Madame Defarge
Washington Examiner - Washington,DC,USA
Specifically, they want to see the prosecution or 
impeachment of officials who approved enhanced interrogation techniques — torture, in their view. ...

Nadler on torture investigations: 'There can't be a compromise'
Politico - Washington,DC,USA
One of the leading voices in Congress for investigating former
 Bush Administration officials said theimpeachment of Judge Jay Bybee wouldn't quiet the ...See all stories on this topic

AMERICAblog News| A great nation deserves the truth: Dick Cheney's ...
By John Aravosis (DC) 
Nadler on torture investigations: 'There can't be a compromise' - One of the leading voices in Congress for investigating former 
Bush Administration officials said the impeachment of Judge Jay Bybee wouldn't quiet. 24 minutes ago ...
AMERICAblog News| A great nation... -

Murder He Wrote: Why Aren't BushCheney and Rumsfeld Being ...
By carol white 
That's why I wrote a BuzzFlash Editor's Blog yesterday, "The Legal Case Against 
BushCheney, Rumsfeld, Et Al., Is Murder One, Not Just War Crimes." Yet, as much as I agree that the torture memo authors should be tried (and Judge Bybee impeached), the MSM and progressive Internet's focus on the memos discounts and dishonors the justice that is necessary for those perhaps hundreds of detainees -- many of them, if not most of them, innocent of any actual crimes -- who were ...
ePluribus Media -

In Defense of George W. Bush -
By AmericanException 
The old saying is that in a democracy people get the leaders they deserve, but it is difficult to say that anyone deserved George W.
 Bush and Dick Cheney. We will, no doubt, devote many years to wondering why Bush did what he has done but ... Presidents have been impeached for lesser offenses than many that occurred during Bush's tenure. We saw comparatively little protest and anemic offerings of public dissent. The reasonable conclusion is that in pointing toward Bush we ... -

Podesta (Obama) Wants Bybee Impeached |
By davidswanson 
John Podesta who 4 days before the bombs hit Baghdad told Democratic congress members not to
impeach Bush or Cheney, to let the war go forward, and to consider any number of dead bodies a price worth paying for an electoral calculation, ... - Bush-Cheney... -

The Washington Monthly
By Steve Benen 
Now, with recent torture revelations bringing the 
Bush/Cheney record back into focus, we're not only hearing the "kept us safe" argument again, we're hearing it the context of abusing detainees. ..... Pelosi took it off the table because Republicans would never have voted to impeach, much less remove from office. So now we have to accept that a president can run amok for 8 years, and the only way to check him is to make sure that the other party controls the house and the ...
Political Animal -

Mary Mapes: Looking Back at Abu Ghraib 5 Years Later
By Mary Mapes 
It seems that Abu Ghraib supports 
Bush administration legal memos and Cheney's recent comments about enhanced interrogations. Water boarding, one of the sanctioned methods, was not used at Abu Ghraib. None of those convicted for these .... Pelosi took it off the table because Republicans would never have voted to impeach, much less remove from office. So now we have to accept that a president can run amok for 8 years, and the only way to check him is to make sure that the ...
The Huffington Post Full Blog Feed -

The US must prosecute torturers
Telegraph-Journal - Saint John,New Brunswick,Canada
While efforts to
 impeach Bush and Cheney went nowhere during their administration, the post-presidency has brought renewed calls for justice. ...See all stories on this topic

CIA torture can be a teachable moment
Baxter Bulletin - Mountain Home,AR,USA
Even more chilling, 
Bush told ABC News in April 2008 that he was aware that Cheney and Rice had discussed and approved the specific details of the ...
See all stories on this topic

Steve Clemons: Commission on Accountability Should Be Part of Our ...
By Steve Clemons 
The truth about what 
Bush and Cheney and Addington and Yoo and Cambone and Feith and a handful of others did must be known before it can be judged, and all that can be judged is the content of their actions. .... Pelosi took it off the table because Republicans would never have voted to impeach, much less remove from office. So now we have to accept that a president can run amok for 8 years, and the only way to check him is to make sure that the other party controls the ...
The Blog -

Big Dan's Big Blog: Big Dan's Big News April 27, 2009
By Big Dan 
Last week 
Bush-Cheney defenders, true to form, dismissed the Senate Armed Services Committee report as “partisan.” But as the committee chairman, Carl Levin, told me, the report received unanimous support from its members — John McCain, ... The Banality of Bush White House Evil James "insect torture" Bybee, one of the "Bush Six" Torture Lawyers, is a Federal Judge! Impeach Federal Judge Bybee- one of the "Bush Six" Torture Lawyers · TAKE ACTION TO IMPEACH JUDGE BYBEE ...
Big Dan's Big Blog -

Barack Obama and that tricky torture issue - UK
That's hardly surprising when such luminaries as Donald Rumsfeld and Dick
 Cheney keep telling American voters it is so, endorsed by lesser lights who are ...See all stories on this topic

Sandy Goodman: Torture Revelations Will Leave the Left Frustrated
By Sandy Goodman 
That includes
 Bush and Cheney and their cohorts, who, all the while they tortured, felt compelled to lie by insisting that "the United States doesn't torture," despite the judgment of the Red Cross, and irrefutable evidence from the newly released memos (and more older ones) and the testimony of .... I have no hesitation in asserting that Judge Bybee should be subjected to impeachment proceedings, and that Bybee, Yoo, Addington et al. should face disbarment proceedings. ...
The Huffington Post Full Blog Feed -

Mounting Calls for Punishment in Firestorm Over CIA "Torture" Memos
U.S. News & World Report - Washington,DC,USA
And Democrats are calling for the
 impeachment of one of the memo's authors, Jay Bybee, now a federal judge. The memos, heavy in both legalese and graphic ...See all stories on this topic

The BRAD BLOG : Dick Cheney: Sociopathic Genius
By Ernest A. Canning 
... but did nothing when they tried to destroy copies of his dissenting memo? Why not? And what about Condi? Fixing the Facts and Legal Opinions Around the Torture Policy. 'Looking Forward' to theImpeachment of. Judge Jay S. Bybee ... Against a reality of a near helpless Iraq, crippled by thirteen years of U.N. sanctions and an ongoing aerial assault by American and British forces in the "no-fly" zones, the Bush/Cheney cabal raised the specter of nuclear bombs being ...

The Progress Report: Myths Of The Torture Apologists
By The Progress Report 
Several, including 
Bush and Cheney, have claimed that torturing 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) helped them foil a plan to blow up the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles. ... Center for American Progress Action Fund President and CEO John Podesta called for the impeachment of 9th Circuit Court Judge Jay Bybee yesterday. When he was a former top Bush administration lawyer, Bybee signed off on the notorious torture tactics seen in recently-disclosed OLC memos. ...
The Blog -

The Washington Monthly
By Steve Benen 
Do we wish to allow the lesson to be taught this time, or "move on" and as AngryOldVet said, wait for the 
Bush crowd to slither up from the muck years hence, just like Nixon's crew (Cheney, Kissinger) did. ... Nixon resigned because Republicans were ready to vote for impeachment. By contrast, Dubya could have raped and strangled a five-year-old girl in the well of the Senate and at least 34 Republican senators (enough to block a conviction) would have been willing to ...
Political Animal -

Shannyn Moore: Deep Throat, Steroids & Torture
By Shannyn Moore 
The truth about what 
Bush and Cheney and Addington and Yoo and Cambone and Feith and a handful of others did must be known before it can be judged, and all that can be judged is the content of their actions. .... Not to take away from the point of the article, but to be accurate, the impeachment debate was about lying under oath, a stupid thing to do. Not approaching the criminality and immorality of lying, torture, and other alleged imes of the bush administration. ...
The Full Feed from -

The International Criminal Court and A Rogue Empire
OpEdNews - Newtown,PA,USA
Please write to the ICC and ask for indictments of 
Bush and Cheney. Then buy this book. Then call the president and congress and let them know that you are ...
See all stories on this topic

Prosecute, Investigate or Move On?
New York Times Blogs - New York,NY,USA
He could not share with the public all that he had discovered about the involvement of 
BushCheney, Karl Rove, and other officials in the CIA leak case. ...
See all stories on this topic

Prosecute, Investigate or Move On?


While observers continue try to discern which way Obama is leaning on various torture outcomes — today’s topic: has the president signaled his support for Bybee’s impeachment? — opinion mongers continue to voice arguments for their own various preferred outcomes.

In The Washington Post yesterday, Mark Danner wrote that a bi-partisan investigation is the only way forward. Why? Because “torture is at its heart a political scandal and . . . its resolution lies in destroying the thing done, not the people who did it.”

Danner, who 
made the International Red Cross torture report public in The New York Review of Books and has written extensively on the issue, does not argue against prosecutions, but he says they are a secondary priority, primarily because “prosecutions of those who tortured, if they come before a public investigation, will not end the argument.”

On the contrary, they will appear to much of the country as yet another partisan turn in the bitter politics of national security, launched to persecute those who only did what was necessary to protect the country. They will encourage those who defend torture to espouse even more bitterly a corrosive counter-narrative according to which only those who torture can be trusted to protect Americans.

It is that last notion — “only those who torture can be trusted” — that Danner said must be dealt with. And doing so is very much about looking forward, not backward:

To expose this dark counter-narrative to the light of day, to flood it with light and then destroy it, is the vital political task, not only for today but for tomorrow, when the pressures to believe it, in the wake of a further act of mass destruction could well prove irresistible.

At Mother Jones today, David Corn also makes the case for investigation over prosecution, but from a different angle. Corn says that all the folks who have called for a special prosecutor, including MoveOn,, Firedoglake and the A.C.L.U., don’t understand what such a person can and can’t do:

These liberals all want to see alleged Bush administration wrongdoing exposed. But there’s one problem with a special prosecutor: it’s not his job to expose wrongdoing. A special prosecutor does dig up facts — but only in order to prosecute a possible crime. His mission is not to shine light on misdeeds, unless it is part of a prosecution. In many cases, a prosecutor’s investigation does not produce any prosecutions. Sometimes, it leads only to a limited prosecution.

That’s what happened with Patrick Fitzgerald. He could not share with the public all that he had discovered about the involvement of Bush, Cheney, Karl Rove, and other officials in the CIA leak case. Under the rules governing federal criminal investigations, he was permitted to disclose only information and evidence that was directly related and needed for the indictment and prosecution of Libby. Everything else he had unearthed via subpoenas and grand jury interviews had to remain secret. Repeatedly, Fitzgerald said that his hands were tied on this point. . . .

The bottom line: Anyone who wants the full truth to come out about the Bush-Cheney administration’s use of these interrogation practices cannot count on a special prosecutor.

The opinionmakers who think we already know enough and it’s time move on have made a number of arguments: the procedures were effective, prosecution would be “criminalizing policy differences” and “we’re all complicit.” Another defense now getting an airing: the memos themselves are proof that the government struggled to do the right thing after 9/11, and struggling to do the right thing means that the right thing was done.

Yesterday in his Washington Post column David Broder gave the short-and-sweet version of this argument:

The memos on torture represented a deliberate, and internally well-debated, policy decision, made in the proper places — the White House, the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department — by the proper officials.

Today, in his Post column, Michael Gerson goes with the longer version, writing that Obama’s decision to release the four memos “has has produced an unintended effect: Revealing the context and care of these decisions has made them more understandable, not less.”

[T]the Justice Department memos disclose a different sort of deliberation — a government struggling with similar worries even after immense provocation; a government convinced that new attacks were imminent but still weighing the rights of captured murderers, drawing boundaries to prevent permanent injury during questioning, well aware of the laws regarding torture and determined not to violate them.

Broder’s column drew a number of critical responses. At Harper’s, Scott Horton specifically addressed the issue of the legal quality of the memos:

Start with the claim that the torture memos “reflect a deliberate, internally well-debated, policy decision.” Really? That assessment suggests Broder hasn’t actually read the memos. If he did, he’d come to the Bush Justice Department’s conclusions at the end that the key memos granting authority were improperly reasoned—largely because they did not, in fact, engage the key figures who should have been in the debate. But it’s much worse than that. We learned in the last ten days that the White House worked frantically to compartmentalize the production of the memos and to exclude all individuals who had actual expertise in the subject matter they were addressing—such as the Judge Advocates General of the four service branches, and the lawyers at the Department of State who have historically formed U.S. policy and views with respect to the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions. Notwithstanding these efforts, when other lawyers and uniformed military officers did learn about what was being done, they risked their careers by intervening and demanding that the readers of these memos be reminded about the clear-cut requirements of the criminal law. This was all to no avail.

For her part, Cara Phillips reacted differently than Michael Gerson to the “care” evidenced in the memos, particularly a footnote in one of them that addressed how little detainees could be fed on a daily basis:

The foonote reads:

While detainees subject to dietary manipulation are obviously situated differently from individuals who voluntarily engage in commercial weight-loss programs, we note that widely available commercial weight-loss programs in the United States employ diets of 1,000 kcal/day for sustained periods of weeks or longer without requiring medical supervision. While we do not equate commercial weight loss programs and this interrogation technique, the fact that these calorie levels are used in the weight-loss programs, in our view, is instructive in evaluating the medical safety of the interrogation technique.

“There are so many things wrong with this, I cannot begin to discuss them all,” writes Phillips. “But just the basic idea that our government would use the fact that Americans suffer from eating disorders as a justification for using starvation as a torture method is enough.”

Cheney and The Dark Side | TPMCafe
By Jon Taplin 
This is nonsense, and as my colleague Larry Gross has pointed out, Noonan had no such reservations hauling Bill Clinton into the Impeachment Dock, even though she acknowledged it would split the country. She thought those hearings would ... They apparently can't tell Dick to just shut up, and now are bending over backwards to justify Bush/Cheney policies. Are Bush and Cheney popular? No. So why continue to support the old 'junta'? Take your pick. 1) cowardice 2) stupidity ...
TPMCafe -

The Problem With a Special Prosecutor | Mother Jones
By By David Corn 
The bottom line: Anyone who wants the full truth to come out about the Bush-Cheney administration's use of these interrogation practices cannot count on a special prosecutor. .... The most important aspect, Republicans can CREATE A FULL COURT PRESS, on ANY issue, against ANY official they want - even switching a FINANCIAL investigation of President Clinton, into a "HE SAID, SHE SAID" Monica-impeachment of President Clinton, simply by tag-team outrage, ...
MoJo Articles -

The Democratic Party
BushCheney, Rumsfeld must be held accountable. 4. rjsnj on April 27, 2009 at 10:41 AM. The BushJohn Yoo presence must be impeached out of existence, where the Constitution is restored to its Scales of Justice glory. ...
Democratic National Committee: Blog -

Paul Abrams: Watergate, Prosecuted. Why Not Water(boarding)gate?
By Paul Abrams 
Nixon left Ford inflation and recession, a war winding down -- i.e., not as big a mess as Cheney-Bushleft Obama, but a good 'ole mess nonetheless. No one thought that that mess should preclude pursuing the larger Watergate affair, and the rogue regime that gave rise to it. .... I have no hesitation in asserting that Judge Bybee should be subjected to impeachment proceedings, and that Bybee, Yoo, Addington et al. should face disbarment proceedings. ...
The Huffington Post Full Blog Feed -

Emptywheel » Did Bybee Say No to Waterboarding on July 24, 2002?
By emptywheel 
Or to paraphrase the Bush/Cheney modus operandi, the facts were fixed around the policy! Reply. Hmmm April 27th, 2009 at 8:17 pm. 29. In response to bmaz @ 23. Had a wild thought the other day. There's a lot of resistance to a ... But mainly, if all else should fail: What about a good old-fashionedimpeachment? I mean not just Bybee, but everyone up to W and Dick. Condi and Rummy and all the officers. Sure they're out of office now, and stripping the retirement benefits ...
Emptywheel -
By Ron Beasley 
But that 1983 case - which would seem to be directly on point for a legal analysis on waterboarding two decades later - was never mentioned in the four Bush administration opinions released last week. ...Department watchdog report that legal sources say faults former Bush administration lawyers - Jay Bybee, John Yoo and Steven Bradbury - for violating "professional standards." It would seem that Bybee should if for no other reason be impeached for judicial malpractice. ... -

John McCain admits US under George Bush violated the Geneva ...
By John Amato 
Just sayin'. Login or register to reply. Do you think. Mon, 04/27/2009 - 09:38 — ron. they could haveimpeached Bush and Cheney when these rightwing neocon fascist nazis don't want to prosecute those that approved the torture methods? ...
Crooks and Liars -

Georgetown Security Law Brief: Opinion: Prosecutions may not get ...
By Georgetown CNSL 
04/28/09: The Financial Times has an editorial piece arguing that while torture should never be used, prosecution of Bush administration officials is possible but not guaranteed, and "US reverence for the law can sometimes be a trap. ... Jerrold Nadler of New York, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, is the first member of Congress to call for the impeachment of Jay Bybee, a judge on the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. ...
Georgetown Security Law Brief -

Obama open to torture memos probe, prosecution
The Associated Press
Bybee also could face
 impeachment in Congress if lawmakers were so inclined. A federal investigation into the memos is being conducted by the Justice ...See all stories on this topic

Ten Ways to Bring the Bush Administration's Torture Ten to Justice ...

Huffington Post - New York,NY,USA

John Conyers, should draw up articles of impeachment for federal appellate court judge Jay Bybee, the author of some of the worst torture memoranda. ...See all stories on this topic

McCain Clearly Supports Breaking U.S. Law Using Torture | America ...
By iwaller 
We are asked to judge whether the President, who swore an oath to faithfully execute his office, deliberately subverted–for whatever purpose–the rule of law,” - John McCain arguing for the
impeachment of Bill Clinton for perjury in a civil suit, February 1999. ... In spite of his stance on torture when he himself was tortured, McCain's actions to vote against torture gives him clear proximity to the evil acts conducted under the Bush/Cheney Administration by the CIA. ...
America For Purchase -

t r u t h o u t | Waterboarding the Rule of Law
Should a special prosecutor hold Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld accountable for violating the law against torture when they specifically authorized waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and sexual humiliation of detainees? ... Should Congress impeach former Deputy Attorney General Jay Bybee, now a federal appeals court judge, for giving his superiors the legal arguments they wanted to justify the torture they had already decided upon? ...
Truthout - All Articles -

Official Defends Signing Interrogation Memos
New York Times - United States
Some people have called for his
 impeachment, he is being investigated by the Justice Department on his professional standards, and he has even become ...See all stories on this topic

RealClearPolitics - Torture and Accountability
By Will Marshall 
After all, MoveOn was born in reaction to a partisan attempt by Republicans to impeach Bill Clinton for his dalliance with a young White House intern. The effort foundered because most Americans could tell the difference between poor ... The real architects of U.S. interrogation policies were President Bushand Vice President Dick Cheney, who staunchly defends them as necessary to save American lives. And it turns out that key Congressional leaders in both parties were ...
RealClearPolitics - Poll Averages -

The International Criminal Court and A Rogue Empire | The Smirking ...
By David Swanson 
Please write to the ICC and ask for indictments of Bush and Cheney. Then buy this book. Then call the president and congress and let them know that you are among the majority of Americans who support international law, and you would ... the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union" by Seven Stories Press and of the introduction to "The 35 Articles of Impeachment and the Case for Prosecuting George W. Bush" published by Feral House and available at ...
The Smirking Chimp - News And... -

There can be no equivocation when it comes to torture - First ...
By Jonathan Power 
It will severely embarrass ex -president George W 
Bush and will probably lead to the prosecutions of former vice president Dick Cheney, former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the two Secretaries of State, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. That is a big can of worms for any president to open, but so was the necessary impeachment of President Richard Nixon and the imprisonment of a number of his most senior colleagues. Of course, it is disrupting for day to day ...
First Drafts - The Prospect magazine... -

Pelosi Tries to Explain Why She Didn't Protest Interrogation ...
Nancy Pelosi is still trying to explain exactly what she did — or didn't — know about enhanced interrogation techniques in 2002.
wowOwow | The Women on the Web -


Dick Cheney's Torture Hypocrisy

by Joseph C. Wilson IV


Dick Cheney has called for declassifying memos he claims will vindicate the Bush administration’s torture policy. Now former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV urges the former vice president to extend his demand for transparency to his still-secret testimony in the Scooter Libby obstruction of justice case.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s reemergence on the political stage after his ignominious departure on Inauguration Day, eschewing the traditional handshake with his successor and the new president, is nothing if not ironic. The most secretive individual in American politics is now calling for the selective release of documents that remain classified in one of his own files marked “Detainees.” We have also learned that a principal reason for having tortured senior al Qaeda detainees was not, in fact, to defend the Homeland, but rather to build the case for war with Iraq based on alleged ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Despite literally hundreds of waterboarding sessions, there was no evidence developed that such a link existed. But that did not stop Cheney. He and others in the Bush administration simply asserted a link even though they knew one did not exist.

The disinformation campaign to manipulate public opinion in favor of the [Iraq] invasion, the torture program, and the illegal exposure of a clandestine CIA agent—my wife, Valerie Plame Wilson—were linked events.

I know something about Cheney’s disinformation. When I, and a number of others, including a four-star Marine Corps general, Carleton Fulford, and the then-U.S. Ambassador to the West African nation of Niger, reported to the CIA that there was no evidence to support the assertion that Iraq had entered into a contract to purchase 500 tons of uranium yellowcake, our conclusions were ignored by the Bush administration. Instead, the president, in his State of the Union address in 2003, proclaimed a falsehood: “Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was trotted out to assert that we could not afford to “wait for the smoking gun to come in the form of a mushroom cloud,” and Cheney himself asserted that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear-weapons program.

There is no longer any question that we were misled by an administration that had already made the decision to invade, conquer, and occupy Iraq, and did everything it could to force the facts to justify their action. Cheney, the architect of the Bush administration’s disastrous national security and foreign policies, now wants to declassify certain classified documents that he believes will vindicate his advocacy of a war of choice in the Middle East and his support of torture. Cheney asserts that the ends justify the means whatever the insult to international law, the conscience of the world, and damage to the long-term U.S. national-security interests.

Cheney’s request for the declassification of material is a welcome development, but it should not be limited to his narrow request. Our country’s understanding of what was done in our name by the Bush administration depends on the release, not just of the documents Cheney has designated, but of all documents related to the efforts of the Bush administration and Cheney himself to defend the indefensible—the decision to invade Iraq despite the knowledge at the time that Iraq did not have a nuclear program, had no ties to al Qaeda, and posed no existential threat to the United States or to its friends and allies in the region.

The disinformation campaign to manipulate public opinion in favor of the invasion, the torture program, and the illegal exposure of a clandestine CIA agent—my wife, Valerie Plame Wilson—were linked events. In their desperate effort to gather material to whip up public support, Cheney and others resorted to torture, well known in the intelligence craft to elicit inherently unreliable information. Cheney & Co. then pressured the CIA to put its stamp of approval on a series of falsehoods—26 of which were inserted into Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech before the United Nations Security Council. At the same time, Cheney was furiously attempting to suppress the true information that Saddam Hussein was not seeking yellowcake uranium in Niger. After I published the facts in an article in The New York Times in July 2003, Cheney tried to punish me and discredit the truth by directing the outing of a CIA operative who happened to be my wife.

Among other documents Cheney should release is his testimony to Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald about the role he played in the treasonous leak of the identity of a covert CIA officer. His chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury for his efforts to ensure that the “cloud over the vice president,” as Fitzgerald noted, was not penetrated.

As a witness in the Libby case, Cheney has the legal grounds to release his own testimony. If he feels more comfortable, he can ask permission, though he does not need it, from former President George W. Bush—and ask that Bush release his testimony as well. Because Cheney has called for transparency, why should he or Bush object? Then Pat Fitzgerald can make public the transcripts. It’s time for this coverup to end.

The American people deserve to know the truth at last, not to depend on Cheney’s selective and biased versions. Let us take the former vice president up on his demand for documents and declassify them all. Then, and only then, will we fully understand what he and his henchmen did in the name of the United States.

UPDATE: This article originally stated Wilson's New York Times op-ed ran in 2002. It has been revised to reflect that it ran in 2003.

Joseph C. Wilson IV served as ambassador to two African nations in the administration of George H.W. Bush, and as senior director for African Affairs for President Bill Clinton. He was in charge of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during the first Gulf War and was the last American diplomat to confront Saddam Hussein before Desert Storm. He is the author of the bestseller The Politics of Truth. He is married to former CIA officer, Valerie Plame Wilson, whose identity was betrayed by senior officials in the George W. Bush administration.


Detention Nation

by Karen J. Greenberg


IN FEBRUARY, four weeks into office, the Obama administration released its first prisoner in the war on terror—Binyam Mohamed. An Ethiopian citizen, Mohamed had been granted asylum status in Britain, a status which lapsed in 2004, around the time he arrived at Guantánamo Bay. Mohamed claims to have been picked up in Pakistan in April 2002, flown to Morocco where he was tortured—beaten, his penis and chest cut with a scalpel, his body burnt—and then sent on to Guantánamo, all apparently under American auspices. In this first release, there were some curious parallels with the Bush administration’s version of emptying Guantánamo. Obama’s team saw the transfer of Mohamed to UK custody, like the Bush White House saw the transfer and release of over 550 detainees, as a matter ultimately of diplomacy, not of legal process, one that relied upon political alliances. Moreover, the release took place outside of the military-commission proceedings. Although Mohamed was represented by Clive Stafford Smith, one of the most well-known of the detainee defense attorneys, his release, it seems, was essentially the decision of the president, not of any trial or review process. As the original commander at Guantánamo has said about the release of detainees under the Bush administration, it took a petty officer to put a detainee on a plane to Guantánamo and a presidential order to get him out.

If nothing else, the release of Mr. Mohamed was symbolic. President Obama introduced his presidency with three executive orders, all of which were meant to indicate that he placed the issues of Guantánamo and detention high on his list of priorities, despite the overwhelming demands of the financial crisis. He had decided to make a radical break with the Bush administration’s policy on detention and interrogation, for which Guantánamo has become the most visible symbol. Those orders announced closing that prison within a year, a thorough review of detention policy and the determination to keep interrogations in accord with the current U.S. Army field manual’s protocols. Keeping the link between addressing the wrongs of the past and creating viable future detention and interrogation procedures, the president appointed not only a task force for closing Guantánamo but also parallel groups for hammering out new policies.

But executive orders are not magic wands. The case of Binyam Mohamed does make one wonder: Just how different will the new president’s approach to detention and interrogation be? How much leeway exists given the situation he has inherited? Can he actually make a break with the past while also conveying the sense that he is keeping the country safe? And, realistically, can he make this sharp turn and still maintain a good working relationship with the CIA (a political consideration that cannot be overlooked)?

We still have prisoners—and plenty of them. We still have no acceptable legal denomination for those under guard. We still have no legal mechanisms to try the detainees. And we still lack the kind of training and policies that prevent torture and abuse.

The costs of this cannot be overstated. Our policies have hindered America’s ability to fight terrorism.

Alienating allies, not to mention stymieing the cooperation of Muslim communities, is what happens when you detain the ne’er-do-wells and bystanders along with the criminals absent due process. The strategy of being an independent player whose activities are secretive and whose judgments are noncollaborative denies America the essential aspect of capturing violent extremists: international cooperation. Terrorists’ motives and deeds must be pieced together from various transnational sources. Counterterrorism is a global effort in which assistance and support between nations are essential.

If we course-correct, our international reputation can be salvaged. If we create viable policy, we will finally have the ability to separate the innocent from the guilty.

The world, and the nation, await a new direction. But in this case, plus ça change . . . is the fear. 

FOR STARTERS, we might look at the legacy that has been left to the new administration. Where do we stand now in terms of military commissions, transparency about the nature of the detainee population and the issue of treatment—the main concerns that dominate the detention discussion?

To be sure, Obama inherited prisoners. And more, he inherited a seven-year failure to make exact numbers on the detainees available to the public. We only have approximations. About 240 detainees remain in custody at Guantánamo, a fraction of the total detainees in U.S. custody; those estimates range anywhere from 22,000 to nearly twice that number. In Iraq, the numbers hover around 13,000 as of late March 2009. There are 600 reported to be at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and approximately 2,300 at Pul-i-Charki outside Kabul. (According to a congressional report, up to 14,000 people may also have been victims of rendition and secret detention since 2001. Other reports estimate there have been double that number.)

To put this in perspective, during the Vietnam War the United States held approximately 35,000 people; during the Korean War, approximately 170,000 prisoners. But importantly, in neither instance was the United States the custodial country. Instead, the host countries—Vietnam and South Korea, respectively—were in charge of the detention efforts. America served in an advisory capacity only. In the war on terror, under the Bush administration, the United States decided to hold its own prisoners.

Decades of peace had reduced the need for prisoner-of-war guards, and the downsizing of the military in the 1990s meant that nonessential skills were phased out or downgraded. As a result, the United States did not have a viable guard force trained for this purpose on 9/11. There were military policemen and guards, some of whom were used at the country’s only maximum-security military prison—Fort Leavenworth. But the U.S. Army, tasked with detention operations, still has not developed a strong detention capacity. This means, as opposed to in past wars, America simply does not have the ability to properly deal with the prisoners. The result is that, where training is lacking, unprofessional behavior can thrive, as it did most infamously at Abu Ghraib. And, unlike in past wars, the United States is seen as responsible for the resulting abuses. Witness Spain’s intention to indict six of the lawyers involved in writing the torture memos.

Legally, all told, the policy bequeathed to President Obama is at best broken, at worst still undisclosed. The United States has had a policy of detaining individuals without charge and without access to a functioning judicial process. While habeas corpus was eventually extended to the Guantánamo detainees, the military-commission process still falters consistently. In seven years, only a handful of detainees have even been charged. Legally, the detention policy at Guantánamo has amounted to a virtual stalemate, with the Supreme Court pushing back against administration policies and Congress passing legislation that attempts to counter the legal determinations of the highest court in the land.

Similarly, the process of releasing individuals from Guantánamo has been excruciatingly slow and sometimes completely blocked. Those who have been declared eligible for release or transfer—a status once referred to as “No Longer Enemy Combatants”—have been placed essentially in the hands of the nation’s diplomats. Currently, according to a January Department of Defense press release, approximately 60 detainees who have been ordered to be released still remain in Guantánamo. Where countries of origin are allies of the United States, detainees can be transferred or released. For those from countries with which we have weaker or more problematic diplomatic ties, the possibility of release or return, even after approval from U.S. authorities, often remains a wish rather than a reality. We should not underestimate the costs of this limbo. Not only does it do damage to the detainee who is neither released, transferred nor scheduled for trial, but also to the credibility of the United States. America often does not release in any timely fashion those it has named to be freed or to be transferred to custody elsewhere. The United States can no longer be taken at its word, and its judicial process no longer stands as a model of liberal freedoms.

As to treatment and conditions in Guantánamo, the Bush legacy is disastrous. Throughout its tenure, the Bush team maintained that conditions at Guantánamo were humane, that the provision of halal food, of Korans, and of religious items such as prayer caps and prayer beads signified humane treatment. This was despite the refusal to charge detainees with criminal offenses and the concomitant legal purgatory to which they were consigned. Until the Bush administration left office, officials claimed a system without due process could be made humane and lawful by the provision of a religiously sensitive diet.

The fact remains that the practice of torture has affected every aspect of U.S. detention policy in the war on terror. It has affected our ability to try these cases in domestic courts; it has vastly complicated our dealings with foreign nations over the matter of detention; and it has taken torture out of the legal Pandora’s box and made it government policy. Abuses have been documented not only at Abu Ghraib but at Bagram and at Guantánamo Bay—that’s not to mention the secret prisons. 

GIVEN THIS opaque and legally dubious inheritance, the question remains: will the United States be able to make any progress in the matter of detention?

There are already some signs of where the new administration is heading. One of the president’s key first moves was the clear directive that matters of detention be shared by the Pentagon and the Department of Justice and that, in matters of trial, the Department of Justice take the lead. The president continued this turn away from Bush’s policies with a decision to end the use of the term “enemy combatant.” The United States no longer holds unlawful enemy combatants, a phrase without legal precedent and therefore with a cloudy and unreliable definitional value.

Changes in language and structure matter. The removal of dubious legal terminology for the prisoners and the establishment of a legal structure that should have been in place long ago are essential first steps toward an acceptable detention policy. When it comes to prisoner release, the administration has similarly signaled that it recognizes the burden it faces, and the structural remedies that need to be addressed before any coherent and sustainable policy takes shape. Accordingly, the State Department, so often sidelined in the Bush administration, is a vital presence in the task force on closing Guantánamo.

So, too, the president has signaled his administration’s intention to reduce the number of prisoners in custody. Currently, the total U.S. detention population has dropped in Iraq from an estimated high of 100,000 down to 13,300. In January, following a trend established under the Bush administration’s status-of-forces agreement with Iraq, the United States made plans to reduce the number of prisoners in Camp Bucca, which currently stands at under 10,000, by 1,500 a month (some set free, some transferred to the custody of the Iraqi government), and to close the camp entirely by 2010 or sooner. Of 2,120 cases reviewed this year, 129 have been scheduled for trial by the Iraqi authorities. Baghdad’s Camp Cropper, which holds approximately 3,000, is scheduled to close in the next year as well.

The current trend holds some promise that the United States can change course by offering charge or release to future detainees, and by sorting out the guilty from the innocent at an earlier stage of the process. In addition, the new administration could specify reasons for detention, and reject the use of detention as a means of appearing tough while operating outside of accepted legal conventions.

But there are some troubling signs as well—signs that despite good intentions, Obama administration officials may be reluctant to reset the agenda to what it was before the policies of the Bush administration. Witness the creeping indication that the new administration perceives insurmountable obstacles to remedying the situation entirely. 

AT LEAST four recent decisions made by the Obama White House raise some serious doubts about progress.

On February 9, the administration signaled that in the area of extraordinary rendition, it was not yet prepared to move away from the state-secrets privilege in the manner originally claimed by its predecessor. The Bush administration had called for the dismissal of cases brought on behalf of tortured individuals in matters relating to extraordinary rendition. In these cases prisoners were picked up in one country and sent to another to be tortured, hence the term rendition to torture. And, in many cases, the detainees may want recourse in civil courts. For example, in the case ofBinyam Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc., the plaintiffs have sought damages and what they see as justice. Government lawyers under Bush, however, tried to convince the courts to dismiss these cases on the grounds that proceeding would jeopardize national security by revealing sensitive information.

Alas, not much is changing under Obama’s lead. Now, in this same case—which concerns the use of planes for CIA rendition to torture—administration lawyers continue to claim the right to invoke the state-secrets privilege. This is despite the fact that much of the evidence about the flights has been documented by journalists and others as carrying terrorist suspects (under the Bush administration’s extraordinary-rendition program) to countries such as Morocco and Egypt and to CIA black sites. At oral argument on Feb. 9, 2009, Appellate Judge Mary M. Schroeder of the Ninth Circuit asked the DOJ attorney, Douglas N. Letter, if the DOJ was interested in modifying its arguments from those made before the lower court dismissed the case at the government’s urging a year previously:

JUDGE SCHROEDER: Is there anything material that has happened since, in terms of the historical stage, that has any bearing here?

LETTER: No, your honor. No.

JUDGE SCHROEDER: The change of administration has no bearing?

LETTER: No, your honor.

JUDGE SCHROEDER: The government’s position is the same?

LETTER: Exactly, your honor. The position that I’m advocating here remains the position of the director of the CIA. He stands behind his declaration. The positions that I’m arguing [have been] thoroughly vetted with the appropriate officials within the new administration, and these are the authorized positions—

JUDGE SCHROEDER: So you represent that you’re conveying the views of the present Justice Department?

LETTER: Exactly, your honor. Absolutely, absolutely.

Given ample opportunity to claim a change of direction, government lawyers insisted that they were standing by the briefs as-filed, meaning that they were adopting the arguments previously made. (Actually, the attorneys arguing the case hadn’t even changed.) Like the Bush administration, Obama’s team claimed that national security would be jeopardized if the facts of the case came to light. Subsequently, government attorneys, citing the state-secrets privilege again, threatened in a separate case—al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, Inc. v. Obama—to withdraw previously submitted evidence should the judge rule that the evidence must be disclosed to the defense.

On February 20, the Obama administration announced that, as to the question of whether or not detainees at Bagram would have access to habeas corpus, it again agreed with the precedents set by Bush. As opposed to Guantánamo, there would be no habeas for the prisoners in U.S. custody in Afghanistan. However, a federal judge in Washington rejected the Department of Justice’s position on April 2, finding that at least some of the detainees held at Bagram do have a right to be heard. District Judge John D. Bates ruled that three of the detainees in the cases before him—who claim to have been captured outside of Afghanistan (as many at Guantánamo in fact were) but transferred to Bagram and held there for years—have a right to habeas relief. (As to a fourth detainee, Judge Bates found that the prisoner’s Afghan citizenship tipped the scales in the opposite direction.) So, as under the Bush administration, the back-and-forth between the judiciary and the courts persists.

On February 24, a day following the decision to stand by the denial of habeas corpus rights for prisoners at Bagram, the Obama administration released an announcement of a report on conditions at Guantánamo Bay as a first step in devising a policy for closing the detention facility. Commissioned by President Obama on his second day in office, the report, prepared by Admiral Patrick M. Walsh, concluded that conditions at Guantánamo complied with the Geneva Conventions. This despite the fact that prisoners are held in isolation up to twenty-two hours a day, that they are still naked for periods of time and that they continue to be force fed as a response to their continual hunger strikes. In the case of isolation, the effects of long-term custody can cause, as a Center for Constitutional Rights rebuttal report argues, “hallucinations, extreme anxiety, hostility, confusion and concentration problems” as well as “impaired eyesight, weight loss, and muscular atrophy.” (As a recent article in the New Yorker points out, the effects of solitary confinement in U.S. civilian prisons amount to torture.) Accordingly, many isolated prisoners have been driven not just to the point of despair but to the point of madness. The premises of the Obama administration’s argument, as evidenced in the Walsh Report, leave open the door, not only for continued abuse, but also for overlooking the inhumanity of keeping individuals in custody, largely in isolation, without charge, without trial and thus without a sense of a future in which they are either convicted or released. No amount of halal food is a substitute for a feeling of being treated fairly in a process with a clear beginning and a clear end.

The month of March heaped insult upon injury for those who had been hopeful about Obama’s detention policy. The new administration announced the deployment of 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan to add to the 17,000 already newly deployed since the inauguration. With more troops—despite assertions that many are there for civil-society-building purposes—comes the expectation that more prisoners will be taken. Although the administration’s recently released strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan emphasizes the use of troops for nation building, there is also the directive that elements of al-Qaeda and the Taliban will have to be dismantled and, we can only assume, imprisoned. Under President Bush, plans for expanding the ability to hold prisoners in Afghanistan were adopted in the form of a $60 million expansion of Bagram’s prison facilities. The Obama administration, it seems, is poised to go through with this expansion, which will double the capacity of that prison to 1,100.

Similarly, on March 13, the administration, while jettisoning the discredited term “enemy combatant,” did not replace it with any label other than the equally vague reference to individuals who “substantially supported” the Taliban, al-Qaeda or “associated forces.” This cloudy terminology essentially seems to agree that the detainees stand legally without rights and, therefore, in a legal no-man’s-land. Critics of these developments have been quite vocal, expressing dismay that the about-face they expected from the Obama administration has not taken place. “It is deeply troubling,” Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, responded,

that the Justice Department continues to use an overly broad interpretation of the laws of war that would permit military detention of individuals who were picked up far from an actual battlefield or who didn’t engage in hostilities against the United States. . . . It is critical that the administration promptly narrow the category for individuals who can be held in military detention so that the U.S. truly comports with the laws of war and rejects the unlawful detention power of the past eight years.

Of course, those who opposed the Bush administration have been unaccepting of the new policies. They are, by and large, the lawyers who, month after month for years now, have met with the detainees, have witnessed their physical and psychological deterioration, and have found one military proceeding after another fruitless and unrecognizable from the point of view of law and procedure. They have been desperate for a change of direction, desperate to tell their clients that there is a reason to live, that they may have a day in court and that, if approved for release, they may actually be set free. 

IT CANNOT be denied that, on some crucial points, the Obama administration stands where its predecessor did. There is no language to define the detainees, no established court procedure by which to try them, no signs of plans to proceed with trials in Article III courts—i.e., the federal-court system. The overt signs that this new population of detainees will be treated any differently from the detainees that came before them are yet to come, though there is the assumption that this Justice Department intends to act within the law. Importantly, however, there is no real sense that the rationale for detention (which purposefully keeps prisoners outside of the court system) will come under reconsideration.

It is no surprise then that former–Bush administration officials continue to predict that the president won’t find it so easy to repudiate and replace the detainee policies of the Bush years. In an interview with the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, former–Attorney General John Ashcroft held that “President Obama’s approach to handling terror suspects would closely mirror his own.” In Ashcroft’s words, “How will he be different? The main difference is going to be that he spells his name ‘O-B-A-M-A,’ not ‘B-U-S-H.’” Douglas Feith, under secretary of defense for policy under Bush, voiced a similar sentiment recently when he described President Obama’s allowance of one year for the closing of Guantánamo as “effectively endorsing a large part of what the Bush administration did.” While the intentions of the Obama administration seem to be aeons away from those of its predecessor, the defenders of the Bush team take the delay in visible changes as a validation of their own policies.

Moreover, if you scratch the surface, it becomes clear that there is a great continuity of personnel. With Secretary of Defense Gates as a holdover from the Bush era, it is no wonder that his Pentagon would produce a report defending conditions at Guantánamo. Nor that the presiding judge in one Guantánamo military-commission case would defy President Obama’s edict that the commissions be halted.

This continuity is not just a matter of delay due to the confirmation process. The president seems intent on—or reconciled to—preserving some continuity between the Bush administration and his own. All three special task forces that followed the executive orders of January 22 will be led by government lawyers who served in the Bush administration—Matthew Olsen for closing Guantánamo, Brad Wiegmann (along with a yet-to-be-named DOD representative) for detention policy, and J. Douglas Wilson for interrogation and transfer policies.

We too may see continuity in our treatment of prisoners. The U.S. military—deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan—still faces a military guard culled mostly from reservists whose primary training has been focused on strategic rather than operational missions. “These are infantry troops, artillery men and tank drivers, not guard forces—and only on the eve of deployment has supposedly relevant ‘just-in-time’ training been provided to them,” according to Charles Tucker, a recently retired U.S. National Guard major general. In February, Tucker witnessed the deployment of the army’s 32nd Infantry Brigade—about 3,500 troops from the Wisconsin Army National Guard—to Iraq, all destined not for the sort of strategic-reserve duties they had primarily been trained to perform, but instead called up for more tactically oriented detention operations.

Like it or not, the Bush administration’s war on terror succeeded in moving the conversation—and the policy—about detention to a point from which it cannot be easily or fully pulled back.

Our prisoners in the war on terror still do not have an acceptable legal denomination. And though all indications are that the status the Obama administration gives them will not be one we used prior to 9/11, this is less about change than about acceptance. Even human-rights advocates and international-law experts have suggested that, in fact, the Geneva Conventions may need to be amended to grant some legally recognizable status to transnational nonstate actors engaged in armed conflict with nation-states. As Professor David Golove of the NYU School of Law notes, “The existing Geneva Convention regime did not contemplate this new kind of armed conflict and does not provide adequate agreed-upon standards to guide government in this difficult area.” If Geneva is amended, then the premise that the Bush administration embraced at the beginning—that the laws as we knew them were insufficient for the threat at hand—will come to define the new policy as well.

It is not only international law that is at stake. In the matter of setting a precedent, the applicability of domestic law is at issue as well. No one has yet gone on record with a viable solution regarding what to do with those individuals who seem to pose a danger so formidable and imminent as to preclude their release and who cannot be tried either for lack of evidence or because the evidence cannot be admitted in a court, having been extracted by torture. 

THERE ARE legal, military and moral issues that would best be served by acting on the break signaled so symbolically during the first days of the new administration. President Obama’s brave stance may yet produce equally bold policies. So far, however, the forward momentum has been halted in deference to the need to rethink the old policies as well as the current reality of detentions in the war on terror. Much will hinge on whether Obama sees himself as at the beginning of the process—in terms of directives as well as rhetoric—rather than in the middle of it. The fact that the United States faces a Bagram detention situation which has the marks of the early days of Guantánamo—unknown prisoners with uncertain legal status—could be seen as an opportunity to change course. Rather than play out the hand that has been dealt, the president—having put trials, terminology and decisions on pause—could emerge from this period of reflection with a brand-new direction in mind. So far, the tone is calm, thoughtful and careful. The executive orders, the promise to review past policies and the firm timeline point toward some progress. But the bolder actions still lie ahead. Obama could refuse to tolerate any policy that deprived low-value detainees of justice. He could view with cynicism the claims that detention is equivalent to security. He could separate the CIA’s need for intelligence from the roundup of large numbers of detainees from around the world. He could, in other words, begin anew. Whether or not Obama will do so, however, remains to be seen. 

Karen J. Greenberg is the executive director of the Center on Law and Security at the New York University School of Law and the author of The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days(Oxford University Press, 2009).

Is It Torture When Done To Americans?

Posted on: April 28, 2009 9:02 AM, by Ed Brayton

We know the Bush apologists claim that the use of stress positions, sleep deprivation, waterboarding and the like isn't torture when done by Americans, but what if it's done toAmericans? We have always treated it as torture in the past, but now we may get a current example after two journalists were arrested and imprisoned in North Korea. Spencer Ackerman, who will be a guest on my radio show on Thursday, asks the relevant questions:

The North Korean regime will indict two American journalists from Current TV who had been reporting on North Korean refugees in China. After holding them for the past five weeks, they'll be charged with "illegal entry" into North Korea and the perpetration of "hostile acts" against the paranoid Communist nation. What happens in North Korean jails? Why, the sort of things that the Bush administration said were legal to perform on detainees in U.S. custody. Is it torture then, Mr. Cheney?

Take a look at the most recent State Department human rights report on North Korea, updated in February. Under the section forthrightly titled "Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment," it lists that among other tortures, the North Koreans prefer "prolonged periods of exposure to the elements"; "confinement for up to several weeks in small 'punishment cells' in which prisoners were unable to stand upright or lie down"; "being forced to kneel or sit immobilized for long periods"; and "being forced to stand up and sit down to the point of collapse." If these aren't exactly the "confinement box" or "stress positions" or the "cold cell," they're close cousins. Shall we get into a debate about whether stripping someone naked and placing him in a cell chilled to 50 degrees and dousing him with cold water is materially different than "prolonged periods of exposure to the elements"?

And I wonder how this sounds in Korean: "With respect to physical pain, we have concluded that 'severe pain' within the meaning of Section 2340 is pain that is difficult for the individual to endure and is of an intensity akin to the pain accompanying serious physical injury. ... We conclude that none of these proposed techniques inflicts such pain. ... Section 2340 defines severe mental pain or suffering as 'the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from' one of several predicate acts [such as]... (1) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (2) the application or threatened administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; (3) the threat of imminent death; or (4) the threat that any of the preceding acts will be done to another person. ... [I]f the methods that you have described do not either in and of themselves constitute one of these acts or as a course of conduct fulfill the predicate act requirement, the prohibition has not been violated." After all, the SERE techniques that formed the basis for the CIA interrogation regimen emerged from "Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean war," says the Senate Armed Services Committee, so we're coming close to full circle here.

Has Kim Jong-Il written his thank-you note to Dick Cheney yet?


FBI accuses Twitter user of massacre threats
CNET News - San Francisco,CA,USA
If not almost everyone at and related blogs would have been arrested by the FBI. But now that Obama is in office, this is change? by blafouille ...
See all stories on this topic


Tomorrow's Protests at 100s of Bank of Americas Is AlterNet's Top Take Action Campaign of the Week

By Isaac FitzgeraldAlterNet. Posted April 27, 2009.

Join angry citizens who will be protesting across the country, demanding that CEO Ken Lewis be fired and that BOA stop consumer abuses.

Are you angry about corporate executives raking in millions of dollars of bonuses for colossal financial failures from your tax dollars, while working people lose jobs and benefits?

Or how about the predatory lending and the arbitrary raising of interest rates on credit cards by big banks awash in billions of dollars of government payoffs? That probably makes you angry too. And you are not alone.  There are tens of thousands of Americans, and organizations who are with you and are doing something abou it tomorrow. Click here to join the angry citizenswho will be protesting at hundreds of Bank of America's around the country, demanding that CEO Ken Lewis be fired, that BOA stop consumer abuses, provide health care to all of its employees and stop lobbying against pro-labor legislation like EFCA. BofA has accepted 45 billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies.

AlterNet's Top Ten Take Action Campaigns

We need more dissent like tomorrow's "Take Back the Economy" rallies protests which are imaginative, broad based, and gets to the heart of the matter -- corporate greed and irresponsibility. To help highlight these campaigns, AlterNet is launching its Top Ten Hottest Take Action campaigns for social change today, and the number one campaign is "Take Back the Economy," sponsored by SEIU, , CCC, US Action, Working Families Party and many more. The second-ranked campaign is an effort to hold Bush administration torturers accountable. The third is the struggling effort to pass the Employee Free Choice Act ( EFCA). A few weeks ago AlterNet helped launch A New Way Forward, another growing effort help organize people around polices that favor banks over people.

To give prominence to campaigns check out our new front page tool (in the upper right-hand corner). The tool allow you to quickly and easily access information about the most important causes, campaigns, and grassroots movements happening right now, and then to take action. Every week we will highlight ten campaigns roughly based on the campaign's vision, the achievability of their goals, the number of people they will benefit, the progressive values they trumpet, and our ability to help them succeed. We will focus on local, national, and even international efforts of people who are working to improve our world. (If you know of an ongoing campaign, grassroots movement, or ongoing political action, please email us at Every week, on Tuesday, we will have new campaigns to highlight, and others will move up and down the list depending on what's happening in the political world at the moment.

Change cannot happen in a vacuum; will you do your part and join the protests? To find the protest happening in your community and to learn more about how you can stand up against Bank of America's greed and corruption go We know that with so many issues the amount of work that needs to be done can be overwhelming, as is the number of organizations and grassroots movements that are asking for your attention. The 'The Top Ten Hottest Campaigns' feature will help you quickly and easily access many of the most important campaigns taking place right now.

I - Take Back the Economy - Taxpayers Nationwide Protest Bank of America's Corporate Excess

As mentioned above, taxpayers nationwide are organizing to demand Bank of America reform its ways. Led by SEIU,, and other community groups, thousands will come out on April 28th to demand that Bank of America fire CEO Ken Lewis and change the way they do business. We bailed them out, now they need to listen to us.Will you stand up and demand Bank of America change its way? To learn more click here:

II - Demand Accountability for Bush-Era Torture is gathering signatures to demand Attorney General Eric Holder hold those leaders who broke our laws accountable. Let Holder know that you think "it's time to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute the architects of the Bush-era torture program." It's time to tell Washington that no one is above the law. To learn how to help, click here:

III - Help Get the Employee Free Choice Act Passed

The Employee Free Choice Act is the most important labor legislation in almost 40 years, but it is facing huge, well financed, opposition from greedy corporations. Help cut through the corporate propaganda and show that this bill is about helping WORKERS who are the backbone of our economy. Take action now:

IV - It Is Time to Rethink Afghanistan

Before we commit more troops and taxpayer dollars to Afghanistan, don't you think we should have a national conversation to address the many questions surrounding this war? Urge the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee to hold oversight hearings in order to rethink our policy toward Afghanistan and uphold the nation's system of checks and balances. Make your voice heard, before it's too late:

V - Healthcare Equality Now

The Healthcare Equality Project (HEP) is a national partnership between nationwide and community-based organizations, working to achieve comprehensive health care reform that will eliminate healthcare disparities once and for all.

Join HEP and demand a just healthcare system that improves the health and well being of ALL Americans:

VI - Help ACORN, Become a Home Defender

ACORN is launching a Homesteading effort as part of their comprehensive foreclosure campaign. ACORN is working with its membership and activists around the country to build "Home Defender Teams." These teams will be prepared to mobilize on short notice to peacefully help defend a family's right to stay in their home.

ACORN is recruiting allies to support their efforts and call for a full and comprehensive solution to this crisis. Will you help them by becoming a "Home Defender" or showing your support for the ACORN Homesteaders? Click here to learn more:

VII - Take Back the Tap

Tap water is a better choice than the bottled brands, for our health, our environment, and our wallets. Tell your elected officials that you are supporting the Take Back the Tap campaign and ask them to kick the bottled water habit with you. Learn more about what you can do here:

VIII - Urge Eric Holder to Impeach Judge Bybee

Jay Bybee, one of the legal architects of the Bush administration Torture Program, is now, incredibly, a federal judge. Join the Center for Constitutional Rights to ensure that this injustice is righted. Write to Rep. John Conyers and the House Judiciary Committee today to demand they hold a hearing concerning Bybee's impeachment:


CNBC has done nothing more than PR work for Wall Street. They've been so obsessed with getting "access" to failed CEOs that they willfully passed on misinformation to the public for years, helping to get us into the economic crisis we face today. Enough is enough. CNBC needs to clean up its act and do what it always should have been doing: strong, watchdog journalism -- asking tough questions to Wall Street, debunking lies, and reporting the truth. Help the CNBC atone for their past mistakes, join the Fix CNBC campaign today:

X - A New Way Forward

12 million unemployed. Foreclosures up 81%. Wall Street has taken over. Enough is enough. A New Way Forward is a grassroots movement pushing back, demanding that we break up the banks and never again let them get so big that they distort our politics and take down the economy.

If it's too big to fail, it's too big to exist. Dismantle the power of the financial elite and make policies that keep a new crop from springing up. To learn how you can take action go to:


Does FOX News Hate The Bill Of Rights?

Despite their claim to “believe in the United States of America and its ideals, as expressed in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Emancipation Proclamation,” and a supposed commitment “to the core principles of tolerance, open debate, civil discourse,” The Fox Nation seems awfully antagonistic to the ACLU, an organizationdedicated to being guardians of American liberties. In fact, other than MoveOn.Org, I can’t think of another organization that FOX News is more antagonistic toward. But a recent headline on Fox Nation is especially troubling. Not content to just disagree over the interpretation of the Constitution, those “patriots” at FOX “ask,” Does the ACLU Hate America? If nothing else, it’s a headline designed to inflame rather than stimulate tolerant, civil discourse about our Bill of Rights. Inflammatory rhetoric is exactly what they got in their comments.



The May 2009 issue of Harper’s is arriving on newsstands tomorrow, April 28th, 2009!

Subscribers also have instant access to this article at

To view the newsstand cover, click here.

For Immediate Release:
April 16, 2009

Media Contact: Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications
(202) 265-3000

Harper’s Magazine Cover Story: Evangelical Proselytization Still Rampant in U.S. Military

Under Obama Administration, OffendingOfficers Continue to Serve, Promoted


ALBUQUERQUE – The May issue of Harper’s Magazine ( reveals the continued practice of Christian evangelical proselytization in the American military and a lack of recourse within the Obama administration, according to a leading civil rights watchdog group prominently featured in the magazine’s cover story. 

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF: and its founder and president Mikey Weinstein were profiled by Jeff Sharlet in his piece for Harper’s Magazine, “Jesus Killed Mohammed: The Crusade for a Christian Military.”  Mr. Weinstein is the nation’s leading advocate for the protection of individual soldiers’ constitutional rights to religious freedom and a frequent critic of the U.S. military hierarchy’s blind eye to efforts to evolve the nation’s military into a modern day band of Christian crusaders. 

“Every man and woman who joins our military swears an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and it is unforgiveable that many continue to dictate how, when and to whom a soldier can pray while in uniform,” said Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF).  “The Harper’s Magazine report by Jeff Sharlet exposes shocking new instances of bigotry and evangelical proselytization within our nation’s military that emboldens our enemies, endangers our soldiers on the battlefield and threatens the core of our country.  Equally disturbing is Mr. Sharlet’s revelation that despite President Obama’s well-publicized efforts to show the Muslim world that this is not a war against Islam, numerous offending officers and military professionals responsible for these actions continue to serve in high-ranking and influential positions, and many of them stand to be promoted.” 

In Mr. Sharlet’s piece, Mr. Weinstein shares his experiences with anti-Semitism as a “doolie” at the U.S. Air Force Academy; his advocacy and legal counsel on behalf of thousands of active duty soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen afflicted from religious persecution in the line of duty; and his continued call for reforms within the Pentagon to restore the U.S. military’s adherence to its constitutional responsibilities. 

Additionally, Mr. Sharlet interviewed a number of current and retired military officers and professionals on their thoughts and experiences regarding the protection and evasions of religious liberties in the military.  His report details a number of known and unknown instances of evangelical proselytization within the military, both domestically and in the war theater. 

The following are examples of evangelical proselytization practices detailed in the Harper’s Magazine cover story:

An Easter Sunday raid on Iraqi insurgents in 2004.  Special Forces Officers, inspired by a showing of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, wrote the words “Jesus Killed Mohammed” in Arabic on their Bradley Fighting Vehicle and shouted the saying in both English and Arabic to entice Muslim soldiers into the open before embarking on an attack to put down the insurgency.

A meeting of an underground all-male, cadet-led prayer group at the U.S. Air Force Academy where members discuss, among other things, the deceptions necessary for missionary work in China.  The author attended the group’s meeting under the promise that he would not publish the group’s name out of fear that: “Those who do believe in separation of church and state might interfere with its goal of turning the world’s most elite war college into its most holy one, a seminary with courses in carpet bombing.”

Interviews with Lieutenant Colonel Bob Young in which he defends and shows no remorse for stating that it would be better for a black to be a slave in America and know Christ, than to be free and not know Christ.

A speech given by Army Lieutenant Colonel Greg Metzgar before the Officers Christian Fellowship – a group with 15,000 active members at 80 percent of military bases – in which he stressed: “Christian soldiers must always consider themselves behind enemy lines, even within the ranks, because every unsaved member of the military is a potential agent of ‘spiritual terrorism.’”

Excerpts from a book published in 2005 by Lieutenant Colonel William McCoy, Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel, which describes an “anti-Christian bias” in this country he seeks to counter by making the case for the “necessity of Christianity for a properly functioning military.”  McCoy’s book was endorsed by General David Petraeus, who said: “Under Orders should be in every rucksack for those moments when soldiers need spiritual energy.”  General Petraeus, while claiming his statement was not meant for the public, has never recanted his statement.

The May issue of Harper’s Magazine is currently being distributed to subscribers and will be on newsstands April 28, 2009.  The issue is also currently available for online subscribers 

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, www.militaryreligious
, is dedicated to ensuring that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the constitutional guarantees of religious freedom to which they and all Americans are entitled by virtue of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment and the “no religious test” of Article VI.

Founded in 1850, Harper’s Magazine,, is the oldest general-interest monthly in America. In September, the Pew Foundation reported that Harper’s readers pay particularly close attention to national news and stand out for their political knowledge. The magazine explores the issues that drive the national conversation through such celebrated features as Readings, Annotation, Findings, and the iconic Harper’s Index. Harper’s has been awarded eighteen National Magazine Awards. The magazine is owned and published by the Harper’s Magazine Foundation.


The Supreme Court said today that TV viewers should not be hit with the "F-word" or the "S-word" during prime time broadcasts, upholding the government's power to impose huge fines on broadcasters for airing a single expletive.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices said federal law has long prohibited the broadcast of "indecent" language, and they said the Federal Communications Commission had ample authority to crack down on what Justice Antonin Scalia called the "foul-mouthed glitteratae from Hollywood."

He was referring to several incidents that trigged the FCC's crackdown.

When entertainer Cher was given a life-time achievement award on Billboard Music Awards, she said it proved her critics wrong. "So, f....'em," she said. The broadcast aired live on the Fox Network and was viewed by about 2.5 million minors, Scalia said.

The FCC cited similar comments by Bono and Nicole Richie on entertainment industry award shows.

In its new policy, the FCC said a single "fleeting expletive" could trigger fines for the network and all the local broadcasters who aired the show. Fox and the other networks went to court, arguing that this sudden change in policy was unjustified and unwarranted.

But the Supreme Court upheld the new policy today in FCC v. Fox Television and confirmed the government retains broad power to police the airwaves.

It was the court's first ruling on "indecency" on the airwaves in three decades. In 1978, the justices said George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" monologue could be banned from the airwaves during mid-day broadcasters. It had remained unclear whether a single expletive could trigger an FCC fine.

History In The Making.  Please Ask Children Under 18 To Leave The Room Before Viewing And Wait Until Prime Time Is Over.  We All Have To Obey The Supreme Court… Unless You Are A member Of The Bush Administration; Then You Can DoWhatever The Fuck You Please! oops!!!


Victory! House Judiciary Democrats Want Special Prosecutor for Torture

Submitted by davidswanson on Tue, 2009-04-28 23:12.


Criminal Prosecution and Accountability

This will help and you made it happen!

Judiciary Democrats Call for Special Counsel on Torture


House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and fifteen other Judiciary Democrats today called on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate possible violations of federal criminal law related to the interrogation of detainees. The attorney general acknowledged in his confirmation hearings that waterboarding is torture. Moreover, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the top Bush Administration official in charge of military commissions have also concluded that the United States engaged in torture of detainees. The Geneva Convention and the Convention Against Torture both require the United States to investigate, and if necessary prosecute, alleged violations. Justice Department regulations provide for the appointment of a special counsel when a criminal investigation is both warranted and in the public interest, and when an investigation may pose a conflict of interest within the Department. Since these conditions are present, the signatories below conclude that a special counsel should be appointed.

The signatories include:

Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Chairman

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Chairman, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Rep. Robert Scott, Chairman, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security

Rep. Steve Cohen, Chairman, Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law

Rep. Hank Johnson, Chairman, Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy

Rep. Mel Watt

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee

Rep. Maxine Waters

Rep. Robert Wexler

Rep. Pedro Pierluisi

Rep. Luis Gutierrez

Rep. Tammy Baldwin

Rep. Anthony Weiner

Rep. Linda Sánchez

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Rep. Daniel Maffei

The text of the letter follows.

April 28, 2009

The Honorable Eric Holder

Attorney General of the United States

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

We write to request that you appoint a special counsel for the investigation and possible prosecution of any violations of federal criminal laws related to the interrogation of detainees in the effective custody or control of the United States in connection with counter-terrorism operations or armed conflicts in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. Many of us previously asked your predecessor, Attorney General Mukasey, to do so, expressing our desire to ensure an independent investigation into serious allegations that high-ranking officials, including lawyers and others from the Department of Justice itself, approved the use of enhanced interrogation techniques that amounted to torture.

Recent events highlight the need for such an appointment. The OLC memos formally released last week provide additional details regarding the purported legal justifications provided by DOJ lawyers for various interrogation techniques, including the slamming of detainees into walls, the use of stress positions, confinement in boxes, sleep deprivation, and waterboarding. The Senate Armed Services Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody, declassified and released on April 21, confirms that these interrogation practices were developed at the request of and authorized by high-ranking administration officials, and that the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere can be linked to these policy decisions.1 Top Bush Administration officials previously testified that at least three detainees were subjected to waterboarding,2 and the recently released OLC memos reveal that one detainee was subjected to waterboarding 183 times in a one month period while another was subjected to waterboarding 83 times in one month.3

During your confirmation hearings, you testified that waterboarding is torture, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which had been denied access to detainees held at CIA secret prisons for several years, has concluded that the treatment alleged by fourteen of these detainees constituted torture.4 Earlier this year, the Bush Administration’s top official in charge of military commissions concluded that the U.S. military’s treatment of Mohammed al-Qahtani “met the legal definition of torture.”5

As you are aware, Justice Department regulations provide for the Attorney General to appoint an outside special counsel when: 1) a “criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted,” (2) the “investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney’s Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department,” and 3) “it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter.”6 Such counsel is to be appointed from outside the government and should have the authority to secure resources for the investigation and prosecution and have full investigatory and prosecutorial powers.7

We believe that these three criteria have been met and warrant the appointment of a special counsel to investigate whether federal criminal laws were violated by individuals who authorized or participated in the interrogation of detainees. First, as noted above, there is abundant, credible evidence of torture and the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees, and criminal investigation is not only warranted, it is also required. The Geneva Conventions obligate High Contracting Parties like the United States to investigate and bring before our courts those individuals “alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed” grave breaches of those Conventions.8 The war crimes act, 18 U.S.C. § 2441, creates jurisdiction in the U.S. courts whenever the victim or alleged offender is a U.S. national or member of the Armed Forces, and specifically identifies torture and cruel or inhuman treatment, as well as the conspiracy to commit those acts, as punishable war crimes. The Convention Against Torture (CAT) – signed by President Reagan in 1988 and ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1994 – also obligates the U.S. to conduct a “prompt and impartial investigation” and “submit the case to [our] competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution” whenever there are reasonable grounds to believe that torture has been committed in a territory under our jurisdiction or by U.S. nationals.9 The federal anti-torture statute, 18 USC § 2340A, criminalizes torture and the conspiracy to commit torture and creates jurisdiction in the U.S. courts whenever the “alleged offender is a national of the United States” or “is present in the United States.”

Second, a conflict of interest would be presented in having the Department investigate allegations that high-ranking Justice Department officials and lawyers provided legal guidance on and may have been involved in developing interrogation policy. For example, the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel and former Attorney General and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales advised the Administration and President to deny detainees the legal protection of the Geneva Conventions, and OLC lawyers wrote extensive legal memos that authorized specific interrogation techniques that likely amounted to torture. While some key individuals are no longer with the Department or Executive Branch, it is impossible to determine at this stage and before conclusion of the necessary investigation whether additional conflicts of interest might exist or arise. When Department lawyers are alleged to have been involved, we believe the Attorney General should turn to a special counsel.

Finally, there can be little doubt that the public interest will be served by appointment of a special counsel. The authorization and use of interrogation techniques that likely amounted to torture has generated tremendous concern and outrage in this country, and has harmed our legal and moral standing in the world. As a country committed to the rule of law, we must investigate and demand accountability for acts of torture committed by or on our behalf. Appointing a special counsel to undertake this task would serve the interests of the Department and of the public in ensuring that the necessary investigation is thorough and impartial, and that the United States fairly investigates serious and credible accusations of misconduct, even where high-ranking government officials may be involved.

We applaud President Obama’s efforts to assure America and the rest of the world that this Department’s investigative and prosecutorial decisions will be free from political considerations. We are confident that you and the President will uphold this critical guarantee, and will restore the Department’s independence and integrity. Yet, as you undoubtedly are aware, Americans on both sides of the political aisle worry that this issue already is mired in politics, with those who oppose investigation characterizing that possibility as a political witch hunt and those who, like us, support accountability expressing concern that the rule of law must be upheld. Given these factors, any decisions that you make regarding prosecutions will be perceived by some as political. Appointment of a special counsel insulates you and the Department from such claims, and instills confidence that the outcome of the investigation could not possibly have been predetermined or otherwise improperly influenced.

The special counsel rules provide for both accountability and transparency. An appointed special counsel would be subject to Department ethics rules and to oversight by you to prevent undue expansion of the investigation. The special counsel would report to you about any decision to prosecute or not to prosecute; you could provide that report to Congress and the public, and would have to report to Congress if the special counsel is fired or the investigation halted. Appointing a special counsel balances the need, recognized after Watergate, to ensure independent investigation of high-ranking officials with the need to avoid prosecutors with unchecked power.

Given the importance of this issue, we look forward to a response to our request at your earliest convenience.


1Senate Armed Services Committee Inquiry Into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody,

2Three were waterboarded, CIA chief confirms, LA Times, Feb. 6, 2008.

3Scott Shane, Waterboarding Used 266 Times on 2 Suspects, NY Times, April 20, 2009.

4ICRC Report on the Treatment of fourteen “High Value Detainees” in CIA Custody, Feb. 2007, available at

5Bob Woodward, Detainee Tortured, Says U.S. Official, Washington Post, January 14, 2009, A01.

628 C.F.R. 600.1.

7Id. at 600.3-600.6.

8Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and the Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, Aug. 12, 1949, entered into force Oct. 21, 1950, 6 U.S.T. 3217, 75 U.N.T.S. 31, Art. 49; Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick, and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea, Aug. 12, 1949, entered into force Oct. 21, 1950, 6 U.S.T. 3217, 75 U.N.T.S. 85, Art. 50 ; Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Aug. 12, 1949, entered into force Oct. 21, 1950. 6 U.S.T. 3316, 75 U.N.T.S. 135, Art. 129; Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Times of War, Aug. 12, 1949, entered into force Oct. 21, 1950, 6 U.S.T. 3516, 75 U.N.T.S. 287, Art. 146.

9Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984), Arts. 7(1), 12.


Dear ACLU Supporter,
You and I can’t let the issue of torture and accountability fade from view.
Tomorrow night at 8 p.m., President Obama will hold a news conference on the 100th day of his presidency. He will be asked roughly 25 questions. We have to make sure at least one of them is about torture.
Here’s how you can help: Urge White House correspondents for the major TV networks to ask the president this question: 

The so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” exposed in the torture memos include keeping detainees awake for up to 11 straight days, dousing them with cold water and placing them naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. One prisoner -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- was waterboarded 183 times in a month.

Do you believe that a country - or a president - can afford to look at shocking evidence of illegal torture and simply look away?

Act now. Make sure the president is asked about torture tomorrow night.

As you know, the ACLU forced the release of the Bush torture memos and sparked a nationwide debate about torture and accountability. And we’re keeping the pressure on:

  • Today, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the ACLU in an important case against Jeppesen Data Plan -- a subsidiary of Boeing. Jeppesen was responsible for organizing extraordinary rendition flights used repeatedly by the CIA to move detainees to countries where they could be tortured.
  • In response to a long-standing ACLU Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the Department of Defense has agreed to release a substantial number of photos depicting the abuse of prisoners by U.S. personnel by May 28.
  • In another crucial ACLU case, a federal judge has rejected the CIA’s attempt to withhold records related to the agency’s destruction of 92 videotapes that depicted the harsh interrogation of CIA prisoners.

These events are critical to helping the public understand the scope and scale of prisoner abuse. They are also crucial to holding senior officials accountable for authorizing or permitting such abuse.  
Thanks for standing with us.

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