Cheney ‘Fesses Up that Rapport, Not Torture, Got Intelligence

Greg Sargent catches Cheney parsing carefully about whether the two CIA documents he’s trying to get released will prove that torture works.

The key moment came when his interviewer said: “You want some documents declassified having to do with waterboarding.” Cheney replied:

“Yes, but the way I would describe them is they have to do with the detainee program, the interrogation program. It’s not just waterboarding. It’s the interrogation program that we used for high-value detainees. There were two reports done that summarize what we learned from that program, and I think they provide a balanced view.”

Greg speculates:

My bet is Cheney is planning to cite the valuable intel in the docs and say that the program — of which torture was only a part — was responsible for producing it. He’ll fudge the question of whether the torture itself was actually responsible for generating that information. Cheney is as experienced as any Washington hand at using precise language to obfsucate, and this is the game plan. You heard it here first.

Greg’s right–Cheney’s making a key retreat off his claims. That’s because we know the CIA got a ton of intelligence from some of the detainees, particularly KSM. But I’ve shown repeatedly, with my half-completed review of the KSM intelligence used in the 9/11 Report, that the bulk of this information came long after KSM was waterboarded in March 2003. The first big chunks of intelligence came from him in July 2003, and there were big chunks in the months that followed. This is important because the CIA started using rapport as well as abuse. Though we don’t know when they did so, it is likely that much of the intelligence they got from KSM came at least partly because of this rapport based interrogation. 

So I’m not surprised that the program–including rapport–got intelligence. I’m just curious why Cheney is backtracking on his big claims now.

KSM Refuses Lawyer Because of All the Legal Same Sex Marriage in the US

Try to get your head around this.

David Nevin, fresh off his victory in getting Geoffrey Fieger acquitted of all charges, has volunteered to donate his considerable legal skills to represent Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in his death sentence Show Trial. But KSM doesn’t want the help, he says, because the Constitution permits same sex marriage.

”I will not accept any attorney. I will represent myself,” Mohammed said. “I will not accept anybody, even if he is Muslim, if he swears to the American Constitution.”

Mohammed said he recognized Islamic shariya law and rejected the U.S. Constitution, in part because it allows for "same sexual marriage and many things are very bad.”

It’s true, I suppose, that the Constitution permits same sex marriage–as in, does not prohibit states from performing them. But it in no way affirmatively protects it. Do you think we ought to tell KSM that same sex marriage is only legal on the hippie coasts–and may be overturned in California come November?

On the one hand, if that were to make him feel better about the Constitution (at least the Constitution of the huge number of states that prohibit civil unions and gay marriage), then he might accept Nevin’s legal representation. That might prevent KSM from being killed for plotting the 9/11 plan–or at least give the trial more legitimacy. And, frankly, since KSM seems intent on turning himself into a martyr, there’s something to be said for doing everything we can to prove that this nation is not really all that friendly to gay marriage.

Defiant, confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed went before a military judge on Thursday, refused his U.S. defense counsel and said he would welcome a death sentence.

Mohammed, 43, became the first of a succession of five alleged co-conspirators in the 2001 terror attacks to reject the legitimacy of the first U.S. war crimes tribunal since World War II.

”In Allah I put my trust,” the Pakistani intoned in Arabic from a Koran, then personally translated the verse into English for the benefit of the audience.

Judge Ralph Kohlmann, a Marine colonel, asked Mohammed whether he understood that the crimes for which he was accused are punishable by a death sentence.

”This is what I wish — to be martyred,” Mohammed replied in the broken English he learned as an engineering student in his 20s in North Carolina.

On the other hand, it is true that the Constitution does not prohibit gay marriage.

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Embarrassment-Free Show Trials

The Miami Herald (which is doing good work on the Gitmo show trials) has a description of some of the ways the military is ensuring that the Gitmo show trials don’t lead to the release of any embarrassing information.

A defense lawyer lets slip at the war court convening here that a battlefield commander changed an Afghanistan firefight report in a way that seemed to help a U.S. government murder case. Reporters hear the field commander’s name but are forbidden to report it.

In another case, a judge approves the release of a captive’s interrogation video showing the blurred face of an American agent. But a federal prosecutor on loan to the Pentagon withholds it “out of an abundance of caution.”

Even as the U.S. government edges toward full-blown, war-crimes trials by military commission here, with more hearings next week, all sides are grappling with what information can be made public and what must be kept secret.

Consider: A new courtroom here sequesters Pentagon-approved spectators behind a soundproofed window. If a terror suspect tries to shout about his treatment in U.S. custody, a military censor can mute the audio feed that observers hear.

Under rules that protect interrogation techniques, the Pentagon’s war court won’t let the reputed 9/11 architect, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, say he was waterboarded — something the CIA director, Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, confirmed on Feb. 5.

This will, I suspect, make for a very interesting First Amendment case before the show trials are done (and yes, the ACLU is already working on just that thing). Until those cases work their way through the courts, though, I hope we see more articles like this. They expose the degree to which these are show trials. And the degree to which the military is worried about not just sensitive security information, but also embarrassing information such as the name of the Colonel who allegedly framed Omar Khadr for murder, will be released.

And if there were any doubt about the speciousness of the claim, compare what Gordon England says when he has a pragmatic reason to want to avoid showing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed publicly:

Gordon England, deputy secretary of defense, issued a memo banning the release of Guantánamo detainee photos. The Pentagon is bound by the Geneva Conventions not to humiliate detainees, it said, and “We respect the dignity of all persons.”

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