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Lloyd Blankfein’s AAA Bridge He Wants to Sell You

Perhaps the most stunning part of the Goldman Sachs hearing the other day came at the end of the hearing, after most of the press had left for dinner. Carl Levin challenged Lloyd Blankfein on something he had said to staffers. Blankfein claimed that he “never thought” of the fact that AAA ratings were important to sales and that some buyers only buy AAA rated products.

Somehow I have a feeling this claim is going to come back to haunt Blankfein.

The “Detainees Subject to the Review”

MadDog linked to the letter that Dennis Blair and Eric Holder sent the Senate describing the process by which 6 agencies and a 100 staffers meticulously decided the ultimate fate of Gitmo detainees–who could be released or imprisoned elsewhere, who could be tried, and (presumably) who had to be held indefinitely. It might be a reassuring letter for its portrayal of the deliberation and rationality applied to Gitmo detainees.

Except for this phrase, repeated twice: “all 240 detainees subject to the review.”

After carefully considering each case, the six agencies reached unanimous agreement on disposition determinations for all 240 detainees subject to the review.

[snip]

After all of the deliberations described above, the DNI-either personally for cases considered by Principals or by delegation to the ODNI official on the Review Panel-agreed with the other five agencies on disposition determinations for all 240 detainees subject to the review.

This process, apparently doesn’t apply to all detainees. Only the detainees “subject to the review.” Now perhaps they’re just making the distinction between Gitmo detainees and those in some black hole in Bagram or some other secret site. But it sure seems to be referring just to Gitmo detainees. In which case, there must be other Gitmo detainees, outside of the 240, who are not “subject to the review.”

Why? Who are they?

Executive Order 13492, which instituted this review, provides two potential hints. First, it provides this definition:

(c) “Individuals currently detained at Guantánamo” and “individuals covered by this order” mean individuals currently detained by the Department of Defense in facilities at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base whom the Department of Defense has ever determined to be, or treated as, enemy combatants.

This would seem to leave out detainees held by CIA or contractors (maybe?). And it would seem to leave out those detainees whom DOD had simply never called nor treated as an enemy combatant. You know those family members Mary keeps asking about? They wouldn’t be enemy combatants, would they?

The EO also suggests DOD would have authority over any other detainees.

(a) Nothing in this order shall prejudice the authority of the Secretary of Defense to determine the disposition of any detainees not covered by this order.

So while this letter to the Senate sounds like a wonderful work of rational deliberation, it also seems to hint at some remaining Kafkaesque hole, whereby some people who have not been deemed enemy combatants remain in some arbitrary limbo not covered by this great display of rational deliberation.

Update: Hmmm is right: the EO lets the Secretary of Defense do what he will with all the other detainees (which I guess makes it especially useful if your Secretary of Defense is an old Chief Spook). I’ve fixed the post accordingly.

Carl Levin Takes Ownership of Corrupt Deal with PhRMA

what my Senator, Carl Levin, said last night when he voted against the Dorgan reimportation amendment. (h/t powwow)

Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, it has become apparent that passage of this Dorgan amendment relative to importation of prescription drugs, an amendment which I have long supported, could threaten passage of broader health care reform. If so, the perfect would become the enemy of the good. For that reason, I will vote ‘‘no’’ on the Dorgan amendment on this bill.

Presumably in an attempt to justify to constituents like me why he doesn’t think consumers should save $100 billion on drugs, he said he had to vote down the Dorgan amendment to preserve the overall health care reform bill.

Just as a reminder, here’s one of Jane’s many posts explaining the corrupt genesis of the PhRMA deal. As she described, in late spring and summer, at a time when the White House pretended it was letting Congress write bills, the White House made a series of closed door deals with big health care players to buy off their approval for health care “reform.” The deals would:

  1. Keep them from advertising against the White House plan
  2. Keep them from torpedoing vulnerable Democrats in 2010 so there isn’t a repeat of 1994
  3. Keep their money out of GOP coffers

As reported by Ryan Grim, here are the terms of the deal negotiated with PhRMA.

Commitment of up to $80 billion, but not more than $80 billion.

  1. Agree to increase of Medicaid rebate from 15.1 – 23.1% ($34 billion)
  2. Agree to get FOBs done (but no agreement on details — express disagreement on data exclusivity which both sides say does not affect the score of the legislation.) ($9 billion)
  3. Sell drugs to patients in the donut hole at 50% discount ($25 billion)

This totals $68 billion

4. Companies will be assessed a tax or fee that will score at $12 billion. There was no agreement as to how or on what this tax/fee will be based.

Total: $80 billion

In exchange for these items, the White House agreed to:

  1. Oppose importation
  2. Oppose rebates in Medicare Part D
  3. Oppose repeal of non-interference
  4. Oppose opening Medicare Part B

So now Ameican consumers have to continue to subsidize drug development for the rest of the world (and a great deal of erectile dysfunction ads) so the Obama Administration could buy off the PhRMA.

This is–as Scarecrow noted the other day–one big protection racket.

And this is the thoroughly undemocratic, anti-consumer process that Carl Levin has now taken ownership of.

Why Can’t CIA Handle the Same Level of Oversight the Military Gets?

"We tortured Qahtani," the convening authority for military commissions, Susan Crawford, admitted to Bob Woodward earlier this year. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture."

Though I’m sure it happened, any criticism of Crawford for this admission was muted. I know of no one who claimed that Crawford was causing servicemen and women to be distracted from their core mission of protecting the country. No skies fell, and few claimed they had or would.

But it’s not just Crawford who confessed that the military tortured a Gitmo detainee. Congress, too, has chronicled the ways in which the military tortured detainees. The Senate Armed Services Committee spent eighteen months investigating the way in which the military adapted SERE techniques for use on al Qaeda, Afghan, and Iraqi detainees. Their report describes how techniques approved by Donald Rumsfeld for some circumstances–sleep deprivation and stress positions contributed to homicides in Afghanistan.

In December 2002, two detainees were killed while detained by CITF-180 at Bagram. Though the techniques do not appear to have been included in any written interrogation policy at Bagram, Army investigators concluded that the use of stress positions and sleep deprivation combined with other mistreatment at the hands of Bagram personnel, caused or were direct contributing factors in the two homicides.

It describes how, a month before those homicides, the Special Forces wrote a memo noting their risk in participating in such interrogations.

"we are at risk as we get more ‘creative’ and stray from standard interrogation techniques and procedures taught at DoD and DA schools and detailed in official interrogation manuals."

It describes the CIA’s General Counsel warning DOD that certain units in Iraq were using methods that not even the CIA would use on the same detainees (suggesting the military interrogators were violating the Geneva Conventions in a legal war zone).

CIA General Counsel Scott Muller had called Jim Haynes and told him that the techniques used by military interrogators at the SMU TF facility in Iraq were "more aggressive" than techniques used by CIA to interrogate the same detainees.

It describes the actions those who tortured, those who planned the torture, and those who authorized it.

Read more

Breaking! Crazy Pete Hoekstra Wants to Refuse New Jobs for Michiganders

picture-121.thumbnail.pngJust saw this on Twitter:

petehoekstra If press reports on moving Gitmo detainees to Mich are accurate my answer is no. I will do everything possible to stop this.

Mind you, John Engler, Carl Levin, and Bart Stupak have all spoken favorably of moving Gitmo detainees to Michigan. Bipartisan support! And why not? We’ve got the empty prisons, the remote areas. And lots and lots of Michiganders who need a job.

But Crazy Pete apparently thinks he needs to fearmonger on terrorism more than Michiganders need jobs (or America needs to restore its reputation internationally).

And he wants to run for Governor of Michigan?

Update: I’ve put a map of where the prison in question is located–basically the pointer finger knuckle, in mitten-speak. 

Sheldon Whitehouse: “No Further Actionable Intelligence Was Obtained” from Abu Zubaydah by Waterboarding

Sheldon Whitehouse gave a barnburner of a speech last night, in which he described how egregious Dick Cheney’s lies about torture have been.

The speech goes further than President Obama’s and Russ Feingold’s and Carl Levin’s calls on Cheney’s lies in two ways. First, those other calls focused on whether the documents Cheney wants declassified actually say what he claims they say; Whitehouse focused on whether Cheney’s more basic claims about torture are true. And second, Whitehouse here focuses not on whether we needed waterboarding to get intelligence (Obama, for example, said, "the public reports and the public justifications for these techniques — which is that we got information from these individuals that were subjected to these techniques — doesn’t answer the core question, which is:  Could we have gotten that same information without resorting to these techniques?), but whether we actually got any useful intelligence from the methods at all. 

Whitehouse says that no further actionable intelligence was gained through the torture used on Abu Zubaydah after he was turned over to the CIA contractors for good. [Note: this transcript is my own–I found the Congressional Record copy after I did this. I’ve edited in response to Andersonblogs’ comment to take out ellipses and put in emphasis.]

So for a third time he was returned to the FBI and CIA agents, again for professional interrogation, but by now he had been so compromised by the techniques that were applied to him that even they were unsuccessful in getting further information. And as best as I have been able to determine, for the remaining sessions of 83 waterboardings that have been disclosed as being associated with his interrogation, no further actionable intelligence was obtained. And yet the story has been exactly the opposite. The story over and over has been that once you get these guys out of the hands of the FBI and military "amateurs" and into the hands of these "trained CIA professionals" who can use these tougher techniques, that’s when you get the information. In this case at least, the exact opposite was the truth. And this was a case cited by the Vice President by name. 

From that, Whitehouse makes appeals to his colleagues not to believe they’ve been told, just as Bob Graham appealed to his colleagues not to believe what they’d been told about the Iraq intelligence.

I want my colleagues and the American public to know that, measured against the information I’ve been able to gain access to, the story-line that we have been led to believe, the story-line about waterboarding that we have been sold, is false in every one of its dimensions, and I ask that my colleagues be patient and be prepared to listen to the evidence when all is said and done before they wrap themselves in that storyline.

One more point about this. Read more

Carl Levin to Cheney: You’ve Got Nothing

Carl Levin better watch out for Liz "BabyDick" Cheney and her cries of "libel!" Because he just called her Daddy a liar, using words like "false statements" and "colossal misrepresentation."

Now, Levin is actually the second person who has seen those documents who says they don’t say what PapaDick says they do.  A couple of weeks ago, Russ Feingold accused PapaDick of lying using somewhat more gentle language.

Nothing I have seen – including the two documents to which former Vice President Cheney has repeatedly referred – indicates that the torture techniques authorized by the last administration were necessary, or that they were the best way to get information out of detainees. The former vice president is misleading the American people when he says otherwise.

But I’m specifically interested in Levin’s statements for the very specific way he rebuts PapaDick’s claims (note, I’ve got nothing on my senior Senator in my appreciation for weeds). 

But those classified documents say nothing about numbers of lives saved, nor do the documents connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of abusive techniques.

I’m interested in those specific details for the way they flesh out the details from the May 30, 2005 Bradbury memo which appears to have details from two documents related to those Cheney is seeking. As I suggested in April, it appears Cheney may be seeking one of the documents, and a version of another, that Bradbury used to rebut the CIA IG report’s conclusion that the torture was not all that useful. 

Here’s what the three documents cited by Bradbury for his "efficacy" argument say. I’ve left off all reference to the IG Report; my discussion of Bradbury’s use of that is in this post and this post. And I’ve noted which claims–really, the most critical ones–he offers no citation for. I bring it back to Levin below.

CIA Directorate of Intelligence, Khalid Shaykh Muhammed: Preeminent Source on Al-Qa’ida (July 13, 2004) ["Preeminent Source"]

After the September 11 attacks, KSM assumed "the role of operations chief for al-Qa’ida around the world." [citation omitted] KSM also planned additional attacks within the United States both before and after September 11.

[snip]

And, indeed, we understand that since the use of enhanced techniques, "KSM and Abu Zubaydah have been pivotal sources because of their ability and willingness to provide their analysis and speculation about the capabilities, methodologies, and mindsets of terrorists."

Memorandum for Steven G. Bradbury, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, from [redacted], DCI Counterterrorist Center, Re: Effectiveness of the CIA Counterintelligence Interrogation Techniques (March 2, 2005) ["Effectiveness Memo"]

Your office has informed us that the CIA believes that "the intelligence acquired from these interrogations has been a key reason why al-Qa’ida has failed to launch a spectacular attack in the West since 11 September 2001." [citation omitted] Read more

Levin: Send Those Terrorists to My Backyard

Carl Levin (Senator Levin–congrats for casting your 11,000th vote yesterday!) has come up with a sound suggestion to help close Gitmo: send them to MI.

Most lawmakers view the prospect of moving prisoners from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to their districts as a negative proposition. But at least one Democratic senator is open to the idea as a potential economic boost to his struggling state.

Carl Levin , chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that construction and staffing at a new maximum-security prison in Michigan could help his cash-starved state.

“If the governor and the local officials are open to it, that’s something that should be considered,” said Levin, making the point that each state should make its own determination.

Former Michigan Gov. John Engler, a Republican, suggested this month that creating a “Guantánamo North” in the Upper Peninsula could net the state upward of $1 billion per year, according to reports.

While I’m not a fan of turning prisons into profit centers, I’m with these men. If you need to, build a maximum security prison in MI, in the U-P if you want. We need the jobs, and if it’d help to close Gitmo, I’m all for it.

Lambert Dogs the Press

I beat the NYT to actual close reading over the weekend and it made a stink.

But Lambert documents his superior canine instincts from five years ago.

Je repete. 2004-05-09, Corrente:

Maybe there is a smoking gun. … Somebody’s got to authorize the dogs, the kennels, the handlers, and the purpose. … Who let the dogs out?

2009-05-20, Senator Carl Levin via Digby:

The interrogation techniques authorized by Secretary Rumsfeld in December 2002 for use at GTMO – including … military working dogs – were used by military intelligence personnel responsible for interrogations. … On September 14, 2003, Lieutenant General Sanchez issued an interrogation policy for CJTF-7 that authorized interrogators to use stress positions, environmental manipulation, sleep management, and military working dogs …

This was a very easy post to write: Evidence, and a soupçon of reasoning. So why was an unpaid, foul-mouthed blogger the one to write it, instead of a reporter in our famously free press? Bueller?… Bueller?… Bueller?

From one foul mouth blogger to another … good fucking question.

The SASC Smoking Gun on Waterboarding

The SASC Report on Torture strongly suggests that CIA was following one set of guidelines on waterboarding, but had gotten approval from DOJ for another set of guidelines. 

The SASC reveals that on July 26, 2002, JPRA sent a report on SERE techniques. That report is almost certainly one of the resources Jay Bybee consulted when writing his memo, which was published on August 1, 2002. The SASC report says,

[DOD General Counsel] Haynes also recalled that he may have been "asked that information be given to the Justice Department for something they were working on," which he said related to a program he was not free to discuss with the Committee, even in a classified setting

See Valtin’s story showing that the data came from the same place.

Now, as SASC describes it, the JPRA document didn’t describe waterboarding as it used to be done in Navy training. 

JPRA’s description of the waterboarding technique provided in that first attachment was inconsistent in key respects from the U.S. Navy SERE school’s description of waterboarding. According to the Navy SERE school’s operating instructions, for example, while administering the technique, the Navy limited the amount of water poured on a student’s face to two pints. However, the JPRA attachment said that "up to 1.5 gallons of water" may be poured onto a "subject’s face." While the Navy’s operating instructions dictated that "[n]o effort will be made to direct the stream of water into the student’s nostrils or mouth," the description provided by JPRA contained no such limitation for subjects ofthe technique. While the Navy limited the use ofthe cloth on a student’s face to twenty seconds, the JPRA’s description said only that the cloth should remain in place for a "short period of time." And while the Navy restricted anyone from placing pressure on the chest or stomach during the administration of this technique, JPRA’s description included no such limitation for subjects of the technique. [my emphasis]

In other words, JPRA was advising waterboarding to be used in torture to use six times the amount of water as that used in training, and JPRA eliminated the 20 second limit on waterboarding.

Now, Bybee’s memo is closer to what it appears Navy did in SERE, with limits on timing (though twice as long as SERE allowed), and description of  water being poured from a "canteen cup."

Finally, you would like to use a technique called the "waterboard" in this procedure, the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, Read more