Friday, August 28, 2009

An Investigation of the Minotaur and his Labyrinth would Chill the CIA and Turn Into a Partisan Witch Hunt!

Is Using A Minotaur To Gore Detainees A Form Of Torture?

These are the facts: the minotaur kept us safe, the minotaur had legal authorizations from top Justice Department lawyers before a single prisoner was lost in the maze and gored, and also, 9/11.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Torturing Detainees for False Confessions to Create a Pretext for War

So... did the war criminals who engineered the Iraq War, ginned up false intelligence to justify their war, and authorized torture, use their torture program to try to establish a false link between Iraq and al Qaeda?

Looks like it.

Somebody want to take a stab at why this isn't a big deal and why there is no need for investigations and prosecutions?

Don't forget these are the same cowards who prosecuted the guards at Abu Ghraib and feigned a morally righteous tone about that whole scandal.



Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Declassified Documents Confirm Bush Administration Run by Radical Usurpers of the Constitution

Send them all to jail. Among their numerous crimes they violated their oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Scott Horton reads through Bush's secret legal memos suspending the First and Fourth Amendments, justifying torture, and claiming power to detain American citizens in America indefinitely without a court order, and writes:
"We may not have realized it at the time, but in the period from late 2001-January 19, 2009, this country was a dictatorship. The constitutional rights we learned about in high school civics were suspended. That was thanks to secret memos crafted deep inside the Justice Department that effectively trashed the Constitution. What we know now is likely the least of it"
All of this, of course, confirms what many of us suspected: Bush and Cheney and their co-conspirators like John Yoo have spent the past eight years systematically and secretly destroying the American system of government. I'm certainly willing to hear the "conservative" case for letting the President unilaterally ignore all of the parts of the Constitution that restrain his or her power (i.e. the Bill of Rights), but something tells me its not a very conservative case. It should be obvious, but ex-President Bush and the current Republican Party are radicals, not conservatives. (And now we have to listen to braying from these same no-nothings about that damned socialist Obama!)

I hear a lot of talk about how investigations (and prosecutions) would be too distracting to the current government, and I sympathize. No one wants to be painted as a partisan looking to settle political grudges when there is important work to do like healthcare, ending two wars, and reviving the dying economy. However, somebody needs to conserve the constitutional structure and that is simply not going to happen unless there are clear consequences for egregiously violating it. If we just leave all of these crimes "in the past"--as was done with Nixon's crimes and Iran-Contra--they will only be repeated again. We cannot leave Bush's actions as a precedent for any of his successors, and it is time to permanently discredit the "conservative" argument against the Constitution.

Threats to the "homeland" are not new at all, and certainly no justification for finding new emergency powers. 9/11 was hardly the country's darkest day. The Constitution was born following a war with the world's greatest superpower, yet it purposely handicapped the very person that it gave the power to fight off such an adversary: the president. The constitutional limits on the presidency then endured yet another invasion and the burning of Washington, D.C., all during the lifetimes of the men who wrote the document.

Expedience cannot justify what Bush and his co-conspirators have done, and it should not justify allowing their example to stand.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Torture President Attempts Comedy, Jokes About Punishment for War Crimes

"Welcome to my hanging," Bush said, drawing laughs from the well-dressed audience in The Union League's ornate hall.

Har, har, har.

It's funny because he's a war criminal. Get it?

Between an illegal war of aggression ginned up with false "intelligence" he knew to be false and the normalization of torture as national policy, that Bush sure is funny with those crazy war crimes!

The low-level grunts who committed torture and abuses at Abu Ghraib were tried, convicted, demonized and many went to prison. As they should have. The Nuremburg trials established that "just following orders" is not an excuse for such things. But these kids got scapegoated so Bush could go free and make jokes about it. Bush and Rumsfeld and everyone in command responsibility who authorized, approved or allowed that torture program to continue and then tried to scapegoat a bunch of soldiers on the night shift should be there, too. And now we have confirmation from Congress:
The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of “a few bad apples” acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.
That sure sounds a lot like what Seymour Hersh was saying in 2004, back when the war criminals were issuing their whitewash reports saying it was all the fault of a few bad apples:
The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.

According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld’s long-standing desire to wrest control of America’s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Barack Obama, Our Next President

Congratulations to President-Elect Barack Obama!

This is a special moment in America.

I have been hopeful and optimistic, but you just never know. Seeing it happen: Wow.

Go America.

Other blogs have better election analysis. Go read them. And now back to my blogging hiatus.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Nation of Suspects

We have become a nation of spies and criminal suspects, our private lives an open book to government bureaucrats sifting through data collected illegally on massive supercomputers.

I've written repeatedly about the clear signs that the illegal domestic spying program whose existence the President and Attorney General Gonzalez have admitted is almost certainly neither the beginning nor the end of the illegal spying that is being conducted. It seems we have only scratched the surface of the Bush Administration's criminal surveillance of its own citizens.

We now have a report from Radar’s Christopher Ketcham on an ominous program identified as “Main Core”:
According to a senior government official who served with high-level security clearances in five administrations, "There exists a database of Americans, who, often for the slightest and most trivial reason, are considered unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic, might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived 'enemies of the state' almost instantaneously." He and other sources tell Radar that the database is sometimes referred to by the code name Main Core. One knowledgeable source claims that 8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect. In the event of a national emergency, these people could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and possibly even detention.
8 million citizens pre-identified for detention? Obviously this article deserves a nice, slow read. Here is another disturbing graf:
A host of publicly disclosed programs, sources say, now supply data to Main Core. Most notable are the NSA domestic surveillance programs, initiated in the wake of 9/11, typically referred to in press reports as "warrantless wiretapping."

. . . According to the Journal, the government can now electronically monitor "huge volumes of records of domestic e-mails and Internet searches, as well as bank transfers, credit card transactions, travel, and telephone records." Authorities employ "sophisticated software programs" to sift through the data, searching for "suspicious patterns." In effect, the program is a mass catalog of the private lives of Americans. And it's notable that the article hints at the possibility of programs like Main Core. "The [NSA] effort also ties into data from an ad-hoc collection of so-called black programs whose existence is undisclosed," the Journal reported, quoting unnamed officials. "Many of the programs in various agencies began years before the 9/11 attacks but have since been given greater reach."

The following information seems to be fair game for collection without a warrant: the e-mail addresses you send to and receive from, and the subject lines of those messages; the phone numbers you dial, the numbers that dial in to your line, and the durations of the calls; the Internet sites you visit and the keywords in your Web searches; the destinations of the airline tickets you buy; the amounts and locations of your ATM withdrawals; and the goods and services you purchase on credit cards. All of this information is archived on government supercomputers and, according to sources, also fed into the Main Core database.

Main Core also allegedly draws on four smaller databases that, in turn, cull from federal, state, and local "intelligence" reports; print and broadcast media; financial records; "commercial databases"; and unidentified "private sector entities." Additional information comes from a database known as the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, which generates watch lists from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for use by airlines, law enforcement, and border posts. According to the Washington Post, the Terrorist Identities list has quadrupled in size between 2003 and 2007 to include about 435,000 names. The FBI's Terrorist Screening Center border crossing list, which listed 755,000 persons as of fall 2007, grows by 200,000 names a year. A former NSA officer tells Radar that the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, using an electronic-funds transfer surveillance program, also contributes data to Main Core, as does a Pentagon program that was created in 2002 to monitor antiwar protesters and environmental activists such as Greenpeace.

If previous FEMA and FBI lists are any indication, the Main Core database includes dissidents and activists of various stripes, political and tax protesters, lawyers and professors, publishers and journalists, gun owners, illegal aliens, foreign nationals, and a great many other harmless, average people.
Many around the blogosphere have excellent takes on these revelations. Here are a few to get you started. Digby:
I don't know about you, but I sort of go with the assumption that there will be another terrorist attack on US soil at some point. I don't know if it will be Islamic or homegrown. (After all we've had big attacks from both in the last 15 years.) The difference now is that we have a big new police apparatus built up during the Bush years and an entire propaganda machine organized around the idea that the boogeyman is trying to kill us all in our beds. It's not a stretch to think that under pressure, any government could, (*ahem*) overreach just a tad and decide that certain political undesirables need to be dealt with. If they've built the capability, there is every chance they will use it. It's how these things work.

Meanwhile, some dillweed federal bureaucrat can rifle through all of your personal information whenever he feels like it.
This explanation . . . fits neatly with a lot of things we know about the Bush Administration.
Tristero (linking to this article by Naomi Klein in Rolling Stone about China's new electronic surveillance state and the big business that created it):
To make a long story short, but you really MUST read the long story, China is perfecting what Klein calls Market Stalinism, wedding a turbo-charged capitalist culture with the psychotic obsession for total control of a totalitarian state And now you know why the liberal blogosphere will never let the issue of American telcoms immunity go. Ever.
Getting the Republican establishment that set up these secret systems out of office is the absolute first priority. Priority two is keeping the current Democratic Congress from capitulating and giving amnesty to the big telecom companies for cooperating with the secret, illegal government surveillance programs -- which as the Radar article suggests, we know very little about. To that end, Glenn Greenwald and others are starting a campaign to begin pressuring House "Blue Dog" Democrats like Chris Carney from forcing the amnesty that Bush and his corporate allies are demanding.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Of bad apples and smoking guns

The trail of bad apples always leads back to the Torture President:
Make no mistake, the bad apples are not completely innocent of wrongdoing, but they are not the ones truly responsible. We have punished many of them for taking pictures of abuse and have never punished the people who ordered and were responsible for the abuse.

While I was working on Standard Operating Procedure, many people asked about "the smoking gun." "Have you found the smoking gun? Have you found the smoking gun? -- presumably linking the abuses to the upper levels of the Defense Department and to the White House?" The question puzzles me. There are smoking guns everywhere but people don't see them, refuse to see them or pretend they don't exist. How many torture memos does an administration have to promulgate before the public gets the idea they are promulgating torture? Bush has recently admitted that he was present at these meetings and approved "harsh interrogation techniques." And yet this has scarcely been a news story. Well-documented attempts to subvert the Constitution, abrogation of the Geneva Conventions and simple human decency. What does it take?

We are surrounded by smoking guns on all sides. Crimes have been committed; we have ample evidence of them. But there can be no justice if there is a failure to stand up for it, if we fail to demand it. Here's the flip side of the torture memos. John Yoo can argue that the President can do anything. Let him do what he pleases, but does that mean he can't be held responsible for the things he has ordered or the things done in his name?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Water poured down a restrained man's throat is water forced down the throat

Torture apologists deserve no mincing of words. They are war criminals.

There is nothing to distinguish between the torture they authorized and the torture that we have punished and criticized in the past. As Marty Lederman observes, John Ashcroft's latest attempt to make this distinction is as strained as the legal reasoning the Bush Justice Department engaged in to justify torture in the first place:
OK, but what about the very well-known fact that the "water treatment" was used by the Spanish Inquisition; by U.S. forces in the Philippines at the turn of the 20th Century; and by the Japanese in World War II -- and that in each case it was universally condemned as unlawful torture? Ashcroft's interlocutor the other day, one "Elsinora" at Knox College, asked him whether he was familiar with the judgment at the Tokyo Tribunal against Yukio Asano for having employed the "water treatment" in this manner, against American troops for purposes of obtaining intelligence information: "The victim was bound or otherwise secured in a prone position; and water was forced through his mouth and nostrils into his lungs and stomach." The allies sentenced Asano to fifteen years hard labor for this conduct. Here's the remarkable exchange between Elsinora and Ashcroft on the Asano precedent:
Elsinora: Since Yukio Asano was trying to get information to help defend his country--exactly what you, Mr. Ashcroft, say is acceptible for Americans to do--do you believe that his sentence was unjust?

ASHCROFT: Now, listen here. You're comparing apples and oranges, apples and oranges. We don't do anything like what you described.

Elsinora: I'm sorry, I was under the impression that we still use the method of putting a cloth over someone's face and pouring water down their throat...

ASHCROFT: "Pouring"! "Pouring"! Did you hear what she said?: "Putting a cloth over someone's face and pouring water on them."

That's not what you said before! Read that again, what you said before [about the Asano case]!

Elsinora: "The victim was bound or otherwise secured in a prone position; and water was forced through his mouth and nostrils into his lungs and stomach."

ASHCROFT: You hear that? You hear it? "Forced"! If you can't tell the difference between forcing and pouring...Does this college have an anatomy class? If you can't tell the difference between forcing and pouring...
If you can find any daylight between the practices, you are probably a Bush Administration official.


A Daily Kos diarist has further excerpts from Ashcroft's question and answer session. As Digby points out, it is notable that Ashcroft's arguments about the UN Convention Against Torture and alleged Senate "reservations" (that "it defines torture as something that leaves lasting scars or physical damage") are false. Here are the actual reservations:
(1) (a) That with reference to article 1, the United States understands that, in order to constitute torture, an act must be specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering and that mental pain or suffering refers to prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from (1) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (2) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality; (3) the threat of imminent death; or (4) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality.
Who honestly wants to argue that controlled drowning, a technique that causes even the hardest operators to cry uncle in mere seconds--and which can and does actually kill people--does not meet this definition?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"A Few Bad Apples" Was A Lie of the Torture Administration

We've known it for several years now, but it is now indisputable and confirmed by the man himself: Bush and his highest deputies debated and authorized torture in secret White House meetings. The war criminals include Bush, Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzalez, George Tenet, and Condoleeza Rice. They are still free after they sent low-level soldiers to jail who were carrying out their illegal directives and caught at a time the White House was still pretending in public that torture at Abu Ghraib was an aberration rather than (at best) a foreseeable consequence of their decisions.

These high-level criminals are only protected by political reluctance to pursue a serious investigation, "dig up the past," and play the "blame game," and a couple of shoddy and outrageous legal memos constructed by fellow criminals for the purpose of absolving the principals of their sins. No crooked lawyer's letter can whitewash what these people did. Ignoring these crimes will implicitly condone them and encourage their future repetition.

We must never forget that the torturer is the enemy of all mankind.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Rest in Peace

It is with great sadness that I note the passing of Andy Olmstead, a blogger at Obsidian Wings as well as for the Rocky Mountain News. Major Olmstead died from small arms fire in Iraq's Diyala province yesterday. He wrote a blog post to be released in the event of his death, which you can read here. My deepest condolences to his family and friends. His voice will be missed.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Times gets one right

Unfortunately, the Times could open almost all of their editorials these days with this same sentence: "There are too many moments these days when we cannot recognize our country."

50 Loathsome People

The Beast tallies America's most loathsome people of 2007. Pretty funny, if you ignore how unfunny most of the winners are. Sample entry:
31. Dana Perino

Charges: In a nation weary of White House press secretaries who feign ignorance, the Bush administration took an innovative step this year, appointing one who genuinely doesn't know anything. No more lies, America -- Dana Perino really can't answer your questions, honest! This slightly comely, over-promoted office wench not only didn't know what the Cuban missile crisis or the Bay of Pigs even were; she actually thought it was a funny story to tell on NPR.

Exhibit A: "This is an issue where I'm sure lots of people would love to ridicule me when I say this, but it is true that many people die from cold-related deaths every winter. And there are studies that say that climate change in certain areas of the world would help those individuals."

Sentence: Sent back in time to '62; Strapped to bottom of U2 spy plane for extreme history lesson.

Did Bush Watch the Torture Tapes?

“President Bush has no present recollection of having seen the tapes.” That's a non-denial perjury dodge. Scott Horton speculates that Bush watched the torture videos personally, and they were destroyed after discussions with his top lawyers because they are evidence of obvious war crimes that he personally authorized and witnessed. Larry Johnson thinks so too, and wants to know what Bush was snacking on at the time.

Welcome to the Dark Side

Tom Engelhardt discusses How Bush Took Us to the Dark Side, and just how normalized the whole sick mess has become.
No charges, no lawyers, no judge. This is increasingly the norm of -- and a legacy of -- George Bush's world. In this way, the snarl at the borders melds with the screams of terror in cells worldwide. . . . Americans have, since September 2001, been "embedded," largely willingly, in a new lockdown universe defined by a general acceptance of widespread acts of torture and abuse, as well as of the right to kidnap (known as "extraordinary rendition"), and the creation and expansion of an offshore Bermuda Triangle of injustice, all based on the principle that a human being is guilty unless proven (sometimes even if proven) innocent. What might originally have seemed like emergency measures in a moment of crisis is now an institutionalized way of life. Whether we like it or not, these methods increasingly define what it means to be an American. In this manner, despite the "freedom" rhetoric of the Bush administration, the phrase "the price of freedom" has been superseded by the price of what passes for "safety" and "security."
Read the whole thing, a chilling summary of what we have learned so far about what is being done in our names.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2007's Worst Legal Arguments

Dahlia Lithwick has compiled a list of the Bush Administration's most idiotic legal arguments this year:

10. The NSA's eavesdropping was limited in scope.

9. Scooter Libby's sentence was commuted because it was excessive.

8. The vice president's office is not a part of the executive branch.

7. The Guantanamo Bay detainees enjoy more legal rights than any prisoners of war in history.

6. Water-boarding may not be torture.

5. Everyone who has ever spoken to the president about anything is barred from congressional testimony by executive privilege.

4. Nine U.S. attorneys were fired by nobody, but for good reason.

3. Alberto Gonzales, the "the lying-est attorney general in recent history"

2. State secrets, "a doctrine of blanket immunity for any conduct the administration wishes to hide"

1. The United States does not torture.

Click here for the full run-down.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"It's like mugging the postman and then complaining that the mail isn't delivered on time."

Republican minority in the Senate breaks filibuster record in only half a term, and then complains about Democratic majority getting nothing done. "Upperdownvote!"

Friday, December 14, 2007

Gonzalez Stripped of "Lawyer of the Year" Title; Blog Brief's Honorable Mention Rendered Less Impressive

What a year for Mr. Gonzalez! Earlier this week, the ABA named the disgraced former Attorney General the "Lawyer of the Year," to much derision (including here). Two days later, the ABA responds by re-naming his title "Newsmaker of the Year." Much better. Unfortunately, the honorable mention "lawyer bloggers" received for Lawyer of the Year was also downgraded. Maybe next year.

No fair re-outlawing the things we aren't doing!

Bush still implausibly claims "America does not torture," yet he threatens to veto a new bill making clear that the CIA must follow the same anti-torture laws as the Army (of course laws against torture were already perfectly clear before this wave of reading miscomprehension took hold of the attorneys at the DOJ). I agree with Sullivan's take:
Bush is now fully owning Abu Ghraib. That, I guess, is one helpful result of flushing out what this president has done. At the time, of course, he expressed shock at the techniques exposed by the photographs at Abu Ghraib. Now he is declaring them legal and necessary. They are not legal - and the president operating under the rule of law cannot simply invent or reinvent what is or is not the law. But of course, he is not operating under the rule of law. He is operating under the rules of the Decider.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Second QOTD

From Unsolicited Opinion:
Everybody “supports” the troops, so much so that they are a political football to be bandied about in favor of particular political agendas. I’m no different; I have my own agenda. I define supporting the troops as sending them into harm’s way only when absolutely necessary and making every effort to help them return to something approaching a normal life when they return. By that definition America fails on both counts. We’ve sent our forces to a wholly unnecessary war in Iraq and we have provided nowhere near the resources to assist them and their families when failed them miserably upon their return. . . . That’s the political agenda I have in mind when I say support the troops: give them a mission worthy of their sacrifice and make them whole (or as close to whole as possible) after that sacrifice.
via skippy

Quote of the day

"If I had to guess, the tapes were destroyed because obstruction-of-justice charges are no big deal compared to war crimes charges."

Alberto Gonzalez Is Most "Talked-About" Lawyer of 2007

Well, if I (and you) get to be Time's Person of the Year for no apparent reason, then I guess its fair for the American Bar Association to name a disgrace to the office of Attorney General as its "Lawyer of the Year" because he was so "talked-about." Yes, when the nation's highest law enforcement officer lies, prevaricates, and repeatedly authorizes violations of the law and Constitution, then people do tend to talk about that.

As a side note, we "lawyer bloggers" earned an Honorable Mention, putting me beside such notorious attorneys as Michael Nifong (the disgraced Duke lacrosse prosecutor), "Scooter" Libby (the guy convicted of obstructing the investigation into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, likely to protect Bush and Cheney; Bush commuted his sentence), Howard K. Stern (of the Anna Nicole Smith custody battle), Monica Goodling (embroiled in the Bush Administration's improper firing of U.S. Attorneys), David Addington (Dick Cheney's consigliare), and fictional lawyer Michael Clayton (as played by TV's George Clooney). The only non-ironic runners-up are Patrick Fitzgerald (the prosecutor who nailed Libby) and Edwin Chemerinsky (the constitutional law scholar who was un-hired and then re-hired as founding dean of the new Donald Bren School of Law in Orange County).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

U.S. Official: Maybe It's OK to Torture U.S. Troops

This has gone too far for too long. The Administration's unsupportable stance that waterboarding by the U.S. is not torture is leading them to the logical, reciprocal conclusion that waterboarding of U.S. persons by our enemies is not torture either. This is what happens when your President and his idiot legal advisors believe the Geneva Conventions are "quaint." Watering down these clear historical treaty obligations enshrined in U.S. law serves no purpose other than to excuse and define away the war crimes authorized by the highest levels of the current Administration, while simulatenously increasing risks to our troops in the future.


I was wrong. Another purpose these bad faith legal positions and euphemisms (i.e. "enhanced interrogation techniques") serve is to get so many people criticizing you that you ironically win "Lawyer of the Year."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Head of Guantanamo Bay Hearings Resigns Over "Evidence" Obtained by Torture

Morris D. Davis, the former chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, recently resigned. He explains why in an op-ed column in the LA Times, concluding "that full, fair and open trials were not possible under the current system," and "that the system had become deeply politicized." While Davis complains of the lack of transparancy in these closed hearings and the convening authority's improper involvement in preparing the prosecution's case, the event that directly precipitated his resignation was the placement of a torture advocate above him in the chain of command after Davis had insisted that prosecutors not attempt to use evidence obtained by torture.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Democratic Complicity with the Bush Torture Regime

What good is an opposition party when it never actually opposes the party in power? It looks like Senator Jay Rockefeller and Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Jane Harman have known about the illegal torture for years but never bothered to do anything about it. When your job is oversight your job is to speak up when something so illegal is happening. Instead, they played dumb. And now Rockefeller has the gall to suggest that his Intelligence Committee is the appropriate body to investigate the wrongdoing that he himself had been ignoring.

Corrente is appropriately shrill:
Since the voters put them back in power, the Democrats have taken impeachment off the table, punted on the war, never figured out a way to hold Republicans accountable for filibusters and obstructionism, so legislation is in the toilet, and never managed to use oversight power to do anything more than chip away around the edges of the Bush regime—though they have written a great number of Sternly Worded Letters.

And now, top Democrats turn out to be enablers of war crimes by our lawless executive. What a surprise. Harry, Nancy, nice work.

What do we got on the spacecraft that’s good?

Please, can we give Leader Nance the heave-ho? She’s a fuckup, and an enabler. Everything Barney Frank isn’t. Barney Frank for Speaker!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

U.S. Claims Unilateral Right to Kidnap...

...and the kidnappee doesn't even have to be a terrorist.
America has told Britain that it can “kidnap” British citizens if they are wanted for crimes in the United States. A senior lawyer for the American government has told the Court of Appeal in London that kidnapping foreign citizens is permissible under American law because the US Supreme Court has sanctioned it.

The admission will alarm the British business community after the case of the so-called NatWest Three, bankers who were extradited to America on fraud charges. More than a dozen other British executives, including senior managers at British Airways and BAE Systems, are under investigation by the US authorities and could face criminal charges in America.
"We don't need no stinkin extradition!"

Monday, December 03, 2007

U.S. Intelligence: Iran Has No Nukes

Pretty big news, eh? Maybe we can make it through this Administration without starting another war. 414 more days...

(the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) can be read here)


Bush claims this information doesn't change anything, and then lies about when he learned it (says he was only briefed about it last week for some unbelievable reason).

Various crazy people get mad at the CIA and other intelligence services for ruining one of the bogus bases for their next really stupid war. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, is vindicated.

Juan Cole speculates that CENTCOM commander Admiral William J. Fallon and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen may have been behind getting the document written and released.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

George W. Bush Is No George Washington

In 1937, the playwright Maxwell Anderson wrote of President George Washington: There are some men who lift the age they inhabit, til all men walk on higher ground in their lifetime.

Mr. President, you are such a man.
While the above statement is perhaps the most sycophantic tribute to Bush's delusions of historical grandeur, it has competition:
It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.
A true classic.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Only torture-advocates need apply

Bush is now on record that he will not nominate any person to the position of Attorney General unless they agree that Bush is allowed to torture people. It is Judge Mukasey or nobody. No one nominated by Bush will be allowed to admit the obvious, that waterboarding is torture.

Scott Horton, who was initially an advocate for Mukasey's nomination, is now troubled by this new "litmus test":
[A] new litmus test for its attorney general: he must be prepared to wink at torture publicly, and behind the scenes to issue opinions giving the authors of the program comfort.

There has been no shortage of litmus tests in the past: abortion, gay marriage, the flag amendment—whatever hot-button issue the G.O.P. cooks up for its next election campaign. But the torture litmus test is new, and it seems to be key for lawyers. It really is an exercise in Kool Aid drinking. If you’re prepared to hedge on whether waterboarding is torture, then you might be counted upon to do anything. Indeed, there is no question about it. Waterboarding is torture and has been understood to be torture in a formal sense for over a hundred years. Soldiers who used it were court-martialed, and the attempted defense of military necessity was smacked down by the Army’s Judge Advocate General in 1903. There is no shortage of other precedent. This is why Mukasey’s dodge on the issue—first a very primitive dodge, and then a more sophisticated one—is so troubling.
(emphasis added). That really is the key issue: Bush is completely invested in his illegal, despicable, torture regime, as well as numerous other travesties that his "legal counsel" have been justifying for him. Jack Balkin points out that
The real reason why Judge Mukasey cannot say that waterboarding is illegal is that Administration officials have repeatedly insisted that they do not torture, and that they have acted both legally and honorably. If Judge Mukasey said that waterboarding is illegal, it would require the Bush Administration to admit that it repeatedly lied to the American people and brought shame and dishonor on the United States of America. If Judge Mukasey were to say waterboarding is illegal and not just "a dunk in the water" in Vice President Cheney's terminology, he would have announced that, as incoming Attorney General, he is entering an Administration of liars and torturers.

Several Republican Senators, who are living in a fool's paradise, have pleaded with Judge Mukasey to declare waterboarding illegal after he becomes Attorney General and has time to study the matter thoroughly. But the Administration would be no happier with such an announcement after confirmation than before. One can be quite certain that enormous pressure will be brought to bear on Mukasey after he enters the Administration never to make that particular pronouncement.

Which places any Attorney General nominee in a difficult bind: The Bush Admininstration will not nominate anyone to be Attorney General who will state publicly that what the Administration did was illegal or dishonorable. That means that the only persons who can be nominated are those who are willing to be complicit in its illegality and dishonor. For if the nominee admitted that the Administration had repeatedly misled the American people about the legality of its actions, he would not be welcome in the Bush Administration.

Yay, torture! Democratic senators Schumer and Feinstein have announced that they will vote for Mukasey, making his approval by the Judiciary Committee and confirmation by the full Senate an almost certainty. Feinstein's rationale: "first and foremost, Michael Mukasey is not Alberto Gonzales." Talk about lowering the bar...

Bush Administration's electronic spying programs pre-dated 9/11

9/11 did not change everything. For some things, it just provided an excuse.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Waterboarding is torture, period.

Confused about waterboarding? Don't know if its actually torture?

Ask somebody who trained U.S. servicemen to resist our enemies' torture at SERE: Yes, it is torture. Period.

This is an excellent and timely piece. Give it a read here.

Won't get fooled again

Don't buy the "hypothetical" dodge from a Bush-appointed AG nominee. Torture is not a hypothetical for this crew. It is actually happening.

Mukasey needs to repudiate the specific acts of torture that we already know are occurring, however the Administration characterizes them ("Enhanced interrogation"? Give me a break.). Waterboarding is NOT a close case. If it is not torture, then almost NOTHING is torture.

As Marty Lederman puts it, quoting H.L.A. Hart, while a "No Vehicles in the Park" law may be ambiguous as to whether it applies to a baby stroller or bicycle, if "one arrives at the conclusion that a souped-up Corvette may be driven through the center of the park, then that's a pretty good clue that you need to find yourself some new interpretive principles."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Torture Harms National Security

Sullivan: Torture is evil. It also leads to false confessions, which lead to bad intelligence, which can lead to more torture, more false confessions, and more bad intelligence.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The War President Doesn't Negotiate

New sanctions announced by the Bush Administration against Iran "signif[y] that President Bush has given up on multilateral diplomacy with Tehran. He's back to going his own way." Froomkin continues:

"The Bush administration still refuses to meet with Iranian leaders face to face. True diplomacy requires a willingness to talk.

"The White House maintains it is still devoted to diplomacy, but we've heard that before. And without patience or dialogue, "diplomacy" isn't really diplomacy -- it's a charade."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Colbert for President!

Colbert is "running" for President as both a Democrat and Republican, but only in his native South Carolina, where he is a self-declared "favorite son." If the FEC tries to crack down based on federal campaign laws, the joke will only get better: a First Amendment fight would be a no brainer win for Colbert, and he could (rightfully) play the martyr besieged by the awful federal government bureaucracy every night until he grows tired of it.

Update: Adam B at Daily Kos disagrees: "I've wrestled with this one, and the way I see it, if Colbert makes real efforts to get on the ballot, then he's a candidate -- and it's not for the FEC to say who's a "serious" candidate." I just don't see it. He isn't running in any state other than South Carolinia; his character is running, not him; he's a comedian for a living; and it is obvious parody.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Iran War Rollout Continues

No surprises here. Bush and Cheney continue their warmongering with Iran. I have little doubt that we will be at war with Iran very soon if these two get their way.

Barnett Rubin has more here on the selling of the fall Iran War product that his sources predicted last month. Anonymous Liberal examines the contradictions between the Bush Administration's competing rationales for war with Iran.

In a sign of just how serious things are getting, high-ranking officers in the military appear to now be asking themselves how they will react if ordered to undertake an illegal, aggressive war against Iran without congressional approval. General Pace, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, previously stated that "It is the absolute responsibility of everybody in uniform to disobey an order that is either illegal or immoral."

Frankly, it is an indictment of Congress and its failure to exercise its power to affirmatively check and restrain the president that this country is in a disturbing position where generals disobeying civilian command now seems to be the only real brakes on such a war.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Do NOT Confirm Mukasey

I don't care if he *sounds* more reasonable than disgraced former Attorney General Gonzalez. The fact is that he will not rule out things that are torture as torture, and he has committed himself to the notion that the President can violate the law at will during the neverending "war on terror." Mukasey is essentially telling the Senators at the confirmation hearings that he will be just as bad as Gonzalez, and its up to those Senators to believe him: he will do what Bush asks, regardless of legality, and if it's time to torture someone, then it's just time to redefine what we mean by the word torture.

This is not hard. It is simply unacceptable for the Senate to confirm someone who holds such odious, unconstitutional and frankly unAmerican views. It is time for the Justice Department to live up to its name, and that starts at the top.

Updated on 10/23/07:

Take a look at this op-ed article in the New York Times by Jed Rubenfeld, a constitutional law professor at Yale Law School. Here are the key excerpts:
AT his confirmation hearings last week, Michael B. Mukasey, President Bush’s nominee for attorney general, was asked whether the president is required to obey federal statutes. Judge Mukasey replied, “That would have to depend on whether what goes outside the statute nonetheless lies within the authority of the president to defend the country.”

. . . [B]efore voting to confirm him as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, the Senate should demand that he retract this statement. It is a dangerous confusion and distortion of the single most fundamental principle of the Constitution — that everyone, including the president, is subject to the rule of law.

It is true that a president may in rare cases disregard a federal statute — but only when Congress has acted outside its authority by passing a statute that is unconstitutional. . . .

But that is not what Judge Mukasey said. What he said, and what many members of the current administration have claimed, would radically transform this accepted point of law into a completely different and un-American concept of executive power.

According to Judge Mukasey’s statement, as well as other parts of his testimony, the president’s authority “to defend the nation” trumps his obligation to obey the law. Take the federal statute governing military commissions in Guantánamo Bay. No one, including the president’s lawyers, argues that this statute is unconstitutional. The only question is whether the president is required to obey it even if in his judgment the statute is not the best way “to defend the nation.”

If he is not, we no longer live under the government the founders established.

Under the American Constitution, federal statutes, not executive decisions in the name of national security, are “the supreme law of the land.” It’s that simple. So long as a statute is constitutional, it is binding on everyone, including the president.

The president has no supreme, exclusive or trumping authority to “defend the nation.” In fact, the Constitution uses the words “provide for the common defense” in its list of the powers of Congress, not those of the president.

Beginning with Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court has enforced the principle that laws trump presidential authority, not the reverse. In 1952, the court ruled that President Harry Truman’s takeover of the nation’s steel mills — justified by Truman as necessary, because of a threatened steelworkers’ strike, to defend the nation in its armed conflict in Korea — was unconstitutional because the president had flouted federal statutes. And in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court’s recent decision on military commissions, the justices reaffirmed that the president must comply with a valid federal statute.

Even President Bush’s Justice Department, added the court, “does not argue otherwise.” But evidently Attorney General Mukasey would argue otherwise — he just did.

. . .

If Judge Mukasey cannot say plainly that the president must obey a valid statute, he ought not to be the nation’s next attorney general.

A Massive Hedge

The nominee for Attorney General, Judge Mukasey, is not exactly inspiring confidence that he will stand up to President Bush's pro-torture policies. Here he is not knowing whether a mock execution is torture:
WHITEHOUSE: Is waterboarding constitutional?

MUKASEY: I don’t know what is involved in the technique. If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional.

WHITEHOUSE: "If waterboarding is constitutional" is a massive hedge.

MUKASEY: No, I said, "If it's torture." I'm sorry. I said, "If it's torture."

WHITEHOUSE: "If it's torture." That's a massive hedge. I mean, it either is or it isn’t. Do you have an opinion on whether waterboarding, which is the practice of putting somebody in a reclining position, strapping them down, putting cloth over their faces, and pouring water over the cloth to simulate the feeling of drowning. Is that constitutional?

MUKASEY: If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional.

WHITEHOUSE: I'm very disappointed in that answer — I think it is purely semantic.

MUKASEY: I’m sorry.
This is just a re-tread of the President's completely unacceptable statements that "we don't torture," always given without bothering to ever let us know what he thinks "torture" is.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Depends on what the meaning of "is" is

Responding to news of his secret memos authorizing torture (more here), President Bush continued to fulfill his campaign pledge of bringing "honor and integrity" back to the White House: "This government does not torture people," he said. Of course, neither the President, nor his spokespeople, nor the Justice Department will actually define what THEY think the word "torture" means.

Blue Texan makes the obvious point:

This position is untenable.

If they're saying categorically they don't torture they need to define torture. Saying, "We don't torture, but we won't tell you what exactly that means" is the same as saying nothing.



This is grade-A crazy here, folks. Up is down, black is white, and right on Iraq is soft on defense:
You know, I've thought for a long time that Obama's not in quite as strong a position on the war in Iraq as he really thinks he is. Remember, when he famously came out against the war, it was back in a time when the entire world believed that Saddam Hussein in Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that he would probably be willing to use them himself at some time or pass them along to terrorists who would use them. And yet, Barack Obama was against going to the war at that point. I don't think that shows that he is very strong on national security, which he needs to be. But that argument's not going to be used against him in the Democratic primaries. It would, however, by Republicans in a general election.
Fred Barnes literally believes that being right about the predominant national security issue in recent memory shows more weakness on national security than being wrong about it, because being wrong was more popular amongst the people who were also all wrong.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Coming Iran War Pretext

Here it comes: the Iran War. And its going to be sold as "protecting the troops." And the politicians, media, and military brass will be unable or unwilling to stop it because nobody wants to be the one against "protecting the troops." And who wants to stick up for Iran? A bunch of Iran-lovers and troop-haters, that's who!

Obvious topics of debate that will be conveniently ignored until it is too late (at which point we will then hear the chorus of "nobody could have foreseen..."):
  • Is Iran actually doing what the Administration claims it is doing (whatever the accusation happens to be at the time)?

  • Can our military simultaneously manage yet another conflict while Iraq and Afghanistan continue to fester? (What if efforts to limit an Iran war to just airstrikes fails, and ground troops are needed in large numbers?)

  • What are the likely consequences of a new war with Iran? (And are we prepared for them?)

  • What are the unlikely consequences? (Are we prepared for those?)

  • Even if Iran is actually guilty of whatever accusation is eventually lodged against it, is punishing Iran worth the risk of both the likely and unlikely consequences of a war with Iran?
  • How would Iraqis (both in and out of government, but particularly the majority Shi'ite population) react?

  • How many more decades of war in the middle east and how many new grudges do we really want to buy?

  • Does anybody REALLY believe that things would be going great in Iraq if only its biggest neighbor, Iran, had a real reason to be pissed off at us?