Credit Where Credit Is Due

Taking time out from his relentless crusade to destroy capitalism, the U.S. economy, and America as we used to know it, Obama finally got one right today.

Obama Seeks to Block Release of Detainee Abuse Photos

President Barack Obama reversed course and is seeking to block release of photographs that show the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan by U.S. personnel.

“This is not a situation in which the Pentagon has concealed or sought to justify inappropriate action,” Obama said today at the White House. “Publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals.”

Instead, it might “inflame anti-American opinion and put our troops in greater danger,” he said.

A federal appeals court ordered the release in connection with a Freedom of Information Act suit. Last month, the Justice Department told a federal judge that the administration would not resist a court order to turn over 44 photographs sought by the American Civil Liberties Union in the suit.

The president told his legal team last week that he “did not feel comfortable with release of the photos,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said earlier.

Gibbs said that Obama concluded that Justice lawyers, during former President George W. Bush’s administration, didn’t make the strongest case against release of the pictures.

“The argument that the president seeks to make is one that hasn’t been made before,” Gibbs said. “I’m not going to get into blame for this or that,” he said, adding that the case was working through the court system before Obama took office.

Evidence

During the Bush administration, release of photographs of prisoner abuse by U.S. troops at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq caused an international uproar. The pictures at issue are part of potential evidence in cases that have been wrapped up since 2004, Gibbs said.

Obama said releasing the pictures may have a “chilling effect” on future investigations.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he recommended to Obama that the photos be withheld and that both General Ray Odierno, who commands U.S. forces in Iraq, and General David McKiernan, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, objected to the release.

“Our commanders have expressed very serious reservations and their very great worry that release of these photographs would cost American lives,” Gates said when asked about the issue at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

Durbin, Lieberman Comment

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, one of Obama’s closest allies in Congress, said the legal brief in the court cases initially “led him to believe” that releasing the photographs was “inevitable.”

“Now they seem to have some reservations about what the impact of those photos might have, particularly on the security of troops,” Durbin said.

Senators Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, and Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, supported Obama’s decision.

“It’s good for the troops to know that their commander-in- chief is going to bat for them and that is what he did today,” Graham said at the Capitol.

Lieberman said releasing the photos would have done more harm than good. When the Abu Ghraib photos were first released, “they were immediately put up on jihadist Web sites across the world and were used by al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups to recruit,” he said.

See also:
Obama seeks to block release of abuse photos
In reversal, Obama seeks to block abuse photos
Obama reverses course on alleged prison abuse photos
Obama sets up abuse-photos fight
Obama Moves to Block Release of Detainee Abuse Photos
Obama seeks to block release of abuse photos

Of course Obama had to be dragged kicking and screaming into changing his mind under intense pressure from his military commanders or else he he would have made this no-brainier decision in the first place. I mean, it’s obvious to any moron that doesn’t absolutely despise the U.S. military that releasing these photographs would do nothing besides incited and inflame our enemies, hand them a huge propaganda victory that they would exploit as a recruiting tool for years to come, and generally put U.S. troops worldwide in much greater danger.

/but hey, small victories, credit where credit is do, it was the correct decision, let’s just hope he follows through with opposing the release of the photographs in court

I’ll Talk, I’ll Talk, Anything But The Caterpillar Torture!

You know, if the release of the four once top secret Justice Department Memos on Interrogation Techniques wasn’t so utterly devastating to future CIA operations and our national security in general, the description of the interrogation techniques contained within, that supposedly constitute “torture”, would be just plain damn laughable.

Inexcusable Lapse

War On Terror: Imagine a president of the United States, within his first hundred days, revealing secrets that help terrorists kill. The secret memos on enhanced interrogation, now made public, do exactly that.

We are told by President Obama’s senior adviser David Axelrod that the president agonized for four weeks over the “weighty decision” to make public memoranda detailing the specifics of the CIA’s tough interrogation of high-value terrorist detainees such as 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad.

For most other presidents, it would have taken maybe four minutes, required little soul-searching and resulted in the opposite choice.

What on earth could the president have been thinking in revealing the nuts and bolts of how we extract information from al-Qaida operatives to prevent the success of their terrorist operations?

What could have possessed him to make public the steps our interrogators go through, the limits of pain and discomfort they (but not the prisoners) know they will not exceed, and the analytical classification and specific purpose of each of the various techniques?

These top secrets will arm Islamist jihadists with knowledge that will be invaluable to them. Future terrorist detainees will now know, for instance, that their interrogations are under continual video surveillance to make sure no lasting medical or psychological consequences result from the techniques used. Will they now teach themselves to fake such ill effects?

Terrorists will know that when they are placed in a tiny container in “cramped confinement” it will last only “up to two hours,” as a declassified memo from the Justice Department to the CIA noted. They will know that “stress positions” are used “only to induce temporary muscle fatigue” not “severe physical pain.”

They will now know that when subjected to “water dousing” they need not have the slightest fear of hypothermia, because every precaution is taken to keep the temperature of both the room and the water itself far above freezing.

They will know sleep deprivation inflicted by the interrogators seldom exceeds 96 hours, and they’ll know the specifics and purposes behind the relatively mild technique of “dietary manipulation.”

What the president has given to our enemies is a treasure chest of defensive weapons. Within the caves of the mountainous Pakistan/Afghanistan border, Islamofascist plotters must wonder how self-destructively corrupt their American adversaries have to be to allow such materials to land in their hands.

The piece of information that may be of most value to terrorists is the government’s assessment that waterboarding was “the most traumatic of the enhanced interrogation techniques” and implicitly the most effective.

Terrorist groups around the world will now know that waterboarding was “authorized for, at most, one 30-day period, during which the technique can actually be applied on no more than five days” with “no more than two sessions in any 24-hour period.”

Each session lasted no more than two hours, consisting of, at most, six applications of water for 10 seconds each time, for a total of no longer than 12 minutes per each 24-hour period. Presumably the issue is academic since the Obama administration has officially prohibited waterboarding.

There is no more valuable tool for subjects of interrogation than to know what they will be subjected to. How in good conscience could our president have given this gift to those trying to destroy us?

The President Ties His Own Hands on Terror

By MICHAEL HAYDEN and MICHAEL B. MUKASEY
The Obama administration has declassified and released opinions of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) given in 2005 and earlier that analyze the legality of interrogation techniques authorized for use by the CIA. Those techniques were applied only when expressly permitted by the director, and are described in these opinions in detail, along with their limits and the safeguards applied to them.

The release of these opinions was unnecessary as a legal matter, and is unsound as a matter of policy. Its effect will be to invite the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past, and that we came sorely to regret on Sept. 11, 2001.

Proponents of the release have argued that the techniques have been abandoned and thus there is no point in keeping them secret any longer; that they were in any event ineffective; that their disclosure was somehow legally compelled; and that they cost us more in the coin of world opinion than they were worth. None of these claims survives scrutiny.

Soon after he was sworn in, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that suspended use of these techniques and confined not only the military but all U.S. agencies — including the CIA — to the interrogation limits set in the Army Field Manual. This suspension was accompanied by a commitment to further study the interrogation program, and government personnel were cautioned that they could no longer rely on earlier opinions of the OLC.

Although evidence shows that the Army Field Manual, which is available online, is already used by al Qaeda for training purposes, it was certainly the president’s right to suspend use of any technique. However, public disclosure of the OLC opinions, and thus of the techniques themselves, assures that terrorists are now aware of the absolute limit of what the U.S. government could do to extract information from them, and can supplement their training accordingly and thus diminish the effectiveness of these techniques as they have the ones in the Army Field Manual.

Moreover, disclosure of the details of the program pre-empts the study of the president’s task force and assures that the suspension imposed by the president’s executive order is effectively permanent. There would be little point in the president authorizing measures whose nature and precise limits have already been disclosed in detail to those whose resolve we hope to overcome. This conflicts with the sworn promise of the current director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, who testified in aid of securing Senate confirmation that if he thought he needed additional authority to conduct interrogation to get necessary information, he would seek it from the president. By allowing this disclosure, President Obama has tied not only his own hands but also the hands of any future administration faced with the prospect of attack.

Disclosure of the techniques is likely to be met by faux outrage, and is perfectly packaged for media consumption. It will also incur the utter contempt of our enemies. Somehow, it seems unlikely that the people who beheaded Nicholas Berg and Daniel Pearl, and have tortured and slain other American captives, are likely to be shamed into giving up violence by the news that the U.S. will no longer interrupt the sleep cycle of captured terrorists even to help elicit intelligence that could save the lives of its citizens.

Which brings us to the next of the justifications for disclosing and thus abandoning these measures: that they don’t work anyway, and that those who are subjected to them will simply make up information in order to end their ordeal. This ignorant view of how interrogations are conducted is belied by both experience and common sense. If coercive interrogation had been administered to obtain confessions, one might understand the argument. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), who organized the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, among others, and who has boasted of having beheaded Daniel Pearl, could eventually have felt pressed to provide a false confession. But confessions aren’t the point. Intelligence is. Interrogation is conducted by using such obvious approaches as asking questions whose correct answers are already known and only when truthful information is provided proceeding to what may not be known. Moreover, intelligence can be verified, correlated and used to get information from other detainees, and has been; none of this information is used in isolation.

The terrorist Abu Zubaydah (sometimes derided as a low-level operative of questionable reliability, but who was in fact close to KSM and other senior al Qaeda leaders) disclosed some information voluntarily. But he was coerced into disclosing information that led to the capture of Ramzi bin al Shibh, another of the planners of Sept. 11, who in turn disclosed information which — when combined with what was learned from Abu Zubaydah — helped lead to the capture of KSM and other senior terrorists, and the disruption of follow-on plots aimed at both Europe and the U.S. Details of these successes, and the methods used to obtain them, were disclosed repeatedly in more than 30 congressional briefings and hearings beginning in 2002, and open to all members of the Intelligence Committees of both Houses of Congress beginning in September 2006. Any protestation of ignorance of those details, particularly by members of those committees, is pretense.

The techniques themselves were used selectively against only a small number of hard-core prisoners who successfully resisted other forms of interrogation, and then only with the explicit authorization of the director of the CIA. Of the thousands of unlawful combatants captured by the U.S., fewer than 100 were detained and questioned in the CIA program. Of those, fewer than one-third were subjected to any of the techniques discussed in these opinions. As already disclosed by Director Hayden, as late as 2006, even with the growing success of other intelligence tools, fully half of the government’s knowledge about the structure and activities of al Qaeda came from those interrogations.

Nor was there any legal reason compelling such disclosure. To be sure, the American Civil Liberties Union has sued under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain copies of these and other memoranda, but the government until now has successfully resisted such lawsuits. Even when the government disclosed that three members of al Qaeda had been subjected to waterboarding but that the technique was no longer part of the CIA interrogation program, the court sustained the government’s argument that the precise details of how it was done, including limits and safeguards, could remain classified against the possibility that some future president may authorize its use. Therefore, notwithstanding the suggestion that disclosure was somehow legally compelled, there was no legal impediment to the Justice Department making the same argument even with respect to any techniques that remained in the CIA program until last January.

There is something of the self-fulfilling prophecy in the claim that our interrogation of some unlawful combatants beyond the limits set in the Army Field Manual has disgraced us before the world. Such a claim often conflates interrogation with the sadism engaged in by some soldiers at Abu Ghraib, an incident that had nothing whatever to do with intelligence gathering. The limits of the Army Field Manual are entirely appropriate for young soldiers, for the conditions in which they operate, for the detainees they routinely question, and for the kinds of tactically relevant information they pursue. Those limits are not appropriate, however, for more experienced people in controlled circumstances with high-value detainees. Indeed, the Army Field Manual was created with awareness that there was an alternative protocol for high-value detainees.

In addition, there were those who believed that the U.S. deserved what it got on Sept. 11, 2001. Such people, and many who purport to speak for world opinion, were resourceful both before and after the Sept. 11 attacks in crafting reasons to resent America’s role as a superpower. Recall also that the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the attacks on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the punctiliously correct trials of defendants in connection with those incidents, and the bombing of the USS Cole took place long before the advent of CIA interrogations, the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, or the many other purported grievances asserted over the past eight years.

The effect of this disclosure on the morale and effectiveness of many in the intelligence community is not hard to predict. Those charged with the responsibility of gathering potentially lifesaving information from unwilling captives are now told essentially that any legal opinion they get as to the lawfulness of their activity is only as durable as political fashion permits. Even with a seemingly binding opinion in hand, which future CIA operations personnel would take the risk? There would be no wink, no nod, no handshake that would convince them that legal guidance is durable. Any president who wants to apply such techniques without such a binding and durable legal opinion had better be prepared to apply them himself.

Beyond that, anyone in government who seeks an opinion from the OLC as to the propriety of any action, or who authors an opinion for the OLC, is on notice henceforth that such a request for advice, and the advice itself, is now more likely than before to be subject after the fact to public and partisan criticism. It is hard to see how that will promote candor either from those who should be encouraged to ask for advice before they act, or from those who must give it.

In his book “The Terror Presidency,” Jack Goldsmith describes the phenomenon we are now experiencing, and its inevitable effect, referring to what he calls “cycles of timidity and aggression” that have weakened intelligence gathering in the past. Politicians pressure the intelligence community to push to the legal limit, and then cast accusations when aggressiveness goes out of style, thereby encouraging risk aversion, and then, as occurred in the wake of 9/11, criticizing the intelligence community for feckless timidity. He calls these cycles “a terrible problem for our national security.” Indeed they are, and the precipitous release of these OLC opinions simply makes the problem worse.

Gen. Hayden was director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009. Mr. Mukasey was attorney general of the United States from 2007 to 2009.

See also:
Former Bush officials slam release of torture memos
Four CIA chiefs said ‘don’t reveal torture memos’
CIA objections slowed torture memos release
“On a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009.”

So, what horrible torture techniques were contained in these memos that justified their public release, thereby tying the CIA’s hands behing their back and pulling their pants down around their ankles?

10 CIA torture tactics revealed

The 10 terror techniques

1. Attention grasp

Grasping the suspect with both hands – one hand on each side of the collar opening – in one quick motion. In the same motion, the suspect is pulled towards the interrogator.

2. Walling

The interrogators construct a flexible false wall, but do not tell the suspect it is fake. The individual is then placed with his or her heels touching the wall. The suspect is then pulled forward, and then quickly pushed back against the wall.

It is designed so that the suspect’s shoulder blades hit the wall. The individual’s neck is supported to stop whiplash.

The suspect is allowed to rebound off the wall – which makes a loud noise. The theory is that the noise will cause the suspect to think they are being harmed, when in fact no damage is being done.

3. Facial hold

One open palm is placed on either side of the suspect’s face – to keep their head immobile. The fingertips are kept away from the individual’s eyes. It is designed to intimidate.

4. Insult slap

The interrogator slaps the suspect’s face, with fingers slightly spread. The slap is aimed for the area between the chin and the ear. The aim of the slap is not to cause long-lasting pain, but to shock, surprise or humiliate.

5. Cramped confinement

The suspect is placed in a dark and confined space. Confinement in a larger space can last up to 18 hours, in a smaller space it is supposed to be less than two hours.

6. Wall standing

Used to induce muscle fatigue. The suspect stands about four or five feet from the wall, with his feet spread approximately to shoulder width. Arms are stretched out in front of them, with fingers resting on the wall. The fingers support all the body weight, and they are not allowed to move.

7. Stress positions

A variety of positions may be used, such as sitting on the floor with legs extended straight out in front with arms raised above the head. Again, they are designed to create the physical discomfort of muscle fatigue.

8. Sleep deprivation

Used to reduce the suspect’s ability to think on their feet, create discomfort, and encourage them to cooperate. The CIA was asking for this to happen for up to 11 days.

9. Insects placed in a confinement box

The suspect is placed in a confined space with a seemingly lethal insect. They are told is it lethal, even though it is actually harmless.

Strangely, the CIA had indicated that they wished to place Zubaydah in confinement with a caterpillar, as he appeared to have a fear of such creatures.

10. Waterboarding

The individual is bound securely to a bench, with their feet elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes.

Water is then poured on the cloth, and the cloth itself is lowered to cover the mouth and nose.

Air flow is then restricted for up to 40 seconds at a time; this causes an increase in carbon dioxide in the individual’s blood. It is designed to simulate suffocation and panic.

Nevermind that all these interrogation techniques were conducted under close medical supervision, but none of them even constitute “torture”, which used to be defined as something that causes lasting physical or psychological harm. Furthermore, besides the heinous “caterpillar torture”, which one of these techniques is something new that wasn’t already publicly exposed over the last several years? And since all these techniques were already publicly known, what was the point of releasing the memos, over the objections of CIA professionals, other than to give aid and comfort to the enemy and officially confirm for them exactly what interrogation techniques we will or will not use and how far we’ll go in using them?

You want to see what torture really is? Do five minutes of research on the techniques our enemies use; electric drills, pulling off body parts, burning, cutting, mutilation, etc., etc., that’s torture. Being put in a box with caterpillars is not torture and promising to refrain from it and pulling the CIA’s pants down around their ankles for even thinking about “caterpillar torture” will not convince our enemies to put down their Black & Deckers.

Caterpillar torture, are you [expletive deleted] kidding me? That’s not torture, it’s comedy gold! What’s next, the Comfy Chair?

/no one expects the Caterpillar Inquisition, until now!