SSCI Torture Report Key: They Knew It was Torture, Knew It Was Illegal

CryingJusticeOkay, here are the critical working documents:

The SSCI Torture Report

The Minority Response to SSCI Torture Report

Dianne Feinstein’s Statement

But, without any question, my best early takeaway key is that the United States Government, knew, they bloody well knew, at the highest levels, that what was going on in their citizens’ name, legally constituted torture, that it was strictly illegal. They knew even a “necessity” self defense claim was likely no protection at all. All of the dissembling, coverup, legally insane memos by John Yoo, Jay Bybee et. al, and all the whitewashing in the world cannot now supersede the fact that the United States Government, knowing fully the immorality, and domestic and international illegality, proceeded to install an intentional and affirmative regime of torture.

Here, from page 33 of the Report, is the language establishing the above:

…drafted a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft asking the Department of Justice for “a formal declination of prosecution, in advance, for any employees of the United States, as well as any other personnel acting on behalf of the United States, who may employ methods in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah that otherwise might subject those individuals to prosecution. The letter further indicated that “the interrogation team had concluded “that “the use of more aggressive methods is required to persuade Abu Zubaydah to provide the critical information we need to safeguard the lives of innumerable innocent men, women and children within the United States and abroad.” The letter added that these “aggressive methods” would otherwise be prohibited by the torture statute, “apart from potential reliance upon the doctrines of necessity or of self-defense.”

They knew. And our government tortured anyway. Because they were crapping in their pants and afraid instead of protecting and defending the ethos of our country and its Founders.

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51 replies
    • phred says:

      Amen, Peterr. This bears repeating (over and over and over and over…)
      .
      “practices so abhorrent that they are called not crimes against the state but crimes against humanity”

    • Rich says:

      The goddam doctors did the same as the lawyers. The USAF, USN and USArmy Surgeons General all mouthed platitudes to the virtue of abusing prisoners and detainees. They said, to my protest, that their’s was a higher moral and ethical call to justice, protecting the safety of the United States rather than adherence to the existing laws, regulations and Hippocratic Oath all of which prohibit torture and abuse of prisoners/detainees in any form. I was hounded out of the Navy by their proxies and continued to be harassed in my civilian private practice. I have been denied jobs in the VAMC and those who supported me were swept up in the blacklisting. Mark Critz D-Pa and Bill Casey and their respective staffs after John Murtha intiated intervention before his untimely, suspicious death at the hands of Navy surgeons at Bethesda. This catastrophe is worse than imaginable. Prosecutions must be had, convictions obtained, and punishment administered for far more than just the lying and obstruction of justice.

  1. scribe says:

    While it’s nice to see the acknowledgement in print, the dispiriting part is that I’ve been saying much the same thing – it was illegal and they knew it was illegal – for at least 10 1/2 years.
    .
    Someone I once knew had a part in letting the Abu Ghraib photos (remember them?) into the public domain and asked me a couple days later: “you were in the Army and are a lawyer. Are we committing war crimes?”
    .
    And I said “yes. definitely. no doubt.”
    .
    And our government had been doing that for years by then.
    .
    That it’s taken this long to get this out in public is merely a reflection of the craven cowardice and cowards ruling Washington.
    .
    Regrettably, the only result of a putative (ain’t never gonna happen. don’t kid yourselves.) prosecution of these war criminals would be the conclusion of their successors in office that the problem was not the torture, but rather the leaving of evidence by which they were caught. In other words, not “Don’t do that” but rather “Don’t get caught.”
    .
    May they burn in Hell.

  2. TheraP says:

    Thank you for this post! I knew as soon as I read the press disclaimer that if I came here I could read the unvarnished truth. And a sound verbal thrashing.

    I still haven’t gotten over what was done – in our name. Nor the failure to bring anyone to accounting (who authorized war crimes and knew full well what was going on) – together with the rewriting of history.

    Thanks again – for truth-telling.

  3. phred says:

    Thanks for the succinct post. However, on this point:
    .
    “Because they were crapping in their pants and afraid”,
    .
    we will have to agree to disagree. You will never convince me they acted out of fear. They acted out of malice.

    • scribe says:

      Disagree, phred.
      .
      Like some dogs get hyper-aggressive and bark and bite, they were doing it out of fear. Fear that hewing to American principles would be seen as unmanly, weak, and cowardly. Like there was any chance, say, Osama bin Laden would have been acquitted of anything, anywhere.
      .
      They were afraid. They were not up to the job. And they failed even – especially because – when they thought that by being extra-tough and doing things the Wrong way meant they were more manly. Most of the time, it is tougher to do things the Right way, to hold to principles of honor, duty and true faith and allegiance to the law, Constitution and, indeed, history’s examples. But these were men who had a history of cutting corners, getting off easy, and never having to do the Right thing in the Right way.
      .
      Cowards and weaklings, every one.

      • phred says:

        Well, we agree in part then… they were incompetent weak cowards, who were not up to the job. I would add malicious to those descriptors, as well as manipulative.
        .
        One simply cannot view the torture program outside of the purpose to which it was put and that was to manufacture evidence to start two unnecessary wars, and to create a defacto unfettered monarchy within the U.S.

        It was malicious and it was intentionally so. Fear, hate, greed were all present, but malice was front and center.

        • Susan Pizzo says:

          Greed, malice, all the worst motivations, yes indeedy. PLUS add the Bandar/SA connection (admission that he ‘runs’ terrorists), the NSA dragnet aimed at all of us, the full flowering of the neoliberal economic agenda, the reality of endless war – and you get a dystopic convergence of mind-boggling proportions. Friendly fascism long in the planning and about to reveal its true face? Or just a monumental coincidence with nothing but downsides for the 99%?

          This site and Naked Capitalism – required reading…

          • somecallmetim says:

            I hear echoes of their cowardice in their defense of their actions even now.

            But instead of lipstick, it’s the shellac of self-righteousness.

          • phred says:

            Thanks for the remembrance of Mary, I sure miss her on days like this.
            .
            And thanks for MoDo’s column on the GOP war on art ; ) I wonder what hole Powell is spending today trying to hide in for his role in all of this. If only Powell and Ashcroft had spent more time contemplating the things around them in plain view rather than covering things up, looking away, and lying to the citizenry and the world. There is no honor among torturers.

            • bmaz says:

              Thank both of you. The split of attention and time between Twitter and blog is sometimes brutal. Especially for one trying to deal on the fly. But there was an entire twitter thought thread I did earlier based on thinking of Mary and her long ago focus on Abdel Mowhoush.

              Also, we are 15 days away from Mary’s passing. It will be remembered.

              • phred says:

                I caught some of that twitter thread (the bit in honor of Mary) earlier today and really really appreciated it. Mary was a treasure. She would be angry today, but in her anger she was so eloquently articulate. She never ever lost sight of what mattered.
                .
                How unlike our political so-called leadership.

                • JohnT says:

                  Yes to that
                  .
                  Mary could write a thousand words in a comment, and I’d read every bit of it, because it was full interesting facts, and it flowed so well
                  .
                  Now I really miss her voice

                  • phred says:

                    Yep. Every word. I miss Mary : )
                    .
                    And thanks for the 3 word reminder. The Shock Doctrine indeed. Fucking neocons wanted a war in Iraq going back to the ’90s and they didn’t fucking care how they got it and now look at us. A lost country that can’t find the rule of law with two hands, a map, and a flashlight.

                • kathleen says:

                  Thanks to the whole EW crew for your persistent focus and push for justice in relation to such critical issues. You folks make me want to believe in a “nation of laws” and justice.

    • sponson says:

      I’m with Phred, it wasn’t “fear” but eager desire to engage in torture, most likely with the goal of getting false confessions about an Iraqi “connection” to Al Qaeda that didn’t exist.

      • RUKidding says:

        The PTB, like Cheney, as sadists. They indulged themselves in torture because they knew they could get away with it. It made them feel sexy and powerful. I’m not kidding. Not snark.
        *
        There was always evidence that torture NEVER resulted in good Intel. I remember discussions way back about how standard Police/FBI (not the most shining examples these days) interrogation – NOT torture – methods were more likely to result in some useful Intel. Torture has been endlessly proven to be useless in terms of solving anything other than to be sadistic and brutal to another human being.
        *
        Enjoy how YOUR tax dollars were used.

    • JohnT says:

      “Because they were crapping in their pants and afraid”,
      .
      we will have to agree to disagree. You will never convince me they acted out of fear. They acted out of malice.

      x1,000
      .
      Three words — The Shock Doctrine

  4. klynn says:

    EW, thank you to you, Jeff Kaye, bmaz, Jim White, Christy, Jane, ACLU, Carol Rosenberg, Amy Goodman, The Guardian and The Telegraph as well as many others who led the way to cover this reality despite terrible treatment and pressures by others.

    Thank you for seeking truth and justice.

    To Condoleezza Rice: the college protests against you as a speaker were spot on.

  5. galljdaj says:

    Our Govt knew and… . Well! Not only Our Govt knew! I knew and others knew! I read Jay bybee’s White Paper and posted a copy of the White Paper on a number of internet sites! Others did so also! Plus the Gonzales request to bybee that initiated it! Virtually common knowledge! And. We all saw it was torture!

    I remember making the comment, to another poster that was not sure it authorized torture, ‘This White Paper, makes rape acceptable and no longer a crime if the other party is not likely to die from what the rapist does!’ No Crime at all!

    And, they made these assholes Federal Judges, TO COVER THEIR OWN ASSES! the lil bush gang and now the lil obama gang!

  6. bevin says:

    “..That it’s taken this long to get this out in public is merely a reflection of the craven cowardice and cowards ruling Washington…”

    And the ineffectiveness of the political opposition to torture. The way in which congressmen from both houses who have expressed opposition and posed tough(ish) questions have been picked off and replaced by racist proponents of the Police State has been exemplary. Of course a lot of this has to do with the rightward swing in the Democratic Party, and some to do with the narrowing of ballot options but the inability of the “left” to connect with the electorate-and tap into popular revulsion against torture and deceitfulness- is the real problem.

  7. RUKidding says:

    Many of us have known since the get-go what was going on. In the very early days post 9/11/2001, US citizens weren’t allowed to exercise our First Amend rights. Remember? The Dixie Chicks can tell you what happened to them when they protested the illegal war on Iraq. Phil Donahue lost his job. It was VERBOTEN to speak against the US govt.
    *
    Torture was acknowledged, there was photographic evidence that was swept under the carpet, excused & low level grunts were forced out of the military unfairly, when it was proven that their superior officers AND the CIA knew exactly what was going at Abu Gharaib, Bagram and elsewhere.
    *
    We also knew that W, Cheney, Powell, et al, lied lied lied lied and lied again about WMD and other “reasons” for War on Iraq.
    *
    Torture – there’s been evidence out there since Day One. All this does is pull it together in one place and make it more or less “official.”
    *
    And then what?? What happens next?
    *
    Shorter A: F*ck all.
    *
    PERP WALKS or none of this means bupkes.

  8. DWBartoo says:

    Well, bmaz, I consider that the US “government” was “afraid” just about the very same way that cops are “frightened” when they kill UNARMED citizens … it is a lame, pathetic EXCUSE.

    The proof is the “declaration” of “perpetual war” ON … “TERRORISM” …

    Otherwise, yes, the whole of the US government, ALL three branches, knew and know the truth.

    And they all have chosen, deliberately and consistently, to lie, in varying degrees, TO the people.

    DW

  9. RUKidding says:

    Possible reason for the use of torture: to create more “terrorists.”
    *
    In that alone, torture was successful, wildly so.
    *
    Whyever would our “leaders” do that???
    *
    Money. Lotsa money. Follow the dollar$$$$.

    • liberalrob says:

      So when do the trials start?

      Not gonna hold my breath. But momentum is growing overseas, I think. Whether it achieves critical mass and results in trials (in absentia, natch) is another question.

    • Thomas says:

      Insiders protect insiders, regardless of party affiliation. But also, you think the intelligence community couldn’t destroy Obama personally? They’ve been collecting it all for a while, and surely ‘quite a lot’ for a long time. The situation is probably similar with the bankers.

      If Obama had the ‘courage of his convictions’ and that one of those convictions [sic] was rule of law, then he would lay it all on the line like Snowden. It may even make his all-important historical stature (‘legacy’) rise to truly significant levels. But clearly that isn’t who he is, and Obama will likely be seen as a puppet of the rich and powerful who also entrenched a national security state regime.

  10. gmoke says:

    “Because they were crapping in their pants and afraid….”

    No, they weren’t afraid. They weren’t crapping their pants. They were overjoyed at the prospect of what they thought was an easy war against trivial tribal fools and the opportunity to indulge in the torture, lies, and evil behavior that previously they had to keep under control.

    It wasn’t fear that led our country, our republic to become a torture nation. It was cruelty and stupidity. It is not just an accident of history that Donald Rumsfeld lives on the former plantation where Edward Covey, slave breaker, tried to break Frederick Douglass and received a thrashing from Douglass for his troubles.

  11. Linnaeus says:

    Does the CIA actually collect intelligence anymore? Seems like it’s mostly an operations organization these days. And not a very good one.

  12. Rich says:

    The goddam doctors did the same as the lawyers. The USAF, USN and USArmy Surgeons General all mouthed platitudes to the virtue of abusing prisoners and detainees. They said, to my protest, that their’s was a higher moral and ethical call to justice, protecting the safety of the United States rather than adherence to the existing laws, regulations and Hippocratic Oath all of which prohibit torture and abuse of prisoners/detainees in any form. I was hounded out of the Navy by their proxies and continued to be harassed in my civilian private practice. I have been denied jobs in the VAMC and those who supported me were swept up in the blacklisting. Mark Critz D-Pa and Bill Casey and their respective staffs DID NOTHING after John Murtha intiated intervention before his untimely, suspicious death at the hands of Navy surgeons at Bethesda. This catastrophe is worse than imaginable. Prosecutions must be had, convictions obtained, and punishment administered for far more than just the lying and obstruction of justice.

  13. JohnT says:

    Just my 2 cents

    By fighting the report coming out, they (most of the USG) implicitly admit that it is torture

    And the CIA breaking into the Senate Intel committee’s computers explicitly admits that they tortured, and knew what they were doing was wrong and indefensible.

  14. Anon says:

    Because they were crapping in their pants and afraid instead of protecting and defending the ethos of our country and its Founders.

    In every defense of torture that I have heard one way or another it comes do to this. They were scared, pissed off, in the mood for some vengance, and they took it.
    .
    This morning on PRI’s the World an “independent CIA analyst” defended it by noting the “zeitgeist of the time” somehow made it ok.

  15. Rich says:

    Dr. Elspeth Ritchie made the assertion “they, DoD Medicine, were appealing to a higher ethical duty to the defense of the country” and not to a physicians duty of first do no harm.

  16. rollotomasi says:

    scribe: “They were afraid. They were not up to the job. And they failed even – especially because – when they thought that by being extra-tough and doing things the Wrong way meant they were more manly.”

    Exactly. I’ve been convinced ever since “The One Percent Doctrine” by Ron Suskind and Jay Rosen’s “Retreat from Empiricism” based on an earlier Suskind piece in NYT Magazine that irrationality and panic ruled the day. These were ideologues, true believers in their mission to the extent that they could not be swayed by reality and evidence, and who could easily justify even the most extreme, heinous actions based on the importance of the mission. This has been a toxic mix down through history.

  17. tjallen says:

    From me, too, a big thank-you to empty wheel, Marcy, Bmaz (and Mary too) for all your insight and work on this topic over the last 14 years. This blog was the one sane place to go when everyone else seemed to be on the torture bandwagon. You all kept my head from exploding. Thanks.

  18. kathleen says:

    Quite a few inferences in the main stream that the CIA was pushing for torture before Cheney’s Office of Legal Counsel crew

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