Dennis Loo

Sometimes asking for the impossible is the only realistic path

Dennis Loo

Dennis Loo
Location
Los Angeles, California,
Birthday
December 31
Title
Professor of Sociology
Company
Cal Poly Pomona
Bio
Author of Globalization and the Demolition of Society; Co-Editor/Author of Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney, World Can't Wait Steering Committee Member, co-author of "Crimes Are Crimes, No Matter Who Does Them" statement, dog and fruit tree lover. Published poet. Winner of the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award, Project Censored Award and the Nation Magazine's Most Valuable Campaign Award. Punahou and Harvard Honor Graduate. Ph.D. in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz. An archive of close to 500 postings of mine can be found at my blogspot blog, Dennis Loo, link below. I publish regularly at dennisloo.com, worldcantwait.net (link below) and also at OpEd News and sometimes at Counterpunch.

MAY 10, 2009 11:16AM

Obama’s Mixed Messages On Torture

Rate: 11 Flag

By  Andy Worthington  [1]

 

At a press conference to mark his first 100 days in office, President Obama declared, “We have rejected the false choice between our security and our ideals by closing the detention center at Guantánamo Bay and banning torture without exception.” I have looked at the President’s misleading statement about Guantánamo, and analyzed his progress -- or lack of it -- in closing the prison in a previous article [2], and in this second article I’m going to focus on his assertion that the new administration has been responsible for “banning torture without exception.”

 

On the surface, Obama appears to have been true to his word. In two Executive Orders [3] issued on his second day in office (along with an order relating to the closure of Guantánamo), he established that the questioning of prisoners by any US government agency (including the CIA) must follow the interrogation guidelines laid down in the Army Field Manual, which guarantees humane treatment under the Geneva Conventions, and also required the CIA to close any still-existing secret prisons.

 

This order also established a Special Interagency Task Force on Interrogation and Transfer Policies, to evaluate “whether the interrogation practices and techniques in the Army Field Manual, when employed by departments or agencies outside the military, provide an appropriate means of acquiring the intelligence necessary to protect the Nation, and, if warranted, to recommend any additional or different guidelines for other departments or agencies.” This task force was also charged with evaluating “the practices of transferring individuals to other nations,” to ensure that they do not face torture.

 

Allied to this, in some ways, is the other Executive Order establishing another Special Interagency Task Force to provide an overview of detention policy options, which was charged with reviewing the “lawful options” available to government with respect to the “apprehension, detention, trial, transfer, release, or other disposition of individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counter-terrorism operations.”

 

These two task forces have until the end of July to deliver their reports, but while the President is undoubtedly to be commended for drawing a clear distinction between himself and his predecessor regarding the broad outlines of detention and interrogation policies, critics have already noted a few worrying signs that certain loopholes may have been left open.

 

Appendix M of the Army Field Manual

 

One of these concerns the Army Field Manual. Reintroducing it as the benchmark for military interrogations, for example, is clearly necessary to call a halt to the licensed sadism of the years when Donald Rumsfeld was defense secretary, but Jeff Kaye, psychologist and anti-torture blogger, raised concerns in January  [4] about part of the manual, Appendix M, which, as he described it, authorizes the use of specific torture techniques used in the “War on Terror,” including “solitary confinement, perceptual or sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, the induction of fear and hopelessness, and the likely use of sensory overload, temperature or environmental manipulation.” Kaye’s concerns have been picked up by human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, which mentioned, in its review of Obama’s first 100 days (PDF  [5]), its disappointment that the administration was “endorsing without qualification” a document “which permits prolonged sleep deprivation, isolation and manipulation of a detainee’s fears contrary to the international ban on torture.”

 

This was certainly not how the military saw it, when the new Army Field Manual was issued in September 2006. At a press conference  [6], Lt. Gen. Jeff Kimmons, the Army G-2 senior intelligence officer, specifically addressed concerns about Appendix M. As Kimmons described it, “Our four-star combatant commanders also specifically requested, based on battlefield experience, that we include one restricted technique called separation, for use on a by-exception basis only with unlawful enemy combatants. That is, it's not authorized for use on prisoners of war and other protected persons.”

 

Kimmons proceeded to explain, “Separation allows interrogators to keep unlawful enemy combatants apart from each other as a normal part of the interrogation process, so they can't coordinate their stories and so that we can compare answers to questions that interrogators have posed to each other without there having been collusion. It's for the same reason that police keep murder suspects separated while they're questioning them, although this is within an interrogation context.”

 

On the surface, Kimmons’s explanation seemed reasonable enough, but Kaye pointed out that it was, in fact, “inconsistent with the explanation for separation given in the current Army Field Manual,” in which the technique is not about the “normal interrogation process,” as the following passage makes clear (emphasis added): “Separation should be used as part of a well-orchestrated strategy involving the innovative application of unrestricted approach techniques. Separation requires special approval, judicious execution, special control measures and rigorous oversight.”

 

It may be, as a former intelligence officer noted on his blog (Decline and Fall  [7]), that “separation” can only be approved by a General, and, “given the political climate” regarding detainee abuse, would be “very hard to obtain,” but I have to admit that I fail to find it reassuring that techniques that bear more than a passing resemblance to those that drowned the “War on Terror” in a morass of torture and abuse should be sanctioned at all, especially as “separation” is so clearly described as only forming part of an unspecified program involving, as I highlighted above, “the innovative application of unrestricted approach techniques,” and, of course, because it is specifically targeted at prisoners regarded as being outside the reach of the Geneva Conventions (“unlawful enemy combatants,” in the Bush administration’s parlance).

 

Under Obama, we are led to believe that the Geneva Conventions will, henceforth, apply to all prisoners held by US forces, but, as I explain below, there are other reasons for believing that a loophole has been left open for the possible detention of future “illegal enemy combatants.”

 

“Extraordinary rendition”

 

My concerns about this possibility center on the Obama administration’s review of the detention and transfer of prisoners; in other words, those parts of the policy directed towards appraising the system of “extraordinary rendition” developed by the Bush administration. In its review of Obama’s first 100 days, Amnesty International singled out “the possibility of the CIA abducting and detaining people in ‘short-term transitory’ facilities” as an unacceptable loophole. This came from an otherwise laudable announcement a month ago by the CIA’s new director, Leon Panetta, in which Panetta stated  [8], “CIA no longer operates detention facilities or black sites and has proposed a plan to decommission the remaining sites,” but added that the agency “retains the authority to detain individuals on a short-term transitory basis.”

 

Realistically, it is hard to argue with the agency having the opportunity to hold prisoners on a temporary basis, especially if, as Panetta also stated, “Under the Executive Order, the CIA does not employ any of the enhanced interrogation techniques that were authorized by the Department of Justice from 2002 to 2009.” What is worrying, however, is the suggestion that certain “black sites” were still open just a month ago, and this comment becomes more troublesome when analyzed in connection with Panetta’s additional comments about the agency’s authority to hold prisoners on a short-term basis. Although he wrote that no detentions had occurred “since I have become Director,” he added, “We anticipate that we would quickly turn over any person in our custody to US military authorities or to their country of jurisdiction, depending on the situation.”

 

I’ve highlighted the phrase that troubles me, as it undoubtedly indicates that, were certain situations to arise in future, the CIA is prepared to transfer prisoners to third countries, where, very possibly, they would face the risk of torture, and the only logical conclusion I can draw is that, essentially, the Obama administration’s only real problem with “extraordinary rendition” is one of scale. The Bush administration’s industrial-scale rendition policies have been banished, but the prospect of limited rendition -- to third countries rather than to the US court system, as would surely be more acceptable -- is being kept as a possible option.

 

The Office of Legal Counsel’s torture memos

 

In some quarters, it has been suggested that the Obama administration’s decision, three weeks ago, to release four previously classified memos  [9] issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel in 2002 and 2005 (which purported to justify the use of torture by the CIA) was an important gesture in signaling a break with the previous administration. And in some ways it was, of course, but it should also be remembered that the memos were not released spontaneously, but as the result of a pending lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

 

It was also clear that the President was unsure how to play the memos’ release. Both he and Attorney General Eric Holder went out of their way to pledge that no one would be prosecuted for following orders. Obama said [10], “In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carrying out their duties relying in good faith upon the legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution,” and, in a similar vein, Holder added  [11], “It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department.”

 

This was understandable in the sense that operatives cannot necessarily be required to know whether or not the orders they are give are legally sound (although it should also be noted that many people knew when they were crossing a line, regardless of what they were told), but Obama then appeared to over-emphasize the point by visiting CIA headquarters, and telling a group [12] of around 1,000 CIA employees, “What makes the United States special, and what makes you special, is precisely the fact that we are willing to uphold our values and ideals even when it's hard -- not just when it's easy.” To my mind, this only ended up insulting those brave souls, like the military defense attorneys [13] in the Military Commission trial system, or the prosecutors who resigned [14], or other officers  [15] who broke ranks to complain about the brutality and injustice of the “War on Terror,” and who, as a result, lost their jobs or otherwise endangered their careers.

 

It was also noticeable that, when polls seemed to indicate a shift towards a belief that a proper investigation of the Bush administration’s activities should take place, the President dropped his “looking forward and not backwards” mantra, and, while maintaining that “For those who carried out some of these operations within the four corners of legal opinions or guidance that had been provided from the White House, I do not think it's appropriate for them to be prosecuted,” added, significantly [16], “With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the Attorney General within the parameters of various laws, and I don't want to prejudge that.”

 

What was particularly disappointing about all of this was that it showed an administration shifting about uneasily in an attempt to avoid confronting the compelling truth that senior Bush officials had admitted that they had been involved in torture [17], including waterboarding [18], that both Obama  [19] and Holder [20] had stated publicly that waterboarding was torture, and that, as a result, because torture is a crime according to US law, those responsible for implementing it must be held accountable.

 

However, while the administration’s approach to the release of the torture memos has sent out mixed messages, the President and the Justice Department have failed miserably to differentiate themselves from their predecessors on two other fronts relating to the use of torture in the “War on Terror.”

 

Blocking habeas corpus at Bagram

 

The first of these concerns Bagram, the prison at the US airbase north of Kabul, Afghanistan, where an estimated 650 prisoners are held, in conditions that make Guantánamo -- still an opaque establishment, despite the publicity surrounding it -- look positively transparent. The prisoners at Guantánamo have secured several significant Supreme Court victories between 2004 and 2008 establishing that they have rights (however much the nation’s politicians attempted to remove them in the intervening years), and they have also had access to attorneys for over four years, have been through review processes that, however inadequate, have at least cleared some of them for release [21], and in recent months have, in a few cases, been ordered to be freed [22] by US courts.

 

At Bagram, however, none of these rights apply, but in February, when four habeas corpus cases filed on behalf of prisoners in Bagram reached a US court, the Obama administration refused to distance itself from its predecessor’s blanket refusal to open up the prison to any kind of outside scrutiny, stating simply that, “Having considered the matter, the Government adheres to its previously articulated position.”

 

At the time, Judge John D. Bates had already suggested that he suspected that this was an unacceptable position to take, because Bagram appeared to be “a ‘black hole’ for detainees in a ‘law-free zone,’” but it was not until a month ago, having reviewed the arguments more comprehensively, that he understood that there were different categories of prisoner in Bagram: foreigners captured in other countries and “rendered” there, Afghans captured in other countries and “rendered” there, and Afghans captured in Afghanistan.

 

The latter category were (in theory, at least) connected to events in an ongoing war zone (and were, moreover, subject to delicate negotiations between the US and Afghan governments), and Judge Bates reserved judgment about one of the four cases (an Afghan captured in another country and “rendered” back to his home country), but he had no hesitation in declaring that the habeas rights granted by the Supreme Court to the Guantánamo prisoners last June in Boumediene v. Bush [23] also extended to the foreign prisoners in Bagram (who included the other three men in the cases before him), because, as he explained succinctly, “the detainees themselves as well as the rationale for detention are essentially the same.” In fact, as Judge Bates also noted (and as I explained in depth in an article at the time [24]), the review process at Bagram is both “inadequate” and “more error-prone” than the tribunal process used at Guantánamo, and “falls well short of what the Supreme Court found inadequate at Guantánamo.

 

This is not, strictly speaking, a story about torture, but it becomes one when the stories of these men are examined in any detail, and it becomes apparent that they were all held in a variety of secret prisons in Afghanistan, which were run by the CIA, or under the agency’s control, before they even arrived at Bagram. This knowledge, plus the implications of Judge Bates’s ruling, made it doubly shocking when, instead of abiding by the decision, the Obama administration appealed, prompting the New York Times [25] to declare that the appeal “signaled that the administration was not backing down in its effort to maintain the power to imprison terrorism suspects for extended periods without judicial oversight.”

 

Blocking accountability for the CIA torture team’s “travel agent”

 

The other shock concerned a case initially brought by the ACLU against Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc., a Boeing subsidiary, on behalf of five prisoners subjected to “extraordinary rendition” and torture (Binyam Mohamed [26], Ahmed Agiza, Abou Elkassim Britel, Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah and Bisher al-Rawi --profiled here [27]), who were suing the company for damages based on their involvement in their ordeal as the CIA’s “travel agent.” The Bush administration had intervened the first time round, invoking the little-used state secrets doctrine, and requesting a dismissal of the entire action before Jeppesen filed an answer to the complaint, and when the case was revived in February, the Obama administration again followed suit, slavishly copying its predecessor, as it did with Bagram.

 

To be fair, if the administration is determined not to hold operatives to account for crimes sanctioned at the highest level, then it was logical that it would intervene to prevent Jeppesen’s contractors from being held to account, but, when the case was reviewed by the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, the judges -- led by Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, and also including Judges Mary M. Schroeder and William C. Canby, Jr. -- were not concerned with politics, but with the law, and they had no hesitation in demolishing the government’s case.

 

Jeppesen’s involvement in, and knowledge of the rendition program was actually revealed in an extraordinary declaration by Sean Belcher, a former employee, who stated that the director of Jeppesen International Trip Planning Services, Bob Overby, had told him,

 

“We do all the extraordinary rendition flights,” which he also referred to as “the torture flights” or “spook flights.” Belcher stated that “there were some employees who were not comfortable with that aspect of Jeppesen’s business” because they knew “some of these flights end up” with the passengers being tortured. He stated that Overby had explained, “that’s just the way it is, we’re doing them” because “the rendition flights paid very well.”

 

This declaration was cited by the judges, without comment, in a footnote, but when it came [to] the “relatively thin history” of the state secrets doctrine the judges were merciless, dismissing the government’s reliance on the two precedents -- one involving a secret agreement between the government and a spy in the nineteenth century, the other (from 1953) with the prevention of “discovery of secret evidence when disclosure would threaten national security” -- for their irrelevance to the Jeppesen case.

 

They did this first by pinpointing the “clear error” the District Court made when it initially dismissed the case, when the court declared, “inasmuch as the case involves ‘allegations’ about the conduct of the CIA, the privilege is invoked to protect information which is properly the subject of state secrets privilege,” and also declared that “the very subject matter of this case is a state secret.” In contrast, the Appeals Court judges insisted that “The subject matter … is not a state secret, and the case should not have been dismissed at the outset.”

 

Dismissing the government’s arguments, they concluded that, although the government may be entitled to protect certain evidence in the interests of national security, it has no justification for suppressing judicial scrutiny of the case as a whole, particularly because some information relating to the case is already publicly available, and also because what the government is actually trying to do, with no legal precedent whatsoever, is to impose a blanket ban on all discussion of potential government wrongdoing.

 

The ruling is peppered with passages chastising the government, and I recommend those with an interest to read the full ruling (PDF [28]), but the following is particularly sharp:

 

"At base, the government argues … that state secrets form the subject matter of a lawsuit, and therefore require dismissal, any time a complaint contains allegations, the truth or falsity of which has been classified as secret by a government official. The district court agreed, dismissing the case exclusively because it 'involves allegations about [secret] conduct by the CIA.' This sweeping characterization of the 'very subject matter' bar has no logical limit -- it would apply equally to suits by US citizens, not just foreign nationals; and to secret conduct committed on US soil, not just abroad. According to the government’s theory, the Judiciary should effectively cordon off all secret government actions from judicial scrutiny, immunizing the CIA and its partners from the demands and limits of the law. (emphasis added)"

 

Elsewhere, the judges drew on Boumediene, in which the Supreme Court stated that, while “[s]ecurity depends upon a sophisticated intelligence apparatus,” it “subsists, too, in fidelity to freedom’s first principles [including] freedom from arbitrary and unlawful restraint and the personal liberty that is secured by the adherence to the separation of powers.” They also drew on Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, another important Guantánamo case in the Supreme Court (in 2004), in which the justices stated, “Separation-of-powers concerns take on an especially important role in the context of secret Executive conduct. As the Founders of this nation knew well, arbitrary imprisonment and torture under any circumstance is a ‘gross and notorious … act of despotism.’”

 

I was also particularly impressed by the following passage:

 

If the simple fact that information is classified were enough to bring evidence containing that evidence within the scope of the [state secrets] privilege, then the entire state secrets inquiry -- from determining which matters are secret to which disclosures pose a threat to national security -- would fall exclusively to the Executive branch, in plain contravention of the Supreme Court’s admonition that “[j]udicial control over the evidence in a case cannot be abdicated to the caprice of executive officers” without “lead[ing] to intolerable abuses.” … A rule that categorically equated “classified” matters with “secret” matters would, for example, perversely encourage the President to classify politically embarrassing information simply to place it beyond the reach of judicial process.

 

What was notable about this passage was that it succinctly encapsulated the entire approach to “classified” information that was maintained by the Bush administration, and also mentioned invoking national security to prevent embarrassment -- or, it could be said, to prevent the disclosure of crimes.

 

This kind of hyperbole, exercised to prevent embarrassment (or worse), was, I thought, the hidden sub-text of a shrill submission by CIA director Michael Hayden, moving for dismissal of the original complaint, when he claimed that disclosure of information relevant to the Jeppesen case “could be expected to cause serious -- and in some instances, exceptionally grave -- damage to the national security of the United States,” and the point was rammed home by the judges in a footnote citing a 1953 letter to President Eisenhower from Attorney General Herbert Brownwell, in which Brownwell wrote that classification procedures were then “so broadly drawn … as to make it possible for government officials to cover up their own mistakes and even their wrongdoing under the guise of protecting national security.”

 

It also brings me neatly to my conclusion. I understand that President Obama doesn’t want to rock the boat, endangering a fragile peace with the Republican party, in order to secure as much consensus as possible when so many other major policy decisions need to be made (and, perhaps, members of his own party need to be shielded from revelations of their knowledge of the grisly details of the “War on Terror”). However, as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has just demonstrated so admirably, by setting new rules for appropriate conduct while holding at bay any accountability for the Bush administration’s crimes, he is not only shielding those who are no longer in office from full disclosure of their activities -- from the embarrassing to the depraved -- but is also allowing himself to be infected by the same disdain for the separation of powers, and the same endorsement of unfettered Executive power, that was the Bush administration’s most toxic legacy for the values on which the republic was founded.

 

I’m still erring on the side of presuming that this is more to do with pragmatism than it is with deliberate, coldly conceived policy, but, like Judge John D. Bates and the judges of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, I’m beginning to run out of patience.

 

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/the-guantanamo-files/>  [29] (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon -- click on the following for the US <http://www.amazon.com/Guantanamo-Files-Stories-Detainees-Americas/dp/0745326641>  [30] and the UK <http://www.amazon.co.uk/Guantanamo-Files-Stories-Detainees-Americas/dp/0745326641>  [31]). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/feed/>  [32], and see here <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/03/03/guantanamo-the-definitive-prisoner-list/>  [33] for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

 

For a sequence of articles dealing with the use of torture by the CIA, on “high-value detainees,” and in the secret prisons, see: Guantánamo’s tangled web: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Majid Khan, dubious US convictions, and a dying man <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2007/07/14/guantanamos-tangled-web-khalid-sheikh-mohammed-majid-khan-dubious-us-convictions-and-a-dying-man/>  [34] (July 2007), Jane Mayer on the CIA’s “black sites,” condemnation by the Red Cross, and Guantánamo’s “high-value” detainees (including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2007/08/10/jane-mayer-on-the-cias-black-sites/> [35] (August 2007), Waterboarding: two questions for Michael Hayden about three “high-value” detainees now in Guantánamo <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/02/06/waterboarding-two-questions-for-michael-hayden-about-three-high-value-detainees-now-in-guantanamo/>  [36] (February 2008), Six in Guantánamo Charged with 9/11 Murders: Why Now? And What About the Torture? <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/02/12/six-in-guantanamo-charged-with-911-murders-why-now-and-what-about-the-torture/>  [37] (February 2008), The Insignificance and Insanity of Abu Zubaydah: Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Confirms FBI’s Doubts <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/04/26/the-insignificance-and-insanity-of-abu-zubaydah-ex-guantanamo-prisoner-confirms-fbis-doubts/>  [38] (April 2008), Guantánamo Trials: Another Torture Victim Charged <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/07/02/guantanamo-trials-another-torture-victim-charged/>  [39] (Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, July 2008), Secret Prison on Diego Garcia Confirmed: Six “High-Value” Guantánamo Prisoners Held, Plus “Ghost Prisoner” Mustafa Setmariam Nasar <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/08/01/secret-prison-on-diego-garcia-confirmed-six-high-value-guantanamo-prisoners-held-plus-ghost-prisoner-mustafa-setmariam-nasar/>  [40] (August 2008), Will the Bush administration be held accountable for war crimes?  <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/12/23/will-the-bush-administration-be-held-accountable-for-war-crimes/>  [41](December 2008), The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part One) <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/12/25/the-ten-lies-of-dick-cheney-part-one/> [42] and The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part Two)  <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/12/26/the-ten-lies-of-dick-cheney-part-two/> [43](December 2008), Prosecuting the Bush Administration’s Torturers <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/03/23/prosecuting-the-bush-administrations-torturers/>  [44] (March 2009), Abu Zubaydah: The Futility Of Torture and A Trail of Broken Lives <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/03/30/abu-zubaydah-the-futility-of-torture-and-a-trail-of-broken-lives/>  [45] (March 2009), Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part One) <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/21/ten-terrible-truths-about-the-cia-torture-memos-part-one/>  [46], Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part Two) <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/23/ten-terrible-truths-about-the-cia-torture-memos-part-two/>  [47], 9/11 Commission Director Philip Zelikow Condemns Bush Torture Program <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/21/911-commission-director-philip-zelikow-condemns-bush-torture-program/>  [48], Who Authorized The Torture of Abu Zubaydah? <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/24/who-authorized-the-torture-of-abu-zubaydah/>  [49] and CIA Torture Began In Afghanistan 8 Months before DoJ Approval <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/27/cia-torture-began-in-afghanistan-8-months-before-doj-approval/>  [50], Even In Cheney’s Bleak World, The Al-Qaeda-Iraq Torture Story Is A New Low <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/29/even-in-cheneys-bleak-world-the-al-qaeda-iraq-torture-story-is-a-new-low/>  [51] (all April 2009). Also see the extensive archive of articles about the Military Commissions <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/category/military-commissions/>  [52].

 

 

 Source URL: http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/42407 

Links:

[1] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/

[2] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/05/04/obamas-first-100-days-a-start-on-guantanamo-but-not-enough/

[3] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/01/23/return-to-the-law-obama-orders-guantanamo-closure-torture-ban-and-review-of-us-enemy-combatant-case/

[4] http://www.alternet.org/rights/117807/how_the_u.s._army's_field_manual_codified_torture_--_and_still_does/

[5] http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR51/043/2009/en/b5ea3f7f-1955-40c0-b5bb-108492f902f3/amr510432009en.pdf

[6] http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=3712

[7] http://www.declineandfall.net/2009/01/problem-is-not-in-field-manual.html

[8] https://www.cia.gov/news-information/press-releases-statements/directors-statement-interrogation-policy-contracts.html

[9] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/21/ten-terrible-truths-about-the-cia-torture-memos-part-one/

[10] http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Statement-of-President-Barack-Obama-on-Release-of-OLC-Memos/

[11] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/16/torture-memos-bush-administration

[12] http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/09/04/20/What-Makes-the-United-States-Special/

[13] http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/03/guantanamo200703

[14] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/10/01/the-dark-heart-of-the-guantanamo-trials/

[15] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2007/07/03/guantanamo-whistleblowers-lt-col-stephen-abraham-is-not-the-first-insider-to-condemn-the-kangaroo-courts/

[16] http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2009/04/21/obama_opens_the_door_to_prosec.html?wprss=44

[17] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/12/25/the-ten-lies-of-dick-cheney-part-one/

[18] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/02/06/waterboarding-two-questions-for-michael-hayden-about-three-high-value-detainees-now-in-guantanamo/

[19] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/29/obama-100-days-press-conf_n_193283.html

[20] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/17/us/politics/17detain.html?_r=1

[21] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/02/10/guantanamos-refugees/

[22] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/01/15/judge-orders-release-of-guantanamos-forgotten-child/

[23] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/06/13/the-supreme-courts-guantanamo-ruling-what-does-it-mean/

[24] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/06/justice-extends-to-bagram-guantanamos-dark-mirror/

[25] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/11/world/asia/11bagram.html?ref=world

[26] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/03/08/seven-years-of-torture-binyam-mohamed-tells-his-story/

[27] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/02/12/hiding-torture-and-freeing-binyam-mohamed-from-guantanamo/

[28] http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2009/04/27/0815693.pdf

[29] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/the-guantanamo-files/

[30] http://www.amazon.com/Guantanamo-Files-Stories-Detainees-Americas/dp/0745326641

[31] http://www.amazon.co.uk/Guantanamo-Files-Stories-Detainees-Americas/dp/0745326641

[32] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/feed/

[33] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/03/03/guantanamo-the-definitive-prisoner-list/

[34] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2007/07/14/guantanamos-tangled-web-khalid-sheikh-mohammed-majid-khan-dubious-us-convictions-and-a-dying-man/

[35] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2007/08/10/jane-mayer-on-the-cias-black-sites/

[36] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/02/06/waterboarding-two-questions-for-michael-hayden-about-three-high-value-detainees-now-in-guantanamo/

[37] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/02/12/six-in-guantanamo-charged-with-911-murders-why-now-and-what-about-the-torture/

[38] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/04/26/the-insignificance-and-insanity-of-abu-zubaydah-ex-guantanamo-prisoner-confirms-fbis-doubts/

[39] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/07/02/guantanamo-trials-another-torture-victim-charged/

[40] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/08/01/secret-prison-on-diego-garcia-confirmed-six-high-value-guantanamo-prisoners-held-plus-ghost-prisoner-mustafa-setmariam-nasar/

[41] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/12/23/will-the-bush-administration-be-held-accountable-for-war-crimes/

[42] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/12/25/the-ten-lies-of-dick-cheney-part-one/

[43] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/12/26/the-ten-lies-of-dick-cheney-part-two/

[44] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/03/23/prosecuting-the-bush-administrations-torturers/

[45] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/03/30/abu-zubaydah-the-futility-of-torture-and-a-trail-of-broken-lives/

[46] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/21/ten-terrible-truths-about-the-cia-torture-memos-part-one/

[47] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/23/ten-terrible-truths-about-the-cia-torture-memos-part-two/

[48] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/21/911-commission-director-philip-zelikow-condemns-bush-torture-program/

[49] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/24/who-authorized-the-torture-of-abu-zubaydah/

[50] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/27/cia-torture-began-in-afghanistan-8-months-before-doj-approval/

[51] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/29/even-in-cheneys-bleak-world-the-al-qaeda-iraq-torture-story-is-a-new-low/

[52] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/category/military-commissions/

 

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Andy Worthington writes regularly and extensively on issues related to torture.
He writes: I’m still erring on the side of presuming that this is more to do with pragmatism than it is with deliberate, coldly conceived policy, but, like Judge John D. Bates and the judges of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, I’m beginning to run out of patience

It is patience that is most needed here to let a larger plan unfold. Some things take TIME -- more than four months into the current administration you admit to being out of patience with the President?

That is the problem more than anything else -- our American fast food mentality, quick fix for every problem, thought process. We will not allow that the President has a plan. In view of everything else that is happening, and the overall tenor of his Presidency, can we give him more time to let the plans for something of this magnitude unfold?
I found the following article by David Brin to be much in line with my view on the President's plan. He is taking the same measured approach that he seems to take to everything when time is on his side.
Brittleness, Culture War, and Why Obama Must Pick His Fights
It's not a matter of patience, it's a matter of principle. I hate fast food, by the way. : )

A quick fix isn't an apt analogy here because Bush and Cheney were allowed through Democratic collusion, to carry out these egregious policies for eight years. That's a very long time. The problem's been allowed to fester.

There are two points worth further making here. First, if Obama truly is picking his battles and planning later on to go after the torturers, then why is his DOJ and why is he buttressing and going beyond the rationales - legal and political - that the Bush White House used to justify their indefinite detentions, renditions, and torture? If you plan to take on an adversary down the road, you don't give him strength supplements and training advice, you don't at the same time, sap your own strength and energy. But this is what he's been doing.

Second, the notion that prosecuting these individuals for crimes against humanity will "suck the air out of D.C." and make getting anything else done impossible is so wrong on so many levels, but let me just point to one for now: if the revelations of what Bush, Cheney and their lieutenants did were to come out before the public in hearings and trials, if things that aren't even yet in the public record which are even more shocking than what's already on the public record were to be uncovered for the world to see, how much credibility do you think the GOP is going to have and how much resistance will they present to any other public policy measures? If your goal is to defeat and discredit the GOP, then what better way to do this than to nail them to the wall for the world to see for their monstrous crimes? These people are murderers, torturers, liars and tyrants. Open up that Pandora's Box and they will have nowhere to hide.
Dennis, your persistence in this is amazing. If, and I do mean if, the people who tortured and murdered these prisoners, are ever prosecuted, you will be a major reason why. I thank you for doing what few people are doing, bringing justice and and making America the leader in moral authority.If everyone would just send one e-mail or phone call or whatever,this would happen. While I have done some of these things, I see no one doing the job you are doing to bring these people to trail. Thank you for all American's.
Thank you for your comments LaLucas and scanner.

Scanner: one can't help, if one has a conscience, but be outraged by torture/murder in detention and the wars that are connected inextricably to torture in the "war of terror." I'm doing what I can.
It is a matter of principle with me as well -- a person can be both patient and principled at the same time.

Like playing a game of Chess, there must be a strategy. You cannot win until you assess your opponent, develop a strategy and bring yourself to the table to consider and execute the proper moves with regard to each piece on the game board .

Wiping the pieces off the board in one fell swoop and expecting to be granted a "win" is not realistic. Prosecuting ALL of them RIGHT NOW is akin to doing just that IMHO.

Don't ever give up the urge to win a principled fight. I just ask you to consider if you can allow that like a serious game of chess, the torture issue is unlikely to be resolved in four moves, four hours or four months...I believe that we need to trust just a little bit that there is a plan to resolve this issue over time.
LaLucas: I also enjoy chess. And in chess, there is, yes, an opening, middle and end game. Each stage has its own features. I'm all for strategy. If in your opening game you block your own pieces from being developed properly - e.g., you hem in your bishops and fail to develop your power pieces - and even worse, if you sacrifice pieces in return for no advantages, but simply incur losses, then you damage your chances, fatally, of winning the game. If you look at what Obama has been doing in relation to Bagram, where he is continuing at least some of the practices that we want to go after Bush et al for, then what kind of strategy of winning is that, where you emulate your foe?
Dennis, your research on this subject is valuable and I'm glad you're staying attentive to it. I also appreciate the links to the Andy Worthington articles. It's telling that these are published in the UK, and how many people in this country are still wearing blinders when it comes to the previous administration. Extraordinary rendition began under Bill Clinton...I wonder whether it will end under Obama, and if it does not, if this will cast a shadow over his administration.
I will leave you to fight the good fight here.

You want it now, I want it to happen at the best time as soon as possible when it will not "rock the boat, endangering a fragile peace with the Republican party, in order to secure as much consensus as possible when so many other major policy decisions need to be made". The author seems to hear the message, but wants something else to happen NOW? I just don't agree that NOW is the time...we will see what happens in the near future (maybe six months or so...)

In the meantime, please keep up the good fight. I believe it is going to get better with regard to these issues. I have confidence in our new President that with sufficient time, anything and everything good is possible.
What a great amount of literature. Thank you for publishing all this.

'lalucas' wrote:

"I have confidence in our new President that with sufficient time, anything and everything good is possible."

You've got an extraordinary faith.

Of course is depends on what you mean with 'good'. If 'good' in this case means expanding the war in Afghanistan as started by the previous president, killing even more civilians in Pakistan and in Afghanistan , continuing torturing prisoners in jail and putting the whole world at the risk of escalating wars, then maybe you confidence could be somehow justified.

Personally I can't see much good coming out of the office the president of the United States nowadays. The things are now getting even worse than during the times of Bush' regime especially in Afghanistan and in Pakistan.
Thanks Dennis for the post. As Abe Lincoln once said, "“To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men”. I firmly believe that, and I haven't shut my mouth in years. I remember once, while "Raising Cain" about some misdeeds done by a Wyoming State Official, a felony nonetheless, the local law enforcement in Johnson County just blew it off, and told me I should pick my fights better. Exact quote. I continued, but it was politics as usual, and no one gave a shit. The good ole' boy network is alive and well in ultra-conservative Wyoming, even with a supposed Democratic governor! Ha! Ha!
That has never stopped me. I'm not a great writer, but like you, I am persistent. My friends get a kick out of me, but I feel sorry for them, because most were not born with literal "balls" , the balls to stand up to authority, and the status quo.
I am not one to be patient any much longer with this so-called 8 year long "policy" issue, as defined by some. Torture, but whatever name one wants to call it to dress it up, and give themselves that feel-good feeling that they don't support "torture", only enhanced-interrogation, ooooh! Bullshit, it's freaking torture, and it isn't a policy issue, it's a moral issue, and right now our country's moral compass is so fucked up it is pointing us straight to hell, and some from the former administration commute back and forth from there, to media world, spewing their hate and evil on a daily basis. There is a special place for these folks, a special place.
Now is not the time to wait, we've waited quite long, (And I'm not just talking about Obama's 1st 100+ days.) and now is the time for action. Pragmatism is getting in the way of our morals, our laws, and our humanity to all mankind.
Dolores: You are right, rendition began under Clinton. Bush took it to a much higher level, but Obama has gone on record as saying that he will continue rendition. Your point about the juncture we're at is well-taken.

Hannu: I so agree with you about the escalation of these wars under Obama.

Lalucas: I want to thank you for agreeing that this is a fight that must be engaged in. It's so refreshing given the fact that some of Obama's fans have been absolutely venomous in their anger towards anyone who dares to criticize Obama. On the other hand, I do want to hold your feet to the fire. If Obama does want to undo these atrocities and make things right, then he needs for you and others to demand now and continue to demand action now until it's done because if you don't, then guess who gets to prevail on this issue? Even if it were true that Obama's heart's in the right place, in facing off against the GOP and their minions he couldn't possibly prevail unless there's a determined demand coming from the people for justice NOW.

Bill: Your words are so true.
I'm with you, Dennis. It's time to take action. As much as I love Obama, I'm tired of waiting; every day we wait has the feel of collusion on the part of our current president. It must all come out, and the guilty must be prosecuted no matter which president was in charge or to which party the guilty were allied.

I wonder if Obama is waiting for the country to get behind further investigation and prosecution.

Thanks for your post.
Leslie: I think you have just coined a perfect phrase for what must be done: "It must all come out." Can't you just see this as in big letters on a banner and on bumper stickers and signs in windows, etc.?
"I sit on a man's back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means - except by getting off his back"

Regards Mal
Obama said [10], “In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carrying out their duties relying in good faith upon the legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution,” and, in a similar vein, Holder added [11], “It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department.”

Lawyer's weasel words at their weaseliest:

"it is our intention to assure" -- this says only that you intend to assure someone, not that you will assure them, and certainly not that you will not do what is causing them concern in the first place

"It would be unfair" of course it would be unfair, but it would be perfectly legal, and it would be even more unfair not to prosecute those who tortured innocent people.

I recall a certain U.S. President who claimed he could easily raise a million dollar slush fund to cover-up the Watergate break-in -- wouldn't be right, he claimed he added, but that wasn't on the tape. Wouldn't be right, but he damn sure did it.
Now the problem is that for example my government people, who seem to be American allies promised to send more troops to Afghanistan during the times of the next elections there.

Yestersday news are telling about student demonstrations in the capital of Afghanistan asking Americans and all their allies to go home, they have got enough of foreign soldiers killing and arresting innocent people in their country. Even the president of Afghanistan asked recently Americans to stop killing civilians there.

The prisoners there in jails connected with the war are treated as being 'war prisoners' without any rights to ask justice about their detention.
I have a problem with the distinction between "unlawful enemy combatant" and "prisoner of war" to begin with. It's a legalism which violates the spirit of the law.
Thanks Mal.

Tom, always good to host you.

Hannu: an excellent point about Afghanistan.

Allie: so true!
Dennis, I've been away from Open Salon for a very long time now but specifically got on just now to see what you have been writing about. I have a question you might be able to answer. Once the President's Task Force on Interrogations comes up with its recommendations, will we have any recourse if the recommendations fall short of what's ethical (for example, if they let Appendix M stand)? Will Congress have to approve any of these recommendations the Task Force makes before the president implements them, or will the recommendations bypass Congress and be accepted and implemented by the president, regardless? How can we have a voice in this?
Pat: It appears from the reading I've done on the Task Force that they have already determined that they will use the Army Field Manual as a whole, including the problematic Appendix M, as their basis for their recommendations. It also looks problematic that they are talking about carrying out interrogations of some detainees that aren't designed to be admissible in court and they aren't planning to take the detainees to court eventually. This opens the door to abuse, as does Appendix M.

As for what we can do if the Task Force's recommendations are problematic, two things: I think we can safely predict that the recommendations are going to be problematic in the first place because of all of the other indicators of what Obama's been doing on this front. Other than his rhetorical promises not to torture, he has retained rendition and has done nothing as far as anyone can determine to improve conditions at Gitmo and Bagram.

Second, the pressure of public opinion and public actions need to be brought to bear now and in the future until justice is done. In other words, we should not wait until the Task Force issues its findings.