Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hunting Down the War Criminals

SS Doctor Aribert Heim, war criminal

Associated Press has a story up on the ongoing hunt for Nazi war criminals. The Simon Wiesenthal Center releases periodic lists of top war criminals from the Nazi era still at large. Despite the Wiesenthal Center's one-sided apologetics for Israeli crimes against the Palestinians (all sides have engaged in atrocities), we should pay attention to their efforts to bring Nazi war criminals and their collaborators to justice, even decades after their hideous crimes took place. Such efforts should also make Bush and his cronies start sweating, for reasons I will make clear.

Currently, the sadistic SS doctor from Mauthausen concentration camp, Aribert Heim, is at the top of Wiesenthal's list. (A former Israeli Air Force Colonel claims Heim was kidnapped and executed over twenty years ago, but other Nazi hunters are not convinced.) Heim was captured by U.S. forces, but mysteriously released. The AP article notes that "his American-held file in Germany mysteriously omitting his time at Mauthausen". The U.S. protected numerous fleeing Nazis. The Nazi Gehlen intelligence organization was specially protected, and Nazi scientists were imported into the United States in the little-known Operation Paperclip.

Perhaps the U.S. saw SS Dr. Heim, grotesquely, as some sort of scientist, because he engaged in so-called scientific experiments at Mauthausen. Here's an example of Dr. Heim's "science":
It was 1941, and an 18-year-old Jew had been sent to the clinic with a foot inflammation. Heim asked him about himself and why he was so fit. The young man said he had been a soccer player and swimmer.

Then, instead of treating the prisoner's foot, Heim anesthetized him, cut him open, castrated him, took apart one kidney and removed the second, Lotter said. The victim's head was removed and the flesh boiled off so that Heim could keep it on display.
Why would the United States protect such a ghoul? But this is not a question that can be publicly asked in America today, where a mainstream politician like Barack Obama is pilloried because he dare mention that some out-of-work small town Americans may feel "bitter", or his pastor has anti-establishment or unorthodox beliefs about the perfidy of the American government.

The Wiesenthal Center supposedly lists the top ten wanted Nazis, who besides Heim include John Demjanjuk, whose numerous prosecutions, appeals, acquittals, and legalistic maneuvers ended with a conviction for war crimes committed as a concentration camp guard, a conviction upheld in 2004. Just last January, Demjanjuk's order for deportation was upheld, and he awaits, pending further appeal his deportation to the Ukraine.

Demjanjuk is 88. Heim, if alive, would be 93. The other wanted Nazis are all elderly. But they remain underground, or under threat of prosecution and deportation, while protected by the state where they reside. SS-Obersturmführer Søren Kam is one of those. Wanted for the 1943 murder of Danish editor Carl Clemmensen, a German court denied the extradition of the 87 year old Lam, saying the statute of limitations on Clemmensen's murder has run out, accepting that Lam, who has admitted to involvement in the case, had committed manslaughter, not murder. (Clemmensen's body had been riddled by eight bullets from three different revolvers.)

U.S. War Criminals to Be Hunted Someday?

The geriatric status of Heim, Lam, Demjanjuk and others has not prevented them from being charged with crimes, and they will no doubt be pursued one way or another for the rest of their remaining lives.

U.S. war criminals -- currently uncharged -- like George W. Bush, president of the United States, and other members of his administration (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, etc.), should ponder the fate of the Nazis pursued by justice, even unto their last years. No matter what they think they can get away with, if a party or regime in this country ever comes into power and sets its aim as cleaning up the crimes of this country, whether to serve justice, or as a matter of realpolitik, needing to reclaim some measure of integrity internationally, then Bush et al. had better have set aside a defense fund.

This is in addition to the possibility that other countries may choose to extradict or prosecute those criminals who aggressively invaded a sovereign country (Iraq), killing over a million people, and then proceeded to torture thousands or tens of thousands of individuals. Attempts to prosecute Donald Rumsfeld for torture have been made in France, Germany, Argentina, and Sweden.

Evidence has been mounting for some time on the war crimes of the Bush Administration. I knew the ACLU has a call for the release of a Justice Department Office of Inspector General report on the investigation of the FBI's role in the unlawful interrogations of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, but only recently came across this article from a few years back in The New Standard (emphasis added):

Dec. 21, 2004 – Repeated references in an internal FBI email suggest that the president issued a special order to permit some of the more objectionable torture techniques used at Abu Ghraib and other US-run prison facilities around Iraq. The email was among a new batch of FBI documents revealed by civil rights advocates on Monday. Other documents describe the initiation of investigations into alleged incidents of torture and rape at detention facilities in Iraq....

The author of the email, whose name is blanked out but whose title is described as "On Scene Commander -- Baghdad," contains ten explicit mentions of an "Executive Order" that the author said mandated US military personnel to engage in extraordinary interrogation tactics.

An Executive Order is a presidential edict -- sometimes public, sometimes secretive -- instituting special laws or instructions that override or complement existing legislation. The White House has officially neither admitted nor denied that the president has issued an Executive Order pertaining to interrogation techniques.

The specific methods mentioned in the email as having been approved by the unnamed Executive Order and witnessed by FBI agents include sleep deprivation, placing hoods over prisoners' heads, the use of loud music for sensory overload, stripping detainees naked, forcing captives to stand in so-called "stress positions," and the employment of work dogs....

The correspondence is dated May 22, 2004 -- a couple of weeks after images of torture and humiliation at the prison broke in the world media...
Of course, it was only earlier this month that news broke that the highest officials in the Bush administration were intimately involved in the planning and execution of torture at Guantanamo, and possibly elsewhere, and that Bush himself admitted knowledge of the entire process and "approved" it.

Some believe that Bush's September 6, 2006 speech to Congress "amounted to a public confession to criminal violations of the 1996 War Crimes Act", in that he "implicitly admitted authorizing disappearances, extrajudicial imprisonment, torture, transporting prisoners between countries and denying the International Committee of the Red Cross access to prisoners." And certainly, it's not that that Bush and his cronies weren't warned about what they were doing.

It was no less than then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales who warned Bush in a memo dated January 25, 2002 that their treatment of detainees already amounted to war crimes:
In the memo, the White House lawyer focused on a little known 1996 law passed by Congress, known as the War Crimes Act, that banned any Americans from committing war crimes -- defined in part as "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions. Noting that the law applies to "U.S. officials" and that punishments for violators "include the death penalty," Gonzales told Bush that "it was difficult to predict with confidence" how Justice Department prosecutors might apply the law in the future. This was especially the case given that some of the language in the Geneva Conventions - such as that outlawing "outrages upon personal dignity" and "inhuman treatment" of prisoners - was "undefined."

One key advantage of declaring that Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters did not have Geneva Convention protections is that it "substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act," Gonzales wrote.

"It is difficult to predict the motives of prosecutors and independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges based on Section 2441 [the War Crimes Act]," Gonzales wrote.
The only thing keeping Bush and his top political aides and cabinet members from being prosecuted as war criminals is will... well, also their tremendous political power, the cowardice of the opposition party, and the fear and/or torpor of the mass of the American population.

Still, as the fates of Aribert Heim, John Demjanjuk, and others demonstrate, times do change. And one day it may be Bush and Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, and Rice, who must hide for their lives, or stand in the dock of a criminal court and answer for their crimes.

As an aside, the Establishment hatred for Obama's now-former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, is not because of his conspiracy theory about the AIDS virus -- a crank notion rooted in some very real crimes by the United States, not least the barbaric, racist Tuskagee syphilis experiments, wherein "for forty years the US Public Health Service (PHS) conducted an experiment on 399 black men in the late stages of syphilis," without their knowledge or provision of medical assistance. No, they hate him, and seek to use the black preacher against the moderately liberal mainstream politician Obama, because he dared to criticize the United States for its own use of terrorism.
"You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you," said. "Those are Biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic divisive principles."
It is incontroverible that the United States has engaged in state terrorism and illegal war and occupation upon other countries. I very much don't want to see it "come back" upon America. But I do want to see those responsible brought to justice in a court that provides full rights for the accused, but also is unafraid to mete out justice to the convicted.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Darkness Fell (An Answer to "Darkness Falls")

Originally posted at Daily Kos

I started to write a comment to OPOL's excellent, impassioned diary, Darkness Falls. But the comment grew and grew until I knew I had to post it as a diary.

I've taken the present tense of OPOL's work and put it in its proper past tense, because the U.S. association with and operation of torture goes back decades. OPOL asks why the American people have not moved to stop their government from torturing. The question can be asked retrospectively. The problem remains a timid and bought-off press, and two political parties uninterested, at best, in tackling the issue, or complicit, at worst, in war crimes and their cover-up.

Both his diary and mine grow out of the latest New York Times revelations that Mukasey's Justice Department has a working set of rulings that allow U.S. agents to "legally use interrogation methods that might otherwise be prohibited under international law." Indeed, the government's letters are worth reading, going on for paragraph after sick paragraph about what could possibly be meant by the Geneva Protocol's use of the term "humane treatment."

OPOL asks why the U.S. populace doesn't rise up and stop the torture. If you wish the answer to this question, then you must be prepared to learn the entire history, and to teach the entire history.

Why? Why? Why? The earnest question is asked. The answer is that torture has been conducted under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Until (and if ever) the progressives decide to clean out their party of anyone associated with the program and practice of torture, including those who assisted in the legal shenanigans that allowed torture to go unprosecuted (including the Clinton White House legal team that allowed the evisceration of the UN Convention Against Torture with the legal "Reservations" attached to the treaty -- the same "Reservations" that Ashcroft was screaming about the other day, as reported in Elisona's diary), then U.S. torture will continue, overtly or covertly.

(The Reservations to UNCAN made the treaty "non-executable" without laws passed by the Congress. Such laws weakened the language of the treaty, and the use of these "reservations", concocted by Reagan Administration attorneys, but used by the Clinton team, has helped legally cover torture and the use of cruel, inhumane and degrading detainee treatment, from the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to the American Psychological Associations's interrogations resolutions of the past few years. -- See David Luban's coverage of the issue. Luban is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center.)

"Darkness Falls" is a good, impassioned diary, which I recommend, but it has one crucial factual error. It asserts that Bush has constructed "the first official torture program in American history".

This is hardly the case, nor is it the largest such program (although it is the largest rendition program).

The Phoenix Program in Vietnam (and its precursors there), which killed tens of thousands (according to the Church Committee in the 1970s), and tortured hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, probably deserves the distinction of the largest such program. But it, too, wasn't the first.

Then there was the CIAs Ed Lansdale. His work may deserve that distinction for his use of torture and terror in the Philippines against the so-called Huk rebellion in the early 1950s. Lansdale later helped set up counterinsurgency programs in Vietnam.

There was also the multi-million dollar MKULTRA program, which researched brainwashing and mind control through use of isolation, sensory deprivation and drugs. This program began in the late 1940s, and saw its heyday from 1953-1968.

Consider, too, this:

The CIA also bears responsibility for the creation of SAVAK, the Shah of Iran's ruthless secret police force. SAVAK killed 20,000 Iraqi "dissidents" during the Shah's reign. In the Philippines, CIA instruction resulted in 3,257 murders and 35,000 victims of torture by the Ferdinand Marcos regime.

After its defeat in Vietnam, the United States government infiltrated Latin America with a vengeance (to stop the spread of the "Communist threat"). Project X, represented another CIA endeavor to impart their wisdom in the arts of torture to ruthless US allies. Not satisfied with their 1963 torture manual called Kubark, the CIA wrote a sequel in Spanish entitled Handling of Sources, Interrogation, Combat Intelligence, and Terrorism and the Urban Guerilla.

Once located in Panama, an odious US Army institution known as the School of Americas (sometimes called the School of Assassins) bestowed the CIA's torture wisdom upon hundreds of Latin American military officers. The School of Americas fell under the auspices of Project X and provided the "hands on" training to accompany the CIA torture manuals. Interestingly, by 1983 the CIA had begun to re-emphasize the use of psychological over physical torture when it wrote its [Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual]. A laundry list of CIA-trained Latin American military personnel and dictators murdered and tortured hundreds of thousands thanks to the tutelage of Project X. Link
The best book on Phoenix is Douglas Valentine's The Phoenix Program. Library Journal wrote:
Designed to destroy the Vietcong infrastructure and ostensibly run by the South Vietnamese government, the Phoenix Program--in fact directed by the United States--developed a variety of counterinsurgency activities including, at its worst, torture and assassination. For Valentine... the program epitomizes all that was wrong with the Vietnam War; its evils are still present wherever there are "ideologues obsessed with security, who seek to impose their way of thinking on everyone else." Exhaustive detail and extensive use of interviews with and writings by Phoenix participants make up the book's principal strengths...
OPOL well described in his diary the psychological response of denial to this kind of information. But we must move past this if we are ever to stop this cancer of terror and torture that has eaten so corrosively away at the foundations of the nation, and threaten to destroy what ever is left of this democracy and the promise of freedom began back in the days of the Enlightenment.

I like OPOL, and consider the contributions of this diarist to be top notch. I hope and trust that the criticisms I engage in here are seen as constructive and in the best interest of moving the dialogue forward.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Two Important Petitions Regarding Torture

Always it seems when it rains, it falls (my apologies to the Morton people), and it seems true even when it comes to petitions.

First, the American Freedom Campaign has a petition online calling on House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers "to subpoena John Ashcroft and John Yoo so that they can explain their role in enabling torture." This comes on the heels of Yoo's statement that he would not testify before the House as "invited" on May 9.

Unless there's significant public pressure, it seems unlikely Yoo, Ashcroft, or anyone else -- including Torturer-in-Chief George W. Bush, and his Vice-Torturer Dick Cheney -- will be held accountable. Go sign the AFC petition today.

Meanwhile, some of my colleagues, who are fighting within the American Psychological Association to change that organization's position on having psychologists participate in interrogations at Guantanamo and other U.S. military and CIA sites, are petitioning the APA to allow a referendum on the interrogations issues.

I think the initiators of the petition have a long, difficult road ahead of them if they want to get this referendum before the APA membership. But the recent results of the nominating stage for the APA presidency, where anti-torture candidate and APA critic Steven Reisner won the plurality of the vote, shows that they have a chance, and that the normally placid APA membership may be getting fed up with its leadership's policies. The petition requires signatures from 1% of current APA members in order to be brought before the entire APA membership for a direct vote.

I encourage all members in good standing of APA to support this call and sign the petition for a referendum. -- Sorry, this particular petition is only for APA members. If you want to support those who are working on this issue, go to the website of Psychologists for an Ethical APA.

What follows is the text of the call for a referendum.
We the undersigned APA members in good standing, pursuant to article IV.5 of the APA bylaws, do hereby petition that the following motion be submitted to APA members for their approval or disapproval, by referendum, with all urgency:

Whereas torture is an abhorrent practice in every way contrary to the APA's stated mission of advancing psychology as a science, as a profession, and as a means of promoting human welfare.

Whereas the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Mental Health and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture have determined that treatment equivalent to torture has been taking place at the United States Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. [1]

Whereas this torture took place in the context of interrogations under the direction and supervision of Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs) that included psychologists. [2, 3]

Whereas the Council of Europe has determined that persons held in CIA black sites are subject to interrogation techniques that are also equivalent to torture [4], and because psychologists helped develop abusive interrogation techniques used at these sites. [3, 5]

Whereas the International Committee of the Red Cross determined in 2003 that the conditions in the US detention facility in Guantánamo Bay are themselves tantamount to torture [6], and therefore by their presence psychologists are playing a role in maintaining these conditions.

Be it resolved that psychologists may not work in settings where persons are held outside of, or in violation of, either International Law (e.g., the UN Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions) or the US Constitution (where appropriate), unless they are working directly for the persons being detained or for an independent third party working to protect human rights.[7]

[1] United Nations Commission on Human Rights. (2006). Situation of detainees at Guantánamo Bay. Retrieved March 4, 2008, from The full title of the ‘Special Rapporteur on Mental Health’ is the ‘Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health’.

[2] Miles, S. (2007). Medical ethics and the interrogation of Guantanamo 063. The American Journal of Bioethics, 7(4), 5. Retrieved March 4, 2008, from

[3] Office of the Inspector General, Department of Defense: Review of DoD-Directed

Investigations of Detainee Abuse. Retrieved March 4, 2008, from

[4] Council of Europe Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights (2007). Secret detentions and illegal transfers of detainees involving Council of Europe member states: second report. Retrieved March 4, 2008, from

[5] Eban, K. (2007). Rorschach and Awe. Vanity Fair. Retrieved March 4, 2008, from

[6] Lewis, N. A. (2004, November 30). Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo. Retrieved March 4, 2008, from

[7] It is understood that military clinical psychologists would continue to provide psychological treatment to military personnel.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

18 USC 2441 (also, Yoo Bails)

That headline of mine above -- I wish it read "Yoo Fails to Make Bail", or even, "Yoo Makes Bail," because that would imply a process is taking place wherein the criminal elite (the real elitists!) who run this country are being held to account before a legal tribunal of some sort. Alas, that is not currently the case.

Vyan over at Daily Kos makes a good case that administration officials, despite numerous CYA efforts on torture, and collaborative efforts from Congress (in the form of the 2006 Military Commissions Act), are vulnerable to prosecution under 18 USC 2441 of the War Crimes Act. The relevant crime (of those still open to potential U.S. prosecutors): conspiracy.
(a) Offense.— Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
(b) Jurisdiction.— There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if—
(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.
(c) Conspiracy.— A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.
As Vyan points out, no matter how Congress or the administration try to slice and dice it, their torture activities have resulted in dead bodies, and no amount of legislation can wash that blood away.
...44 US military autopsy reports on the ACLU website -evidence of extensive abuse of US detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan 2002 through 2004. Anthony Romero, Executive Director of ACLU stated, "There is no question that US interrogations have resulted in deaths." ACLU attorney Amrit Sing adds, "These documents present irrefutable evidence that US operatives tortured detainees to death during interrogations."
Oh, yes, and John Yoo, author of at least two legal memos giving a purported legal rationale to the Bush Administrations torture program? When last seen, Yoo was refusing to testify before the House, which is holding hearings on torture in the Judiciary Committee on May 9.

From ABC via Thinkprogress:
We have been expressly advised by the Office of Legal Counsel of the United States Department of Justice that Professor Yoo is not authorized to discuss before your Committee any specific deliberative communications, including the substance of comments on opinions or policy questions, or the confidential predecisional advice, recommendations or other positions taken by individuals or entities of the Executive Branch.
This has worked for the administration thus far. Why should we believe it will be any different this time?

Who with any power in this country will stand up against the torturers and murderers who run this country -- and I mean stand up in a court of law or a congressional panel?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Torture Election: Fighting for the Soul of the American Psychological Association

Originally posted at AlterNet

In a surprising turn of events, New York psychologist Steven Reisner won over 30% of the votes in the mail balloting for nominations for the presidency of the American Psychological Association (APA), as announced at the beginning of April. This represented more votes than any other candidate running.

Dr. Reisner, a psychoanalyst, is a Senior Faculty member and Supervisor at the International Trauma Studies Program, an Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University, and a consultant to the United Nations on stress and trauma. As a key leader of Psychologists for an Ethical Psychology, he is also a leading critic of APA's position on torture and interrogations.

A number of APA members see Reisner's showing as a great victory for critics of APA's position of allowing psychologists to participate in Bush's "war on terror" interrogations. Reisner received 1,765 votes, four hundred more than Robert E. McGrath, the next most popular candidate. The impressive numbers are testimony to two years of anti-torture activism within APA, involving scores of dedicated professionals. The electoral results guarantee that Dr. Reisner will be on the ballot for APA president next October.

All told, however, the vast majority of votes still went to candidates who have very different positions on interrogations. Moreover, there are signs that some APA office holders and loyalists are hostile to Reisner's candidacy. One inside source says that a top member of the California Psychological Association -- a state affiliate of APA -- called it "despicable" that Reisner was running for APA president, after all he's done to "disrupt" that organization.

The APA ostensibly takes a hard line against torture. But it refuses to forbid its membership from working at Pentagon or CIA prison sites that deny its prisoners basic human rights, like habeas corpus, and with documented histories of abuse and torture. Amy Goodman, in a recent column, summarized the battle within APA to turn the organization away from collaboration with governmental interrogators. The story of this collaboration, and how psychologists came to be key members of the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams (BSCTs, popularly called "biscuits") at Guantánamo and elsewhere, has been told in great detail by myself, psychologist Stephen Soldz, and writers Katherine Eban, Jane Mayer, Arthur Levine, and Mark Benjamin, among others. The narrative is as dense or as simple as one wishes to make it, and depends how deeply one looks into the history of U.S. torture.

The APA's shifting position on interrogations is rooted in a long commitment to serve the national security apparatus of the United States. That commitment has been reflected in the current APA election, where Dr. Reisner appears as the first true candidate of change on this issue.

The Candidates: The Psychopharmacology Doctor

While Reisner received the plurality of votes in the first round of APA balloting, second place went to Robert E. McGrath at 1,340 votes. (Only 3-4% of APA members seem to have cast nominating ballots in this election.) McGrath runs a postdoctoral program in psychopharmacology at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and was president of APA's Division 55, the American Society for the Advancement of Pharmacotherapy. (APA is a federated organization, divided into 53 professional divisions; each division, along with representatives to the state and provincial psychological associations, is represented on APA's Council of Representatives.)

McGrath has said little on the record regarding APA's interrogation policy, though he did write a letter to the house APA organ, the Monitor, last September on "psychologists' military roles":
In response to recent claims that psychologists have been involved in torture and abusive interrogations, some psychologists are now calling for a complete ban on any involvement in military interrogations. I am troubled by these claims, but I am also troubled by two questions concerning this proposed solution: By extension, shouldn't psychologists withdraw from all coercive interrogations, including those by law enforcement agencies? Don't further restrictions in the diversity of individuals involved in such interrogations increase the potential for abuse even further?
One wonders how objective Dr. McGrath is on this issue, given Division 55 is largely devoted to teaching psychologists psychopharmacology and lobbying for prescription rights for psychologists. The practice, which has been fought tooth and nail by the psychiatric establishment, has found its greatest support in the military, which established a Psychopharmacology Demonstration Project in 1989 to train military psychologists to prescribe. (In an article on psychologists and torture in Vanity Fair last year, Katherine Eban looked at the possibility of a "quid pro quo" between APA and the military, in which APA would give "its stamp of approval to military interrogations" in agreement for the Pentagon allowing "psychologists -- who, unlike psychiatrists, are not medical doctors -- to prescribe medication, dramatically increasing their income.")

McGrath's opposition to pulling psychologists out of Guantánamo and other military/CIA interrogation centers is manifest. Reading his letter, psychologist Martha Davis, a visiting scholar at John Jay School of Criminal Justice, was struck by how APA's position has totally changed the way psychologists view their professional role when it comes to interrogations. "The APA has so successfully finessed this business," Davis wrote on a listserve of APA critics, "that most people hearing about the interrogations and psychology controversy, including psychologists, think that psychologists 'do' or supervise interrogations of criminal suspects in the US. THEY DO NOT … There is no mention of interrogation work in the ethics code. You won't find panels on doing interrogations in forensic psychology conference programs. Psychologists do not have the authority to 'do' interrogations or to supervise them in the US."

The Military Nominee?

The author of Jews in Blue: The Jewish American Experience in Law Enforcement, and consultant "for the police and law enforcement community since 1983," Jack Kitaeff, Ph.D, JD, was a military psychologist (as a Major) in the late 1970s to early 1980s. Both his psychological internship and postdoctoral residency were in military settings. Currently, he is Secretary-Treasurer-Elect for the Police and Public Safety Section of Div. 18 (Psychologists in Public Service).

While Dr. Kitaeff does not appear to have made a public statement on the current controversy on APA and interrogations, he did speak about his work and his views of himself as a "patriot" in an interview in 2006 at FrontPage Magazine, a well-known right-wing neo-conservative outlet run by David Horowitz's Freedom Center. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to guess where Kitaeff, who received 1,128 votes and third place in APA voting, probably stands on psychologist staffing of military interrogations.

The Insiders

Rounding out the final five nominees are Ronald H. Rozensky, PhD and Carol E. Goodheart, EdD, who received 1,057 and 134 votes, respectively. Goodheart was a last-minute write-in candidate; last year she came in second in the nomination balloting, behind eventual presidential winner, James Bray. Reisner, who also ran, failed to make the top five in 2007. Reportedly, Goodheart wasn't going to run in 2008, but she appears to have changed her mind. According to one APA insider, many on APA Council see her as a major competitor to Dr. Reisner in the upcoming election.

Goodheart is, as Steven Reisner once labeled her, an "APA stalwart." A psychotherapist in private practice, and a clinical supervisor in the psychology training program at Rutgers, she has served on the APA Board of Directors, and most recently was APA Treasurer. Currenly, she's working with APA President-elect Bray on his 2009 Presidential Task Force on the Future of Psychology Practice. Is part of that future staffing the BSCTs for the military at Guantánamo and elsewhere?

When psychologists mobilizing to withhold their dues from APA in protest against APA's interrogation policy queried Dr. Goodheart about her position, she replied:
I know that some psychologists in good conscience and good faith want APA also to prohibit psychologists from any participation whatsoever in military interrogations. There is serious debate within APA about the appropriate role for psychologists and I do not know if we will ever be able to reach total agreement. I, along with the majority of the Council of Representatives, voted against a moratorium, after listening carefully and considering all views seriously. As my own act of personal conscience, in the hope that we will be able to influence policy and practices related to interrogations, I believe that we must support psychology's promotion of ethical interrogations to prevent violence, safeguard detainees' welfare, and facilitate communications with them. We must stay engaged and work with the people, both military and non-military, who are working with great dedication to prevent torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment.
In other words, as one prominent member of APAs Division of Psychoanalysis put it:
She feels that to exclude psychologists from morally problematic places may leave prisoners even more vulnerable, and she argues that defining psychologists' presence as unethical would jeopardize ethical professionals who have been in this situation.
This makes Goodheart's stance on psychologists and interrogation a mirror image of APA's official position: psychologists make interrogations safer for detainees. Yet overwhelming evidence implicates psychologists in both the construction and implementation of a torture paradigm that emphasizes sensory deprivation and overstimulation, sleep deprivation, inculcation of debility, psychological regression, and dependency. Furthermore, psychologists have been specifically singled out as the agents responsible for reverse-engineering the military's torture resistance program, SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape), in order to teach military interrogators coercive forms of interrogation. This was documented, no less, by the Department of Defense's Office of the Inspector General in a report on detainee abuse, declassified last year.

The news hasn't gotten through to a final candidate, Ronald H. Rozensky, Ph.D. Dr. Rozensky has a resume a mile long. Former Chair of APA's Board of Professional Affairs, President of the Illinois Psychological Association, award-winning Outstanding International Psychologist, and co-author of Psychological Assessment in Medical Settings, Rozensky is a major lobbyist for governmental money for psychologists, supporting especially research in neuroscience, functional MRI and space programs. Concerned, like the APA honcho he is, in expanding the role of psychologists in particular societal institutions, he is worried that the controversy over military interrogations will spill over to domestic correctional settings, considered by APA a "proliferating" source of psychologist jobs. According to Dr. Rozensky:
...current discussions about psychologists' roles in interrogation in the military have implications within organized psychology for those psychologists working within the correctional system. It is key that our field recognize the important role that psychologists in the correctional system play in assuring ethical treatment of individuals remanded to the system and that information obtained from those individuals is factual and useful.
Whither APA?

Steven Reisner's candidacy for president represents a significant challenge to the status quo of APA governance. While all the other candidates for APA president support the continued presence of psychologists as an integral part of Defense Department and CIA interrogations, Reisner says no:
When leaders of other health professions reject all participation in detainee abuse, and our leaders justify participation, I am ashamed of our profession....

My candidacy calls for a clear departure from the complicity of psychologists in state-sponsored abuses of human rights, whether these take place at Guantánamo, CIA black sites, or domestic supermax prisons.

I have been told that psychologists might fear for their jobs if we hold to a principled stance on detainees' basic human rights. I fear for our nation and our profession if we don't.
Whether Steven Reisner's candidacy for APA president represents the high-water mark for opposition to the pro-military APA bureaucracy, or the beginning of a real sea change within the civil institutions of U.S. society regarding complicity in torture and other criminal, unethical practices of the government, remains to be seen. If Reisner is able to carry the presidential vote, he will still have to contend with a ruling apparatus that remains committed to cementing its ties with the Department of Defense and the CIA.

But these are challenges that lie in the future. Right now, Dr. Reisner and his supporters are riding a wave of optimism that things can change. His electoral showing demonstrates that, within APA, critics of torture and interrogations are making a real impact. In the big picture, the future of APA is likely tied to how these same issues play out in the larger society, especially the U.S. presidential race. For now, however, Reisner's supporters can give themselves a hearty congratulations, even as a longer, larger, higher hill to climb lies before them.

[Much thanks to AlterNet editor Liliana Segura for editorial help on this article.]

Wexler Questions FBI Chief -- Is FBI Covering Up CIA Torture?

Congressman Robert Wexler questioned FBI Director Robert Mueller at a House Judiciary hearing this morning. Wexler was intent on wrangling an explanation from Director Mueller "about his agency's response to claims - made by his own FBI agents - that the CIA was torturing prisoners." If, as has been reported, FBI agents had pulled out of interrogations where the CIA was involved in illegal torture, why was such illegal activity not investigated further?

What follows is from the transcript of today's session, provided by Congressman Wexler himself. He asks only this:
I would urge you to contact the editors and news departments of your local media and ask them to look into the responses below. It is critical that this discussion takes place beyond emails and blogs – and is covered by the mainstream media.

In two weeks the Judiciary Committee will be holding hearings to investigate the fact that the highest levels of the Bush Administration sanctioned and ordered the torture of prisoners in United States custody. This is intolerable and we must vigorously oppose this policy that demeans our nation and offends our conscience.
If, as this news gets out, there is not a groundswell of support for the firing or resignation of Robert Mueller, then you can bet either the media is in total control lock-down over the torture issue, or the political instincts of even liberals in this country are so blunted after almost eight years of Bush/Cheney that they wouldn't recognize a principled position anymore if it fell upon their heads.

The Transcript
Robert Wexler: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr. Director, in January of 2006, the New York Times reported that the NSA wireless wiretapping program had produced thousands of leads each month that the FBI had to track down, but that no Al-Qaeda networks were discovered. During a July 17, 2007 briefing, FBI deputy director John Pistole indicated that the FBI was not aware of any Al-Qaeda sleeper cells operating in the United States. In August of 2007 Congress passed the Protect America Act, giving the intelligence community greater access to electronic communications coming into and out of the United States. I have two questions in this regard.

RW: Has the FBI found any sleeper cells yet? One…

RW: Two. Has the NSA’s wireless wiretapping programs either before the Protect America Act or after led to the prosecution and conviction of any terrorists in the United States?

Robert Mueller: Well, as to your first question as to whether we have found affiliates or, as you would call them, cells of Al-Qaeda in the United States, yes we have. Again, I cannot get into it in public session, but I would say yes we have. With regard to the relationship of a particular case or individual to the terrorist surveillance program, again that is something that would have to be covered in a closed session.

RW: Alright, Mr. Director. An LA Times article from October, 2007 quotes one senior federal enforcement official as saying quote “the CIA determined they were going to torture people, and we made the decision not to be involved” end quote. The article goes on to say that some FBI officials went to you and that you quote “pulled many of the agents back from playing even a supporting role in the investigations to avoid exposing them to legal jeopardy” end quote.

RW: My question Mr. Director, I congratulate you for pulling the FBI agents back, but why did you not take more substantial steps to stop the interrogation techniques that your own FBI agents were telling you were illegal? Why did you not initiate criminal investigations when your agents told you the CIA and the Department of Defense were engaging in illegal interrogation techniques, and rather than simply pulling your agents out, shouldn’t you have directed them to prevent any illegal interrogations from taking place?

RM: I can go so far sir as to tell you that a protocol in the FBI is not to use coercion in any of our interrogations or our questioning and we have abided by our protocol.

RW: I appreciate that. What is the protocol say when the FBI knows that the CIA is engaging or the Department of Defense is engaging in an illegal technique? What does the protocol say in that circumstance?

RM: We would bring it up to appropriate authorities and determine whether the techniques were legal or illegal.

RW: Did you bring it up to appropriate authorities?

RM: All I can tell you is that we followed our own protocols.

RW: So you can’t tell us whether you brought it; when your own FBI agents came to you and said the CIA is doing something illegal which caused you to say don’t you get involved; you can’t tell us whether you then went to whatever authority?

RM: I’ll tell you we followed our own protocols.

RW: And what was the result?

RM: We followed our own protocols. We followed our protocols. We did not use coercion. We did not participate in any instance where coercion was used to my knowledge.

RW: Did the CIA use techniques that were illegal?

RM: I can’t comment on what has been done by another agency and under what authorities the other agency may have taken actions.

RW: Why can’t you comment on the actions of another agency?

RM: I leave that up to the other agency to answer questions with regard to the actions taken by that agency and the legal authorities that may apply to them.

RW: Are you the chief legal law enforcement agency in the United States?

RM: I am the Director of the FBI.

RW: And you do not have authority with respect to any other governmental agency in the United States? Is that what you’re saying?

RM: My authority is given to me to investigate. Yes we do.

RW: Did somebody take away that authority with respect to the CIA?

RM: Nobody has taken away the authority. I can tell you what our protocol was, and how we followed that protocol.

RW: Did anybody take away the authority with respect to the Department of Defense?

RM: I’m not certain what you mean.

RW: Your authority to investigate an illegal torture technique.

RM: There has to be a legal basis for us to investigate, and generally that legal basis is given to us by the Department of Justice. Any interpretations of the laws given to us by the Department of Justice….
(talking over each other)

RW: But apparently your own agents made a determination that the actions by the CIA and the Department of Defense were illegal, so much so that you authorized, ordered, your agents not to participate. But that’s it.

RM: I’ve told you what our protocol was, and I’ve indicated that we’ve adhered to our protocol throughout.

RW: My time is up. Thank you very much Mr. Director.

Support Call for Investigations on Drugging Detainees

Following a pivotal article by Jeff Stein at Congressional Quarterly a few weeks back, today's Washington Post published an important article today, "Detainees Allege Being Drugged, Questioned." The story, by Post staff writer Joby Warrick, notes U.S. denials in using drug injections for coercive purposes during interrogations.

Adel al-Nusairi, a Saudi national imprisoned for years at Guanatanmo, and now released without charges, has a different memory:
"I'd fall asleep" after the shot, Nusairi, a former Saudi policeman captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2002, recalled in an interview with his attorney at the military prison in Cuba, according to notes. After being roused, Nusairi eventually did talk, giving U.S. officials what he later described as a made-up confession to buy some peace.

"I was completely gone," he remembered. "I said, 'Let me go. I want to go to sleep. If it takes saying I'm a member of al-Qaeda, I will.'"
U.S. authorities at the Department of Defense and the CIA say the stories of prisoners being forced to take drugs and make confessions are lies, or perhaps mistaken interpretations of various medical procedures. The Post article, which mentions the March 2003 John Yoo memo to the Department of Defense that gave legal cover to abusive interrogation methods, including the use of drugs on detainees, fails to mention that the CIA and military studied the use of drugs in interrogations for decades. Still, the Post article makes clear that drugs have been alleged to have been used on U.S.-held detainees for purposes of forcing confessions, as chemical restraint, and to forcibly psychologically condition detainees for interrogation.
Medical ethicists and experts in international law say such accounts raise serious questions. While the Geneva Conventions do not specifically refer to drugs, they ban any use of force or coercion in interrogating prisoners of war, said Barbara Olshansky, a law professor at Stanford University and the author of a book on military tribunals. "If you're talking about interrogations, you're talking about very specific prohibitions that mean you cannot use any force, at all, to interrogate someone," Olshansky said. "The law is beyond clear."
Physicians for Human Rights has called for both Congressional and Department of Justice investigations on the forcible drugging of detainees. This may be a good time, too, to support the ACLU's call for the release of a Justice Department Office of Inspector General report on a long-running investigation of the FBI's role in the unlawful interrogations of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. It's believed that "FBI agents stationed at Guantánamo Bay expressed concern after witnessing military interrogators' use of brutal interrogation techniques." Did these techniques include the forcible drugging of detainees?

Investigations Needed, Though Much Information in Public Domain

Investigations are urgently needed to get the full picture of what exactly the government has been up to, as the full extent of the manifold use of torture by the United States government has not been fully documented. Such investigations are also sorely needed to change the political dialogue in this country, and to hold accountable government officials who have broken domestic and international law on torture and the treatment of prisoners.

If the press would do their job and report the known research and give the proper context on this subject, then the work of the investigators would be much easier. (Jeff Klein's work, noted at the beginning of this article, is a notable exception. Other exceptions are Katherine Eban at Vanity Fair, Jane Meyer at The New Yorker, Scott Horton at Harper's, and Mark Benjamin at The use of drugs in interrogations is not a new subject by any means. The government has researched this, including mixing drugs with other forms of coercive interrogation practice, such as sensory deprivation.

A Course in Narcosis, Part I

Online, I suggest the interested reader -- or Congressional or DOJ investigator -- begin with the CIA's own discussion of the matter in the declassified KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual. Here's some relevant quotes from the CIA on "narcosis" (if this website link is having problems, as it did when I went to reference it, use this cached link instead, or this alternate site, or the photocopy online of the manual itself). Bold emphasis in the following is mine. Remember, this "course" in narcosis was researched with U.S. taxpayer dollars. The CIA drew upon the work of the infamous MKULTRA program of the CIA.
Just as the threat of pain may more effectively induce compliance than its infliction, so an interrogatee's mistaken belief that he has been drugged may make him a more useful interrogation subject than he would be under narcosis....

In the interrogation situation, moreover, the effectiveness of a placebo may be enhanced because of its ability to placate the conscience. The subject's primary source of resistance to confession or divulgence may be pride, patriotism, personal loyalty to superiors, or fear of retribution if he is returned to their hands. Under such circumstances his natural desire to escape from stress by complying with the interrogator's wishes may become decisive if he is provided an acceptable rationalization for compliance. "I was drugged" is one of the best excuses.

Drugs are no more the answer to the interrogator's prayer than the polygraph, hypnosis, or other aids. Studies and reports "dealing with the validity of material extracted from reluctant informants... indicate that there is no drug which can force every informant to report all the information he has. Not only may the inveterate criminal psychopath lie under the influence of drugs which have been tested, but the relatively normal and well-adjusted individual may also successfully disguise factual data"....

Nevertheless, drugs can be effective in overcoming resistance not dissolved by other techniques. As has already been noted, the so-called silent drug (a pharmacologically potent substance given to a person unaware of its administration) can make possible the induction of hypnotic trance in a previously unwilling subject....

Particularly important is the reference to matching the drug to the personality of the interrogatee. The effect of most drugs depends more upon the personality of the subject than upon the physical characteristics of the drugs themselves. If the approval of Headquarters has been obtained and if a doctor is at hand for administration, one of the most important of the interrogator's functions is providing the doctor with a full and accurate description of the psychological make-up of the interrogatee, to facilitate the best possible choice of a drug.

Persons burdened with feelings of shame or guilt are likely to unburden themselves when drugged, especially if these feelings have been reinforced by the interrogator. And like the placebo, the drug provides an excellent rationalization of helplessness for the interrogatee who wants to yield but has hitherto been unable to violate his own values or loyalties.

Like other coercive media, drugs may affect the content of what an interrogatee divulges. Gottschalk notes that certain drugs "may give rise to psychotic manifestations such as hallucinations, illusions, delusions, or disorientation", so that "the verbal material obtained cannot always be considered valid." (7) For this reason drugs (and the other aids discussed in this section) should not be used persistently to facilitate the interrogative debriefing that follows capitulation. Their function is to cause capitulation, to aid in the shift from resistance to cooperation. Once this shift has been accomplished, coercive techniques should be abandoned both for moral reasons and because they are unnecessary and even counter-productive.

This discussion does not include a list of drugs that have been employed for interrogation purposes or a discussion of their properties because these are medical considerations within the province of a doctor rather than an interogator [sic].
A Course in Narcosis, Part II

If we go back and look at the Washington Post article printed today, we see that the reaction of the detainees who were (allegedly) drugged is replete with traumatic feelings. One wonders if the giving of injections rather than pills was psychologically designed to create greater fear in the prisoners.

The CIA's reference to Gottschalk is to Louis A. Gottschalk. At the time (early 60s), Gottschalk was Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Research Coordinator in the Department of Psychiatry at Cincinnati General Hospital. His essay, "The Use of Drugs in Interrogation" was published in the 1961 book, The Manipulation of Human Behavior. (Online via Questia, for some time this book could be read for free over the net at, but that link is gone now. The Questia read will cost you about $8.00 -- worth it in my opinion, though enterprising web surfers may find it elsewhere for less or free, for all I know.)

In Gottschalk's piece, he looks at such aspects of drug use in interrogation as the use of placebo administration; the effects of individual differences in personality and cerebral functions on drug reaction; the effects of physiological conditions, secondary to manipulation of biological rhythms, nutritional states, isolation and fatigue; and the efficacy of drugs in "uncovering information." Regarding the latter, Gottschalk wrote:
For certain personality types, some drugs lower conscious ego control, thereby facilitating recall of repressed material and increasing the difficulty of withholding available information....

... clinical experience and experimental studies indicate that, although a person's resistance to communicating consciously withheld information can be broken down with drugs, and particularly sodium amytal, the interrogator can have no easy assurance as to the accuracy and validity of the information he obtains.... An interrogator would have to evaluate many other factors... to decide how to interpret the outcome of an interview with a drugged informant.
Besides sodium amytal, Gottschalk and other government researchers (from the military, CIA, contracted or unwittingly funded) studied numerous pharmacological agents, including barbiturate sedatives and calmatives (amobarbital, secobarbital), non-barbiturate sedatives (Placidyl, Quiactin), stimulants (ritalin, benzadrine, and methamphetamine, the latter said to be "useful in the interrogation of the psychopath"), autonomic reactors and beta blockers, antimalarial drugs, heavy metals, hormones (ACTH, cortisone, thyroid), and classic hallucinogens like mescaline, LSD and PCP. Marijuana was also an early target of drug experiments on truth telling. Psychoactive medications have (or are?) been studied as well (thorazine, compazine, etc.).

Thorazine was also used heavily by Dr. Ewen Cameron, the famous Montreal psychiatrist, whose attempt to totally control the human mind via a technique called "psychic driving" destroyed many people's lives in the 1950s and 1960s. Cameron used drug-induced coma, multiple electroshock, and drugs like thorazine and LSD in an effort to totally control human beings, from their memory (which he sought to wipe out) and their behavior. The research was funded, in part, by the CIA. The story has been told in all its horrendous detail a number of times, most recently by Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine, and by researcher Gordon Thomas in his new book, Secrets and Lies.


While the Washington Post article demonstrates some movement among the official elite who run this country to address the latest revelations on torture, perhaps even to promote some kind of reform inside the Pentagon and CIA, it's also possible that official denials are all we are going to hear.

It's important that the calls from organizations like Physicians for Human Rights for hearings and investigations be supported by phone calls, letters, emails, and donations. The Yoo memo and other issues related to torture are supposed to be examined at a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee on May 9. Why not bring up the issue of involuntary drugging as part of that hearing? In any case, a full investigation is needed of U.S. torture. In my opinion, the government cannot be trusted to run this investigation. But, lacking any other authoritative forum, a Congressional investigation may be the best we can hope for at this point.

On this topic, with a special emphasis on the possible role of psychologists and other health professionals in these interrogation abuses, see Stephen Soldz's article, "Involuntary drugging of US detainees, a crisis for the health professions".

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lawsuit Reveals Massive Suicide Rate Among U.S. Soldiers

Mistah Kurtz -- he dead.
A class action lawsuit filed against the Veterans Administration by Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth has reaped an unusual harvest, in the form of an email from Ira Katz, head of mental health at the VA, to Brigadier General Michael J. Kussman, undersecretary for health at the VA. The email, dated last December, threatens to blow the lid off the scandal of insufficient veterans health treatment, and the lies that have kept this scandal from heretofore getting the traction it deserves.

Here's Jason Leopold at Online Journal reporting:
Kussman had inquired about the accuracy of a news report published that month claiming the suicide rate among veterans was 18 per day.

“McClatchy [Newspapers] alleges that 18 veterans kill themselves everyday and this is confirmed by the VA’s own statistics,” Kussman wrote. “Is that true? Sounds awful but if one is considering 24 million veterans.”

In an email response to Kussman, Ira Katz, the head of mental health at the VA, confirmed the statistics and added “VA’s own data demonstrate 4-5 suicides per day among those who receive care from us.”
These statistics are much larger than official Army statistics quoted only a few months ago at CNN, where it was reported that 5 U.S. soldiers attempt suicide every day, not just those receiving VA treatment. Even at that, the figures represented a significant leap in suicide rates among soldiers.
According to Army statistics, the incidence of U.S. Army soldiers attempting suicide or inflicting injuries on themselves has skyrocketed in the nearly five years since the start of the Iraq war.

Last year's 2,100 attempted suicides -- an average of more than 5 per day -- compares with about 350 suicide attempts in 2002, the year before the war in Iraq began, according to the Army....

The Army lists 89 soldier deaths in 2007 as suicides and is investigating 32 more as possible suicides. Suicide rates already were up in 2006 with 102 deaths, compared with 87 in 2005.
But according to internal VA emails, over 6500 veterans per year are killing themselves. And this news follows the revelations in a RAND Corporation report released last week reporting that over 300,000 of soldiers are returning from the so-called war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and brain injuries. That's over 20% of those deployed with a serious mental illness or nervous system disorder.

Inter Press Service had more to report on the Katz email:
"Shh!" the e-mail begins.

"Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans we see in our medical facilities. Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?" the e-mail concludes.

According to CBS News, Katz's email was written shortly after the VA provided the network with data showing there were only 790 attempted suicides in all of 2007 -- a fraction of Katz's estimate.

Earlier this month, the city of Dallas, Texas closed its psychiatric unit after the hospital experienced its fourth suicide of the year.

"On Apr. 4, a man fastened a bed sheet to the bottom corner of a door frame, draped a noose over the top, and hanged himself," the Dallas Morning News reported last week. "Before that, a veteran hanged himself on a frame attached to his wheelchair. And in January, two men who met in the psychiatric ward committed suicide in Collin County days after being released."
Clearly, something is very wrong. But this didn't stop the government attorneys in San Francisco for calling for the dismissal of the veterans' lawsuit, claiming, according to a story at the San Jose Mercury News, that the VA has a "world class" health care system, and blaming the crisis on old Vietnam War veterans.

The veterans lawsuit also alleges that many returning soldiers are denied treatment by the VA, and then wait forever on appeal for benefits. From the SJ Mercury News story:
It also takes an average of more than five years for the VA to decide a veteran's appeal of denied coverage, [veterans lawyer Gordon] Erspamer said. In the last six months, 526 vets have died while awaiting word of their appeal within the VA, he noted.
The situation for veterans is tragic, and increasingly, despairing vets, denied treatment, suffering the hell of intrusive memories, depression, and agonizing confusion and surging irritability that is PTSD, or other disorders or injuries, especially brain injuries, increasingly such victims of the insane war drive of Bush and Cheney are killing themselves. And it's getting worse.

This is not a war for democracy. It's a war on democracy, and on the elementary canons of decency and civilized behavior. The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has resulted in 100,000s of dead Iraqis, millions of refugees, a world economy spinning out of control, and now, at home in the U.S., an obscene harvest of horribly wounded soldiers, many of whom are committing suicide in record numbers.

When will it stop? Not until the population of this country, and all countries in the world, demand it stop. The U.S. citizenry, in this case, has a larger responsibility than most, as its government is the largest, richest, and most bellicose in the world. Yet the population is mesmerized by an electoral process that promises very little. It is not surprising that those with any hope and desire for change are flocking in large numbers to Barack Obama, who presents himself as an agent of change. Whether he is or not will be tested soon enough.

The fear in the society is palpable, a large creaking and groaning sound that appears to be the harbinger of a bloated and bankrupt empire lurching towards catastrophe. The leaders have decided upon war. They want to enlarge that war to include Iran, with Hillary Clinton the latest to jump on that bus. Obama, too, says "all options are on the table" when it comes to keeping Iran from having nuclear weapons, mimicking the language of torture president Bush.

According to T.S. Eliot, the world will end not with a bang, but with a whimper. That whimper may be the sound of a hopeless veteran staring at eternity, full of pain and loss, a loaded pistol in one hand, or maybe a bottle of pills. A society that cannot serve the needs of those it sends to fight its dirty and predatory wars is a society that ----------.

I'll let my readers fill in that blank.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

ACLU Uncovers Spies, Wiretaps, Torture Regime

The following is a sample of some of the stellar work done by the ACLU lately. The lead story here regards further documentary evidence regarding the implementation and spread of torture across the military, stemming from the reverse-engineering of SERE training in torture methods, and the impetus of this from high Bush Administration figures. (Jason Leopold at reminds us that Bush himself was intimately involved in the use of illegal torture techniques himself.)

Documents Obtained By ACLU Describe Charges Of Murder And Torture Of Prisoners In U.S. Custody
Newly Released Government Documents Show Special Forces Used Illegal Interrogation Techniques In Afghanistan
NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union obtained documents today from the Department of Defense confirming the military’s use of unlawful interrogation methods on detainees held in U.S. custody in Afghanistan. The documents from the military’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID), obtained as a result of the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, include the first on-the-ground reports of torture in Gardez, Afghanistan to be publicly released.

“These documents make it clear that the military was using unlawful interrogation techniques in Afghanistan,” said Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU. “Rather than putting a stop to these systemic abuses, senior officials appear to have turned a blind eye to them.”

Special Operations officers in Gardez admitted to using what are known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) techniques, which for decades American service members experienced as training to prepare for the brutal treatment they might face if captured.

Today’s documents reveal charges that Special Forces beat, burned, and doused eight prisoners with cold water before sending them into freezing weather conditions. One of the eight prisoners, Jamal Naseer, died in U.S. custody in March 2003. In late 2004, the military opened a criminal investigation into charges of torture at Gardez. Despite numerous witness statements describing the evidence of torture, the military’s investigation concluded that the charges of torture were unsupported. It also concluded that Naseer’s death was the result of a “stomach ailment,” even though no autopsy had been conducted in his case. Documents uncovered today also refer to sodomy committed by prison guards; the victims’ identities are redacted.

“These documents raise serious questions about the adequacy of the military’s investigations into prisoner abuse,” added Singh.

The ACLU also obtained today a file today related to the death of Muhammad Al Kanan, a prisoner held at Camp Bucca in Iraq. The file reveals that British doctors refused to issue a death certificate for fear of being sued for malpractice:

In October 2003, the ACLU – along with the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace – filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for records concerning the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad. To date, more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the ACLU's FOIA lawsuit.

Attorneys in the FOIA case are Lawrence S. Lustberg and Melanca D. Clark of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, P.C.; Jameel Jaffer, Singh and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU; Arthur Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the New York Civil Liberties Union; and Shayana Kadidal and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

In addition, many of the FOIA documents are also located and summarized in a recently published book by Jaffer and Singh, Administration of Torture. More information is available online at:

The documents received in the ACLU’s FOIA litigation are online at:

All of today’s documents are available at:

It's hard to read over and over about the crimes and abuses of the U.S. government in the phony war on terror. One wants to DO something about it. The other day, I advocated signing the CondiMustGo petition that various groups put together after the revelations in the press about the meetings of the White House "principals" group in the early planning and implementation of torture -- meetings chaired by now-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. I took some heat from various colleagues for (supposedly) singling out Rice and supporting this campaign.

I disagree with these colleagues, and note that this campaign was initiated and supported by some very influential people (and not the clever GOP operatives that some people imagined). The people involved with the Condi petition are Howard Dean's group, Democracy for America; Robert Greenwald's group Brave New Films (Greenwald, who directed the Condi video, is the maker of 21 Hrs. at Munich, The Burning Bed, Iraq for Sale, and a critical documentary on Wal-Mart); and True Majority/USAction. True Majority is Ben Cohen (of Ben and Jerry's) group. USAction is a mainstream Democratic Party kind of group, stacked with labor officials(AFL-CIO, AFCSME), various citizen action groups, and a president associated with Rainbow Coalition/PUSH. In other words, the campaign to oust Rice originated with the mainstream of the Democratic Party activist core.

I do agree with one colleague who advocated support for the ACLU's campaign call for an independent prosecutor "to hold President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and other high-ranking officials accountable for their role in condoning and/or authorizing U.S. involvement in torture." I strongly urge my readers to go to the ACLU site and sign their petition!

Meanwhile, also of great importance is the ACLU's report, "Total Information Awareness Lives":
A stunning new report indicates the NSA has effectively revived the Orwellian “Total Information Awareness” domestic-spying program that was banned by Congress in 2003. In response, the ACLU has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for more information about the spying. And, we moved the Surveillance Clock one minute closer to midnight.
It's hard to accept just how disturbed and scary a world it is that we live in. But if we close our eyes to this, if we do not take every reasonable opportunity to push back against the forces that propagate war, torture, and attacks against our civil liberties, then we will surely lose the battle against these forces. Such a result is too terrible to contemplate for ourselves and for the world.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Queen Mab

From Percy Bysshe Shelley's Queen Mab (1813), the Fairy speaks to the King:
Whence, thinkest thou, kings and parasites arose?
Whence that unnatural line of drones who heap
Toil and unvanquishable penury
On those who build their palaces and bring
Their daily bread? -From vice, black loathsome vice;
From rapine, madness, treachery, and wrong;
From all that genders misery, and makes
Of earth this thorny wilderness; from lust,
Revenge, and murder. -And when reason’s voice,
Loud as the voice of Nature, shall have waked
The nations; and mankind perceive that vice
Is discord, war and misery; that virtue
Is peace and happiness and harmony;
When man’s maturer nature shall disdain
The playthings of its childhood; -kingly glare
Will lose its power to dazzle, its authority
Will silently pass by; the gorgeous throne
Shall stand unnoticed in the regal hall,
Fast falling to decay; whilst falsehood’s trade
Shall be as hateful and unprofitable
As that of truth is now....

Look on yonder earth:
The golden harvests spring; the unfailing sun
Sheds light and life; the fruits, the flowers, the trees,
Arise in due succession; all things speak
Peace, harmony and love. The universe,
In Nature’s silent eloquence, declares
That all fulfil the works of love and joy, -
All but the outcast, Man. He fabricates
The sword which stabs his peace; he cherisheth
The snakes that gnaw his heart; he raiseth up
The tyrant whose delight is in his woe,
Whose sport is in his agony. Yon sun,
Lights it the great alone? Yon silver beams,
Sleep they less sweetly on the cottage thatch
Than on the dome of kings? Is mother earth
A step-dame to her numerous sons who earn
Her unshared gifts with unremitting toil;
A mother only to those puling babes
Who, nursed in ease and luxury, make men
The playthings of their babyhood and mar
In self-important childishness that peace
Which men alone appreciate?

‘Spirit of Nature, no!
The pure diffusion of thy essence throbs
Alike in every human heart.
Thou aye erectest there
Thy throne of power unappealable;
Thou art the judge beneath whose nod
Man’s brief and frail authority
Is powerless as the wind
That passeth idly by;
Thine the tribunal which surpasseth
The show of human justice
As God surpasses man!'

Thursday, April 17, 2008

U.S. Wars Result in 300,000+ Vet Brain Injuries

Add this to the mind-boggling crimes of this administration and the enabling Congress; from Raw Story, reprinting an AP story:
300,000 vets have mental problem, 320,000 had brain injuries

Some 300,000 U.S. troops are suffering from major depression or post traumatic stress from serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 320,000 received brain injuries, a new study estimates.

Only about half have sought treatment, said the study released Thursday by the RAND Corporation.

"There is a major health crisis facing those men and women who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Terri Tanielian, the project's co-leader and a researcher at the nonprofit RAND.

"Unless they receive appropriate and effective care for these mental health conditions, there will be long-term consequences for them and for the nation," she said in an interview with The Associated Press....

The Department of Veterans Affairs said this month that its records show about 120,000 who served in the two wars and are no longer in the military have been diagnosed with mental health problems. Of the 120,000, approximately 60,000 are suffering from PTSD, the VA said....

The most prominent and detailed military study on mental health that is released is the Army's survey of soldiers at the warfront. Officials said last month that it's most recent one, done last fall, found 18.2 percent of soldiers suffered a mental health problem such as depression, anxiety or acute stress in 2007 compared with 20.5 percent the previous year.

The Rand study, completed in January, put the percentage of PTSD and depression at 18.5 percent, calculating that approximately 300,000 current and former service members were suffering from those problems at the time of its survey, which was completed in January.

The figure is based on Pentagon data showing over 1.6 million military personnel have deployed to the conflicts since the war in Afghanistan began in late 2001....

The report is titled "Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery." It was sponsored by a grant from the California Community Foundation and done by 25 researchers from RAND Health and the RAND National Security Research Division, which also has done does work under contracts with the Pentagon and other defense agencies as well as allied foreign governments and foundations.
On the Net:
RAND Corporation:
Army studies:
Source: AP News
The human costs of the U.S. war of aggression and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan keeps climbing and climbing. The economic costs are staggering, too. It is hard to estimate the amount of psychic numbing the entire society suffers from being subjected to such raw bellicosity mixed with political helplessness.

Are you bitter yet?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Condoleezza Rice Must Go

Following upon the recent revelations that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chaired meetings of high officials in the White House that planned and directed torture against detainees in Bush's "terror" war,, Brave New Films, and Democracy for America have lauched a campaign to oust her from office. The campaign includes videos -- one of which will air after the ABC Democratic Party debate tonight in Philadelphia -- a petition:
Ask Senators Clinton, McCain and Obama to join us in calling on Secretary of State Rice to resign.

America will not stand for a Secretary of State who approved torture and then misled Congress. We call on the Presidential candidates to ask Secretary of State Rice to resign.
After less than a day up and running, the petition has over 17,000 signers. The signature video nicely captures the main points of the scandal, and clearly shows who else was involved, lacking only a major point about the culpability and lies of President Bush. But then, whether the organizers of this campaign realize it or not, the push to drive out Rice will enrage Bush, with whom Rice has a special relationship. Perhaps it will make him do or say something incredible stupid, and incriminating.

Not that Bush hasn't said enough to incriminate himself. But since the power elite (not to be confused with demagogic charges of elitism against Barack Obama) and the bought-off press have done little to report this scandal, it will take hitting them over the head to embrace it, fearful, perhaps, that what shred of public integrity they still have is in dire peril. Or perhaps the American people in their massive bulk will wake up from their fearful stupor and take action against the criminals that are driving their country over a cliff.

Watch the video, then go visit the CondiMustGo website and sign their petition.

A very well-meaning associate has pointed out to me that Condoleeza Rice should not take all the blame. I agree. I laid out my support for the New Films/Democracy for America effort thus in an email to him:
She chaired the meetings. She is also current Secretary of State, and probably vulnerable to the support or lack thereof of her governmental bureaucracy. She has spoken very publicly and internationally on the U.S. not torturing. They have her quoted as giving the CIA a green light. There's less in the reports on the others. Also, I believe, it's meant to gore Bush, as he has a special relationship with her.

I agree with you that Condi must not be alone in getting pegged on this. But let's support every effort to hold the administration responsible, and get some momentum on this story. I promise you, based on my understanding of politics, if this takes off, it will not stop with Condi.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Constitutional Freedoms in Peril

Two important articles have been published at AlterNet in the past week. Liliana Segura discusses a crucial footnote in the newly declassified Yoo memo, referring to another secret memo, written shortly after 9/11, and, in the name of national security, dispensing with the Fourth Amendment."

Yoo's footnote (page 8 of the memorandum) arrives during a discussion of the purported inapplicability of the Fifth Amendment Due Process clause in wartime. Yoo cites the inapplicability of the Fourth Amendment, too, overseas, and then, in a footnote, continues (emphasis mine):
Indeed, drawing in part on the reasoning of Verdugo-Urquidez, as well as the Supreme Court's treatment of the destruction of property for the purposes of military necessity, our Office recently concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations. See Memorandum for Alberto R. Gonzales, Counsel to the President, and William J. Haynes, n, General Counsel, Department of Defense, from John C. Yoo, Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Robert J. Delahunty, Special Counsel, Re: Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the United States at 25 (Oct 23, 2001).
For those who may have forgotten, or don't know, Segura explains the import of the matter:
The Fourth Amendment, of course, lays out "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." Critics of the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program -- which was started in the same weeks the memo was written -- have staked their claims in part on its violation of this right. Proof that the program originated at the same time that the White House officially jettisoned the Fourth Amendment in the name of national security is a damning -- if not surprising -- revelation.
Robert Parry of wonders "Will the Constitution Be Altered to Eliminate Key Liberties?"
Though little discussed on the campaign trail, a crucial issue to be decided in November is whether the United States will return to its traditions as a constitutional Republic respecting "unalienable" human rights or whether it will finish a transformation into a frightened nation governed by an all-powerful President who can do whatever he wants during the open-ended "war on terror"....

While most news coverage of Yoo's March 14, 2003, memo has focused on the legal gymnastics justifying harsh treatment of detainees -- including possible use of mind-altering drugs -- the centerpiece of Yoo's argument is that at a time of war the President's powers are essentially unfettered.
While refusing to do much about the situation, even Senator Dianne Feinstein was surprised enough about the inclusion of the secret 10/23/01 memo referenced in Yoo's footnote, and it's reference to the suppression of the Fourth Amendment for domestic military activities, she questioned Attorney General Michael Mukasey about it at an Appropriations Committee session on April 10. According to the Washington Post:
Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey told senators yesterday that a 2001 Justice Department memo insisting that Fourth Amendment safeguards against unreasonable searches did not cover military activities within the United States is "not in force."

Under sharp questioning from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) at an Appropriations Committee hearing, Mukasey said that the "Fourth Amendment applies across the board, regardless of whether we're in wartime or in peacetime," even though the memo by the department's Office of Legal Counsel had concluded otherwise.
The Post story is misleading, however, although correctly noted that Mukasey was dragging his feet on declassifying the Oct. 2001 memo. But The Post's lie is telling, because in fact Mukasey would not say whether the ruling that the Fourth Amendment is inapplicable to "domestic military operations" (like, say... domestic military spying!) is "in force" or not.

Paul Kiel at TPMMuckraker caught the exchange -- which I also saw -- and reported it correctly:

Has that memo been withdrawn? If not, was it still in force? Feinstein wanted to know.

She found it difficult to pry an answer loose. "I can't speak to the October, 2001 memo," Mukasey said when she asked whether it had been withdrawn. He said that Yoo's later March, 2003 memo -- which broadly authorized the use of torture by military interrogators on unlawful combatants -- had been withdrawn, but refused to discuss that October, 2001 memo....

"This isn't a question of oversight," Feinstein said. "I'm just asking you, 'Is this memo in force that the Fourth Amendment does not apply?"

"The principle that the Fourth Amendment does not apply in wartime is not in force," Mukasey replied.

"That's not the principle I asked you about," Feinstein countered. The memo referred to domestic military operations, she said.

"There are no domestic military operations being carried out today," Mukasey replied.

"I'm asking you a question. That's not the answer."

"I'm unaware of any domestic military operations being carried out today," he repeated.

"You're not answering my question," she said.

Finally, Mukasey responded, "The Fourth Amendment applies across the board whether we're in wartime or peacetime. It applies across the board....

"The discussion of which that was a part... means the inaptness... the suggested inapplicability of the Fourth Amendment as an alternative basis for finding that searches discussed there would be reasonable."

"But Mr. Yoo's contention was that the Fourth Amendment did not apply and that the President was free to order domestic military operations," Feinstein replied.

"Without regard to the Fourth Amendment?"


"My understanding is that is not operative."

Maybe Mukasey's last statement is what the Post jumped on, but given the previous exchange, I don't think anyone can say for sure (although Feinstein was reportedly satisfied.) I've bolded Mukasey's key sentence, which sounds like a lot of gobblety-gook to this non-attorney. Anyway, here's the video and you can decide:

Closing in on Bush's Torture Cabal: Who Will Take the Fall?

Also posted at AlterNet

An interview in Esquire magazine of John Yoo, former Bush attorney for the White House's Office of Legal Counsel, and author of two controversial torture authorization memos, may give a hint of what kind of defense Yoo will be present if he decides (under threat of subpoena) to appear before John Conyer's House Judiciary Committee on May 9. Of course, he may decide (or be forced) to fight any appearance. But when career prosecutors start thinking War Crimes Act, and Yoo wakes up and discovers he's expendable, then he might feel differently.

This comes out in Yoo's interview (with the portion below reproduced from TPMMuckraker, bold emphasis added). Note that the time Yoo is talking about is after torture techniques were approved and apparently directed by Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and others in Bush's National Security Council's Principals Committee. The approval came supposedly at the behest of the CIA, who were frustrated with the interrogation of Abu Zubayda, captured in Pakistan in March 2002. (But note, there was an even earlier approval by President Bush, in early February 2002, of which more below.)
Yoo: The interrogation question came up, I think, in March [2002], when Abu Zubaydah was captured. That’s what provoked that question....

Esquire: You weren’t under extraordinary time pressure?

Yoo: We were under time pressure.

Esquire: Days, weeks?

Yoo: The final version we didn’t get done till August [2002]. But we would show drafts before.

Esquire: They were taking action?

Yoo: They needed to have a sense before it was finalized what the basic outlines are.

Esquire: How long did it take to give an answer, go ahead do it?

Yoo: I don’t remember.

Esquire: Weeks, months?

Yoo: Probably weeks.

Esquire: So that’s a fair amount of time pressure, Zubaydah’s in custody.

Yoo: If you had the luxury of time, you’d spend years on this, without a doubt.

Esquire: What concerns came up, back and forth with the White House?

Yoo: There wasn’t a lot of back and forth -- people would say this is wrong, you need to delete this. I think that there was no pressure from any other agency from within the department that the opinion was going too far -- or that it wasn’t going far enough. It was very much hands off. That doesn’t surprise me considering how sensitive the issue was, people wanted the office I think to take the full responsibility.

Deniability and Videotapes

The "office" in question is the Office of Legal Counsel, and Yoo seems to be making the point that, while officially there was "no pressure," in fact, the memo authorizing torture was vetted by others. Furthermore, if anything went wrong, the OLC, and likely Yoo himself, would "take the full responsibility."

This makes weird sense if you understand that in the world of covert operations deniability is essential. Sometimes it seems preserving deniability is another quaint artifact of the past in this brave new world of neo-con America, as suggested by President Bush's admission he knew of the Principals meetings, and "approved." (How Bush can say this and still preserve deniability is examined below.)

"Well, we started to connect the dots, in order to protect the American people." Bush told ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz. "And, yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved"....

The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.
The interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, we might remember, was one of the interrogations videotaped by the CIA and subsequently destroyed, as reported in this Washington Post article last December. At that time, the issue was whether or not waterboarding Zubaydah -- the preferred CIA technique -- had produced any information of value, or whether the FBI's more traditional forms of interrogation had been more productive. Underneath this controversy was another one regarding the value of Abu Zubaydah's statements in the first place.

The destruction of the videotapes has caused some legal problems for the CIA and for government prosecutors. A New York Times article only a few weeks ago described some of the fallout from the tapes fiasco. For one thing, there were new legal motions from lawyers for Zacharias Moussaoui, whose case rested in part on testimony from Zubaydah, whose interrogation tapes were now "destroyed". But there was more:
In a suit brought by Hani Abdullah, a Yemeni prisoner at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a federal judge has raised the possibility that, by destroying the tapes, the C.I.A. violated a court order to preserve all evidence relevant to the prisoner. In at least 12 other lawsuits, lawyers for prisoners at Guantánamo and elsewhere have filed legal challenges citing the C.I.A. tapes’ destruction, said David H. Remes, a Washington lawyer representing 16 prisoners....

Plans for the possible prosecution of another prisoner, Ali al-Marri, who has been held since 2003 in a naval brig in Charleston, S.C., could be in jeopardy after the Pentagon recently revealed that it had destroyed some tapes of Mr. Marri’s interrogation. Other tapes showing rough treatment of Mr. Marri, which were discovered in a Pentagon review ordered after the C.I.A. revelations and have been preserved, could prove embarrassing if presented at his trial.
Worse, perhaps, than these newly discovered tapes is the statement by CIA director Michael Hayden last December, also noted in the Times story, that the tapes were destroyed because they were deemed “not relevant to any internal, legislative, or judicial inquiries.” Now, if these tapes had been in existence subsequent to the latest revelations of the August 2002 Yoo memo, and the appalling NSC direction of the torture of Abu Zubaydah and others, it seems highly likely that all three types of inquiries -- internal, legislative, and judicial -- would suddenly have been very relevant. As is always the case in Washington, advance knowledge is power.

It is not too much to imagine that the sequence of events demonstrates the influence of insider knowledge and subsequent obstruction of justice. The destruction of the videotapes eliminates evidence of war crimes, and allows minimization of political damage as well. Though almost forgotten by the press, there is an "investigation" of possible criminal behavior in the CIA tape case by government prosecutor John H. Durham, which has has found 17 court orders thus far requiring preservation of evidence such as the destroyed tapes.

Just What Is Being Covered Up?

Were these tapes destroyed to cover up war crimes by top government officials, beginning with President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and then National Security Adviser, now Secretary of State Rice? Even more disturbing, did the Principals watch these tapes in order to examine how the techniques worked? Notice the timeline implied by this Associated Press account of events:
At times, CIA officers would demonstrate some of the tactics, or at least detail how they worked, to make sure the small group of "principals" fully understood what the al-Qaida detainees would undergo. The principals eventually authorized physical abuse such as slaps and pushes, sleep deprivation and waterboarding.

The small group then asked the Justice Department to examine whether using the interrogation methods would break domestic or international laws.
Emptywheel at Firedoglake appears close to making similar connections:
...the President's top aides approved of everything that would have been revealed on the torture tapes, had they not been destroyed. Additionally--with the placement of John Ashcroft in the meetings--it puts DOJ at the center of discussions approving all the methods used (though of course Alberto Gonzales, and not Ashcroft, was in charge of DOJ during the destruction of the tapes).
Emptywheel goes on to imply that the CIA has leaked the story on the Principals torture meetings, as Durham may closing in on CIA culpability, at the same time that a House investigation opens on the same matter. And, as noted above, there are other videotapes intact floating around out there (including perhaps copies of the destroyed originals?). Agence France-Press reports that "a Pentagon review has turned up several dozen videotapes of detainee interrogations, including one that shows a detainee having his mouth duct-taped to stop him from chanting."

Meanwhile, the U.S. press is eerily quiet on this latest scandal. Bush seems least concerned, and is probably the most protected. Even his admission to ABC News that he "approved" of the Principals meetings doesn't say he was aware, at least at the time, of what was approved. An AP story argues exactly this point:
The officials also took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings at which CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved.
Rushing to Hide

But is Bush really safe? Ray McGovern at argues that a smoking gun already exists in the form of Bush's February 7, 2002 action memorandum, which promoted "new thinking in the law of war," and disallowed Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which bans torture and outrages upon personal treatment, for Al Qaeda and Taliban combatants. The vaunted Principals meetings followed the issuance of Bush's order, as did Yoo's first and second memorandums, including Yoo's contention that despite U.S. criminal law, in war it is allowed
..."to torture, maim, or disfigure," to "cut, bite, or slit the nose, ear or lip, or cut out or disable the tongue, or put out or destroy an eye, or cut off or disable a limb or any member of another person.
Of course, Yoo is backpedaling now. In the Esquire interview, he states (as reported by University of Toledo College of Law professor Benjamin Davis, who reports receiving a death threat for his critical coverage of the Yoo scandal):
“The memo released yesterday does not apply to Iraq. It applied to interrogations of al Qaeda detained at Guantanamo Bay. I don’t [necessarily] agree that the methods did migrate to Iraq, because I don’t know for a fact that they did. The analysis of the memo released yesterday was not to apply to Iraq, and we made clear in other settings that the Geneva Conventions fully applied to the war in Iraq. There was no intention or desire that the memo released yesterday apply to Iraq.”
Yoo may very well be rehearsing his testimony for the Conyers hearings next month. Also "invited" to show up at the hearings are "Attorney General John Ashcroft, former CIA Director George Tenet, former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, Chief of Staff to the Vice President David Addington, and former Assistant Attorney General Daniel Levin, who headed up the Office of Legal Counsel for a brief time." I can't wait to see if Conyers asks Feith about his contention that those concerned about torture and the Geneva conventions were "assholes."

More importantly, will Conyers or anyone on the committee remind their guests, and the country at large, that in the 2006 Hamdan decision of the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy wrote:
"By Act of Congress . . . violations of [Geneva] Common Article 3 are considered 'war crimes,' punishable as federal offenses, when committed by or against United States nationals and military personnel," and "there should be no doubt . . . that Common Article 3 is part of the law of war as that term is used in" the UCMJ.
Of course, it didn't take long for the Congressional leadership to come up with an immunity provision for any past interrogation offenses and pass it as part of a Military Commissions Bill in late 2006, in part to undo the Hamdan decision. Yoo, and the rest of the Bush cabal, hope they are safely covered by the MCA immunity. They are certainly not covered against impeachment. Nor would they be safe if Congress were to rescind the immunity provision of the MCA, as argued recently by the National Lawyers Guild.

Given the record of the Democratic Party leadership, specifically House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, not much is to be expected as an outcome from next month's hearings: a day of frenzied live-blogging and a limp editorial or two, followed by YouTube videos of C-SPAN coverage relegated to the empty reaches of cyberspace, victim of an ever-moving, trivia-obsessed news cycle.

In the case of Pelosi, however, there may be more than political obtuseness at work. It was only last December -- an eternity in the world of media attention span -- that Pelosi was implicated in briefings on torture techniques by the administration in fall 2002. (Also present was the then ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence committee, Jane Harman.) Pelosi subsequently issued a limp statement:
The Administration advised that legal counsel for the both the CIA and the Department of Justice had concluded that the techniques were legal.
We the People?

It increasingly looks like whether or not this scandal develops any real traction -- the kind that brings down politicians and administrations -- will depend upon the People. That's People with a capital P, with whom the sovereignty of the government supposedly resides. Thomas Jefferson wrote to an anonymous correspondent in 1825:
"The government of a nation may be usurped by the forcible intrusion of an individual into the throne. But to conquer its will so as to rest the right on that, the only legitimate basis, requires long acquiescence and cessation of all opposition."
A younger, perhaps more idealistic Jefferson wrote to David Humphreys in 1789, the year the Bastille fell:
"Whenever our affairs go obviously wrong, the good sense of the people will interpose and set them to rights."
The question is which "People" exists in the present? Which Jeffersonian oracle will prevail?

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