Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Obama's First (?) Rendition

Scott Horton has the disturbing details over at HuffPo.

"[Raymond] Azar alleges that on arriving at Bagram he was shackled to a chair in an office for seven hours and not allowed to move. Then in the midst of a cold rainstorm he was taken to an unheated metal shipping container converted to use as a cell. The cell was brightly lit and although the outside temperature approached freezing, he was given only a thin blanket. He also claims that he was not permitted to sleep during his confinement at Bagram, which lasted over a day. Then he was told he was going to take a plane trip. His handlers would not tell him where he was going. He feared he was being dragged to Guantanamo, there to be 'disappeared' and tortured. How else, he thought, could he explain the absence of Afghan authorities, the hooding and other techniques?"
Other allegations include threats to Azar's family and nude photography.

In the past months, since Inauguration, President Obama and his team have built a framework for this type of activity. They've embraced the abuse of the state secrets privilege to cover up Bush crimes. Well, guess what - it will work equally well to help Obama cover up whatever it is he wants to do.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ya Think?

New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The director of the Central Intelligence Agency,Leon E. Panetta, has told the House Intelligence Committee in closed-door testimony that the C.I.A. concealed “significant actions” from Congress from 2001 until late last month, seven Democratic committee members said.

Now, if I have to guess how this will be received by the right-wing nutosphere I would guess that this makes Panetta an evil librul traitor. I think the "vindicates Nancy Pelosi" (at least at some level) is going to be missed.

Politico says that the CIA is contesting the truth of what is in the letter. The brain, it aches.

Hopefully further exposure of the CIA's lies will create more pressure on the Administration to release important documents relating to the torture regime. At the moment it is obvious that there will be no public/citizen's dialogue on what we did to detainees and how we can effectively combat terrorism without becoming utter barbarians. President Obama is content to develop a "detention post-acquittal" policy behind closed doors, while his DoJ continues to abuse the state secrets privilege. Maybe establishing the abuse of executive power and utter of the Bush years will incite greater public interest in the lies and excessive executive powers that remain.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How Obama Deep-Sixed a Truth Commission

Man, I really wish I voted for someone that would deliver transparency and accountability. Apparently, I did not.

I saw this over at TPM Cafe posted by rumpole. Here's the link. Froomkin quotes Jane Mayer:

"'I'm not big on commissions,' Panetta told me. 'On the other hand, I could see that it might make some sense, frankly, to appoint a high-level commission, with somebody like Sandra Day O'Connor, Lee Hamilton—people like that.' The appeal was that Obama could delegate to others the legal problems stemming from Bush Administration actions, allowing him to focus on his ambitious political agenda. 'In the discussion phase'—early in the spring, before Obama decided the issue—'I was for it,' Panetta said. 'Because every time a question came up, you could basically say, "The commission, hopefully, is looking at this."' But by late April Obama had vetoed the idea, fearing that it would look vindictive and, possibly, inflame his predecessor. 'It was the President who basically said, "If I do this, it will look like I'm trying to go after Cheney and Bush,"' Panetta said. 'He just didn't think it made sense. And then everybody kind of backed away from it.'"

Ok, first of all, Cheney is inflamed. And he is calling for the further declassification of documents - IOW, a Truth Commission.

Accountability for torture, equality for gays - Obama is turning out to be timid. A weenie.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

You'll Never Get Ahead...

From Truthdig/LATimes:

"Reporting from Washington -- President Obama's pick to be the intelligence chief at the Department of Homeland Security withdrew from consideration on Friday amid signs that he could face opposition on Capitol Hill over his role in the CIA's interrogation of terrorism suspects."


Mudd became the latest candidate for a high-level intelligence position to be forced to withdraw after being tied to the CIA's use of severe methods to interrogate terrorism suspects. 

From 2002 to 2005, Mudd served as deputy director of the CIA's counter-terrorism center, a unit that swelled in size in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and was responsible for running the agency's secret overseas prisons."

At least we know torturing doesn't get you ahead in the job world (except when it does - courtesy of Militarytracy).  But you do get to keep your old job and duck questions about what you did in the past - or work your way into another high-level, confirmation unrequired position, like John Brennan did.  

At this point, it's obvious that we would all be better served by having a Truth Commission establish the genesis and implementation of Bush's torture programs.  I don't really weep here for Mudd and his career trajectory, but I do think it is absurd that all our political system has done so far in response to our past torturing is create a bump in the road for anyone interested in civil career advancement.  It is a pathetic injustice to all involved - from Binyam Mohamed to Mudd and the American people in general.

And a final question - why does President Obama keep selecting these guys?  Especially after the example of John Brennan, why did he think Mudd would squeak through?  I would note that Mudd's role at the CTC is not entirely clear - his FBI biography (h/t Laura Rozen) suggests as Deputy Director of the CTC he "was responsible for overseeing operational, analytical, and support programs in the Center" and also that he was in the CTC "the Deputy Director of the Office of Terrorism Analysis, the analytic arm of the CTC."  I would generally be more creeped out by people involved in Operations.

But the interesting aspect of Mudd's withdrawal from consideration is that it raises questions about how the analytical branches influenced interrogations - from an AP Report:  "Mudd's analysts used information obtained through harsh interrogations, and the official said that Mudd is likely to be questioned on whether the analysis branch pressured interrogators in the field to use harsher methods because they believed detainees were not telling the truth."  This hasn't been much talked about, and apparently it won't be (remember, part of Brennan's defense - or defenses made for him - was that he was in analysis, not operations).

In any case, Mudd's relationship to torture policy has been established.  How cowardly is it that our government selects people with these backgrounds for new positions, allows them close to a confirmation hearing at which point they withdraw, go back into the part of the government they came from, and no one says boo.  I guess the Senate Intelligence Committee really isn't all that eager nor interested in the answers to the questions they were intending to ask.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Um, Duh.

Specter Says Record Needed of Future CIA Briefings

"In a letter Thursday to the White House and leaders of congressional intelligence committees, Specter says this would prevent disputes later -- like the recent one over what and when House SpeakerNancy Pelosi was told about severe interrogation methods used on terrorism detainees.

He says if the dispute involves classified materials, the transcript could be reviewed by top members of the intelligence committees or even a court. Specter is a former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee."

I thought that was pretty obvious.  I am hoping that one product of the Bush mess is that more stringent oversight will be conducted over the CIA by Congress.  dday at Hullabaloo has a great post about why that oversight is needed - members of both parties during the Bush years have said the CIA lied.

Another example of the "CIA lied" genre - Jane Harman regarding the videotape destruction:

"Lawmakers were initially told only of the existence of a single tape showing Mr. Zubaydah, said California Rep. Jane Harman, who was the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee in 2003, when she warned the CIA not to destroy that tape. A committee spokeswoman said it was told in the past year that there were 92 tapes, after Rep. Harman departed the committee.

'My jaw fell through the floor,' Rep. Harman said. 'My impression was that this was a videotape. I never imagined it would be 92 videotapes.' The CIA misled her, she said, and 'it may also be a violation of law.'" [emphasis supplied]

I don't know who is doing the briefing over at the CIA, and who is telling them what to brief Congress about, but that person(s) should be in a little trouble right now.  They would be if we were "looking back," anyway.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What They Want

From Howard Bashman over at How Appealing:

"For example, the 'attention grasp,' described as 'grasping the individual with both hands, one hand on either side of the collar,' is one of the 13 techniques employed in the past by the CIA and is listed in the Justice Department's May 10, 2005, memo. It is barred under the Field Manual. Unlike harsher techniques on the list, such as nudity, dietary control, sleep deprivation and waterboarding, CIA officials say they want the authority to use the attention grasp without going back to Washington for approval."

Here is another description of the "attention grasp," in official SERE language, describing its purpose, via Tom Burghardt:
"10. ATTENTION GRASP: Typical conditions for application: to startle, to instill fear, apprehension, and humiliation or cause insult."
Ok.  So the CIA apparently didn't get the memo that even new military commissions will, in Obama's own words,
"ensure that: First, statements that have been obtained from detainees using cruel, inhuman and degrading interrogation methods will no longer be admitted as evidence at trial."
So the very source of the "attention grasp," SERE, describes the point of the "attention grasp" as to insult and humiliate.  Obviously the opposite of what is permissible in federal courts, and even in military commissions, Obama style.

Doesn't anyone in the CIA see the problem here?

I suppose you could do some legal gymnastics and try to explain how the "attention grasp" is not cruel and degrading.  But that's a road we've been down - and inching closer and closer to Bybee, Yoo, and Bradbury is not pretty.

Regarding Pelosi-Panetta

Mary McCarthy, per WaPo:

"In addition to CIA misrepresentations at the session last summer, McCarthy told the friends, a senior agency official failed to provide a full account of the CIA's detainee-treatment policy at a closed hearing of the House intelligence committee in February 2005, under questioning by Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), the senior Democrat."
If the subject is truth, it's hard to guess why anyone would be in the CIA's corner.

Hi again, by the way.