Friday, December 12, 2008
UPDATED: Torture Trail Seen Starting with Bush (Op-Ed & News Ongoing)
consortiumnews dot com
By Jason Leopold - December 12, 2008
Also see as Senate Report Links Guantanamo Torture to Bush Memo on Leopold's website
pubrecord dot org
A bipartisan congressional report traces the U.S. abuse of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib to President George W. Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002, action memorandum that excluded “war on terror” suspects from Geneva Convention protections.
The Senate Armed Services Committee’s report said Bush’s memo opened the door to “considering aggressive techniques,” which were then developed with the complicity of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Bush’s National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and other senior officials.
Three months ago, Rice admitted that she led high-level discussions beginning in 2002 with other senior Bush administration officials about subjecting suspected al-Qaeda terrorists to the harsh interrogation technique known as waterboarding, according to documents released by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, committee chairman.
“The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own,” the committee report said. “The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.”
The Dec. 11 report also disputed the Bush administration’s rationale that the harsh interrogation methods were effective in extracting valuable intelligence and protecting the country from terrorist attacks.
Instead, the report said, “Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.”
The findings, which were released by Sens. Levin and John McCain of Arizona, this year’s Republican presidential nominee, drew no dissent from the 12 Republicans on the 25-member committee.
The 19-page report is the final installment in the Armed Services Committee’s 18-month investigation, which generated 38,000 pages of documents and relied upon the testimony of 70 people.
The White House declined comment, but Keith Urbahn, an aide to Rumsfeld, told the Washington Post that the allegations were “unfounded” and called the committee report a “false narrative.”
The report’s narrative of the prisoner abuse begins in early 2002 when Rumsfeld’s Defense Department inquired about what limits should be placed on interrogations of terror suspects detained during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
Those questions sparked an internal administration debate and led to Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002, memo stating that the Third Geneva Convention, which sets standards for treatment of prisoners from armed conflicts, “did not apply to the conflict with al-Qaeda and concluding that Taliban detainees were not entitled to prisoner of war status or the legal protections afforded by the Third Geneva Convention,” the report said.
“The President’s order closed off application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, to al-Qaeda or Taliban detainees.
“While the President’s order stated that, as ‘a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of the Geneva Conventions,’ the decision to replace well established military doctrine, i.e., legal compliance with the Geneva Conventions, with a policy subject to interpretation, impacted the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody.”
What followed were senior-level meetings deciding which interrogation techniques could be used and which couldn’t.
“In the spring of 2002, CIA sought policy approval from the National Security Council (NSC) to begin an interrogation program for high-level al-Qaeda terrorists,” Rice said, according to the report. Rice is now Bush’s Secretary of State.
“Secretary Rice said that she asked Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet to brief NSC Principals on the program and asked the Attorney General John Ashcroft ‘personally to review and confirm the legal advice prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel.’ She also said that Rumsfeld participated in the NSC review of CIA’s program," according to the report.
In July 2002, Rumsfeld and his legal counsel, William Haynes, solicited input from military psychologists about developing harsh methods that interrogators could use against detainees who were being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“Mr. Haynes was not the only senior official considering new interrogation techniques for use against detainees,” the report said. “Members of the President’s Cabinet and other senior officials attended meetings in the White House where specific interrogation techniques were discussed.”
John B. Bellinger, Rice’s legal adviser at the State Department, said they recalled participating in meetings with Ashcroft and Rumsfeld in July 2002 about an Army and Air Force survival training program called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE), which was meant to prepare U.S. soldiers for abuse they might suffer if captured by an outlaw regime.
“SERE training techniques were designed to give our troops a taste of what they might be subjected to if captured by a ruthless, lawless enemy so that they would be better prepared to resist," Levin said Thursday. "The techniques were never intended to be used against detainees in U.S. custody.”
Last April, President Bush told an ABC News reporter during an interview that he approved meetings of the NSC’s Principals Committee to discuss specific interrogation techniques the CIA could use against detainees. The Principals Committee included Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General Ashcroft as well as Rumsfeld and Rice.
On Dec. 2, 2002, Rumsfeld authorized “aggressive interrogation techniques,” leading to “interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials [that] conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody,” the committee report said.
"What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely.”
After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and amid the rising Iraqi insurgency against the American occupation in 2004, the harsh interrogation tactics, which had been used at Guantanamo, spread to the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002, memo prompted Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who became the top commander in Iraq, to institute a “dozen interrogation methods beyond” the Army’s standard practice under the convention, according to a report by a panel headed by James Schlesinger on the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses in 2004.
Sanchez said he based his decision on “the President's Memorandum,” which he said had justified "additional, tougher measures" against detainees, the Schlesigner report said.
The abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib exploded into an international scandal in 2004 when photos were leaked showing American prison guards parading detainees around naked and forcing them into mock sexual positions.
Bush, Rumsfeld and other senior administration officials expressed outrage over the Abu Ghraib photos and blamed the abuses on low-level soldiers acting on their own.
Eleven enlisted soldiers, who were guards at Abu Ghraib, subsequently were convicted in courts martial.
Cpl. Charles Graner Jr. received the harshest sentence – 10 years in prison – while Lynndie England, a 22-year-old single mother who was photographed holding an Iraqi on a leash and pointing at a detainee’s penis, was sentenced to three years in prison. Their superior officers either were cleared of wrongdoing or received mild reprimands.
The Bush administration’s handling of the Abu Ghraib scandal drew especially sharp criticism from the Armed Services Committee chairman.
“Attempts by senior officials to pass the buck to low-ranking soldiers while avoiding any responsibility for abuses are unconscionable,” Levin said. “The message from top officials was clear; it was acceptable to use degrading and abusive techniques against detainees."
Regarding the prison abuse at Abu Ghraib, the committee’s report concluded that it “was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own.” The report added: “Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there.”
Human rights organizations have pressed Barack Obama to aggressively investigate the Bush administration’s actions once he is sworn as President next month.
In a recent interview with “60 Minutes,” President-elect Obama told correspondent Steve Kroft “...America doesn’t torture and I’m going to make sure we don’t torture. Those are part and parcel an effort to regain America’s moral stature in the world.”
But Obama has not indicated whether Eric Holder, his choice for Attorney General, will pursue an investigation into Bush's interrogation policies.
Rep. Silvestre Reyes, Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said this week that he told Obama’s transition team that some of the Bush administration’s interrogation policies should remain intact.
In an interview with Congress Daily, Reyes, D-Texas, said dealing with suspected terrorists requires that “some options” beyond interrogation rules in the Army Field Manual need to be available.
"There are those that believe that this particular issue has to be dealt with very carefully because there are beliefs that there are some options that need to be available," Reyes said. "We don't want to be known for torturing people. At the same time we don't want to limit our ability to get information that's vital and critical to our national security. That’s where the new administration is going to have to decide what those parameters are, what those limitations are."
Meanwhile, Attorney General Michael Mukasey has argued that there is no legal basis to prosecute current and former administration officials for authorizing torture and warrantless domestic surveillance because those decisions were made in the context of a presidential interest in protecting national security.
"There is absolutely no evidence that anybody who rendered a legal opinion, either with respect to surveillance or with respect to interrogation policies, did so for any reason other than to protect the security in the country and in the belief that he or she was doing something lawful,” Mukasey said during a Dec. 3 roundtable discussion with reporters.
“If the word goes out to the contrary, then people are going to get the message, which is that if you come up with an answer that is not considered desirable in the future you might face prosecution, and that creates an incentive not to give an honest answer but to give an answer that may be acceptable in the future,” Mukasey told the reporters.
Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, immediately took issue with the “breadth” of Mukasey’s statement “and the blanket conclusion that everyone involved in approving these policies believed they were acting within the law.”
Conyers reminded Mukasey that reams of evidence – including testimony from career military and law enforcement officials – show that top White House officials may have broken the law by authorizing torture and warrantless domestic surveillance.
Indeed, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who led an early investigation of abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, said “there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”
Christopher Anders, the American Civil Liberties Union senior legislative counsel, said the Armed Services Committee's report "makes clear the role of top White House and Defense Department officials in authorizing torture and abuse.”
Jason Leopold has launched a new Web site, The Public Record, at Here
Many High Bush Officials Violated Anti-Torture Laws From Media With Conscience
A Report released December 11, 2008, by the Senate Armed Services Committee charged that top Bush officials, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, “bore major responsibility” for the abuses committed by U.S. interrogators in military detention centers, according to The New York Times.
The Report that was issued by Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) is the result of an 18-month inquiry. For the record, this reporter published the following article 28 months ago---before the Senate inquiry was launched---and which predicted the same general conclusions as Sens. Levin and McCain in their new report, most of which remains “classified.”
Following is my article of September, 2006, based on information freely available to anyone with eyes and a concern for rudimentary justice. Is there any reason why the individuals named here should not be prosecuted to the full extent of the law?
At least a score of high Bush Administration officials authorized, and hundreds of U.S. military and other government employees committed, crimes involving the torture of prisoners captured in the Middle East, published reports and legal documents indicate.
Indeed, any impartial probe of the widespread abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody could go well beyond the handful of prison guards who have been arrested and tried to date. The list would include top White House officials who designed the torture policies and Pentagon flag officers who executed them. It would include CIA officials and their contract pilots and immigration personnel involved in abducting suspects to be tortured. It would include doctors, nurses, and paramedics who abetted interrogators in torture. And civilian contractors of the Department of Defense(DOD) who tortured, as well as foreign officials who turned suspects over to U.S. authorities for torture.
In his May 8, 2004, radio address, President Bush deplored “shocking conduct in Iraqi prisons by a small number of American servicemen and women.” But he added, “We will learn the facts, the extent of the abuse, and the identities of those involved. They will answer for their actions.” As that’s a very good idea, let’s begin, starting at the top.
President Bush himself bears primary responsibility for torture for his arbitrary February 8, 2002, suspension of the Geneva Conventions that protect prisoners. This action set the tone for the prison scandals that shocked the conscience of the world with the publication in 2004 of the bizarre prisoner abuse photographs from Abu Ghraib near Baghdad.
As for Vice President Dick Cheney, he’s been described by retired Army Colonel Larry Wilkerson, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, as the man who provided “the philosophical guidance that led to the torture of detainees.” Wilkerson, who quit the State Department in January, 2005, said he didn’t fault Cheney for wishing to keep America safe “but he’ll corrupt the whole country to save it.”
DOD Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and his former Defense Undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz, both authorized torture practices. When Bush nominated Wolfowitz as World Bank boss, Legislative Counsel Christopher Anders of the American Civil Liberties Union lamented, “As privates and sergeants are getting jail time, top level officials are getting promoted.” Human Rights First(HRF) has charged Rumsfeld with direct responsibility for torture. And the Center for Constitutional Rights(CCR) named Rumsfeld one of 10 defendants in a criminal complaint filed in Karlsruhe, Germany, for brutal acts of torture at Abu Ghraib.
CCR Vice President Peter Weiss said CCR filed its complaint in Germany “because there is simply no other place to go” as USA refuses to join the International Criminal Court, and Iraq has no authority to prosecute. Under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction suspected war criminals may be prosecuted anywhere.
Apparently, Rumsfeld did not put the military on the torture track without internal opposition. Then U.S. Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora, now retired, put up a diligent fight, according author Jane Mayer of The New Yorker. On December 2, 2002, Rumsfeld formally okayed coercive punishments such as “hooding,” “stress positions,” “exploitation of phobias,” “deprivation of light and auditory stimuli” and other tactics long forbidden by the Army Field Manual, Mayer wrote.
One torture victim was Saudi detainee Mohammed al-Qahtani, a terrorist suspect arrested in Afghanistan in connection with the 9/ll skyjackings. According to Mayer, he was stripped and shaved, put in an isolation pen under artificial lights for 160 days, kept in a cold room, interrogated for up to 20 hours at a stretch, deprived of sleep, straddled by female guards, forced to wear a bra and women’s underwear on his head, put on a leash and threatened by dogs, taunted that his mother was a whore, and forced to listen to blaring pop music. Image
It was Rumsfeld who appointed Dr. Stephen Cambone, the Defense Undersecretary who gave the orders to “soften up” Iraqi prisoners. Cambone told Major General Geoffrey Miller, former Guantanamo commandant, to go to Iraq to “Gitmo-ize” the interrogation process. Miller reportedly said, “You have to treat them like dogs” and okayed use of stress positions “for agonizing lengths of time,” according to reporter Seymour Hersh. Cambone is named in the CCR complaint for his role in “creating a secret operation program whose mandate included committing war crimes.”
One form of torture begins with “extreme rendition.” Alleged terror suspects have been abducted by the CIA and flown to be tortured (and/or murdered) in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Morocco, Jordan and Uzbekistan, etc. The practice was begun around 1996 under President Clinton and vastly expanded by President Bush after 9/11. Sandy Berger, Clinton’s National Security Council director, and counterterrorism boss Richard Clarke, have been identified as having approved extreme rendition. Clinton, of course, is also culpable. Right now, Italy would like to lay its hands on 22 C.I.A. agents who three years ago abducted Milan resident cleric Hassan Osama Nasr for torture in Egypt.
CIA pilots involved in extreme rendition flights, as well as their boss, former CIA Director Porter Goss and CIA ex-counter-terrorism chief Cofer Black should be called to account. Recall Goss asked Congress to exempt CIA operatives from any law banning torture and Black told Congress, “After 9/11, the gloves came off.” Any European officials who transferred suspects to the CIA are culpable.
One human rights consortium said last April it has documented the involvement of over 600 U.S. military and civilian personnel for the abuse and torture of 460 detainees.
A spokesman the Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project, Professor Meg Satterthwaite of NYU Law School, said “detainee abuses were widespread, and few people have truly been brought to justice.” Added Tom Malinowski, of Human Rights Watch, one of the participating groups, “We’ve seen a series of half-hearted investigations and slaps on the wrist.”
As ex-President Carter writes in “Our Endangered Values”(Simon & Schuster) the “superficial investigations” into torture conducted by the Pentagon “have made it obvious that no high-level military officers or government officials will be held accountable…”
USA may be holding 11,000 prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo, Cuba, Human Rights First says. So far, more than 100 prisoners are said to have perished in U.S. custody. Captives include 800 Pakistani boys aged 13-15, some of them tortured, the International Red Cross has charged.
A key architect of the “new paradigm” torture policy is ex-White House legal counsel Alberto Gonzales, now Attorney General, author of a torture memo in January of 2002. He dismissed the Geneva Conventions banning torture as “quaint.”
His predecessor, Attorney General John Ashcroft, told Bush the Conventions outlawing torture did not apply to Taliban detainees. The CCR sued Ashcroft on behalf of Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who was abducted to Syria and tortured. Immigration and Naturalization Service(INS) and FBI agents who arrested Arar at JFK Airport and put him on a plane to Syria are culpable.
In addition to Ashcroft, the CCR suit cited Larry Thompson, Acting Attorney General said to have signed the rendition order; FBI Director Robert Mueller; J. Scott Blackman, regional INS director; Edward McElroy, then INS director for the New York City district; and INS Commissioner James Zigler.
High Bush aides responsible for torture include Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, who on August 1, 2002, drafted what became known as the “torture memo.” Also, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff who, when head of Justice’s criminal division, advised the CIA it was okay to use water torture.
Other law violators include John Yoo, now a University of California professor, who advised Bush the Geneva Conventions did not apply to detainees; Jack Goldsmith, who drafted the torture policy for Gonzales when he headed Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel; David Addington, Cheney’s top lawyer and a principle author of a White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects; Douglas Feith, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy who had oversight for Abu Ghraib and like prisons; and former Pentagon general counsel William Haynes II, author of memos rationalizing torture.
That such policy memos were translated into action was established by Human Rights Watch, which reported prison interrogators in the Baghdad area got a lecture from military lawyers saying Geneva Conventions did not apply and torturing was legit.
Among military officers involved in torture are:
# Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, U.S. senior commander in Iraq for about a year starting in June, 2003. His memo of September 14, 2003, authorized use of interrogation techniques such as dogs, isolation, and stress positions. Major General Walter Wojdakowski was his deputy commander in charge of an involved military intelligence brigade and is one of those named in the CCR criminal complaint. And Major General Barbara Fast, cleared by the Army of any wrongdoing, served as chief of intelligence for Sanchez.
# Colonel Thomas Pappas, head of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, was in charge of Iraq prisons and therefore responsible for what took place. He is also named in the CCR suit for torture “amounting to war crimes.” Lieutenant Colonel Steve Jordan, of 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, is said by CCR to even have witnessed one detainee’s death caused by his subordinates’ mistreatment.
# Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, with direct charge for Abu Ghraib and subsequently demoted to colonel, admitted to violation of the Geneva Conventions by holding so-called “ghost detainees” in secret. Sanchez, Pappas, and Karpinski are named in an ACLU complaint. Also, Captain Carolyn Wood, who oversaw interrogation at Bagram prison and approved the use of dogs and stress positions.
# Lt. General William Boykin reportedly advised Cambone to use water torture and to humiliate captives via religious taunting. Participating doctors, nurses, and paramedics who aided torturers at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere would be culpable as well.
# Air Force General Counsel Mary Walker, who headed a Rumsfeld working group on interrogation guidelines, rationalized that some criminal conduct was “not unlawful.”
# Lt. Colonel Stephen Jordan, former supervisor of interrogators at Abu Ghraib was named in the CCR complaint as having “clear knowledge” of ongoing abuses, and Lt. Colonel Jerry Phillabaum, commander of a military police battalion that oversaw Abu Ghraib was said by CCR to have failed to report war crimes.
# CCR also filed a class action suit in Federal court against Titan Corp. of San Diego and CACI International of Arlington, Va., and three of their employees, Stephen Stefanowicz and John Israel of CACI, and Adel Nahkla of Titan for abuses Abu Ghraib. Plaintiffs said they were hooded and raped, stripped naked and urinated on, prevented from praying, beaten with chains and boots, and forced to watch their father tortured to death. CACI has strongly denied the charges.
Title 18 of the U.S. Code makes it a crime for an American to commit torture “outside the United States” and authorizes fines and prison terms of up to 20 years. If deaths result, those convicted may be jailed for life or executed. HRF has charged as of April, 2005, 108 foreign detainees had died in U.S. custody.
CCR President Michael Ratner said, “the existence of ‘torture memos’ drafted by administration officials and the authorization of techniques that violated humanitarian law by Secretary Rumsfeld, Lt. General Sanchez and others make clear that responsibility for Abu Ghraib and other violations of law reaches all the way to the top.”
Calling for an investigation, Amnesty International’s Jumana Musa, warned, “Torture thrives on impunity. By not holding accountable the people who drafted and implemented the policies, the US government is giving a wink and a nod to torturers world wide.”
Sherwood Ross a contributing editor to MWC News, is a Miami-based public relations consultant and columnist who formerly worked for major dailies and as a columnist for wire services. Reach him at sherwoodr1[at]yahoo.com.
Articles by Sherwood Ross at MWC News
Posted by CN at 10:36 AM