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President Holds Open Door For Prosecutions of Bush Officials For Interrogation Policies, Truth Commission

President Holds Open Door For Prosecutions of Bush Officials For Interrogation Policies, Truth Commission
By Jake Tapper | ABCNews

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."

The Torture Debate -- It's About Time

The Torture Debate -- It's About Time
By Harry Shearer | Huffington Post

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.

Torturing Judge Bybee: Make Him Eat His Own Words

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:

Obama "Love Letter" to CIA Distorts Historical Truth

OBAMA "LOVE LETTER" TO CIA DISTORTS HISTORICAL TRUTH
By Sherwood Ross

One can only wonder what prompted the incredible absurdities written by President Obama in his April 16th love letter to the employees of the Central Intelligence Agency(CIA). It not only absolves CIA torturers from prosecution on the grounds that they were only following orders, (the same defense employed by Nazi hoodlums at the Nuremburg war crimes trials after World War Two,) but his laudatory statements about The Agency fly in the face of the historical record. Obama’s letter surely will go down in history as one of the most disingenuous documents ever to appear under the presidential seal. Worse, it strongly hints the American public has elected another in that long line of imperial presidents stretching back to William McKinley.

If Nixon Had Been Tried for War Crimes

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.

Pundits Whitewash Torture

Pundits Whitewash Torture
By Marcus Baram | Media Channel

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

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."

Why Obama Needs to Reveal Even More on Torture

Why Obama Needs to Reveal Even More on Torture
By Robert Baer | Time

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.)

Is Eric Holder a Gonzalez-like Lackey?

Is Eric Holder a Gonzalez-like Lackey?
By tremayne | Open Left

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

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.

How Obama Excused Torture

How Obama Excused Torture
by Bruce Fein | Daily Beast

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.

The Lawyer and The Caterpillar

The Lawyer and The Caterpillar
Torture is a complicated business, and the real world is never as neat as the imagined one.
By Michael Isikoff and Evan Thomas | Newsweek

In "1984," George Orwell's classic novel on the evils of totalitarianism, the agents of Big Brother break down the will of resisters by throwing them in a dreaded torture chamber known as Room 101. The idea behind Room 101 is to expose interrogation subjects to whatever they fear most. The protagonist in the novel, Winston Smith, fears rats. Confronted with a cage full of rats when he enters Room 101, Smith breaks down and betrays his lover, Julia, as an enemy of the state.

Ex-CIA Chief: Obama Risks National Security

Ex-CIA chief: Obama risks national security | CNN

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."

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Was Waterboarded 183 Times in One Month

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Was Waterboarded 183 Times in One Month | emptywheel


There's been a lot of discussion about whether those who did what the OLC memos authorized should be prosecuted. But in the case of those who waterboarded KSM and Abu Zubaydah, that's irrelevant, because they did things the OLC memos didn't authorize.

I've put this detail in a series of posts, but it really deserves a full post. According to the May 30, 2005 Bradbury memo, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 and Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002.

On page 37 of the OLC memo, in a passage discussing the differences between SERE techniques and the torture used with detainees, the memo explains:

The CIA used the waterboard "at least 83 times during August 2002" in the interrogation of Zubaydah. IG Report at 90, and 183 times during March 2003 in the interrogation of KSM, see id. at 91.

Note, the information comes from the CIA IG report which, in the case of Abu Zubaydah, is based on having viewed the torture tapes as well as other materials. So this is presumably a number that was once backed up by video evidence.

CIA Fears Torture Prosecutions

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

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.

Obama Administration: No Prosecution of Officials for Bush-Era Torture Policy

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, Our New “War President,” Violates the Constitution by Fighting the Constitutional Right of Habeas Corpus
By Charles Carreon | Raging Blog

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

Report: Bush-era torture orders enforced by top officials

By Agence France-Presse

The first use of waterboarding and other harsh treatment against suspected Al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah was ordered by senior Central Intelligence Agency officials over objections from his interrogators, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Citing unnamed former intelligence officials and a footnote in a newly released legal memorandum, the newspaper said the harsh interrogation techniques had been ordered despite the belief of interrogators that the prisoner had already told them all he knew.

Former president George W. Bush had publicly described Zubaidah, who was captured in 2002, as Al-Qaeda's chief of operations while other top officials called him a "trusted associate" of Osama bin Laden and a major figure in the planning of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

UN expert criticizes US torture decision

VIENNA (AP) — An Austrian newspaper quotes the U.N.'s top torture investigator as saying President Barack Obama's decision not to prosecute CIA operatives who used questionable interrogation practices violates international law.

Manfred Nowak is quoted in Der Standard as saying the United States has committed itself under the U.N. Convention against Torture to make torture a crime and to prosecute those suspected of engaging in it.

Obama assured CIA operatives on Thursday they would not be prosecuted for their rough interrogation tactics of terror suspects under the former Bush administration.

Nowak also says in the newspaper interview published Saturday that a comprehensive independent investigation is needed, and that it is important to compensate victims.

Gen. Taguba: Accountability for torture does not stop at White House dooor

By Andrew Kalloch, Harvard Law Record

Major General Antonio Taguba called for an independent commission to investigate war crimes committed by senior members of the Bush Administration in remarks in Ames Courtroom on Tuesday, April 14. The event was sponsored by Physicians for Human Rights and the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School.

If the Good Guys Torture Children With Insects Who the Hell Are the Bad Guys?

Bush memos parallel claim 9/11 mastermind’s children were tortured with insects

By John Byrne

 

Bush Administration memos released by the White House on Thursday provide new insight into claims that American agents used insects to torture the young children of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

In the memos, released Thursday, the Bush Administration White House Office of Legal Counsel offered its endorsement of CIA torture methods that involved placing an insect in a cramped, confined box with detainees. Jay S. Bybee, then-director of the OLC, wrote that insects could be used to capitalize on detainees’ fears.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler Calls for a Special Prosecutor for Torture

Congressman Jerrold Nadler has just publicly asked that the Attorney General appoint a special prosecutor. Please THANK HIM, and please ask him and ask your congress member to jointly send to Eric Holder the letter that Nadler and 55 other congress members sent to Michael Mukasey requesting a special prosecutor last summer, or an updated version thereof. Or ask your representative or senator to simply make a public statement like Nadler's.

Here is a release from Nadler's office:

Judge Wants to Keep Gitmo Case Alive

Judge wants to keep Gitmo case alive
By Al Goodman | CNN | April 17, 2009

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 President Ties His Own Hands on Terror

The President Ties His Own Hands on Terror
The point of interrogation is intelligence, not confession.
By Michael Hayden and Michael B. Mukasey | WSJ

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.

Tortured Logic: Obama Writes Off Old Crimes While Promoting New Outrages

Tortured Logic: Obama Writes Off Old Crimes While Promoting New Outrages
By Chris Floyd | Empire Burlesque

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.

Torture Memos Said CIA Could Use Insects and Severely Beat Detainee

Torture Memos Said CIA Could Use Insects and Severely Beat Detainee
By Jason Leopold | The Public Record

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.

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2016

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