Obama DNI Chief Rationalizes Torture

Greg Sargent and Steve Benen do some incredible contortions to try and spin Obama Administration Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair's inaccurate and inexcusable rationalization for torture. Blair wrote a memo that states:

“High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country,” Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the intelligence director, wrote in a memo to his staff last Thursday.

. . . “I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past,” he wrote, “but I do not fault those who made the decisions at that time, and I will absolutely defend those who carried out the interrogations within the orders they were given.”

(Emphasis supplied.) Blair becomes the first witness for the defense of those who enacted the torture policies, and Sargent and Benen can not wish that away. For Blair, the use of torture is just a "policy difference," proving John Hinderaker of Powerline right. The fact is Blair is unfit to serve. He should resign. More . . .

Blair basically defends the decision to enact torture policies. He does so based on very flawed thinking. Let's start with the first problem - torture is illegal and a war crime. Whether Blair believes torture worked or not, it is a war crime and a violation of US law. How can Blair "not find fault" with the actions of war criminals? Does Blair "find fault" when it is Americans that are tortured?

Secondly, Blair is simply wrong on the efficacy of torture. As the NYTimes reports in a different article today:

According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.

. . . 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.

(Emphasis supplied.) In a bitterly ironic passage, Philip Zelikow, a Bush administration official who dissented from the torture policies, states:

“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.”

(Emphasis supplied.) In the clear light of 2009, Dennis Blair is incapable of giving such counsel to President Obama. How likely will he be able to do so in a "time of stress?" That is the story here. Greg Sargent's attempt to spin this is pathetic:

Will the media clearly report Blair’s actual views about torture? Blair released a statement late yesterday in which he clearly stated that there is no way of knowing whether means other than torture would have obtained the same info. More important, he said the damage done to us by torture “far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security.” Blair has outlined these views elsewhere.

This is really not complicated: Blair believes that some valuable info was collected via torture, but that torture is not essential to our security and has done far more harm than good.

(Emphasis supplied.) What hooey. Blair says that torture worked, and we do not know if other techniques would have worked and he would not fault anyone who approved of torture. Those are his views. To attempt to spin it otherwise as Sargent does is simply pathetic.

It is simple Greg - a torture apologist serves as President Obama's Director of National Intelligence. That is unacceptable. Blair should resign.

Speaking for me only

< Newly Declassified Report: Bush Officials Approved Torture | Tuesday Morning Open Thread >
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    Stop talking smack then and cough up (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 08:46:31 AM EST
    the proof that it worked.  We want all transcripts of the 180+ waterboardings of KSM and every claim he made.  Let the verifications begin.  Cuz I'm a mean ole five letter b word when I want to be but after 175 waterboardings I'll tell you anything you want to hear.  I'll tell you anything that what is left of my now soup brain can come up with to make the suffering end.  When the Inquisition put people to the question, they got all the answers they wanted too after a bit whether there was any truth in the answers or not. Blair needs to leave now!

    Okay so McClatchy is reporting (5.00 / 8) (#2)
    by inclusiveheart on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 08:58:42 AM EST
    that the Bush Administration insisted on having the prisoners tortured because they wanted to find a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq.  Clearly it would not have mattered whether the prisoners were telling the truth or not so long as they telling the stories the Bush Administration wanted to hear.  That important detail about why the Bush Administration instituted the program makes Blair and other apologists look even more foolish.

    OMFG (5.00 / 2) (#27)
    by Dr Molly on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:58:05 AM EST
    This is just more and more stomach-churning by the day.

    Just monstrous.


    do you have a link? (none / 0) (#5)
    by lilburro on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:05:04 AM EST
    Very interesting.

    Here's a couple of links... (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by inclusiveheart on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:24:57 AM EST
    Report: Abusive tactics were used to seek Iraq-al Qaida link

    WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration applied 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.

    Carl Levin

    In SERE training, U.S. troops are briefly exposed, in a highly controlled setting, to abusive interrogation techniques used by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions. The techniques are based on tactics used by Chinese Communists against American soldiers during the Korean War for the purpose of eliciting false confessions for propaganda purposes.

    Honestly, this torture program makes much more sense to me now.  I couldn't figure out why the Bush Administration would have used totally ineffective methods to find terrorism - now I see that they just wanted propaganda for their war and it makes perfect sense that this would have been the route they would take.

    I think sending this to the Judiciary is the only way to deal with this situation now.


    Cha Ching (5.00 / 4) (#17)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:32:23 AM EST
    This is why you would torture people until their brains were soup.  Now I finally get it.  I've also discovered a new level of disgust and outrage.

    Hunter's diary (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by lilburro on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:52:35 AM EST

    This info certainly runs against the narrative provided in Blair's memo.

    From his memo:

    It is important to remember the context of these past events. All of us remember the horror of 9/11. For months afterwards we did not have a clear understanding of the enemy we were dealing with, and our every effort focused on preventing further attacks that would kill more Americans. It was during these months that the CIA was struggling to obtain critical information from captured al Qaida leaders, and requested permission to use harsher interrogation methods. The OLC memos make clear that senior legal officials judged the harsher methods to be legal, and that senior policymakers authorized their use. High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qaida organization that was attacking this country.

    Not entirely true, huh?


    Still hoodwinked. (5.00 / 2) (#33)
    by inclusiveheart on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:04:37 AM EST
    Fooled.  Zakeilow was on Maddow's show last night talking about how his memos opposing the torture program had been collected and destroyed.  The tapes of most of the interrogations have been destroyed.  A select few of the memos and reports have survived the Bushies' exit from the White House.  Blair is a fool.

    When I first read his statement in this diary all I could think was, "Why is he talking?"  How does he know that anything was effective about this program at this point.  I simply do not believe that the Obama Administration has been in office long enough to make that statement with any real certainty.  This program went on for years.  183 waterboardings in one month is a lot of interrogations to review and that's just one prisoner and one month.

    The Obama Administration better get their act together and take a step back on this whole mess.  They've waded into the muck with what seems to me to be willful ignorance about the facts.  This isn't the election campaign anymore.  Their words and deeds are going to be measured against a much higher bar now.  Pretending that a little good rhetoric and a few choice appearances will solve this problem will get them into trouble.


    Yes I agree (none / 0) (#37)
    by lilburro on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:09:04 AM EST
    I think it is problematic that Blair makes statements like this without backing them up and I also think it is inappropriate to do so before the Task Force finishes up their work.  Right now he is just being Michael Hayden.  And to what end?  

    It is all just completely unprincipled (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by inclusiveheart on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:12:15 AM EST
    political maneuvering.

    That's my take (none / 0) (#39)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:13:27 AM EST
    Having said that, I am not yet (5.00 / 1) (#49)
    by inclusiveheart on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:24:07 AM EST
    convinced that the Obama Administration is anywhere near rid of all of the sadists who would have thought it completely respectable to torture people for false confessions in order to create propaganda for their wars etc.

    So given that, I'm being nice when I say it is unprincipled politics.  Because if it is motivated by a desire to keep the door open to torture, then we have a totally different problem on our hands.


    It was all about Iraq (5.00 / 1) (#56)
    by ruffian on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:39:49 AM EST
    Krugman is on it too.

    This is quite a step beyond ... (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by Demi Moaned on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:00:11 AM EST
    "a time to look forward".

    That NYT article (5.00 / 4) (#4)
    by lilburro on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:01:07 AM EST
    really paints all those CIA/NSC folks as quite pathetic.  You didn't do any research, didn't know anything about torture, and just assumed (based on your gut) it would work?  In other words, you know so little about torture, how could you say it worked?  How could you say it was technique X that was necessary and useful, when you knew nothing about technique X and its history?  And we also know the CIA didn't know anything about non war crimes based interrogation.  So all of their statements are dubious, really.

    I thought Blair was better than this but I guess not.  Still, why is he saying this if not to appease Bush-era holdovers?  There are too many of those that were allowed - or chosen! - to remain.  It is unlikely that Brennan or DD/CIA Kappes would say anything different.  Brennan has already said the same stuff.  Shouldn't they all resign?

    He's probably saying this (none / 0) (#7)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:11:26 AM EST
    because a couple of things they got out of KSM were verified.  I doubt any of it came after the tenth waterboarding though.  Every single thing the man said after that was probably total bull$h*t but when you can verify some doesn't that make everything he said plausible truth in the eyes of the Bush Administration?  When intelligence is vital and you desperately need good intelligence, torture does you more harm than good because you get as many untruths as truths.

    after the tenth (none / 0) (#90)
    by diogenes on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 11:33:37 PM EST
    So you agree that ten waterboardings might be effective although of course one hundred waterboardings are sadistic and pointless to boot?

    Who knows? Do you know cuz i don't? (none / 0) (#91)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 06:50:46 AM EST
    I'm making speculations based on what people who have been waterboarded have told us about when they "broke", and how horrible and intolerable the experience was.  When being waterboarded, when does someone decide to tell the truth if they were ever even lying?  When do the tortured start desperately making things up attempting to appease the torturer? Who knows when the truth kicks in and when it kicks out during a good torturing.......that's why it isn't effective.  At the same time it also possesses a strong ability to be an addictive experience for the waterboarder.  The torturers start getting turned on by it, it gets fun, flips all of our desire for control switches, amps up the endorphins and becomes something to look forward to.

    I heard on the Obama network (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:06:14 AM EST
    this morning that they want to draw "a big red circle around the justice department" and not allow any investigations to go beyond that to the west wing or the CIA or anywhere else.  I dont know if that was reporting or speculation, it gets harder and harder to tell there, but that is looking less and less possible.  

    the big ole can of worms is now open.  I have to think that some powerful people who were not at all nervous a month ago are getting a bit jittery.

    I would also keep in mind (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by lilburro on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:13:40 AM EST
    that Blair's memo is probably a companion piece to whatever is being circulated in the interrogation and rendition reviews (the work of the "Special Task Force") mandated by Obama's executive orders.

    Ensuring Lawful Interrogations:

    (i)   to study and evaluate whether the interrogation practices and techniques in Army Field Manual 2 22.3, when employed by departments or agencies outside the military, provide an appropriate means of acquiring the intelligence necessary to protect the Nation, and, if warranted, to recommend any additional or different guidance for other departments or agencies; and

    So is Blair just sucking up to the pro-torture people in the intelligence agencies (those people who have threatened over and over again that they "won't take risks" if you p*ss them off)?  Is he getting calls from Hayden, or is he previewing the "findings" of the Special Task Force for us?

    He does not have that luxury (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:16:49 AM EST
    he has to go imo. Of course he won't. but anyone who thinks there will be prosecutions in the face of OBAMA's DNI saying "he does not find fault" in the torturers, well, I have a bridge to sell you.

    I think I missed the significance (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by lilburro on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:20:33 AM EST
    of the "those who made the decisions" part.  You are right, he is offering clemency to everyone from Bybee to the interrogators.  Which is staggeringly inappropriate.  This is way beyond what Gibbs and Rahmbo said.  Yeesh.

    I bolded it (none / 0) (#15)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:27:47 AM EST
    Yep (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by lilburro on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:35:01 AM EST
    There are two stories here.  You seem to be the only one that noticed the other story.

    the stories are related (none / 0) (#20)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:38:10 AM EST
    That Blair thinks torture is bad policy legitimizes torture as an acceptable policy position (Blair is also wrong in describing the "benefits" of torture anyway.) It decriminalizes torture.

    I am having a discussion with Greg Sargent at his blog on this and he seems not to see the implications of what he is arguing.


    I'm reading it over (none / 0) (#23)
    by lilburro on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:49:46 AM EST
    First of all, did we really already know that Blair doesn't find fault with any torturer - including Bybee and Yoo?  I missed that.  Your point about decriminalizing torture is a good one.

    I am surprised that Blair offers no condemnation of the OLC memos reasoning or anything of the sort.  He was supportive of their release.  I guess he just accepts wanton abuse of executive power?

    And based on what we are learning, his memo is very much a fairytale.


    If you read my previous post (none / 0) (#31)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:00:16 AM EST
    on Blair and Obama, you will see Blair said something similar on the 17th.

    So I think it is a fair characterization to say he was already started down that road.


    This (none / 0) (#35)
    by lilburro on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:07:14 AM EST
    "But we will absolutely defend those who relied on these memos."

    can be read as relating only to interrogators.  Here.  This new memo doesn't find fault in anybody.


    The (none / 0) (#40)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:13:27 AM EST
    relevant statement is about the clear sunny skies of today vs. the dark times of 2002.

    do you not think (none / 0) (#10)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:19:15 AM EST
    this could get out of their control?  it appears to be "careening" a bit.

    Well (none / 0) (#11)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:20:20 AM EST
    Blair's statement to me is the end of it.

    Unless it is repudiated.

    The Right blogs are right on this one.


    Quick Fix? (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by BackFromOhio on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:23:07 AM EST
    Torture seems to me to be the opiate of the instant gratification generation where the planning, patience and analysis required for real intelligence work is seen as to complex and uncertain so it is discarded like yesterday's history by those who want a quick fix.

    Can't handle the truth. (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by Green26 on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:47:06 AM EST
    As I have said several times, some of you can't handle the truth. Jeez, the current Intelligence Director says that the enhanced interrogations resulted in high value information--and instead of believing him, you want to fire him.

    "High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa'ida organization that was attacking this country,"

    I think the argument against the enhanced interrogation techniques (or at least some of them) and torture is undercut by those who insist that that the techniques and torture don't work. To me, it's seems silly to keep asserting it doesn't work. There are far better arguments and reasons, including principles, that should be left at the forefront of the discussion.

    I do not believe him (5.00 / 2) (#26)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:58:05 AM EST
    because he is wrong.

    I want him fired because he does not accept that torture is a war crime and a crime under Us law and sees it as a policy difference.

    Just because he is Obama's DNI does not make him any more immune to criticsm from me than is Michael Hayden, Bush's DNI.

    When it comes to issues, I am not a jersey color guy. I know you are used to Republicans adopting any view their team takes (and unfortunately, so do most Democrats), but we are different here.


    He is not wrong in saying (none / 0) (#43)
    by Green26 on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:17:01 AM EST
    the enhanced techniques helped the US gather important information on Al Qaeda.

    He is wrong in saying that (none / 0) (#46)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:20:04 AM EST
    Meaning it isn't accurate, or he (none / 0) (#48)
    by Green26 on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:22:55 AM EST
    should just keep his mouth shut?

    Both actually (5.00 / 2) (#51)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:25:25 AM EST
    Truth? (none / 0) (#29)
    by Dr Molly on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:59:11 AM EST
    So, now truth = what the CIA Director tells us about the efficacy of torture?

    Do you really think people are this naive?


    Yes, the CIA is in the best (none / 0) (#47)
    by Green26 on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:21:11 AM EST
    position to assess whether the enhanced techniques resulted in obtaining valuable information. They gathered the information, and reported it, including in memos that exist today.

    While a few former CIA types have said that this or that interrogation didn't work, the vast majority of statements coming out of the CIA, including those of senior current or former CIA people, say the techniques helped obtain valuable information.

    It's almost silly, in my view, for some of you to keep saying that the senior CIA people don't know what they're talking about.


    No (5.00 / 1) (#50)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:25:12 AM EST
    the CIA is not the best source for evaluating the performance of the CIA.

    Hard to believe that needs to be explained to you.


    Who's talking about the performance (none / 0) (#53)
    by Green26 on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:29:37 AM EST
    of the CIA?

    I'm talking about the value of information gathered from enhanced interrogation techniques.

    It's just a fact. Nearly everyone with knowledge of the subject, i.e. those at the CIA at that time or now and certain people in the Bush administration, support that assertion.

    Have you read the legal memos? At least one of them lists some of the information that was obtained.


    Um (none / 0) (#58)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:45:39 AM EST
    Where I come from, that is defined as performance evaluation.

    In a proper evaluation (none / 0) (#62)
    by Fabian on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 12:24:12 PM EST
    You hand in your self evaluation and it is assessed with and against the evaluations supplied by other pertinent and interested parties.

    Sure you could write up a glowing report about how your "interrogations" supplied vital intelligence, but the other evaluations might have a different view of how productive you were or how valuable your intelligence was.


    Why should we believe (5.00 / 3) (#54)
    by lilburro on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:29:41 AM EST
    people like this who lied through their teeth?

    Seriously, most of what we know from CIA people is either a) a provable lie or b) too vague to trust.

    So for example, CIA officer Kiriakou:

    "The next day, he told his interrogators that Allah had visited him in his cell during the night and told him to cooperate," said Kiriakou in an interview...

    "From that day on, he answered every question," Kiriakou said. "The threat information he provided disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks."

    Reality - Zubaydah didn't "break" and then "cooperate from that day on."  He was waterboarded 83 times.

    Reality 2 - Nothing came of it.

    In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida -- chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates -- was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.

    Hence the need for a Truth Commission.


    Ugh (none / 0) (#30)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:59:18 AM EST
    Fine, I'll play.  Torture could ONLY be a good idea in an accute situation like "Where is the bomb!".  Well except if you have the wrong guy or even if you have one of the right guys but not one of the guys who knows where the bomb is and you don't know that.  Torture away, he'll eventually tell you where the ticking bomb is even if it isn't there.  Hell, he'll tell you about thirty or so ticking bombs that aren't there set to explode in 30 minutes.  When time and resources matter........please continue on with your principled discussion on torture.  And when time and resources aren't excruciating I just love me a bit of torture to clarify or even muddy up a few questions I may have about something verses using any of that old fashioned time consuming intelligence gathering crap.

    So, (none / 0) (#44)
    by bocajeff on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:19:10 AM EST
    You're not OK with the ticking bomb scenario?

    If you're not then I respect your position and we just disagree. I'm fine with it but with some heavy caveats. I always say if it's a choice between you and my family then you will lose every time.


    I think if we had a ticking time bomb (none / 0) (#67)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 01:39:28 PM EST
    we would have to take that on the day it happens.  I remember once Bill Maher (who I can't watch anymore due to his past Hillary misogyny but I remember when he had meaningful things to share with me) talking about how we don't need to justify torture or plan for it.  If the ticking time bomb scenario goes down and we are pretty certain we have someone who knows something what do you think is going to happen if we need to save lives and push comes to shove?  Planning for torture though, justifying torture.....it is sickening because once you have justified it and laid out the ground work in your head for doing it you don't have to override much of a boundary with self or those around you in on the planning in the midst of a ticking time bomb situation then do you?  You don't have to override much in just about any stressful situation then do you?  It just a matter of degrees of stress and persuading those in charge of the situation with you who might be balking that the current situation calls for the use of some of that planned on torture, and then everyone can simply begin to act on the "plan" or "the training" and not converse much with self and conscience after that.   That's the rub.  I'm no pacifist.  If you want to hurt me or mine I will fight back and I will not feel bad later on......well maybe a little but it'll pass quickly.  I'm NOT planning for torture though.  I'll defend me and mine as circumstances call for it always seeking the most peaceful solutions to be had without loss of life and limb to the innocent.

    I'm not either (none / 0) (#70)
    by cenobite on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 02:19:11 PM EST
    I always say if it's a choice between you and my family then you will lose every time.

    And this is why interrogators must never ever have a personal involvement with the situation they are gathering intelligence about.

    We get accurate intelligence out of a subject by convincing him that his best interests lie in cooperation. That requires a thinking interrogator, not someone whose mind is shut off by fear and anger.


    So we should contract our torture out (none / 0) (#94)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 09:48:29 AM EST
    to people who don't have skin in the game?  That will ensure that we get good intel and nobody enjoys it?  Contracting our conflict out was the worst thing that ever happened to us in Iraq.  The contractors are even less responsible for their actions because the actions they are preforming aren't being done in their own names, they don't have to take ownership of the aftermath of their actions and the people they damage won't be hunting them - they'll be hunting us......though it COULD happen that they would have to wear their own shames, but if it does go down that way they won't do our chit work for us anymore.  I think contracting torture out is a horrible idea.  What sort of person would you be if you were a contract torturer?  I mean some of that contract soldier of fortune force we have in Iraq are South African and Croatian mercenaries in real life.

    Maybe you should read this piece, (none / 0) (#68)
    by Anne on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 01:44:38 PM EST
    by Marcy Wheeler.  Here's the opening:

    The torture apologists are out in force, insisting that torture produces useful information. Cheney's even promising to release information from CIA cataloging all the useful information that came from torture.

    But we don't have to wait for Cheney to make good on his promise. We already have a way to assess how much intelligence we got directly from torturing Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: the 9/11 Report. After all, the 9/11 Report integrates a huge amount of information from interrogation reports, and cites them all meticulously. As early as June 6, 2003, the 9/11 Commission asked for, ""all TDs and other reports of intelligence information obtained from interrogations" of forty named individuals, including Abu Zubaydah and (apparently) Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and they used what they got in return to write their report. So if there was useful information in those reports, they presumably got it.

    Here was a bipartisan group--including many staffers and members with extensive national security backgrounds--attempting to learn everything it could about al Qaeda, poring through interrogation reports produced as a result of torture, tracking inconsistencies in the intelligence, corroborating that intelligence where possible with documents and other testimony, and ultimately selecting what it felt was useful in telling the story of al Qaeda. While certainly not a perfect assessment of what was useful (I'll explain why below), it provides one of the best unbiased ways to measure how useful this intelligence was.

    And in the case of Abu Zubaydah, such an assessment is horrifying.

    In the entire 9/11 Report, just ten pieces of information are sourced to Abu Zubaydah's interrogation reports.


    It is an extensive post that I think puts the lie to the argument you and others continue to make.


    Well, all I can say is, he must be (5.00 / 4) (#52)
    by Anne on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:27:58 AM EST
    banking on the majority of people not reading the Senate report, and on the media to cast all of it in the kindest way possible; I'm pretty sure most people are not going to read the report, so where this goes from here may depend, in large part, on how the media decides to cover it.

    I think the argument we are going to hear more and more of, from the usual suspects, is how determined the administration was to prevent another terrorist attack, and so felt justified in using whatever means possible to obtain info that would help them protect the country.

    So... I am reading the report; I guess I've read up to the part where they begin to discuss the interrogation of Zubaydah - lots of redactions in that next section.

    The real beginning of all of this was the attacks on 9/11 (unless you subscribe to the theory that Bush and Cheney came into office with an intention to go to war).  Administration lawyers were already considering our adherence to the Geneva Conventions, and by December, 2001, the DoD was seeking info on detention and interrogation.  They contacted the agency that oversees the SERE training.

    Then, on February 7, 2002, Bush issued a statement that Taliban detainees did not come under the protection of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, nor were they entitled to POW status, and then it expanded from there.  The report indicates that this policy statement was directed at the US Armed Forces, and that it - the committee - is unaware of any similar statement being directed at other agencies.  However, a February 2, 2002 State Department memo reflected that Administration lawyers involved in the discussion about the GC and CA-3 agreed that the CIA was bound by the same legal restrictions as the US military.

    The memo also stated, however, that "CIA lawyers believe[d] that, to the extent that the [Third Geneva Convention's] protections do not apply as a matter of law but those protections are applied as a matter of policy, it is desirable to circumscribe that policy so as to limit its application to the CIA."  Further, "other Administration lawyers involved did not disagree with or object to the CIA's view."  According to the Report, "(M)onths later, in an October 2, 2002 meeting with DoD officials at Guantanamo Bay, Chief Counsel to the CIA's CounterTerrorist Center (CTC) Jonathan Fredman reportedly stated that the `CIA rallied' for the Conventions not to apply."

    Right after the DoD's General Counsel's Office was provided with a list of all the SERE techniques - in fact, just one week later - the OLC issued two opinions: one was the "first" Bybee memo that redefined torture, and the other was the "second" Bybee memo that advised the CIA of the legality of specific interrogation techniques.

    Before those two memos were drafted, Yoo met with Gonzales and Addington to discuss the subjects that would be addressed in the opinions, but Yoo has refused to say whether he had any info on SERE techniques as he was drafting the memos; Haynes says he did discuss SERE techniques with others in the administration.  And Bybee, who signed the memos, says he did see assessments of the psychological effects of the SERE training when he was meeting in July, 2002 with Yoo and two other OLC attorneys, and that he - Bybee - used the assessment to inform the August 1, 2002 opinion.  And Bybee recalls discussing detainee interrogations with Ashcroft and Yoo in late July, 2002 before signing the OLC opinions.

    Following the development and the timeline of this is at the same time fascinating and repulsive; it's like watching evil grow.  What is interesting to note are the ongoing and strong objections by the counsels of all four branches of the military - and how those objections were simply dismissed.

    I don't know how much time I will have to continue reading this report, and after reading as much as I have, will probably have to brace myself to do it.

    [sorry this is so long - and if others are reading the report and I've misstated something, please correct!]

    Interesting. (5.00 / 1) (#59)
    by inclusiveheart on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:46:59 AM EST
    Just one thing - hard not to subscribe to the idea that the Bushies came into office with an eye towards Iraq given PNAC's stated goals.  There were a lot of people actually on both sides of the aisle really just aching for a reason to take Saddam Hussein out.  That vote in the late 90's about Iraq regime change proves that without a doubt imo.  I think we're getting a clearer and clearer picture of people who were on a mission and did not have the patience to wait to execute their plan any longer.

    the skull & bones wanted Hussein out... (none / 0) (#83)
    by of1000Kings on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 07:31:06 PM EST
    ok, maybe not, but I believe all 3 of our last presidents have been S&B (maybe I'm wrong on Clinton, but I don't think so)...

    if you're not a conspiracy theorist, you're not having fun...


    Isn't Skull and Bones only for undergrads. (none / 0) (#87)
    by Green26 on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 08:46:23 PM EST
    Clinton wasn't in it.

    Thanks for this, Anne (none / 0) (#63)
    by Spamlet on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 01:17:32 PM EST
    Would give you a 15 if I could.

    Thanks - I'd settle for some (none / 0) (#65)
    by Anne on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 01:28:11 PM EST
    prescription strength Zantac; this Report is stomach-turning stuff.

    Seems to me (5.00 / 2) (#60)
    by jbindc on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:56:05 AM EST
    That Congress shares some of the blame here, and that includes Democrats.  According to the NYT story you linked,

    There was one more check on intelligence programs, one designed in the 1970s to make sure independent observers kept an eye on spy agencies: Congress. The Senate and House Intelligence Committees had been created in the mid-1970s to prevent any repeat of the C.I.A. abuses unearthed by the Senate's Church Committee.

    As was common with the most secret programs, the C.I.A. chose not to brief the entire committees about the interrogation methods but only the so-called Gang of Four -- the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate and House committees. The rest of the committee members would be fully briefed only in 2006. (here are the 2006 Senate members, and here are the 2006 House members who were briefed.)

    The 2002 Gang of Four briefings left a hodgepodge of contradictory recollections that, to some Congressional staff members, reveal a dysfunctional oversight system. Without full staff support, few lawmakers are equipped to make difficult legal and policy judgments about secret programs, critics say.

    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.

    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."

    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.

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

    Exactly (none / 0) (#16)
    by andgarden on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:32:21 AM EST

    well, it sounds like (none / 0) (#18)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:32:41 AM EST
    we have the blanket amnesty part of the suggestions from the post yesterday.
    I wonder if we will ever get to the truth part?

    Not really (none / 0) (#21)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:39:07 AM EST
    We have the part that makes blanket amnesty unnecessary.

    Hell, now it is just a routine policy debate.


    Which has been my point since yesterday (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by andgarden on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:50:49 AM EST
    Thanks for articulating it in a better way.

    A Truth Commisison (none / 0) (#28)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 09:58:45 AM EST
    would not have done that.

    Hell, a blanket pardon would not have done that.

    What Blair has done does that.


    They wouldn't have been as bad (none / 0) (#32)
    by andgarden on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:01:54 AM EST
    But clearly the opposite of this would have been a prosecution of the torturers.

    Certainly (none / 0) (#34)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:06:22 AM EST
    But no prosecution, no Truth Commission and a defense of the torture policy people by OBAMA's DNI is the worst of all worlds.

    Just a policy difference indeed.


    It makes you wonder what (none / 0) (#36)
    by andgarden on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:09:00 AM EST
    Hinderaker was complaining about. He's getting exactly what he wants.

    County civil grand jury may chopse (none / 0) (#41)
    by oculus on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:14:06 AM EST
    issues to pursue.  May a federal civil grand jury do this also?  

    Answer: No. Why: no provision (none / 0) (#42)
    by oculus on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:17:00 AM EST
    for federal civil grand jury.



    Is this your way (none / 0) (#45)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:19:35 AM EST
    of asking for an Open Thread?

    Looking for solutions. (none / 0) (#55)
    by oculus on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:34:33 AM EST
    Ok (none / 0) (#57)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:45:03 AM EST
    I'll put one up now.

    It is important for the us to have the debate (none / 0) (#61)
    by vicndabx on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 12:12:06 PM EST
    IMO.  I think unfortunately, it's too late to define the range of opinions in the debate.  9/11, Daniel Pearl, Abu Ghraib and Gitmo did that for us already.  While I don't agree w/slamming someone into a wall, or locking someone in a box w/a wasp or some other sinister bug, I think, in the wake of 9/11, many more folks than we may be prepared to admit are OK w/such stuff as long as it isn't done to a loved one.  We as a country need to come to consensus on how much we are willing to sacrifice in light of people who see suicide as a noble sacrifice.  

    As someone who is open-minded to a wide range of possibilities, I believe it's my responsibility to be prepared to recognize/accept when I may be out of step w/the majority and adjust my expectations based on that reality.  I say let everything come out so we as a nation can make an informed decision.

    NO (5.00 / 2) (#64)
    by andgarden on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 01:19:38 PM EST
    There is no discussion to be had about torture. It is illegal and barbaric.

    End of story.


    Hmmm....this thread is (none / 0) (#66)
    by oldpro on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 01:36:34 PM EST

    No, it isn't that the thread is irrelevant, (5.00 / 3) (#71)
    by Anne on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 02:30:09 PM EST
    it was, I believe, a response to this part of the comment to which andgarden was responding:

    I think, in the wake of 9/11, many more folks than we may be prepared to admit are OK w/such stuff as long as it isn't done to a loved one.  We as a country need to come to consensus on how much we are willing to sacrifice in light of people who see suicide as a noble sacrifice.

    As someone who is open-minded to a wide range of possibilities, I believe it's my responsibility to be prepared to recognize/accept when I may be out of step w/the majority and adjust my expectations based on that reality

    Whether we torture or not should have nothing to do with how popular or unpopular the concept is at any given period or in relation to any given event.

    I don't know, quite honestly, how being opposed to torture could ever be "out of step," or if I would really want to be associated with a country that thinks it's strictly a matter of getting enough people on board in order to conduct it, but if anyone wanted to put me in that out-of-step category, that's fine - I can live with that.


    I agree, principles shouldn't be wishy-washy (none / 0) (#73)
    by vicndabx on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 04:20:18 PM EST
    Whether we torture or not should have nothing to do with how popular or unpopular the concept is at any given period or in relation to any given event.

    You are also right w/respect to most folks would say they are opposed to torture.

    My point is does the public at large agree that past definitions of what constitutes torture still suffice?  Are we losing the debate because we haven't considered that?  These stories about water-boarding 200+ times, of course, any reasonable person would agree that's excessive.  What about waterboarding no more than 5 times after reaching certain evidentiary levels, when it's thought a catastrophic event is imminent?  Is it worthwhile to delve into the grey areas and provide additional clarity so we don't end up in this place again?  As we've seen from the debate, it's real easy to rationalize treatment of someone other than your own.  Do we lose something when we only worry about taking the high road?


    Who knows? (none / 0) (#75)
    by jbindc on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 04:26:53 PM EST
    My point is does the public at large agree that past definitions of what constitutes torture still suffice?

    Does the public at large care?  Or  more precisely, is "the public at large" really paying attention?  I work with 8 other attorneys in Washington, DC, and not one of them has mentioned this last topic since it hit the news.  Small, anecdotal, but really - how many people in middle America who are working 2 or 3 jobs (if they are that lucky) are sitting around the kitchen table worried whether we may or may not have tortured prisoners?  I'm not saying they shouldn't be talking about it, but my guess is, no one but political junkies on blogs is really taking this close a look at it.


    Do they have to care? (5.00 / 1) (#78)
    by Anne on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 05:20:07 PM EST
    I mean, there are a lot of things we take for granted that most people probably don't think about every day or every week - things like the right to privacy, the presumption of innocence, the right to free speech, and so on - until trouble arrives on our own doorstep, and all of a sudden, it matters.

    Does the fact that most people aren't thinking about it, or talking about it, mean that we should just leave it to popular opinion whether we're going to engage in torture or not?

    I think torture is one of those things that cannot be painted in shades of gray, where we cannot leave to the whims of whoever is in power what our position on this is, where we cannot allow ourselves to get bogged down in situational ethics, because each new thing that happens that is worse than the last thing gives people justification for doing even more than they did the last time.  It's a fast way to become numb to evil.

    No, I'm sorry; I don't care if Joe Smith - attorney, doctor, auto mechanic, salesman, college professor, football coach, retired, unemployed, gay, straight, married, single, divorced - isn't thinking about this or isn't talking about it with his friends or neighbors.  I'm happy to care if he can't or won't, and he doesn't even need to thank me for my vigilance.

    Honestly, I do not even understand why we are having a conversation about whether we should be re-defining torture - which sounds a little too much like, "well, maybe [insert name of torture advocate here] has a point" for my comfort.  And if that's where people are going with this, or think that's where we should be going with this, well, then God help us.


    Anne, I agree with much of what you (none / 0) (#79)
    by Green26 on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 06:24:51 PM EST
    said. However, I and others were pointing out that many Americans don't care much about the torture issue, and probably don't care that waterboarding was used on 3 presumably very bad people.

    Of course, almost everyone would be against torture, if just asked that question. However, it's not clear to everyone what actually constitutes torture, and there exstenuating circumstances in these situations. You may not care about those circumstances, but many people do.

    As for your comment on what constitutes torture, I don't think there is general agreement on whether various things are tortue. Just because you and others think something is torture, doesn't make it torture as defined in the statute/treaty.

    I suppose many/most people would say waterboarding is, or probably is, torture; but many people would not care that it was used on 3 bad people.


    a large part of America probably wouldn't care (none / 0) (#85)
    by of1000Kings on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 07:40:51 PM EST
    if a lot of people in the financial industry were tortured at this point...

    doesn't make it right..


    Anne, although it may seem like I don't agree (none / 0) (#80)
    by vicndabx on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 06:36:53 PM EST
    with you, believe me I do.  I hope that whatever we end up at the end of all this leaves no ambiguity as to what is allowed.

    My point was (none / 0) (#93)
    by jbindc on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 08:27:41 AM EST
    That outside the blogosphere, where this topic is running rampant and being dissected and parsed, it's not on the forefront of everyone's mind.  That's not to say it isn't important, but it's probably not even in the top 10 of things people are thinking about or talking about.

    Which is why I have the concerns (none / 0) (#76)
    by vicndabx on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 04:41:52 PM EST
    I have.

    I doubt that many Americans (none / 0) (#77)
    by Green26 on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 04:51:34 PM EST
    care that, among the 3 high level detainees who were waterboarded, was someone who planned the 9/11 attack and beheaded Daniel Pearl.

    Some people talk like the US tortues and waterboards every prisoner in sight.

    What is known is that the US waterboarded 3 high level detainees and used enhanced interrogation techniques on a limited number of detainees.

    While this may not excuse what was done, it does put it in a different light, in my view. In any event, the US is not some big torturing country. All of this was limited.

    I find it interesting in the memos and some article, that the US fumbled its way through these matters, in part because it had so little experience with anything close to torture.


    Sorry I don't get your meaning..... (none / 0) (#69)
    by vicndabx on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 02:09:59 PM EST
    irrelevant in that torture already happened?

    Well (none / 0) (#72)
    by Steve M on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 02:46:21 PM EST
    it's all well and good to debate the ethical nuances of an insect in a box, but the reality of the debate seems to be more like 183 waterboardings.

    Especially (none / 0) (#74)
    by jbindc on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 04:22:43 PM EST
    When the insect was a caterpillar.

    I have my doubts (none / 0) (#82)
    by Steve M on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 07:26:50 PM EST
    that it was really a caterpillar, but hey.

    I'm not justifying it (none / 0) (#92)
    by jbindc on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 08:16:58 AM EST
    And I don't know about it being a "dangerous" caterpillar, just pointing out that it wasn't a wasp.

    as long as you don't have a problem (none / 0) (#84)
    by of1000Kings on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 07:35:07 PM EST
    with another country torturing our citizens and military personnel then I think you can have the pov that torture may be within reason under certain circumstances...

    if you don't want your brother/mother/father/sister tortured without retaliation or justice then you can't have the view that it's okay for America to torture (well, you can, and there are those that do, but they are wrong)


    I wonder if 'interrogation techniques' (none / 0) (#86)
    by of1000Kings on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 07:42:23 PM EST
    led to the information that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction...

    /partly in jest...

    Maybe we would have gotten better (none / 0) (#88)
    by Green26 on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 08:47:17 PM EST
    info on WMD with enchanced interrogation techniques. Partly in jest.