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20 May 2009

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mike

I will stand by the word of Granny Pelosi. I do not believe the muckraking going on against her. Senator Graham - from a different political party - was at the briefing and tells the same story.

And let us tell it like it is. This is a political hatchet job; perhaps by the a former Republican Congressman who for awhile was Director of the CIA (or his cronies); or perhaps by a certain Congresswoman of Pelosi's own party (or her AIPAC supporters) who is getting even for not being named chairwoman of the House Intel Committee. The CIA as an institution has no axe to grind against her.

rick

"The nation has now "sobered up" somewhat, and it is now hard to look at what was done by and for us, the people of the United States."

Thank you for saying it this way. It seems like so much of this discussion is about bad apples at the bottom of the chain of command, or bad apples at the top. Nowhere in the discussion has it been mentioned that the American people WANTED this stuff done.

I think that they still do, they just don't want to have to see it.

I guess you can't sell newspapers by saying to your readership, "YOU DID THIS.", especially if they did.

J

Colonel,

I have to laugh at one of the 'contributors' to the discussion of Congress and Torture, a one Senator Kit Bond who advocated 'torture, torture, torture'.

Kit Bond is one of 'those legislators' that needs to be put on the 'hot seat' of 'accountability'.

curious

something is up (this is not the usual stonewalling, lying, spinning, and cover up.)

This is more than torture. I think this is about protecting something or somebody big.

If Obama is not careful, this is going to be the "event" that shake & weakened him, before he has to go to war with Iran.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/5/20/733791/-Media-Finally-Recognizes-GOP-Full-Of-Crap-On-Pelosi-CIAJust-In-Time-To-Stop-Investigations


I don't know who fed the media this point, or maybe they just couldn't ignore the wealth of hypocrisy surrounding the right-wing hissy fit over Nancy Pelosi, but they have started to inexplicably push back. It started last week when Marcy Wheeler noted that Pete Hoekstra, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, accused the CIA of providing insufficient briefings and even lying to Congress, regarding a separate investigation. In the interim, a host of elements of the CIA's story started to fall apart - their briefing record document included people who weren't in the meetings, people who lacked the security clearance to attend, and even stated Porter Goss was briefed in 2005 when he was the Director of the CIA at the time. The invaluable ThinkProgress dug up a copy of the letter Hoekstra sent to the CIA, and added this:

Similarly, in 2007, Hoekstra described a closed-door briefing by representatives from the intelligence community (including CIA) on the National Intelligence Estimate of Iran’s nuclear capability, saying that the members "didn’t find [the briefers] forthcoming." More recently, in November 2008, Hoekstra concluded that the CIA "may have been lying or concealing part of the truth" in testimony to Congress regarding a 2001 incident in which the CIA mistakenly killed an American citizen in Peru. "We cannot have an intelligence community that covers up what it does and then lies to Congress," Hoekstra said of the incident.

curious

Better come out clean about this torture thing. Or Obama is going to own the whole crime too.

http://rawstory.com/08/news/2009/05/20/worse-than-waterboarding/

Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Yvonne Bradley was the lawyer for Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian national who was arrested by the Pakistani government in April 2002 on suspicion of being a member of al Qaeda. He was then shuffled through a series of CIA “ghost prisons” before being imprisoned at Guantanamo for five years. Last winter, President Obama ordered him released to the United Kingdom, where he had been a legal resident.

Bradley told CNN that when she was first assigned to represent Mohamed, she did not question he was a hardened terrorist, because “my government was saying these were the worst of the worst.” However, she now says, “There’s no reliable evidence that Mr. Mohamed was going to do anything to the United States.”

According to Bradley, when Mohamed was first held at a CIA prison in Morocco, “They started this monthly treatment where they would come in with a scalpel or a razor type of instrument and they would slash his genitals, just with small cuts.”

Following that torture, Mohamed confessed that he had attended an al Qaeda training camp and discussed plans to make a dirty bomb. He also answered “No” to the question, “While in U.S. military custody have you been treated in any way that you would consider abusive?”

Robert C.

The CIA lie..never!!!

JohnH

"There are many others who were guilty of nothing more than being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Many of those are in prison because a junior intelligence analyst decided on the basis of PROBABILITY that they PROBABLY were terrorists."

Reminds me of that joke about the Intelligence Olympics, where the intelligence services were trying to catch a rabbit. "The Syrians had found a Nazarene donkey. (The kind with a cross marked in the fur of its back). One of the sergeants had a grip on the head while the other sergeant beat the beast's hindquarters with a stick.

The captain was whispering to it, "Confess, confess, we KNOW you are a rabbit..."

Only in this case, it wasn't Syrian intelligence services that mistakenly incarcerated, tortured, and demanded, "Confess, confess, we KNOW you are Al Qaeda...

Mark Stuart

Dear Colonel:

The questions you raise regarding some inmates at Gantanamo, the legal, moral and personal aspects of torture as well as the hypocrisy of many Democrats are legitimates and unavoidable.

But i still have to find in your article your views regarding the idea of holding lawmakers accountable for their positions, their responsibilities, their oversight of the executive branch, or lack thereof and the inability of Congress today to investigate the torture issue brought up by Shane Harris in his introduction.

Respectfully,
Mark Stuart.

curious

The CIA side of story has collapsed (The Porter Goss version. I thought it was weird Goss showed up on the scene himself.)

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/5/21/733977/-Porter-Goss-Wont-Confirm-Pelosi-CIA-Story-That-Hes-Been-Peddling

Porter Goss Won't Confirm Pelosi/CIA Story That He's Been Peddling

Patrick Lang

Robert C

I said that I thought they were not lying in this matter.

MS

Since I am not a revolutionary, I would say that legislators who fail to do their duty should be voted out of office. pl

confusedponderer

I have ever since been pissed off about America affording itself a partisan so-called 'debate' about whether torture is ok.

IMO there are two groups in the US advocating torture, the tribalist torturistas and the liberal torturistas. For the tribalists 'the other' is the enemy to whom no quarter is to be given. For the liberals it is only the utilitarian reasoning about weighing whether torturing that one guy is worth the lives of one, ten, a hundred Americans that justifies torture. And then there are the outlandish freaks like Addington and Cheney who see torture as a great tool to expand presidential freedom of action.

I get angry when I read people maintaining that waterboarrding is not torture, because it leaves no 'permanent harm', to then 'embrace' jutice department memos that they apparently have never read, let alone understood. Equivalent to their reasoning would be to accept domestic violence as long as it leaves no bruises.

One key thing that struck me was that the subjects of torture at the hands of US authorities are pre-sentenced. They are always guilty, it is always a certainty that are terrorists - which ultimately translates in to 'they deserve it'. It's blaming the victim all the way, bare of any consideration about the morality of torture itself.

The torturistas don't understand the plain english in the CAT, after all US law of the land:

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture. . . Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law.
I find it very hard to interpret that as saying that near drowning people is legal.

Torturistas reply to that that their preferred 'techniques', like water boarding, are not torture. Nonsense. They routinely kid themselves about a number of points, starting with (a) the (il)legality under domestic and international law, as well as (b) about the severity of the pain and suffering their favourite 'techniques' you cause (especially in combination and over an extended time period), and (c) they always assume effectiveness of those 'techniques' and (d) exclude the likely occurrence of errors of identity and (e) the effects of the institutionalisation of torture.

I ask them if it is ok to torture women, old people and children as well, after all they too could have vital, absolutely vital information that saves American lives, the consequent application of cost-benefit thinking mandates that. They squirm on that one.

For those who deny that water boarding is torture, I ask them what is it that elevates La Question Americaine from the petty cruelty of ordinary near drowners like the Japs, Nazis, the Inquisition, the Khmer Rouge into something other than torture? The water quality? Padded straps? Quality control through qualified medical personnel? They never answer that one.

That are observations on my personal debates with a particular willfully ignorant and egregious hack who maintains that all prosecution of the crime of torture under the Bush administration a partisan witch hunt.

What angers me, considerably, about America's torture debate is that there is no case for debate.

It is utterly and completely clear that torture is illegal, is a crime, that water boarding is torture, that the US had a torture program. The CAT is as clear as a legal text can be on the matter. Torture is never justified, there is no necessity defense, and it is equally clear that on their rampage the Bushies violated the according US and international laws regarding treatment of prisoners and torture.

But it is painful to reassess history, probably even more so for exceptionalist countries. A late uncle of mine held to his death the view that Hitler was great. Nothing could persuade him of the opposite. My point is that the US has their share of 'ewig gestrige' (~ people living in the past) as well. That part of the right will never admit that there is anything wrong with torture.

Arun

Senator Kit Bond: "I'm not here to say that the government is always right, but when the government tells you to do something, I'm sure you would all agree that I think you all recognize that is something you need to do."

This joke of a Senator is in charge of any kind of government oversight??????

Arun

We have a Republic, not a direct democracy, precisely to save ourselves from the passions and hatreds of the moment. We try to adhere to the rule of law for the same reason.

Values, principles, ethics -- these are things that sustain one during difficult times. They are not conveniences or the luxuries that one sheds during a recession.

There is no greater shame that firstly, the nation panicked as it did after 9/11, and secondly, that it seems utterly unwilling to face up and restore itself. It is a betrayal of everyone who undertook the burden of upholding the law.

Fred

This is wonderful from Ms. Schake: “The Speaker of the House has become an object lesson that people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.” Yes and seeing the former speaker, Newt Gingrich, who successfully paralyzed the Clinton Administration by impeachment over adulterous behavior, while himself committing adultery, still influential in republican policy circles and becoming a leading candidate of president in 2012 is definitely a lesson.

What were intelligence committee Chair Peter Hoekstra’s actions after being informed of the ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’? Rep Thornberry of Texas posted: “But Congress sometimes shows itself to be an irresponsible overseer.” That sure explains his professional oversight actions in congress year 1, 2, 3 …. 14. At least the folks in the 13th district of Texas can look forward to some pork and plenty more bull. As to oversight perhaps Congressman Hoekstra would like to comment on what he knew and when he knew it.

Mr. Bearden provides a telling insight:” (ten seconds out of two hours and eighteen minutes) were adequate notification of the intent to mine the harbors.” (in reference to the mining of Nicaragua’s harbors by the Reagan administration. ) If only Mr. Collins could remember Ollie North when he posts this:
"A "no way" from the Congress is a show stopper for any sane Executive Branch official."
Now I understand why we should close the War Colleges.

Perhaps we should put on the cover of all intelligence briefings the immortal words of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Don’t Panic”.

Fred

When I first read the National Journal entries I had on in the background the History Channel, with a progam on the civil rights movement. In the 1950's and early 1960's there was plenty of tacit support in the South for torture and even murder. That is not the case now. As Mr. Bearden has stated we are at the beginng of a long overdue national correction.

Byron Raum

Arun,

I fear you may well be right. I fear we have made another devil's bargain, as one was made a long time ago, legalizing slavery. I cannot help but wonder if we will pay a similar price.

B.R.

Barry

Let's see:

One one side we have multiple congressmen, from both parties, who were not allowed to take notes, get copies of the documents, or having anything which they could have used to contest abuses.

On the other side, we have the CIA, which has been proven to have lied to Congress again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again - sorry, many, many times, *and* Bush appointees, who would require divine intervention before they could tell the truth.

It's not at all difficult whom to believe.

Patrick Lang

Barry

BS. Give me some documented instances in which they lied to Congress as opposed to merely having been wrong in their their analysis.

I'll bet you can't, big mouth. pl

optimax

The rumor is circulating the airwaves, don't know if it has been substantiated, that torture was used to elicit a connection between al Queda and Saddam -- no different than the false confessions extracted by torture by the NKVD, Nazis, the worst of the worst. I find the rumor tenable because the executive branch had already condoned torture "to save American lives" and why not use it to save your own butt from accusations of starting a war based on cooked intelligence. Cheney is making the media rounds and appealing to those American's who think Jack Bower is the thread that our security hangs on. If he could Cheney would like to have Keifer Sutherland sitting next to him as he makes the rounds.

Cieran

Colonel:

You make a most interesting epistemological point with this:

Give me some documented instances in which they lied to Congress as opposed to merely having been wrong in their their analysis.

So please consider this... my favorite "CIA dead wrong" example from the recent past would be the aluminum tubes debacle in the run-up to the Iraq war.

There, the relevant CIA analyst was not only wrong, but so willfully and egregiously wrong in the face of substantial evidence to the contrary that the difference between "asserting that which you know is not true" (i.e., lying) and "asserting that which you think is true but isn't" (i.e., being wrong in one's inference) all but disappears.

At some point, all analysts must appreciate what they don't know, and delegate the resulting inference to those with better insight (in this case, to NNSA and DoD intel experts). Here, that didn't happen, and we are all the worse off for it.

But given that context, what was the essential difference between (a) the CIA analyst being wrong in an analysis, and (b) the CIA analyst lying?

Please note that I'm not disagreeing with you here. In fact, I have a hard time dealing with the whole concept of "the CIA lied to Congress", simply because institutions don't lie: people do. And thus tarring the CIA's analysts with the bad behavior of its representatives (e.g., George "Slam-Dunk" Tenet) seems to shed little light on the larger picture here, of how due oversight of our intel processes can occur in this day and age.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts you might offer on this topic.

Patrick Lang

Cieran
The Iraq NIE of October, 2002, like all NIEs, was a product of the NIC as instrument of the NFIB, not CIA as a separate agency. I don't remember which agency provided the drafter, but the draft text was staffed among all the agencies of the community, compromised over, footnoted, etc and then voted on by the agency heads of CIA, DIA, NSA, State INR, the armed services' intelligence arms, Treasury, etc sitting as a committee. The Director of CIA was at that time also DCI and as such Tenet sat as chair of this committee. So far as I remember the vote was unanimous (with footnotes) and therefor that NIE (which was trash)was a NIC document, not a CIA document.

Having cleared that up, shall we move on to issues of political figures and weaklings as heads of the NFIB agencies and their intimidation of their analysts on behalf of their political masters? pl

markf


A very interesting discussion over at National Journal, thanks for the link.

As Milt Beardon alludes, I think, the current wrangling raises anew the question of whether these briefing do in fact facilitate anything except buck passing. We say that their purpose is “oversight by congress”, but what specific result is intended?

Congress is a political body filled with people whose expertise is politics. Yet the first step in this oversight process is to absolutely forbid the “Gang of 4 or 8” from having any kind of political discussions about the information they receive (even with other members of congress).

It seems to me fair to see this as roughly the equivalent to “consulting” intelligence analysts, but forbidding them from evaluating the reliability of the information they are given.

The current orgy of finger pointing is probably the only possible output of our current process (absent saints and willing martyrs in critical positions).

Of course, the leaks which result from having politicians running around “testing the waters”, consulting supporters and “seeing what flies” are well known. We probably should accept that “no political discussion” --> “no political oversight” and focus on rethinking how we want to make the trade offs.

Cieran

Colonel:

Having cleared that up, shall we move on to issues of political figures and weaklings as heads of the NFIB agencies and their intimidation of their analysts on behalf of their political masters?

Please do!

Thanks for your comments and insights. It's a pleasure visiting SST, as always.

Mark Stuart

Dear Colonel:

Although America was born out of a Revolution, I'm not much of a revolutionary myself either. I don't think we lack legal and democratic means to express our disagreements and will. Furthermore, history has shown how dangerous and misleading some revolutions could be.

"legislators who fail to do their duty should be voted out of office"

Do you suggest then that a truth commission might be necessary? How otherwise would one single out to the voters those who have failed their duty?

Respectfully,
MS


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