The Last Miles Of The Kennedy Journey Begin As Healthcare And Prosecution Issues Reach The Boiling Point.
A key House liberal suggested Thursday that party moderates who've pushed for changes in health care legislation are "brain dead" and out for insurance company campaign donations.
Moderate Blue Dog Democrats "just want to cause trouble," said Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., who heads the health subcommittee on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.
"They're for the most part, I hate to say brain dead, but they're just looking to raise money from insurance companies and promote a right-wing agenda that is not really very useful in this whole process," Stark told reporters on a conference call.
When Attorney General Eric Holder appointed veteran Justice Department prosecutor John Durham on Monday to look into CIA interrogation abuses, sources indicated that his mandate would be “relatively narrow.”
The Washington Post described Durham’s authority as being limited “to look[ing] at whether there is enough evidence to launch a full-scale criminal investigation of current and former CIA personnel who may have broken the law in their dealings with detainees.”
“It’s a very curious mandate,” law professor Jonathan Turley told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann on Tuesday. “I don’t see how he can possibly do what Holder’s asking him to do. … The question here is whether Durham will have the leeway — and, frankly, the courage — to recognize the obvious.”
“It’s a bizarre thing for a professional prosecutor to do,” explained Turley, “to go in and say, ‘I’m going to look at a program that’s based on what is a well-defined war crime, and I’m going to see if any of these people went beyond what was authorized by people who were talking about a war crime.’”
“He’s got what are all the elements of a crime,” Turley emphasized, “including dead bodies, by all reports, and the question is, is he going to go after those sort of low-lying fruit targets who went too far, or is he going to go after the people who really set this thing in motion.”
Turley also noted that, contrary to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s attempt to spin newly-released documents as proving that torture works, “Torture was not useful and was not necessary.”
“We paid a great price on the soul of this country for something that Cheney and Bush ordered,” Turley concluded, “and they got very little from it. And they’re desperately trying to tell Americans that this was justified, that embracing a well-defined war crime produced results.”
This video is from MSNBC’s Countdown, broadcast Aug. 25, 2009.
Last spring, the news media trumpeted Vice President Dick Cheney’s challenge to release the CIA’s torture memos.
It was a move Cheney supported because, he said, the documents would vindicate his claims that the Bush administration’s torture program operated within the law, and provided indispensable information in protecting the US from further terrorist attacks.
Since Monday, when the CIA released a significant part of those documents — a 2004 CIA inspector general’s report on torture practices — there has been hardly a mention in the mainstream press about the fact that the report largely contradicted what the former vice president has been saying in public.
“The professionals involved in that program were very, very cautious, very careful — wouldn’t do anything without making certain it was authorized and that it was legal,” Cheney told ABC News last December. “And any suggestion to the contrary is just wrong. Did it produce the desired results? I think it did.”
Yet, this week, as the report was slowly processed by reporters and analysts, it became increasingly clear that the program did not produce “the desired results.”
As Greg Sargent points out at WhoRunsGov, a senior homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush now admits the report’s conclusions do not make it possible to give credit to the torture program for the fact the US has not suffered a major terrorist attack since 9/11.
“It’s very difficult to draw a cause and effect, because it’s not clear when techniques were applied versus when that information was received,” Frances Townsend reportedly told CNN. “It’s implicit. It seems, when you read the report, that we got … the most critical information after techniques had been applied. But the report doesn’t say that.”
Cheney’s efforts to paint the torture program as being professionally run and closely supervised run into problems in light of the report.
In February of 2008, Cheney told a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Committee: “The procedures of the CIA program are designed to be safe, and they are in full compliance with the nation’s laws and treaty obligations. They’ve been carefully reviewed by the Department of Justice, and very carefully monitored. The program is run by highly trained professionals who understand their obligations under the law.”
He had used almost the exact same words in a speech at the Heritage Foundation a month earlier.
“The procedures of the CIA program are designed to be safe,” Cheney told the conservative group. “They are in full compliance with the nation’s laws and treaty obligations. They’ve been carefully reviewed by the Department of Justice, and they are very carefully monitored. The program is run by highly trained professionals who understand their obligations under the law. And the program has uncovered a wealth of information that has foiled attacks against the United States; information that has saved countless, innocent lives.”
Yet some of those “highly trained professionals” had little more than two weeks of training on the job.
“With just two weeks of training, or about half the time it takes to become a truck driver, the CIA certified its spies as interrogation experts after 9/11 and handed them the keys to the most coercive tactics in the agency’s arsenal,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
“It was a haphazard process, cobbled together in the months following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington by an agency that had never been in the interrogation business,” the AP report continued. “The result was a patchwork program in which rules kept shifting and the goals often were unclear.”
Nor, would it seem, was the program “carefully monitored.” At the FirstRead blog, NBC’s Brian Williams reported:
In late December 2002 or early January 2003, the report says, unauthorized techniques were used on an al Qaeda suspect, Abd al Rahim al Nashiri. An American, who was not a trained interrogator and was not authorized to use enhanced methods, used a gun and a power drill to frighten al Nashiri. The gun was held close to his head and “racked,” to produce the sound of a round being loaded into the gun’s chamber. The power drill was revved while the detainee stood, naked with a hood over his head.
Yet none of the contradictions between the inspector general’s report and Cheney’s claims appear to have changed the vice president’s talking points.
“The documents released Monday clearly demonstrate that the individuals subjected to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques provided the bulk of intelligence we gained about al Qaeda,” Cheney said Monday in a statement to the Weekly Standard.
“This intelligence saved lives and prevented terrorist attacks. … The activities of the CIA in carrying out the policies of the Bush Administration were directly responsible for defeating all efforts by al Qaeda to launch further mass casualty attacks against the United States. The people involved deserve our gratitude,” said Cheney, who has reportedly seen the full, unredacted version of the report.
It’s unclear whether the people “deserving of our gratitude” include those who, according to the CIA report, went beyond the guidelines laid out by the Bush administration in their use of torture techniques.
Those people are the presumed targets of an investigation that Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered into the conduct of the torture program. Holder has appointed a special prosecutor, Connecticut prosecutor John Durham, to investigate incidents where interrogators may have gone even beyond the permissive rules outlined by the Bush administration.
Those people “do not deserve to be the targets of political investigations or prosecutions,” Cheney said in his statement to the Standard. “President Obama’s decision to allow the Justice Department to investigate and possibly prosecute CIA personnel … serves as a reminder, if any were needed, of why so many Americans have doubts about this Administration’s ability to be responsible for our nation’s security.”
‘POCKET LITTER’ MORE THAN TORTURE?
Political bloggers have led the way in holding the former vice president accountable on the torture issue.
At the Washington Independent, Spencer Ackerman points out that newly revealed documents “actually suggest the opposite of Cheney’s contention: that non-abusive techniques actually helped elicit some of the most important information the documents cite in defending the value of the CIA’s interrogations.”
Ackerman mentions the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, the Al Qaeda operative widely credited as “the architect of 9/11,” who was waterboarded 183 times during CIA interrogation and — according to the new CIA report — had his family threatened with death if the US were attacked again.
We learn from the July 2004 document that not only did the man known as “KSM” largely provide intelligence about “historical plots” pulled off from al-Qaeda, a fair amount of the knowledge he imparted to his interrogators came from his “rolodex” — that is, what intelligence experts call “pocket litter,” or the telling documentation found on someone’s person when captured.
In his December, 2008, ABC News interview, Cheney was careful not to credit “enhanced interrogation” with the evidently successful attempts to extract information from Mohamed.
“Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was the number three man in al Qaeda, the man who planned the attacks of 9/11, provided us with a wealth of information,” Cheney said. “There was a period of time there, three or four years ago, when about half of everything we knew about al Qaeda came from that one source. So, it’s been a remarkably successful effort. I think the results speak for themselves.”
Other bloggers have focused instead on the lack of mainstream media attention to the contradictions between Cheney’s assertions and the facts as presented in the torture report.
“You’d think that since the media reported so much on Cheney’s claims about the documents, they would also rush to report that Cheney was wrong.
Not so,” writes Amanda Terkel at ThinkProgress, adding that she had gone “through the coverage on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC and found that television outlets are performing as poorly as their print counterparts. Most of the networks’ reports omitted the Cheney angle.”
Ron Brynaert contributed to this report
27 Aug 2009 18:33:43 GMT
* Investigation should establish responsibility at top level * Navi Pillay urges countries to resettle Guantanamo inmates
* U.N. rights boss marks first year in office on Sept. 1
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, Aug 27 (Reuters) - The U.S. prosecutor's investigation into alleged criminal CIA interrogation techniques must go right to the top political level, the chief U.N. rights official said on Thursday.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, 67, in a wide-ranging interview with Reuters, urged European and other countries to resettle Guantanamo detainees so that President Barack Obama can close the U.S.-run prison in Cuba by year-end.
She also called for credible investigations into killings of journalists and aid workers in Russia and voiced concern at the fate of detainees arrested in Iran in post-election protests.
The former United Nations war crimes judge, who marks her first year in office next Tuesday, said she has used an "instinctive" blend of quiet diplomacy and public condemnation to highlight violations worldwide.
The U.S. Justice Department named a special prosecutor this week to investigate CIA interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States under then-President George W. Bush.
"Whenever people come under the jurisdiction of the United States, the United States has to be seen to be upholding the very high standards that they claim for their own citizens," Pillay told Reuters in her office overlooking Lake Geneva.
ACCOUNTABILITY AT THE TOP
Any torture or death inflicted on suspects held by U.S. authorities in places including Bagram detention centre in Afghanistan should be part of this investigation, she said.
Asked whether it should go beyond establishing the criminal liability of CIA interrogators, Pillay replied: "That is international law on accountability -- that you do not stop at the foot soldiers, you go right up to the ultimate authority that is legally responsible."
"And these would include those who devised the policy, those who ordered it," said Pillay, a Tamil from South Africa.
Former U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney, a vocal defender of the Bush administration's security policies, has said intelligence obtained from harsh interrogation techniques had saved lives. [ID:nN25208112]
Pillay said she had pressed Sweden and Switzerland to accept Guantanamo inmates who cannot return home. "The quicker that European and other countries help President Obama to close Guantanamo, the better for the human rights of the detainees."
She expected Washington to play a significant role in the U.N. Human Rights Council -- where it has taken up a seat for the first time.
But she said she was trying to overcome "regional bloc voting" in the 47-member forum where some states vote together to shield their friends from censure.
The Geneva forum will examine next month a long-awaited report of an investigation into allegations of war crimes committed by both Israel and Hamas militants during Israel's invasion of the Gaza strip from Dec. 27-Jan. 18.
Richard Goldstone, a former U.N. war crimes prosecutor leading the international inquiry, is to issue the report in coming weeks ahead of the Council's debate set for Sept. 29.
The Security Council, acting on a report by Pillay's predecessor Louise Arbour, asked the International Criminal Court to investigate atrocities in Darfur, Sudan, she noted.
"I hope that they would respond similarly if the Goldstone investigation does point to possible war crimes," she said.
"Apart from prosecution, I believe that these investigative commissions are very important because they do deliver a sense of justice to victims," Pillay added.
Goldstone's inquiry was the first U.N. rights inquiry to hold public hearings, allowing victims to testify, including Israelis hit by rockets fired into southern Israel, she said.
"I hope that all this does lead to some sort of reparation and compensation for victims," Pillay said. (Editing by Jonathan Lynn and Elizabeth Fullerton)