Archive for the ‘CIA’ category

Torture or Cruel Treatment?

March 4, 2008

It takes a strong stomach and clothes pin on your nose to say out loud, “I am proud to be an American with a President like George W Bush”.  With over 300 prisoners housed at Guantanamo and no prospect on what their fates will be, George and his boss, Dick Cheney, are getting ready to leave a gift for the next Administration that will keep on giving.

1. There is no precedent in American history for detaining prisoners this long without charges and without some type of review process.  American history has a foundation of due process and habeas corpus, but maybe C+ students at Yale do not learn that.

2. The War Crimes trials that followed WWII were open and the evidence was presented for all to see.  Prisoners were accorded the full protection of the Geneva Convention (the 1929 version).  The Guantanamo prisoners have been denied representation and any evidence the Military (read Bush Administration) choses to call classified.  The Military Commissions are a shame and unworthy of America. 

3. The nation’s top Chicken Hawks, George W Bush and Dick Cheney are wonderful examples of personal bravery.  Bush joined the National Guard and when it looked like his unit might be deployed to Vietnam, he suddenly refused to take his flight physical and was not able to deploy with his unit.  Cheney used 5 separate deferments to avoid military service and any exposure to Vietnam.  But both of these tough guys think waterboarding and other forms of extreme interrogation are appropriate and desirable.

President Bush has said “the US does not torture”.  It seems this pledge hangs on the definition of torture.  Early in the Bush Administration, torture was defined as pain akin to organ failure.  This was later repudiated by the Justice Department.  But our “ends justify the means” President is not easily deterred.  He is ok with “cruel treatment” that stops short of torture (without defining).  Is this the America you are proud of?

Instead of giving out pardons at the end of his term (like to Scooter Libby and other patriots), Bush should free all the Guantanamo prisoners.  If that is not acceptable or considered too high a risk, then they should be moved to the US and brought before US Courts.  All evidence should be in the open and those who are really the bad of the bad, should be dealt appropriate punishment.  For those where charges can not be brought or where the Court throws out the charges, they should be sent back to their home countries.  Once accomplished, a new day will dawn in America and we can once again say we are a land of laws and respect for the dignity of others.

Darth Speaks

February 8, 2008

CIA Director Michael Hayden told Congress yesterday that “waterboarding is necessary although probably not legal”.  He confirmed that three “high value” prisoners had received this type of interrogation in 2002-2003 period.  He said it was no longer used because there were legal opinions that the technique did not comply with statutes.  Unbelievable that a four star general (Hayden) could say that waterboarding was ok unless otherwise outlawed.  So if Americans were held by another country, say Russia, Syria, or China for example, they should expect to be exposed to waterboarding if the circumstances warranted.

What has happened to common sense?  Or what about a sense of history.  Waterboarding was introduced by those wonderful worshipers of God in the Spanish Inquisition.  It is explicitely outlawed by the Geneva Convention, and anyone seeking moral high ground in dealing with other cultures would ensure that they did not practice this deranged behavior.

Remember the notion of “tone at the top” and how the example set by the senior most officials is mirrored by those lower in the organization?  Abu Ghraib was not the result of a few bad apples but instead the expected outcome of a Presidency gone astray.  And the architect of Abu Ghraib and waterboarding?  Why none other than Dick “chief chicken hawk” Cheney.

Cheney was quoted yesterday as saying waterboarding was good because it was useful in interrogating the 3 high value prisoners.  (Ends justify the means?)  Cheney speaks volumes when he speaks like this.  Forget the rule of law, it is our intentions that should count.  This is precisely the problem that has us now mired in the muck in Iraq.  Cheney and friends were sure it was the right thing to do when we illegally invaded Iraq.  He was so sure that he invaded without adequate equipment, no plan for how to win the peace and no exit strategy.  Our behavior in Iraq has been easy for other Arabs to understand.  Might makes right. 

Wanted: A Coherent Policy

January 28, 2008

Over the past week, the US’s top two spooks, Mike Mc Connell, Director of National Intelligence, and General Michael Hayden, Director of the CIA, visited Pakistan and met with President Pervez Musharaf.  The purpose of their meeting was to gain Pakistan’s permission to expand covert operation against al Qaeda and Taliban members currently living in the Pakistan regions boardering Afghanistan.  Musharaf’s answer was publicly “no”.  We do not know what was really said.

The point here does not depend upon Musharaf’s answer.  The mere fact that America’s two top “Intellignece” officials needed to ask sheds further light on the Bush/Cheney failed Presidencey.  When the Taliban were driven from power in late 2001, there was need for (1) ensuring the Taliban movement was ended, and (2) resolve for assisting in the establishment of a sound Afghan Government.  Instead the White House took out the Iraq drum, and while Pearl, Wolfowitz, and Feith fiddled, Cheney and Bush beat the Iraq War drum.  Iraq was totally unrelated to Afghanistan, yet our leaders pushed the Country into an unnecessary and expensive war.  The greater cost will likely turn out to be the lost opportunity cost associated with not having fixed Afghanistan before looking elsewhere for “bad people”.  Look at things today:

1. Pakistan is under great pressure from its own internal politics.  It is a poor country with a huge population and little hope for them to rise in living standards.  This is fresh meat for any religion but especially so for the more radical elements of Islam.

2. Pakistan has nuclear weapons and a past history of sharing their know how.  The Country is unmanageable by normal democratic means and has been for decades.  The last thing anyone needed was the Taliban setting up shop in the boarder regions.  Yet for 6 years the Bush Administration has, by neglect, allowed that to happen.

3. The Afghan Government is extremely fragile and largely controls only the capital Kabul.  The bureaucracy is based upon bribes (Government pay is so low that bribes continue to be the way of life).  The everyday person can hardly say they are better off in practice with “democracy” than with the Taliban.

4. The other “elephant in the room” is the long history of growing poppies and the drug trade it feeds.  This is the source of foreign exchange and to end it, presents a large political problem.  To not end it, dooms any Afghan Government.

5. Just as the US funded and supplied the Mujahideen in their fight against the Russians (Charlie Wilson’s War), there are today plenty of willing Countries who are and will continue to fund the Taliban insurgents as long as the US does not convince them to cease.

In short, Afghanistan is a mess.   Pakistan, especially the boarder region, is a mess.  The US is trapped in Iraq (which once we let up on the gas will be a mess).  The Middle East is a mess with the motives and behaviors of Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia unpredictable.  In a parlimentary form of government, there would be a vote of no confidence in the Bush regime and a new Administration would be asked to get to work.

The need for a coherent policy is based upon the lack of any now, or for the last 7 years.  The Taliban arose when the Russians were defeated and the US had a hand in that.  The Taliban was defeated following 9/11.  In both cases, it appears no one has seen the need to focus on building a stable Afghanistan that could provide its people with a better life.  You are left to wonder why Bush and Cheney thought the US could do it in Iraq when it had failed in Afghanistan.  Even scarier is the thought that Bush and Cheney thought we had succeeded in Afghanistan.    

How to Stop a Boomerang

December 11, 2007

Many people are scratching their heads again and wondering how this water boarding thing got back in the news.  The President distinctly said “we do not torture”.  And the Vice President tilted his head and said “the President said we do not torture”.  Why then do we get upset when a couple of CIA interrogation videos got destroyed?  The answer is we do not believe them.  Here is a scenario (set in 2005) that might explain it

VP: “Scooter, get rid of those tapes.  I just don’t think we can explain the value of the information we got versus the impression some of the bleeding hearts would get”.

Scooter: “Yes Dick.  Should I use the normal method”?

VP: “Of course.  Get the lawyers to sign off and if they won’t get new lawyers.  Then pick someone near retirement and verbally promise that person a 7 figure job and a pardon if this thing blows up.”

Scooter: ” Do you think this could unraveling and point back at us?”

VP: “No chance.  Nobody believes lawyers, sorry Scooter, anyways.  The CIA can claim approval and then deflect the storm by saying Congress was fully informed”.  The Congress is so compromised trying to be tough and progressive, religious and non-secular, and for the poor guy while taking a ton of money from the rich, that they will stammer and stutter and this thing will blow over.”

Scooter: “Sounds brilliant, Dick”

VP: “The best part, Scooter, is that we started all this by pushing those weak kneed civil rights people out of the way.  We will keep moving in new CIA management and soon no one will be in charge who was around when the tapes were destroyed.  There will be no footprints leading to my door!”

 The “tone at the top” of any organization sets in motion unpredictable secondary reactions in middle and lower levels of the organization.  If your intentions are to follow the constitution and respect both human and civil rights, you must set this message clear at the beginning by those at the very top.  You must also employ an effective inspector general role in independently confirming the compliance of the organization in every day operations.  The Bush/Cheney crowd have done exactly the opposite and we have the results to show.

Missing – 18 Minutes and 2 Videos

December 8, 2007

I never could understand why Richard Nixon did not destroy the White House tape recordings immediately and never have gotten to the need to transpose them.  The CIA apparently has been paying attention and is said to have destroyed two video recordings of “interrogation” of CIA guests.  The CIA, however, waited too long and apparently destroyed them with a pending subpeana for all videos in force.  The CIA also added insult to injury by saying they destroyed the tapes so that al Qaeda would not find out who the interrogators were and then come after them.  (Seems a little late to close the barn door.)

The CIA has always liked to march to a different drummer.  They have often taken the position that all they rules do not apply to them.  This could be the case this time but I don’t think so.  I believe this is simply another example of the Bush/Cheney dysfunctional “tone at the top” encouraging the CIA to get rid of the evidence.  It will be interesting to see if the Administration finds another Scooter Libby to take the fall so that they can do the old pardon thing again.

You have to ask yourself why the CIA would  have made a recording in the first place.  Was it for training purposes?  Was it for later use in court proceedings?  Was it for fun?  Was it to show future prisoners and scare the heck out of them?  Who knows but certainly they must have know that viewed out of context, the video would make Abu Ghraib look like routine military procedure.

George Bush and Dick Cheney are the dynamic duo who just keep giving.