Archive for category CIA

Maine Senators Use The Word “Torture” To Describe CIA Torture

Torture posterWell, this is amazing. Following months of public pressure, the Senate intelligence committee voted 11-3 on Thursday to declassify portions of the lengthy investigation into the CIA’s use of torture at secret black sites around the world. The executive summary, findings, and conclusions of the Senate panel’s 6,300-page report will be released.

Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) supported the release of the Senate Torture Report, using a word that nobody thought Washington politicians have in their vocabulary (emphasis added):

We remain strongly opposed to the use of torture, believing that it is fundamentally contrary to American values. While we have some concerns about the process for developing the report, its findings lead us to conclude that some detainees were subjected to techniques that constituted torture. This inhumane and brutal treatment never should have occurred. Further, the report raises serious concerns about the CIA’s management of this program.

Our vote to declassify this report does not signal our full endorsement of all of its conclusions or its methodology. The report has some intrinsic limitations because it did not involve direct interviews of CIA officials, contract personnel, or other Executive branch personnel. It also, unfortunately, did not include the participation of the staff of Republican Committee members. We do, however, believe in transparency and believe that the Executive Summary, and Additional and Dissenting Views, and the CIA’s rebuttal should be made public with appropriate redactions so the American public can reach their own conclusions about the conduct of this program.

Torture is wrong, and we must make sure that the misconduct and the grave errors made in the CIA’s detention and interrogation program never happen again.

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An Exercise in Truth-Telling

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Tonight’s must-see TV is on MSNBC at 7 pm: “Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War” uses the occasion of the upcoming tenth anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq for an unusual exercise in media truth-telling, hosted by Rachel Maddow. The documentary is based on a book co-authored by Michael Isikoff and David Corn.

In the documentary, many of those who were sources for the book “Hubris” appear on camera for the first time. One of them, Mark Rossini, was then an FBI counter-terrorism agent detailed to the CIA. He was assigned the task of evaluating a Czech intelligence report that Mohammed Atta, the lead 9/11 hijacker, had met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague before the attack on the World Trade Towers. Cheney repeatedly invoked the report as evidence of Iraqi involvement in 9/11. “It’s been pretty well confirmed that he [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April,” Cheney said on Meet the Press on Dec. 9, 2001. But the evidence used to support the claim–a supposed photograph of Atta in Prague the day of the alleged meeting—had already been debunked by Rossini. He analyzed the photo and immediately saw it was bogus: the picture of the Czech “Atta” looked nothing like the real terrorist. It was a conclusion he relayed up the chain, assuming he had put the matter to rest. Then he heard Cheney endorsing the discredited report on national television. “I remember looking at the TV screen and saying, ‘What did I just hear?’ And I–first time in my life, I actually threw something at the television because I couldn’t believe what I just heard,” Rossini says.

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Does The President Have the Power to Execute Americans Without Any Charges or Due Process?

Somebody has leaked a 16-page “white paper” (PDF) to NBC News’ Michael Isikoff. Prepared by the Obama administration’s Department of Justice, it tries to justify President Obama’s claim that he has the power to target even Americans for assassination without due process. This is not the primary Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memo justifying Obama’s kill list – that is still classified – but it appears to track the reasoning of that memo as anonymously described to the New York Times in October 2011.

Glenn Greenwald:

This new memo is entitled: “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or An Associated Force”. It claims its conclusion is “reached with recognition of the extraordinary seriousness of a lethal operation by the United States against a US citizen”. Yet it is every bit as chilling as the Bush OLC torture memos in how its clinical, legalistic tone completely sanitizes the radical and dangerous power it purports to authorize.

According to the “white paper,” if the US government simply asserts without evidence or trial that someone is a terrorist, then they are assumed to be, and they can then be punished as such – with indefinite imprisonment or death. The paper states that presidential assassinations are justified when “an informed, high-level official of the US government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the US.”

What is “an imminent threat”? The paper expressly states that it is inventing “a broader concept of imminence” than is typically used in domestic law. Specifically, the president’s assassination power “does not require that the US have clear evidence that a specific attack… will take place in the immediate future.”

Basically, the Obama administration has asserted the power to kill anyone (including American citizens) anywhere, for any reason (or no reason – how do we know, because the decision is secret?), anytime they want to. And they are claiming that this is constitutional and legal.

I’m encouraged that not all Americans are buying this outrageous claim. A recent poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University found 48 percent of Americans think it is illegal to “target US citizens living in other countries with drones,” while 24 percent think it is legal. But the same poll found majority approval for the use of drone attacks against “people and other targets deemed to be a threat to the US” whether carried out by the CIA or the military, as long as those targets are not American citizens.

Ever since George W. Bush took power as a “unitary executive,” it seems that federal law, our Constitution and Bill of Rights have been all been subject to repeal via secret OLC memos. Illegal government actions became routine, mostly carried out in secret but sometimes we find out about them. The Obama administration hasn’t done much if anything to restore the rule of law, and they have instituted an unprecedented crackdown on whistle-blowers.

The trend is toward more illegality and less transparency.

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SecDef Panetta: Iran Not Developing Nuclear Weapons

Via Raw Story:

Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta let slip the big open secret that Washington war hawks don’t want widely known: Iran is not developing nuclear weapons. Panetta headed the CIA until last July, so it’s reasonable to suppose he is well-informed on this subject.

Are the news media going to clarify this point for us? There is no Iranian nuclear weapons program. Just like Saddam’s so-called “weapons of mass destruction,” it doesn’t exist. Furthermore, even if Iran does pose a future threat to our national security (which is debatable) that cannot justify the USA initiating a war of aggression.

While we’re on the subject, can somebody tell the GOP presidential candidates? Except for Ron Paul, they all seem to relish the thought of attacking a nation of 75 million people for no good reason.

UPDATE: It’s worthwhile to note that Iran is already under attack by somebody. There have been eight terrorist bombings and at least one shooting in the past year, all directed at people who may be involved in Iranian nuclear power and missile research.

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You Decide

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WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange In His Own Words

If you missed Cenk Uygur’s interview with Julian Assange yesterday on MSNBC, watch it now.

Transcript here: My Exclusive Interview with WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange

If you want to know more about the off-the-charts hypocrisy and governmental malfeasance associated with the WikiLeaks revelations, I recommend two recent posts by Glenn Greenwald:

U.N. to investigate treatment of Bradley Manning
The NYT spills key military secrets on its front page

Finally, I learned on Rachel Maddow’s show last night that the CIA has a task force on WikiLeaks, which they have named the “WikiLeaks Task Force.” Known in the agency (and now everywhere) by its acronym, WTF.

UPDATE: FDL is asking everyone to add their name to a letter to the Commanding Officer at Quantico Brig to end the inhumane conditions of PFC Bradley Manning’s detention as he awaits trial. Private Manning has been in solitary confinement for more than seven months. Last July he was charged with leaking a highly classified video of American forces killing unarmed civilians in Baghdad and secret diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks.

UPDATE: Jane Hamsher: Bradley Manning and the Convenient Memories of Adrian Lamo

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U.S. Government Still Hiring Blackwater (Xe) Mercenaries

Mercenaries

How can we miss Blackwater (Xe) if they won’t go away? Spencer Ackerman on Danger Room:

Never mind the dead civilians. Forget about the stolen guns. Get over the murder arrests, the fraud allegations, and the accusations of guards pumping themselves up with steroids and cocaine. Through a “joint venture,” the notorious private security firm Blackwater has won a piece of a five-year State Department contract worth up to $10 billion, Danger Room has learned.

Apparently, there is no misdeed so big that it can keep guns-for-hire from working for the government. And this is despite a campaign pledge from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ban the company from federal contracts.

Apparently the State Department thought nobody would notice that Blackwater (Xe) used a cutout so that their company’s name never came up in the process of awarding the Worldwide Protective Services contract. The deal includes protection for U.S. embassies in Baghdad and Kabul.

Late last year, there were reports that Blackwater (Xe) is a key element in the CIA’s drone war in Pakistan. The U.S. and Pakistan governments, as well as Xe, deny the company operates in Pakistan.

The independent, non-profit journalists at ProPublica recently reported a milestone in the privatization of modern U.S. warfare. This year, more contractors than military personnel died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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NSA Warrantless Surveillance Whistleblower Faces Possible 20 Year Prison Sentence

AFP via Raw Story:

A former senior executive of the top secret National Security Agency (NSA) who allegedly leaked classified information to a newspaper reporter via email has been indicted on multiple charges, the Justice Department said Thursday.

Thomas Drake, 52, was charged in a 10-count indictment handed down by a federal grand jury in Maryland, the department said in a statement.

…He faces one charge of obstruction of justice, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and four charges of making false statements, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Drake apparently was a source for a series of articles by Baltimore Sun reporter Siobhan Gorman, outlining violations of privacy, waste and mismanagement in the NSA’s $1.2 billion “Trailblazer” program. Government contractors ran up the costs, while ignoring the law.

Glenn Greenwald comments on the extreme hypocrisy of the Obama administration:

It’s true that leaking classified information is a crime. That’s what makes whistleblowers like Drake so courageous. That’s why Daniel Ellsberg — who literally risked his liberty in an effort to help end the Vietnam War — is one of the 20th Century’s genuine American heroes. And if political-related crimes were punished equally, one could accept whistle-blower prosecutions even while questioning the motives behind them and the priorities they reflect. But that’s not the situation that prevails.

Instead, here you have the Obama DOJ in all its glory: no prosecutions (but rather full-scale immunity extended) for war crimes, torture, and illegal spying. For those crimes, we must Look Forward, Not Backward. But for those poor individuals who courageously blow the whistle on oozing corruption, waste and illegal surveillance by the omnipotent public-private Surveillance State: the full weight of the “justice system” comes crashing down upon them with threats of many years in prison.

Meanwhile, it appears that the DOJ is wrapping up the criminal investigation into the 2005 destruction of CIA torture tapes. How much you want to bet that NO ONE is going to be prosecuted for torturing detainees and then destroying the evidence?

Worst of all, how are we going to find out about crimes committed in secret by our government if talking to the news media is regarded as a worse crime than torture?

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Presidential Assassinations of American Citizens

Whenever I start to think that the Obama administration is essentially the same as a McCain administration would have been… our President decides to do something worse. Now the CIA has an official list of people targeted for assassination, with the name of at least one American citizen on it. It’s legal, they say, because President Obama OK’d it. Well alright, then.

Fake presidential kill order
Anwar al-Awlaki, U.S. citizen marked for death by order of President Obama

Glenn Greenwald:

George Bush’s decision merely to eavesdrop on American citizens without oversight, or to detain without due process Americans such as Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi, provoked years of vehement, vocal and intense complaints from Democrats and progressives. All of that was disparaged as Bush claiming the powers of a King, a vicious attack on the Constitution, a violation of Our Values, the trampling on the Rule of Law. Yet here you have Barack Obama not merely eavesdropping on or detaining Americans without oversight, but ordering them killed with no oversight and no due process of any kind.

…Here again, we see one of the principal and longest-lasting effects of the Obama presidency: to put a pretty, eloquent, progressive face on what (until quite recently) was ostensibly considered by a large segment of the citizenry to be tyrannical right-wing extremism

I hope it’s not really necessary to point out that the Constitution doesn’t allow the extra-judicial killing of an American citizen.

Although President Obama has so far offered no justification, some have argued that the U.S. government can legally kill Anwar al-Awlaki because of the September 18, 2001 AUMF. Spencer Ackerman points out that the mere accusation that al-Awlaki had something to do with the 9/11 attacks does not equal proof.

UPDATE: Right-wing blogger Connor Boyack:

Obama, like many tyrants before him, has taken it upon himself to disregard the clear laws of the land in order to be able to kill citizens of his own country. In doing so, he has modeled himself as supreme dictator—the man who, on his command alone, can end the life of a fellow countryman. This is a power not even King George could boast.

UPDATE: On HuffPo, Jason Linkins suggests that Dawn Johnsen’s 14-months as President Obama’s nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice may have come to an end due to Obama’s outrageous assassination order.

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Insider Confirms Bush Was Clueless Before 9/11

This morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” I watched a war of words between former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen and Lawrence O’Donnell. O’Donnell won.

Via TPM

From Greg Sargent:

In the course of arguing that Obama, by ending torture, has dismantled the most successful interrogation system in the history of the world, Thiessen made an interesting assertion:

“You gotta think back to the period after 9/11. We didn’t even know who hit us. We didn’t know that Khalid Sheik Mohammad was the mastermind of 9/11 or the operational commander of Al Qaeda. And then we started rounding up these terrorists…”

Lawrence O’Donnell heatedly disputed this assertion, pointing out that the Bush administration had been warned before 9/11 that a Bin Laden attack might be coming:

“Isn’t it true that the President you worked for invited the first attack by having no idea what was going on with Al Qaeda?…You just said, `We didn’t know who hit us.’ You were told who was going to hit you before 9/11. And your administration invited the first attack, for which you should live in shame.”

Oh, and torture never produced any actionable intelligence about al-Qaeda. Thiessen lied about that. The Bush Administration never publicly documented a single case in which torture produced intelligence that saved a single life.

UPDATE: Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) wants the U.S. government to punish the perpetrators of torture and detainee abuse… in Iran.

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AfPak: The Counter-Intuitive Strategy

Like a lot of people, I’m still scratching my head wondering what President Obama wants to do in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It has been proven that counterinsurgency won’t work, at least not without approximately double the resources the USA can possibly commit. What the president gave us on Tuesday in his West Point speech was simply counter-intuitive. In brief, he wants to deploy another 33,000 American troops and 7,000 additional NATO troops, while at the same time planning a withdrawal to begin in 18 months.

In a matter of weeks, a Marine Regimental Combat Team will be heading to Afghanistan’s Helmand province, to reinforce the thousands of marines already patrolling the sparsely-populated poppy-growing province. Follow-on units will be sent at a rapid pace.

Afghanistan patrol

Here are some possible interpretations. Commenters are invited to add more.

1. It’s a cynical, Iraq-style “surge.” General McChrystal enlisted allies among the same right-wing think tank people (e.g. Fred Kagan) who were behind President Bush’s Iraq gambit. He demanded 40,000 troops, which is the maximum effort possible given the continuing deployment of 20 combat brigades in Iraq. Like the so-called “surge” in Iraq, this is more than we can afford to send, and not enough to make a strategic difference. Casualties will peak, as they did in Iraq. Like the so-called Iraq “surge,” it could work in domestic political terms by staving off defeat and fooling the media. A real exit strategy can be postponed until after 2012. As in Vietnam, the goal is to create a “decent interval” so that the other side can’t immediately declare a triumph when we go.

2. It’s a renewed push for nation-building.
After many broken promises and failed efforts, there is a case to be made for Afghanistan 3.0 — a re-boot that finally brings help to the Afghan people. This means circumventing the corrupt Karzai regime and following through on direct provincial-level efforts targeted to local economic development. It also means an open-ended aid commitment, which Secretary of State Clinton is promising. Another objective of the new U.S. strategy is to “buy space and time” to strengthen the Afghan army and police. But the administration is only sending a single brigade to focus on that mission.

3. It’s a backstop for the main effort in Pakistan. What if the Pakistan-U.S. attack on Taliban safe havens across the border in South Waziristan is actually intended as the decisive engagement? That’s the strategic center of gravity. Recent reports indicate far greater U.S. combat participation in Pakistan than has been openly acknowledged.

I’ve been watching my “Battlestar Galactica” DVDs. It could be that President Obama is “rolling the hard six” (as Admiral Adama would say). Making an all-out, win-or-lose decisive attack to get the Taliban leadership where they live, and force them to the peace table.

UPDATE: Danger Room has a list of hard questions that Congress ought to ask General McChrystal when he tesitifies this week.

UPDATE: For those of us confused about the goals of the Afghan escalation, the Pentagon offers this simple, easy-to-understand chart.

UPDATE: Today on Capitol Hill, General McChrystal identified one fairly large problem: the Taliban pays its fighters more than the Afghan Army pays theirs.

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Binyam Mohamed Torture Cover-Up FAIL

Via Glenn Greenwald:

Yesterday, the British High Court reversed a previous decision to go along with the cover-up of torture in the Binyam Mohamed case. Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan in 2002, and held by the United States without charges until being charged with conspiracy in 2005. The charge was dropped on October 21, 2008. On February 23, 2009, almost seven years after his arrest, Mohamed was repatriated from Guantánamo to the UK, where he was released after questioning.

While Mohamed was in American custody, the CIA told British intelligence agents exactly what was done to him. These facts were recorded in official memos. Until now, by court order, seven paragraphs have been kept secret.

The 25 lines edited out of the court papers contained details of how Mr Mohamed’s genitals were sliced with a scalpel and other torture methods so extreme that waterboarding, the controversial technique of simulated drowning, “is very far down the list of things they did,” the official said.

Because the Obama administration has decided to continue hiding the documentation of the Bush torture regime, as Greenwald notes:

American citizens are forced to rely on the institutions in foreign countries — British courts and Spanish prosecutors — to learn about what our own government has done. War crimes can never stay hidden for long. It’s only a matter of time before all of this evidence comes out one way or the other, and when it does, those who worked so vigorously to keep it concealed will be rightly judged to have been complicit in its cover-up.

UPDATE: White House “Ordered” Lawmakers to Amend FOIA in Order to Conceal Torture Photos.

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