David Kirkpatrick

February 23, 2010

Justice Department on the torture memos

If you’re following the current story on the John Yoo and Judge Jay Bybee torture memos you know the Office of Professional Responsibility report found the memos shameful, but Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis has recommended the Justice Department will not refer a finding of professional misconduct. With this announcement many talking heads on the right, often ex-officials of the Bush 43 administration, have gone on the attack claiming all this news totally exonerates Yoo and Bybee. Not so. Margolis basically says their legal advice was very questionable and essentially straddles the line of misconduct enough he can’t rule against them.

One thing the OPR report does illuminate is simply how shameful and shameless the United States government, particularly the executive branch and Department of Justice, behaved during the Bush years. These individuals may escape personal and professional repercussions, but history will not be kind to anyone who is associated with dragging America down into the ranks of states that torture.

Jack Balkin offers a great explanation/take-down on just how low of bar Yoo and Bybee barely escaped through Margolis’ decision not to find for professional misconduct.

Here’s a quick sample:

Instead, Margolis argues that, judging by (among other things) a review of D.C. bar rules, the standard for attorney misconduct is set pretty damn low, and is only violated by lawyers who (here I put it colloquially) are the scum of the earth. Lawyers barely above the scum of the earth are therefore excused.

And here’s Balkin’s excellent concluding graf:

Whether or not the DOJ refers Yoo and Bybee for professional discipline, no one should think that either man behaved according to the high standards we should expect of government attorneys. They, and the government officials who worked with them, shamed this nation. They dragged America’s reputation in the dirt. They severely damaged our good name in the eyes of the world. They undermined the values this country stands for and that the legal profession should stand for. Nothing the DOJ does now–or fails to do–will change that.

September 19, 2009

Torture and George W. Bush: an indictment

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:39 pm

Andrew Sullivan has been among the loudest voices in the blogosphere, or anywhere for that matter, on the subject of torture during the Bush 43 Administration’s execution of its “war on terror.” In the October 2009 Atlantic magazine he wrote a fairly long letter to President Bush asking him to help erase the stain this policy has tainted the United States with, and described his essay as “conciliatory.”

At least one Daily Dish reader disagrees with Sullivan and describes the essay as an excellent final summation that, “tried, convicted and sentenced them (Bush Administration officials) all in one grand piece.”

The essay is quite long as web reading standards go, and it is worth the time spent to read the entire piece. It’s fair, thorough, chilling and is filled with not a little sadness of what this nation lost under Bush’s policies.

I’ve done plenty of blogging on this topic and I have Sullivan and others to thank for one, exposing what was happening to the Constitution, our rights and our standing in the world; and two, for keeping this difficult topic in front of minds and eyeballs that would most likely prefer to ignore and move on.

If you believe the torture was only done to “others” who are out to get Americans and don’t deserve any rights, I’ll excerpt what happened to a United States citizen — stripped of all rights, all dignity and in the end humanity. If you cherish your rights and the Constitution of the United States, this tale outlines in detail why you should fear the George W. Bush presidency and the idea its precepts could ever return in any form.

From the Andrew Sullivan essay, “Dear President Bush,”:

I want to mention one other human being, an American, Jose Padilla. I do not doubt that Padilla had been a troubled youth and had disturbing and dangerous contacts with radical Islamists. You were right to detain him. But what was then done to him—after a charge (subsequently dropped) that he was intent on detonating a nuclear or “dirty” bomb in an American city—remains a matter of grave concern. This was a U.S. citizen, seized on American soil at O’Hare Airport and imprisoned for years without a day in court. He was sequestered in a brig and, his lawyers argued,

was tortured for nearly the entire three years and eight months of his unlawful detention. The torture took myriad forms, each designed to cause pain, anguish, depression and, ultimately, the loss of will to live. The base ingredient in Mr. Padilla’s torture was stark isolation for a substantial portion of his captivity.

Among the techniques allegedly used on American soil against this American citizen were isolation (sometimes for weeks on end) for a total of 1,307 days in a nine-by-seven-foot cell, sleep deprivation effected by lights and loud music and noise, and sensory deprivation. He was goggled and earmuffed to maintain a total lack of spatial orientation, even when being treated for a tooth problem. He lost track of days and nights and lived for years in a twilight zone of pain and fear. His lawyer Andrew Patel explained:

Mr. Padilla was often put in stress positions for hours at a time. He would be shackled and manacled, with a belly chain, for hours in his cell. Noxious fumes would be introduced to his room causing his eyes and nose to run. The temperature of his cell would be manipulated, making his cell extremely cold for long stretches of time. Mr. Padilla was denied even the smallest, and most personal shreds of human dignity by being deprived of showering for weeks at a time, yet having to endure forced grooming at the whim of his captors …

After four years in U.S. custody, Padilla was reduced to a physical and mental shell of a human being. Here is Patel’s description of how Padilla appeared in his pretrial meetings:

During questioning, he often exhibits facial tics, unusual eye movements and contortions of his body. The contortions are particularly poignant since he is usually manacled and bound by a belly chain when he has meetings with counsel.

Mr. President, if you heard of a citizen of Iran being treated this way by the Iranian government, what would you call it?

August 12, 2009

Bush 43, torture and incompetence

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:39 am

These three grafs areprobably all you need to read on the genesis of the Cheney/Bush torture program and exactly how ill conceived and amatuer the whole operation was in terms of execution, and more importantly, legality.

The damage done to the United States is still an untold story, and the legitimacy our use of torture has already given despotic governments around the world is reason enough to spend time and resources to uncover the entire illegal program.

From the link:

Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen were military retirees and psychologists, on the lookout for business opportunities. They found an excellent customer in the Central Intelligence Agency, where in 2002 they became the architects of the most important interrogationprogram in the history of American counterterrorism.

They had never carried out a real interrogation, only mock sessions in the military training they had overseen. They had no relevant scholarship; their Ph.D. dissertations were on high blood pressure and family therapy. They had no language skills and no expertise on Al Qaeda.

But they had psychology credentials and an intimate knowledge of a brutal treatment regimen used decades ago by Chinese Communists. For an administration eager to get tough on those who had killed 3,000 Americans, that was enough.

May 22, 2009

Friday video not-so-fun — waterboarding is torture

Filed under: et.al., Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:32 pm

Looks like a conservative radio talk show host on the side of “waterboarding is not torture” put his money where his mouth is and took the test. After being waterboarded he declared unequivocally waterboarding is torture. Maybe a few more waterboarding defenders ought to undergo the procedure and see if they don’t have a change of heart.

And keep in mind this reaction is coming from someone in a very controlled situation with medical staff on hand and a “safe” device he could toss to end the waterboarding at any time (at around seven seconds in this case.)

For anyone who supports waterboarding terrorists and claims it isn’t torture (although U.S. and international law considers the procedure so) imagine one of your loved ones picked up by the police in a foreign country for seemingly no reason and repeatedly subjected to waterboarding. Would that be torture?

Here’s a clip of the torture and its aftermath:

May 15, 2009

Matt Welch on Obama and the torture photos

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:12 pm

The Reason magazine editor-in-chief pans the Obama administration move to not release any more torture photos at this time.

From today’s Reason Alert:

President Obama’s Flip-Flop on Torture Photos
President Obama has reversed course and decided not to release another batch of photos showing how prisoners were abused in Iraq. Reason magazine Editor-in-Chief Matt Welch writes,by lacking confidence to air this publicly, the U.S. missed an opportunity to send a powerful message to the world: Not only do we no longer torture (in both word and deed), we take that notion seriously enough to withstand a public relations hit as we fully exhume the ghosts of a dishonorable seven-year policy. In a region of autocratic, torturous governments, I daresay such a message could have surprising resonance among the people alleged to hate us most.”

May 14, 2009

Bush torture program — politics over protection?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:55 pm

Sadly, that may well be the case. It’s horrible that the Bush 43 regime overturned United States policy against torture, ostensibly to keep the nation safe from terror attacks. It’s an entirely new level of criminal to have done so in order to cook up information (proven to be false) to take this nation to war.

Inexcusable, anti-American and criminal. This is subversion of U.S. law at the highest level of government, the White House.

From the link:

At last, the torture debate looks to be heading toward what’s been the big question lurking in the background all along: was the Bush administration using torture in large part to make a political case for the invasion of Iraq?

Writing on The Daily Beast, former NBC producer Robert Windrem reports that in April 2003, Dick Cheney’s office suggested that interrogators waterboard an Iraqi detainee who was suspected of having knowledge of a link between Saddam and al Qaeda.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse was questioned on the issue today in two TV interviews. Speaking to CNN, Whitehouse allowed: “I have heard that to be true.” To MSNBC, he noted that there was additional evidence of this in the Senate Armed Services committee report, and from Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell. “This thing is just getting deeper and deeper,” said Whitehouse, noting that if it were true, it would significantly bolster the case for prosecutions.

April 23, 2009

Slow blogging and torture …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:41 pm

… this week. The continued bad to neutral economic news (don’t let the media pollyanna’s fool you) and the ongoing torture revelations have spent those subjects for me. At least for the remainder of this week. 

I’m tapped out on the torture story for the time being. I’ve been charting it longer than most of the media and blogosphere. The grim reality is it is as bad as could be imagined.

It was ongoing and systemic, poorly-drawn legal documents were created in attempt to provide legal cover after the fact, and it’s becoming fairly clear Cheney used torture to create false leads in the connection (none we now know) between Iraq and al-Qaeda. We went into a drastically costly on many fronts war based purely on the lies of the sitting vice president and his cronies.

And according to those in the know who aren’t in CYA mode right now, the torture produced no real, usable intelligence. The shame that will forever blot the Bush 43 regime is it knowingly overturned a non-torture policy of the United States of America that pre-existed the very existence of the USA. General George Washington instituted the policy during the Revolutionary War.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney overturned a directive from our first president, repeatedly lied about the program’s existence, attempted to cover up the war crimes and now administration offcials and GOP party hacks desperately attempt to defend these shameful and criminal actions.

History will not be kind to the Bush 43 regime.

April 22, 2009

Sanity on torture from the right

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:44 pm

This blockquote is taken from a much longer round-up on the torture reports, and is a very important point to consider when discussing the “merits” of torture.

I personally think anything gained by torture is far outweighed by the reprehensibleness of the practice, but since we’ve moved past debating if the Bush 43 regime tortured or not, and are now discussing whether a civilized nation ought to be torturing anyone, Manzi’s point is a breath of fresh air from some of the more strident voices on the right.

From the link:

At National Review, Jim Manzi waded into the “very serious ongoing [torture] debate here at The Corner” and writes that “my only contribution is that I don’t think this debate has defined ‘works’ properly.”

It seems to me that the real question is whether torture works strategically; that is, is the U.S. better able to achieve [its] objectives by conducting systematic torture as a matter of policy, or by refusing to do this?

When you ask the question this way, one obvious point stands out: we keep beating the torturing nations. The regimes in the modern world that have used systematic torture and directly threatened the survival of the United States — Nazi Germany, WWII-era Japan, and the Soviet Union — have been annihilated, while we are the world’s leading nation.

April 16, 2009

The reaction to the OLC torture memo release …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:44 pm

… from an unnamed Bush 43 regime official isn’t surprising even if it is disappointing.

From the link:

A former top official in the administration of President George W. Bush called the publication of the memos “unbelievable.”

“It’s damaging because these are techniques that work, and by Obama’s action today, we are telling the terrorists what they are,” the official said. “We have laid it all out for our enemies. This is totally unnecessary. … Publicizing the techniques does grave damage to our national security by ensuring they can never be used again — even in a ticking-time- bomb scenario where thousands or even millions of American lives are at stake.”

“I don’t believe Obama would intentionally endanger the nation, so it must be that he thinks either 1. the previous administration, including the CIA professionals who have defended this program, is lying about its importance and effectiveness, or 2. he believes we are no longer really at war and no longer face the kind of grave threat to our national security this program has protected against.”

Of course this is the lede Drudge ran with for his link to the Politico story. I’m going with option number one here. I seriously doubt Obama expects he’s put the nation at any higher risk than we already face. If there is proof these torture techniques work, maybe it would behoove those in the know to offer something other than, “We know best. Trust us.” Every bit of evidence that has come to light has exposed the torture produced nothing other than false leads, wasting precious resources chasing shadows.

And, of course, there’s that pesky war crime aspect to the techniques as well. And the overturning of U.S. policy dating back to the Revolutionary War.

We tortured

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:18 pm

Of course the United States public has known this for a long while, but seeing the actual memos from the highest levels of the Bush 43 regime really jabs the point home.

We, the United States of America, in a direct reversal of a non-torture policy implemented by the then General George Washington, who later became the first president of this nation, authorized the torture of another human being.

This singular act is easily the greatest betrayal of our national honor ever perpetrated by the executive branch. History will not be kind to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney or any other person involved in the Bush 43 regime who knew of these policies and remained silent.

Here is Andrew Sullivan on this dark dayin American history. He has kept the light shining on this travesty as well as anyone in the blogosphere and media.

From the link:

I do not believe that any American president has ever orchestrated, constructed or so closely monitored the torture of other human beings the way George W. Bush did. It is clear that it is pre-meditated; and it is clear that the parsing of torture techniques that you read in the report is a simply disgusting and repellent piece of dishonesty and bad faith. When you place it alongside the Red Cross’ debriefing of the torture victims, the fit is almost perfect. I say “almost” because even Jay Bybee, in this unprofessional travesty of lawyering, stipulates that these techniques might be combined successively in any ways that could cumulatively become torture even in his absurd redefinition of the term. And yet the ICRC report shows, as one might imagine, that outside these specious legalisms, such distinctions never hold in practice. And they didn’t. Human beings were contorted into classic stress positions used by the Gestapo; they had towels tied around their necks in order to smash their bodies against walls; they were denied of all sleep for up to eleven days and nights at a time; they were stuck in tiny suffocating boxes; they were waterboarded just as the victims of the Khmer Rouge were waterboarded. And through all this, Bush and Cheney had lawyers prepared to write elaborate memos saying that all of this was legal, constitutional, moral and not severe pain and suffering.

Bybee is not representing justice in this memo. He is representing the president. And the president is seeking to commit war crimes. And he succeeded. This much we now know beyond any reasonable doubt. It is a very dark day for this country, but less dark than every day since Cheney decided to turn the US into a torturing country until now.

April 7, 2009

Sully on torture, part two

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:40 pm

Here’s part one from November. Andrew Sullivan has long written about the U.S. implementation of torture, often a singular voice out in the void. His constant, and necessary, drumbeat helped to keep my focus on this shameful subject.

Now that details are coming to light about exactly what the Bush 43 regime perpetrated and what (if anything) was truly gained, this topic will become mainstream news.

Here’s Sully today on torture. He, Glenn Greenwald, the TPM gang and others deserve a lot of credit in continuing to pursue this difficult subject when the mainstream media either completely ignored torture, or worse used the Nazi-era euphemism preferred by the Bush team, “enhanced interrogation.”

From the second link:

I should be clear. I oppose all such torture as illegal and criminal and immoral even if tangible intelligence gains were included in the morass of lies and red herrings that we got. But if torture advocates really do insist that America needs to embrace this evil if it is to survive, then we need to see and judge the evidence that they keep pointing to off-stage. We need a real and thorough and definitive investigation. If Cheney is right, he has nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of. And the Congress should move to withdraw from the Geneva Conventions, withdraw from the UN Torture Treaty, amend domestic law to enshrine torture, and allow future presidents of the United States to torture suspects legally.

More sunlight please. Let us have this debate in full and in detail. And soon – before it is too late.

Medicine and torture

As more and more details on the Bush 43 administration’s unprecedented use of torture come to light, most Americans will experience increasing outrage  I’ve been blogging on the topic since essentially day one of this blog, and I’m still shocked by the level of deception administration officials presented Americans while violating the Constitution, United States law and international law.

Implementing torture is a stain on our history that must be brought into the open and dealt with. No less than the national honor of the United States is at stake.

This particular detail is one more heartbreaking element to an already soiled tale.

From the second link:

Medical personnel were deeply involved in the abusive interrogation of terrorist suspects held overseas by the Central Intelligence Agency, including torture, and their participation was a “gross breach of medical ethics,” a long-secret report by the International Committee of the Red Cross concluded.

And to make the unthinkable even worse:

Facilitating such practices, which the Red Cross described as torture, was a violation of medical ethics even if the medical workers’ intentions had been to prevent death or permanent injury, the report said. But it found that the medical professionals’ role was primarily to support the interrogators, not to protect the prisoners, and that the professionals had “condoned and participated in ill treatment.”

At times, according to the detainees’ accounts, medical workers “gave instructions to interrogators to continue, to adjust or to stop particular methods.”

March 29, 2009

Torture and (the lack of) intelligence

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:00 pm

Did we get any useful information from initiating systemic torture under the Bush 43 regime? Apparently not.

Cheney and his apparatchiks continue to insist that they got reliable and vital information from these torture sessions, but they can never verify it:

 

Since 2006, Senate intelligence committee members have pressed the CIA, in classified briefings, to provide examples of specific leads that were obtained from Abu Zubaida through the use of waterboarding and other methods, according to officials familiar with the requests. The agency provided none, the officials said.

We sold our souls for lies.

January 15, 2009

Where torture has led the US

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:58 pm

The US institution of torture under the Bush 43 regime is a subject I’ve done plenty of blogging about. I think overturning a policy of non-torture put into place by then General George Washington will be on the most prominent legacies, and worst black marks on any US president, for George W. Bush.

Here’s a rountable debate on the “Torture’s Blowback” from the New York Times.

From the second link:

Susan Crawford, the senior Pentagon official who dismissed charges against Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Guantánamo detainee, said in a published report on Wednesday that she had concluded that he had been tortured by interrogators. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution, Ms. Crawford told The Washington Post. We asked these experts — most of whom were in our previous debate on the legal challenges of closing Guantánamo — how this admission of torture might affect that closure and the prosecution of other detainees.

And following are portions of the discussion.

From

David Cole is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, and the author, most recently, of “Justice At War: The Men and Ideas That Shaped America’s ‘War on Terror,’” and the essay “Closing Guantanamo,” published in Boston Review:

Susan Crawford’s admission that Mohammed al-Qahtani was tortured, and that as a result she had to drop the military’s prosecution of a man thought to the 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 attacks illustrates just how costly the Bush administration’s short-sighted and immoral policies of coercive interrogation have been.

More than seven years later, it is not clear those practices have stopped any particular attack, but the Bush administration has yet to obtain a conviction against any of those behind the terrorist attacks.

From

Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor and author of “Willful Blindness: Memoir of the Jihad,” is legal affairs editor at National Review.:

As someone who has supported the military commission system, I must concede that it has performed abysmally, and Wednesday’s news reflects more of the same.

A short recap of its failings: The judge in the first military commission trial incorrectly instructed a jury on the definition of a “war crime” (a concept one would have thought rather basic to a “war crime” trial). The same judge gave the defendant — who had been a confidant and bodyguard of Osama bin Laden himself — a get-out-of-jail-free card. (I’ve been critical of various aspects of using the criminal justice system to counter terrorism, but one thing cannot be denied: terrorists convicted in our courts have gotten appropriately severe sentences — decades or more in prison.) Finally, a general in the appointing authority (the body that oversees the commission process) suggested that statements derived from waterboarding could be used as evidence.

And from

Diane Marie Amann is a professor of law and director of the California International Law Center at University of California, Davis. In December she observed Guantánamo military commissions proceedings on behalf of the National Institute of Military Justice:

Last month, I was in the gallery of the Guantánamo courtroom built for the trial of the 9/11 case. I saw six defense tables, but there were only five defendants. There had been no official explanation for the absence — until now. Susan Crawford’s conclusion that Mr. Qahtani, the sixth man, was tortured — confirming what anyone following military commission proceedings already assumed — raises anew questions about what effect illegal interrogations will have on this and other post-9/11 cases.

December 17, 2008

Greenwald v. Douthat on torture

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:35 pm

The Atlantic.com’s Ross Douthat contributed a very namby-pamby post to the news a bipartisan Senate report directly implicates a large portion of the Bush 43 administration — including the president himself — in the systematic use of torture and de facto commission of war crimes.

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald has been covering the report in detail this week and completely takes Douthat to task in this post.

There is no ambiguity in the report and it’s sad to see the right either just ignore it, try to discredit it or even attempt to justify the criminal acts of the Bush 43 regime.

From the link:

The Atlantic‘s Ross Douthat has a post today — “Thinking About Torture” — which, he acknowledges quite remarkably, is the first time he has “written anything substantial, ever, about America’s treatment of detainees in the War on Terror.”   He’s abstained until today due to what he calls “a desire to avoid taking on a fraught and desperately importantly (sic) subject without feeling extremely confident about my own views on the subject.”

I don’t want to purport to summarize what he’s written.  It’s a somewhat meandering and at times even internally inconsistent statement.  Douthat himself characterizes it as “rambling” — befitting someone who appears to think that his own lack of moral certainty and borderline-disorientation on this subject may somehow be a more intellectually respectable posture than those who simplistically express “straightforward outrage.”  In the midst of what is largely an intellectually honest attempt to describe the causes for his ambiguity, he actually does express some “straightforward outrage” of his own.  About the widespread abuse, he writes:  “it should be considered impermissible as well as immoral” and “should involve disgrace for those responsible, the Cheneys and Rumsfelds as well as the people who actually implemented the techniques that the Vice President’s office promoted and the Secretary of Defense signed off on.”

December 15, 2008

Senate report on torture fingers Bush

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:34 pm

As more information comes to light, these findings aren’t surprising. They are still very disturbing and against every principle of our nation’s history before Bush 43 took office.

From the Daily Dish link:

Last week, we reached some closure on a burning and controversial question that has occupied many for many years now. That is the simple question of who was responsible for the abuse, torture, rape and murder of prisoners in American custody in the war on terror, most indelibly captured by the photographic images of Abu Ghraib. The Senate’s bipartisan report, issued with no dissents, reiterates and adds factual context to what we already know. And there is no equivocation in the report.

The person who authorized all the abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib, the man who gave the green light to the abuses in that prison, is the president of the United States, George W. Bush.

November 22, 2008

Sully on torture

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:49 pm

Yep, he’s still on it and rightly so. The atrocities committed under the Bush 43 regime should never be repeated. We, as citizens of the United States of America, should make certain the rules of law and standards laid down by our founding fathers and our first president, George Washington, are carried out with grace, humility and strength.

Torture, even for the most evil amongst us, is never an option. It is a tool of the weak and frightened. The United States is neither.

From the link:

Even the word “torture” can be too vague and abstract a term. So let us state in plain English how Bush, Cheney, Tenet, et al. actually got information. They did it by subjecting prisoners to repeated drowning, or freezing, or heating, or sadistically long sleeplessness, or shackling or crucifying them until the pain could be borne no longer, or beating them until they pleaded for mercy, or threatening to kill or torture their children or wife or parents. Or all of the above in combination, in isolation, and with no surety of ever seeing the light of day again, with no right to meaningful due process of any kind, sometimes sealed off from light and sound for months at a time, or bombarded with indescribable noise day and night in cells from which there was no escape ever. This is what “under coercive conditions” actually means. It drove many of the victims into become mumbling, shaking, insane shells of human beings; it killed dozens; it drove others still to hunger strikes to try to kill themselves; and it terrified and scarred and “broke” the souls of many, many others. For what? Intelligence that cannot be trusted, and the loss of the sacred integrity of two centuries of American history. Did it save lives? We do not know. We do know that the people who are claiming it did have been unable to bring any serious case to justice based on their original claims, and are the people who are criminally responsible for the torture they have committed. Why would they not say it saved lives? And yet we have no other way to know. And we have the terrifying possibility that false information procured by torture provided a pretext to torture others in a self-perpetuating loop in which any ability to find out the actual truth is lost for ever. That, after all, is how some of the flawed intelligence that took us into Iraq was procured.

June 18, 2008

More on Bush 43 and torture

With Congress looking into the torture program of the Bush 43 regime, there’s plenty of news and analysis out there.

Here’s Spencer Ackerman at the Washington Independent:

In August 2004, a Defense Dept. panel convened to investigate detainee abuse after the Abu Ghraib scandal issued its much-anticipated report. Interrogation techniques designed for use at Guantanamo Bay, which President George W. Bush had decreed outside the scope of the Geneva Conventions, had “migrated” to Iraq, which Bush recognized was under Geneva, concluded panel chairman James Schlesinger, a former defense secretary. Schlesinger’s panel, however, did not explain which officials ordered the abusive techniques to transfer across continents — or how and why they became Pentagon policy in the first place.

Tuesday the Senate Armed Services Committee answered those questions. In a marathon hearing spanning eight hours and three separate panels, the committee revealed, in painstaking detail, how senior Pentagon officials transformed a program for Special Forces troops to resist torture — known as Survival Evasion Resistance Escape, or SERE — into a blueprint for torturing terrorism detainees.

The committee, chaired by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), released numerous classified documents from the crucial period of mid-2002 to early 2003, when the policies of abuse took shape inside the Defense Dept. “Senior officials in the United States government sought information on aggressive techniques, twisted the law to create the appearance of their legality and authorized their use against detainees,” Levin said. “In the process, they damaged our ability to collect intelligence that could save lives.”

And Scott Horton at Harper’s :

In a series of hearings, Congressional leaders are trying to get to the bottom of a simple question: who initiated torture techniques in the “war on terror”? What was the process by which it was done? On whose authority was it done? The use of torture techniques became a matter of public knowledge four years ago. In response to the initial disclosures, the Bush Administration first decided to spin the fable of a handful of “rotten apples” inside of a company of military police from Appalachia and scapegoated a handful of examples in carefully managed and staged show trials. When further disclosures out of Bagram and Guantánamo made this untenable, they spun a new myth, this time suggesting that the administration had responded to a plea from below for wider latitude.

In fact at this point the evidence is clear and convincing, and it points to a top-down process. Figures near the top of the administration decided that they wanted brutal techniques and they hammered them through, usually over strong opposition from the ranks of professionals.

Yesterday’s hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee helped make that point, and brought a new focus on a figure who has been lurking in the shadows of the controversy for some times: William J. Haynes II, Rumsfeld’s lawyer and now a lawyer for Chevron. Two things emerge from the hearing. First, that Haynes was effectively a stationmaster when it came to introducing torture techniques in the “war on terror,” circumventing opposition from career military and pushing through a policy of brutality and cruelty, by stealth when necessary. And second, that Haynes lacks the courage of his convictions, a willingness to stand up and testify honesty about what he did.

 

June 17, 2008

Bush 43 and torture

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:13 pm

Sully hits this one out of the park. It’s certainly fitting since the Daily Dish kept the specter of Bush’s policy on torture in the forefront.

From the link:

But why would they be punished when they are carrying out Bush policies? The president, meanwhile, continues what is either point-blank lying or terrifying denial:

“My only point to you is, is that yes, I mean, we certainly wish Abu Ghraib hadn’t happened, but that should not reflect America. This was the actions of some soldiers.”

The trouble with having someone with the rigid dry-drunk denial mechanisms of this president is that he simply cannot accept what he is: the first president in the history of the United States to have ordered his underlings to torture prisoners.

April 3, 2008

Domestic aspect to John Yoo’s torture memo

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:17 am

I’m sure the interested web surfer has found plenty of information about the now declassified “torture” memo authored by John Yoo.

Here’s a Boing Boing post oulining a chilling domestic aspect to the memo. The Bush 43 regime essentially gutted the Bill of Rights on US soil.

The post:

Bush administration: Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to domestic military operations

Danny sez, “Following on from the memo allowing torture overseas, Kurt Opsahl from EFF has spotted a footnoted reference to a memo from the Administration that says ‘our Office recently concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations.’ So, if you’re abroad and deemed an enemy combatant you can be tortured. If you’re in the US, and you’re caught up in a “military operation”, you lose the bill of rights. Where exactly is the constitution supposed to apply?” Link (Thanks, Danny!)

March 20, 2008

Why discussing the US and torture …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:24 pm

… is a debate worth both time and intellectual energy. In a previous post on US torture, there was (an all too short) debate on the United States use of torture, and particularly waterboarding, in the comments.

Do read the linked post and all the comments, but I’m going to include my final comment here because I feel it sums up my thoughts on the subject:

I would say elements of both the left and the right use the Global War on Terror (and all its attendant parts, including this issue) as a proxy for ideological arguments.

There are vocal elements of the left who want to do just what you wrote — shut down Gitmo, pull out of the Mideast, etc. And I’m pretty sure there’s parts of the right that would have no problem instituting full-blown, no questions asked systematic torture to attempt to pry information from captured combatants.

What I meant by not a left/right issue is, the topic under discussion — waterboarding and its role in the GWOT — transcends the ideological battles described above.

Certainly pretty much every one in opposition to the Bush administration is against our using the technique, and a number of administration supporters and members have publicly aired concerns as well. Yes, there’s a core of right wing support for waterboarding, but it is a controversial topic. Some people may make it a divisive issue, but the real debate is not inherently divisive.

As I quoted above, as recently as Vietnam our service members were court martialed for using that very technique. The technique may or not be torture, but we defined it as such for a long period of time.

September 11, 2001, created the change in that policy. As shocking as 9/11 was, at the highest levels of government it was not a complete surprise. We’ve known about bin Laden and al Qaeda for a long time, and knew he was plotting against our policies and person.

The question I ask is 9/11 and the subsequent framing of the GWOT worthy of throwing out a policy of non-torture that began during the Revolutionary War and was put into practice by George Washington?

I don’t think the technique is necessary to effectively prosecute the GWOT. I would particularly like to hear a sound justification from the administration why this change in policy was necessary and how it is effective. I’m sympathetic to needs of secrecy regarding the GWOT because there is a unique, and new, nature to the threats facing the US, but I also think this shift is so fundamental to our national heritage and image this debate should be conducted with much more transparency on both sides.

Sure waterboarding is a proxy for many things left and right, but it’s also a tangible and controversial issue.

You mention you feel I’m passing judgement after listening only to the prosecution. I feel I’ve read a wealth of material from sources on the left and right, and from journalism (biased or not) that presents facts. To date the pro-waterboarding side has not persuaded me that bin Laden and his minions require the US to radically change the way we approach the rest of the world militarily and legally. I think the America of September 10, 2001, was perfectly capable of handling the GWOT.

Sure that Tuesday morning I was blindingly angry. I was woken in a vacation condo on the beach in Panama City Beach, Florida, to hear the World Trade Center towers were both struck by planes. When the media began reporting celebrations in Afghanistan I immediately thought of bin Laden (didn’t think of al Qaeda per se, but I was aware of bin Laden pre-9/11). My next thought was we should nuke that country back from its then (and now) Middle Age society to the Stone Age, or maybe to time before humans walked in Afghanistan.

That was my heart. I feel no less strongly about Islamic terrorism today than I did at that moment. I do know I think the US did very well for itself before 9/11, and to me nothing occurred that warrants changing our fundamental approach to the world.

So that’s the question I ask, and the topic I’m discussing — does the GWOT make changing our core values necessary? Or worthwhile? For me, until I learn something completely new about the topic, the answer is no.

March 8, 2008

Bush 43’s legacy will be torture

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:04 pm

It’s no wonder Bush 41 cried when talking about his son’s presidency within the last year. Bush 43 is doing everything in his power to overturn a United States policy against torture that was put into place by George Washington during the Revolutionary War.

From the linked NYT article:

Bush Uses Veto on C.I.A. Tactics to Affirm Legacy

WASHINGTON — President Bush on Saturday further cemented his legacy of fighting for strong executive powers, using his veto to shut down a Congressional effort to limit the Central Intelligence Agency’s latitude to subject terrorism suspects to harsh interrogation techniques.Mr. Bush vetoed a bill that would have explicitly prohibited the agency from using interrogation methods like waterboarding, a technique in which restrained prisoners are threatened with drowning and that has been the subject of intense criticism at home and abroad. Many such techniques are prohibited by the military and law enforcement agencies.

February 1, 2008

It looks like torture …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:51 pm

… is getting the same multiple post treatment the Ron Paul newsletter scandal received.

I don’t see torture as a left/right issue, and I’m always amazed at the apologists coming from the right. This is a good example from the Corner.

A source I’ve left out of previous posts on the subject is this article published in the New Yorker last August.

This quote from the article echoes my thoughts. It comes from Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a critic of the Bush administration’s use of “harsh interrogation” techniques:

… the C.I.A.’s secret interrogation program, Senator Levin said, has undermined the public’s trust in American justice, both here and abroad. “A guy as dangerous as K.S.M. is, and half the world wonders if they can believe him—is that what we want?” he asked. “Statements that can’t be believed, because people think they rely on torture?”

(Update: to join a conversation on the subject leave a comment on this post)

January 31, 2008

Another take on US torture

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:35 pm

Here’s more on Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s testimony yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee from Scott Horton writing at Harper’s. It’s a great dissection from a legal philosophy bent.

From the article:

Watching Mukasey was a painful experience. What the public hoped for with his appointment was simple enough: that someone would occupy the office of attorney general who possessed integrity, common sense, independence and the basic skills that accompany a sound legal mind. The essence of what a lawyer owes his client is independent professional judgment.

Elihu Root, a close friend of Theodore Roosevelt’s and one of the titans of the New York Bar, put it bluntly and in terms that could not be better suited to the current predicament. “About half of the practice of a decent lawyer is telling would-be clients that they are damn fools and should stop.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee put Michael Mukasey to the test yesterday. And he left the hearing room as an embarrassment to those who have known and worked with him over the last twenty years, and who mistakenly touted his independence and commitment to do the right thing, come what may. On the other hand, Vice President Cheney, the principal author of the torture system, must be elated and relieved. Indeed, Cheney’s lawyer Shannen Coffin rushed to National Review Online to give Mukasey’s performance an enthusiastic seal of approval. Mukasey flunked the simple test that Elihu Root posed for all lawyers: he doesn’t have the gumption to tell the president that his torture program is unlawful and needs to be shutdown. Moreover, he’s fully bought in to the cover-up.

From all accounts Mukasey, as described above, was considered an independent and strong legal intellect. The equivocation over torture coming time and again from various members of the Bush 43 administration, and now Mukasey, makes you start to wonder what exactly they now know.

It’s an old dodge to get someone into a difficult position by allowing them information that must be kept secret or their head might be served up on a platter as well.

If this subject if of any interest to you I heartily recommend reading the entire article linked at the beginning of the post. Let’s just say Horton sums things up with, by all appearances the current US stance on torture is it’s fine when we do it, bad when other countries do it. Comically playground-style reasoning, but very depressing since it seems to be current US policy.

January 30, 2008

The US and torture

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:33 pm

This post from TPM Muckraker does a nice job of illustrating just exactly where the United States stands vis-a-vis torture.

This subject is a part of a dark period in US policy following 9/11, and will possibly stand as the true legacy of the Bush 43 regime. John Negroponte, the former Director of National Intelligence, has already gone on the record admitting we did utilize the torture technique of waterboarding.

(more…)

November 5, 2010

Creating terrorists — here comes the science …

Looks like “taking the fight” to the terrorists on their turf to keep them from coming here is a fairly flawed strategy. Studies on phase transition show that action only serves to create many more terrorists than would ordinarily be running around as bad actors (and not in the emoting sense.)

From the link:

Feedback loops are interesting because they lead to nonlinear behavior, where the ordinary intuitive rules of cause and effect no longer apply. So a small increase in one type of behavior can lead to a massive increase in another. In the language of physics, a phase transition occurs.

Sure enough, that’s exactly what happens in August’s model. They show that for various parameters in their model, a small increase in the removal rate of active radicals generates a massive increase in passive supporters, providing an almost limitless pool from which to recruit more active radicals.

What this model describes, of course, is the cycle of violence that occurs in so many of the world’s trouble spots.

That has profound implications for governments contemplating military intervention that is likely to cause “collateral damage.” If you replace the term “active radical” with “terrorist” then a clear prediction of this model is that military intervention creates the conditions in which terrorism flourishes.

They say that this feedback loop can halted only if the removal of terrorists can be achieved without the attendant radicalizing side effects. As August and colleagues put it: “if this happened practically without casualties, fatalities, applying torture or committing terroristic acts against the local population.”

This is an interesting approach. It clearly shows that public opinion and behavior can change dramatically in ways that are difficult to predict.

 

September 11, 2010

Remember

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:46 am

That image is not easy to look at, but I think it’s important to remember what it meant for America and to protect this date from demagogues and politicization. This event brought international terrorism to U.S. soil in a manner that dwarfed all previous attempts, and in consequence it, at least for a while, united all citizens of America.

The aftermath of what happened to U.S. polity and policy after 9/11 can be debated, but for a few weeks in September 2001, this was truly a nation united.

Here is bit from a comment on a blog post of mine from February 2, 2008 (the post from January 31) on how I felt on September 11, 2001:

Sure that Tuesday morning I was blindingly angry. I was woken in a vacation condo on the beach in Panama City Beach, Florida, to hear the World Trade Center towers were both struck by planes. When the media began reporting celebrations in Afghanistan I immediately thought of bin Laden (didn’t think of al Qaeda per se, but I was aware of bin Laden pre-9/11). My next thought was we should nuke that country back from its then (and now) Middle Age society to the Stone Age, or maybe to time before humans walked in Afghanistan.

That was my heart. I feel no less strongly about Islamic terrorism today than I did at that moment. I do know I think the US did very well for itself before 9/11, and to me nothing occurred that warrants changing our fundamental approach to the world.

February 15, 2010

Dick Cheney admits to being a war criminal

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:11 am

Cheney openly declared himself a “big supporter of waterboarding.”

Waterboarding is considered torture under U.S. and international law, and the imposition of, or ordering from a leadership position of, torture constitutes a war crime.

There is no possibility Cheney was confused and didn’t realize he was admitting to criminal activity. He clearly is either playing chicken with the Obama Justice Department on the potential for legal action on his admission, or he’s truly gone around the bend and sees himself far enough above the law that legal statutes no longer apply to to his activities.

At any rate I doubt he travels to many first world nations around the globe for the rest of his days.

From the link, Andrew Sullivan on this admission:

The question is therefore not if, but when, he is convicted as a war criminal – in his lifetime or posthumously.

In fact, the attorney general of the United States is legally obliged to prosecute someone who has openly admitted such a war crime or be in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention on Torture. For Eric Holder to ignore this duty subjects him too to prosecution. If the US government fails to enforce the provision against torture, the UN or a foreign court can initiate an investigation and prosecution.

These are not my opinions and they are not hyperbole. They are legal facts. Either this country is governed by the rule of law or it isn’t. Cheney’s clear admission of his central role in authorizing waterboarding and the clear evidence that such waterboarding did indeed take place means that prosecution must proceed.

Cheney himself just set in motion a chain of events that the civilized world must see to its conclusion or cease to be the civilized world. For such a high official to escape the clear letter of these treaties and conventions, and to openly brag of it, renders such treaties and conventions meaningless.

February 5, 2010

Google Chrome 4.0 running slow?

Filed under: et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:52 am

After Google recently released the stable 4.0 version of Chrome I noticed a ridiculous amount of lag at times — scrolling was slowed to a crawl and typing into any text boxes (including creating blog posts in WordPress) was torture. The typed text was entering at something like a character per second or so. Just unacceptable.

The fix for me — at least so far so good — was pretty simple. I just cleared the browser cache. If your Chrome browser installation is feeling sluggish, I’d try this before doing anything else too drastic.

(Note: updated 7-2-10, the steps below apply to Chrome 5.0, update 9/11/10, same steps apply to Chrome 6.0. They still hold true for v.7.)

  • Click on the wrench (top right of browser window) and choose “options”
  • Click on “Under the Hood” (the right tab)
  • Click on “Clear Browsing Data”
  • From there you have a checklist of things you can delete — Clear Browsing History, Clear Download History, Empty the Cache, etc. — I unchecked everything but “Empty the Cache” and in the “Clear data from this period:” action menu I chose “Everything.”

Simple and has worked wonders. Chrome is back to its speedy browsing self again.

December 2, 2009

Obama’s Af-Pak speech

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:56 pm

I don’t have too much of an immediate reaction other than to say it’s a good sign both political extremes are for the most part very unhappy with the plan.

Here’s the text of the speech:

Good evening. To the United States Corps of Cadets, to the men and women of our armed services, and to my fellow Americans: I want to speak to you tonight about our effort in Afghanistan–the nature of our commitment there, the scope of our interests, and the strategy that my Administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion. It is an honor for me to do so here–at West Point–where so many men and women have prepared to stand up for our security, and to represent what is finest about our country.

To address these issues, it is important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, nineteen men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people. They struck at our military and economic nerve centers. They took the lives of innocent men, women, and children without regard to their faith or race or station. Were it not for the heroic actions of the passengers on board one of those flights, they could have also struck at one of the great symbols of our democracy in Washington, and killed many more.

(head below the fold for the rest … ) (more…)

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