Balkinization  

Monday, April 20, 2009

Is Obama really serious about "upholding our values"?

Sandy Levinson

The New York Times reports that President Obama (still one of the sweetest phrases imaginable) told the CIA today

What makes the United States special and what makes you special is precisely the fact that we are willing to uphold our values and our ideals even when it’s hard, not just when it’s easy, even when we are afraid and under threat, not just when its expedient to do so....

I dearly hope he means it, but I must say I'm not optimistic. "Upholding our values" means that people are truly held accountable, and the Administration seems extraordinarily reluctant to do that. As it happens, I am ambivalent about criminal prosecution, as much as I would love to soo a number of high-level Bushies go to prison. But I have come to the conclusion that the better response would be a blanket amnesty followed by the setting up of a high-powered "truth commission," with full-scale subpoena power, that would force everyone to testify, under oath, about the gestation of the policy, its implementation, and, very importantly, the known consequences.

Mark Danner has an extraordinarily important article in the current New York Review of Books on the extent to which the Cheyneyites are spreading the argument that "torture is effective," and he argues, if I read him correctly, that it is absolutely essential not only to denounce torture, but, even more importantly, to confront the argument head-on. On what occasions was torture "effective"? What is the evidence? Don't allow them to hide behind "it's all classified." A trustworthy "truth commission," led by Democrats, Republicans, and independents of genuine stature, should be able to get access to any and all data, whatever its classification, and tell the American people (and the world) how often torture "works," as against the frequency with which it is simply a disaster on any and all criteria. Otherwise, the Cheyneyites will simply renew their arguments for more extensive torture after the (more-or-less inevitable) next attack, and simply saying that torture is vicious and immoral will cut relatively little ice if we haven't taken pains to confront the argument about "effectiveness." And if the Cheyneyites are right--i.e., if torture really did save lots of lives, etc.--then perhaps some of the rest of us will have to rethink some of our own positions. But the point is that Obama cannot be allowed to think that disclosure of the memos and the wrecked reputations (and nothing more, perhaps) of John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Steven Bradbury, etc., constitute anything close to seriously "upholding our values" and engaging in the kind of leadership we need on this issue.



Comments:

I've never understood the "don't prosecute" position. I understand that some form of investigation is necessary before prosecution; even today we don't know all the facts. But that very absence of knowledge seems to me to rule out any blanket immunity -- so far, every new fact has shown that the Bush Administration was far worse than previously believed. We shouldn't be offering to let bygones be bygones until we have a better handle on what they did.

Blanket amnesty makes sense in a situation like, say, South Africa where both sides were locked in a cycle of revenge and committed terrible crimes under circumstances where no real law existed. That's not the case here. We have an existing, sound legal tradition in which we punish the guilty precisely because we want to maintain the rule of law (as opposed to establish that rule in the first instance).
 

If we insist that they prosecute they will prosecute. I draw your attention to the Society of American Law Teachers' letter released today on the torture memos to President Obama.

http://www.saltlaw.org/human-rights-0

Also on the nominations of Koh and Johnsen see these other SALT statements of last week and this week.

http://www.saltlaw.org/nomination-statements

Best,
Ben
 

If we insist that they prosecute they will prosecute.This is exactly it. What seems to be getting lost in the bluster is that at the end of the day, Obama doesn't prosecute anybody anyway.
 

Might I suggest that it is far too early to start fantasising too much about (i) possible trials and (ii) possible lines of defence. At this stage no serious investigation with a view to prosecution has yet begin in the USA (at least not to our knowledge).

I don't know enough about the Byzantine complexities of the US Federal bureaucracy to have any firm view, but I rather got the feeling that the Administration's statements so far were carefully designed to give the appearance of a reluctance to prosecute while at the same time leaving it open to do so if sufficient public outrage develops as a consequence of the drip, drip disclosure of just what the CIA, its contractors and the last administration have been doing to other human beings in the name of the people of the United States of America.

The international law obligation of the United States of America under the CAT at this stage is to investigate. I am sure that there is [now] sufficient legal talent in the Department of Justice hopefully soon to be augmented by a nomination to a legal post at the US Department of State (which ought to survive any reluctance on the part of some members of the Senate) to enable the Administration fully to appreciate what enormous damage will be done to the Administration's standing overseas if there is no sufficient investigation.

I am comforted in the belief that there will at least have to be an investigation by this NYT article: Pressure Grows to Investigate Interrogations.

I have always been sympathetic with the approach which says that it would be right for a prosecutor to bear in mind the distinction, to put it crudely, between the organ grinder and the monkeys (or, perhaps in this case, the knuckledraggers). It may well be the case that the actual operatives doing the dirty work were not even CIA officers, or military personnel but contract hires from the last Administration's preferred groups of mercenaries. It would well reflect the purposes of justice if any prosecutions were to be directed at the controlling minds at the top rather than those at the bottom of the food chain.

There is another consideration: it is far better for the USA to wash its own dirty linen than to find itself in a foreign laundromat. Over on VC, Professor Posner rather pooh-poohed the prospect of any serious attempt at a prosecution outside the USA. Links to his three recent posts on the subject can be found here The Non Prosecution of Bush Administration Officials.

Professor Posner's reasoning is seductive. His first memorandum goes to the US prosecutorial discretion and concludes:

"But Obama has no legal obligation to prosecute and has overwhelmingly strong political reasons to make this issue die: not just to avoid short-term disruption of his political agenda, but to avoid the long-term damage to his own power as president. Will Holder try to stand in his way? Nothing in the transcript indicates that this is likely."

His second memorandum concludes:

"Just as domestic prosecutions risk exposing the complicity of Democratic politicians in the Bush administration’s interrogation policies, foreign international law claims would risk a similar sort of blowback, exposing and highlighting the routine CAT violations of foreign states. I am not just referring to European complicity in CIA renditions. Putting aside the European countries and a handful of other countries, virtually every state in the world engages in systematic torture of political opponents, suspected criminals, insurgents, and many others. Yet the legal sanctions being imposed on Russia, China, Indonesia, Egypt, and India are zilch. These facts strongly suggest that states do not regard routine CAT violations by other states, to say nothing of section 7 violations, as sufficiently important to warrant the diplomatic resources that would be necessary to remedy them. For this reason, if Obama has strong domestic political reasons for refraining from prosecuting Bush administration waterboarders, international law will not change his mind."and his third:

"All of this suggests that the hoped-for foreign trials of former Bush administration officials will not happen anytime soon. But this is not to say that such trials are impossible. Pinochet’s lawyers did not expect his apprehension in Britain. European countries have independent judiciaries, and they are capable of acting in ways that their governments—which, for reasons I explained in my last post, have no interest in prosecuting former Bush administration officials—disapprove. Still, the short, undistinguished history of universal jurisdiction so far might give pause even to crusaders like Garzón."What I suggest Professor Posner may have in common with many former Bush Administration lawyers is an imperfect understanding of just how rigid the separation both of the judicial function and the prosecutorial function too has lately become in the European jurisdictions. The degree of political control over prosecutors has greatly diminished, largely as an impact of the European Convention on Human Rights, and prosecutorial decisions are now much more amenable to judicial review.

I have absolutely no doubt, for example, the the UK Government would be deeply embarrassed were a CAT case to surface in the UK. But look at what happened in the Binyam Mohamed case in the Administrative Court: See the transcript of a judgment handed down on the maintenance of some reporting restrictions in the case The Queen on the application of Binyam Mohamed -v- The Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs. In that case immense pressure was put on the UK government to resist the Court ordering disclosure of documents which the UK Court felt were vital to due process in the US proceedings. The Court did not buy the argument.

As the judgment makes clear, there is now an enquiry taking place to ascertain whether any British secret service officials were criminally complicit in the torture and or inhuman and degrading treatment of Binyam Mohamed and there are also civil proceedings against the UK Government under way brought by him and other detainees now within the UK.

Bearing in mind the citation in the Judgment of that of Lord Hope in a case in our House of Lords:

“Views as to where to draw the line [on torture/inhuman and degrading treatment] differ from state to state. This can be seen from the list of practices authorised for use in Guantanamo Bay by the US authorities, some of which would shock the conscience if they were ever to be authorised for use in our own country,

what do readers think would happen were such criminal or civil proceedings to end up in a trial with UK officials being held complicit in acts of torture and/or inhuman and degrading treatment with instances of the treatment being ventilated in open Court with the jury, the press and public very well aware that the ill treatment was being administered by or at the behest of US officials who would perhaps figure in the proceedings, in President Nixon fashion, as "unindicted co-conspirators". How embarrassing would it be for the USA to refuse extradition requests?

Proceedings in EU jurisdictions where former detainees now reside are a distinct possibility. As victims, they have the right to invoke the Court's jurisdiction. The court would only be justified in deferring to the USA were there evidence to show that the USA was complying with its international law obligations.

I do not think the duty in international law to investigate and if appropriate bring wrongdoers to justice can be swept aside as easily as Professor Posner (and perhaps some in the USA) clearly hope. And incidentally, Judge Garzon in Spain has not backed off his investigation as many thought he might. Certainly the Spanish Public Prosecutor's argument that the matter should be left to he US Justice system was noticeably weaker once the the US "no-prosecution" statements were made public.

However, due process seems, to me to consist in enquiry first and prosecution decisions later.
 

Don't worry, Sandy, the phrase will sour fast enough.

I'm sure that Obama is serious about upholding 'our' values, keeping in mind that, when uttered by somebody else, the phrase means "those values THEY share with others", and does not imply the same set of values it would if uttered by the person listening. IOW, he's serious about upholding HIS values, which some other people might share.

But, what are they? I think we'll know by the end of the administration, and that phrase will be sour indeed.
 

This is a long haul. It will require leadership, time and patience.

But, when Rahm Emmanuel, no matter how they spin it after the fact (the need to spin statements like law professors is not necessary a great sign, with apologies to some here), goes on Sunday talk shows pre-emptively announcing that prosecutions are off the table, all three are hurt.

In this country, public and political realities mean a lot. So, it means a lot when Obama already takes "investigation" (sic) off the table for certain people, even if events will belie the suggestion. This when top congressional people suggest that they will only act if there is evidence of bipartisanship. A nice path to inertia.

Mourad notes:

"The degree of political control over prosecutors has greatly diminished, largely as an impact of the European Convention on Human Rights, and prosecutorial decisions are now much more amenable to judicial review."

The U.S. had a major influence in that process. It is part of our strength. We aren't India, Russia or Indonesia, nor are the governments there our only concern. Our culture also influences the people there, and we ignore them to our detriment.

As shown in our economy and politics, when we don't truly face the past, the future leaves something to be desired. Lying to us and saying what people here want is all about "vengenace" and divisiveness also will not help.
 

And if the Cheyneyites are right--i.e., if torture really did save lots of lives, etc.--then perhaps some of the rest of us will have to rethink some of our own positions.=====
Well, I'm not included in that sum, just to pitch 2-cents.

I don't believe that we can _justify_ a torture regimen, based on utility arguments.

Even if one believed you could, you would still avoid it, when running a global counter-insurgency. That it was considered is more testimony to Rumsfeld's mis-conceptualization of a 'war on terror' (that hapless phrase).

Therefore, whether you find utility or not, a torture regime is still to be rejected.

The Israelis, I believe, have arrived at the right balance: utility is a possible mitigation, a defense, NOT a _justification_.

Also, one ought not to fall into the logic traps set by "Cheney's" old-world thinking.

We do not choose between the effectiveness of torture and non-torture. The data-set, that is now still largely classified even if the tapes have been destroyed, is NOT dispositive. There was no 'control' group, that we know of. Fact is, we may well have gotten this information in other ways, without the use of the waterboard, etc.

The Rightwing has us spending so much time worrying about their authority in ticking-bomb-scenarios, that we don't focus our energies in better ways. We can make a list of all the terrorist acts in the past five years (indeed, there are databases), and flag those that were ticking-bomb scenarios known to the authorities. I suspect it wouldn't even be 1%.
 

"We do not choose between the effectiveness of torture and non-torture."
=====
uh, better:
"We do not choose between the purported information-effectiveness of torture and knowing nothing, of helplessness."
 

Bottom line: Obama has stuff to do, and he thinks that torture prosecutions (or even a truth commission, I suspect) would hinder him from doing it.

As they say, he's a pragmatist.

The most I think I can hope for at this point is that more materials will be declassified. That would be good in itself, and *might* work up the public to the point where there's only a small political cost to investigations.

As it stands, I think most people don't care very much, compared to their worries about the economy.

I live in Mississippi, where crimes from 40+ years ago have been reopened and men placed on trial in their old age for murders committed in their youth. Perhaps that is the best we can hope for re: Yoo, Bybee, and their ilk. I hope it gives them some sleepless nights and stomach ulcers.
 

Sandy:

"I dearly hope he means it, but I must say I'm not optimistic."

Seriously, do you still believe anything this man says?

Obama selectively disclosed classified interrogation methods to the enemy, but not the results of that interrogation to make an unfair political point, not to get to the truth.

The truth to Obama is whatever supports Obama's purposes at the time.

In his speech to CIA yesterday, Obama lied to the faces of his agents by claiming that he disclosed their interrogation methods to a wartime enemy because the methods were already public.

How many more times will it take for Obama to lie to your face before you catch on?
 

The truth?

By uncorroborated admission in the Hayden/Mukasey op-ed, maybe 30-odd people were subjected to enhanced techniques.

The suggestion, completely unverified, is that there was actionable intelligence from one or two.

Are you "comfortable" with that truth?

What if it were 100 subjected, and just 2 bits of actionable intelligence, of the garden-variety nature (network roll-up, but not high value in the least)? Yes? What if there was one 'unforseeable death', because no one really knows the full medical history of the detainees of this type?
 

I think a pragmatic argument can be made, rather easily, that letting investigations etc. go forward -- a long process btw -- will not hurt that "stuff," including foreign policy.

In fact, it might very well help. Usefully in this context there is evidence that the people are concerned about this type of thing and would be open -- though a popular President might help them to change their mind -- to investigations etc.

I guess it might be Obama's brand of pragmatism that is at issue here.
 

In his speech to CIA yesterday, Obama lied to the faces of his agents by claiming that he disclosed their interrogation methods to a wartime enemy because the methods were already public.

How many more times will it take for Obama to lie to your face before you catch on?

# posted by Bart DePalma : 10:01 AM
Did you see how they cheered for him as he "lied" to them?
 

The truth to Obama is whatever supports Obama's purposes at the time.Actually, that sounds more like you, Baghdad.
 

This should be an interesting thread (assuming we can stay on the topic: "Is Obama really serious about 'upholding our values'?") and avoid ad hominem personal attacks.
 

Back on topic (thanks Professor Levinson for allowing comments on this): Does Dick Cheney support a high-powered "truth commission," with full-scale subpoena power, that would force everyone to testify, under oath? I am certain he would realize, after reminding him of the risk to American lives, that is NOT a good idea.
 

Professor Levinson:

Why no comments allowed on the latest Safford Unified School District v. Redding thread?
 

bb:

BD: "In his speech to CIA yesterday, Obama lied to the faces of his agents by claiming that he disclosed their interrogation methods to a wartime enemy because the methods were already public.

bb: "Did you see how they cheered for him as he "lied" to them?"

Yes I did. That is the scary part of Obama speeches. He can deliver bald faced lies that should not pass the snicker test of a person of average intelligence and be applauded for the effort.

Obama has a genuine cult of personality going. Anyone with a passing knowledge of history should realize those cults always end badly.
 

In any case, Obama's audience at CIA were handpicked bureaucrats, not the clandestine service.
 

Yes I did. That is the scary part of Obama speeches. He can deliver bald faced lies that should not pass the snicker test of a person of average intelligence and be applauded for the effort.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 1:14 PM
I know what you mean. I watch you lie all the time, and yet you seem painfully unaware that you're lying. It's quite amazing.
 

I think what people are missing is that Obama has decided that the CIA was trying in good faith to “uphold our values” as it interrogated Al Qaeda detainees. This doesn’t mean that Obama agrees that the methods used are or ought to be legal. But it does mean that he recognizes the moral complexity of the situation that they faced in attempting to get information from hardened terrorists in the aftermath of 9/11. Given this situation, Obama does not believe that CIA officers who used harsh interrogation methods, including waterboarding, were acting in a morally depraved fashion.

This seems to be clearly evident in the statement made by DNI Dennis Blair (which was mocked by Professor Luban a few days ago):

"It is important to remember the context of these past events. All of us remember the horror of 9/11. For months afterwards we did not have a clear understanding of the enemy we were dealing with, and our every effort was focused on preventing further attacks that would kill more Americans. It was during these months that the CIA was struggling to obtain critical information from captured al Qa’ida leaders, and requested permission to use harsher interrogation methods. The OLC memos make clear that senior legal officials judged the harsher methods to be legal.

Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing. As the President has made clear, and as both CIA Director Panetta and I have stated, we will not use those techniques in the future. But we will absolutely defend those who relied on these memos and those guidelines.

As a young Navy officer during the Vietnam years, I experienced public scorn for those of us who served in the Armed Forces during an unpopular war. Challenging and debating the wisdom and policies linked to wars and warfighting is important and legitimate; however disrespect for those who serve honorably within legal guidelines is not. I remember well the pain of those of us who served our country even when the policies we were carrying out were unpopular or could be second-guessed.

We in the Intelligence Community should not be subjected to similar pain. Let the debate focus on the law and our national security. Let us be thankful that we have public servants who seek to do the difficult work of protecting our country under the explicit assurance that their actions are both necessary and legal."



The import of Blair’s statement is clear. Those who were involved in the CIA interrogation program were acting honorably. It is legitimate to criticize the policy decision to use harsh interrogation methods; it is not legitimate to accuse those who carried out those policies of criminality. Indeed, (I am extrapolating a little here), those who benefit from the protection provided by the CIA while making such accusations are the ones who are dishonorable.

Many of you seem to think that Obama shares your moral revulsion at the CIA officials who authorized and participated in the interrogation program. You assume that the administration’s refusal to prosecute them is solely the result of perceived legal and political difficulties. But Obama could take administrative action against the responsible officials if he wanted to. His words and actions, and those of his administration, suggest that he does not share your values in this matter.
 

His words and actions, and those of his administration, suggest that he does not share your values in this matter.Fortunately, it's not all about him.

I think what people are missing is that Obama has decided that the CIA was trying in good faith to “uphold our values” as it interrogated Al Qaeda detainees.I find it ironic that during the last Presidential campaign, "Obamabots" were routinely criticized for their compulsive translations of his comments and statements, telling us what Obama "really meant." That now his opponents are doing the same thing is pure comedy.

It is legitimate to criticize the policy decision to use harsh interrogation methods; it is not legitimate to accuse those who carried out those policies of criminality.This is a pure value judgement, and not everybody shares your definition of "legitimate" (for whom?). At any rate, the Nuremberg Defense by any other name...

Not to drag my comment any further down to Volokh levels, there should be a corollary to Godwin's Law for when the Nuremberg Defense is invoked.
 

mls, I think you're reading way more into those comments than is actually there. That said, if Obama doesn't think that waterboarding KSM 183 times was morally depraved, then he's the one with the morals problem, not me.
 

Ok, Mark, what am I missing? This is what Obama said in his statement releasing the memos:

“In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution. The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world. Their accomplishments are unsung and their names unknown, but because of their sacrifices, every single American is safer. We must protect their identities as vigilantly as they protect our security, and we must provide them with the confidence that they can do their jobs.”

Do you think this is Obama’s way of saying that he is concerned that there are sadistic torturers in our intelligence community, and he plans to do everything in his power to remove them from their positions? Sure, there is enough wiggle room in Obama’s statement to leave open the possibility of proceeding against someone who egregiously violated the limits placed on interrogations by OLC, but there is nothing to suggest that Obama is actually considering such action. Given that his administration has conducted a review of the interrogation practices and is presumably aware of the fact that KSM was waterboarded 183 times, why would he leave the impression that the intelligence community was acting honorably and in good faith if he thought otherwise?
 

Ooops! Speaking of lies, it appears that yet another Obama statement may or may not be operative any longer:

"President Obama suggested today that it remained a possibility that the Justice Department might bring charges against officials of the Bush administration who devised harsh interrogation policies that some see as torture. …

The Bush-era memos providing legal justifications for enhanced interrogation methods “reflected us losing our moral bearings.” The president said that he did not think it was “appropriate” to prosecute those CIA officers who “carried out some of these operations within the four corners of the legal opinions or guidance that had been provided by the White House.”

But in clear change from language he and members of his administration have used in the past, the president said that “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. I think that there are a host of very complicated issues involved there.”

Our weasel in chief at work.
 

It also appears that CIA is beginning to defend itself in the press as Cheney suggested:

"The Central Intelligence Agency told CNSNews.com today that it stands by the assertion made in a May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo that the use of “enhanced techniques” of interrogation on al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM) — including the use of waterboarding — caused KSM to reveal information that allowed the U.S. government to thwart a planned attack on Los Angeles.

Before he was waterboarded, when KSM was asked about planned attacks on the United States, he ominously told his CIA interrogators, “Soon, you will know.”

According to the previously classified May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo that was released by President Barack Obama last week, the thwarted attack — which KSM called the “Second Wave”– planned “ ‘to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles.”"

I presume that these clandestine operatives were not among those bureaucrats at CIA applauding Mr. Obama's disclosure of the memos of al Qaeda.
 

Ooops! Speaking of lies, it appears that yet another Obama statement may or may not be operative any longer:

# posted by Bart DePalma : 4:05 PM
Could you point out the lie? I'm not seeing it.
 

I am presuming one of those "complicated issues" confounding Mr. Obama about prosecuting DoJ attorneys for offering legal opinions is actually identifying a crime that was allegedly committed.

Some here have suggested without evidence that CIA pressured these attorneys into offering bogus opinions to conform with the war policies of the President.

If this was ever the case, it appears that Mr. Obama has brought change to the the relationship between Administration lawyers and the intelligence community. Rather than a politicized CIA bringing pressure on DoJ lawyers, it appears that politicized White House lawyers are bringing pressure on the intelligence community to change its findings to support an Obama policy to release Chinese Uighur terrorists from Gitmo into the United States:

After Obama’s promise to close Gitmo, the White House ordered an inter-agency review of the status of all the detainees, apparently believing that many of those held would be quickly determined releasable. The committee -- comprised of all the national security agencies -- was tasked to start with what the Obama administration believed to be the easiest case: that of the seventeen Uighurs, Chinese Muslims who were captured at an al-Queda training camp.

The Uighurs sued for release under the Supreme Court’s Boumediene decision, which gave Gitmo prisoners the Constitutional right to habeas corpus. Last October, a federal court ordered their release into the United States, but an appeals court overturned the decision, saying the right to make that determination rested entirely with the president. Since then, Attorney General Eric Holder has said that some of the Gitmo inmates may be released into the United States.

That, apparently, is what the White House plans for the Uighurs and others.

Reviewing the Uighurs detention, the inter-agency panel found that they weren’t the ignorant, innocent goatherds the White House believed them to be. The committee determined they were too dangerous to release because they were members of the ETIM terrorist group, the “East Turkistan Islamic Movement,” and because their presence at the al-Queda training camp was no accident. There is now no ETIM terrorist cell in the United States: there will be one if these Uighurs are released into the United States.

According to Defense Department sources, the White House legal office has told the inter-agency review group to re-do their findings to come up with the opposite answer.

 

Bart DePalma said:

Obama selectively disclosed classified interrogation methods to the enemy, but not the results of that interrogation to make an unfair political point.How do you know that there were any (positive) results of the torture interrogations?

Chaney says that there was. Liar.

Mukasey claims it is so. Another well-known liar.

Has anyone without a well-deserved reputation of lying claimed that useful intelligence was gained from torturing suspects?
 

I see no contradiction between what Obama said today and what he said on releasing the OLC memos. His statement today indicates that it is up to the Justice Department to decide whether to prosecute persons responsible for providing legal advice on interrogations. If anything, this underscores the fact that it is not up to the Justice Department to decide whether to prosecute CIA interrogators, because that decision has already been made.
 

Hank:

Yup, Cheney, Mukasey and CIA are all lying.

The al Qaeda we captured like KSM all turned themselves in.

The reason there were no subsequent al Qeada attacks on US interests outside of Iraq and Afghanistan for the first time in a decade was because the enemy saw the error of its ways.

And Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny live on ocean beachfront property I have for sale here in the Rocky Mountains.

Whatever makes your clock turn.
 

that allowed the U.S. government to thwart a planned attack on Los Angeles
=====
okay, let's look at the video tape.

wait, the CIA destroyed those, so we'll have to take someone's word for it ...

The whole problem here, perhaps, is the conception that the CIA is somehow the Presidents' off-the-books dirty workforce.

We ought to continue stopping that and pour a whole lot of light onto their activities, for the most part.

How?

Well, at least on this important issue of torture, we _could_ think of CIA interrogators as we might skilled professionals, like doctors.

They decide how much interrogation gets done and they face legal jeopardy, if their judgments are incorrect. This aligns the risks and rewards, most directly.

We might have panels of people who decide who goes into the "operating room" and broadly decide what happens inside. But, at the end of the day, we have one, hopefully highly-skilled person primarily responsible, and they are enjoined to make a full and complete case when the questions come, in the appropriate venue.

In other words, a sensible re-design looks considerably more like a regular-way law-enforcement action. We get a steady hand at the tiller, rather than radical policy shifts, based on the politicizing rightwing agenda, etc., Presidential XO, Federalist Society flunkies, etc.

Concomitantly, we get a chance to build-out a truly professional CIA staff, in which the process of intelligence gathering is not so easy for Presidents to manipulate, and that really has a chance to deepen and grow as an institution, centered around excellence, not political suck-up.

As it is, the whole notion that we ought to trust someone like Dick Cheney or Texas's George "Dead-or-Alive" Bush or maybe even Hayden seems more than we can expect in our Republic. Afterall, in their op-ed, Hayden/Mukasey look like they are using the tragic case of Danny Pearl as a partial apologetic/justification for what when on, right?.

No doubt this commonsense re-design and accountability raises all kinds of Constitutional issues, but we are long past recognizing just how much Constitutional crisis the Right is willing to foist on the country, so that they do not get flanked politically ... from their own right.
 

Ok, Mark, what am I missing?

I think the weasel words are "good faith". I doubt that waterboarding KSM 183 times complied in good faith even with the ridiculous Bybee memo.

That said, I have far less interest in prosecuting the CIA torturers than I do in prosecuting those who directed them. Enough of the Abu Ghraib-style whitewashes.
 

I meant to add that Holder's statement, which may be less authoritative, was more legally precise: there would be no prosecution of those who acted with "reasonable good faith reliance" on the memos. That adds an objective standard.
 

Reuters reported the President's remarks thus:-

"President Barack Obama left the door open on Tuesday to prosecuting some U.S. officials who laid the legal groundwork for harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects during the Bush administration.

Obama has already said his administration would not prosecute CIA interrogators who relied in good faith on legal opinions issued after the September 11 attacks to justify methods such as waterboarding and prolonged sleep deprivation.

However, during a question-and-answer session with reporters on Tuesday, he did not rule out charges against those who wrote the opinions justifying the methods used on captured terrorism suspects, which human rights groups call torture.

"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," Obama said after meeting Jordan's King Abdullah. "I think that there are a host of very complicated issues involved there," he said."
That statement, at least, seems to support the assessment I tentatively made that in respect of its CAT obligations, the Administration is going to make haste slowly and proceed with all due deliberation. It also looks as if the targets of any investigation will indeed be the organ-grinders and not the knuckledraggers.

It is very reassuring to see that poor dear Bart's posts on this thread are becoming steadily more offensive. That's a very good sign indeed - almost the best possible confirmation that the USA now has a President who is fitted for the high office he was elected to fill.

If, as they ought to be, the Uighurs are admitted to the USA, which is really the very least the USA can do (pending award of very substantial compensation for their years of unlawful detention), the Administration might like to find them somewhere to live. East Turkistan is surrounded by mountains and has a continental climate with pretty cold winters (average January temperatures range from -10C to -40C and July tempatures ranges from 20C to 40C depending on location). So somewhere like Woodland Park in Colorado quite congenial and with 20 homes in foreclosure right now, finding housing ought not to break the Federal Reserve.
 

Bart DePalma said:

The al Qaeda we captured like KSM all turned themselves in.

The reason there were no subsequent al Qeada attacks on US interests outside of Iraq and Afghanistan for the first time in a decade was because the enemy saw the error of its ways.
Is it your argument that whatever success we’ve had in preventing further al Qeada attacks are directly due to the Bush administration’s policy to torture suspects? I don’t think even Cheney, et al., have made that argument.

If you are not making this argument, then how is your repsonse even relevant?

Before I would believe even an assertion that useful intelligence was garnered through torture, I would like to hear it from someone who is actually in a position to know and who would not be subject to criminal liability were it to be false.

You don’t qualify on the first count. I know of no one making such a statement while qualifying on the first count who also qualifies on the second count.

Without an unbiased witness, why should I believe the self-serving statements of known criminals and liars?
 

Hank:

You claim that Cheney, Mukasey and CIA were all lying about the intelligence gathered from the acptured al Qaeda using coercive interrogation.

Is Obama's DNI Dennis Blair also lying?

After Obama disclosed the CIA interrogation techniques to the enemy against the opposition of the intelligence community, DNI Blair wrote a letter to reassure the heads of the various intelligence agencies and allegedly posted that letter on the DNI website.

As with most public communications from the Obama Administration on this subject, the DNI letter was intentionally misleading and incomplete.

One of the recipients of the Blair letter got pissed off at the deception and leaked the original letter to Fox News. Apparently, the posted letter left out a series of statements that might get you folks on the left upset by confirming the Bush Administration claims concerning this interrogation. Among the omitted statements were:

"High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the Al Qaeda organization that was attacking this country."

"The leadership of the CIA repeatedly reported their activities both to executive branch policymakers and to members of Congress, and received permission to continue to use the techniques.""Even in 2009 there are organizations plotting to kill Americans using terror tactics, and although the memories of 9/11 are becoming more distant, we in the intelligence service must stop them."

Ooops!

Looks like the interrogations did obtain high value intelligence as repeatedly reported by the last DIA and by several identified sources in CIA

Also looks like Congress knew all about the interrogation program and signed off on it just as the GOP members of the intel committees have repeatedly stated.

I an so frigging tired of the Dems' overweening, self righteous hypocrisy on this subject

Let's make a deal. You Dems start your witch hunts with Pelosi, Reid and every Dem member of the Intelligence Committees. When you censure and remove all of those members, THEN you can turn your self righteous criminal investigation to the Bush Administration. If you are unwilling to police your own, then admit that the methods were legal and effective, then kindly shut the hell up.
 

If you are unwilling to police your own, then admit that the methods were legal and effective, then kindly shut the hell up.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 9:01 PM
Elections have consequences, tough guy. I suspect the Dems are going after the people who initiated the torture, and not those who didn't try hard enough to stop it.

If you don't like it, tough shit.
 

Bart,

Assuming that we can accept an un-sourced Fox News report, I'm assuming that you'll join us in calling for an investigation into who is leaking internal memoranda in the DNI office to reporters.

I don't quite recall who was calling for a prosecution only of people in the executive branch. Could you refresh my memory as to who even implied that members of Congress who were complicit should be let off scot free?
 

Bart DePalma said:

Let's make a deal. You Dems start your witch hunts with Pelosi, Reid and every Dem member of the Intelligence Committees. When you censure and remove all of those members, THEN you can turn your self righteous criminal investigation to the Bush Administration. If you are unwilling to police your own, then admit that the methods were legal and effective, then kindly shut the hell up.One, no deals. You argue that we should go after the enablers, those who stood by and did nothing, before going after those who actively committed the crimes. That’s a morally bankrupt position, not that I expect any better from you.

Second, I’m all in favor of going after any Democrat who knew the full extent of what was going on and stood by and did nothing. So far, the Democrats are claiming that they were not fully informed. Should that prove to be untrue, damn straight I favor going after them, right after we prosecute and convict the architects of this odious policy and those who actively carried it out.
 

Prof. Levinson, I usually agree with you, but I am disturbed by this post.

And if the Cheyneyites are right--i.e., if torture really did save lots of lives, etc.--then perhaps some of the rest of us will have to rethink some of our own positions.There are three big questions that can be asked about what was done in our name by the Bush Administration:

1. Was it moral?
2. Was it legal?
3. Did it work?

I take the position that torture is immoral. Because I take that position, the answers to questions 2 and 3 are irrelevant to my position. To even reach question 2 about one's own decision to torture is, in my view, to concede that there are circumstances in which torture is not immoral.

But our legal system exists because we cannot enforce moral judgments. Thus when judging the actions of others, we ask question 2. And I think it is clear that the answer to question 3 is irrelevant to question 2: If I covet my neighbor's car, stealing it may be very effective, but it is still illegal. Only if we find that torture is legal does it make sense to ask if it is effective.

Why, then, would you cooperate in the shifting of the debate to the question of effectiveness? Are you unsure about the illegality of waterboarding an individual 183 times? Will your answer to either the moral question or the legal question change if torture actually IS effective?
 

1. Was it moral?
2. Was it legal?
3. Did it work?

=========
1. The 'moral complexity' of the issue is not overwhelming. What is astonishing is that so many think the issue is new, in some way or another.

The fact is that torture worldwide has a long history, adjacent to the worst that mankind has to offer, and is deeply resented the world over, in current memory even. It is also a topic that has been _singled out_ by the international community.

(Somehow, the Federlist Society flunkies thought it was primarily a medical issue...*boggle*)

The only thing new is that Bush-Cheney embraced the 'dark side', in their own words.

2. No, it is not legal.

3. It is irrelevant whether it worked, because we could have gotten the information in other ways. Also, the notion of "it worked" is imprecise.

Perhaps a better formulation how much does it cost, as we can judge by history (we really did not need this new dataset at all)? I submit that a regime of torture costs too much or involves tradeoffs of such a kind that one ultimately chooses not to make. And, if you think otherwise, look how dearly similar calculations in Bush's air-war in Afghanistan have cost in public opinion, the currency of COIN.

There is scant reason to believe that torture is the best or most efficacious method by which to 'engage' with 'the enemy'.
 

Having been caught by Fox News telling the intelligence community in private that CIA interrogation provided high value information, but leaving that part out of the letter published to the Dem left base, DNI Blair scrambled last night to mend fences with the base by issuing this statement:

"The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means. The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security."

Actually, Blair is lying through his teeth claiming "there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means." By releasing the Justice Department memos reviewing the legality of the CIA interrogation methods, Obama has made the world privy to some of the CIA reports detailing the real world effectiveness of the standard and enhanced interrogation techniques on al Qaeda officers Zubaydah and Khlaid Sheik Muhammad. As Hoover fellow Marc Thiessen noted in an op-ed in yesterday's Washington Post:

Consider the Justice Department memo of May 30, 2005. It notes that "the CIA believes 'the intelligence acquired from these interrogations has been a key reason why al Qaeda has failed to launch a spectacular attack in the West since 11 September 2001.' . . . In particular, the CIA believes that it would have been unable to obtain critical information from numerous detainees, including [Khalid Sheik Mohammed] and Abu Zubaydah, without these enhanced techniques." The memo continues: "Before the CIA used enhanced techniques . . . KSM resisted giving any answers to questions about future attacks, simply noting, 'Soon you will find out.' " Once the techniques were applied, "interrogations have led to specific, actionable intelligence, as well as a general increase in the amount of intelligence regarding al Qaeda and its affiliates."

Specifically, interrogation with enhanced techniques "led to the discovery of a KSM plot, the 'Second Wave,' 'to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into' a building in Los Angeles." KSM later acknowledged before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay that the target was the Library Tower, the tallest building on the West Coast. The memo explains that "information obtained from KSM also led to the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, and the discovery of the Guraba Cell, a 17-member Jemmah Islamiyah cell tasked with executing the 'Second Wave.' " In other words, without enhanced interrogations, there could be a hole in the ground in Los Angeles to match the one in New York.

The memo notes that "[i]nterrogations of [Abu] Zubaydah -- again, once enhanced techniques were employed -- furnished detailed information regarding al Qaeda's 'organizational structure, key operatives, and modus operandi' and identified KSM as the mastermind of the September 11 attacks." This information helped the intelligence community plan the operation that captured KSM. It went on: "Zubaydah and KSM also supplied important information about al-Zarqawi and his network" in Iraq, which helped our operations against al-Qaeda in that country...

Yet there is more information confirming the program's effectiveness. The Office of Legal Counsel memo states "we discuss only a small fraction of the important intelligence CIA interrogators have obtained from KSM" and notes that "intelligence derived from CIA detainees has resulted in more than 6,000 intelligence reports and, in 2004, accounted for approximately half of the [Counterterrorism Center's] reporting on al Qaeda." The memos refer to other classified documents -- including an "Effectiveness Memo" and an "IG Report," which explain how "the use of enhanced techniques in the interrogations of KSM, Zubaydah and others . . . has yielded critical information."

The morale in the CIA clandestine services must be plummeting with every politically motivated lie that DNI Blair is compelled to issue to placate Obama's political base that denigrates and discounts the successes of that service in rolling up al Qaeda after 9/11.

This is an administration of weasels.
 

Actually, Blair is lying through his teeth claiming "there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means." Unless you can prove a negative, and I'm pretty sure you can't, how do you know that that statement is a lie?
 

This is an administration of weasels.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 9:40 AM

Coming from a scumbag weasel like yourself, that accusation is simply laughable.
 

I'm really tired of the "we got a lot of useful information" from "EIT" (torture), but it's classified.

I'm willing to bet right now that we've already seen all the results that could have been claimed.

Like the "Library Tower" plot, which people keep pulling out, and which, the chronology demonstrates, was dead before the EIT could have produced anything.

Here's my prediction: when the smoke has finally cleared, and the information has been made public, what we'll find is a huge pile of worthless crap that those tortured supplied in order to make it stop, crap that kept investigators busy wasting their time. Oh, sure, there'll be some real information in there, which, after the fact, can be pointed to, but it will be mixed in with garbage to the point that the pile will be worthless.

Fire the interrogators, get some people who know how to do their job, and prosecute the people who authorized it.
 

bb:

BD: "Actually, Blair is lying through his teeth claiming "there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means."

bb: "Unless you can prove a negative, and I'm pretty sure you can't, how do you know that that statement is a lie?"

Read the post for content. The disclosed memos discussed the failure of the "other means" prior to the use of the enhanced interrogation. Furthermore, Blair has access to and should have read the CIA reports referred to by the memos, but remain as of yet top secret.

I considered using the more gentle term "disingenuous" to describe Blair's statement, but lie appeared to be the better term given that this statement is in direct contradiction to published facts.
 

Baghdad, the fact that "other means" had failed up until we decided to use torture does not make his statement a lie. It was still possible that "other means" would have eventually worked.

Lying is when you claim to have only waterboarded someone once, when it was actually 183 times. That is lying. And the weasels who told that lie are the weasels that you support.
 

Bart,

How do you know the CIA CYA memos remain "top secret"?

Either the memos are, in fact, "top secret", which only someone with access to them would know, and they told you, which constitutes a very grave security breach, or you're just making this up.

I'm betting on "making it up".
 

bb:

"Baghdad, the fact that "other means" had failed up until we decided to use torture does not make his statement a lie. It was still possible that "other means" would have eventually worked."

Any interrogation that fails to obtain timely intelligence fails. The purpose of the interrogation was to roll up al Qaeda before it redeployed, not to fill history books.
 

Any interrogation that fails to obtain timely intelligence fails. The purpose of the interrogation was to roll up al Qaeda before it redeployed, not to fill history books.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 10:48 AM
So what? None of that changes the fact that his statement was not a lie.

And given that we know for a fact that the scumbags you support have lied repeatedly, it's really time for you to shut your fucking mouth.
 

No, Bartbuster, it's time for this comment thread to be closed in order to shut your fucking mouth.
 

Chucklehead, I thought you wanted the comments opened?
 

My first choice has always been "comments open, with CIVIL discussion." With you here, that's obviously not an option. Either way is fine with me.
 

I'm not the slightest bit interested in having a civil discussion with warmongering scum like you. Feel free to leave if that is a problem for you.
 

I'm not leaving. You are obviously not leaving. That's why it's time for this comment thread to be closed.
 

God bless Cheney and Yoo!
 

God bless Cheney and Yoo!If there is a "God", they'd better hope "It" is a big fan of torture.
 

Read the Old Testament sometime.
 

Genesis 7:4 and 19:24, for starters.
 

THE ULTIMATE WATERBOARDER!
 

Chucklehead, I'm pretty sure Cheney and Yoo are not Jewish.

Who would Jesus torture?
 

Well, neither am I. After you are done with the Old Testament, read the New Testament (at least up through and including Romans 13). Jesus (the same GOD as in the Old Testament) has no problem with just war or torture to save innocent lives.
 

Well, neither am IThe opportunity to see warmongering scum like you burn in Hell is one of the few things that make me wish I wasn't an atheist.
 

Wouldn't it be ironic, then, that you are the one who will be burning in Hell, not me?
 

If there is a "God", of course.
 

Today we find on line the Senate Armed Services Committee Detainee Final Report and a whole rash of newspaper articles including this NYT piece In Adopting Harsh Tactics, No Inquiry Into Their Past Use and this WaPo piece Harsh Tactics Readied Before Their Approval.

The releae of this report, gives further support to my belief is that the Administration is putting more and more facts into the public domain to enable the US public to judge for themselves just what has been done in their name. Every day seems to bring new revelations.

Futher the Secretary of State testified before the House foreign Relations Committee: According to the Hill's Blog here: "Mrs Clinton's testimony was that Bush administration officials who formulated interrogation policy "should be reviewed." "Those that formulated those legal opinions and gave those orders should be reviewed," Clinton said. She added that those who carried out orders and "acted within the four corners of the legal advice that was given" would not be prosecuted".Further support for the thesis that the Administration is looking primarily to target the organ-grinders rather than the knuckledraggaers.

The Senate Armed Services Committee Report only deals tangentially with CIA issues, it rightly concentrates on what took place at US military facilities, including in Afghanistan and Iraq and, of course, at Guantanamo Bay. The first thing to note is that there is nothing particularly secret about the techniques used at SERE facilities with the aim of enhancing the ability of captured US personnel better to resist - for a time - inhuman and degrading treatment and even torture inflicted on them by a potential enemy in the event of capture. Similar facilities exist in the UK and other NATO countries, the doctors and psychologists and other researchers publish and there is a massive body of literature freely available to anyone who cases to seek it.

But the NYT piece I link to above draws this conclusion from interviews conducted:-

"According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.

Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.

The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.

They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective. Nor were most of the officials aware that the former military psychologist who played a central role in persuading C.I.A. officials to use the harsh methods had never conducted a real interrogation, or that the Justice Department lawyer most responsible for declaring the methods legal had idiosyncratic ideas that even the Bush Justice Department would later renounce."
This to my way of thinking is too incredible a claim for words. Could it really be the case that the high officials involved in the decision process were that ignorant? One always know that their Commander-in-Chief was to some extent challenged in the literacy field - but surely not Condi Rice, or Colin Powell or very many others of the principals who must have been involved.

McClatchy has the much more probable explanation Report: Abusive tactics used to seek Iraq-al Qaida link""The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.

Such information would've provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush's main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime....

A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration. "There were two reasons why these interrogations were so persistent, and why extreme methods were used," the former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.

"The main one is that everyone was worried about some kind of follow-up attack (after 9/11). But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there."

It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

"There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people to push harder," he continued.

"Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn't any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies."

Senior administration officials, however, "blew that off and kept insisting that we'd overlooked something, that the interrogators weren't pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information," he said.

A former U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators in 2006 that interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility were under "pressure" to produce evidence of ties between al Qaida and Iraq. "While we were there a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between al Qaida and Iraq and we were not successful in establishing a link between al Qaida and Iraq," Burney told staff of the Army Inspector General. "The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results."
In other words, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees was ordered in the hope of bolstering one of the false pretexts for the invasion of Iraq.

Oh what a tangled web!.
 

"The first thing to note is that there is nothing particularly secret about the techniques used at SERE facilities . . ."

LOL!
 

Bart, you must be one of the few who takes _any_ self-assessment by the CIA at even face value.

Chanting 'Bush-Cheney kept us safe' is like saying I didn't freeze because my refrigerator door stayed shut.

The British, by contrast, and even the Spanish, have faced more and done more than Bush-Cheney, _including_ dispatching people through the Justice system, a task largely left undone by the G.O.P.

There is *no way* that circa 30 people subjected to enhanced techniques generated 6,000 intelligence reports, worth the name. To put up 'the program' in this way is ... classic Bush-Cheney misdirection, mis-use of CIA data.

Stating that 50% of the information came from detainees is a ruse. If you have one piece of information, as did the CIA in the early days, and someone gives you another, you just had a 100% increase. It's statistical slight-of-hand. We know that network members are likely the best source of network information, though. Yet, still, we don't have Osama, so it's hardly the whole picture, is it? It could just as easily point to the lack of CIA human intelligence in key areas and the time that it takes to infiltrate groups or generate other types of confirming/collateral information.

As for the 'second wave', as much as we can use that term so late after the first "wave", it looks like standard roll-up stuff. The fact that a plot existed is hardly the ticking-bomb threat that Cheney is making it out to be to the American public, in yet another fraud. Jemiyah Islamiya is half a world away in Indonesia. That's hardly akin to, say, sitting in Seattle with pilot's licenses, waiting for the go word ...

So far as I know, the U.S. military have been executing significant network roll-up in Iraq, without the use of enhanced techniques.

Last, what is infuriating from the do-anything crowd are formulations like "without {torture} there might be a hole in the ground".

What they do not realize is that they may have rolled up one cell, but provided impetus for two more. "Saving" us from that hole may have put at risk uniformed servicemen, who someday may get captured, not by al-qa'ida, but by others. What is perceived as an arrogant, do-anything posture costs us allies and support, as European allies say to themsevles, "if you want to act on your own, go ahead. We'll save the money.'

What's more, I can think of few exceptions where Presidents who started in with the CIA, executing 'black-ops' and back-room tradeoffs and all the rest of it, ended with giant messes on their hands, for a whole range of reasons. It's best to just keep them out of it. It's as if hope springs eternal that this time it will be different, we'll get it right. But, it so seldom happens that way, that's it's fools gold.

Put another way, such statements about holes in the ground are like solving an equation without all the variables. And standing up to declare, "We did *everything* [gulp!] to defend the American people" ought to be seen as a self-defeating proposition, if you deface and deform and lose support for the very thing you are defending.
 

Amicus:

Regardless, IF there's another 9/11 after Obama has made such a public show about "NOT doing everything to defend the American people" then, said people will know exactly who to blame.
 

By the way, OLC did not rely exclusively on CIA self-reporting in these memos. For instance, the 180-hour limit on sleep-deprivation came from a completely un-related, scientific study of VOLUNTEERS who were, in fact, able to stay awake that long with no "severe physical and mental suffering". Subjecting someone to a "caterpiller" is hardly TORTURE either. Some of you "People" have no idea how to defend a nation.
 

Some of you "People" have no idea how to defend a nation.

# posted by Charles : 1:17 PM
Considering all the lives and money you morons pissed away in Iraq, you're not really in a position to criticize.
 

Bart"buster":

Better to fight the terrorists in the streets of Baghdad than in the streets of New York City. In case you weren't aware, there has not been another terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 2001.
 

Amicus said...

A: "Bart, you must be one of the few who takes _any_ self-assessment by the CIA at even face value."

I am a defense attorney. I do not take anything at face value. However, I tend to give testimony that is repeatedly corroborated from multiple identified sources who offer themselves to cross examination by reporters and the congressional intel committees and is now confirmed by a subsequent DNI of a subsequent Administration of the opposing party more than the benefit of the doubt.

All the challenges to this corroborated testimony has been provided by anonymous sources for which the reporters rarely even require a second source, nevertheless critically cross examine.

A: "Chanting 'Bush-Cheney kept us safe' is like saying I didn't freeze because my refrigerator door stayed shut."

Yup, 8 years free from attacks after 8 years of ongoing attacks was just a coincidence.

A: "The British, by contrast, and even the Spanish, have faced more and done more than Bush-Cheney, _including_ dispatching people through the Justice system, a task largely left undone by the G.O.P."

Cleaning up after hundreds of their citizens were murdered is not exactly what I would be calling "doing more" than the US.

A: "There is *no way* that circa 30 people subjected to enhanced techniques generated 6,000 intelligence reports, worth the name. To put up 'the program' in this way is ... classic Bush-Cheney misdirection, mis-use of CIA data."

Are you kidding? KSM alone could have generated over half that amount. Each of these reports very likely consists of a statement of historical fact, often innocuous sounding when standing alone, that is fed into a data base for analysis to recreate the al Qeada network and its activities.

A: "As for the 'second wave', as much as we can use that term so late after the first "wave", it looks like standard roll-up stuff. The fact that a plot existed is hardly the ticking-bomb threat that Cheney is making it out to be to the American public..."

Cheney never claimed that we faced a ticking time bomb situation, nor would we want to. We stopped these attacks at the planning, organization and training stages as is ideal, not after the enemy invaded the country and was about to execute the attack. The ticking time bomb situation may make good TV on 24, but no responsible President would allow an attack on the country to get that close to fruition.

A: "So far as I know, the U.S. military have been executing significant network roll-up in Iraq, without the use of enhanced techniques."

:::chuckle:::

High value al Qaeda in Iraq captures were turned over to CIA for interrogation. I would be very surprised if CIA did not use its usual techniques.

However, what turned the tide in Iraq was the population turning against al Qaeda and informing our troops where they were based.

A: "Last, what is infuriating from the do-anything crowd are formulations like "without {torture} there might be a hole in the ground". What they do not realize is that they may have rolled up one cell, but provided impetus for two more. "Saving" us from that hole may have put at risk uniformed servicemen, who someday may get captured, not by al-qa'ida, but by others."

It has been the military's fondest hope that one day we will come across a foe that will respect the GC rights of our privileged POWs because we voluntarily extend those privileges to their unlawful POWs. However, all of our post WWII enemies without exception act like Lucy pulling away that football from the military Charlie Brown running up to kick it. All of our post WWII enemies without exception have abused our POWs far worse than anything CIA did to the al Qaeda.

A: "What is perceived as an arrogant, do-anything posture costs us allies and support, as European allies say to themsevles, "if you want to act on your own, go ahead. We'll save the money."

LOL!

Dude, our allies had not problem rendering their terrorists to our custody to get rid of a problem their systems were not able to cope with. In contrast, our allies had no problem at all telling our President after he announced the end of Gitmo and the CIA interrogation program to take a hike when begged to send troops to fight the enemy in Afghanistan.
 

Yup, 8 years free from attacks after 8 years of ongoing attacks was just a coincidence.Numbnuts, there were far more attacks in the 8 years that Dumbya was president than in the 8 prior years.
 

None on U.S. soil AFTER we fully woke up to the fact we were in a war, whether we wanted to be or not.
 

Chucklehead, we didn't have 8 years of "ongoing attacks" on US soil prior to us "waking up".
 

Sure we did, up to and including the 9/11 WTC and Pentagon attacks.
 

Sure we did, up to and including the 9/11 WTC and Pentagon attacks.

# posted by Charles : 1:49 PM
There were 2 attacks on US soil. 9/11 and the original WTC attack. That is it. That is nothing compared to the carnage you morons unleashed in Iraq.
 

2/26/93 New York City: bomb exploded in basement garage of World Trade Center, killing 6 and injuring at least 1,040 others. In 1995, militant Islamist Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and 9 others were convicted of conspiracy charges, and in 1998, Ramzi Yousef, believed to have been the mastermind, was convicted of the bombing. Al-Qaeda involvement is suspected.

4/19/95 Oklahoma City: car bomb exploded outside federal office building, collapsing wall and floors. 168 people were killed, including 19 children and 1 person who died in rescue effort. Over 220 buildings sustained damage.

7/26/96 Atlanta: bombing. Two people died, and 111 were injured.

4/20/99 Columbine: school shooting and attempting bombing.

Those are just 4 off the top of my head. Feel free to look them all up:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Terrorist_incidents_in_the_United_States
 

Bart"buster" (once again):

Better to fight the terrorists in the streets of Baghdad than in the streets of New York City.
 

As a related collarary: better to unleash carnage there rather than here.
 

Prof. Levinson:

Mark Danner [...] argues, if I read him correctly, that it is absolutely essential not only to denounce torture, but, even more importantly, to confront the argument head-on. On what occasions was torture "effective"? What is the evidence? Don't allow them to hide behind "it's all classified."Evidence of a "guilty mind". Neither 18 USC § 2340A nor the CAT allow any exceptional circumstances whatsoever as a defence. They're laying the groundwork for "jury nullification" or a pardon (or leniency); something that would be appropriate only at or after trial.

They're essentially conceding that the behaviour in question was unlawful.

Cheers,
 

Those are just 4 off the top of my head. Feel free to look them all up:

# posted by Charles : 1:56 PM
Most of those attacks were self-inflicted, you fucking moron.
 

Oh, I thought the question was "ongoing attacks" self-inflicted or not?
 

Bart DeClueless:

According to the previously classified May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo that was released by President Barack Obama last week, the thwarted attack — which KSM called the “Second Wave”– planned “ ‘to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles.”"

Wow. Like no one could have imagined such a thing ... certainly not Condi. Glad we got KSM to spill the beans.....

Cheers,
 

Bart, you cannot even take the CIA's _budget_ at face value. Sorry, there is just no reason to take any sort of self-assessment from them as anything but a probability statement.

Better to fight the terrorists in the streets of Baghdad than in the streets of New York City.
========
This is part of why the Bush-Cheney Administration has no political credibility and lost support almost wholesale, even when they hazard to tell the truth, tactically or otherwise.

Hayden writes in his op-ed that some in America think we deserved 9/11. Well, with a statement like, 'better to do "Team America" in Baghdad, than ...', what do you expect? Even if you thought it, can you think of anything more stupid to say publicly? [Let alone that we have now lost more lives in Iraq than we did on 9/11...how does that cost-benefit work out for the "safe at any cost" crowd?]

Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld didn't "keep us safe". They amplified their insecurities, that's all.

Yup, 8 years free from attacks ...
===
Other techniques, a different conceptualization, and a thinking-man's leadership of the effort, would have worked and achieved far more.

That's before we examine why Bush-Cheney put so much faith in whatever else they were doing that they got lousy grades year-after-year on homeland security readiness, which is what will _really save lives_ in the event.

Billions spent, yet we still have no true inter-operability in the country, because of GOP b.s. / 'Country-Second' (I'm thinking of the failed effort to get a nationwide wireless system built out using the so-called beach-front spectrum).

Last, there have to be attempted attacks in order to make a claim that one successfully defended against them. That is where the British and the Spanish have done more than the U.S., on their own soil. They've foiled plots / groups that had real operational capabilities.

High value al Qaeda in Iraq captures were turned over to CIA for interrogation. I would be very surprised if CIA did not use its usual techniques.
Well, Hayden most recently says it was circa 30 *only*. I assume there were more than that taken in Iraq, so someone is lying again.

KSM alone could have generated over half that amount.
I don't even think George Bush could generate 3,000 significant information _bits_, let alone full reports...

It has been the military's fondest hope that one day ...It's not foremost nor forlorn.

I'm aware of circumstances during the Kosovo actions in which people were desperate to surrender to ... wait for it ... American forces _only_.

Reputation matters. [As a funny anecdote, there have been instances in which Palestinian protesters were happy to rush into the hands of Israeli security for protection, when things went sour ...grok that paradox, if you will.]

...when begged to send troops to fight the enemy in Afghanistan..After years of Bush-Cheney handing them an easy escape route, you think it is possible for one man to wave his hand and change everything?

Building coalitions is hard work. It involves persuasion, patience, and informed contact/pressure. "Leadership" of the kind Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld offered made it easy to say "no", and it will be a while before that changes. It's worth trying.


p.s. I'd like to know the CIA's operational contribution to capturing 'Hambaldi'. The Thai police were looking for him before the enhanced interrogation of KSM took place ...
 

Check the record people. The leader of the "Library Tower Plot" was captured in February 2002. KSM was arrested on March 1, 2003. The interrogations of KSM did not, and could not, have contributed to the arrest of the leader of the "Library Tower Plot."

Here is a statement from a teleconference Press Briefing on the West Coast Terrorist Plot by Frances Fragos Townsend, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism (9th paragraph of the press release): "The cell leader was arrested in February of 2002, and as we begin -- at that point, the other members of the cell believed that the West Coast plot has been canceled, was not going forward. You'll recall that KSM was then arrested in April of 2003 -- or was it March -- I'm sorry, March of 2003." Read the whole thing here http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2006/02/20060209-4.html

it is time for an investigation and answers.
 

Amicus:

It's the truth, so that's why I said it. We would have lost much more if we had simply sat back and allowed a Third, Fourth, maybe even Fifth Wave of attacks by now. Regardless, as I said, IF there's another 9/11 attack now after Obama has made such a public show about "NOT doing everything to defend the American people", then said people will know exactly who to blame. I hope you will be proud of yourself too.
 

I hope you will be proud of yourself too.

# posted by Charles : 3:16 PM
I have never been prouder of my country than the day we voted you warmongering scum out of power.

If we are attacked again, I expect the country will rally behind Obama the way it rallied behind Dumbya, until he decided to invade Iraq.
 

Bartbuster:

Is there any "exchange of ideas" you have on the topic?
 

Is there any "exchange of ideas" you have on the topic?

# posted by Charles : 10:24 PM
Chucklehead, where did you get the idea that I have any interest in exchanging ideas with a scumbag like you?
 

From the thread wherein one of our gracious hosts, Professor Tamanaha, asked you to stop with the personal insults and name-calling since these threads were for the exchange of ideas.
 

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