Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The CIA, torture, and the banality of evil

For those sickened by what our country has become in eight short years, yesterday was a really bad day. Those who give a damn about the rule of law and the ideals that define America took a beating yesterday as every time we turned around more devastating information came to light about just how far these bastards have gone toward destroying everything this country is supposed to stand for.

"If the detainee dies, you're doing it wrong"

In late 2002, a top CIA lawyer gave a torture workshop to Pentagon officials intended to advise them on how far they could take their "harsh interrogation techniques" when interrogating detainees. According to the minutes of the 02 October 2002 meeting, CIA counterterrorism lawyer Jonathan Fredman told a group of military and intelligence officials gathered at Guantanamo that torture is basically "subject to perception." It was in that meeting that he so blithely set the parameters at life and death. "If the detainee dies, you're doing it wrong."

In that document released yesterday by a Senate panel that is investigating how torture became a sanctioned practice suggests that CIA spooks were far more involved than has been previously known. By the time the meeting took place, the CIA had already used waterboarding, in which a prisoner is subjected to controlled drowning, with the blessing of buA$h administration lawyers.
The new evidence, along with hours of questioning of former Pentagon officials at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, shed light on efforts by top aides to then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to research and reverse-engineer techniques used by military survival schools to prepare U.S. service members for possible capture by hostile forces. The techniques -- sensory deprivation, forced nudity, stress positions and exploitation of phobias, such as fear of dogs -- would eventually be approved for use at Guantanamo Bay and would spread to U.S. detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the Abu Ghraib prison. Nearly all were later rescinded.

The newly released documents show that in the summer of 2002, Pentagon officials compiled lists of aggressive techniques, soliciting opinions from the CIA and others, and ultimately implementing the practices over opposition from military lawyers who argued that the proposed tactics were probably illegal and could harm U.S. troops.

The memos and other evidence evoked intense bipartisan condemnation from members of the Armed Services Committee who spent nearly eight hours grilling some of the former and current officials involved with the decisions.

"The guidance that was provided during this period of time, I think, will go down in history as some of the most irresponsible and shortsighted legal analysis ever provided to our nation's military and intelligence communities," said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).

Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), the committee chairman, asked: "How on Earth did we get to the point where a United States government lawyer would say that . . . torture is subject to perception?"
In what is probably the most incendiary memo of all those released, Fredman and ten DoD officials and attorneys discussed torture with a banality befitting a standing lunch order. In that meeting, Fredman, whose agency had already received permission from the administration to torture suspected terrorists laid out the key considerations to establishing a similar program pogrom at the Cuban gulag. He discussed the advantages and disadvantages of recording the torture on video, enthusiastically touted waterboarding, and calmly discussed methods to keep those meddling do-gooders from the International Committee of the Red Cross from interfering with the good time that stood to be had by all. "If someone dies while aggressive techniques are being used, regardless of the cause of death, the backlash of attention would be severely detrimental," he was quoted as saying.

A CIA spokesman refused to comment on the remarks by Fredman and instead attempted to sidestep the issue of responsibility and shift that to Yoo, Addison, Gonzales et al, while still maintaining - without one iota of evidence - that torture had saved lives. "The far more important point is the fact that CIA's terrorist interrogation program has operated on the basis of measured, detailed legal guidance from the Department of Justice," he said. "The agency program, which has been carefully reviewed within our government, has disrupted terrorist plots and saved innocent lives."

In spite of all evidence to the contrary, Tony Fratto spit in the face of logic, reason and truth and insisted that "abuse of detainees has never been, is not, and will never be the policy of this government."

In spite of all evidence to the contrary - that torture not only doesn't work, but is actually detrimental to gathering usable, reliable intel, Fredman's advocacy struck a courd with a lot of Pentagon officers who need to be cashiered out as e1s. In the following weeks, these disgraces to their uniforms goosestepped toward fascism and fell in line behind some of the worst humanity has offered throughout history, including the Nazis, Hirohitos army and the perpetrator of the Spanish Inquisition.
Among those questioned yesterday about decisions was William J. "Jim" Haynes II, a former Defense Department general counsel who acknowledged pressing for more aggressive techniques but said the decisions were driven by the administration's fear of more terrorist strikes.

"What I remember about the summer of 2002 was a government-wide concern about the possibility of another terrorist attack as the anniversary of September 11" approached, Haynes said. He also cited "widespread frustration" among Pentagon officials that summer about the slow progress on obtaining information from Guantanamo Bay detainees.
At the time, Pentagon officials acknowledged that the proposed methods faced opposition from experts specializing in international and military law. One of those objecting was Mark Fallon, deputy commander of the Defense Department's Criminal Investigation Task Force. In mid-October 2002, Fallon sent a prescient email to his Penatagon colleagues in which he warned that the techniques that were being pursued would cause a backlash when what was going on would inevitably come out, and America and the world would recoil in horror at what was transpiring. "This looks like the kind of stuff Congressional hearings are made of," Fallon wrote. "Someone needs to be considering how history will look back at this."

Would that they had heeded his warning. But no one did, and now look where we are. Standing nose to nose and attempting to retrieve our nation from the banality of evil that has been allowed to run roughshod over everything we were raised to believe America stood for.

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