Kirk Lippold, Gitmo Architect, Still Making Torture Cool

I previously wrote about Kirk Lippold earlier this month, when the Obama Administration dropped charges against Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the Cole bombing. Just as a Bush Dead-Ender judge was forcing Obama’s hand by refusing to put off al-Nashiri’s trial, Lippold, former Commander of the USS Cole, hit the airwaves, bitching about how Obama was holding up justice for the families of the Cole victims.

Somehow, the news sources quoting Lippold never asked why (with one exception) he hadn’t been bitching for the previous eight years, when Bush and Clinton failed to prosecute any of the Cole bombers.

Nor did the news sources quoting Lippold reveal something just as pertinent to his complaints that Obama was letting a Gitmo detainee free as his role as Cole Commander: Lippold was himself one of the architects of Gitmo policy.

With yesterday’s release of Binyam Mohamed, Lippold is back, attacking Obama for making the country less safe.

This unprecedented release of an enemy combatant, who has already targeted the United States, clearly shows that despite the promises that President Obama made to keep this country safe, he may be putting political promises ahead of our national security. The laundry list of charges against Binyam Mohamed, many of which he has admitted to, makes it blatantly clear that it is not if he will attack the United States, but only when his attack will happen.

And, with the help of Military Families United (which seems to have been set up to push Obama to be belligerent as possible and which seems to have been the catalyst behind Lippold’s new chatty ways), Lippold’s attacks are getting play. 

Kudos to Carol Rosenberg, alone among journalists picking up Lippold’s release, for identifying Lippold with his Gitmo role.

A Bush administration era architect of Guantánamo policy resurrected the dirty bomb allegation and accused Obama of "clearly taking actions that may endanger the United States and our national interests.”

Retired Navy Cmdr. Kirk Lippold, whose destroyer the USS Cole was struck by suicide bombers in October 2000, said in a statement issued by the advocacy group Military Families United: "Americans must now be very watchful of every action the Obama administration takes in war on terror.”

The AP, though, makes no mention of Lippold’s role in designing Gitmo.

Some criticized Mohamed’s release, saying Monday that no detainees should have been freed before their status was reviewed under an executive order Obama issued last month.

"President Obama ordered a 180-day review to determine the status of the detainees, so it’s unclear to me why Mr. Mohamed has been released without such a review,” said retired Navy Cmdr. Kirk Lippold who was in charge of the USS Cole when it was attacked by suicide bombers in 2000.

The Baltimore Republican Examiner, calls on Obama to ignore ACLU and instead listen to Lippold, even while it hides Lippold’s own ties to Gitmo.

Commander Kirk Lippold, the former commanding officer of the USS Cole stated that "[t]his unprecedented release of an enemy combatant, who has already targeted the United States, clearly shows that despite the promises that President Obama made to keep this country safe, he may be putting political promises ahead of our national security."

Obama needs to listen to the victims of terrorist attacks, such as CDR Lippold instead of the ACLU or Human Rights Watch, if he wants to keep this country safe.

Now even assuming the charge sheet against Mohamed–which relies on Abu Zubaydah’s testimony made under torture as well as Mohamed’s own tortured confession, and which was dismissed last fall–is true, he still has absolutely no connection to the Cole bombing (indeed, he arrived in Afghanistan in 2001, after the bombing). 

Yet the same cannot be said of Lippold’s own role in US treatment of Mohamed.

He recently served as Deputy Division Chief and Politico-Military Planner, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Directorate for Strategic Plans and Policy (J-5), War on Terrorism Division, where he was instrumental in crafting detainee policy for the war on terrorism during its initial stages following the 9/11 attacks.

Lippold was there, crafting detainee policy, before Mohamed was arrested and sent to Morocco to be tortured. Yet somehow that’s not how the press wants to describe Lippold’s stake in Mohamed’s release. 

28 replies
  1. skdadl says:

    Fascinating, if also a bit chilling. Figures like Lippold are giving me uncomfortable memories of, eg, France in the late 1950s, early 1960s, when a lot of French officers were returning from Algeria deeply resentful of De Gaulle. The misinformation and the levels of patriotic rhetoric are a political problem all on their own.

  2. Jkat says:

    as far as i’m concerned .. if lippold is retired and drawing a pension .. he falls under the jurisdiction of the UCMJ ..and his remarks .. imo .. place him in violation of article 88 .. which is “contempt for officials” ..which reads:

    “Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

  3. BoxTurtle says:

    I really think Mohamed will be the case that rips the lid off of Gitmo. The Brits have been pretty mild so far, pretty much giving BUshCo everything they wanted in court. But even the Brits have limits to what they’ll tolerate us doing to their citizens.

    I’m thinking once he really starts talking, the Brits are going to tell us politely to shove our intelligence sharing. And then they’re going to present us with some extradition requests.

    Boxturtle (And there will be Democrat names as well as BushCo names on that paperwork)

  4. bmaz says:

    Now even assuming the charge sheet against Mohamed–which relies on Abu Zubaydah’s testimony made under torture as well as Mohamed’s own tortured confession

    Got news for Lippold and the torture mongers, the only thing that two similar tortured confessions corroborates is that you torture people, not that the information planted and extracted is credible.

  5. JimWhite says:

    So, if “Lippold was there, crafting detainee policy, before Mohamed was arrested and sent to Morocco to be tortured.“, then that means to me that it can be argued that it is Lippold’s fault that such a “dangerous” person is being released. Someone should point that out to him.

    Politely, of course.

  6. Mary says:

    Lippold sounds like a guy who was comfy with other incompetents who also had reasons to cover up their failures, but now is pretty worried that someone might actually take a long, hard look at his performance and the Cole tragedy. It’s one thing to have secret trials of those you can torture into saying anything you want – it’s something else to show up and explain your own failure under the bright lights with unflinching questions.

    Not that it will happen, though, since we are all about the Kumbayah. The sad part is the families being jacked around as propaganda props. I’m sure they still believe Rumsfeld’s “worst of the worst” and, with their dead and maimed children, spouses, etc. on their mind they don’t understand that an innocent released detaineeould writing a NYT op piece is going to be called a return to the battlefield – the victims of battle in their minds aren’t Cheney’s ego, but something very much more tangible and something they have nightmares about.

    The problem is that by Obama playing into the role of “yes, they are all terrorists, but we’ll give them trials and close GITMO” instead of coming right out and saying – the problem with GITMO and our other concentrated population detention centers is that we grab innocent people and torture them – that’s why he is in a no win situation on issues like this with families of terrorism victims.

    He won’t admit to the innocent detentions, bc then he is admitting to clear Geneva violations on a mass scale and making everyone involved with the process war criminals and he doesn’t have the guts for that, esp when he needs the military to try to make him look good in Iraq and Afghanistan. And if he doesn’t admit to the innocent detentions, the torture, the bad information from torture, etc. – then he can never explain to the families who dream of the children literally being blown into pieces – he can’t explain to them why he is doing what he is doing.

    They don’t care if the monster who blew their children up got his penis cut – they’ve volunteer to do it. And no one is just fessing up that instead of the monsters, we rounded up all kinds of innocent people. Without that part of the equation, there can’t be any solutions.

    To reference the farside comic, Obama is just making a longer and longer string on the equation before he gets to the “then a miracle happens” point. imo

  7. Mary says:

    This unprecedented release of an enemy combatant, who has already targeted the United States

    emph added

    So, did no one question the “who has already targeted” part either?

    Keep in mind that all through the Padilla detentions, DOJ knew that they were doing that to an American citizen on American soil based on statements tortured out of a crazy man and statements tortured out of a guy having his penis razored.

  8. skdadl says:

    I knew that Mohamed had confessed to visiting a website that pretended to describe how to build a nuclear weapon but was clearly satirical, but I didn’t know until I read her column in Saturday’s Guardian that one of the authors of that satire was Barbara Ehrenreich, who wrote it with one of her colleagues and a physicist they brought in as adviser. She quotes from her own work:

    The satire was not subtle. After discussing the toxicity of plutonium, we advised that to avoid ingesting it orally, “Never make an A-bomb on an empty stomach”, and explained that the challenge of enriching uranium hexafluoride, which included the instruction: “Attach a six-foot rope to a bucket handle. Now swing the rope (and bucket) around your head as fast as possible. Keep this up for about 45 minutes. Slow down gradually, and very gently put the bucket on the floor. The U-235, which is lighter, will have risen to the top, where it can be skimmed off like cream.”

    … It’s not clear how the news of Mohamed’s H-bomb knowledge was conveyed to Washington – many documents remain classified or have not been released – but Stafford Smith speculates that the part about the H-bomb got through, although not the part about the joke. The result, anyhow, was that Mohamed was thrust into a world of unending pain – tortured at the US prison in Baghram, rendered to Morocco for 18 months of further torture, including repeated cutting of his penis with a scalpel, and finally landing in Guantánamo for almost five years of more mundane abuse.

    I guess I don’t need to point out to anyone here how many levels of failure of both competence and principle that story suggests, but I also doubt that Cmdr Lippold is ever gonna learn the lesson no matter what proof he is shown.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      Anybody who has visited Wiki has visited a website with directions to build nuclear bomb. The U235 device is simple, I could buy everything I needed to make one at Home Depot except the U235.

      In fact, Scientific American noted recent research that said given the current purity of weapons grade U235 (90%+), you had a 50/50 chance of generating a 1 Kiloton or larger explosion by simply dropping a 15 lb chunk on a another 15 lb chunk from waist height.

      They can run with the scary nuke building terrorist story for awhile, but eventually Mohamad is going to be interviewed on TV. I’m sure at that point, the story will change to “No comment”.

      Boxturtle (Note DHS monitor: I have Yellowcake in my kitchen. It’s hidden under the vanilla frosting)

      • BoxTurtle says:

        Argh! Correction: 15 KILO chunk, not 15 LB chunk.

        Boxturtle (English. Metric. Whatever. How many knots in a furlong?)

  9. Jkat says:

    if lippold had followed the correct security procedures .. the cole would never have been hit .. and the ship had no business docking in yemen in the first place .. he’s the incompetent ..

  10. JohnJ says:

    Are we sure that Bush types realize that swinging it in a bucket wouldn’t work? That is that pointy headed science kinda’ stuff.

  11. drational says:

    It’s probably a good idea to look at who is paying the bills for Military Families United, which “was founded in the summer of 2008 as a not-for-profit, non-partisan 501c4 organization committed to supporting America’s military families.”

    The current President, John Ellsworth was previously associated with “Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission”, a “Progress for America”-funded group aimed at faking grassroots support for the war.…..ir_Mission

    Lippold seems to be in a post-election swift-boat group exploiting devastated families to harass Obama.

  12. JohnLopresti says:

    I think Lippold is voicing more than a few feelings, some of them his own frustration at the early thin level of support in his boat’s deployment, the laxity of management of dangerous waters where he was when the incident occurred, the slow pace of investigation until wider deployment of US forces in the region, and new found international interest in upgrading security related to the piracy brand of terrism. I think he is mixing his messages, albeit with vigor. I was mindful of another, much earlier strident voice from his service, the navy.

    Also, incident related, Crawford earlier this month acted to halt prosecution of one of the Cole bombing accused, as well.

  13. timbo says:

    Now that’s good reporting for you–actually connecting the dots. They put a guy, whose career was probably ruined by a terrorist bombing, in charge of policy for detainees at Gitmo. Then the guy doesn’t complain about lack of charges against the folks held in the facility he helped create to deny suspected terrorists their human rights. Next, after there is a change in regime, where they’ll likely close his “terrorist” concentration camp, he starts demanding justice? WTF?!

  14. LabDancer says:

    From his media appearances, it’s pretty clear that Lippold is pursuing the same post-service career path as Joe The not-a-plumber Plumber. Expect a forthcoming fellowship at AEI.

  15. Nell says:

    Spot-on about Obama’s approach.

    He’s actually legitimized, by meeting publicly with them, the operatives from “Military Families United”, whose statements and make it clear they’re a rightist harrassment operation.

    But has Obama met with lawyers for the prisoners, the only realistic channel of communication to them? Nope. Not even in private. He’s pushing the “they’re all dangerous, any release is risky” meme (most directly and horribly in his pre-Super Bowl interview).

    He’s accepting Adm. Walsh’s whitewash of Guantanamo conditions. They’re going ahead full force with the force feeding of the hunger strikers, while doing nothing to try to end the strike by actually communicating with the prisoners or significantly improving conditions or — the real point — being honest about release timelines.

    Read what one of the show-trial prosecutors who resigned recommends be done (one of the best of the Talking Dog’s many interviews with figures involved with the U.S. war on terra), and see if you can imagine Pres. Obama and Sec. Gates following his advice.

    • Valtin says:

      Maybe he’s so accepting of the Walsh report because they both worked for the same office in the Pentagon. Walsh is Vice Chief of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. According to Military Families, Lippold’s “most recent assignment prior to retirement was as Section Chief for Regional Affairs, International Strategy Division in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.”

      Here’s another coincidence, which can be filed under stranger than fiction. From History Commons:

      At the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, three senior CIA officers—John Russack, Don Kerr, and Charlie Allen—are having breakfast with Navy Commander Kirk Lippold. Lippold was the commanding officer of the USS Cole when it was attacked in Yemen the previous year (see October 12, 2000). The men’s discussion is focused on terrorism. Lippold is upset that the American public still does not recognize the threat it poses, and says that it will take a “seminal event” to awaken them to the problem. Following the breakfast, Lippold heads to the Counterterrorist Center at CIA headquarters for some briefings. Just minutes later, after the WTC is hit, Charlie Allen will contact Lippold and tell him, “The seminal event just happened.” (Tenet 2007, pp. 162-163)

      The same story essentially is in Kessler’s The CIA at War, pp. 264-65. Btw, Don Kerr is Donald M. Kerr, who was former director at Los Alamos, former head of the FBI lab, and in Sept. 2001 was the Chief of the Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T) , CIA. — Yes, Lippold has some very interesting connections. So… Lippold is at CTC on 9/11 when the planes hit. While I don’t see more in this than coincidence, it does demonstrate that he is no merely patriotic hero or scapegoat, or even a wingnut. He is something more…

    • 4jkb4ia says:

      Thanks, Nell. I can imagine the Obama admin doing this with some pressure not to set up a “national security court” or similar.

  16. Nell says:

    Need more indications that Military Families United is a rightist hit group?

    Military Families Group Launches Ad Against Release of Binyam Mohamed

    With a buy it says is in the mid six figure range, the group Military Families United says it will launch a new TV ad, as soon as tomorrow night, on national cable stations.

    The add [sic] features no spoken words, but rather very spooky music and images of court documents as these words are typed on the screen:

    “Binyam Mohamed. Enemy Combatant #1458. Alias: Talba al Kini, Fouad Zouaoui, Binyam Ahmed Mohammad, John Samuels.

    “Trained in Al-Qaeda camps to use weapons and create explosives. Given money by Al-Qaeda leaders to fly to the United States. Arrested trying to leave Pakistan.

    “In February 2009: Enemy Combatant #1458, RELEASED.”

    The screen goes black.

    Then: “Tell the White House: Don’t release terrorists. Sign the petition today. Paid for by Military Families United.”

    Oh, and be sure to check out the link for Robt Gibbs’ stirring defense of releasing detainees. It’s Exhibit A for the points Mary makes in #7 above.

    • Valtin says:

      Where’d they get their money? You know how many non-profits would die for the ability to put out an ad “in the mid six figure range.”

  17. KenMuldrew says:

    To reference the farside comic, Obama is just making a longer and longer string on the equation before he gets to the “then a miracle happens” point.

    A small correction: the cartoon is actually by Sidney Harris.

  18. maeme says:

    Somebody is backing them with that kinda of dough. There are still so many dead-enders in the Pentagon – it is frightening. Anyone catch all the clapping Gates was doing for Obama tonight?

    Bush is going on a speaking tour in Europe – anxious to see if the cries from overseas for his arrest are fact or fiction.

  19. onwatch says:

    Architecture is an inherently optimistic profession. The signifier “Architect” should not be used as a label for nilihists.

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