Thursday, April 30, 2009

And Then There Was One

The Iraq war formally ended for British forces on Thursday as America's main battlefield ally handed control of the oil-rich Basra area to U.S. commanders and prepared to ship out most of its remaining 4,000 troops.


Waiting for Glenn

I have a feeling that Obama's response to Michael Scherer's very good question (I know, a freaking miracle) about his use of the State Secret's privilege is not going to satisfy Glenn Greenwald.

It was essentially, "Yeah, it's too broad and it was a shitty argument, but I'll keep making it until it changes, which I favor, but right now the shitty argument is the legal one. Of course, we just happen to have 5,000 other things going on right now so I'm guessing it won't get changed. But my hearts in the right place. So there."

  Rising Hegemon

Let’s give Glenn a little time to post. In the meantime, he’s on about the banksters who own Congress.

Sen. Dick Durbin, on a local Chicago radio station this week, blurted out an obvious truth about Congress that, despite being blindingly obvious, is rarely spoken: "And the banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place." The blunt acknowledgment that the same banks that caused the financial crisis "own" the U.S. Congress -- according to one of that institution's most powerful members -- demonstrates just how extreme this institutional corruption is.


One might think it would be a big news story for the second most-powerful member of the U.S. Senate to baldly state that the Congress is "owned" by the bankers who spawned the financial crisis and continue to dictate the government's actions. But it won't be.

  Glenn Greenwald

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Update: 5:55pm .... And here's Glenn.

The Specter of Politics

At age 79, Mr. Specter is the longest serving U.S. senator in Pennsylvania history. He had switched parties once before, in the mid-1960s when running for district attorney in Philadelphia. During his three decades in Washington, Mr. Specter has walked a fine line, finding ways of getting support from both organized labor and the Chamber of Commerce, for instance.


“It was the one thing he could do to be best assured his re-election,” said Clay Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute and an expert on Pennsylvania politics. “He would almost certainly have lost in a Republican primary to Pat Toomey, whom he beat by only two points in a primary the last time that he ran for re-election in 2004.


"I am not prepared to have my 29 years' record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate."


Specter said he told Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell several months ago that he wouldn't need his help when the Democratic governor offered to help him raise money if he switched parties.

"I changed my mind about that."

  Fox News

"Sen. Specter and I have had a long dialogue about his place in an evolving Republican party," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said in a written statement.

"We have not always agreed on every issue, but (he) has shown a willingness to work in a bipartisan manner, put people over party, and do what is right for Pennsylvanians and all Americans."

Reid called Specter a "man of honor and integrity" who would be welcome in the Democratic caucus.

  Political Ticker

"My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans," he said in his statement. "Unlike Senator Jeffords' switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change."

  Huffington Post

Asked if the president would aid the Pennsylvania Republican-turned-Democrat's primary efforts, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs replied: "If the president is asked to raise money for Senator Specter, he will happily do it. If the president is asked to campaign for Senator Specter, he will be happy to do that as well."

  Huffington Post


....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Little Perspective

The CDC estimates that about 36,000 people died of flu-related causes each year, on average, during the 1990s in the United States.


The Toothless Commission Will Go Forward

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) plans to proceed with a special commission to investigate alleged Bush administration abuses of power, despite lacking President Barack Obama’s support, according to a report Tuesday.

Sen. Leahy called for a “Truth Commission” in February to probe Bush administration policies on torture, interrogation and surveillance and to — as he puts it — “get to the bottom of what went wrong.” Such an idea would be modeled around truth commissions established in South Africa and Chile, which offered immunity to officials who committed abuses in exchange for the truth.

  Raw Story

That’ll teach ‘em.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

This Is How You Move Forward

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday to reinstate an ACLU lawsuit against a Boeing subsidiary that allegedly helped the CIA transport terror war prisoners to so-called black sites where they were tortured. The Obama administration had argued the case’s very existence would endanger national security and pressed the court to dispose of it.

“Today’s ruling demolishes once and for all the legal fiction, advanced by the Bush administration and continued by the Obama administration, that facts known throughout the world could be deemed ’secrets’ in a court of law,” said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, in a media advisory.

  Raw Story

Is Somebody About to Resign?

President Barack Obama has ordered an internal review to determine how the decision was made to send of one of his official airplanes on a low-flying photo op past the New York City skyline.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that deputy chief of staff Jim Messina will lead the review. Gibbs said the point is to determine "why that decision was made and to ensure that it never happens again."


Louis Caldera, Director of the White House Military Office, has publicly taken responsibility.

Caldera has had a distinguished 30-year career as a soldier, lawyer, legislator, high ranking government official, university president and professor of law.


Which may be coming to an end shortly.

The White House Military Office (WHMO) provides military support for White House functions, including food service, Presidential transportation, medical support and emergency medical services, and hospitality services.
Military support for food and hospitality services?

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Banana Republic Indeed

[The Transportation Security Administration] shows little concern about the use of the [“no-fly”] list for arbitrary or capricious actions. That seems to be the case in a story this week of how the TSA allegedly refused to allow a French flight to pass through (not land but pass through) U.S. airspace on the way to Nicaragua because one of its passengers was Hernando Calvo Ospina, who is an author and journalist critical of the past policies of the U.S. in Latin America.

  Jonathan Turley

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Is This Overkill?

Restaurants in Mexico City are being ordered to serve only takeout food in a widening shutdown to prevent the spread of a deadly swine flu outbreak.


Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard is ordering gyms, sports clubs, swimming pools and pool halls closed.

The shutdown also includes movie theaters, zoos and museums. Schools are closed nationwide.


....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Rapture Alert!

Veteran Republican Sen. Arlen Specter announced he is switching parties Tuesday pushing Democrats one step closer to the 60 votes they need to exercise total control of the U.S. Senate.

  NY Daily News

Which is why Norm Coleman absolutely cannot give up his insane protest against seating Al Franken. Al will be Democrat number 60 - a fillibuster buster. Lordy, lordy. The GOP must be in high dudgeon right about now. Of course, Specter does seem to be changing parties simply to get re-elected, and not because he intends to vote with the Democrats. But...we shall see.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Geting Out of Baghdad - Yeah, Right

The New York Times reports that the American and Iraqi governments will begin negotiating possible exceptions to the June 30 deadline for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from cities, focusing on Mosul in the North and some parts of Baghdad. Iraqi officials have agreed to classify U.S. bases in the Baghdad area as technically outside the city limits, thus holding to the letter of the agreements.


....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Just Shakin' My Head

An Air Force One lookalike, the backup plane for the one regularly used by the president, flew low over parts of New York and New Jersey on Monday morning, accompanied by two F-16 fighters, so Air Force photographers could take pictures high above the New York harbor.

But the exercise — conducted without any notification to the public — caused momentary panic in some quarters and led to the evacuation of several buildings in Lower Manhattan and Jersey City.


The mission on Monday, officials said, was set up to create an iconic shot of Air Force One, similar to one that was taken in recent years over the Grand Canyon.


On taxpayer dollars. Lots of tax payer dollars. I don’t think we should be wasting our money on sexy tabloid photos when we have such a huge bank bill to cover.

By the afternoon, the situation had turned into a political fuse box, with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg saying that he was “furious” that he had not been told in advance about the flyover.


When President Obama learned of the episode on Monday afternoon, aides said, he, too, was furious. Senior administration officials conveyed the president’s anger in a meeting with Mr. Caldera on Monday afternoon.

So maybe he can pay us back out of his own deep pockets.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Diogenes Can Rest

A first-time candidate for office and a member of Vladimir Putin's ruling United Russia party, [Anton]Chumachenko won a seat on a local legislative council in St. Petersburg last month. Three weeks later, he publicly renounced his own victory, expressing disgust that votes had been falsified in his favor.

"I don't need this kind of victory!" the recent college graduate wrote in an open letter to residents. "I don't want to begin my political career with a cynical mockery of rights, laws and morality."

  Washington Post

He won't even have a political career after this, unless I miss my mark. If only.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Mexico City: Insult to Injury

A strong earthquake struck central Mexico on Monday, swaying tall buildings in the capital and sending office workers into the streets.


Swine Flu Is Killing Us - How Appropriate

February 5, 2009…After meeting with Mr. Obama, Sen. [Susan] Collins [R-Maine] expressed concern about a number of spending provisions, including $780 million for pandemic-flu preparedness. "I have no doubt that the president is willing to negotiate in good faith, that he wants to have a bipartisan bill," Sen. Collins said.

  Senator Collins’ website

Surprisingly, that’s still up on her website.

April 27, 2009…Mexico canceled school nationwide Monday and warned the death toll from a swine flu epidemic believed to have killed 149 people would keep rising before it can be contained.


April 27, 2009…The top EU health official urged Europeans on Monday to postpone nonessential travel to parts of the United States and Mexico because of the swine flu virus, and Spanish health officials confirmed the first case outside North America.

Russia, Hong Kong and Taiwan said they would quarantine visitors showing symptoms of the virus amid a surging global concern about a possible pandemic.

World stock markets fell as investors worried that the deadly outbreak could go global and derail any global economic recovery.


Dear Susan, wipe the egg off your face.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


President Bush told a September 2006 news conference that one plot, to attack a Los Angeles office tower, was "derailed" in early 2002 — before the harsh CIA interrogation measures were approved, contrary to those who claim that waterboarding revealed it.


Or … Or … the “harsh interrogation methods” were being used before they were “approved”. However, that's not the only twist:

[The] CIA officially says2 that a plot to fly an airliner into L.A.’s Library Tower3 was foiled through the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.4


3 According to the Bush administration, this alleged plot was foiled in 2002.

4 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on March 1, 2003.


[Marc] Thiessen, formerly chief speechwriter for George W. Bush, is [...] lately engaged in a battle of wits with Slate’s Timothy Noah. Andrew Sullivan stands with Noah, while Crazy Andy McCarthy is ook-ooking on Thiessen’s side, explaining how Saddam Hussein was in league with Al Qaeda, and occasioning relief by not dragging Obama’s birth certificate into it.


Theissen makes a few more unverifiable claims (i.e. “according to the intelligence community”), adding, “These are just a few of the plots that were broken up because of information gained from CIA interrogations.” That means Thiessen knows about others but isn’t telling!

Our recommendation, of course, is waterboarding. Also, we could ask Thiessen if that practice yields reliable information, and keep doing it until he says no.

  Sadly No

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Quagmire - Part 2

Iraq's prime minister denounced a deadly U.S. raid on Sunday as a "crime" that violated the security pact with Washington and demanded American commanders hand over those responsible to face possible trial in Iraqi courts.

The U.S. military, however, strongly denied that it overstepped its bounds and said it notified Iraqi authorities in advance — in accordance with the rules that took effect this year governing U.S. battlefield conduct.

The pre-dawn raid in the southern Shiite city of Kut ended with at least one woman dead after being caught in gunfire and six suspects arrested for alleged links to Shiite militia factions.


The fallout marks the most serious test of the security pact so far and could bring new strains during a critical transition period.


Iraq's military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, described it as the "first violation after signing the security pact."

The U.S. military said its troops acted within the framework of the security pact, saying "the operation was fully coordinated and approved by the Iraqi government."

The accord, which took effect Jan. 1, requires American commanders to coordinate raids and other pre-planned strikes with the Iraqi government and military, or work in joint U.S.-Iraq units.


The Defense Ministry spokesman, Mohammed al-Askari, said an Iraqi brigade commander and a battalion commander were arrested for "allowing American troops to conduct a military operation in Kut province without informing the Iraqi government or coordinating with it."

Kut provincial police chief, Brig. Gen. Raed Shakir Jawdat, said he was unaware a raid was conducted. The U.S. military did not provide information on whether Iraqi security forces took part.


....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Federal Help Gooooooood

Gov. Rick Perry today in a precautionary measure requested the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide 37,430 courses of antiviral medications from the Strategic National Stockpile to Texas to prevent the spread of swine flu.

  San Marcos Record

What would we do if we had seceded? Oh my.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Meanwhile in Iraq

Hillary Clinton's characterization of the Sunni Arab guerrilla's actions as the last gasp of rejectionists is wishful thinking (not to mention un-artful in evoking Dick Cheney so powerfully).


All the Sunni-majority provinces roundly rejected the constitution to which the Iraqi government is now appealing, and you can't have a national government under those conditions.


Many Sunni Arabs in Iraq and in the Arab world are simply not reconciled to Iraq being ruled by pro-Iran Shiite fundamentalist parties in alliance with Kurdish autonomists. What distinguishes the guerrillas is not their greater rejectionism but their continued hope that direct action can change the status quo, which many Sunni Arabs have given up on.


Clinton arrived in Baghdad Saturday morning on a mission to assess the reasons for the recent rise in large-scale bombings.


Two suicide bombers killed 60 persons and wounded 125 outside the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kazim in northern Baghdad on Friday, in an attack that is much more dangerous than the previous horrific bombings this past week in Iraq.

Musa Kazim is the seventh Imam in Shiite belief, and his shrine is sacred to believers. (See explanation all the way at the end at asterisk). Had it been destroyed, Iraq could have seen another paroxysm of Sunni-Shiite violence such as followed on the February, 2006, destruction of the Askariyah shrine in Samarra (tomb of the 10th & 11th Imams and associated with the messianic figure, the Twelfth Imam).

  Informed Comment

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

What We Need Is Involvement on Another Front

As I have said before, although the rise of the Pakistani Taliban in the Pushtun areas and in some districts of Punjab is worrisome, the cosmic level of concern being expressed makes no sense to me. Some 55 percent of Pakistanis are Punjabi, and with the exception of some northern hardscrabble areas, I can't see any evidence that the vast majority of them has the slightest interest in Talibanism. Most are religious traditionalists, Sufis, Shiites, Sufi-Shiites, or urban modernists. At the federal level, they mainly voted in February 2008 for the Pakistan People's Party or the Muslim League, neither of them fundamentalist. The issue that excercised them most powerfully recently was the need to reinstate the civilian Supreme Court justices dismissed by a military dictatorship, who preside over a largely secular legal system.


The stock of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda plummeted after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

  Informed Comment

Maybe the sense of the level of concern is the sense of the ramp up to invading Iraq. Wagging the dog kind of sense.

Another major province is Sindh, with nearly 50 mn. of Pakistan's 165 mn. population. It is divided between Urdu-speakers and the largely rural Sindhis who are religious traditionalists, many of the anti-Taliban Barelvi school. They voted overwhelmingly for the centrist, mostly secular Pakistan People's Party in the recent parliamentary elections.


Pakistan has a professional bureaucracy. It has doubled its literacy rate in the past three decades. Rural electrification has increased enormously. The urban middle class has doubled since 2000. The country has many, many problems, but it is hardly the Somalia some observers seem to imagine.


The Pakistani military is the world's sixth largest, with 550,000 active duty troops and is well equipped and well-trained. It in the past has acquitted itself well against India, a country ten times Pakistan's size population-wise. It is the backbone of the country, and has excellent command and control, never having suffered an internal mutiny of any significance.


The Pakistani Taliban amount to a few thousand fighters who lack tanks, armored vehicles, and an air force.

I’ve been feeling a sense of tilt toward the desire to throw military weight into Pakistan over the past several months – perhaps out of frustration – but it seems to be there in the reporting at least. And as we’ve seen in spades, reporting tends to follow government officialdom (anonymous, of course) lead. So maybe the sense that Juan Cole cannot make of it is merely another instance of not needing to make sense in order to thrust our military might into yet another area, and our seeming need to create never-ending war. I suppose we shall see. The lack of a formidable foe has never gotten in the way of our other military adventures.

What I see is a Washington that is uncomfortable with anything like democracy and civilian rule in Pakistan; [...] and I suspect US policy-makers of secretly desiring to find some pretext for removing Pakistan's nuclear capacity.


My guess is that the alarmism is also being promoted from within Pakistan by Pervez Musharraf, who wants to make another military coup; and by civilian politicians in Islamabad, who want to extract more money from the US to fight the Taliban that they are secretly also bribing to attack Afghanistan.

Advice to Obama: Pakistan is being configured for you in ways that benefit some narrow sectional interests. Caveat emptor.

Do you think Obama reads Juan Cole? He should.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Torture Doesn't Work

And it’s wrong. And it’s illegal.

[CIA Inspector General John Helgerson] in 2004 found that there was no conclusive proof that waterboarding or other harsh interrogation techniques helped the Bush administration thwart any "specific imminent attacks," according to recently declassified Justice Department memos.


Helgerson also concluded that waterboarding was riskier than officials claimed and reported that the CIA's Office of Medical Services thought that the risk to the health of some prisoners outweighed any potential intelligence benefit, according to the memos.


So? Dick Cheney says it worked.

Even some of those in the military who developed the techniques warned that the information they produced was "less reliable" than that gained by traditional psychological measures, and that using them would produce an "intolerable public and political backlash when discovered," according to a Senate Armed Services Committee report released on Tuesday.


Last December, FBI Director Robert Mueller told Vanity Fair magazine that he didn't believe that intelligence gleaned from abusive interrogation techniques had disrupted any attacks on America.

So? Dick Cheney says it worked.

The military agency that provided advice on harsh interrogation techniques for use against terrorism suspects referred to the application of extreme duress as "torture" in a July 2002 document sent to the Pentagon's chief lawyer and warned that it would produce "unreliable information."


The report says the attachment echoes JPRA warnings issued in late 2001.


"The requirement to obtain information from an uncooperative source as quickly as possible -- in time to prevent, for example, an impending terrorist attack that could result in loss of life -- has been forwarded as a compelling argument for the use of torture," the document said. "In essence, physical and/or psychological duress are viewed as an alternative to the more time-consuming conventional interrogation process. The error inherent in this line of thinking is the assumption that, through torture, the interrogator can extract reliable and accurate information. History and a consideration of human behavior would appear to refute this assumption."


So? Dick Cheney says it worked.

"As the IG Report notes, it is difficult to determine conclusively whether interrogations provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks. And because the CIA has used enhanced techniques sparingly, 'there is limited data on which to assess their individual effectiveness'," Bradbury wrote, quoting the IG report.

Nevertheless, Bradbury concluded in his May 2005 memos that the program had been effective, although the still secret reports by Inspector General John Helgerson had been disseminated a full year earlier.


See? All you gotta do is listen to the Dick.

The U.S. military prosecuted its own troops for using waterboarding in the Philippines and tried Japanese officers on war crimes charges for its use against Americans and other allied nationals during World War II.



Saturday, April 25, 2009

Oh Great

Islander By Choice (IBC) is proud to announce the resurrection of Galveston Island’s legendary Bathing Beauties Pageant on Saturday May 16 at 2 p.m.


Dubbed the “Pageant of Pulchritude” by C.E. Barfield, the Galveston beauty contest began in the summer of 1920 and from then on marked the kick-off for tourist season each year. By 1928 the event had morphed into the “bathing girl revue” and became so popular, the Island’s population nearly tripled during the event weekend. These Island pageants are said to have been the beginning of what we know today as the Miss America Contest.

IBC knows it’s time to dust this one off for the people of Galveston and for the Island to reclaim its rightful title as the “Playground of the Southwest.”


....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Eat and Chew Gum

OK, it looks as if major health care reform is actually going to happen. Democrats have agreed that if Republicans try to block reform in the Senate, they will use the reconciliation process to bypass a filibuster.

Republicans will, of course, scream that this is a terrible, terrible thing — something they themselves would never have done — except, of course, to cut food stamps, pass both major Bush tax cuts, and more.

  Paul Krugman

You think they can handle this and the economy, too? From what I read earlier, Mr. Obama doesn't think they can handle too much at once.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Now That's More Like It

A federal judge rejected the CIA's attempt to withhold records relating to the agency's destruction of 92 videotapes that depicted interrogation of CIA prisoners in a ruling Friday afternoon. The tapes were said to have shown some detainees' torture.

  Raw Story

It's a Proud Day for American Justice

April 24, 2009 Washington, D.C. –

In its first filing on detention and torture under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice filed briefs in March urging the Court of Appeals to reject any constitutional or statutory rights for detainees. The Obama Justice Department further argued that even if such rights were recognized, the Court should rule that the previous administration’s officials who ordered and approved torture and abuse of the plaintiffs should be immune from liability for their actions.


In a suit brought by British men imprisoned for two years at Guantanamo, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today reaffirmed its previous ruling that Guantanamo detainees lack the fundamental constitutional right not to be tortured and are not “persons” under a U.S. statute protecting religious freedom.


In its decision today, the Court rejected the detainees’ argument that the Boumediene decision compelled the recognition of fundamental constitutional rights for detainees. Instead, the Court of Appeals held that the Supreme Court’s Boumediene decision applied only to the right of habeas corpus, and that no additional constitutional rights could be extended to detainees unless the Supreme Court specifically authorized and approved such rights.

In addition, the Court reaffirmed its decision from last year that detainees are not “persons” for the purposes of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was enacted in 1993 to protect against government actions that unreasonably interfere with religious practices.

  Raw Story

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

The Big Dick

I know you already know that Cheney is mouthing off about releasing documents that show that torture “worked” (never mind that doesn’t excuse it from being illegal and immoral). A typical Cheney thing to do – he can always demand that more documents be released which, according to him, would show that torture saved American lives, because there’s no way that all documents can be released, due to national security concerns. So he can always say it’s the ones that haven’t been released that prove his point.

But, apparently, there are specific documents at this moment that he’s calling for.

In particular he requests two CIA reports: a 12-page report dated July 13, 2004, and a 19-page report dated June 1, 2005.


The point here is that by 2004-05, the Administration's self-justification for its torture policy was well underway. These reports are not contemporaneous accounts of what intelligence the torture yielded. Rather, the CIA and Cheney were papering the file well after the fact.

I know some of you will say it doesn't matter whether torture worked or not. This is true, as far as it goes. But there's a large body of evidence not only that torture doesn't work generally, but that that it didn't work specifically when implemented by the U.S. (or didn't work any better than non-criminal methods would have worked). So while I've seen a lot of well-reasoned arguments about why the debate shouldn't be framed as did the torture work or not, I would say that is merely one part of a wide-ranging debate, and there's no reason to concede that point to Cheney's mendacity.

  David Kurtz

Justice Delayed

The White House and the Democratic leadership in the Senate signaled on Thursday that they would block for now any effort to establish an independent commission to investigate the Bush administration’s approval of harsh interrogation techniques.


Meeting with the Democratic leadership on Wednesday night, Mr. Obama said a special inquiry would steal time and energy from his policy agenda, and could mushroom into a wider distraction looking back at the Bush years, people briefed on the discussion said.


Ms. Pelosi, however, renewed her call for an independent panel to investigate the waterboarding and other harsh techniques approved by the Bush administration, a position shared by many of the more liberal Democrats in the House.

“I have always been for a truth commission, because I think this is very important,” Ms. Pelosi said.

She added that her only question was what level of immunity to grant to potential witnesses before such a commission.


No doubt, since she herself is involved. If she can’t get some immunity, will she be so eager to have those investigations?

Democratic Congressional leaders are doing now what they did throughout the Bush presidency: namely, pretending to oppose what was done while doing everything possible to protect and enable it and shield the wrongdoers from scrutiny (in large part because some of the wrongdoing was by their own party).

Obama's ostensible motives here are no better. The claim that punishing Bush crimes will undermine his political interests is not only false (as Krugman definitively establishes today) but also corrupt. Democrats spent the last several years vehemently complaining about the "politicization of the Justice Department" under Alberto Gonzales. Yet so many of these same Democrats are now demanding that the Obama DOJ refrain from prosecuting Bush criminals based on purely political grounds: namely, that those prosecutions will interfere with Obama's political agenda.


Punishing politically powerful criminals is about vindicating the rule of law. Partisan and political considerations should play no role in it. It is opponents of investigations and prosecutions who are being driven by partisan allegiances and a desire to advance their political interests. By contrast, proponents of investigations are seeking to vindicate the most apolitical yet crucial principle of our system of government: that we are a nation of laws that cannot allow extremely serious crimes to be swept under the rug for political reasons. That's true no matter what is best for Obama's political goals and no matter how many Democrats end up being implicated -- ethically, politically or even legally -- by the crimes that were committed.

  Glenn Greenwald

Mission Accomplished: Total Corruption

[O]ne of Obama's most impressive and rule-of-law-defending appointees, Dawn Johnsen, has had her nomination as OLC Chief blocked for months by the Right, and the office of a key Democratic Senator -- Ben Nelson -- just told Greg Sargent that Nelson "is all but certain to vote against Johnsen," substantially increasingly the GOP's chances of preventing her from becoming head of the OLC. That's our bipartisan Washington establishment in a nutshell: key Bush torture architects such as John Rizzo and Bush intelligence policy defenders such as John Brennan are able to remain in positions of high power in the Obama administration, while those, like Johnsen, who want accountability for government crimes are considered fringe, extremist and unfit for office.

  Glenn Greenwald

....but hey, do what you will anyway.


Kim Gamel of AP gets the scoop-- she reports that she has sprung from the Iraqi ministry of health the tabulated figures on violent deaths in Iraq since 2005. Altogether, combining the Iraqi list of over 87,000 death with tolls kept by other sources back to 2003, AP is estimating 110,000 dead by violence since the US invasion of Iraq began. This figure excludes guerrillas and militiamen whose fellow fighters did not want them going to an official morgue. The number is almost certainly only a fraction of the real deaths, which could number in the hundreds of thousands according to cluster surveys. Likewise, the AP number excludes those Iraqis killed by lack of potable water and other breakdowns in service delivery, including medical care, who are probably as numerous as those killed in violence.

  Informed Comment

Friday, April 24, 2009

Evil, Hypocritical, Insufferable War Criminal

26 June 2003

President Bush says torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity everywhere, and the United States is committed to building a world where human rights are respected and protected by the rule of law.

In a statement issued on United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture June 26 [...]


”The United States is committed to the world-wide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment. I call on all nations to speak out against torture in all its forms and to make ending torture an essential part of their diplomacy.”

  US Italian Embassy

Ccontribute to a Good Cause

By orders dated June 9, 2006 and June 21, 2006, the Court directed the Government to release twenty-one photographs depicting the treatment of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The parties have reached an agreement that the Department of Defense will produce all the responsive images by May 28, 2009.

Whether you believe Obama is impeding investigation or playing 11 dimension chess to set it up without looking like the bad guy, his policy on FOIA has already begun to open up the floodgates that may enable public opinion make this happen.

I know we've been having our own fund-raiser, but if you can, please show some appreciation to the ACLU for fighting this fight. Multi-year FOIA fights don't come cheap.


And for anyone who has spare change after contributing to the wonderful ACLU…

As the recent debate-changing discovery of Marcy Wheeler demonstrated, one extremely important way to improve media coverage of these issues is to have independent journalists able to work on them. Marcy has long been one of the hardest-working and most important writers on these matters, yet has been doing it all for free, as a side hobby before and after her full-time job. FireDogLake is now attempting to raise funds to hire Marcy to enable her to work on her investigative journalism full-time. For those able to do so, contributing to that fund is something I'd highly recommend. That can be done here.

  Glenn Greenwald

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Meanwhile in the War

Suicide Bomber Kills 9 Sunni Militiamen South of Baghdad

   April 11 VOA

Iraq suicide bomber attacks army base

  April 17 LA Times

13 killed by suicide bomber in Baghdad - police

  April 23 Reuters

Suicide bombers kill 25 at Baghdad shrine

  April 24 Reuters

Six die in fresh outbreak of Afghan violence

  April 23 AFP

Clash leaves Afghan police, 7 Taliban dead in W Afghanistan

  April 23 People’s Daily

Gen. Petraeus predicts worsening violence in Afghanistan

  April 22 Tehran Times

Thursday, April 23, 2009

And He Was There

One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.

It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.

We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber. This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.

There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics.


Please continue reading this enlightening Op-Ed at the NYT by an FBI agent involved in interrogations. The author believes that prosecuting CIA officials would be a mistake. I don’t. But the information in his article is well worth reading.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

And About Those Bank Deals....

Bank of America Corp CEO Kenneth Lewis testified under oath that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson pressured him to keep quiet about losses at Merrill Lynch & Co, which the bank was buying, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Testifying before New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in February, Lewis said "it wasn't up to me" to reveal Merrill's fourth-quarter losses as they were becoming apparent in December, the newspaper said, citing a deposition transcript.


....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Out of the Darkness

The CIA first sought in May 2002 to use harsh interrogation techniques including waterboarding on terror suspects, and was given key early approval by then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, a US Senate intelligence document said.

  Raw Story

To the pokey with her. And take her friends, too.

The agency got the green light to use the near-drowning technique on July 26, 2002, when attorney general John Ashcroft concluded "that the use of waterboarding was lawful," the Senate Intelligence Committee said in a detailed timeline of the "war on terrorism" interrogations released Wednesday.

Nine days earlier, the panel said, citing Central Intelligence Agency records, Rice had met with then-director George Tenet and "advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation of Abu Zubaydah," the agency's first high-value Al-Qaeda detainee, pending Justice Department approval.


According to the Senate narrative, Rice was among at least half a dozen top Bush officials, including vice president Dick Cheney, who were in 2002 or 2003 debating, approving or reaffirming the legality of the interrogation practices used on Zubaydah and two other terror suspects.

This is just one reason why these investigations/trials into torture authorization will not be properly done, if they are done at all. Now, John Yoo…he might want to arrange a flight out of the country. At least ask Scooter Libby about scapegoats.

John Yoo, one of the legal architects of the Bush Administration's "torture policies," was met with outrage at a talk given at Chapman University in California Tuesday, where he reportedly faced cries of "war criminal" as he approached the stage.


According to the Orange County Register, "Yoo responded with a slight smile."

"Maybe you all should conduct the debate," he quipped. "I'll write questions on cards and hand them in."

  Raw Story

Go ahead and click that link. The arrogant asshole defends the torture. He must be Dick Cheney’s best bud right now.

Five previously unacknowledged secret memos revealing new information about the Bush administration's interrogation policies remain hidden in government file cabinets, a Senate report disclosed Wednesday.

It's not just the memos' contents that are classified. Until Wednesday, their very existence was secret, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has a long-running Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain all records about the interrogation program.


....but hey, do what you will anyway.


Now that Bush administration officials have launched a major campaign to persuade us that torture “worked,” perhaps it’s worth recalling that George W. Bush’s own FBI director said in an interview last year that he wasn’t aware of a single planned terror attack on America that had been foiled by information obtained through torture.

Robert Mueller, who was appointed by Bush in 2001 and remains FBI director under Obama, delivered that assessment at the end of this December 2008 article in Vanity Fair on torture.


That stands in direct contrast to Dick Cheney’s recent claim that torture has been “enormously valuable” in terms of “preventing another mass-casualty attack against the United States.”


Whatever downsides Cheney’s constant public appearances hold for the GOP, the Bushies seem to be having some success shifting the debate onto the narrow question of whether torture “worked.” Shouldn’t we be seeing more push-back from the White House or its outside allies?

  The Plum Line

”Should” is the key word. I wouldn’t hold my breath. That would be torture, wouldn’t it?

Lawrence Wright’s definitive volume about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, “The Looming Tower,” recounts in vivid detail another example of how the measured, savvy manipulation of a captured terrorist suspect — not the beating and simulated drowning of him — yielded critical intelligence. No doubt there are other such examples that have not been made public.

But in seven years, not a single example has emerged of specific information vital to U.S. national security that was obtained through torture — not even when protected from public view. As the Post reported late last month, “Since 2006, Senate intelligence committee members have pressed the CIA, in classified briefings, to provide examples of specific leads that were obtained from Abu Zubaida through the use of waterboarding and other methods, according to officials familiar with the requests. The agency provided none, the officials said.”


Nobody should be surprised that the former vice president keeps returning from the political wilderness to defend the brutal treatment of suspected terrorists. Without providing any specifics, Cheney continues to intone that torturing Al Qaeda suspects yielded information vital to protecting America. Countless news reports have suggested strongly that claim is false.

Make no mistake: What Cheney is doing isn’t about protecting America, it’s about protecting political power.


Once again we watch Cheney double down on an ugly bet: “I haven’t announced this up until now,” he said on Fox News on Monday, “but I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country.” The U.S. government should declassify those reports, too, he said, so that Americans can see “how good the intelligence was.”

Obama is unlikely to do that, and Cheney knows it. That’s because the chances are that most if not all documentation of actual intelligence operations — as opposed to memos laying out the Bush administration’s legal justification for them — contains information too sensitive to disclose regarding sources and tactics. Obama should call Cheney’s bluff not only by noting that distinction, but also with a full-throated rejection of Cheney’s false argument: He should remind Americans that torture simply does not work.

  Mark Follman

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that, either.

Hillary had a big exchange on the Hill today with GOP Rep Rohrabacher that’s getting a ton of attention because Hillary took a hard shot at Dick Cheney’s lack of credibility, saying he’s not a “reliable source.”


The documents Rohrabacher was asking about, of course, are the intel reports that Cheney claims to have read that supposedly detail all the intelligence that was successfully collected through torture. But we don’t know if such documents actually exist yet, of course, or what they’re even supposed to say.


Whatever downsides Cheney’s constant public appearances hold for the GOP, the Bushies seem to be having some success shifting the debate onto the narrow question of whether torture “worked.” Shouldn’t we be seeing more push-back from the White House or its outside allies?

  Plum Line

My concern in this turning the discussion to whether or not torture works (it doesn't) is that if we were to decide that it does work, we will still be left with the question of whether to condone or use it. But maybe that's the real question. Are we okay with torturing people? We sure aren't okay with other countries doing it. Maybe it's time to answer that question honestly.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

It's Only International Law - It Doesn't Apply to Us

This morning, [Glenn Greenwald] conducted a 20-minute interview with Nowak -- which can be heard by clicking PLAY on the recorder below -- regarding the specific legal obligations of the U.S. to provide accountability for crimes of torture; how Obama's invocation of the "state secrets privilege" to block torture victims from having a day in court independently violates the Convention; and the detrimental impact that will result for the U.N.'s ability to hold torturers around the world accountable (which is Nowak's prime mandate) if the U.S. announces to the world that its own political leaders who systematically ordered torture will be shielded from all accountability.

  Glenn Greenwald

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Bush Legacy & American Justice

Philip Zelikow, a former top lawyer to Condi Rice at the State Department, yesterday wrote that the White House tried to destroy all copies of a memo he authored, which took issue with the legal opinions laid out in the infamous OLC torture memos.

Today, Zelikow appeared on MSNBC to flesh out that story. Among other things, he reveals that the Bushies said his memo was "inconvenient to have around." (Would it have been too much for Andrea Mitchell to have followed up by asking him who, exactly, said that?)



If you were plopped down on earth today in front of a TV set in the United States, on the testimony of the party members themselves, you might easily get the idea that state-sanctioned torture was the main policy legacy of the outgoing administration.


It isn’t?

Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that he would "follow the law" as he weighed potential prosecutions of Bush administration officials who authorized controversial harsh interrogation techniques.


"We are going to follow the evidence, follow the law and take that where it leads. No one is above the law," Holder said at an Earth Day event.


Will he use his own minions or the memos of the ones who already interpreted the law in favor of torture?

Some human rights groups have demanded that Holder appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the matter, but the attorney general appears to be in no hurry to decide how to proceed.

He’s waiting for the memos.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Tangled, Tangled Webs

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says she was briefed several years ago that Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) had shown up in a wiretap. Pelosi denies that she was pressured by Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban to appoint Harman chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

But then at the end of the interview, Pelosi says that Harman did not get the job because of internal term limits. She said, “The only reason Jane was not chosen is because she already had two terms. It had nothing to do with wiretaps or Iraq.”

Iraq? Who said anything about Iraq? The accusation was that Harman was to be rewarded for getting off the hook two career employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who are being tried for espionage.

Makes you wonder what Harman had to do with getting up the Iraq War, which seems to be another strand in all this.

  Juan Cole

Read up on the Pelosi-Harman scandal at TPM and here at CQ Politics.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

We'll Secede By the Light of the Moon

Bill Nye "The Science Guy" was booed in Waco, Texas for suggesting the Moon did not generate its own light, but reflected light from the sun.


I’m thinking he wouldn’t have gotten any reaction if he hadn’t prefaced that statement with a quote from the Bible about God creating two lights in the heavens – one for the day and one for the night. Now all those numbskulls who leave their kids to sit in front of the TV all day, where they might actually learn something (!), will be sure they don’t watch “The Science Guy”. Way to go, Nye.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Tea Party Hangover

It appears those July 4 parties are trying to morph into an armed march on Washington. Yes, I said armed. Will they get a permit? Glenn Beck says he's already got his for his 9/12 movement.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Fish and Chips Eating Surrender Monkeys

The chief justice of the British High Court on Wednesday gave the British government one week to obtain the U.S. release of classified information about the alleged torture of a British resident who'd been detained at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba .

The court indicated that it would issue its own order if the government doesn't respond or justify why continued secrecy is warranted.


"By making deliberately vague public statements, David Miliband and the Obama administration have tried to spin their way out of serious trouble, said Clive Stafford-Smith , founder of the legal-aid charity Reprieve, which also represents other detainees still held at Guantanamo Bay . "Such evasive tactics have no place at the British High Court ."


Well, good luck with that.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Good on Hillary

Regarding Hugo Chavez.

In Plain Language

From Jonathan Landay at McClatchy, one of the few reporters to get the story right during the march to war:
The Bush administration put relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.


Let’s say this slowly: the Bush administration wanted to use 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. So it tortured people to make them confess to the nonexistent link.

There’s a word for this: it’s evil.

  Paul Krugman

[T]here is now no way to view the people who ruled us these past 8 years as anything but monsters. We had all these rationalizations of torture over the “ticking clock” and all that — then we learn, for example, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in one month.

I really don’t even want to think about all this. But this was our government — and these people might be back.

  Paul Krugman

I don't think they've gone.

We Didn't Know

The program began with Central Intelligence Agency leaders in the grip of an alluring idea: They could get tough in terrorist interrogations without risking legal trouble by adopting a set of methods used on Americans during military training. How could that be torture?

In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.

This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved — not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees — investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.


Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.

The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.

They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective. Nor were most of the officials aware that the former military psychologist who played a central role in persuading C.I.A. officials to use the harsh methods had never conducted a real interrogation, or that the Justice Department lawyer most responsible for declaring the methods legal had idiosyncratic ideas that even the Bush Justice Department would later renounce.


Yeah, wanna buy a bridge?

The process was “a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm,” a former C.I.A. official said.

That last line is the perfect Epitaph to the entirety of the Bush Administration.

  Rising Hegemon

And a big amen to that.

Philip D. Zelikow, who worked on interrogation issues as counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2005 and 2006, said the flawed decision-making badly served Mr. Bush and the country.

“Competent staff work could have quickly canvassed relevant history, insights from the best law enforcement and military interrogators, and lessons from the painful British and Israeli experience,” Mr. Zelikow said. “Especially in a time of great stress, walking into this minefield, the president was entitled to get the most thoughtful and searching analysis our government could muster.”


Had that been what he wanted, perhaps. These people were not under the age of 15. These people had been through school. These people knew damned well that waterboarding was torture. These people had the DOJ working round the clock to find a way to make it “legal”. Don’t try to tell me they were just ignorant.

One former senior intelligence official who played an important role in approving the interrogation methods said he had no idea of the origins and history of the SERE program when the C.I.A. started it in 2002.

Let’s call bullshit where we find it. The SERE program is the U.S. military’s own training program for soldiers in case they get captured to be able to withstand torture.

And what about the “gang of 4” – the congress members who were briefed on this torture plan?

Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who in 2002 was the ranking Democrat on the House committee, has said in public statements that she recalls being briefed on the methods, including waterboarding. She insists, however, that the lawmakers were told only that the C.I.A. believed the methods were legal — not that they were going to be used.

What is she, a moron? No, my dears, that is on its face a legal loophole only.

By contrast, the ranking Republican on the House committee at the time, Porter J. Goss of Florida, who later served as C.I.A. director, recalls a clear message that the methods would be used.

“We were briefed, and we certainly understood what C.I.A. was doing,” Mr. Goss said in an interview. “Not only was there no objection, there was actually concern about whether the agency was doing enough.”

Well, at least he’s honest. By contrast.

Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, who was committee chairman in 2002, said in an interview that he did not recall ever being briefed on the methods, though government officials with access to records say all four committee leaders received multiple briefings.

Boy, those Democrats are really trying to back out of this one.

Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the senior Republican on the committee, declined to discuss the briefings.

Smart enough to keep his mouth shut.

If they shunned interrogation methods some thought might work, and an undetected bomb or bioweapon cost thousands of lives, where would the moral compass point today? It is a question that still haunts some officials. Others say that if they had known the full history of the interrogation methods or been able to anticipate how the issue would explode, they would have advised against using them.


”How the issue would explode.” Bingo. That’s the thing that would have stopped them. Thinking this wouldn’t become public is where claims of their ignorance is believable.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

SASC Report on Torture

Top US officials, not a "few bad apples" of low rank, were behind harsh military interrogation tactics that spread from Guantanamo Bay to Afghanistan to Iraq, a new Senate report said.

The Senate Armed Services Committee's 261-page report, the fruit of its investigation into US treatment of "war on terror" detainees, is likely to stoke the ongoing debate over US techniques widely seen as torture.


[ Democratic Senator Carl Levin, head of the panel,] said in a statement that the report showed that claims by top aides to then-president George W. Bush "that detainee abuses could be chalked up to the unauthorized acts of a 'few bad apples,' were simply false."

The report is "a condemnation of both the Bush administration's interrogation policies and of senior administration officials who attempted to shift the blame for abuse -- such as that seen at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and Afghanistan -- to low ranking soldiers," said Levin.


The report also details repeated warnings from military and other experts, almost from the outset, that harsh questioning was likely to yield "less reliable" intelligence results than less aggressive approaches.

One July 2002 memo from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency that oversees the SERE program warned "if an interrogator produces information that resulted from the application of physical and psychological duress, the reliability and accuracy of this information is in doubt.

"In other words, a subject in extreme pain.


Imagine that. It's time for an accounting.

But news reports say Dennis Blair, Mr. Obama's national intelligence director, issued a memo last week stating the harsh interrogations yielded "high value information" about the al-Qaida terrorist network.


He would. I guess it finally works on the 183rd waterboarding in a month. Even NPR is still calling it “harsh interrogations that some people believe is torture.”

In the wake of the Senate Armed Services Committee's (SASC) report on detainee abuse, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is calling for the psychologists who justified, designed, and implemented torture for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Department of Defense (DoD), to lose their professional licenses and to face criminal prosecution.


Absolutely. And – physician, heal thyself.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

American Justice

[The] White House Orwellian script -- look to the glorious future, citizens, for that is where your salvation lies -- is almost as creepy as the OLC torture memos themselves. Too bad for the 2.1 million Americans in prison -- the largest prison population on the planet -- that the profound sense of forgiveness exuded by Obama and our Beltway elites only seems to apply to themselves, and especially to Bush officials who systematically violated the law.


Perhaps it's time to begin a FREE BERNIE MADOFF campaign based on Obama's oh-so-moving decree that this is a time for reflection, not retribution, and that we must look forward, not backwards.

Glenn Greenwald

And so Obama's refusal to investigate war crimes is itself against the law. And so torture's cancerous route through the legal and constitutional system continues, contaminating the future as well as the past, rendering the US incapable of upholding Geneva against other nations, because it has violated Geneva itself, and giving to every tyrant on the planet a justification for the torture of prisoners.

In this scenario, America becomes a city on a hill, where the rule of law is optional and torture acceptable if parsed into legal memos that do not pass the most basic professional sniff-test.

America becomes a banana republic.

Andrew Sullivan

I’ve been saying that for years. No, wait…I’ve been saying grapefruit republic.

The President can look as foward as he wants. Nobody needs him to prosecute.

Glenn Greenwald

Yeah, so just how independent and justice-minded is Eric Holder anyway?

Update 12:30pm:

The question of whether to bring charges against those who devised justification for the methods "is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws and I don't want to prejudge that," Obama said. The president discussed the continuing issue of terrorism-era interrogation tactics with reporters as he finished an Oval Office meeting with visiting King Abdullah II of Jordan. Yahoo

Torture: Mistakes

Obama said Monday that a court case was going to force the memos to be released and that much of what they contained had already been compromised through leaks to news media.

The president urged the hundreds of CIA employees who gathered in a secure auditorium to ignore the recent controversy. "Don't be discouraged by what's happened the last few weeks," he said.

A round of cheers erupted when CIA Director Leon Panetta introduced Obama, who quickly reassured them that they had his backing.

"I know the last few days have been difficult," he said. "You need to know you've got my full support."


"Don't be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we've made some mistakes," President Obama said at CIA headquarters. "That's how we learn."


”Potentially we’ve made some mistakes.” We tortured people. Some of them to death. So apparently, what we learned was that we might not be able to get away with that.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tangled, Tangled Webs

Update: So sorry, That's confusing, isn't it? Must have been in a hurry. Proper paragraph inserted:

President Evo Morales has said that an alleged assassination plot against him by Balkan mercenaries and an Irishman may have been backed by the US embassy in the Bolivian capital La Paz.

Rep. Jane Harman , the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington.


In exchange for Harman’s help, the sources said, the suspected Israeli agent pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., then-House minority leader, to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections, which the Democrats were heavily favored to win.

Seemingly wary of what she had just agreed to, according to an official who read the NSA transcript, Harman hung up after saying, “This conversation doesn’t exist.”

  CQ Politics

But the real the crux of Stein's scoop is that then-Attorney General Alberto Gonazles intervened to kill the criminal investigation into Harman -- even though DOJ lawyers had concluded that she committed crimes -- because top Bush officials wanted Harman's credibility to be preserved so that she could publicly defend the Bush administration's illegal warrantless eavesdropping program

  Glenn Greenwald

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

International Assassin Ring?

President Evo Morales has said that an alleged assassination plot against him by Balkan mercenaries and an Irishman may have been backed by the US embassy in the Bolivian capital La Paz.

Police commandos shot dead three men last week in a hotel room in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, which was said to be the base for a conspiracy to wipe out government leaders and stage a coup.

Irish authorities are attempting to repatriate the body of Michael Dwyer, 24, one of the trio whose bullet-ridden bodies were displayed in photographs published in Bolivian newspapers.

Two survivors of the group, reported to be a Croatian and a Hungarian, were moved to a jail in La Paz over the weekend, while diplomats, politicians and law enforcement officials tried to ascertain the full picture.


Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president and an outspoken critic of the US, elaborated on the alleged conspiracy while attending a regional summit in Trinidad and Tobago. He told a news ¬conference that he had asked Barack Obama, in a closed session with 12 South American leaders, to repudiate the plot, which Morales said might be linked to previous US-backed efforts to unseat him.

If the US president did not repudiate the alleged conspiracy, "I might think it was organized through the [US] embassy", said Morales. "I don't want meddling in my country." Obama replied that he was unfamiliar with the incident but assured Morales that his administration was not involved, said a US official at the summit.

  UK Guardian

Could that be considered a repudiation? And can you be unaware of something and yet give assurances of non-involvement?

The other dead were named as Eduardo Rozsa Flores, 49, a Bolivian-Hungarian who reportedly fought in the former Yugoslavia, and ¬Magyarosi Arpak, a Romanian who was said to be a sniper.

The two detained were named as Mario Francisco Tadik Astorga, 58, reportedly a Bolivian-Croatian who also fought in the Balkans, and Elot Toazo, a Hungarian and a computer expert.

Quite an international conspiracy.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Did We Already Secede???

"Think Progress" uncovers the State Department's (since corrected) classification of Texas as a foreign country. Sarah Palin's gaffe calling Africa a country pales, I think.

Actually, they could be excused - when you're in Texas, you feel like you're in a foreign country - another planet, actually.

(Picture from Burnt Orange)

Responsive to the People

Hey, maybe those tea parties worked.

US President Barack Obama, faced with mushrooming budget deficits, announced he will convene his first full cabinet meeting Monday and ask his secretaries for specific plans to cut spending.

  Raw Story

Maybe the defenders of civil liberties and international law should take to the streets.

Obama praised Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for ending contracts to create new seals and logos for her department that would have cost the treasury three million dollars as well as Defense Secretary Robert Gates for finding ways to eliminate hundreds of billions of dollars in spending.

I’m sure we could all come up with some suggestions for other agencies who spend money on similarly completely useless and wasteful things like creating new logos, should they need help. Constant new designs for coins comes to mind.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Responsibility, Legality, Accountability

The United Nation’s top torture investigator has suggested it is illegal under International law for President Barack Obama to announce that the United States government has no intention of prosecuting low-level CIA officers who carried out torture sanctioned by the Bush Administration.


“Like all other contracting states to the UN convention against torture, the US has committed to conduct criminal investigations of torture and to bring all persons to court against whom there is sound evidence,” Manfred Nowak, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on torture, told Austrian weekly paper Der Standard.

“They are party to the convention and the convention is very, very clear,” Nowak told the paper. “The fact that you carried out an order doesn’t relieve you of your responsibility.”

  Raw Story

An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

  Convention Against Torture

“Nowak, who said he would soon travel to Washington for meetings with officials, also called for a comprehensive independent investigation into the matter and added it was important to compensate the victims,” the paper continued.

“Nowak said he did not think the president would not go so far as to issue an amnesty law for CIA operatives. Therefore US courts could still try torture suspects,” reported Earth Times.

  Raw Story

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

The Gift

Hugo Chavez gave Barack Obama a book. I hope he reads it. (Apparently, he'll have to get an English translation.)

"I think it was a good moment," Chavez said about their initial encounter. "I think President Obama is an intelligent man, compared to the previous U.S. president."


But who isn’t?

Update: Chavez says he is going to replace Venezuela's ambassadorship to the US, which was withdrawn during the last months of Bush's administrtion.