Thursday, April 23, 2009

Senate implicates Bush aides in prisoner abuse.

A Senate inquiry published today joins the dots and directly implicates senior members of the Bush administration in prisoner abuse.

The 232-page report, the most detailed investigation yet into the background of torture, undercuts the claim of the then deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, that the abuse of prisoners in Iraq was the work of "a few bad apples".

The report's release added to the debate raging within the US after Barack Obama, who regards the techniques as torture, opened the way for possible prosecution of members of the Bush administration.

Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the senate armed services committee, which ordered the inquiry, said today: "The paper trail on abuse leads to top civilian leaders, and our report connects the dots." The report shows a paper trail going from the then defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to Guantánamo to Afghanistan and to Iraq.

The report says: "The abuse of detainees in US custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of "a few bad apples" acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorised their use against detainees."

The report reveals pressure for the adoption of more aggressive interrogation techniques came from the uppermost reaches of the Bush administration. Rumsfeld gave the go-ahead for the use of 15 interrogation techniques.

The mood within the administration at the time is caught in a handwritten note attached to a memo in December 2002 from Rumsfeld, on the use of stress positions. "I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?" Rumsfeld asked.

It is also being reported that both Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice signed off on the waterboarding of prisoners:

As McClatchy notes, Cheney attended a meeting in 2003 to discuss the continuation of the interrogation program:

The Director of Central Intelligence in the spring of 2003 sought a reaffirmation of the legality of the interrogation methods. Cheney, Rice, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales were among those at a meeting where it was decided that the policies would continue. Rumsfeld and Powell weren't.

The Washington Post reports that the timeline suggests Rumsfeld and Powell were not briefed on the program until September 2003.

Last fall, Rice acknowledged to the Senate Armed Services Committee only that she had attended meetings where the CIA interrogation request was discussed. She said she did not recall details. Rice omitted her direct role in approving the program in her written statement to the committee.

A spokesman for Rice declined comment when reached Wednesday.

The report also reveals that the administration rejected advice from the armed services which were against the use of more aggressive interrogation techniques, on the grounds of both morality and the quality of the information obtained through such methods.

But the training unit warned that harsh physical techniques could backfire by making prisoners more resistant. They also cautioned about the reliability of information gleaned from the severe methods and warned that the public and political backlash could be "intolerable."

"A subject in extreme pain may provide an answer, any answer or many answers in order to get the pain to stop," the training officials said in their memo.

Less than a week later, the Justice Department issued two legal opinions that sanctioned the CIA's harsh interrogation program.

It is now becoming obvious why Cheney and others have recently moved from denying that they ever engaged in the practice of torture to the more morally challenged argument of stating that "torture works".

They appear to be in this up to their necks and this most recent report suggests that they have left a paper trail.
The internal debate also suggests that the definition of what was acceptable was flexible. The report notes that a senior CIA official attended a meeting of staff at Guantánamo in 2002. The minutes tell of a discussion of interrogation techniques, and the official saying that the legal statutes were vague. "It is basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies, you're doing it wrong," the official said.
And the report implies that the activities at Abu Ghraib, far from being the work of a few bad apples, was actually specifically approved by the Bush administration. Which makes the jailing of Lynndie England and others all the more disgusting.

The Independent are reporting that this is all making Obama's position ever more uncomfortable.

Now Mr Obama himself is at the centre of the crossfire. Liberals, human rights groups, not to mention the overwhelming majority of Democrats in Congress demand a full reckoning. But the right accuses him of indulging what the Wall Street Journal's editorial pages – that daily bible of conservatives – call "the liberal mob" bent on score settling, and refusing to recognise how harsh interrogation had kept the country safe since 9/11.

The right wing have changed course several times over the past few years on this subject. Initially they put forward the argument that waterboarding and the other methods used did not constitute torture, but this has segued into a wider claim that these methods "worked" and that this is what has kept America safe.

The argument over whether or not these methods "worked" is actually an irrelevance, the argument is actually whether or not these methods are legal or illegal. The various right wingers are now attempting to move the goalposts to argue that these methods should be legal, even if they were not at the time when they applied them.

This is to be expected from people who have been caught behaving in blatantly illegal manner. First deny, then attempt to justify.

Obama has stated that the US is "a nation of laws". If that is the case, then he has no choice. The previous administration repeatedly and deliberately broke the law. One doesn't have to be part of a "liberal mob" to demand that lawbreakers be punished. Indeed, that is almost the mantra of the Republican party.

This is not a matter of "score settling", it is a matter of ensuring that lawbreakers be punished.

The Attorney-General should immediately begin an investigation.


General Karpinski points out the direct link between these memos and the abuse at Abu Ghraib. This was not the work of "a few bad apples", this was official policy.

And Rumsfeld and others were well aware of this when Lynndie England and others were being prosecuted. It's disgusting. They sold out serving soldiers in a war zone for political convenience.

Click title for full article.


Sarah Palin said...

The argument over whether or not these methods "worked" is actually an irrelevance, the argument is actually whether or not these methods are legal or illegal. The various right wingers are now attempting to move the goalposts to argue that these methods should be legal, even if they were not at the time when they applied them.

Kel said...

You have just repeated what I said. Do you have a point?

Anonymous said...

Right on Kel!