mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Intentional Deception”: Latest Gowdy Fakery; Name Of CIA Source In Clinton Email Was No Secret

For anyone disappointed by the absence of troubling material from Hillary Clinton’s emails – not to mention the cratering of the House Select Committee on Benghazi — Michael Isikoff provided a moment of hope last Monday on Morning Joe. According to the Yahoo News investigative correspondent, one of the emails newly released by the Benghazi committee was “evidence of the commission of a federal crime by someone, not Hillary Clinton,” because it included the name of a CIA source in Libya.

Even more thrilling, to some people at least, was the identity of the supposedly incriminating message’s author: none other than Clinton’s often-demonized friend Sidney Blumenthal (who also happens to be a friend of mine).

“This is maybe the single most problematic email exchange we’ve seen with Hillary Clinton yet of all the emails that have been raised,” explained Isikoff. “What you have there is Blumenthal telling the secretary that somebody at the CIA gave the name of a sensitive human intelligence source to somebody who wasn’t at the CIA.”

Certainly this appeared to be a damaging story, if accurate – but its origin in Rep. Trey Gowdy’s discredited outfit should have raised immediate suspicion. Had any of the journalists covering Gowdy checked carefully, we might have learned earlier what we now know: The CIA had reviewed that same email at the behest of the State Department before it was released and “made no redactions to protect classified information.”

In other words, Blumenthal’s email naming a certain Libyan political figure – the late dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s former intelligence chief Moussa Koussa — did not disclose any classified information, let alone intelligence secrets.

So why did Isikoff – and other credulous journalists – consider that March 18, 2011 email so damaging to Clinton and Blumenthal? Evidently because Gowdy or his staff had redacted the name of the former Libyan official themselves — while adding the usual CIA phrase “redacted due to sources and methods” for dramatic emphasis. As released, the document seemed to show that the agency had blacked out the man’s name to protect a source. That was an intentional deception, reminiscent of the dirty trick that got David Bossie fired from the staff of the House Oversight Committee.

On Sunday, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Benghazi committee’s ranking Democrat, sent a stinging letter to Gowdy, which noted that the Republican chairman had accused Clinton of receiving “classified information from Blumenthal—information she should have known was classified at the time she received it,” and that Clinton had then “forwarded that information to a colleague — debunking her claim that she never sent any classified information from her private email address.”

Wrote Cummings: “To further inflate your claim, you placed your own redactions over the name of the individual with the words, ‘redacted due to sources and methods.’  To be clear, these redactions were not made, and these words were not added, by any agency of the federal government responsible for enforcing classification guidelines… Contrary to your claims, the CIA yesterday informed both the Republican and Democratic staffs of the Select Committee that they do not consider the information you highlighted in your letter to be classified.”

So here is yet another absurd episode, humiliating both for Gowdy and the journalists who promoted this fraudulent story and highly reminiscent of the bogus “criminal referral” leak that made the front page of the New York Times last summer.

This latest episode is even more clownish than it seems at first glance, however. Far from being secret, the close connection between Moussa Koussa and US intelligence was detailed, at great length, more than eight years ago in former CIA director George Tenet’s memoir, At the Center of the Storm (HarperCollins 2007), which was reviewed by CIA censors before publication, of course.

Koussa’s CIA ties came up again in March 2011 during Libya’s bloody civil war, reported in an excellent story on NBC News’ website by senior investigative producer Robert Windrem, just weeks before Koussa defected to the West. (It is worth noting that Windrem’s story appeared while Isikoff still worked at NBC News.) And on March 17, 2011, one day before Blumenthal sent the Koussa email to Clinton, the New York Times published a story by Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane reporting on the Libyan intelligence chief’s post-9/11 cooperation with the CIA.

Nevertheless, in Gowdy’s effort to stir fake outrage over the Blumenthal email, he described the Koussa disclosure in apocalyptic terms: “This information, the name of a human source, is some of the most protected information in our intelligence community, the release of which could jeopardize not only national security but human lives.”

But when his committee released the full email to the press, Gowdy’s own staffers failed to redact Koussa’s name from the subject line – so it was Gowdy, not Blumenthal or Clinton, who released that “most protected information” to the press and public.

By the way, there is one more angle on Moussa Koussa that sheds a darkly comical light on Gowdy’s deep concern for his security. As Tenet explained in his book, the former Libyan intelligence chief is believed by Western intelligence services to have ordered the bombing of PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, killing 259 passengers and crew. So Koussa was probably a murderous terrorist, too.

But at least he isn’t Hillary Clinton or one of her friends.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, October 19, 2015

October 21, 2015 Posted by | CIA, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Future Cheney Could Do It All Again”: The U.S. Will Torture Again—And We’re All To Blame

Reliably enough, out came Dick Cheney to trash the Senate torture report and to say of the use of torture: “I’d do it again in a minute.” None of us doubt that he would. But the more interesting and challenging question is: Could he?

More precisely, could a future Cheney, after a future terrorist attack on the U.S. mainland, get away with it? Could a future administration set up the whole fraudulent and immoral apparatus—a Department of Justice defining torture so narrowly that it somehow magically doesn’t include sleep deprivation or rectal hydration or waterboarding, followed by a CIA and military saying “Hey, what’s the big deal? It’s all legal!”? (Even in his press conference Thursday, CIA chief John Brennan acknowledged that it all could happen again: “I defer to the policymakers,” he said, as to what might occur.)

People like me are supposed to say something like: No, we’re better than that. Alas, I say we are not better than that. It could happen again. Easily.

In fact, let’s go further. Cheney is a figure of horror and ridicule these days (although by no means to everyone—to the Fox News audience to which he spoke the above words Wednesday, he’s oracular). But can we honestly say that back in 2002, 2003, 2004, he wasn’t carrying out the people’s will? We get the government we deserve, de Tocqueville said. And in the Bush-Cheney regime, we got exactly that.

There exist four mechanisms in our democracy by which the state can be compelled to live up to what we call, rather farcically in a gruesome week like this one, “our ideals.” There is the will of the people; the resolve of the political class; the courage of the media; and the authority of the courts. With regard to our torture regime, all four failed, and failed completely.

The people were, in theory, against torture. I have on my screen here a study from Reed College (PDF)  that asserts that from 2001 to 2009, majorities of public opinion consistently opposed torture, by averages of about 55 to 40 percent. That may be, in the abstract. But were Americans ever so worked up about the practice that they demanded it not be undertaken in their name? Never.

In fact, for most of the Bush era, the opposite was the truth. I remember very clearly the public mood after the 9/11 attacks. There was appropriate anger and shock and sorrow. But it bled into other less honorable manifestations, a paradoxical combination of, on the one hand, a lust for revenge in any form among a certain segment of the populace, and on the other hand a tremulous fear among a different segment that sanctioned anything being done in its name. Too many people reverted to a childlike state, and they wanted a daddy-protector. And no, this wasn’t understandable under the circumstances.

As for the political class, I doubt I need to give you a very hard sell on its failure. It was thoroughgoing and bipartisan. The timorous Democrats, with a few noble exceptions like Robert Byrd, largely bought into the global war on terror. The Republicans, well, you know about them. The foreign-policy establishment of Washington and to some extent New York lined up behind the administration on nearly every important question. The urge among this class is always to swim with the tide: In 2003, when the Council on Foreign Relations was casting about for a new leader, it settled on Richard Haass, who had been in Bush’s State Department. He has said since that he was 60-40 against the war, but one would have been hard pressed to know that then, back when his boss, Colin Powell, was warning us about those weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist. On the torture question, this class was outraged when it was easy to be outraged, like when the Abu Ghraib story broke, but the outrage was never sustained.

Among the media, there were to be sure many brave journalists—Jane Mayer, Robin Wright, many others—who broke story after story about torture. We’re in their debt. But their great work was more than balanced out by the equivocation caucus—well, we can’t really be sure it’s torture. And then there was the segment of the media that actively cheered it all on. More broadly, the media as a whole were afraid to break ranks. I have had a number of conversations with prominent media people—in TV and radio, names you’d know—who, by way of trying to defend their lack of zeal and confrontation in those post-9/11 days, tried to explain how many furious emails they got when a report diverged modestly from the accepted line.

And the legal system? Again, there were some courageous judges who tried. A Virginia federal judge named Gerald Bruce Lee ruled in 2009  that four Abu Ghraib detainees could sue CACI, the private military contractor in Iraq. But overall the legal system has done little to say “this was against the law.” Much of the fault for that, of course, lies with Barack Obama, who chose early on not to seek prosecutions of Bush administration officials. And even now, in the wake of this report, what is your level of confidence that anyone will be prosecuted as a result of the release of this report? I thought so.

Failures top to bottom. Now, one would like to say that we as a society have learned the lessons of these failures and would not permit this to happen again. Don’t count on it. If there is another terrorist attack on the U.S. mainland, the odds are strong that we will reenact this grim tragedy from start to finish, if a neoconservative regime happens to be ensconced in the White House. The people would respond with the same fear, which would give license to the same behavior, and the political class and the media and the courts would probably go along.

So yes, it’s a moral horror that Cheney says he’d do it all again. But it’s also all too likely that a future Cheney could do it all again. That’s the far greater moral horror, and the one we don’t want to face, because it implicates us.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, December 12, 2014

December 14, 2014 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, CIA, Torture | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In The Wrong Line Of Work”: Justice Scalia’s Unfortunate Entry Into The Torture Debate

When it comes to the issue of torture, it’s been a discouraging week. Not only was the Senate Intelligence Committee report a heartbreaking indictment of an American scandal, but the argument surrounding the revelations started breaking far too much along partisan and ideological lines.

Antonin Scalia isn’t helping. The Associated Press reported today that the far-right Supreme Court justice joined the debate, such as it is, “by saying it is difficult to rule out the use of extreme measures to extract information if millions of lives were threatened.”

Scalia tells a Swiss radio network that American and European liberals who say such tactics may never be used are being self-righteous.

The 78-year-old justice says he doesn’t “think it’s so clear at all,” especially if interrogators were trying to find a ticking nuclear bomb.

Scalia says nothing in the Constitution appears to prohibit harsh treatment of suspected terrorists.

The interview took place at the court on Wednesday, the day after the release of the Senate report detailing the CIA’s harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists. Radio Television Suisse aired the interview on Friday.

I think some caution is probably in order. The AP ran a five-paragraph article, and it seems entirely plausible, but there’s exactly one, six-word quote in that piece. Everything else is a paraphrase, and to offer a detailed response to Scalia’s take, we’d need to know exactly what the justice argued.

That said, if the AP report is accurate, Scalia’s perspective is deeply ridiculous.

For one thing, opposition to torture need not be the result of self-righteousness. Brutally abusing prisoners is about humanity, basic decency, and the existence of a moral compass. For another, the “ticking bomb” argument is childish and unserious.

As for the Constitution, it’s true that the document is silent on the issue of treating suspected terrorists, but it’s not silent on “cruel and unusual punishment.” And according to the CIA’s records, rectal feeding and hydration were forced on detainees without medical need – and the leap from that point to “cruel and unusual” seems quite small.

I’d still like to see a more detailed transcript of Scalia’s comments, but let’s just make this plain as part of the larger conversation: torture is wrong, it’s immoral, it undermines our security interests, and it’s illegal.

If Scalia is prepared to publicly argue otherwise, he’s in the wrong line of work.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 12, 2014

December 14, 2014 Posted by | Antonin Scalia, CIA, Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Manifestly Immoral And Clearly Illegal”: Senate Report Shows That The U.S. Answered Evil With Evil

The “debate” over torture is almost as grotesque as torture itself. There can be no legitimate debate about the intentional infliction of pain upon captive and defenseless human beings. The torturers and their enablers may deny it, but they know — and knew from the beginning — that what they did was obscenely wrong.

We relied on legal advice , the torturers say. We were just following orders. We believed the ends justified the means. It is nauseating to hear such pathetic excuses from those who, in the name of the United States, sanctioned or committed acts that long have been recognized as war crimes.

According to the Senate intelligence committee report on the treatment of detainees after the 9/11 attacks, members of a CIA interrogation team were “profoundly affected . . . some to the point of tears and choking up” at the brutal treatment in 2002 of an important al-Qaeda detainee named Abu Zubaida.

Captured in Pakistan and whisked to a secret facility in Thailand, Zubaida was initially cooperative, willingly providing answers under normal, non-coercive questioning. But the CIA abruptly halted his interrogation, placed him in isolation for 47 days and then began a regime of astonishing and gratuitous cruelty.

Torturers slammed him against walls, confined him in coffin-size boxes for a total of nearly 300 hours and subjected him to 83 sessions of waterboarding, which simulates drowning — a practice for which Japanese war criminals were tried, convicted and harshly punished following World War II. After one waterboarding assault, according to the Senate report, Zubaida was “completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.”

In all, 119 detainees were held in the CIA’s archipelago of secret prisons, according to the report; at least 26 of them were wrongfully detained and never should have been arrested in the first place.

The report says 39 prisoners were tortured with what the administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney called “enhanced interrogation techniques” — a chilling bit of Orwellian newspeak. They were kept awake for up to 180 hours, often standing, sometimes in “stress” positions designed to induce pain. Their arms were shackled above their heads. They were stripped naked and placed in ice baths. At least five prisoners were subjected to “rectal rehydration” or “rectal feeding.” While the CIA says only three detainees were waterboarded, Senate investigators found waterboarding equipment at a site where supposedly no such torture took place.

We know of two men who were tortured to death. One of them, Gul Rahman, was held at a facility in Afghanistan that the Senate report refers to as COBALT, described in a CIA memo as a “dungeon.” Rahman was put in a dank, frigid cell wearing only a shirt — no pants or underwear — and chained so that he had to sit or lie on a bare concrete floor. He was found dead the next morning, apparently of hypothermia. The other man, Manadel al-Jamadi, died in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq after being beaten and shackled to a window.

The report seeks to demonstrate that the torture was useless because valuable information in the fight against al-Qaeda came from conventional interrogation methods, not the brutal treatment. Torture’s apologists — including Cheney, who says he’d “do it again in a minute” — claim otherwise. This dispute cannot be settled. No one can say that a name, date or phone number extracted by torture could never have been obtained by other means.

But efficacy is not the point. What matters is not whether torture produces more information or less. What matters is that torture is manifestly immoral — and clearly illegal under U.S. and international law.

The CIA says it relied on Bush administration legal opinions attesting that torture is not really torture. The Senate report shows, however, that the CIA was less than honest in its representations to the Justice Department lawyers about what was being done to the detainees. Again, this argument misses the big picture: Those who ordered and committed torture would not be so eager to hide behind a paper-thin legalistic veneer if they truly believed what they did was right.

Why would the CIA officer in charge of the program destroy all videotapes of waterboarding sessions? Why would the agency fight the Senate investigators so fiercely, at one point hacking into the committee’s computers? Why would there be such a coordinated attempt by torture’s apologists to steer the “debate” toward subsidiary questions and away from the central issue?

There is only one answer: They decided to answer evil with evil rather than with justice. And they knew it was wrong.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 11, 2014

December 14, 2014 Posted by | CIA, Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Will We Torture Again?”: The Willingness To Face An Ugly Truth And Say ‘Never Again’

Can we now say with confidence that our government will not use torture again and that Americans in the future will rise up to prevent it from doing so? In light of the reaction to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report, I fear that we can’t.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein persisted in releasing the document in the face of opposition from the CIA and attacks by some of her colleagues because she felt a moral calling. The 81-year-old California Democrat believed she had an obligation to leave behind a sturdy ethical roadblock to the use of extreme brutality in pursuit of information — even information seen as potentially saving American lives.

“There are those who will seize upon the report and say ‘see what the Americans did,’ and they will try to use it to justify evil actions or incite more violence,” she said on the Senate floor. “We can’t prevent that. But history will judge us by our commitment to a just society governed by law and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say ‘never again.’”

Yet what might have been a moment of national reflection immediately turned into what everything becomes these days: a carnival of partisanship. Making the truth public, Feinstein’s critics argued, could endanger our nation.

“She will have to live with the consequences,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), who becomes chair of the Intelligence Committee next year, said darkly.

A moving exception was Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has denounced torture in season and out. His biography as a prisoner of war has been a standing rebuke to those who choose to play down the consequences of these techniques for our own men and women in uniform. He dismissed the idea that the report itself would be responsible for new attacks on Americans. “Violence needs little incentive in some quarters of the world,” he said. Terrorism should be blamed on terrorists, not Feinstein.

The real objection to the release of the report, McCain argued, was that it calls into question the claims by defenders of these techniques that they produced vital information. “We gave up much in the expectation that torture would make us safer,” he said. “Too much.”

One would like to think that this is now a consensual view, and it is the formal position of our government. But the pushback against Feinstein makes clear that many involved in “the program,” as they so delicately call this departure from our own norms, would do it all over again. John McLaughlin, former CIA acting director and deputy director, took to the pages of The Washington Post to list the intelligence breakthroughs of the interrogators. McLaughlin also joined with five other former CIA directors and deputy directors in a Wall Street Journal piece that denounced the Senate report as “a poorly done and partisan attack.”

But condemning the report as “partisan” is a way of evading its implications. If the issue is partisan, why did President Obama’s CIA director, John Brennan, defend the agency by declaring that “EITs” — that would be enhanced interrogation techniques — “did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives”? What’s striking here is the bipartisan unity among intelligence officials.

My friend and Washington Post colleague Michael Gerson saw partisanship in the committee’s focus on the CIA interrogations that took place under President George W. Bush, but not on the drone program, which Obama has embraced and expanded. Gerson is right to note that many who oppose torture are also concerned about the extensiveness of the drone program and I, for one, would have no objection to Congress investigating the ethical and practical problems it raises.

But legitimate questions about drones do not discredit either this legitimate inquiry into the use of torture or the obligation that Feinstein and her fellow committee Democrats felt to bear witness.

Defenders of the CIA make a point that should unsettle all of us because it’s true: In the wake of 9/11, the country was so scared that it tolerated or at least entertained a variety of extreme steps to protect our security, including torture. By November of 2001, there was already a public debate about the legitimacy of torture, even if brave voices (the blogger Andrew Sullivan has been admirably persistent) pushed back in those dark times.

Feinstein, McCain and their allies are hoping they can draw a line now that can strengthen such voices in the future. I wish that the response to their efforts inspired more certainty that their line will hold.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post; Published in The National Memo, December 11, 2014

December 13, 2014 Posted by | CIA, Diane Feinstein, Torture | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: