Saturday, August 23, 2014

Did CIA/SSCI Revolving Door Lead Feinstein to Suppress Full Torture Report?

Marcy Wheeler at the Emptywheel blog is known for her facility at connecting the dots in relation to government and intelligence matters. An excellent recent example is her most recent posting, which looks at how "vague references to claims that surely were torture derived" were used back in 2004 by now-CIA chief John Brennan in a scare memo to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to substantiate his case for legally justifying a Internet dragnet. (I use the word "substantiate" guardedly.)

I have a tangential interest in this same memo, as it mentions (and not the first time this has been documented) that Tenet spent seven years working for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), the very same institution that was charged with investigating the torture program under George W. Bush's Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet. For over four of those years with SSCI (November 1988 through January 1993), Tenet was SSCI Staff Director.

After leaving SSCI, Tenet went straight to the White House, where he worked as "Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Intelligence Programs." In a relatively short time, he was appointed deputy director of the CIA in July 1995. By December 1996, Tenet replaced John Deutch as temporary director of the CIA. Bill Clinton would nominate him as full director the next year. (For more on the CIA scandals that led to the fall of Deutch and Tenet's accession, see this 2009 story.)

In four quick years, Tenet went from SSCI Staff Director to head of the CIA.

While Tenet was SSCI Staff Director, the Minority Staff Director was John H. Moseman. In February 1996, Moseman was appointed Director of Congressional Affairs of the Central Intelligence Agency, demonstrating that the revolving door between the CIA and its Congressional overseers was not a partisan affair.

Moseman went on to become Tenet's Chief of Staff at CIA in 2001, serving until 2005. Today, he is an "Executive Advisor" at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Not everyone went from Congressional cloakroom to Langley. The Chief Clerk for the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kathleen McGhee, has served from Tenet's days at SSCI until January of 2014. In addition, sometimes the revolving door rotated in the opposite direction. When in February 2002, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees announced a joint investigation into the facts behind 9/11, they hired former CIA Inspector General L. Britt Snider to head the unified staff for the joint inquiry.

Another hire from CIA was Charles Battaglia. Battaglia, who had been the Navy's director for psychological operations during the Vietnam War, served as special assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence from 1978 to 1981. He was a senior line manager at the CIA from 1981 to 1985, and then went to work on staff at the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He ultimately became Staff Director, like Tenet, in the mid-1990s.

If this were any other institution, there would be an outcry, or a least some raised eyebrows, over this revolving door between IC regulators and the IC itself. One has to ask whether what we have with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees isn't an instance of what George Stigler called "regulatory capture."

But, you may ask, isn't there a big conflict between the SSCI and the CIA over the former's attempt to regulate the latter, in the sense of holding them accountable for their torture-interrogation program?

In fact, given the amount of worldwide outrage over the revelations surrounding the US/CIA/DOD torture program, the actions of the SSCI appear to be one of helping the CIA with damage control, rather than actually bringing the scofflaws to heel.

The Senate investigation only began years after the revelations about CIA torture were made public. Indeed, scandals over CIA torture and assassination have come and gone over the decades without the SSCI, including the SSCI under Tenet, initiating any major investigation.

Moreover, even now, with some 6000+ pages of report and millions of pages of documentation, the SSCI has indicated that it will only release a few hundred pages of "Executive Summary." This "Summary" will be so carefully controlled by the CIA, i.e., by the very agency the SSCI is supposed to be overseeing, that, as Jason Leopold revealed the other day, it will not even name key personnel in the torture program like James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, despite the fact their identities were revealed by a separate investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

But behind the hullaballoo over the CIA fight with Feinstein and her committee over the Executive Summary is the unassailable fact that the SSCI has suppressed its own report. Feinstein has said there is no planned release of the actual report itself, even though the mainstream press continues to treat the fight over censorship in the Executive Summary as a fight over the report itself. No, there is no fight over the main report. George Tenet's former employers do not threaten the CIA with that.

Another Suppressed Congressional Report on the CIA

This is not the first time Congress has suppressed a report on the CIA. In 1976, Congress voted to suppress the House Select Committee on Intelligence's Pike Report. A sampling of the report's conclusions may help one understand why.

"If this Committee's recent experience is any test," the Pike report concludes, "intelligence agencies that are to be controlled by Congressional lawmaking are, today, beyond the lawmaker's scrutiny.
These secret agencies have interests that inherently conflict with the open accountability of a political body, and there are many tools and tactics to block and deceive conventional Congressional checks. Added to this are the unique attributes of intelligence -- notably, "national security," in its cloak of secrecy and mystery -- to intimidate Congress and erode fragile support for sensitive inquiries.

Wise and effective legislation cannot proceed in the absence of information respecting conditions to be affected or changed. Nevertheless, under present circumstances, inquiry into intelligence activities faces serious and fundamental shortcomings.

Even limited success in exercising future oversight requires a rethinking of the powers, procedures, and duties of the overseers."
This was said even after the Committee had spent many months gathering a great deal of evidence (some of which today can be accessed here).

The Pike Report was suppressed by Congress after it was completed and after the CIA complained. It was 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.

The history of what was in the Pike Report has mainly been ignored and forgotten, which is what happens when political history is suppressed.

Could the CIA have learned from this that to keep matters under control that one of their own should be well-placed inside the very oversight instruments of Congress itself? Could this have been George Tenet's role from his very first day working for SSCI?

I have no evidence that is the case, but there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to present to at least ask the question.

Here's another question, though no one -- and ponder that "no one" a bit -- no one has asked Senator Feinstein and her committee why they are not releasing the full report. The taxpayers paid for it. The crimes ostensibly investigated therein constitute among the most heinous possible, being torture and murder by torture, ordered by the Chief Executive of the land.

Why is the SSCI acting as an agent of cover-up? If the Congress cannot do their job of oversight, what options are left for civil society?

Appendix: Who was on the SSCI back when Tenet served? Looking at a hearing from April 1992, we see that Democratic Senator David Boren was chairman, while Republican Senator Frank Murkowski was vice-chair. Others serving included Ernest Hollings, Bill Bradley, John Warner, Alfonse D'Amato, Alan Cranston, John Danforth, John Chafee, John Glenn, Dennis Deconcini, Slade Gorton, Howard Metzenbaum, and Bob Kerrey. George Mitchell and Robert Dole served Ex Officio. Sen. Feinstein entered the Senate as Tenet was leaving his post at SSCI to work for the NSC.

Appendix II (9/1/14): Recently, working on other materials, I discovered yet another CIA/SSCI link. In the mid 1980s, the SSCI Staff Director was Bernard F. McMahon (see this PDF file). Earlier, McMahon had served as Executive Director to the Director of the CIA (date documented as 1997 - see link and this 2002 Baltimore Sun article, which notes McMahon served under then CIA Director Stansfield Turner).

Appendix III (July 16, 2019): Some recent reading led me to revisit the issue of the CIA-Congressional intelligence oversight committees revolving door. Two important CIA figures also held prominent positions with the House Select Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HSPSC). The first was Porter Goss, who had been a CIA operative from the late 1950s through the early 1970s. Most famously, he was caught in a January 1963 photo that supposedly showed a collection of figures from CIA's Operation 40 assassination team.

Goss served in Congress as a Republican member from Florida's 14th Congressional district from 1989 to 2004. He was assigned to the HSPSC and served as its chairman from 1997 to 2004. In addition, along with Sen. Graham from the Senate Intelligence Committee, he co-chaired the Congressional Joint 9/11 investigation committee. In 2004, President George W. Bush appointed Goss to be Director of the CIA, where he served from 2004-2006.

Goss's tenure may have been shortened when, according to one news report, he got caught up in "a widening FBI sex and cronyism investigation that's targeted Kyle (Dusty) Foggo, the No.3 official at the CIA, and also touched on Goss himself."

The other prominent HSPSC official I want to touch on here who had connections with the CIA was former CIA case officer John Millis. According to a brief NY Times obituary, Millis worked for the CIA for "nearly 13 years. In that period, he lived in Pakistan, working to provide covert aid to Afghan rebels who were fighting the Soviet army."
The Times article also states Millis served as staff director of a special Congressional committee that investigated the Clinton administration's approval of arms shipments from Iran to Muslim forces in Bosnia" from 1996-1997. Later in 1997, he became staff director for the House Intelligence Committee, its top staff position. 

On June 4, 2000, Millis apparently shot himself in a motel room in Fairfax, Virginia. He was reportedly depressed as he was under investigation by the very House intel committee he served as top aide. Millis had also recently helped bring about the fall of former CIA director John Deutsch, who had supposedly taken top secret CIA information home with him on his personal computer.

In fact, Millis had been suspended without pay from the HSPSC only weeks before, according to a August 14, 2000 article by Jamie Dettmer and Paul M. Rodriguez in Insight on the News. Both Goss, who was then panel chairman, and CIA Director George Tenet insisted in public accounts that the suspension did not involve and threats to national security.

"The suicide was a private tragedy and should stay off-limits to the press, they maintained."

 Whether or not it was or not, I certainly can't know. Interested readers can pursue the link just above. However, I'll note that Millis's suicide and his connections with both the CIA and the House intelligence committee was something I came across while reading NYT reporter James Risen's January 3, 2018 Intercept article on his experiences as a national security reporter.

In the Intercept piece, Risen revealed that sometime early in 2000 Millis had leaked to him an internal CIA Inspector General report. The IG erport had "concluded that top CIA officials had impeded an internal investigation into evidence that former CIA Director John Deutch had mishandled large volumes of classified material...."

Risen had long wondered whether the stories he filed stemming from this revelation had led somehow to Millis's death. In the 2018 article, Risen feels that he was reassured by Millis's wife, Linda, telling him that the leak about the Deutsch affair had nothing to do with John's death. Indeed, Dettmer and Rodriguez had reported about marital difficulties the Millis's had suffered, including the rumor that John Millis had had a homosexual affair. Interestingly, Risen never mentions that Linda Millis herself had worked for the CIA (per the article in Insight in the News).

Whatever the labyrinthine politics behind the downfall of Goss and the death of John Millis, the point remains that their work for the Congressional oversight committees, and in Goss's case, for the Congressional 9/11 investigation, remain tainted by their association with the CIA, the very institution the oversight committees were sworn to investigate.

But their cases are not, as we can see above, unique -- nor do I imagine this article, with its later appendices, has definitively listed all the cases of possible conflict of interest between the committees and the various intelligence agencies they supposedly oversee. I add them to this article in order to further complement the thesis of the original work above.

One other example merits mention here: in 1995, Mark Lowenthal served as staff director of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. By 2002, Lowenthal, a PhD in History from Harvard University, had become CIA's Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production. He played a key role in the CIA analysis that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction just prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion of that country.

Finally, while I don't have time to investigate fully the case of Daniel J. Jones, the fact that this primary aide both Senators Rockefeller and Feinstein at SSCI, and later put in charge of the  investigation into CIA torture, later was revealed to have worked as an investigator for the FBI, supposedly on international terrorism operations.

According to a declassified Congressional report, Jones also, as part of his work with "the Penn Quarter Group (PQG), told the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in March of 2017 that he had retained the services of Fusion GPS and Christopher Steele to 'continue exposing Russian interference' in the 2016 election. Steele is the former British spy who authored the infamous unverified dossier of allegations against President Donald Trump."

It seems possible that Jones will be yet another case of strange interactions between the House and Senate intelligence committees and the CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies. Time will tell.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

CIA Intervention in Ukraine Has Been Taking Place for Decades

"The most powerful form of lie is the omission..." -- George Orwell

Of all the aspects of the current crisis over the NATO/Russia standoff in Ukraine, the determined intervention into Ukrainian political affairs by the United States has been the least reported, at least until recently. While new reports have appeared concerning CIA Director John Brennan's mid-April trip to Kiev, and CIA/FBI sending "dozens" of advisers to the Ukrainian security services, very few reports mention that U.S. intervention in Ukraine affairs goes back to the end of World War II. It has hardly let up since then.

The fact of such intervention is not hard to find. Indeed, it's hard to know where to start in documenting all this, there is so much out there if one is willing to look for it. But the mainstream U.S. press, and their blogger shadows, are ignoring this for the most part. Some exceptions at the larger alternative websites include Jeffrey St. Clair's Counterpunch and Robert Perry's Consortium News.

Even these latter outlets have almost nothing to say about the approximately 70 year history of U.S. intervention in Ukraine. The liberals and progressives avoid the subject because otherwise one would have to address the full reality of the intensive U.S. Cold War against the Soviet Union, and the covert and overt crimes and operations conducted by the U.S. against the USSR. Because the liberals share an anti-communist consensus, not far removed from Ronald Reagan's view of the USSR as an "Evil Empire," they have little to no interest in addressing the full history of the period.

But the current crisis in Ukraine, which pits a U.S.-backed coalition, which includes neo-Nazis, in Ukraine against Russian-speaking separatists in the eastern regions of the country, threatens to turn into a hot war between not just Ukraine and Russia, but between two nuclear-armed foes, NATO and Russia. Indeed, in the past six months, besides Brennan's visit,  the U.S. Vice-President and the head of NATO have all visited and consulted in Kiev with the current Ukrainian regime.

And now, the U.S. has announced it is sending military "advisers" to Ukraine, as the current government there prosecutes a major military operation against separatists in the East, which human rights groups say has included indiscriminate shelling, killing of civilians, torture, and kidnappings on both sides. The bulk of indiscriminate shelling, according to Human Rights Watch, has come from the U.S.-backed government forces. Amnesty International has documented that human rights violations and war crimes are committed by even a member of the Ukrainian parliament with total impunity.

Return of the Repressed: Recruiting Fascists as Anti-Soviet Allies

Back on March 28, The Nation and Foreign Policy in Focus published jointly an excellent article pulling up some of the relevant history, "Seven Decades of Nazi Collaboration: America’s Dirty Little Ukraine Secret." The article does a good job showing how the right-wing, fascistic Svoboda Party in Ukraine has its roots in the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists [OUN], which was one of a number of East Europe parties that allied at various points with the Nazis, and had their own racist, ethnic, nationalist doctrines.

After WWII, the U.S. made a pact with many of these leaders, ostensibly recruiting them as allies against the Soviets in the Cold War. Indeed, in the early years after World War II, the U.S. and the British hired Ukrainian nationalists, many of them associated with fascism, to parachute and conduct guerilla war in Ukraine and the USSR. When doing so, they turned a blind eye to many of these leaders' war crimes, including participation in the Holocaust. When these links were revealed years later, beginning in the 1980s, the CIA and State Department worked assiduously to deny these links to Congress and the press.

Almost all of these men were rounded up and shot. When the Soviets offered an amnesty to members of the Ukrainian Insurgents Army (UPA) in January 1950, 8,000 anti-Soviet guerillas still fighting within Ukraine turned in their arms. The U.S./CIA operation to use Ukraine as a base for war against Russia and the bulk of the Soviet Union ran out of steam. (See Stephen Dorril's MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service, The Free Press, 2000, pp. 242-243.)

It has taken many years, and the dedicated work of people like John Loftus, former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, Linda Hunt, Christopher Simpson, Tom Bower, and many, many others who fought governmental inertia and lies to get out the truth. Much of that truth still needs to get out, but slowly, surely, it is trying to find its way into the public's consciousness, as this Daily Beast article on Operation Paperclip taken from Annie Jacobsen's new book on the same subject demonstrates so well.

One important article, by Joe Conason in the Village Voice in 1986, examined the role OUN leader Mykola Lebed played for U.S. intelligence. I'm going to take up the controversy about the VV in the near future, looking at how the CIA continued to operate to protect its Ukrainian intelligence assets, even into the early years of the Clinton administration (and likely beyond). Such protection included lying to politicians, consulting with those under investigation for war crimes how best to deal with the political fallout, and in general falsifying history to protect their covert anti-Soviet program.

Yet can the truth stand up to the daily drumbeat of lies and anti-Russian propaganda coming at a feverish pace out of the White House? The U.S. has stepped up its overt intervention in Ukraine, and it would do well for everyone to know as much as possible the lead-up to this moment, as the pending NATO/US/Russia confrontation could threaten the very world we live in, that we all live in. The U.S. is clearly ratcheting up the political and military pressure against both Russia and China, and more than even what is happening in the Middle East, it is this renewed aggressive stance towards those two countries that will dominate the news and our lives in the coming decade.

U.S. National Archives Documents U.S. Collaboration with Fascist Ukrainian Nationalists

In a remarkable book published by the United States National Archives a few years ago, historians Richard Breitman and Norman J.W. Goda have examined recent declassified documents and put together an initial history of Army and CIA collaboration with some of the most important Ukrainian fascist leaders after World War II. Hitler's Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, U.S. Intelligence, and the Cold War (PDF) attempts to document "the Allied protection or use of Nazi war criminals; and documents about the postwar political activities of war criminals."

Hitler's Shadow was preceded by the 2005 publication, U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis, a Cambridge University Press book based on the earliest examination of new documents released as part of the 1998 Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act. While the history of Ukrainian nationalism shows that nationalist movements were squeezed between the policies -- and sometimes invasions -- of foreign states, the book makes clear that today's EuroMaidan heroes of yesteryear were in fact trained by the Gestapo and took part in the Holocaust.

Chapter Five of Hitler's Shadow, "Collaborators: Allied Intelligence and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists," examines recently declassified documents in regards to how US intelligence agencies recruited, paid, protected and used war criminals who collaborated with the Nazis. In particular, it looks at the careers Stepan Bandera and Mykola Lebed, two WWII "heroes" of the Ukrainian nationalist movement.

These Ukrainian fascists -- Lebed turned "democratic" once in U.S. hands after the war -- had their careers rehabilitated by former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko. When Putin points to the pro-fascist tendencies and Nazis within Ukraine, he is referring at least to this kind of evidence.

However, Putin cannot really address the full history of the U.S. and CIA campaign because 1) the crimes of the Stalin government is not something the Russians like to talk about, and 2) the long history of U.S intervention in Ukraine is tied up with the decades-long Cold War against Soviet communism. Putin and his allies are antagonistic to Communism, and ambivalent, at best, about the Soviet period (even if many of them were in fact former Communists or Soviet officials themselves).

Like the dilemma of the U.S. liberals mentioned above, to fully embrace a history of U.S. Cold War intervention against the Soviet Union would mean assessing what the role of the Soviet Union was, and in this, Putin and his anti-Soviet allies within Russia (like the oligarchs in Ukraine and other former Soviet states), who got rich off the corpse of the USSR de-nationalization, are not interested in dredging up Cold War history. They all shared an animus against the Communists that matched that of the CIA.

Breitman and Goda describe how the CIA's Ukrainian operation, codenamed "Aerodynamic," worked (this is taken from a National Archives government document and the extensive quote is not subject to copyright restrictions):
AERODYNAMIC’s first phase involved infiltration into Ukraine and then ex-filtration of CIA-trained Ukrainian agents. By January 1950 the CIA’s arm for the collection of secret intelligence (Office of Special Operations, OSO) and its arm for covert operations (Office of Policy Coordination, OPC) participated. Operations in that year revealed “a well established and secure underground movement” in the Ukraine that was even “larger and more fully developed than previous reports had indicated.” Washington was especially pleased with the high level of UPA training in the Ukraine and its potential for further guerrilla actions, and with “the extraordinary news that... active resistance to the Soviet regime was spreading steadily eastward, out of the former Polish, Greek Catholic provinces.”97

The CIA decided to expand its operations for “the support, development, and exploitation of the Ukrainian underground movement for resistance and intelligence purposes.” “In view of the extent and activity of the resistance movement in the Ukraine,” said OPC Chief Frank Wisner, “we consider this to be a top priority project.”98 The CIA learned of UPA activities in various Ukrainian districts; the Soviet commitment of police troops to destroy the UPA; the UPA’s resonance with Ukrainians; and the UPA’s potential to expand to 100,000 fighters in wartime. The work was not without hazards. Individual members of teams from 1949 to 1953 were captured and killed. By 1954 Lebed’s group lost all contact with UHVR. By that time the Soviets subdued both the UHVR and UPA, and the CIA ended the aggressive phase of AERODYNAMIC.99

Beginning in 1953 AERODYNAMIC began to operate through a Ukrainian study group under Lebed’s leadership in New York under CIA auspices, which collected Ukrainian literature and history and produced Ukrainian nationalist newspapers, bulletins, radio programming, and books for distribution in the Ukraine. In 1956 this group was formally incorporated as the non-profit Prolog Research and Publishing Association [CIA cryptonym: QRPOOL]. It allowed the CIA to funnel funds as ostensible private donations without taxable footprints.100 To avoid nosey New York State authorities, the CIA turned Prolog into a for-profit enterprise called Prolog Research Corporation, which ostensibly received private contracts. Under Hrinioch, Prolog maintained a Munich office named the Ukrainische-Gesellschaft für Auslandsstudien, EV. Most publications were created here.101

.... Beginning in 1955, leaflets were dropped over the Ukraine by air and radio broadcasts titled Nova Ukraina were aired in Athens for Ukrainian consumption. These activities gave way to systematic mailing campaigns to Ukraine through Ukrainian contacts in Poland and émigré contacts in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Spain, Sweden, and elsewhere. The newspaper Suchasna Ukrainia (Ukraine Today), information bulletins, a Ukrainian language journal for intellectuals called Suchasnist (The Present), and other publications were sent to libraries, cultural institutions, administrative offices and private individuals in Ukraine. These activities encouraged Ukrainian nationalism, strengthened Ukrainian resistance, and provided an alternative to Soviet media.103

In 1957 alone, with CIA support, Prolog broadcast 1,200 radio programs totaling 70 hours per month and distributed 200,000 newspapers and 5,000 pamphlets. In the years following, Prolog distributed books by Ukrainian writers and poets. One CIA analyst judged that, “some form of nationalist feeling continues to exist [in the Ukraine] and … there is an obligation to support it as a cold war weapon.” The distribution of literature in the Soviet Ukraine continued to the end of the Cold War.104

Prolog also garnered intelligence after Soviet travel restrictions eased somewhat in the late 1950s. It supported the travel of émigré Ukrainian students and scholars to academic conferences, international youth festivals, musical and dance performances, the Rome Olympics and the like, where they could speak with residents of the Soviet Ukraine in order to learn about living conditions there as well as the mood of Ukrainians toward the Soviet regime. Prolog’s leaders and agents debriefed travelers on their return and shared information with the CIA. In 1966 alone Prolog personnel had contacts with 227 Soviet citizens. [pp. 88-89]
This is the first in a series of articles examining the history of U.S. and CIA intervention in Ukraine, from World War II to today.

Crossposted from FDL/The Dissenter

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Obama Admits He Banned Only "Some" of the CIA's Torture Techniques

Forgive the tongue-in-cheek, but it is almost as if the only person who reads and responds to my work on torture is President Obama.

There was a cascade of coverage of the President's August 1 remarks concerning John Brennan and his defense of his embattled CIA chief, as Obama was also widely derided for his seeming defense of those who tortured "some folks" after 9/11. (Obama did not mention that the order to torture came from the Oval Office.)

"Well, at least he called the crimes out as 'torture," some observers noted. Others, including some in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), called for John Brennan's resignation as CIA director after he admitted the CIA had spied on Congressional investigators who were writing a thousands-of-pages-long report on the CIA Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program.

An Executive Summary of that report, in a censored version produced by the CIA itself, is now back in the hands of the SSCI, who may or may not release it soon. The Committee has already decided the full 6000 or so page report itself will not be released for years (if ever), a cover-up of immense proportions.

Jason Leopold, who has been covering the story for Al Jazeera America and VICE, noted astutely in a tweet the other day, that Obama's comments at his August 1 press conference included a reference to his only banning "some" of the CIA's torture techniques. Leopold believed Obama previously had always been more absolute in his prohibition of torture.

The full quote from the August 1 presser is worth reproducing here. The quote below begins in the middle of Obama's defense of those who used torture after 9/11, i.e., those who are the subjects of the Senate's controversial torture report (bold emphasis is added):
And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.

But having said all that, we did some things that were wrong. And that's what that report reflects. And that's the reason why, after I took office, one of the first things I did was to ban some of the extraordinary interrogation techniques that are the subject of that report.
Only "some of the extraordinary interrogation techniques"? Not all? Was this merely a slip of the tongue by the President? No one in the press corp seemed to notice, and no one took him up on the issue. To date, no one has in the press has at all (besides Leopold's tweets), though it is very much worth noting that Jeremy Scahill reported in July 2011 on the CIA's continuing use of black sites and torture in an important article in The Nation. Others had surmised as much even earlier.

But there was a much more insidious and institutional salvage of torture by the U.S. government, which, rocked after the Abu Ghraib revelations, tried to hide and maintain its use of detention and interrogation techniques that relied on force, mental cruelty, fear, isolation, stress positions, sleep and sensory deprivation, and the use of drugs. Waterboarding, for all the attention given to that brutal form of torture, was never really a major component of U.S. torture. There were even some in the CIA who would be glad to see it go.

Using solitary confinement, loud music and 24 hour bright lights, verbal abuse and humiliation, "dislocating the expectations" of prisoners by, for instance, moving them around every day so they never had a sense of solid place or safety or time to rest, or using drugs to disorient them -- this is the kind of torture that leaves deep psychological wounds, and which the U.S. wanted to maintain in its interrogation arsenal.

What Obama Meant by Banning Only "Some" Torture

Over the past few years, I have shown how first the Bush administration hid their torture program within a 2006 rewrite of the Army Field Manual on interrogation, then how the Obama administration via Executive Order made that same field manual the law of the land, incumbent on both the CIA and the Defense Department.

I showed that when in January 2009 Obama publicly revoked the Bush torture program, which the government labeled "extraordinary interrogation techniques," and all the John Yoo/Jay Bybee/Steven Bradbury Justice Department memoranda approving that same torture program, he did not do it in a blanket fashion, but referred the memos themselves to Eric Holder for review. Ultimately, as a Department of Defense spokesperson actually told me, the Holder and the Justice Department never rescinded one of the Bush-era torture memos, in particular the one that approved forms of torture that would be used in a special section, called Appendix M, of the Army Field Manual.

Obama's admission that he had only banned "some" of the previous administration's torture techniques was not the first time the government has made such an admission, however obliquely.

Last April, I wrote how the Department of Defense's main directive on interrogations (3115.09), which supposedly had banned SERE-derived torture techniques (like waterboarding, hooding, etc.) used by the government after 9/11, in fact made a note that only some of the SERE techniques were banned. The ones that were not banned resided in -- the Army Field Manual on interrogation, the same manual Obama had endorsed in his Jan. 2009 executive order on "lawful interrogations."

SERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape, and is the name given to DoD's program to prepare military and CIA and other specific government personnel for capture and imprisonment by a brutal enemy. Its participants take part in a mock-prison camp exercise, and it was the kinds of torture practiced during that exercise that were utilized in full-blown operational mode by CIA and Defense Department interrogators in the so-called War on Terror.

The SERE-derived model, which is what the "extraordinary interrogation techniques" really were, was superimposed on an earlier torture program based on isolation and sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, fear and drugs, developed by the CIA and codified in a 1963 interrogation program that is referred to today as KUBARK. Earlier this year, I obtained a version of the previously declassified KUBARK manual with new portions now unredacted.

But oddly, besides myself, only Obama seems to have noticed that not all the torture techniques were rescinded by him. The press and certainly the Senate and the House of Representatives have ignored entirely the use of torture in the Army Field Manual. While some bloggers and human rights groups have noted the anomaly of having the nation's primary instructions on interrogation include torture techniques, and some have even called for a repeal of Appendix M or a rewriting of the field manual itself, none of these groups or individuals have made this a primary issue. Nor, when the controversy over the Senate report on the CIA torture program is discussed, is the ongoing presence of torture in the Army Field Manual ever mentioned.

The failure to take on the entire torture apparatus is one reason accountability for U.S. torture cannot get sufficient traction. The argument remains shackled by what the Establishment deems reasonable dialogue about torture. So one can criticize the embrace of euphemism to describe torture, or argue why waterboarding is torture, or shout loudly why the redacted portion of the SSCI's Executive Summary of their years-long investigation should be released, but evidently it is not reasonable, that is, establishment-sanctioned via the New York Times or other media or political authority, to bring up torture beyond the terms already established.

But now Obama has done it. He has said he banned only "some" of the torture techniques that were the target of the SSCI's report. Now, besides me, who's going to take him on about this?

Crossposted from The Dissenter/FDL

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