The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

ACLU Sues CIA for Reports on Its Torture Program

The ACLU filed a lawsuit today under the Freedom of Information Act to compel the CIA to release two reports about its post-9/11 program of rendition, secret detention, and torture of detainees. This illegal program was devised and authorized by officials at the highest levels of government, and five years after it officially ended, the American public still doesn’t have the full story about some of the most devastating rights violations committed in its name.

The first report, by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (“SSCI”), is the most comprehensive review of the CIA’s torture program to date. Led by SSCI Chair Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee reviewed more than six million pages of CIA documents and other records over the course of three years. At the end of 2012, the SSCI approved its Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, which spans over 6,000 pages and includes approximately 35,000 footnotes. Senator Feinstein, who deserves major credit for initiating and overseeing such a thorough investigation, stated that the report “uncovers startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation program and raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight … [T]he creation of long-term, clandestine ‘black sites’ and the use of so-called ‘enhanced-interrogation techniques’ were terrible mistakes.” According to Senator John McCain, the report confirms that the “cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of prisoners” is “a stain on our country’s conscience.”

In addition to detailing the CIA’s illegal practices, the report reveals that the CIA misled the White House, the Department of Justice, and Congress about the “effectiveness” of waterboarding, wall-slamming, shackling in painful positions, and other methods of torture and abuse. As Senator Ron Wyden has noted, these CIA misstatements were eventually communicated to the public — but the agency has failed to set the record straight. 

The second report, the CIA’s response to the SSCI, presents the agency’s shameless defense of its torture regime and challenges the SSCI’s investigative methods and findings.

Both reports are critical to a full and fair public conversation about the CIA’s torture program, which is why we and other rights groups have urged President Obama to release the SSCI report, and why we’re bringing suit to enforce our FOIA requests. The public deserves to hear the truth: Torture doesn’t work, and more importantly, it’s never acceptable.

… Transparency alone cannot complete investigations, bring wrongdoers to justice, or compensate victims. But to understand the injuries inflicted by U.S. torture — the resulting deaths, the unspeakable physical and psychological suffering, the harm to our nation’s values, and the cost to our security — greater transparency is a necessary step. If the CIA and the executive branch continue to withhold fundamental facts concerning the torture program, such as the information in the SSCI CIA report and the CIA’s response, a truly meaningful account of this terrible chapter in our nation’s history will continue to be beyond our reach.

The War on Terrorism ... or Whatever | William Blum

“U.S. hopes of winning more influence over Syria’s divided rebel movement faded Wednesday after 11 of the biggest armed factions repudiated the Western-backed political opposition coalition and announced the formation of an alliance dedicated to creating an Islamist state. The al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, is the lead signatory of the new group.” - Washington Post, September 26, 2013

Pity the poor American who wants to be a good citizen, wants to understand the world and his country’s role in it, wants to believe in the War on Terrorism, wants to believe that his government seeks to do good … What is he to make of all this?

For about two years, his dear American government has been supporting the same anti-government side as the jihadists in the Syrian civil war; not total, all-out support, but enough military hardware, logistics support, intelligence information, international political, diplomatic and propaganda assistance (including the crucial alleged-chemical-weapons story), to keep the jihadists in the ball game. Washington and its main Mideast allies in the conflict – Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia – have not impeded the movement to Syria of jihadists coming to join the rebels, recruited from the ranks of Sunni extremist veterans of the wars in Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, while Qatar and the Saudis have supplied the rebels with weapons, most likely bought in large measure from the United States, as well as lots of of what they have lots of – money.

This widespread international support has been provided despite the many atrocities carried out by the jihadists – truck and car suicide bombings (with numerous civilian casualties), planting roadside bombs à la Iraq, gruesome massacres of Christians and Kurds, grotesque beheadings and other dissections of victims’ bodies (most charming of all: a Youtube video of a rebel leader cutting out an organ from the chest of a victim and biting into it as it drips with blood). All this barbarity piled on top of a greater absurdity – these Western-backed, anti-government forces are often engaged in battle with other Western-backed, anti-government forces, non-jihadist. It has become increasingly difficult to sell this war to the American public as one of pro-democracy “moderates” locked in a good-guy-versus-bad-guy struggle with an evil dictator, although in actuality the United States has fought on the same side as al Qaeda on repeated occasions before Syria. Here’s a brief survey… [continue]

American Dirty Hands and Chain of Command | emptywheel

… [T]here is a fundamental problem with America launching a war against Assad for the August CW attack based on chain of command arguments (or “common sense,” as its most recent incarnation has it). That’s because, with all the legal problems surrounding any intervention on our part (especially without UN sanction, which may change under the Russian deal), there are such clear and ongoing instances where, even with clear evidence of human rights violations done under nothing but Presidential authorization, the US doesn’t hold its own responsible.

There was a time when US violations of human rights norms weren’t so clearly documented (though they definitely existed). But now that they are, to claim we have the moral authority to hold Bashar al-Assad responsible based on a chain of command argument when we won’t even hold our own responsible for partnering with him in human rights crimes is particularly problematic.

As human rights hypocrites ourselves, that makes us not even global policemen, but rather simple enforcers when it serves our geopolitical interests. [++]

Home Secretary strips two more people of British citizenship | The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

The Home Secretary has stripped at least two additional individuals of their British citizenship in recent months, the Bureau has learned.

In February, an investigation by the Bureau and published with the Independent revealed that Theresa May had signed deprivation of citizenship orders for 16 people between the 2010 election and November 2012, including five British-born individuals. That total has now risen to 18 cases. Under the Labour government, five people lost their UK nationality.

The two new cases were revealed by a recent Freedom of Information request made by the Bureau. One deprivation notice was issued late last year, taking the total number who lost their UK nationality in 2012 to six. A further case took place between January 1 and mid-March, when the Freedom of Information request was submitted.

The Home Secretary cannot remove citizenship if it will make an individual stateless, so the orders can only be made against dual-nationality individuals.

The Freedom of Information release listed the other nationality of the individuals who have had their UK passports revoked. This revealed that two new nations, Iran and Yemen, joined the list of alternate nationalities; the Bureau has established that Yemeni and Iranian dual-nationals lost their UK citizenship between June 2012 and March 2013.

However almost nothing else is known about the most recent deprivation cases. Of the six that took place in 2012, nothing at all is known about three; a further individual is known only as F2. The sole case in 2013 is similarly a mystery.

[…] Chris Woods, leader of the Bureau’s drone project, gave a presentation yesterday on the Bureau’s recent investigation into stripped citizenship at the all-party parliamentary group on drones, to an audience of MPs, peers and parliamentary staff.

He outlined the cases of Bilal al-Berjawi and Mohamed Sakr, childhood friends from London who were stripped of their UK citizenship and went on to die in two US drone strikes a month apart in Somalia.

It is unclear yet whether there is a direct connection between between their loss of citizenship and subsequent deaths, Woods pointed out. He also explored the official opaqueness that surrounds the removal of UK citizenship, and the difficulties many of those who lose their citizenship face in appealing the orders from abroad within the tight time limits.

The Folks Who Brought You Military Detention in the NDAA Are Rewriting the AUMF | emptywheel

Yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee announced a hearing to revisit the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force. In addition to a bunch of DOD figures (but not the recently departed Jeh Johnson, the DOD-connected person who said the most interesting things about the AUMF), it’ll have (I’ve linked their most salient comments on the AUMF):

Rosa Brooks, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center

Geoffrey Corn, Professor of Law, South Texas College of Law

Jack Goldsmith, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

Charles Stimson, Manager, National Security Law Program, The Heritage Foundation

Curiously, John Bellinger who (as far as I understand) started the discussion of a new AUMF is not slated to testify. Also note that the Deputy Director of Special Operations for Counterterrorism will testify, but no one from CIA is scheduled to; while JSOC can operate under the President’s inherent authority, it likely prefers the legal cover of an AUMF (and therefore may be one of the entities pushing for an AUMF that matches reality on the ground).

Politico reports that this hearing is more than speculative: Levin and no-longer-SASC-Ranking-Member-but-he-might-as-well-be John McCain are planning to rewrite the AUMF, with help from Bob Corker, Dick Durbin, and Lindsey “all detainees must be military” Graham.

And if the inclusion of Graham in that group doesn’t scare you, remember that this crowd is substantively the same one that enshrined military detention in 2012’s NDAA. While that effort might be regarded as “reasonable” Carl Levin and John McCain’s attempt to present something more reasonable than House Armed Services Committee Buck McKeon was pushing for, and while the NDAA originally included exceptions for US citizens, in the event, the White House pushed Carl Levin to effectively rubber stamp its claims to unlimited authority, including detaining (or killing) US citizens.

[…]

Ultimately, though, what is likely to happen with this debate is that all players will be unwilling to discuss openly what we’ve actually been doing in the name of war against al Qaeda, up to and including waging war in the “homeland.” That’s one thing the 2001 AUMF was written to exclude. And I can almost guarantee you, it’s an authority the President will want to preserve.

Muslim Teen Arrested in Illinois for Wanting to Join Al Qaeda in Syria: Latest FBI Entrapment Victim? | Kevin Gosztola

An 18-year-old Muslim from Aurora, Illinois, was arrested at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on April 19, for allegedly planning to travel to join an al Qaeda group fighting in Syria. The FBI claims he was about to board a plane to Istanbul, Turkey, and from there would join Jabhat al-Nusrah, which has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda,

Abdella Ahmad Tounisi, who is a US citizen, was, according to the Chicago Tribune, “charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, a felony offense that could bring 15 years in federal prison.”

There are two aspects of Tounisi’s case that suggest this was another case of the FBI manufacturing terrorism: (1) an undercover agent recruited him to join Jabhat al-Nusrah and (2) Tounisi is connected to 19-year-old Adel Daoud, another possible victim of FBI entrapment arrested after a sting operation in Chicago in September of last year.

The Tribune reports that the FBI alleges Tounisi “researched” travel to Syria and “terrorist organizations” and also “applied for and obtained a new passport.” On March 28, he “made contact with a person he believed to be a recruiter for Jabhat al-Nusrah but who was really an undercover FBI agent.” Emails were exchanged and then Tounisi wrote “that he planned to get to Syria through Turkey.”

The complaint alleges he wrote to “an undercover federal agent who was posing as a recruiter for the terrorist group, “Concerning my fighting skills, to be honest I do not have any…I’m very small (5 feet 6 inches, 120 pounds) physically but I pray to Allah that he makes me successful.”

Tounisi bought an airplane ticket to Istanbul on April 10. An undercover agent gave him instructions “about how to meet up with ‘brothers’ from Jabhat al-Nusrah,” who would take him to “a training camp in Syria.”

When he was going through security at O’Hare, it seems like he was put through a secondary screening by TSA, who passed him on to FBI agents. The complaint alleges he told “officials that he was traveling to Turkey to sight-see and that he did not plan to travel to any country but Turkey.” Subsequently, he was arrested because the FBI had been spying on his every move. [continue]

The Marathon Bombings and the Lockdown of Boston: Was it really a Vindication of the Surveillance State? | Falguni Sheth and Robert Prasch

The past decade has seen Presidents, politicians — conservatives and liberals alike — champion pre-emptive policing laws such as the USA PATRIOT Act, FISA, NDAA 2012 and 2013, to TSA security practices and searches, to “See Something, Say Something” practices—all in service to fighting the War on Terror. As a cable-news talking head cooed Friday morning: “There are cameras and social media everywhere. There is nowhere to hide!” That statement seemed indisputable: store cameras, street cameras, private cellphone cameras and videos could be integrated to give an astonishingly wide record of the tens of thousands of people who were at last Monday’s event. Yet, the most important truth of that day seemed to be lost in the gush of self-congratulation: the explosion of the bombs confirmed that a massive extension of the surveillance-state did NOT protect people in Boston.

… [T]here was nearly no element of the recently reinforced surveillance state that contributed to the capture or killing these two suspects. As an example, let’s assume every detail of the attack is the same except that it occurred in 1977 (to pick a random date prior to our ubiquitous Counter-Terrorism surveillance state; remember how we used to have “bad guys” before September 11?). If the “bad guys” had put together such a plan in 1977, would events have unfolded any differently? Would there have been a lot of photography at the finish line of such a prominent public event? Yes, although in the pre-digital age, it would have taken a little longer to gather and sort through the pictures. Hence, this aspect of this past week’s outcome can’t be ascribed to the massive expenditures and “federalization” of “homeland security,” but rather to a change in consumer electronics.

Would the two brothers have been flushed out by the police response to a nearby and unrelated robbery that led to the tragic shooting of a MIT police officer, the carjacking and ensuing chase that ended with the shootout in Watertown? It is hard to credit this sequence of events, which were initiated by a mere coincidence, to the success of the modern surveillance state. Would the initial shootout in Watertown, the escape of one of the brothers, and the eventual spotting of blood on the side of a boat and the calling in of that observation have unfolded in more or less the same way in 1977? Probably.

Where is the added value? In what way have the massive expenditures, intrusive surveillance practices, and stripping away of our liberties been vindicated by the events of this past week? In fact, no one can truthfully say “Aha! This is where these new practices have made a difference! Thank goodness George W. Bush and Barack Obama have so little regard for the American Constitution or everything would have really gone badly at that particular point in these events.”

What we witnessed was a tragic — but sadly – too familiar sequence of events. In a nation of over 340 million, we have a few demented or damaged souls with real or imagined grievances that cause them to wish to harm people whom they do not know. We also have good, brave, and competent local and state police forces that are able and willing to solve these crimes. It was true back in 1977—and long before–and remains true today.

So what in fact did change? We now have a “War on Terror” that permeates every public news event and action. The immediate leap to the familiar “Terrorists In Our Midst” narrative is facilitated and amplified by a bovine mainstream media amped up by endless alerts issued by a Department of Homeland Security and two Presidential Administrations about insane foreigners here, there, and everywhere. In other words, what’s changed is the presence of a fear-mongering narrative of the War on Terror, along with the billions in expenditures that are used to justify it, that reframe a centuries old story about crime.

The events of the past week in Boston do not vindicate the rise of the Homeland Security bureaucracy and certainly do not vindicate the stripping of our liberties, the shutting down of a major city, or the instantiation of a police state. But they certainly affirm the future as it was perceived by George Orwell. [++]

Graham, McCain, Ayotte and King Statement On Enemy Combatant Status For Boston Suspect

Related, from the New York Times: G.O.P. Lawmakers Push to Have Boston Suspect Questioned as Enemy Combatant:

Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that the laws of war did not apply to Mr. Tsarnaev and that there was so far no evidence that he was “part of any organized group, let alone Al Qaeda, the Taliban or one of their affiliates — the only organizations whose members are subject” to detention as a part of war.

“In the absence of such evidence, I know of no legal basis for his detention as an enemy combatant,” Mr. Levin said. “To hold the suspect as an enemy combatant under these circumstances would be contrary to our laws and may even jeopardize our efforts to prosecute him for his crimes.”

[…]

“You can’t hold every person who commits a terrorist attack as an enemy combatant, I agree with that,” Mr. Graham said. [Good. We’re in agreement then] “But you have a right [no you don’t], with his radical Islamist ties [speculation] and the fact that Chechens are all over the world fighting with Al Qaeda [major speculation] — I think you have a reasonable belief to go down that road [nope, reason, conjecture, and paranoia are different things], and it would be a big mistake not to go down that road [no, that would be the law]. If we didn’t hold him for intelligence-gathering purposes, that would be unconscionable. [again, no, that would be the law].”

Recalling Justice O’Connor’s opinion in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (Yaser Esam Hamdi was an American citizen who was captured carrying a weapon on the Afghanistan battlefield):

“there is no bar to this nation’s holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant.” But she also wrote the decision was limited to Mr. Hamdi’s “narrow circumstances.” She also said the purpose of wartime detention was to keep captured enemies from returning to fight, adding, “Certainly, we agree that indefinite detention for the purpose of interrogation is not authorized.”

Glenn Greenwald noted on Saturday that the Obama administration has expanded, to its shame, the “public safety exception” to delay Mirandizing “terrorists” (opening up lawyer-free interrogation) caught on U.S. soil:

… the Obama administration has already rolled back Miranda rights for terrorism suspects captured on US soil. It did so two years ago with almost no controversy or even notice, including from many of those who so vocally condemned Graham’s Miranda tweets yesterday. In May, 2010, the New York Times’ Charlie Savage - under the headline “Holder Backs a Miranda Limit for Terror Suspects” - reported that “the Obama administration said Sunday it would seek a law allowing investigators to interrogate terrorism suspects without informing them of their rights.” Instead of going to Congress, the Obama DOJ, in March 2011, simply adopted their own rules that vested themselves with this power, as reported back then by Salon’s Justin Elliott (“Obama rolls back Miranda rights”), the Wall Street Journal (“Rights Are Curtailed for Terror Suspects”), the New York Times (“Delayed Miranda Warning Ordered for Terror Suspects”), and myself (“Miranda is Obama’s latest victim”).

But this isn’t good enough for Graham, et. al. No. They want the “enemy combatant” status. For what? Enhanced interrogation?

As Paul Pillar wrote, in his piece Spellbound by Terrorism:

Americans have inflicted on themselves, especially over the past eleven and a half years, costs from their responses to terrorism that go far beyond all that lost business in Boston. One of the biggest indirect costs came from Americans becoming so fearful and angry that they allowed themselves to be bamboozled into supporting a war against a country that had nothing to do with what had made them fearful and angry. There also have been severe, disgraceful departures from what otherwise would have been thought of as important legal and moral principles associated with the United States, involving especially the treatment and rights of detained persons.

It is as if once anyone utters the T-word, many American minds go haywire and suddenly forget legality, morality and [other purported] longstanding American values and jurisprudence. And so we have Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte and Representative Peter King arguing that the suspect now recovering in a Massachusetts hospital should be handled as an “enemy combatant” rather than face justice in a criminal court. Why? Because of his Chechen ancestry? He is a U.S. citizen accused of committing a crime in the United States. Based on what we know at the moment, there is no more reason to treat the Boston Marathon bomber as an “enemy combatant” than to treat the Boston Strangler that way.

UPDATE: Boston Bombing Suspect Won’t Be Considered An Enemy Combatant via ThinkProgress. Positive - it will be interesting to see what kind of access the government permits his counsel.

New Torture Reports Blames Obama and the Media for Not Confronting the Truth

froomkin:

By Dan Froomkin

By this point, there really should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that torture was widely used during the last administration — and that nothing like that should ever happen again.

The new, comprehensive report out today from an august, bipartisan commission goes a long way toward making that abundantly, authoritatively clear, laying the blame fully at the feet of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and other top officials.

But the reality is: That’s old news. What’s new and disturbing and important about the report from the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment is how it calls attention to the absurd reality that we, as a country, are actually still actually arguing about any of this.

And for that, the report lays the blame fully at the feet of the current administration, for covering up what happened and stifling any sort of national conversation on the topic — and the media, for splitting the difference between the facts and the plainly specious argument made by torture regime’s architects that what occurred should be defined as something other than what it so obviously was.

The report points out, as I have in the past, that neither Obama nor Congress have done a thing to make sure that, the next time a perceived emergency comes up, some other president or vice president won’t decide to torture again.

Obama’s policy of “looking forward instead of looking backward,” in this light, is exposed as a cover-up that is actually holding the country back from a crucial period of self-understanding, and growth.

There’s also a matter of law. That U.S. officials involved with detention in the CIA’s black sites committed war crimes and violated interntional law, which the report concludes to be self-evident, isn’t something Obama is allowed to ignore.

It actually violates the U.S.’s legal obligations under the international Convention Against Torture, which requires each country to “[c]riminalize all acts of torture, attempts to commit torture, or complicity or participation in torture,” and “proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.”

“The United States cannot be said to have complied,” the report concludes, noting: “No CIA personnel have been convicted or even charged for numerous instances of torture in CIA custody — including cases where interrogators exceeded what was authorized by the Office of Legal Counsel, and cases where detainees were tortured to death. Many acts of unauthorized torture by military forces have also been inadequately investigated or prosecuted.”

So it’s not just Bush and Cheney who violated international law; now it’s Obama, too.

The report is blistering about the cover-up. “The high level of secrecy surrounding the rendition and torture of detainees since September 11 cannot continue to be justified on the basis of national security,” it states. “Ongoing classification of these practices serves only to conceal evidence of wrongdoing and make its repetition more likely.”

The end result is a society in moral disarray: “Democracy and torture cannot peacefully coexist in the same body politic,” the report states. “The Task Force… believes and hopes that publicly acknowledging this grave error, however belatedly, may mitigate some of those consequences and help undo some of the damage to our reputation at home and abroad.”

And what an indictment of false equivalency by the media. Shame on us. The report notes:

The question as to whether U.S. forces and agents engaged in torture has been complicated by the existence of two vocal camps in the public debate. This has been particularly vexing for traditional journalists who are trained and accustomed to recording the arguments of both sides in a dispute without declaring one right and the other wrong. The public may simply perceive that there is no right side, as there are two equally fervent views held views on a subject, with substantially credentialed people on both sides. In this case, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that among those who insist that the United States did not engage in torture are figures who served at the highest levels of government, including Vice President Dick Cheney.

But this Task Force is not bound by this convention.

The members, coming from a wide political spectrum, believe that arguments that the nation did not engage in torture and that much of what occurred should be defined as something less than torture are not credible.

So the so-called objective reporters who couldn’t speak the truth were basically accessories after the fact.

There’s so much more in the report worth reading, and discussing.

Perhaps its most urgent conclusion is that forced feeding of detainees — going on right now — “is a form of abuse and must end.”

The report notes the “crucial support” to the torture regime provided by people in the medical and legal fields, which it says raises “profound ethical questions for both professions.”

And weighing into territory recently plowed during the debate over the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” and its depiction of torture as providing useful information, the report notes that there is no evidence to support that view, and points out that the people saying torture worked have “inherent credibility issues,” one of which is that they are the ones “who actually who authorized and implemented the very practices that they now assert to have been valuable tools in fighting terrorism.”

The U.S. has lost its moral compass before, the Task Force notes. It does so in every war, to some degree or another. And yet, the report concludes, there is “no evidence there had ever before been the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after September 11, directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.”

That’s not something we can just pretend never happened. We need accountability.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dan Froomkin is in the process of launching a new accountability journalism project at FearlessMedia.org. He is contributing editor of Nieman Reports, and the former senior Washington correspondent for the Huffington Post. He wrote the White House Watch column for the Washington Post website from 2004 to 2009, and was editor of the site from 2000 to 2003. Dan can be reached at froomkin@gmail.com.

Even Bipartisan Conventional Wisdom Report Says It Was Torture | Marcy Wheeler

The Constitution Project has released a major report on the government’s torture program. You can download the report here.

The report is important and comprehensive, but not without flaws. It took me a matter of minutes to find a number of errors, repetition of dangerous misinformation, and incomplete reporting. While I may lay out some of these problems at more length after the report has had its big publicity splash, suffice it to say the report tends to preference newspaper reporting over actual primary sources, and at times it appears completely unaware of what primary sources say.*

As such, the report represents a cautious, bipartisan, institutionalist view. Which is why its conclusion is so valuable. Because even this cautious, bipartisan, institutionalist report concludes the following (among other findings):

Finding #1

U.S. forces, in many instances, used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture. American personnel conducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” treatment. Both categories of actions violate U.S. laws and international treaties. Such conduct was directly counter to values of the Constitution and our nation.

Finding #2

The nation’s most senior officials, through some of their actions and failures to act in the months and years immediately following the September 11 attacks, bear ultimate responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of illegal and improper interrogation techniques used by some U.S. personnel on detainees in several theaters. Responsibility also falls on other government officials and certain military leaders.

Finding #3

There is no firm or persuasive evidence that the widespread use of harsh interrogation techniques by U.S. forces produced significant information of value. There is substantial evidence that much of the information adduced from the use of such techniques was not useful or reliable.

Finding #16

For detainee hunger strikers, DOD operating procedures called for practices and actions by medical professionals that were contrary to established medical and professional ethical standards, including improper coercive involuntary feedings early in the course of hunger strikes that, when resisted, were accomplished by physically forced nasogastric tube feedings of detainees who were completely restrained.

Finding #19

The high level of secrecy surrounding the rendition and torture of detainees since September 11 cannot continue to be justified on the basis of national security.

Finding #21

The Convention Against Torture requires each state party to “[c]riminalize all acts of torture, attempts to commit torture, or complicity or participation in torture,” and “proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.” The United States cannot be said to have complied with this requirement.

In short: it was torture, it was illegal, it was not valuable, and it still needs to be prosecuted. (And, among other findings implicating it directly, the Obama Administration needs to stop force feeding Gitmo detainees.)

And all that’s ignoring some of the more damning evidence out there.

Let’s see whether bipartisan convention wisdom serves its purported purpose, effecting change in cautious, institutionalist DC.

*I am admittedly biased on this front. I was within a day of being contracted to collect documents for this effort, but someone involved in the process deemed me — at a time when I was already loudly criticizing the Obama Administration for things they’ve done — too partisan for the project. Some of the documents I had already identified at that time are utterly absent from this report; in their place the report claims ignorance.

'There's No Turning Back': My Interview With a Hunted American Jihadist | Spencer Ackerman

Omar Hammami, the most prominent American jihadi left alive, probably should be running. When Hammami came to Somalia for jihad in 2006, he never anticipated that al-Qaida’s local affiliate would pledge to kill its former propaganda asset. And last month, the U.S. government put a $5 million bounty on the head of the 28-year-old Alabama native. These could be the last moments of Hammami’s life.

But Hammami tells Danger Room in an extremely rare and exclusive interview that he’s staying put. From an undisclosed location in Somalia, he grows vegetables, helps his wives around the house, and trolls his one-time colleagues in al-Shebab on Twitter, his newfound passion. As @abumamerican, he’s tweeting his ongoing jihad in 140-character installments, and is happy to debate it with U.S. national security professionals. Uniquely among jihadis, Hammami shoots the breeze with the people whose job it is to study and even hunt people like him.

That’s caused a cognitive and emotional dissonance within U.S. counterterrorism circles. Several openly say they like the charismatic Hammami, who’s quick with a joke and a touch of irony. Their Twitter interactions with him have led to a worry about his well-being, and a dim hope that maybe, just maybe, they can convince Hammami to give up a path that seems to promise a violent and imminent end. “It’s just a process of talking about what it is he believes and trying to understand it,” says J.M. Berger, Hammami’s main interlocutor, “and seeing if there’s an escape hatch for him from this life.”

That natural, human affection for Hammami risks obscuring something basic: Hammami isn’t looking for an escape hatch. He’s broken with al-Shebab, not jihad. “I believe in attacking u.s. Interests everywhere,” he tells me, through Twitter’s direct message function, the only means through which he consented to a week-long running interview. “No 2nd thoughts and no turning back.” Sentiments like that make it likely that Hammami will be the next American killed in a U.S. drone strike. [continue]

[P]erhaps the last overlooked anniversary of these years might be the 12th anniversary of American cowardice. You can choose the exact date yourself; anytime this fall will do. At that moment, Americans should feel free to celebrate a time when, for our ‘safety,’ and in a state of anger and paralyzing fear, we gave up the democratic ghost. The brave thing, of course, would have been to gamble just a little of our safety — as we do any day when we get into a car — for the kind of world whose anniversaries we would actually be proud to mark on a calendar and celebrate. Among the many truths in that still-to-be-written secret history of our American world would be this: we the people have no idea just how, in these years, we’ve hurt ourselves. Tom Engelhardt

Pentagon Seeks Money for New Gitmo Prison

becauseithinktoomuch:

Despite the supposed budget crunch across the military, the Pentagon continues to find all sorts of things it feels the need to squander millions on. With news already out of a $150 million plan to “renovate” Guantanamo Bay, SOCOM has upped the ante with a request for another $49 million on top of that for a new prison building at the base.

The “new prison” is distinct from the existing overhaul, which is focusing on improvements for troops and for the conditions of the vast majority of detainees, held in the crumbling “camp six.”

Rather, the new prison appears to be a replacement for the notorious “camp seven,” which the Pentagon rarely acknowledges to even exist and which has been described as a camp for “special” detainees.

The original camp seven was constructed to hold 14 people coming out of CIA black sites, but it is no longer clear how many people are even in such detention, and the administration has made much of its intention to bring the “high value” captives to trial, since those are some of the few detainees they seem to have any actual evidence on. A new facility suggested that either there is more to camp seven than meets the eye, or that officials foresee a new influx of “high value” captives that need to be sequestered from the rest of the camp.

(via randomactsofchaos)

A Public Indictment Could Shed Light on CIA’s Secret Program | Cora Currier

"Since Qaddafi’s fall, evidence has emerged of close communication between the CIA and Libyan officials during the Bush administration, despite the Qaddafi regime’s reputation for torture and brutal prison conditions."

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn unsealed an indictment Wednesday charging Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun with six terrorism-related counts.

The announcement that Harun is in U.S. custody in New York may also shed light on a small part one of the most secretive aspects of U.S. counterterrorism operations during the Bush administration: What became of terror suspects held by the CIA in its network of “black-site” prisons around the world? Or disappeared into foreign cells in extraordinary renditions?

With their indictment of Harun, prosecutors offered a basic account of how the 43-year-old Nigerian—described as “a prototype Al Qaeda Operative”—spent the last decade. He fought U.S. forces in Afghanistan, prosecutors said, before leaving for Africa, where he allegedly conspired to bomb U.S. diplomatic facilities. Harun, also known by his alias Spin Ghul, eventually wound up in Libyan prison for six years before he was released amid the turmoil of the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi.

Did the U.S. know that he was in Libya, and did they play a role in his detention? Did the CIA work with the Libyans to then obtain information from him?

Testimony from an alleged former CIA detainee, a leaked document from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, and evidence from cases of others rendered to Libya suggest that might be so.

A spokesman for the CIA said that the agency “does not, as a rule, comment on matters before the courts.” The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York declined to provide information beyond what was announced with the indictment. A lawyer for Harun, David Stern, also declined to comment.

The CIA has steadfastly refused to comment on the fates of most former detainees, publicly accounting for only sixteen people of the roughly 100 the agency has said it once held. The U.S. has successfully dismissed lawsuits over rendition and asserted that much about the CIA program is still classified.

President Obama, for his part, ordered the CIA black-site prisons closed when he took office. (He allowed renditions to continue, with pledges of greater oversight of the countries where suspects were sent.) But still, little about the program has been officially disclosed.

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P.S. “Despite” in the top quote should be changed to “because of”.