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.

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.

October 1, 2009

Torturing the innocent

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:44 pm

It happened, all for the purpose of false confessions. Read the linked article and realize for almost nine-tenths of the time the Bush 43 administration held the White House this was the United States. A United States of America completely unrecognizable to the Founding Fathers of this land.

(Hat tip: the Daily Dish)

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?

September 3, 2009

NYT calls for Cheney’s scalp

Well not quite, but pretty darn close. This New York Times editorial is asking for far reaching investigation into the Bush 43 torture regime and specifically calls out Dick Cheney for his self-admitted role in this disgraceful period of United States history.

Quite a turnaround from a newspaper that notoriously refused to use the word “torture” with U.S. activities for many, many years.

From the first link:

After the C.I.A. inspector general’s report on prisoner interrogation was released last week, former Vice President Dick Cheney settled into his usual seat on Fox News to express his outrage — not at the illegal and immoral behavior laid out in the report, of course, but at the idea that anyone would object to torturing prisoners. He was especially vexed that the Obama administration was beginning an investigation.

In Mr. Cheney’s view, it is not just those who followed orders and stuck to the interrogation rules set down by President George Bush’s Justice Department who should be sheltered from accountability. He said he also had no problem with those who disobeyed their orders and exceeded the guidelines.

It’s easy to understand Mr. Cheney’s aversion to the investigation that Attorney General Eric Holder ordered last week. On Fox, Mr. Cheney said it was hard to imagine it stopping with the interrogators. He’s right.

The government owes Americans a full investigation into the orders to approve torture, abuse and illegal, secret detention, as well as the twisted legal briefs that justified those policies. Congress and the White House also need to look into illegal wiretapping and the practice of sending prisoners to other countries to be tortured.

Mr. Cheney was at the center of each of these insults to this country’s Constitution, its judicial system and its bedrock democratic values. To defend himself, he offers a twisted version of history:

Update — The Daily Dish ran a post today clarifying that the main issue is the NYT news department, and not the editorial board, avoiding the word “torture” in context of U.S. activities that amount to, well, torture.

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 21, 2009

Obama and Cheney, dueling speeches

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:23 pm

I’m betting many elected GOP figures just wish Dick Cheney would head back to a secret location — any secret location — and stay out of the news.

Obama gives a speech on national security outlining his plan to keep America safe:

President Obama kicked off the debate with a far-reaching speech about the expanse and limits of the office of the presidency, defending decisions he’s already made that reverse his predecessor’s policies and also those upholding others. Addressing critics from the right and left, Mr. Obama didn’t back down from his plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center nor did he shrink from his refusal to release more photographs of abused prisoners.

He accused some critics of fear-mongering, of stoking the public’s anxieties over terrorism and without mentioning names, castigated officials of the previous administration for an “anything goes” mindset that permitted torture and a vastly broad view of executive authority. He relied in words and visual imagery on the historical documents displayed around him – the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.

Immediately following Obama’s speech looking toward the future and outlining a clear plan of action that represents a return to a United States once again walking softly, but carrying a big stick, Dick Cheney hits the airwaves looking not to the future, but the past. September 11 to be exact, reminding the world that the worst terrorist attack on the domestic U.S. happened under the Bush 43 watch.

He’s clearly scrambling, but he’s certainly not helping his party and he’s undermining the sitting president in ways I’m guessing he’d consider actionable if it were occurring when he and Bush were in office. The hypocrisy is not lost on the American public.

Cheney’s reputation is in shambles, he is more likely than not to face war crime charges in either U.S. or international courts and he is basically taking a large dump on the tattered remains on the Republican Party. The leftover rump might take it and ask for a little more, but every time Cheney attempts to defend the Bush 43 regime a few more holdout center-right voters turn their backs on the GOP.

From the same link above:

In line after line, Mr. Cheney drew upon the horrific imagery of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 as though they had occurred just yesterday. While commending Mr. Obama for a new Afghanistan war strategy, he accused the president of faulting and mischaracterizing Bush practices. Indeed, Mr. Cheney added as a prelude to his lengthy speech, so much so that Mr. Obama “deserved an answer.” Mr. Cheney continued to insist that the harsh interrogation methods now opposed by the president were successful in thwarting more assaults against the United States. And he argued that “seven and a half years without a repeat is not a record to be rebuked and scorned, much less criminalized. It is a record to be continued until danger has passed.”

Here’s links to both speeches — The Obama transcript. The Cheney transcript.

May 18, 2009

The latest on the Bush 43 “war on terror”

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:09 pm

The rabbit hole becomes more deep, more dark and more criminal.

From the link:

Worthington told TPMmuckraker that the information came from transcripts of al-Karim’s combatant status review, which he has examined.

There’s no direct evidence that al-Karim was tortured. But given what we know about interrogation techniques at Guantanamo, it certainly can’t be ruled out. And if nothing else, al-Karim’s clear belief that he was brought to Gitmo in 2002 to give information about Iraq suggests just how focused on Saddam’s regime interrogators were during that period.

It’s also worth noting that looking for information about the Iraqi army is not the same as looking for information about Saddam’s links to al Qaeda, since such information presumably had a military use, rather than just a political one. But nor is it the same as looking for information that could thwart another terror attack, which is how torture defenders prefer to portray what the program did.

Update: Even more fuel on the growing fire

Then-Vice President Dick Cheney, defending the invasion of Iraq, asserted in 2004 that detainees interrogated at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp had revealed that Iraq had trained al Qaida operatives in chemical and biological warfare, an assertion that wasn’t true.Cheney’s 2004 comments to the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News were largely overlooked at the time. However, they appear to substantiate recent reports that interrogators at Guantanamo and other prison camps were ordered to find evidence of alleged cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein — despite CIA reports that there were only sporadic, insignificant contacts between the militant Islamic group and the secular Iraqi dictatorship.

May 16, 2009

Dick Cheney and the Constitution

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:41 pm

Sully, as usual, nails it.

From the link:

America is not by virtue of being America somehow immune from the same evil that has occurred throughout human history; and the human beings running the American government are no more and no less human than those who controlled ghastly regimes in the past.

In fact, the American constitution makes no sense unless you see this. The founders assumed that Americans are as bad and as good as anyone else; and that therefore the rule of law and constitutional checks and balances are our only guarantee against tyranny. When the Cheney wing of the GOP asserts that the executive has the capacity to do anything to anyone outside the constitution and the law, and that it is also empowered to use torture to acquire “intelligence”, then the entire ballgame is over. You have given a few people the power to destroy others without due process and to create reality to buttress their power. If Democrats had done this, rule of law conservatives would have exhibited no less outrage than I have.

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 24, 2009

Right v. wrong

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:33 pm

These are the actual sides in the current discussion on torture– particularly the waterboarding technique which is defined as torture by every legal authority aside from the discredited memos created by the Bush 43 regime’s OLC.

The coda to the linked post:

… this is a defining moment for America. This is not now and never has been a question of right versus left. It is right vs wrong. It is a bright line which the black-and-white crowd has suddenly decided is oh-so-gray. But we have their testimony now. And history has it for ever.

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 9, 2009

Bush 43 truth commission

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:05 am

Talk of some type of truth commission looking into the Bush 43 administration’s use of torture is gaining currency. Particularly now that an international court has opened a probe into possible war crimes authorized by the Bush legal team.

Politico’s “The Arena” asked the question, “Legal commentator Stuart Taylor has proposed a Senate committee probe led by John McCain into Bush administration interrogation practices. Good idea? If not, what’s yours? On that subject, should the administration protest a Spanish investigation begun recently?”

The answers were varied and interesting.

Here’s a small sample from the second link.

Nothing surprising here:

Christine Pelosi, Attorney, author and Democratic activist:

We say the United States does not torture. Let’s prove it. A bipartisan, bicameral House-Senate effort by the key committees of jurisdiction to hold public hearings into the Bush practices and Obama proposals will suffice. They can operate independently as they currently do on the budget, the wars, and the TARP, or they could work together to consolidate witnesses and resources as the joint House-Senate Intelligence committees did after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Either way, they can start with a review of the alleged torture-authorizing memosauthored by Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel and other data at the heart of the matter that are currently being withheld by the Obama administration under secrecy and immunity claims. This oversight is Congress doing its job by and for the American people. We don’t need a special committee or a Spanish inquisition – just good old fashioned American accountability.

Pragmatic and reasonable:

Mickey Edwards, Princeton lecturer and former Republican congressman:

The issues involved — and they go far beyond interrogation and rendition — should be investigated in “the regular order

It’s not a matter of investigating the activities of “the Bush Administration,” a characterization that trivializes the question by turning it into a partisan issue, but of examining whether the United States government was guilty of misconduct and whether the executive branch violated the Constitution.
Viewing the issue in partisan or Administration-specific terms creates a predictably partisan choosing of sides.

The issues involved — and they go far beyond interrogation and rendition — should be investigated in “the regular order” either by appropriate legislative committees, performing their proper oversight duties, or by an ad hoc bipartisan legislative committee with co-chairs from the two political parties. In other words, the Congress should, at long last, do its job.

As for my fellow Republicans who oppose such an investigation, what can be said? Have we, who were the voice of limited government and the Constitution, now become the protectors of government, shielding it from the people and defending its abuses? Have we now become the very enemy we feared? Have we finally abandoned any pretense of being a party of principle? So it would appear.

And here’s a classic misdirection. What was that question again?

Bradley A. Blakeman, Republican strategist, consultant, entrepreneur:

On another note: Cuba visit just PR

I am sickened by the love fest that occurred between the Dictator Brothers, Raul and Fidel Castro and members of the Congressional Black Caucus who just returned from Cuba. They were taken in by these despots and sung their praises in Cuba and on their return to America. They are nothing but dupes, who were played like a fiddle by a regime who is brutal to their people. Their visit is nothing but a propaganda bonanza for Cuba’s internal and external uses. I assume they are planning their next tax payer paid junket to visit Chavez of Venezuela and Kin Jong il of North Korea.

It’s worth the time to go check out all the reactions, proposals, answers and non-answers from the various respondents.

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 28, 2009

The wheels of justice creak …

… a little farther forward.

That line that Bush 43 officials might not want to travel overseas? It’s becoming reality. At some point the highest levels of U.S. jurisprudence will have to look into the fact of Bush administration war crimes.

From the link:

Spain’s national newspapers, El País and Público reported that the Spanish national security court has opened a criminal probe focusing on Bush Administration lawyers who pioneered the descent into torture at the prison in Guantánamo. The criminal complaint can be examined here. Públicoidentifies the targets as University of California law professor John Yoo, former Department of Defense general counsel William J. Haynes II (now a lawyer working for Chevron), former vice presidential chief-of-staff David Addington, former attorney general and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, now a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and former Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith.

The case was opened in the Spanish national security court, the Audencia Nacional. In July 2006, the Spanish Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a former Spanish citizen who had been held in Guantánamo, labeling the regime established in Guantánamo a “legal black hole.” The court forbade Spanish cooperation with U.S. authorities in connection with the Guantánamo facility. The current criminal case evolved out of an investigation into allegations, sustained by Spain’s Supreme Court, that the Spanish citizen had been tortured in Guantánamo.

Andrew Sullivan makes a point on exactly what this means:

More ominous for Yoo and Addington et al is that the judge involved is the one who nailed Pinochet. That dude doesn’t mess around. Spain’s action means these war criminals are vulnerable in 24 European countries for arrest and prosecution for enabling torture. It’s a start.

March 15, 2009

Dick Cheney scrambles …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:15 pm

… for a desperate CYA move.

The man has admitted to war crimes and hopes beyond hope for a terrorist attack to stave off the inevitable prosecution for those crimes.

This should be shouted down by the GOP with full force. But it won’t be.

From the link:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday again asserted that President Obama has made the country less safe, arguing that the new administration’s changes to detention and interrogation programs for suspected terrorists would hamper intelligence gathering.

March 6, 2009

A conservative on the truth commission

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:55 am

Daniel Larison,  blogger at The American Conservative, offers his take on the theoretical truth commission to look into war crimes and abuses of the Bush 43 regime in the name of the “war on terror.”

From the link:

Naturally, then, the main objections to the truth commission Sen. Leahy has been trying to organize are that it will be highly politicized and will be nothing more than a witch hunt. Of course, the use of the phrase “witch hunt” today implies a hunt in pursuit of something that does not exist, while we are fairly certain that there were criminals in the outgoing administration who have thus far escaped the appropriate sanctions of the law. The best argument that witnesses testifying against the idea of forming a commission seem to have had is that the abuses of power and crimes in question are not as numerous as they were under Pinochet and apartheid. Now that’s a claim to moral authority.

February 14, 2009

Obama, truth commissions, rendition and transparency

Here is a long, but interesting, roundup of opinion on how the Obama administration is handling the misdeeds, and possible criminal behavior, of the Bush 43 administration, and transparency in the DOJ and counterterrorism policy.

All of this will be points of discussion for a long while.

Bush team members will have a domestic axe over their collective heads until something definitive is worked out by the Obama administration regarding war crimes that were committed. These same officials will always have an international axe dangling loosely. I’m guessing quite a few can’t travel to a number of European countries lest they get nabbed and hauled to the Hague for trial.

Transparency, the Department of Justice and counterterrorism policy will always be a politcal football regardless which party is in power and setting policy.

If these subjects interest you it’s worth the time to hit this link and read Tobin Harshaw’s extensive roundup of bloggy goodness. Lots of opinions and good arguments, and if you’re really into the topics there are links galore to even more of the same.

Here’s Harshaw’s lede:

While President Obama has made it pretty clear he’d like to move on, the idea of prosecuting members of the Bush administration for its counterterrorism programs and other alleged misdeeds refuses to die. Rep. John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who heads the House Judiciary Committee, has been making noises about investigations and criminal charges for a while and now Patrick Leahy, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has called for a “truth commission” — a “a person or group of people universally recognized as fair minded, and without axes to grind” with a “straightforward mission … to find the truth.”

Well, before we set out in search of axeless Washingtonians, a rare breed indeed, let’s discuss all the options. Leahy’s idea is probably along the lines of what Jack Balkin of Yale Law School recommended in a Times Op-Ed article last month: “create presidential commissions and Congressional oversight hearings on various subjects: detention and interrogation practices, extraordinary rendition, reform of military commissions and reform of surveillance practices. These different commissions have different objects and functions; a single truth commission could not begin to address them all.”

For some on the left, this is soft stuff. Sharing the page with Balkin, Dahlia Lithwick wrote that “Some commentators have suggested that any such truth commission should promise immunity or a pardon in exchange for truthful testimony, but I believe that if it becomes clear that laws were broken, or that war crimes were committed, a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate further.”

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.

January 12, 2009

Newsflash — Bush admits mistakes

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:19 pm

If he actually owned up to every single goof, error in judgement and criminal act, the presser would last a couple of days.

From the link:

“Clearly putting a “Mission Accomplished” banner on an aircraft carrier was a mistake,” the president said, referring to his 2003 speech on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln as it returned home from its mission in Iraq. “It sent the wrong message; we were trying to say something differently but nevertheless it conveyed a different message.”

December 24, 2008

Dick Cheney, self-avowed war criminal

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:50 pm

I don’t see how these comments fail to create serious legal implications for Cheney and the rest of the Bush 43 team.

Possibly the group could be exonerated given the gravity and uniqueness of the situation, but I doubt it. Many countries other than the US deal with much higher levels of terrorism and don’t resort breaking international law.

From the link:

Mr. Cheney, by contrast, is unbowed, defiant to the end. He called the Supreme Court “wrong” for overturning Bush policies on detainees at Guantánamo Bay; criticized his successor, Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.; and defended the harsh interrogation technique called waterboarding, considered by many legal authorities to be torture.

“I feel very good about what we did,” the vice president told The Washington Times, adding, “If I was faced with those circumstances again, I’d do exactly the same thing.”

The difference in tone, friends and advisers say, reflects a split over Mr. Bush’s second-term foreign policy, which Mr. Cheney resisted as too dovish. It also reveals their divergent approaches to post-White House life. Mr. Bush, who is planning a public policy center in Dallas, is trying to shape his legacy by offering historians a glimpse of his thinking, while Mr. Cheney, primarily concerned about the terrorist threat, is setting the stage for a role as a standard-bearer for conservatives on national security.

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.”

November 13, 2008

Bush 43 regime and post-office executive privilege

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:13 pm

There is a historical precedent for presidents using executive privilege after leaving office, but legally the ground is pretty shaky.

I think Bush and his entire administration would be doing this at their own peril because the threat for international war crime prosecution is very, very real. And if a Democratic Congress decides Bush is stonewalling them one time too many, I doubt he finds much support in DC to protect every member of the Bush 43 regime.

I’ve already seen calls from the right to look into torture and other war crime policies put into practice by Bush. Our nation deserves no less because we remain a democratic nation of laws, domestic and international.

From the link:

The New York Times today raises the notion that after leaving office, George W. Bush may claim that executive privilege still applies, allowing him and members of his administration to continue to frustrate Congressional efforts to gain access to information on issues ranging from harsh interrogation tactics to the U.S. Attorney firings scandal.

Congressional Democrats, as well as outside watchdog groups, say they are determined to go on pursuing investigations into Bush administration malfeasance on these and other matters.

The Timesexplains that if Barack Obama, after taking office, decides to release information from his predecessor’s tenure, Bush could file a lawsuit claiming executive privilege. The dispute would likely go to the Supreme Court, and there appears to be little precedent that would guide a ruling.

Harry Truman made such a post-hoc claim of executive privilege in 1953, when subponaed to testify before a congressional committee about why he had appointed a suspected communist to the IMF. The committee backed down, meaning the claim became a historical precedent — and was subsequnetly invoked by Richard Nixon, while still president in 1973, when he refused to cooperate with the committee investigating Watergate.

But a lawyer who helped hastily put together the argument on Truman’s behalf today tells the Times: “I think, legally, we wrong.”

March 29, 2008

Sully, Bush and war crimes

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:14 pm

Andrew Sullivan opines about the Bush 43 regime and war crimes. What has occurred under the auspices of the US government over the last six and half years is a national tragedy. I’ve written many times on my stance about our execution of the “war on terror.” 

Anyone hoping for war crime charges against any administration official ought not hold their breath. Of course some of these officials may find their travel options a bit limited as more evidence comes to light.

From the Daily Dish link (in first graf, first sentence):

I posted about Philip Gourevitch’s and Erroll Morris’s superb and disturbing recent piece on Abu Ghraib here. What it shows once again is how Abu Ghraib was never, ever an exception. It was permitted, enabled, authorized and pre-meditated by Bush, Cheney, Yoo, Rumsfeld, Miller, and Addington, among many others. The techniques testified to correspond with chilling accuracy to techniques authorized by the president, for which we now have overwhelming evidence. Scott Horton reminds us what exactly some of the techniques were:

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