Saturday, December 10, 2005
SAN DIEGO -- There's controversy over how the military is transporting the bodies of service members killed overseas, 10News reported.A local family said fallen soldiers and Marines deserve better and that one would think our war heroes are being transported with dignity, care and respect. It said one would think upon arrival in their hometowns they are greeted with honor. But unfortunately, the family said that is just not the case.Dead heroes are supposed to come home with their coffins draped with the American flag -- greeted by a color guard.But in reality, many are arriving as freight on commercial airliners -- stuffed in the belly of a plane with suitcases and other cargo.
John Holley and his wife, Stacey, were stunned when they found out the body of their only child, Matthew, who died in Iraq last month, would be arriving at Lindbergh Field as freight."When someone dies in combat, they need to give them due respect they deserve for (the) sacrifice they made," said John Holley.John and Stacey Holley, who were both in the Army, made some calls, and with the help of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, Matthew was greeted with honor and respect."Our familiarity with military protocol and things of that sort allowed us to kind of put our foot down -- we're not sure other parents have that same knowledge," said Stacey Holley.The Holleys now want to make sure every fallen hero gets the proper welcome.The bodies of dead service members arrive at Dover Air Force Base.From that point, they are sent to their families on commercial airliners.Reporters from 10News called the Defense Department for an explanation. A representative said she did not know why this is happening.
Friday, December 09, 2005
Not content with simply remaining outside the international agreements on climate change, the Bush administration is now trying to block other countries from making progress without it.
The American delegation staged a dramatic walkout last night in a bid to scuttle the entire U.N. climate change conference in Montreal. The theatrics were billed as a protest of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin’s harmless remarks from Wednesday. (Martin said, “To the reticent nations, including the United States, I say there is such a thing as a global conscience, and now is the time to listen to it.”) Compounding the embarassment, the U.S. delegation actually had to first walk in to the negotiations before they could “walk out,” because they hadn’t been regularly attending the meetings.
U.S. frustrations aren’t based in substance: the U.S. delegation rejected language that was lifted directly from the G8 communiqué that President Bush himself signed in July. Rather, the problem is that this week’s negotiations reinforced that the Bush administration is more isolated than ever in dealing with global climate change. Simply put, the U.S. delegation recognizes that the rest of the world is making progress, and it is pulling out all the stops in order to keep that from happening.
UPDATE: The tantrum continues: “Bush-administration officials privately threatened organizers of the U.N. Climate Change Conference, telling them that any chance there might’ve been for the United States to sign on to the Kyoto global-warming protocol would be scuttled if they allowed Bill Clinton to speak at the gathering today in Montreal, according to a source involved with the negotiations who spoke to New York Magazine on condition of anonymity.”
The McCain anti-torture amendment has twice been passed by the U.S. Senate. The Senate voted 90-9 to include it in the “must pass” Defense Department Appropriations bill for FY 2006; for good measure, senators later attached the amendment to the Defense Department Authorization bill as well.
Despite this overwhelming support, the amendment’s final passage is not assured. The White House and congressional conservatives have developed a two-pronged strategy to prevent the amendment from becoming law.
1) Vice President Cheney has been seeking changes that would effectively gut the amendment, by exempting CIA interrogations from compliance with the requirements.
Even before the latest revelations about detainees being held at secret CIA “black sites,” supporters of the McCain amendment had made clear that such an exemption would render the amendment worse than current law.
The latest reports suggest that the White House is finally getting the message, and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley has been negotiating with Senator McCain in hopes of securing modest but potentially problematic changes intended to minimize the exposure of U.S. intelligence officers to prosecution for alleged abuses. Those negotiations could be concluded within the next few days.
2) The Administration has also threatened a veto of each of the two Defense bills if the McCain amendment remains attached to them. At this point it remains unclear which of the two bills containing the McCain amendment will move first.
The House could move to appoint conferees on the appropriations bill before the end of the week. Meanwhile, the Armed Services Committees are laboring to resolve this and dozens of other issues regarding the authorization bill in hopes of passing it at any time.
One likely scenario is for conservatives to allow the authorization bill to pass with the McCain amendment attached and intact, at which point appropriators would seek to strip it from the “must pass” appropriations bill before it also passes. This would enable the President to sign the appropriations bill but make good his threat to veto the authorization, thus killing the amendment.
To forestall that risk, appropriations conferees who support the McCain amendment will seek to block any effort to drop the amendment from the appropriations bill unless the White House promises that the President to sign the authorization bill as well.
Whichever bill reaches the finish line first, it looks increasingly likely that the McCain amendment will become law. Our nation and the world will be the better for it.
Qaeda-Iraq Link U.S. Cited Is Tied to Coercion Claim
WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 - The Bush administration based a crucial prewar assertion about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda on detailed statements made by a prisoner while in Egyptian custody who later said he had fabricated them to escape harsh treatment, according to current and former government officials.
The officials said the captive, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, provided his most specific and elaborate accounts about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda only after he was secretly handed over to Egypt by the United States in January 2002, in a process known as rendition.
The new disclosure provides the first public evidence that bad intelligence on Iraq may have resulted partly from the administration's heavy reliance on third countries to carry out interrogations of Qaeda members and others detained as part of American counterterrorism efforts. The Bush administration used Mr. Libi's accounts as the basis for its prewar claims, now discredited, that ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda included training in explosives and chemical weapons.
The fact that Mr. Libi recanted after the American invasion of Iraq and that intelligence based on his remarks was withdrawn by the C.I.A. in March 2004 has been public for more than a year. But American officials had not previously acknowledged either that Mr. Libi made the false statements in foreign custody or that Mr. Libi contended that his statements had been coerced.
A government official said that some intelligence provided by Mr. Libi about Al Qaeda had been accurate, and that Mr. Libi's claims that he had been treated harshly in Egyptian custody had not been corroborated.
A classified Defense Intelligence Agency report issued in February 2002 that expressed skepticism about Mr. Libi's credibility on questions related to Iraq and Al Qaeda was based in part on the knowledge that he was no longer in American custody when he made the detailed statements, and that he might have been subjected to harsh treatment, the officials said. They said the C.I.A.'s decision to withdraw the intelligence based on Mr. Libi's claims had been made because of his later assertions, beginning in January 2004, that he had fabricated them to obtain better treatment from his captors.
At the time of his capture in Pakistan in late 2001, Mr. Libi, a Libyan, was the highest-ranking Qaeda leader in American custody. A Nov. 6 report in The New York Times, citing the Defense Intelligence Agency document, said he had made the assertions about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda involving illicit weapons while in American custody.
Mr. Libi was indeed initially held by the United States military in Afghanistan, and was debriefed there by C.I.A. officers, according to the new account provided by the current and former government officials. But despite his high rank, he was transferred to Egypt for further interrogation in January 2002 because the White House had not yet provided detailed authorization for the C.I.A. to hold him.
While he made some statements about Iraq and Al Qaeda when in American custody, the officials said, it was not until after he was handed over to Egypt that he made the most specific assertions, which were later used by the Bush administration as the foundation for its claims that Iraq trained Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons.
Beginning in March 2002, with the capture of a Qaeda operative named Abu Zubaydah, the C.I.A. adopted a practice of maintaining custody itself of the highest-ranking captives, a practice that became the main focus of recent controversy related to detention of suspected terrorists.
The agency currently holds between two and three dozen high-ranking terrorist suspects in secret prisons around the world. Reports that the prisons have included locations in Eastern Europe have stirred intense discomfort on the continent and have dogged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit there this week.
Mr. Libi was returned to American custody in February 2003, when he was transferred to the American detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, according to the current and former government officials. He withdrew his claims about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda in January 2004, and his current location is not known. A C.I.A. spokesman refused Thursday to comment on Mr. Libi's case. The current and former government officials who agreed to discuss the case were granted anonymity because most details surrounding Mr. Libi's case remain classified.
During his time in Egyptian custody, Mr. Libi was among a group of what American officials have described as about 150 prisoners sent by the United States from one foreign country to another since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks for the purposes of interrogation. American officials including Ms. Rice have defended the practice, saying it draws on language and cultural expertise of American allies, particularly in the Middle East, and provides an important tool for interrogation. They have said that the United States carries out the renditions only after obtaining explicit assurances from the receiving countries that the prisoners will not be tortured.
Nabil Fahmy, the Egyptian ambassador to the United States, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that he had no specific knowledge of Mr. Libi's case. Mr. Fahmy acknowledged that some prisoners had been sent to Egypt by mutual agreement between the United States and Egypt. "We do interrogations based on our understanding of the culture," Mr. Fahmy said. "We're not in the business of torturing anyone."
In statements before the war, and without mentioning him by name, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Colin L. Powell, then the secretary of state, and other officials repeatedly cited the information provided by Mr. Libi as "credible" evidence that Iraq was training Qaeda members in the use of explosives and illicit weapons. Among the first and most prominent assertions was one by Mr. Bush, who said in a major speech in Cincinnati in October 2002 that "we've learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and gases."
The question of why the administration relied so heavily on the statements by Mr. Libi has long been a subject of contention. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, made public last month unclassified passages from the February 2002 document, which said it was probable that Mr. Libi "was intentionally misleading the debriefers."
The document showed that the Defense Intelligence Agency had identified Mr. Libi as a probable fabricator months before the Bush administration began to use his statements as the foundation for its claims about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda involving illicit weapons.
Mr. Levin has since asked the agency to declassify four other intelligence reports, three of them from February 2002, to see if they also expressed skepticism about Mr. Libi's credibility. On Thursday, a spokesman for Mr. Levin said he could not comment on the circumstances surrounding Mr. Libi's detention because the matter was classified.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Friday, December 09, 2005
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is spending much of her official visit to Europe this week insisting that the American government does not condone and will not permit torture of prisoners, here or abroad. That such a defense is necessary is a national embarrassment, but it is necessary because the words and actions of President Bush and his administration raise doubts.
As Rice has pointed out, the government has a problem in that persons detained, arrested or captured as terror suspects are not, like uniformed soldiers from the army of an enemy state, entitled by law or treaty to the protections of the Geneva Convention. The enemy has no army and no state.
But the terrorists' plans and actions go well beyond the ranks of mere criminality, such as holding up a liquor store or even committing murder. Terrorists observe no moral or humane limits as they deliberately target groups of innocent people, including women and children, for destruction in the name of a religious or political cause — and they do so hoping to destroy a society, a way of life.
However, the inhumanity of terrorists does not entitle the American government to slip loose of its own civilized restraints from barbaric behavior. The government must be tough and relentless in fighting such people, but its claim to moral superiority is weakened when it resorts to viciousness such as torture.
The Bush administration has sent ambiguous signals about where it stands on torture. In 2002, a Justice Department memo on permissible interrogation methods indicated that physical pain would have to be unusually extreme before it could be considered illegal. The memo was later disavowed. The Abu Ghraib prison scandal also raised questions internationally about how well the United States treats prisoners. The Washington Post recently reported that the United States keeps some al Qaeda prisoners in secret prisons in foreign countries, and other prisoners have been turned over to other nations far less concerned about human rights than this one.
And even as the administration today maintains that the government does not torture, Vice President Dick Cheney has tried to stop Congress from banning all government employees, not just the military, from using cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment on prisoners, whether they are held here or overseas. Cheney is apparently losing this fight, though he reportedly is still trying to get an exception for the Central Intelligence Agency.
Part of the problem here might be the reluctance of the Bush administration to even appear to be bowing to critics, foreign or domestic. Put another way, perhaps Rice's diplomatic message is, "We didn't do it — and we won't do it again."
Or maybe there is a divide within the administration. If so, it could be settled quickly if Bush would not only say the government doesn't torture, as he has already, but if he would also call off Cheney and publicly agree to the legal ban on torture — a ban proposed by U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who was tortured as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese.
Thu Dec 08, 2005 at 04:08:37 PM PDT
They are simply not able to comprehend that it is because he is one of the few speakers of truth we have today. Why did he have crowds of 10 and 15 thousand in the summer of 03? Why is he still on the scene?
Because he is saying things that people feel way down in their guts, things which are obvious, things that "regular politicians" fear to say.
This won't be a long diary, I seldom do diaries here anymore anyway. But I don't need many words to say it.
I am tired of being treated as less than intelligent because I was a Deaniac. I am so very proud of it.
We supported someone who stood up and said what needed to be said, and he said it often in less than politically correct ways.
It got to so many people because it did not seemed couched in proper language. It is still getting to people today. The media may not be letting you know it because it is not to their benefit. But his words are having an effect today.
The party just does not get it. It is not about the man, it is about his words that sometimes come out like a human being normally speaks. It is not about the person so much, it is about the fact that he started something that is not going to quit.
That's about all I have to say. It doesn't seem important to say it here much anymore anyway. But I do have one more thing.
It is my hope that if this party as it stands now does not want to hear the truth, does not want a clear voice, is afraid of the right wing, is afraid of offending....then it is my fervent desire that Howard Dean just step down and run again.
I don't think a party that wants to play word games deserves a truthteller as chairman.
Republican "Scorched Earth Policy"
Take these people out of office now. They are no longer voting in any way shape or form based on what they were elected to do. The majority of the public didn't support tax cuts in 2001, let alone now. This is just pandering, pure and simple, to special interests. Republican lawmakers are giving money out hand over fist to their lobbying friends.I'm starting to think Republicans see the writing on the wall, and want to leave the Democrats with the task of fixing all the shit they fucked up. The Republican "Scorched Earth Policy?"
Can House members and Senators be recalled?
I can hear it already...."Those tax-and-spend Democrats..." Maybe we need a little tax revenue to run a few things like the military, the national parks service, the veterans administration, the port authority, the CIA, the FBI, etc.?
And sorry Hillary, you've lost my vote.
By Will Dunham Wed Dec 7, 6:18 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. general in Iraq was aware in June of reports that Iraqi security forces had abused prisoners in their custody, months before U.S. forces in November found a bunker filled with detainees badly beaten by Iraqi personnel, a memo obtained on Wednesday showed.
"Over the past several months, I have received reports of serious physical abuse of detainees by ISF (Iraqi Security Forces)," Army Gen. George Casey, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said in a June 22 memo obtained by Reuters.
"I have forwarded those reports to the Iraqi ministries of defense and interior for appropriate action," Casey added. The memo did not state the nature of the abuse.
Casey added that abuse of detainees by the American-trained Iraqi security forces "is a violation of Iraqi law and counterproductive to all of our intended efforts here."
During a raid at a secret Baghdad bunker, U.S. forces on November 13 found 173 men and teen-age boys, many of them malnourished, beaten and showing signs of torture.
After the Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabor days later played down the incident, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad said such abuses will not be tolerated and, "The Iraqi government must take measures to ensure this kind of thing does not happen again."The United States drew international condemnation last year after photographs were made public showing American forces physically abusing and sexually humiliating Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad. The jail had been a notorious torture center under deposed President Saddam Hussein.
'ALL REASONABLE ACTION'
In his memo, Casey said he expected U.S. personnel in Iraq to be proactive in encouraging, training and mentoring Iraqi security forces on the respect for human rights in the treatment and interrogation of detainees.
Casey also said it was the responsibility of U.S. personnel in Iraq "to take all reasonable action, in accordance with the rules of engagement, to stop or prevent any observed or suspected instances of physical or mental abuse likely to lead to serious injury or the death of detained persons in Iraqi custody."
The memo stated that U.S. personnel also had the responsibility to "promptly report the details through their chain of command so those acts can be appropriately addressed with Iraqi government officials."Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wants to nail down specifically what Casey meant by saying "all reasonable action."
Rumsfeld has asked military commanders to devise clear rules for how U.S. personnel worldwide should take action if they see detainees being abused by foreign forces outside the United States.
"It's for him to better understand what the policies and procedures are, and to also make sure that we understand that the sergeant, the private, the lieutenant, the captain on the ground have a clear understanding of what they're responsibilities are," Whitman said.
This comes after Rumsfeld and Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, last week appeared to differ over such rules.
At a Pentagon news conference, Pace said, "It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it."
Rumsfeld interjected, "But I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it. It's to report it."
Pace responded, "If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it."
There's the nightmare of Iraq, and there are the Bush administration's other follies. Its use of torture has burst into the open in a more embarrassing fashion than before.We've known about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, and also "renditions," the sub-contracting of torture abroad (Maher Arar). We've heard of CIA operatives kidnapping suspects all over the globe and whisking them off in chartered flights to secret locations.The latest flap is over (1) the use of European air space and airports, in violation of European law, and perhaps Canadian airspace and airports as well, and (2) the CIA's reported use of Poland, a member of the European Union, and Romania, an EU aspirant, as sites for its clandestine jails.Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch identified about 800 such flights, including 450 in Germany and a few dozen in Britain.Europe is upset, or pretends to be. Condoleezza Rice suggested the latter, during her current European tour. The more important issue is what's being done with the "ghost detainees." Enter Rice's tortured logic. The U.S., she said, does not send a detainee to "where he or she will be tortured." (My emphasis). They may be, but Washington does not know that they will be. Also, the U.S. "does not authorize or condone torture." It may not authorize or condone it, but torture may still happen, even in the U.S. But it is not torture because the administration defines it as that which causes "an organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." It's torture only if you are dead or nearly dead.Yet Dick Cheney wants the CIA exempted from a proposed Senate ban on torture because the agency wants to keep shipping people to countries that use torture. But since Washington does not know that they will be tortured ... If this was not convoluted enough, Rice declared yesterday that the U.S. has barred all personnel from engaging in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, in conformity with the International Convention on Torture, to which the U.S. is a signatory. Is this a new policy or a new spin on an old one? We can only guess.But obfuscation can only take you so far. Hanging over Rice's meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel was the case of an German citizen, Khaled al-Masri. The Washington Post reported last weekend that he had gone by bus to Macedonia on New Year's Eve, 2003. Police picked him up because his name sounded like that of a suspected terrorist (Masri is a common Arab name).He was held in Skopje. The CIA was informed. Without waiting for his passport check, Washington decided it was time for action."Members of the Rendition Group follow a simple but standard procedure: Dressed head to toe in black, including masks, they blindfold and cut the clothes off their new captives, then administer an enema and sleeping drugs," reported The Post's Dana Priest. "They outfit the detainees in a diaper and jumpsuit for what can be a day-long trip."On Day 23 of his captivity, Masri was bundled, handcuffed and blindfolded, and flown to Afghanistan. He was there five months, even though his passport turned out to be genuine.He was released into the Albanian mountains. Berlin was infomed but told to stay mum. He is suing the CIA. That brings us to the surreal press conference Rice held with Merkel Tuesday. The conservative chancellor is keen on repairing relations with America, soured over Gerhard Schroeder's anti-Iraq war stance. Still, she was forthright about the illegal CIA flights and said that "as chancellor, I work under and adhere to German laws." Contrast that with the mealy-mouthed statements of Anne McLellan about the CIA flights over Canada.As for the Masri case, Merkel said Rice told her it had been a mistake. Still, she was referring the matter to a committee of the Bundestag.Rice dodged the issue of the flights. Her officials said she had not admitted a mistake in the Masri case. And her doubletalk on torture continues. Beyond their ripple effect on Canada, these issues are brought home with the return of Michael Ignatieff from the U.S. to contest the federal election. He not only supported the Iraq war but also the use of torture and other violations of human rights and basic democratic standards.
Thursday, December 8, 2005
Washington -- Although Bush administration officials have denied that they transfer terrorist suspects to countries where they are likely to be abused, a classified memorandum described in a court case indicates that the Pentagon has considered sending a captured militant abroad to be interrogated under threat of torture.
The classified memo is summarized -- its contents are blacked out -- in a petition filed by attorneys for Majid Mahmud Abdu Ahmad, a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The March 17, 2004, Defense Department memo indicated that U.S. officials were frustrated in trying to obtain information from Ahmad, according to the description of the classified memo in the court petition. The officials suggested sending Ahmad to an unspecified foreign country that employed torture in order to increase chances of extracting information from him, according to the petition's description of the memo.
The precise contents of the Pentagon memo on Ahmad were not revealed, but the memo was described in the petition by New York attorney Marc Falkoff, who contested the transfer of Ahmad and 12 other Yemenis in Washington this year.
Falkoff's petition quoted a section of the memo. After the quotation is Falkoff's interpretation of the classified memo's significance: "There is only one meaning that can be gleaned from this short passage. The government believes that Mr. Ahmad has information that it wants but that it cannot extract without torturing him." The petition continues, with one segment redacted (indicated by ellipsis): "Because torture is not ... allowed personnel at Guantanamo, the recommendation is that Mr. Ahmad should be sent to another country where he can be interrogated under torture."
Falkoff's description was not disputed by U.S. government lawyers or by U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, who read the actual Pentagon document. The judge ruled in favor of the Yemenis on March 12, and Ahmad has not been transferred from the Guantanamo Bay prison.
The memo appears to call into question repeated assertions by the administration that it does not use foreign governments to abuse suspected militants.
Pentagon officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.Ahmad was captured in Pakistan after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001. The federal government charges that Ahmad was a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and participated in "military operations against the United States and/or its coalition partners." Falkoff denies that his client has any links to terrorism.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Major newspapers reported Rice's denial that U.S. allows torture but didn't note administration's narrow definition
Summary: L.A. Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post reported Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's statement that the United States "does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances," without noting that the Bush administration's definition of torture is at odds with international standards.
The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post all reported Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's December 5 statement that the United States "does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances," without noting that the Bush administration's definition of torture has been criticized as overly narrow. In contrast, The New York Times reported on December 7 that the administration's circumscribed definition of torture is at odds with international standards. The New York Times noted that Rice's statement has been criticized as misleading given that under the administration's definition, U.S. interrogators are free to employ methods that fall outside of the narrow category of "torture" but that violate the United Nations' Convention Against Torture. All three broadcast news outlets challenged directly or featured sources who challenged Rice's misleading statement, noting that it rested on the administration's limited definition of torture.
In a December 5 statement made before departing for a trip to Europe to meet with foreign government officials about concerns over reports of secret prisons operated on that continent by the CIA, Rice responded to recent criticisms of the United States' treatment of detainees by saying "the United States does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances."
In December 6 articles, two major newspapers -- The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) -- printed Rice's statement but did not report that the administration's definition of torture has been criticized by human rights groups, government officials, and members of Congress, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who authored an amendment defining torture that the White House has threatened to veto.
On December 6, Post staff writer Glenn Kessler reported, without clarification, Rice's statement, "The United States government does not authorize or condone torture of detainees." Journal staff reporter David Crawford wrote, "In her departure statement, Ms. Rice said the U.S. doesn't use or condone torture 'under any circumstances' to extract information from terrorism suspects, saying the U.S. will use 'every lawful weapon' to defeat terrorist groups." In a separate editorial published on December 7, the Journal argued that "Ms. Rice's pledge that the U.S. isn't 'torturing' anyone on European soil, or anywhere else, ought to be all the reassurance Europeans need." A third paper -- the Los Angeles Times -- only noted a statement by former Irish President Mary Robinson to an Irish news outlet that the administration is "ambivalent about what constitutes torture."
In contrast, while a December 6 New York Times article simply reported Rice's assertion without noting its evasiveness, two separate stories the newspaper published December 7 addressed the criticism over Rice's statement and the administration's definition of torture. The first article, by reporter Joel Brinkley, noted that "the American definition of torture is in some cases at variance with international conventions, and the administration has maintained in recent years that American law does not apply to prisoners held abroad." The second article, by staff writer Richard Bernstein, detailed the response to Rice's December 5 statement by European government officials:
Others pointed out that the Bush administration's definition of torture did not include practices like water-boarding - in which prisoners are strapped to a board and made to believe they are about to be drowned -- that violate provisions of the international Convention Against Torture.
Andrew Mullin, a Labor member of Parliament, said he had found Ms. Rice's assertions "wholly incredible." He agreed with Mr. Tyrie that Ms. Rice's statement had been "carefully lawyered," adding: "It is a matter of record that people have been kidnapped and have been handed over to people who have tortured them. I think their experience has to be matched against the particular form of language the secretary of state is using."
In a November 9 story, The New York Times reported that a classified 2004 report issued by CIA inspector general John L. Helgerson concluded that 10 methods of interrogation, including water-boarding, did not constitute torture and were thus permissible but might nevertheless run afoul of the international Convention Against Torture, which prohibits "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment of prisoners.
In addition to the Times report, December 5 news reports on ABC's World News Tonight, the CBS Evening News and NBC's Nightly News all noted Rice's December 5 statement was based on the administration's limited definition of torture.
The CBS Evening News quoted Human Rights Watch researcher John Sifton, who said, "The administration's definition of torture is extremely fleeting." Sifton also appeared on NBC's segment, saying that Rice's statement was "filled with distortions, inaccuracies, misstatements of law; it's really a disingenuous and somewhat patronizing response."
NBC's Nightly News segment also featured Jeffrey Smith, former CIA general counsel, who said, "This administration early on defined torture so narrowly that activity could be conducted that everybody else regarded as torture. Chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell also noted that the CIA is suspected of using the interrogation method known as water-boarding, a method that involves strapping an individual to a board and making them believe they are drowning.
ABC's World News Tonight also noted that "[i]ntelligence officers say the secretary can say that because of a presidential finding, which approved six enhanced interrogation techniques not defined by the U.S. as torture. Techniques, according to ABC News sources, which the men being held are regularly subjected to." Chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross previously reported on November 29 that McCain described water-boarding as "very exquisite torture" and said it should not be allowed. The report also noted that the U.S. declared water-boarding illegal during the Vietnam war.
Unlike The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal published reports following Rice's December 5 speech that included her statement without challenge, "The United States does not transport, and has not transported, detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture." In fact, as Media Matters for America has previously noted, news reports have documented the CIA practice of rendition, in which detainees are transported from countries in which they are captured to others with histories of severe prisoner abuse, such as Uzbekistan.
For example, the New York Times reported on May 1 that "there is growing evidence that the United States has sent terror suspects to Uzbekistan for detention and interrogation, even as Uzbekistan's treatment of its own prisoners continues to earn it admonishments from around the world, including from the State Department." During the March 7 edition of World News Tonight, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray said that the CIA knew the Uzbeks were torturing prisoners, including one case in which he received photos of a prisoner who was boiled alive.
The November 7 New York Times story by Richard Bernstein noted:
Indeed, it would be hard to imagine a more sudden and thorough tarnishing of the Bush administration's credibility than the one taking place here right now. There have been too many reports in the news media about renditions -- including one involving a Lebanese-born German citizen, Khaled el-Masri, kidnapped in Macedonia in December 2003 and imprisoned in Afghanistan for several months on the mistaken assumption that he was an associate of the Sept. 11 hijackers -- for blanket disclaimers of torture to be widely believed.
"I think what she means is, 'We don't use it as an official way to do things, but we don't look at what is done in other countries,' " Monika Griefahn, a Social Democratic member of Parliament, said in regard to Ms. Rice's comment on torture. "And that's the problem for us."
Media Matters previously noted that news outlets were reporting an admonishment of Uzbekistan by the State Department without noting the CIA's contradictory practice of rendering detainees there. The State Department report found that Uzbek police "repeatedly tortured prisoners" frequently "with blunt weapons, and asphyxiation with a gas mask."
From the December 7 New York Times article by Joel Brinkley:
As Europeans continue to investigate whether torture or detention of terrorism suspects took place on European soil, Ms. Rice assured Mrs. Merkel that "the United States does not condone torture."
"It is against U.S. law to be involved in torture or conspiracy to commit torture," Ms. Rice said. "And it is also against U.S. international obligations."
But the American definition of torture is in some cases at variance with international conventions, and the administration has maintained in recent years that American law does not apply to prisoners held abroad.
In defending the practice of rendition, American officials have said that they obtain assurances from the third countries that prisoners will not be tortured, but that the United States is limited in its ability to enforce the promises.
From the December 7 New York Times article by Richard Bernstein:
In Britain, members of Parliament from both parties reacted with even greater skepticism to Ms. Rice's statement, saying it had neither answered their questions nor allayed their concerns about American policy.
"It's clear that the text of the speech was drafted by lawyers with the intention of misleading an audience," Andrew Tyrie, a Conservative member of Parliament, said in an interview. Mr. Tyrie is chairman of a recently formed nonpartisan committee that plans to investigate claims that the British government has tacitly condoned torture by allowing the United States to use its airspace to transport terrorist suspects to countries where they are subsequently tortured.
Parsing through the speech, Mr. Tyrie pointed out example after example where, he said, Ms. Rice was using surgically precise language to obfuscate and distract. By asserting, for instance, that the United States does not send suspects to countries where they "will be" tortured, Ms. Rice is protecting herself, Mr. Tyrie said, leaving open the possibility that they "may be" tortured in those countries.
Others pointed out that the Bush administration's definition of torture did not include practices like water-boarding -- in which prisoners are strapped to a board and made to believe they are about to be drowned -- that violate provisions of the international Convention Against Torture.
Andrew Mullin, a Labor member of Parliament, said he had found Ms. Rice's assertions "wholly incredible." He agreed with Mr. Tyrie that Ms. Rice's statement had been "carefully lawyered," adding: "It is a matter of record that people have been kidnapped and have been handed over to people who have tortured them. I think their experience has to be matched against the particular form of language the secretary of state is using."
From the December 6 edition of The Wall Street Journal:
A spokesman for the German government said that, in preparatory talks about Ms. Rice's visit, the U.S. assured Germany that she will respond to questions raised about the U.S. policy and practice, and provide additional details about U.S. government flights.
In her departure statement, Ms. Rice said the U.S. doesn't use or condone torture "under any circumstances" to extract information from terrorism suspects, saying the U.S. will use "every lawful weapon" to defeat terrorist groups. She declined to respond to questions about whether the U.S. is holding terrorism suspects in secret in Europe, itself a controversial issue for European officials aside from the torture question. Instead, Ms. Rice focused on lives she said have been saved in Europe and the U.S. as a result of an interrogation program that has uncovered information about planned terrorist attacks.
From the December 7 Wall Street Journal editorial:
Ms. Rice's pledge that the U.S. isn't "torturing" anyone on European soil, or anywhere else, ought to be all the reassurance Europeans need.
And the most aggressive interrogation technique authorized against such men is "waterboarding," which induces a feeling of suffocation. That's rough treatment, but the technique has also been used on U.S. servicemen to train them to resist interrogations, and we suspect many Europeans would accept it if they believed it might avert another Madrid.
From the December 6 edition of the Los Angeles Times:
Rice embarked on a trip to Europe amid a monthlong furor over alleged secret CIA prisons there and widening suspicions by European leaders and citizens alike that U.S. agencies have adopted brutal tactics in dealing with terrorism suspects.
But in response to a call for clarification from European leaders, Rice was unyielding Monday. She declared that the United States does not torture prisoners or hand them over to governments that do, but she refused to confirm or deny that the U.S. government maintains secret prisons around the world -- called "black sites" by critics -- to detain terrorism suspects, a chief concern of many of the Europeans.
But former Irish President Mary Robinson told Irish broadcaster RTE that the Bush administration remains "ambivalent about what constitutes torture" and has not disclosed whether it is shipping suspects through Ireland.
From the December 6 edition of The Washington Post:
Rice also asserted that the United States does not transport terrorism suspects "for the purpose of interrogation using torture" and "will not transport anyone to a country when we believe he will be tortured." She added that "where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured."
"The United States government does not authorize or condone torture of detainees," she said.
The United States is a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, in which nations pledge to refuse to torture and pledge to prevent cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners. The Bush administration, however, has argued that the obligations concerning cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment do not apply outside U.S. territory.
The Post article reported that CIA interrogators in the overseas sites have been permitted to use interrogation techniques prohibited by the U.N. convention or by U.S. military law. Asked about this apparent contradiction, Rice told reporters: "Our people, wherever they are, are operating under U.S. law and U.S. obligations."
Any violation of U.S. detention standards is investigated and punished, Rice said in her statement, citing the prison abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib "that sickened us all.
From the December 5 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News:
MITCHELL: Human Rights groups have said the prisons were in Poland and Romania.
SIFTON: Secretary Rice's response is filled with distortions, inaccuracies, misstatements of law; it's really a disingenuous and somewhat patronizing response.
MITCHELL: Rice also denied that the U.S. tortures prisoners, but Europeans are convinced the CIA is using interrogation techniques at these black site prisons like water-boarding and sleep deprivation.
SMITH: This administration early on defined torture so narrowly that activity could be conducted that everybody else regarded as torture.
From the December 5 broadcast of ABC's World News Tonight:
ROSS: Before leaving for Europe, Secretary of State Rice today also reaffirmed the U.S. does not use torture.
RICE: The United States does not transport, and has not transported detainees from one country to another, for the purpose of interrogation using torture.
ROSS: Intelligence officers say the secretary can say that because of a presidential finding, which approved six enhanced interrogation techniques not defined by the U.S. as torture. Techniques, according to ABC News sources, which the men being held are regularly subjected to.
From the December 5 broadcast of the CBS Evening News:
MARK PHILLIPS (correspondent): As denials go, this one seemed pretty blanket.
RICE: The United States does not permit, tolerate or condone torture under any circumstances.
PHILLIPS: The U.S. has been accused by human rights groups of transporting detainees to secret prison camps including one in a remote Soviet-era air base in Romania.
PHILLIPS: Secretary Rice's torture denial has not satisfied the critics.
SIFTON: The administration's definition of torture is extremely fleeting.
Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 11:50:23 AM PDT
After missing out on yesterday's Scotty McClellan Show because he was on Air Force One fighting with reporters about which presidential economic advisor was going to lie to them about the economy, we're back with a new episode!
And that strong smell of ozone could only mean one thing... the Bullshit to English translator got worked HARD today. If you're just now joining us, the premise of the Scotty McClellan Show is as follows:
This is Scotty's press briefing.
It has been abridged for your sanity and mine.
Quotes from the press corps are in italics.
Scotty's bullshit is in bold.
Translations are in plain text.
The President spoke at Annapolis last week; the Vice President at Fort Drum today. Who do you expect will be in the audience [at Bush's second Iraq Victory Rah-Rah speech] tomorrow? And how has the White House -- if at all -- shaped who will be there?
Well, this is the Council on Foreign Relations, and so it will be members of the Council on Foreign Relations. It is an independent, non-partisan organization that is widely respected.
Everybody in the audience will be a partisan Republican plant.
And so they handled all the invitations?
I don't know if we had some, but it's --their organization is hosting this event.
They're letting us put all of our partisan Republican plants in their organization's building.
Yesterday, Secretary Rumsfeld, in his speech, criticized the media. I'll read his quote. "We've arrived at a strange time in this country, where the worst about America and our military seems to go -- seems to so quickly be taken as truth by the press, and reported and spread around the world, often with little context and little scrutiny, let alone direction or accountability after the fact." Does the President, as Commander-in-Chief, share Secretary Rumsfeld's feelings?
Well, the Secretary is a pretty plain-spoken kind of guy, and I think he calls it like he sees them. And I think that's what he was doing yesterday. I think you've heard the President's comments, and he's talked about the real progress we're making. Sometimes there's important developments on the ground that don't necessarily make the headlines, and it's important to talk about the real progress that we're making and look at the gains that are being made on the ground. Because we're going to win in Iraq -- the President talked about that earlier -- he knows we will win; we have a very clear strategy for defeating the terrorists and for helping the Iraqi people build a free and peaceful future; and we will succeed and our troops will succeed, and they have our full support in doing that. And it's important to take into account the good progress that's being made on the ground.
I think I speak for everyone in this administration when I say that although you're all very good lap dogs, there is some definite room for improvement here.
Does the President feel that -- the same way the Secretary does, in that the media has not done a good job in portraying --
I think what I will continue to do is reiterate what the President has been saying. He's been talking about the real progress that's being made on the ground. I indicated my response to your question about Secretary Rumsfeld.
Okay, it's like this. There's, like, what -- 155,000 US troops over in Iraq right now? And so a bomb blows up 10 Marines. The headlines the next day all scream "10 Marines Killed in Deadly Iraq Attack!" I mean, what the fuck. Come on. Just once, couldn't you guys print a headline that says, "154,990 US Troops Not Killed in Iraq Yesterday!"? I mean, would that kill you? You're so pessimistic, but we understand that progress is being made with our very clear strategy to win the war.
Back in March, the President said, when asked about rendition, "We seek assurances that nobody will be tortured when we render a person back to their home country." Today he said, "We do not render to countries that torture." That sounds like a change.
No, I think he was referring to what we have previously said, which was, we have an obligation not to render people to countries if we believe they're going to be tortured. And in some instances we seek further assurances to make sure that people won't be tortured.
The United States of America is strongly committed to upholding our values and our laws and our treaty obligations, and that's what the President was talking about.
No, there's been no change... the President was lying both times.
So there's no change even though he's said, we don't render to countries that torture? In other words, if you don't get assurances, they won't -- you won't send us --
Yes, he's referring to what we previously have said, that we have an obligation not to do so.
Which is kind of like, if you watch a guy kill someone, and then you say, "Dude, did you just kill him?" And the guy looks at you and says, "It's unlawful to kill someone and I have an obligation not to do so." Sure, it's true... but... that doesn't mean he didn't do it.
On the same subject, Scott. When you do -- when renditions do take place, are there procedures in place to make sure that the United States, on a regular basis, monitors the conditions of the prisoners and the way they are interrogated on a daily basis, or so forth? And, if not, are such conditions now being put in place at White House instigation or the instigation of others?
Well, a couple of things. One, Secretary Rice spoke at length in response to some questions that had been raised by the European Union, in response to a letter response to a letter from Secretary Snow. And we make sure that we have assurances that people won't be tortured if -- or before we render them to a country. That's something that we place high priority on.
Now, this is about protecting our citizens. And all countries have an obligation to work together to do everything we can within the law to ensure the safety and security of our people. This is a global war on terrorism, and we work cooperatively with many nations. And we respect the sovereignty of each nation. And we have and we will continue to do so. It is their choice as to how they want to -- it is their choice in terms of how they want to participate. But in terms of renditions and talking in any specific way about it, I'm just not going to do it. I'm not going to get into talking about these issues because it could compromise things in an ongoing war on terrorism. And we're not going to do that.
Ha ha, excuse me while I blow milk through my nose. Let's recap. We have secret CIA torture prisons in Europe, which we have now moved to Africa because everybody got their panties in a twist about it. In those prisons, Dick Cheney personally attaches alligator clips to the testicles of any brown person he can find, and then runs fifty car batteries worth of electricity through their scrotum. And sometimes, we wink and nod and turn over some brown people to allies and pretend that we don't think they'll be tortured there. And you're asking me if we keep track to make sure that they don't torture them? Ha ha, you kidder.
Scott, one follow-up on that: Why not take them back to U.S. soil if you are concerned that they not be tortured, where you are under clear guidelines both of U.S. law and, of course, the whole torture issues that you raised. Why move them around to foreign countries --
A couple of things. Renditions have been in place for a long time. Secretary Rice talked yesterday about the Jackal and others that have been rendered previously and brought to justice, and the importance of rendition as a tool that will -- can help us prevail in the war on terrorism. And she made very clear that we are going to do everything lawful within our means to protect our citizens. And we have to recognize we are in a different kind of war against a different kind of enemy. This is an enemy that has no regard for innocent human life. They don't wear uniforms. They don't report to a particular state or nation. They espouse an ideology that they seek to spread throughout the world. It's a hateful and oppressive ideology.
Have I been talking long enough that you have now forgotten your original question, or shall I go on?
Why not -- why not render them back to the United States where there is --
Response to that -- the way I would say -- respond to that is that we make decisions on a case-by-case basis, working with other countries, in terms of where individuals are rendered.
And on a case-by-case basis, working with other countries, we torture people.
What is the purpose of rendition, other than, if it is not, in fact, to subject detainees to a degree of interrogation somewhat more difficult than that which they would be subjected to in the United States? And that being the case, what definition of torture does the United States understand and accept?
The ones that are defined in our law and our international treaty obligations. We have laws --
We here in the Republican Party take laws very seriously.
If that's the case, then why bother to render anybody?
We have laws that prohibit torture. We have treaty obligations that we adhere to. And the Convention Against Torture is a treaty obligation that we take seriously and we adhere to. And in that treaty, it -- those treaties and laws, it defines torture. And --
La la la, I can't hear you.
Then what's the purpose of rendition?
-- so we adhere to our laws and our treaty obligations, and our values. That's very important as we move forward in conducting the war on terrorism.
But what this is about is how we conduct the war on terrorism, how we protect our people, our citizens. And each country's highest responsibility is the safety and security of their citizens. And we all must work together to prevail in this different kind of war. And intelligence helps save lives. And we have an obligation when people are picked up on the battlefield -- unlawful enemy combatants -- to do our part to question them and learn information that can help us prevent attacks from happening in the first place. And we work very closely with countries throughout the world to make sure that we are doing all we can to protect our citizens -- but we do so in a lawful way.
La la la, still can't hear you.
But if we are committed to international conventions against torture, what, then, is the purpose of rendition?
Again, I'm not going to get into talking about specific intelligence matters that help prevent attacks from happening and help save lives. As Secretary Rice indicated yesterday, the steps we have taken have helped save lives in America and in European countries. We will continue to work with --
Well, here's what we do. We go into Iraq. We find a brown guy. It's pretty much a sure bet that he's the Number Three Al Qaeda Leader. We capture him. He's an enemy combatant. We sodomize him with a florescent light bulb. It's not really an interrogation tactic, we just enjoy it. We ship him off to a place where his human rights are certain to be upheld... like, say, Saudi Arabia. We cut off his big toe. We hammer quarter-inch strips of plywood under his fingernails until he admits that he has a giant death ray in orbit around the Earth, aimed right at the United States. The only way it can be shut off is with a secret telepathic command that only he can give. We hold his head underwater for two minutes and fifteen seconds. He then issues the telepathic command, saving the US from certain destruction. We then torture him some more. So as you can see, both rendition and torture works, and has saved lives.
But you seem to be suggesting that there's more to be gained by interrogating these people outside the United States than there is inside.
It depends. It's a case-by-case basis, Bill, and in some cases they're rendered to their home country of origin. You cited two examples of past renditions yesterday, one individual that was involved in the attack on the World Trade Center in 1993; another individual that is one of the most notorious terrorists of all time.
Bill, why do you hate America so much?
But how do we know they weren't tortured? They claim they were.
Well, we know that our enemy likes to make claims like that.
Geez, you stick a bendy-straw up someone's urethra and next thing you know they're telling everybody that you tortured them.
I want to go back to David's question about whether or not the administration is looking into any new ways of monitoring rendition activities in other countries that --
I answered his question and I'm not going to --
You didn't answer that question, Scott.
I'm not going to talk any further about it.
Press Secretary Handbook:
- Step One: Pretend to listen when someone asks a question.
- Step Two: Talk about something unrelated.
- Step Three: Say, "I already answered that" if anyone asks you again.
You didn't say anything about whether or not -- you said we receive assurances from other countries. You never did say anything about whether or not we, then, go further and make sure that nothing is occurring. Is the White House --
Secretary Rice talked about it yesterday. And I talked about it today. And we're not going to comment further than that when it comes to intelligence matters that are helping us to prevent attacks from happening and helping us to learn important intelligence that saves lives.
You can all just go to hell, that's what I think. Fucking un-American terrorist sympathizers.
So there's no monitoring -- so there's no mechanisms, no monitoring after --
You're asking me to talk about intelligence matters that I'm just not --
We're not asking you to talk -- we're asking you whether there's a procedure in place --
To make sure --
You've had your question, I've responded to it and that's what I'm going to say.
If you want answers from me, you'll have to waterboard me!
I had my question; you haven't responded to it.
Well, I've told you why. I have responded to it and I've told you the reason why. And I think the American people understand the importance of protecting sources and methods and not compromising ongoing efforts in the war on terrorism, and that's why I'm just not going to talk about it further.
Or... maybe... you could put electrodes on my testicles? Hmm? Wouldn't that be fun? Are a couple of electrodes on my testicles too much to ask from you people?
I'm not asking you about an individual case. We're asking whether there is a procedure in the U.S. government to make sure that the system you tell us will not result in torture, in fact, doesn't.
A couple of things. One, again, I'm not going to talk further about intelligence matters of this nature. So let me make that clear, again.
Or you know what would be good? Stripping me naked, pouring pig's blood on me, and sending in a pack of four, maybe five unmuzzled German Shepherds for 45 minutes or so. Then maybe I'll answer your question.
We're not asking on an intelligence matter.
No, this is relating to intelligence matters; it absolutely is, David. And because of the nature of the enemy we face and the different kind of war that we're engaged in, these are matters I think the American people can understand that we're not going to talk further about because of the sensitivity and because of the fact that they could compromise our ongoing efforts.
We need to prevail in this war on terrorism. We've got to do everything we can within the law to protect our citizens, and we need to work with other countries to help save lives, and that's what we're doing.
Sodomize me with a broken broom handle? That might get an answer out of me.
The question you're currently evading is not about an intelligence matter.
You've had my response, Bill.
Final chance, Bill. Shoot me in the arm, then shove a flashlight into the bullet wound. Come on... whatta ya say?
If the countries to which we are rendering detainees are not torturing, are we to conclude that they have some technique that is, in fact, more successful in gaining intelligence than the United States?
No, I didn't say anything -- I didn't say anything to suggest that.
We just think that sending alleged terrorists to former Soviet Bloc countries is a nice change of scenery for them.
Scott, Congressman William Delahunt of Massachusetts has entered into a deal with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela to provide low-cost heating fuel, and apparently the State Department is furious about this, and there may be another deal in the works with the Bronx in New York. Why is -- why are not American oil companies like ExxonMobile stepping in to say, Mr. Chavez, we've just had a huge windfall profit in the last quarter; turn your tankers around, we'll take care of our own in this country. And since there was just a hearing up on Capitol Hill to discuss the windfall profits, why isn't there pressure --
Well, I think -- I think the State Department has spoken out about this specific issue when it comes to Venezuela, and they've talked about that. I really don't have anything further to add to what they've already said.
In terms of oil companies here in America, we've made very clear what our views are, and that all of us have a role to do to help address high energy prices. And we are taking action to do so. This is an important need that we need to address for the American people. High energy costs harm our economy. Our economy is strong and continuing to grow stronger. And the President yesterday spoke at length in his remarks about now that we have this foundation for growth in place, we need to continue to act on pro-growth policies to help better the lives of our workers and our families. And that's what we're doing. We passed a comprehensive energy strategy. Now we need to move forward to expand refining capacity and take additional steps. And that's what we will continue to do.
Jesus, you're kidding, right? This administration has spent five years brokering sweetheart deals with oil companies, letting oil companies basically write this country's energy policy, shielding oil companies from public and legal scrutiny, writing massive tax cuts to benefit the oil companies, and starting wars in the Middle East to benefit oil companies. And why? So that oil companies can have just astronomical profits. And you know what? Mission a-fuckin'-complished. So if you think for one tiny little nanosecond that this administration would suggest that those oil companies should forego even one copper penny of those profits to actually help hard working Americans, then you're a few fries short of a Happy Meal, my friend.
[D]o you think there should be greater Medicaid rebates by drug manufacturers so that you don't have to cut so much on low-income --
We believe that we need to move forward on Medicare reform and modernize Medicare and to close loopholes. And we can find savings and slow the growth in Medicare by addressing those important needs. And I think that's what the American people want us to do -- to make sure that people who need the help are getting the help, and to take steps to restrain spending.
Those sick, old, and poor people can all get bent as far as we're concerned. "Are there no prisons? And the Union workhouses? Are they still in operation?" We think Scrooge brings up a very good point there, and I'll leave it at that.
Scott, you very graciously answered seven questions from two reporters, and I have a mere three-part question. First, at the National Christmas Tree lighting last week the President said, "Each year we gather here to celebrate the season of hope and joy, and to remember the story of one humble life that lifted the sights of humanity. Santa, thanks for coming." And the question: Will the President apologize to Christians offended by his referring to Jesus as Santa?
The President meant exactly what he said, Les.
Santa is the reason for the season, Les. Now everybody -- off to the mall and BUY, BUY, BUY!
Second, does the President know of any way that the passport of Ramsey Clark could be revoked on grounds of his consistent actions against the United States?
Look, there are procedures in place for all American citizens when it comes to those issues, and we expect those procedures to be followed for all Americans.
Sadly, we have not yet rid ourselves of the pesky burden of the right of an accused to have defense counsel, so our hands are kind of tied at the moment.
When defendants in criminal cases in the United States have shouted or otherwise disrupted the court, haven't there been cases where they have been bound and gagged in court? And would the President recommend this for Saddam Hussein?
It's up to the Iraqi people to hold Saddam Hussein to account. There is an Iraqi court, led by Iraqis. It is a special tribunal that was set up to hold Saddam Hussein and his regime leaders to account for the atrocities they committed. This was a brutal regime that was engaged in systematic torture. They had rape rooms and torture chambers. And we are hearing eyewitness accounts of the kind of brutality that this regime was engaged in. When you have an eyewitness talking about human blood being in a meat grinder, and talking about electric shocks, you see the true nature of this regime. And the court that is in place today shows the change that is coming to Iraq. This is an important step in building a democratic future for Iraq, based on the rule of law. The Iraqi people are the ones that will hold Saddam Hussein to account for the atrocities he committed against the Iraqi people, and the crimes he committed against humanity.
Frankly, we are a little concerned about the precedent that would set for when those of us in this administration face a tribunal of our own.
In the Vice President's speech this morning, he said -- and this was in the context of the war in Iraq -- he said, "We weren't in Iraq on September the 11th, and the terrorists hit us anyway." Why does the Vice President continue to give the impression that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was connected with the September the 11th attacks, when the President has conceded that they were not, and the 9/11 Commission conceded they were not?
I don't think that does. I don't think that does. But I think what you have to understand about September 11th is that September 11th taught us some important lessons: one, that we need to take the fight to the enemy and engage them abroad to prevent attacks from happening here at home -- that's the best way we can protect the American people. And two, to address the root causes that lead to people flying planes into buildings or strapping on bombs and blowing themselves up and killing innocent men, women, and children. And that means spreading freedom in the broader Middle East and changing the status quo.
The Middle East had become a dangerous breeding ground for terrorism, and what we're working to do is bring some hope and opportunity to the region. Iraq will inspire the rest of the Middle East by its example of building a free and democratic future for its people, and help encourage those who, around the Middle East and beyond, want to live in freedom. So I think that you have a misunderstanding of what he said.
What you need to realize is that Vice President Cheney is both full of shit and completely, totally, batshit insane. So every couple of months or so, he emerges from his hidey-hole, grabs the closest television camera he can find, and snarls, "9/11! Iraq! Terrorists! Saddam Hussein! 9/11!" And then he goes back into his secret underground lair, from which he continues to rule the world.
"We weren't in Iraq on September 11th and the terrorists hit us anyway." Would you not agree that there's some linkage there?
No, I think he's making the point that the President made last week, that those who suggest that if we weren't in Iraq, that the terrorists would just be idle. That's an absurd allegation, because the terrorists are determined to spread their fear and chaos and violence throughout the civilized world. They attacked us well before we were in Iraq; they attacked other countries well before any decisions were made to go into Iraq.
And when we say things like this, we like to conveniently leave out that the number of terrorist attacks worldwide skyrocketed after the war in Iraq began (that does not count attacks on troops in Iraq), that Iraq is a terrorist breeding and training ground, or that the war in Iraq is a useful tool for terrorists to recruit new terrorists.
They continue to try to carry out the attacks. That's why it's so important that we're engaging the enemy in Iraq, that we're taking the fight to them there. And all you have to do is look back at the letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi to see the nature of the enemy that we face and what they recognize is involved in Iraq, because they have said themselves that when we succeed in Iraq, it will be a major blow to their ambitions. And that's why we are going to continue to move forward toward victory, because it is critical to prevailing in the broader war on terrorism.
Man, I've said it before and I'll say it again, it is totally AWESOME when terrorists write letters to each other repeating Republican talking points, isn't it? I mean, "Dear Zarqawi: Iraq is the central fight in the war on terror. When America succeeds in Iraq, it will be a major blow to our ambitions. Darn it, that President George W. Bush is entirely too glorious! Your friend, Zawahiri. PS: L.Y.L.A.S. (love you like a sister)"
Does the Vice President now agree that Saddam Hussein's arrest was not involved in September 11th?
Those questions have been gone over ad nauseam in the past. Thanks.
We will not confirm or deny whether or not the Vice President is currently living in reality.
Scott, how long will it take for Iraq to achieve the level of economic stability where the U.S. will not have to be in there propping it up?
Well, first of all, what we are there doing is helping the Iraqi people reform their economic institutions and move forward on reconstruction. The President spelled out in the plan for victory that we released last week for the American people the progress that we're making on the different fronts, including the economic front, and the challenges that lie ahead.
Well, as long as we're stealing their oil... probably never.
And the President, again, will talk about what our definition of victory in Iraq is tomorrow
Wait, was that plan called "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq"? Or was it called "National Strategy for Our Definition of Victory in Iraq"?
and that is putting in place an Iraq that is not a safe haven for terrorists to plan and plot their attacks. That's very important for people to understand, because the terrorists want to try to create a safe haven in Iraq from which they can plan and plot attacks and spread their fear and chaos throughout the broader Middle East and attack -- or take over other parts of the Middle East. That was spelled out in the letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi.
Once again, if you want to know this administration's policy as it relates to Iraq, one need look no further than the letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi.
Mr. McClellan, you mentioned a couple of times today our efforts to -- continuing efforts to spread democracy -- just to be clear about something, we didn't go to Iraq to spread democracy, did we? I mean, we didn't go to Iraq to help the Iraqi people. It was initially a security issue -- just to be clear on that.
Well, we spelled out the reasons we went to Iraq, and I would encourage you to go back and look at that. We have liberated 25 million people in Iraq, and 25 million people in Afghanistan. And spreading --
The reason we went to Iraq... wasn't it... like, a mushroom cloud over Chicago or something?
But it wasn't the reason we went --
-- spreading freedom and democracy -- well, we're not going to re-litigate the reasons why we went into Iraq. We've made very clear what the reasons were. And, no, I don't think you define them accurately by being so selective in the question.
In terms of the lessons of September 11th, again, let me reiterate what those were -- that we need to address the underlying causes that lead people to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings, or that lead people to strap on bombs and blow themselves up. And that's what we're doing by spreading freedom in the broader Middle East. And there are different ways we can support those efforts.
The Middle East peace process -- the President has been providing a lot of strong support for the Israeli people and the Palestinian people as they move forward on the Middle East peace process. That's important for spreading hope and opportunity in the broader Middle East. We are continuing to support the people of Afghanistan as they move forward. And we'll continue to support and help the Iraqi people as they move forward, too.
If you'll please give me a moment, I'm right in the middle of what Vice President Cheney would refer to as irresponsibly revising history.
But just to be clear, that's a different argument than was made to the American people before the war --
Our arguments are very public. You can go and look at what the arguments were. That's not what I was talking about.
Hey, no fair bringing up extremely damaging things -- such as our own words and lies -- against us. That's beyond the pale.
The President and Vice President have both been speaking very warmly about Senator Lieberman lately. And the Senator has suggested that the President should appoint a bipartisan working group on Iraq to meet perhaps weekly, including members of Congress, National Security officials, to talk about progress there, and to be able to report back to the American people. Is that an idea the President would welcome?
Senator Lieberman has talked about the visible and practical progress that is being made on the ground, and he's talked about the importance of winning in Iraq. And I think while there may be disarray and disagreement within the Democratic Party, Senator Lieberman is someone who is firmly committed to supporting our troops and succeeding in Iraq. He recognizes the importance of victory there and the importance of succeeding.
When it comes to Iraq, there are Republican senators who are not as Republican as Joementum. And the President and Vice President enjoy the feeling of his head up their asses.
So is his suggestion something the administration would embrace?
I haven't had a chance to look at what he said today, Kelly, so I'll have to take a look at that. But we work very closely with him in the war on terrorism, and we appreciate his leadership, and we appreciate his ideas. And I'll take a look at that and see if there's anything else to add.
I think it's very likely that we'll have some sort of bi-partisan working group that will feature the most rabid right-wingers we can find and then, maybe we'll add Joementum to balance the whole thing out.And with that, I'm leaving, but don't miss my next exciting episode, where I will probably say, "I have already addressed that" and reference the letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi again! Bye bye for now!
In an exclusive interview with RAW STORY, a whistleblower from electronic voting heavyweight Diebold Election Systems Inc. raised grave concerns about the company’s electronic voting technology and of electronic voting in general, bemoaning an electoral system the insider feels has been compromised by corporate privatization.
The Diebold insider, who took on the appellation “Dieb-Throat” in an interview with voting rights advocate Brad Friedman (BradBlog.com), was once a staunch supporter of electronic voting’s potential to produce more accurate results than punch cards.
But the company insider became disillusioned after witnessing repeated efforts by Diebold to evade meeting legal requirements or implementing appropriate security measures, putting corporate interests ahead of the interests of voters.
“I’ve absolutely had it with the dishonesty,” the insider told RAW STORY. Blasting Wally O’Dell, the current president of Diebold, the whistleblower went on to explain behind-the-scenes tactics of the company and its officers.
“There’s a lot of pressure in the corporation to make the numbers: `We don’t tell you how to do it, but do it.’ [O’Dell is] probably the number one culprit putting pressure on people,” the source said.
Diebold spokesman David Bear rebuts the charges. “Diebold has a sterling reputation in the industry," Bear said. "It’s a 144-year-old company and is considered one of the best companies in the industry."
Previous revelations from the whistleblower have included evidence that Diebold’s upper management and top government officials knew of backdoor software in Diebold’s central tabulator before the 2004 election, but ignored urgent warnings—such as a Homeland Security alert posted on the Internet.
“This is a very dangerous precedent that needs to be stopped—that’s the corporate takeover of elections,” the source warned. “The majority of election directors don’t understand the gravity of what they’re dealing with. The bottom line is who is going to tamper with an election? A lot of people could, but they assume that no one will.”
Concerns about Georgia, Ohio elections
The insider harbors suspicions that Diebold may be involved in tampering with elections through its army of employees and independent contractors. The 2002 gubernatorial election in Georgia raised serious red flags, the source said.
“Shortly before the election, ten days to two weeks, we were told that the date in the machine was malfunctioning,” the source recalled. “So we were told 'Apply this patch in a big rush.’” Later, the Diebold insider learned that the patches were never certified by the state of Georgia, as required by law.
“Also, the clock inside the system was not fixed,” said the insider. “It’s legendary how strange the outcome was; they ended up having the first Republican governor in who knows when and also strange outcomes in other races. I can say that the counties I worked in were heavily Democratic and elected a Republican.”
In Georgia’s 2002 Senate race, for example, nearly 60 percent of the state’s electorate by county switched party allegiances between the primaries and the general election.
The insider’s account corroborates a similar story told by Diebold contractor Rob Behler in an interview with Bev Harris of Black Box Voting.
Harris revealed that a program patch titled “rob-georgia.zip” was left on an unsecured server and downloaded over the Internet by Diebold technicians before loading the unauthorized software onto Georgia voting machines. “They didn’t even TEST the fixes before they told us to install them,” Behler stated, adding that machines still malfunctioned after patches were installed.
California decertified Diebold TSX touch screen machines after state officials learned that the vendor had broken state election law.
“In California, they got in trouble and tried to doubletalk. They used a patch that was not certified,” the Diebold insider said. “They’ve done this many times. They just got caught in Georgia and California.”
The whistleblower is also skeptical of results from the November 2005 Ohio election, in which 88 percent of voters used touch screens and the outcome on some propositions changed as much as 40 percent from pre-election exit polls.
“Amazing,” the Diebold insider said.
Diebold is headquartered in Ohio. Its chairman Wally O’Dell, a key fundraiser for President Bush, once promised in an invitation to a Republican fundraising dinner to deliver Ohio’s electoral votes for Bush. The staffer said the company has a deep conservative culture.
“My feeling having been really deep inside the company is that initially Diebold, being a very conservative and Republican company, felt that if they controlled an election company, they could have great influence over the outcome,” the source, a registered independent, said.
“Does that mean fixing elections? Not necessarily, but if your people are in election departments and they are biased toward Republicans, you will have an influence…I think this is what they were buying, the positioning. Obviously screwing with the software would be a homerun—and I do think that was part of their recipe for getting into the election business. But the public got involved and said 'Hey, what’s going on?' That pulled the sheet off what their plan was with these paperless voting machines.”
The difficulties of installing paper trails
Responding to public demand for paper trails, Diebold has devised a means of retrofitting its paperless TSX system with printers and paper rolls. But in Ohio’s November 2005 election, some machines produced blank paper.
The whistleblower is not surprised. “The software is again the culprit here. It’s not completely developed. I saw the exact same thing in Chicago during a demonstration held in Cook County for a committee of people who were looking at various election machines… They rejected it for other reasons.”
Asked if Ohio officials were made aware of that failure prior to the recent election, the source said, “No way. Anything goes wrong inside Diebold, it’s hush-hush.”
Most officials are not notified of failed demonstrations like the one in Cook County, the insider said, adding that most system tests, particularly those exhibited for sale are not conducted with a typical model.
California, which recently conducted a test of the system without public scrutiny that found only a three percent failure rate—far lower than earlier tests that found a 30 percent combined failure due to software crashes and printer jams.
Asked if the outcomes of the newest test should be trusted, the whistleblower, who does not know the protocols used in the California test, warned, “There’s a practice in testing where you get a pumped-up machine and pumped-up servers, and that’s what you allow them to test. Diebold does it and so do other manufacturers. It’s extremely common.”
Neither the TSX nor the older TS6 election equipment systems used by Diebold were designed to be retrofitted with paper trails. “The TSX was designed and brought to market after the paper trail issue erupted, yet it was introduced as a paperless system. But the uproar became so great… The public forced Diebold to put printers on their machines.” Adding printers to existing computer hardware together poses challenges.
The TS6 machines can’t be retrofitted with paper at all, leaving 35,000 voters in Maryland and Georgia to rely on paperless, faith-based voting.
Even if the blank paper problem could be solved, there are other serious problems with some TSX equipment. “The system that was offered to San Diego was purely experimental—the TSX and the electronic poll book, the check-in device,” the Diebold insider stated. “Voters couldn’t access the system to vote with the electronic poll book if the batteries died.” The high rate of breakdowns involving access cards for the poll book caused major problems, the source added. “The interesting part about this device is that it had never been used before. That was probably not certified.”
San Diego has since warehoused its TSX system, pending a decision by the state on whether to recertify. San Diego County now uses Diebold optical scanners—but those pose security problems as well.
Although Black Box Voting demonstrated during a demonstration in Leon County, Florida that computer experts could hack into a similar system in less than a minute and alter a memory card to switch votes, election officials still brush off concerns for additional security precautions.
San Diego County Registrar of Voters, Mikel Haas, for example, was questioned by this reporter for the city’s local paper, Citybeat. He insisted that no additional security measures were needed.
Asked if Diebold had implemented any changes to close security holes revealed by the Leon County hack, the source replied, “None that I know of.”
Informed that Haas allowed over 700 voting machines with memory cards inside to be sent home overnight with poll-workers, the insider raised alarm. “These memory cards need to be protected every single step of the way, like money. If they have people taking these machine home with memory cards, that’s out the window.”
The Diebold whistleblower also criticized election officials in San Diego and elsewhere for allowing Diebold personnel to be present when votes reach the server. “The election office’s employees—people who are paid with our tax dollars to conduct elections and have proper security elections and background check should do this – and no one else.” Manufacturers should be a mile away on election night, the source added.
The best way for concerned citizens to detect fraud is to “be there on election night” to observe vote tabulations, the insider said. But in some cities, citizens have been barred from watching votes being counted on Diebold tabulators – and in San Diego, Black Box Voting activist Jim March was arrested in July 2005 and charged with felony trespassing after entered a secured room to watch votes being counted. The charges were later dismissed.
But no amount of observation can totally protect the public from the dangers inherent in electronic voting, the whistleblower says. “People are going to end up losing their rights in many ways that they will never, never understand. For example, the new electronic databases for voter registration is a great idea, but it passes control away from local boards of elections and puts it in the hands of the states…The final database is manipulated by states instead of counties. Every state must have it. It’s mandated by [the Help America Vote Act]. It’s a sleeper issue.”
The source, who once supported the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), now concedes “it’s terrible…Most of this is a big money grab.”
The Diebold hand believes many election officials are naпve, while others are “downright arrogant. They are serving politicians and in many cases, vendors.”
How Diebold woos state officials
The insider described a systematic process Diebold uses to woo election officials via cash doled out by lobbyists or attorneys and favors to assist budget-strapped public officials. “They promise the election directors the moon and deliver things to them that really aren’t legitimate parts of the contract.” Those promises range from providing personnel to equipping warehouses with electrical systems to recharge batteries in voting machines.
“The corporation pretty much takes over. That’s how they capture so many of these people. Diebold is making them look good and they’re not going to bite the hand that feeds them.”
Diebold creates a “monetary incentive” to stay involved via future servicing contracts after selling election equipment, the whistleblower noted, adding, “The machines are purposely complex and poorly designed.”
Noting that the GEMS software runs on Microsoft Access, Dieb-Throat observed, “There are problems that can’t be fixed. I understand they are going to redesign it around Oracle.”
Diebold spokesman David Bear denied that the company is redesigning software around an Oracle platform. “No, that’s not true to my knowledge,” he said.
Asked whether any TSX machine produced blank paper during a demonstration in Cook County, he replied, “I’m not aware of that.”
Bear initially denied that any Diebold machines in Ohio produced blank paper rolls.
“That’s not true,” he said. “They just ran an election November 8th with over 15,000 of the units and the Secretary of State was overwhelmingly pleased.” After being told of news reports describing blank paper rolls produced in Ohio, however, he replied, “It would not surprise me if a paper roll was installed upside down.”
Diebold consultant convicted for embezzlement
The Diebold insider noted that the initial GEMS system used to tabulate votes for the Diebold Opti-scan systems was designed by Jeffrey Dean, who was convicted in the early 1990s of computer-aided embezzlement. Dean was hired by Global Election Systems, which Diebold acquired in 2000. Global also had John Elder, a convicted cocaine trafficker, on its payroll. Diebold spokesman David Bear told Citybeat that Dean left shortly after the acquisition and that Elder also left “long ago.” Black Box Voting reported that Diebold gave Elder a “golden parachute” in 2004 and that he was let go only after his criminal past was revealed by BBV and mainstream publications.
But the Diebold whistleblower told RAW STORY that Elder remained working for Diebold “as recently as the summer of this year… [Elder creates ] the paper ballots for absentee voting…They were making the ballots for the November election for sure, for all over the country.”
Bear denied that Elder is still on Diebold’s payroll as either an employee or independent contractor.
“He was with the company two companies ago, never was an employee of Diebold, and worked for a company that was acquired by Diebold,” he said.
Asked if Elder works for a company producing ballots for any of California’s Diebold systems, Bear responded, “The counties contract for that. I don’t have the slightest idea… There are probably several different companies that produce ballots for California.”
Bear denied allegations that Diebold has installed uncertified patches. “Nothing is done in any state except under guidance and authority of election officials in the state.”
He also stated that the California Secretary of State’s staff has recommended recertifying the Diebold TSX system retrofitted with paper rolls.
Bear defends Diebold's record.
“In the last presidential election, over 150,000 touch screens were run. They were recognized by CalTech and MIT for having accurately captured the vote. From the presidential election 2004, they believe over 1 million more votes were captured. They singled out touch-screens; the state with the most improvement was Georgia.” (Full text of the Caltech/MIT report)
The Diebold insider says Americans who care about their vote must remain vigilant. “I don’t look for the paperless people, the corporations, to back off at all. They will continue to try to keep the public in the dark.”