David Kirkpatrick

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.

August 30, 2009

Taking a power sander to his legacy …

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:17 pm

Dick Cheney returns to the public sphere.

He may well avoid any legal problems related to his torture program breaking both United States and international law, but Cheney is certainly cementing his place in history. And it’s not going to be in the American hero section of the library.

From the link:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney asserted on Sunday that the Justice Department’s decision to review detainee interrogation practices by Central Intelligence Agency workers and contractors was “a political move” and that President Obama was trying to “duck the responsibility” by saying the choice was the attorney general’s.

From John Kerry:

Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee and also a decorated Vietnam veteran, responded more bluntly on ABC’s “This Week,” saying that Mr. Cheney had shown through the years “frankly, a disrespect for the Constitution, for sharing of information with Congress, respect for the law, and I’m not surprised that he is upset about this.”

And from John McCain:

Mr. McCain’s sharpest departure from Mr. Cheney came in his criticism of the C.I.A.’s use of extreme interrogation methods, even as Mr. Cheney again insisted that they had provided critical, life-saving intelligence. The senator, a frequent critic of torture, said that such techniques violated the Geneva convention on torture, damaged United States relations with allies, substantially aided al-Qaeda with its recruitment and produced unreliable intelligence.

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 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 28, 2009

Douthat’s debut

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:39 am

Ross Douthat’s first New York Times column is up. He was formerly blogging at the Atlantic from the right and replaced Bill Kristol as the NYT’s conservative voice.

His first gambit is a little bold in that he’ll likely draw some scorn from the far right looking for any excuse to brand him as a squishy shill imported by the liberal NYT for watered-down right wing views.

Like most of his previous work, I agreed in part and disagreed in part, but overall enjoyed the op-ed. Of course the premise of the column is ridiculous for a  number of reasons. Hit the link for the whole thing. It’s only an op-ed, so it’s short.

From the link:

As a candidate, Cheney would have doubtless been as disciplined and ideologically consistent as McCain was feckless. In debates with Barack Obama, he would have been as cuttingly effective as he was in his encounters with Joe Lieberman and John Edwards in 2000 and 2004 respectively. And when he went down to a landslide loss, the conservative movement might – might! – have been jolted into the kind of rethinking that’s necessary if it hopes to regain power.

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 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.

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 20, 2009

The legal floodgates are open …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:00 am

… for the criminal activities of the Bush 43 years. Look for much more jurisprudence in the coming months and years.

From the link:

A federal judge has rejected a defense contractor’s claims that it cannot be sued by alleged torture victims at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Arlington, Va.-based CACI (KA’-kee) had claimed it was immune from the lawsuit because it was only providing interrogators as the government required. The company also said the case implicates policy questions too sensitive for litigation.

March 18, 2009

Wilkerson on Cheney

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:46 pm

I’ve already posted on Andrew Sullivan’s reaction to this great piece by Lawrence Wilkerson on the ridiculousness of Gitmo, and the Bush 43 regime’s “intelligence” tactics.

He also took on Dick Cheney’s recent interview with CNN and pretty much rips it to shreds. Wilkerson is someone in a position to understand the internals of the Bush administration since  he was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

From the second link:

Recently, in an attempt to mask some of these failings and to exacerbate and make even more difficult the challenge to the new Obama administration, former Vice President Cheney gave an interview from his home in McLean, Virginia. The interview was almost mystifying in its twisted logic and terrifying in its fear-mongering.

As to twisted logic: “Cheney said at least 61 of the inmates who were released from Guantanamo (sic) during the Bush administration…have gone back into the business of being terrorists.” So, the fact that the Bush administration was so incompetent that it released 61 terrorists, is a valid criticism of the Obama administration? Or was this supposed to be an indication of what percentage of the still-detained men would likely turn to terrorism if released in future? Or was this a revelation that men kept in detention such as those at GITMO–even innocent men–would become terrorists if released because of the harsh treatment meted out to them at GITMO? Seven years in jail as an innocent man might do that for me. Hard to tell.

As for the fear-mongering: “When we get people who are more interested in reading the rights to an Al Qaeda (sic) terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry,” Cheney said. Who in the Obama administration has insisted on reading any al-Qa’ida terrorist his rights? More to the point, who in that administration is not interested in protecting the United States–a clear implication of Cheney’s remarks.

But far worse is the unmistakable stoking of the 20 million listeners of Rush Limbaugh, half of whom we could label, judiciously, as half-baked nuts. Such remarks as those of the former vice president’s are like waving a red flag in front of an incensed bull. And Cheney of course knows that.

Cheney went on to say in his McLean interview that “Protecting the country’s security is a tough, mean, dirty, nasty business. These are evil people and we are not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek.” I have to agree but the other way around. Cheney and his like are the evil people and we certainly are not going to prevail in the struggle with radical religion if we listen to people such as he.

Sully on Cheney

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:35 pm

Sullivan sees both evil and incompetence. Can’t say I disagree.

There’s one semi-plausible/semi-joking theory on Cheney. I first read it in the New Republic a ways back in an article by Michelle Cottle. There’s a condition known as “pump head syndrome” that afflicts people who have undergone surgery where your circulation is taken over by machines and blood is pumped into your body with a different level of force than typical. Some people have very debilitating effects from this process. It’s possible that Cheney — and Bill Clinton for that matter — suffers from pump head, thereby explaining the gross incompetence, the evil and the outright lack of concern for anything beyond his narrow, narrow goals.

From the first link:

The torture of individuals whose guilt or innocence is unknown is the mark of barbarism. The treatment of human beings as sub-human is equally the mark of the forces of anti-civilization. From the beginning in this struggle against evil, Cheney has been, as he proudly declares, on the dark side. And operating from within.

His post was built on this quote from Lawrence Wilkerson:

The fourth unknown is the ad hoc intelligence philosophy that was developed to justify keeping many of these people, called the mosaic philosophy. Simply stated, this philosophy held that it did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance (this general philosophy, in an even cruder form, prevailed in Iraq as well, helping to produce the nightmare at Abu Ghraib). All that was necessary was to extract everything possible from him and others like him, assemble it all in a computer program, and then look for cross-connections and serendipitous incidentals–in short, to have sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified.

Thus, as many people as possible had to be kept in detention for as long as possible to allow this philosophy of intelligence gathering to work. The detainees’ innocence was inconsequential. After all, they were ignorant peasants for the most part and mostly Muslim to boot.

Here’s more from the Wilkerson link:

Another unknown, a part of the fabric of the foregoing four, was the sheer incompetence involved in cataloging and maintaining the pertinent factors surrounding the detainees that might be relevant in any eventual legal proceedings, whether in an established court system or even in a kangaroo court that pretended to at least a few of the essentials, such as evidence.

Simply stated, even for those two dozen or so of the detainees who might well be hardcore terrorists, there was virtually no chain of custody, no disciplined handling of evidence, and no attention to the details that almost any court system would demand. Falling back on “sources and methods” and “intelligence secrets” became the Bush administration’s modus operandi to camouflage this grievous failing.

But their ultimate cover was that the struggle in which they were involved was war and in war those detained could be kept for the duration. And this war, by their own pronouncements, had no end. For political purposes, they knew it certainly had no end within their allotted four to eight years. Moreover, its not having an end, properly exploited, would help ensure their eight rather than four years in office.

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 2, 2009

CIA destroys evidence of war crimes

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:52 pm

This is just shameful. Large parts of the Bush 43 years will forever be seen as some of the darkest days in U.S. history. Our president utterly failed the American people and the moral fabric of our nation.

From the link:

 The Central Intelligence Agency destroyed 92 videotapes documenting the harsh interrogations of two Al Qaeda suspects in C.I.A. detention, a greater number of destroyed tapes than the government had previously acknowledged.

The revelation came in a letter filed Monday by federal prosecutors who are investigating the destruction of the tapes by the agency’s officers, which occurred in November 2005.

It had been previously known that officials of the agency had destroyed hundreds of hours of videotaped interrogations, but the documents filed Monday reveal the number of tapes for the first time.

The tapes had been held inside a safe in the C.I.A. station in Thailand, the country where two Al Qaeda suspects — Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri — were interrogated.

The filing of the documents on Monday, submitted to a court in New York as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, comes as federal prosecutors are wrapping up the investigation into the matter.

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.

December 23, 2008

Ian Fishback, American hero

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:17 am

A true American hero. As the holidays hit us we should remember and honor the best among us. Captain Fishback fits the bill.

Here’s a letter sent to John McCain on September 16, 2005, on torture in the US military.

From the link:

Dear Senator McCain:

While I served in the Global War on Terror, the actions and statements of my leadership led me to believe that United States policy did not require application of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan or Iraq. On 7 May 2004, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s testimony that the United States followed the Geneva Conventions in Iraq and the “spirit” of the Geneva Conventions in Afghanistan prompted me to begin an approach for clarification. For 17 months, I tried to determine what specific standards governed the treatment of detainees by consulting my chain of command through battalion commander, multiple JAG lawyers, multiple Democrat and Republican Congressmen and their aides, the Ft. Bragg Inspector General’s office, multiple government reports, the Secretary of the Army and multiple general officers, a professional interrogator at Guantanamo Bay, the deputy head of the department at West Point responsible for teaching Just War Theory and Law of Land Warfare, and numerous peers who I regard as honorable and intelligent men.

Instead of resolving my concerns, the approach for clarification process leaves me deeply troubled. Despite my efforts, I have been unable to get clear, consistent answers from my leadership about what constitutes lawful and humane treatment of detainees. I am certain that this confusion contributed to a wide range of abuses including death threats, beatings, broken bones, murder, exposure to elements, extreme forced physical exertion, hostage-taking, stripping, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment. I and troops under my command witnessed some of these abuses in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

This is a tragedy. I can remember, as a cadet at West Point, resolving to ensure that my men would never commit a dishonorable act; that I would protect them from that type of burden. It absolutely breaks my heart that I have failed some of them in this regard.

That is in the past and there is nothing we can do about it now. But, we can learn from our mistakes and ensure that this does not happen again. Take a major step in that direction; eliminate the confusion. My approach for clarification provides clear evidence that confusion over standards was a major contributor to the prisoner abuse. We owe our soldiers better than this. Give them a clear standard that is in accordance with the bedrock principles of our nation. Some do not see the need for this work.

Some argue that since our actions are not as horrifying as Al Qaeda’s, we should not be concerned. When did Al Qaeda become any type of standard by which we measure the morality of the United States? We are America, and our actions should be held to a higher standard, the ideals expressed in documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Others argue that clear standards will limit the President’s ability to wage the War on Terror. Since clear standards only limit interrogation techniques, it is reasonable for me to assume that supporters of this argument desire to use coercion to acquire information from detainees. This is morally inconsistent with the Constitution and justice in war. It is unacceptable.

Both of these arguments stem from the larger question, the most important question that this generation will answer. Do we sacrifice our ideals in order to preserve security? Terrorism inspires fear and suppresses ideals like freedom and individual rights. Overcoming the fear posed by terrorist threats is a tremendous test of our courage. Will we confront danger and adversity in order to preserve our ideals, or will our courage and commitment to individual rights wither at the prospect of sacrifice? My response is simple. If we abandon our ideals in the face of adversity and aggression, then those ideals were never really in our possession. I would rather die fighting than give up even the smallest part of the idea that is “America.”

Once again, I strongly urge you to do justice to your men and women in uniform. Give them clear standards of conduct that reflect the ideals they risk their lives for. With the Utmost

Respect,

-Capt. Ian Fishback
1st Battalion,
504th Parachute Infantry Regiment,
82nd Airborne Division,
Fort Bragg, North Carolina

December 22, 2008

Dick Cheney, enemy of the people

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:22 pm

He’s gone on record admitting to advocating, promoting and authorizing a war crime. And he’s still wiping his ass with the Constitution and gloating about it.

Sullivan does a great job of summing things up here.

From the link:

And Cheney’s colorful explanation of this theory is also extremely revealing:

 

The president of the United States now for 50 years is followed at all times, 24 hours a day, by a military aide carrying a football that contains the nuclear codes that he would use and be authorized to use in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States.

He could launch a kind of devastating attack the world’s never seen. He doesn’t have to check with anybody. He doesn’t have to call the Congress. He doesn’t have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in.

What Cheney is saying is that if the president of the United States has the power to destroy all civilization alone, he has the power to do anything up to and including that. Chris Wallace asks the right questions, but it is very telling that he didn’t ask about torture. I presume that was agreed by Fox and Cheney in advance. I can see no other reason for the lacuna.

But what we know with real clarity is the following: the vice-president long ago became an enemy to the Constitution and to all it represents. He should have been impeached long ago; and the shamelessness of his exit makes prosecution all the more vital. If we let this would-be dictator do what he has done to the constitution and get away with it, the damage to the American idea is deep and permanent.

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