Posts Tagged ‘Bush Administration

10
Nov
10

Well if Bush Can Get Away With It – So Can I

Our President and the DNC wonders how we lost so many House seats and did poorly in the Senate races; well maybe they should look back at what got them into office.  So far there’s really been “No” change from the Cheney Administration of “Law of Rule” as opposed to the “Rule of Law” from which we have always believed in.

Obama Administration Claims Unchecked Authority To Kill Americans Outside Combat Zones

 

Federal Court Hears Arguments Today In ACLU And CCR Case Challenging Administration’s Claimed Authority To Assassinate Americans It Designates Threats.

 

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration today argued before a federal court that it should have unreviewable authority to kill Americans the executive branch has unilaterally determined to pose a threat. Government lawyers made that claim in response to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) charging that the administration’s asserted targeted killing authority violates the Constitution and international law. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia heard arguments from both sides today.

 

“Not only does the administration claim to have sweeping power to target and kill U.S. citizens anywhere in the world, but it makes the extraordinary claim that the court has no role in reviewing that power or the legal standards that apply,” said CCR Staff Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei, who presented arguments in the case. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected the government’s claim to an unchecked system of global detention, and the district court should similarly reject the administration’s claim here to an unchecked system of global targeted killing.”

 

The ACLU and CCR were retained by Nasser Al-Aulaqi to bring a lawsuit in connection with the government’s decision to authorize the targeted killing of his son, U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi. The lawsuit asks the court to rule that, outside the context of armed conflict, the government can carry out the targeted killing of an American citizen only as a last resort to address an imminent threat to life or physical safety. The lawsuit also asks the court to order the government to disclose the legal standard it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists.

 

“If the Constitution means anything, it surely means that the president does not have unreviewable authority to summarily execute any American whom he concludes is an enemy of the state,” said Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU, who presented arguments in the case. “It’s the government’s responsibility to protect the nation from terrorist attacks, but the courts have a crucial role to play in ensuring that counterterrorism policies are consistent with the Constitution.”

 

The government filed a brief in the case in September, claiming that the executive’s targeted killing authority is a “political question” that should not be subject to judicial review. The government also asserted the “state secrets” privilege, contending that the case should be dismissed to avoid the disclosure of sensitive information.

 

The lawsuit was filed against CIA Director Leon Panetta, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Barrack Obama in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Attorneys on the case are Jaffer, Ben Wizner, Jonathan Manes and Jennifer Turner of the ACLU; Kebriaei, Maria LaHood and Bill Quigley of CCR; and Arthur B. Spitzer of the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital. Co-counsel in Yemen is Mohammed Allawo of the Allawo Law Firm and the National Organization for Defending Human Rights (HOOD).

 

For more information on the case, including fact sheets and legal papers, visit:www.aclu.org/targetedkillings and www.ccrjustice.org/targetedkillings

 

 

06
Nov
10

Secrets

Doug Liman Talks “Fair Game”

Source: (http://goo.gl/Q72NY) by Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director, Center for Democracy

Which secrets should be kept, and which should be exposed? Those questions are at the heart of Doug Liman’s new film, Fair Game, which tells the story of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame. Joe Wilson, remember, was the former U.S. diplomat who exposed one of the many false claims made by the Bush administration in the lead-up to the war in Iraq. Valerie Plame is Wilson’s wife, a covert CIA operative whose identity the Bush administration disclosed to reporters in an effort to retaliate against Wilson.

The film is about Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, but it’s also about secrecy. The Bush administration gathers evidence to support its claim that Iraq presents an imminent threat to the United States and its allies. The intelligence is manipulated, and the evidence is false, but the public is told only the rotten conclusion — that Iraq has sought yellowcake uranium from Niger — and the public is of course not in any position to evaluate that claim, because the evidence to support it is secret. Joe Wilson exposes the truth; he pierces the secrecy that conceals government misconduct. He’s a whistleblower in the best sense of the word.

But of course Joe Wilson isn’t the only one in the film who pierces secrecy. When Joe Wilson exposes the truth about the yellowcake claim, the Bush administration decides to discredit him by exposing the truth about his wife. Joe Wilson has a secret, too, and the government exposes it. Lewis Libby and Karl Rove are whistleblowers in a different sense of the world. When they pierce secrecy, it is an extension of government misconduct that they’re already engaged in.

There’s a sense in which these two narratives — or these two sides of Liman’s narrative — are emblematic of twin political shifts that have taken place over the last decade years. The public knows less and less about government policy; government secrecy is increasingly the norm, and transparency the exception. At the same time, the government knows more and more about individual citizens; government surveillance is increasingly pervasive, and increasingly intrusive. These twin shifts reverse the proper relationship between a democratic government and its citizens. It’s supposed to be the government that’s transparent and accountable to the citizenry, but increasingly transparency and accountability work only in the other direction.

As government secrecy has become the norm, particularly on issues relating to national security, we’re increasingly reliant on whistleblowers to provide us with information. Without leaks to the media, we wouldn’t know about the Abu Ghraib abuses, we wouldn’t know about the NSA warrantless wiretapping program, and of course we wouldn’t know about the yellowcake scandal. It’s worth asking whether this is good for our democracy.

And as government surveillance has become the norm, citizens are also more and more vulnerable to government power. Valerie Plame is an extreme case, because her secret was one that, when exposed, almost completely destroyed her life. But the government knows more and more of our secrets — at the very least, it knows who we call overseas, it knows who we correspond with by email, it has access to our banking records, our telephone records, our credit records, our internet surfing histories. With information comes power; in this context, the power to expose is the power to destroy. Here, too, it’s worth asking whether this is good for our democracy.

No one is above the law. Ask your member of Congress to support the State Secrets Protection Act today.

 

25
Oct
10

We Must Face Up to the Truth

It’s been overdue for some time now that we admit to the world we didn’t practice what we preached “Winning the hearts and minds” of the counties of Iraq and Afghanistan.  President Obama, a good leader, must have our Defense Department and Justice Department investigate these Human Rights abuses we inflected on the innocent people of these countries.

Iraq: Wikileaks Documents Describe Torture of Detainees

Source: (http://goo.gl/CPrg) – from United States

The Iraqi government should investigate credible reports that its forces engaged in torture and systematic abuse of detainees, Human Rights Watch said today. Hundreds of documents released on October 22, 2010, by Wikileaks reveal beatings, burnings, and lashings of detainees by their Iraqi captors. Iraq should prosecute those responsible for torture and other crimes, Human Rights Watch said.

The US government should also investigate whether its forces breached international law by transferring thousands of Iraqi detainees from US to Iraqi custody despite the clear risk of torture. Field reports and other documents released by Wikileaks reveal that US forces often failed to intervene to prevent torture and continued to transfer detainees to Iraqi custody despite the fact that they knew or should have known that torture was routine.

“These new disclosures show torture at the hands of Iraqi security forces is rampant and goes completely unpunished,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s clear that US authorities knew of systematic abuse by Iraqi troops, but they handed thousands of detainees over anyway.”

The 391,831 documents released by Wikileaks, mostly authored by low-ranking US officers in the field between 2004 and 2009, refer to the deaths of at least six detainees in Iraqi custody. The reports also reveal many previously unreported instances in which US soldiers killed civilians, including at checkpoints on Iraq’s roads and during raids on people’s homes.

The documents indicate that US commanders frequently failed to follow up on credible evidence that Iraqi forces killed, tortured, and mistreated their captives. According to the documents, US authorities investigated some abuse cases, but much of the time they either ignored the abuse or asked Iraqis to investigate and closed the file. In one incident on January 2, 2007, Iraqi security forces took detainees to an abandoned house and beat them, resulting in a death. The report stated, “As Coalition Forces were not involved in the alleged abuse, no further investigation is necessary.”

Even when US officials reported abuse to Iraqi authorities, the Iraqis often did not act. In one report, an Iraqi police chief told US military inspectors that his officers engaged in abuse “and supported it as a method of conducting investigations.” Another report said that an Iraqi police chief refused to file charges “as long as the abuse produced no marks.”

The documents reveal extensive abuse of detainees by Iraqi security forces over the six-year period.

In a November 2005 document, US military personnel described Iraqi abuse at a Baghdad facility that held 95 blindfolded detainees in a single room: “Many of them bear marks of abuse to include cigarette burns, bruising consistent with beatings and open sores… according to one of the detainees questioned on site, 12 detainees have died of disease in recent weeks.”

On June 16, 2007, US soldiers reported that Iraqi forces interrogated and tortured a terrorism suspect by burning him with chemicals or acid and cutting off his fingers. According to the Wikileaks file, “Victim received extensive medical care at the Mosul General Hospital resulting in amputation of his right leg below the knee[,] several toes on his left foot, as well as amputation of several fingers on both hands. Extensive scars resulted from the chemical/acid burns, which were diagnosed as 3rd degree chemical burns along with skin decay.”

In a case reported on December 14, 2009, the US military received a video showing Iraqi Army officers executing a bound detainee in the northern town of Talafar: “The footage shows [Iraqi] soldiers moving the detainee into the street, pushing him to the ground, punching him, and shooting him.”

In at least two cases, postmortems revealed evidence of death by torture. On December 3, 2008, a sheikh who a police chief claimed had died from “bad kidneys” in fact was found to have “evidence of some type of unknown surgical procedure on [his] abdomen. The incision was closed by 3-4 stitches. There was also evidence of bruises on the face, chest, ankle, and back of the body.”

On August 27, 2009, a US medical officer found “bruises and burns as well as visible injuries to the head, arm, torso, legs and neck” on the body of another detainee. Police claimed the detainee had committed suicide while in custody.

The disclosures by Wikileaks come almost six months after Human Rights Watch interviewed 42 detainees who had been tortured over a period of months by security forces at a secret prison in the old Muthanna airport in West Baghdad. The facility held about 430 detainees who had no access to their families or lawyers. The prisoners said their torturers kicked, whipped, and beat them, tried to suffocate them, gave them electric shocks, burned them with cigarettes, and pulled out their fingernails and teeth. They said that interrogators sodomized some detainees with sticks and pistol barrels. Some young men said they were forced to perform oral sex on interrogators and guards and that interrogators forced detainees to molest one another. Iraqi authorities have still not prosecuted any officials responsible.

Between early 2009 and July 2010, US forces transferred thousands of Iraqi detainees to Iraqi custody. International law prohibits the transfer of detained individuals to the authorities of another state where they face a serious risk of torture and ill-treatment.

“US authorities have an obligation not to transfer any of the 200 or so detainees still in their custody to Iraqi forces or to anyone else who might mistreat them,” said Stork. “The US should also make sure those detainees already transferred are not in a dungeon somewhere currently facing torture.”

At a Pentagon news conference on November 29, 2005, Gen. Peter Pace, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded to a question about Pentagon guidance in situations where US commanders witness abuse by Iraqi forces, saying, “It is absolutely the responsibility of every US service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it.” Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who was also on the podium, intervened and said: “But I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it’s to report it.” Pace responded, “If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.”

A reporter then asked Rumsfeld if it was his sense that alleged Iraqi abuses were not widespread. Rumsfeld responded that he did not know.

“It’s obviously something that the – General Casey and his troops are attentive to and have to be concerned about,” Rumsfeld told the reporter. “It – I’m not going to be judging it from 4,000 miles away – how many miles away?”

 

23
Oct
10

Our President can’t look forward on this issue any longer

I support the President fully, but this is an issue he should have attended to months ago and one Attorney General Holder had better be prepared to investigate without screwing-up or forever delaying in the court system.

Iraq war logs: UN calls on Obama to investigate human rights abuses

 

The UN has called on Barack Obama to order a full investigation of US forces’ involvement in human rights abuses in Iraq after a massive leak of military documents that detail torture, summary executions and war crimes.

The call by the UN’s chief investigator on torture, Manfred Nowak, came as Phil Shiner, human rights specialist at Public Interest Lawyers in the UK, warned some of the deaths documented in the Iraq war logs could have involved British forces and would be pursued through the UK courts. He demanded a public inquiry into allegations that British troops were responsible for civilian deaths during the conflict.

The Guardian has analysed the 400,000 documents, the biggest leak inUS military history, and found 15,000 previously unreported civilian deaths. The logs show how US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and generally unpunished.

Nowak said that if the files released through WikiLeaks pointed to clear violations of the UN Convention Against Torture the Obama administration had a clear obligation to investigate them.

The logs paint a disturbing picture of the relationship between US and Iraqi forces. Nowak said that UN human rights agreements obliged states to criminalise every form of torture, whether directly or indirectly, and to investigate any allegations of abuse.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, Nowak, who has spent years investigating allegations of US participation in extraordinary rendition and the abuse of detainees held by coalition forces, said the Obama administration had a legal and moral obligation to fully investigate credible claims of US forces’ complicity in torture.

A failure to investigate, Nowak suggested, would be a failure of the Obama government to recognise its obligations under international law. He said the principle of “non-refoulement” prohibited states from transferring detainees to other countries that could pose a risk to their personal safety.

The documents, which cover the period in Iraq from 2004 onwards, have prompted claims that this principle has not been observed. The files contain evidence that US forces were ordered to turn a blind eye to abuses committed by the Iraqi authorities.

Numerous reports of detainee abuse, often supported by medical evidence, describe prisoners shackled, blindfolded and hung by wrists or ankles and subjected to whipping, punching, kicking or electric shocks. Six reports end with a detainee’s apparent death.

Nowak said the US had an obligation “whenever they expel, extradite or hand over any detainees to the authorities of another state to assess whether or not these individuals are under specific risk of torture. If this assessment is not done, or authorities hand over detainees knowing there is a serious risk of them being subjected to torture, they violate article 3 of the UN convention that precludes torture.”

Nowak said it would be up to the Obama administration to launch an “independent and objective” investigation with a view not only to “bring the perpetrators to justice but also to provide the victims with adequate remedy and reparation”.

He noted that neither the US nor Iraq had ratified the international criminal convention that would see officials from either country brought before the international courts for war crimes. It would be up to the US courts to determine whether US officials or soldiers had breached human rights laws. “If it is established that a particular individual is responsible for torture directly or by complicity, this person should be brought to justice in the domestic courts,” Nowak said.

As recently as December the Americans were passed a video apparently showing Iraqi army officers executing a prisoner in Tal Afar, northern Iraq. The log states: “The footage shows approximately 12 Iraqi army soldiers. Ten IA soldiers were talking to one another while two soldiers held the detainee. The detainee had his hands bound … The footage shows the IA soldiers moving the detainee into the street, pushing him to the ground, punching him and shooting him.”

The report named at least one perpetrator and was passed to coalition forces. But the logs reveal that the coalition has a formal policy of ignoring such allegations. They record “no investigation is necessary” and simply pass reports to the same Iraqi units implicated in the violence. By contrast all allegations involving coalition forces are subject to formal inquiries. Some cases of alleged abuse by UK and US troops are detailed in the logs.

In two Iraqi cases postmortems revealed evidence of death by torture. On 27 August 2009 a US medical officer found “bruises and burns as well as visible injuries to the head, arm, torso, legs and neck” on the body of one man claimed by police to have killed himself. On 3 December 2008 another detainee, said by police to have died of “bad kidneys”, was found to have “evidence of some type of unknown surgical procedure on [his] abdomen”.

A Pentagon spokesman told the New York Times this week that under its procedure, when reports of Iraqi abuse were received the US military “notifies the responsible government of Iraq agency or ministry for investigation and follow-up”.

Shiner has told a press conference organised by WikiLeaks in London today that he plans to use material from the logs in court to try to force the UK to hold a public inquiry into the unlawful killing of Iraqi civilians.

Shiner warned that it would be wrong to assume the US military files “had nothing to do with the UK”. He said: “Some have been killed by indiscriminate attacks on civilians or the unjustified use of lethal force. Others have been killed in custody by UK forces and no one knows how many Iraqis lost their lives while held in British detention facilities.

“If unjustified or unlawful force has been used, prosecutions for those responsible must follow, so we are bringing forward a new case seeking accountability for all unlawful deaths and we argue that there must be a judicial inquiry to fully investigate UK responsibility for civilian deaths in Iraq.”

He cited one case in which he claimed a British rifleman had shot dead an eight-year-old girl who was playing in the street in Basra. “For some reason the tank stopped at the end of the street, she’s there in her yellow dress, a rifleman pops up and blows her away,” he said.

The WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, told the press conference that the disclosure of the secret files was about getting to the truth of the Iraq conflict.

“We hope to correct some of that attack on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war, and which has continued since the war officially concluded. While I am not sure we have achieved the maximum possible [political impact], I think we are getting pretty close.”

Assange highlighted how the reports documented 109,000 deaths – including 66,000 civilians, of which 15,000 were previously undocumented. “That tremendous scale should not make us blind to the small human scale in this material. It is the deaths of one and two people per event that killed the overwhelming number of people in Iraq.”

The electronic archive is believed to emanate from the same dissident US army intelligence analyst who earlier this year is alleged to have leaked a smaller tranche of 90,000 logs chronicling bloody encounters and civilian killings in the Afghan war.

Source: (http://goo.gl/wI4sDavid Batty and Jamie Doward guardian.co.uk, Saturday 23 October 2010 13.41 BST

 

21
Oct
10

The Last Line – Says it All

Rumsfeld’s Defense Department Invited Anwar al-Awlaki into Pentagon After 9/11

I’m surprised this didn’t get more attention today. Anwar al-Awlaki, the US-born cleric thought to be involved in the Foot Hood shooting and the failed Christmas Day bombing, was brought into the Pentagon for a luncheon several months after the 9/11 attacks. Interestingly, this was part of a Defense Department program to convince Muslims that the Afghanistan war was focused on Al Qaeda and not Muslims.

A few things on this, which I find fascinating. First, there’s the issue of how Awlaki may have been receptive to this before the US attacked Iraq, tortured Afghans and Iraqis, bullied Iran and started launching covert operations in practically every Muslim country on Earth. Second, there’s the issue of how George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Department made the effort to do this, even if it was merely a spin operation, in a way that no President, Republican or Democrat, would be allowed to do now. Think about how the right is going apeshit over Juan Williams’ comments justifying bigotry. Do you think they would remain silent if President Romney invited Muslims (MOOSLIMS) into the Defense Department? Or President Obama, himself a scary Muslim? No, Obama has an assassination order out on Awlaki, an American citizen, not a lunch invite. And the right still thinks he’s a wimp on these issues.

Third, if you read the story you do see that Awlaki’s invitation came on a bit of a whim. An employee saw Awlaki speak and then invited him. It turns out the FBI investigated Awlaki for ties to some of the Saudis who attacked the Pentagon on 9/11. You’d think that would have come up.

Never mind, Bush “kept us safe.”

Source: FDL (http://goo.gl/sIbZBy: David Dayen Thursday October 21, 2010 12:21 pm

 

19
May
09

Racial Profiling – Action Required

racial_profiling

icon_digg A number of social issues presented in both the Primary’s and General Election have been reviewed by our current Obama Administration; with some being overturned by the administration while others have been set aside and left as is.

One issue addressed recently by Attorney General Eric Holder and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), during Holder’s Confirmation Hearing, was that of “Racial Profiling”, which is a centralized issue I strongly disagree with and was condoned by, adhered to and practiced under the Bush White House approval and implemented throughout the Department of Justice.

We as Americans know it has existed for some time and have either seen it practiced or read about profiling during sometime in our lives.  We see it in local law enforcement agencies (traffic checks) to unwarranted data mining searches by our federal government.

As previously stated I disagree with this policy of categorizing groups of society by placing emphasis on associations or beliefs.  It was encouraging last fall to read a News Brief by the ACLU, entitled “Holder’s Statement Marks Clean Break With Bush Administration”, which in part:

In October, the American Civil Liberties Union expressed concern over controversial changes made to FBI internal guidelines governing investigations that allow agents to use intrusive measures without evidence of wrongdoing. These changes, which went into effect in December, opened the door to racial profiling. In fact, FBI agents are now able to use these same intrusive techniques to investigate potential participants in public demonstrations.

The following can be attributed to Mike German, ACLU Policy Counsel and former FBI agent:

“Attorney General Holder’s statement set a new tone that racial profiling is unacceptable in all situations. The Bush administration had lowered the bar by allowing the use of race and religion as factors in national security and border integrity investigations. Holder sent a clear signal today that the FBI guidelines for investigations need to be redrafted. It makes no sense to use an ineffective law enforcement tool in our most important investigations.”

The following can be attributed to Jennifer Bellamy, ACLU Legislative Counsel:

“Attorney General Holder’s remarks on racial profiling should shut the door on the Bush administration’s use of race and ethnicity in the name of homeland security. Now it is time for Congress to follow the example of the top law enforcement officer and pass the End Racial Profiling Act.”

An excellent article, again by the ACLU, well worth reviewing is entitled “2004 DHS Program Used Racial And Ethnic Profiling” where the following is stated:

In 2001, President Bush declared that racial profiling was “wrong” and that he would “end it in America.”In 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft said, “Using race… as a proxy for potential criminal behavior is unconstitutional, and it undermines law enforcement by undermining the confidence that people can have in law enforcement,” and his Justice Department banned racial profiling by federal law enforcement in 2003. That ban, however, came with an exemption for national security investigations. Today’s New York Times article shows how DHS drove a truck through that loophole just one year later.

“Despite President Bush’s vow to end racial profiling, his administration embraced it,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “This program confirms that racial and ethnic profiling are not only wrong, but they don’t work. The time and resources spent by DHS rounding up, interrogating and investigating innocent American immigrants could have been spent dealing with actual threats to our country.”

Again, recently, we have seen campaign commitments reviewed and some recanted, I sincerely hope both our President and Attorney General will hold true to their promises of eliminating the usage of racial profiling.

Additional articles on Profiling:

Online News Service: Racism in Journalism

Talk – King Downing – Why Racial Profiling Cannot Work

Talk by King Downing National Coordinator of the ACLU’s Campaign Against Racial Profiling on “Profiles in Injustice: Why Racial Profiling Cannot Work”

18
May
09

The Torturous 13

DS002449

The following thirteen Bush Administration officials and advisors have been deemed those most responsible for advocating torture; according to Marcy Wheeler writing for Salon.com, in an article entitled: “The 13 people who made torture possible”  This article is excellently authored with respected references, clarity and thoroughness.

Personally, I believe we all are of the understanding that more culprits are involved, other than just those mentioned, but this is a very good “top – down” list of candidates that I feel should be made to answer for their involvement in front of our legislative branch of government.

The list of thirteen follows:

1. Dick Cheney, vice president (2001-2009)

Dick Cheney

On the morning of 9/11, after the evacuation of the White House, Dick Cheney summoned his legal counsel, David Addington, to return to work. The two had worked together for years. In the 1980s, when Cheney was a congressman from Wyoming and Addington a staff attorney to another congressman, Cheney and Addington argued that in Iran-Contra, the president could ignore congressional guidance on foreign policy matters. Between 1989 and 1992, when Dick Cheney was the elder George Bush’s secretary of defense, Addington served as his counsel. He and Cheney saved the only known copies of abusive interrogation technique manuals taught at the School of the Americas. Now, on the morning of 9/11, they worked together to plot an expansive grab of executive power that they claimed was the correct response to the terrorist threat. Within two weeks, they had gotten a memo asserting almost unlimited power for the president as “the sole organ of the Nation in its foreign relations,” to respond to the terrorist attacks. As part of that expansive view of executive power, Cheney and Addington would argue that domestic and international laws prohibiting torture and abuse could not prevent the president from authorizing harsh treatment of detainees in the war against terror.

But Cheney and Addington also fought bureaucratically to construct this torture program. Cheney led the way by controlling who got access to President Bush — and making sure his own views preempted others‘. Each time the torture program got into trouble as it spread around the globe, Cheney intervened to ward off legal threats and limits, by badgering the CIA’s inspector general when he reported many problems with the interrogation program, and by lobbying Congress to legally protect those who had tortured.

Most shockingly, Cheney is reported to have ordered torture himself, even after interrogators believed detainees were cooperative. Since the 2002 OLC memo known as “Bybee Two” that authorizes torture premises its authorization for torture on the assertion that “the interrogation team is certain that” the detainee “has additional information he refuses to divulge,” Cheney appears to have ordered torture that was illegal even under the spurious guidelines of the memo.

2. David Addington, counsel to the vice president (2001-2005), chief of staff to the vice president (2005-2009)

David Addington

David Addington championed the fight to argue that the president — in his role as commander in chief — could not be bound by any law, including those prohibiting torture. He did so in two ways. He advised the lawyers drawing up the legal opinions that justified torture. In particular, he ran a “War Council” with Jim Haynes, John Yoo, John Rizzo and Alberto Gonzales (see all four below) and other trusted lawyers, which crafted and executed many of the legal approaches to the war on terror together.

In addition, Addington and Cheney wielded bureaucratic carrots and sticks — notably by giving or withholding promotions for lawyers who supported these illegal policies. When Jack Goldsmith withdrew a number of OLC memos because of the legal problems in them, Addington was the sole administration lawyer who defended them. Addington’s close bureaucratic control over the legal analysis process shows he was unwilling to let the lawyers give the administration a “good faith” assessment of the laws prohibiting torture.

3. Alberto Gonzales, White House counsel (2001-2005), and attorney general (2005-2008)

Alberto Gonzales

As White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales was nominally in charge of representing the president’s views on legal issues, including national security issues. In that role, Gonzales wrote and reviewed a number of the legal opinions that attempted to immunize torture. Most important, in a Jan. 25, 2002, opinion reportedly written with David Addington, Gonzales paved the way for exempting al-Qaida detainees from the Geneva Conventions. His memo claimed the “new kind of war” represented by the war against al-Qaida “renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners.” In a signal that Gonzales and Addington adopted that position to immunize torture, Gonzales argued that one advantage of not applying the Geneva Convention to al-Qaida would “substantially reduce the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act.” The memo even specifically foresaw the possibility of independent counsels’ prosecuting acts against detainees.

Continue reading ‘The Torturous 13’




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