Saturday, May 16, 2009

Shiny Object, Bubble Bauble; Torture Distraction, Babble


More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when we were looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Congress’s Torture Bubble
JUST four members of Congress were notified in 2002 when the Central Intelligence Agency’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” program was first approved and carried out, according to documents released by the agency last week. They were Senators Bob Graham and Richard Shelby and Representatives Porter Goss and Nancy Pelosi, then the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House intelligence committees — the so-called “Gang of Four.” Each was briefed orally and it was understood that they were not to speak about the program with anyone, including their colleagues on the committees.

It’s logical to ask, so what if it was only four members? If they objected to the program, why didn’t they take steps to change it or stop it? Maybe they should have tried. But as a practical matter, there was very little, if anything, the Gang of Four could have done to affect the Bush administration’s decision on the enhanced interrogation techniques program. To stop it, they needed the whole Congress.

Sheldon Whitehouse: Iraq Justification Raises the Prospect of Criminal Prosecution for Torture
Sheldon Whitehouse while being asked about the torture bombshell that Lawrence Wilkerson dropped on Dick Cheney says that if what Wilkerson asserts is true and the Bush administration went outside of the OLC's legal justification for the torture, it raises the prospect for criminal prosecutions.

Whitehouse Judiciary Committee Hearing Round-up
"There's so many points here that it's hard to pick them all apart. There's the point that it's wrong. There's the point that it's ineffective. There's the point that it's illegal. There's the point that in order to get there they had to disrupt and wreck a lot of American democratic process in order to get there. And then there's the final part which is . . . my focus on the lying, which is that there is a huge sales and spin campaign going on to misrepresent what took place....

"We accomplished three things today. We showed that the factual predicates in the OLC memos about what had happened were false. We showed that administration lawyers who got a look at the OLC opinions were horrified and tried to push back, and instead of engaging in a debate to see if they were right or wrong they were just squelched and shut down. And we showed that by the standards against which attorneys should be judged for malfeasance experts agree that the OLC opinions don't cut the mustard and that they qualify for sanction."

One more important point on the briefing process.
In this exchange between Dick Durbin and Philip Zelikow, Zelikow makes clear how the briefing process is supposed to work. [...]

Now, when Durbin asks Zelikow directly whether Congress got that before the fact briefing in this case, Zelikow claims ignorance.

Human Experimentation is a War Crime!
Let's set aside for a moment the issue of torture. For in his testimony, FBI Agent Soufan has raised the issue of experimentation on a prisoner.

Now let's look at a list of requirements for experimentation on prisoners, taken from:

THE NUREMBERG CODE [from Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No. 10. Nuremberg, October 1946-April 1949. Washington, D.C.: U.S. G.P.O, 1949-1953.]

Cheney's Role Deepens
Former NBC News investigative producer Robert Windrem reports that the vice president’s office suggested waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner who was suspected of knowing about a relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam.

Here's an actual news story: Cheney used torture to prove non-existent Al Qaeda/Iraq link
Dick Cheney wanted to go to war against Iraq. He lied about it. Bush lied about it. But, we're supposed to believe that they never lied to Congress about torture. Right. That may work with D.C.'s traditional media, but not anyone who actually remembers 2002.

There is an even more disturbing aspect to this story. It may be too much for the traditional media to handle. We're learning that Cheney used torture to "prove" the links between al Qaeda and Iraq -- because nothing else was finding the information he wanted.

Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff Larry Wilkerson explained his findings at The Washington Note.

Because it works, that's why
It has been a mind-bending task to suss out the Busheviks' rules for Justifying Torture. As a nation, we are dizzy to the point of distraction from the effort. But a few principles seem clear.

  1. We didn’t do it - Because it would be wrong ...

  2. Whatever we might have done, —and we’re not saying we did--was legal ...

  3. It wasn’t torture. We had these outlines, see, and we were always inside them, because they were drawn to include where we were. We call the area out there beyond where we were, torture. We can’t tell you exactly, what lies in those outer areas except to say if we did tell you, then we would have a standard independent of what we did, which would threaten principle #2, above. Besides, then our enemies would know, too, and then it wouldn’t be effective, which brings us to:

  4. We did it because it worked. It was effective. What, you’d rather be dead? You think if you were dead you’d have any moral scruples? We’d do anything that works.

  5. If it worked, it was right. And if it was right, how it be torture? Therefore, (since the contrapositive of a true if/then statement is always true) if it was not right, it wouldn’t have worked. So we didn’t torture. Because we only did things that worked.

  6. Look! Nancy Pelosi!

Pelosi, Graham and the CIA's Lies
All of the briefing materials should be declassified and released so that we can finally put to rest the game of what Democrat knew what when. Pelosi's, Graham's, and Rockefeller's stories remain consistent--remarkably so considering that they were never briefed at the same time. The Democrats in Congress were not responsible for conceiving of or implementing the Bush torture regime.

Graham: CIA was 'loose with the facts' about interrogation briefings
"We established that three out of four of these alleged briefings never took place," he said.

Florida's Graham Backs Pelosi On CIA Briefings
"Several weeks ago, when this issue started to bubble up, I called the CIA and asked for the dates in which I had been briefed," Graham tells Robert Siegel. "They gave me four: two in April of '02, two in September."

Graham says he consulted his logs "and determined that on three of the four dates there was no briefing held."

He adds: "On one date, Sept. 27, '02, there was a briefing held and, according to my notes, it was on the topic of detainee interrogation."

Graham says the CIA was initially reticent when he told the agency what he had found in his notes.

"They said, 'We will check and call back,'" Graham recalled. "When they finally did a few days later, they indicated that I was correct. Their information was in error. There was no briefing on the first three of four dates."

CIA Admits That Info About Torture Briefings For Dems May Not Be Accurate

The CIA vs. Sen. Bob Graham: how to keep score at home
More relevant in this case, Graham also has a specific reputation for keeping detailed daily records of people he met and things they said. He's sometimes been mocked for this compulsive practice, but he's never been doubted about the completeness or accuracy of what he compiles. (In the fine print of those records would be an indication that I had interviewed him about Iraq war policy while he was in the Senate and recently spent time with him when he was on this side of the world.)

So if he says he never got the briefing, he didn't. And if the CIA or anyone acting on its behalf challenges him, they are stupid and incompetent as well as being untrustworthy. This doesn't prove that the accounts of briefing Pelosi are also inaccurate. But it shifts the burden of proof.

Jane Harman's letter to the CIA counsel
Jane Harman's letter to the CIA counsel was about the CIA telling Congress they were going to destroy the Zubaydeh video tapes.

She wrote a letter to the CIA, warning them NOT to destroy the tapes.

They destroyed the tapes.

How's that for a cold-water splash-in-the-face?

Prisoner Abuse Photos Emerge Despite Obama's Bid to Block Them
The inevitable result of trying to suppress information is that the truth will out, regardless. In this case, an Australian network that obtained images of prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan has published them.

On the Photos
I briefly had myself convinced that this is a complicated issue, but it really isn’t. There ought to be an overwhelming presumption that the American people have the right to see the facts about what our government is doing in our name, with our money. There has to be some secrecy in the name of national security—it’s good that we don’t publish our nuclear codes or the details of the presidential security detail—but the notion that vague invocations of national interest or policy expediency should be permitted to sweep things under the rug is repugnant.

Today is the day the MSM picks up the torture-Iraq War link.
The MSM is now talking about Dick Cheney using torture to establish fabricated links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Iraq in order to justify a war against Iraq to the American people. Right before Hardball started today, David Shuster primed the subject...

Chris Matthews was in a relatively no-bullshit mode today and raised the question with Representative Clyburn...

Later in the program he has Michael Isikoff and Robert Windrem on. And they establish the link between Cheney's torture and justifying the war in Iraq...

David Waldman On The Iraq-Torture Link
Congress Matter’s David Waldman [aka Kagro X], also a Daily Kos contributing editor, discusses the Iraq-torture link on View the full segment here.

Journamalism: Iraq, Torture, and Pelosi
Here's the juiciest investigative story you can imagine, if you were actually into important, juicy investigative stories.

What's the traditional media so predictably and depressingly decided to focus with laserlike misdirection upon? The distraction the CIA dangled in front of them.
Let’s briefly recap. Three senior Democrats — Pelosi, Bob Graham, and Jay Rockefeller — have all publicly claimed that the CIA didn’t brief them about the use of torture in the manner the agency has claimed. Meanwhile, the CIA itself has conceded that its own accounting may not be accurate. [snip]

This is not only about Pelosi. It is a dispute. One side is claiming one thing, and the other is claiming the opposite. Simple fairness demands that equal levels of skepticism are applied to people on both sides of this argument. And that isn’t happening. There’s no way around it.

And they are all conveniently missing yet another point, or as Josh says, are gettin' played by the CIA:
The whole point of this storm about Pelosi is that her critics want her to be embarrassed and stop supporting a Truth Commission or any sort of examination of what happened. But she's not. She still says there should be an investigation. Her critics still want the book closed. That says it all. She'll have to stand or fall with the results of an actual investigation. Her opponents on this are simply risible hypocrites.

That says it all. Pelosi says get the truth out there. So let's start trying to figure out what the truth is. And that means not following the CIA's breadcrumb trail off into the weeds about who was told what when. It means asking whether the Dick Cheney ordered torture so he could get the lies to take us into Iraq.

Now that's a story.

Torture and the "shiny object"
The Bush administration authorized torture in order to extract false confessions linking Iraq to al Qaeda and create a pretext to invade a sovereign nation that neither had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks, nor was an "imminent threat".

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Pelosi is the latest shiny object distraction – how she is "under fire" and is disagreeing with the CIA about what she may or may not have been briefed about. And in time, the truth must come out about this.

However, nothing – absolutely NOTHING – should divert the direction and main point of the conversation. Torture is not a partisan issue. Torture is not something that can be debated. Torture is illegal. And torturing people in order to get a false confession and invade another country (especially when very many other excuses were given for such invasion) is more than illegal.

And this was all done by the Bush administration with the knowledge and approval by Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and (according to Cheney), Bush himself.

This is finally starting to get out there as a story – not just that torture occurred, not just that it occurred with the knowledge and intent of the upper echelon of the Bush administration, but that it was done in order to create support for a bogus war for which no justification existed, and to take advantage of a scared American public who was just attacked.

THIS is the story. THIS is where the focus needs to be. And when it starts to stray, it MUST be brought back to this one simple, powerful and disgusting point.

Everything else is a shiny object distraction meant to blur the lines, meant to create doubt and meant to shift the blame.

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