Torture quote of the day

Once 9/11 happened, Dick Cheney ceased to believe that the CIA should be subject to the U.S. Constitution, statutes passed by Congress, international treaties, or moral prohibitions against torture. Those standards would be cast aside. In their place, moral relativism would reign. Any action undertaken by the United States would be subject to this test: Is it morally equivalent to what Al Qaeda did on 9/11? Is it as bad as murdering roughly 3,000 innocent people? If not, then no one should criticize it, let alone investigate, charge and prosecute the CIA. Did a prisoner freeze to death? Were others anally raped? Well, what if they were?

If it cannot be compared with 9/11, if it is not morally equivalent, then it should not be verboten.

That is the moral standard Cheney is unabashedly invoking on national television. He doesn’t want the United States to honor norms against torture. He doesn’t want us to abide by Ten Commandments, or to live up to the values in the Declaration of Independence, or to be restrained by the text of the Constitution. Instead, Cheney would have us take Al Qaeda as our moral and legal measuring stick. Did America torture dozens of innocents? So what. 9/11 was worse.

– Conor Friedersdorf

So true. . .

Andy Borowitz pens a great take on Dick Cheney in The New Yorker.

Excerpt:

Former Vice-President Dick Cheney on Tuesday called upon the nations of the world to “once and for all ban the despicable and heinous practice of publishing torture reports.”

“Like many Americans, I was shocked and disgusted by the Senate Intelligence Committee’s publication of a torture report today,” Cheney said in a prepared statement. “The transparency and honesty found in this report represent a gross violation of our nation’s values.”

“The publication of torture reports is a crime against all of us,” he added. “Not just those of us who have tortured in the past, but every one of us who might want to torture in the future.”

Compare and contrast

Via Andrew Sullivan:

“Warning that it would be reckless to release the full findings to the general public, critics in Washington condemned the Senate’s 480-page report detailing the CIA’s interrogation tactics Tuesday, saying it puts the country at considerable risk of transparency,” – The Onion, on Tuesday.

“I think there’s more than enough transparency that has happened over the last couple days,” – CIA Director John Brennan, today.

Torture quote of the day

The CIA is above the law. It can do anything because it can also hide anything. It took years of extraordinary hard work and political struggle to get the Senate Report out – and the CIA did all it could to derail it. It was delayed for two years as the CIA objected and objected and redacted and redacted. The president, through John Kerry, tried to kill it at the last minute. And when it is revealed that 26 human beings were tortured – because of mistaken identity – no one is disciplined. No one. When someone is tortured to death, the officer in charge of the torture camp is promoted. There is simply no other institution that exists that has this level of utter impunity under the law. And that puts the CIA in a more powerful position even than the president. If the president breaks the law, he can be prosecuted and even impeached. If the CIA does, it can hide that fact, and even if it is exposed, can escape any consequences.

What I simply don’t understand is how conservatives – those most skeptical of the power and reach of big government – are not appalled by this state of affairs. It is the biggest threat to our liberty and constitution around. And yet they defend it. And find excuses for it. And even celebrate it.

Andrew Sullivan

Who we are, really

Torture, declared President Obama this week, in response to the newly released Senate report on CIA interrogation, is “contrary to who we are.” Maine Senator Angus King added that, “This is not America. This is not who we are.” According to Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, “We are better than this.”

No, actually, we’re not. There’s something bizarre about responding to a 600-page document detailing systematic U.S. government torture by declaring that the real America—the one with good values—does not torture. It’s exoneration masquerading as outrage. Imagine someone beating you up and then, when confronted with the evidence, declaring that “I’m not really like that” or “that wasn’t the real me.” Your response is likely to be some variant of: “It sure as hell seemed like you when your fist was slamming into my nose.” A country, like a person, is what it does.

* * *

In the 19th century, American slavery relied on torture. At the turn of the 20th, when America began assembling its empire overseas, the U.S. army waterboarded Filipinos during the Spanish-American War. As part of the Phoenix Program, an effort to gain intelligence during the Vietnam War, CIA-trained interrogators delivered electric shocks to the genitals of some Vietnamese communists, and raped, starved, and beat others.

– Peter Beinart, writing in The Atlantic.

Obama administration cowardice

Obama, who has decreed that the country look forward and not backward, despite a treaty requirement to prosecute torturers, offers this advice:

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The administration may not “take sides,” but it has a duty to enforce the law, including our treaty obligations. Under international law, the US is required to either prosecute or extradite those who torture:

The US has a legal duty to prosecute those responsible for torture and abuse, or extradite them to countries where they will be prosecuted. When we ratified the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Torture Convention), we promised to prosecute or extradite those who commit, or are complicit in the commission, of torture. The Geneva Conventions also mandate that we prosecute or extradite those who commit, or are complicit in the commission of, torture.

Holder has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to convict those responsible beyond a reasonable doubt. But there is probable cause, a much lesser standard, to believe that many Bush administration officials, lawyers and interrogators participated in or authorized treatment that violates the Torture Convention and the Geneva Conventions.

Therefore, the Obama administration has a legal duty to extradite the Bush administration officials, lawyers and interrogators to those countries that wish to prosecute them.

The Torture Convention is unequivocal: nothing, including a state of war, can be invoked as a justification for torture. The decision to allow the lawbreakers to go free is itself a violation of the law, as the US Constitutions ays that the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” There are two federal criminal statutes for torture prosecutions — the US Torture Statute and the War Crimes Act. The latter punishes torture as a war crime.

Some Republican administrations did not embrace torture

The George Bush administration quickly embraced torture programs in the aftermath of 9/11. Other Republican administrations worked to ban torture. Below is Ronald Reagan’s signing statement in 1984, explaining his support for the UN Convention on Torture. Note particularly the requirement of the Convention that torturers must be prosecuted.

The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of [this] Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.

The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called “universal jurisdiction.” Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.

What are the odds that the US will undertake its duty to prosecute? Probably not good. But I bet that Dick Cheney and the various CIA directors, together with the hands-on torturers, who pursued torture programs will be very unlikely to travel abroad. Can you say war crime?

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It’s official: torture doesn’t work. Waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, did not in fact “produce the intelligence that allowed us to get Osama bin Laden,” as former Vice President Dick Cheney asserted in 2011. Those are among the central findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation and detention after 9/11.

The report’s executive summary is expected to be released Tuesday. After reviewing thousands of the CIA’s own documents, the committee has concluded that torture was ineffective as an intelligence-gathering technique. Torture produced little information of value, and what little it did produce could’ve been gained through humane, legal methods that uphold American ideals.

I had long since come to that conclusion myself. As special agent in charge of the criminal investigation task force with investigators and intelligence personnel at Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq, I was privy to the information provided by Khalid Sheik Mohammed. I was aware of no valuable information that came from waterboarding. And the Senate Intelligence Committee—which had access to all CIA documents related to the “enhanced interrogation” program—has concluded that abusive techniques didn’t help the hunt for Bin Laden. Cheney’s claim that the frequent waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed “produced phenomenal results for us” is simply false.

Mark Fallon, who served as an interrogator for more than 30 years, including as a Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agent and within the Department of Homeland Security, as the assistant director for training of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

At the end of the day, it is important not to repeat these things.

Senator Lindsay O. Graham, calling for release of the summary.

 

Schedule for release of Senate torture report

It appears that the executive summary (600 pages out of the full 6,000 pages) of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture will be released around 11 am this morning, when Dianne Feinstein takes to the floor of the Senate.

The Intercept is planning a interactive, live coverage of the summary throughout the day.

Six Gitmo detainees released

Over the weekend, US authorities released six detainees from Gitmo to Uruguay. These men have been held for more than twelve years, and none were charged with any crime. Penn Greenwald reports:

Among the released detainees is Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Lebanese-born Syrian national and father of four who was seized by the Pakistani police and turned over to the U.S. in 2002 for what was reportedly a large bounty. He was cleared for release in 2009 – five years ago – and has repeatedly gone on hunger strikes inside the camp to protest his treatment. At the age of 43, he has become physically debilitated. As the human rights group Reprieve detailed:

As a result of the conditions inside the prison and the callous treatment he has received, Mr Dhiab’s health has now deteriorated to such an extent that he is confined to a wheelchair. Recent revelations revealed that Mr. Dhiab is being denied access to his wheelchair, meaning he is brutally dragged from his cell and force-fed against his will every day.

As the great Miami Herald Guantánamo reporter Carol Rosenberg notes, there are – six years after Obama was elected on a pledge to close the camp – still 136 detainees there, with 67 of them cleared for release (Democrats’ claims that Obama is largely blameless are false and misleading in theextreme, as are claims that no country will accept detainees). In a just-posted article, Rosenberg notes that the release of these six men, all in their 30s and 40s, was underway for a full year, but it “sat on [Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s] desk for months, awaiting his signature, while intelligence analysts evaluated it.”

The evil done by the US government is shameful. These were innocent men held in limbo, without recognition of any rights. The Obama administration, and Obama himself, should be ashamed.

John Kerry tries to block Senate torture report

The Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture and rendition during the George W. Bush administration is at risk of being blocked. Secretary of State John Kerry has called Dianne Feinstein to ask her to delay the release of the report. Kerry apparently claimed that there was “too much going on in the world” to release the report now.

From Bloomberg:

Secretary of State John Kerry personally phoned Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Friday morning to ask her to delay the imminent release of her committee’s report on CIA torture and rendition during the George W. Bush administration, according to administration and Congressional officials. Kerry was not going rogue — his call came after an interagency process that decided the release of the report early next week, as Feinstein had been planning, could complicate relationships with foreign countries at a sensitive time and posed an unacceptable risk to U.S. personnel and facilities abroad.

But any delay will allow the incoming Republican-majority Senate to block the release when a majority of the Senate Intelligence Committee becomes Republican. This would be a disaster for the US.

Andrew Sullivan sets the record straight:

First, the Obama administration set up a white-wash, in the form of the Durham investigation; then they sat back as the CIA tried to sabotage the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; then Obama’s chief of staff prevented the report’s publication for months, by insisting on redactions of the report to the point of it being near-unintelligible; and now, with mere days to go, the administration suddenly concludes that a factual accounting of this country’s descent into barbarism poses “an unacceptable risk” to US personnel abroad. Now, after this report has been stymied for two years;now, just days before its scheduled publication; now, because if the administration can prevent its publication this month, they know full well that the Republicans who will control the committee in January will bury the evidence of grotesque and widespread torture by the US for ever.

Of course this complicates relationships with foreign countries; of course it guts any remaining credibility on human rights the US has; of course the staggering brutality endorsed by the highest echelons in American government will inflame American enemies and provoke disbelief across the civilized world. But that’s not the fault of the report; it’s the fault of the torture regime and its architects, many of whom have continued to operate with total impunity under president Obama.

Make no mistake about it: if this report is buried, it will be this president who made that call, and this president who has allowed this vital and minimal piece of accountability to be slow-walked to death and burial, and backed the CIA every inch of the way. But notice also the way in which Kerry’s phone-call effectively cuts the report off at its knees. If it is released, Obama will be able to say he tried to stop it, and to prevent the purported damage to US interests and personnel abroad. He will have found a way to distance himself from the core task of releasing this essential accounting. And he will have ensured that the debate over it will be about whether the report is endangering Americans, just as the Republican talking points have spelled out, rather than a first step to come to terms with the appalling, devastating truth of what the American government has done.

Once again, the “most transparent administration ever” shamelessly pursues a cover-up.

Your NSA: putting the dumb in freedom