May 11 2012

Torture: The Bush Administration on Trial


By Andy Worthington

 

While Rodriguez — like John Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and senior Bush administration officials, up to and including the president — have never been criminally prosecuted, it is uncertain whether, overall, the apologists for torture are winning. Despite their protestations over the years, they have no proof that torture worked.

::::::::

Law-abiding U.S. citizens have been appalled that Jose Rodriguez, the director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service until his retirement in 2007, was invited to appear on CBS’s 60 Minutes program last weekend to promote his book, “Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives,” in which he defends the use of torture on “high-value detainees” captured in the Bush administration’s “war on terror,” even though it was illegal under U.S. and international law.

Rodriguez joins an elite club of public officials — including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld — who have not been prosecuted for using torture or authorizing its use. Instead, they have been writing books, going on book tours, and appearing on mainstream TV to attempt to justify their unjustifiable actions.

They all claim to be protected by a “golden shield,” a legal opinion issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel crafted by attorney John Yoo. While the office’s mandate is to provide impartial legal advice to the executive branch, the opinion redefined torture and approved its use — including the use of waterboarding, an ancient torture technique and a form of controlled drowning — on a supposed “high-value detainee,” Abu Zubaydah. The opinion came in the form of two memos, dated August 1, 2002, that will forever be known as the “torture memos.”

A four-year internal ethics investigation concluded in January 2010 that Yoo and Bybee had been guilty of “professional misconduct,” which ordinarily would have led to professional sanctions, but a senior Department of Justice official, David Margolis, overrode that conclusion, stating that both men had been under great pressure following the 9/11 attacks, and had merely exercised “poor judgment,” which was the equivalent of nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

No one bothered mentioning that Article 2.2 of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which the U.S. became a signatory under Ronald Reagan, declares, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

And so, this past Sunday, Jose Rodriguez was invited to undertake his own redefinition of torture, essentially unchallenged, and on mainstream TV. Rodriguez brushed off criticism of the use of torture by saying, “We made some al-Qaeda with American blood on their hands uncomfortable for a few days, but we did the right thing for the right reason. The right reason to protect the homeland and to protect American lives.”

As Amy Davidson noted in The New Yorker, he also “bragged about its use in proving the manhood of the torturer,” stating, “We needed to get everybody in government to put their big boy pants on and provide the authorities that we needed,” and he “talked as if torture were an expression of strength, rather than momentary domination masking the most abject moral and practical weakness.” For Glenn Greenwald, the reference to “big boy pants” exposed “a whole new level of psychosexual creepiness.”

On specific techniques, Rodriguez defended the use of waterboarding by saying, of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was subjected to waterboarding 183 times, “I don’t know what kind of man it takes to cut the throat of someone in front of a camera like that [a reference to KSM’s unproved confession that he personally killed U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl], but I can tell you this is probably someone who didn’t give a rat’s ass about having water poured on his face.”

He also defended the use of physical violence and nudity by pointing out, “The objective is to let him [the detainee] know there’s a new sheriff in town and he better pay attention,” compared sleep deprivation to “jet lag,” and, reflecting on the use of “stress positions” over many hours, said, “I was thinking about this the other day. The objective was to induce muscle fatigue, and most people who work out do a lot more fatiguing of the muscles.”

At another point in the interview, Rodriguez made reference to the psychologists — including James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen — who had worked on the U.S. military’s program for using torture to train U.S. personnel to resist interrogation if captured by a hostile enemy, which was reverse-engineered and provided the basis of the torture program in the “war on terror.” Their particular contribution was to emphasize that detainees must be broken down to a state of “learned helplessness” (a concept developed by U.S. psychologist Martin Seligman in the 1960s), in which all resistance is futile and the detainee becomes completely dependent on his interrogators. Speaking of that, Rodriguez stated, “This program was about instilling a sense of hopelessness and despair on the terrorist, on the detainee, so that he would conclude on his own that he was better off cooperating with us.”

To be spouting all of the above on mainstream TV without, essentially, any comeback from the host, Lesley Stahl, or from those who should be enforcing America’s obligations to prosecute torturers, is depressing enough, but it was not all that was wrong. Rodriguez also spoke openly of the crime for which he is most generally known — the destruction of 92 videotapes that contained the “interrogations” in Thailand of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, another “high-value detainee” who was waterboarded. As Glenn Greenwald explained last week,

“At the time the destruction order was issued, numerous federal courts — as well as the 9/11 Commission — had ordered the U.S. Government to preserve and disclose all evidence relating to interrogations of Al-Qaeda and 9/11 suspects. Purposely destroying evidence relevant to legal proceedings is called ‘obstruction of justice.’ Destroying evidence which courts and binding tribunals (such as the 9/11 Commission) have ordered to be preserved is called ‘contempt of court.’ There are many people who have been harshly punished, including some sitting right now in prison, for committing those crimes in far less flagrant ways than was done here. In fact, so glaring was the lawbreaking that the co-Chairmen of the 9/11 Commission — the mild-mannered, consummate establishment figures Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean — wrote a New York Times op-ed pointedly accusing the CIA of ‘obstruction’ (‘Those who knew about those videotapes — and did not tell us about them — obstructed our investigation’).”

As with John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee, Rodriguez was never punished. An investigation into the destruction of the videotapes began under Bush, and continued under Obama, but in November 2010 the Department of Justice announced that the investigation would be closed without filing any charges. As Greenwald explained, Judge Alvin Hellerstein, who had ordered the CIA to preserve and produce the tapes, “refused even to hold the CIA in contempt for deliberately disregarding his own order.” Instead, he “reasoned that punishment for the CIA was unnecessary because, as he put it, new rules issued by the CIA “should lead to greater accountability within the agency and prevent another episode like the videotapes’ destruction.’”
However, while Rodriguez — like John Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and senior Bush administration officials, up to and including the president — have never been criminally prosecuted, it is uncertain whether, overall, the apologists for torture are winning. For them to succeed in persuading enough ordinary Americans that criminal laws don’t actually apply to the U.S. president, or anyone working for him, they also need to establish that torture kept America safe. On that front, despite their protestations over the years, they have no proof that torture worked.

In his interview, Rodriguez wheeled out the tired old lies about torture’s leading to the capture of “high-value detainees.” In a moment of courage, Lesley Stahl mentioned well-established claims that Abu Zubaydah’s torture had led operatives on countless wild-goose chases, to which Rodriguez replied, “Bullshit. He gave us a road map that allowed us to capture a bunch of al-Qaeda senior leaders.” In contrast, of course, former FBI interrogator Ali Soufan pointed out last year that torture did not yield important leads, and that, for example, information from Abu Zubaydeh pointing to Khalid Sheikh Muhammad’s central role in the 9/11 attacks came before the CIA’s torturers took over his interrogations.

Soufan also pointed out the difference between torturers and skilled interrogators, which CNN described as follows:

“‘There is a difference between compliance and cooperation,’ he said. Compliance can result from torture — a detainee will do anything to make the rough treatment end. But real cooperation, says Soufan, comes from engaging the detainee after learning everything possible about them.”
Torture’s apologists always want to deny the importance of skilled interrogators, who conduct extensive research on their subjects and often spend a long time building up a rapport with them.

In Rodriguez’s case, he also resorted to claims that torture had led to the capture of Osama bin Laden. He told Dana Priest of the Washington Post last week, “I am certain, beyond any doubt, that these techniques, approved at the highest levels of the U.S. government, certified by the Department of Justice, and briefed to and supported by bipartisan leadership of congressional intelligence oversight committees, shielded the people of the United States from harm and led to the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.”

In response, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued a joint statement (PDF) condemning the remarks made by Rodriguez and others who had leapt on the bandwagon as the anniversary of bin Laden’s death approached. In their statement they said that such remarks were “inconsistent with CIA records” and “misguided and misinformed,” and they expressed their disappointment that “Mr. Rodriguez and others, who left government positions prior to the OBL operation and are not privy to all of the intelligence that led to the raid, continue to insist that the CIA’s so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques’ used many years ago were a central component of our success.”

Their statement, as the New York Times explained, “rebutted various claims that critical information about bin Laden’s courier” came from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or from Abu Faraj al-Libi, another “high-value detainee” seized in Pakistan in 2005 and held at Guantánamo since September 2006 like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and 13 other “high-value detainees.” In addition, the Times noted that the statement “rejected claims that tough treatment drew valuable information about bin Laden’s courier from a third detainee, unidentified in the statement,” but elsewhere identified as Hassan Ghul, another “high-value detainee,” who was seized in Iraq in 2004 and who was never held at Guantánamo. The statement noted, “While this third detainee did provide relevant information, he did so the day before he was interrogated by the CIA using their coercive interrogation techniques.”

“Instead,” according to the Times, Sens. Feinstein and Levin stated, without elaborating, that “the CIA learned of the existence of the courier, his true name and location through means unrelated to the CIA detention and interrogation program.”

That is important, but what is needed now is for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to complete its comprehensive review of the CIA’s former detention and interrogation program and publish it. As the statement also explained, “Committee staff have reviewed more than 6 million pages of records and the Committee’s final report, which we expect to exceed 5000 pages, will provide a detailed, factual description of how interrogation techniques were used, the conditions under which detainees were held, and the intelligence that was — or wasn’t — gained from the program.”

As Dan Froomkin explained in the Huffington Post last Monday, the investigation by Democrats, which has taken nearly three years and in which Republican lawmakers have refused to take part, “concludes that records from the Bush administration fail to support claims that torture was effective in stopping any terrorist attack” or in leading to the discovery and killing of Osama bin Laden last year.

While people such as Jose Rodriguez remain free to peddle their nonsense about torture, and to profit from it, America’s name continues to be tarnished and the American public continue to be shamefully misled. The long-awaited report into the CIA’s torture program should be published as soon as possible to let people know what really happened and, one hopes, to play a part in tearing down the “golden shield” that has so far protected Bush administration’s officials from prosecution.

Submitters Website: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk

Submitters Bio:

Andy Worthington is the author of “The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison” (published by Pluto Press), as well as and “The Battle of the Beanfield” (2005) and “Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion” (2004). He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo.” Visit his website at: www.andyworthington.co.uk.


Jul 17 2010

Author of Torture Memos Admits Some Techniques Were Not Approved By DOJ

Author of Torture Memos Admits Some Techniques Were Not Approved By DOJ

Author of Torture Memos Admits Some Techniques Were Not Approved By DOJ

Thursday 15 July 2010
by: Jason Leopold, reprinted from TruthOut.org
(make sure to support TruthOut with a donation today)

Jay Bybee, who as a senior Justice Department lawyer signed two memos in 2002 authorizing CIA interrogators to torture “war on terror” prisoners, told a congressional panel that more than a half dozen other brutal methods were used by the CIA without legal approval.

In a closed-door interview with members of the House Judiciary Committee on May 26, Bybee said his Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) did not allow the CIA to use diapering, water dousing, blackout goggles, extended solitary confinement, daily beatings, forcing a detainee to defecate on himself, hanging a detainee from ceiling hooks or subjecting prisoners to loud music or noise.

Bybee, who is now a federal appeals court judge in San Francisco, did sign off on a variety of other torture techniques, including the near-drowning experience of waterboarding. Prolonged diapering was included in a list of torture techniques that the OLC initially approved in 2002, but it was removed possibly because it might have resulted in a lengthy legal review.

Some of the techniques, including diapering, were permitted by CIA Director George Tenet and other senior agency officials despite the lack of clear OLC sign-off in 2002. Diapering and other abuses, such as water dousing, were cleared by the OLC later after Bybee left to become a federal judge. Continue reading


Jun 12 2010

Saturday, June 12 Radio Show-Malcolm Nance and Scott Horton

   
Malcolm Nance (SERE Instructor) Segment 1
Segment 2
Segment 3
Scott Horton Listen Here
Democracy Now segment with PHR from this show Listen Here
ABCNews and Liz Cheney-Made ya look Listen Here
Op-Ed on British Reaction to U.S. reaction to BP destruction Listen Here
CSPAN audio of U.S. Helsinki Commission on torture from Dec 2007 Listen Here

TO listen in: CLICK HERE
Continue reading


Jun 7 2010

Human Experimentation at the Heart of Bush Administration’s Torture Program

Reprinted with permission (and creative commons) from TruthOut.org
Don’t forget, it is very important to support independent journalist sites like TruthOut.org

by Jason Leopold – Sunday, June 6, 2010

PHR Reports Experiments in Torture

PHR Reports Experiments in Torture

High-value detainees captured during the Bush administration’s “war on terror,” who were subjected to brutal torture techniques, were used as “guinea pigs” to gauge the effectiveness of various torture techniques, a practice that has raised troubling comparisons to Nazi-era human experimentation. according to a disturbing new report released by Physicians for Human Rights, an international doctors’ organization.

PHR, based in Massachusetts, called on President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and the US Congress to launch investigations into the role of physicians and psychiatric experts in the monitoring and assessments of the brutal interrogations.
Continue reading


Jun 5 2010

Tonight’s Show, Saturday, June 5, 2010

Prof. Amos Guiora,
Dahr Jamail,
Brig. Gen David Irvine,
Larry Siems (ACLU),
Coleen Rowley,
Jess Levin (MediaMatters),
and a audio from a reading of Rachel Corrie’s letters and Cindy Corrie.
Segment One – Amos Guiora – The Bagram Habeas Decision: Bad Law, Bad Policy
Listen Here
Segment Two – Dahr Jamail / Brig Gen David Irvine
Listen Here
Segment Three – Larry Siems (ACLU) – Fmr. FBI Agent Coleen Rowley-Jess Levin from Media Matters
Listen Here
Segment Four – Rachel Corrie Letters and Cindy Corrie
Listen Here
Segment Five – Tony Hayward, Who’s your daddy?
Listen Here

Click here to listen to this week’s show

Good evening,

Welcome to VeracityRadio. It has been a busy news week and we’ll cover some of those important items in tonights show. This week we saw BP continue to flounder in the Gulf with our disaster. Animals are dying in the gulf and BP’s CEO wants his life back. Currently BP claims its “top cap” is working a little to bring oil to the surface for containment but considering their credibility right now, little they say is worth much.

In international news, Israel raided a flotilla of ships destined for Gaza. The flotilla has been in planning for some time now and we’ll get reports on what happened and have some discussion on the results of this action.

George Bush was quoted this week as admitting to authorizing the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and stated that he would do it again. Though no audio or video of the event was published, local papers and attendees have shared this “news” with us. This comes a year and half after his Vice President admitted to ABC and PBS that he was instrumental to the passage of this program.

Tonight we have a jam packed show for you and I hope that you will appreciate the words of our various guests and I’m very humbled to have the opportunity to speak with them. As always we welcome your feedback at veracityradio@gmail.com or visit the blog at veracityradio.

First up we’ll hear a reading of the op-ed by University of Utah College of Law professor Amos Guiora called The Bagram Habeas Decision: Bad Law, Bad Policy. Then I’ll play an interview I did with Mr. Guiora on Monday with comments on the flotilla and the global war on terror.

Then we’ll talk to Dahr Jamail about the flotilla, a revisit to the attack on the USS Liberty, oil in Canada, theft of Iraqi culture, and the need for independent Journalism.

We’ll have a discussion about George Bush’s comments with retired Brigadeer General David Irvine. I especially want to thank him for joining us on short notice to clarify the comments in this week’s Huffington Post and the consequences of Bush’s admission.

Then as we enter June it is important to recognize that this is Torture Awareness Month. Joining us to discuss the details and events will be Larry Siems of the ACLU and then an interview with former FBI special agent Coleen Rowley. Rowley and I also discussed the Free Gaza Flotilla, the war on terror and the media coverage of such important events.

We’ll have a visit with Jess Levin from Media Matters about BP’s contributions, individual contributions, and Obama. What is the truth behind the $71,000 in contributions?

And last, I’ll feature some archived audio from an event held in Houston a few years ago with the family of Rachel Corrie. This features letters written by Rachel as read by local activists and finishes with a few words from Cindy Corrie.


May 15 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010 show – 9pm EST

ANSWER coaliton SeizeBP campaign – Media Matters on BP/Halliburton spill and Andy Worthington
Segment 1 –

Matthew Alexander – How To Break A Terrorist
Segment 2 – (note: there are portions of the audio which dropped out and were boosted from remaining low volume. They were included to retain as much of what Mr. Alexander shared as possible.)

Hour Three included audio from Jason Leopold’s interview with John Kiriakou at TruthOut.org

and from CSPAN archives – John Kiriakou and Col. Steve Kleinmann

Our listening link will be available before airtime. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN Tonight’s show features Matthew Alexander, Author of How To Break A Terrorist, Andy Worthington on British Elections and Guantanamo Bay detainees, Media Matters discussion on Elena Kagan and BP, and a visit with ANSWER coalition about their Seize BP campaign.


May 18 2009

The Truth About Richard Bruce Cheney

(Thanks to our friends’ site: NoQuarterUSA.net for heads up on this.  Thank you to Steve Clemons for allowing us reprint the full text with Col. Wilkerson’s and Steve Clemons’ express permission from The Washington Note.)

This is a guest post exclusive to The Washington Note by Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, who is former chief of staff of the Department of State during the term of Secretary of State Colin Powell. Lawrence Wilkerson is also Pamela Harriman Visiting Professor at the College of William & Mary.

Last night I was on Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC at the top of the hour. But before I came on, through the earpiece I listened to the five minutes that Rachel sketched as a lead-in. Most of it was videotape from the last few days of former Vice President Dick Cheney extolling the virtues of harsh interrogation, torture, and his leadership. I had heard some of it earlier of course but not all of it and not in such a tightly-packed package.
Continue reading


Mar 13 2009

Seymour Hersh: The Bush Administration ran "Executive Assassination Ring"

Seymour Hersh is reporting that the Cheney Bush Administration were operating an “Executive Assassination Ring” under the “Joint Special Operations Command” which reported directly to the White House. Hersh is planning on writing an article on the revelation and spoke of it Tuesday night at the University of Minnesota.
Hersh: Bush Admin Ran “Executive Assassination Ring”

Mr. Hersh claims the operation involved sending agents to countries and executing suspects on a “target list”

We’ll follow this story and keep you posted.


Mar 5 2009

Truth and Consequences hearing

On Wednesday, March 4, 2009, Patrick Leahy convened a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the creation of a “Truth and Consequences Commission” to hear the abuses and remedies of the George Bush and Dick Cheney administration. Joining this panel were Thomas Pickering, Ret. Vice Admiral Lee Gunn, John Farmer, F.A.O. Schwarz, David Rivkin and Jeremy Rabkin.


Continue reading


Feb 21 2009

The Case for Prosecution of Dick Cheney, George Bush and Co.

There is rarely joy to be found in prosecution. This process of holding someone accountable is loaded with frustration from the get go. But without holding people accountable for their actions, we might as well scrap any pretense of justice or rule of law.

In the past 8 years we have seen violations of the fundamental standards of American values, whether they were ever real or simply imagined. In the name of national defense the administration and their enablers in the Congress eroded the fundamental constitutional standards that define this democratic experiment. The Bush Administration lobbied to go to war on a country that had never attacked the U.S., authorized torture of detainees, allowed extraordinary rendition of suspects, wasted billions of dollars to hide its crimes and mistakes, wiretapped citizens, journalists, soldiers calling their families, non-profits, politicized the Department of Justice, outed a CIA officer and her colleagues operations, threatened countries who didn’t run lock-step, and continuously lied about these actions when directly asked to own up to them.
Continue reading