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Senior Bush figures could be prosecuted for torture, says Obama
President says use of waterboarding showed US had 'lost moral bearings' as Dick Cheney says CIA memos showed torture delivered 'good' intelligence
By Ewan MacAskill and Robert Booth | Guardian UK
Senior members of the Bush administration who approved the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation measures could face prosecution, President Obama disclosed today.
He said the use of torture reflected America "losing our moral bearings".
He said his attorney general, Eric Holder, was conducting an investigation and the decision rested with him. Obama last week ruled out prosecution of CIA agents who carried out the interrogation of suspected al-Qaida members at Guantánamo and secret prisons around the world.
By Dave Lindorff
For some time now, many Americans have wondered how Congress, the elected body that the nation’s Founding Fathers saw as the bulwark of liberty, could have been so thoroughly unwilling to, or incapable of challenging the dictatorial power-grabs and the eight-year Constitution wrecking campaign of the Bush/Cheney administration.
There has been speculation on both the far left and the far right, and even among some in the apolitical, cynical middle of the political spectrum, that somehow the Bush/Cheney administration must have been blackmailing at least the key members of the Congressional leadership, most likely through the use of electronic monitoring by the National Security Agency (NSA).
President Barack Obama and other top officials in his administration have made it clear that there can be no military solution in Afghanistan, and that the non-military efforts to win over the Afghan population will be central to its chances of success.
The reality, however, is that U.S. military and civilian agencies lack the skills and training as well as the institutional framework necessary to carry out culturally and politically sensitive socio-economic programmes at the local level in Afghanistan, or even to avoid further alienation of the population.
The Story of Mitchell Jessen & Associates: How Psychologists in Spokane, WA, Helped Develop the CIA’s Torture Techniques
We broadcast from Spokane, Washington, less than three miles from the headquarters of a secretive CIA contractor that played a key role in developing the Bush administration’s interrogation methods. The firm, Mitchell Jessen & Associates, is named after the two military psychologists who founded the company, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. Beginning in 2002, the CIA hired the psychologists to train interrogators in brutal techniques, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and pain. We speak with three journalists who have closely followed the story. [includes rush transcript]
Mark Benjamin, National correspondent for Salon.com.
Katherine Eban, Investigative reporter and writer for several national publications. Her July 2007 article for Vanity Fair, “Rorschach and Awe.”
Karen Dorn Steele, a local investigative reporter who covered Mitchell and Jessen for The Spokesman-Review. She won a George Polk Award for a 1994 newspaper series on squandered money in the $50 billion Hanford Nuclear Reservation cleanup, the nation’s most polluted nuclear weapons production site.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in Spokane, Washington, less than three miles from the headquarters of a secretive CIA contractor that played a key role in developing the Bush administration’s interrogation methods. The firm, Mitchell Jessen & Associates, is named after the two military psychologists who founded the company, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen.
Beginning in 2002, the CIA hired the psychologists to train interrogators in brutal techniques, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and pain. Both of the men had years of military training in a secretive program known as SERE—Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape—which teaches soldiers to endure captivity in enemy hands. Mitchell and Jessen reverse-engineered the tactics taught in SERE training for use on prisoners held in the CIA’s secret prisons.
The declassified torture memos released last week relied heavily on the advice of Mitchell and Jessen. In one memo, Justice Department attorney Jay Bybee wrote, quote, “Based on your research into the use of these methods at the SERE school and consultation with others with expertise in the field of psychology and interrogation, you do not anticipate that any prolonged harm would result from the use of the waterboard.”
President Holds Open Door For Prosecutions of Bush Officials For Interrogation Policies, Truth Commission
Note: This Article Was Taken Down From ABCNews' Front Page In Less Than 2 Hours. "No news here, folks, move along."
Update: This was the lead story on ABC World News Tonight on 04/21/2009.
ABC News' Jake Tapper, Sunlen Miller and Yunji de Nies report:
President Obama suggested today that it remained a possibility that the Justice Department might bring charges against officials of the Bush administration who devised harsh interrogation policies that some see as torture.
He also suggested that if there is any sort of investigation into these past policies and practices, he would be more inclined to support an independent commission outside the typical congressional hearing process.
Both statements represented breaks from previous White House statements on the matter.
While the Bush-era memos providing legal justifications for enhanced interrogation methods "reflected us losing our moral bearings," the president said, he also that he did not think it was "appropriate" to prosecute those CIA officers who "carried out some of these operations within the four corners of the legal opinions or guidance that had been provided by the White House."
But in clear change from language he and members of his administration have used in the past, the president said that "with respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say 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. I think that there are a host of very complicated issues involved there."
Several years too late, we've been dragged kicking and screaming into what a democratic republic should be engaged in: a public debate on whether such a nation is ever well-advised to engage in the torture of captives. Of course, the motives adduced are always the best--we've been attacked, the government has to protect the country--but it's not the proclaimed motives that separate the most admirable countries in the world from the most despised, but the behavior in pursuit of those motives.
By Dave Lindorff
If the day comes that Congress finally does its duty and begins an impeachment effort against 9th Circuit Federal Appeals Judge Jay Bybee, the former Bush assistant attorney general who in 2002 authored a key memo justifying the use of torture against captives in the Afghanistan invasion and the so-called “War on Terror,” it would be fitting punishment to watch him squirm as his own words as a judge were played back to him.
It was as an Appeals Court Judge Bybee, sitting on a case being heard in 2006 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, that he wrote the following words:
IF NIXON HAD BEEN TRIED FOR WAR CRIMES
By Nick Mottern
The following is an excerpt from a talk by Nick Mottern on April 19, 2009 delivered after receiving a Peace and Justice Award from the WESPAC Foundation in White Plains, NY.
I asked (several friends) what they would like me to speak about today, and the consensus was: Tell people why you do peace and justice work. I will get to that in the course of my remarks.
I want to address a fundamental issue facing us right now: President Obama has said that people who have committed torture
during the Bush/Cheney years will not be prosecuted. He said: “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past...we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future.”
I would like to make two points.
On the Sunday morning news programs, several pundits went out of their way to either endorse waterboarding and other techniques endorsed in the torture memos - or to dismiss the idea of holding their authors responsible.
On ABC News’ “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” George Will echoed several Bush officials when he criticized the release of the memos, saying “The problem with transparency is that it’s transparent for the terrorists as well.” Will expressed concern about the cost of letting “the bad guys” know what techniques, such as waterboarding, will be used on them. He went on to add, as noted by HuffPost’s Jason Linkins, that “intelligent people of good will” believe the President of the United States can do whatever he wants to “defend the country.”
Official: Obama doesn't want interrogation charges
By Douglass K. Daniel | Yahoo! News
President Barack Obama does not intend to prosecute Bush administration officials who devised the policies that led to the harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said Sunday.
Obama last week authorized the release of a series of memos detailing the methods approved under President George W. Bush. In an accompanying statement, he said "it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice, that they will not be subject to prosecution." He did not specifically address the policymakers.
Asked Sunday on ABC's "This Week" about the fate of those officials, Emanuel said the president believes they "should not be prosecuted either and that's not the place that we go."
Despite the outcry it has prompted, the Administration was absolutely right to declassify the Department of Justice-CIA interrogation memos. The argument that the letters compromise national security does not hold water. As noted in the memos, the interrogations techniques are taken from the military's escape and evasion training manuals, known as SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) — which in turn were taken from Chinese abusive interrogations used on our troops during the Korean War. If there is any doubt the techniques were already in the public domain, released detainees have more than detailed the abuse interrogation techniques they were subjected to.
But Obama should not stop there. The memos justify abusive interrogations by the completely discredited "ticking time-bomb" defense — that if we don't torture a suspect when we know there is an imminent threat, we stand to lose many, many American lives. But what ticking bomb? In one memo it states that it was thanks to waterboarding 9/11's mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (who was, according to the memo, subjected to the procedure 183 times) that we learned about a "Second Wave" of attacks. There has been little heard since about the "Second Wave," so without more documents declassified, it can be assumed that KSM made it up to stop the waterboarding. In another memo, it is noted that senior Al Qaeda member Abu Zubaydah was tortured into admitting KSM was the 9/11 mastermind. The memo does not note that early on KSM freely admitted his role in an interview with al-Jazeera. (View pictures of life inside Guantanamo.)
Years before it was announced that Van Jones, the premier green-jobs advocate in the country, was headed to the White House, it was clear that Van Jones was headed to the White House. Thomas Friedman devoted an entire 2007 column to Jones, writing of his lofty goals, "I would not underestimate him." Jones muscled his way through Congress to get a Green Jobs Act passed in 2007 and then lavished praise on Nancy Pelosi and now-Labor Secretary, then-Rep. Hilda Solis. Pelosi returned the favor with a rave book blurb for Jones' 2008 best-seller The Green Collar Economy, writing that Jones possessed "sparkling intelligence, powerful vision, and deep empathy." When he wasn't running his fix-poverty, fix-the-planet nonprofit in Oakland, Calif., he was seeding Obama's transition team with ideas for an all-encompassing environmental/labor/energy/
United Nations officials on Monday tried to save an anti-racism summit in Geneva after some delegates walked out in response to a speech by Mahmoud Ahmadi-nejad, the Iranian president, describing Zionist rule in Israel as racist.
”Following World War II they resorted to military aggressions to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering,” Mr Ahmadinejad told the conference, speaking through a translator.
Peter Gooderham, British ambassador, condemned the Iranian leader’s ”offensive and inflammatory comments” that prompted the temporary walk-out. Delegates said they would return after he had finished speaking.
Attorney General Eric Holder during his confirmation hearing:
I understand that the attorney general is different from every other cabinet officer. Though I am a part of the president's team, I am not a part of the president's team in the way that any other cabinet officer is. I have a special and unique responsibility. There has to be a distance between me and the president. The president-elect said when he nominated me that he recognized that, that the attorney general was different from other cabinet officers. I think if you look at my record, if you look at my career and the decisions that I have made, I have shown that I have the ability and, frankly, the guts to be independent of people who have put me in positions.
How do we square this statement with the President's announcement that those who waterboarded terrorism suspects, among other torture techniques, would not be prosecuted? By issuing such a statement it appears President Obama is the "legal decider" and he has decided, in explicitly political terms, that "nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past."
I will not describe what could be gained as others have done an eloquent job but I would like to point out that seeking justice for wrongly injured people is not "retribution" as the President put it.
Lawyers Group Targets Ex-Pentagon Counsel For Sanctioning Torture
By William Fisher | The Public Record
Lawyers who reject President Barack Obama’s decision not to seek prosecution of officials who may have participated in the torture of terror-suspect prisoners are seeking justice through another avenue: Sanctions against government lawyers who created the “enhanced interrogation” policies of former President George W. Bush.
Their first target is former Defense Department General Counsel William J. Haynes II. The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) has filed a complaint against Haynes, asking the State Bar of California to investigate him and revoke his status as Registered In-House Counsel. Haynes is now an attorney with Chevron Corp. in San Ramon, Calif.
The Los Angeles Times reports that a similar complaint is being prepared in Pennsylvania against former Justice Department lawyer John C. Yoo, the University of California Berkeley law professor, for his role in drafting the legal guidelines that approved enhanced interrogation techniques including waterboarding during his service in the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) during the Bush Administration.
Former Reagan Justice Department official Bruce Fein writes that Obama's decision to release CIA memos without prosecuting Bush administration officials flouts his constitutional duty.
On Thursday, April 16, in response to a lawsuit initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union, President Barack Obama released four redacted Office of Legal Counsel memoranda from the Bush administration to the CIA justifying torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment. (The CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques were modeled on the Chinese Communist coercive brainwashing program against Americans captured in the Korean War to induce false confessions.) Each memorandum hedged its conclusions with substantial caveats, such as the absence of judicial precedents and concessions that reasonable persons could dispute their exculpatory conclusions. The memoranda were later renounced as bad law.
Obama has set a precedent of whitewashing White House lawlessness in the name of national security that will lie around like a loaded weapon ready for resurrection by any commander in chief eager to appear “tough on terrorism” and to exploit popular fear.
A former head of the CIA slammed President Obama on Sunday for releasing four Bush-era memos, saying the new president has compromised national security.
Michael Hayden, who served as former President Bush's last CIA director from 2006 to 2009, said releasing the memos outlining terror interrogation methods emboldened terrorist groups such as al Qaeda.
"What we have described for our enemies in the midst of a war are the outer limits that any American would ever go to in terms of interrogating an al Qaeda terrorist. That's very valuable information," Hayden said during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."
"By taking [certain] techniques off the table, we have made it more difficult -- in a whole host of circumstances I can imagine -- for CIA officers to defend the nation," he said.
But Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said certain techniques should not have been allowed in the first place. McCaskill called them "a great recruitment tool for those who want to do harm to our country."
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel dismissed Hayden's assertion that releasing the memos had undermined U.S. intelligence efforts by giving al Qaeda critical new information.
"One of the reasons the president was willing to let this information out was that already the information was out," he said on ABC's "This Week."
"Go get the New York Review of Books. It's there."
By Dave Lindorff
President Obama deserves credit for breaking the half-century-long taboo in American politics of dealing with Cuba, and meeting with Raul Castro, Cuba’s current leader. He also deserves credit for dealing in a friendly manner with Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
But what is this crap about “talking with” our enemies or with countries that have been “hostile” towards us?
It is certainly be true that America doesn’t like Communism, and doesn’t like having properties owned by its citizens taken over, which happened in the wake of the Cuban revolution, but nationalization is a right that many sovereign nations have exercised in their national interest, and besides that, what has Cuba ever done that would show it to be an enemy of the US?
CIA fears torture prosecutions | Times Online UK
Only some of the secrets of US ‘ghost’ prisons have been revealed
THE CIA fears some of its operatives could face prosecution for torturing high-level terrorist suspects, despite President Barack Obama’s promise of legal immunity.
The confidential US Department of Justice guidelines on interrogating high-level detainees, which were made public last week, provide only a small window into the secret prisons or “black sites” run by the CIA.
“These are the first dominoes,” said Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit that forced the release of the memos. “It will be difficult for the new administration to argue now that other documents can be lawfully withheld.”
The memos, drawn up by Bush administration officials and lawyers, detailed what was permissible, such as placing detainees in a cramped box, “walling” them by slamming them against a wall, dousing them with a hose, depriving them of sleep, confining them with insects and simulating drowning - “waterboarding”.
A former senior CIA official at the time of the 9/11 attacks told The Sunday Times that there was more to uncover about the ghost prisons.
Obama v. Nuremberg
By John Branson
In its coverage of the Obama administration's grant of amnesty to torturers, the mainstream media's silence about the lessons from Nuremberg
is deafening. At Nuremberg, "just following orders" was rejected as a defense to war crimes or a basis for immunity, and was relevant, if at all, to sentencing. Nuremberg Principle IV states:
"The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."
Historians and legal scholars have attributed great significance to the fact that the Nazis created a full-fledged legal regime - replete with laws, legal opinions, lawyers and judges - so as to keep the general public on board with the persecution and extermination of Jews, and to give officials at the highest and lowest levels the comfort and assurance needed to justify the most brutal acts against humanity.
To astute observers, what was most troubling about the crimes of the Nazi regime was the absence of lawlessness. For this reason, the prosecutors at Nuremberg understood the importance of trying and convicting the legal architects of the criminal regime (including judges and lawyers), as well as those who sought to defend their acts by reference to the express policies of the Nazi regime and the orders of superiors based on such policies.
Since fatuously declaring his to be a "change" administration, President Barack Obama has quickly donned the blood-spattered mantle of state secrecy and executive privilege worn by the Bush regime.
On Friday April 3, the Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss one of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) landmark lawsuits against illegal spying by the National Security Agency (NSA).
That suit, Jewell v. NSA, was filed last September against the NSA, NSA Director Keith B. Alexander, President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Mike McConnell, Director of National Intelligence. But with the departure of the Bush gang, the defendants now include President Barack Obama, NSA Director Keith B. Alexander, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Dennis C. Blair, Director of National Intelligence.
When the suit was filed against the government, EFF declared:
The lawsuit, Jewel v. NSA, is aimed at ending the NSA's dragnet surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans and holding accountable the government officials who illegally authorized it. Evidence in the case includes undisputed documents provided by former AT&T telecommunications technician Mark Klein showing AT&T has routed copies of Internet traffic to a secret room in San Francisco controlled by the NSA. ("EFF Sues NSA, President Bush and Vice President Cheney to Stop Illegal Surveillance," Electronic Frontier Foundation, Press Release, September 18, 2008)
Obama Administration: No Prosecution of Officials for Bush-Era Torture Policy
By George Stephanopoulos | ABCNews This Week
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said during our exclusive interview Sunday on "This Week" that President Barack Obama will not pursue the prosecution of Bush-era officials who devised torture policy against detainees, as laid out in memos the Obama administration released this week.
Earlier in the interview, I asked Emanuel about a series of officials, including former CIA director Michael Hayden and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who have criticized the Obama administration's decision to release the Bush-era memos outlining torture techniques of detainees.
"First of all, we banned these techniques and practices. Banned them because we didn't think they were consistent with American security and its values," Emanuel said on "This Week."
Obama, Our New “War President,” Violates the Constitution by Fighting the Constitutional Right of Habeas Corpus
Obama made many promises, and three stick in my memory — to restore civil rights stolen by Bushman, end the looting on Wall Street, and bring the troops home from Iraq. In a word, “change.” Looking at the results achieved in the last three months on all three fronts, it appears that Americans have been taken for chumps, because if what we’ve got is change, it’s surprisingly indistinguishable from the same old-same old, as our charismatic leader would put it. Today, I’m going to talk about how he’s chosen to continue as our “war president,” and why he should change course now, for the good of the nation.
The Evil of Arbitrary Arrest Under The Tyrannical Authority of “General Warrants” and “Bills of Attainder”
Until you have been subjected to it, you can hardly imagine the terrors inflicted by despots using brute force to arrest and imprison people without cause. I have represented people who were arrested and imprisoned on false charges, but even that does not compare to being arrested for no reason whatsoever. People arrested for no reason naturally fear that they may never be released. Certainly, those detained for no reason are much more likely to be tortured and killed in secret. After all, if you can be arrested for no reason, why would you need a reason to go farther, and commit torture, or simply eliminate the problem? Lots of people like to say it was taxes that caused the revolution, but I suspect unlawful detention was by far the more powerful driver of rebellion. The Declaration of Independence accused King George of a “long train of abuses” agains the American colonists, among them:
Depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury: Transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
The United States is boycotting a U.N. conference on racism next week over a document that "singles out" Israel in its criticism and conflicts with the nation's "commitment to unfettered free speech," the U.S. State Department said Saturday.
The Obama administration made the decision not to attend the Durban Review Conference in Geneva "with regret," a State Department statement said.
Two months ago, the administration had warned that it would boycott the conference if changes were not made to the document to be adopted by the conference. In recent weeks, discussions over the document have fueled several revisions, but the changes to the language didn't meet U.S. expectations, the statement said.
In the video...
- Andrew Bacevich is a professor of International Relations & History at Boston University. He has written several books, including The Limits of Power: The End of Military Exceptionalism and The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War.
A Spanish judge moved Friday to keep alive an investigation into six former Bush administration officials for alleged torture of prisoners at the U.S. detention camp for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay. Cuba.
He acted just hours after prosecutors urged the case to be dropped, according to a court document.
The Obama administration has declassified and released opinions of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) given in 2005 and earlier that analyze the legality of interrogation techniques authorized for use by the CIA. Those techniques were applied only when expressly permitted by the director, and are described in these opinions in detail, along with their limits and the safeguards applied to them.
The release of these opinions was unnecessary as a legal matter, and is unsound as a matter of policy. Its effect will be to invite the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past, and that we came sorely to regret on Sept. 11, 2001.
Proponents of the release have argued that the techniques have been abandoned and thus there is no point in keeping them secret any longer; that they were in any event ineffective; that their disclosure was somehow legally compelled; and that they cost us more in the coin of world opinion than they were worth. None of these claims survives scrutiny.
The significance of Obama's decision to release the torture memos
By Glenn Greenwald | Salon (updated below)
In the overblown, self-regarding prose that has become his trademark, Obama lauds himself and his administration for their fealty to the "rule of law" in releasing the memos. But of course, the "rule of law" also dictates that those who have planned, ordered and committed torture be prosecuted. The law has no special dispensation for crimes that might be "too disturbing" to prosecute. And so his ringing conclusion -- "we have taken steps to ensure that the actions described within them never take place again" -- rings completely hollow. How will failing to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes deter any future perpetrator in high office? The latter will know that their crimes will be "too disturbing" to prosecute -- in much that same way that the biggest fraudsters on Wall Street today are "too big to fail," and must be allowed to escape the consequences of their actions.
I have little to say at the moment on the details of the Bush torture memos released by the Obama Administration, beyond what I have been writing for many years now about these sickening practices, and what they say about America's bipartisan, imperial elite, which countenanced them, and often openly championed them. (I think my first piece on America's torture system was written in early spring 2002 -- a column printed in the Moscow Times, drawn from readily available stories in the mainstream press. America's willing practice of torture as an official policy has been open knowledge for almost the entire decade. But I will admit the bit about using putting insects into the torture box of a wounded, deranged captive was new.)
Barack Obama is being given great credit for releasing the memos, although as the president himself points out in his statement, their release was actually required by law. I suppose it's true that the United States government has become so degraded that we must be surprised and glad when a president actually obeys the law when it suits him, but I must say that I can't find any great cause for rejoicing -- especially as Obama's statement immediately and definitely ruled out prosecuting any of the direct perpetrators of these criminal actions.
CIA interrogators were given legal authorization to slam an alleged "high-value" detainee's head against a wall, place insects inside a “confinement box” to induce fear, and force him to remain awake for 11 consecutive days, according to a closely guarded Aug. 1, 2002 legal memo released publicly by the Justice Department for the first time Thursday.