I am not sure which is more troubling to me…Enhanced Interrogation or Rendition. It bothers me that Law can be twisted to meet any criteria and purpose one wants. It bothers me the US of all countries was capable of this. It bothered me the US would lecture other countries on Human Rights violations while at the same time being the biggest violator of international law worldwide. The Hypocrisy is sickening. You can play word games all day long but Torture is Torture.
Enhanced interrogation techniques or alternative set of procedures are terms the George W. Bush administration used for certain torture methods including hypothermia, stress positions and waterboarding. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) employed these methods at Baghram, in black sites or secret prisons, the Guantanamo Bay detention camps, and Abu Ghraib on untold thousands of prisoners after the September 11 attacks, including notably Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Mohammed al-Qahtani.
Debates arose over the legality of the techniques—whether or not they had violated U.S. or international law and whether they constitute torture. In 2005 the CIA destroyed many videotapes depicting prisoners being interrogated under torture; an internal justification was that what they showed was so horrific they would be “devastating to the CIA”, and that “the heat from destroying is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes ever got into public domain.” The United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez stated that waterboarding is torture — “immoral and illegal,” and in 2008, fifty-six House Democrats asked for an independent investigation.
A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks concluded that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it. American and European officials including former CIA Director Leon Panetta, former CIA officers, a Guantanamo prosecutor, and a military tribunal judge, have called “enhanced interrogation” a euphemism for torture. In 2009 both President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder stated certain of the techniques are torture, and repudiated their use. They declined to prosecute CIA, DoD, or Bush administration officials who authorized the program, while leaving open the possibility of convening an investigatory “Truth Commission” for what President Obama called a “further accounting.”
How Law was twisted to allow Torture
In early 2002, following Abu Zubaydah’s capture, assertedly Jose Rodriguez head of the CIA’s clandestine service, asked his superiors for authorization for what Rodriquez called an “alternative set of interrogation procedures.” Top US Government officials including Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and John Ashcroft discussed at length whether or not the CIA could legally use harsh techniques against Abu Zubaydah. Condoleezza Rice specifically mentioned the SERE program during the meeting stating “I recall being told that U.S. military personnel were subjected to training to certain physical and psychological interrogation techniques…”
ABC News reported on April 9, 2008 that “the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency.” The article states that those involved included:
Vice President Cheney, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.
In addition, in 2002 and 2003, several Democratic congressional leaders were briefed on the proposed “enhanced interrogation techniques.” These congressional leaders included Nancy Pelosi, the future Speaker of the House, and Representative Jane Harman. Congressional officials have stated that the attitude in the briefings was “quiet acquiescence, if not downright support.” Senator Bob Graham, who CIA records claim was present at the briefings, has stated that he was not briefed on waterboarding in 2002 and that CIA attendance records clash with his personal journal. Harman was the only congressional leader to object to the tactics being proposed. It is of note that in a 2007 report by investigator Dick Marty on secret CIA prisons, the phrase “enhanced interrogations” was stated to be a euphemism for torture. The documents show that top U.S. Officials were intimately involved in the discussion and approval of the harsher interrogation techniques used on Abu Zubaydah.
Condoleezza Rice ultimately told the CIA the harsher interrogation tactics were acceptable, In 2009 Rice stated, “We never tortured anyone.” And Dick Cheney stated “I signed off on it; so did others.” In 2010, Cheney said, “I was and remain a strong proponent of our enhanced interrogation program.” Pressed on his personal view of waterboarding, Karl Rove told the BBC in 2010: “I’m proud that we kept the world safer than it was, by the use of these techniques. They’re appropriate, they’re in conformity with our international requirements and with US law.” During the discussions, John Ashcroft is reported as saying, “Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.”
At least some Bush administration officials opposed the interrogation techniques, including notably Condoleezza Rice’s most senior adviser Philip Zelikow. Upon learning details of the program, Zelikow wrote a memo contesting the Justice Department’s Torture Memos, believing them wrong both legally and as a matter of policy. Zelikow’s memo warned that the interrogation techniques breached US law, and could lead to prosecutions for war crimes. The Bush Administration attempted to collect all of the copies of Zelikow’s memo and destroy them. Jane Mayer, author of the Dark Side, quotes Zelikow as predicting that “America’s descent into torture will in time be viewed like the Japanese internments”, in that “(f)ear and anxiety were exploited by zealots and fools.”
New Yorker Article on by Jane Mayer
The plot, of course, was thwarted—an outcome that has been credited to smart detective work. But Thiessen writes that there is a more important reason that his dreadful scenario never came to pass: the Central Intelligence Agency provided the United Kingdom with pivotal intelligence, using “enhanced interrogation techniques” approved by the Bush Administration. According to Thiessen, British authorities were given crucial assistance by a detainee at Guantánamo Bay who spoke of “plans for the use of liquid explosive,” which can easily be made with products bought at beauty shops. Thiessen also claims that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the primary architect of the 9/11 attacks, divulged key intelligence after being waterboarded by the C.I.A. a hundred and eighty-three times. Mohammed spoke about a 1995 plot, based in the Philippines, to blow up planes with liquid explosives. Thiessen writes that, in early 2006, “an observant C.I.A. officer” informed “skeptical” British authorities that radicals under surveillance in England appeared to be pursuing a similar scheme.
Thiessen’s book, whose subtitle is “How the C.I.A. Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack,” offers a relentless defense of the Bush Administration’s interrogation policies, which, according to many critics, sanctioned torture and yielded no appreciable intelligence benefit. In addition, Thiessen attacks the Obama Administration for having banned techniques such as waterboarding. “Americans could die as a result,” he writes.
Yet Thiessen is better at conveying fear than at relaying the facts. His account of the foiled Heathrow plot, for example, is “completely and utterly wrong,” according to Peter Clarke, who was the head of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorism branch in 2006. “The deduction that what was being planned was an attack against airliners was entirely based upon intelligence gathered in the U.K.,” Clarke said, adding that Thiessen’s “version of events is simply not recognized by those who were intimately involved in the airlines investigation in 2006.” Nor did Scotland Yard need to be told about the perils of terrorists using liquid explosives. The bombers who attacked London’s public-transportation system in 2005, Clarke pointed out, “used exactly the same materials.”
Thiessen’s claim about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed looks equally shaky. The Bush interrogation program hardly discovered the Philippine airlines plot: in 1995, police in Manila stopped it from proceeding and, later, confiscated a computer filled with incriminating details. By 2003, when Mohammed was detained, hundreds of news reports about the plot had been published. If Mohammed provided the C.I.A. with critical new clues—details unknown to the Philippine police, or anyone else—Thiessen doesn’t supply the evidence.
Peter Bergen, a terrorism expert who is writing a history of the Bush Administration’s “war on terror,” told me that the Heathrow plot “was disrupted by a combination of British intelligence, Pakistani intelligence, and Scotland Yard.” He noted that authorities in London had “literally wired the suspects’ bomb factory for sound and video.” It was “a classic law-enforcement and intelligence success,” Bergen said, and “had nothing to do with waterboarding or with Guantánamo detainees.”
Jane Mayer of the New Yorker is out with an important new piece of reporting on the battle over the legality and effectiveness of the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. In the story, Mayer uncovers a brewing discord within the Obama Administration on how to deal with a still-secret, 6,000-plus page study conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) of the CIA’s torture program — what Senator Feinstein (D-Calif.), the committee’s chair, has called one of the most significant oversight inquiries in the history of the United States Senate. Though Mayer’s reporting has a lot of interesting details by way of inside-the-Beltway bureaucratic wrangling, at its core it reveals a basic choice President Obama faces: will he take matters into his own hands and help reinforce the United States’ commitment to global prohibition against torture, or will he let the issue be decided by the self-interested prerogatives of a secret agency loathe to admit its mistakes?
To recap, as one of his first official acts in 2009, President Obama issued an executive order banning “enhanced interrogation techniques” and closing the CIA blacksites at which they were used. When it came to accountability for the official post-9/11 torture policy, though, the president decided that it would be more convenient to “look forward as opposed to looking backwards”: his administration rejected congressional proposals for a truth commission and closed an already overly narrow criminal probe into brutal torture committed by the CIA. Many speculated that this decision was to avoid a conflict with the CIA, which is strongly opposed to any sort of accountability regarding the former detention and interrogation program. (More on that in a minute.)
As a result of this failure to pursue accountability for the CIA torture program, former Bush Administration officials such as Dick Cheney — bolstered by lucrative book deals and shielded by de facto immunity — took their pro-“enhanced interrogation” (EIT) narrative to the American people, arguing that the torture program was lawful, effective, and essential to saving lives — and that the Obama Administration made the country less safe by ending it.
These arguments are based not on publicly verifiable facts, but on claimed secret knowledge, and placed in the context of fictional accounts of how torture works, such as those portrayed in the film Zero Dark Thirty and the hit Fox TV series, 24. Not surprisingly, an increasing number of Americans support the use of torture against terrorism suspects, including all the leading Republican candidates during the 2012 presidential campaign (Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman were the only Republican candidates to oppose the use of enhanced interrogation). In that campaign, Mitt Romney’s policy advisers recommended that, if elected, he rescind the president’s anti-torture executive order.
While torture — repudiated globally as immoral and unlawful — should never have been considered a viable option after 9/11, the entire policy debate over the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects has gone forward without any systematic assessment of the costs and benefits of “enhanced interrogation.” That’s why the Senate Intelligence Committee decided to undertake what has become the single-most comprehensive study on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program, at a cost of $40 million and based on a multi-year review of more than 6 million pages of official records.
In the new book The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda, former FBI agent and interrogator Ali Soufan says that the government missed key opportunities to prevent terrorism attacks and find Osama bin Laden sooner because of mismanaged interrogations and dysfunctional relationships within the government’s counterterrorism agencies.
On Tuesday’s Fresh Air, Soufan describes some of the key al-Qaida interrogations he conducted after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which provided valuable intelligence to U.S. officials. During one interrogation, Soufan and his partner got Abu Jandal, bin Laden’s former bodyguard, to identify several of the Sept. 11 hijackers. He also interrogated a terrorist named Abu Zubaydah, who was captured in Pakistan after Sept. 11. Soufan got Zubaydah to give up valuable information — including the fact that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks, and that Jose Padilla was plotting to detonate a dirty bomb in the United States — by using techniques that hinged on building trust and rapport with Zubaydah, withholding information and determining exactly what the terrorist knew.
“We started with Abu Zubaydah with a very simple question — asking him his name — and he responded by giving a fake name,” Soufan tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “After he gave that fake name, I said, ‘What if I call you Honey?’ — the name which his mother nicknamed him as a child. … We needed to shake this individual and say, ‘Look, we know a lot about you. Don’t lie to us.’ ”
Halfway through Zubaydah’s interrogations, which Soufan refers to as “mental poker games,” the CIA decided to take over the sessions. They brought in a private contractor to use what they called enhanced interrogation techniques with the terrorist.
“He had a different approach that [those of] us on the ground with the counterterrorism team were a little nervous about,” says Soufan. “We had never done something like this in the U.S. government. … At the time, the idea was to stop this rapport thing, stop talking to him, and try to find ways to diminish his abilities to resist. That was nudity, sleep deprivation, loud music, etc.”
Per Bill Moyers and PBS
Last week, President Obama and former Vice President Cheney delivered speeches about ‘enhanced interrogation’ and national security that were widely seen as an indirect debate between the two men.
Obama said that he ended ‘enhanced interrogation’ methods because they undermine America’s national security objectives and standing in the world:
“Time and again, our values have been our best national security asset – in war and peace, in times of ease and in eras of upheaval… Where terrorists offer only the injustice of disorder and destruction, America must demonstrate that our values and our institutions are more resilient than a hateful ideology… I banned the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques by the United States of America. I know some have argued that brutal methods like waterboarding were necessary to keep this country safe. And I categorically reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation. What’s more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase the will of our enemies to fight us, while decreasing the will of others to work with America. They risk the lives of our troops by making it less likely that others will surrender to them in battle, and more likely that Americans will be mistreated if they are captured. In short, they did not advance our war and counterterrorism efforts – they undermined them, and that is why I ended them once and for all.”
Cheney said that the events of 9/11 necessitated extreme actions to keep America safe and that interrogation methods were legal and effective:
“In the years after 9/11, our government also understood that the safety of the country required collecting information known only to the worst of the terrorists. And in a few cases, that information could be gained only through tough interrogations… The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the right thing to do… Personnel were carefully chosen from within the CIA and were especially prepared to apply techniques within the boundaries of their training and the limits of the law. Torture was never permitted. And the methods were given careful legal review before they were approved. Interrogators had authoritative guidance on the line between toughness and torture… To call this a program of torture is to libel the dedicated professionals who have saved American lives and to cast terrorists and murderers as innocent victims. What’s more, to completely rule out enhanced interrogation in the future is unwise in the extreme. It is recklessness cloaked in righteousness and would make the American people less safe.”
The George Washington University archive on NSA
Bonus Able Archer
Since I found this on the GWU website I thought I would bring it up. It is History. It marks about as close as we have ever been to a Nuclear Conflict outside The Cuban Missile Crisis. In some ways this was far more scary. I was a History Major and never heard about this until earlier this year. If you play with fire at some point you will be burned.
Washington, D.C., November 7, 2013 – Today marks the 30th anniversary of the beginning of Able Archer 83, a NATO exercise that utilized “new nuclear weapons release procedures” to simulate the transition from conventional to nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Although US officials saw Able Archer 83 as a routine exercise, it resulted in an “unprecedented Soviet reaction” which US intelligence eventually inferred “was an expression of a genuine belief on the part of Soviet leaders that US was planning a nuclear first strike,” according to the largest collection of declassified documents on the 1983 War Scare compiled and posted by the National Security Archive, http://www.nsarchive.org.
The climax of Able Archer 83 was on November 9, 1983 when NATO war gamers at Supreme Headquarters Allied Power Europe (SHAPE) realized they could not halt a simulated Soviet conventional advance and requested “initial limited use of nuclear weapons against pre-selected fixed targets.” This limited strike was not enough, and on the morning of November 11, a “follow-on use of nuclear weapons was executed.”
While NATO was practicing a drawn-out transition from conventional to nuclear war, Soviet leadership feared a decapitating first strike. The imminent European deployment of western Pershing II and cruise missiles which could reach the Soviet Union in ten minutes led Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov to warn in June of 1983 of the “the dangerous ‘red line'” of nuclear war through “miscalculation” four times during his “first real meeting” with an envoy from the Reagan administration. A KGB report from May of 1982 describes the creation of the largest peace-time human intelligence gathering operation in history, Operation RYaN, in an attempt to “prevent the possible sudden outbreak of war by the enemy.”
“Report of the Work of the KGB in 1981,” May 10, 1982.
The American intelligence community did not initially perceive the risk of nuclear miscalculation that Able Archer 83 involved. Only “in response to British concerns” were intelligence reports drafted on the War Scare, the most ominous of which — from CIA Director William Casey to President Ronald Reagan and other cabinet officials — warned of “a dimension of genuineness” and “high military costs” to the Soviet actions. A summary of a still-classified retrospective 1991 intelligence report showed an “ominous list of indicators” pointing toward genuine Soviet fear of a Western first strike,” which caused the Soviet military to ready its forces for a preemptive strike on the West. “If so,” the report understated, “war scare a cause for concern.”
Despite the dangerous ramifications of this possible nuclear miscalculation, the history of the Able Archer 83 war scare has remained largely unavailable to the public. This dearth of primary sources has even led critics — with some justification — to describe the study of the war scare as “an echo chamber of inadequate research and misguided analysis” and “circle reference dependency,” with an overreliance upon “the same scanty evidence.”
In an attempt to fill this “echo chamber,” the National Security Archive has posted, the largest collection of documents about the incident available. These documents come from Freedom of Information Act releases by the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Department of Defense, and the Department of State, research findings from American and British archives, as well as formerly classified Soviet Politburo and KGB files, interviews with ex-Soviet generals, and records from other former communist states.
Science Fiction Shorts
I love Science Fiction short films. I found a list of the best shorts from last 5 years or so. Hope you enjoy them as much as I have.
The origin of creatures