Archive for category Torture
Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, two Americans captured and held by Iran since 2009, had an interesting point to make at their news conference yesterday in New York (via Think Progress):
According to Bauer and Fattal, Iranian prison guards repeatedly used the harsh conditions of Guantanamo Bay and CIA prisons around the world to justify their own human rights violations:
BAUER: In prison, every time we complained about our conditions, the guards would immediately remind us of comparable conditions at Guantanamo Bay. They would remind us of CIA prisons in other parts of the world, and the conditions that Iranians and others experience in prisons in the U.S. We do not believe that such human rights violations on the part of our government justify what has been done to us. Not for a moment. However, we do believe that these actions on the part of the U.S. provide an excuse for other governments, including the government of Iran, to act in kind.
According to the hikers, extended solitary confinement “was the worst experience of all our lives.”
It was already a well-known fact that torture and inhumane treatment of detainees by the USA helps other governments try to justify similar acts. In violation of the U.S. Constitution and international treaties, the Obama administration continues to hold people indefinitely without any charges being brought against them, under conditions similar to the Iranian prison Bauer and Fattal experienced.
Ten years later, the facts are still coming out about the events of September 11, 2001. The first F-16s scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base were unarmed – the pilots knew the only way to stop a hijacked plane would be to crash into it. A little later, according to newly-released tapes, NORAD elected to ignore Vice President Cheney’s order to shoot down suspect aircraft.
The 9/11 Commission Report remains the best overall account of what happened during the attacks ten years ago. However, the vast majority of the 9/11 Commission’s investigative records remain sealed at the National Archives in Washington. About two-thirds of the material is still classified, years after the commission members wanted it released to the public. Included in the sealed archive is the complete transcript of the commission’s interview with President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
While some people refer to “the official story” of the 9/11 attacks, there actually isn’t one. The closest the Bush administration ever came to issuing an official account was former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice’s testimony before the commission in April 2004. This was when Rice claimed, incredibly, that no-one “could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile.” Condi’s testimony basically amounted to a plea of incompetence on behalf of the U.S. government.
Robert Scheer points out that the 9/11 Commission was never able to definitively answer some of the the most important questions regarding the origin and motives of the 9/11 attackers. The truth might lead to a re-examination of U.S. foreign policy, and possibly embarrassment for some powerful people associated with bad decisions — both overt and covert.
The history of the 9/11 attacks is still being written. There is plenty we still don’t know. What we DO know: the last decade of war has caused lots of death and destruction, and the cost to U.S. taxpayers so far is $6.6 trillion in war funding plus another $580 billion for the Department of Homeland Security. We are left with a shameful legacy of war crimes, assassinations and torture, plus the loss of some of our constitutional rights, privacy, and freedom.
UPDATE: Krugman is Right: We Should Be Ashamed of What Happened after 9/11
UPDATE: Jane Stillwater: Honoring 9-11: Time to audit the CIA’s incestuous relationship with Al Qaeda [Note: I think Jane is asking the right questions, but I don't agree with all her answers]
UPDATE: Kevin Gosztola: Ten Years After 9/11, Aviation Security Still Hysterical. It’s a world ruled by fear and terror, we just live in it and have nothing to say.
UPDATE: U.S. Attack Threat Remains Uncorroborated. Or, “Osama bin Laden is dead, but you can’t have your rights back yet because we have some more fear mongering to do.”
UPDATE: Chris Hedges:
We do not grasp that Osama bin Laden’s twisted vision of a world of indiscriminate violence and terror has triumphed.
…We could have gone another route. We could have built on the profound sympathy and empathy that swept through the world following the attacks. The revulsion over the crimes that took place 10 years ago, including in the Muslim world, where I was working in the weeks and months after 9/11, was nearly universal. The attacks, if we had turned them over to intelligence agencies and diplomats, might have opened possibilities not of war and death but ultimately reconciliation and communication, of redressing the wrongs that we commit in the Middle East and that are committed by Israel with our blessing. It was a moment we squandered. Our brutality and triumphalism, the byproducts of nationalism and our infantile pride, revived the jihadist movement. We became the radical Islamist movement’s most effective recruiting tool. We descended to its barbarity. We became terrorists too. The sad legacy of 9/11 is that the assholes, on each side, won.
UPDATE: Former Senator Bob Graham Urges Obama to Reopen Investigation into Saudi Role in 9/11 Attacks (Note: Bob Graham is also peddling a novel).
UPDATE: Russ Baker: Newly-revealed evidence links the Saudi royal family to Saudis in South Florida, who reportedly had contact with the 9/11 hijackers before fleeing the US prior to the attacks.
[T]he FBI, for reasons unknown, failed to provide the information to Congressional 9/11 investigators or to the …9/11 Commission, and thus it has remained a secret for the past decade.
…The 9/11 Commission report “found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials” financed Al Qaeda. But this carefully worded statement does not foreclose the possibility that members of the Saudi royal family personally provided financing, or that senior officials funded companies or outsiders that in turn provided financing.
UPDATE: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that as an engineer he’s sure the twin towers were not brought down by jetliners.
What has happened to the Obama administration? Glenn Greenwald explains:
On Friday, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley denounced the conditions of Bradley Manning’s detention as “ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid,” forcing President Obama to address those comments in a Press Conference and defend the treatment of Manning. Today, CNN reports, Crowley has “abruptly resigned” under “pressure from White House officials because of controversial comments he made last week about the Bradley Manning case.” In other words, he was forced to “resign” — i.e., fired.
…[I]n Barack Obama’s world … those who instituted a worldwide torture and illegal eavesdropping regime are entitled to full-scale presidential immunity, while powerless individuals who blow the whistle on high-level wrongdoing and illegality are subjected to the most aggressive campaign of prosecution and persecution the country has ever seen. So protecting those who are abusing Manning, while firing Crowley for condemning the abuse, is perfectly consistent with the President’s sense of justice.
Up to now, I haven’t written about the inhumane conditions of PFC Manning’s detention. It seems there is nothing we can say or do that can help him. I had hoped the criticism so far would convince President Obama to eventually order Manning to be accorded his rights as an American. Instead, our President has dismissed all pleas for fairness, saying that the cruel treatment of PFC Manning is “appropriate and meeting our basic standards.” And now, instead of relieving the officers responsible for the abuse, Obama fires the one guy in his administration who dared to utter the truth.
Bear in mind that this is a 23-year-old soldier who hasn’t been convicted of anything, who has been behind bars for nearly 10 months now. The U.S. Army is piling on charges that go far beyond any evidence — including “aiding the enemy,” a capital offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Manning is imprisoned in solitary confinement at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, and subjected to prolonged, forced nudity and other conditions tantamount to torture, that have been designed to humiliate and degrade prisoners.
The bottom line here is that P.J. Crowley deserves the thanks of a grateful nation. If PFC Manning is ever convicted of letting the proof of war crimes in Iraq get on WikiLeaks (unlikely, IMHO), or if it is later confirmed that he was responsible, he ought to be awarded the Bronze Star at least. President Obama, on the other hand, now has joined former President Bush and former VP Cheney as an admitted torture conspirator.
Saturday Night Massacre: Obama Axes PJ Crowley for Telling the Truth about Bradley Manning
As the Treatment of Bradly Manning Grows More Obscene, Reality Becomes Harder to Ignore
UPDATE: In Resigning, State Dept. Spokesman PJ Crowley Does Not Back Away From Criticism Of Manning’s Detention
UPDATE: From FDL: PFC Manning still not allowed to wear underwear, ordered to put on a rough and uncomfortable Cordura “smock.” “It’s stupid looking,” says the manufacturer.
Just watched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s press conference on the latest from WikiLeaks: 250,000 State Department cables. It was followed by the regular White House press briefing with Robert Gibbs. Both of them claimed that the leak of the cables (1) was highly damaging and (2) didn’t reveal anything new or interesting.
Also, both Clinton and Gibbs explained that the Obama administration is very, very committed to transparency. However, transparency has its limits, don’t you know. We have to draw the line somewhere. In this case, they are opposed to the release of any information at all. In the case of previous disclosures from WikiLeaks the administration was also against letting the public know anything.
On the right, as usual, they go a little further. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, called the leak “nothing less than an attack on the national security of the United States… Let there be no doubt: the individuals responsible are going to have blood on their hands.” [And the USA does not?] “Treason,” cries former U.N. Ambassador (and current Faux News Channel commentator) John Bolton.
Marc Thiessen of the American Enterprise Institute calls WikiLeaks a criminal enterprise. Rep. Peter King (R-NY), incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, says WikiLeaks should be officially designated as a terrorist organization.
Look, as far as we know now this all boils down to one guy who copied a whole lot of documents onto a rewritable Lady Gaga CD. PFC Bradley Manning, a member of the 10th Mountain Division in Iraq, is currently in solitary confinement awaiting trial over the WikiLeaks disclosures.
As a U.S. Army officer, I held a security clearance but hardly ever got to see classified information. The reason is simple: access to secrets is supposed to be on a “need-to-know” basis, and I didn’t need to know. For a private first class to be able to copy hundreds of thousands of classified reports, that would be a major breakdown of security discipline.
Further evidence of U.S. government incompetence? The WikiLeaks website was hit with a denial of service attack yesterday — but the State Department cables were already in the hands of several news organizations.
In the age of electronic data transfer, something like this was bound to happen. It is not the fault of WikiLeaks. In fact, a Washington Post investigation recently revealed that nearly a million people are cleared for Top Secret — how long before some of that information gets leaked?
Too much is recklessly labeled classified, just to hide it from the public. If the Obama administration wanted to promote transparency, they would de-classify all but the most closely guarded national security information. They especially should not be hiding evidence of torture and war crimes.
UPDATE: Likely GOP Presidential contender Mike Huckabee: “I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty” for leakers.
h/t Glenn Greenwald
Rob Beschizza on BoingBoing (that’s just an image above– go to the link for a working version of the torture euphemism generator):
Reading the NYT’s stories about the Iraq War logs, I was struck by how it could get through such gruesome descriptions — fingers chopped off, chemicals splashed on prisoners — without using the word ‘torture.’ For some reason the word is unavailable when it is literally meaningful, yet is readily tossed around for laughs in contexts where it means nothing at all. It turns out the NYT has a reputation for studiously avoiding the word, to the point of using bizarre bureaucratic alternatives.
It must be awfully hard work inventing these things. So I thought I’d help out by putting together a torture euphemism generator that the New York Times’ reporters can use to help avoid the T-word in their thumb removal and acid bath coverage.
The reason why U.S. media may be so desperate to avoid calling torture by its right name is explained by The Guardian:
The UN’s chief investigator on torture says that if leaked US files on the Iraq conflict point to clear violations of the UN convention against torture, Barack Obama’s administration has a clear obligation to investigate them.
The 400,000 documents, released by the website WikiLeaks in the biggest leak in US military history, paint a disturbing picture of the relationship between US and Iraqi forces. They have fostered suspicions that US forces handed over detainees to their Iraqi counterparts knowing there was a risk they were going to be tortured or killed.
Here’s the deal. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the United Nations Convention Against Torture and it was approved by Congress in 1994. Article Six of our Constitution says, “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” Articles 12 & 13 of the U.N. Convention Against Torture require that parties to the treaty must promptly investigate any allegation of torture.
Thanks to WikiLeaks, we now have many, many allegations of torture that MUST be investigated according to U.S. law.
As I mentioned almost a year ago, in the last decade the U.S has been directly involved in military attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen (including two full-scale invasions and occupations). Our closest ally Israel has attacked Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, plus Turkish civilian vessels on international waters.
What national security consequences can we expect from these attacks on Muslim countries? Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani immigrant who pled guilty to an attempt to detonate a car bomb on a busy Saturday night in Times Square, tells us:
“Brace yourselves, because the war with Muslims has just begun. Consider me the first droplet of the blood that will follow.”
The very idea that we’re going to spend an entire decade dropping a constant stream of bombs and other munitions on and in multiple Muslim countries and otherwise interfere in their governments — and then expect that nobody will try to attack us back — evinces such a child-like sense of imperial entitlement that it’s hard to put into words. And yet this is exactly the mindset that pervades our discussions of Terrorism: why would anyone possibly want to do something as heinous and senseless as placing a bomb in the United States? I just don’t understand it. What kind of an irrational fanatic and monster would even think of something like that? Of course, the people who say such things rarely apply the same language to our own political leaders…
Our foreign and national security policy is irrational. We are provoking a threat that the Pentagon cannot defend us against, even with a budget that exceeds military spending in all other countries put together.
UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald: They hate us for our occupations
Related One Utah post:
Why Do ‘They’ Hate Us? (October 20, 2009)
Former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld and former CENTCOM Commander General Tommy Franks
Via Think Progress. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, the George Washington University National Security Archive has obtained a newly declassified top secret document that details talking points that emerged from a meeting between Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and CENTCOM Commander General Tommy Franks on November 27, 2001.
Under a section titled “How start?” participants in the Rumsfeld-Frank meeting discussed possible ways to provoke a conflict with Iraq, including an attack by Saddam Hussein against the Kurdish north, the U.S. discovering a “Saddam connection” to 9/11 or the anthrax attacks, or a dispute over WMD inspections. It appears from the language of the talking points that the Bush administration had already decided to go to war with Iraq and was looking for an excuse to invade.
It’s up to historians to connect the dots. For example, the Bush administration’s torture regime was instituted because they were desperately trying to get detainees to say there was a connection between Saddam’s regime and al-Qaeda.
By my count, this is the third time former President Bush has freely and publicly confessed to conspiracy to commit torture, a federal crime punishable by 20 years imprisonment.
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?
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.
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.
Late on Friday, when official Washington usually owns up to its most shameful acts, we learned that an internal Justice Department investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) which — under Bush — had concluded that John Yoo and Jay Bybee were guilty of professional misconduct in their authoring of the “torture memos” and should be disbarred and (in the case of Bybee, now a federal judge) impeached, has been whitewashed by the Obama administration.
Yoo and Bybee were two of the main architects of the Bush administration’s torture program. As Bybee’s deputy, Yoo was the author of much of the highly-classified “legal” rationale for using waterboarding and other severe forms of torture which are of course illegal under federal law and international treaties. Yoo and Bybee also drafted secret memos providing a controversial legal justification for the invasion of Iraq.
Under federal statute, Yoo and Bybee ought to be facing 20-year prison terms for conspiracy to commit torture. Normally, the five-year statute of limitations would have run out by now, however the USA PATRIOT Act amended the U.S. Code (18 U.S. C. 3286) so as to eliminate the statute of limitations entirely in the case of terrorism offenses that “resulted in, or created a foreseeable risk of, death or serious bodily injury to another person.” And violation of the federal anti-torture statute is included on the list of terrorism offenses.
Yoo and Bybee are already under indictment in a Spanish court for enabling torture.
The rewritten OPR report merely accuses Yoo and Bybee of exercising “poor judgment.” Under department rules, poor judgment does not constitute professional misconduct. We waited a year for this? Why not release the original Bush administration OPR report?
The Obama administration has been reluctant to uphold the rule of law. From a recent ACLU e-mail:
Despite the president’s executive order to close the notorious prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, it remains open, detainees remain there indefinitely without charge or trial and the flawed military commission system is still being used. And while the president ordered an end to torture and the Justice Department has initiated a very limited inquiry into detainee abuse, the president has shown little appetite for encouraging a comprehensive torture investigation that would include high level officials from the Bush administration.
Glenn Greenwald regretfully points out that USA detainee policy is now worse than that of Libya, and makes Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney look like civil libertarians.
UPDATE: From a TPM commenter:
Go read the actual Newsweek article. This is clearly an agenda-driven leak. Either a) some Bush holdover at Justice is trying to lock in the softening of the prior result to keep them from going back to the earlier draft, b) someone is doing what they say on the front page–trying to let the fizz out slowly, or c) someone is trying to generate some stink to try to get them to go back to the original draft rejected by Mukasey that called for disciplinary action. One of the three is happening, but I’m not seeing how the conclusion that they’re absolutly going with the softened version is warranted based on the availible data.
UPDATE: From Emptywheel: OPR Report Timeline: Anatomy of a Scrub.
UPDATE: Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, quoted on FDL:
“We are treaty-bound, and legally bound by federal statute, to investigate the commission of this crime. If Dick Cheney said he personally authorized waterboarding, and Eric Holder says waterboarding is torture, we are obligated to do something about that. So I think there should be a special prosecutor. I’ll try to do what I can to investigate, hold hearings, and open it up somehow.”
Rep. Nadler has the power to impeach Jay Bybee, but he hasn’t yet promised to do that.
Some related One Utah posts:
President Obama Releases ‘Ugly’ and Unredacted Bush Torture Memos (April 16, 2009)
“Ugly” Bush Torture Memos Will Be Declassified Soon (March 23, 2009)
We Can Say With Certainty… (March 17, 2009)
Secret Iraq Pre-Invasion Memos Revealed (January 9, 2009)
ACLU Obtains Secret Torture Memo (April 2, 2008)