Archive for the ‘waterboarding’ Category

Tortured Language Hides Torture Truth: Obama Policy Change Resolves a Domestic Political Problem

January 23, 2009

Mr. Obama’s Inaugural line that “we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals” was itself misrepresenting the choices his predecessor was forced to make. At least President Bush was candid about the practical realities of preventing mass casualties in the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal
Most politicians would rather do anything than make a difficult choice, and it seems President Obama hasn’t abandoned this Senatorial habit. To wit, yesterday’s executive order on interrogation: It imposes broad limits on how aggressively U.S. intelligence officers can question terrorists, but it also keeps open the prospect of legal loopholes that would allow them to press harder in tough cases.
While that kind of double standard may resolve a domestic political problem, it’s no way to fight a war. The human-rights lobby and many Democrats are still experiencing hypochondria about the Bush Administration’s supposed torture program, and their cheering about this “clean break” means they may be appeased. But the larger risk is that Mr. Obama’s restrictions end up disabling an essential tool in the U.S. antiterror arsenal.

Effective immediately, the interrogation of anyone “in the custody or under the effective control of an officer, employee, or other agent of the United States Government” will be conducted within the limits of the Army Field Manual. That includes special-ops and the Central Intelligence Agency, which will now be required to give prisoners gentler treatment than common criminals. The Field Manual’s confines don’t even allow the average good cop/bad cop routines common in most police precincts.

The Army Field Manual is already the operating guide for military interrogations. The crux of the “torture” debate has been that the Bush Administration permitted more coercive techniques in rare cases — fewer than 100 detainees, according to CIA Director Michael Hayden. Yesterday Mr. Obama revoked the 2007 Presidential carve-out that protected this CIA flexibility.

“Torture” Debate is Academic, Abstract Until Real National Crisis Imminent

Why the Gitmo policies may not change

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[Review & Outlook]

Why the Gitmo policies may not change

January 23, 2009

There may be less than meets the eye to the executive orders President Obama issued yesterday to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and prohibit the torture of prisoners in American custody. Those pronouncements may sound dramatic and unequivocal, but experts predict that American policy towards detainees could remain for months or even years pretty close to what it was as President Bush left office.

Josh Gerstein

“I think the administration’s commitment to close Guantanamo is heartening; the fact they want to give themselves a year to do it, not so much,”, said Ramzi Kassem, a Yale Law School lecturer who represents prisoners like inmate Ahmed Zuhair, who was captured in Pakistan in 2001. “That would bring men like my client to eight years imprisonment for no apparent reason.”

Here are a few of the delays, caveats and loopholes that could limit the impact of Obama’s orders:

1. Everyone has to follow the Army Field Manual—for now…

Obama’s executive order on interrogations says all agencies of the government have to follow the Army Field Manual when interrogating detainees, meaning the CIA can no longer used so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, which have included waterboarding, the use of dogs in questioning, and stripping prisoners.

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“Torture” Debate is Academic, Abstract Until Real National Crisis Imminent

January 16, 2009

The current debate over “torture,” appropriate use of harsh interrogation techniques, and how best to honor the human rights of an individual that may be planning to kill hundreds, thousands or even millions of our fellow citizens, is a tricky one: and an abstract and largely academic debate to establish or re-affirm standards, guidlines and rules.

Suppose the United States his holding a known terrorists and has evidence that man or woman has been involved in activity that may result in acute or widespread national death and destruction like that we witnessed on 9-11.

Is “torture” appropiate then?

We asked a non-American colleague who said,  “When the life of my coutry was at steak, and threatened in its very future life, it seemed to us that we also had the right to use whatever means we could to prevent our own downfall and the destruction of our homeland.”

We reiterate this quote because just this morning we heard almost the exact same thing from John McLaughlin, a former deputy director of the CIA.

McLaughlin told NPR the debate over what interrogation methods should be used is abstract until the day the U.S. government finds itself holding a terrorist who really does know about an upcoming attack on the United States.

“Then you do have a dilemma: Do you need to get that information, or do you not? If you don’t get that information, have you failed in your moral responsibility to your fellow citizens? And it’s only when it gets real that that debate begins to bite.”

Below is the text of a wonderful discussion on this tough topic from NPR….


By Tom Gjelten

Morning Edition, January 16, 2009 · In his confirmation hearing Thursday, Eric Holder, the president-elect’s choice to be attorney general, said he thinks waterboarding is torture. But waterboarding, or simulated drowning, is just one of the “coercive interrogation” techniques used by the CIA after Sept. 11 to extract information from suspected terrorists. It will be up to the new president to decide what procedures will be off-limits under his administration. So far, he’s getting conflicting advice.

During his campaign, Barack Obama spoke out against the use of anything like torture in the interrogation of suspected terrorists. He said that, as president, he’d order all interrogations to be carried out in accordance with the U.S. Army Field Manual, guidelines that are far more restrictive than the ones President Bush has given the CIA.

Obama was supported in that position by a group of retired generals and admirals; as military officers, they worried that interrogation methods tantamount to torture might someday be used on American prisoners. About a dozen of them even asked for a meeting with Obama’s transition team last month to make sure he wasn’t backing down from his campaign promises. Among them was retired Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar, former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East.

“The Golden Rule is the Golden Rule — that you don’t do something to someone that you wouldn’t have done to an American citizen that was held for interrogation. And I think that’s as true for a CIA operative as it is for a person in uniform,” Hoar said.

The incoming Obama administration is also being pressured on this point by Congress; last year, it passed legislation that would have required CIA interrogators to abide by the Army Field Manual guidelines. President Bush vetoed the bill; but the incoming chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), has introduced it again, as she reminded Holder during his confirmation hearing Thursday.

“It has been revised by the military. It is a comprehensive, thoughtful manual. It has more than a dozen different techniques,” Feinstein said. “Do you believe that the Army Field Manual should comprise the standard for interrogation across the United States government?”

Holder, who has met with the retired military officers who favor that change, said President-elect Obama will make that call on his own.

“He’s giving all components an opportunity to express their views — not only the military, but those on the intelligence side. If there’s a contrary view, we want to give them an opportunity to make their case,” Holder said.

There are contrary views. Many military officers not only worry about harsh interrogation methods being used against their own troops, but they also doubt the reliability of information gained under any procedure that resembles torture.

But outgoing CIA director Michael Hayden vigorously disputes the idea that the coercive methods used by CIA interrogators did not produce useful information.

“These techniques worked,” Hayden insisted Thursday in a meeting with reporters. “I’m convinced,” he said, “that the program got the maximum amount of information” — particularly out of the first group of detainees taken into custody after 9/11.

Hayden says there are various interrogation methods that are not in the Army Field Manual but that are nevertheless legal. For that reason, he argues against limiting CIA interrogators to the Army manual.

In his Senate testimony Thursday, Holder took the military’s side in the debate over whose guidelines should govern CIA interrogations.

“It is my view, based on what I’ve had the opportunity to review and what I’ve been exposed to, that I think the Army Field Manual is adequate,” he said.

Obama himself appears to be keeping his decision options open. He may be realizing that this issue, like others, is not clear-cut. John McLaughlin, a former deputy director of the CIA, says the debate over what interrogation methods should be used is abstract until the day the U.S. government finds itself holding a terrorist who really does know about an upcoming attack on the United States.

“Then you do have a dilemma: Do you need to get that information, or do you not? If you don’t get that information, have you failed in your moral responsibility to your fellow citizens? And it’s only when it gets real that that debate begins to bite.”

In the best case for the Obama administration, that scenario will not present itself — and there won’t be a dilemma.

Hear the audio:

Cheney’s delusions

December 21, 2008

His defense of waterboarding, Guantanamo and the Iraq invasion is indeed Darth Vader-like.

Los Angeles Times Editorial

We probably shouldn’t have been surprised at Vice President Dick Cheney’s blustering, obstinate insistence on ABC News on Monday that he’s been right all along about virtually everything. But that doesn’t mean we have to agree.

In the interview, Cheney not only acknowledged that he was involved in approving the harsh interrogation methods used by the CIA on suspected terrorists, but said he still thinks that waterboarding was an appropriate way to extract information. He said — contradicting even President Bush — that he believes the notorious American prison at Guantanamo Bay should remain open for the foreseeable future, and he reiterated that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was justified by, believe it or not, Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs.

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Vice President Dick Cheney attends the unveiling of President ... 
Vice President Dick Cheney attends the unveiling of President George W. Bush’s portrait at the National Portrait Gallery on Friday, Dec. 19, 2008 in Washington.(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

CHENEY UNPLUGGED: Read excerpts of transcript

December 18, 2008

The following are excerpts from an interview Wednesday with Vice President Dick Cheney:

On similarities between the Ford and Bush administrations:

I think there is a parallel in a sense with my experience during the Ford years. President Ford made a decision that was extraordinarily unpopular at the time when he pardoned former President Nixon.  He suffered – he dropped 30 points in the polls in one week as I recall.

The Guantanamo 'war on terror' detention center should ... 
The Guantanamo ‘war on terror’ detention center should remain open indefinitely Vice President Richard Cheney told ABC News in an interview Monday, while also defending the harsh interrogation method known as waterboarding.(AFP/Getty Images/File/Mark Wilson)

By the time of his passing a couple of years ago, opinion had totally turned on that. In fact, most people by then, even many who had been very critical 30 years before, were in agreement that in fact it was a good decision, it was the right thing to do from the standpoint of the country. …

I’m personally persuaded that this president and this administration will look very good 20 or 30 years down the road in light of what we’ve been able to accomplish with respect to the global war on terror.

On the power of the vice president’s office:

In terms of whether or not [I was] the most powerful and influential [vice president], I’ll let somebody else make those judgments. I think, um, I do believe that the vice presidency has been a consequential office, if I can put it in those terms, in this administration. But that’s first and foremost because that’s what the president wanted.

He’s the one who asked me to take the job, he’s also the one who decided during the course of the process eight years ago that he wanted somebody who would be another member of the team, who had a certain set of experiences and so forth, who could be an active participant in the process.

On charges that terrorism suspects have been tortured:

Before I respond to that, let me state a proposition. It’s very important to discriminate between different elements of, or issues that are often times conflated or all joined together. People take Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and interrogation of high-value detainees and sort of throw that all together and say, you know, characterize it as torture policy.

Read the rest from the Washington Times: