Obama's "Disgraceful Abandonment" of Civil Liberties in Extraordinary Rendition Case

Update, 2:00PM PST: John Schwartz, the New York Times reporter whose excellent work I've often blogged on the space/sci/tech beat, recently became the paper's national legal correspondent. He was in the courtroom for this hearing, and filed what may be the most definitive report right here: Obama Backs Off a Reversal on Secrets. Sorry for not catching this in the original post.- XJ

The Wall Street Journal may have said it best today: "On State Secrets and Rendition, Holder Holds the Bush Line." Or, NPR -- "Deja Bush." Yesterday, the Obama administration invoked the "state secrets" privilege when opposing the reinstatement of a lawsuit alleging that a Boeing unit flew detainees to countries where they were tortured as part of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program.

The Washington Post has a quick roundup here, but read Glenn Greenwald's coverage at Salon for the most thorough coverage I've found: "Obama fails his first test on civil liberties and accountability -- resoundingly and disgracefully." Greenwald writes:

Two weeks ago, interviewed the ACLU's Ben Wizner, counsel to 5 individuals suing the subsidiary of Boeing (Jeppesen) which had arranged the Bush administration's rendition program, under which those 5 plaintiffs had been abducted, sent to other countries and brutally tortured. Today the Obama administration was required to file with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals its position in this case -- i.e., whether it would continue the Bush administration's abusive reliance on the "state secrets" privilege to prevent courts from ruling on such matters, or whether they would adhere to Obama's previous claims about his beliefs on "state secrets" by withdrawing that position and allowing these victims their day in court.

(...)The new President -- who repeatedly condemned the extreme secrecy of the Bush administration and vowed greater transparency -- has now acted to protect, purely on secrecy grounds, the government and company that did this, as Wizner described:

"They were essentially the CIA's torture travel agents. They were the one who arranged all the overflight rights for the CIA civilian planes to be able to fly from country to country. They handled the security and the logistics. They filed dummy flight plans to try to trick air traffic controllers into not being able to track where the actual flights were going. And we know they knew what they were doing because we have a witness in our case, someone who's given us a sworn declaration, who was an employee of Jeppesen DataPlan, and who was present when senior officials of the company were openly boasting about their role in the torture flights, and about how much money they made from them because the CIA spared no expense.

"We were able, with the help of an investigative journalist and other documentary evidence, to link Jeppesen to an number of very specific CIA rendition flights, involving these five torture victims who were flown to countries like Egypt, Morocco, to CIA sites in Afghanistan and eastern Europe. . . .

"[Plaintiff Ahmed Agiza] was picked up off the streets of Stockholm and then he was taken to an airport where a CIA rendition team--this is a bunch of men dressed all in black, with their faces covered--sliced off all of his clothes, put a suppository into him, chained him to the floor of an airplane, flew him to Egypt, where he was exposed to absolutely brutal torture, including shock treatment, all kinds of beatings. He was then given a show trial in an Egyptian military court and sentenced to 15 years for involvement in a banned organization."

Below, two recent episodes of Boing Boing Video which document the testimonials of "extraordinary rendition" survivors whose ordeals are the subject of this case. Binyan Ahmed Mohammed was one of the plaintiffs. These episodes are excerpts from the WITNESS documentary OUTLAWED. Read the original blog posts for each of these Boing Boing Video episodes, for more background:

* Boing Boing Video: "OUTLAWED" excerpts, pt. 1 -- Guantánamo Detainee Who Survived Torture.
* Boing Boing Video: "OUTLAWED" excerpts, pt. 2 -- Khaled El-Masri.


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  1. Damnit Obama. Didn’t you learn growing up that the longer you keep a secret, the more trouble you’re going to get in when it finally comes out?

    It didn’t even happen on your watch! Save some face for us all and come clean now, so that history books get an accurate account of what happened, and the nation as a whole can move on without making the same bad decisions in the future.

  2. @1 “Obama will never be allowed to get away with this.”

    Who are you implying is going to stop him? The same people who stopped Bush from doing it?
    I feel like I see (not necessarily from you) a lot of naive devotion to the Obama administration, some belief that it is inherently different or better than the previous. No doubt different people are in power, but if they’re making the same decisions, what exactly makes this time any different?

  3. “Oh it doesn’t matter who’s in power cause it’s a crooked gaaaaaaaaame…”

    Redgum – Critique in G.

  4. wonder what back room wheeling and dealing is going on? This for that, him for him… I’d like to think he is getting good bargains for each person he sells. That at least would be better than his predecessor who basically tortured and killed for fun and laziness. Tough decisions to make on what to bury – more harm than good, and to who? It must be scary facing the criminal organization that grew up over the past decade. The entrenchment must go levels deeper than previous administrations, and there must be dirty hands everywhere.

    What’s it like Barack? To sit opposite a desk with supposed sworn subordinates with smirking eyes that know that you know they are not only guilty but will continue to ignore your orders with impunity?

    We’ll see. He’d have to run the country headless for a year to clean out all the slime, clearly not an option. Let’s hope he has a good eye for the snake-heads and a good aim with selective firing. What Obama needs is help from the bottom.
    He can use the authority of his office as a hammer if those who KNOW come forward. Problem is that the rank and file have seen any foolishly honest men cut down for so long, they are going to take some convincing.

  5. This is exactly why I took the Obama magnet off my car on inauguration day. I’m still happy that he won instead of the other guy, but that sure doesn’t mean the President is gonna get my blind support.

    The ACLU, by contrast, hasn’t let me down for some time.

  6. @#6

    “Still better than McCain/Palin and waaaay better than Bush.”

    …and way, waaaay, better than Hitler, Pol Pot, and Idi Amin.

    Yes, a gross and inappropriate exaggeration, I admit it. But my question is this: Does the possibility, however unlikely in your mind, even exist that Obama might misstep or fail to the degree that you ask yourself, for even a moment, “Could McCain have done a better job?” Or is the “at least better than McCain” retort a blanket argument, affording Obama a near infinite amount of forgiveness?

    Ultimately, making the comparison seems senseless in my eye. Obama is Obama. Judge him for what he does or does not, not for what might have been under another leader.

  7. The headline is unnecessarily inflammatory to me. Let’s be clear: Obama ended the practice of torture and rendition to torture right away, on January 22nd. (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/EnsuringLawfulInterrogations/) That’s the big important thing here.

    This is a lawsuit against the airline that made the flights. While it’s still a transparency issue, it’s kind of off to the side on the whole extraordinary rendition issue.

    And I think the NPR article covered this pretty well: “Many senior Obama nominees for national security positions have not yet been confirmed. Robert Raben, a former U.S. assistant attorney general during the Clinton administration, believes the administration’s position on state secrets may evolve once those people arrive.”

  8. But my question is this: Does the possibility, however unlikely in your mind, even exist that Obama might misstep or fail to the degree that you ask yourself, for even a moment, “Could McCain have done a better job?” Or is the “at least better than McCain” retort a blanket argument, affording Obama a near infinite amount of forgiveness?

    “Forgiveness” is not the same as acknowledging that McCain’s stated policy was to make those same shameful missteps. In this case, it is not in question that McCain was planning to continue Bush’s shameful legacy of extraordinary rendition, not to mention Guantanamo. So we can vehemently oppose Obama’s decision while still believing he was by far the better candidate.

    It’s possible that at some point Obama will do something so atrocious that I will wish I’d voted for McCain, but it’s difficult to imagine.

  9. No, correct me if I’m misunderstanding this, but he’s effectively just refusing to allow legal action against these people, right? Which is to say, very different from ordering the same tactics himself, right?

    Ford pardoned Nixon, and it was probably the best thing he did as President, because it let the nation move forward at a critical time. This is an even more critical time, and the last thing this country needs is a bunch of war crimes trials (or whatever). You think Bush is not disgraced just because it’s not official? Do you think Nixon “got away with” his crimes just because he never faced criminal charges?

    Obama is a President who from the beginning has campaigned on unity and moving beyond yesterday’s battles. If you voted for him thinking his “change” was going to be just being an attack dog in the other direction, you haven’t been paying attention.

  10. I’d like to take a moment of appreciation for Xeni.

    When leading up to the elections, and in the aftermath of victory, the Obama hype was at a fever pitch. One could easily see the let downs that lay ahead.

    I’m happy to see a critical eye now applied.

    As for whether McCain / Palin would have been better, I think the actual question should be:

    Why couldn’t we have a realistic choice other than Left/Right?

  11. Is there room to consider that since two very different people made the same decision that perhaps they are telling the truth and taking this case to trial would compromise national security?

  12. “All adolescent leaders of men FAILED. All love FAILS. If men of the calibre of Lenin and Trotsky failed, then how can anyone expect anything to change. Won’t get fooled again.” -Richard Edwards, 1994

  13. To everyone who bagged on me for my “cynicism”, this is one case where I am actually sad to say, “Told you so.” Kind of hard to walk on water when your feet of clay keep dissolving.

  14. Ford pardoned Nixon, and it was probably the best thing he did as President, because it let the nation move forward at a critical time.

    What a joke. Nixon’s pardon was one of the worst things that any president has ever done. It sent the message that the President is above the law. It was the reason Bush/Cheney knew that they could get away with all the crimes they committed, so they went ahead and did them.

    Jaysus.

  15. I would like to second the appreciation for Xeni. Thanks for not being a one-sided apologist who can never see any bad in their own “side”. It is refreshing to see. So many others (on all sides) turn a blind eye to the bad things and excuse them away. If something is wrong, then it is wrong.

    To other previous posters:
    Being better than someone else does not make you a good person. It’s sad to see a person base their position in life solely on the position of others.

  16. For Bush and Obama, torture is a “state secret,” an alter for the sacrifice of justice.

    The issues here were pretty straight forward. Human lives are still being shredded through the raggedy teeth of Empire America.

    So, go back down to the basement, and get all the riot gear that you thought Bush’s retirement had rendered obsolete. There’s going to be plenty of work to do.

    I’m hungry let’s get a taco.

  17. When I read this, my *first* reaction was “Well, no *duh*, they continued the ‘state secrets’ claim”.

    Consider – at this point, the Obama crew has not even been in place a *month* yet, following onto the most secretive administrations ever. There’s a *really* good chance that the poor lawyers who had to make a response didn’t even know *what* the previous ‘state secrets’ claim actually covered. And they can always *drop* the claim later, once they’ve vetted the materials – but if you drop it *now* before you’ve sorted it all out, you may be opening a can of worms.

    Consider – the records almost certainly include stuff that *is* secret, like the names of contacts and agents under cover. As bad as the whole mess is, do you *really* want another Valerie Plame incident where somebody’s cover is blown – but this time not for political gain, but just because we dropped the state secret claim before vetting what we were releasing?

    This isn’t as clear-cut as most people wish it were.

  18. @ G.Deck / Bonafidebob: So when the legal team is in place, then the prosecution can go ahead? IANAL – is such a scenario possible? From the other side of the Atlantic, this seems a very poor move by Obama. Root and branch – haul it all to the surface and deal with it now would seem a better approach. Get the healing started, don’t just paint over the wounds.

  19. IANAL. Is there a possibility that the Obama DoJ is deliberately pursuing this course, so that the Judiciary (not the Executive) can rule that the DoJ’s interpretation of the State Secrets rule is overly-broad and incorrect? It seems to me that if President B simply said President A’s interpretation is discarded, future Presidents would be free to interpret the rule as they pleased. But if the Courts rule on the interpretation, that fixes the matter for the future.

  20. I probably shouldn’t say this but:

    I’m not cynical enough to think our government would detain people just for kicks. I’m always going to place my country’s security over the rights of a few people that the government knows or suspects may be a danger to the U.S. I’m sorry, but that’s just how I feel. Also, I really don’t believe our government would allow those detained to be tortured. At least “torture” the way most people view it – bamboo slivers under fingernails, electrical torture, rape, beatings, etc.

    Yes, I know sleep deprivation, and psychological torture is STILL torture. There has to be some way to get information from people that our government consider a threat. Are there more humane ways to get info from those detained?

  21. The New York Times has an article about this same thing:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/10/us/10torture.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

    “Is there anything material that has happened” that might have caused the Justice Department to shift its views, asked Judge Mary M. Schroeder, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter, coyly referring to the recent election.

    “No, your honor,” Mr. Letter replied.

    Judge Schroeder asked, “The change in administration has no bearing?”

    Once more, he said, “No, Your Honor.” The position he was taking in court on behalf of the government had been “thoroughly vetted with the appropriate officials within the new administration,” and “these are the authorized positions,” he said.”

    This does not sound like the Obama administration is waiting for the right time, they have decided what course of action they want.

  22. re: my last post – So many people on BB are very concerned about the rights of people detained by the government. I suppose the main thing that makes me see thing differently than some of you is that I trust our government to do what’s right. Other that attempting to make me feel unpatriotic, what should I read or what can you clue me in on that will help me understand things from your point of view?

  23. People should study history more. There are very good reasons we have checks and balances in our justice system and very good reasons why we have forsworn torture of prisoners.

    To those who would shrug and say, “my country’s security is more important than the rights of a few suspects,” how would you feel if one of those suspects was a close family member, or a friend? Or you? Mistakes do happen, you know, and perfectly innocent remarks or circumstances can look highly suspicious to a zealous agent.

    More to the point of the article, there has to be a realistic risk of sanctions against the people who get themselves involved with despicable practices. Otherwise, they have no reason not to just go along with whatever the creeps who happen to be in charge at the moment tell them to do.

  24. …and way, waaaay, better than Hitler

    Godwin! everyone loses!

    Does the possibility, however unlikely in your mind, even exist that Obama might misstep or fail to the degree that you ask yourself, for even a moment, “Could McCain have done a better job?”

    This actual misstep is not yet sufficient to warrant the greater misstep that would be possible with Bomb-Bomb-Iran-McCain as president and Palin taking over in 2011 when he keels over.

    Or is the “at least better than McCain” retort a blanket argument, affording Obama a near infinite amount of forgiveness?

    No. comparing hypotheticals to hypotheticals is exactly what I did when I voted Obama over McCain. And right now, I’d still vote Obama over McCain.

    What is implied in all the snarky “is the honeymoon over” comments is that everyone who voted for Obama voted for the hype. And that is insulting a lot of people.

    Logically, “Is the honeymoon over?” is something called “Begging the question”. I might just as well ask you “Have you’ve stopped beating your wife?”

    Which means that several people here just attempted to insult my intelligence by committing a logical error.

    Fail.

  25. I really don’t believe our government would allow those detained to be tortured. At least “torture” the way most people view it – bamboo slivers under fingernails, electrical torture, rape, beatings, etc.

    In this particular item, you are wrong. Our government has indeed tortured people in exactly the way that previous war crimes trials have convicted people of committing torture. WW2 Japanese soldiers, for example, were convicted of war crimes for doing exactly what our government is doing.

    This is just a fact at this point. We have tortured people in the very common definition of the term.

  26. Hey greg,

    I was actually just referencing the endless drone of commentators over the last few weeks who incessantly ask this question. Should I maybe have used an emoticon? No insult intended.

  27. tom, i reccomend the constitution of the u.s. that should answer your q’s right there. everyone deserves those basic rights. even ‘assumed’ terrorists. period. the founding fathers believed that 10 guilty should go free rather than one innocent be punished for what s/he didn’t do. geo. washington had zero tolerance for that shit amongst his men and swore he would shoot any of his soldiers with his own pistol if the soldier was caught treating any prisoner less than humanely. and this was after the british were responsible for some pretty heinous warcrimes against the colonists.

  28. kev: Could it be that waging the war on terror is a little bit stickier than partisans want to make it out to be?

    No. Military interragators, intelligence interragators, and other experts have repeatedly said that torture produces bad intelligence. End of story. It only works in the movies.

    Anecdotal Evidence?

    2002-01-01: Captured terrorist Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi is tortured by US agents. During this time, al-Libi claims that al Quaeda sent operatives to Iraq to acquire chemcial and biological weapons and training. In Feb 2002, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) states al-Libi “may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest” (so they will stop torturing him). Even though the DIA doubts al-Libi’s claims, CIA Director, George Tenet, authorized the use of al-Libi’s claims in Secretary Powell’s Feb 2003 speech to the UN. An invasion and occupation of Iraq later, we find out that it’s all bullshit. You torture someone, they tell you whatever gets you to stop torturing them.

    [http://web.archive.org/web/20070517165922rn_2/www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5197853/site/newsweek/]

    [http://levin.senate.gov/newsroom/supporting/2005/DIAletter.102605.pdf]

  29. Takuan, of course not. But I’m not a member of any tribe as far as I know. My great grandmother was a full blooded Native American – so its possible that I could claim some tribe, but I have no idea which one.

  30. Thx minT – I’m completely against torture. If the U.S. is treating anyone in an inhumane manner it should be stopped.

    G.London, I’ll have to look into what you said about the US using the same torture that Japanese soldiers were prosecuted for.

  31. bonafidebob is correct in my opinion. everything that I’ve read leads me to agree that the headline is unnecessarily inflammatory.

    Obama doesn’t have all his people in place, Al Franken hasn’t even been seated in the Senate yet and people are running around screaming, wondering why we all don’t have rainbows and ponies by now.

    Obama is a conservative Dem, always has been so it comes as no surprise to me. The only people I know who jumped on the Obama “Hope Wagon” were right wing nut cases looking to undermine his campaign. Most of the Dems I know had few illusions about Barak. It’s the Right who’s currency in trade is psychological projection, not us.

    The government is bigger than the office of the presidency and yes Virgina, there really is a shadow government. So there are real world limits to what he can do. Even if Obama could wave a magic wand and get all he wanted people would still be disappointed because what he wants is never going to be what you want.

    This is always going to be true. Every politician you elect is going to be less than you hope for. We live in a finite world filled with Other People all looking to get their piece of the pie.

    Democracy is about what is possible and giving a little to get a little. If that isn’t good enough for you, you should probably try a dictatorship.

  32. There has to be some way to get information from people that our government consider a threat. Are there more humane ways to get info from those detained?

    Military interragators have generally said that the most reliable way to get information is to talk with the person, treat him humanely, as a good place to start.

    Does anyone remember the Iranian Revolution for farks sake? The Shah fled Iran after tens of thousands of Iranians protested. In the vacuum, the Ayatollah took over and turned Iran towards an extremist religious rule. Does anyone know why there was an Iranian revolution?

    Bueller?

    Because the Shah had thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of political prisoners who were black bagged, held indefinitely, and tortured.

    And since we put the Shaw in power back in ’53 and made sure he stayed in power and turned a blind eye to his torture, that pretty much explains why the Iranians took American hostages at the US embassy in Iran.

    Pragmatically, there are two massively overwhelming reasons not to torture: First, it produces so much false intelligence that it becomes worthless. (Bush was looking for false intel, so he would support torture). Secondly, it radicalizes the entire population of your oponent against you. You create more enemies faster than you can torture them.

    Torture only works in the movies. There is always a ticking bomb, the guy in custody is magically known to be a bad guy, and is magically known to have information about the ticking bomb (hint, if you have to ask him, how do you know that he knows?), and it always magically produces actionable intelligence at some point.

    This portrays torture as useful and is being disregarded as valid by those who can’t stomach the hard world we live in.

    The reality is torture DOES NOT WORK. It creates enemies faster than you can capture them, and it gives you a mountain of false intelligence. And people in the know oppose torture oppose torture both on the pragmatic grounds that it DOES NOT WORK as well as on the moral grounds of being reprehensible.

  33. Oh and BTW, a deal has been announced on the stimulus package. Even though we extended our hand it was slapped away by the GOP leadership. Zero GOP support for it in the House and only three crossing party lines in the Senate.

    Get used to the cold wingnuts. You’re going to be there a very long time.

  34. also, with torture, we lose the high ground completely! how can we stop our enemies from torturing our soldiers if we are torturing theirs?

  35. Some facts from Human Rights Watch:

    http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/us_law/etn/dic/exec-sum.asp

    Since August 2002, nearly 100 detainees have died while in the hands of U.S. officials in the global “war on terror.” According to the U.S. military’s own classifications, 34 of these cases are suspected or confirmed homicides; Human Rights First has identified another 11 in which the facts suggest death as a result of physical abuse or harsh conditions of detention. In close to half the deaths Human Rights First surveyed, the cause of death remains officially undetermined or unannounced. Overall, eight people in U.S. custody were tortured to death.

  36. noen, no surprises there. they are all towing the ‘rush limpdick’ party line! obama must fail! he has spoken.

  37. Does anyone ever stop and think that there might be a very big reason that this information is kept secret??? Obama opened his mouth on MANY subjects that he really knew nothing about in his campaign. I guarantee he got a big awakening when he was finally briefed on certain matters of national security and realized the reason behind some of these policies and actions. Whether you are for or against this war it is still a war and if you want to wake up each morning feeling safe in your country then you have to let the people who know what is going on do their jobs. Do people really believe that they are entitled to every bit of information our government has??? If you knew half of what the President knew you would never leave your house because of the fear!

  38. people who live in what you call “tribes” take great offense that “American” seems to be considered by you as something “better” in some way then “tribe”.

  39. drpepper, they tried the fear thing for the last 8 yr.s. it won’t work on me. i not only want to know, i demand to know.

  40. Does anyone ever stop and think that there might be a very big reason that this information is kept secret???

    Argument from ignorance.

    Obama opened his mouth on MANY subjects that he really knew nothing about in his campaign.

    ad hominem, red herring.

    I guarantee he got a big awakening when he was finally briefed on certain matters of national security and realized the reason behind some of these policies and actions.

    unproven assertion

    Whether you are for or against this war it is still a war

    “war” unproven premise

    and if you want to wake up each morning feeling safe in your country

    appeal to emotion

    then you have to let the people who know what is going on do their jobs.

    Appeal to authority.

    Do people really believe that they are entitled to every bit of information our government has???

    red herring (changing the subject from the immorality and issues of torture to demanding zero secrets)

    Loaded question

    If you knew half of what the President knew

    Appeal to authority

    you would never leave your house because of the fear!

    Appeal to emotion.

    Tell you what, when you’ve got something to say based on any sort of actual provable facts, and some sort of sound logical argument that develops to some conclusion, you let me know. Till then, keep the “OH MY GOD WE”RE ALL GONNA DIE UNLESS WE LET THE GOVERNMENT DO WHATEVER THEY WANT!” crap to yourself.

    also, http://www.warhw.com/2009/02/10/republics-empires-and-war/

  41. Hopefully we’ll hear more about this later and nothing bad will have happened to detainees since President Obama took office. I can’t see him allowing this sort of thing to happen. I’m sure he’ll put a stop to it asap.

  42. Tom Hale, if you trust your government, you should know that the US Government has officially stated, in the Bagram report, that an innocent man was knowingly tortured to death by uniformed US soldiers for amusement value. They were playing with him, because the sound of his screaming made them laugh with delight, and their toy broke. They knew he was innocent.

    This is not widely reported in the so-called “left wing media” but it is true. You can look it up. The Bush war machine has turned US soldiers into sadistic monsters, either on purpose or through sheer incompetence.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagram_torture_and_prisoner_abuse

    When one reads Ernie Pyle’s magnificent first-person accounts of the common decency exhibited by Allied forces during the second world war, the contrast with the behaviour of American troops in Cuba, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib is remarkable.

    Again, if you really trust your government, you must acknowledge that these things are true. The US government says they happened.

  43. Why couldn’t we have a realistic choice other than Left/Right?

    We haven’t had a viable Left/Right choice since Eugene V. Debs was in prison. It’s been almost a hundred years of Right/Right choice. The Dems and the GOPs are the two Right wings of our single-party system — The Capitalist Party; and it rules supreme. Their battlefield is actually where they divvy up the loot. As we know, thieves fall out. Every four years we watch them quarrel over the swag. It has taken a more dramatic turn recently than at any other time since the Civil War, since one of the parties is clearly insane.

    Obama is not himself insane, and I truly believe he is trying to do what FDR did: to rescue and save the Capitalist system from collapse and ruin. Whether he gets away with it or not is the question. Nobody is giving odds, either way.

    Old curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

  44. Why couldn’t we have a realistic choice other than Left/Right?

    “torture” is not a “third party” related issue.

  45. The man has not been in office a month and yet he is getting more scrutiny than GWB got over the last 8 years. Simply stated, the AG’s office obviously found something in the rendition flight data that is of national security and feel it cannot come out in public. This act is not a support or condemnation of the rendition flights. It is simply something that needs protection.

    I am certain GIVEN TIME this will be addressed. People need to chill out and give the man some space.

  46. @58:

    Whew! You are one patient fellah. I’ve long since lost the will to address the sort of clusterfuddling (i.e. hopelessly confused and tangled in logical fallacies, etc) comment which you have just unraveled so neatly.

    Bravo!

  47. I hope you are right, Mikey, but personally I think keeping still is the last thing President Obama’s supporters should do.

    Those who elected the man are right to hold him to a higher standard than former President Bush; Barack Obama promised the American people change.

    His most ardent supporters should be first in a long line calling for at least an explanation, and better yet a reversal, of this position. The closer you are to Barack Obama, the more you should be insisting on it. Are you listening, Joe?

  48. Hmmm…anyone here actually done any research on torture? It’s true that physical torture does not work. Too many false positives, too many false confessions. Psychological manipulation, however, is nearly always effective if properly done. Some might still call it torture, but quite often it is more social hacking…convincing the detainee that others have turned them in, messing with their concept of time and place, messing with their cultural taboos in subtle ways, things of that nature. I am not in the intelligence community and I have found out these things, so I can assure you the folks in the CIA, NSA etc. etc. have a thousand times more information on this than I do. That’s why when people scream “torture, torture” I question it more than a bit. If we want information we have ways to get it that don’t require world war II era methods and technology, and these might be the very secrets that Bush and now Obama are fighting to keep under wraps. Knowledge is power, and even the idea that the CIA has a reputation for using physical torture can be a powerful weapon against any detainee.

  49. bullshit. Interrogation is well understood and old. It is the only thing that got any usable information from any actual terrorists held. It isn’t rocket science,nothing to keep “secret” It isn’t physical torture.

    The plain fact is that the utter incompetence and arrogance of the past decade created an environment where the ssdists could play.And they did.

    And I devoutly hope that the myriads of competent,experienced and well-trained professionals that stood by, against all their certain knowledge and conscience, to let the hacks-of-the-day enjoy their brutal, useless entertainments never have a good night’s sleep for the rest of their lives. You know who you are. You know what you let happen. For what? A fucking job?

  50. “torture” is not a “third party” related issue.

    It is if you believe that little changes with left / right party changes.

    I’ll hold out hope for Obama, but I’ve got half an ear turned to the people who say he’s a left cover candidate for the continued creep of overweaning government power (be it under Bush, or Obama, it keeps growing…)

    P.S.

    Greg London, your dissection of Dr Pepper’s post, was a true work of debating art.

    I bow to your mad skillz.

  51. Shrug. We tried to tell you none of the adults took you seriously about this stuff. It was just a useful cudgel to beat Bush with.

    Now you know.

  52. Convincing a detainee his compatriots might have turned them in is psychological torture? I don’t think so. Sleep deprivation might be, so would marathon interrogation sessions. Police depts. use the latter and it is known to give you false information. Of course that doesn’t matter if your only goal is to railroad someone, anyone, for some crime. Presumably in the war on terra we want real information.

  53. “It’s true that physical torture does not work. Too many false positives, too many false confessions.”

    This is only partially true. There are obviously situations in which physical torture is very effective, such as when you are looking for specific, verifiable information. It is also true that a high percentage people can be “broken,” after which they cooperate.

    In the days after 9/11, while we were digging through the rubble and counting the thousands of dead, three senior AQ lieutenants were captured and waterboarded, and all of them broke in minutes (Khalid Shiek Muhammed justified it by saying Allah had come to him in a vision and told him to cooperate). The information they gave up broke up several plots and saved lives, and the terrorists suffered no physical harm. Look at your kids tomorrow and ask yourself if you’d really rather have let them die for the sake of your lily-white consciences.

    Oh, and if you read closely Obama has said he will do the same thing.

  54. NOEN, even better I hear we wouldn’t even let the righties in the room when we discussed the final version. We don’t need any of them anyway to pass the stimulus package. Maybe we won’t save any jobs for their constituents! LOL

    WHEW! Big time victory! 4 Million jobs saved suckers! I hope one of them is mine!

    (anyone know how I might track if my job was saved from this?)

    HOPE!

  55. @TallDave,

    Actually breaking people so they “cooperate” is part of the problem. For the broken detainee, cooperation means telling you what you want to hear – thus the false positives.

  56. @Kevitivity,

    Yeah, McCain’s actually experience torture, but that didn’t stop him from voting for policies like the Military Commissions Act that failed to provide adequate safeguards for detainees. His experience with torture doesn’t prove he means it when he says he’s against it – it just makes him that much more blameworthy when he caved on it.

  57. #72 POSTED BY PRESTERJOHN,
    “P.S. – Greg London, your dissection of Dr Pepper’s post, was a true work of debating art. – I bow to your mad skillz.”

    I agree, G. London is good at that. But even though posts like this usually turn into a debate, I’ve been informed time and time again that the comment section is supposed to be a conversation. The person whose comment he tore apart was posting what he felt. Not everyone can or is willing to take how they feel and structure it around a bunch of linked facts. I’ve been educated many times by some of the regulars here and I believe I’m better for it, buy I think BB was also made for the casual commenter.

    Then again, I see that was DrPepper’s first post – you have to watch out for first time commenters in a political post.

  58. Yes, I know sleep deprivation, and psychological torture is STILL torture. There has to be some way to get information from people that our government consider a threat.

    Thx minT – I’m completely against torture. If the U.S. is treating anyone in an inhumane manner it should be stopped.

    Consistency in argument FAIL.

    You honestly believe that the U.S Government hasn’t approved or known very well that U.S soldiers and CIA operatives have tortured the absolute shit out of people? I’m not talking about water boarding (although that is CERTAINLY torture). I’m talking about pouring oil down throats, electrodes all over naked skin, beatings, sodomy, stress positions, etc, etc.

    You name it they’ve done it.

  59. #84 POSTED BY ITSUMISHI,
    “Consistency in argument FAIL

    What argument? I didn’t come here for an argument. I don’t believe the level of torture you mention has been condoned by government higher ups.

  60. “officially condoned”? What happens to paramedic noobs who obviously can’t cut it? The ones you know will eventually kill a patient – or you perhaps – by their irreparable incompetence? Do they have an “accident”? Maybe one end of stretcher gets dropped with some 300 lb stiff on it and they get a incapacitating back injury? Or somehow they are the only one that doesn’t get told about the toxic gas or live wire at a fire scene? “Officially”, what happens?

  61. Takuan, Incompetent Paramedics are brought before a State board and if their actions were bad enough, their license is revoked and they are fired. Plus, the family of the person they killed will probably be living in the paramedic’s house and driving around in their car.

    I know what you mean – but, other than an ass beating, we usually make life so unbearable at the station that they either transfer to a different area of the city or quit the job.

    “Officially,” they decided the job is not for them.

  62. so what must be done is done. Unofficially. Now just how far is it to pervert this necessary practice? Unofficially? Would you stand up against the entire crew if you knew it was wrong? This time?

  63. I didn’t come here to argue (debate) I saw the article and wanted to post my thoughts. I still stand by my thoughts that There is a huge amount of information that only the President and a select few are privy to and that it isn’t until you are in that Office with the title of President that you truly see the facts and understand the decisions that have been made. Someone said that they “demand” to know everything-I disagree. Some information when in the wrong hands can be very dangerous to our country, I’m not naive enough to think that my feelings or how I would handle that information would be better than the experts. Yes, there I go again with what you call ‘invoking fear’ and ‘authority’ But it’s what I believe.

  64. Takuan – You want to know if I think the average person would tolerate inhumane treatment of a prisoner when the rest of their coworkers are torturing said prisoner. I wouldn’t – but I see your point – their superiors would probably try to cover it up. I see your point – mentally putting myself in that situation helped make that clear.

    I suppose this a situation where a “good” guard is probably best on the front lines and someone that hates the job, but has morals and standards should stand guard instead.

  65. @89

    “There is a huge amount of information that only the President and a select few are privy to and that it isn’t until you are in that Office with the title of President that you truly see the facts and understand the decisions that have been made.”

    Actually it only takes a small amount of information to understand those decisions. One reel of footage of the JFK assassination. From an angle you’ve never seen before.

    (That’s a reference to a joke, btw. RIP Bill Hicks. But damn if we couldn’t use you now..)

    @Tom Hale

    A Little Background on Why You Should Be Worried : http://preview.tinyurl.com/cbe87w

  66. Sigh.

    All the fools rant about how they were right all along, just as they make the jump from one bandwagon to the other.
    All the closet right whisper that they were waiting for a ‘balanced viewpoint’ and smile smugly to themselves in the glow of their screens.
    All the overly left fumble for excuses, and try to rationalize, wondering whether to remove their Obama pins and bumper stickers.

    The rest of us read the article.

  67. drpepper, first off, thanks for saying i’m somebody! sigh. secondly, if it is something that is being done in my name, that could potentially endanger myself or my tribe ( torture falling neatly into that category and then some), yes, i FUCKING DEMAND to know about it. especially when it’s being conducted by our elected officials who have all taken oaths to uphold and defend our constitution from ALL enemies. that shit is a hardcore felony! but if that somehow interferes with how you “feel” about it, then please excuse the hell outta me. i mean, if you “believe” it, then it must be true!

  68. I’m really surprised no one mentioned the current court case where the UK government is withholding documents that prove torture was carried out, apparently for diplomatic reasons whilst publicly citing “national security interests”, even after the change of management. I’m really reminded of the HBO series The Wire, where the young go-getting mayoral candiate gets elected on a change ticket and gradually turns into his corrupt predecessor over the run of his term of office.

    the case was not a matter of national security interests, but one of “avoiding being embarrassed by obvious violation of human rights rules”.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/7878343.stm

    Oh and I’m on record as stating that Obama was just another politico back in the beginning of December

    http://www.boingboing.net/2008/12/02/principles-for-open.html#comment-344066

  69. I would not want to live in a society where torture is accepted in any way. And @TALLDAVE, to put a point to it, as you so clearly did, I would not want my children living in such a society either.

    I’m not certain I even recognise what some people here call living. I’d call it existing. In fear.

  70. Excuse me #98 minTphresh for apparently breaking commenting protocol by not naming you specifically it will never happen again
    (wow =/ ). Obviously we have differing opinions, cool.

  71. talldave: In the days after 9/11, while we were digging through the rubble and counting the thousands of dead, three senior AQ lieutenants were captured and waterboarded, and all of them broke in minutes (Khalid Shiek Muhammed justified it by saying Allah had come to him in a vision and told him to cooperate). The information they gave up broke up several plots and saved lives, and the terrorists suffered no physical harm.

    I cannot stress enough just how blindly idiotic this is. from 2002 to 2006, 100 detainees have died while in US custody. See post 53. or follow this link.

    http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/us_law/etn/dic/exec-sum.asp

    ONE HUNDRED DIED WHILE IN US CUSTODY.

    Please tell me how the fuck this lines up with your absolute bullshit of “no physical harm”???

    also, captured terrorist Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi was tortured by US agents. During that time, he claimed that al Quaeda sent operatives to Iraq to acquire chemcial and biological weapons and training.

    This was one of Powell’s main bullet points to the UN arguing for invading Iraq. ANd it was a fucking lie extracted from a man trying to get the torture to stop.

    http://web.archive.org/web/20070517165922rn_2/www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5197853/site/newsweek/

    http://levin.senate.gov/newsroom/supporting/2005/DIAletter.102605.pdf

  72. Surprise, surprise, Obama is just another American politician, and not a Brother from Another Planet.

    Perhaps after the hundreds more decisions that are coming down the pike much like this one, the American people will realise that politics is not a personality game, and that the evils they perpetrate are endemic to the system they espouse, and there is no electable white knight who will ever manage to truly do Good within that system.

  73. #20
    “Why couldn’t we have a realistic choice other than Left/Right?”

    we did have a pretty reasonable libertarian candidate…Ron Paul. the problem is that the people on each extreme tend to shout the loudest or whine the most.

    #30
    “Consider – the records almost certainly include stuff that *is* secret, like the names of contacts and agents under cover. As bad as the whole mess is, do you *really* want another Valerie Plame incident where somebody’s cover is blown – but this time not for political gain, but just because we dropped the state secret claim before vetting what we were releasing?”

    are these under cover agents performing inhumane acts of torture? if so, then YES…they and their enablers should all be exposed and punished. “national security” seems a bit more like “job security” for politicians.

  74. @60: Bravo, Greg. Well, played, sir, well played.

    For what it’s worth, the best movie I ever saw about the usefulness of torture was this:

  75. drpepper, um…ok. except that what i said is NOT AN OPINION. it is written into our constitution, thereby making it u.s.law!

  76. @106 Wrathofthekitty: “are these under cover agents performing inhumane acts of torture? if so, then YES…they and their enablers should all be exposed and punished. “national security” seems a bit more like “job security” for politicians.”

    Are you advocating they be exposed and punished, even if said exposure causes *others* to be exposed to possible danger by having their cover blown? For instance, say the other side knows we have a station active, but not the exact location or who the agents are. Now you “out” the station chief because he was involved in arranging the airport clearances for the flights. Suddenly, all the *other* agents at the station are compromised, because if they know who the station head is, they can use that to figure out where the station is, and thence the other agents…

    Do you *still* want to “out” that station chief, without doing anything like moving the station, or sending new personnel to a new station, or sanitize the documents released, or any number of other things that would protect the other agents, but which take *TIME* to do?

    Oh yeah – even if blowing the other agent’s cover doesn’t expose them to actual danger, it *still* renders them useless as undercover agents once their cover is blown.

  77. Are you advocating they be exposed and punished, even if said exposure causes *others* to be exposed to possible danger by having their cover blown?

    And an asteroid is on a collision course wtih the earth and the only way to stop it is to torture some retired, angry NASA scientists and a few maverick oil drilling experts, and if we don’t torture them, then the entire world is destroyed, won’t you let us torture people then?

    This is “absurdist redonkulous torture justification theater”, isn’t it?

    I can invent any number of hypothetical scenarios that would leave as the only option the complete suspension of rule of law, but what the fawk does that have to do with reality?

    Once you start going down the path of totally hypothetical sitiations, you get sucked into designing your national security decisions based on movie plots. In short, we should stick with reality.

  78. @110 Greglondon:
    “This is “absurdist redonkulous torture justification theater”, isn’t it?

    I can invent any number of hypothetical scenarios that would leave as the only option the complete suspension of rule of law, but what the fawk does that have to do with reality?”

    Unfortunately for reality, “one agent’s cover blown compromises other agents” isn’t a “hypothetical” situation, it’s a constant and major worry for all intelligence services that use undercover agents.

    And I’m not arguing in favor of “ticking time bomb torture theater” – I’m arguing that maybe it’s a bad idea to drop the ‘state secret’ claim before the new team has a chance to vet the materials that would be released if we dropped it.

    Yes, it *would* be nice if they dropped the claim and released all the info – but if the released info ends up compromising *other* operations, things get sticky….

  79. I’m arguing that maybe it’s a bad idea to drop the ‘state secret’ claim before the new team has a chance to vet the materials that would be released if we dropped it.

    If Obama needed more time, there are legal ways to request more time. He’s done it in other situations. He could have done it here. He appears to have reached his decision to continue Bush’s abuse of State SEcrets.

    And just so you know, your redonkulous hypotheticals are called “argument from ignorance” in basic logical fallacy terms. We don’t know that this wont’ blow someone’s cover, so maybe it will and maybe we should assume its why they’re doing it.

    The key phrase is “we don’t know” everything else after that, you’re just filling in the result you want.

  80. http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/breaking-down-sense-of-impenetrability.html

    The Bush White House vehemently objected to provisions of the law dealing with rape by instrumentality. When House negotiators pressed to know why, they were met first with silence and then an embarrassed acknowledgment that a key part of the Bush program included invasion of the bodies of prisoners in a way that might be deemed rape by instrumentality under existing federal and state criminal statutes.

    Un. Be. Leave. A. Bull.

  81. #84 POSTED BY ITSUMISHI,
    “Consistency in argument FAIL

    Did you even read the quotes from you I put in my post? One second you’re saying there has to be a way for people to get information out of soldiers and mentioning torture, the next minute you’re saying you oppose torture completely.

    So which is it? You think they should be allowed to torture as long as it’s only a little bit. Or you’re completely against it?

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