Friday, December 23, 2011

Excerpt from Secret US Gov't Report: "Law Enforcement Turned Law-Breaking"

The following is but one section from the 1976 report of the House Select Committee on Intelligence on the CIA and intelligence agencies, procedures and finances, known to history as The Pike Report. The investigation paralleled the more famous Church Committee investigation undertaken by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Unlike the Church committee report, the Pike Report was suppressed by Congress -- after it was completed (and the CIA complained) -- and never officially released to the United States citizens who paid for it. The late Daniel Schorr famously released a leaked copy to the Village Voice, which published it to great fanfare. Schorr was castigated, and his career and liberty temporarily threatened. But that is an old story now, and readers can follow it at a number of online sites (some of which are linked below).

The staffers working for Congressman Otis Pike were pugnacious and the investigation had a contentious relationship with the CIA. For one thing, the Pike Committee was investigating the financial aspects of the intelligence agencies, and was looking into certain areas the agencies wished to keep secret. Pike famously wrote in the report that the intelligence world had slipped "beyond the lawmaker's scrutiny," and that the CIA and other government agencies were using "national security" secrecy "to intimidate Congress and erode fragile support for sensitive inquiries."

Full Suppressed Pike Report Now Online

In the past I've excerpted portions of the report, but the selection posted below comes from a full, online version of the report, scanned from a 1991 version of the report assembled by Gregory Andrade Diamond and published by McGraw Hill. This version, as well as other versions, including one published in Great Britain in the 1970s by the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, have been incredibly difficult to come by, and prohibitively expensive for those who might see a copy for sale. The small portion posted here is within fair use guidelines and for the public good. It is posted without remuneration of any kind.

The Committee's hearings volumes (including the statements of witnesses, charts, correspondence, etc.), along with an unpublished draft report by the committee on NSA electronic surveillance, can be viewed at the Mary Farrell Foundation website, though you must be a member to download the actual documents.

Readers can investigate some of the background of the report's controversies at a selection of Kathryn S. Olmstead's 1996 book, Challenging the Secret Government, posted by Third World Traveler. Another interesting, if necessarily partial, history of the Pike report was written by CIA historian Gerald K. Haines, "The Pike Committee Investigations and the CIA."

Contrariwise, the introduction to the British publication of the report, by former CIA agent Philip Agee, constitutes another crucial discussion of the controversies around the report and its suppression. For one thing, Agee is critical of some aspects of the investigation and subsequent report:
For all the valuable information contained in the Pike Committee's report, one most important area of CIA operations was completely overlooked, possibly because the committee considered the matter too hot to handle. These are the relations between the CIA and foreign intelligence and security services -- commonly known in the Agency as liaison operations. Through these operations the CIA trains, finances and in varying degrees guides the foreign services into operations that will help the CIA. Over the years the CIA has played a major role in the growth and strengthening of many of the world's most dreaded and cruel security services: the South Korean CIA, the Indonesian KOPKAMTIB, the Thieu security services in South Vietnam, the SAVAK in Iran, the OBAN, CODI, DOPS and SNI in Brazil, the DINA in Chile and the Federal Police in Argentina....

Nowhere in the Pike Report can one find an indication that the Select Committee even considered the CIA's role in promoting and supporting such repressive security services.
Ongoing Government Use of Informants & Agents Provocateurs

The following excerpt (from pages 163-165 of the report) is chosen for its particular relevancy to the ways that agencies of the state operate to entrap political opponents by the use of agents provocateurs. This is not merely an historical lesson, but directly pertinent due to recent reports (such as this one at NPR) of such FBI and police activities concerning informants.

Last October, a Mother Jones investigation by Trevor Aaronson, detailed the use of FBI informants "to bust, and sometimes lead, terrorist plots." Back in 2005, a Dan Eggen report at the Washington Post detailed the findings of a Department of Justice investigation that found "in a handful of cases in which the FBI permits informants to commit an act -- such as engaging in conversations about a conspiracy or handling money as part of a controlled drug purchase -- that would otherwise be a crime." But this was certainly a soft-peddling of a much larger problem.

A September 18 article by Petra Bartosiewicz at the Los Angeles Times described the wide-scale use of informants as provocateurs in the Muslim community:
In a case in Chicago last year, for example, the FBI instructed informants to pay a suspect to quit his day job so he could focus on jihad.

To aid them in their efforts, the FBI has deployed paid undercover informants throughout the nation's Muslim community, particularly in mosques. These informants often act as agents provocateur. At a mosque in California in 2007, for example, one such FBI informant, Craig Monteilh, who says he was paid $177,000 for his services, talked so vigorously about jihad that the mosque sought and received a restraining order against him.

In another high-profile case known as the Newburgh Four — four African American Muslim converts convicted last year of attempting to bomb a synagogue and a Jewish community center and to shoot down military planes — an FBI informant promised the defendants, among other enticements, a BMW and $250,000 to carry out the attack. The details of the plot were choreographed in such detail that the presiding judge in the case chastised the government for its "decidedly troubling" tactics and concluded that the defendants would never have committed the attacks on their own.
But these kinds of reports are not really new. The 1970s Church hearings themselves reported on the use of FBI agents provocateurs in the Cointelpro operation used to destroy the Black Panther Party and other supposed "extremist" groups.

Not much was really done to curtail the activities of law enforcement and intelligence operations, though exposure may have slowed their operations for a time. As a result, these same agencies feel free to exercise the same kind of activities now. Political activists need to know about this history and these kinds of spy and provocateur operations in their midst, the better to arm themselves against police/intelligence penetration of their groups.

In the following subsection from the Pike Report, I have not changed spelling or other textual problems with the document, though I did make the subhead bold for greater clarity. The footnotes in the original are at the bottom of each page, but here are formatted entirely at the end of the text selection.
Law Enforcement Turned Law-Breaking

The use of informants, albeit an effective law enforcement tool, is a method of investigation which is particularly subject to abuses of constitutional rights and rights of privacy.

The Committee heard testimony from a former FBI informant named Robert Hardy. Mr. Hardy chronicled for the Committee his role in a 1971 Camden Draft Board break-in. Pursuant to FBI instructions, he infiltrated a peaceful anti-war group in Camden, New Jersey.540 He instigated the burglary and supplied the would-be burglars with tools, money, technical assistance and encouragement.541

In sum, Mr. Hardy acted as an "agent-provocateur." At one point, he attempted to halt the actual burglary, because a conspiracy had been established. His FBI handling-agents insisted that the burglary be committed. 542

The disturbing lesson is that in the FBI system there is virtually no mechanism to control agents in charge of informants. The FBI Manual of Instructions on Informants sets forth specific guidelines for the handling of informants,543 yet the uniqueness and secrecy surrounding each informant's relationship with the handling-agent544 impairs the effectiveness of those instructions.

In the Hardy case, the informant-agent relationship was further complicated by political considerations. 545 The defendants in a celebrated case in nearby Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, had recently been acquitted of all conspiracy counts. The FBI apparently felt that an overt act such as an actual break-in would be required to insure a conviction, even though the alleged crime of conspiracy, which was the basis of later prosecution, appears to have been completed far in advance of the actual break-in.

It should be noted that Department of Justice attorneys were advised of this situation long before the break-in and did nothing to avert the course of events. 546

The Committee investigated another example of lack of control over informants. The FBI used Robert Merritt 547 as an informant on New Left activities during the early 1970's. His duties included reporting on activities at the Institute of Policy Studies. Merritt told the Committee that his FBI handling-agents instructed him to conduct break-ins, deliver unopened mail acquired illegally, and solicit and provide information to the FBI regarding homosexual proclivities of politically prominent people and individuals of the new Left. 548

The FBI agents who handled Merritt denied these allegations under oath. They stated that Merritt acted on his own. 549

The handling-agents stated that they terminated Merritt because they ascertained that he ha provided false information on one occasion and had reason to believe he provided false information at other times in the past.550 If this was true, it does not fit with other facts. During the seven months that Merritt was an FBI informant, he provided over 100 reports on at least 25 people. He had, in fact, been categorized as "reliable" in FBI records. 55l

No effort was ever made to "correct" the Merritt reports, by indicating that the information contained therein might be unreliable. No prosecutive actions were ever recommended as a result of Merritt's allegedly wrong actions. His efforts apparently fit well with intelligence operations. 552

Furthermore, Merritt told staff that he had committed numerous illegal acts at the direction of District of Columbus Metropolitan Police. 553

His FBI handling-agents stated that although they acquired Merritt form [sic] the Metropolitan Police Department, they never inquired as to the nature of his prior activities as a police informant. 554 This attitude of "see no evil, hear no evil" appears to violate the seemingly rigid regulations of the FBI Manual, designed to effect the recruitment of responsible and reliable informants.

Conflicting testimony in the Merritt matter reveals the problem itself. Since FBI agents' instructions to their informants are, by necessity, given orally555 and without witnesses, it is difficult, if not impossible, to accurately fix responsibility for an informant's actions.

If the FBI agent is at fault, the problem becomes one of administrative command and control. If, however, the informant has gone bad, the problem is more difficult. For example, if an informant successfully instigates others to commit a crime, as in the Hardy matter, his FBI contact agent may overlook the informant's improper actions, because the informant is important to a case for which the FBI agent is likely to receive credit.

The risk that informants may use illegal methods is heightened when one considers the kind of person needed to infiltrate suspected criminal elements. Understating the problem, James Adams, Assistant to the Director of FBI, testified before the Committee on November 18, 1975: "[T]he informants you develop are not recruited from Sunday Schools."556 The dubious character of most informants is compounded by the fact that informants are paid cash, and their payment is commensurate with the information they furnish. The more incriminating the information, the more lucrative the reward.

540 None of the group's members was known by the FBI to be violence-prone. Comm. Hearings, at, Nov. 18, 1975

541 All of which were paid for with FBI funds. Ibid.

542 The FBI's denial of this allegation appears in their Memorandum of Nov. 28, 1975, Appendix II.

543 FBI Manual of Instructions, "Security Informants and Confidential Sources," Section 107.

544 The FBI considers the confidentiality of the relating between a special agent and his informant to be of paramount importance. Staff briefing, FBI Intelligence Division personnel and J.B.F. Oliphant and R. Vermeire, Aug. 28, 1975, copy on file with Sel. Comm. on Intell.

545 Staff interview, Guy Goodwin, by J.B.F. Oliphant and R. Vcnneirc, Nov. 14, 1975, at 83, copy on file with Sel. Comm. on Intell.

546 Ibid., at 83-84.

547 Staff interview, Robert Merritt, by J.B.F. Oliphant, J. Atkisson, E. Miller. Staff memo on fIle with Sel. comm. on Intell.

548 Ibid.

549 Staff interview, FBI Special Agents Tucker and O'Connor. by l.B.F. Oliphant, J. Atkisson, Nov. 5, 1975, copy on file with Sel. comm. on Intell.

550 Ibid.

55l Ibid., at 33.

552 Merritt interview.

553 Ibid.

554 Tucker-O'Connor Interview.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Radio Interview: “Iron Man” and the OBL Cover Up

I was pleased to spend an hour talking with James Corbett, as part of his radio show last night. Readers interested in the 9/11 cover-up story, especially as it relates to the suppression of knowledge about the work of military intelligence agencies, should click here to listen to the podcast.

From The Corbett Report website:
In the run-up to 9/11, a little-known military intelligence unit was tracking the movements and actions of Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. In late 2000, the military brass called off that work, and later the DoD lied to Congress about the unit and its work. Find out more about this underreported piece of the 9/11 cover up puzzle on tonight’s edition of the broadcast with our special guest Dr. Jeffrey Kaye.

Monday, December 19, 2011

James Corbett Reports: "35 Reasons to Question 9/11"

In a 9/11/2011 podcast, James Corbett linked together numerous documentary evidence presented over the years to show a consistent and continual obstruction into investigations over the origins and actions surrounding the 9/11/01 terrorist attack.

The evidence and its presentation is convincing and its cumulative effect overwhelming. (The work by Jason Leopold and myself on the "Iron Man"/JFIC aspect of the story is listed as number 9 of the 35 "reasons to question" the 9/11 story .) Listen to the broadcast, or click here to read. (I had earlier cross-posted this, but was not able to solve the formatting problems that left much of the text truncated. So you'll have to follow the links to get the full list and story.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Guantanamo Lawyer on Judicial Presumption of Gov't Secret Evidence (the Latif ruling)

The following cross-post was a contribution to the blog Lawfare, and are the comments of Guantanamo attorney Sabin Willett, who represented the Uighurs in the Parhat and Kiyemba cases.

I originally came across the Willett statement from a cross-post of the same material at Andy Worthington's blog. Worthington gives the legal background leading up to the recent decision in the Latif habeas case, a decision that sent chills down the spine of every person who takes seriously the rights of the accused, and the rule of law. (PDF link to the Latif decision, but watch out: it's heavily redacted.)

The case that first shut down habeas corpus was Adahi v. Obama, involving a Yemeni, Mohammed al-Adahi, whose habeas corpus petition was granted in August 2009, on the correct basis that, although al-Adahi had accompanied his sister to Afghanistan for her marriage to a man with purported connections to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, he himself had no connection to either group, and was just a chaperone.

For Judge Randolph, however, ideology is more important than facts, when it comes to the Guantánamo prisoners, and, as a result, he granted the government’s appeal in Adahi, and, essentially, ordered the lower court judges to give more credence to the government’s claims than they had been doing. As a result, every habeas petition since July 2010 has been denied, and other successful petitions have been either reversed like Adahi (three in total) or vacated, and sent back to the lower court to reconsider (two in total).

The latest monstrous ruling delivered by Circuit Court judges (Judge Janice Rogers Brown and Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, who share Judge Randolph’s ideological bent) came in October in the case of Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a Yemeni, with undisputed mental health problems, and a viable explanation for being in Afghanistan for medical reasons, who was the last prisoner to have his habeas petition granted before Judge Randolph’s new rules in Adahi took effect.

The ruling in Latif was not made available until last month, and, disturbingly, the judges took their endorsement of the government’s position one step further, declaring that the habeas judges must now regard the government’s own intelligence reports as reliable. This not only appalled the dissenting judge, David Tatel, but also appalled lawyers for the prisoners, who have long been aware of the unreliability of the intelligence reports relating to the prisoners. Anyone doubting this is directed to my ongoing series, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” in which I analyze the chronic and repeated failures of intelligence revealed in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks last April.
Thanks to Benjamin Wittes, with whom I have had some serious disagreements, for posting the original.

It is not hyperventilation to say, as so many have said, that Latif guts Boumediene, because — trust me — every prisoner has an intelligence report. Now the prisoner hasn’t just lost his judicial remedy to Kiyemba; if those reports control, factfinding is over, too.

But Latif, and before it Adahi, are not just law-of-war cases. They may raise the eyebrow of civil procedure sachems as well.

Because despite the gnashing of teeth over Boumediene’s failure to issue a manual, the Guantanamo habeas cases have mainly been about facts. Wedding guest or soldier? By the time review finally got on its legs in 2008, the President had had years to winnow away the silly and outrageous detentions (and Congress hadn’t yet taken up the blood sport of preventing him from doing so). Logically, we would have expected the government to have good facts in cases that remained, and to win most of them.

Something like that was happening in the district court, but then something else quite illogical began happening. On appeal, the government began to run the table. No habeas win could survive.

The district court was finding facts from old, cold and unreliable records, and so uniform results would have been a little surprising, but still possible, given the trial court’s broad factfinding discretion. You’d expect regular affirmance on appeal of both wins and losses, because in civil practice, the trial court‘s fact-finding is rarely disturbed. So where district court results are non-uniform, it is surprising–one might even say, conditionally improbable–that appellate results should make them so.

What’s going on here? The circuit is making up a new standard of appellate review.

Take Adahi. To a first approximation, Adahi is an “Oh, come on!” case: al Farouq, bin Laden at Sister’s wedding, shady characters on the bus, the Casio insignia–come on! But Judge Kessler wasn’t asking whether Adahi had thuggy associates. She was after the legally-relevant nut: has the government shown he is an enemy soldier? If General Petraeus attends my sister’s wedding, am I therefore a soldier? Suppose I go to Quantico and after ten days, they throw me out. Am I a Marine? (In doing this work I met a number of Marines. Each – I am quite sure of this – would declare ten days insufficient to make a Marine of me.)

As a matter of appellate procedure, the problem was this: Adahi testified. Judge Kessler found that testimony credible (leaving Farouq, denying he trained troops there). Adahi’s entire testimony is, “I wasn’t a soldier.” So if we have witness testimony the court deems credible, and it refutes enemy status, how does the circuit flip the judgment on appeal?

By not believing him, and crediting other evidence. That used to be for the trial court – remember?

My guess is that Judge Randolph saw the appellate review problem, for in addition to his famous innovation, he noted Judge Kessler’s failure to make an express credibility determination. Well, okay. But she did find facts for which the only record evidence was Adahi’s testimony, so she must have found him credible. If we’re not sure about that, why not remand for clarification?

Latif presents none of these distractions. Even the government agrees that the circumstantial evidence is down to one document, on which everything turns.

I tried Parhat. He had an intelligence report too. We picked it apart, as I’m sure Latif’s lawyers must have done with their report, and as Judge Garland did in the classified Parhat opinion. No one could make a straight-faced argument for a presumption after that was done. You have to–I can’t say this any other way, because Parhat’s documents remain classified–but you have to see an “intelligence report” to appreciate just how surreal the proposition is.

The trial lawyer would think this way: if this tissue of hearsay, speculation, and gossip comes in evidence at all, the trial court must at least be allowed to weigh it. But when the circuit lays the thumb of presumption on the scale, there’s no more judicial review — not even in the court of appeals. “Review” is in the anonymous DoD analyst who wrote the report.

Review was Judge Kennedy’s job, and he did his job. Whether we agree or disagree with his weighing, the scale had always been his before. This idea, I think, lies at the bottom of Judge Tatel’s thoughtful dissent. Can the jailer’s report trump the judicial officer, in civil cases that are supposed to be a check on the jailer itself? There’s not much evidence that anybody up at SCOTUS cares about the GTMO prisoners any more (whose imprisonments now treble WW2 detentions), but there may still be four of them who worry about trial judges.

Latif should worry the Law Faithful, too. If my client were stuck with this presumption, the first thing I’d bawl for is discovery of every scrivener, interpreter, interrogator – every scrap, jot and tittle behind the document. Last time we did that, in Bismullah, CIA averred the republic would be shaken to its knees.

* * *

Pause a moment. A man sits in government prison for ten years and counting, on the strength of a secret document created by the jailer, in haste, from hearsay, which didn’t persuade an experienced trial judge. Does that sound like the stuff of regimes we are prone to condemn?

Even Odysseus headed for home after ten years.

The other evening I saw an old friend whose client was, in 2001, an enemy belligerent under any definition. He was released from Guantanamo many years ago. He has a job, a family, a peaceful outlook on life; he’s grown up. Why is he out, and Latif in? Because he hales from the west. After ten years, it’s not about security any more. It’s all about politics: the politics of the 2012 elections, the politics of where you’re from.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"Ignorance is Strength" - New Short Video Summarizes 9/11 "Conspiracy Theory"

This new video uses sarcasm and irony to point out the absurdity of the mainstream government narrative on 9/11. Like the JFK assassination which most people believe -- Stephen King and Tom Hanks, notwithstanding -- was a high-level conspiracy that made Lee Harvey Oswald (as Oswald himself described it) a "patsy," the events surrounding 9/11 have already entered the folk history of America, the only place left where government crimes and the true purpose of U.S. foreign policy can be discussed, it seems.

The video comes complete with transcript over at The Corbett Report. One thing the video leaves out is the recent reportage on the suppression and cover-up of a military intelligence unit attached to Joint Forces Command in the months before 9/11. This unit, part of Joint Forces Intelligence Command (JFIC) had been tracking Bin Laden and others, and also providing intel on terrorist targets inside the U.S. Briefings on likely attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were given to top military leaders and intelligence officials at least six months or more before 9/11, as these recent reports document. Evidence of this was censored and kept from the eyes of Congressional investigators in 2002, and later from the 9/11 Commission itself.

H/T for this to Naomi Wolf's Facebook page.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Veto, Protest Nazi-like Bill Which Allows Indefinite Detention of American Citizens at Home, Others Abroad

YouTube user poiqweruadjfkewrijo (why such a long incomprehensible name?) has posted an important video demonstrating that provisions of the new Defense Authorization Bill that would allow the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without evidence or trial were demanded by the Obama administration. (H/T Glenn Greenwald via Twitter) Now a game is being played over whether or not Obama will veto certain aspects of the bill. But the President has not spoken against this provision, and now we know why.

I heartily recommend signing the petition via the link below. But I have little faith it will actually do the trick. We need a great deal more social struggle before things will begin to change.
PETITION: We have only a few days to speak up before the President signs NDAA 1031, permitting citizen imprisonment without evidence or trial. The bill passed by Congress absolutely DOES NOT exempt citizens. Section 1031 reads, "A covered person under this section" includes "any person who has committed a belligerent act".

- Confusingly, Obama previously threatened a veto for 1032, but NOT 1031. 1032 is UNRELATED to imprisoning citizens without a trial. He has never suggested using a veto to stop Section 1031 citizen imprisonment. In fact, it was requested by the Obama administration. Watch the video for proof.

- The Feinstein Amendment 1031(e) is dangerously misleading. Don't be fooled: In the text of 1031(e), "Nothing in this section shall be construed...", the only word that matters is "construed" because the Supreme Court are the only ones with the power to construe the law. The Feinstein Amendment 1031(e) permits citizens to be imprisoned without evidence or a trial forever, if the Supreme Court does not EXPLICITLY repeal 1031.

Congress planned to give it to him to sign on Dec. 8, but delayed at the last minute. If we act urgently to tell our friends, family, and colleagues, we can still prevent this. Here is what we can do:

1) Americans must know about this to stop it. Urgently pass this petition as widely as possible: Contact the media to clear up confusion about the facts mentioned above.

2) Congress can still block the law before December 13. Write and call your Representative and Senator telling them to stop NDAA Section 1031 and the dangerously misleading Feinstein Amendment 1031(e).
Contact your Representative:
Contact your Senator:

3) Write and call the White House to tell the President you won't sit by and watch NDAA Section 1031 and the misleading Feinstein Amendment 1031(e) become law:

Excerpt property of C-SPAN.
Fair Use:

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Es gibt ein Reich wo alles rein ist"

Lisa Della Casa as Ariadne in Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos (Libretto by Hugo von Hofmannstal), Berliner Philharmoniker (1959)"Es gibt ein Reich wo alles rein ist"/"There is a realm where all things are pure..."
YouTube link

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Senate Intel investigation finds CIA torture "far more systematic and widespread than we thought"

It could have been big news, if U.S. torture weren't so anathema to the press corps, such that reporting upon it is considered either a fruitless and unprofitable enterprise, or among most of those who do venture into such waters, the sine qua non for such reportage must be ignorance and/or cover-up for much of what the U.S. military and intelligence agencies do.

Consider that during the recent Senate debate over the Defense Authorization Bill -- the one that passed provisions on indefinite detention that drew cries of outrage from a number of law professors, and stoked fear among government opponents -- Senator Dianne Feinstein, while speaking against provisions of the bill that would subject U.S. citizens to indefinite detention also made some serious points concerning the torture-interrogation amendment offered by Sen. Kelly Ayotte. (See PDF link of her remarks - h/t Marcy Wheeler.)

Feinstein announced that the much-heralded, and much forgotten review of CIA torture undertaken by the Senate Intelligence Committee, first reported by Jason Leopold back in April 2010, is wrapping up its investigation. But her comments went unregarded and unreported, as patience for such things as fighting torture is not the strong suit of American political discourse, nor is much expected anymore from a Congress that has so clearly lost its bearings.

But, nevertheless, the announcement is not without interest, as Feinstein told her colleagues:
As chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, I can say that we are nearing the completion [of] a comprehensive review of the CIA's former interrogation and detention program, and I can assure the Senate and the Nation that coercive and abusive treatment of detainees in U.S. custody was far more systematic and widespread than we thought.

Moreover, the abuse stemmed not from the isolated acts of a few bad apples but from fact that the line was blurred between what is permissible and impermissible conduct, putting U.S. personnel in an untenable position with their superiors and the law.

That is why Congress and the executive branch subsequently acted to provide our intelligence and military professionals with the clarity and guidance they need to effectively carry out their missions. And that is where the Army Field Manual comes in.
It is not surprising to hear the torture was worse than already known. After all, the purpose of secrecy and the cult of classification, so assiduously courted by the current Administration, is to hide crimes. So one can only hope the Intelligence Committee will, when the review is truly and finally complete (and let's hope it's not another 18 months), that its findings will be released publicly. In fact, in a decent world, it would be demanded.

Lies that facilitate torture - Case-in-point: the Army Field Manual

One reason for the lulled non-murmur over torture is the outrageous lie that Obama, after coming into office, "ended torture." He enshrined the Army Field Manual as the supposedly humane alternative to the Bush torture regime of "enhanced interrogation techniques." Feinstein, who certainly knows better, is an exemplary model for such myth-making -- "myth" because the Army Field Manual actually uses torture of various sorts, and even though about half-a-dozen human rights and legal organizations, and a number of prominent government interrogators have said so (see this Nov. 2010 letter signed by 14 well-known interrogators to then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates) -- as her following comments on the Army Field Manual (AFM) demonstrate.

Here, Sen. Feinstein is polemicizing against the Ayotte amendment, which was ignominiously dismissed via a parliamentary maneuver, along with a few dozen other amendments, after an ostentatious Senate "colloquy" on the matter by Senators Ayotte and Lieberman (with Lindsay Graham chiming in at the very end). The amendment awaits its resurrection, seeking passage attached like an obligate parasite to another bill some months down the line. (The authorization bill is currently "in conference," as a final version is worked out that reconciles both House and Senate versions. It is not unknown for provisions to be slipped in under such circumstances, and I wouldn't count out yet Ayotte/Lieberman/Graham's attempt to insert a new secret annex to the AFM, not until, like the undead, a stake is driven through its heart.)

However, Senator Ayotte's amendment would require the executive branch to adopt a classified interrogation annex to the Army Field Manual, a concept that even the Bush administration rejected outright in 2006.

Senator Ayotte argued that the United States needs secret and undisclosed interrogation measures to successfully interrogate terrorists and gain actionable intelligence. However, our intelligence, military, and law enforcement professionals, who actually interrogate terrorists as part of their jobs, universally disagree. They believe that with the Army Field Manual as it currently is written, they have the tools needed to obtain actionable intelligence from U.S. detainees.

As an example, in 2009, after an extensive review, the intelligence community unanimously asserted that it had all the guidance and tools it needed to conduct effective interrogations. The Special Task Force on Interrogations--which included representatives from the CIA, Defense Department, the Office of the Director of Intelligence, and others--concluded that "no additional or different guidance was necessary."

Since 2009, the interagency High Value Detainee Interrogation Group has briefed the Select Committee on Intelligence numerous times. The group has repeatedly assured the committee that they have all authority they need to effectively gain actionable intelligence. As a consummate consumer of the intelligence products they produce, I agree.
Unfortunately, Sen. Feinstein is oddly correct. Between standard interrogation methods and CIA-derived interrogation techniques meant to break down a prisoner psychologically, they do really have all they "need."

Feinstein never mentions the years-long protests about certain provisions of the AFM, many of them gathered in the document's Appendix M, that have been found tantamount to torture -- the use of drugs (so long as they don't "induce lasting or permanent mental alteration or damage"), the harsh manipulation of fears and phobias, the elimination of wording from the previous version of the AFM that would ban stress positions, the use of isolation, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation techniques. All of these are mingled in with a number of other basic interrogation techniques, but that doesn't diminish the cruel irony of Feinstein's IC-based assurance that government interrogators "had all the guidance and tools it needed to conduct effective interrogations." Guidance and tools, indeed.

Perhaps she could have quoted the letter to Gates, signed by Ali Soufan, Steven Kleinman, Jack Cloonan, Robert Baer, Mark Fallon, Malcolm Nance and others, which noted "the use of potentially abusive questioning tactics" in the Army Field Manual. Of course, these government interrogators softened their language ("potentially"?) and couched their opposition in terms of what hurts the national interest, versus what is wrong or illegal.

But when it comes to protecting the massive military-intelligence complex, such awkward facts as the use of cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of prisoners, as well as outright torture enshrined in the Army Field Manual are not worthy of note. Even the many human rights groups who opposed the Ayotte amendment all buried any past critique of the AFM or its Appendix M in their polemics against Ayotte's "classified annex" proposal. This is not the way to win a battle!

Honoring "our values"?

Feinstein concluded:
We cannot have it both ways. Either we make clear to the world that the United States will honor our values and treat prisoners humanely or we let the world believe that we have secret interrogation methods to terrorize and torture our prisoners.
But what about interrogation methods that are not secret, Sen. Feinstein?

I don't seriously expect her to respond. Instead I ask readers, what kind of a country is it that has torture written into its public documents, and no one raises a fuss (or practically no one)?

The failure to take on the AFM and its Appendix M abuses in a serious fashion has led in a straight line to the political pornography of watching torture debated in Congress and among Presidential candidates, as well as a surge of political effort being made in some circles to make sure all such abuse is hidden forever behind a veil of classification. This failure is directly the responsibility of the human rights groups, who have not made it clear to their constituencies and the public at large how serious the problem currently is. While most of them are on the record of opposing the abuses described above, they repeatedly have pulled their punches for political reasons (as during the recent debate on the Ayotte amendment), and as a result, they must take the hard criticism when it comes, until, or unless they turn this around.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ernest Becker on Power & Human Nature

Some Sunday reflections from Ernest Becker's The Birth and Death of Meaning, pp. 178, 197:
Power for man, as the genius of Hegel saw, is the ability to support contradictions, nothing less. It is amazing how we misread reality, how we see power in all the wrong places, all the wrong forms, forms which have nothing to do with our distinctive problems. We think we see power in the people with sure beliefs, unshakable convictions, smug self-confidence. Yet these are psychological weaknesses on a planet which is fluid and full of surprises. We think we see power in the ability to dominate and coerce others. Yet history has taught us that such power inevitably makes a slave of and destroys the manipulator whether it be a man or a nation. We think we see power in numbers, in the deafening chorus of mass enthusiasms and the solid wall of shared opinions. Yet history daily teaches us that nature has no respect for even unanimous misperception of reality, and she has the coldest equanimity for the enthusiasms that carry whole populations into rapture. Nature could only respect the power that typifies a nature, and for man this must be the power to live and endure the paradoxes of his own.

Such power for man must be, of course, an ideal, and an unattainable one -- yet the whole sense of a human life is a struggle in that direction. Human nature is, in a word, an ideal. This is what makes the argument between the "romantics" and the "cynics" or "realists" so difficult and so sticky: it can never really be settled on empirical grounds alone: it all depends what you want to build toward and can achieve....

To believe that one has a higher reason to take human life, to feel that torture and murder are in the service of a divine cause is the kind of mandate that has always given sadists everywhere the purest fulfillment: they are free to remain on the level of the body, to pillage real flesh and blood creatures, to transact lives in the service of the highest power. What a delight. It is the perfect absolution of human degradation and sadists everywhere have hungered for it and reveled in it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

An Open Letter to the US Congress From Members of the British Parliament About Guantanamo

Reposted from Truthout

by: Jeremy Corbyn, John Leech, Caroline Lucas and 
Michael Meacher

A photograph of UK citizen and Guantanamo detainee Shaker Aamer with his two children. (Photo: Family photo released to Clive Stafford-Smith, legal attorney for Shaker)

As a group of elected members of Parliament (MP) from all the main parties represented at Westminster, we are outraged by the current position of the US Congress which, apparently, means that Guantanamo Bay prison will never be closed, and, of particular concern to us, that a British resident who was cleared for release more than two years ago, cannot return here.

The US official document given to him states, "On January 22, 2009 the president of the United States ordered a new review of the status of each detainee in Guantanamo. As a result of that review you have been cleared for transfer out of Guantanamo.... The US government intends to transfer you as soon as possible...."

Mr. Shaker Aamer, who has a British wife and four children, has now been held for nine and a half years, despite the fact that officials in the US governments of both President Bush and President Obama have been aware for several years that there was never a case for him to answer.

During this period Mr. Aamer has been tortured by US agents - for example, by having his head repeatedly banged against a wall - and has witnessed the torture of another UK resident. 

In January of this year, with eight other prisoners, Mr. Aamer started a new hunger strike to press for his release. In a scribbled note to his lawyers on the official paper saying he could be released, he urged them to work fast and get him home to his wife and kids "before it's too late."

In recent days, new evidence has emerged via a legal representative who has visited Mr. Aamer about his fragile state of health, including extreme kidney pain and serious asthma problems. He is clearly in urgent need of an independent medical assessment.

The British foreign secretary has raised this appalling case with the US secretary of state, stressing its high importance to the UK government and to many people in Britain who are shocked by the painful injustice Mr. Aamer and his British family have suffered at the hands of our ally.

In Britain, we have seen nine UK citizens and five UK residents returned from Guantanamo, after prolonged negotiations and court action, and the UK government took the responsibility for those men's conduct on their return. All have been exemplary members of our society ever since. There is no reason to believe Mr. Aamer would be any different, and the UK government is responsible for verifying that.

Mr. Aamer was not returned with the others during the Bush period, perhaps because he knew too many terrible stories from the prison. As a Saudi citizen, educated in the US, with a warm and outgoing personality, he had language and social skills that made him a chosen leader in several negotiations with the US authorities in Guantanamo Bay prison - notably over ending earlier hunger strikes. The negotiations failed when the prison authorities did not keep the bargains made, according to lawyers familiar with that period in the prison. Mr. Aamer's prominence among the prisoners has been reported by former prisoners, by several US guards and a number of lawyers with experience in his case.

We understand that the US government at one point planned to return him, against his will, to Saudi Arabia. Once there, he would have entered a re-education program, and it is likely his British family  - who do not speak Arabic - would not have had the necessary status to be able to join him. He has told his family - in two phone calls in the entire period - his wish is to return to them in London and recover from his ordeal by living a quiet family life.

For all these years, his family have kept as far as possible out of the public eye, maintaining their privacy and dignity in very difficult times, without husband and father. This unimaginable pain has gone on longer than anyone should have to bear. It is difficult for us to understand this is going on in our country because of the attitude of the elected leaders of US friends and allies.

The loss of their father came after the family was living quietly among aid workers in Kabul where Mr. Aamer was building schools and digging wells. When the US bombing of Kabul began a month after 9/11, he took his family to Pakistan for safety and returned to look after their home and effects in Kabul. We do not know how he then came to be in US custody, but we know enough about the bounties paid then by the US for foreigners to be extremely uneasy about what may have triggered his long incarceration - unprotected by the Geneva Conventions, which are the common heritage of our nations that fought together in World War II to defend a world free of fascism and injustice.

We know that the National Defense Authorization Act 2011, which came into force in January of this year, means that detainees from Guantanamo must be "certified" before being transferred, and that new draft legislation is currently being debated in the Senate for when this act lapses in September. What "certification" beyond the word of our foreign secretary do you need to send home a man your own military authorities have cleared as innocent?

We strongly urge members of Congress to take action on Mr. Aamer's case to end this intolerable situation, which casts a dark shadow over America's reputation here.

Jeremy Corbyn, MP
John Leech, MP
Caroline Lucas, MP
Michael Meacher, MP
House of Commons, London SW1

Creative Commons License

Keeping Torture in the Hands of Congress? (RT TV Interview on Appendix M & Attempts to Make Official Secret Torture)

I was on RT TV today, talking about my article at Truthout, Senate Amendment Calls for a Return to Bush-Era Torture.

My thanks to the RT news producers who gave me the opportunity to speak on camera about the least reported aspect of the torture scandal, the presence of torture techniques in America's otherwise lauded military interrogation manual.

While a number of human rights and civil liberties organizations have spoken out against Appendix M abuse over the years (see TO story), none of them saw fit to bring up the issue when they produced their press releases or gave interviews in opposition to Sen. Ayotte's amendment to create a "classified annex" to the Army Field Manual, which would consist of secret torture techniques similar or identical to the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques (waterboarding, etc.) of the Bush/Cheney years.

Placed in context with the successful passage of the Defense Authorization Bill today, including provisions to demand indefinite detention for all those who the U.S. deems "terrorists" anywhere in the world, including U.S. citizens in their own country, the repressive apparatus of the U.S. ruling elite is gearing up for serious political repression, even as it presses its war drive around the world. In particular, their cross-hairs are aimed at Iran, China, and Russia, not to mention any insurgency that they feel won't genuflect to their military might and corporate profit takers.

It's a sad and dangerous time in America, as the leadership of the supposed opposition to all this has taken a dive when it comes to the torture issue, as they line up behind the national security militarist state and their war drive.

Search for Info/News on Torture

Google Custom Search
Add to Google ">View blog reactions

This site can contain copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my effort to advance understanding of political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.