Friday, December 12, 2014

Darkness Visible


      That the Bush administration was composed of war criminals who conducted torture and murder of prisoners, with the sole exception of Colin Powell (Dianne Feinstein was afraid to share even what the Senate Select Committee was told because he "would blow his stack") has long been known.

***

       But the Senate Intelligence Committee's report now registers, out of CIA documents, a record of criminality ordered at the highest levels, which should upset any decent person in the United States (any person over to John McCain...).  The report focuses, erroneously, on the CIA's leadership and not the high officials - the big criminals - who enabled it.  But what Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald describe below, in live blogging the reports, is mind boggling.

***

     The CIA tortured and murdered people it knew to be innocents.  No one was punished, even fired.

***

     The CIA committed anal rape on prisoners.  It mixed fecal matter in their food and made them even sicker.  It held prisoners with broken feet in standing positions for days...

***

     Change the names with John Rawls, and as Sullivan says, totalitarians, Nazis, Al Assad come to mind.  If you are indigenous, famous Americans...; if you are Palestinian, the Israeli torturers who taught the neocons in the Bush administration and particularly Mr. Cheney what the dark side is.

***

          In 2006, George W. Bush first learned, according to the CIA, of repeated water boarding and of people with broken legs being forced to stand in stress positions for days. All of this took place under "medical" and "psychological" supervision; there is a grim list of pseudoscientific criminality here starting with Mitchell and Jesson - see here.      Mitchell and Jesson invented simulated SERE "torture" for Americans who would be captured by the Chinese. They had done no interrogations, knew nothing of the Middle East, were paid $81 million to develop “techniques” that were criminal and  produced no useful information.  Leaving aside central war crimes, they and their masters, Bush, Cheney and Tenet are impressive only in the way of incompetence…

***

       But the stories of torture made Bush – in 2006, 3 years later – “uncomfortable."  That was a comparatively human reaction.  That Bush did nothing (that Obama, too, attempts to suppress the truth) in the face of CIA criminality/rogue activity is startling.  Was Bush not – is Obama not - Commander in Chief?  Did Bush not order it ("plausible deniability")?

        Are we not obligated as a people, through our signatures on the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture, to put Bush on trial?  How can Bush have "known nothing"?  How can Bush, when he finally learned, have let this program stand?

         And how can Bush/Cheney and his minions have ordered/enabled every act described in the report...? 

***

        Here is Sullivan’s conclusion, quoting the Geneva Convention:

       “The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of [this] Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.
        The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called ‘universal jurisdiction.’ Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution,” – Ronald Reagan’s signing statement on the ratification of the UN Convention on Torture.
Allow me to repeat:
"Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution."
See also here.

***

      Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize because he seemingly promised to deliver America and the world from torture.  In Foreign Affairs in 2004, Robert W. Tucker, a smart, conservative realist, had rightly argued against Robert Kagan (one of the 3 principals of the Project for a New American Century) that what Bush and Cheney had done would ruin the reputation and world leadership of the United States for generations.  See here.  Tucker once recommended imperial seizing of the Saudi oil fields in 1973, so his idea of American “leadership”/aggression is often not decent.  This debate shows how far to the authoritarian imperial right neocons are.

***

    But Obama’s election gave the world hope.

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        Bush knew no details about torture because the machine of the American intelligence apparatus, licensed and protected by Cheney and his agents, operated in secret to do the unspeakable crimes this Report reveals (and there is a 6,000 page longer version, still kept "secret" by Obama) and then lied about it over and over to the public and Congressional "overseers."

***

     Abu Zubaydah was broken, a quivering mass, summoned to the waterboard by two snaps of a CIA man’s fingers.  His delirium, his spitting up of large amounts of water, the 151st waterboarding sickened many CIA officers who to their credit, protested.

***

     Cheney’s snake, David Addington, told the CIA to be “men...” 

***

    The report details the CIA crimes against humanity, but only implies the basic facts about the high officials who appointed/ commissioned Tenet, the espaecially lying Michael Hayden (the last 30 pages of the report are deveoted to revealing Hayden’s lies), the vapid and sick Panetta and John Brennan, a truly major war criminal (torture in Iraq, drone advisor to Obama on "Terror Tuesdays," liar in Senate testimony, and one who has refused to come clean for months about the CIA burgling the offices, surveilling the report of the Senate Intelligence Committee which supposedly oversaw the CIA...See here.

****

      Senator Mark Udall, in a final act of courage, revealed Obama’s licensing of the CIA in doing these things (the CIA is too big apparently for Barack just as it was for Mr. Bush) and called on him to fire Brennan (the least of what Brennan deserves…).  See here.

***

     Sullivan worries that the CIA, a secret police force, is a threat to democracy and to world peace.  He is right.  The CIA should never have been created, and has done immense harm to American decency (civilized values, as Sullivan puts it,  represented, for example, in the Geneva Conventions) since its inception.  This edited, 600 page executive summary reveals, line by line (read only the selections below by Sullivan and Greenwald) what depravity the United States government has unleashed upon the world.

***

      Sullivan now invokes his friend Christopher Hitchens, a deluded neocon at the end of his life but one who knew and said what the CIA was, and called, also, for the CIA to be abolished:

        "I thought I’d end today with a quote from my dear, late friend, Christopher Hitchens, a dedicated opponent of Jihadist nihilism but also a civilized man who knew torture when he saw it. On the CIA:
'Now we have further confirmation of the astonishing culture of lawlessness and insubordination that continues to prevail at the highest levels in Langley. At a time when Congress and the courts are conducting important hearings on the critical question of extreme interrogation, and at a time when accusations of outright torture are helping to besmirch and discredit the United States all around the world, a senior official of the CIA [Jose Rodriguez] takes the unilateral decision to destroy the crucial evidence. This deserves to be described as what it is: mutiny and treason. 
Despite a string of exposures going back all the way to the Church Commission, the CIA cannot rid itself of the impression that it has the right to subvert the democratic process both abroad and at home. Its criminality and arrogance could perhaps have been partially excused if it had ever got anything right, but, from predicting the indefinite survival of the Soviet Union to denying that Saddam Hussein was going to invade Kuwait, our spymasters have a Clouseau-like record, one that they have earned yet again with their exculpation of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was after the grotesque estimate of continued Soviet health and prosperity that the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan argued that the CIA should be abolished. It is high time for his proposal to be revived. The system is worse than useless—it’s a positive menace. We need to shut the whole thing down and start again.'
And that isn’t triply true today?"

***

     After their attempted suppression of this report, no one can take Barack Obama (I worked very hard on each of his two campaigns) or John Kerry to be a decent person.  The White House  even now says that it "can’t decide between the CIA and the Senate report."

***

But the Senate Report is based on the unintentional release to the Committee by the CIA of its own report on torture under Leon Panetta which also concludes that its crimes accomplished nothing, got the US no useful information (see the comment below by Ali Soufan, a courageous and intelligent FBI interrogator, on how torture led the CIA away from Bin Laden).  Senator Udall has courageously underlined these points for the public.  See here.  

***

     Further, the Senate report uses CIA documents (the Obama administration has withheld, over many months of requests, some 9,000 pages of further documents, revealing that it is an agent in the suppression of the truth and legally speaking, in violation of its duty to stop war crimes, to mandate legal oroceedings against  war criminals.  The sheer cowardice or two-facedness of Obama (“we tortured some folks”) has now been written into history, and it would take a lot of further action in the opposite direction, given public outcry from below, to redress this.

***

      Yet Senator Dianne Feinstein has played a long role as an apologist for and abettor in torture (remember: she worried about Colin Powell "blowing his stack").  Yet she has some sense of history and some loyalty to her staff.  Dan Jones is a real public servant, as Sullivan says, someone who worked with determination for 6 years to name the truth, even as the Obama administration still keeps secret the larger 6000 page report.  Feinstein has now stood up about this, and called out – very unusual for a Senator – former CIA Director Michael Hayden for his endless, feckless lying to the Senate on behalf of CIA criminality (again, a criminality widely known in the world, but now one certified, from CIA documents, by a 600 page Senate “executive summary”).

***

     All previous administation “investigations” of torture like Eric Holder’s are now revealed to be in the thrall of the CIA and the criminals on high in the Bush administration who gave the orders.  It is time to start from this evidence and prosecute the torturers.

***

     The reason there was no prosecution is that what was in the public record was largely crystal-clear  (torturing people to death generally requires an intent to harm...).  But this new evidence from CIA documents goes much further.

***

         Ben Emmerson, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture called again, on the issuing of this Report,  for the arrest of the high officials of the Bush administration (with the possible exception of Colin Powell).  See here.http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/12/cia-torture-report-prosecute-senior-us-officials  Sadly, my student, Condi Rice, was up to her neck in waterboarding, “investigated” and reported secretly on the details –


***

No Bush official can go abroad.  Three years ago, I wrote a poem about this:

"Poem: Er in ye s


blackwoman among whites

Madame Secretary

cannot g o

Mr. President

boxedtheSuperbowl

can not g o

Mr. Pentagon


thickarethechainsofspirit

bighousein Marylan d

Mr. Cheney

can not g o



a b r o a d"

***

        America has become a banana republic, a haven for American war criminals, just as Argentina or Chile, once upon a time, for Nazis.  Its words against torture elsewhere are blown back against it by the wind.  Criticize Chinese torture in Tibet (more massive in scale) and the Chinese have but to point to what the US has done...

***

       Like some liberal Israelis, Obama can say: "we're  not as bad as the Nazis...as the Chinese (yet)."  It's a bad comparison set to be in...

***

    Under Bill Keller, the New York Times played a central role in lying about the torture.  A CIA note below on Douglas Jehl, a reporter who let them read and edit his stories (now a major figure at the Washington Post) is particularly appalling.  This was not journalism. but CIA publicity. 

***

    Speaking today of the horror of the Report and at last using the word torture 9 times on the front page (11 years after), the Times is at last, like Feinstein, willing to take a look...See here.

***

       On the Right, as Sullivan details, a small clique of organizations fiunded by the very rich, want the government to keep everything secret (what Obama tried to do …) and denounce the Senate report.

***

       If America is really a land of torturers and war criminals, not a place with a Bill of Rigths and a rule of law, then of course, their squeaking would make sense. 

***

       But Colorado has just come to terms with the Sand Creek massacre.  See here and here.  No decent person (no one not afflicted with intense racism) praises Chivington or Evans now.

***

         Yet the echoes of genocide still echo in "Tomahawk missiles" or ”Apache helicopters” - those that fly over the Occupied Territories - or in the operation against the mass murderer Bin Laden misnamed for Geronimo,  a great resistor of Mexican and American genocide… (h/t Billy Stratton, Tink Tinker, Glenn Morris).

***

        It is not impossible for us to make a new start.  Dan Jones and the other researchers, the lower level-CIA people who objected, the Senators who approved the Report  (even though it doesn’t go far enough or investigate high politicians) and the ordinary people who have spoken out against torture for a long time (Code Pink, Sullivan, Greenwald, and many others) stand for decency here.

***
         It is time for the war criminals to face justice…



***

Andrew Sullivan:


For me, the question remains a fascinating one. The revelation that the first briefing that Bush got on waterboarding was in 2006 is a staggering finding. His own book contradicts this. But the CIA has no records of briefings other than that. And their internal response to his 2006 speech showed how distant they were. When he indicated that no inhumane practices were being used, the CIA wondered if their program had been suspended without their knowledge!
But Fred Kaplan doesn’t buy the claim that Bush didn’t know what was going on:
[L]et’s take a close look at the committee’s claim that Bush wasn’t briefed on the program until it had nearly run its course: “According to CIA records,” the report states, “no CIA officer, up to and including CIA Directors George Tenet and Porter Goss, briefed the president on the specific CIA enhanced interrogation techniques before April 2006.”
I’ve italicized two words in this passage, for emphasis. The second word is key: Bush wasn’t briefed on the “specific” techniques till 2006. Under the well-known rules of plausible deniability, he would not have wanted to know too much about these specifics. As indicated in the station chief’s presentation, it’s not that the CIA didn’t tell the president certain details; it’s that the president didn’t want the CIA to tell him.
I think that’s easily the best explanation. Bush was briefed the way we all were about “enhanced interrogation” in language designed to obscure the reality. “Long-time-standing,” for example, sounds relatively mild. It does not fully convey the fact that prisoners with broken legs and feet were put in stress positions – the kind of torture you’d expect from ISIS. But there was surely also a desire not to know, not to have direct and explicit knowledge of what was actually being done, because of the immense gravity of the crimes. Who protected him? Almost certainly Alberto Gonzales. Maybe Condi.
Here’s my best guess after puzzling about this for a decade. Bush made the fateful decision to waive core Geneva protections from prisoners suspected of terrorism early on. That was his signal. He told everyone in the CIA (and beyond) in a moment of extreme emotion that you could do anything to these prisoners you wanted. In that sense, Bush is completely and personally responsible for every act of torture on his watch. He is as responsible as the men who decided to waterboard a prisoner until hardened operatives choked up and walked away.
But he then disappears in the CIA records – and Obama refused to give the Senate Committee the White House records that could have cleared it up (another instance of Obama covering up evidence of war crimes). Cheney presumably handles it all – with Addington doing clean-up – giving Bush the reassurances that a) the torture was giving up vital information saving lives (a lie) and b) that it was all legal (only by making an ass of the law in memos that were subsequently rebuked and rescinded). I suspect that this was all Bush decided he wanted to know: it works and it’s legal. And the famously incurious president didn’t want to know any more. I remember in 2005 asking a very senior administration official if we were torturing prisoners. The carefully parsed response, after looking down and away from me: “The president doesn’t believe we’re torturing people.” They were crafting a way to insulate him from war crimes done in his name.
Serwer likewise finds it “hard to believe that the Bush administration couldn’t have had any clue about what was really going on at the CIA”:
Less than a week after the 9/11 attacks, Bush signed an order allowing the CIA to detain and interrogate terror suspects, and in February 2002, he signed “a memorandum stating that the Third Geneva Convention did not apply to the conflict with al Qaeda and concluding that Taliban detainees were not entitled to prisoner of war status or the legal protections afforded by the Third Geneva Convention,” according to a 2008 Senate Armed Services’ Committee investigation.
So: Mere months after the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration was already rewriting the law to make it easy to torture detainees in U.S. custody. You don’t start declaring exceptions to the Geneva Convention if all you’re planning to do is play a competitive game of spades.
The CIA is not “a rogue elephant,” in the deathless phrase of Senator Frank Church, who ran the pioneering congressional investigation of the agency four decades ago. If the beast tramples people, it’s the mahout, the elephant driver, who is to blame. There was clearly one person driving this program, whether he knew what the elephant was doing in his name or not.
The mahout in the Senate report is the president of the United States.
And he stands accused of war crimes in front of the whole world.
***

Quote For The Day

DEC 9 2014 @ 6:41PM
Former Vice President Dick Cheney is int
“The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of [this] Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.
The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called ‘universal jurisdiction.’ Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution,” – Ronald Reagan’s signing statement on the ratification of the UN Convention on Torture.
Allow me to repeat:
Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.
(Photo: Getty Images)


CIA Report
5.00 pm. Since we’re now in our sixth hour of live-blogging, I’m going to wrap it up for the time being. But I want to end on a positive note. Everything that happened in this damning report is because of Americans. But the report itself is a function of other Americans determined to push back against evil done in this country’s name. Those Americans have been heroes in exposing this horror from the get-go, and they include many CIA agents who knew full well what this foul program was doing to their and America’s reputation.
But they also include the dogged staff of the Select Committee itself. I’m proud to know Dan Jones, who was the key figure in putting this together. He was handed with literally millions of pages of often incomprehensible and weirdly filed documents, and somehow had to pull them all together, night after night, through the early morning hours, in a lonely basement. There were many early mornings when he carried on, not knowing if any of this would ever see the light of day – and, of course, both the CIA and the Obama administration did all they could to stop its release. It’s so easy to dismiss them many people working in government in Washington – but I know and revere many who perform public service with dedication and professionalism. And this report is arguably the most important act of public service in holding our government accountable in modern times.
The great achievement of this report, moreover, is its meticulousness. No one can now claim that these torture sessions gave us anything of any worth, while damning this country for decades to come as the worst human rights abuser in the West. They will still claim torture worked – but they will be lying or rather desperately repeating talking points that the CIA’s own documents have now categorically refuted.
So the last word goes to Feinstein:
Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 5.03.36 PM
All of us owe them our deepest thanks. Even on this darkest of days, they give me hope.
4.59 pm. Ambers notes that this is not an act of interrogation:
Over and over, the CIA justified ratcheting up the techniques based not on any intelligence or evidence that the detainees did know more than they were sharing, but instead to increase their own confidence that the detainees had shared everything they knew. In other words, the thinking was: “We’ll enhance his interrogations until it’s not possible that he could withhold actionable information from us.””Our assumption is the objective of this operation is to achieve a high degree of confidence that [AbuZubaydah is not holding back actionable information concerning threats to the United States,” was how Zubaydah’s top interrogator put it in a cable to headquarters. Even though the CIA was telling the executive branch that the prisoner was holding back information and that they needed to rough him up to get it out of him, the operational order for the torture itself said otherwise.
If this is the rationale for torture, then every person in interrogation should be tortured. You’ve got to prove they don’t have anything else to tell us. I guess that was the kind of decision made when pondering whether to do the 151st near-drowning, after the 150th.
All I want you to do is imagine if you were witnessing this scene in a movie. The interrogators would be Nazis, wouldn’t they? And now they are us.
4.47 pm. So, Mr President, this was an act of patriotism, was it?

View image on Twitter
suggests CIA literally told a detainee they were going to f*ck his mother right there in the prison
4.42 pm. Tunku Varadjaran believes in covering up war crimes:
Who needs enemies when you've to the Senate Intelligence Committee?
What a disgraceful piece of McCarthyite, jingoist twaddle.
4.35 pm. It’s fascinating to watch close observers and shrewd reporters on the CIA expressing various levels of shock at these revelations:
View image on Twitter
The CIA carries out clandestine PR campaigns spreading same info it tells judges can't be revealed via FOIA? No way!
And here’s Ambers:
Remarkably, the black site teams regularly fought back against HQ, which kept demanding intel that didn't exist. (See, for ex, pp. 78-80).
The barbarism was the very opposite from a few bad apples at the bottom of the pile, as they tried to persuade us at Abu Ghraib. The bad apples were at the very top of the chain of command, rotting this country’s reputation and honor from the top down. And those begin with Bush and Cheney and Tenet. They are now wanted men. And they will go abroad again – at their legal peril. And so America becomes a legal sanctuary for war criminals. As long as they are our war criminals.
4.32 pm. A reader writes:
For a doctor to participate in torture is a fundamental violation of everything the medical profession teaches. And yet: “CIA interrogators shackled each of these detainees in the standing position for sleep deprivation for extended periods of time until medical personnel assessed that they could not maintain the position.” It’s not the most serious crime detailed in the report, but it reflects profound corruption and perversion of a profession that is supposed to save lives, not guide torturers. These are devastating revelations, though of course not without historical precedent. Thank you for bearing witness to all of this.
The participation of American doctors and psychologists in this criminal enterprise has long been one of the more depressing aspects of this dark period. We’ve been covering it on the Dish for a decade now. It gives me utterly no satisfaction to see it was even worse than we feared.
4.30 pm. A useful reminder:
View image on Twitter
There is NO statute of limitations if torture had foreseeable risk of death or serious injury. http://trib.al/ssVt5ry 

4.26 pm. Proof of Hayden’s lies go on and on and on:
  1. Ex-CIA chief Michael Hayden, treated like royalty by the US media, lied to *everyone* countless times about torture. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/09/america-torture-cia-report-defenders 
The torture report ends with ~30 pages of testimony from Michael Hayden side-by-side with proof that what he said was false or misleading.
Here’s my question: how does any media institution justify having this person comment on this report? He has lied so brazenly and so often, anything he says must be treated with instant suspicion. He’s already tried his routine with a supine news source, Newsmax. And he’s got nothing:
4.16 pm. Some righteous words from the very Catholic blogger, Mark Shea, who has long refused to betray his conscience or his faith in turning a blind eye to torture:
This is what “conservatives”, including *especially* anti-abortion-but-not-prolife “faithful conservative Catholics” have fought to defend for years. It is a disgusting stain on the American Catholic Church and a scandal which draws both the Faith and the prolife movement into disrepute. Penance is the only proper response to it.
4.12 pm. So they were the worst of the worst, were they?

View image on Twitter
suggests CIA literally told a detainee they were going to f*ck his mother right there in the prison



It’s the footnotes that will make you weep and wail. Some of the CIA detainees who never should have been there:
It’s the footnotes that will make you weep and wail. Some of the CIA detainees who never should have been there:
For those on the right still defending this legacy, can we at least expect some remorse for the utterly innocent people tortured and even tortured to death? Or are these people incapable of even that? Have they really no decency left at all?
4.01 pm. This could be a moment for some on the right to reflect more broadly on what happened in this country under the torture regime. There is so much to absorb and digest in today’s report – surely enough to warrant even a passionate defender of the program to reconsider and rethink. But no. So far, the response is either to ignore these blockbuster revelations or, well, this from NRO:
Defined by selective accounts and distorted by a partisan agenda, this Senate Intelligence Committee report is intelligence birtherism. Conspiring against truth, it sacrifices American patriots and America’s security in an “Oldspeak”-style of purging the record of any truth. Unconcerned by the propaganda victory they’ve given to U.S. enemies (contemplate how ISIS will manipulate this report), or the cost for liaison-intelligence relationships (foreign services will worry that future cooperation will be misrepresented), the Senate Intelligence Committee has shamed itself and the citizens it claims to serve.
So a 500-page report, summarizing 6,700 pages of a bigger, classified version, as compiled by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, is as credible as the claims that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. That’s the legacy of William F Buckley Jr.
3.58 pm. More Hayden lies:
In December 2008 and January 2009, CIA officers briefed the transition team for President-elect Barack Obama on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. CIA Director Hayden prepared a statement that relayed, “despite what you have heard or read in a variety of public fora, these [enhanced interrogation] techniques and this program did work.” The prepared materials included inaccurate information on the operation and management of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, as well as the same set of examples of the “effectiveness” of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques that the CIA had provided to policymakers over several years. The examples provided were nearly entirely inaccurate.
My italics. It’s very very rare for a Senator to call a former CIA chief a liar as Feinstein did today. But that Hayden definitely is – a product of an institution so usually reliant on secrecy to conceal its fabrications that lying to the outside world is close to reflexive.
3.47 pm. One of the early defenses of torturing prisoners was that, when it comes to devout Muslims, they actually welcomed it because it released them from any obligations to protect their brothers. Cliff May tangled with me on this seven years ago. He posited the following idea:
We now know that Islamists believe their religion forbids them to cooperate with infidels — until they have reached the limit of their ability to endure the hardships the infidel is inflicting on them. In other words: Imagine an al-Qaeda member who would like to give his interrogators information, who does not want to continue fighting, who would prefer not to see more innocent people slaughtered. He would need his interrogators to press him hard so he can feel that he has met his religious obligations — only then could he cooperate.
So torture was actually a mercy for these people! Well we know more about that now:
View image on Twitter
A CIA officer testified that Abu Zubaydah thanked agents for torturing him; no CIA records support this testimony.
They were making this up out of whole cloth and passing it along to credulous writers at National Review.
3.41 pm. About those professional interrogators:
View image on Twitter
"mind virus"
Just a reminder: these thugs are not employed by the Assad regime. They are American “patriots” – as this president has called them.
3.37 pm. More Hayden lies:
Hayden gave Senators inaccurate testimony about the interrogation process, threats against detainees’ families, the punching and kicking of detainees, detainee hygiene, denial of medical care, dietary manipulation, the use of waterboarding and its effectiveness, and the injury and death of detainees.
Hayden also told the Senate committee he didn’t believe CIA personnel had expressed reservations about the techniques that were used. In reality, one medical staff member said the methods made him “psychologically very uncomfortable” and several staffers were “profoundly affected” to the point of “choking up,” according to the report.
But, as we know, the CIA believes it is fully entitled to lie whenever it wants to. And since no one is ever held accountable for those lies, who can blame them?
3.35 pm. A footnote reveals how the White House refused to cooperate in any meaningful way with the Committee:
The Committee did not have access to approximately 9,400 CIA documents related to the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program that were withheld by the White House pending a determination and claim of executive privilege. The Committee requested access to these documents over several years, including in writing on January 3, 2013, May 22, 2013, and December 19,2013. The Committee received no response from the White House.
Obama has done nothing to bring about this vital act of accountability. History will remember and record that as a stain on his presidency and his character. And as a reminder that when he argued for transparency and accountability in government, he was excusing the CIA from that noble aspiration.
3.30 pm. The CIA istelf never regarded its techniques as humane, even as Bush officials were ludicrously arguing as much. When Administration apologists took to the airwaves in 2003, insisting that the treatment of all prisoners was “humane,” CIA seniors were convinced that this meant the White House was abandoning the black sites and torture program!
On several occasions in early 2003, CIA General Counsel Scott Muller expressed concern to the National Security Council principals, White House staff, and Department of Justice personnel that the CIA’s program might be inconsistent with public statements from the Administration that the U.S. Government’s treatment of detainees was “humane.”[redacted] CIA General Counsel Muller therefore sought to verify with White House and Department of Justice personnel that a February 7, 2002, Presidential Memorandum requiring the U.S. military to treat detainees humanely did not apply to the CIA.
That right there is an admission of war crimes. And proof that the CIA was fully aware of it.
3.20 pm. The NYT has a terrifically useful debunking of all the various plots that we were told were intercepted or prevented through the use of torture. They’re all lies. Money quote from the report on one such lie:
Within days of the raid on UBL’s compound, CIA officials represented that CIA detainees provided the ‘tipoff’ information on Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti. A review of CIA records found that the initial intelligence obtained, as well as the information the CIA identified as the most critical — or the most valuable — on Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, was not related to the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.
But of course the lies were inevitable. Once you have decided to go down the path of torture, it’s essential that you continue to believe it must be useful. It’s psychologically very hard to admit you have been doing unspeakably evil things for no reason at all. And so all torture regimes contain self-serving lies. There are none that are halted half-way through for ineffectiveness, because that would expose those already neck-deep in barbarism to blame, and even legal consequences. And so the usual pattern is to double-down, to keep insisting that every single act of torture saved lives, even as it gave us no serious or reliable intelligence. These are the patterns of authoritarian and totalitarian states where torture reigns. And they are the patterns that George W Bush imported into the very heart of American democracy.
3.17 pm. I’m trying to keep count of the number of bald-faced lies that Michael Hayden told in the documents in this report. The NYT has a beaut:
In 2007, for instance, Michael V. Hayden, then the C.I.A. director, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that “all of those involved in the questioning of detainees are carefully chosen and screened for demonstrated professional judgment and maturity.” In fact, the Senate report concludes, no such vetting took place. The interrogation teams included people with “notable derogatory information” in their records, including one with “workplace anger management issues” and another who “had reportedly admitted to sexual assault.”
More to come.
3.07 pm. It’s worth noting that the Obama administration continues to refuse to use the word “torture” in dealing with the report. This is despite the president’s casual admission that “we tortured some folks” – a statement of staggering callowness now we can see what was done in our name. Paul Waldman:
Today I was on a background call with a group of senior administration officials, and they were asked repeatedly why they seemed so reluctant to use the word “torture,” even after President Obama admitted that “we tortured some folks.” One official replied, “We’re not going to go case by case in a report like this and try to affix a label to each action.” But they do affix a label: “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which they used again and again, accepting the euphemistic label the Bush administration affixed to it.
Obama has been a captive of the CIA since he got into office, and a de facto enabler of torture in his refusal to adhere to the Geneva Conventions. But there’s also a reason for his reticence and tone-deafness. If the administration formally concedes the use of torture, Obama will be legally obligated to prosecute it. But they refuse to.
I’ll just pose a simple question: is there any organization in the West that could be found responsible for these appalling acts of incompetence, cruelty, torture, murder, sadism, and deception and have no one in that organization resign or be disciplined, let alone be prosecuted? It’s inconceivable. Which means it really is important to see what is in front of our nose: a lawless, unaccountable criminal entity beyond any legal control or scrutiny. The CIA is a threat to this democracy. And a threat to the world.
3.03 pm. Now think for a second of what the reaction would be if a captive American were subjected to the following by a foreign power:
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CIA used "rectal feeding" on some prisoners, which led to gross medical complications:
3.02 pm. Nathan Vardi notes the financial cost of the torture program:
In total, the report claims that the CIA’s detention and interrogation program cost “well over $300 million in non-personnel costs.” One individual associated with the CIA program on the ground level told U.S. government investigators that the program had “more money than we could possibly spend we thought, and it turned out to be accurate.” …
One person associated with the CIA program told government investigators that payments of more than $1 million were made without any paperwork, in cash, and out of boxes containing hundred dollar bills. “We never counted it. I’m not about to count that kind of money for a receipt,” the unidentified individual is quoted as saying by the report.
2.30 pm. The CIA and Cheney have long defended torture as having clear and positive results. Mike Zenko notes that the CIA as recently as 2013 acknowledged that it had no way of knowing whether the torture was working:
[T]here is one CIA acknowledgment that should be as disturbing as anything that is contained within the SSCI study itself. Page 24 of the CIA memo addresses the SSCI’s conclusion that the “CIA never conducted its own comprehensive analysis of the effectiveness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.” The CIA’s response:
“We agree with Conclusion 10 in full. It underpins the most important lesson that we have drawn from The Study: CIA needs to develop the structure, expertise, and methodologies required to more objectively and systematically evaluate the effectiveness of our covert actions. We draw this lesson going forward fully aware of how difficult it can be to measure the impact of a particular action or set of actions on an outcome in a real-world setting.”
Therefore, the CIA admitted that—as late as June 2013—it was simply incapable of evaluating the effectiveness of its covert activity.
So all those statements by Cheney, Thiessen and every talking head on Fox that torture worked? They were bald-faced bluffs by utter incompetents. They were bullshit.
2.28 pm. The devastation to our alliances is real and just beginning:
I know v senior Western intel types who collaborated w/IC on renditions, etc. They are beyond furious today. Gotten hellish emails already.
2.26 pm. A tweet from a real interrogator, and not some outside contractor goon:
"torture led us away from bin Laden" - @Ali_H_Soufan quoted on @CNN http://bit.ly/1ywQEiq 

2.25 pm. The shame of Bill Keller:
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The term "enhanced interrogation" never appeared in the NYT before 2007: http://chronicle.nytlabs.com/?keyword=enhanced%20interrogation&format=percent 
2.19 pm. A close look at a torture session:
Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.19.30 PMScreen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.21.07 PMNow you know why Rodriguez destroyed the tapes. Even after a torture victim is so broken that the interrogator only has to snap his fingers to get this shell of a human being to get back on the waterboard, they continued to torture him. Let me state this as plainly as I can: this is Nazi-level criminality and brutality. This is unimaginable sadism. If the people who did this and those who authorized this are allowed to get away with this, and even be praised by presidents for it, then we have left our civilization behind.
2.15 pm. Nothing to see here …
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A proposal by Sen Levin to create a torture commission "renewed interest at the CIA to destroy" video of torture
2.11 pm. When will Kethryn Bigelow apologize?
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The investigation completely rejects the Zero Dark Thirty scenario that torture of the courier led to Osama bin Laden

2.07 pm. Flipping through some conservative media today, the crickets are chirping. NRO has close to nothing on the subject – while finding space for posts on Lena Dunham and Swedish immigration policies. Unless you count this tweet:
Americans like torture. http://ccwc.me/1s9WG6Y 
Drudge is leading with Gruber and Dunham. I guess that’s better then defending the utterly indefensible.
2.00 pm. The New York Times today editorializes that the torture report is “a portrait of depravity that is hard to comprehend and even harder to stomach.” This is the same newspaper that refused to use the word “torture” for years out of deference to the Bush administration – even though it was plain as the light of day. So no surprise to find this little nugget about one of its reporters dealing with the CIA on this:
Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 1.59.48 PM1.47 pm. The international community will now rightly insist that the perpetrators of these war crimes be punished. Here’s the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights, Ben Emerson, today:
It is now time to take action. The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes. The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorised at a high level within the US Government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability.
International law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture. This applies not only to the actual perpetrators but also to those senior officials within the US Government who devised, planned and authorised these crimes.
As a matter of international law, the US is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice. The UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances require States to prosecute acts of torture and enforced disappearance where there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. States are not free to maintain or permit impunity for these grave crimes.
My italics. If the Obama administration refuses to bring these war criminals to justice, it will effectively render moot any international efforts to curtail torture anywhere in the world. It will be arguing that crimes as grave as these need have no legal consequences. That, simply speaking, ends the United States’ participation in the civilized world, and removes any standing for us to criticize any foul despot anywhere who uses torture techniques as hideous as the ones we are now reading about.
Is that the legacy Obama wants? That he made the world safe for torturers? At some point, even he will have to acknowledge the gravity of these facts beyond his callow, off-hand admission that “we tortured some folks” but that the torturers were patriots and we shouldn’t get too “self-righteous” about them. Does the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize really want to go down in history as the president who made sure that war criminals are only punished if they are not American?
And notice too that the US is legally obliged to prosecute Bush and Cheney as well. Or become a rogue state at the UN and in the Geneva community of democracies. Both Bush and Cheney have celebrated their deployment of torture and taken full responsibility for it in public. It is simply impermissible to allow these men to escape justice. The only alternative is to pardon them.
1.46 pm. Yes, we did this too:
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We paid off Country █ to the tune of $█ to let us bring more people there and torture them for longer.
1.37 pm. The gravity of what is in front of our eyes is beginning to sink in:
The narrative of modern American history will be shaped by the documentation provided in CIA report. It is that big. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/12/09/world/cia-torture-report-document.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news 
1.35 pm. The war criminal Jose Rodriguez, whose destruction of the video evidence of torture precipitated this report, knew that what he was doing was illegal on its face, explosive and had to be kept top-secret. Any slip, any leak, any discussion could come back to haunt them:
Strongly urge that any speculative language as to the legality of given activities or, more precisely, judgment calls as to their legality vis-à-vis operational guidelines for this activity agreed upon and vetted at the most senior levels of the agency, be refrained from in written traffic (email or cable traffic). Such language is not helpful.
1.33 pm. For many in the CIA, watching these brutal torture sessions was too much:
Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 1.32.31 PM
1.28 pm. As the CIA contends that the torture program was defensible because it worked (even though it plainly didn’t), it’s worth recalling the explicit language of the Geneva Conventions:
No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.
The CIA’s self-defense is itself a violation of the Geneva Accords. This country has effectively destroyed those accords and the enormous achievement of Western civilization in constructing them. Obama as definitively as Bush.
1.24 pm. Even now, Obama’s cowardice is gob-smacking:
Obama official: White House won’t take sides between CIA, which says interrogations worked, and Senate, which says they didn’t.
You mean: they cannot read the report? There are not two sides. The evidence that the interrogations gave us nothing that wasn’t otherwise available is … the CIA’s own assessment. That’s why this report is so conclusive. The CIA itself says the torture didn’t work! And now it claims otherwise. This is a dispute between the CIA and the CIA.
1.18 pm. In most organizations, if someone breaks the rules or commits serious wrongdoing, they are disciplined or corrected. Not in the CIA. No one is ever held to account within that organization, even murderers:
Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 1.18.17 PM
By indicating that no one would be held responsible for going too far, the CIA effectively gave the green light for the very worst. This was an agency clearly believing it had the authority to break any law, kill any prisoner, use any torture technique … and would never be subject to legal consequences. When you unleash an agency with that power into the world, and remove all constraints, what did they think would happen?
1.12 pm. The goal in these torture sessions was, as in all torture sessions, to completely “break” a human being. The bizarre notion was that once you had reduced a prisoner to a quivering, incoherent mess, he would somehow give you decent intelligence. Serious commentators – Cliff May comes to mind – actually propagated this idea. But when a democracy based on individual life and liberty practices torture techniques designed to obliterate an individual entirely, it has effectively repealed itself:
Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 1.11.50 PM
1.09 pm. Only totalitarian regimes have a record of doing this:
Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 1.09.14 PM
Stress positions are insanely painful even when your limbs are in good condition. But when your limbs are already broken? And no one is going to be punished for this either?
1.05 pm. Yes, some were tortured to death:
Footnote 32 says that Gul Rahman was a case of mistaken identity. And we killed him. Froze him to death. Devastating.

1.01 pm. A victim of the Iran regime’s torture regime tweets:
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The similarity of what my interrogator in used to say and this agent is beyond disturbing.
12.57 pm. Rubio says we should “thank” those who raped and near-drowned prisoners, subjected them to hypothermia, rectal rehydration, and brutal beatings, and in some cases tortured prisoners to death. Bush believes the people who did these things were “patriots.” This is the moral universe in which some on the right now live. They are less willing to acknowledge the huge errors in this case than the CIA itself. Their defense of torture as something to be celebrated is, strictly speaking, fascist. They are a disgrace to any civilized conservatism.
12.46 pm. A detail from the Telegraph’s live-blog:
Some of the most important CIA-led interrogations were carried out by people with no specialist training or expertise, some of whom had histories of violence:
• CIA employed people who had “personal and professional problems of a serious nature” – including histories of violence and abusive treatment of others. The report found that that should have called into question their employment, let alone their suitability to participate in the sensitive CIA program.
• Two psychologists were employed as outside contractors – neither of them had any experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialised knowledge of al-Qaeda, a background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise. They personally conducted some of the most important interrogations. In 2005, they formed a company to expand their work with the CIA. Shortly thereafter, the CIA outsourced virtually all aspects of the program. The CIA paid the company more than $80 million.
Again, remember what we were told: that this was a professional program staffed by the very best of the CIA. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was pioneered by two goons paid a fortune to do what no serious interrogator or anyone with a moral sense would ever dream of. These were Cheney’s men – doing what his panicked mind thought would actually work. And the result was crime after crime after crime.
Noting the Telegraph’s coverage also highlights the deep and eternal damage done to the US by this foul program. America’s moral standing in the world has been permanently crippled, with all the attendant damage to our national security and alliances. And that’s something we have to understand better: far from improving our safety, Cheney’s war crimes made us – and make us – far less safe, our alliances now crippled, our foes given the biggest propaganda coup they could ever imagine. Bush and Cheney did this to this country. And they remain proud of it.
12.44 pm. This is what “oversight” meant during the Bush-Cheney years:
Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 12.45.00 PM
12.39 pm. McCain is now speaking. He has been rock-solid through most of this. He has two crucial characteristics: he’s a Republican and a victim of torture. Those who will try to argue that this report is mere partisanship need to tell that to McCain’s face.
12.36 pm. Will Dick Cheney defend this?
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Wow! reveals threats were made to harm CHILDREN of detainees, even abuse their mothers sexually! @ase
These are the tactics of criminals, Jihadists and totalitarian states. They became the tactics of the US under Bush and Cheney.
12.33 pm. DiFi is on a roll:
.@SenFeinstein on the floor says they witheld info from then SecState Colin Powell because he would "blow his stack"
And it’s worth recalling that Feinstein’s long record has been as a stalwart defender of the CIA, a barely functioning over-seer prone to give the CIA the benefit of every doubt. No one can plausibly call her reflexively anti-CIA. But here she is today, suffused with righteous fury – every ounce of it merited.
12.30 pm. The CIA, unlike Dick Cheney, acknowledges its own errors:
Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 12.29.46 PMWhen will the GOP talking points actually reflect even the CIA’s own internal assessment of its grotesque failures of competence?
12.28 pm. Torture didn’t get us Osama bin Laden:
this report—based on an extensive analysis of the CIA’s own files—says Bin Laden’s courier had long been under surveillance, and more than two dozen sources discussed him. The person who provided the most detailed information, a senior Al Qaeda fundraiser and logistical facilitator named Hassan Ghul, provided it after being captured in 2004—before he was subjected to the “enhanced interrogation techniques.” An CIA officer reported that he “sang like a tweetie bird…opened up right away and was cooperative from the outset.”
But after providing that information, the report says he was taken to a different detention site, where he was shaved, stripped, and stood against a wall with his hands raised over his head for two hours at a time. After 59 hours of sleep deprivation, he began experiencing hallucinations and complaining of pain, but gave no further information. While additional details of his interrogation and release were redacted, the report says he eventually wound up in a Pakistani prison, was released and ultimately killed in 2012 by a US drone strike in Pakistan.
Nonetheless, the CIA claimed that its techniques led to Bin Laden in hearings and public statements after the raid that killed him.
Kathryn Bigelow must feel like a tool now, mustn’t she? She just swallowed these liars’ spin and made a movie out of it. Will she apologize or retract?
12.25 pm. A simple question:
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Can we just call "rectal exams conducted with excessive force" rape?
Yes, I think we can. And take a minute to absorb what we’re talking about. We’re talking about government officials raping prisoners – and nothing will be done to hold them to account. This is what America has become.
12.23 pm. They paid the torturers more than professional interrogators:
Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 12.23.43 PM
12.21 pm. Greenwald on the CIA’s strategic leaks to the media:
For all the claims in Washington about how leaking classified information is destructive and criminal, the CIA – consistent with what the Obama administration frequently does – routinely leaked classified information to the media to propagandize about their torture program. Will there be any criminal investigations the way there are when whistleblowers leak information that embarrasses (rather than serves) the government? Yes, that’s a rhetorical question:
Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 12.22.22 PM
12.18 pm. A reader writes:
Reading through some of the excerpts this morning, sometimes I literally need to turn away from my computer screen and stop reading. This is simply gruesome. It’s extremely disturbing that there are still a great many people defending this program and these torture techniques as somehow being compatible with American values. These are also the same pieces of shit who criticize Obama for ruining America’s credibility through (fill in the blank.) They’re deeply concerned with how the US is viewed and that the world see their country the same way they do. And yet they can’t see that the rest of the planet looks at this and says, “Are you fucking kidding me!?”
I dare anyone to read this passage about the CIA holding a mentally challenged man simply to gain leverage on his family and think that the continued defense of these actions isn’t the greatest threat there is to American credibility:
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The Krauthammers of the world should crawl back into the dark, greasy caves whence they came. They don’t deserve to be seen or heard ever again.
According to Dick Cheney, this kind of thing was “absolutely justified.”
12.15 pm. And the CIA mounted an extensive media-propaganda effort to disseminate the same lies they were feeding to their superiors:
The CIA’s Office of Public Affairs and senior CIA officials coordinated to share classified information on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program to select members of the media to counter public criticism, shape public opinion, and avoid potential congressional action to restrict the CIA’s detention and interrogation authorities and budget. These disclosures occurred when the program was a classified covert action program, and before the CIA had briefed the full Committee membership on the program.
Here’s the Deputy Director of the Counterterrorism Center: “we either get out and sell, or we get hammered, which has implications beyond the media. [C]ongress reads it, cuts our authorities, messes up our budget… we either put out our story or we get eaten. [T]here is no middle ground.”
Having done the indefensible, they had to mount an enormous effort to keep the program in place – largely by lying to anyone they could find.
12.12 pm. And yes, they tortured at least one prisoner to death:



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CIA leadership refused to punish officer who literally killed a detainee during torture session.
Yes, the CIA can literally get away with murder.
12.08 pm. Here’s a real bombshell: Bush was first briefed on waterboarding in 2006! And he didn’t like it:
[D]espite agency efforts to keep the Bush administration informed about the program, top White House officials repeatedly resisted having the CIA brief cabinet-level figures about the details, and CIA officials were not permitted to brief Bush directly until mid-2006, more than four years after the president signed a broad executive order authorizing the program, according to Senate Democratic aides who briefed reporters ahead of Tuesday’s release.
When Bush finally heard the details of the harsh interrogation techniques that were used against CIA detainees, he was “uncomfortable” with some of them and expressed dismay that some detainees were required to remain in stress positions for long amounts of time, to the point that they had no choice but to soil themselves, the aides said.
What does it say about our democracy in the last decade that the one person ultimately designated to run the war was utterly oblivious to what was actually going on in such an extraordinarily vital area such as torture? That others were really running the country? That he was a disastrously disengaged and incompetent figure-head? Well, I guess what we suspected is now out there. But who was ultimately responsible for torturing suspects in a manner far far worse than stress positions if the president wasn’t?
11.58 am. More prisoners were waterboarded than we have been led to believe; and the Gestapo technique of inducing hypothermia via ice-cold baths was also practised. Some historical context for that torture technique:
The “cold bath” technique – the same as that used against al-Qahtani in Guantanamo – was, according to professor Darius Rejali of Reed College, “pioneered by a member of the French Gestapo by the pseudonym Masuy about 1943. The Belgian resistance referred to it as the Paris method, and the Gestapo authorized its extension from France to at least two places late in the war, Norway and Czechoslovakia. That is where people report experiencing it.”
In Norway, we actually have a 1948 court case that weighs whether “enhanced interrogation” using the methods approved by president Bush amounted to torture. The proceedings are fascinating, with specific reference to the hypothermia used in Gitmo, and throughout interrogation centers across the field of conflict. The Nazi defense of the techniques is almost verbatim that of the Bush administration…
And in that case, the US occupying power decided that the proper punishment for using this technique should be execution. And indeed the war criminals in that case were put to death. Few things show how steep our moral decline is in these matters that today, leading officials in the American government argue that not only should there be no punishment for these war crimes, but that their very existence should be covered up and the names of those who tortured kept permanently from public view.
11.53 am. So seven of the 39 prisoners given the full torture treatment gave no intelligence at all. How can you justify torturing them by the “saving lives” canard? If no intelligence was gleaned at all, their torture was utterly irrelevant to seeking intelligence. For seven torture victims, it was worthless on its face.
11.50 am. The Dish team is now busy absorbing the report. We’ll be adding our comments as we go further into the report. Please join us and email any insights or nuggets you think are important.
***

President Obama And Family Arrive In Berlin
Former CIA director Michael Hayden uses the DOJ not bringing charges against any interrogators as evidence of the CIA’s innocence:
John Durham, a special independent prosecutor, over a three-year period investigated every known CIA interaction with every CIA detainee. At the end of that the Obama administration declined any prosecution. [In 2012, the Justice Department announced that its investigation into two interrogation deaths that Durham concluded were suspicious out of the 101 he examined—those of Afghan detainee Gul Rahman and Iraqi detainee Manadel al-Jamadi—would be closed with no charges.] So if A is true how does B get to be true? If the CIA routinely did things they weren’t authorized to do, then why is there no follow-up? I have copies of the DOJ reports they’re using today. The question is, is the DoJ going to open any investigation and the DoJ answer is no. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have all this supposed documentary evidence saying the agency mistreated these prisoners and then Barack Obama’s and Eric Holder’s Department of Justice saying no, you’ve got bupkishere.
This is evidence that Obama’s weakness and vacillation on the question of torture has done great damage. Hayden is using the Obama DOJ’s own white-washing report to minimize the war crimes in the Senate report. One of the ironies in this, of course, is that Hayden has been criticizing the Senate Report’s failure to interview the CIA torturers themselves, even though the Durham investigation legally precluded that for three years. But the Senate Report had an obvious alternative to such interviews: it had the CIA’s own internal documents, its very internal conversations, in which it is perfectly clear that as they were practicing torture, they knew what they were doing could not be described by anyone as “humane”. These documents alone are more than sufficient proof of the claims made in the report. They are definitive. More to the point, no documents were included from any other source – either to buttress or to contradict the findings. But in the Durham “investigation”, the torturers were interviewed but not the victims – a clearly rigged process designed to exculpate the war criminals.
There should, in my mind, be no debate about prosecutions for war crimes. Seriously, can you imagine the US opposing such prosecutions if they were in a foreign country? Besides, the US’ clear international and domestic legal obligations admit of no exception for the prosecution of those credibly accused of torture – let alone of those, like Cheney, who have openly bragged about it. It specifically bars any exception in the case of national emergency. Not to prosecute because of such an emergency is therefore to end the Geneva Conventions – which is what Obama has effectively done. He must not be let off the hook for that fateful step – and what it does to the core meaning of the United States.
From now on, the US is a human rights violator of the first order under international law, a rogue state that has explicitly tortured innocent people and never held anyone legally responsible. I know that sounds terribly harsh. But how is it untrue? And to refuse to prosecute war crimes is to condone war crimes. Not burglary or robbery – but the gravest crimes against humanity that we can imagine. The perpetrators walk among us, many still in the CIA, and some holding presidential Medals of Freedom. Whatever absurd self-congratulations about this report, we should be in no doubt that this makes us no better in this respect than some South American junta before the transition to democracy.
And the fact that we are the most powerful country on earth makes this about much more than just us. It casts a dark and long shadow over humanity. It makes torture everywhere more likely, and more pervasive. It legitimizes evil. It removes from us any moral standing when it comes to Americans being tortured by these very same techniques – as they already have been in Syria, and as they will be in the future. When an American prisoner is tortured by an enemy power in the future, we will have no grounds to complain. Can we just face up to that instead of engaging in so much avoidance and denial? We didn’t just break Iraq; we broke the very structure of basic human rights that this country fought two world wars to establish.
Eric Posner thinks it’s “plain that CIA agents who tortured detainees, and higher government officials who authorized torture (up to President Bush), violated the law.” But he argues that convictions would be nearly impossible:
[T]he CIA agents were told by government lawyers that the law permitted them to use waterboarding and other coercive techniques. And they were acting in the arena of national security, under conditions of great uncertainty about the extent of their powers. The Obama administration has used a legal doctrine called the state secrecy privilege to prevent victims of torture from using evidence of torture in civil actions against government officials. If secrecy concerns driven by national security justify constraints on civil actions, then they justify constraints on criminal actions as well.
David Luban agrees that the “cases would be nearly impossible to win and terrible to lose”:
The law requires proof that interrogators intended to inflict severe pain or suffering. But since the Justice Department’s discredited torture memos assured them that the suffering was not “severe,” it would be nearly impossible to prove that interrogators met the legal test of intent.
Attorney General Holder announced in 2012 that a special prosecutor who investigated 101 cases found that “the admissible evidence would not be sufficient” to convict beyond a reasonable doubt. Perhaps he felt that crucial evidence would have disclosed state secrets, or concluded that victim testimony by accused terrorists would never convince an American jury.
The greatest danger of jury trials would be a string of “patriotic acquittals” of defendants who would say they acted to save American lives, which would create terrible pro-torture precedents to haunt us for years.
That’s by far the best argument against doing so, along with much deeper partisan divisions and political polarization. I see the logic of it – but it is based on an acquiescence to and appeasement of evil.
It also means that countless torture victims – even completely innocent ones – are doubly assaulted: not only did these human beings endure unimaginable suffering, but they are now deemed beneath even a modicum of justice. This is why not prosecuting is such a grave decision. In what other context would we ever decide that an individual who tortured an innocent person to death should receive no legal consequences for it? I submit that it would be inconceivable. That such acts are protected if they are committed by those entrusted with all the might of government power and coercion makes this all the more chilling. By not prosecuting, we are creating an incentive for such awful things to be done again. We are empowering the Leviathan to torture prisoners in future knowing it can get away with anything.
Far from ensuring that these awful crimes never happen again, Obama has all but ensured that they will. That will be part of his legacy: the sounds of a torture victim crying in the dark, and knowing that America is fine with it. It is, in that sense, the end of America as much of the world has known it. As someone who has chosen this country because I revere it and love it so, it breaks my heart, and tears incessantly at my soul
***

Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept


Torture used to extract false information to justify Iraq WarBuried in footnote 857 of the report is this remarkable account of how the CIA rendered a detainee to an unknown country, had him tortured, and then used the false information he provided about Saddam’s WMDs and “alliance” with al Qaeda to justify the U.S. attack, including information used by Colin Powell at his notorious 2003 U.N. speech (via Sam Husseini):
Torturing detainees with broken and prosthetic legs
This is simply repulsive, for reasons that speak for itself (contributed by The Intercept‘s Margot Williams):
Feinstein’s speech
When releasing the report, Dianne Feinstein delivered a speech that contained some rather stark accusations against the CIA. My colleague Peter Maass wrote the following summation of the highlights:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, unveiling the report on the floor of the Senate, described the CIA’s use of torture as “a stain on our values and our history,” and she issued a particularly harsh condemnation of one of the agency’s former directors, Michael Hayden, whom she said had misled her committee and the public.
Referring to the contrast between what CIA cables said about the actual interrogations and Hayden’s portrayal of the interrogations, Feinstein said the CIA’s own documents “presented a starkly different picture from Director Hayden’s testimony before the committee.” She added, “I remember clearly when Director Hayden briefed the committee (and) referred specifically to a ‘tummy slap’… and presented the entire set of techniques as minimally harmful….They were not. The committee’s report demonstrates that these techniques were very harmful and that the constraints that existed on paper in Washington did not match the way the techniques were used around the world.”
Feinstein also accused Hayden of misleading the committee by saying the CIA had decided to destroy videotapes of interrogations because Congress had not requested them. “Director Hayden stated that if the committee had asked for the tapes they would have been provided–but of course the committee did not know the tapes existed,” Feinstein said.
In addition, Feinstein said the agency misled and provided false information to Department of Justice officials who were investigating whether the CIA program was legal. It is not clear whether her statements indicate a desire on her part for the DOJ to reopen its now-closed investigation.
“The CIA provided inaccurate memoranda and explanations to the Department of Justice while its legal counsel was considering the legality of the coercive techniques,” Feinstein said, noting that the DOJ relied on CIA assurances about the conduct of interrogations that were not “consistently or even routinely carried out” in the actual interrogations. She added that “in many cases important information was withheld from policy makers” for years—and she provided specifics:
“The CIA didn’t tell President Bush about the full nature of the [enhanced interrogation techniques] until April 2006. That’s what the records indicate. The CIA similarly withheld information or provided false information to the CIA inspector general…in 2004. Incomplete and inaccurate information was used in documents provided to the Department of Justice and as a basis for President Bush’s speech on September 6, 2006, in which he publicly acknowledged the CIA program for the first time. In all of these cases, other CIA officers acknowledged internally that information the CIA provided was wrong.”
The CIA’s obstruction continued until recently, Feinstein added, with the agency requesting redactions to the Senate report that were apparently intended to weaken its impact, rather than keep out of the public realm classified information that was legitimately sensitive. “The [requested] redactions to our report prevented a clear and understandable reading of our study and prevented us from substantiating the findings and conclusions…we objected.”
Look Forward, Not Backward, the leader instructs again
Barack Obama – who notoriously protected all torturers from all forms of legal accountability based on his lawless, repellent and selectively applieddecree that we should Look Forward, Not Backward – today said much the same thing in response to this report:

In August, he acknowledged – with casual language more suitable to describing a purchase of new socks – that “we tortured some folks,” but warned us not to get “too sanctimonious” about it. So if you’re feeling sickened and outraged by today’s revelations, just listen to the President: stop Looking Backward and being sanctimonious, and just forget about all this unpleasant business about torture – just like he did.
-Glenn Greenwald at 2:51 p.m. EST

Ladies and Gentleman, Barack Obama and his administration
In all their brave and principled glory:
Pure sadism: “Rectal rehydration,” threats to rape and kill detainees’ mothers
The Leaders of the Free and Civilized World did the following:
Media role in torture
The U.S. media – beyond what I explained above (most would not even call it “torture”) - played a central role in first obscuring, then justifying, the Bush torture regime to the public. One of the most extreme examples wasthis Joe Klein column in The Guardian viciously mocking those who claimed the U.S. was torturing detainees (“total rubbish, of course”), and he even wrote this about detainees:
They wear orange jump suits, which are probably an improvement over their Afghan cave-wear (I would actually prefer they be dressed in pink tutus, to give them an appreciation of the freedoms accorded western ballerinas).
Liberal journalist Jonathan Alter wrote Newsweek column expressly demanding that the U.S. Government use torture, headlined “Time to Think About Torture.” It began: “In this autumn of anger, even a liberal can find his thoughts turning to … torture.”
Now we have new examples. Today’s Senate Committee report describes how Douglas Jehl, then a New York Times reporter, now The Washington Post‘s Foreign Editor, promised the CIA positive coverage of its torture program (a common practice among some DC national security reporters):

My colleague Dan Froomkin emails to say:
Many of the same news organizations you are trusting today to accurately inform you about the torture report were either naive or knowing dupes in a CIA misinformation campaign orchestrated by top CIA officials, that included leaks of information that was amazingly enough both classified and inaccurate at the same time.
Finding No. 10 of the summary reads as follows:

Destruction of “Zero Dark Thirty” Scenario
The report utterly decimated the central claim of “Zero Dark Thirty” that torture played a key role in finding Osama bin Laden (h/t: Farhad Manjoo)

Piggishness of American exceptionalism: Marco Rubio Edition
Moments after the report was issued, Marco Rubio tweeted this in defense of CIA torture:
Yesterday, the very same Marco Rubio boasted of his efforts to impose sanctions on “human rights violators” in Venezuela:
Does anyone at all have any difficulty seeing why few people outside the U.S. media take seriously the lectures of the Leader of the Free World?
Psychologists played key role in torture program, then profited greatly
This is not only a profound and disgraceful violation of all professional ethics, but also a perfect illustration of what the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer calls “the torture-industrial complex”, as those torture psychologists received contracts totaling $81 million as part of their outsourced work:
CIA leaked classified information to the media for propaganda purposes
For all the claims in Washington about how leaking classified information is destructive and criminal, the CIA – consistent with what the Obama administration frequently does – routinely leaked classified information to the media to propagandize about their torture program. Will there be any criminal investigations the way there are when whistleblowers leak information that embarrasses (rather than serves) the government? Yes, that’s a rhetorical question:

-Glenn Greenwald at 11:55 a.m. EST
More waterboarding, and more brutal, than previously known
Even for waterboarding, it seems clear that there were more than just the 3 known cases, and the waterboarding was more brutal than previously known:
contrary to CIA...

- Glenn Greenwald at 11:51 a.m. EST
Innocent people detained and tortured

From Dianne Feinstein’s summary of the report:

-Glenn Greenwald at 11:31 a.m. EST
Torture report released
The report was just released, and is online here, or here.



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