Archive for Senate Intelligence Committee

Torture worse than waterboarding: Inside the Senate report on CIA interrogations

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Did you know that waterboarding was the "least worst" method of torture used on high-value detainees by the CIA under the Bush administration's watch?

My dear friend and one of the best investigative reporters out there, Jason Leopold, went on Nicole Sandler's radio show just before my weekly spot. He's a tough act to follow, especially when he reveals what the corporate "news" media won't touch with a ten-foot ad buy. Which is why you haven't heard about the "not legally authorized" torture "techniques" that will likely turn many American stomachs once details are finally (if ever) made public.

Now, because Jason has made such good and plentiful use of the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act), he is being called a "FOIA terrorist" and has had to deal with considerable blowback from some very powerful people in very powerful places. IMHO, the reason they feel so "terrorized" is that they're scared to death of Jason's reporting and the truths he brings to light.

Here are a few excerpts from Jason's Al Jazeera America piece:

A still-classified report on the CIA's interrogation program established in the wake of 9/11 sparked a furious row last week between the agency and Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein. Al Jazeera has learned from sources familiar with its contents that the committee's report alleges that at least one high-value detainee was subjected to torture techniques that went beyond those authorized by George W. Bush's Justice Department.

Two Senate staffers and a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the information they disclosed remains classified, told Al Jazeera that the committee's analysis of 6 million pages of classified records also found that some of the harsh measures authorized by the Department of Justice had been applied to at least one detainee before such legal authorization was received. They said the report suggests that the CIA knowingly misled the White House, Congress and the Justice Department about the intelligence value of detainee Zain Abidin Mohammed Husain Abu Zubaydah when using his case to argue in favor of harsher interrogation techniques. [...]

Even before accessing the documents, committee staffers received crucial information in a briefing from former FBI agent Ali Soufan in early 2008, according to Al Jazeera’s sources. Soufan — who now runs a private security and intelligence consultancy — told the staffers that he had kept meticulous notes about the methods used by a psychologist under CIA contract to interrogate Abu Zubaydah at a CIA black site in Thailand after his capture in Pakistan in March of 2002. Soufan's account, the staffers say, shows that torture techniques were used on Abu Zubaydah even before some had been sanctioned as permissible by the Bush administration. [...]

Two Senate staffers told Al Jazeera that the Panetta documents question the Bush administration claims about the efficacy of Abu Zubaydah’s torture, and the staffers noted that some of the techniques to which he was subjected early in his captivity had not yet been authorized.

Jason explained that the previously undisclosed torture methods made waterboarding seem like the least ghastly practice by comparison... and perhaps that's why the public focus was (intentionally) on waterboarding. See the shiny, inhumane keys? Now move along.

You can hear Jason talk about these revelations in his own words here (podcast). And please read his entire Al Jazeera post here. Where you will not read, hear, or see any references to Jason Leopold's reporting is in the corporate "mainstream" media. Maybe we can all use our social media skills to force the press into covering his work. Wouldn't that be novel?

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"Well, Senator Feinstein, how does it feel?"

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Today's Los Angeles Times letters to the editor, Senator Feinstein Hypocrisy Edition, because our voices matter:

Re "CIA denies Senate spying claim," March 12

Anyone who fails to appreciate the supreme irony of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) righteous indignation over the CIA's alleged spying on and undermining of the Senate Intelligence Committee (of which Feinstein is chair) has not been paying attention.

For years, she has been one of the intelligence community's most steadfast champions, deflecting criticism of the surveillance state, attacking whistle-blowers and justifying nearly every abuse. Her tenure at the spy community's ultimate oversight body, tasked with safeguarding the public interest, has seen that institution perform as something between a star chamber and a cheerleading squad.

Only when the monster she helped create might have turned against her does she seem to remember something called the Constitution. Is it any wonder that Congress is held in utter contempt by the people?

Mark McCormick

Los Angeles

***

In January, a Times news article described Feinstein as "a key defender of the National Security Agency's data tracking program." Now, just two months later, Feinstein is riled up about the national security apparatus, but only because she believes it turned a jaundiced eye on Senate staffers.

Well, Senator Feinstein, how does it feel?

Frankly, I believe she and her supporters should be ashamed of her hypocrisy. Of course, this includes The Times, which endorsed Feinstein in 2012, stating clearly that "endorsing her for another term is an easy call."

Paul Marsden

Garden Grove

***

Feinstein's committee found documents showing that President Bush's torture program was far more barbaric than previously revealed and far less effective than claimed. This controversy is really about the CIA hiding potential crimes from Feinstein's committee.

CIA Director John Brennan endorsed torture and rendition under Bush. As director, he has kept the lid on the truth. He should be fired.

The Senate Intelligence Committee report needs to be declassified, and if the U.S. won't pursue possible war criminals, the International Criminal Court should.

But under Bush, the U.S. refused to be under the court's jurisdiction. The Obama administration has since renewed a relationship with the court, but Senate ratification is needed for the ICC to do what no one in this country has the stomach to do.

It is the president's job to ask the Senate for ratification. Shame on us all if he does not.

Richard Green

San Clemente

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Vice President Biden backs public disclosure of torture report

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This is one of the reasons I'm a Biden fan. Roll Call:

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Friday night that he supports making a classified Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture and enhanced interrogation more available to the public. [...]

"I think the only way you excise the demons is you acknowledge, you acknowledge exactly what happened straightforward,” Biden said. He explained his position that issues related to torture must be laid out before a country can move beyond them, citing the war crimes committed in the Balkans and other acts of torture overseas.

“The single best thing that ever happened to Germany were the war crimes tribunals, because it forced Germany to come to its milk about what in fact has happened,” Biden said. “That’s why they’ve become the great democracy they’ve become.”

That's a whole lot saner than New York State Sen. Greg Ball (R) suggesting the use of torture on Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Now if only the vice president would back a full investigation and eventual prosecution of those in the Bush administration who “indisputably” practiced torture and had “no justification” for doing so.

Biden made his remarks at the same forum in Sedona, Arizona at which he said to John McCain, if the  2008 economy had been better “I think you probably would have won.”

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"We seem to have reached the point where we are discussing the value of torture rather than its morality."

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Today's L.A. Times letters to the editor, because our voices matter:

Re "Bin Laden movie heats up CIA torture debate," Dec. 14

With the arrival of "Zero Dark Thirty," a dramatization of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, we seem to have reached the point where we are discussing the value of torture rather than its morality.

We have moved from being a country that thrilled to James Cagney resisting Nazi torture to protect the secrets of D-day ("13 Rue Madeleine") to one that seemingly will embrace torture if it works. We were a country that condemned Hitler for the heinous invasion of Poland; just recently, we invaded Iraq on the pretext that we have a unilateral right to preemptive war.

And those who promote these new values claim the mantle of being the real Americans.

Robert Silver

Los Angeles

***

Questions: Does anyone dispute the fact the CIA has systematically tortured captives? Is there any reason to believe that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee had no knowledge of it? Hasn't torture long been a crime under both U.S. and international law? Why aren't those who authorized torture and the committee members who failed to stop it being prosecuted? And what's to prevent future cases of torture if today's perpetrators aren't prosecuted?

Jon K. Williams

Goleta, Calif.

***

I am deeply troubled that anyone would suggest there's a debate on the efficacy of torture.

In 1941, my father was waterboarded by the Japanese in Shanghai. He confessed that he was a British agent. It wasn't true, but at that moment, he would have signed anything to end his ordeal. Irrespective of whether the information garnered by torture turns out to be true, torture is a crime.

In 1948, the Japanese officer responsible for waterboarding my father was tried and convicted at a war crimes trials in Hong Kong. That same standard should be applied to the Americans who ordered or took part in waterboarding.

Ernest A. Canning

Thousand Oaks

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Memos: Destroying C.I.A. Tapes Wasn’t Opposed by Republican Senator Pat Roberts

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By GottaLaff

Qeqzadjkwrksdazttt!!!

At a closed briefing in 2003, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee raised no objection to a C.I.A. plan to destroy videotapes of brutal interrogations, according to secret documents released Monday.

The senator, Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, also rejected a proposal to have his committee conduct its own assessment of the agency’s harsh interrogation methods, which included wall-slamming and waterboarding, the documents say.

But Mr. Roberts, through a spokesman, denied having approved the destruction of the videotapes, which is under criminal investigation, and defended his record in overseeing the interrogation program.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, a very special WTF moment:

“Senator Roberts listened carefully and gave his assent,” the C.I.A. memo says.

Of course he did. And after he listened carefully, too.

So what can be done?

A prosecutor, John H. Durham, is trying to determine whether it violated court orders to preserve evidence related to detention and interrogation or violated any laws.

Last August, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. directed Mr. Durham to expand his inquiry to consider whether the interrogations themselves broke any law.

Of course, this isn't surprising, but it's still jaw-dropping.

Yeah. We're all thinking the same thing here.

Much more at this link.

UPDATE: I should have added this in:

The same document says that Senator Bob Graham of Florida, the Democrat who had preceded Mr. Roberts as chairman, had proposed that the committee “undertake its own ‘assessment’ of the enhanced interrogation,” the C.I.A.’s term for coercive methods. Agency officials told Mr. Roberts that they would oppose allowing any Senate staff members to observe interrogations or visit the secret overseas prisons where they were taking place.

Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler) pointed out to me that "more importantly, Roberts shut down Bob Graham's efforts to actually exercise oversight torture. We knew he approved tape destruction."

Thank you Marcy.

More from Marcy, who scooped the Times, here.

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