It’s Not the Water-Boarding, It’s the Blows to the Head

Just to lay out a few details based on this article explaining that Obama continues to waver on what parts of the 2005 Bradbury torture memos to reveal. (h/t Steve)

1. According to the WSJ,  it’s not the description of water-boarding that the CIA wants to hide. It’s the description of how the CIA threw people against the wall.

Among the details in the still-classified memos is approval for a technique in which a prisoner’s head could be struck against a wall as long as the head was being held and the force of the blow was controlled by the interrogator, according to people familiar with the memos.

2. We know from the ICRC report this technique had been used, three years before Bradbury wrote his OLC memos, with Abu Zubaydah.

I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck, they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room.


When I was let out of the box I saw that one of the walls of the room had been covered with plywood sheeting. From now on it was against this wall that I was then smashed with the towel around my neck. I think that the plywood was put there to provide some absorption of the impact of my body. The interrogators realized that smashing me against the hard wall would probably quickly result in physical injury.

(According to the report, five more of the High Value Detainees described the same treatment.)

3. We know that Abu Zubaydah now has mental injuries and–apparently–cannot stand trial.

The WSJ quotes intelligence officials claiming that, if these details are made public, it’ll be a propaganda tool for the terrorists.

Intelligence officials also believe that making the techniques public would give al Qaeda a propaganda tool just as the administration is stepping up its fight against the terrorist group in Afghanistan and Pakistan

But these details have already been made public, in the ICRC report and elsewhere. What the intelligence officials want to hide is that–even after they did this damage to Abu Zubadaydah (though before the ICRC called it torture in 2007)–Steven Bradbury wrote an OLC memo declaring this treatment legal.

70 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    “We want to maximize the amount of information available to the American people,” said a senior administration official involved in the discussions, adding that such a policy has to be balanced so it “does not damage national security interests.”

    And this part is just out and out Bullshit!

    Damage national security interests my ass!

    They want to coverup the commission of crimes sanctioned by the highest levels of the Bush/Cheney Administration and eagerly performed by their minions.

    Qui bono Rahmbo?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      To whose benefit indeed.

      Protecting perpetrators of crimes assures their repetition. It assures the continuing corruption of politicians and their decisions by the need to keep criminals and their abettors free from harm.

      It does not assure the public from harm; it assures it of harm. Because once corruption, always endemic, is sanctioned rather than vilified, it spreads and makes the corruption of other processes and decisions more likely.

      Mr. Obama, you have a better nature; use it. Your “protectors” who argue otherwise are out to protect their ambitions, not your administration.

    • Leen says:

      Damage national security like invading a country based on a “pack of lies” outing Plame, torture, undermining the DOJ etc.

      there is no way that our nation can move forward until there is accountability in regard to these critical issues. Every time our elected leaders repeat “no one is above the law” they remind us that there are people above the law. And many of them have committed very serious crimes.

      Obama, Holder, Leahy, Whitehouse, Feingold, Pelosi “no one is above the law” Quit saying this if you do not mean it.

      • ghostof911 says:

        Unfortunately, the President needs to remain mindful of what the CIA did to JFK when he challenged its authority.

        Similarly, Congress critters need to remain mindful of what happened to Paul Wellstone.

  2. MadDog says:

    And this part fries my ass as well:

    …Making those details public, one official said, would make CIA officials disinclined to take any risks in the future.

    So, let’s see here.

    If the Administration releases the details of CIA torture practices, then the CIA will be disinclined to torture in the future.

    And this would be bad?

    Sheesh! How fookin’ dumb do they think we all are?

  3. rich2506 says:

    We know from the boxer Muhammad Ali and the football player Gerald Ford that getting whacked in the head repeatedly does serious, permanent damage.
    Yeah, I noticed that Colin Powell was very “Oh, if there’s a serious investigation, I’ll just sit and wait quietly to see if anybody comes after me” with Rachel Maddow. He needs to go to prison along with the rest of them.

  4. reader says:

    In the broad public sense this discussion has been about a) we don’t torture therefore none of the things we do could possibly be torture b) waterboarding is a sophisticated (yeah, that’s sick isn’t it) interrogation technique that when administered with skill is safe, and c) it was all legal anyway.

    NO ONE can possibly misunderstand the brutality of knocking heads against walls. That’s not skillfull. And it’s not legal. IF this enters the public discourse it will change the discussion. It departs from what is broadly ”known” and ”understood” about this issue to date.

    It’s actually far worse than releasing any additional evidence/discussions of a) and b) protected by c) which are all impotent as revelations at this point.

    Of course the CIA et al will fight this tooth and nail. It could blow the whole thing open. They look like goons. Rather than interrogation technocrats with legal cover.

    The general public will understand this for what it is. What it has always been. And they will see more evil lies revealed.

    And of course they again threaten to stop protecting us if we don’t leave them alone. Charming. Fucking charming.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Confirmation of these beating tactics might be of propaganda value to terrorists, but that’s a red herring. I imagine half the big city police forces said the same thing when the 1960’s Supreme Court issued its prisoners’ rights decisions like Miranda, which required them to inform prisoners of their rights and not beat them before trial. The trade in thick, big city telephone books and brass knucklebusters fell off, I hear. But the republic survived that and much more.

    The real issue isn’t terrorists: they will assume their captors will do the worst they can imagine. The issue is not propaganda. It’s legitimate anger at the criminal abuse meted out in our name, hiding under cover of knowingly bogus legal opinions.

    Mr. Reagan told the Soviets to tear down the wall of communism, epitomized by the Berlin Wall. Mr. Obama, publish these opinions! Repudiate the flouting of law and justice, purportedly excused by secret opinions of risible value. Act like the lawyer you wanted to be when you graduated from Harvard. Or is that what you’re already doing?

  6. timbo says:

    Why doesn’t the government say, “Yeah, some folks need to be prosecuted for this sort of conduct” and move forward on that? The argument that our foreign policy will suffer as a result of prosecuting tortures is probably, on balance, less than not prosecuting tortures and implicitly condoning the behavior.

  7. posaune says:

    Disgusting. The plywood use I wouldn’t have thought of. Wood is softer than concrete (poured or pre-cast) and it is also an acoustic buffer as the layers absorb sound. It is horrible enough to observe an accidental TBI and its aftermath (like my brother’s) – an intentionally inflicted TBI is unspeakable, i.e., a WAR CRIME.

    To inflict emotional scars is immoral, but to rob that person of his cognitive capacity necessary to recover from physical and emotional wounds is more than immoral. It is a WAR CRIME.

  8. cinnamonape says:

    The only thing that the plywood would have accomplished is reducing any external and apparent trauma. As posaune notes Traumatic Brain Injuries are possible whether the medium of contact is hard or soft. What happens is the classic concussive trauma WITHIN the cranial wall. The brain is soft tissue that continues on at the momentum of the body at the time of deceleration, it compresses violently into the interior of the skull, causing bruising of the tissue if not actual internal bleeding. It’s a Concussion. And repeated concussions can kill, and even single events can cause brain damage.

    This is criminal, and is not even something that falls within the mythic boundaries of “we caused no physical injuries, thus it wasn’t torture”. These individuals need to have PET Scans and this should establish the repeated injuries.

    • Minnesotachuck says:

      Traumatic Brain Injuries are possible whether the medium of contact is hard or soft.

      In fact it can happen with no contact at all. Witness the recent death of actor Natasha Richardson following a skiing fall. IIRC, the instructor said her head didn’t even hit the ground. Similar thing happened to my brother about six years ago. He was knocked over when some clueless woman backed into him while trying to leave a parking lot. Several weeks later he began experiencing some neurological symptoms and was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma which most likely began at the time of his fall.

      • JimWhite says:

        Absolutely. But this part:

        I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck, they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room.

        shows that they were using physics, as well. By using a towel wrapped around the victim’s neck, they were essentially using arm extensions to increase the speed of the victim’s head as it hit the wall. The higher the speed at impact, the greater the force of impact. For the geeks around, the speed and force of impact go up with the square of the extension (linear speed of the head is rotation of the center point per unit time times pi times the radius squared). Net result: even the short arm extension provided by the towel results in a tremendous increase in the force of impact. “Techonology” at work. Can’t get much more disgusting than this.

        • NCDem says:

          I relate your mathematical explanation of the use of the towel to a related sport that I enjoyed many years ago. As a youngster, we worked hard 6 days a week but on Sunday afternoons (after church of course), we would all go to the lake and water ski. I enjoyed the slalom the most because it gave me the ability to make quick cuts across the boat wake as I was slung into the shore for the landing at the end. If you timed the quick cut of the boat away from the shore with your rapid swing into the outside radius of the sling, you could often experience speeds of 3-5 times the speed of the boat. I would often replace the usual 75′ or 100′ ski rope with a 200 foot length to gain maximum speed.

          At age 15, I stopped this behavior when I witnessed my uncle make a terrible fall while making this manuver. Rather than falling and rolling or skipping across the water after his fall, he attempted to go head first into the water. Instead he bounced at least four times off the top of the water over a 30 foot area as his body with head down and feet up skipped across the water just like a flat stone skips across the top of the water when thrown at the correct angle. My uncle survived but spent over a week in the hospital with a very bad concussion and internal bleeding of the brain.

          For some this may be a familar example of an activity that relates to being thrown into the wall with additional torque.

          • drational says:

            Just guessing here, but
            knowing the work of Yoo, et al, the use of a towel or collar also may evade some international legal issue in which the torturer is explicitly prohibited from hitting, striking, pushing, punching, etc a prisoner.

            And the prohibited act of slamming a prisoner’s head into the wall is avoided by use of the plywood “pad”.

            • Leen says:

              Heaven help us. You mean swinging the persons head and upper body with a towel would give them cover from this.

              these are some perverted twisted freaks

        • R.H. Green says:

          Using the towel to extend the leverage effect
          means that efforts were being made to control the degree of force being applied (that is to increase it, as I’m sure we understand). It also provides a means of securing the head. As Bradbury indicated, securing the head, and using controlled force are the contraints that allow this practice to be “legal”. The idea here is to avoid the indiscriminant, impulsive, or emotional application of brutal force that defines “abuse”.

          • R.H. Green says:

            Hmmm. Soething funny is happening with the reply/wdit functions. Sorry for the duplication.

  9. PJEvans says:

    Is admitting what they’ve actually done really that much worse than letting terrorists lie about it as a recruiting tool?

  10. bobschacht says:

    The only resistance to this can be by people who committed war crimes who still work for the CIA. And they are precisely the ones who should be ID’d and prosecuted. There is no justification for such thuggery.

    President Obama should ask himself, “If I suppress these documents, who am I protecting, and why? Are these really the people who should be protected?

    Perhaps the CIA is arguing that if those memos are released, CIA agents will be less willing to obey presidential orders in the future. You dam betcha. They should resist any such presidential orders.

    Bob in HI

  11. prostratedragon says:

    Hmph. Finally found a photo of this Steven Bradbury, so he is more or less corporeal. That uses up his last excuse.

    The next question is why anyone would find it necessary, valuable, doable, whatever, to destroy their good name shielding shmucks like that.

  12. skdadl says:

    I can’t see that there is much left to hide. The ICRC were able to build a profile of the techniques that were experimented with and then authorized, and we even know that Bradbury wrote the memos that did the authorizing. There’s really nothing left for Obama to protect by holding back these memos, but if he does, he will accomplish one thing — major damage to his own reputation.

    The excuses the intelligence guys give for suppression or redaction are risible. How does a terrorist or anyone else “train to endure” having his head banged?

  13. Leen says:

    Hey the interrogators were “just following orders” Where have we heard this before?

    thank you ew for staying on this and thank you to all of the other legal heads here at FDL who are so committed to witnessing justice in regard to the torture that was done in the name of our country. You folks give me hope.

    Obama may be “wavering” but Spain is not. It is just plain to see that when Obama says “no one is above the law” he just does not meant it. All of this “move forward, turn the page, this is not the blame game, we do not want a witch hunt” talk is nauseating.

    At what point during the last eight years did holding people accountable for horrible crimes become “witch hunts” instead of justice?

    • klynn says:

      EW, thanks for this post. Excellent. The worlds’ human rights lawyers are making the same conclusions you are making. Not releasing the memos becomes an act of endorsement or compliance in the end. Not a choice I would be making if I ran on a principle of restoring our relationships with our allies.


      It’s epu’d but I would be interested in your “take” on the links at the end of the cut cable post. I just put a link up that is somewhat interesting. I’ll admit I am pulling at straws. Nonetheless the links are thought provoking. CWA is just too obvious a finger point.

  14. Rayne says:

    Waterboarding was used to redirect attention from traumatic blunt force trauma to the head, which might generate even more questionable intelligence than waterboarding.


    What other ugly things are lying below the surface because something else was used to misdirect us away from them?

    If these are the risks these morons were taking, the whole thing needs to come out; our country cannot protect itself using blunt force trauma to the head to generate intelligence. If anything, it increases risk by creating bad intelligence (putting aside the damage to our American “brand”, the global legitimization of these techniques through our use, and the morality of such hurtful, inhumane efforts).

  15. skdadl says:

    Do we know when it was that “rape by instrumentality” was supposed to have been used? I wonder whether Bradbury ever managed to write those words into one of his prim memos.

  16. ondelette says:

    The desire to hide the explicit approval for slamming heads against walls is a play to avoid a much larger share of the population satisfying their definitions of torture. It’s sensational, and ‘brutal’ and won’t be dismissed as ‘a little dunk in the water’. They are trying to avoid such a universal condemnation.
    So I guess this is not a good time to mention that the more brutal torture was the solitary confinement, sensory and food and sleep deprivation, and the enforced disappearance? Abu Zubaydah had severe mental problems from a head injury that pre-dated his capture. While I am not going to even try to minimize the TBI that others have mentioned, including the scraping of myelin on the bottom of the cranium, it is also a fact that synapses and ion channels, and dendritic spines and filipodia require regeneration periodically (around 10-30 days), and intense isolation and deprivation can also cause irreparable harm to the brain. In addition to the fact that the food deprivation (use of Ensure) documented by the ICRC was pretty severe: KSM lost 35 pounds during his first month of captivity. And the cold was cause for al Qahtani to be shipped with hypothermia at Guantanamo. And some of the ICRC documented sleep deprivation was of order more than 7 days.

    Just sayin’. I do hope that the twin evils of enforced disappearance and of deprivation torture do get some consideration along with the stuff that everyone recognizes as torture.

  17. i4u2bi says:

    al Qaeda propaganda tool..yeah I think we know who the tools are here. It’s past time to point out the crimes and just who it was that commited them, Chaney’s Murder Squad be damned.

  18. SanderO says:

    The 800 pound gorilla in the room here is that all police, military and so forth are using very abusive interrogation “technics”. This is how they scare these people into saying things, anything truth or lies. They are terrorized in no uncertain terms.

    Police, CIA and military interrogators see it as their job to extract evidence, confessions and the means matter little. They want to intimidate and they want their confessions. This is a very common tactic. Sadism is part of the job description. Sissies need not apply.

    Of course revealing the extent of this is uncomfortable for America who spouts on about human and constitutional rights. Total BS.

    • JimWhite says:

      Interesting that you would mention that. This was in my local paper this morning:

      In the incident at FSP, officers are accused of beating inmates during a time period when they apparently thought that the prison’s surveillance cameras had been disengaged and thus their actions were not being videotaped.

      You can add prison guards to your list of authority figures who employ abuse.

      • SanderO says:

        This is how they operate. It’s rather uncivilized. But then again that how some people view those in custody – less than human and deserving of any abuse they can come up with.

        The CIA must be pretty nasty and has been for a long time. After all they do assassinations or did them.

  19. Nell says:

    On the off chance that there will ever be prosecutions, the CIA is destroying more evidence. First the tapes, now the secret prisons themselves. More crimes to cover up the original crime.

    Valtin reprints a letter from Al-Nashiri’s attorneys, military and civilian, to the CIA asking them to preserve the site(s) where he was held as evidence.

    The contrast between people whose opposition to torture is real, deep, committed and universal and people whose main concern is how it makes the U.S. government look could not be more clearly expressed. The people in the second group cheered Panetta’s recent announcement without it raising any questions for them.

    • SanderO says:

      Panetta is under their influence. Don’t expect him to clean house… aside from some lifting the rug and sweeping it under.

  20. shootthatarrow says:

    President Obama should go on American TV and lay out what is in the ICRC report fully. Upon doing so also then appoint teams to comb through CIA and Pentagon and establish who are still employed who did any of the acts the ICRC reports points out or are trying to cover up. Some Ameriacans should be headed for Leavenworth Prison when this is done.

    President Obama–this is minimal level of moral and political courage action.

    It is way past time for this blanket term “national security” to be pruned way back and no longer used to cover up incompetence,graft,corruption or despicabable conduct and behavior at CIA or Pentagon.

    It is way past time for CIA and Pentagon to be taken out into the light of day and chase out and destroy the shadows. Enough of this “American Hero Worship and Cult” BS. No one is a hero until matters are cleaned up at CIA and Pentagon. Enough of this American facism and militarism run amok.

  21. Phoenix Woman says:

    Is this connected to the blackmail that Scott Horton referenced last week? That is, Senate Republicans are holding Dawn Johnsen et al hostage in order to force Obama to keep schtum?

  22. eCAHNomics says:

    This is pure crap. Everyone already knows or has speculated on what’s in the govt memos. The only purpose served to keep them secret is to put Obama on the wrong side of history.

  23. R.H. Green says:

    Using the towel to extend the leverage, means that efforts are being made to bring the force of impact under control, rather than allowing such force to be applied randomly or whimsically. Note the Bradbury caveat that head blows need to be constrianed by firmly grasping the head, and controlling the force, in order to be legal.

  24. SanderO says:

    Hard to know what in Obama’s mind or what they have told him, or how they have threatened him. My sense is that once you get elected you are already a go along team player with the shadow government or find out pretty quickly that you can’t mess with them… or else. This sounds very conspiratorial but if you look at how the promises fade and then he adopts policies he campaigned against you begin to think something there that we are not seeing.

    He’s certainly not the change dude he said he would be.

      • DWBartoo says:

        So the Faustian “deal” must be struck by all would-be American politicians … or “else”?

        If this is, indeed, the case, then our ‘problems’ are almost insurmountable.

        Of late, in certain circles, the battle cry has been, “Gummint is bad, gummint is evil”, and must, without question, be shrunkerated to the degree that it may easily be drowned (after suitable water-boarding and head-busting on a towel “leash”, one imagines) in wee Grover’s little bathtub.

        What if the graver problem is the ‘character’ (or lack thereof) of those who would be politicians?

        Perhaps those who lust after power and wealth should never be allowed it, that the rest of us might live in peace and relative tranquility?

        It has been postulated, on this very site, that the reason impeachment was ‘off the table’ might be directly attributable to exactly what Sander is suggesting might be at ‘play’ regarding Obama … which, if it is so, precludes meaningful ‘change’ or even a semblance of honesty and justice for the people of this nation.

        If this is, in fact, the reality we face, both collectively,as a nation and as individual human beings and American citizens, then our future is drearily predictable … and it will not be pleasant. We are very perilously close to “nasty, brutish, and short” and a new Dark Age.

        Let us insist,against the evil you postulate, as is our right as well our responsibility as human beings, upon a new Renaissance, else we shall lose everything that matters, ultimately including the capacity of the Earth to sustain human life, in any fashion we would recognize or desire.

        To reiterate my proposed change for the motto on our coinage, “It’s Up To Us”. As, apparently, those who are our so-called ‘representatives’ are too busy protecting their own ‘interests’ whether your scenario holds or some more mercenary ‘perspective’ calls to their ‘ambition’.

  25. Mary says:

    2- that is an argument that has made me angry since it was first tossed out. Let’s upchain that to, why don’t we? Presidents who face criminal consequences for ordering torture to make themselves look good and to propagandize a war might be reluctant to do it again as well. With the corollary to both – making torture a matter of Presidential whim rather than affirmative nourishes it from within.

    Imagine what the “rank and file” of CIA is like if it would turn against a President for attaching consequences to torture? There’s also the carryover, pre911 case of the CIA involvement in the murder of a Missionary’s wife and his infant daughter when their plane was blown up. I guess the “rank and file” of the CIA isn’t crazy about consequences for blowing up babies either.

    The article fufills one propaganda point pretty well – it offers a little post-Easter absolution up for Holder, Craig & Blair. Holder and Craig as lawyers have to realize at what point Obama is affirmatively assisting in the cover up of a crime and violating the Executive Order on classification (prohibiting the classification of crimes). Blair gets a pretense at credibility in his international dealings. It leaves Panetta on the record as the guy against investigations. BTW, an interesting part of his memo to torture institute of america was his reference not just to no investigations for past reliances, but also his future tense use that they should also not worry about investigations for things they may be doing in the future under such reliance.

    On the practical front, here are some of the problems of publication that do exist.

    1. It will be bad PR and used as propaganda by al-Qaeda and other groups. Yes it will, but that kind of assumes that a) it won’t be used for that purpose anyway if no memo is released and b) that it’s ok to cover up Executive branch crimes to keep people uninformed and tranquil. US torture and abuse of kidnap victims already HAS BEEN being used by radical groups. The bigger propaganda point that they can and do use is that even though everyone knows what we did, we still won’t confess and provide justice. How do we have any credibility telling people in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Somalia etc. to rise up and not to harbor criminals and not to provide cover to evile when our very own Presidents are actively involved in covering up for and providing cover to criminals, pretty much premised on the concept that it is ok to torture brown skinned Muslims as a Presidential policy and to use torture to fashion a war against Iraq and all the death and destruction that were attendant. Apparently Obamaco is under the impression that, because billions in aid packages can buy off corrupt leaders there is no thirst for justice in Muslim nations. He may have missed out on the Penguin Revolt, or on the underlying reasons that the Taliban has been able to gain ground in the face of massive corruption which never brings about consequences for the criminals. But to buy into a criminals talking point that you have to cover up my crime because people will be angry when they hear what I have done pretty much ignores the issue of what actually could be done, on a national security front, with respect to this issue. If the Muslim world saw real justice taking place, with real trials and real consequences for American torturers (not 60 green zone detentions for an extended bout of torture ending in a sleeping bag suffocation death) then you would have something that Bin Laden couldn’t address – something that could cut his rhetoric off at that knees. You could say to the Muslim world – we have provided justice, now where is the justice you should provide for the men who murdered thousands of innocent people? Instead, we open the door to others in lesser executive positions, mayors, chiefs of police, governors, etc. having their own torturers exempted from investigation and consequences because it will cause unrest. Do we hold back on investigations of abuse of suspects in custody because it might provoke a reaction? On the other hand, how do you have any plausibiilty and integrity in pursuing something like the detention tortures case in the ND IL right now when the President’s and DOJ’s affirmative policy is to not investigate and not pursue torturers and torture conspirators as long as DOJ was involved in the torture?

    2. On the diplomatic and international law front, it’s one thing to have lots of newspaper stories and backhanded acknowledgements and even the generalized torture memos, but it is a different thing to have Government authorized memos allowing specific procedures made public. That’s especially so when no one is going to be tried or investigated and when our current President as well as our former President and our Department of Justice are all saying that these specific procedures are not crimes, they are “policy” decisions to be made on Presidential (or Principals group, or VP or Cabinet member or NSA …) whim. Other countries have duties at that point and they have to fish or cut bait – we formally put them in a position where they have to drown in the cesspool with us or cut loose. They can just ignore the fact that the US gets to engage on torture at whim and as “policy” in which case we spread the degredation like a plague and insidiously undermine ever nation touched, or they can respond the way their laws, international law, and treaties would require if another nation were so bold as to claim they could kidnap people from around the world and innocence notwithstanding torture and arrange for torture at will. They have to consider issues like extraditions to a torture nation, how their state departments will be authorized to deal with a torture nation, how their intelligence services will be authorized to deal with a torture nation, etc. A huge problem for Obama here, though, is that this is going to happen anyway – whether the memos are released or not. It already has been happening. It’s one thing to talk about the power of the Presidency and to claim that Obama shouldn’t be blamed for not wanting to relinquish the power of his office, but what power does that office hold if it is subjugated to being nothing more than the vehicle of cover for torturers? Obamaco is arguing that “American Presidents are powerless to pursue CIA torturers” and in even making that argument, much less following through on it, the office is sadly diminished. But even more than that, we abdicate to other nations who do believe in the rule of law and that treaty obligations under something like the Geneva Conventions and Torture Conventions should not be a matter of whim – as we abandon our national ability to pursue torturers, we diminish the nation, not just the Presidency. We cede to others the duty to punish the torture we commit and America ends up not much more than the battered spouse of its torturers – relying on others to stop the abuse but siding with the abusers whenever there is such intervention.

    It’s not pretty.

    The ultimate irony is that men and women who are so willing to degrade the Presidency and the nation claim patriotism as their justification.

    • phred says:

      The article fufills one propaganda point pretty well – it offers a little post-Easter absolution up for Holder, Craig & Blair.

      I wonder how much the possible Spanish prosecution is influencing Holder and Craig these days. They may be arguing for disclosure on the basis that they may find themselves on the wrong side of a Spanish judge someday if they participate in the cover up of war crimes.

      Just as you have often argued that the hospital show down was prompted not by sincere belief in the rule of law, but by a direct threat to the careers of the DoJ lawyers involved, I wonder whether there may be similar motivations in play here.

        • phred says:

          Not at the rate they are going, no. So if we do see a change of heart at the WH and DoJ, we may have the Spaniards to thank. I’m curious whether Holder, Craig, et al., are waking up to the dangerously thin ice they are skating on. I wonder if they will continue to pursue their action against Stafford Smith, since that so clearly is an effort to silence a critic. Obamaco is getting very close to opening themselves up for war crimes prosecution (or at least obstruction of justice). Lets hope a Spanish judge helps focus their minds.

  26. Mary says:

    28 – yes to all you said. And those tactics were not limited to al Qaeda hgher ups(KSM wasn’t technically al-Qaeda, so let’s go with terorist group higher ups). Torturers ‘for a purpose’ become torturers by disposition.

    31/33 – and how does the Dept of Justice not have a conflict in, on the one hand prosecuting for torture, and on the other hand claiming the same actions done by the CIA or the military are “policy” and “state secrets”

  27. tjbs says:

    only Traitors torture.
    I like the book of Ester about the switch of the gallows occupant for the vile one.
    Seems we could do the same empty all the drug users out of our prison system and replace them with

    each and every one of them that committed torture or helped implement the program.
    These people are a cancer and threat to us all if allowed to integrate back into the system.

    What time is it? Past time to start Nuremburg 2.0 American style. And there will ber many Democrats going to prison like Nancy Pelosi for starters.

  28. Mary says:

    Well, the good news it that there are slots opening up for smart grad students who are attracted to torture as public policy.

    DNI Blair is setting up internships for them.

    Blair’s office announced Tuesday it was looking for about 30 smart, motivated students in graduate school or their final year of undergraduate studies …
    Applicants must be US citizens at least 21 years old, with a strong academic background and the ability to pass a background security investigation before they study “Political Instability – International Systems in Transition.”

    Some fervent belief in torturing and killing is all it takes to pass the security investigation too. Bonus points for being a child abuser and a dog fight frequenter – especially if you provide the bait puppies.

    • Leen says:

      Hell most of these young folks have grown up seeing at least 1000 violent acts a year on their T.V. and movie screens. Then along with the training on video games they are not only ready to get the training to torture but to operate weapons (drones) continents away. Killing folks in the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan with no fuss no muss.

      Yeah many of these young folks have all ready been in training for these jobs

  29. hazmaq says:

    On top of the seemingly pro-cover the asses of the torturers- movement by the Obama crowd, is another big one that may explain everthing more clearly.
    Also Bush’like in policy attitudes, but hidden in the tea-bagging fun, was the fact that the US walked out of the second Durbin conference on racism, recently held in Geneva. Only because the other nations included Israel’s abuses of the Palestinians in the outcries against racism and oppression.

    Apparently the only persons never guilty of torture or racism are Israel and the United States.

    During the raping of Lebanon by Israelis one lone Democrat, Chris Van Hollen, dared write a letter to Rice asking her to intervene quickly because of the dis-proportionate response of Israel. Chris was shortly thereafter given an all-expense paid trip to Israel by the pro-Isrtaeli harpies of Congress, then summarily led out to a microphone by the nose to publicly apologize to Israel for ever implying Israel ever did anything wrong.

    By following Israels lead and walking out of a world conference, the US under Obama ’s lead has just handed over it’s bonafides to a corrupt and brutal nation -now led by a neo-con whack job more dangerous a hundred times over than a handful of radioactive Somali nationlists who tried for twelve years to talk to the US about the nuclear dumping and killing going on, before they took to guns.

    Same US and Irael ass covering over oil-different day, different place.
    Ho hum.

    • 4jkb4ia says:

      I doubt that even Paul Rosenberg is going to support Durban II. Most of the anti-Israel stuff has been taken out of the conference document but “defamation of religion” is still an issue.

  30. Mary says:

    Maddow alluded to this last night, but here’s a link to a story about the GITMO detainee who called al-Jazeera under the guise of calling his family.

    Who knows on his allegations of beatings and teargassing etc., but the things that are very clear are compelling enough. His release was ordered in January, but he’s still there.

    He was ordered freed by a U.S. district judge in Washington in January, a week before U.S. President Barack Obama took office and ordered the prison operation shut down within a year.

    More to the point, he’s 21 now. How long has he been at GITMO? Since he was FOURTEEN YEARS OLD! For SEVEN YEAR he’s been there.

    Gharani, now 21, has been held at Guantanamo for seven years.

    Actually, he was a lynchpin in the al-Qaeda organization:

    The U.S. government said the then-14-year-old had stayed at an al Qaeda-affiliated guest house in Afghanistan, fought in the battle of Tora Bora in 2001, served as a courier for senior al Qaeda operatives and was part of a London-based al Qaeda cell.

    More about Gharani and his case in this Huffington Post piece by Worthington.

    The allegations about Tora Bora –

    Leon explained that the government “relies exclusively on a different detainee, to establish this fact,” but that this prisoner’s credibility has also been “seriously called into question by Government personnel who have specifically cautioned against relying on his statements without independent corroboration.” He added that the government “did not produce any such corroboration.

    Batarfi’s case come much to mind? With the now added evidence that the “star witness” against about 60 of the detainees, in addition to having those already existing credibility issues that gov did disclose (after holding people for years in abuse based on his reps that DOJ was now telling courts are not credible) Gov was holding back info that he had mental issues – very big mental issues.

    Then there was the “london cell” allegation (dating back to when Gharani would have been 11)

    …dismissing the allegation that El-Gharani was a member of an al-Qaeda cell in London in 1998, Leon explained that the government was “relying exclusively on the statements of the detainee whose reliability is described above as being undermined.” This was, indeed, the most extraordinary allegation, as El-Gharani was just 11 years old at the time, and, as his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, explained in his book, The Eight O’Clock Ferry to the Windward Side: Seeking Justice In Guantánamo Bay, “he must have been beamed over to the al-Qaeda meetings by the Starship Enterprise, since he never left Saudi Arabia by conventional means.”

    Did the, to date unreleased, OLC memos authorize child abuse? Well, what do you call taking a 14 and doing even the things Gov admits doing – from detention in Pakistan to shipment to Afghanistan to shipment to GITMO to confinement with the General population to keeping from any family contact for years etc. He attempted suicide several times (oh, wait, that must be on of the “assymetric warfare” tactics he learned at 11 in his transcendental journey to London)

    Meanwhile, Obama’s DOJ is continuing in its attempt to have Stafford Smith (also the lawyer for Binyam Mohamed) jailed. Obama is the central figure in that matter, since it evolve from a letter sent to Obama by Stafford Smith. Smith had attempted to prepare a memo to Obama outlining the facts, some of which were classified, that he felt justified his client’s relase. DOD “reviewed” the memo before he could send it and redacted all of the content of the memo (don’t want Obama to not be able to claim ignorance, do we?) Stafford Smith sent the memo, as they had redacted it, but pointed out in the letter that kind of censorship made no sense and prevented Obama as CIC (and in my view also as head of law enforcement) from making fact based decisions.

    You can make all kinds of arguments (not that I buy them) about obama and his not having enough time and being clueless in lots of settings, but the upcoming motion attempting to send Stafford Smith to jail for his letter to Obama – that’s all Barack’s baby. He owns what is being done in that matter heart and soul and he’s even a pretty integral fact witness. Just what, exactly, is the excuse from Obamaland for allowing himself to be used in that kind of vendetta against the detainees lawyer?

  31. Mary says:

    55 – behold the wonder of wonder, because I was wondering the same thing. If the memos come out in a foreign setting later and it is clear what Obama, Craig and Holder affirmatively covered up and withheld prosecution for, they aren’t likely to be Rule of Law plaques (maybe a doddery W will hand them some leftover Medals of Freedom while Karen Hughes pats his hand and reassures him he has a legacy though)

  32. bgrothus says:

    This reminds me of famous cat wisdom: “If I close my eyes, I disappear. You can’t see me. With my eyes closed.”

    • hazmaq says:

      Perhaps internally we too are just a beacon of shitfire, after all.

      Which means that what everyone always said about us is.. is ..true? Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhh :[

  33. Leen says:

    Anatomy of Bush’s Torture ‘Paradigm’

    By Ray McGovern


    The first hints of what was in store came from the President himself in the White House bunker late on Sept. 11, 2001, at a meeting with his closest national security advisers after his TV address to the nation about the terrorist attacks that morning.

    Similar thoughts expressed by Chris Matthews last night during the wrestling match on Hardball

    Spain clip

    David Corn to Gaffney “Frank we’re you against the Nuremberg Trials”

    You go David

    Matthews blew a fuse ya hoo

    Chris Matthews ” my view, well my view is o.k. let me tell you my view of this Frank buddy I’ll tell you my view of this. We crossed that line in that West Point speech by President Bush George W. Bush up there in 2002 when he said we are going to go into other countries and kick ass because they do not have democracies in those countries that’s when he said we’re going to go kill
    people internationally because we do not like their form of government that’s when we crossed the line Frank”

    The vengeful bunker mentality prevailing at that meeting comes through clearly in the report of one of the participants, Richard Clarke in his book, Against All Enemies. Describing the President as confident, determined, forceful, Clarke provides the following account of what President Bush said:

    “We are at war.… Nothing else matters. … Any barriers in your way, they’re gone.”

    When, later in the discussion, Secretary Rumsfeld noted that international law allowed the use of force only to prevent future attacks and not for retribution, Bush nearly bit his head off.

    “No,” the President yelled in the narrow conference room, “I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.”

    ‘Taking the Gloves Off’

  34. Leen says:

    On Olbermann tonight he insinuated that Obama/Holder’s unwillingness to pursue the torture issue is because the CIA thugs involved with the torture who are still in their spots have given the Obama administration a warning. Leave us alone or else.

    • Nell says:


      I suppose he never went to or was briefed on any of the Principals’ meetings, even though he’s the one who would have attended for State on Powell’s absence.

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