Thursday, August 30, 2007

Iran Rumblings

Rumors of a new war with Iran keep circulating. Barnett Rubin (via Prof. Cole) has the latest.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Bush invokes "nuclear holocaust"

His "legacy" in shatters and his current pointless war continuing to be pointless, Bush seems to think he can make another gamble to save it using other peoples' lives. The Worst President Ever is again beating the war drum on Iran, only this time he is making his fear mongering about nuclear annihilation more explicit, warning that:
"Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust. Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. And that is why the United States is rallying friends and allies around the world to isolate the regime, to impose economic sanctions. We will confront this danger before it is too late."
We'll never know if Iran really has nuclear weapons if we don't invade, right?

Update: Expanded quote for clarity. Also see Glenn Greenwald's take on this.

Gonzalez < Ashcroft

Here's a bit from Scott Lemieux:
One of the few contrarian arguments ever to turn out to be right was Yglesias's qualified defense of John Ashcroft. The Bush administration has not only pursued poor-to-catastrophic policy outcomes, but is also frequently unable and/or unwilling to carry out the basic functions of government, adhere to the law, etc. Ashcroft was, at least, competent and unwilling to push the Bush administration's lawlessness past a certain point. Gonzales failed utterly on all counts. And whether or not he was personally more moderate than Ashcroft, it certainly didn't discernibly affect the policy agenda of his office. All that matters is whether you're willing to carry out the administration's dirtiest work, and he certainly was. Maybe this is the best way of summarizing Gonzales: he's the man who could make you miss John Ashcroft.

One Bad Law-Talking-Guy

Balkin on Gonzalez:
As for Mr. Gonzales, he was a disgrace to the office. There are many roles he could have competently filled-- and did fill-- in his career. The Nation's chief law enforcement officer was not one of them. He abused his office for political gain, repeatedly misled Congress under oath --and probably out and out lied on more than one occasion-- and turned a once proud institution of government into an object of deep suspicion.

No one person can cure what ails the Justice Department these days. It will take determined leadership and reform by a large number of individuals. I have no confidence that the current Administration will put the right people in place. We may have to wait for a new Administration, and even then to fix what Alberto Gonzales did to the United States Department of Justice may take many years.

Seen on the internets

Scarecrow's take on (former) Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez:
Excuse me, but it is an attorney’s job to tell his/her client when they’re crossing the line and to stop. And that’s really important when your client is the President of the United States, because when the President crosses the line into illegality, he can get the country into serious trouble and cause lots of damage.

When Alberto Gonzales said “the President has the inherent authority under the Constitution as commander in chief to engage in [warrantless spying on Americans]” he failed to do his job. He was not supporting “the President’s war policies.” He was sanctioning the commission of felonies. And he continues to this day to sanction the commission of felonies and to participate in a cover up preventing lawful investigations by Congress and his own DoJ of the scope of those felonies and how they came to be committed. When Gonzales said it was okay to kidnap people, render them to other countries to be interrogated, to use “aggressive interrogation techniques,” hold people indefinitely without charges, deny detainees rights guaranteed by the Geneva Conventions, let alone those guaranteed by our Constitution, statutes and treaties, he was not “holding firm on the President’s war policies.” He was sanctioning war crimes.

Friday, August 24, 2007

AT&T, the NSA, and spying on your phone calls

Its Alice in Wonderland at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal in California, and Wired's blog has the story here. (some previous Blog Brief items can be seen here and here)

Some highlights from the proceedings:
  • In response to the claim that courts should simply accept that state secrets are involved when the state claims they are, Judge Pregerson asked, "What does utmost deference mean? Bow to it?"
  • Even whether a warrant was obtained for the surveillance is a state secret.
  • Whether surveillance occurred that documents accidentally produced by the government confirm occurred is also a state secret.
  • AT&T's lawyer: "The government has said that whatever AT&T is doing with the government is a state secret," Kellogg says. He adds, "As a consequence, no evidence can come in whether the individuals' communications were ever accepted or whether we played any role in it."
  • Also, even though there is clear evidence that AT&T has a suspicious room with suspicious equipment capable of routing data to the government illegally, "Something else could be going on in that room. Just to pick one, it could be FISA court surveillance in that room." Get that? The government can suggest the possibility that it is not breaking the law as evidence that it is not breaking the law, without telling the court that it is actually conducting LEGAL surveillance under FISA.
  • "[T]he secret document that the government accidentally gave the foundation is so secret that it is outside of the case," and the lawyers for the plaintiffs (who actually saw the document and know what it says) cannot testify about what it says because "the only way to test the veracity of their recollections is to compare it to the document."
  • How secret is the document? "This document is totally non-redactable and non-segregable and cannot even be meaningfully described."
  • Judge McKeown: "I feel like I'm in Alice and Wonderland."
  • Bondy, one of the gov't lawyers, on the plaintiffs and their attorneys: "It's entirely possible that everything they think they know is entirely false."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bush: "I am a Weimar propagandist"

Above: "How do I suggest that a majority of Americans are traitorous America-haters in a single-panel cartoon?"

Our glorious Decider has decided to speak for the troops, and further decided that the troops share his vision of his political enemies as traitors who want to stab them in the back:
"Our troops are seeing this progress on the ground. And as they take the initiative from the enemy, they have a question: Will their elected leaders in Washington pull the rug out from under them just as they are gaining momentum and changing the dynamic on the ground in Iraq?"
And that is different from the Dolchstosslegende how, exactly?

I mean yeah, one involves sharp cutlery and the other involves people with a distaste for carpeting, but the cut of Bush's gib is unmistakable: "We lost Vietnam because traitors in our midst stabbed the troops in the back before they could finish the job (ed.: with what, nukes? who knows how he thinks Vietnam was going to be 'won'), and we can only lose Iraq if the traitors make us leave."

Sully's reader gets it exactly right: Bush and his followers have already given up on Iraq, and are just going through the motions of setting up their excuses for future political use. Realizing that they screwed up their own war, they now need some scapegoats so they can score some points about who "lost Iraq" for the next fifty years. They've been feeding this revisionist garbage about losing the winnable Vietnam War down America's throat for decades, but that usually came from movies like Rambo, not out of the President's mouth. Not anymore.

Here's Sully again to nail it down:
You might think that, in wartime, a president would acknowledge what no one denies is a terribly grim decision in front of us - whether to pursue a clearly unwinnable war in order to govern a clearly ungovernable country - or withdraw and redeploy in ways that will doubtless lead to even more bloodshed. But no. There is no gray here; no awful decision for the least worst option; not acknowledgment of his own moral culpability for such a disaster. There is instead an accusation that those who reach a different judgment about the course of the war are, in fact, enemies of the troops. . . .

To place all the troops into the position of favoring one strategy ahead of us rather than another, and to accuse political opponents of trying to "pull the rug out from under them," is a, yes, fascistic tactic designed to corral political debate into only one possible patriotic course. It's beneath a president to adopt this role, beneath him to coopt the armed services for partisan purposes.
On a related topic, Bill Kristol is a vile creature unsuitable for polite company.

Determined to do good, not to any individual, but to a country, a continent, a world

In the same address where he butchered history attempting to argue that more U.S. servicepeople should have died in Vietnam and that we were THIS CLOSE to winning the Vietnam War before Congress wimped out, it seems Bush also butchered one of the main themes of a modern classic, The Quiet American. In the novel, set in 1950s Vietnam, Alden Pyle is a CIA officer who screws everything up because of his "good intentions." Pyle's naivite and propensity to harm more than he helps is a common and obvious analogue to Bush and Iraq... leading to the obvious question of how Bush could possibly think the analogy cuts in his favor.

If I may quote a passage:
He didn’t even hear what I said; he was absorbed already in the dilemmas of Democracy and the responsibilities of the West; he was determined—-I learnt that very soon—-to do good, not to any individual person but to a country, a continent, a world. Well, he was in his element now with the whole universe to improve.
Bush is completely blind to the costs of his grand ideas.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bush is his own court historian

and not a very good one. He has again completely mixed up the lessons of Vietnam, the second-biggest foreign policy blunder in recent history.

As Froomkin observes, "the obvious lesson of Vietnam is not that leaving a quagmire leads to disaster, but that staying only makes things worse. (And oh yes: that we shouldn't get into them in the first place.)."

This cynical attempt by the self-described "Decider" and "War President" to pawn off responsibility for his Iraq War onto the protestors who were against it from the beginning is really just sick. The Iraq War and its consequences are entirely of Bush's (and his many enablers') ownership. Hundreds of thousands of people are dead or displaced from their homes because of Bush's War. He wanted the war, pushed it, lied for it, had others lie for it, and celebrated it. It was used as a cudgel for the congressional elections in 2002, and he basically ran for reelection on it in 2004. For as long as it was popular, he shamelessly politicized it to his and his party's advantage, strutting around on an aircraft carrier, attacking his political opponents' patriotism and "seriousness" whenever possible, and questioning whether we had sufficiently "learned the lessons of 9/11."

Of course, Bush only cares about "learning the lessons" of any historical event to the extent his speechwriters can distort and manipulate history for his own gain. If he has his druthers, he won't even bother to "learn the lessons of the Iraq War" before he starts another war in Iran, an even bigger and just as complicated, country, which would have just as easily-predictable complications as Iraq did.

There was certainly no interest in history before the war from those who could utilize history's lessons. Even putting aside the still-unexplained forgeries and the outright lies about WMD and al Qaeda connections that helped get us into Iraq, even the most basic research would have revealed that our government already knew in 1991 that a post-invasion Iraq would be bloody and chaotic (just ask Dick Cheney), the British had their own humiliating experience with attempts to colonize Iraq in the early 1900s, and the cross-cutting religious and ethnic cleavages in Iraqi society were plain to anyone who looked. They didn't just ignore history, they marginalized and ridiculed those who actually bothered to look into the matter and raised clear warnings.

These guys screwed everything up, and did not bother to plan for even the most easily-predicted contingencies. They recklessly invaded, destroyed Iraqi society, allowed its treasures to be looted, ravaged its infrastructure, disbanded its army, encouraged sectarian strife between Arab and Kurd and between Shiite and Sunni, put loyal sycophants and ideologues in charge rather than competent managers, failed to ever put enough boots on the ground, failed to acknowledge and correct their mistakes when they quickly became apparant -- and now, they have the gall to try to pass the buck for the eminently-predictable deaths and chaos they sowed, with a self-serving and inaccurate history lesson from people who never before showed any interest in history.

As in Vietnam, there is nothing for us to "win" in Iraq, and the only justification for staying is the possible consequences of leaving a country where we shouldn't be in the first place. Stopping a civil war from occurring appears to be a moot point. Yes, there are serious concerns about retribution being visited upon Iraqis who have assisted us, but those concerns should be met by massively expanding asylum opportunties (which are currently and inexplicably highly restricted), not extending our troop commitments indefinitely, or trying to referee (or worse, pick sides in) a civil war. There are also serious concerns about potential regional conflicts involving Iraq and Turkey and some of its other neighbors(Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia to name a few), but those are also not a good reason for an endless occupation.

For further reading, Josh Marshall has more here, seven servicemen in Iraq have their own thoughts on the current situation, while Robert Scheer wrote about this whole Iraq/Vietnam topic at greater length back in November 2006, when Bush first made clear his ignorance about Vietnam. See also my related post from last November.

Update: More historians pile on the ahistorical view that Vietnam could have been "won" if we only spent more years, sacrificed more troops, and built a much bigger black memorial on the Washington Mall.

White House Manual Details How to Squelch Anti-Bush Protestors

Here are some tips (from the previously-secret "Presidential Advance Manual") on how to keep the President (or the news media) from seeing or hearing protestors at presidential events:

  • Require tickets
  • Place protestors in "free speech zones" that are out of site of the President and the media
  • Search/screen ticketholders for secret signs
  • Make sure people in VIP sections or near the stage are "extremely supportive of the Administration"
  • Form strategically-placed "rally squads" (no, really) to shout down any anti-Bush demonstrators who infiltrate an event (for example, shout "USA! USA! USA!")
  • If the above does not work, throw them out. (Typically, this has involved arresting the protestor on bogus charges, followed by a quick release after the event ends)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Lawyers and Doctors to Bush: Stop the Torture

Give a read to Scott Horton's latest, "The Professions Strike Back." Lawyers who try to justify torture and doctors who help interrogators to employ it should be shunned and shamed by all, and particularly their peers.

As was well-stated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (630 F.2d at 890), like the pirate and slave trader before him, the torturer is hostis humani generis, the enemy of all mankind.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rudy Giuliani's Five Big Lies about 9/11

Rudy is full of it. Learn why.

(Also, Rudy is crazy. I mean, did you read his completely insane foreign policy manifesto?)

No New Wars

Rove's Ugly Legacy

Rove's legacy according to Andrew Sullivan, the man who only a few years ago was taken to calling people like me "fifth columnists" and traitors, but who had a change of heart somewhere down the line:
The man's legacy is a conservative movement largely discredited and disunited, a president with lower consistent approval ratings than any in modern history, a generational shift to the Democrats, a resurgent al Qaeda, an endless catastrophe in Iraq, a long hard struggle in Afghanistan, a fiscal legacy that means bankrupting America within a decade, and the poisoning of American religion with politics and vice-versa. For this, he got two terms of power - which the GOP used mainly to enrich themselves, their clients and to expand government's reach and and drain on the productive sector. In the re-election, the president with a relatively strong economy, and a war in progress, managed to eke out 51 percent. Why? Because Rove preferred to divide the country and get his 51 percent, than unite it and get America's 60. In a time of grave danger and war, Rove picked party over country. Such a choice was and remains despicable.

Rove is one of the worst political strategists in recent times. He took a chance to realign the country and to unite it in a war - and threw it away in a binge of hate-filled niche campaigning, polarization and short-term expediency. His divisive politics and elevation of corrupt mediocrities to every branch of government has turned an entire generation off the conservative label. And rightly so. It will take another generation to recover from the toxins he has injected, with the president's eager approval, into the political culture and into the conservative soul.
And let's not forget mangling Hurricane Katrina's aftermath (how could such a "genius" have let Bush miss the political opportunities that could have come with him riding in on a white horse to save the day?), trying to destroy Social Security and Medicare with disingenuous scare tactics, injecting the federal government into the Schiavo family's decisions (yeah that was a good political issue for Republicans), stirring up the immigration hornet's nest (bringing all the rightwing racist crazies front and center for everyone to see), mostly ignoring Al Qaeda (except for the ones who followed us to Iraq), rampant illegal and unconstitutional spying, outing for petty political gain a CIA agent who worked on controlling the spread of weapons of mass destruction, choosing tax cuts for the rich over the nation's fiscal health, and generally screwing up the entire Middle East even worse than when they found it.

Karl "Turdblossom" Rove will forever share credit with Bush and Cheney for the Worst Presidency Ever.

Expect Nothing But Another Friedman from the Petraeus Report

Ever since the great and glorious "surge" was announced, all the wise and serious men and women of Washington have been proclaiming that we only needed to give this war one last chance until September, and THEN we could finally start talking about pulling out of Iraq. "Wait for Petraeus' report," they'd say.

Big surprise that the Petraeus report will actually be written by the White House, those same folks who let us know long ago that President Bush has no intention of leaving as long as he is President:
Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.

And though Petraeus and Crocker will present their recommendations on Capitol Hill, legislation passed by Congress leaves it to the president to decide how to interpret the report's data.

The senior administration official said the process had created "uncomfortable positions" for the White House because of debates over what constitutes "satisfactory progress."

During internal White House discussion of a July interim report, some officials urged the administration to claim progress in policy areas such as legislation to divvy up Iraq's oil revenue, even though no final agreement had been reached. Others argued that such assertions would be disingenuous.

"There were some in the drafting of the report that said, 'Well, we can claim progress,' " the administration official said. "There were others who said: 'Wait a second. Sure we can claim progress, but it's not credible to . . . just neglect the fact that it's had no effect on the ground.' "

The Defense official skeptical of the troop buildup said he expected Petraeus to emphasize military accomplishments, including improving security in Baghdad neighborhoods and a slight reduction in the number of suicide bomb attacks. But the official said he did not believe such security improvements would translate into political progress or improvements in the daily lives of most Iraqis.

"Who cares how many neighborhoods of Baghdad are secured?" the official said. "Let's talk about the rest of the country: How come they have electricity twice a day, how come there is no running water?"
Anyone want to take bets that the report finds signs of "progress" in every major area, and that we just need to stick with it for another "6 months" for everything to progress even further?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Too Many Friedmans

The Friedman Rule: The Iraq War's end is always six months down the road, no matter when that prediction is being made. Now you can prove it with a handy timeline, with pictures!

See also Friedman (unit).

Better Democrats, please

Howie Klein puts it well, Firedoglake more bluntly. Jack Balkin says it too. Yes, nearly the entire Republican delegation in Congress backed the eerily-titled Protect America Act of 2007, but they had a nice assist from 41 craven Democrats, as well as the Democratic leadership that allowed this travesty to even make it to a vote.

Next on the legalizing illegal conduct agenda: liability protection for "alleged" protectors of America who allegedly broke the law. As Jack Balkin explains in another post, "Apparently 'allegedly helped us stay safe' is Bush Administration code for telecom companies and government officials who participated in a conspiracy to perform illegal surveillance. Because what they did is illegal, we do not admit that they actually did it, we only say that they are alleged to have done it."

Torture, Inc.

Torture has been systematically perfected by the CIA since 9/11, according to this New Yorker article by Jane Mayer, one of the most disturbing things I've read on the subject (and there has been quite a bit of disturbing reporting over the last three years or so):
Accurately or not, Bush Administration officials have described the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo as the unauthorized actions of ill-trained personnel, eleven of whom have been convicted of crimes. By contrast, the treatment of high-value detainees has been directly, and repeatedly, approved by President Bush. The program is monitored closely by C.I.A. lawyers, and supervised by the agency’s director and his subordinates at the Counterterrorism Center. While Mohammed was being held by the agency, detailed dossiers on the treatment of detainees were regularly available to the former C.I.A. director George Tenet, according to informed sources inside and outside the agency. Through a spokesperson, Tenet denied making day-to-day decisions about the treatment of individual detainees. But, according to a former agency official, “Every single plan is drawn up by interrogators, and then submitted for approval to the highest possible level—-meaning the director of the C.I.A. Any change in the plan—even if an extra day of a certain treatment was added—was signed off by the C.I.A. director.”

On September 17, 2001, President Bush signed a secret Presidential finding authorizing the C.I.A. to create paramilitary teams to hunt, capture, detain, or kill designated terrorists almost anywhere in the world. Yet the C.I.A. had virtually no trained interrogators. A former C.I.A. officer involved in fighting terrorism said that, at first, the agency was crippled by its lack of expertise. “It began right away, in Afghanistan, on the fly,” he recalled. “They invented the program of interrogation with people who had no understanding of Al Qaeda or the Arab world.” The former officer said that the pressure from the White House, in particular from Vice-President Dick Cheney, was intense: “They were pushing us: ‘Get information! Do not let us get hit again!’ ” In the scramble, he said, he searched the C.I.A.’s archives, to see what interrogation techniques had worked in the past. He was particularly impressed with the Phoenix Program, from the Vietnam War. Critics, including military historians, have described it as a program of state-sanctioned torture and murder. A Pentagon-contract study found that, between 1970 and 1971, ninety-seven per cent of the Vietcong targeted by the Phoenix Program were of negligible importance. But, after September 11th, some C.I.A. officials viewed the program as a useful model. A. B. Krongard, who was the executive director of the C.I.A. from 2001 to 2004, said that the agency turned to “everyone we could, including our friends in Arab cultures,” for interrogation advice, among them those in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, all of which the State Department regularly criticizes for human-rights abuses.

. . .

Many officials inside the C.I.A. had misgivings. “A lot of us knew this would be a can of worms,” the former officer said. “We warned them, It’s going to become an atrocious mess.” The problem from the start, he said, was that no one had thought through what he called “the disposal plan.” He continued, “What are you going to do with these people? The utility of someone like K.S.M. is, at most, six months to a year. You exhaust them. Then what? It would have been better if we had executed them.”

. . . Lacking in-house specialists on interrogation, the agency hired a group of outside contractors, who implemented a regime of techniques that one well-informed former adviser to the American intelligence community described as “a ‘Clockwork Orange’ kind of approach.” The experts were retired military psychologists, and their backgrounds were in training Special Forces soldiers how to survive torture, should they ever be captured by enemy states. The program, known as SERE—an acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape—was created at the end of the Korean War. It subjected trainees to simulated torture, including waterboarding (simulated drowning), sleep deprivation, isolation, exposure to temperature extremes, enclosure in tiny spaces, bombardment with agonizing sounds, and religious and sexual humiliation. The SERE program was designed strictly for defense against torture regimes, but the C.I.A.’s new team used its expertise to help interrogators inflict abuse. “They were very arrogant, and pro-torture,” a European official knowledgeable about the program said. “They sought to render the detainees vulnerable—to break down all of their senses. It takes a psychologist trained in this to understand these rupturing experiences.”

The use of psychologists was also considered a way for C.I.A. officials to skirt measures such as the Convention Against Torture. The former adviser to the intelligence community said, “Clearly, some senior people felt they needed a theory to justify what they were doing. You can’t just say, ‘We want to do what Egypt’s doing.’ When the lawyers asked what their basis was, they could say, ‘We have Ph.D.s who have these theories.’ ” He said that, inside the C.I.A., where a number of scientists work, there was strong internal opposition to the new techniques. “Behavioral scientists said, ‘Don’t even think about this!’ They thought officers could be prosecuted.”

Nevertheless, the SERE experts’ theories were apparently put into practice with Zubaydah’s interrogation. Zubaydah told the Red Cross that he was not only waterboarded, as has been previously reported; he was also kept for a prolonged period in a cage, known as a “dog box,” which was so small that he could not stand. According to an eyewitness, one psychologist advising on the treatment of Zubaydah, James Mitchell, argued that he needed to be reduced to a state of “learned helplessness.” (Mitchell disputes this characterization.)

Steve Kleinman, a reserve Air Force colonel and an experienced interrogator who has known Mitchell professionally for years, said that “learned helplessness was his whole paradigm.” Mitchell, he said, “draws a diagram showing what he says is the whole cycle. It starts with isolation. Then they eliminate the prisoners’ ability to forecast the future—when their next meal is, when they can go to the bathroom. It creates dread and dependency. It was the K.G.B. model. But the K.G.B. used it to get people who had turned against the state to confess falsely. The K.G.B. wasn’t after intelligence.”

As the C.I.A. captured and interrogated other Al Qaeda figures, it established a protocol of psychological coercion. The program tied together many strands of the agency’s secret history of Cold War-era experiments in behavioral science. . . . According to Alfred McCoy, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, who has written a history of the C.I.A.’s experiments in coercing subjects, the agency learned that “if subjects are confined without light, odors, sound, or any fixed references of time and place, very deep breakdowns can be provoked.”

Agency scientists found that in just a few hours some subjects suspended in water tanks—or confined in isolated rooms wearing blacked-out goggles and earmuffs—regressed to semi-psychotic states. Moreover, McCoy said, detainees become so desperate for human interaction that “they bond with the interrogator like a father, or like a drowning man having a lifesaver thrown at him. If you deprive people of all their senses, they’ll turn to you like their daddy.” McCoy added that “after the Cold War we put away those tools. There was bipartisan reform. We backed away from those dark days. Then, under the pressure of the war on terror, they didn’t just bring back the old psychological techniques—they perfected them.”

The C.I.A.’s interrogation program is remarkable for its mechanistic aura. “It’s one of the most sophisticated, refined programs of torture ever,” an outside expert familiar with the protocol said. “At every stage, there was a rigid attention to detail. Procedure was adhered to almost to the letter. There was top-down quality control, and such a set routine that you get to the point where you know what each detainee is going to say, because you’ve heard it before. It was almost automated. People were utterly dehumanized. People fell apart. It was the intentional and systematic infliction of great suffering masquerading as a legal process. It is just chilling.”

. . .

. . . [D]etainees were “taken to their cells by strong people who wore black outfits, masks that covered their whole faces, and dark visors over their eyes.” (Some personnel reportedly wore black clothes made from specially woven synthetic fabric that couldn’t be ripped or torn.) A former member of a C.I.A. transport team has described the “takeout” of prisoners as a carefully choreographed twenty-minute routine, during which a suspect was hog-tied, stripped naked, photographed, hooded, sedated with anal suppositories, placed in diapers, and transported by plane to a secret location.

A person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry, referring to cavity searches and the frequent use of suppositories during the takeout of detainees, likened the treatment to “sodomy.” He said, “It was used to absolutely strip the detainee of any dignity. It breaks down someone’s sense of impenetrability. The interrogation became a process not just of getting information but of utterly subordinating the detainee through humiliation.” The former C.I.A. officer confirmed that the agency frequently photographed the prisoners naked, “because it’s demoralizing.” The person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry said that photos were also part of the C.I.A.’s quality-control process. They were passed back to case officers for review.

A secret government document, dated December 10, 2002, detailing “SERE Interrogation Standard Operating Procedure,” outlines the advantages of stripping detainees. “In addition to degradation of the detainee, stripping can be used to demonstrate the omnipotence of the captor or to debilitate the detainee.” The document advises interrogators to “tear clothing from detainees by firmly pulling downward against buttoned buttons and seams. Tearing motions shall be downward to prevent pulling the detainee off balance.” The memo also advocates the “Shoulder Slap,” “Stomach Slap,” “Hooding,” “Manhandling,” “Walling,” and a variety of “Stress Positions,” including one called “Worship the Gods.”

In the process of being transported, C.I.A. detainees such as Mohammed were screened by medical experts, who checked their vital signs, took blood samples, and marked a chart with a diagram of a human body, noting scars, wounds, and other imperfections. As the person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry put it, “It’s like when you hire a motor vehicle, circling where the scratches are on the rearview mirror. Each detainee was continually assessed, physically and psychologically.”

. . .

According to sources familiar with interrogation techniques, the hanging position is designed, in part, to prevent detainees from being able to sleep. The former C.I.A. officer, who is knowledgeable about the interrogation program, explained that “sleep deprivation works. Your electrolyte balance changes. You lose all balance and ability to think rationally. Stuff comes out.” Sleep deprivation has been recognized as an effective form of coercion since the Middle Ages, when it was called tormentum insomniae. It was also recognized for decades in the United States as an illegal form of torture. An American Bar Association report, published in 1930, which was cited in a later U.S. Supreme Court decision, said, “It has been known since 1500 at least that deprivation of sleep is the most effective torture and certain to produce any confession desired.”

Under President Bush’s new executive order, C.I.A. detainees must receive the “basic necessities of life, including adequate food and water, shelter from the elements, necessary clothing, protection from extremes of heat and cold, and essential medical care.” Sleep, according to the order, is not among the basic necessities.

In addition to keeping a prisoner awake, the simple act of remaining upright can over time cause significant pain. McCoy, the historian, noted that “longtime standing” was a common K.G.B. interrogation technique. In his 2006 book, “A Question of Torture,” he writes that the Soviets found that making a victim stand for eighteen to twenty-four hours can produce “excruciating pain, as ankles double in size, skin becomes tense and intensely painful, blisters erupt oozing watery serum, heart rates soar, kidneys shut down, and delusions deepen.”

. . .

The former officer said that the C.I.A. kept a doctor standing by during interrogations. He insisted that the method was safe and effective, but said that it could cause lasting psychic damage to the interrogators. During interrogations, the former agency official said, officers worked in teams, watching each other behind two-way mirrors. Even with this group support, the friend said, Mohammed’s interrogator “has horrible nightmares.” He went on, “When you cross over that line of darkness, it’s hard to come back. You lose your soul. You can do your best to justify it, but it’s well outside the norm. You can’t go to that dark a place without it changing you.” He said of his friend, “He’s a good guy. It really haunts him. You are inflicting something really evil and horrible on somebody.”

. . .

“All these methods produced useful information, but there was also a lot that was bogus.” When pressed, one former top agency official estimated that “ninety per cent of the information was unreliable.” Cables carrying Mohammed’s interrogation transcripts back to Washington reportedly were prefaced with the warning that “the detainee has been known to withhold information or deliberately mislead.” Mohammed, like virtually all the top Al Qaeda prisoners held by the C.I.A., has claimed that, while under coercion, he lied to please his captors.

Capital Hill Capitulation

So now the Democrat-controlled Congress gave Bush the new spying law he wanted.

I'll let Russ Feingold take this one (and once you are done, go read what Digby says):

Last week law-abiding Americans were once again forced to surrender their rights and freedoms. The event was eerily similar to the unwise passage of the PATRIOT Act some six years ago. We once again had a power hungry executive and a Senate controlled by Democrats. The only difference was that the House of Representatives is now under the control of Democrats - which makes what happened all the more troubling.

The Democratic-led Congress voted to allow the President and his administration to intercept the phone calls and emails of American citizens, without a warrant, with virtually zero judicial oversight, and no reporting whatsoever to Congress. The government is now allowed to grab any communication believed to be from outside the U.S. That includes American citizens who live overseas, service members such as those in Iraq, journalists reporting from overseas, or even Members of Congress who are abroad and call home to the United States - all without any sort of court oversight. This goes far beyond the identified problem of foreign-to-foreign communications that we all agree needed to be fixed.

We cannot allow these abuses to go unchallenged. With your help and valuable input over the last two weeks, late last Friday I formally introduced two censure resolutions to hold President Bush, and his administration, responsible for undermining the rule of law time and time again, and for misleading this country into an unwise war in Iraq and mismanaging the situation that followed.

The first censure resolution addresses the administration's numerous attacks on our Constitution and the rule of law. The President and Attorney General have violated the foundation of our government. This censure resolution will condemn the President and Attorney General for the administration's illegal domestic wiretapping program, for redefining torture, for its extreme positions on the legal status of detainees that has been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court more than once, and for its refusal to cooperate with Congress' responsibility to conduct adequate oversight as mandated in the Constitution.

The second censure resolution holds the President and Vice President responsible for both leading our country into Iraq under false pretenses and for leading our country into a war without adequate planning. The administration exaggerated the threat from Iraq, overstated the case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and falsely linked Iraq to al Qaeda and the horrific attacks of September 11th, 2001. They must be held to account for leading our nation down a path that has made America less safe and has hurt our ability to fight terrorism around the world.

Congress cannot continue to stand by and allow the actions of this President and his administration to go unchallenged. The legislation that passed last week expires in six months, and at that point we will likely see a fight similar to the one that took place last week. We cannot let this President, or any President, continue to thumb their nose at the Constitution and the rule of law.

Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) has joined me in this effort and has introduced both censure resolutions in the House - but we cannot do it alone. Please sign on as a Citizen Co-Sponsor of Censure so we can show other elected officials in Congress that the American people will not give up in their demand for accountability.


Russ Feingold
United States Senator
Honorary Chair, Progressive Patriots Fund

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Holy crap!

I found three points where I agree with Newt Gingrich.