Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ray McGovern, former CIA officer, confronts Peter Hoekstra, Congressional Torturer

    Ray McGovern was the daily briefer of the President for the CIA 27 years and a leader of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.  Opposing manufactured "intelligence," the latter was founded during Bush's aggression against Iraq.  McGovern and Veteran Intelligence Professionals for sanity also strongly oppose torture.  For Chinese television, Ray debated Peter Hoekstra, a Congressional enthusiast for the worst in CIA barbarism.  No such pointed debate could occur on corporate American television, where publicity for Richard Cheney, screaming into the gale, is the norm, and his questioners polite, even as he affirms crimes.


       Representing many who understand that torture produces no useful information, McGovern speaks out forcefully, on behalf of decent insiders, on the monstrousness of the CIA.  His words are worth absorbing...


       Though the Senate Intelligence Committee's remarkable report on torture is based on thousands of pages of internal CIA memos and confirms a CIA internal study, American public culture has become so corrupt and fearful that Cheney's bleating, based on no reading of the 600 page Report and no counter evidence, has become, for some, a partisan talking point. See "The Trial of Richard Bruce Cheney" here.   One of my readers sent the following angry missive - again, a matter of partisan faith; all the evidence in the CIA documents shows that these assertions are false:

       "The CIA did what it had to do to protect all Americans, including you from further attacks.  Please listen to the victims and their families and how much they appreciate what the CIA and the Bush administration did, with the approval of Congress, to protect us."


   That many families of 9/11 victims opposed invading Iraq and oppose torture, for instance the 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, is ignored by this advocate of torture...


    That enthusiasm by some of the families for torturing innocent people to death is neither an argument for the merit of torture nor an extenuation for its criminality also escapes this advocate.


          Recall that America has practiced slavery and genocide toward slaves and indigenous people, lynched people during segregation, conquered half of Mexico and appropriated its resources and people, forced Japanese-American citizens into concentration camps during World War II, launched bloody aggression in the Philippines and gunboat "diplomacy" in Latin America, engaged in  the Vietnam aggression, murdered Salvador Allende in Chile, and "disappeared" many "folks," as Obama might say, throughout Latin America during the Kissinger/Nixon era, etc.  This is a long. sad record, and out of fear, racism and privilege, many people have taken the wrong side in it.  The new zeal for torture, backed by wealthy Republicans and others despite the decency of John McCain and some libertarians, is especially decadent and criminal.  It makes "us" no better than those "we" oppose (many of whom were created by American wars like Bin Laden against the Soviet Union or Saddam Hussein, and then turned against the United States).  


     Is ISIS's practice, a horror, different from the black sites and torture prisons described in the CIA memos?  


     Is it so  different from a criminal elite which keeps 2.3 million ordinary people including whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning in prison, but so far, has not had a single proceeding against the Bush-Cheney administration and those who disgracefully served it in the CIA? 


     Note that the report on the CIA with an introduction by Senator Dianne Feinstein speaks out against torture and represents a striking movement back toward decency.


    Today visiting the Tibetan Children's village where the Dalai Lama has seen that every Tibetan child escaped from over the Himalayas and every orphan is cared for, I was talking to my friend Yogesh Jethi, an Indian army officer, about the Taliban's murdering130 people in Peshawar, most of them children.  Terrorism is a real and horrific phenomenon (much of which has been bred by the particular character of American wars and interventions).  It will not be stopped by more American killings, through drones and torture, of innocent people; rather it will be spurred. 


    Cheney and his supporters did not make Americans safer; instead, their conduct has stained all of us and licenses barbarism.  


      Here is McGovern's eloquent letter returning a Medal of Freedom to Hoekstra in 2006:

"Dear Congressman Hoekstra:

As a matter of conscience I am returning the Intelligence Commendation Award medallion given me for "especially commendable service" during my 27-year career in CIA.  The issue is torture, which inhabits the same category as rape and slavery  --  intrinsically evil.  I do not wish to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture.

Reports in recent years that CIA personnel were torturing detainees were highly disturbing.  Confirmation of a sort came last fall, when CIA Director Porter Goss and Dick Cheney -- dubbed by the Washington Post "Vice President for Torture" -- descended on Sen. John McCain to demand that the CIA be exempted from his amendment's ban on torture.  Subsequent reports implicated agency personnel in several cases of prisoner abuse in Iraq, including a few in which detainees died during interrogation.

The obeisance of CIA directors George Tenet and Porter Goss in heeding illegal White House directives has done irreparable harm to the CIA and the country -- not to mention those tortured and killed.  That you, as Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, show more deference to the White House than dedication to your oversight responsibilities under the Constitution is another profound disappointment.  How can you and your counterpart, Sen. Pat Roberts, turn a blind eye to torture -- letting some people get away, literally, with murder -- and square that with your conscience?

If German officials who were ordered to do such things in the 1930s had spoken out early and loudly enough, the German people might have been alerted to the atrocities being perpetrated in their name and tried harder to stop them.  When my grandchildren ask, "What did you do, Grandpa, to stop the torture," I want to be able to tell them that I tried to honor my oath, taken both as an Army officer and an intelligence officer, to defend the Constitution of the United States -- and that I not only spoke out strongly against the torture, but also sought a symbolic way to dissociate myself from it.

We Americans have become accustomed to letting our institutions do our sinning for us.  I abhor the corruption of the CIA in the past several years, believe it to be beyond repair, and do not want my name on any medallion associated with it.  Please destroy this one.

Yours truly, Ray McGovern"


Below is the debate:

Ray McGovern - the analyst who used to prepare and give the U.S. President's Daily Briefing (PDB) [aka President's Daily Brief aka President's Daily Bulletin] from the days of the Johnson Administration up through the days of the George H. W. Bush [aka Bush, Sr.] Administration (Ray McGovern retired from the CIA before the Bill Clinton Administration took office)...

Consortium News ]

Clashing Face-to-Face on Torture

December 14, 2014

Exclusive: It's rare on TV when you see two former senior U.S. officials clashing angrily over something as significant as torture. Usually decorum prevails. But ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern wasn't going to let the ex-House intelligence oversight chief get away with a bland defense of torture, as McGovern recounts.

By Ray McGovern

When you get an opportunity like this, don't fall back -- I heard my Irish grandmother telling me last Thursday as I took my place at the table to discuss torture with a former congressional committee chairman whose job it was to prevent such abuse.

Almost rubbing shoulders with me on my right was former House Intelligence Committee chair (2004-2007) Pete Hoekstra, a Republican from Michigan. Central China TV had asked both of us to address the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture. I said yes, of course, since I was highly interested in how Hoekstra, with his front seat for the saga of "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques," would try to 'splain it all.

Here was a unique chance to publicly confront a malleable, moral dwarf who had been in a uniquely powerful position to end the torture. The moment was also an odd one, for Hoekstra -- not the brightest star in the constellation -- seemed oblivious to his gross misfeasance and dereliction of duty. Or how his behavior might look to non-torture aficionados.

Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (left) argues with ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern about the Senate torture report on CCTV America's "The Heat" on Dec. 11, 2014. (Screenshot from program)

Hoekstra took over the House intelligence "oversight" committee in 2004 when former chair, Porter Goss, a Republican from Florida, was picked as the perfect -- as in fully-briefed-and-complicit -- functionary to become director of the CIA, replacing "slam-dunk" George Tenet. Tenet left in disgrace in July 2004, still seeking those notional Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction" in vain.

Last week, amid the unfolding torture scandal, Hoekstra went on CCTV America's daily talk show, "The Heat," to offer a heated defense of what he insisted on still calling "enhanced interrogation techniques." My opportunity for a blunt exchange with him over exactly what the House Intelligence Committee knew came near the end of the show.

I had already been trying hard to decode for the TV audience the bull-excrement coming from Hoekstra and others quoted on the program. At one point, as luck would have it, the moderator asked me about the CIA's fear-driven argument that the "urgency" of preventing additional terrorist attacks justified short-cuts like torture.

A hat tip here to my VIPS colleague Larry Johnson, who had called my attention earlier that day to the actual time sequence involving the capture and interrogation of detainee Abu Zubaydah, noting that if that scenario reflected "time-urgency," we are all in serious trouble.

After FBI interrogators, using the traditional rapport-building approach to Abu Zubaydah, extracted a good deal of useful information from him in April 2002, Washington (for reasons not yet fully clear) ordered the FBI to give him over to CIA officials. They kept him in solitary confinement, asking him no questions, from mid-June 2002 until Aug. 4, giving time for torture-friendly lawyers in Washington to come up with some tortured legal justifications to "authorize" waterboarding and other abusive techniques. Zubaydah was then waterboarded 83 times, yielding no useful intelligence.

Clashing with Hoekstra

As the program neared its end, the host turned back to me and asked me to respond to former Vice President Dick Cheney's ardent defense of the torture program. I focused my criticism on Cheney as the "eminence grise" behind the Bush administration plunge into the "dark side."

But I also saw an opportunity to press Hoekstra on his knowledge and complicity, though I framed my question to give him an out on direct knowledge about the grisly torture techniques, from waterboarding and hanging people from ceilings to forced nudity and "rectal rehydration."

"I don't know if he [Cheney] checked with you, Congressman Hoekstra, he really should have, but I'm amazed if you were either unaware of these things or whether you condoned them," I said, addressing Hoekstra only inches away.

"I think I've been very open," Hoekstra responded, indicating that he did know and did approve.

McGovern: "You condoned them. My God!"

Hoekstra: "I explained this to you. Members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, leadership on both sides, Gang of Eight …".

McGovern: "Thought that torture was okay?"

Hoekstra: "Thought that the enhanced interrogation techniques …

McGovern: "That's torture."

Hoekstra: "… were appropriate."

McGovern: "Let's not use these sobriquets. This was torture."

Hoekstra: "No, the Justice Department … characterized them as legal. To say that you were aghast that we heard, no."

McGovern: "I'm aghast that you were briefed on it. You're supposed to be overseeing these things, you should stop these things. … You were co-opted."

Hoekstra: "No, we weren't. Republicans and Democrats were fully briefed on these programs and we agreed with them."

I still thought I'd give the former congressman a path out of the pro-torture corner that he was painting himself into, by suggesting that he might be simply embarrassed that he had been misled by the CIA and the Bush administration, that he had been kept in the dark about the darkest of the dark side, but Hoekstra just kept painting.

McGovern: "You were lied to and you're ashamed to admit that you were lied to."

Hoekstra: "I'm not ashamed that I was lied to. I'm admitting that these programs were briefed to us. I've talked to my staff going back and said after this 'revelation' came out …how much of what is in this Dianne Feinstein report, this partisan report, this Democrat report, how much did we know? Ninety to 95 percent."

McGovern: "Oh, my God! What a terrible admission! Aren't you ashamed?"

Hoekstra: "No, I'm not ashamed."

McGovern: "My God!"

Then, Hoekstra tried to suggest that I was being disloyal to my former colleagues at the CIA as if the few senior officials who pushed for the torture and the few -- mostly contractors -- who carried it out were representative of most CIA personnel among whom I had served for 27 years. Hoekstra was waving a red flag, so I played the bull, forsaking the usually obligatory deference and politeness. I let him have it. (Sometimes it doesn't help to be Irish.)

Hoekstra: "I reached a different conclusion as did many of your colleagues at the CIA …"

McGovern: "These are not my colleagues! These are thugs hired by Dick Cheney!"

Hoekstra: "These are people you walked away from. These are heroes for America…"

McGovern: "These are thugs headed by Dick Cheney!"

Hoekstra: "…who are protecting America."

That was when the host politely brought the program to a conclusion. (For this exchange, see minutes 8:23 to 10:41 of  Part Three, though I think the entire program is worth watching. Part One [ ], Part Two [ ] and Part Three [ ].)

Limited U.S. Viewing

Few Americans are likely to be among those who saw "The Heat" on Dec. 11 or will see it on YouTube. But there is some consolation in the claim that, according to CCTV, a billion Chinese-speakers normally watch the dubbed-into-Mandarin version of this program, and not only in China. Even if the actual number is only half that, well, that will amount to about 500,000 viewers more than the audience in the United States. Some solace.

Since Dec. 9, when the Senate report was released, I also have been interviewed on Canadian TV, Aljazeera, Russian TV, Sky News (UK), two taped Russian prime-time Sunday evening TV programs, Radio Scotland (BBC), Radio New Zealand, and three Radio Pacifica programs.  Some of the above hosted me as many as four times, and I have had to turn down, or refer to others, additional invitations (yes, all of these from abroad, as well).

For some reason, despite a prompt press release issued on Tuesday morning, U.S. media remain uninterested in my blunt commentary on the subject of torture. As the CCTV interview indicated, I cannot be counted on to be pleasant when discussing torture, particularly with those who could have, and should have, prevented it.

Which reminds me that after my four-minute impromptu debate [ ] with Donald Rumsfeld in Atlanta on May 4, 2006, I was asked by CNN's Paula Zahn, "How long have you had this personal animus toward the Secretary of Defense? And why did you follow him all the way down to Atlanta?"

No personal animus, I could honestly explain to Paula; I just have this thing about folks who start wars of aggression and enable torture (the sobriquet "enhanced interrogation techniques" was not put into the public lexicon until four months later).

As for following Rumsfeld "all the way down to Atlanta," I explained that I had gotten to Atlanta the day before -- very pleased to have been honored with the ACLU's National Civil Liberties Award (won the previous year by Coretta Scott King). The chance to attend Rumsfeld's speech was just a bonus.

But I must confess. I do have a personal beef with Hoekstra, who, in 2006, pulled one of the dirtiest tricks I ever encountered personally. Without telling other members of the House Intelligence Committee, he added to the draft Intelligence Authorization Act for FY'07 (HR5020) a provision enabling the government to strip intelligence veterans of their government pensions. HR5020 passed the full House, but Congress opted instead for a continuing resolution.

So maybe it is more a case of Hoekstra having some animus toward my veteran intelligence colleagues and me, who had been exposing the torture overlooked (if not blessed) by his committee. His attempt to make revoking our pensions legal came shortly after March 2, 2006, when -- as a matter of conscience in protest against torture -- I went to his House office and returned the Intelligence Commendation Medallion given me at retirement for "especially meritorious service," explaining "I do not want to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture."

On Dec. 11, after time ran out for "The Heat," I took the opportunity to let Hoekstra know very directly that we were very much aware of his low-life move against us.

Earlier, when the CCTV moderator, in introducing me, had noted that I had returned my Intelligence Commendation Medallion over the issue of CIA torture, I was sorely tempted to ask Hoekstra why he sent me neither acknowledgment nor reply to my letter. But I quickly decided that it would likely be easier -- and far more important -- to call him to task on his unconscionable misfeasance in condoning torture itself, than on the dirty trick he almost succeeded in pulling on my former intelligence officers and me.

So I waited until we ran out of time to tell him we are aware of what he had tried to do and what we thought of it, and suggested that the sooner he went back to Michigan the better it would be for honest people in Washington.

Below is the letter I gave Hoekstra in April 2006. Actually, I had to give it to his aides; there were indications that he was hiding in his inner office, but they said he was not.  Perhaps he was at CIA being briefed on "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques."

March 2, 2006

Dear Congressman Hoekstra:

As a matter of conscience I am returning the Intelligence Commendation Award medallion given me for "especially commendable service" during my 27-year career in CIA.  The issue is torture, which inhabits the same category as rape and slavery  --  intrinsically evil.  I do not wish to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture.

Reports in recent years that CIA personnel were torturing detainees were highly disturbing.  Confirmation of a sort came last fall, when CIA Director Porter Goss and Dick Cheney -- dubbed by the Washington Post "Vice President for Torture" -- descended on Sen. John McCain to demand that the CIA be exempted from his amendment's ban on torture.  Subsequent reports implicated agency personnel in several cases of prisoner abuse in Iraq, including a few in which detainees died during interrogation.

The obeisance of CIA directors George Tenet and Porter Goss in heeding illegal White House directives has done irreparable harm to the CIA and the country -- not to mention those tortured and killed.  That you, as Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, show more deference to the White House than dedication to your oversight responsibilities under the Constitution is another profound disappointment.  How can you and your counterpart, Sen. Pat Roberts, turn a blind eye to torture -- letting some people get away, literally, with murder -- and square that with your conscience?

If German officials who were ordered to do such things in the 1930s had spoken out early and loudly enough, the German people might have been alerted to the atrocities being perpetrated in their name and tried harder to stop them.  When my grandchildren ask, "What did you do, Grandpa, to stop the torture," I want to be able to tell them that I tried to honor my oath, taken both as an Army officer and an intelligence officer, to defend the Constitution of the United States -- and that I not only spoke out strongly against the torture, but also sought a symbolic way to dissociate myself from it.

We Americans have become accustomed to letting our institutions do our sinning for us.  I abhor the corruption of the CIA in the past several years, believe it to be beyond repair, and do not want my name on any medallion associated with it.  Please destroy this one.

Yours truly, Ray McGovern

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served as an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and then as a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years, and is now a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The trial of Richard Bruce Cheney

     That the torture program of the CIA was monstrous and incompetent and has made America odious - an outlaw state - even among its allies has now been made clear through CIA documents in the 600 page Senate Intelligence Committee Report Executive Summary.  The publication of that document is a sign of hope.  See "Darkness Visible" here and the Report here.


     But on the Meet the Press this weekend,  Dick Cheney, the desperate war criminal, has made manifest what his "reasoning" is.  He is trying to make the tide of history to flow backwards, ordering it in a stern voice to stop at his imperious feet.... 

      Infusing food with fecal matter, suspending an innocent man naked in the cold - Rahman Gul - until he dies, no "biggie" Cheney says.  Law, justice, no "biggie."  This is the former Vice President, Chief of Staff, Secretary of Defense, head of Halliburton...


     Cheney is trying to make the tide of history to flow backwards, ordering it in a stern voice to stop at his imperious feet.... 


       The Senate report as well as the internal CIA review, in the possession of those who wrote it, show that torture produced no useful information, harmed the knowledge gathering process, made America rightly hated in the world, helped those who wish to attack the United States - gave them cover, additional support or toleration, and  motivation - and thus, blatantly failed to protect the security of American citizens.


     When Cheney speaks of "protecting" "Americans," he means protecting Halliburton...


     When one thinks of the concentration camps for Japanese-Americans or Sand Creek and other massacres of indigenous people or slavery, one will now also remember Mr. Cheney, the man who gave up what is decent in America and ordered the torture chambers of the Gestapo or Saddam to "save us," as a criminal of the same rank.  Whether Mr. Cheney will succeed in his project to subvert American decency is unclear.  But he has become, with Torquemada, memorably a monster...


    According to Jane Meyer, Obama's cabinet was willing to mandate hearings about torture.  But Obama himself stopped this on the grounds that this act of lawfulness, justice and decency would create "gridlock."  Actually, complete sabotage of the first black President - "Republican" policy engineered by Mitch McConnell et al - coupled with the increased role of money in politics (the Supreme "Court") and the legalization of disenfranchising legislation/decisions in states (the Supreme "Court") produced gridlock. 


      To protect the Bush cabinet (again Colin Powell excepted) and the CIA criminals and incompetents,  what Obama did was effectively to subvert his prohibition of water boarding, license the torturers to parade around as if they were normal people using "legal" techniques, broke the previous consensus over to John McCain rightly opposed to torture, and motivated vapidity in newspapers (the Times' front page last week accurately referred, for the first time since 9/11, to torture; now in covering Cheney, "eits" ("enhanced interrogation techniques") meaning torturing and murdering innocents like Gul, are treated as "serious" opinions of "serious" people.


The former constitutional law professor sadly works overtime to protect repulsive elite criminality,


Perhaps the news media would also like to abolish courts of law, since after all, murder or rape is just "enhanced contact" and perhaps not distinguishable from pats on the back, hand shakes or kisses..."The law says anal rape is a crime; Dick Cheney says it isn't."  Whatever this is, it is not journalism.


American law rightly bars torture and murder of prisoners, notably of innocents.  Cheney's "easy call" is a plain statement that he is an unrepentant murderer, there on "Meet the Press," for all the world to see.  


Is there still law in America?


      The final piece below traces the fabulous houses of the incompetent and psychotic CIA man, Matthew Zirbel, who murdered the innocent Gul.  Real intelligence professionals like Ali Soufan or Ray McGovern - see here - shun such policies and crimes.


     Sullivan speaks below of Cheney as a psychopath and a thug - apt enough words, read again what Cheney said - but also refers to the contrast with a sane and decent man who might do such things.  Sane is probably right; decent, as Sullivan himself underlines elsewhere, is not a plausible descriptor of torturers.


      There is no peace to be had with those who did (and who are supporters) of this.  America will either respond to the many who will not cooperate with torture - and want trials for those accused, secret organizations of incompetent torturers abolished - or the government becomes something impossible to support.  Sullivan sadly describes a Christian who can no longer say the Pledge of Allegiance.

       There is no middle ground on torture and murder...


"The Trial of Richard Bruce Cheney

By Juan Cole

[This post originally ran on Juan Cole’s Web page.]

The hall at the International Criminal Court in the Hague was packed today as the trial began of former US Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney [they always give all three names of suspected felons in the newspaper.]

The ICC justices begin with the first charge, that Mr. Cheney ordered the torture practiced by the Central Intelligence Agency on over 100 prisoners, 21% of them later recognized to have been falsely accused.

Prisoners were abused anally, waterboarded, slammed against walls, threatened, an arm was broken, one died from exposure.  Mr. Cheney denied that these techniques were torture, to the astonishment of
sitting senators.  And he continues to advocate the continuation of these methods.

Cheney’s attorneys object.  “Your honors, there is no evidence that Cheney ordered torture.”

One of the judges leans over the bench.  “Is it not true that Mr. Cheney told NBC News on September 16, 2001, “We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will.”?

Attorney:  “That is not proof that he ordered torture.”

Judge:  “He used the third person plural, “we,” and he used the imperative, “have to.”  The very grammar indicts him.  Moreover, he said in 2011 that he continued strongly to urge the use of
waterboarding on prisoners.  He is committed to the dark side.”

Attorney:  “Waterboarding is ambiguous.”

Judge:  “The US tried and hanged Japanese war criminals for waterboarding.”

Attorney:  “Those individuals actually carried out water boarding. They did not simply advocate their use.”

Judge:  “Julius Streicher was quite rightly hanged after the Nuremberg Trials for having done no more than write newspaper articles urging crimes against humanity.”

Attorney:  “Surely you are not calling Dick Cheney a fascist and war criminal?”

Judge:  “Let us move on to the next charge.  Mr. Cheney launched a war of aggression on Iraq, under false pretense, that was illegal in international law and has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.”

Attorney:  “The vice president feared Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.”

Judge:  “Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, and UN inspectors continually said so.  In any case, there are only two grounds for war in the United Nations charter:  1) self-defense and 2) UN Security Council authorization of the use of force against a danger to world order.  Iraq did not attack Mr. Cheney’s country, and the UNSC did not
authorize the use of force.”

Attorney:  “The US Congress authorized the war.”

Judge:  “Unfortunately for your client, we consider that to be just another war crime by a different branch of government, not exculpatory.”

Attorney:  “Mr. Cheney was not the commander in chief and could not order that war.  George W. Bush was on top of the issues and in complete control.”

Judge:  “Now you are just saying silly things.”

Attorney:  “It was worth a try.”

Judge:  “They kept Cheney informed of the torture program but not George W. Bush or Colin Powell.  This was Cheney’s baby.  Not only did Mr. Cheney launch an illegal war of aggression, he set off a chain of further crimes.  The Nuremberg judgment observed, “To initiate a war of aggression . . . is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

    Mr. Cheney is also responsible for the torture at Abu Ghraib, for massacres of non-combatant populations, and for the displacement of 4 million Iraqis.  He made a fifth of the country homeless and created millions of orphans and widows.

Attorney:  “There is no evidence that Cheney ordered any of those things.”

Judge:  “Did he advocate them?”

Attorney:  “Hmm.”

Judge:  “Well?”

Attorney:  “I’m thinking, I’m thinking.”

Judge:  “You are stalling.  What about the outing of Valerie Plame, the CIA undercover field officer whose cover Mr. Cheney blew?  Did not President George H. W. Bush say, “Even though I am a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They
are in my view the most insidious of traitors.”? ”

Attorney:  “That was Richard Armitage and Bob Novak.”

Judge:  “Cheney was the one who ordered Scooter Libby and other staffers to attempt to out Ms. Plame. They assiduously called journalists with this story.  It was materials they left lying around that came to Mr. Armitage’s attention.  It was only an accident that Novak ran with the story before one of Mr. Libby’s journalistic contacts could be convinced.”

Attorney:  “Outing a CIA officer is not a crime in international law, only in US law.”

Judge:  “We’ll be sure to forward the dossier to the US authorities.”

Attorney:  “The US authorities already dismissed Ms. Plame’s suit on the grounds that Cheney was just doing his job.”

Judge:  “That is why we are holding these proceedings at the Hague.”


Andrew Sullivan, The Dish
DEC 14 2014 @ 6:30PM

Perhaps the only saving grace of this sociopath formerly in high office is that he understands that his legacy could well be as a war criminal unlike any in American history before him. That’s my only explanation for why he has to be out there day after day, year after year, attacking his successor, lambasting America’s return to civilization, and insisting that hanging people from shackles, freezing them to near-death, near-drowning them so that their abdomens are distended with water, anally raping them, breaking their limbs, and keeping them awake so long they hallucinated … is not somehow torture. Ask yourself: have you ever met someone who believes that? Outside the professional criminal classes, that is.

And in his response today to the voluminous and undisputed evidence supplied by the CIA’s own internal documents, he has nothing specific or factual to say that can undermine any of it. He just insists, like a dad lost on a car trip, that he alone knowshe’s not lost, whatever the map or GPS says. 

His best talking point is that those who authorized and committed the torture were not interviewed by the committee – implying this was because of bias. But this is transparently false. Six months into the investigation, the attorney general announced his own study into CIA torture techniques. Here is Senator Feinstein’s account of what happened next:

The committee’s Vice Chairman Kit Bond withdrew the minority’s participation in the study, citing the attorney general’s expanded investigation as the reason. The Department of Justice refused to coordinate its investigation with the Intelligence Committee’s review. As a result, possible interviewees could be subject to additional liability if they were interviewed. The CIA, citing the attorney general’s investigation, would not instruct its employees to participate in our interviews. (Source: classified CIA internal memo, February 26, 2010).

In any case, there were plenty of previous interviews with CIA torturers, including from the CIA’s own internal investigation, there was a formal CIA response to all the charges (highly unpersuasive because they have to argue against their own records), and, so far as I know, interviewing them all over again is still possible. Come to think of it, why doesn’t the committee take that up again under GOP leadership, if their perspective will allegedly alter the conclusions?

But in the Cheney interview, there is nothing faintly that rational. He is behaving like a cornered man. On what possible grounds does he dismiss 6.3 million pages of documentation from the CIA’s own records as “full of crap”? The CIA had a chance to rebut every one of the conclusions with other documents and failed to. This is preposterous as well as slanderous to the extraordinary work behind this remarkable report. But the most revealing parts of the interview were the following, it seems to me. Todd asked Cheney at one point what he believed the meaning of torture is, after citing the rectal hydration issue (which seems to have upset more people than any other technique). And this is what Cheney said:

I’ll tell you what my definition of torture is: what nineteen guys armed with airline tickets and boxcutters did to 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

Later, when confronted with an example of a human being suspended by his wrists from shackles so he could barely touch the floor for 22 hours a day for two weeks, Cheney refused to say that that wasn’t torture. Instead he repeated:

Torture is what the al Qaeda terrorists did to 3,000 Americans on 9/11

What I take from these statements is that the torture program was, for Cheney, partly an amateur thug’s idea of how you get intelligence, but partly also simply a means of revenge. Yes: revenge. This was a torture program set up in order to vent rage and inflict revenge. It was torture designed to be as brutal to terror suspects as 19 men on 9/11 were to Americans. Tit-for-tat. Our torture in return for their torture; their innocent victims in return for ours. It was a program that has no place in a civilized society.

He was then asked about the 26 people whom the CIA admits were tortured by mistake. One of them was even frozen to death. A sane and rational and decent human being, who presided over the program that did this, might say: “The decision to torture was an extremely agonizing one, but I still believe defensible. But of course the torture of innocent people is horrifying. I deeply regret the chaos and amateurism of the program in its early phases.”

So what did Cheney actually say? When confronted with the instance of Rahman Gul, the individual tortured to death, Todd asked what the US owed these torture victims. Cheney actually said this:

The problem I have is with all the folks we did release who ended up on the battlefield … I have no problem [with torturing innocent people] as long as we achieved our objective.

It doesn’t get any clearer than that. The man is a sociopath. He is a disgrace to his country. And he needs to be brought to justice.

DEC 15 2014 @ 11:29AM
Like Andrew, Conor Friedersdorf is deeply troubled by it:

Once 9/11 happened, Dick Cheney ceased to believe that the CIA should be subject to the U.S. Constitution, statutes passed by Congress, international treaties, or moral prohibitions against torture. Those standards would be cast aside. In their place, moral relativism would reign. Any action undertaken by the United States would be subject to this test: Is it morally equivalent to what Al Qaeda did on 9/11? Is it as bad as murdering roughly 3,000 innocent people? If not, then no one should criticize it, let alone investigate, charge and prosecute the CIA. Did a prisoner freeze to death? Were others anally raped? Well, what if they were?

If it cannot be compared with 9/11, if it is not morally equivalent, then it should not be verboten. 

That is the moral standard Cheney is unabashedly invoking on national television. He doesn’t want the United States to honor norms against torture. He doesn’t want us to abide by Ten Commandments, or to live up to the values in the Declaration of Independence, or to be restrained by the text of the Constitution. Instead, Cheney would have us take Al Qaeda as our moral and legal measuring stick. Did America torture dozens of innocents? So what. 9/11 was worse.


Dick Cheney gave no ground in his “Meet the Press” interview on Sunday, but he did something arguably even better: He bared his twisted soul.
Parrying questions from Chuck Todd with what he must have figured were winning talking points about the 9/11 terror attacks, Cheney unwittingly demonstrated how profoundly he has renounced fundamental American concepts of morality and justice.
Cheney’s most telling response was to Todd’s questions about people who were detained completely by mistake but who were nevertheless tortured — in at least one case to death.
You have to be something other than a normal human being not to be troubled by that.
But Cheney’s response was: “I’m more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that, in fact, were innocent.”
And he would famously do it all again. “I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective,” he said. “‘I’d do it again in a minute.”
What Cheney was saying is basically: If you have a goal and you kill innocent people while you’re at it, tough shit. That is how terrorists think; it’s not how moral people think — or at least are supposed to think.
I suspect that in the not-too-distant future, the defense of “rectal feeding” will become as signature a moment in torture apology as Cheney’s famous prediction that U.S. troops would be “greeted as liberators” has become to the false case for war in Iraq.
Any normal human being would be appalled by Todd’s question about how “Majid Khan’s lunch tray consisting of hummus, pasta, sauce, nuts and raisins was pureed and rectally infused.”
But not Cheney. “I believe it was done for medical reasons,” he said.
(“Rectal feeding” is not a medical procedure; it is a particularly sick and brutal form of abuse that in at least one case left a victim diagnosed as suffering from “an anal fissure and symptomatic rectal prolapse.”)
After listening to him on Sunday, it has never been clearer that to Cheney the interrogation of detainees was all about revenge — and about having, feeling and exercising power after feeling impotent in the face of an attack on the homeland. (After all, if he or anyone else in a position of power in the White House had paid an iota of attention to the issue before 9/11, the attack could likely have been averted.)

For Cheney, however, his “Meet the Press” appearance was still a win – at least in the short term, until history passes a more considered verdict.
Because our elite political media is unwilling to call out the morally abhorrent self-interested ravings of a torturer, Cheney’s statements effectively push the envelope for what is treated as legitimate debate.
So while we finally have this long-awaited Senate Intelligence Committee report, full of achingly detailed descriptions of abuse and lies even more depraved and duplicitous than any of us had imagined, the media just sees the “revisiting of a debate” about torture.
Last year, a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission established by the Constitution Project did a good job of explaining how absurd it is that we are actually still arguing about any of this.
The blame for that rests in two places.
One is the Obama administration, for covering up what happened and trying to stifle any sort of national conversation on the topic.
The other is the media, for splitting the difference between the facts and the plainly specious, morally defective arguments led by Dick Cheney.
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DEC 15 2014 @ 10:52AM
It’s massive

Jane Mayer fears that “torture is becoming just another partisan issue”:

This wasn’t always the case—it was Ronald Reagan who signed the U.N. Convention Against Torture, in 1988. But polls show both a growing acceptance of the practice and a widening divide along party lines. “It’s becoming a lot like the death penalty,” [political science professor Darius] Rejali said.

The 1975 Church Committee report, which was conducted following revelations of, among other things, covert operations to assassinate foreign leaders, was, until now, the best-known public airing of C.I.A. practices. According to Loch K. Johnson, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia, who was a special assistant to Senator Frank Church, its findings were broadly accepted across the political spectrum. “No one challenged it,” he said.

She argues that there “was a way to address the matter that might have avoided much of the partisan trivialization”:

In a White House meeting in early 2009, Greg Craig, President Obama’s White House Counsel, recommended the formation of an independent commission. Nearly every adviser in the room endorsed the idea, including such national-security hawks as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and the President’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. Leon Panetta, the C.I.A. director at the time, also supported it. Obama, however, said that he didn’t want to seem to be taking punitive measures against his predecessor, apparently because he still hoped to reach bipartisan agreement on issues such as closing Guantánamo.

Meanwhile, Allahpundit ponders the partisan split in the above chart:

Both sides are way more comfortable with sleep deprivation and hitting a prisoner than they are with sticking one in a de facto coffin for a week or rectally feeding hunger-strikers. You can tease out a certain logic to that. Practices that the average joe can relate to, like being slapped or deprived of sleep, are more acceptable; practices that are more baroque, like trapping a guy in a box for days on end, or that involve some sort of sexual humiliation, like forced nudity or threats of sexual violence, are out of the ordinary and more likely to be seen as sadistic. (Note how there’s more support in both parties for actual violence against a detainee than threatening to use physical or sexual violence against him. It’s the “sexual” part of the question that produces that result, I bet.) The one outlier is waterboarding, another baroque practice but one that’s acceptable to many Republicans and a bit more acceptable to Democrats than the box is. Why is that? Maybe it’s because waterboarding’s become familiar over time after so much public debate about it. Maybe it’s because GOPers know it’s closely linked to Bush and Cheney and feel a partisan tug to defend it. Or maybe it’s that lots of righties remain unconvinced that being waterboarded is as terrible as it’s supposed to be, at least compared to being enclosed in a coffin-sized crate for days.

As things stand, Steve M. bets that the next Republican president will torture:

I don’t know if the gloves are going to come off again on the first day of the next GOP presidency, but if we have a Sidney siege with a Republican in the White House and any of the perpetrators are captured alive, it seems likely to me that the waterboarding equipment is coming out of mothballs.

Waldman wants the question raised with Republican presidential contenders:

My guess is that if asked directly, the GOP presidential candidates would say, “That’s all in the past.” But at the very least, we ought to get them on record now making clear whether they would ever consider using torture again."


“The New Yorker
DECEMBER 13, 2014
The Real Torture Patriots

At the end of a week in which we were faced anew with the awful facts of the C.I.A.’s interrogation and detention program, it’s hard not to conclude that President Obama missed an important opportunity to set the record straight.

As the revelations from the Senate Intelligence Committee poured forth, depicting even worse brutality than what was previously understood to have happened and a program that could only be described as sadistic, President Obama praised C.I.A. officers as “patriots” and allowed John Brennan, his C.I.A. director, to stop short of calling the tactics “torture.”

The White House spokesman Josh Earnest, meanwhile, shilly-shallied through one embarrassing press briefing after another, doing all he could to duck rather than answer the question of whether the inhumane interrogation tactics that Obama outlawed during his first week in office had proven useful during the Bush years. The message wasn’t just elliptical; the President and his top spokesmen were talking in circles.

It appeared that Obama and Brennan had a single purpose, which was to not “lose Langley,” as people in Washington say, meaning that they didn’t want to alienate those still working at the C.I.A. This calculation—that C.I.A. officers, unlike soldiers, law-enforcement officers, and other public servants who risk their lives to serve the country, are too fragile for criticism, too valuable to fire, and too patriotic to prosecute—somehow tied the Obama Administration in knots.

It didn’t have to be this way. There have been a number of true “torture patriots,” many of them at the C.I.A., who Obama and Brennan could have praised while sending a very clear message to the Agency and to the public. They are the officers who blew the whistle on the program internally and externally, some of whom have paid a very high price for their actions. The Senate report itself describes C.I.A. officers in tears at early interrogations, asking for transfers and, in some instances, expressing doubts and pushing back. By 2004, the internal criticism had grown loud enough that John Helgerson, the C.I.A.’s inspector general, conducted a serious and influential internal investigation. 
This, in turn, led the Justice Department to ask the C.I.A. to suspend the torture program until it could be reconciled with the law. Unfortunately, it was renewed for two more years, until the Supreme Court brought it to a halt.

Outside the C.I.A., many others risked their jobs and legal peril in efforts to blow the whistle on a program they found ethically, morally, and legally heinous. These were not only liberal lawyers and human-rights activists—although many of them acted nobly and selflessly—but also soldiers and F.B.I. agents, like Ali Soufan, and even some Bush Administration political appointees, like Alberto Mora, the former general counsel of the U.S. Navy, who risked everything to shine light on the abuses, in the hope of bringing America back from what Vice-President Dick Cheney called “the dark side.”

As David Luban, a professor of law at Georgetown University and the author of “Torture, Power, and Law,” suggested in the Times, there are many forms of accountability for torture, and one of the most meaningful would be to honor the real torture patriots—those who tried to stop it. What a better week it would have been if Obama had.”

Matthew Zirbel’s home in Great Falls, Virginia is filled with oriental carpets, perhaps collected from his time spent working in countries like Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. The million dollar home has “LOTS of “WOW!” You will “Oooh & Ahhh”, says this recent description on Zillow.

This isn’t the first time Zirbel’s surroundings have wowed someone. Over a decade ago, Zirbel, then a junior CIA officer, was in charge of the Salt Pit, a “black site” in Afghanistan referred to in the recent Senate torture report as “Cobalt,” where detainees were routinely brutalized and which one visitor described as a “dungeon.” A delegation from the Federal Bureau of Prisons was “WOW’ed” by the Salt Pit’s sensory deprivation techniques, and a CIA interrogator said that prisoners there “literally looked like [dogs] that had been kenneled,” according to the report.

In fact, one of the most horrifying stories – and there are many – in the Senate report on torture takes place in the Salt Pit, where Gul Rahman was murdered by the U.S. government in November 2002
Rahman, an Afghan, was rendered to the Salt Pit in the fall of 2002 after being apprehended in Pakistan. At that time the torture center was being run by a man referred to as “CIA Officer 1” in the Senate report. News outlets have not named him in covering the report but he has previously been identified as Zirbel, after the government accidentally included his name in a report that had been declassified.

Zirbel was on his first foreign tour for the CIA and colleagues had recommended that he not be allowed access to classified material due to his “lack of honesty, judgment, and maturity,” according to the Senate report.  A Senate aide who briefed reporters about Zirbel said the CIA officer had “issues” in his background, the Daily Beast reported, and should never have been hired by the CIA.
The CIA officer deemed Rahman “uncooperative,” and ordered that the detainee be “shackled to the wall of his cell in a position that required him to rest on the bare concrete floor.” The following morning Rahman, who was wearing only a sweatshirt, was found dead of hypothermia. He’d frozen to death in his cell, where the temperature hovered around 36 degrees Fahrenheit.

Zirbel’s initial cable to CIA headquarters about the case was riddled with lies — “misstatements and omissions,” as the Senate report put it. Four months later, a superior at the agency recommended Zirbel for a $2,500 bonus for “consistently superior work.”

The CIA successfully covered up Rahman’s death until 2010 — his wife and four daughters were never notified — when Adam Goldman and Kathy Gannon of the AP revealed his identity. The Senate report identifies Rahman as one of 26 detainees who did not meet the “standard for detention”; Footnote 32 calls his a case of “mistaken identity.”

In 2005, the CIA’s “Accountability Board” suggested that Zirbel be suspended without pay for ten days. But the agency’s then-Executive Director — Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, who later received a prison term of about three years for defrauding the government in a case involving bribes paid to former congressman Randy Cunningham — decided that was excessive, and ruled that no disciplinary action was merited.

A few years later a limited probe of the torture program by the Department of Justice recommended that Rahman’s death be the subject of a full criminal investigation. Attorney General Eric Holder, who was busy not prosecuting Wall Street firms for collapsing the global economy, eventually closed the case.

President Obama still can’t decide whether the CIA got carried away with its interrogation program and former Vice President Dick Cheney and General Michael Hayden are on cable news defending “rectal rehydration” as a dietary aid. But for most people the revelations in the Senate report were appalling. “You interrogate people to get information, not revenge,” Frank Anderson a former CIA Chief of the Near East and South Asia Division, told me. “Torture is counterproductive, illegal and morally repugnant.”


We know what became of Rahman, but what happened to Zirbel?

There’s very little in the public record about him, which suggests he prefers to keep a low profile. However, a notice in the Congressional Record in 2004 shows that he received an executive appointment that year as a State Department foreign service officer, a post that’s often used as CIA cover.

Seven years after his orders led to Rahman’s death, Zirbel, who has been described as unfit for CIA employment, was working for one U.S. government agency or another in Saudi Arabia.  In 2009, U.S. Customs records show that Zirbel shipped 26 containers of “House Hold Goods & Personal Effect” from the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah to a home in Great Falls.

Several news accounts in 2010 said that Zirbel  — whom the stories described but did not name — was still working for the agency.

It’s not clear if Zirbel currently works for the CIA, or government, but wherever he is, he certainly doesn’t appear to he hurting for money. Public records show he owns several properties, including the house in Great Falls, which he bought in 2006 for $1.3 million and still owns. The house sits on five wooded acres and is apparently being rented for $4,500 per month, so Zirbel lives elsewhere.
In the meantime, renters get to enjoy views of a stocked pond (“feel free to fish!” the ad says).  
There’s also an “invisible fence,” which is typically used to keep dogs from wandering off the property by delivering an electric shock through a collar.

Incidentally, Zirbel’s estate in Virginia is about 200 miles southeast of Loretto, Pennsylvania. That’s where CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, the only person ever sentenced to prison time over the torture program, is currently shacked up at a federal correctional institute.

Zirbel did not respond to attempts to reach him at phone numbers listed in public records and via Skype.

“We have no comment on the individual you reference or claims you make about his purported affiliation,” a CIA spokesman said in reply to questions about Zirbel. He said “significant improvements” had been implemented following Rahman’s death, “including far more stringent standards governing interrogations and safety.” Further refinements have been made in response to concerns raised in the Senate report, the spokesman said.

The spokesman also pointed to the CIA’s response to the Senate report, which said that it had been a mistake to delegate management of Salt Pit — the name of the “facility” is redacted in the response — to a junior officer “given the risks inherent in the program.”

“The Agency could have and should have brought in a more experienced officer to assume these responsibilities,” the CIA response said. “The death of Rahman, under conditions that could have been remediated by Agency officers, is a lasting mark on the Agency’s record.”
Researcher Sheelagh McNeill contributed to this report.
Photos: Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc.

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