Tuesday, April 28, 2009

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Monday, April 27, 2009

The Bush White House's Appalling and Evil Legacy: Now We Know the Whole Story

By Frank Rich, The New York Times
Posted on April 27, 2009, Printed on April 27, 2009

We don't like our evil to be banal. Ten years after Columbine, it only now may be sinking in that the psychopathic killers were not jock-hating dorks from a "Trench Coat Mafia," or, as ABC News maintained at the time, "part of a dark, underground national phenomenon known as the Gothic movement." In the new best seller "Columbine," the journalist Dave Cullen reaffirms that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were instead ordinary American teenagers who worked at the local pizza joint, loved their parents and were popular among their classmates.

On Tuesday, it will be five years since Americans first confronted the photographs from Abu Ghraib on "60 Minutes II." Here, too, we want to cling to myths that quarantine the evil. If our country committed torture, surely it did so to prevent Armageddon, in a patriotic ticking-time-bomb scenario out of "24." If anyone deserves blame, it was only those identified by President Bush as "a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values": promiscuous, sinister-looking lowlifes like Lynddie England, Charles Graner and the other grunts who were held accountable while the top command got a pass.

We've learned much, much more about America and torture in the past five years. But as Mark Danner recently wrote in The New York Review of Books, for all the revelations, one essential fact remains unchanged: "By no later than the summer of 2004, the American people had before them the basic narrative of how the elected and appointed officials of their government decided to torture prisoners and how they went about it." When the Obama administration said it declassified four new torture memos 10 days ago in part because their contents were already largely public, it was right.

Yet we still shrink from the hardest truths and the bigger picture: that torture was a premeditated policy approved at our government's highest levels; that it was carried out in scenarios that had no resemblance to "24"; that psychologists and physicians were enlisted as collaborators in inflicting pain; and that, in the assessment of reliable sources like the F.B.I. director Robert Mueller, it did not help disrupt any terrorist attacks.

The newly released Justice Department memos, like those before them, were not written by barely schooled misfits like England and Graner. John Yoo, Steven Bradbury and Jay Bybee graduated from the likes of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Michigan and Brigham Young. They have passed through white-shoe law firms like Covington & Burling, and Sidley Austin.

Judge Bybee's rsum tells us that he has four children and is both a Cubmaster for the Boy Scouts and a youth baseball and basketball coach...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Report: Abusive tactics used to seek Iraq-al Qaida link

Jonathan S. Landay | McClatchy Newspapers

last updated: April 22, 2009 07:42:11 PM

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist.

Such information would've provided a foundation for one of former President George W. Bush's main arguments for invading Iraq in 2003. In fact, no evidence has ever been found of operational ties between Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and Saddam's regime.

The use of abusive interrogation — widely considered torture — as part of Bush's quest for a rationale to invade Iraq came to light as the Senate issued a major report tracing the origin of the abuses and President Barack Obama opened the door to prosecuting former U.S. officials for approving them.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and others who advocated the use of sleep deprivation, isolation and stress positions and waterboarding, which simulates drowning, insist that they were legal.

A former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the interrogation issue said that Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration....


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Juan Cole explains:

Harman Scandal: All about War on Iran

Two things here. It should be remembered that this whole affair has been about getting up a war on Iran. That was the point of Franklin leaking to Rosen and Weissman in the first place. Someone should go back through Harman's statements on Iran.

Second, the transcript should be released and if it is as alleged, Harman must resign. Congress declares wars or implicitly authorizes them. American soldiers have a right to know that the representatives who send them to war are doing so on behalf of US interests. And that congressional intelligence reports are not plants by a foreign intelligence service.

Let us just stop and review what is being alleged, and to underline what it means for US security and policy.

The US is spied on, and a classified Pentagon document is passed to the Israeli embassy by AIPAC officials. They are caught because the FBI had them under surveillance. Apparently the FBI is one of the few US government institutions that is not corrupt on the issue of foreign influence on US institutions and policy. Then when the two AIPAC spies are indicted, a Mossad agent attempts to derail the prosecution by suborning a member of Congress and promising her the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee.

Harman is denying it all, of course. But then so did Rosen and Weissman deny it all (or allege that the lack of a US official secrets act means that their passing of a classified Pentagon document to a Mossad agent was not in fact treason or illegal). Harman's denial is clever, since the NSA wiretap is presumably classified, and so she can't be contradicted until the document is released. ... http://www.juancole.com/2009/04/harman-scandal-all-abou...
21 Apr 2009 11:34 am
Andrew Sullivan asks:
Is Cheney Panicking?

The one thing you saw most plainly in the Plame affair is how obsessed Dick Cheney is with public image, the chattering classes and spinning stories that might reflect poorly on him. The act is the elder statesman, authoritatively reviewing the world scene, soberly making judgments, calmly explaining it later to those pesky people who are required to elect you every four years. The reality is a man who lost it on 9/11, leapt immediately to apocalyptic conclusions, and then, as the dust cleared, was unable to go back on the war crimes he had authorized and so dug in ever more deeply to justify them. I don't think anyone begrudges that kind of misjudgment at the beginning, although one would have hoped for calmer heads in a crisis, but the attempt to institutionalize the torture of first resort into an entire program of black sites, torture manuals, Orwellian euphemisms, and legal fantasy was bound, like the institutionalization of Gitmo, to collapse under any successor who actually wanted to return the US to the rule of law and the world of civilized nations.

Did Cheney believe he could hide all this for ever?

Did he believe that hundreds of randomly seized human beings could be consigned to the black hole of Gitmo for ever? And was he really going to launch this kind of appalling attacks on his successors whenever they tried to move past this stuff or be forced, by the law itself and the Geneva Conventions, to investigate and prosecute violations of core human rights?

The ratcheting up of the rhetoric - “I think you have to be very careful. The world outside there — both our friends and our foes –will be quick to advantage of a situation if they think they’re dealing with a weak president or one who’s not going to stand up and aggressively defend America’s interests" - is particularly Weimar. He's lashing out now, and using his surrogates to write chilling op-eds defending all of it. I see this as a sign of weakness, not strength. Obama draws these people out like moths to the flame.

That flame is the truth. Let us see it all.

more at:

Monday, April 20, 2009

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Jane Harman: Double Agent

The allegation against Representative Jane Harman were made by two former officials who told "Congressional Quarterly" that she was taped by the National Security Agency on a court-approved wiretap.

According to the former officials, Mrs Harman, who is Jewish, told the suspected agent that she would "waddle into" a case involving two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the dominant pro-Israel lobby group "if you think it'll make a difference"...

One former official involved in the AIPAC case was quoted as saying that the Bush administration's decision not to pursue Mrs Harman was the "deepest kind of corruption" possible. "It's a story about the corruption of government - not legal corruption necessarily, but ethical corruption."


Harman responds to CQ: Report ‘recycles three year-old descredited reporting.’

Rep. Jane Harman’s (D-CA) office issued a statement this afternoon responding to a story by CQ’s Jeff Stein, which reports that the NSA caught Harman offering a quid pro quo to unnamed Israeli agents in return for their help in becoming House Intelligence Committee chair. The report also said that then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales stopped an FBI investigation into Harman’s quid pro quo deal because he needed her help to sell the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Harman’s statement denies the report and deflects blame onto the Bush administration for wiretapping a Member of Congress:

The CQ Politics story simply recycles three year-old discredited reporting of largely unsourced material to manufacture a ’scoop’ out of widely known and unremarkable facts – that Congresswoman Jane Harman is and has long been a supporter of AIPAC, and that some members of AIPAC regarded her as well-qualified to chair the House Intelligence Committee following the 2006 elections. Congresswoman Harman has never contacted the Justice Department about its prosecution of present or former AIPAC employees and the Department has never informed her that she was or is the subject of or involved in an investigation. If there is anything about this story that should arouse concern, it is that the Bush Administration may have been engaged in electronic surveillance of members of the congressional Intelligence Committees.

Harman’s statement appears not to have fully addressed the issue regarding Gonzales, simply stating that the Department of Justice “has never informed her that she was or is the subject of or involved in an investigation.” This, of course, leaves open the possibility that an official from another executive department or a member of Congress told her of the case.

Update: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is calling for Congress and the Justice Department to launch an investigation into Harman's activities...
http://thinkprogress.org/2009/04/20/harman-respons-cq /

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The ultimate reaping of what one sows: right-wing edition

(updated below - Update II)

Right-wing polemicists today are shrieking in self-pitying protest over a new report from the Department of Homeland Security sent to local police forces which warns of growing "right-wing extremist activity." The report (.pdf) identifies attributes of these right-wing extremists, warning that a growing domestic threat of violence and terrorism "may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single-issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration" and "groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority."

Conservatives have responded to this disclosure as though they're on the train to FEMA camps. The Right's leading political philosopher and intellectual historian, Jonah Goldberg, invokes fellow right-wing giant Ronald Reagan and says: "Here we go Again," protesting that "this seems so nakedly ideological." Michelle Malkin, who spent the last eight years cheering on every domestic surveillance and police state program she could find, announces that it's "Confirmed: The Obama DHS hit job on conservatives is real!" Lead-War-on-Terror-cheerleader Glenn Reynolds warns that DHS -- as a result of this report (but not, apparently, anything that happened over the last eight years) -- now considers the Constitution to be a "subversive manifesto." Super Tough Guy Civilization-Warrior Mark Steyn has already concocted an elaborate, detailed martyr fantasy in which his house is surrounded by Obama-dispatched, bomb-wielding federal agents. Malkin's Hot Air stomps its feet about all "the smears listed in the new DHS warning about 'right-wing extremism.'"

It's certainly true that federal police efforts directed at domestic political movements -- even ones with a history of inspiring violence in both the distant and recent past -- require real vigilance and oversight, and it's also true that the DHS description of these groups seems excessively broad with the potential for mischief. But the political faction screeching about the dangers of the DHS is the same one that spent the last eight years vastly expanding the domestic Surveillance State and federal police powers in every area. DHS -- and the still-creepy phrase "homeland security" -- became George Bush's calling card. The Republicans won the 2002 election by demonizing those who opposed its creation. All of the enabling legislation underlying this Surveillance State -- from the Patriot Act to the Military Commissions Act, from the various FISA "reforms" to massive increases in domestic "counter-Terrorism" programs -- are the spawns of the very right-wing movement that today is petrified that this is all being directed at them.

When you cheer on a Surveillance State, you have no grounds to complain when it turns its eyes on you...