Govt Running Out the Clock on Torture

(As originally posted on Daily Kos)

Let’s be clear, calls to allow the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to conduct its own investigation into the abuses committed in secret CIA detention centers are little more than an attempt to play out the clock by freezing judicial investigations in until the 8 year statute of limitations on Anti-Torture Act crimes starts to render them moot from the spring of 2010 onwards.

The Select Committee has had plenty of time to complete its own investigations. Indeed, senior members of the committee, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, were briefed on the adoption of new harsh interrogations as early as September 2002. Unlike their colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee they chose to look the other way. They have missed their chance, and in this arena it’s play or pass.

So where does that leave those who care about accountability? The White House continues to fail to show leadership on this issue. After equivocating all week the President seems to have returned to his earlier line that we need to turn the page on the past.

Even without the President’s leadership, pressure for accountability is growing day by day. The first step is to develop enabling legislation for a genuinely independent inquiry along the lines of the 9-11 Commission. This commission must possess three fundamental qualities: it must be bi-partisan and comprised of eminent Americans of unimpeachable integrity; it must be well funded and well staffed; and it must be possessed of the necessary legal powers to effectively discharge its functions. However, it should not grant immunity from prosecution in return for testimony.

Furthermore, as the majority staff of the House Committee on the Judiciary recommended in January, Congress should consider extending the statute of limitations for offenses under the torture statute and war crimes statute. This would give the Commission the time to complete its work without prejudicing the prosecution of those found responsible for commissioning and perpetrating acts of torture.

What are the other key takeaways from the past week’s revelations? First, the 2002 Bybee memo represents the very best case scenario for the regime of abuse inflicted on detainees in U.S. custody. Amnesty International knows well that abuse escalates in a permissive environment and, within days of the memo’s release, confirmation emerged that waterboarding had been used greatly in excess of even what the DoJ’s Office of Legal Counsel considered permissible limits.

Second, the Bush administration did not seek advice from the best-qualified experts on how to effectively gain intelligence from captured members of Al Qaeda, it chose to get tough rather than smart. To this end, the General Counsel’s Office in the DoD sought advice not from experienced criminal investigators or military intelligence officers but from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), which runs the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program.

Even the JPRA’s Commander noted, in newly declassified memos published this week by the Senate Armed Services Committee, that his organization was “not in the business of strategic debriefing (interrogation).” Inevitably, it wasn’t long before SERE instructors were warning their superiors: “this is getting out of control.”

Finally, claims that vital intelligence was gained using such techniques have been roundly discredited. Former FBI Special Agent Ali Soufan who led the law enforcement interrogation of Abu Zubayda broke seven years of silence to go on the record in The New York Times to refute the “false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.”

His words were echoed by CIA Director Admiral Dennis Blair who said publicly:

“The bottom line is these techniques have hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security.”

A CIA officer who spoke to President Obama’s transition team on intelligence matters also admitted that some foreign intelligence agencies were now refusing to share intelligence about the location of terrorism suspects for concern at being implicated any resulting abuses or other internationally wrongful acts. Surely, the canard that these techniques were a vital tool in our counterterrorism arsenal can now be laid to rest.

It has been a momentous week for human rights campaigners. After long years in the wilderness, there is now a sense that the balance is reasserting itself. Human rights and the rule of law are finally edging back to where they belong – at the very heart of American democracy.

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27 thoughts on “Govt Running Out the Clock on Torture

  1. DO NOT LIMIT the prosecutions to high level policy makers – those actually committing the torture should be prosecuted and not allowed to claim the 'Nuremberg defense' – "I was only following orders"… and then prosecute O-bomb-a for allowing that insane defense to be used by psychopathic torturers…

  2. DO NOT LIMIT the prosecutions to high level policy makers – those actually committing the torture should be prosecuted and not allowed to claim the ‘Nuremberg defense’ – “I was only following orders”… and then prosecute O-bomb-a for allowing that insane defense to be used by psychopathic torturers…

  3. I think it is a position that Obama has been pickled in and he has no out now. If your going to supposedly prosecute all involved with the interrogations then over 25 Democratic Senators that have not only sat in on the briefings but voted for the use will have to be charged as well to include speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi like that would happen. I know you cannot be so blind as to understand the implications of this garbage. It was not right to release anything until they had a better plan in place, but as is typical with emotional politicians they leap before they look and then try and back track to stop the train they started. This is only going to hurt Obama and no matter how you all spin it, it's never going to prosecution. Just more egg on an already egg covered face of this administration.

  4. I'm not in favor of these prosecutions at all. The country is already polarized enough. We need to look forward and not back. If we continue on this course, not only are you setting a dangerous precedent that will impact all future administrations, but you will never get another congress to work together as the hatred between the two parties will only amplify

  5. This is just one slope we dont need to go up against. For what? Its not going to accomplish anything to further bring up the insults the Bush Administration has forced on us. We need to think about rectifying the future and put our full resources toward that, not opening up a new bag of worms, which will get us nothing in the end.

  6. I think it is a position that Obama has been pickled in and he has no out now. If your going to supposedly prosecute all involved with the interrogations then over 25 Democratic Senators that have not only sat in on the briefings but voted for the use will have to be charged as well to include speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi like that would happen. I know you cannot be so blind as to understand the implications of this garbage. It was not right to release anything until they had a better plan in place, but as is typical with emotional politicians they leap before they look and then try and back track to stop the train they started. This is only going to hurt Obama and no matter how you all spin it, it’s never going to prosecution. Just more egg on an already egg covered face of this administration.

  7. I’m not in favor of these prosecutions at all. The country is already polarized enough. We need to look forward and not back. If we continue on this course, not only are you setting a dangerous precedent that will impact all future administrations, but you will never get another congress to work together as the hatred between the two parties will only amplify

  8. This is just one slope we dont need to go up against. For what? Its not going to accomplish anything to further bring up the insults the Bush Administration has forced on us. We need to think about rectifying the future and put our full resources toward that, not opening up a new bag of worms, which will get us nothing in the end.

  9. What do you think happened in WW2 when our guys were captured? Did you read the book on what one of a running mate for Pres. went through for our country? Do you believe that when we needed vital information from a Natzi, or an Arab fighter or anyone else who hated us enough to take away our lives and our freedoms as they do to their own people,that they would say that it is ok? " We will keep you in prison to keep you from killing us further but we won't bother you if you won't give us any information about how to save the lives of those who are giving their lives for our freedoms?" Or those of our people who are captured and asking for their freedon? "We willl just have to put up with the killing and torturing you people do to your own and us."
    If it were you or someone you loved dearly I know what you would do.
    I do not believe waterboarding and blaring music, keeping them awake all day and night, not feeding them more than what will keep them alive is wrong for information and it is far less than they do and did to our people and their own. Sorry, I cannot agree with you. I like my freedon too much.

  10. Torture? I am against it for sure. The only thing in this current context is that the big whoop de do about torture is NOT about real torture. The so called torture has caused no physical damage…

    Wanna take a bite out of torture AND terrorism???

    Get rid of the IRS & privately owned "Federal" Reserve. The "Fed" is not much more than an inflation machine any way.

    By the way, where were all ya'll when it came to the Dem killing machine of the Clinton era whern Janet Reno killed all those children & their parents at Waco? Where was the Prez then??? I bet it's pretty tortuous to be burned to death.

    Oh yeah, he was NOT having sex with that woman!

    C'mon guys, the nation is going down in flames. It's the Dems who started it & the Repubs joined up later. It's not about me V you. It's about all of US V THEM. "Them" = those who are giving us fascism with a smiley face. That means the gov controls EVERY THING & pretends that there are fair markets ect.

    If we were going by the Constitution the State's would be deciding homo sex marriage, MMJ, the drug war… US interventionism would not be practiced, wars averted, the fed gov would be smaller, we would not be over taxed & US gov would live within it's means. Short list, that.

    The division being foisted on all of is makes it very hard for us to unite to save the nation.

    I am an independent, not a Republicrate. .

    SamFox

  11. What do you think happened in WW2 when our guys were captured? Did you read the book on what one of a running mate for Pres. went through for our country? Do you believe that when we needed vital information from a Natzi, or an Arab fighter or anyone else who hated us enough to take away our lives and our freedoms as they do to their own people,that they would say that it is ok? ” We will keep you in prison to keep you from killing us further but we won’t bother you if you won’t give us any information about how to save the lives of those who are giving their lives for our freedoms?” Or those of our people who are captured and asking for their freedon? “We willl just have to put up with the killing and torturing you people do to your own and us.”
    If it were you or someone you loved dearly I know what you would do.
    I do not believe waterboarding and blaring music, keeping them awake all day and night, not feeding them more than what will keep them alive is wrong for information and it is far less than they do and did to our people and their own. Sorry, I cannot agree with you. I like my freedon too much.

  12. Torture? I am against it for sure. The only thing in this current context is that the big whoop de do about torture is NOT about real torture. The so called torture has caused no physical damage…

    Wanna take a bite out of torture AND terrorism???

    Get rid of the IRS & privately owned “Federal” Reserve. The “Fed” is not much more than an inflation machine any way.

    By the way, where were all ya’ll when it came to the Dem killing machine of the Clinton era whern Janet Reno killed all those children & their parents at Waco? Where was the Prez then??? I bet it’s pretty tortuous to be burned to death.

    Oh yeah, he was NOT having sex with that woman!

    C’mon guys, the nation is going down in flames. It’s the Dems who started it & the Repubs joined up later. It’s not about me V you. It’s about all of US V THEM. “Them” = those who are giving us fascism with a smiley face. That means the gov controls EVERY THING & pretends that there are fair markets ect.

    If we were going by the Constitution the State’s would be deciding homo sex marriage, MMJ, the drug war… US interventionism would not be practiced, wars averted, the fed gov would be smaller, we would not be over taxed & US gov would live within it’s means. Short list, that.

    The division being foisted on all of is makes it very hard for us to unite to save the nation.

    I am an independent, not a Republicrate. .

    SamFox

  13. Why are we wasting time on this topic? We have not been hit in the US since 9/11. Whatever the Bush administration did was working so why all the bleediing hearts for the terrorists.

    It's a disgrace that Obama is closing Gitmo. Do you want these animals being locked up in your state? I sure as hell don't want any of them in NJ.

    And to try and prosecute people for thier legal opinions is absolutley insane.

    What FDR, the great Liberal icon was 100 percent much worse after Dec.7 ,1941 by intering Japenese Americans just because they were Japenese.

    Personally, I could care less how we get our information from these terrorists. I could care less what they do these animals as long as America is safe.

  14. Why are we wasting time on this topic? We have not been hit in the US since 9/11. Whatever the Bush administration did was working so why all the bleediing hearts for the terrorists.

    It’s a disgrace that Obama is closing Gitmo. Do you want these animals being locked up in your state? I sure as hell don’t want any of them in NJ.

    And to try and prosecute people for thier legal opinions is absolutley insane.

    What FDR, the great Liberal icon was 100 percent much worse after Dec.7 ,1941 by intering Japenese Americans just because they were Japenese.

    Personally, I could care less how we get our information from these terrorists. I could care less what they do these animals as long as America is safe.

  15. Many of those who have already commented say it's okay to torture others, so long as America is safe and we still have our freedom.

    Let me begin this by saying terrorists are despicable criminals who should be arrested, tried and, if found guilty, convicted and sentenced for a very long time. Many of those who were tortured were never tried and convicted of anything before their torture.

    So, what is stopping anyone in power from reading your mail or wire-tapping your phone, (erroneously or not) deciding that something you just wrote or said was anti-American, and labeling you as terrorist. (Please don't naively say members of government would never do that without sufficient evidence or a warrant. The news is full of stories of corruption and an absence of ethics in government.) Then, you are arrested without charge, taken out of the country and tortured for information. How do you like your safety and freedom now?

    This is the current state of our American rule of law, our recently-modified Constitution and Bill of (Removed) Rights. It is the height of arrogance to demand one's own freedom and human rights while, at the same time, one so willingly and illegally takes it away from others.

    When we ignore the human rights of others, we risk losing our own. When we go against the Geneva Convention, to which we are a signatory, we risk the torture of our own soldiers and citizens by others who could defend their actions on the grounds that we no longer adhere to the tenets of this document, so we can't expect its protection. Perhaps the saying, "You can't have your cake and eat it, too" applies here.

    Whatever happened to setting a good example and taking the ethical high road?

  16. Many of those who have already commented say it’s okay to torture others, so long as America is safe and we still have our freedom.

    Let me begin this by saying terrorists are despicable criminals who should be arrested, tried and, if found guilty, convicted and sentenced for a very long time. Many of those who were tortured were never tried and convicted of anything before their torture.

    So, what is stopping anyone in power from reading your mail or wire-tapping your phone, (erroneously or not) deciding that something you just wrote or said was anti-American, and labeling you as terrorist. (Please don’t naively say members of government would never do that without sufficient evidence or a warrant. The news is full of stories of corruption and an absence of ethics in government.) Then, you are arrested without charge, taken out of the country and tortured for information. How do you like your safety and freedom now?

    This is the current state of our American rule of law, our recently-modified Constitution and Bill of (Removed) Rights. It is the height of arrogance to demand one’s own freedom and human rights while, at the same time, one so willingly and illegally takes it away from others.

    When we ignore the human rights of others, we risk losing our own. When we go against the Geneva Convention, to which we are a signatory, we risk the torture of our own soldiers and citizens by others who could defend their actions on the grounds that we no longer adhere to the tenets of this document, so we can’t expect its protection. Perhaps the saying, “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too” applies here.

    Whatever happened to setting a good example and taking the ethical high road?

  17. Pingback: News From Underground: Don’t let the torturers go free (3 items)

  18. Patrice-

    Hello, to you and the others that keep argueing "constitutional rights" and "bill of rights" and "geneva conventions" PLEASE do some legal research.

    Tell me what part of the constitution of the U.S. applies to foreign fighters captured abroad? Please provide evidence that al-qaeda, taliban and other rogue terrorist organizations are signatory members (and therefore protected by) the geneva conventions.

    Please research history and the law of war. Study the Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, Korea, WWII, Vietnam, Desert Shield/Storm etc…. When in the history of U.S. Armed Conflict (and the history of the world for that matter) have captured enemy foreign fighters required a U.S. Federal Trial and Conviction in order for the U.S. to lawfully detain them?

    Know what you are talking about before you start throwing around "violation of this" "violation of that" blah blah blah

    Continued Peace and Blessings to You

    U.S.A. Terror Free Since 9-11-2001

  19. Patrice-

    Hello, to you and the others that keep argueing “constitutional rights” and “bill of rights” and “geneva conventions” PLEASE do some legal research.

    Tell me what part of the constitution of the U.S. applies to foreign fighters captured abroad? Please provide evidence that al-qaeda, taliban and other rogue terrorist organizations are signatory members (and therefore protected by) the geneva conventions.

    Please research history and the law of war. Study the Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, Korea, WWII, Vietnam, Desert Shield/Storm etc…. When in the history of U.S. Armed Conflict (and the history of the world for that matter) have captured enemy foreign fighters required a U.S. Federal Trial and Conviction in order for the U.S. to lawfully detain them?

    Know what you are talking about before you start throwing around “violation of this” “violation of that” blah blah blah

    Continued Peace and Blessings to You

    U.S.A. Terror Free Since 9-11-2001

  20. The question is not whether the Taliban, Al-Qaeda or any other group is a signatory to the Geneva Convention or bound by the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. The point is that the United States of America is a signatory and is, therefore, bound by the the Geneva Convention and also the rule of law as outlined by our Constitution and Bill of Rights. If we don't abide by our own rule of law, we become as lawless and inhumane as are those whom we fight. Hammurabi's Code of Law, to which some of those we fight subscribe, leaves the people of the world blind. I would hope that the politicians, military and citizens of the USA have moved past that ancient lose-lose paradigm. There is such a concept as basic human rights, which is the major reason for signing and following the Geneva Convention. There is also such a thing as the spirit of the law, which also supports human rights. Human rights don't solely apply to United States citizens and should not stop at our borders (in addition, wherever our prisoners came from, they are on US soil the minute they step foot onto Guantamano Bay). Ethically, the United States should be taking the high road here. We can either be world leaders who act ethically, within the rule of law, or lose our standing in the world community by disregarding basic human rights, simply because we can, as the bully on the global playground. World-class bullies only breed contempt and the desire for revenge, aka terrorism, in the hearts and minds of their victims. This simply creates yet another lose-lose situation. I seriously thought we were smarter than that.

  21. The question is not whether the Taliban, Al-Qaeda or any other group is a signatory to the Geneva Convention or bound by the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. The point is that the United States of America is a signatory and is, therefore, bound by the the Geneva Convention and also the rule of law as outlined by our Constitution and Bill of Rights. If we don’t abide by our own rule of law, we become as lawless and inhumane as are those whom we fight. Hammurabi’s Code of Law, to which some of those we fight subscribe, leaves the people of the world blind. I would hope that the politicians, military and citizens of the USA have moved past that ancient lose-lose paradigm. There is such a concept as basic human rights, which is the major reason for signing and following the Geneva Convention. There is also such a thing as the spirit of the law, which also supports human rights. Human rights don’t solely apply to United States citizens and should not stop at our borders (in addition, wherever our prisoners came from, they are on US soil the minute they step foot onto Guantamano Bay). Ethically, the United States should be taking the high road here. We can either be world leaders who act ethically, within the rule of law, or lose our standing in the world community by disregarding basic human rights, simply because we can, as the bully on the global playground. World-class bullies only breed contempt and the desire for revenge, aka terrorism, in the hearts and minds of their victims. This simply creates yet another lose-lose situation. I seriously thought we were smarter than that.

  22. Patrice… You are correct in your Utopian ideology there. Well written and your heart is right on the money for a civilized person. However history has proven out time and time again that when dealing with a group of persons ie… Scythians, Mongols, Vikings, Barbarian Hordes, and now Islamic Fanatical Muslims / Terrorists… you cannot use civilized rationales.

    If a man is unwilling to listen, to change, to end his ways of barbarism the only thing that stops that aggression is to end it at all costs. Though some would argue that Romans were just as brutal etc… they brought a peace into the world never known before by over coming all the other hordes surrounding them through naked aggression stronger and over powering their enemies. They tried to educate, the tried to use capitalism ie trade, they tried just like America has done so many times negotiations… But when you have a person or rather group/nation that will not accept your own ideology, will not see the rational reasoning behind your logic, does not care about how humane it may be to treat one another with love and kindness. Is bent in a religious fervor that teaches and preaches hate and death to all that do not conform. The only option we have is to respond in great force, to be more aggressive, to completely end the threat to your own way of life and end that ideology that is bent on your own destruction.

    If you do not do this then you yourself along with your ideology and ideal Utopian ways of life will be rolled over and you will be thrown under the door mat of history as an after thought of that conquering peoples own writings. Love, joy, peace all great fruits of the spirit but if you wish to keep that spirit and thought you have to be willing to defend it and if that means you have to not only drop to your opponents level but then flatten them as well into submission so that they will end their ways of hate, then so be it. Just because we have to fight at an opponents level to win does not mean we have to conform to his level and live.

  23. Patrice… You are correct in your Utopian ideology there. Well written and your heart is right on the money for a civilized person. However history has proven out time and time again that when dealing with a group of persons ie… Scythians, Mongols, Vikings, Barbarian Hordes, and now Islamic Fanatical Muslims / Terrorists… you cannot use civilized rationales.

    If a man is unwilling to listen, to change, to end his ways of barbarism the only thing that stops that aggression is to end it at all costs. Though some would argue that Romans were just as brutal etc… they brought a peace into the world never known before by over coming all the other hordes surrounding them through naked aggression stronger and over powering their enemies. They tried to educate, the tried to use capitalism ie trade, they tried just like America has done so many times negotiations… But when you have a person or rather group/nation that will not accept your own ideology, will not see the rational reasoning behind your logic, does not care about how humane it may be to treat one another with love and kindness. Is bent in a religious fervor that teaches and preaches hate and death to all that do not conform. The only option we have is to respond in great force, to be more aggressive, to completely end the threat to your own way of life and end that ideology that is bent on your own destruction.

    If you do not do this then you yourself along with your ideology and ideal Utopian ways of life will be rolled over and you will be thrown under the door mat of history as an after thought of that conquering peoples own writings. Love, joy, peace all great fruits of the spirit but if you wish to keep that spirit and thought you have to be willing to defend it and if that means you have to not only drop to your opponents level but then flatten them as well into submission so that they will end their ways of hate, then so be it. Just because we have to fight at an opponents level to win does not mean we have to conform to his level and live.

  24. Torn8dos…I understand your point and the logic in its foundation, however, I still adhere to the premise that war creates more war. The Romans you admire for bringing "peace" to the world, did so through murder, rape, subjugation, and slavery, otherwise known as conquest and assimilation. I would not want to have lived during that time, as most people were not as well off as their leaders, and many others were slaves who had no rights.

    Shooting your fanatical opponent in a war may kill him (or her), but it fuels the hatred of 10 or 100 or more fanatics who will gladly take his place. I still steadfastly subscribe to Gandhi's viewpoint and actions – which were quite successful. Yes, he was murdered, as was Jesus (by the very same Romans discussed above), yet it is their examples that are held as prime examples for creating peace and love in the world, not those of the Romans.

    If we behaved ethically, fanatics would have much less propaganda with which to convert more followers to their "just" cause. War and violence breeds more hatred, war and violence. It also would be beneficial to look at ourselves and reevaluate our national values. As a nation, we are not perfect and could benefit from some introspection to improve our ethics. This, too, would be another deterrent to the fanatics' claims of our immorality and excess. At some point, we have to stop the cycle of violence and war. Why not end it now?

  25. Torn8dos…I understand your point and the logic in its foundation, however, I still adhere to the premise that war creates more war. The Romans you admire for bringing “peace” to the world, did so through murder, rape, subjugation, and slavery, otherwise known as conquest and assimilation. I would not want to have lived during that time, as most people were not as well off as their leaders, and many others were slaves who had no rights.

    Shooting your fanatical opponent in a war may kill him (or her), but it fuels the hatred of 10 or 100 or more fanatics who will gladly take his place. I still steadfastly subscribe to Gandhi’s viewpoint and actions – which were quite successful. Yes, he was murdered, as was Jesus (by the very same Romans discussed above), yet it is their examples that are held as prime examples for creating peace and love in the world, not those of the Romans.

    If we behaved ethically, fanatics would have much less propaganda with which to convert more followers to their “just” cause. War and violence breeds more hatred, war and violence. It also would be beneficial to look at ourselves and reevaluate our national values. As a nation, we are not perfect and could benefit from some introspection to improve our ethics. This, too, would be another deterrent to the fanatics’ claims of our immorality and excess. At some point, we have to stop the cycle of violence and war. Why not end it now?