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Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) Write An Open Letter to Obama (Updated)

April 29, 2009

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

SUBJECT: Torture

This memorandum is VIPS’ first attempt to inform you on a major intelligence issue, as we did your predecessor; thus, some background might be helpful. Five former CIA officers established Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) in January 2003, when we saw our profession being corrupted to justify an attack on Iraq. Since then, our numbers have grown to 70 intelligence professionals, mostly retired, who have served in virtually all U.S. civilian and military intelligence agencies.

Debating The US Record On Torture

Debating the US Record on Torture | Common Dreams

A RebelReports guest post by Avi Lewis of Al Jazeera:

I hosted a panel on Al Jazeera English the other day about Obama’s first 100 days of policy around torture, rendition and detention. It yielded a moment of inconvenient truth.

Former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer, the architect of the rendition program under Bill Clinton, said what many Democrats know but would rather not hear: that when it comes to sending people to face torture in other countries, the Clinton administration may be as vulnerable to indictment as the Bush administration.

US To Limit Guantanamo Releases

US to limit Guantanamo releases | BBC

Between 50 and 100 detainees held by the US at Guantanamo Bay cannot be released or put on trial, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said.

The fate of those detainees "is still open", Mr Gates told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Abu Ghraib Guards Say Memos Show They Were Scapegoats

Abu Ghraib Guards Say Memos Show They Were Scapegoats
By Josh White | Washington Post

"If what was suggested as license was itself illegal, relying on illegal documents or opinions is not in my mind a defense," Myers said. "What we know now is we had at the time a rogue government that created an environment where this sort of conduct was condoned, if not encouraged. But it doesn't do anything for you when you hold it up against the maltreatment statute of the [Uniform Code of Military Justice], which is law, passed by the Congress."

Occupation Pulls Rank On Iraq Puppet

Occupation Pulls Rank On Iraq Puppet
By Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

When Bush's "security pact" was implemented, we dismissed its provision that US occupation troops could be tried in Iraqi courts as phoney since it allowed the occupation to decide any request from the Iraqis.

This proves we were correct.
-----

U.S. says troops will not face trial over Iraq raid

May Day, 2009 (Reuters)

BAGHDAD - U.S. soldiers will not appear in Iraqi courts to answer any charges relating to a raid this week that killed two people in Iraq and triggered condemnation from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the U.S. military has said.

In a video-conference interview with Reuters TV Washington late on Thursday, Brigadier-General Peter Bayer, chief of staff for the U.S. military's day to day operations in Iraq, said the raid in the southern city of Kut was "lawful and legal."

Protest the Army Experience Center in Philly, Saturday, 1 PM

Join us in Philly on Saturday, May 2nd, 2009. The Army is test running new recruitment methods at a suburban mall in Philadelphia,and we need your help to stop it. Activists from around the east coast are converging on the “Army Experience Center” (AEC), a 14,000 square foot atrocity built by the Department of Defense at a cost to taxpayers of $12 million.

The AEC gives kids as young as 13 a chance to play extremely violent video games to simulate fighting a war in the Middle East., as well as sit inside real Apache helicopters, tanks & humvees mounted with M-16 assault rifles. The youth are enticed to jump on board and kill the “hadjis”. Right next door is the largest indoor skateboarding park which attracts local youth. Kids can be seen going from having fun skateboarding to playing bloody “war games” sanctioned by the US Army. The recruitment center is an unfair method of recruitment that uses a game simulation of war to glorify killing and mixes commercial video with the war simulators the military uses.

Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Rob Watson compares the Army Experience Center to "a heavy dose of candy cigarettes" that blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. Allowing a teenager to play simulated war games one minute, and sign up for real war the next, induced by the simulation that glorifies war as a game, without reflecting the grim reality of war that has caused so much harm to so many.

This center was designed to be the first of its kind and if recruitment is successful, others will be built around the Country. We must say NO!

WHERE AND WHEN

EJS Supports Call for Criminal Investigation Into Torture

EJS Supports Call for Criminal Investigation Into Torture

On Wednesday, April 29, 2009, the Board and Staff of the Equal Justice Society sent the following to the Senate and House Judiciary Committees.

The Equal Justice Society would like to go on record as supporting the call to start a criminal investigation by a special counsel into harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects. We have been shocked by recent revelations of abuses that were committed in our name as Americans. We were shocked to learn that our government used tactics perfected during the Spanish Inquisition and refined by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. As a civil rights organization, we denounced the use of torture during the Bush administration to no avail. Now as a country, we have an opportunity to reclaim our honor.

Mad Cowboy Disease

US Iraq Casualties Rise to 71,619

US Iraq Casualties Rise to 71,619
Compiled by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

US military occupation forces in Iraq under Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered 19 combat casualties in the 9 days ending April 30 as the official total rose to at least 71,619. The total includes 34,667 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 36,952 dead and medically evacuated (not updated since Feb. 28) from "non-hostile" causes.*

The actual total is over 100,000 because the Pentagon chooses not to count as "Iraq casualties" the more than 30,000 veterans whose injuries-mainly brain trauma from explosions and PTSD - diagnosed only after they had left Iraq.**

Book Tells of Female U.S. Soldiers Raped By Comrades

Book tells of female U.S. soldiers raped by comrades
By Christine Kearney | Reuters

Female U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have more to fear than roadside bombs or enemy ambushes. They also are at risk of being raped or sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers.

"The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq," a book based on 40 in-depth interviews, recounts the stories of female veterans who served in combat zones and tells of rape, sexual assault and harassment by male counterparts.

Some were warned by officers not to go to the latrine by themselves. One began carrying a knife in case she was attacked by comrades. Others said they felt discouraged to report assaults.

Intel Experts Want Torture Investigation

Intel Experts Want Torture Investigation
By Bob Fertik | Democrats.com

A powerful group of intelligence experts who oppose torture is asking President Obama to investigate torture by the Bush Administration. The group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), challenged the pre-war lies about Iraq, starting with Colin Powell's speech to the U.N. Of course they were absolutely right - and were ignored by the media.

Now they are battling the widely-accepted lie that torture "works":

The fact that the exploits of Jack Bauer have injected a dangerous level of fiction and fear among impressionable viewers, and have misled not only interrogators at Guantanamo but also the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Silvestre Reyes — not to mention Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia — leaves no doubt that such illusionary scenarios need to be addressed by professionals with real-life experience.

Commentary: Torture Must Be Investigated

Commentary: Torture must be investigated
By Oren Gross | CNN

Popular clichés notwithstanding, not all is fair in war. The idea that war is subject to legal rules is an ancient one.

Over time nations have come to accept that their decisions whether to go to war as well as how to conduct warfare once armed conflict has erupted are limited by legal norms.

But do such limitations hold when the enemy is not another nation that itself plays, more or less, by the rules, but rather a nonstate actor such as al Qaeda that flagrantly ignores them?

Does not following the rules in this context mean that we would be fighting with one hand tied behind our back? And if so, should not all be fair at least in war against such an enemy? Yes, yes, and an emphatic no.

Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part One)

Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part One)
By Andy Worthington | www.AndyWorthington.co.UK

Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, analyzes ten particularly disturbing facts to emerge from the four memos, purporting to justify the use of torture by the CIA, which were issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in August 2002 and May 2005, and released by the Obama administration last week. The article is published in two parts.

The OLC, as the New York Times explained in September 2007, holds a uniquely influential position, as it “interprets all laws that bear on the powers of the executive branch. The opinions of the head of the office are binding, except on the rare occasions when they are reversed by the attorney general or the president.” The legal opinions were, therefore, regarded as a “golden shield” by the administration, although, as lawyer Peter Weiss noted after I last wrote about the Bush administration’s war crimes, “it cannot be binding if it violates the constitution, or a jus cogens prohibition of international law, e.g. torture, or, perhaps, if it was made to order for the executive, as you demonstrate it was.”

Tomgram: Karen Greenberg, Human Rights in the Dust

Tomgram: Karen Greenberg, Human Rights in the Dust | TomDispatch.com

Recently, in a Washington Post op-ed, Mark Danner wrote: "However much we would like the [torture] scandal to be confined to the story of what was done in those isolated rooms on the other side of the world where interrogators plied their arts, and in the air-conditioned government offices where officials devised 'legal' rationales, the story includes a second narrative that tells of a society that knew about these things and chose to do nothing." Danner, who did as much as anyone to help uncover what the Bush administration was up to in its secret prisons abroad, should know.

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity Send Obama Statement on Torture; Links

April 29, 2009

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

SUBJECT: Torture

This memorandum is VIPS’ first attempt to inform you on a major intelligence issue, as we did your predecessor; thus, some background might be helpful. Five former CIA officers established Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) in January 2003, when we saw our profession being corrupted to justify an attack on Iraq. Since then, our numbers have grown to 70 intelligence professionals, mostly retired, who have served in virtually all U.S. civilian and military intelligence agencies.

Britain Refused to Torture Nazis Because It Doesn't Work


Britain Refused to Torture Nazis Because It Doesn't Work
By Metavirus | Library Grape

Andrew Sullivan makes what I think is a definitive point in the barbaric "debate" over whether torture "works".

Think back to a time during World War II, when thousands of British citizens were dying a bloody death every day at the hands of the Axis powers. You can't get much closer to a "ticking time bomb" scenario than that, right?

So, what dastardly measures did Churchill's chief interrogator resort to, in the face of the imminent death of hundreds of thousands of his country's citizens?

Colonel Robin “Tin Eye” Stephens was the commander of the wartime spy prison and interrogation centre codenamed Camp 020, an ugly Victorian mansion surrounded by barbed wire on the edge of Ham Common. In the course of the war, some 500 enemy spies from 44 countries passed through Camp 020; most were interrogated, at some point, by Stephens; all but a tiny handful crumbled.

Stephens was a bristling, xenophobic martinet; in appearance, with his glinting monocle and cigarette holder, he looked exactly like the caricature Gestapo interrogator who has “vays of making you talk”.

An Open Letter to AG Holder

Solicitor General Elena Kagan
Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal
U.S. Department of Justice,
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20530-0001

From: LanceCiepiela
To: AskDOJ@usdoj.gov
Sent: 4/28/2009 9:43:51 A.M. US Mountain Standard Time
Subj: 1stLt Ehren Watada, Honorable Discharge, request for

Dear Solicitor General Kagan and Deputy Solicitor General Katyal,

I am writing to urge you to direct the U.S. Army to drop its appeal and any other charges in the case of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, and to release him from the Army with an Honorable Discharge.

Lt. Watada was the first Army officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq, because he believes the U.S. war in Iraq is illegal and immoral, a war of aggression not sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council, and that orders to participate in it are therefore also illegal, immoral, and would constitute war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity.

Judge Garzon Targets Cheney & Rice

Judge Garzon Targets Cheney & Rice
By Bob Fertik | Democrats.com

Spain's crusading prosecutor, Judge Baltasar Garzon, was not put in charge of prosecuting the Torture Lawyers - Judge Eloy Velasco is reviewing that case. But Garzon has opened a brand new case, according to AFP:

Judge Baltasar Garzon will probe the "perpetrators, the instigators, the necessary collaborators and accomplices" to crimes of torture...

Garzon said that documents declassified by the US administration and carried by US media "have revealed what was previously a suspicion: the existence of an authorised and systematic programme of torture and mistreatment of persons deprived of their freedom" that flouts international conventions.

This points to "the possible existence of concerted actions by the US administration for the execution of a multitude of crimes of torture against persons deprived of their freedom in Guantanamo and other prisons including that of Bagram" in Afghanistan.

NYT Public Editor Dances Around 'Brutal Truth' of Torture

NYT Public Editor Dances Around 'Brutal Truth' of Torture
By Brad Jacobson | Media Bloodhound

Clark Hoyt's New York Times public editor column on Monday, "Telling the Brutal Truth," brings the ongoing "debate" over whether waterboarding is torture to brave new heights of absurdity.

Hoyt opens the column:

A LINGUISTIC [all caps are Hoyt's] shift took place in this newspaper as it reported the details of how the Central Intelligence Agency was allowed to strip Al Qaeda prisoners naked, bash them against walls, keep them awake for up to 11 straight days, sometimes with their arms chained to the ceiling, confine them in dark boxes and make them feel as if they were drowning.

Bybee and Peterson: Two Mormons and Two Different Ethics on Torture

Assistant Attorney General Bybee and Army Specialist Peterson: Two Mormons & Two Different Ethics on Torture
By Ann Wright, retired US Army Reserves Colonel

As a Bush administration political appointee Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice, Jay Bybee, a Mormon, wrote one of four torture memos released last month.

Bybee's August 1, 2002, 20-page memorandum laid out in excruciating detail the interrogation techniques he was authorizing the Central Intelligence Agency to use on al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah. Bybee authorized ten "enhanced interrogation techniques" to encourage Abu Zubaydah to disclose "crucial information regarding terrorist networks in the United States or in Saudi Arabia and information regarding plans to conduct attacks within the United States or against U.S.

Busting the Torture Myths

Busting the Torture Myths
by Scott Horton | Daily Beast

Scott Horton, who has led coverage of Bush-era wrongdoing, exposes three pervasive myths—and the surprising reason Cheney and Rove are keeping the issue alive.

  • A torture memo writer refused to comply with a warning about criminal risks—and exposes the truth about the policies.
  • Karl Rove and Dick Cheney are convinced that Bush-era torture policy is a promising political product for a party down on its luck.
  • Donald Rumsfeld gave step-by-step directions for techniques used at Abu Ghraib.
  • Torture techniques originated from the White House shortly after 9/11—long before they were arguably needed on the battlefield.
  • Torture was used by Cheney and Rumsfeld to find justification for the invasion of Iraq.
  • Jay Bybee was confirmed to a lifetime appointment as all eyes were on Colin Powell’s speech to the U.N. about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.

In the space of a week, the torture debate in America has been suddenly transformed. The Bush administration left office resting its case on the claim it did not torture. The gruesome photographs from Abu Ghraib, it had said, were the product of “a few bad apples” and not of government policy. But the release of a series of grim documents has laid waste to this defense. The Senate Armed Services Committee’s report—adopted with the support of leading Republican Senators John McCain, John Warner, and Lindsey Graham—has demonstrated step-by-step how abuses on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan had their genesis in policy choices made at the pinnacle of the Bush administration. A set of four Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memoranda from the Bush era has provided a stomach-turning legal justification of the application of specific torture techniques, including waterboarding.

Rove and Cheney are convinced that Bush-era torture policy is a promising political product for a party down on its luck. Its success on the political stage is just one more 9/11-style attack away.

Iraq: More Than Two Million Refugees Waiting to Come Home

Iraq: More Than Two Million Refugees Waiting to Come Home
By Marina Litvinsky | Global Issues

The government of Iraq and the international community must establish safe conditions for the return of 2.6 million displaced Iraqis, says a new field report by the non-profit group Refugees International.

The report, 'Iraq: Preventing the Point of No Return,' issued last week, notes that despite encouraging returns, the government of Iraq has not realistically assessed the country's ability to absorb large numbers of returns. RI found that Iraqis who have returned struggle to find shelter, electricity, water, jobs and access to health care.

'There is immense pressure on displaced Iraqis to return home. The problem is that they return home to ethnically cleansed neighbourhoods and poor government services,' said RI President Ken Bacon.

The Primacy of Healing: Politics and Combat Stress in America

The Primacy of Healing: Politics and Combat Stress in America
By Tyler E. Boudreau | Truthout

I am a veteran of the war in Iraq. Like many, I came home bearing an unexpected skepticism toward our operations there and a fresh perspective on America's use of military power. And also like many, I found myself emotionally and psychologically harried by my experiences on the battlefield. But unlike many, I landed after discharge in a community where criticism for the war was both socially acceptable and, in fact, quite common, leaving me free to process a distress which was directly connected to US foreign policy. I was, literally and figuratively, right at home. So, I couldn't help noticing how the political dissent of my community was facilitating my mental healing. That has given me reason to consider all the ways in which politics has corresponded with and influenced the understanding and acceptance of combat stress. And while combat stress survivors have, in some ways, benefited from this relationship; they have suffered from it as well.

Combat stress has a stigmatic heritage, well-recognized now, but that was not always so. World War I was an era in which distraught soldiers were often labeled "men of deficient character"; and yet, the unspeakable carnage of its battles seemed to have offered latitude enough in the aftermath for the painful expressions of its veterans. But after the infinitely more popular World War II, veterans became known more for reticence than effusion and for a stoical veneer beneath which (we know now) a growing tumult was quietly raging. With the country so steeped in enthusiasm, it is not surprising that their invisible wounds went largely unnoticed. After all, with whom, in such a climate, might a veteran have shared his horrible stories?

Rachel Maddow: Republicans Tortured by Torture

Rachel Maddow: Republicans Tortured by Torture

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and

Keith Olbermann: Redefining Torture

Keith Olbermann: Redefining Torture

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, Whose Century Was That?

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, Whose Century Was That? | TomDispatch.com

Imagine if, on the day in early April when Jiverly Voong walked into the American Civic Association Building in Binghamton, New York, and gunned down 13 people, you read this headline in the news: "Binghamton in shock as police investigate what some critics call 'mass murder.'" If American newspapers, as well as the TV and radio news were to adopt that as a form, we would, of course, find it absurd. Until proven guilty, a man with a gun may be called "a suspect," but we know mass murder when we see it. And yet, in one of the Bush administration's lingering linguistic triumphs, even as information on torture programs pours out, the word "torture" has generally suffered a similar fate.

The agents of that administration, for instance, used what, in the Middle Ages, used to be known bluntly as "the water torture" -- we call it "waterboarding" -- 183 times in a single month on a single prisoner and yet the other morning I woke up to this formulation on National Public Radio's Morning Edition: "...harsh interrogations that some consider torture." And here's how Gwen Ifill of the News Hour put it the other night: "A tough Senate report out today raised new questions about drastic interrogations of terror suspects in the Bush years." Or as USA Today typically had it: "Obama opened the door for possible investigation and prosecution of former Bush administration officials who authorized the 'enhanced interrogation techniques' that critics call torture." Or, for that matter, the New York Times: "...the Bush administration's use of waterboarding and other techniques that critiques say crossed the line into torture..."

Torture, as a word, except in documents or in the mouths of other people -- those "critics" -- has evidently lost its descriptive powers in our news world where almost any other formulation is preferred. Often these days the word of choice is "harsh," or even "brutal," both substitutes for the anodyne "enhanced" in the Bush administration's own description of the package of torture "techniques" it institutionalized and justified after the fact in those legal memos. The phrase was, of course, meant to be law-evading, since torture is a crime, not just in international law, but in this country. The fact is that, if you can't call something what it is, you're going to have a tough time facing what you've done, no less prosecuting crimes committed not quite in its name.

Dick Cheney's Torture Hypocrisy

Dick Cheney's Torture Hypocrisy
by Joseph C. Wilson IV | Daily Beast

Dick Cheney has called for declassifying memos he claims will vindicate the Bush administration’s torture policy. Now former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV urges the former vice president to extend his demand for transparency to his still-secret testimony in the Scooter Libby obstruction of justice case.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s reemergence on the political stage after his ignominious departure on Inauguration Day, eschewing the traditional handshake with his successor and the new president, is nothing if not ironic. The most secretive individual in American politics is now calling for the selective release of documents that remain classified in one of his own files marked “Detainees.” We have also learned that a principal reason for having tortured senior al Qaeda detainees was not, in fact, to defend the Homeland, but rather to build the case for war with Iraq based on alleged ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Despite literally hundreds of waterboarding sessions, there was no evidence developed that such a link existed. But that did not stop Cheney. He and others in the Bush administration simply asserted a link even though they knew one did not exist.

The disinformation campaign to manipulate public opinion in favor of the [Iraq] invasion, the torture program, and the illegal exposure of a clandestine CIA agent—my wife, Valerie Plame Wilson—were linked events.

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