Misadventures In Severe Interrogations

In yet another twist in the ongoing saga of the current Bush Administration and Gonzo-gate, the Justice Department has once again been caught with their pants down as more lies and deceipt surface…the New York Times has reported that the U.S. secretly endorsed severe interrogations, after publicly declaring torture as ‘abhorrent’ in a legal opinion from December 2004.

Once president Bush’s buddy Alberto Gonzales became the U.S. Attorney General, the Justice Department issued a secret expansive memo endorsing the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) that provided ‘explicit authorization’ to barrage terror suspects with painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.

Gonzales approved the legal memo on ‘combined effects’ despite the objections of James B. Comey, deputy attorney general who resigned after disagreeing with other illicit policies of the White House. Mr. Comey told his colleagues at the department they would be ashamed when the world eventually found out about it.

Most lawmakers weren’t aware of the secret memo and Congress was moving toward outlawing “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment current and former officials have said. While Congress was doing that, the Justice Department issued another secret memo declaring that none of the C.I.A. interrogation methods violated that standard. So, if most lawmakers weren’t aware of the secret memo, which lawmakers were aware of it?

The White House Version Of Justice

After stepping down in September, despite having no credibility and being surrounded by other controversies, Gonzales spoke proudly of how his department was “a place of inspiration” that had balanced the necessary flexibility to conduct the war on terrorism with the need to uphold the law.

Gonzales often bowed to the pressure from Vice President Dick Cheney and David S. Addington (Cheney’s lawyer) to endorse whatever policies they deemed effective in “safeguarding Americans,” despite condemnation from other governments, human rights and civil liberty groups and Democrats in Congress, turning the Justice Department into an extension of the White House.

Steven G. Bradbury has headed the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) since 2005 signed the interrogation memos. He’s frequently defended the National Security Agency’s illicit domestic spying program and detention policies at Congressional hearings.

Shortly after (if not before) the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks the Bush Administration began using secret detention facilities and coercive interrogation techniques, while denouncing the use of torture by other countries. The Bush Administration did so without public or Congressional approval (at least mainstream Congressional approval), relying on legal advice from a ‘confidential’ handful of appointees.

White House Policies Cause Internal Conflicts

The policies reportedly set off internal battles between military lawyers and Pentagon chiefs and some conservative Justice Department lawyers against the White House, resulting in several lawyers resigning or threatening to resign in 2004. Naturally, Gonzales and Bradbury pulled the Justice Department back in line with the White House.

In 2006 the Supreme Court ruled that the Geneva Conventions applied to prisoners belonging to Al Qaeda, resulting in President Bush acknowledging the secret C.I.A. jails, ordering their inmates moved to Guantanamo Bay. But, in July, Bush created and signed a new executive order authorizing the use of “enhanced” interrogation techniques (the details of which are currently secret), and the C.I.A. again began holding prisoners in “black sites” overseas. Lo and behold, the executive order was reviewed and approved by Mr. Bradbury and the OLC.

Douglas W. Kmiec headed the OLC under President Reagan and the first President Bush. He believed the intense pressures from the campaign against terrorism have warped the OLCs proper role. “The office was designed to insulate against any need to be an advocate,” he said, but at times in recent years, the office, headed by William H. Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia before they were appointed to the Supreme Court, “lost its ability to say no.”

(William Rehnquist and Antonin Scalia, coincidentally, were two of the five Supreme Court “Justices” who appointed the 2000 presidential “election” to George W. Bush after the ‘election’ troubles in Florida, governed by Jeb Bush, George’s brother).

“The approach changed dramatically with opinions on the war on terror,” Mr. Kmiec said. “The office became an advocate for the president’s policies.”

C.I.A. teams from Afghanistan, Thailand and Eastern Europe (some of the black sites) questioned C.I.A. lawyers daily wanting to know if they were breaking the laws, fearing what would happen if they were.

Bush Administration Sinks To A New Low

In 2002 the Bush Administration began holding prisoners outside the scrutiny of the International Red Cross, subjecting them to extreme pressure tactics:

  • slaps to the head,
  • hours held naked in frigid cells,
  • days and nights without sleep while thundering rock music bellowed in the background,
  • long periods manacled in stressful positions and
  • waterboarding (covering their faces with cloth and pouring water over their heads, making them think they would drown)

President Bush and C.I.A. officials would later insist that the harsh measures produced crucial intelligence. The C.I.A. consulted Egyptian and Saudi Intelligence officials and copied Soviet interrogation methods that have been used to train American servicemen to withstand capture. In August 2002 Bush’s Justice Department provided sweeping legal ‘justification,’ even for the harshest tactics.

The lengthy New York Times article does an exceptional job spelling out all the details of the sordid illicit activities performed by numerous people in Bush’s Justice Department, as well as other parts of his administration.

Will Congress and the Senate do anything about this? Why they haven’t done anything yet remains a mystery, but it’s getting to the point of wondering just how many of them might be involved in all this too since they continue to refuse to take any action to stop it. It’s mind-numbing when you try to figure out why nothing has been done to this point. Consistent abuse of ‘state secrets’ inevitably becomes state cover-ups.

Links To More Information

As usual, links to the above information and a whole lot more can be found below:

Secret U.S. Endorsement of Severe Interrogations article from The New York Times

When five voted for millions article from The St. Petersburg Times Online:

“One of the darkest hours in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court was Dec. 12, 2000, at 10 p.m., when the five-member conservative majority handed the presidency to George W. Bush over his rival Al Gore.

Despite Florida’s 61,000 statewide undervotes – possible legal votes that had not been counted by the machines – the high court claimed it was acting in the name of fairness to the state’s voters when it overturned a decision by the Florida Supreme Court and stopped the recount.

At the time, there were still six days before the state’s electors were scheduled meet and fully 25 days before Congress was to count the electoral votes. Yet the high court claimed there was no more time, effectively anointing Bush the winner in Florida by 537 votes.”

2000 Presidential Election information from Rutgers University

Bush on torture report: “haven’t seen it. we don’t torture” article and video from Think Progress

Torture, Cover-Up at Gitmo? Former Translator Says Prisoner Interrogations Were Staged for VIPs article from CBS News

Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantanamo article from the New York Times

Burning Chilli Sparks Terror Fear article from The BBC News:

This is a sad example of how the use of terrorism to create fear has become effective:

“A pot of burning chilli sparked fears of a biological terror attack in central London. Firefighters wearing protective breathing apparatus were called to D’Arblay Street, Soho, after reports of noxious smoke filling the air. Police closed off three roads and evacuated homes following the alert. Specialist crews broke down the door to the Thai Cottage restaurant at 1900 BST on Monday where they discovered the source – a 9lb pot of chillies.”

The Radical U.S. Constitution article from Hear My Thunder – Get Educated – Get Involved – Let Your Thunder be Heard:

“George Orwell made a very interesting observation when he stated, “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” This is the very quote Aaron Russo chose to be the beginning frame in his eye-opening documentary America: from Freedom to Fascism. Watching and reading the news brought this statement back into focus.”

Soldier once warned family: Investigate if I die article and video from Raw Story:

Think the Defense Department will reveal the truth?

“Although Durkin was gay, her family does not believe her death had anything to do with that. But Durkin, who worked in a finance office, told her family that she had uncovered some information that would upset other military officials.

“She was in the finance unit and she said, ‘I discovered some things I don’t like and I made some enemies because of it.’ Then she said, in her light-hearted way, ‘If anything happens to me, you guys make sure it gets investigated,'” Durkin’s older sister, Fiona Canavan, told The Patriot Ledger. “But at the time we thought it was said more as a joke.”

Durkin died last Friday of a single gun-shot wound, but the Army has not said whether a weapon was found near her body. The Defense Department says it is investigating the incident, according to reports.”

White House denies relaxing torture ban article from MSNBC News / The Associated Press:

“Secret 2005 opinion is confirmed, but Justice insists earlier one still valid”

Did Secretary Rice Know About Gonzales’ Secret ’05 Legal Opinion On Torture? article from Think Progress

Bush justice is a national disgrace article from The Denver Post:

“As a longtime attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, I can honestly say that I have never been as ashamed of the department and government that I serve as I am at this time.

The public record now plainly demonstrates that both the DOJ and the government as a whole have been thoroughly politicized in a manner that is inappropriate, unethical and indeed unlawful. The unconscionable commutation of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s sentence, the misuse of warrantless investigative powers under the Patriot Act and the deplorable treatment of U.S. attorneys all point to an unmistakable pattern of abuse.

In the course of its tenure since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has turned the entire government (and the DOJ in particular) into a veritable Augean stable on issues such as civil rights, civil liberties, international law and basic human rights, as well as criminal prosecution and federal employment and contracting practices. It has systematically undermined the rule of law in the name of fighting terrorism, and it has sought to insulate its actions from legislative or judicial scrutiny and accountability by invoking national security at every turn, engaging in persistent fearmongering, routinely impugning the integrity and/or patriotism of its critics, and protecting its own lawbreakers. This is neither normal government conduct nor “politics as usual,” but a national disgrace of a magnitude unseen since the days of Watergate – which, in fact, I believe it eclipses.”

Report Says The FCC Favors Lobbyists Over The Public article from Wireless Week:

Here’s a shocker…more Federal Government corruption. (Yes, I’m being facetious)

“Situations where some, but not all, stakeholders know what FCC is considering for an upcoming vote undermine the fairness and transparency of the process and constitute a violation of FCC’s rules,” the GAO said in a statement.

The report says that some people at the commission warn lobbyists when a particular issue is about to come up for a vote. Typically, the commission chairman circulates an item for vote three weeks before a meeting. Under the rules of the FCC, meeting agendas are published one week before a vote is scheduled. Once the agenda is published lobbying is banned. The report says that the two-week window allows lobbyist plenty of time to “maximize their impact.”

The People vs. the Profiteers: Politics & Power article from Vanity Fair:

“Americans working in Iraq for Halliburton spin-off KBR have been outraged by the massive fraud they saw there. Dozens are suing the giant military contractor, on the taxpayers’ behalf. Whose side is the Justice Department on?

His obvious adversaries are the contracting corporations themselves-especially Halliburton, the giant oil-services conglomerate where Vice President Dick Cheney spent the latter half of the 1990s as C.E.O., and its former subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root, now known simply as KBR. But he says his efforts to take on those organizations have earned him another enemy: the United States Department of Justice.

Over the past 16 years, Grayson has litigated dozens of cases of contractor fraud. In many of these, he has found the Justice Department to be an ally in exposing wrongdoing. But in cases that involve the Iraq war, the D.O.J. has taken extraordinary steps to stand in his way. Behind its machinations, he believes, is a scandal of epic proportions-one that may come to haunt the legacy of the Bush administration long after it is gone.”

United States House of Representatives, 110th Congress

The United States Senate

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