Friday, December 14, 2007
Bush Administration and Republican Apologists are War Criminals and Terrorists. They have become what they claim to despise.
House Votes to Ban Harsh CIA Methods
December 13, 2007 06:46 PM EST
WASHINGTON — The House approved an intelligence bill Thursday that would prohibit the CIA from using waterboarding, mock executions and other harsh interrogation methods.
The 222-199 vote sent the measure to the Senate, which still must act before it can go to President Bush. The White House has threatened a veto.
The bill, a House-Senate compromise to authorize intelligence operations in 2008, also blocks spending 70 percent of the intelligence budget until the House and Senate intelligence committees are briefed on Israel's Sept. 6 air strike on an alleged nuclear site in Syria.
The 2008 intelligence budget is classified, but it is more than the $43 billion approved for 2007.
Most of the bill itself also is classified, although some portions were made public. One provision requires reporting to the committees on whether intelligence agency employees are complying with protections for detainees from cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Another requires a report on the use of private contractors in intelligence work.
It is the first intelligence authorization conference bill Congress has produced in three years.
The White House threatened to veto the measure this week in a lengthy statement, highlighting more than 11 areas of disagreement with the bill.
The administration particularly opposes restricting the CIA to interrogation methods approved by the military in 2006. That document prohibits forcing detainees to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner; placing hoods or sacks over detainees' heads or duct tape over their eyes; beating, shocking, or burning detainees; threatening them with military dogs; exposing them to extreme heat or cold; conducting mock executions; depriving them of food, water, or medical care; and waterboarding.
Waterboarding is a particularly harsh form of interrogation that involves strapping down a prisoner, covering his mouth with plastic or cloth and pouring water over his face. The prisoner quickly begins to inhale water, causing the sensation of drowning.
The CIA is known to have waterboarded three prisoners but has not used the technique since 2003, according to a government official familiar with the program who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is classified. CIA Director Michael Hayden prohibited waterboarding in 2006. The U.S. military outlawed it the same year.
The intelligence authorization bill also creates a new internal watchdog to oversee all the intelligence agencies. It requires Senate approval for the first time of two agency heads_ the National Reconnaissance Office, which manages the nation's spy satellites, and the National Security Agency, the outfit that conducted warrantless wiretapping on American phone and computer lines in what the White House calls the Terrorist Surveillance Program.
Separately on Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected legislation that would have protected telecommunications companies from civil lawsuits over helping the government eavesdrop on Americans' communications without court orders. The legislation would have made the government the defendant in such lawsuits, rather than telecommunications companies. The 5-13 vote sank the measure pushed by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who hoped it could be a compromise in the dispute over whether to immunize the companies from lawsuits.
In competing legislation written in October, the Senate Intelligence Committee granted legal immunity to telecom companies. The House passed a bill that does not protect the companies. The White House has also threatened to veto that bill.
Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell briefed the Senate in a closed session about the matter, making a renewed pitch for flexibility in the rules governing U.S. intelligence surveillance of communications involving foreign targets.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Is the distinguished gentleman from Missouri a lying sack of crap, or just stupid? Kit Bond, who despite all appearances to the contrary is actually a United States Senator:
GWEN IFILL: Do you think that waterboarding, as I described it, constitutes torture?
SEN. KIT BOND: There are different ways of doing it. It’s like swimming, freestyle, backstroke. The waterboarding could be used almost to define some of the techniques that our trainees are put through, but that’s beside the point. It’s not being used.
Yes, it is of course comparable to swimming. Being tied down, then having water poured down your nose and throat until you come as close as possible to asphyxiation, then having a rag or plastic wrap shoved into your mouth so that you cannot cough the water back out is exactly like learning the backstroke.
Given the number of times this has come up -- from Rush Limbaugh to Dick Cheney -- I can only conclude that conservatives live very different lives from everyone else, and that as a child Kit Bond must have gone to the world's most malevolent summer camp. I know of no swim lessons that involve intentionally attempting to drown a person. I have never heard of anyone learning to swim with a soaked rag shoved into their mouth to prevent them from breathing through it, then having water poured into their nose so that they cannot breathe through that either.
True, there are various "techniques" -- depending on the available amounts of water, on what is used to cover the mouth, on whether the prisoner is tied down or merely held down by the collective weight of his interrogators -- but nonetheless, it would be hard for me to declare it like the backstroke unless I was either a bloodthirsty sadist, an unapologetic liar, an idiot, or some amalgamation of all three. Given that Kit Bond is a Republican, and is mouthing (luckily, Gwen Ifill does not use watersoaked rags to gag her interviewees, though it would probably give better results) what has come to become standard Republican talking points, it is anyone's guess which of those three ignoble characteristics best represents the good Senator. Perhaps someone can ask him.
The Republican party has devolved into unapologetic supporters of violence on all levels. Torture, war: it is all the same. Watching the Republican primaries, what stands out the most is how eager to please all candidates are, when it comes to issues of violence, and how ravenously the audiences consume any such expressions. You will get applause for declaring that you will double the internment of prisoners; you will be booed if you dare say you will reform it. You will get applause for spinning tales of ticking clocks, imminent mushroom clouds, and the justifications for torturing anyone who may yet turn out to be entirely innocent and unknowledgeable; you will be a lone, fuming onstage exception, if you object to such tactics. It is not that Republicans are merely supportive of detention without charge, or of torture, or of prisoner abuse, or of war itself; they have given themselves over to all those things in service of pandering to a more base primality. It does not pay to think, anymore, only to passionately hate, and wound, and seek revenge. That is what it takes, to rally the God party.
Yesterday, Jonah Goldberg gave one of his charming College Republicans presentations, "All I am Saying is Give War a Chance", in which he was to give forth on the "costs, necessities, consequences, and benefits of war". This should be mildly eyebrow raising, as I have never once heard anyone give a student lecture exploring "The Case For Rape", or "The Case For Mugging", even though I would imagine you could reuse most of the same material: each uses violence to unapologetically force a weaker party into doing what you want of them. If you wanted to make a case for mere self defense, you would not make a case for the benefits of war -- for bloodshed as a way to gain actual advantage.
Rush Limbaugh cannot open his mouth about Abu Ghraib without an utter dismissal that anything about it was wrong. To him, the sexual abuse, sodomy, and beating to death of prisoners was petty fraternity house hazing: using techniques such as dousing prisoners with acid or shoving broken chemical lights up their rectums is all good, clean Republican fun: "people having a good time", to use his precise words. For his part, supposedly moderate Republican Congressman Christopher Shays said of it "Abu Ghraib was not torture. It was outrageous, outrageous involvement of National Guard troops from [Maryland] who were involved in a sex ring".
So why would we expect anything different, but that torture be defined down to, as conservative Rachel Marsden stated on CNN in November, a "CIA sponsored swim lesson"? Why would we expect any less than the Vice President himself giving explicit public endorsement of the technique, and Kit Bond giving his own dismissive approval, and all the conservative pundits, and the Republican candidates for President of the United States giving their public approval, all the while detaching it neatly from being torture by merely refusing it the word, regardless of plain history or fact?
The current Republican Party stands for nothing; there is no moral hole too deep but for the party to crawl into it and make it home. The imprisoning of individuals without evidence, the torture of those prisoners, manufacturing evidence for "preemptive" war, outing CIA agents that tread too close to things the administration doesn't want said... nothing. David Vitter can continue see all the whores he wants, as long as -- God help the party -- none of them are male. Anyone can stand in front of a podium and say literally anything, and it will be defended as noble and patriotic and religiously sound and morally just.
And the United States can indeed torture -- even as Kit Bond was mouthing the words "It's not being used", a CIA agent was being paraded around the halls of the press to say it was being used: we can only presume that Senator Kit Bond is functionally illiterate, and deaf and dumb besides, for him to have missed such a blazingly promoted scoop.
So Kit Bond is, at best, a very stupid man. At worst, he is a national liar, and a willing apologist for violence, and a defender of the drowning and potential death of possibly innocent people under the thin premise that it is not, after all, all that bad.
Nobody has any excuses, at this point, to not know what waterboarding is. Nobody in power can be that stupid: no, Kit Bond is not stupid. He is merely a defender of violent abuse and potential death, because his party has elected to be the pro-torture party, because their very moral and religious supporters are enamored with expressions of violence in all their forms.
UPDATE: Oh, this is rich. Apparently Malkin, Drudge, and the NRCC are pretending to be up in arms today over Pelosi saying Republicans "like this war. They want this war to continue."
Oh, the scandal! How could she say such a mean thing! Oh, if only she had been more civilized, like appearing on television with a smile and reducing acts of intentional government-sanctioned torture into mere swimming techniques!
And yet -- duh. Republicans "like" war? Well, that's the very premise of Jonah Goldberg's lecture, at the least. It's the very premise of the "surge", for that matter. It's the very premise of continued drumbeating to bomb Iran, whether or not they have anything to actually bomb. They like the war, they demand the war continues, and many of them have demanded for four years that we find other countries, like Syria and Iran, to bring into the war.
Of course Republicans like the war. And as Kit Bond, Rush Limbaugh, other conservatives, and nearly all Republican presidential candidates have demonstratively proclaimed, they like a lot of other foul things besides. Not only like them, but are willing to publicly advocate for them.
Poor babies. They advocate for war, endorse torture, and dismiss prisoner abuse, but then someone said something mean to them. How uncouth.
Ditch Mitch Kentucky! McConnell faces an Iraq War Vet in 2008. Bye Bye Mitchie.
One Of Our Own Is Going to Take Down McConnell
December 13, 2007
As an Iraq war veteran, today is pretty exciting for me and all the other vets I talk with. Today, one of our own took the first step towards knocking off Senator Mitch McConnell in 2008. Iraq War Veteran Andrew Horne jumped into the race.
Andrew Horne, who had to step down as a Senior Advisor to VoteVets.org to run this race, not only has a good shot to beat McConnell, he has a tremendous shot. That's got us Iraq veterans pumped because not only will we have a voice in the Senate that comes from our own ranks, but we're also going to take down the guy who is the single most responsible person in Congress for the war in Iraq, as well as the defeat of pro-troop, pro-veteran legislation.
Let's take just a small walk through the record of Mitch McConnell (Warning: Hold your nose):
• He led the filibuster of the Webb-Hagel "Dwell Time" amendment that would have given our exhausted troops as much time at home as in the field.
• He led the all-night filibuster of legislation that would have set us on a real change of course in Iraq, that would have allowed us to give Iraqis more responsibility, while freeing U.S. forces to take on the real threat to America -- al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
• He consistently worked his side of the aisle against the same veterans he's been fighting tooth and nail to keep in Iraq, beating back amendments to ensure a funding stream for veterans' health care, increase Veterans' medical services by closing corporate tax loopholes, and guarantee full-funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
• And, most recently, he callously quipped that we ought not feel too bad about those who died in Iraq, because, afterall, "remember, these are not draftees, these are full-time professional soldiers."
Andrew Horne is going to serve Kentucky well. I've known Andrew for a couple of years now, and he's one of the brightest, toughest guys I've ever encountered. But, more importantly, he's fiercely loyal. At any point over the last couple of years, he could have broken away from the veterans movement and tried to make a name for himself. But, he didn't. He felt a profound sense of responsibility to those he was fighting alongside, something that we all feel in the military. Kentucky can trust that he's never going to abandon them and "go Washington" like Mitch McConnell.
But, more importantly for the readers on here, Andrew's candidacy represents the best shot beat the largest obstruction to veterans care and responsible use of the military that Congress has ever seen.
For all McConnell has done to hurt troops and veterans, how sweetly ironic it is that it's going to be an Iraq War Marine that sends him packing.
That's why, today, I'm truly, truly excited.
Read more about Andrew and consider making at donation at www.AndrewHorne.org
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The former CIA intelligence official who went public on ABC News about the agency's use of waterboarding in interrogations, John Kiriakou, apparently will not be the subject of a Justice Department investigation, even though some CIA officials believe he revealed classified information about the use of waterboarding.
"They were furious at the CIA this morning, but cooler heads have apparently prevailed for the time being," a senior Justice Department official told the Blotter on ABCNews.com.
Gen. Michael Hayden, the CIA director, did sent out a classified memo this morning warning all employees "of the importance of protecting classified information," a CIA spokesperson told ABCNews.com.
Kiriakou was not mentioned by name in the memo, according to the spokesperson, who said he could not make it public because it is classified.
The spokesperson would not comment other than to say that "intelligence officers have a lifelong, moral and legal responsibility to safeguard classified information. This continues even after someone leaves the agency."
In his appearance on ABC News and later with other media outlets, Kiriakou revealed that captured al Qaeda figure Abu Zubaydah had been subjected to waterboarding during his interrogation. It was the first time any current or former CIA employee has revealed the use of the technique in public.
"The CIA has not commented on specific interrogation techniques," its spokesperson said. "Disclosing classified information is a violation of the law."
While the use of waterboarding may be classified, its use by the CIA as an approved interrogation technique has been known publicly for at least two years and has been debated in Congress.
Kiriakou said he did not seek CIA approval to appear on ABC News but said he knew "the rules."
I think we should Waterboard Republican Senator Kit Bond. Publicly.
Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO), last night on PBS' Newshour:
GWEN IFILL: I just would like to -- but do you think that waterboarding, as I described it, constitutes torture?
SEN. KIT BOND: There are different ways of doing it. It's like swimming, freestyle, backstroke. The waterboarding could be used almost to define some of the techniques that our trainees are put through, but that's beside the point. It's not being used.
By MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writer
The Bush administration was under court order not to discard evidence of detainee torture and abuse months before the CIA destroyed videotapes that revealed some of its harshest interrogation tactics.
Normally, that would force the government to defend itself against obstruction allegations. But the CIA may have an out: its clandestine network of overseas prisons.
While judges focused on the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and tried to guarantee that any evidence of detainee abuse would be preserved, the CIA was performing its toughest questioning half a world away. And by the time President Bush publicly acknowledged the secret prison system, interrogation videotapes of two terrorism suspects had been destroyed.
The CIA destroyed the tapes in November 2005. That June, U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. had ordered the Bush administration to safeguard "all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees now at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay."
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler issued a nearly identical order that July.
At the time, that seemed to cover all detainees in U.S. custody. But Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the terrorism suspects whose interrogations were videotaped and then destroyed, weren't at Guantanamo Bay. They were prisoners that existed off the books — and apparently beyond the scope of the court's order.
Attorneys say that might not matter. David H. Remes, a lawyer for Yemeni citizen Mahmoad Abdah and others, asked Kennedy this week to schedule a hearing on the issue.
Though Remes acknowledged the tapes might not be covered by Kennedy's order, he said, "It is still unlawful for the government to destroy evidence, and it had every reason to believe that these interrogation records would be relevant to pending litigation concerning our client."
In legal documents filed in January 2005, Assistant Attorney General Peter D. Keisler assured Kennedy that government officials were "well aware of their obligation not to destroy evidence that may be relevant in pending litigation."
For just that reason, officials inside and outside of the CIA advised against destroying the interrogation tapes, according to a former senior intelligence official involved in the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because it is under investigation.
Exactly who signed off on the decision is unclear, but CIA director Michael Hayden told the agency in an e-mail this week that internal reviewers found the tapes were not relevant to any court case.
Remes said that decision raises questions about whether other evidence was destroyed. Abu Zubaydah's interrogation helped lead investigators to alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Remes said Abu Zubaydah may also have been questioned about other detainees. Such evidence might have been relevant in their court cases.
"It's logical to infer that the documents were destroyed in order to obstruct any inquiry into the means by which statements were obtained," Remes said.
He stopped short, however, of accusing the government of obstruction. That's just one of the legal issues that could come up in court. A judge could also raise questions about contempt of court or spoliation, a legal term for the destruction of evidence in "pending or reasonably foreseeable litigation."
Kennedy has not scheduled a hearing on the matter and the government has not filed a response to Remes' request.
Associated Press Writer Lara Jakes Jordan contributed to this report.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
CIA photos 'show UK Guantanamo detainee was tortured'
By Robert Verkaik, Law Editor
Published: 10 December 2007
Lawyers for a British resident who the US government refuses to release from Guantanamo Bay have identified the existence of photographs taken by CIA agents that they say show their client suffered horrific injuries under torture.
The photographic evidence will be vital to clear Binyam Mohammed, 27, who the Americans want to bring before a Military Commission on charges of terrorism, say his lawyers.
Last week it emerged that Britain had negotiated the release of four detainees who have British residence status but Mr Mohammed, who speaks with a London accent, and at least three others are being held back.
In a letter sent to the Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Britain is urged to ask the US to stop the CIA destroying the pictures.
Clive Stafford-Smith, the legal director of Reprieve representing Mr Mohammed, said that he also knows the identity of the agents who were present when his client was allegedly beaten and tortured. Writing to Mr Miliband, he said: "Given the opportunity, we can prove that the evidence was the fruit of torture. Indeed, we can prove that a photographic record was made of this by the CIA. Through diligent investigation we know when the CIA took pictures of Mr Mohammed's brutalised genitalia, we know the identity of the CIA agents who were present including the person who took the pictures (we know both their false identities and their true names), and we know what those pictures show."
He added: "I have been privy to materials that allegedly support the finding that Mr Mohammed should be held, and while I cannot discuss some here (due to classification rules), I can state unequivocally that I have seen no evidence of any kind against Mr Mohammed that is not the bitter fruit of torture."
Reprieve says it will be pressing for criminal prosecutions against the CIA agents alleged to have carried out the torture.
Last week it emerged that the CIA destroyed hundreds of hours of videotapes showing the torture of detainees held by the US.
Binyam Mohammed was born in Ethiopia but was given leave to remain in the UK after seeking asylum in 1994. Seven years later, he travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan where the Americans allege that he underwent training in firearms and explosives. In 2002, he was arrested by Pakistani immigration officials at Karachi airport on his way back to the UK. He says he was then taken to Morocco and tortured for 18 months, including having his penis slashed, before being sent to Guantanamo, where he still remains.
Mr Stafford-Smith added in his letter: "As you know, the only purported basis for the US holding Mr Mohammed is an allegation that he is an ('illegal') enemy combatant. Five-and-a-half years after his initial seizure, he is not currently charged in a military commission, and he has never been offered a fair trial. As you are aware, Mr Mohammed was rendered to Morocco by the CIA and tortured for 18 months in a way that was medieval.
"There can be no rational dispute that this is true. We have the CIA flight records which precisely match Mr Mohammed's version of events. He has nothing to do with Morocco, and he was not taken there by the CIA for a Club Med vacation."
Mitch McConnell on U.S. Troop Deaths... "They're Professionals, not Draftees."
In an interview last night with ABC News, John Kiriakou — the CIA official who headed the team that interrogated al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah — said that Zubaydah was waterboarded, but defended those actions as having prevented “maybe dozens” of planned attacks and “probably saved lives.”
But despite his vigorous defense of his past conduct, Kiriakou says he now views what he did as torture and says that he would not recommend those tactics going forward. “We don’t need enhanced techniques to get that nugget of information,” he said in an interview with Matt Lauer this morning on The Today Show.
Lauer asked Kiriakou where the permission was given to carry out torture. “Was the White House involved in that decision?” Lauer asked. “Absolutely,” Kiriakou said, adding:
Lauer then referenced an earlier interview he did with President Bush, in which Bush said he was assured by the Justice Department “we were not torturing.” “I disagree,” Kiriakou said.
This isn’t something done willy nilly. It’s not something that an agency officer just wakes up in the morning and decides he’s going to carry out an enhanced technique on a prisoner. This was a policy made at the White House, with concurrence from the National Security Council and Justice Department.
As evidence increasingly builds for the argument that CIA interrogators carried out illegal acts of torture, the New York Sun reports that President Bush may soon decide to issue pardons:
With talk of a special prosecutor again in the air and the looming prospect of a Democrat taking over the White House, CIA officials involved in prisoner interrogations and the disputed handling of videotapes of those sessions may seek the only ironclad assurance against any criminal prosecution: a presidential pardon. […]
“I think there’s a real possibility one of President Bush’s last acts very well might be granting immunity to certain CIA employees,” a defense attorney who has defended military personnel accused of prisoner abuse, Frank Spinner, said. “I think it depends in part on the election.”
UPDATE: Carpetbagger has more.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Mon Dec 10, 2007 at 12:14:57 PM PST
From the Washington Post, Saturday, we learned that that the House is once again working on a deal to fund the ongoing Iraq war with no timelines, deadlines, or other oversight. The source for the story? None other than the Democratic House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer.
House Democratic leaders could complete work as soon as Monday on a half-trillion-dollar spending package that will include billions of dollars for the war effort in Iraq without the timelines for the withdrawal of combat forces that President Bush has refused to accept, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said yesterday. [...]
Democratic leadership aides expressed confidence that Boehner and Blunt will not be able to keep enough Republicans away from a bill that funds the war, popular domestic programs and their own pet projects, known as earmarks. With a long holiday break beckoning, few lawmakers will be in the mood for a protracted standoff. [...]
Hoyer struck a pragmatic tone, pushing for Congress to adjourn for the year by the end of next week. He suggested that Democrats need to divorce their goal of ending the war from the battle over funding.
The long and short of it is that Hoyer is shepherding a bill that trades $11 billion in desired domestic spending in exchange for continued funding of the war, and that Reid has indicated that the end deal will be acceptable to the Senate as well.
Markos noted on Saturday of the dealing Democrats:
- They are happy to prolong this war as long as some of their pet projects are funded; and
- Given that another year of war means another 500-1,000 dead G.I.s, the price Democrats put on a life of each of our soldiers is about $10 million.
That is a good (and blunt) way of looking at it. Far from demanding an exit strategy or even a token timetable for the now excruciatingly unpopular war, the Democrats have now devolved into using it as a bargaining chip for other projects. Give the Democrats a little cash, give the Republicans a little cash, and everyone will have something to vote for. After all, there is a long holiday break beckoning, and getting home to the family on time is far more important than having to spend a few more days haggling over something as unpleasant as determining how many more Americans should die in an ongoing, neverending clusterfuck. If only the soldiers could schedule their own breaks as reliably.
It is crystal clear that the Congressional Democrats are divided and incapable at best, and incompetent at worst. We have been through month after month of similar "showdowns", followed by similar collapses. This time, it at least has a financial price attached: if the Democrats are willing to sell out on the one overriding issue that brought them back into power, in the 2006 elections, at least we know they are able to use it as bargaining chip for other issues. Somehow, that is the exact opposite of comforting.
How do we work for them, in the next election, knowing that on the central issue the last election, they are unapologetically uninterested? Nationwide, Democrats were thrust into power in an overwhelming tide due to voter anger over the course of the war, and over the governance of the nation in general. What is there, in 2008, to vote for? What possible credibility do Democrats have over Republicans in ending the war, after time after time after time of abandoning all responsibility for it?
I don't know. We can support them, and vote for them, and we can do what we can do where our goals align, but more and more it seems the answer is Better Democrats, not necessarily More Democrats, and that organizing and providing support for more and more primary challenges should be one of our long-term goals. If we have to be an increasingly hostile thorn in their sides to force party leaders into leadership, then maybe that is the better course of action. The Presidency itself is vitally important to us, in order to block the nastiest of conservative plots from happening, but apparently the much heralded House and Senate aren't worth a bucket of ebola-laced monkey spit.
In battle after battle the House and Senate Dems have made it crystal clear that they do not give a flying shit about their base. They wish we'd just curl up and die. They're happy to have the free help spreading their points, but that help does not reciprocate in any way. There's not a damn thing they'll do on our behalf, or on behalf of the voters who made their regained power possible -- not one thing. They'll even sell out Move On by name -- and all in fear of this mythical overwhelming conservative tide of voters who will wag their fingers sternly and supposedly dangerously at the slightest provocation. They spend a hell of a lot more time worrying about what the racists think about brown people, and the religious extremists think about non-extremists, and the corporate lobbyists think about corporate needs, than they've ever once worried about any of us. Their strategy is all about placating, of all fucking things, the Republican base. That's who they're absolutely obsessed with: making sure the Republicans aren't mad at them, that thirty percent of voters who would rather join militias and drift off into the countryside than vote against hardcore Republicanism anyway.
They really have learned nothing, in their decade-plus of being out of power. Not a damn thing. They're still obsessed with strategic, plodding, inoffensive timidity as the answer to all possible situations and questions. We can only be glad that the civil rights battles are largely over for black Americans, because these people would sell out absolutely anyone and anything in order to continue their consultant-honed strategy of taking absolutely no stand on anything the slightest bit difficult.
It seems hard to come to any other conclusion but that a large part of the party, people like Rahm Emanuel and Steny Hoyer foremost in that group, wants to cripple and kill us every bit as much as the Republicans do, all for the lazy-assed sake of avoiding hard fights on hard issues and being able to go back to the milquetoast, visionless blandfest that the party is at this point rightfully famous for. And the majority of the rest are more interested in their goddamn strategists than their goddamn consciences.
What can we possibly do, in order to move America towards a more forward-thinking path? It is the same story as always: the Democrats do not care about their base because they know full well we've got nowhere to go. But still, they push too far -- I am hardly a leftist, and am more to the point usually a painstaking pragmatist, willing to accept small victories over no victories at all, but they have at this point got even me thinking it's a waste of time to work with them.
Perhaps the answer is to excise the worst, surgically. And I don't mean individual conservative Democrats or Blue Dogs, but the sabotaging powerbrokers, the people strategizing out these absurd passion plays of pre-planned cowardice, in the name of not pissing off the mythical "center" of the country that demands complicity in all Republican agendas, whether it be scapegoating immigrants or continuing to look for a magical Iraqi pony that would finally make the entire bungled war worth it. Perhaps our only option is to go after those individuals full-force. Markos' stated goal a year or two ago was to destroy the DLC and their mushy, corporate and conservative-placating agenda, but they largely destroyed their own relevancy themselves. Maybe it's time to revise that plan and find more specific targets -- the party "leaders" who insist, time and time again, on not leading.
And yet, we are handcuffed. We cannot do anything that will too badly screw the Democratic chances for the presidency itself, because we really do urgently need that. The Supreme Court hinges on it, as well as the simple opportunity to prevent the at this point entirely insane Republican "foreign policy" fiascos that have so badly damaged America's leadership role in the world.
What strikes me at the moment is just how devoid of true, inspirational leaders the current party is. We've got nobody, at least not that is a household name. Kennedy? A longtime liberal and a fine speaker, but hasn't been able to accomplish a whole lot. Byrd made some fine speeches a few years ago, but between those speeches he's always been erratic at best. Reid seems like he's so miserable in the majority that he wants to just crawl under a rock, and I can't tell if Pelosi is being screwed by her subordinates, is screwing them, both, neither, is being screwed by the conservative Dems, or is suffering from something entirely different that I can't even grasp, but in her role as Democratic leader she is about as inspirational as a bowl of room temperature soup.
Hillary Clinton seems to studiously avoid even the shadow of a hint of a larger vision, and Edwards could not get the press to like him if he personally had sex with every one of them. Obama is indeed a fine speaker, but is at his best in well-crafted speeches in service to no particularly concrete or substantive goals -- and those goals he does most passionately espouse, like chastising fellow Democrats for not more emphatically embracing religion, are the stuff of uninspiring Broderesque conventionality. We have faced the most incompetent, corrupt, scandal prone, and indictment-laden administration in recent history, and yet we still must from all corners hear paeans to working together with the worst of the worst, and compromising with the bigoted, and bridging the gap between our moderate party and the one that has been purged of nearly all but the most single-minded of extremists.
Even if elected, it seems improbable that we could hope for more than moderate Dem caretaker status, in the presidency -- a partial rollback of Bush-era abuses, but not a full rollback, a healthcare plan cobbled together in some fashion as to make sure the insurance companies are well taken care of, and only moderate screwing of unions instead of full-bore screwing of unions. It will be a hell of a lot better than being shipped to Abu Ghraib in a duffle bag, but it is not really something to get giddy over.
The blogs are one of the few sources of fire in the entire party. We've got no political generals like the Republican Party's Rove/DeLay/Hastert axis of brutal enforcement and lacerating strategic competence, and we've got no agenda-setting ideologues like Norquist, Dobson, or the other increasingly far-right activists that can and do play the Republican party like a fiddle. The Republican Party has been remade in service to their most conservative, most bigoted, most aggressive, and most extreme members: we, on the other hand, have yet to figure out how to get the Democratic party to give the time of day to the vast majority of their supporters -- even though their supporters hold the majority positions, according to the polls, on nearly every one of the most important issues.
We've only got the blogs and other not-terribly-powerful activists. That is the only source of unapologetic ideology, of long-term vision, or of passion for a common good. We have no leaders except ourselves.
I do not have an answer, here. But once again the Democratic leadership insists on trading away all responsibilities for the Iraq War, presumably because they would rather abandon that responsibility than be forced to make any of the most urgently required decisions. Once again, each battle is willingly lost upon even the slightest hint of Republican obstruction. Once again, we have people like Rahm Emanuel urging the party into accepting far-right frames on immigration rather than stand up for a Democratic vision of what immigration should be, and how immigrants should be treated. We have people like Steny Hoyer using the Iraq War as bargaining chip for other agendas. We have Harry Reid signaling where the fight will end before the first round bell ever rings. We have our own presidential candidates praising the utterly invisible wisdom of people like Colin Powell.
Rather than making the case to the American people as to what the future should be, we have strategists, consultants and leaders looking at the polls and attempting to manuever themselves through a sea of Republican-manufactured arguments, agendas, hot button issues, and supposed public offenses. We've got a Republican party that was thrown out on its collective ear for corruption and incompetence, nationwide, and yet still there are no Democratic leaders willing to seize the reins of the future themselves, and bring a Democratic vision of the future to the public.
We do not have a party, at least not one with an agenda that can make it past even the smallest of Republican-planted obstructions. What we do about that at this point, I have no idea. But I am not about to sit back and pretend at cheerleading for a party that considers me no more than an annoyance to getting back to business as usual, and I am not about to pretend that the ongoing deaths of the Iraq war will be, come November, only the fault of the Republicans.
Mon Dec 10, 2007 at 02:32:34 PM PST
[An apologia for torture, or the renunciation of it? The ABC link also has a lengthy interview with Kiriakou on video in multiple parts. Promoted by smintheus.]
A leader of the CIA team that captured and interrogated the first major al Qaeda figure, Abu Zubaydah, says subjecting him to waterboarding was torture but necessary.
In the first public comment by any CIA officer involved in handling high-value al Qaeda targets, John Kiriakou, now retired, said the technique broke Zubaydah in less than 35 seconds.
Imagine that: it took 35 seconds to break a mentally ill subject who then lied his ass off to get it to stop.
Now retired, Kiriakou says he has come to believe that waterboarding is torture.
"We're Americans, and we're better than this. And we shouldn't be doing this kinda thing," he said.
Now, we have a guy who has actually waterboarded a suspected terrorist calling it "torture". In effect, this guy has admitted to breaking the law, possibly even committing a war crime. Will he finger his superiors now? And remember - the Nuremburg defense didn't save anyone after World War II.
Since the leader of the team that conducted the torture has shown his face on ABC now, can we stop pretending that the tapes were destroyed to protect the identities of the perps from vengeful terrorists?
Can we stop calling it "tough interrogation techniques" now?
In my view -- and I think most lawyers would agree -- it is absolutely critical to the legitimacy of the military commissions that they be conducted in an atmosphere of honesty and impartiality. Yet the political appointee known as the "convening authority" -- a title with no counterpart in civilian courts -- was not living up to that obligation.
In a nutshell, the convening authority is supposed to be objective -- not predisposed for the prosecution or defense -- and gets to make important decisions at various stages in the process. The convening authority decides which charges filed by the prosecution go to trial and which are dismissed, chooses who serves on the jury, decides whether to approve requests for experts and reassesses findings of guilt and sentences, among other things.
Earlier this year, Susan Crawford was appointed by the secretary of Defense to replace Maj. Gen. John Altenburg as the convening authority. Altenburg's staff had kept its distance from the prosecution to preserve its impartiality. Crawford, on the other hand, had her staff assessing evidence before the filing of charges, directing the prosecution's pretrial preparation of cases (which began while I was on medical leave), drafting charges against those who were accused and assigning prosecutors to cases, among other things.
How can you direct someone to do something -- use specific evidence to bring specific charges against a specific person at a specific time, for instance -- and later make an impartial assessment of whether they behaved properly? Intermingling convening authority and prosecutor roles perpetuates the perception of a rigged process stacked against the accused.
The second reason I resigned is that I believe even the most perfect trial in history will be viewed with skepticism if it is conducted behind closed doors. Telling the world, "Trust me, you would have been impressed if only you could have seen what we did in the courtroom" will not bolster our standing as defenders of justice. Getting evidence through the classification review process to allow its use in open hearings is time-consuming, but it is time well spent.
Crawford, however, thought it unnecessary to wait because the rules permit closed proceedings. There is no doubt that some portions of some trials have to be closed to protect classified information, but that should be the last option after exhausting all reasonable alternatives. Transparency is critical.
Finally, I resigned because of two memos signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England that placed the chief prosecutor -- that was me -- in a chain of command under Defense Department General Counsel William J. Haynes. Haynes was a controversial nominee for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, but his nomination died in January 2007, in part because of his role in authorizing the use of the aggressive interrogation techniques some call torture.
I had instructed the prosecutors in September 2005 that we would not offer any evidence derived by waterboarding, one of the aggressive interrogation techniques the administration has sanctioned. Haynes and I have different perspectives and support different agendas, and the decision to give him command over the chief prosecutor's office, in my view, cast a shadow over the integrity of military commissions. I resigned a few hours after I was informed of Haynes' place in my chain of command.
The Military Commissions Act provides a foundation for fair trials, but some changes are clearly necessary. I was confident in full, fair and open trials when Gen. Altenburg was the convening authority and Brig. Gen. Tom Hemingway was his legal advisor. Collectively, they spent nearly 65 years in active duty, and they were committed to ensuring the integrity of military law. They acted on principle rather than politics.
The first step, if these truly are military commissions and not merely a political smoke screen, is to take control out of the hands of political appointees like Haynes and Crawford and give it back to the military.
The president first authorized military commissions in November 2001, more than six years ago, and the lack of progress is obvious. Only one war-crime case has been completed. It is time for the political appointees who created this quagmire to let go.
Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have said that how we treat the enemy says more about us than it does about him. If we want these military commissions to say anything good about us, it's time to take the politics out of military commissions, give the military control over the process and make the proceedings open and transparent.
Morris D. Davis is the former chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions. The opinions expressed are his own and do not represent the views of the Department of Defense or the Department of the Air Force.
The Washington Post reports today that the Bush administration, beginning in 2002, repeatedly briefed leading Congressional Democrats on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees -- including, at various times, Jay Rockefeller, Nancy Pelosi, and Jane Harman -- regarding the CIA's "enhanced interrogation methods," including details about waterboarding and other torture measures. With one exception (Harman, who vaguely claims to have sent a letter to the CIA), these lawmakers not only failed to object to these policies, but affirmatively supported them.
This information was almost certainly leaked to the Post by intelligence officials who are highly irritated -- understandably so -- from watching the manipulative spectacle whereby these Democrats now prance around as outraged victims of policies to which they deliberately acquiesced, when they weren't fully supporting them. Numerous liberal bloggers are already drawing the only conclusions that can be drawn, and expressing their outrage and horror at the Democratic Party leadership. Those sentiments are indisputably appropriate, and I just want to add a few more points to them.
Jay Rockefeller was one of the key Democrats briefed on the torture methods who never objected. But it's far worse than that. In September, 2006, Rockefeller was one of 12 Senate Democrats to vote in favor of the Military Commissions Act, one of the principal purposes of which was to explicitly authorize the CIA's "enhanced interrogation program" to proceed (even though it continues to be illegal under the Geneva Conventions). Thus, not only did Rockefeller remain silent when continuously briefed on illegal torture methods by the CIA, he then voted to legalize those methods by voting in favor of one of the most Draconian laws in modern American history. That law also retroactively immunized government officials from any liability for past lawbreaking.
Rockefeller is not just any Democrat. He is the individual whom the Democratic Senate caucus thereafter elected -- and still chooses -- to lead them on all matters relating to intelligence. Just consider how compromised he is and they are when it comes to investigating abuses by the intelligence community over the last six years. Rockefeller was complicit in all of those abuses, and the Democrats voted for him -- and still support him -- as their Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. How can Rockefeller possibly preside over meaningful investigations into conduct and policies -- including the destruction of the videotapes and the conduct which those videotapes would reveal -- of which he approved? And how can Senate Democrats pretend to be outraged at such policies when the leader they chose supports them?
This is exactly why I was so ambivalent, at best, about the Democrats' melodramatic protest that Michael Mukasey's refusal to condemn waterboarding as torture somehow placed him beyond the realm of the mainstream. Torture didn't become an American policy despite the best efforts of a righteous Democratic leadership to stop that. Torture became an American policy precisely because a meek and often outright supportive Democratic leadership continuously allowed it. As I wrote at the time the Democrats were pretending to consider impeding Mukasey's confirmation:
This notion that Mukasey's unwillingness to declare waterboarding categorically illegal crosses some sort of bright Beltway line seems equally unconvincing, even somewhat manipulative. It has long been known that the Bush administration directed the CIA (at least) to waterboard detainees who were convicted of nothing. There was very little real protest about any of that from any genuine Beltway power circles, including Senate Democrats.I'm not making this point in service of some broader aim. I'm not pointing any of this out in order to try to persuade anyone that there are no meaningful differences between the parties or that it's irrelevant who wins in 2008 (here, for instance, are the partisan vote breakdowns on the Military Commissions Act and bill to legalize warrantless eavesdropping). But it is simply undeniable that the Democratic leadership has continuously enabled and, more often, supported the defining Bush policies.
In fact, even knowing that, the Military Commissions Act was enacted merely a year ago, deliberately leaving an unclear legal landscape (at best) as to whether waterboarding was outlawed. And Democrats did not even engage in the debate, and did not even try to mount any serious opposition to it. Quite the contrary, most of them were mute when the debate was being held, preferring to hide behind the McCain/Warner/Graham trio, and were even prepared to vote in favor of the Act until some last minute tinkering made without their participation offended them enough (on procedural grounds) to cause them to cast meaningless votes against it, long after its passage was guaranteed. . . .
But now, [Mukasey's radical beliefs] and he are well within mainstream Beltway ideology, thanks to some combination of acquiescence and active support from the core of both political parties. And there is something deeply artificial and manipulative about a Congress that has decided to permit all of these things to take root to pretend suddenly that they are so offended by them, that what Mukasey believes crosses their bright lines so clearly that he cannot be confirmed.
I wish none of this were true. I wish we had a genuine, vibrant opposition party. It would be indescribably beneficial if the rare, isolated and usually marginalized voices within the Democratic Party (and the even rarer and more marginalized voices in the GOP) were predominant. But they just aren't. That's just a fact that can't be ignored. The Democratic Party in Congress is largely controlled and led by those who have enabled and affirmatively supported the worst aspects of the Bush foreign policy and the most severe abuses of our country's political values.
And efforts to apologize for what these Congressional Democrats have done by claiming that they "were virtually helpless to respond," or suggesting that knowingly inconsequential expressions of private protest are somehow noble, are counter-productive. Why excuse or apologize for the profound failure of those who seek leadership positions on the Intelligence Committee -- who, after all, are being briefed precisely because they are expected to act when they learn of illegal behavior -- when they abdicate their responsibilities? That only encourages such malfeasance to continue.
Powerful Committee members have all sorts of options for stopping such lawbreaking. They chose not to avail those options, either out of fear, indifference and -- apparently in many cases -- because they supported the lawbreaking. The solution is to work to replace those who have done that with those who won't. Torture methods aren't any less reprehensible when endorsed by Democrats.
Beyond the complicit Jay Rockefeller, consider whom Nancy Pelosi installed as his House counterpart on the Intelligence Committee -- Silvestre Reyes. As Harper's Ken Silverstein reports today, Reyes has numerous, overlapping close personal ties with the CIA official at the center of the scandal over the destroyed interrogation videotapes, Jose Rodriguez. Silverstein also references a report that a key contractor with extensive business before the House Intelligence Committee not only contributes extensively to Reyes' campaign, but now employs both his son and daughter.
How can Reyes be expected to exercise meaningful oversight over the intelligence community when he is so intricately linked to its leading members? Reyes just issued a statement urging that the "destroyed video" investigation not dump everything on a "scapegoat" (meaning Rodriguez) -- a fair enough point, but one he's in no position to make given that Rodriguez is such a close confidant of his and any such statement would be understood as his wanting to protect his "very close friend."
Just look at how compromised Congressional Democratic leaders are when it comes to those charged with exercising "oversight" over our intelligence communities. And one finds this with almost the entire list of Bush abuses.Whether it's the war in Iraq or illegal surveillance or the abolition of habeas corpus and now the systematic use of torture, it's the Bush administration that conceived of the policies, implemented them and presided over their corrupt application. But it's Congressional Democrats at the leadership level who were the key allies and enablers, never getting their hands dirty with implementation -- and thus feigning theatrical, impotent outrage once each abuse was publicly exposed -- but nonetheless working feverishly the entire time to enable all of it every step of the way.
Jesus, there’s a special place in Hell reserved for people like Mike Huckabee.
Here’s what he had to say about the Dumond Case.
“That's what is so heartbreaking about this. There are families who are truly, understandably and reasonably grief-stricken. And for people to now politicize these deaths and to try to make a political case out of it, rather than to simply understand that a system failed and that we ought to extend our grief and heartfelt sorrow to these families, I just regret that politics is reduced to that.” -- Mike Huckabee
No Mike, what’s so fucking heartbreaking is that a bunch of Anti-Reason Clinton Hating Zealots like yourself drank so much fucking cool-aid that you released a man whose record looks like this:
1972 linked to the beating death in Oklahoma in which he admitted in court he attacked the victim with a claw hammer.
The following year, he was placed on probation for five years for molesting a teenage girl in the parking lot of a shopping center.
Dumond was paroled in 1999 upon pressure from Mike Huckabee and the Anti-Clinton zealots, because the only evidence needed to "prove" that Dumond was innocent was that his victim was a third cousin of Bill Clinton.September 2000 Dumond raped and murdered Carol Sue Shields.
June 2001 Dumond raped and murdered Sara Andrasek.
That politics clouded your judgment so bad that it directly lead to the rape and murder of two women is what is so "heartbreaking", Mike. "The System" didn't fail, Mike. You did. Go Fuck Yourself.
Mike Huckabee is a Fucking Liar. Here's Proof.
Lie #1. Huckabee has said that in supporting Dumond's parole he was merely following the judgment of the board. But just one month earlier the board had voted 4-to-1 against Dumond's parole.
Lie #2. Huckabee has said that there was no way anyone could have predicted Dumond’s violent behavior upon release. In October 1996, Huckabee solicited the advise of local doctors to determine whether Dumond, whose testicles had been cut off before his arrest (perhaps by himself), could rape again. His office refused to reveal the findings.
Lie #3. Huckabee has said that he didn’t pressure the parole board to release Dumond. Former parole board members have come forward to say that Huckabee did pressure them to release Dumond. When Mike Huckabee became governor, he supported the release of DuMond, with one state official stating "The problem with the governor is that he listens to Jay Cole and reads Steve Dunleavy and believes them ... without doing other substantiative work." Huckabee, addressing DuMond as "Dear Wayne," wrote to DuMond in January 1997: "My desire is that you be released from prison," and had to be persuaded not to commute his sentence in October 1996.
The details of how much assistance Huckabee provided to DuMond remain uncertain, in part because the governor met in "executive session" with the parole board to discuss the issue, and the administrator who normally took notes was removed from the room. This a violation of Arkansas law as such secret "executive" sessions are limited by statute to discussions regarding personnel decisions, specifically to avoid the appearance of undue influence from the Governor's office.
ThreeBoard Members — Charles Chastain, Deborah Suttlar, and Ermer Pondexter — have stated on the record that Huckabee used the private session to strongly advocate DuMond's parole. A fourth parole board member confirmed this story anonymously in 2002 and has not yet been identified by name in the 2007 news cycle.[8