Did Bad Journalism Make the Country Love Torture?

One of the key takeaways of a study a number of people are buzzing about–showing that a majority of the country has generally opposed torture–is that six months after Obama became president, that changed.

Using a new survey dataset on torture collected during the 2008 election, combined with a comprehensive archive of public opinion on torture, we show here that a majority of Americans were opposed to torture throughout the Bush presidency. This stance was true even when respondents were asked about an imminent terrorist attack, even when enhanced interrogation techniques were not called torture, and even when Americans were assured that torture would work to get crucial information. Opposition to torture remained stable and consistent during the entire Bush presidency. Even soldiers serving in Iraq opposed the use of torture in these conditions. As we show in the following, a public majority in favor of torture did not appear until, interestingly, six months into the Obama administration.

The study itself (which suffers from some unfortunate biases, including its assumption that members of the military should be more supportive of torture) suggests that Dick Cheney’s pro-torture media blitz might explain why torture became more popular once a purportedly anti-torture President took power.

There may be some truth to that. I wouldn’t endorse it unquestioningly without some evidence to support it. But if it is true, it would serve as a lesson about the Obama Administration strategy to avoid fighting for anything it believes in. That is, the study raises the possibility that–by ceding the field to PapaDick’s relentless pro-torture campaign–the Administration served to make its own stated policy less popular.

But as I said, that may not be the right lesson to take away from this.

The study argues that there has been a misperception about public support for torture and blames the chattering class for not being more skeptical of that misperception.

Our survey shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans overestimated the level of national support for torture. But more important, these misperceptions are not evenly distributed across the population. The more strongly an individual supports torture, the larger the gap in his or her perception. Those who believe that torture is “often” justified—a mere 15% of the public—think that more than a third of the public agrees with them. The 30% who say that torture can “sometimes” be justified believe that 62% of Americans do as well, and think that another 8% “often” approve of torture.

Revealingly, those people most opposed to torture—29% of the public—are the most accurate in how they perceive public attitudes on the topic. They overestimate the proportion of the public who “sometimes” approve of torture by 10%, underestimate the proportion of the public who “often” approve of torture by 10%, and perceive the rest of the public with near precision.

In short, these patterns present a classic pattern of false consensus. People who were most in favor of torture assumed that most of the public agreed with them. While we obviously do not have survey data on Washington decision makers, we do know from public statements how leading voices such as former Vice President Dick Cheney felt about the interrogation techniques. These data show that it is not at all surprising that Cheney and other political figures believed that the public stood behind them. What is perhaps more surprising is how poorly journalists, regardless of personal belief regarding their objectivity or bias toward liberalism (Lee 2005), misread public sentiments.

I’d suggest one more possible factor. Couple this graph above–showing the beginning of a decline in opposition to torture in 2006-2007–with the details of the Harvard study showing how newspapers discussed waterboarding. At roughly the same time that torture began to be more accepted, newspapers started to treat waterboarding, at least, with their typical “he said, she said” cowardice.

Before 2007, the NY Times had only scattered articles quoting others. However, beginning in 2007, there is a marked increase in articles quoting others, primarily human rights groups and lawmakers. Human rights representatives predominate during the first half of the year. However, beginning in October, politicians were cited more frequently labeling waterboarding torture. Senator John McCain is the most common source, but other lawmakers also begin to be cited. By 2008, the articles’ references are more general such as “by many,” or “many legal authorities.” Stronger phrases such as “most of the civilized world” also begin to appear.

The LA Times follows a similar pattern. In 2007, this paper mostly quoted human rights groups and Sen. McCain. Beginning in 2008, however, more general references began to be used, such as “by many” and “critics.”

That is, starting around the same time support for torture increased, the press started treating it as one more political debate.

Remember, before 2007, newspapers largely uncritically adopted the Bush Administration’s Orwellian language about enhanced interrogation, without including voices that called waterboarding torture. That said, even while it deployed such propaganda (and the newspapers willingly adopted it), the Administration itself always maintained that it did not torture. But as time has passed, former Bush officials (led by PapaDick and his spawn BabyDick) have gotten closer and closer to shifting the argument to a admission, coupled with a defense, of torture.

Is it possible, then, that by embracing the torture apologists’ relativism, newspapers encouraged individuals to think about torture as a political preference?

This is all obviously speculation on my part. But it seems to me the most important question raised by this study on public opinion about torture is why under a then-popular nominally anti-torture president, torture became popular.

  1. scribe says:

    When you said:

    “That is, starting around the same time support for torture increased, the press started treating it as one more political debate.”

    Are you sure you didn’t really mean:

    That is, starting around the same time the press started treating it as one more political debate, support for torture increased.

    Because I think the latter is what happened. That, and a bit of consciences having been numbed by the blizzard of bullshit emanating from the criminals in the Bush admin seeking to cover their own asses.

    • emptywheel says:

      To be adamant about either argument, we’d have to do a real comparison of the data to see whether chicken, egg, or (as allan points out) six years of 24 came first.

      But, yeah.

      • scribe says:

        Well, popularizing torture through wingnut-produced popular culture wasn’t the exclusive province of 24 or Alias, though those two (particularly 24) had a hell of a lot to do with it. (Don’t forget all the problems the faculty at West Point had with their cadidiots*, whose favorite TV program was 24 and who could not be dissuaded from believing torture was effective and acceptable).

        Off the top of my head, I can remember at least two Tom Clancy novels (both well pre-2001) in which torture played no small part. In Cardinal of the Kremlin, he spent many pages on an exquisitely detailed depiction of Soviet intel types using sensory deprivation tanks to break suspected spies – told with the kind of pin-sharp focus used in all flavors of porn. And, in Sum of All Fears, the CIA hitman/interrogator broke some fingers of a suspected nuclear terrorist and then twisted them to get the guy to give up information on who and how they got the nukes. Of course, in the latter of these, the information garnered was … false. Both these episodes were points of high drama in the books and guaranteed to transfix the reader. Not ot mention that his books were highly popular in military-world.

        And I’m not trying hard to find examples – merely posting a comment while waiting for soccer to get going.

        But the whole paving the culture to make a way for torture is neither new, nor accidental. Every one of the pro-torture scenes made it through multiple levels of editing….

        * Cadet + idiot = cadidiot.

  2. allan says:

    Couple this graph above–showing the beginning of a decline in opposition to torture in 2006-2007–

    EW, don’t underestimate the power of popular “culture”.
    Starting in 2001, there was a flood of TV shows and movies that portrayed torture
    as acceptable and effective. 24, Alias, etc.
    There may have been a delayed effect on people’s attitudes towards the real thing.

  3. ffein says:

    We watched one season of 24 on DVD that my sister gave us (I don’t know which season). That was enough. I really felt like the show was manipulating me to feel ok about extreme behavior of “the good guys”….and to make me believe that I should be scared all the time by “the bad guys” … it was all very gripping, and intense, and entertaining, but by the end I was sick of it, much like I was sick of the war, and it really felt like propaganda. I don’t know if it’s still on or not.

  4. skdadl says:

    That said, even while it deployed such propaganda (and the newspapers willingly adopted it), the Administration itself always maintained that it did not torture.

    That’s the thing. Even though they were lying, the word itself held its taboo until the defensive offensive began. Very interesting.

    About Kiefer: sheesh. He’s Tommy’s grandson. I don’t pass judgement on other people’s addictions, but 24? How could he do that?

    • scribe says:

      (a) the checks cleared

      (b) ever since Julia Roberts dumped him, he hasn’t been the same.

  5. bobschacht says:

    Yes, I think the press was complicit in a number of ways. First, the unblinking acceptance of Bush’s Orwellian labeling of torture, as you have documented so well. But also TV shows such as “24,” and Cheney’s open approval of torture did much, in addition to press complicity, to ‘normalize’ discussions about torture, as if it was like everything else a matter of a debate with two sides of possibly equal merit. As you have pointed out before, this abdication of the press (fear of taking sides, as if both sides have equal merit) extends in many areas.

    This is perhaps another chapter in the growing acceptance of relativism– that there are no absolutes, and that each custom must be evaluated on its own merits, regardless of any putative universals. The press has become, more than ever, amoral in many areas. But not, apparently, when it comes to public officials cheating on their spouses, which is always HEADLINE NEWS!

    John Edwards cheating on his wife? Headline news! Banishment! Political career in ruins!

    Dick Cheney openly advocating war crimes? Nonchalance. Ho hum. Normal pros and cons. Legitimate debate. Nothing to see here. Move along.

    Plus one more big important factor: Silence from the Obama administration.

    Bob in AZ

  6. BayStateLibrul says:

    It’s more than torture, it’s fucking wars, journalism has joined the home team…

    “The real problem of war is, then, not to be found in this or that special way in which force is grossly abused, but in the instinct for violence and for resort to force which has become inveterate in the human race. Is this something that man can learn to change? If so, how does he go about it?

    What should he do? Where should the study of this dreadful problem begin? Who can say? Perhaps, our first problem is to get rid of the illusion that we know the answer.”

    Merton said these words in the 1960’s, holds true today.

    • JohnLopresti says:

      Merton (b.1915-d.1968) was willing to address some of the questions of internal volition in personal terms. His cites are much correlatable to his own civil milieu, and are amply available on the web. Still, a worthwhile caution in a difficult discussion.

      re: ew*s post, The Survey:

      The survey is reminiscent of the methodology of a high school newspaper*s, a segment of the populace exploring early adulthood, and thinking reflexively, self-cosciously, that each experiment in social interactivity intrinsically must reflect double the constituency it actually does. A statistical difficulty might arise in the torture study at the interstices where attempts are made to project downward thru the dimensions starting from one plane further up the exponential scale; parallels are found comparing derivatives to integrals. There was a Dylan lyric1965 of exhaustion broodingly reporting the same, describing a perhaps similar illusion as no justification at all (though capped with the typical Zimmerman classical selfdeprecatory humor at the ending couplet:

      **Everybody said they’d stand behind me

      **When the game got rough

      **But the joke was on me

      **There was nobody even there to call my bluff**

      Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc

  7. Gerald says:

    Well I don’t want to become embroiled in the “does it work or not?” and “is it moral or O.K. or not?” dialog like my niece once did on this forum, but generally I think the American public now sees toture more and more as another choice to make in bad situations of terrorism.

    Now what I do feel strongly about, and will be quite emphatic on is that the reason that the American public is now more (what?) condoning of torture as just a tool in the terror fighting tool chest, is because Bush is gone.

    Anything that could be related to Bush and to Cheney for that matter had a built in negativism. It caused a lot of people if not most people to recoil at the onset. The name “Bush” began to have in a smaller way (note I said “smaller”)the same effect as Adolf Hitler’s name. People were repelled automatically.

    If torture was a creature of the Bush Administration, then that was automatically 1 or 2 strikes against it.
    Since Bush is gone, and Cheney is much less apparent, then those 1 or 2 strikes are removed.

    If anyone is interested, I like Germany in the World Cup for the reasons Roger Cohen expressed in the NYT.

    • Mary says:

      “torture as just a tool in the terror fighting tool chest”

      is a lot like

      “pedophilia as just another tool in the child abuse fighting tool chest”

      Brings to mind the saying, ‘fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.’

  8. Gitcheegumee says:

    The American public is being seduced into the acceptance of torture as business as usual…and the public are acquiescent accomplices.

    Consider the recent dearth of stories about police brutalty in this country and the increasing use of tasers on citizens-even pregnant women.

    Look at the overkill at G20 in Canada!

    Sounds like torture to me-yet little but a bah and bleat from the sheeple.

  9. bobschacht says:

    What is really needed to turn this around is some indictments and trials.
    And some presidential leadership {crickets}.

    All we’ve got so far is the torture trial of a Chicago cop. Here, too, the press has provided little follow-up– no comparison with what the CIA, JSOC, or DOD has done with dozens of “detainees.”

    Bob in AZ

  10. Gitcheegumee says:

    “Don’t Taze My Granny”: Oklahoma Police Respond to Medical Call And Allegedly Proceed to Repeatedly Taser Bedridden 86-Year-Old Woman

    Published 1, June 30, 2010 (Exerpt)

    El Reno, Oklahoma police are under criticism this week due to a case alleging that officers tasered a bedridden 86-year-old woman, Lona Vernon. Officer Thomas Duran said he ordered his colleagues to hit the old lady with 50,000 volts after she took a “more aggressive posture in bed.”

    Lonnie Tinsley had called for medical assistance out of concern that she might have taken too much of her medication. Instead, nearly a dozen armed officers came into the house and found the elderly lady in a hospital bed tethered to an oxygen tank. Lonnie said that he begged the officers “don’t taze my Granny.” He ordered them to leave.

    (The lawsuit alleges that one of the officers actually “stepped on her oxygen hose until she began to suffer oxygen deprivation.”)

    “Don’t Taze My Granny”: Oklahoma Police Respond to Medical Call …Jun 30, 2010 … Result in a Tasering: Colorado Police Taser Un… … These guys are afraid of an 86 year old woman who’s hooked up to oxygen? … Columns (89), Congress (698), Constitutional Law (1274), Courts (595), Criminal law (2701) …
    jonathanturley.org/…/dont-taze-my-granny-oklahoma-police-respond-to-medical-call-and-allegedly-proceed-to-repeatedly-taser-bedridden-8… – Cached

  11. Gitcheegumee says:

    “Don’t Taze My Granny”: Oklahoma Police Respond to Medical Call …Jun 30, 2010 … Result in a Tasering: Colorado Police Taser Un… … These guys are afraid of an 86 year old woman who’s hooked up to oxygen? … Columns (89), Congress (698), Constitutional Law (1274), Courts (595), Criminal law (2701) …

    jonathanturley.org/…/dont-taze-my-granny-oklahoma-police-respond-to-medical-call-and-allegedly-proceed-to-repeatedly-taser-bedridden-8… – Cached

  12. Mary says:

    Great piece.

    I tie this piece to the another article you brought to my attention re: the Burge trial coverage.

    Gaps in Watchdog Journalism Reflected in News From a Trial.

    nyt, 7-4-10, David Carr

    The article was focused on a journalist, John Conroy, who had covered Burge and his “Midnight Crew” over twenty years earlier. Despite ” dozens of groundbreaking articles, a book and a play based on the reporting” when Burge was actually hauled in for a trial, no paper wanted to pay a journalist like Conroy to cover it. He instead blogged about it for radio station WBEZ in Chicago (kudos to them) and now is, again, out of a job in journalism.

    The piece ends with looking at an anthology put together:

    …called “True Stories of False Confessions” that contained 29 investigative articles.

    [Rob Warden, the author] said that half the people who wrote those pieces were no longer in the business.

    “All the reporting, all that knowledge, now gone,” he said. “It’s a pretty sad commentary on the state of American journalism.”

    When the media leaps into bed on torture, and then the former opposition party via their Changling figurehead take office with a “no big deal, good torture really, now let’s get out there and assassinate us’ns some folks and not pay too much attention to the babies we bomb while we’re at it” – when that’s The Change – of course it’s going to matter.

    When Congress undergoes a massive overhaul and the new face of Congress is more concerned with showing how much they support the criminals – to the point of even turning their backs on a missionary who wife and infant child our criminals helped blow up – of course its going to matter.

    When the Courts have clear and resounding cases like el-Masri’s and Arar’s and turn their backs, with a cowardly Sup Ct not even willing to make real and definite it support of a President above the law; hiding behind denials of cert and not even having the minimal guts to sign their name to the policies they were soliciting with their “inactive” Court – of course it’s going to matter.

    It’s really an inside joke of a sorts, to read the transcript or quotes of Scalia berating a lawyer about how you have to have guts to participate in the Democratic process in the John Doe v. Sam Reed case, with comments like “running a democracy takes a certain amount of civic courage” when all the while, the Sup Ct has run and hid from one Presidential torture case to the next, from one set of Presidential crime to the next, from one instance of DOJ lawyers participating in misleading the courts to the next.

    Civic courage – you don’t find it in the denials of cert from the Sup Ct, you don’t find it in Obama, you don’t find it in Kagan, you don’t find it in Holder, you don’t find it in Hume, you don’t find it in Williams, you don’t find it in Reid, you don’t find it in Pelosi, you don’t find it in … hell, I think the closest I came to seeing it was, of all things, in Shep Smith.

    So the Changling party gets what it wants – peace with the torturers – at the price of having all those it has drug there with it looking around and saying, “if torture doesn’t matter – why did we vote for you?”

  13. Mary says:

    BTW – this post also makes me want to mention the diary up at Seminal now, by Lt. Col. Wingard, on erosion of our civil liberties.


    Lt. Col. Wingard is defending one of the detainees at GITMO. I hope timing works out to where his diary gets a chance to be widely read – I thought it was very good.

    • bobschacht says:

      Thanks for the heads up; it is indeed a good article, and deserves a wide circulation.

      Obama’s complicity in continuing these practices and lack of action against past practices is outrageous.

      Bob in AZ

  14. tjbs says:

    Torture/ Murder/ Treason

    Notice how it’s become acceptable to torture someone to death with no consequences because it went bad or if they died you were doing it wrong, not YOU”RE A FUCKING MURDERER.

    How cold, callous and uncaring this nation has descended to, at the hand of the supreme court, who appointed george king, those treasonous unforgivable bastards.

  15. fatster says:

    Well, let’s go back several decades to a man who had a lot to do with establishing the direction of policy and practice which has culminated in so much we hold despicable in these times. Per Hoton:

    The Case Against Kissinger Deepens, Continued


    • Gitcheegumee says:

      Coincidentally enough, Chris Floyd has a smokin’ piece about this very transcript ,and a few other things,too. Knockout piece.

      Thanks for Horton link,btw.

      Welcome to Chris Floyd’s Empire BurlesqueInfinite Jest: State Terror From Nixon to Obama · PDF · Print · E-mail … At the time, in 1971, Nixon and Kissinger were working to undermine the socialist …

      http://www.chris-floyd.com/ – Cached – Similar

      • fatster says:

        Thanks for your links, too, Gitcheegumee. Last I heard, Kissinger was advising Obamarahma. And what could go wrong with that?

        • Gitcheegumee says:

          Uh oh……

          “Today Americans would be outraged if U.N. troops entered Los Angeles to restore order; tomorrow they will be grateful. This is especially true if they were told there was an outside threat from beyond, whether real or promulgated, that threatened our very existence.

          It is then that all peoples of the world will plead with world leaders to deliver them from this evil. The one thing every man fears is the unknown. When presented with this scenario, individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well being granted to them by their world government.”

          Henry Kissinger

          • john in sacramento says:

            And there’s this one too

            Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country

            • Gitcheegumee says:

              “We are grateful to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the light of publicity during those years.

              But now the world is more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supra-national sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries.”

              David Rockefeller

  16. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    OT for this thread, but relevant to recent threads covering financial implosion:

    Guardian reporting:

    The sprawling US private equity empire Carlyle Group has been accused of recklessness, negligence and wilful misconduct by liquidators of a Guernsey-based* mortgage investment spin-off, Carlyle Capital, that collapsed two years ago with losses of more than $1bn.

    Known for its top-notch political connections, Washington-based Carlyle has had Sir John Major, George W Bush, and former US secretary of state James Baker on its payroll over the years, and manages $90bn (£60bn) of funds….

    …liquidators allege that Carlyle abdicated its duties in managing the mortgage arm by failing to act when losses began to accumulate in 2007 on toxic mortgage-backed securities

    Carlyle claims the mortgages were AAA. Anyone watching FCIC investigations, or Senate hearings into WaMu, knows that AAA was code for ‘bullshit’/subprime in far too many cases.

    ‘Triple A’ became to mortgages what ‘enhanced interrogation’ became to torture; a way for people to avoid having to make tough decisions, or take difficult actions. Intellectual blinders.

    Creating those blinders is the role for propagandists and press agents, not journos.

    But this Guardian article appears to hold the potential for evidence of your hypothesis that at root the ‘subprime meltdown’ was largely about moving money illegally, and dirty money at that. Surprise, surprise…


    * code for ‘tax haven’

  17. tanbark says:

    I don’t think it was bad journalism; I think it was the fact that when Barack Obama came in and signed off on it, we had the second president in a row, and a supposed liberal/progressive, at that, who was OK with it, as well as some of the worst OTHER policies of his predecessor.

    It’s called “leadership”, and, as we’re seeing daily, the absence of it can be just as critical and influential as the presence of it.

  18. fatster says:

    Apparently, DOJ has been very busy lately with a total of five al-Qaeda indictments today.

    “. . . Abid Naseer, was arrested in England on Wednesday, London’s Metropolitan Police said.

    . . .

    “The other suspects charged Wednesday are Adnan El Shukrijumah, Adis Medunjanin, Tariq Ur Rehman; and a fifth defendant known as “Ahmad,” “Sohaib” or “Zahid,” the Justice Department said.”


  19. fatster says:

    U.S. court upholds Kuwaiti’s Guantanamo detention [Al Odah]


    PS This article also says there are about 180 prisoners left at Guantanamo.

  20. PhilK says:

    From Barry Eisler’s blog:

    Recently an otherwise seemingly thoughtful person said to me, “I know torture ordinarily doesn’t work because you can’t coerce someone into giving you trustworthy information. But don’t you think there are times when the government has to step over the line to save lives? You know, if terrorists have a nuclear bomb or something?”

    The juxtaposition in his question is fascinating and not at all uncommon. It boils down to, “Intellectually, I know it doesn’t work, but emotionally, I want to believe it can protect me anyway.”

    • Mary says:

      There’s an answer for this imo. Maybe not one Jeff Kaye and some others would like, but an answer imo.

      The real defense of exigencies would, while not necessarily allowed by the Geneva Conventions (it’s unclear) have a solid common law basis.

      IOW, you never make torture legal – it’s just not. Like picking up a gun and shooting. But someone as their defense against the crime they committed (like self defense) be able to claim exigent circumstances. The rub, of course, is that there were never any real, legally qualifying exigencies and the torture did not actually result in any real savings from exigencies.

      IOW – if you shoot someone it is a crime. You have the affirmative duty of proving the elements of self defense in a reasonable fashion – the fact that you thought someone was a goon, or a bad person, etc. doesn’t cut it.

      Similarly, in the example that I have seen given (and I have no idea if it is made up or drawn from a real circumstance) a policeman tortured a suspect who had a kidnap girl buried alive was able to get the info to free her. In that case, he is still guilty of torture, but may raise the exigent circumstance and result in defense. But only if he was both right and successful. So if he tortured someone, but the girl wasn’t buried alive with a clock ticking or if he tortured the wrong person etc. then he had no defense.

      So pulling the trigger on torture is like pulling the trigger on that gun – you know you are breaking the law and you know that you will have to actually prove that what you did was, on the one hand done in self defense, or on the other hand done in response to actual exigencies that you were right about. That is the problem in the torture debate – no one wants to address the fact that none of the torturers can meet that standard. None. You don’t respond to an “exigent” circumstance by soliciting a bunch of memos, by coordinating black site facilities, by establishing torture protocols, by lining up psychs and physicians to be there during your torture, by making sure you can keep your torture hidden away and establishing classifications for it, etc.

      All of those things go to establishing that there was no true exigency. And since, in the end, the appeal to exigencies such as a “ticking time bomb” or “buried girl” type of situation – where the torturer is not only under the pressure of such exigencies but is also CORRECT about the exigencies and the torture targe – where that is the only affirmative defense that has any validity, the problem isn’t that anyone had to choose between torture or a ticking time bomb.

      The problem for the torturers is that the facts don’t bear them out on making an exigency defense and the result is that everyone has wanted to classify and cover up the facts and destroy evidence – because the evidence doesn’t support the affirmative defense.

      It’s like saying: I shot someone and killed them. Don’t you think peole should be able to get by with shooting and killing if it is in self defense? I went out and got legal opinions and recruited assassins to work with me and rented black sites and made detailed arrangements for the laborious transfer of my victim and btw, they weren’t really someone who could have harmed me and sometimes they weren’t even the right person, the person I thought didn’t like me. But in any event, I don’t want to talk about kidnapping the wrong person and putting them through all my careful transport planning to get them to my blacksite, and I dont want to talk about the video tape from when I shot them – I just want to ask you whether or not you believe people should be able to claim self defense when they shoot someone who is putting their life in imminent threat.

      IOW, everyone wants to talk about the “what if” of ticking time bombs and the like where someone might justifiably claim exigencies – BECAUSE no one wants to talk about the real facts – none of which are about exigencies and many of which are about deliberately obtaining, after much planning, false confessions – in order to support things like the Iraq war and for the purpose of making a case to torture other persons too.

      Those things are not exigencies that can be raised as an affirmative defense. It because the facts are so bad that they run to abstractions of law, disconnected from fact. If they had good facts, they’d use them. And they wouldn’t involve setting up a whole torture regime, over time – bc that is defintionally outside of responding to an exigent threat.

  21. skdadl says:

    OT: Omar Khadr has fired his American lawyers, both civilian and military, it appears.

    Canadian lawyer Dennis Edney said he had not yet heard about the motion when contacted by the Star and was disappointed, but not surprised by the news.

    “He is a young man in an adult’s body now,” Edney said. “He appears to have given up hope. He doesn’t wish to participate in a process he sees as not only illegal but going against justice.”

    Negotiations were ongoing for months between Khadr’s legal team and Pentagon prosecutors concerning a possible plea deal– but the two sides disagreed on a sentencing range. A deal would eventually have to be approved by a Pentagon-appointed official known as the Convening Authority.

    A military jury would then decide on the exact sentence, likely giving Khadr credit for the eight years he has already spent in Guantanamo. The Pentagon has charged Khadr with five military commission charges, including murder for the death of U.S. Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer.

    Khadr faces a life sentence if convicted.

    Edney visited Khadr last month and said the 23-year-old Canadian has lost hope in getting justice at Guantanamo.

    “He feels Canada had not come to his aid. He has lost faith in the trial process when the prosecution are offering him a deal should he plead guilty for charges he doesn’t believe he’s responsible for,” Edney said.

    Out of respect for EW, I shall refrain from expressing myself fully for the moment. That’s a report from Michelle Shephard btw.

  22. fatster says:

    Army psychologists face Guantanamo abuse claim

    “The San Francisco-based Center for Justice & Accountability filed a complaint against Dr. John Leso with the New York Office of the Professions, alleging professional misconduct. Leso led a behavioral science consultation team at Guantanamo in 2002 and 2003.

    . . .

    “In a second complaint, a Toledo psychologist and others allege that retired Army Col. Larry James observed abusive interrogations and didn’t do anything to stop them.”


  23. fatster says:

    O/T: “Perfect Citizen”

    U.S. Plans Cyber Shield for Utilities, Companies

    “The federal government is launching an expansive program dubbed “Perfect Citizen” to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running such critical infrastructure as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants, according to people familiar with the program.

    “The surveillance by the National Security Agency, . . .

    “Defense contractor Raytheon Corp. recently won a classified contract for the initial phase of the surveillance effort valued at up to $100 million, said a person familiar with the project.”


    Ratheon: Drones and more.

    “Mark Bigham, vice president of business development for Raytheon’s Intelligence and Information Systems business, discussed on Federal News Radio how Raytheon is providing the U.S. armed forces increased processing and exploitation of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data.  The system, called the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS), is a global, Internet-like network accessible by both military and national agencies.

    “The DCGS 10.2 program modernizes the U.S. armed forces’ distributed ISR exploitation systems, and helps military analysts process and share accurate intelligence data in real time to aid our warfighters on the battlefield.

    “The system will be going operational at the end of February and will lead the way toward seamless interoperability among all military services with its open architecture – much like the Internet has done in the consumer world. ”


    • fatster says:

      Why is this being done out of DOD and not that Homeland Security office they have now?

        • fatster says:

          According to Wired, the DOD 2010 black budget was $62Billion.

          Are you wondering if all the effort to try and secure utilities and so forth from cyber-attack needs to be funded through a black budget, hence DOD? Not that I get warm fuzzies from Homeland Security, but you’d think securing utilities and other parts of a significant part of the infrastructure of the whole US would come under Homeland Security. Why DOD?

          Ooops, here’s the link to the Wired article: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/02/pentagons-black-budget-tops-56-billion/

          • Gitcheegumee says:

            Thanks for the info ,fatster.

            Well, my tiny mind was thinking that opacity could prove quite useful,for a number of reasons.

            You may recall this article I posted here,before:


            President George W. Bush has bestowed on his intelligence czar, John Negroponte, broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations. Notice of the development came in a brief entry in the Federal Register, dated May 5, 2006, that was opaque to the untrained eye.

            Unbeknownst to almost all of Washington and the financial world, Bush and every other President since Jimmy Carter have had the authority to exempt companies working on certain top-secret defense projects from portions of the 1934 Securities Exchange Act. Administration officials told BusinessWeek that they believe this is the first time a President has ever delegated the authority to someone outside the Oval Office. It couldn’t be immediately determined whether any company has received a waiver under this provision.

            The timing of Bush’s move is intriguing. On the same day the President signed the memo, Porter Goss resigned as director of the Central Intelligence Agency amid criticism of ineffectiveness and poor morale at the agency. Only six days later, on May 11, USA Today reported that the National Security Agency had obtained millions of calling records of ordinary citizens provided by three major U.S. phone companies. Negroponte oversees both the CIA and NSA in his role as the administration’s top intelligence official.

            William McLucas, the Securities & Exchange Commission’s former enforcement chief, suggested that the ability to conceal financial information in the name of national security could lead some companies “to play fast and loose with their numbers.” McLucas, a partner at the law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr in Washington, added: “It could be that you have a bunch of books and records out there that no one knows about.”

            • fatster says:

              Thnx, Gitcheegumee, and I do remember that you brought our attention to that.

              But I’m still focused on my question: Why is DOD getting involved in developing methods to prevent cyber-attacks on utilities both public and private in the US? Why is that not Homeland Security’s responsibility?

              My government makes me sooooooo confused. And worried.

              • Gitcheegumee says:

                Fatster, I found this over at the DHS website,under the heading,Strategic Plans.

                (I am still trying to figure out WHY FEMA has been MIA in the Gulf Coast region-in the ongoing aftermath of the BP blowout.)

                Information Technology
                Information Technology (IT) Strategic Plan 2009-2013 (PDF, 28 pages – 406 KB)
                The IT Strategic Plan articulates IT priorities for developing and delivering capabilities and services to support the mission and business needs of the Department of Homeland Security. The Plan was developed collectively by the Department’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) and component CIOs. The plan emphasizes the use of communication, information, and technology resources to strengthen the pursuit of core Department goals of protecting America, strengthening preparedness and emergency response, and building unified Department-wide operations and management capabilities. This plan aligns with the Department’s Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2009-2013.

                DHS | Gulf Coast Oil Spill ResponseJun 4, 2010 … Gulf Coast Oil Spill Response. Here are a few sample widget placements with their accompanying HTML … U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
                http://www.dhs.gov/files/programs/gc_1273359122688.shtm – Cached

                BTW,maybe you should do a diary over at the Seminal on this.

                • fatster says:

                  Thanks, Gitcheegumee. I doubt that the explanation is simply that Napolitano lost in competition with Gates. Somebody very much wants DOD to be in charge of protection of public and private US utilities from cyber-attack–and to contract out to a major war supplier to get that done. Why?

                  • Gitcheegumee says:

                    I googled -Is DHS under DOD -and got a LOT of tantalizing links.

                    Here’s the first one:

                    PDF] Homeland Security: The Department of Defense’s RoleFile Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – Quick View

                    The DHS legislation does not address DOD’s intelligence assets specifically. but in establishing the DHS Under-Secretary for Information and Infrastructure …

                    http://www.fas.org/man/crs/RL31615.pdf – Similar

                    • fatster says:

                      Many thanks. Heh heh: maybe they think a cyber-attack will be done by data bits with warheads attached or somethin’.

                      I sure wish someone with knowledge of this issue would clue us in.

  24. jaysun says:

    Ok, we have a military of young people we train to kill, in fact, the US Government contractually and legally obligates them to kill anyone that they are ordered to do so. We think nothing of this.

    However, torture is inhumane, killing is not.

    Sex and nudity cannot be shown on TV, yet violent murder is a staple of TV.

    Don’t abuse your dog, but kill your chickens and cows for food (as if we need them for food to stay alive).

    Kill your fetus, that is ok, but you will be jailed if you smoke pot while pregnant–if you decide to keep it.

    Such a strange world. Someday, a future civilization will be doing comedy skits about Americans in this century.

  25. kindGSL says:

    Absolutely the news media endorsed torture!

    They were VERY BIG on the cover up. How do I know?

    I was tortured and news media people were very involved with it.

    For me it was between them, the police and the psychologists. The proof of it is no matter how many reporters I contact with my story, none of them are interested.

    But more than that, I am married to a reporter, or at east he used to be. He is a geologist now, and very much under the thumb of the government. The more I stood up as an activist against things like torture, the more it happened to me.

    I was tortured. I am a citizen. Are reporters interested? No, they are terrified. That is what torture is for, the only reason it didn’t work on me is I’d had a religious experience before hand and I was on a mission to save the world. I was willing to do what it took even though it was torture for me.

    That takes a personality trait called commitment. So I guess like the song, I just never learned to let go.

    I have a coup stick I made a long time ago for Cheney. It is hanging on my wall where I can look at it while I am working here. I can’t wait for him to be arrested, he is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors and must be charged with war crimes.

    Do you think I am going to rest while he is in charge of things like BP? I think we are fools not to recognize the devil himself when he is standing right in front of us. But then, I was tortured. It changes one.

  26. BayStateLibrul says:

    Let’s dust off this letter from Poet Olds to Laura Bush in October 2005.

    Obama, ya think we’ve forgotten about torture and war.

    Do you need a fucking letter too…

    Listen to your heart, not to Generals, the CIA, and other dickheads

    “But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Administration.

    What kept coming to the fore of my mind was that I would be taking food from the hand of the First Lady who represents the Administration that unleashed this war and that wills its continuation, even to the extent of permitting “extraordinary rendition”: flying people to other countries where they will be tortured for us.

    So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.”



  27. Leen says:

    Manning’s reasons for his actions ““hopefully worldwide discussion, debates and reforms”

    “(02:18:34 AM) Lamo: what’s your endgame plan, then?
    (02:18:36 AM) Manning: it was vulnerable as fuck
    (02:20:57 AM) Manning: well, it was forwarded to WL
    (02:21:18 AM) Manning: and god knows what happens now
    (02:22:27 AM) Manning: hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms
    (02:23:06 AM) Manning: if not… than we’re doomed
    (02:23:18 AM) Manning: as a species
    (02:24:13 AM) Manning: i will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens
    (02:24:58 AM) Manning: the reaction to the video gave me immense hope… CNN’s iReport was overwhelmed… Twitter exploded…
    (02:25:18 AM) Manning: people who saw, knew there was something wrong”

    Hell Americans do not want to discuss the death and destruction that our illegal invasion of Iraq has caused let alone discuss the torture that has taken place in our names. The MSM is happy to go along. Don’t show the pictures, the video clips etc. Happy to keep most Americans asleep.


    • Gitcheegumee says:

      “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

      George Orwell

      • Leen says:

        Manning is a brave young man. May pay a huge price for showing the American public what our MSM was willing to show during Vietnam.

  28. Leen says:

    I heard one of the BBC host slap Jane Mayer down one morning on BBC’s World Edition when she stated that the MSM had fed the softened language ‘enhanced interrogation techniques” for waterboarding/torture to the American public. The host slapped her down and said she was “going to far”

    Outsourcing Torture
    The secret history of America’s “extraordinary rendition” program.
    by Jane Mayer

    Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/02/14/050214fa_fact6#ixzz0t69MMGKX


  29. fatster says:



    Obama praises Berlusconi as ‘great friend’



    What could possibly go wrong?

    BP Sets New Spill Target
    Aims to Cap Well by July 27 Earnings; Backup Plans as Obama, Cameron Meet



    More in the slew of arrests and so forth for this week.

    Officials 3 arrested in Norway al-Qaida bomb plot


  30. b2020 says:

    In a world that does not believe in democracy, questions such as “did the bad press manipulate them?” or “was it the TV shows?” might be permissible. If you truly believe in democracy, then you have to ditch that notion of the innocent victim being led by malicious external forces into – against their own good instincts – supporting evil.

    Torture is not WMD or Saddam’s al Qaeda. If you insist on a waiver on common sense and a minimum working knowledge of what the American Revolution, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were all about – “Never trust power and wealth, always demand proof, never cheer for war, relentlessly doubt authority” – I’ll let you have your indulgences on the minutiea of elective, aggressive, illegal war, and the bedwetting hysteria that followed 9/11.

    But torture and assasination are violating the bedrock of civilization in general, and everything the oath of allegiance stands for specifically. Professing support for torture is worse than this:


    Being a citizen is not a privilege, it is a duty. In a democracy, you have responsibilities. This


    is only the beginning of it, because laws can be ignored, they can be abused, and they can be changed. You bear witness to this very degradation right now. If the constitution is to have any meaning, it has to be, ultimately, a “suicide pact”. It certainly was for its fathers.

    It is not just support for torture under any other name (or the complete acquiescence with secret government kill lists). It is obvious that the perpetrator – the sovereign – knows, deep down, that the deeds committed in his name are unacceptable. Why would it be – ever – acceptable to not investigate a possible violations of a law so foundational?


    Torture to gain important information from suspected terrorists can be justified?


    Yes, it is a leading question, and surely, we cannot possibly expect upstanding citizens to parse the fine print, but is it really unreasonable to expect any person that have an understanding that “torture”, like “murder” or “rape”, has been codified as one of the fundamental crimes that cannot be tolerated?

    Hostis humanis generis. We have come a long way, down, but the bottom is in sight. Funny thing about the freedom of falling, it does not hurt until the end.

  31. b2020 says:

    “At roughly the same time that torture began to be more accepted, newspapers started to treat waterboarding, at least, with their typical “he said, she said” cowardice. [..] Is it possible, then, that by embracing the torture apologists’ relativism, newspapers encouraged individuals to think about torture as a political preference?”

    Interesting question. It is also possible that, once the press started quoting those calling “torture” torture, the willing part of the public was forced to put a different label on their existing, and quite established, preference – either for the deed, or for unquestioning support of authority.

    I do not know whether this question has ever been polled, but I am pretty sure that it would win a majority: agree?

    “I will never apologize for the United States of America, I don’t care what the facts are”


    I chose this quote because it does not attempt to alias the constitution – as a relic to worship – with hegemony and corporatism based on consumerism, so maybe even No Information Citzens can be expected to apply common sense – as we all take for granted that they will easily be manipulated by the – unsurprisingly – more porpular versions below:

    “We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense.”


    “The American way of life is not negotiable.”


    What *is* that way of life? How dou you define that way of life? And if you don’t, does that absolve you from responsibility?

    • Leen says:

      ““We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense.”

      I will never forget that moment. I was standing in that enormous crowd in D.C. next to Steve a young man who had joined the military based on what Bush and Cheney were saying about Iraq. He had spent a great deal of time with his duties including putting young dead soldiers in body bags. He leaned his head into mine and cried that day. He said that he would spend the rest of his life trying to make sure other young men and women were not sent off to wars based on lies.

      We both mentioned what Obama had said in that statement that the American way of life is not to be apologized for. That statement reminded me of something Cheney said soon after 9/11 when the Bush administration was telling everyone their duty was to “go shopping” Cheney added during that period of time that “the American way of life was not up for discussion”

      Obama/Cheney on the same page on that one

  32. b2020 says:

    Footnote of history: Do you believe that, in the Soviet Union, the official media were more manipulated and manipulative, more corrupt and more dysfunctional than they are in the US, today?

    And do you believe that the population of the Soviet Union, by and large, was less informed, and less aware of the manipulation, then the citizens of the US are, today? Do you believe that approval of government criminal acts was more pronounced in the Soviet Union than it is in the US, today?

    If US citizens can claim to be, or are described as, less informed than their Soviet counterparts were, is it not by choice? Is it not because, as they believe themselves to be beneficiaries of many of those crimes, those same citizens have a vested interest not to know?

    Party – like its 1939.

  33. wavpeac says:

    Can I just say that Obama’s refusal to follow through with an investigation of the Bush administration and torture is likely the reason for the shift along with the press. Lots of people are “followers”. They figure that if Obama doesn’t think it’s important then he must “know” that it isn’t and have some reason for not following through. People may believe that torture is wrong, but that “moving on” is important and because there is some cognitive dissonance in regard to the way Obama has dealt with it…true supporters may choose a “spoiled grapes” attitude. It’s not that important cause we stopped doing it. I wonder how they will all feel if by some chance, Obama is replaced by a republican in just two short years.